Gender and gender identity take center stage in five-state primary

Cruz taunts Trump for not supporting ‘bathroom laws;’ Trump claims ‘If Hillary were a man,’ she wouldn’t be a viable candidate.

North Carolina’s new law to bar transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity became a recurring theme in the 2016 presidential campaign this past week.

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz was the only one of the five remaining presidential candidates to state support for the so-called “bathroom laws.”

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said he thought people should be able to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate” then later said he thought it was a matter for each state to decide. Ohio Governor John Kasich said he “wouldn’t have signed the law.” Both Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, called the laws discriminatory.

But Cruz went before reporters and rallies repeatedly to express his support for the laws and to mock Trump for opposing them.

“If Donald Trump dresses up as Hillary Clinton,” Cruz said to a rally of supporters in Indiana April 24, “he still can’t go to the girls’ bathroom.”

The audience laughed and applauded.

But his joke went over about as well as former presidential hopeful Marco Rubio’s joke did about the size of Trump’s hands. Out of 111 delegates up for grabs in the five states Tuesday, Cruz won one. Kasich won five. Trump won 105.

Trump won all five of the primaries Tuesday, in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware. He now has 77 percent of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the Republican presidential nomination.

On the Democratic side, Clinton won four out of five states. (Sanders won Rhode Island.) She now has 90 percent of the 2,383 delegates she needs to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders issued a statement late Tuesday night, saying his campaign would continue but suggesting it was more focused now on the “fight for a progressive party platform….”

Most evidence indicated the LGBT community’s support in Tuesday’s primary states was behind Clinton, as it has been in most previous primaries. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Clinton carried the endorsement of the 60,000-member Equality Pennsylvania group, as well as that of the Philadelphia Gay News, and openly gay State Rep. Brian Sims.

“Among all the candidates, Secretary Clinton has the most comprehensive and compelling plan to achieve full equality for LGBT people in Pennsylvania and across the country,” said Equality PA Executive Director Ted Martin. “She has called for a comprehensive ban on discrimination against LGBT people at the federal level, a ban on the terrible practice of ‘reparative therapy’ for LGBT minors, and a fully-fledged plan to combat HIV/AIDS, including a plan for an AIDS-free generation. She’s fighting for us, so we are proud to be fighting for her to become the next President of the United States.”

Also endorsing Clinton was the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club. Club co-chair Tony Campisi said Clinton “has been a lifelong advocate for equality for all.”

In Delaware, openly gay State Senator Karen Peterson supported Clinton and was a member of her campaign’s Delaware Steering Committee.

In Maryland, Clinton won the endorsement of openly gay State Delegate Maggie McIntosh and openly gay State Senator Rich Madaleno. But former gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur, who is also a superdelegate in Maryland and who supported Clinton initially, announced April 14 that she was endorsing Sanders.

The bathroom law focus got a surge of attention on April 21 when a question from the audience of the NBC Today Show asked Trump to “speak about the North Carolina bathroom law.”

Trump said one of the best answers he heard about the issue was a commentator saying, “Leave it the way it is…. There have been very few problems. Leave it the way it is.” Trump noted the “strife” over the new law, including many businesses leaving the state.

“People go –they use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble and the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic punishment that they’re taking.”

Today co-host Matt Lauer asked Trump if he has any transgender people working for him. Trump said, “I don’t know. Probably do. I don’t know.”
“So if Caitlin Jenner were to walk into Trump Tower and wanted to use the bathroom, you’d be fine with her using any bathroom that she chooses?” asked Lauer.

“That is correct,” said Trump.

In an odd choice of words, given the focus on the bathroom laws this week, Trump claimed in his Tuesday night victory speech that “If Hillary were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote.”

“The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card,” said Trump. “And the beautiful thing is women don’t like her.”

In fact, a CNN poll in mid-March found that 73 percent of women voters had a negative view of Trump. Asked how they would vote in a general election contest between Trump and Clinton, two out of three women said they would vote for Clinton. And exit polls from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut Tuesday,” according to CNN, showed “Hillary Clinton won handily among women.”

Why a preliminary ruling in a trans student’s lawsuit is such a big deal

Last week’s federal appeals panel ruling that said Title IX prohibits schools from discriminating against a student because of gender identity has the potential to reach far beyond one Virginia high school.

 

It’s an important legal victory, but the federal appeals panel ruling last week in favor of a transgender teen has not yet knocked down the hostility or hurdles blocking transgender people to access public restrooms. And even though LGBT legal activists express a great deal of optimism that the case will eventually make gains for transgender people, opponents have already filed an appeal to the full federal appeals court.

The transgender court victory comes as national attention –even international attention— has reached an important juncture. North Carolina and Mississippi have passed laws to specifically bar transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity and presentation. That has triggered a flood of public and corporate protest, become an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, and even prompted a question for President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron at a joint press conference in London last Friday.

The following is a quick primer on why the appeals panel decision has garnered so much attention and why it may reach far beyond one transgender student in Virginia:

What are the basics? A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals voted 2 to 1 on April 19 that Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 –which prohibits discrimination based on sex by federally funded educational institutions— also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. The majority’s ruling in Grimm v. Gloucester came on preliminary motion in a lawsuit filed by a transgender student, Gavin Grimm. The preliminary motion requested that he be able to use his public high school’s boys’ restrooms until his overall lawsuit can be resolved. An 87-year-old Reagan-appointed federal district court judge had denied the preliminary injunction, declaring Grimm to be a female and ruling that “sex” in Title IX does not include gender identity or sexual orientation. The majority reversed that decision, noting that the U.S. Department of Education had issued an opinion letter last year, saying Title IX requires “a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” The panel sent the case back to the district court with instructions to reconsider the preliminary injunction based on the panel majority’s decision. The Gloucester County School Board immediately appealed the panel’s decision to the full 4th Circuit.

Why is this a big deal? This lawsuit is still in the preliminary stages, and the decision addresses only sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX in federally funded educational facilities. But the April 19 ruling was the first time a federal appeals court anywhere in the nation has ruled that discrimination based on “sex” included discrimination based on “gender identity.” Next, the full 4th Circuit –which covers the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and West Virginia – will have an opportunity to weigh in or let the panel decision stand. But LGBT activists note that most of the rest of the 4th Circuit judges are fairly progressive and are likely to uphold the panel decision. Also, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory –who supported the law in that state to ban transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity— said he would “respect” the 4th Circuit panel decision as it applies to federally funded educational facilities. An editorial in the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh said the ruling should prompt lawmakers there to repeal the anti-gay law.

How big could this get? This could go to the U.S. Supreme Court and a decision there could affect every state, not just the 4th Circuit states. But there’s another important potential impact, too: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits most public and private employers from discriminating based on “sex.” Like the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that the prohibition on “sex” discrimination includes a prohibition on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” discrimination. As Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, explains: “I believe there is least as strong a case that courts are required to give the EEOC’s determinations that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and that excluding transgender employees from restrooms matching their gender identity violates Title VII [as] there was for the 4th Circuit to be obligated to defer to the similar determinations of the Department of Education.”

The Supreme Court, really? It’s possible, but LGBT legal activists think it’s not likely at this time. The Supreme Court rarely gets involved in a case at a preliminary stage. One of the big reasons it does take a case is to resolve a conflict among the various federal appeals circuits. Right now, only the 4th Circuit has ruled on Title IX, so there is no conflict, notes Jennifer Levi of GLBTQ Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. “So, even if the school eventually appealed to the Supremes, I would think it very unlikely that they would weigh in,” said Levi. Plus, she notes, there are only eight justices on the Supreme Court right now. A tie vote at the Supreme Court would leave the appeals decision intact, so it seems unlikely the Gloucester County School Board would appeal to the Supreme Court under these circumstances. More likely: If the full 4th Circuit upholds the panel decision, Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights predicts the school district will simply settle the lawsuit rather than go through the expense of a full trial when the 4th Circuit’s position is “so clear.”

Who’s the student who sued? His name is Gavin Grimm, and he’s a junior at Gloucester High School in the rural Virginia county of Gloucester. He’s 16 years old and has felt, since age 6, that he’s a male. A psychologist diagnosed Grimm with gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person strongly identifies as a gender different from his or her physical gender attributes. His parents helped him change his name, secure treatment to transition to a male identity, and inform and seek help from school officials. Grimm does not participate in physical education classes and did not seek use of the boys’ locker room, but he did seek use of the boys’ restroom. He explained that, in girls’ restrooms, girls reacted negatively to his presence because they perceive him to be a boy.

How did this land in court? School officials initially cooperated and allowed Grimm to use the boys’ restroom. Things went well for seven weeks then, according to court documents, some parents of other students complained, and school board officials held hearings. At those hearings, some parents expressed hostility toward Grimm, calling him a “young lady” and a “freak.” Some warned that allowing him to use the boys’ restroom would lead to sexual assaults and prompt boys to dress as girls in order to enter the girls’ restrooms. In response, the school board adopted a policy requiring that transgender students use “an alternative appropriate private facility.” But Grimm said that policy increased his feeling of being stigmatized.

Who was on the student’s side? The ACLU, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLBTQ Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Transgender Law & Policy Institute, the U.S. Justice Department, and school administrators in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and several other states, as well as the gay Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C.; the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association; and the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network.

Which judges participated? Judge Henry Floyd (an appointee of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama appointee) wrote the decision, which was joined by Senior Circuit Judge Andre Davis (an appointee of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama). Judge Paul Niemeyer (an appointee of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) concurred in part and dissented in part.

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LGBTs in NY solidly behind Clinton; GOPs scramble to sound ‘reasonable’

‘New York values’ rejected Ted Cruz, helped John Kasich, and boosted Clinton to 80 percent of the magic number to cinch the nomination

Ted Cruz suffered the consequences of deriding “New York values,” John Kasich won a little support while speaking out against anti-gay laws, and Donald Trump raked in nearly all the chips from Tuesday’s New York primary by keeping a mostly muddled middle ground on rights for LGBT people.

In the Democratic primary, where both candidates have long-standing records of respecting LGBT people, Hillary Clinton held nearly all the backing from LGBT leaders. She, too, trounced her opponent, Bernie Sanders.

With big wins in the New York primary, Clinton and Trump have significantly tightened their grip on their parties’ presidential nominations.

Former Secretary of State Clinton now has 80 percent of the 2,383 delegates she needs to secure the Democratic presidential nomination; U.S. Senator Sanders has 52 percent.

Real estate titan Trump has 68 percent of the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination; U.S. Senator Cruz has 45 percent; Ohio Governor Kasich has 12 percent.

Clinton boasted the endorsement of most well-known LGBT leaders in the state, including State Senator Brad Hoylman, New York State Assembly members Deborah Glick, Daniel O’Donnell, Harry Bronson, and Matthew Titone; New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn. She was also endorsed by openly LGBT New York City Councilmembers Daniel Dromm, Corey Johnson, Rosie Mendez, Jimmy Van Bramer, and James Vacca. And she also won the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC.

New York Times map of how various New York City neighborhoods voted, showed Clinton taking 68 percent of the vote in heavily gay Chelsea, compared to Sanders’ 32 percent. She got 66 percent, versus Sanders’ 34 percent, in the West Village and SoHo.

Even an untidy, self-selected survey of men in New York using a gay dating app found that most were supporting Clinton. The “data” collected by Scruff showed that, of 765 men who responded, 57 percent said they would be voting for Clinton, 32 percent for Sanders, four percent “undecided” but voting for a Democrat, and four percent for Trump. Almost two percent said they would vote for Kasich. Less than one percent (three people) backed Cruz.

At an LGBT fundraiser in New York City March 30, openly gay actors Guillermo Díaz and Cynthia Nixon were on hand to welcome the candidate.

Former State Senator Tom Duance endorsed Sanders.

‘People like that’

What made the run-up to the New York primary particularly interesting was all the talk about gay issues on the Republican side.

In a town hall forum with CNN’s Anderson Cooper April 13, Cruz tried to redefine what he criticized in January as “New York values.” Many groups had taken offense at Cruz’s use of the term, including LGBT people who read it as code for acceptance of LGBT people and their equality under the law.

But Cruz told Cooper he was only repeating the phrase Trump had used in 1999 in regards to partial birth abortion. Cruz said he used the term to describe “liberal Democrats who have been, frankly, hurting the people of New York over and over again.”

He then shifted his defense of the term onto an Hispanic African American pastor and state senator, Ruben Diaz. He paraphrased Diaz as telling him in Spanish that he understood what Cruz was trying to say.

“He said, ‘I know exactly what you mean by New York values because,’ he said, ‘I’m a Democrat… and my Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, said if you are pro-life, if you believe in traditional marriage, if you believe in the Second Amendment, you have no place in the state of New York’.”

Ultra-conservative commentator Glenn Beck tried to soften Cruz’s harsh edges, too. He quoted Cruz as saying he “chewed my staff out” for booking the candidate on the same stage with virulently anti-gay speaker Kevin Swanson early in the contest. Swanson told the audience that gays should be executed.

Beck said he and his daughter were meeting with Cruz when his daughter asked Cruz why he appeared on the same stage such a man. Beck said Cruz told his daughter that he considered that speaker “reprehensible,” “bigoted,” and “despicable.”

“I want nothing to do with him or any kind of alliances to people like that,” Beck said Cruz told him and his daughter.

But Cruz also said he thinks North Carolina’s new anti-gay, anti-transgender law is “perfectly reasonable.” And two days before the primary, appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America, he bungled a question from a man in the television audience who said he was leaning toward voting for Trump. The man, Todd Calongne, identified himself as being married to his husband for two years.

Calongne said he noticed “religious freedom laws” and institutionalized discrimination” laws around the country.

“What would you do as president to protect me and my husband from institutionalized discrimination?”

“When it comes to religious liberty,” said Cruz, “religious liberty is something that protects everyone. …All of us, we want to live in a world where we don’t have the government dictating our beliefs, dictating how we live. We have a right to live according to our faith, according to our conscience, and that freedom ultimately protects each and every one of us. And we shouldn’t have the right to force others to knuckle under and give up their faith and give up their belief. And for me, I have spent my entire adult life fighting to defend religious liberty, fighting to defend the right of every one of us to seek out and worship God. And I think keeping government out of the way of your lives protects the freedom of everyone of us.”

There was a scattering of applause but show co-host Robin Roberts, who is openly gay, jumped in.

“But when you talk about freedom,” she said, reminding Cruz that Calongne has a husband, “a lot of people would say, ‘Doesn’t everybody have the freedom to be treated equally?’”

“Of course we do,” said Cruz, “and the First Amendment protects everyone equally.” He then leapt into a discussion of kosher delis.

This time, co-host George Stephanopoulos entered the fray. He noted that Cruz supports efforts to repeal the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against state bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

“What would that mean for couples like Todd and his husband who already are married?” he asked.

“Well, look, I’m a constitutionalist,” said Cruz, “and under the constitution, marriage is a question for the states. …So if somebody wants to change the marriage laws, I don’t think five unelected lawyers down in Washington dictating that. …If you want to change the marriage laws, convince your fellow citizens to change the laws.”

On the other end of the Republican candidates’ political spectrum, at least as far as it concerns LGBT people, Kasich was continuing his double mantra of “I’m for traditional marriage” and “I want no discrimination against anybody.”

At town meeting campaign event April 11, carried by ABC News, an audience member asked Kasich “As president of the United States, what would you do to protect our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth?”

Kasich acknowledged “what’s happening in North Carolina, what happened in Indiana,” Georgia, and Mississippi –states that have passed laws to allow discrimination against LGBT people.

“In my state, first of all, I want no discrimination against anybody. I’m not in favor of discrimination, period, end of story,” said Kasich.

“Secondly, the Supreme Court ruled, you know, in favor of gay marriage. I’m a traditional marriage guy. But the court ruled. I’m allowing a court ruling to stand. I’m not looking for some constitutional amendment. It’s done.”

“Now, our religious institution should be protected. They should be able to do the things they want,” continued Kasich. The town hall audience interrupted with applause, but Kasich quieted them to add the rest of his thought –concerning discrimination by commercial entities.

“Let’s say I’m running a cupcake store. Somebody comes in, they want to buy cupcake,” said Kasich. “Sell them a cupcake! OK?!”

“Secondly, though, if I’m a photographer and you want me to go to your wedding and I don’t want to, you know, then, go find another photographer, okay?”

Kasich said he thought “things were going along quite well after the Supreme Court decision” against state bans on marriage for same-sex couples but that some people “were using… this to some degree as a wedge issue.”

“Now, if in my state, I find that we have a problem — I mean a real problem; not a case here and a case there, but a real problem where things are coming apart–  of course, we have to do something about that,” said Kasich. He did not suggest what kind of “something” he might consider but he suggested he would be inclined to “Number one, to respect the position of those in the gay community, and secondly, to try to figure out what you do about religious liberty.”

“But I have to tell you,” concluded Kasich, “when you get in the middle of that, there’s no easy answer. So you know what I kind of think? Let it go. …Respect people — that they are different than we are because that’s just the way it is. And to get into these business of ‘I’m not gonna serve you because you’re a certain (audio unclear)…

— C’mon, folks. We have to live together….How about a little bit more tolerance, a little bit more respect.”

Sanders, Cruz prevail in Wisconsin; Log Cabin ponders convention options

A high turnout of Republicans gave Ted Cruz a boost in Wisconsin but also secured a 10-year stint on the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a judicial candidate who had referred to gays as “degenerates” and the feminist movement as being full of “man-hating lesbians.” And Republicans take a quote from that candidate and compare it to one from Wisconsin Democratic victor Bernie Sanders.

Tuesday’s hotly contested Wisconsin primary produced some unusual political background noise for both Democrats and Republicans. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was compared to a Wisconsin statewide candidate who has said the feminist movement was full of “man-hating lesbians.” An informal Twitter survey by Log Cabin Republicans found a majority of respondents saying “Never Trump.” And a Politico report said the Republican Party is now expecting a big struggle at the convention over marriage for same-sex couples.

Sanders won the Democratic primary in the Badger State Tuesday. He took 57 percent of the Democratic vote, compared to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent. At the end of the day, the delegate count for the nomination still heavily favors Clinton. She has 73 percent of the 2,383 delegates she needs to become the party’s presidential nominee; Sanders has 44 percent.

Sanders’ campaign made an outreach to the LGBT community in Wisconsin. It handed out flyers outside an anniversary event of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Fair Wisconsin PAC, the state’s largest LGBT political organization, endorsed Clinton. So did Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), the first openly gay U.S. senator, who also published an opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal encouraging others to support Clinton.

But U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) withheld his endorsement and finally announced March 31 that he would not endorse either of the “two great alternatives.”

“There’s really good things about both candidates,” Pocan told Wisconsin Public Radio. “I love the aspirational tone and the vision that I think you’re seeing out of Sen. Sanders’ campaign, and I absolutely admire and am unbelievably impressed with the qualifications and the resume of Secretary Clinton.”

Except for conservative bisexual U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Pocan is the only openly LGBT member of Congress to not endorse Clinton.

Fair Wisconsin PAC Board Chair Nancy Nusbaum released a statement March 30 announcing her group’s endorsement. She called Clinton a “champion for LGBT equality on both the domestic and international stage.”

“We are confident that she is the best candidate to continue and expand on the legacy of the Obama Administration as the most pro-fairness in history,” said the statement.

The endorsements of Baldwin and Fair Wisconsin PAC continue a trend, thus far, in endorsements by the LGBT community: Almost all are for Clinton. They include the Human Rights Campaign, the Congressional Equality PAC, and LPAC, as well as most well-known LGBT leaders. And in early February, a marketing survey of 563 LGBT voters nationwide found that 48 percent would vote for Clinton, 41 percent for Sanders, two percent for Trump, and one percent each for Kasich and Rubio. Four percent were undecided.

The bizarre sideshow

The Democratic primary Tuesday became entangled in a prominent statewide race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Both Sanders and Clinton spoke out against incumbent candidate Rebecca Bradley after it was revealed that Bradely had written pieces for her college newspaper calling LGBT people and people with HIV “queers” and “degenerates” and calling homosexuality an “abnormal sexual preference.” In a 1992 essay, she gleefully predicted the “demise” of the feminist movement, saying it was “largely composed of angry, militant, man-hating lesbians.”

Bradley, a recent appointee of Governor Scott Walker to the bench, apologized for the essays she wrote as a student 25 years ago at Marquette University. She said she is now “embarrassed at the content and tone of what I wrote those many years ago.”

During a campaign speech Saturday in Milwaukee, Clinton said, “There is no place on any Supreme Court or any court in this country, no place at all for Rebecca Bradley’s decades-long track record of dangerous rhetoric against women, survivors of sexual assault and the LGBT community.”

At a rally in Madison Sunday, Sanders said he thought a large turnout at the primary would help defeat Bradley and elect her challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. (Instead, a large turnout of Republicans ushered Bradley into another 10 years on the bench.)

In an odd twist, a decades-old comment from Sanders was compared to a decades-old statement from Bradley. A former Republican state official, defending Bradley on Wisconsin Public Radio, claimed that “Bernie Sanders said something very similar when he was in college.” The official, Bill McCoshen, noted that Sanders, like Bradley, suggested women are partly responsible for date rape.

PolitiFact, a column that scrutinizes the truthfulness of political claims, examined McCoshen’s statement and called it “Half True.” It noted that, in the 1992 essay, Bradley wrote that lesbian academic Camille Paglia “legitimately suggested that women play a role in date rape.” In 1972, 31-year-old Sanders examined the changing roles of men and women and suggested women fantasize about being raped. PolitiFact concluded, “both Sanders and Bradley wrote about rape in ways that were offensive to some women.”

The fact that a Republican official in Wisconsin was able to call up the obscure Sanders quote for use in defending a Republican candidate suggests the Republican Party is as prepared to attack Sanders as a presidential nominee as it is Clinton. And the degree to which the GOP is in disarray over who will be its nominee lends a sense of urgency to its need for political ammunition.

The GOP splintering

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz won Tuesday’s Republican primary in Wisconsin and, along with it, nearly all the state’s 42 delegates. That puts him up to 514 delegates, or 42 percent of the 1,237 needed to win the GOP nomination. But while Cruz did some impressive catching up this week, real estate mogul Donald Trump still has 60 percent of the delegates he needs to become the Republican nominee. Ohio Governor John Kasich has 12 percent.

The big news for the GOP this past week were the self-inflicted political wounds Trump suffered during the run-up to the Wisconsin contest. He stumbled badly, miscalculating how voters would respond to his off-the-cuff pronouncements on abortion (women should be punished), his campaign manager being booked for assaulting a female reporter (it was the woman’s fault), and allowing South Korea and Japan to have nuclear weapon capability (so the U.S. doesn’t have to defend them).

A Gallup Poll released April 1 showed 70 percent of women and 58 percent of men had an unfavorable opinion of Trump. But 48 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of Cruz, too.

At a CNN Town Hall meeting in Milwaukee March 29, an audience member asked Cruz “how and why does your religion play a part in your political decision-making? Don’t you think it should be more of a moral belief and not something that can interfere with your decision-making when you’re making decisions for all religions in the United States?”

Cruz said his faith “is an integral part” of who he is but that he thinks “those in politics have an obligation not to wear their faith on their sleeve.”

But just five days earlier, Cruz’s “religious liberty” advisory council recommended that, as president, he implement a number of actions that would amount to wearing his faith on his office. In releasing their recommendations, Cruz said, “As president, I have pledged on my first day in office to rescind every single one of President Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions, and to direct every federal agency to respect and protect the religious liberty of every American.”

Politico.com reported Monday that some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors are funding an effort to lobby Republican Party platform committee members to soften the language against marriage for same-sex couples. The article suggested it will be a “divisive battle” at what many expect will already be a very contentious convention over the party’s nominee.

Log Cabin Republicans national president Gregory Angelo said Log Cabin has “worked closely” with those donors to lobby for a “more inclusive” platform.

Log Cabin Republicans conducted an informal Twitter poll last month and found 62 percent of respondents saying “Never Trump.” Only 17 percent said “Only Trump” and 21 percent said “Maybe Trump.” The survey received replies from 166 people.

Log Cabin’s Angelo said his sense, in talking with Log Cabin members around the country, is that they “are essentially in parallel to the greater Republican electorate.”

“Every Republican organization in the country,” said Angelo, “is having the same kind of soul-searching exercise Log Cabin is.”

Unprecedented wave of anti-LGBT bills prompting vetoes, lawsuits in the states

Almost 200 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced to state legislatures this year and Lambda Legal and the ACLU have filed a federal lawsuit against the worst of them.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday to challenge the constitutionality of a law passed by North Carolina last week to prevent local governments from protecting LGBT people against discrimination. The announcement came the same day Georgia’s Republican governor vetoed a bill that claimed to protect the freedom of religious officials to decline to perform a marriage ceremony that violates their religious beliefs.

ACLU Advocacy and Policy Counsel Eunice Rho said there are “more anti-LGBT bills this year than in any other time.” She estimated that “almost 200” have been introduced.

The North Carolina and Georgia laws are part of a concerted effort nationwide to pass state legislation that disadvantages LGBT people.

Earlier this month, South Dakota’s Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill similar to North Carolina’s, though it also required transgender people to use a “single-occupancy” restrooms or locker rooms to use.

On March 22, Kansas’ Republican Governor Sam Brownback signed an anti-LGBT bill that prohibits colleges and universities from denying to any “religious student association” any benefit available to other student groups because the religious group requires members to “comply with the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs” and “standards of conduct.”

More than a dozen states have considered or are still considering legislation directed against LGBT people. Two bills seeking to limit use of public bathrooms by transgender people failed in the Virginia legislature last month, including one that sought to fine students $50 if they used the wrong bathroom. Similar bills died in Kentucky and Tennessee. The Illinois legislature has a similar bill pending before a House committee. Other states considering laws relating to gender identity and/or religious justifications for discrimination against LGBT people include Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Massachusetts is considering a pro-trans bill; to provide “equal access to public places regardless of gender identity.”

The North Carolina law, by far, received the most attention, largely because of its scope. The law, which takes effect April 1, prohibits transgender people from using a public restroom for the gender they are living and bars any local government from having an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed two-punch law on March 23 and the reaction was immediate and widespread.

The National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association both issued statements saying the state’s new law might prompt them to withdraw upcoming major events from Charlotte. Carolina’s National Hockey League team issued a statement saying it is “devoted to providing a welcoming and respectful environment for all fans.”

American Airlines, which has its hub in Charlotte, said, “Laws that allow such discrimination go against our fundamental belief of equality and are bad for the economies of the states in which they are enacted.”

The board of aldermen of the town of Carrboro, North Carolina, passed a resolution reaffirming its support for LGBT people and called for the rainbow flag to be raised over town hall Monday. The Mayor of San Francisco has banned city employees from any publicly funded travel to North Carolina on city business.

The Lambda-ACLU lawsuit says the North Carolina law violates the right of two transgender persons and a lesbian to equal protection.

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio said during a telephone press conference Monday that “this has been a really hard year” for the trans community, climaxing in the North Carolina bill attacking the rights of all LGBT people.

Lambda attorney Tara Borelli noted that Charlotte’s human rights ordinance was carefully debated and considered “in stark contrast” to the state legislature’s “rush to target the LGBT community.”

Borelli said the law violates the right to privacy of transgender people and violates various federal laws.

The Georgia bill passed on close votes in the House and Senate March 16. Since then, said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, he has been hearing “insults” and “threats” from both supporters and opponents of the bill, including major corporations doing business in the state.

“Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character,” said Deal. “Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats. The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will made sound judgements based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion. That is what I intend to do.”

In his statement Monday, Deal suggested he was concerned that the legislation might “give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination” and that he does not believe the legislation is needed to protect the faith-based community.

Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and Equality North Carolina issued a press release Sunday night, saying they would challenge the law in federal court.

The Carolina law requires that all public schools facilities have bathrooms or changing facilities “designated for and used only by students based on their biological sex.” Biological sex is defined by what gender is indicated on a person’s birth certificate. It also declares that state law concerning “discriminatory practices” will “supersede and preempt any ordinance” or regulation of any local government. North Carolina state law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This outrageous new law not only strips away the ability of local jurisdictions to protect LGBT people from discrimination, but it goes further and targets transgender students who deserve to be treated equally at school — not harassed and excluded,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.

Lambda’s Borelli said it’s not yet clear how the transgender bathroom provision in North Carolina will be enforced, but that many transgender students have made school officials aware of their special needs and legal activists have heard that some school officials are calling parents of transgender students to warm them that they will not be able to use the bathroom most appropriate to their gender identity.

North Carolina Governor McCrory allowed the state legislature to hold a special session just to consider the measure aimed specifically at an ordinance approved by the Charlotte City Council in February. The city sought to prohibit discrimination based on their gender identity. But the new state law, “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” prohibits any local government from passing non-discrimination ordinances.

HRC said legislators had only five minutes to review the bill before voting on it and that Democrats in the Senate walked out, rather than vote on the measure.

In a statement released Wednesday, McCrory called Charlotte’s ordinance a “radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access” and said it endangered the “basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said 76 percent of transgender people do not have an updated birth certificate.

Jenny Pizer, law and policy director for Lambda Legal, said the law makes it impossible for transgender people to stay in school, hold jobs, or access public services because “as a practical and safety matter” they are barred from using bathroom facilities.

The legislature’s debate echoed remarks heard frequently during the recent battle over a non-discrimination ordinance in Houston. A referendum in Houston overturned a non-discrimination law there that prohibited numerous categories of discrimination, including race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. But in Houston, the referendum simply repealed the ordinance. In North Carolina, the new law repeals all existing local ordinances that prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination and forecloses any future local ordinances.

According to HRC, North Carolina is the first state “to enact such a law attacking transgender students.” Kansas is bucking to be next. Kansas legislators on March 16 introduced bills to the House and Senate that call for all public schools to label restrooms by gender and enables students who encounter “a person of the opposite sex” in their restroom or locker to sue the school for $2,500 for “each instance” and monetary damages for “all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered.”

 

Washington State leaders back Clinton but Sanders takes the delegates

Many of Washington State’s best known openly LGBT leaders, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, endorsed Hillary Clinton, but the state caucus voters gave Bernie Sanders the lion’s share of the state’s delegates Saturday.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders got a boost Saturday, winning three Democratic presidential contests over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton –as well as the lion’s share of delegates from those states –Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska.

Clinton appeared to claim the lion’s share of LGBT support in the biggest of the March 26 states.

Seattle’s openly gay Mayor Ed Murray endorsed Clinton, telling the Seattle Times that she “understands big city issues” but added he would be happy supporting Sanders, too. He was on hand to introduce Clinton to a rally in Seattle earlier in the week. Tina Podlodowski, a lesbian who served on the Seattle City Council and is now running for Secretary of State, supported Clinton’s presidential bid early on. Other openly LGBT leaders backing Clinton include State Reps. Laurie Jinkins, Jim Moeller, and Joan McBride; and State Senators Jamie Pederson and Marko Liias.

But Sanders made some effort to garner LGBT support, opening up a campaign office in the heavily gay Capitol Hill neighborhood. And in his victory speech Saturday, delivered in the next big primary state of Wisconsin, Sanders mentioned his support for LGBT people. He criticized Republican candidates’ idea of “family values.”

“What they mean” by family values, said Sanders, is that women shouldn’t have the right to control their own bodies and “our gay brothers and sisters should not have the right to be married. I disagree.”

Both Clinton and Sanders put up Twitter posts this week, condemning the North Carolina law that overturns local non-discrimination ordinances that prohibit bias against LGBT people.

After Saturday’s contests, Clinton now has 72 percent of the delegates she needs to secure the Democratic presidential nomination; Sanders has 42 percent.

Meanwhile, the Republican contest has turned into a full-on carnival show as frontrunner Donald Trump and second place Ted Cruz exchange insults and allegations over their wives. A pro-Cruz political action committee ran a nude photo of Trump’s wife Melania in Utah. The caption for the photo, reportedly taken for a Gentlemen’s Quarterly modeling shoot in 2000, suggested she would not make a good First Lady. Trump blamed Cruz and responded with a Twitter post implying that he might “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife Heidi. By Saturday, Cruz was accusing Trump of planting a story in the National Enquirer tabloid that claimed Cruz had extramarital affairs with five women. Cruz called Trump a “sniveling coward.”

One irony in all this is that Trump and Cruz started out the presidential campaign on unusually friendly terms for two candidates in the large Republican field. But with Ohio Governor John Kasich the only other Republican contender at a distant third place, Cruz and Trump are each pulling out all the stops to try and gain some advantage in the race for the GOP nomination. So far, Trump has the delegate advantage: He’s got 60 percent of the delegates he’ll need in July to secure the nomination. Cruz has 37 percent.

But Cruz has a growing line up of party stalwarts and Republicans getting behind him now, concerned apparently that Trump is turning the party into a symbol of racial hostility, shoot-from-the-hip foreign relations, and poor education.

Coming up next on the presidential campaign trail is Wisconsin on April 5, where the two Democrats will seek their share of 96 delegates and Republicans will go after a winner-take-all contest for 42 delegates.

Colorado Republicans will meet April 8 to decide who gets their 37 delegates. And Democrats will caucus April 8 in Wyoming for 18.

The next really big primary is April 19 in New York –with 291 Democratic delegates and 95 Republican delegates at stake. The following week, Pennsylvania is on the line (210 Democratic delegates and 71 Republicans). And the biggest delegate grab of all will take place June 7 in California –with 546 Democratic delegates and 172 Republican delegates up for grabs.

Clinton has 71 percent of delegates she needs; some gay Republicans feeling ‘lost’

As Clinton campaign grows closer to delegate count it needs for the nomination, some LGBT groups are focusing on a stop-Trump effort, while some gay Republicans even consider voting for Clinton.

Salt Lake City’s popular new lesbian Mayor Jackie Biskupski supported Hillary Clinton during Tuesday’s Democratic caucus in Utah, but U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders took that contest. He also won the Idaho caucuses, helping him regain some of the momentum he lost last week when Clinton scored a five-state sweep. Meanwhile, some LGBT Republicans are beginning to feel “lost,” as their two leading candidates seem unacceptable to most, and the trailing third candidate seems too far behind to catch up except through a fiercely divisive convention. Some are even considering voting for Clinton.

Clinton took Arizona March 22 and, in doing, picked up more delegates there (41) than did Sanders in Utah and Idaho combined (35). But Sanders’ large margins of victory in Utah and Idaho, coupled with winning 40 percent of the vote in Arizona, gave him six more delegates than Clinton at the end of the day. Overall, Clinton now appears to have 71 percent of the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination; Sanders has 39 percent.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump continued his controversial march to that party’s nomination Tuesday, picking up all of Arizona’s delegates. But U.S. Senator Ted Cruz won Utah. (The GOP held its caucus in Idaho earlier.)

Going into this week’s contests, Republican Donald Trump had 55 percent of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure that party’s nomination. His closest competitor, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, had 33 percent. The only other GOP hopeful, Ohio Governor John Kasich, had 12 percent. After Tuesday night, Trump has 60 percent of the delegates he needs. Cruz has 38 percent. Kasich has 12 percent.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski told reporters she endorsed Clinton because she thinks the former Senator and former Secretary of State has more experience, more detailed plans, and will be better able to work with Republicans.

“She’s the only one with a proven track record of delivering real results and she’s exactly the kind of leader we need in the White House,” said Biskupski, in a statement about Clinton March 11.

Biskupski hit the trail for Clinton, going door to door in Salt Lake City Saturday. She published an op-ed piece in the Tribune on Saturday that gave Clinton credit for “laying the groundwork for the health care philosophy our nation has increasingly embraced –a principle that no one should be left behind.”

And she singled out that Clinton “declared to the world that the lives of women and girls are critically important and that LGBTQ people are entitled to dignity and respect.

Some news reports indicate that both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns are already turning their focus onto the probability that Trump will carry the GOP mantle. The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported that 22 “liberal groups” have “united behind a campaign to stop Mr. Trump.” It said a “senior Democrat who has spoken with Clinton campaign officials and others in the party” said the strategy involves “enlisting the Muslim, Hispanic and gay communities in an effort to paint Mr. Trump as a divisive force in American politics.”

NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey was one of 21 individuals and one union that signed onto a March 15 letter organized by Moveon.org, urging “anyone who opposes bigotry” to respond to Trump’s “threat to the America we love” by engaging in “a massive nonviolent mobilization.” The letter said Trump “peddles” attacks on immigrants, “attacks on LGBTQ rights, and more.”

The national gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans issued a press release March 7, saying it think Trump is “all over the place” on marriage equality.

LCR President Gregory Angelo issued a statement and video saying, “it’s encouraging to know that [Trump] has attended a same-sex wedding, opposes discrimination against gay people in the workplace and told a lesbian reporter that the LGBT community can expect ‘forward motion’ on equality” if Trump is elected president. But he said he is “deeply” concerned that Trump also said she would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the 2015 marriage ruling.

Matthew Shuman, head of the Log Cabin chapter in Arizona, said that, “especially since Senator [Marco] Rubio departed the race,” LGBT Republicans “feel lost.”

“Early on, many in the gay republican circles were certainly drawn to a particular candidate, and now, with the existence of only two viable candidates, we’re not that sure,” said Shuman. “Of the two candidates, it’s easy to see that Senator Cruz is firmly against gay marriage and the advancements we’ve made…leaving us with Donald Trump. I suppose the one benefit to Mr. Trump is that he does not care either way on the issue of gay rights, marriage and advancements made.”

Shuman said he’s “heard a lot of people within our community would rather vote for Hillary than Donald Trump,” but he speculates Trump will pick up the votes of some Democrats who won’t vote for Clinton.

Jimmy LaSalvia, founder of the now defunct GOProud gay conservative group, said he’s supporting Clinton. Acknowledging that, for most of his political career he was “the ultimate Republican team player,” LaSalvia penned an essay last December saying he now believes that, “For me and other fiscally conservative, culturally modern voters who care about America’s place in the world, Hillary Clinton is the obvious choice for president in 2016.”

Meanwhile, the campaign focus shifts now to Washington State, whose 118 Democratic delegates are up for grabs in caucuses this Saturday. Democratic caucuses will also take place Saturday in Alaska (20 delegates) and Hawaii (34) before the next big primary for both parties: Wisconsin April 5.

Candidates are also beginning to prepare for a big delegate showdown in New York State April 19. Democrats have 291 delegates at stake; Republicans 95.

Clinton campaign will hold its first national LGBT fundraiser in New York March 30. And gays were a presence last Saturday at a rally in New York to protest Trump. Reports were a favorite chant was, “Donald Trump, go away, racist, sexist, anti-gay.”

 

Supreme Court nominee Garland: Many court observers think he’d join the liberal voting bloc

LGBT groups are studying Judge Merrick Garland’s record before endorsing him for the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat at the U.S. Supreme Court. But many court observers think he’ll be a solid addition to the high court’s liberal wing.

Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, has ruled against gay plaintiffs three times. This is the kind of record that might usually guarantee that Republican senators would be eager to confirm him. It might also be the sort of record that would prompt LGBT groups to urge a more cautious review.

The Human Rights Campaign expects to support Garland’s nomination, but it and other LGBT groups and leaders, such as U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, are taking some time to study Garland’s record before endorsing him. Most Senate Republicans, however, are standing firm in their refusal to consider the nomination –at least, not until they calculate that Garland would be a better nominee than the next president might select. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Sunday “that’s not going to happen.”)

“I cannot imagine that the Republican-majority Senate, even if it were soon to be a minority, would want to confirm a judge that would move the court dramatically to the left,” McConnell told Fox News anchor Chris Matthews.

And that seems to be the growing assessment of Garland: that, despite a relatively moderate to conservative record, he would become part of the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc.

New York Times legal reporter Adam Liptak says political scientists believe Garland would be “well to the left” of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy is the justice who has provided the key swing vote for the Supreme Court’s most historic decisions in favor of equal rights for LGBT people.

“He would be the fifth member of a liberal bloc on the court,” said Liptak, in a video accompanying his March 17 article. University of Chicago Law Professor Eric Posner said he thinks Garland “seems liberal” on civil rights.

Much of this speculation appears based on an analysis that found justices tend to vote based on the ideology of the president who appointed them. Garland, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. for 19 years, was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton. But presidential affiliation is not a foolproof predictor. Justice Kennedy was appointed by President Reagan. And Justice William Brennan, one of the Supreme Court’s most liberal justices, was appointed by President Eisenhower. (Garland clerked for Brennan from 1978-79.)

On the day President Obama announced Garland’s nomination, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement, calling him “highly qualified.” But the group stopped short of an endorsement. A spokesperson said HRC would make an official endorsement decision after it does its own examination of his record and after Garland gets a hearing from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“President Obama has a history of appointing pro-equality Supreme Court Justices,” said the spokesperson, referring to Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. “We are confident that, in Judge Garland, we will find another Associate Justice to the Supreme Court who stands on the side of fairness and equality.”

Garland has an extensive record. He has participated in thousands of cases. Three of those cases had gay plaintiffs, but all three failed to get the relief they sought from three-judge panels that included Garland.

The first case involved an Ohio man, Jerry Szoka, who operated a low-power FM radio station in 1997 specifically to reach gay men and women and the arts community in Cleveland. But the Federal Communications Commission had banned the operation of such small stations –known as microbroadcast stations—because they were causing interference with major radio stations that served the broad general public. Szoka operated the radio station in defiance of the ban and without ever applying for a radio operator’s license. The FCC ordered him to stop broadcasting and to pay an $11,000 per day fine for every day in defiance. In Grid Radio v. FCC, Szoka filed suit in federal court to challenge the order, and jurisdictional issues brought the case before the D.C. Circuit. Szoka said the ban on microbroadcasting violated the Communications Act of 1934 and his First Amendment rights to serve a community that was “not adequately served” by full-power stations. The panel rejected his first claim, noting that Szoka never applied for a license, then rejected his First Amendment claim.

“Valuable as Grid Radio’s broadcasts may have been,” stated the 2002 panel decision penned by Judge David Tatel, “we think it clear that the Commission had no obligation to consider the station’s individual circumstances before shutting it down.” The panel said the FCC was simply enforcing a ban on microbroadcasting.  “Permitting Szoka or anyone else to operate without a license as a means of challenging the microbroadcasting ban…could produce the very chaos…the licensing regime was designed to prevent.”

In the second case, Turner v. Department of the Navy (decided in 2003), Petty Officer Jim Turner sued the Secretary of the Navy to overturn his “other than honorable” discharge. In 1994, when the military’s policy of banning openly gay people was still in place, several of Turner’s male peers on the USS Antietam accused him of making sexual advances. The ship’s captain and an administrative board declared him guilty and discharged him. A Board for Correction of Naval Records said there was insufficient corroboration of the charges and recommended his record be cleared. But a deputy assistant Secretary for the Navy rejected that recommendation.

Turner sued in federal court, echoing the BCNR’s finding that the evidence against him had been insufficient. Turner also argued that his captain violated the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulations by initiating an investigation without “credible evidence” and that an investigator violated the policy by asking one of the sailors about his sexual orientation.

The appeals panel, which included Garland, noted that Turner had “a respectable record of seven years of military service” and that the charges against him initially seemed more like “inflamed” interpretations of “horseplay.” But it upheld a federal district court, saying proper procedures had been followed. The decision was written by Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Williams.

In the third case, Garland was on a panel with then appeals court Judge John Roberts Jr., who now serves as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was International Action Center v. U.S. The 2004 decision addressed a lawsuit filed by a coalition of groups and individuals who opposed “racism, sexism, oppression of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.” It sued federal and local law enforcement personnel for injuries inflicted on protesters at President George W. Bush’s first inaugural parade. The protesters said that, while engaging in “lawful, peaceful activity” along the parade route, undercover officers struck them and sprayed them with pepper spray. The lawsuit alleged that supervisors of the undercover officers should be held personally liable for their injuries. The supervisors argued they had qualified immunity and a three-judge panel that included Garland agreed. Roberts wrote the panel opinion, saying plaintiffs failed to establish that the police supervisors were guilty of misconduct in their training and supervision of police, rather than “mere negligence.”

Jon Davidson, national legal director for Lambda Legal, said the three gay-plaintiff cases “don’t tell us very much about his judicial philosophy or views of constitutional and legal issues relating to sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status.”

Lambda and many groups and court enthusiasts are poring over Garland’s record now, and many will likely find details that will encourage or encumber their support for the nominee. For instance, the Boston Globe reported Saturday that Garland, “under pressure from a leftist group” during the 1970s’ Vietnam protest era at Harvard undergraduate school, asked a student-faculty committee to consider having a campus referendum on whether the school should allow ROTC back on campus. He then later voted against holding a referendum. That left the existing ban intact. Without predicting how Republican senators might react, the Globe noted that “any whiff of an antimilitary record will raise red flags for Republicans….”

More likely, it will prompt Republicans –if they ever give Garland a confirmation hearing — to quiz him over a similar ROTC flap that emerged six years ago during the confirmation hearing for the last new justice, Elena Kagan. Kagan had been dean of Harvard Law when Harvard had a policy of barring recruiters from campus because of the military’s policy of banning openly gay people. During her confirmation hearing, Republican senators grilled her about it. Kagan said she found a way to let military recruiters have “full access” to students while still enforcing the school’s ban against sexual orientation discrimination.

The military’s ban no longer exists and most campuses no longer bar military recruiters but, if Kagan’s confirmation can be somewhat of a guide, Garland or the next justice nominee can expect to field questions from Republican senators asking whether he is a “legal progressive,” whether he thinks the Supreme Court was right to strike down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, and religious objections to anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people. And if history can be a guide, the nominee’s answers will likely leave everyone guessing until they’re on the high bench.

Supreme Court: Obama names moderate-to-conservative to replace Scalia

President Obama’s nominee to replace the U.S. Supreme Court’s most conservative member is described by some as moderate and by others as conservative. But Senate Republicans immediately reiterated they have no intention of considering or voting on the nomination.

President Obama announced today that he is nominating Merrick Garland, a 63-year-old white male chief judge of the federal appeals court in D.C., to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a choice that may dampen the enthusiasm of LGBT activists who have steadfastly insisted the Senate Republicans give Obama’s nominee a proper hearing and vote.

In making his announcement, President Obama called Garland a “thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law.”

“People respect Merrick’s deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic constitutional rights,” said Obama.

Garland served on the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals alongside now U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. On that federal appeals court, he upheld a gay Navy man’s discharge even though two discharge boards said there was insufficient evidence to merit discharge. He also joined a decision that upheld a Federal Communications Commission action against the operator of a low-power radio broadcaster serving the gay community. And he joined then D.C. Circuit Judge John Roberts Jr. in a decision rejecting police liability for misconduct by officers who sprayed a chemical deterrent on members of a pro-gay protest group during President George W. Bush’s first inaugural parade.

Given the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s announced intention to ignore Obama’s nominee, the choice of Merrick Garland to replace the high court’s most conservative justice set off immediate conjecture.

Obama said Garland’s name came up repeatedly during previous Supreme Court nominee searches as one proffered by both Democrats and Republicans.

But Obama has previously nominated judges that break new ground –the first Latina to the Supreme Court, the first openly gay man to a federal appeals court, the first African-American lesbian to a federal district court. Why would he choose a white, male moderate as his last nominee to the nation’s highest court?

Many court observers predicted Obama would choose Sri Srinivasan, a member of the federal appeals court in D.C., to become the first Asian member of the Supreme Court. Srinivasan, 49, has the advantage of having been confirmed on a 97 to 0 vote in the Senate in 2013, after an easy confirmation hearing. (Srinivasan had argued for the Justice Department for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, but his argument was on a strictly procedural issue.) Srinivasan had clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and conservative Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson. And he had the support of such prominent conservatives as former Republican Solicitors General Paul Clement and Kenneth Starr.

Garland is characterized by many court observers as a moderate, but he clerked for one of the Supreme Court’s most liberal justices: William Brennan, and he was nominated to the federal district court of D.C. by President Clinton.

Scotusblog.com noted that, during his district court confirmation hearing in 1995, Garland assured senators that he did not believe judges should “solve societal problems” but simply “apply law to the facts of the case.”

Garland was born in Chicago in 1952. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, and clerked for Judge Henry Friendly, worked at a law practice, and then became an assistant to President Jimmy Carter’s attorney general Benjamin Civiletti. He helped prosecute the Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.

President Obama said Garland would begin meeting with senators Wednesday and he pleaded with Senate Republicans to give Garland an up or down vote. Failure to do so, said Obama, will wreak havoc with the Supreme Court and democracy.

Senate Republicans continue to say they will not meet with Garland and will not give him a hearing. They argue that, because a presidential campaign is underway, the decision for who should replace Scalia should be delayed until a new president is chosen.

Given an opportunity to make remarks during the Rose Garden ceremony Wednesday, Garland choked up, saying the nomination was the “greatest honor I have ever received.” He noted that his ancestors fled to the U.S. to avoid anti-Semitism.

People must be confidant, said Garland, that decisions are “based on the law and only the law” and that judges must “put aside personal views or preferences and follow the law, not make it.”

Clinton surges despite stumble; GOP race is down to three

Democrat Hillary Clinton moved with lightning speed to correct a misstatement about Nancy Reagan’s contribution to AIDS, and she surged in Tuesday’s primaries. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio dropped out after losing Florida to real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton had to scramble this week to correct a misstatement about Nancy Reagan’s contribution to the AIDS epidemic. But there are very few signs that her LGBT support has abandoned her, and she racked up decisive wins in Tuesday’s primaries –taking four out of five of the large primary states.

Clinton won the majority of votes in the primaries of Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio. Missouri was still undecided for both Democrats and Republicans as of Wednesday morning, but it appeared that race, too, would go to Clinton.

Clinton now has 66 percent of the 2,383 delegates she needs to secure the nomination; Sanders has 34 percent.

In the Republican primaries yesterday, real estate mogul Donald Trump won three of the five primaries yesterday, including Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina.

Longshot Republican contender John Kasich won the primary in his home state of Ohio, significantly bolstering the hopes of only politically moderate candidate in the GOP field. But U.S. Senator Marco Rubio lost his home state of Florida and announced early Tuesday night that he was suspending his campaign.

Trump now has 50 percent of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the Republican presidential nomination; U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has 32 percent; and Kasich has 11 percent. During his victory speech Tuesday night, Kasich said he would go “all the way to Cleveland,” where the GOP convention will take place this summer, to win the nomination.

The race for the Republican nomination has been thrown into a state of shock and intrigue. Most political leaders in both parties have expressed disbelief and revulsion at Trump’s comments at many of his rallies. Among other things, Trump has called for banning all Muslims from entering this country, said Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists, and hesitated to disavow the KKK and a former Grand Wizard David Duke. He has also encouraged his supporters to “punch” people protesting his racially hostile remarks and even “promised” to pay for their legal expenses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he urged Trump to “condemn and discourage” violence at his rallies. Trump blamed Sanders’ supporters for disrupting a planned rally in Chicago last week. According to one local television station, protesters against Trump chanted “Racist pig, anti-gay, Donald Trump, go away.” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the anti-Trump crowd included “men and women, gay and straight, black and white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jews from every part of the world.”

Trump fired back with a post on Twitter: “Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!”

Speaking from West Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday night, Clinton referred to Trump and his controversial remarks.

“We should be breaking down barriers, not building walls,” said Clinton. “… We have to take on all forms of inequality and discrimination. Together, we have to defend all of our rights– civil rights and voting rights, workers rights and women LGBT rights and rights for people with disabilities.”

Clinton has consistently mentioned LGBT people in her remarks at many campaign events, but she set off a small firestorm last Friday when, attending the funeral for former First Lady Nancy Reagan, she complimented Mrs. Reagan as having help start a national conversation about AIDS when President Reagan was in office.

Many activists still remember how painfully slow the President Reagan was to address the AIDS crisis that exploded unchecked in the 1980s. Very few were aware of any contribution Nancy Reagan made to help people with AIDS.

But before most people even heard about Clinton’s compliment to Nancy Reagan, Clinton issued an apology and posted a message on Twitter, saying “I misspoke about [the Reagans’] record on HIV and AIDS. For that I am sorry.” She later issued a second statement, discussing at length the early response to AIDS.

“To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS,” wrote Clinton. “That distinction belongs generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day.”

Democratic candidate Sanders, who has a long and strong record of supporting equal rights for LGBT people also mentioned them during his remarks Tuesday night. But his hour-long speech to a rally in Arizona was not covered by most channels.

At a town hall sponsored by CNN Sunday night, Sanders said that civil rights movements, including the gay movement, have shown that “the only way we really transform this country –is when people stand up by the millions and fight back.”

Anecdotal information suggests the LGBT community is largely behind Clinton, though a significant number support Sanders. In early February, a marketing survey of 563 LGBT voters nationwide found that 48 percent would vote for Clinton, 41 percent for Sanders, two percent for Trump, and one percent each for Kasich and Rubio. Four percent were undecided. No exit polls yet have identified LGBT voters in the primary states.

The newly formed LGBT Congressional Equality PAC, led by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), announced Monday it was endorsing Clinton for president.

LPAC, a pro-lesbian political action committee headed by Chicago activist Laura Ricketts and D.C.-based Hilary Rosen, supported Clinton. Ricketts and Rosen both gave personal contributions to Clinton, too. And Rosen has been a long-time Clinton ally.

In D.C., longtime activist Rick Rosendall said he’s supporting Clinton.

“Hillary is a pragmatic liberal. She is a bit too hawkish for me, and a bit too friendly to Bibi Netanyahu, but as Secretary of State, she demonstrated an understanding of the value and importance of diplomacy,” said Rosendall. “In that job, she also went to Geneva to launch a worldwide LGBT rights effort. She has embraced President Obama’s legacy, and I think he is the best president of my lifetime.”

“I think Sanders is a good guy and has helped the Democratic cause by bringing his issues to the campaign,” added Rosendall. “But he is a single-issue candidate, and his hectoring style is wearing thin with me. He would be crucified in the general election for his praise for Fidel Castro. And I don’t see evidence of his ability to enact his proposals. Also, Hillary is much more deft on racial issues.”

In Florida, the Miami Herald on Thursday published an op-ed from a 23-year-old gay man, saying he was supporting Clinton.

“Given her experience and values, she is the best candidate to further the cause of the LGBT community and preserve the significant progress achieved under President Obama,” wrote Vince Ryan of Philadelphia. Acknowledging the criticism that Clinton “evolved” on gay marriage later than Sanders, Ryan pointed out that Sanders’ vote against the Defense of Marriage Act was couched as a vote for states’ rights, not LGBT equality.

In Illinois, last week, Clinton released a list of 93 LGBT supporters . The list includes State Rep. Kelly Cassidy; Chicago Aldermen James Cappleman, Ray Lopez, and Deb Mell; Community Leader Bernard Cherkasov; long-time activist Rick Garcia; and NGLTF Creating Change Co-Chair Kenny Martin-Ocasio. The Sanders campaign released a similar list three days later with 28 names, including Chicago Aldermen Carlos Rosa.

Next week, GOP primaries will take place in Arizona and Utah; Democratic primaries will take place in those states plus Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington State.

One candidate is half way, another seeks loyalty oath, a third backs down

Hillary Clinton now has more than half the delegates needed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. Some Donald Trump supporters are executing a haunting salute while swearing to vote for him. And John Kasich suggests gay couples are ‘pressuring’ businesses to do conform to the law.

The Democratic presidential candidate who appears to have the most LGBT support narrowly lost a major primary Tuesday to the Democratic presidential candidate who boasts the most consistently pro-gay record. The only Republican presidential candidate who has encouraged business owners to respect LGBT people appeared this week to back off that position. And to this mix, add the Republican frontrunner’s new rally feature: asking participants to raise their hands and “solemnly swear” to vote for him and saying, “Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders picked up a surprise win in the Michigan primary Tuesday, as did Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. Polls leading up to Tuesday gave Democrat Hillary Clinton the advantage in Michigan. She appeared to have had significant support from the LGBT community in Michigan. Gay philanthropist Jon Stryker, head of the Kalamazoo-based Arcus Foundation, contributed heavily to political action committees supporting Clinton. LGBT organizers in Royal Oak on Sunday hosted former President Bill Clinton. And Michigan LGBT newspaper publisher Susan Horowitz said she supports Clinton.

But of the six states that held Democratic balloting between Saturday and Tuesday, Sanders won Michigan and three others (Kansas, Maine, and Nebraska) and Clinton won two (Louisiana and Mississippi). That kept up a general trend, so far, of Sanders winning in the northeast and Midwest, and Clinton winning in the south.

Though Clinton won fewer states in the past week, she picked up more delegates (152 to Sanders’ 136) and is now more than halfway to securing the 2,383 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. Sanders is 24 percent of the way.

While Trump is the Republican frontrunner, he has only 37 percent of the 1,237 delegate votes needed to secure the nomination. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has 29 percent, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has 12 percent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich has four percent.

Unless Kasich and Rubio can pull off victories in their home states next Tuesday, the Republican contest could soon be a two-man race.

But Trump continues to lead in most of the remaining polls –including in Florida and Ohio – and maintains the lion’s share of media attention. That continued this week when Trump began asking rally participants to swear an oath to him, unleashing open discussion of a concern that Trump’s rhetoric and tactics are reminiscent of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Trump has also had security personnel to remove protesters from his rally.

A former head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, told The Times of Israel, “As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America.”

Trump called on his audience to make the pledge in Orlando, Florida, Saturday and Concord, North Carolina, on Monday. Photos from the events show some people holding their hands up in a classic pledge pose, with their forearms perpendicular to their upper arms. But many held their arms straight out from their bodies in a pose that is reminiscent of Hitler’s salute.

Asked about it by various television news reporters, Trump said the oath was just “for fun” and that his audiences were beckoning him to “do the swear in.”

Republican Party leaders are distraught over the seeming likelihood that Trump will win the nomination and many have been throwing their support behind Rubio and Kasich. Anecdotal information suggests LGBT Republicans are, too. Many were pleased with Kasich’s remarks during a February 25 debate in Houston about the refusal of some to do business with same-sex couples.

“If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with –OK, ‘Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced’.

“If you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce,” said Kasich. “That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave [the shop] and hope they change their behavior.”

But during the latest debate, March 3, Fox News reporter Bret Baier said “some faith leaders got nervous about that answer” and asked Kasich “Do gay marriage dissenters have rights?”

Suddenly, Kasich seemed to waffle. After rambling about trying to be “a man of faith every day as best as I can,” he then restructured the conflict into one that gay couples were causing.

“Look, you’re in the commerce business, you want to sell somebody a cupcake, great, OK? But now they ask you to participate in something you really don’t like –that’s a whole ‘nother issue, OK? Another issue,” said Kasich.

He reiterated that he didn’t agree with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and that he favors “traditional marriage, a man and a woman.”

“If you go to a photographer to take pictures at your wedding, and he says, ‘I’d rather not do it,’ find another photographer. Don’t sue them in court,” said Kasich. “You know what the problem is in our country? In our country, we need to learn to respect each other and be a little bit tolerant for one another.”

“…At the end of the day, if somebody is being pressured to participate in something that is against their deeply-held religious beliefs, then we’re going to have to think about dealing with the law.”

Baier then asked Cruz, “Do you believe a gay couple should be able to adopt?” (This was four days before the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order that said Alabama had to accept an adoption approved in Georgia for a same-sex couple.)

Cruz said “adoption is decided at the state level, and I am a believer of the 10th Amendment in the Constitution. I would leave the question of marriage to the states. I would leave the question of adoption to the states.”

On Monday, a voter in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, confronted Kasich about his revised position. According to the Washington Post, the voter “asked if the governor would stand for the rights of gay people to be served just as Lyndon Johnson had stood for the rights of black people.” The Post said Kasich “tried to pull [the voter] over [to his side] by portraying the religious liberty fight as one good people could agree not to have.”

“Don’t make laws until you think you need to,” Kasich said, according to the Post. “Let’s take a deep breath and see if we can get along….If common sense doesn’t prevail, we can pass a law.” He did not, apparently, identify which law he would want to pass.

Reacting to Kasich’s remarks, the Clinton campaign Twitter feed posted a graphic of a smiling Clinton against a rainbow background with the message “Marriage equality is the law of the land –Deal with it.”

The race for the nomination in both parties now rushes into the District of Columbia (Saturday) and five delegate-heavy states: Illinois, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri.

The Clinton Twitter feed, @HillaryClinton, has been posting numerous LGBT-related messages. A March 4 post says, “Today, nearly 100 #LGBT leaders from all across Illinois announced their support for @Hillary Clinton.” The list includes State Rep. Kelly Cassidy; Chicago Aldermen James Cappleman, Ray Lopez, and Deb Mell; Community Leader Bernard Cherkasov; long-time activist Rick Garcia; and NGLTF Creating Change Co-Chair Kenny Martin-Ocasio. March 5 post says, “We should be supporting LGBT kids—not trying to change them. It’s time to end conversion therapy for minors.” And a March 6 video showed same-sex couples together, with Clinton saying that “I’m running for president to stand up for the rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans.”

Supreme Court orders Alabama courts to honor Georgia adoption

“It is extraordinary to have a per curiam opinion with no dissents treating [the same-sex couple case] as the pretty straight-forward kind of [adoption] case it should be treated as,” said family law expert Nancy Polikoff. “It is terrific….It’s a huge victory at every level.”

In what is being hailed as a “terrific” victory for gay and lesbian parents, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday reversed a decision of the Alabama Supreme Court that had refused to recognize a lesbian mother’s adoption of the children she raised from birth with the children’s biological mother.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court last November, hoping the court would hear oral arguments in the case this year. Instead, the high court voted unanimously to simply reverse the Alabama Supreme Court decision.

“We are thrilled by today’s unanimous decision,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. Minter said the order confirms that the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision was such a “blatant violation of settled Full Faith and Credit principles that it warranted summary reversal without the need for further briefing or argument.”

“The order provides everything we were seeking for our client,” added Minter, “and also makes clear to other states that adoptions by same-sex parents must be given full faith and credit.”

The U.S. Supreme Court takes very few family law cases, noted Nancy Polikoff, a well-known expert in LGBT family law.

“It is extraordinary to have a per curiam opinion with no dissents treating [the same-sex couple case] as the pretty straight-forward kind of [adoption] case it should be treated as,” said Polikoff. “It is terrific….It’s a huge victory at every level.”

The March 7 order in V.L. v. E.L. was released “per curiam,” meaning without any one justice being identified as the author.

The case involved an adoption that took place in Fulton County, Georgia, in 2007. The adoptive mother, identified only as V.L. in court papers, adopted the three children she was helping to raise with her partner and the children’s biological mother, E.L. The two women agreed to use insemination to have the children.

After the adoption, the family moved to Alabama and later split up. The biological mother then sought to prevent the adoptive mother from having any contact with the three children, ages 14 and 11. That’s when V.L. filed suit for visitation and/or custody.

All this took place before the 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, striking down state bans against recognizing or licensing marriages for same-sex couples. Both Alabama and Georgia had bans on marriage for same-sex couples, and the women in this case were never married. So the Obergefell v. Hodges decision did not come into play, although Obergefell’s “affirmation that same-sex couples and parents must be treated equally certainly provides a helpful context,” said Minter.

In Alabama, the biological mother’s attorney argued that the adoption granted by Georgia was not valid in Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed, saying that the Georgia family court had not properly followed Georgia family law when it granted the adoption to V.L. (The Alabama court said Georgia should have first required the biological mother to surrender her rights to custody.)

NCLR argued that no state supreme court in the country had ever refused to recognize any out-of-state adoption “based on a disagreement with how the court issuing the adoption interpreted its own adoption laws.

“Because the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision was such a clear departure from established law,” said Minter, “we were hopeful the Court would summarily reverse, as they now have done.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in December granted a stay of the Alabama Supreme Court decision and ordered that the adoptive mother be allowed visitation with the children, pending the high court’s decision on whether to take the appeal. But on Monday, March 7, the eight members of the current U.S. Supreme Court (since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month) issued an order without oral argument: It reversed the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling.

The Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s “Full Faith and Credit” clause requires each state to “give effect to valid judgments” of courts in other states.

“A state may not disregard the judgment of a sister State because it disagrees with the reasoning underlying the judgment or deems it to be wrong on the merits,” stated the Supreme Court order. It also noted that Georgia law gave the Georgia court that granted the adoption “exclusive jurisdiction in all matters of adoption.”

“It follows that the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant that judgment full faith and credit,” said the order. In reversing the state supreme court decision, the Supreme Court order remands the case to the Alabama trial court, which initially granted the adoptive mother visitation.

Polikoff said she doesn’t think the Supreme Court ruling guarantees equal treatment of LGBT parents in custody battles in Alabama.

“Nothing the Supreme Court did today will stop Alabama courts from preferring straight parents as custodial parent. The vulnerability that we see in cases decided between gay and straight [parents] remains.” But, she added, “It’s an extraordinarily strong rebuke of more than two decades of Alabama courts disrespecting gay parents….The Supreme Court drew a pretty big line.”

 

LGBT vote coalescing behind Clinton and leaning toward Rubio

In the wake of the biggest week so far in the 2016 presidential contest, anecdotal evidence suggests that LGBT Democrats are coalescing behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and LGBT Republicans behind U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

In the wake of the biggest week so far in the 2016 presidential contest, anecdotal evidence suggests that LGBT Democrats are coalescing behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and LGBT Republicans behind U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

Clinton’s march to the Democratic presidential nomination was strengthened by southern state primaries. Rubio’s prospects for winning the Republican nomination appeared to be slipping away quickly. Meanwhile, the battle for the Republican nomination has turned into an ugly war of insults that threatens to tear the party apart.

Clinton emerged the victor in South Carolina last Saturday and in seven out of 11 Democratic contests March 1, as she trounced U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton won Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, and –the only non-southern state—Massachusetts.

Sanders won in Oklahoma and in three non-southern states (Vermont, Colorado, Minnesota).

In the five-man Republican field, real estate mogul Donald Trump also won seven of 11 contests, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz won three, and Rubio won one.

LGBT Democrats appeared to be solidly behind Clinton in all nine of the southern states and split in the other primary/caucus states. While there was no exit poll data available regarding the LGBT vote, the positions of LGBT community and Democratic leaders showed a pattern similar to that in South Carolina: solidly for Clinton.

In South Carolina, all the visible support in the LGBT community was behind Clinton, a phenomenon similar to that of the African American vote (84 percent of which went to Clinton).

The South Carolina Equality Coalition endorsed Clinton, and about 200 people attended its fundraiser for her February 25. SCEC also organized a door-to-door canvas to get out the vote on primary day and urged LGBT people to show their support for Clinton outside CNN’s Democratic town hall February 23. Clinton gave the keynote address at the SCEC’s annual dinner last November.

Coalition Chair Malissa Burnette, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs in South Carolina’s marriage equality case, said she supported Clinton because Clinton really understands LGBT issues and has “concrete plans” to address them.

Burnette said she saw no organized LGBT support for Sanders, and this reporter found only one activist to say that, if he was “pressed to pick,” he would “probably” support Sanders.

Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, a non-profit group working for LGBT equality, said the Human Rights Campaign “came into South Carolina with a huge effort to get out the LGBT vote for Clinton.”

“I haven’t seen any LGBT organizational endorsement or push for Sanders,” he said. The AFFA, as a a 501(c)(3), cannot make endorsements.

Linda Ketner, who made a strong bid for a Congressional seat in South Carolina in 2008 and is a co-founder of AFFA and the SC Equality Coalition, said she thinks Clinton and Sanders are “equal in terms of support of and for our community.” But she added that Clinton “would have a better chance of moving pro LGBT legislation through an obdurate Congress” than Sanders.

That pattern of solid LGBT support appeared to hold up in Georgia and Virginia, too. In Virginia, openly gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin and longtime openly gay elected official Jay Fisette of Arlington said they were supporting Clinton.

“I have always liked Hillary. She is strong, capable and experienced and I think she would be excellent President and commander-in-chief,” said Fisette. “I do believe she’s been unfairly attacked in the past by Republicans who have attempted to preemptively damage her. Bernie has had an illustrious career and continues to make a difference, yet as an elected official, I also value pragmatism and comprise balanced with progressive values. That’s Hillary.”

In Georgia, a February 11 survey of nearly 700 readers of the LGBT news organization Georgia Voice found 54 percent supported Clinton, 40.5 percent for Sanders, and 5.5. percent for others. The paper reported that state LGBT leaders supporting Clinton include State Rep. Karla Drenner, Georgia Equality Chair Glen Paul Freedoman, and Georgia Stonewall Democrats Chair Colton Griffin.

In Texas, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker backed Clinton. So did openly LGBT State Reps. Mary Gonzalez and Celia Israel.

There was less information about communities in non-southern states, but in Minnesota, openly gay State Rep. Karen Clark endorsed Sanders early on and introduced him to a rally in Minneapolis last May. And openly gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado endorsed Clinton, but Sanders took that state.

Gay Republicans consider Rubio

LGBT Republicans appeared to be moving toward Rubio last week, but it’s unclear whether Rubio’s record –winning only one out of 15 primary/caucus contests during the past month – will sustain his bid for the nomination.

As president of the national Log Cabin Republicans group, Gregory Angelo declined to comment on what’s happening in the primaries.

“We have individual members supporting –and in many cases, volunteering for – all of the candidates still in the race.

Former Log Cabin President Rich Tafel doesn’t claim to have “the pulse” of the LGBT Republican community, but he said he’s met “a few” who support Trump.

“My guess is there is deeper support for Trump among many who do not articulate it,” said Tafel. In fact, Angelo has, in a number of interviews with mainstream media, has described Trump as “the most pro-gay” candidate running for the Republican presidential nomination.

But overall, Tafel said his “sense” of things is that “the establishment gays in D.C. have shifted to Rubio” since former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pulled out of the campaign after the February 20 South Carolina GOP primary.

Mimi Planas, president of Log Cabin in Miami, said she, too, believes “most Gay Republicans are leaning towards Marco Rubio” now, though she said “a few” are leaning towards Trump. And Paul Singer, the head of American United political action committee that supports candidates who support marriage for same-sex couples, is reportedly set to be named Rubio’s national finance chairman.

Combat among the five Republican candidates intensified significantly following the South Carolina primary. First, they traded insults during a nationally televised debate on CNN — Trump deriding Rubio for having “problems with your credit cards;” Rubio calling Trump a “con artist” and accusing him of hiring illegal workers; and Cruz hammering home the point that Trump has given thousands of dollars to “open border politicians.”

The following day, in front of a campaign audience in Dallas, Rubio claimed that, backstage at the debate the night before, Trump was having such a “meltdown” he needed a full-length mirror “maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet.” Trump, at his own event, splashed a bottle of water across the stage to demonstrate how Rubio “sweats…like he had just jumped into a swimming pool with his clothes on.”

There was some talk of issues by Republicans.

Ohio Governor John Kasich set himself apart from the four other Republican presidential hopefuls during the February 25 debate in Houston. He was asked whether he would stand up for business vendors who cite their religious beliefs to justify refusing service to same-sex couples. He reiterated that he does not “favor” same-sex marriage and believes religious institutions “should be able to practice the religion that they believe in.”

“But look, the court has ruled and I’ve moved on,” said Kasich. “And what I’ve said…is –Look, where does it end?” said Kasich. “If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with –OK, ‘Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced’.

“If you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce,” said Kasich. “That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave [the shop] and hope they change their behavior.”

Those remarks, said Tafel, won over at least some LGBT Republicans.

The primary action moves now to five other states this weekend –Maine, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Nebraska. And next Tuesday, March 8, voting takes place in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii.

Concerns for GOP escalate as Trump sends out mixed message on KKK

The Republican presidential race took a particularly nasty turn this week when frontrunner Donald Trump inexplicably balked at disavowing the support of the Ku Klux Klan and a former KKK leader David Duke.

The Republican presidential race took a particularly nasty turn this week when frontrunner Donald Trump inexplicably balked at disavowing the support of the Ku Klux Klan and a former KKK leader David Duke.

The issue arose in response to a call from the Anti-Defamation League on February 25, asking that Trump “distance himself from white nationalist and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, as well as other white supremacists, and publicly condemn their racism.” ADL noted that, while Duke “did not explicitly endorse” Trump, he encouraged listeners to his radio program to volunteer for the Trump campaign. And ADL said a white supremacist political action committee was using robocalls in some states to urge “Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.”

At a press conference on Friday, February 26, a reporter asked Trump about the “endorsement” of Duke, and Trump quickly “disavowed” it.

That same day, Trump was confronted with the KKK issue again.

At a large campaign rally in Oklahoma City, Trump supporters drew the candidate’s attention to a man wearing a tee-shirt that said “KKK endorses Trump.”

According to KOCO-News in Oklahoma City, the man was originally seated onstage behind Trump, and the crowd erupted when he hoisted a sign that said “Islamaphobia is not the answer.” The man then removed his jacket, revealing a tee-shirt with a yellow star taped to it and a hand-written message, “KKK endorses Trump.” The crowd appeared to be startled and unhappy about the man’s presence, then seemed to laugh, and eventually began chanting “U.S.A.”

Trump turned to see what was happening and waited, looking occasionally at the man who smiled, waved to Trump, and appeared to say something. Trump watched as someone squatting in front of the man spoke to him. Then Trump walked back to the microphone.

“You see,” he said, “in the good ole days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this. A lot quicker. In the good ole days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast. But today, everybody’s politically correct. Our country’s going to hell with being politically correct.” According to various reports, the man was eventually escorted out of the arena by police.

The KKK issue escalated dramatically on a CNN program Sunday, when State of the Union host Jake Tapper asked Trump for his response to the ADL’s call for him to disavow the “endorsement” of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and other white supremacy groups. Trump said he didn’t want to “condemn a group that I know nothing about.”

“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Trump told Tapper. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”

“I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.”

The KKK’s history of hostility to African Americans is well-documented. Less well known is its hostility toward gays.

According to several news and educational sources, the KKK is a fragmented collection of groups, with more than 100 KKK separate organizations across 26 states, north and south, including Texas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and New York.

“Klan literature and propaganda is rabidly homophobic and encourages violence against gays and lesbians,” says a 2006 paper from the Law Enforcement Executive Forum, published by the University of Houston.

Individual KKK groups have their own websites, some of which express their hatred for gays. For instance, the current website of the “White Knights” in North Carolina states, “We hate drugs, homosexuality, abortion and race-mixing….”

Earlier this month, David Duke’s website claimed Rubio attended “homosexual meet-up affairs” –or “foam parties”—in Florida.

In a March 1 posting, Duke reiterated that “the KKK did not endorse Donald Trump.” Duke said he personally offered two reasons to vote for Trump: One, because the policies of other candidates would lead to war with Russia. And two, because Trump’s commitment “to secure our border.”

Duke was a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1989-1992, but in 1988, he ran as a minor candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. The Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes him as “the most recognizable figure of the American radical right, a neo-Nazi, longtime Klan leader and now international spokesman for Holocaust denial….” His involvement in white supremacist activities began at 14 and he founded the “Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” in 1974.

It wasn’t just Duke and the KKK’s widespread notoriety that spelled trouble for Trump. It was also a number of instances in which Trump was already on record as criticizing Duke. For instance, in August of last year, Trump told NBC News that he “certainly wouldn’t want” Duke’s endorsement and that he would repudiate it “if it would make you feel better.”

Trump’s opponents for the nomination immediately lashed out at Trump’s failure to immediately and unequivocally disavow any acceptance of support from Duke or the KKK. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said Republicans “cannot be the party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.” Cruz’s criticism was more narrowly couched, saying, “racism is wrong.” The most strongly critical candidate, Ohio Governor John Kasich, said “Hate groups have no place in America.”

By Monday, Trump suggested that he didn’t disavow Duke or the KKK because he didn’t fully hear Tapper’s question. He said CNN had given him a “bad earpiece” for the interview and he could “hardly hear” what Tapper was asking.

But even before the KKK signals of support for Trump, the threat of a Trump nomination loomed large for the GOP. The New York Times reported Saturday that colleagues of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said McConnell vowed the party would “drop him like a hot rock” if Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination. By Tuesday, McConnell made a public statement that Trump’s position on the KKK controversy “is not the view of Republicans.”

“I think it’s very important that the American people understand that the Republican Party condemns in the strongest possible language David Duke, the KKK, and everything they stand for,” said McConnell.

And Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan publicly read a statement, too, saying, “If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on prejudices.”

On Tuesday, ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos asked Trump if he was ready to make a “clear and unequivocal statement renouncing support of all white supremacists?”

“Of course I am. Of course I am.” said Trump. “There’s nobody who’s done so much for equality as I have.”

LGBT support solidly behind Clinton in SC; GOP dividing over Trump

The LGBT community appears to have been solidly behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Saturday’s primary.

The LGBT community appears to have been solidly behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Saturday’s primary. Clinton trounced U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic primary, 73 percent to 26 percent. Meanwhile, the battle for the Republican nomination has turned into an ugly war of insults that threatens to tear the party apart.

In South Carolina, all the visible support in the LGBT community appeared to be behind Clinton, a phenomenon similar to that of the African American vote (84 percent of which went to Clinton).

The South Carolina Equality Coalition endorsed Clinton, and about 200 people attended its fundraiser for her February 25, with guest speaker U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). SCEC also organized a door-to-door canvas to get out the vote on primary day and urged LGBT people to show their support for Clinton outside CNN’s Democratic town hall February 23. Clinton gave the keynote address at the SCEC’s annual dinner last November.

Coalition Chair Malissa Burnette, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs in South Carolina’s marriage equality case, said she supports Clinton because Clinton really understands LGBT issues and has “concrete plans” to address them.

“Last Fall, when Hillary Clinton addressed our Equality gala, it was clear that she had a depth of understanding not only of the issues facing LGBT individuals, but she had real solutions,” said Burnette. “She had studied every aspect of how LGBT folks have been excluded from full participation in society — from military regulation to employment discrimination to simply being able to check into a hotel or go to a restaurant.”

Burnette said she saw no organized LGBT support for Sanders, and this reporter found only one activist who wagered that, if he was “pressed to pick,” he would “probably” support Sanders.

Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, a non-profit group working for LGBT equality, said the Human Rights Campaign “came into South Carolina with a huge effort to get out the LGBT vote for Clinton.”

“I haven’t seen any LGBT organizational endorsement or push for Sanders,” he said. The AFFA, as a a 501(c)(3), cannot make endorsements.

Linda Ketner, who made a strong bid for a Congressional seat in South Carolina in 2008 and is a co-founder of AFFA and the SC Equality Coalition, said she thinks Clinton and Sanders are “equal in terms of support of and for our community.”

“In my opinion, a President Clinton would have a better chance of moving pro LGBT legislation through an obdurate Congress than a President Sanders,” added Ketner, “but more importantly, when we as LGBT people, for the first time in history, are in the position to find support from both candidates, we get the gift and opportunity of looking more broadly than our sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The Republican brawl

The Republicans held their primary in South Carolina February 20, and real estate mogul Donald Trump won with a large margin over the four other candidates in the field. Combat among the five candidates intensified following that primary, as they began to push hard for support in the March 1 “Super Tuesday” primaries and caucuses in 14 states. First, they traded insults during a nationally televised debate on CNN, Trump deriding U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for having “problems with your credit cards;” Rubio accusing Trump of hiring illegal workers; U.S. Senator Ted Cruz hammering home the point that Trump has given thousands of dollars to “open border politicians.”

The following day, in front of a campaign audience in Dallas, Rubio claimed that, backstage at the debate the night before, Trump was having such a “meltdown” he needed a full-length mirror “maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet.” Trump, at his own event, splashed a bottle of water across the stage to demonstrate how Rubio “sweats…like he had just jumped into a swimming pool with his clothes on.”

There was some talk of issues.

Ohio Governor John Kasich set himself apart from the four other Republican presidential hopefuls during the February 25 debate in Houston. He was asked whether he would stand up for business vendors who cite their religious beliefs to justify refusing service to same-sex couples.

“Religious institutions should be able to practice the religion that they believe in. No question and no doubt about it,” said Kasich. He reiterated that he does not “favor” same-sex marriage.

“But look, the court has ruled and I’ve moved on. And what I’ve said…is –Look, where does it end?” said Kasich. “If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with –OK, ‘Today, I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced’.

“If you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce,” said Kasich. “That’s my view. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, say a prayer for them when they leave [the shop] and hope they change their behavior.”

Rubio, campaigning in Dallas February 26, made clear that he would appoint justices “like Justice Scalia,” and that people would be able to “live out the teachings of your faith –not just to believe whatever you want, but to live out those teachings in every aspect of your life.”

Trump at a press conference Friday quickly disavowed an endorsement by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. But on a CNN program Sunday, when asked again about the endorsement from Duke and other white supremacy groups, Trump suddenly said he didn’t want to “condemn a group that I know nothing about.”

“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Trump told Jake Tapper on State of the Union. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”

“I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.”

Trump’s opponents for the nomination immediately lashed out.

Rubio said Republicans “cannot be the party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.” Kasich posted a Twitter message, saying “Hate groups have no place in America.”

By Monday, Trump was saying that CNN had given him a “bad earpiece” for the interview and he could “hardly hear” what Tapper was asking.

Just two days earlier, at a large campaign rally in Oklahoma City, supporters drew Trump’s attention to a man wearing a tee-shirt that said “KKK endorses Trump.”

According to KOCO-News in Oklahoma City, the man was originally seated in the seats onstage behind Trump and the crowd erupted against him when he hoisted a sign that said “Islamaphobia is not the answer.” He then removed his jacket, revealing the tee-shirt that carried a hand-written message, “KKK endorses  Trump” and appeared to have a yellow star taped onto it.

The crowd appeared to be startled and concerned about the man’s presence, then seemed to laugh, and eventually began chanting “U.S.A.” Trump stopped speaking, turned to see what was happening, and waited. The man smiled, waved to Trump, and appeared to say something, and Trump turned and walked to the other side of the stage. He then walked back and watched as someone squatting in front of the man spoke to him. Then Trump walked back to the microphone.

“You see,” he said, “in the good ole days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this. A lot quicker. In the good ole days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast. But today, everybody’s politically correct. Our country’s going to hell with being politically correct.” According to various reports, the man was eventually escorted out of the arena by police.

But even before the KKK signals of support for Trump, the threat of a Trump nomination loomed large for the GOP. The New York Times reported Saturday that colleagues of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say McConnell vowed the party would “drop him like a hot rock” if Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination.

Clinton needled about the past, Trump sails by despite inconsistencies

Democrat Hillary Clinton is getting questioned again about her evolution toward support marriage for same-sex couples, but Republican Donald Trump maintains popularity despite current inconsistencies.

The Christianity of various Republican presidential candidates became a focus in the South Carolina primary, implicating not only marriage but whether gays should be banned from immigrating to the U.S. Meanwhile, in the Nevada Democratic caucuses, the question of whether Hillary Clinton’s support for the rights of LGBT people is sincere or politically motivated resurfaced.

Real estate mogul Donald Trump won the South Carolina primary February 20, easily beating U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The other three candidates registered only about seven percent support each, prompting one of them, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to suspend his campaign. The five remaining candidates, including Ohio Governor John Kasich and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, leapt immediately into the GOP caucuses in Nevada Tuesday.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses Saturday, beating U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders by five percentage points.

It was in the run-up to those caucuses that a Sanders supporter in the audience of an MSNBC town hall told Clinton, “only a decade ago I was a very big supporter of yourself and your husband.”

“It actually broke my heart when you said marriage was between a man and a woman. How can we trust that this isn’t just more political rhetoric?”

In response to the questioner in Nevada, Clinton acknowledged, “I, like many Americans, have evolved. And, I’m glad I have. I am a 100 percent supporter…And I am absolutely adamant about protecting marriage equality. And, I think it’s significant that the Human Rights campaign, the leading organization in our country to ensure that the LGBT community has the rights they deserve, have endorsed me.

“Now, [Senator Sanders] said, ‘Well, that’s because [HRC is] a member of the establishment.’ Well, with all due respect, they fight against the establishment every single day, and I’ve been with them for years, and I will pass the Equality Act, too.”

In a press release following the Nevada caucuses, HRC President Chad Griffin called Clinton “another champion for LGBT equality” and said she has “the record, the vision, and the strategy to win and lead from her first day in office.”

The Desert Sun newspaper in nearby Palm Springs, California, reported HRC “paid for 18 people from the Palm Springs area to travel by bus Thursday to Las Vegas and campaign last-minute” for Clinton. The article also made prominent mention of that Clinton “made no public effort to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act” and, as a Senate candidate “made clear she supported civil unions and nothing beyond that.”

The question about Clinton’s previous position on same-sex marriage is reminiscent of a well-publicized interview of Clinton by public radio host Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” in June 2014. It also echoes the concerns raised by Log Cabin Republicans in a recent video it posted before the New Hampshire primary. The video shows various excerpts of Clinton in 2002 and 2004 saying she did not believe gay couples should be allowed to marry, and included Log Cabin’s message “Hillary Clinton: Wrong on gay rights when it mattered.” The video, which does not indicate that one excerpt is Senator Clinton speaking against an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, appears to be getting wide circulation to Democrats.

Capitol Public Radio in Nevada found a lesbian who was for Sanders and a transgender woman who was leaning toward Republican Donald Trump. The report indicated LGBT issues came up during a campaign event by Clinton in the rural town of Elko.

Trumping consistency

While Clinton is being needled to explain the difference in her opinion on same-sex marriage between 2002 and today, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is gliding to victory despite his inconsistencies on the subject.

On February 4, before the New Hampshire primary, he told New England Cable News journalist Sue O’Connell that LGBT people could expect continued “forward motion” on LGBT civil rights if he becomes president. According to a report from National Public Radio, Courageous Conservatives political action committee, which supports Cruz, ran a radio ad and made robocalls that excerpted Trump’s remarks to O’Connell.

“Stop! What does she mean by forward motion?” says the commentator on the ad. “What’s he agreeing to? It’s not about tolerance anymore. It’s about mandatory celebration. It’s about forcing people to bake cakes and forcing people to photograph gay weddings. Forcing clergy to officiate. It’s about transgender bathrooms in your child’s school. It’s about tearing down our Judeo-Christian values. It’s about tearing down our America.”

But after the death of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most notoriously anti-LGBT justice, Antonin Scalia, died, Trump told CNN “Justice Scalia is a fantastic man” and that, if president, he, Trump, would want the next nominee to the court to be “as close to [Scalia] as possible.” He also mentioned as a potential nominee federal appeals court judge Diane Sykes, of the Seventh Circuit. Sykes wrote a decision in 2006 that granted the Christian Legal Society a preliminary injunction to be recognized as a student group at the Southern Illinois University School of Law despite its policy against allowing gay members.

His inconsistencies run both ways. He accepted GOProud’s invitation to speak at a CPAC conference event in 2011, eliminated a beauty pageant rule requiring contestants be “naturally born female,” said he has “many fabulous friends who happen to be gay,” and accepted gay actor George Takei’s invitation to lunch to discuss same-sex marriage and attended the wedding of a gay couple.

Yet he was the first choice among born-again and evangelical Christian voters in South Carolina, where a Public Policy Polling survey just days before the February 20 primary found that 31 percent of Trump supporters “would support a ban on homosexuals entering the country.” (Interestingly, only 17 percent of Cruz supporters liked the idea and, among all South Carolina primary voters, only 20 percent did so.)

Then, there was Trump’s highly publicized row with the pope. Trump started it: In a February 11 Fox Business News interview, he criticized the pope for planning a prayer service on the U.S.-Mexico border February 18 to draw attention to the difficulties Mexicans face when they want to enter the U.S. Trump called the pope a “very political person” and suggested he was holding the border event at the behest of the Mexican government.

A reporter on the pope’s plane from Mexico to Rome February 19 asked the pontiff about Trump’s comments.

According to a Vatican transcript, a reporter noted that Trump had characterized the pope as a “pawn in the hands of the Mexican government” and that Trump, if elected president, “intends to construct” a wall along the border and to deport 11 million immigrants.

“I would like to ask, first of all, what you think of these accusations and whether an American Catholic can vote for such a person,” stated the reporter.

“I thank God that he has said I am a politician, as Aristotle defined the human being as an ‘animal politicus’,” replied the pope. “At least I am a human being! And that I am a pawn…perhaps, I do not know. I will leave that to our judgment, to the people. A person who thinks only of building walls, wherever that may be, and not bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. With regard to what I would advise, to vote or not to vote: I would not like to become involved. I would say only that this man is not Christian.”

Media reports quickly multiplied, focusing on the pope’s statement that Trump was “not Christian,” and that prompted Trump to respond that it was “disgraceful” for a “religious leader” to question a person’s faith.

Exit polls of more than 2,000 voters surveyed as they left the in South Carolina found that 76 percent of voters in the South Carolina Republican primary said that “shared religious beliefs matter” to their decision on who to vote for. Broken down further, the polls indicated that “shared religious beliefs matter” “a great deal” to 43 percent of the South Carolina voters. They mattered “somewhat” to another 33 percent of voters. And 24 percent said such beliefs mattered “not much” or “not at all.” Of those who said the shared religious beliefs mattered a “great deal,” 32 percent voted for Cruz, 27 percent for Trump, and 20 percent for Rubio.

And yet Trump won, and Cruz –who won Iowa with his largely evangelical base of support—dropped to third place.

The Cruz campaign suffered another loss this week, too. The campaign’s senior communications director, Rick Tyler, tried to denigrate the senator’s competition in the South Carolina presidential primary by making a Twitter post February 11 that said “Trump and Rubio are with Obama on gay marriage.” That obviously didn’t work since both Trump and, by a very thin margin, Rubio beat Cruz. In that Twitter post, Tyler was simply parroting what Cruz himself had implied to a South Carolina audience that day. But on Monday, Cruz announced that he had asked for Tyler’s resignation. The offense? Tyler posted a video on Twitter of Rubio gesturing toward a Bible in front of a man and the caption on the video indicated that Rubio was telling the man, “not many answers in it.” It was later determined Rubio had actually said the Bible had “all the answers.”

Tyler said he posted the video without checking it for accuracy, adding, “I regret that mistake.” Cruz’s campaign has already been under fire for dishonest campaign tactics.

Scalia’s legacy included ‘gleeful’ hostility to the civil rights of LGBT people

One LGBT legal activist this weekend recalled U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as “a gleeful and influential political culture-warrior as well as … a towering figure who cast a dark shadow on the law and on the lives of many Americans.” Scalia, the high court’s most notoriously anti-gay member, died Saturday.

Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court justice most hostile to equal rights for LGBT people, has died, and a threat by Republicans in Congress to block President Obama from naming his replacement promises to escalate the nation’s already bitter political civil war.

“Justice Scalia was a gleeful and influential political culture-warrior as well as … a towering figure who cast a dark shadow on the law and on the lives of many Americans,” said Evan Wolfson, who headed up the national Freedom to Marry group. “More than just a dependable ‘No’ vote on the constitutional and civil rights of gay people and others, he reveled in disparagement and incendiary attacks that influenced many judges, politicians, and lawyers, and epitomized the prejudices and exclusion we were working, fortunately with some success, to overcome.”

Such was the spirit of reaction by most LGBT legal activists to the news Saturday evening that Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead earlier that day in his hotel suite at a private resort in west Texas. The news sent shockwaves through the legal community and the current field of presidential candidates.

Within hours of news of Scalia’s death, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement saying the Senate should not consider a nominee “until we have a new President,” and during Saturday night’s GOP debate, most of the remaining six candidates agreed. But President Obama made clear that he intends to fulfill his duty to name a replacement, and LGBT legal activists have good reason to feel confident that President Obama will nominate someone who will recognize the right of LGBT citizens to enjoy the protections of the U.S. constitution.

Many political observers say they believe it is unlikely that Congress will allow the seat to remain open for the 12 months or more it would take for a new president to assume office. And it’s a big gamble for Republicans to presume that the GOP’s eventual presidential nominee will win in November. If Congress does stall the nomination process, the Supreme Court will operate with eight justices. That scenario could potentially improve chances of positive outcomes on LGBT-related cases, given that Justice Anthony Kennedy often votes with the court’s more liberal wing on LGBT cases.

“It is already apparent that one result of Justice Scalia’s passing will be to focus public attention on how important the Supreme Court is to the lives of all Americans, which I think is a good thing,” said Jon Davidson, national legal director for Lambda Legal.

Davidson said he expects history will judge Scalia “quite harshly” when it comes to the rights of LGBT people, women, and people of color.

Davidson’s colleague, Jenny Pizer, Lambda senior counsel, said Scalia’s “contempt for gay people will look increasingly anachronistic — and disturbed — over time.”

“I believe his strongest influence has been as a trumpeter, calling to rally the Religious Right,” said Pizer. “His intemperate tone has seemed intended to inspire anger and alarm among those working for reactionary causes….[G]iven how frequently his dissents have been cited as authority by the lower courts, he certainly has had influence in slowing LGBT legal progress that way, as well as by motivating political outrage against, and defiance against, liberal court decisions.”

Justice Scalia was the current Supreme Court’s most staunch conservative, and one who often wrote dissenting opinions to the court’s most historic rulings on LGBT-related cases. Appointed to the court by President Reagan in 1986, Scalia always voted against the interests of gay people in cases before the court –beginning with the 1987 decision, 5 to 4, allowing the U.S. Olympic Committee to ban Gay Games from calling itself the Gay Olympics. He also joined the unanimous decision in 1995 to allow St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers in Boston to exclude a gay contingent, and was with the majority 5 to 4 decision in 2000 to allow the Boy Scouts of America to revoke the membership of an Eagle Scout because he was gay.

What really marked Scalia as anti-gay were his dissents to pro-LGBT decisions. They began in 1996 with his vigorous complaint in dissent to a 6 to 3 majority opinion in Romer v. Evans –a majority opinion that struck down a Colorado law that had barred any political subdivision in the state from prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Scalia derided the majority for saying the state law was driven by “animus.”

“Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings,” wrote Scalia. But, he said, “one could consider certain conduct reprehensible–murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals–and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of ‘animus’ at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct….”

In 2003, Scalia led the dissent against a 6 to 3 majority in Lawrence v. Texas, which had struck down state laws banning consensual intimate relations between adult persons of the same gender. Scalia said the Texas law, which made it a felony for two adults of the same sex to engage in sexual relations in the privacy of their bedroom, simply sought “to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are ‘immoral and unacceptable’.” Other such behaviors, he said, included “fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity.”

Almost 10 years later, in response to a question at an appearance before an audience at Princeton, Scalia suggested he made such extreme comparisons because they were “effective.”

“I don’t apologize for the things I raised. I’m not comparing homosexuality to murder. I’m comparing the principle that a society may not adopt moral sanctions, moral views, against certain conduct — I’m comparing that with respect to murder and that with respect to homosexuality.”

And Scalia led the dissent in other major LGBT-related cases before the Supreme Court: U.S. v. Windsor, which in 2013 struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“…even setting aside traditional moral disapproval of same-sex marriage (or indeed same-sex sex), there are many perfectly valid—indeed, downright boring—justifying rationales for this legislation.”)

And in the most recent LGBT case, Obergefell v. Hodges last year, Scalia led the dissent once again, saying he thought the national public debate over marriage for same-sex couples was “American democracy at its best.”

Because Scalia was in dissent on landmark LGBT decisions in recent years, his hostility to LGBT people was held in check to some extent. But he was still seen by LGBT legal activists as an unapologetic rabble rouser for lower court judges and right-wing political figures who shared his disdain for LGBT people.

“His opinions about LGBT people were particularly harsh, and he wrote about them in openly disparaging terms that perpetuated the most damaging and vicious stereotypes,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “One that particularly stands out is his dissent in Lawrence, when he wrote that “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home.  They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

[B]y voicing such extreme views,” said Minter, Scalia “gave a stamp of legitimacy to anti-LGBT bias and other deeply reactionary positions and, in that way, pulled the Court’s jurisprudence to the right.”

NH primary: A familiar split among the bizarre moments

LGBT news out of the New Hampshire presidential primary this week was both familiar and bizarre.

The LGBT community in New Hampshire appeared to be he split between the top two Democratic candidates –Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. That was much like it was in 2008 between Clinton and Barack Obama.

But on the odd side of the picture, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump beckoned a woman in a rally audience Monday to shout out the word “pussy” to characterize another male GOP candidate. And at a diner in Manchester the same evening, a gay man chided Republican contender Marco Rubio for his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples, and an elderly patron asked Rubio whether U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is gay.

When the results were in Tuesday night, Sanders had a wide margin of victory over Clinton; and Trump had a wide margin over the now eight-person field of Republican candidates. Ohio Governor John Kasich, the closest thing to a moderate in the GOP field, came in second, ahead of the Iowa caucus winner Ted Cruz, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Rubio. (Note: On Wednesday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and corporate executive Carly Fiorina suspended their campaigns.)

Both of the remaining Democratic candidates gave speeches Tuesday night that included mention of LGBT people several times. In his speech, Republican Trump promised to “take care of everything –it’s going to be great.” Kasich promised to “leave no one behind” and “to solve the problems in America, not by being extreme.”

In his victory speech, Democrat Sanders said “the people want real change” and that it’s “just too late for the same old, same old establishment politics.” That comment seemed to echo a remark Sanders made last month, when he characterized the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT political group that endorsed Clinton, as being part of “the political establishment.”             But later in the speech, Sanders said, “We must pursue the fight for women’s rights, for gay rights, for disability rights.” He said his campaign will bring together “black and white, Latino, Asian, Native American, straight and gay, male and female, people born in America and people who immigrated here.”

In her concession speech Tuesday night, Clinton said she was committed to breaking through the barriers of discrimination, adding, “LGBT people shouldn’t be fired from their jobs because of who they are and who they love.” She mentioned the rights of LGBT people in saying she would fight for the rights of many minorities.

 

The community split

There was no survey data to indicate where the LGBT vote in Iowa or New Hampshire went, but anecdotal information in both states suggests the LGBT was split between Clinton and Sanders.

In an opinion piece for the Concord Monitor newspaper Friday, former New Hampshire State Rep. Mo Baxley, who headed up the state Freedom to Marry group, endorsed Sanders. Openly gay State Rep. Ed Butler and Portsmouth Councilmember and Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine backed Clinton.

Baxley credited Sanders with standing up for the LGBT community long before it was acceptable.

“Only a few brave souls outside our community were willing to stand with us” during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, said Baxley. But during those years, “then-Mayor of Burlington Bernie Sanders was banning housing discrimination against gays and lesbians, and signing city proclamations for Burlington’s Gay Pride march.”

Baxley, who served on the New Hampshire for Bernie steering committee, also noted that Sanders was one of only 67 members of the U.S. House to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

“I remember how he called out another member of Congress on the House floor when that member, Duke Cunningham, used a homophobic slur about LGBT people serving in the military,” wrote Baxley. “I remember when Vermont passed civil unions and how he supported that earth-shattering first step. Bernie Sanders was one of the first senators to come out publicly in support of full marriage equality.”

Portsmouth Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine, who shepherded the state’s marriage equality bill through as a state representative, said he appreciates Clinton’s “fight against AIDS and discrimination against those living with HIV.”

“While I appreciate the support on the cause by others like Bernie Sanders, and thank them, I know that Hillary Clinton had joined the cause — done the work — led the fight  — achieved success —  at the times when it mattered most.”

State Rep. Ed Butler said he likes Sanders but doesn’t believe Sanders is “electable.”

“I don’t believe he’s electable, no matter what the polls say, no matter what my good friends who love him and will vote for him say, I just don’t think this country is going to elect someone who espouses socialist principles as deeply as he does,” said Butler.

Clinton, he said, “is the best person for the job, plain and simple. I am incredibly impressed with the depth and breadth of her knowledge and experience.”

Butler endorsed newcomer U.S. Senator Barack Obama over Clinton in 2008. What’s changed?

“Hillary has changed to a certain extent,” said Butler. “And the dynamic of the race has changed to another extent.”

Butler said Clinton gained a lot of valuable experience as Secretary of State and that she’s become “personally more accessible” in this campaign, compared to 2008.

“In meeting her this time, talking with her, working with her campaign, seeing her countless times as she has been through the state, she is a real person, she is an accessible person, she listens and responds to people’s personal concerns,” said Butler. “I’ve grown to like her a whole lot.”

“I’m 66 years old,” said Butler. “I’ve evolved and my understanding of what we can achieve as a community, and I think that Hillary has evolved as well. I trust that she supports the entire width and breadth of our community.”

Butler said there’s no way to know just how divided the LGBT community in New Hampshire is, and he knows people supporting both candidates.

 

Trump “just having fun”

In an incident that drew a lot of media attention, Trump laughed and made much ado about a female audience member’s yelling out “pussy” when Trump was describing U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s position on water boarding as an interrogation technique. When audience members couldn’t hear the woman’s first pronouncement, Trump asked her to shout it out again and then he blared it out.

“You’re not allowed to say –and I never expect to hear that from you again,” he said, speaking directly to the woman. “She said [he’s] a pussy. That’s terrible.” The audience roared its approval and Trump seemed to enjoy the response.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday, Trump brushed off the incident, saying, “We were all just having fun. It was a great moment. I got a standing ovation. The place went wild. …All I was doing was repeating because people couldn’t hear it, so I was doing everybody a favor.”

Log Cabin Republican President Gregory Angelo chalked it up to “just another madcap event in a campaign fueled by one madcap event after another.”

But another prominent gay conservative, Jimmy LaSalvia of the now defunct GOProud group, said he was “appalled to see a presidential candidate behave like that and repeat the word….”

“The real pussies are all the members of the Republican Party who haven’t stood up to him and [have] allowed his campaign to go on as long as it has,” said LaSalvia. “Now, they have allowed him to define their party.”

And Rich Tafel, former president of the national Log Cabin group, said, “I find Trump engaging in high school bully like behavior and the mainstream media is like the high school boys and girls who simply can’t get enough of it and give him the attention he craves. The entertainment industry created him and the political press perpetuates him. The views he’s tapped into are important to give voice to, just not the way he does it.”

Interestingly, last Thursday Trump said LGBT people could expect continued progress under a Trump White House. He was answering a question from lesbian journalist Sue O’Connell of New England Cable News. She asked Trump if LGBT people could expect progress on LGBT issues to continue in a Trump White House.

“Well, you can,” said Trump. “And look, we’re going to bring people together. And that’s your thing, and other people have their thing. We have to bring all together and if we don’t, we’re not going to have a country anymore.”

 

Rubio under siege

It was an especially hard week for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a candidate some Log Cabin Republicans showed an interest in months ago. But after last Saturday’s Republican debate on ABC, Rubio has been losing support. The reason? He kept repeating a well-rehearsed (though awkwardly worded) criticism of President Obama after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie taunted him for just repeating well-rehearsed spiels.

His uncomfortable exchange with a gay man at a diner in Manchester on Monday also gained considerable publicity. According to the New York Times, Rubio and his son were doing a campaign walk-through at a very crowded diner when he came up to a table occupied by Timothy Kierstead, his husband, and mother. Kierstead used the occasion to ask Rubio, “Why do you want to put me back in the closet?”

“I don’t,” replied Rubio. “You can live any way you want.” Kierstead told Rubio he thinks Rubio’s positions treat Kierstead and his husband as if “we don’t matter.”

“No, I just believe marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Rubio, according to the Times.

“Well, that’s your belief,” said Kierstead.

“I think that’s what the law should be,” added Rubio, “and if you don’t agree, you should have the law changed by a legislature.”

In fact, the legislature of New Hampshire did change the law to treat same-sex couples the same as straight couples in marriage licensing, back in 2010.

Later, at the same diner, Rubio approached a 92-year-old woman who asked him whether U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is gay. The Times reported that Rubio chuckled and said “No.” (The Boston Globe has a video of the exchange, provided by the American Bridge PAC.)

Clinton heads to New Hampshire with LGBT support and a tie in Iowa

There were some interesting LGBT moments in the days running up to Monday’s Iowa caucuses –caucuses in which Human Rights Campaign-endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton appears to have essentially split the vote with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and an early favorite among some Log Cabin Republicans, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, finished surprisingly strong.

There were some interesting LGBT moments in the days running up to Monday’s Iowa caucuses –caucuses in which Human Rights Campaign-endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton appears to have essentially split the vote with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and an early favorite among some Log Cabin Republicans, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, finished surprisingly strong.

Former Secretary of State Clinton had won 49.9 percent of the Democratic delegates in Iowa Monday night, while U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders appeared to have won 49.6 percent.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas won the Iowa caucuses by securing 29 percent of the votes for the Republican nomination. Real estate mogul Donald Trump came in second with 24 percent, followed by Rubio with 23 percent.

Cruz had anti-gay Iowa activists Bob Vander Plaats and U.S. Rep. Steve King on stage with him as he made his victory speech Monday night. On that stage, Cruz praised the 48,000-plus Iowans who voted for him at the caucuses. He said the campaign was about getting back to Judeo-Christian values.

Rubio’s strong third place showing in Iowa may have been due in part to his being endorsed by the state’s largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register. But it was certainly one of the more stunning LGBT moments when the endorsement from the Register chided Rubio for wanting to fight “the battles of the past” against same-sex marriage. Following the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling that required equal treatment for same-sex couples, the Register all but called for a movement to recall the court’s justices.

Other LGBT moments in the later days of the Iowa campaign included Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, who supported Republican Ted Cruz, railing against marriage between same-sex partners as “wicked” and “evil,” and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump reiterating his already stated disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down state bans on such marriages.

Cruz didn’t explicitly mention the Supreme Court ruling against state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, but he told CNN Sunday that, as president, he would on “Day One” reverse all of President Obama’s “illegal” executive orders. Rubio repeatedly promised the same. Although the executive orders have not been deemed “illegal,” President Obama has signed executive orders to prevent discrimination against LGBT people in employment by federal contractors and in hospital visitation policies.

All three Democratic candidates have repeatedly voiced their support for equal rights and dignity for LGBT people.

During her speech to supporters late Monday night, Clinton said she knows her administration can “protect our rights — women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, workers rights.”

Sanders’ speech Monday night focused on income inequality, tuition-free college, and climate change.

Donna Red Wing, a longtime LGBT activist nationally and now executive director of the statewide LGBT group One Iowa, said both Clinton and Sanders had strong support in the LGBT community there.

“I certainly cannot gauge where the LGBT community is around the top Democratic candidates,” said Red Wing last November. “Sanders has an amazing ground game and people in the community love him for his long-time and un-wavering support of LGBT equality. Clinton, on the other hand, also has a great many supporters in the community and an exceptional campaign, one that is gaining traction.”

By January 19, Clinton picked up a key endorsement.

The Human Rights Campaign board endorsed Clinton, saying she had “unveiled the most robust and ambitious LGBT plan any candidate for president has ever laid out” and has a “long record as a champion for LGBT rights both in the U.S. and, notably, around the globe.”

Later that week, HRC President Chad Griffin joined Clinton at a campaign event in West Des Moines and introduced her to a rally and, according to the Des Moines Register, said, “All of the progress we’ve made and all that we’re still fighting for — all of it — is on the ballot this year.”

The Register said Clinton told the crowd of about 900 supporters, ““We have to end the travesty that under our Constitution, you can get married on Saturday and because of it, fired on Monday.”

Meanwhile, Log Cabin Republicans stepped up its campaign against Clinton, posting a video of her comments in 2002 and 2004, saying she did not support marriage for gay couples.

“Democrats and members of the LGBT community have given Hillary Clinton a pass on past transgressions and even allowed her to rewrite the history of the gay rights movement; Log Cabin Republicans will not,” said Log Cabin national president Gregory Angelo. “It’s time for the people of Iowa — and the country — to know that when it mattered, Hillary Clinton was wrong on gay rights.”

Both the Republican and Democratic fields shrank even before the caucuses were over Monday night. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced he was suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination. O’Malley, like Clinton and Sanders, had a strong record in support of LGBT equal rights.

Now the smaller fields move to New Hampshire, where the first 2016 presidential primary takes place next Tuesday, February 9. Clinton has an “LGBT Granite Staters for Hillary” organization in place there, that includes the state’s first openly state senator, David Pierce.

 

Obama on LGBT equality: ‘Stay vigilant and keep working at it’

President Obama said this month he thinks the progress made on LGBT equality is “here to stay” despite pushback from some quarters of the country.

President Obama said this month he thinks the LGBT movement will “keep moving in the right direction, as long as we stay vigilant and keep working on it.”

He made his comment in response to a question from Ingrid Nilsen, one of three popular YouTube “creators” chosen to ask the president questions in conjunction with his State of the Union address on January 12.

Nilsen, who came out as a lesbian on her YouTube channel last June, asked President Obama whether it might be possible that some recent progress toward LGBT equality is “not here to stay in certain states.”

Her question was prompted, she said, by the recent announcement by the Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice that that state’s ban remains in “full force and effect” until the state supreme court can weigh in on what effect the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples has on the Alabama ban.

“No, no, no, it’s here to stay,” said President Obama, who was being interviewed in the East Room of the White House January 15. “Understand that the Supreme Court has ruled that, under the constitution, everybody in all 50 states has the right to marry the person they love. So that’s now the law of the land.

“The fact that an Alabama judge is resisting is just a temporary gesture by a judge which will be rapidly overturned because it violates what’s called the Supremacy Clause,” said the president. “When the federal constitution speaks, then everybody has to abide by it and state laws and state judges can’t overturn it. So, you shouldn’t be worried about that.

“I think that the process of changing people’s attitudes, the process of people treating the LGBT community with full equality and respect, making sure they’re not discriminated on the job or in housing or things like that –those are areas where we’ve still got some significant work to do,” continued President Obama. “And, for young people, making sure they’re not bullied — that requires the participation of all of us.

“So, we’re not there yet. On the other hand, I got to tell you that, to watch the amazing strides we’ve made over the last five years, ten years, twenty years and all of this is a result of the incredible courage of people who had the courage to come and say, ‘Here’s who I am’ but who did it 20, 30 years ago when it was incredibly tough. It was because of their courage and their activism that we’ve seen the changes we’ve made, and I’m confident we’ll keep on making them.

“The thing that makes me most hopeful about this,” he added, “is when I talk to Malia and Sasha and young people your generation, their attitudes are so different. The notion that you discriminate against someone because of sexual orientation is so out of sync with how most young people think –including young Republicans, young Democrats. I mean, I think it’s across some of the usual political lines. This is an issue that’s going to keep moving in the right direction, as long as we stay vigilant and keep working on it.”

Ironically, this year’s State of the Union address was one of the few in which President Obama did not lay out a specific goal to accomplish for the LGBT community.

In his first official State of the Union address, in 2010, President Obama said he would work with Congress and the military to repeal the ban on openly gay Americans serving. Reaction in the LGBT community was mixed: Some applauded the statement; others said the time for promises was over and that the president should create a plan to make it happen. By December that year, Congress agreed to a plan that the policy would end as soon as the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified that repeal would not jeopardize military readiness. They so certified and the policy was repealed in September 2011.

In January 2011, President Obama disappointed many LGBT activists when he did not call for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Instead, he called on college campuses to “open their doors to our military recruiters.”             President Obama’s 2012 address made passing mention of “gay or straight” members of the military.

In 2013, the president again talked about members of the military “gay and straight,” and made a pitch for ensuring that all people can “get ahead no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.” In June of that year, with the support of the Obama administration, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.

President Obama got a little more specific in January 2014, when he spoke about “marriage equality” and the “inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.” In a separate “supplemental” statement to the State of the Union, President Obama stated that “It’s time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to [the] list” of types of discrimination prohibited by federal law. And he explicitly endorsed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which sought to provide job security for LGBT people. Of course, in June 2015, with the full support of the Obama administration, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans to marriage for same-sex couples in every state.

During last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama talked about LGBT people in the context of preserving American values and respecting human dignity.

“That’s why we defend free speech and advocate for political prisoners and condemn the persecution of women or religious minorities or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” said the president. “We do these things not only because they are the right thing to do but because, ultimately, they will make us safer.”

Human Rights Campaign spokesman Stephen Peters said the president’s explicit mention of transgender people last year was historic. Peters said HRC hoped the president this year would address the community’s remaining challenges, including the “need to pass the Equality Act for full federal LGBT equality, HIV/AIDS funding, the current Department of Defense review of the outdated regulations preventing transgender service members from serving authentically, and a host of other areas.”