Tag Archives: Gay

‘Beauty and the Beast’ aims to enchant a new generation

In 1991, Disney struck gold with Beauty and the Beast. The film enchanted audiences and critics alike, and raked in several hundred million dollars along the way, but also upended expectations of what an animated film could be.

Not only did the New York Times theater critic controversially call it the best Broadway musical score of the year (spurring an actual Broadway show three years later), it also was the first-ever animated film to be nominated for a best picture Oscar.

Over a quarter century later, the legacy endures but times have changed, and there’s a new Beauty and the Beast on the block. Out March 17, the film is a lavish live-action reimagining of the “tale as old as time” with state-of-the-art CG splendor, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s classic songs and score (and a few new tunes with Tim Rice), and a modern social consciousness.

The film stars Harry Potter’s Emma Watson as the bookish heroine Belle, who yearns for adventure outside of the confines of her “small provincial town” and Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens as the cursed and cold Beast. Their supporting cast is a coterie of veterans, including Kevin Kline (Maurice), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza) and Ewan McGregor (Lumiere).

That Disney’s specific vision for Beauty and the Beast has lived on is no surprise, and its 13-year run on Broadway helped keep it in the cultural consciousness.

“It’s genuinely romantic, a genuinely beautiful story,” Menken said of its lasting appeal.

And then there’s the nostalgia aspect. For many (including the cast), this was a seminal childhood film.

Luke Evans (Gaston) saw it when he was 12, Josh Gad (LeFou) when he was 10, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette) when she was 8. Suffice it to say, they all knew the lyrics to the songs before they were cast.

The remake is also part of the Walt Disney Company’s ongoing strategy to mine their vaults for animated fare worthy of live-action re-creations. Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King are just a few already in the works.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t worthy updates to be made in Beauty and the Beast. Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) delighted in rooting the story in a specific time and place — 1740 France — and adorning every last corner of the production with Rococo and Baroque details.

Technology advances allowed the production to render household objects that look believable when brought to life. The Beast’s look, meanwhile, was achieved by combining performance capture and MOVA, a facial capture system, meaning Stevens throughout production walked on stilts and sported a prosthetic muscle suit with a gray body suit on top. (Yes, he danced in this getup).

The characters are more fleshed out as well. The Beast gets a backstory. As does Belle, whose independence looked refreshingly radical in ‘91 and goes even further here.

“She’s a 21st century Disney princess. She’s not just a pretty girl in a dress,” Evans said. “She’s fearless and needs no one to validate her.”

That the woman behind the character is also the UN women’s goodwill ambassador only adds to its resonance.

“I think Emma’s an incredible role model for young girls, as somebody who has two daughters but also has a young son who I want to grow up with these values instilled,” Stevens said.

And, in a tribute to Ashman, who died of complications relating to AIDS at age 40 before the ‘91 film came out, the production even unearthed forgotten lyrics from his notes, which they’ve added to two songs in the new film — Gaston and Beauty and the Beast.

While many of the beats, and even lines, remain the same as in 1991, the world looks more diverse from the very first shots. Faces of all races can be seen both in the grand castle and the country town.

“(Condon) wanted to make a film that was resonant for 2017, that represents the world as it is today,” said Mbatha-Raw.

Much has been made, too, of LeFou’s subtle “gay moment,” which put the internet in a tizzy far ahead of anyone actually seeing the film. On one side, GLAAD was applauding, on the other, a Facebook page apparently belonging to the Henagar Drive-In Theatre in Henagar, Alabama, announced that it would not be showing the film.

Many in the production have backed away from the topic entirely.

“To define LeFou as gay … nobody who sees the movie could define it that way. He’s enthralled with Gaston,” Menken said. “I’m happy that LeFou is getting so much attention. But I pray that this stupid topic goes away because it’s just not relevant with any respect to the story. Even the one moment that’s being discussed is just a silly little wink. It’s nothing.”

For his part, Gad thinks it’s been “overblown,” too, and that the story is more about “inclusiveness” and not judging a book by its cover.

“It’s a story with a lot of wonderful messages, and, really once you watch the film, anyone who is wondering what it’s all about will understand that it’s a beautiful story, inclusive of everyone. It’s a legacy that I’m proud to be part of,” Evans added.

“But you can judge Gaston by his cover,” he said with a smirk. “That’s exactly who he is.”

Gay veterans: We’ve been denied spot in St. Patrick’s parade

A gay veterans group says it has been denied permission to march in this year’s Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade just two years after organizers made the groundbreaking decision to allow gay groups to participate for the first time.

The veterans group, OutVets, said on its Facebook page that the reason for the denial is unclear, but “one can only assume it’s because we are LGBTQ.”

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, the parade’s organizer, drew immediate condemnation from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who said he would not participate in this year’s parade, scheduled for March 19, unless the council reversed course.

“I will not tolerate discrimination in our city of any form,” he said in a statement. “We are one Boston, which means we are a fully inclusive city.”

Democratic State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, whose district includes South Boston, asked the council to reconsider its decision.

The vote left OutVets leadership stunned.

“It’s disgusting and disgraceful that they would do this to their own, because we are veterans like them,” said Bryan Bishop, an Air Force veteran who founded OutVets.

The council gave no reason for its 9-4 vote, Bishop said.

Emails and phone messages seeking comment from the council on the reasoning were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Ed Flynn, a member of the council, said he voted to allow OutVets to participate in the parade through the largely Irish-American neighborhood, which in the past has drawn as many as one million spectators.

“I am saddened and outraged that the Allied War Veterans Council has voted to turn back the clock on equality,” he said in a statement, adding that he will ask the council to reconsider the vote.

OutVets has gone out of its way to conform with the parade’s code of conduct the last two years, Bishop said. “If we did break any rules, we were never informed,” he said. The only issue OutVets had with parade organizers was over use of their rainbow flag, he said. That issue was resolved.

Bishop said he heard rumblings that OutVets would be barred from this year’s parade as far back as November when Brian Mahoney, the former commander of the veterans’ council, died.

Mahoney had been firmly in OutVets corner.

“The only thing I can assume is that with Brian no longer there to beat the drum for us they had enough support to put us out,” Bishop said.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council for decades fought legal battles to keep gay organizations out, even winning a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1995 backing their right to bar gay groups.

“This is a black eye on South Boston,” Bishop said. “This is not who we are as Bostonians.”

 

How ‘Moonlight’ pulled off the Oscar upset of a lifetime

Long before Barry Jenkins made his way to the podium through the bewildered throng that packed the Dolby Theatre stage at the Academy Awards, he sat in a Toronto hotel room explaining his movie’s quiet power.

“There’s something in the way black men grow up in this country,” said Jenkins. “There’s a lot of information on these men’s faces when they’re not speaking, partly because we’re robbed of our voices so much by society and the things society projects on us.”

It was, in a way, fitting that “Moonlight” — stealthy and silent — won best picture amid such cacophony Sunday night. Since its fall film festival debut, Jenkin’s tenderly lyrical film has steadily risen not through the loud kind of arm-waving that often catapults movies to the top prize — big box office, scene-chewing performances, historical sweep — but instead by a soulful, unremitting glow that slow-burned all the way to the Oscars.

Now that we more or less have some answers to “What the heck happened?” in the Oscars’ final moments — EnvelopeGate, if you will — we can turn to that other puzzler: How did “Moonlight” just pull off one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history?

While not quite as gasp-inducing as the gaff that preceded its win, “Moonlight” will surely rank alongside, if not above, shockers like “Shakespeare in Love” (over “Saving Private Ryan”) and “Crash” (over “Brokeback Mountain”) for sheer, oh-my-god surprise.

The odds were stacked against it. “La La Land,” with a record-tying 14 nominations, was seen as the hands-down favorite, having run up prizes from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. Though this usually hapless critic predicted a “Moonlight” win , virtually every Oscar prognosticator considered “La La Land” _ like Hillary Clinton, it turned out_ a lock.

But just as Clinton learned, there are dangers to being the presumed front-runner, especially when you’re seen as a representative of nostalgia and tradition in turbulent times.

Widely expected to honor itself again by awarding a showbiz celebration like “La La Land,” Hollywood veered instead to Miami’s Liberty City, and a film that ripples with the humanity of a young man — black, gay, poor — seldom dignified by the movies or other realms of society. Yet “Moonlight” isn’t a traditional social drama but a deeply personal one, soaked through with the kind of empathy many believe is missing from the national discourse. In the wake of the election of Donald Trump — surely a factor on Oscar night — Hollywood chose not a love letter to itself, but, as filmmaker Mark Duplass argued in an open-letter to academy voters , a “love letter to the core human values that connect us all.”

“Moonlight,” arguably the most critically adored film of 2016, is unquestionably deserving. In fact, it might even be too deserving. Films this good don’t often win best picture. Even “La La Land” star Emma Stone took a moment in the chaotic aftermath Sunday to exclaim: “I love ‘Moonlight!”

But “Moonlight” was made for just $1.5 million. It was only Jenkins’ second film, and his first in eight years. Having made $22.2 million at the box office, it’s one of the littlest-seen best-picture winners ever. The littlest seen best-picture winner was Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” (2009), which had made $12.7 million at the time of the Oscars.

The comparison is a good one, in some ways. Like “Moonlight,” “The Hurt Locker” triumphed over a colorful event movie that was praised for resuscitating the theatrical experience: “Avatar.” And it was boosted by some compelling history: Bigelow’s film was the first best-picture winner directed by a woman. “Moonlight” is the first directed by an African-American filmmaker. Its win, also the first for an LGBT-themed movie, is sure to inspire a generation of filmmakers.

Only one major studio release (Warner Bros.’ “Argo”) has won best picture in the last decade. “La La Land” was distributed by Lionsgate, often called a “mini-major,” and had much the feel of an old studio musical. Its 14 nominations and $370 million-plus in global box office only enhanced its reputation as the juggernaut front-runner — with the requisite backlash to go with it.

But, increasingly, small wins big at the Oscars. For four years straight, the Film Independent Spirit Awards winners — “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman” and “Spotlight” — have lined up with the Oscars. It could well be that academy voters, working in an industry that increasingly makes little beyond branded blockbusters, are most moved by the personal cinema that has managed to escape Hollywood.

“I hope we are moving in that vein,” said Tarell Alvin McCraney, co-writer of “Moonlight,” which was based on his play. “I hope the storytellers up here and their proud journey here can imprint on someone out there watching, that they, too, can stand here too, and also tell their stories as daringly, as intimately as possible.”

“Moonlight” had won at the Writers Guild Awards and the Globes and (unlike “La La Land”) been nominated for best ensemble by the Screen Actors Guild. But it broke all the rules that help predict Oscar winners. There are factors that may have played a role, like the revamped film academy, which added 683 new members in June to help diversify its ranks. And the best-picture category, unlike the other categories, uses a preferential ballot to select the winner, a ranking method adopted in 2009 when the category increased from five movies to as many as 10. It’s a system that rewards films with broad support, not necessarily the most No. 1 votes.

Jenkins didn’t have any answers himself, sounding amazed and impressed that the industry “voted for a film about a marginalized character from a marginalized community told in a very unorthodox way.”

“I guess anything’s possible,” said Jenkins.

Washington Supreme Court: Florist broke the law by denying service to gay couple

The Washington Supreme Court ruled Feb.16 that a florist in Richland violated a state anti-discrimination law when she denied service to a same-sex couple planning to marry.

Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll were refused service by Arlene’s Flowers because they are gay.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Washington are representing Freed and Ingersoll in their lawsuit against the florist for violating their rights.

The suit, Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, was heard jointly with the consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers brought by the state of Washington.

“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The court affirmed that we are on the right side of law and the right side of history,” said Freed and Ingersoll. “We felt it was so important that we stand up against discrimination because we don’t want what happened to us to happen to anyone else. We are so glad that we stood up for our rights.”

Freed and Ingersoll have been a couple since 2004. In December 2012, Freed proposed marriage to Ingersoll and the two became engaged.

They were planning for a wedding to be held on their anniversary in September 2013.

Having purchased goods from Arlene’s Flowers on other occasions, Ingersoll  approached the florist to arrange for flowers for the wedding. He was told the business would not sell the couple flowers because of the owner’s religious beliefs.

The Washington Law Against Discrimination guarantees the right to be free from discrimination in public accommodations based on race, creed, national origin, sex, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. Thus, it prohibits businesses that are open to the general public from refusing to sell goods, merchandise and services because of a person’s sexual orientation.

“Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT Project. “But religious beliefs do not give any of us a right to ignore the law or to harm others because of who they are. When people experience acts of discrimination, they feel that they are not full and equal members of our society, and we’re delighted that the Washington Supreme Court has recognized this.”

The state supreme court’s decision upheld a 2015 ruling by Benton County Superior Court that the refusal of Arlene’s Flowers to sell flowers to the couple violated the longstanding Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act.

“Freedom of religion is fundamental to American society, that’s why it is firmly protected by the U.S. Constitution. People should also never use their personal religious beliefs as a free pass to violate the law or the basic civil rights of others,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group. “Businesses who are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. We congratulate the ACLU on their important victory in this case upholding fairness and equality under the law.”

Ingersoll and Freed are represented by ACLU cooperating attorneys Michael Scott, Amit Ranade and Jake Ewart of Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson P.S., ACLU of Washington Staff Attorney Margaret Chen, and ACLU LGBT and HIV Project Staff Attorney Elizabeth Gill.

Did you know

Washington is one of 19 states that provide protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Draft order exposes White House plan to license anti-LGBT discrimination

The White House this week said it would not roll-back Obama administration protections for LGBTQ people employed by the federal government or its contractors. However, the statement from the Trump administration provided no comfort in the wake of a rash of discriminatory executive orders signed by the president in his first weeks in the Oval Office.

More orders may come, as hundreds of draft documents are circulating at the White House, including one reported the week of Jan. 30 that would allow people to discriminate based on religious beliefs and values.

Such an executive order “is a charter for widespread and divisive discrimination, against LGBTQ people and frankly against everyone. It is designed to destroy lives and roll-back fundamental rights,” the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Force said in a statement Feb. 1.

The White House, on Jan. 31 said Donald Trump would keep Barack Obama’s directive protecting LGBTQ employees of federal contractors. “President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the statement read.

The statement runs contrary to Trump’s actions. He chose for his vice president Mike Pence, whose political record against LGBT equality goes back years and who, as governor of Indiana, signed legislation to sanction faith-based discrimination.

Trump’s cabinet picks include a mix of right-wing conservatives with anti-gay records and positions, including Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos, as does his nominee for Supreme Court.

Also, says Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, the administration has not answered whether it will rebuff requests from the Christian right for an order sanctioning their discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Griffin was referring to media reports of a draft “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom” order that would allow an unprecedented expansion of tax-payer funded discrimination.

“The leaked draft of Donald Trump’s License to Discriminate order is sweeping and dangerous,” Griffin said. “It reads like a wishlist from some of the most radical anti-equality activists. If true, it seems this White House is poised to wildly expand anti-LGBTQ discrimination across all facets of the government — even if he does maintain the Obama executive order.”

Griffin added, “If Donald Trump goes through with even a fraction of this order, he’ll reveal himself as a true enemy to LGBTQ people. We’ve already seen that the Trump administration is willing to go after women, immigrants, people of color and most frighteningly, people who disagree with him. If this version is true this could represent another chilling attempt to go after LGBTQ people, federal employees, employees of federal contractors and people served by federal programs funded with taxpayer dollars.”

ABC News obtained a copy of the four-page draft order and reported that it also would allow companies to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage as part of employee health plans and allow tax-exempt entities — such as churches — to engage “on moral or political issues from a religious perspective” without fear of losing their tax status.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said such an order would go against the Constitution.

“It has long been established that our Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, but those protections do not create the right to cause harm to others,” Nadler said on Feb. 1. “Protections for religious freedom must be shields to protect the practice of religion, not swords to enable one person to force his or her religious beliefs on others. No matter how sincerely held a religious belief may be, employers — including the federal government — must not be permitted to wield them as a means of discriminating against their employees or against those they serve.

Idaho man pleads not guilty to hate crime in killing of gay man

An Idaho man charged with a federal hate crime in the beating death of a gay man pleaded not guilty in Boise’s U.S. District Court.

A March trial was set for 23-year-old Kelly Schneider, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in state court this week.

He was indicted earlier this month on the hate crime charge that accused him of attacking Steven Nelson last year because he was gay.

Few documents have been filed in the federal court case so far, but the details of the attack are outlined in the related state court case: Prosecutors say Schneider used an online personals ad on Backdoor.com to lure the 49-year-old Nelson to a remote recreation area near Lake Lowell in southwestern Idaho.

There Nelson was robbed, stripped, beaten and left.

Despite being critically injured, naked and barefoot, Nelson managed to walk to a home about a half-mile away for help. He was able to give police information before he died a few hours later.

Schneider pleaded guilty in state court to first-degree murder.

But Idaho’s state hate crime law doesn’t extend protections to people who are gay or lesbian, and so Schneider was transferred to federal custody to face the hate crime charge.

Schneider was one of four men charged in connection with the attack in Idaho’s state courts.

On Monday, Schneider pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, saying that he intended to rob Nelson but not kill him. He acknowledged that he kicked Nelson repeatedly and that his actions caused Nelson’s death.

In exchange for his guilty plea, state prosecutors agreed to drop robbery, theft and conspiracy charges. He now faces life in state prison, as well as a possible life sentence in federal prison if he is convicted on the federal hate crime charge.

The other three men in the state case — Jayson Woods, 28; Kevin R. Tracy, 21; and Daniel Henkel, 23 — are still awaiting trial on first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy charges.

Schneider has a lengthy criminal history in Idaho. But the only other violent crime on his record is an injury to an officer conviction that appears to stem from his time spent in the Canyon County jail in 2012.

Still, Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor Chris Boyd said during Schneider’s state court arraignment last year that he believed Schneider had lured and beaten other victims many times before and the sheriff’s office said at the time they had received tips about others who may have been victimized in the same way.

However, no additional cases have been filed against Schneider in state court.

Survey shows post-election spike in bullying of young people

A post-election survey of youths found 70 percent witnessed bullying, hate messages or harassment, with racial bias the most common motive cited.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, released the online survey of 50,000 young people on Jan. 18.

More than a quarter of LGBTQ youth said they have been personally bullied or harassed since Election Day — compared to 14 percent of non-LGBTQ youth — with transgender young people most frequently targeted.

Additionally, Hispanic and Latinx respondents were 20 percent more likely than other youth to report having been personally bullied, with harassment targeting both immigrant and nonimmigrant communities.

“Whether the threats come in their schools or from those holding the country’s highest offices, no young person should be bullied or made to feel unsafe,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a news release. “The alarming results of this groundbreaking survey underscore our fears about the damaging effect the recent election is having on our nation’s youth, and serve as a call to action to all of us committed to helping our young people thrive in an inclusive and supportive society.”

Young people reported feeling nervous and hopeless after the election, with almost half of LGBTQ youth saying they have taken steps to hide who they are by delaying coming out, dressing differently or questioning their plans for the future.

Hispanic and African American young people also reported changing their appearances and routines out of fear of harassment and Muslim, Jewish and Hindu youth all described concealing symbols of their faith to avoid being targeted.

In responses to open-ended questions on the survey, many young people shared stories of how  campaign rhetoric encouraged harassment and bullying.

Wrote one Hispanic 18-year-old from Illinois: “My family and I go shopping and wash clothes at 2 a.m. to avoid seeing and hearing people’s comments.

Findings include:

● 70 percent of respondents reported witnessing bullying, hate messages or harassment during or since the 2016 election.

Of those, 79 percent said such behaviors have been occurring more frequently since the onset of the presidential campaign.

● Among young people who reported seeing bullying and harassment, 70 percent witnessed incidents motivated by race or ethnicity, 63 percent saw incidents motivated by sexual orientation, 59 percent saw incidents motivated by immigration status and 55 percent witnessed incidents motivated by gender.

● Over the past 30 days, about half of transgender youth reported feeling hopeless and worthless most or all of the time and 70 percent said these and similar feelings have increased in the past 30 days.

About 36 percent were personally bullied or harassed and 56 percent changed their self-expression or future plans because of the election.

● Before Election Day 2016, more than half of survey respondents reported thinking about  the election every day and a third thought about it several times each week.

Respondents were solicited through HRC’s social media channels and other organizations, including Mental Health America, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Southern Poverty Law Center, True Colors Fund and The Trevor Project.

Read the open letter more than 150 LGBT elected officials sent to Trump

More than 150 LGBT elected officials, representing millions of people from across the country, are calling on President-elect Donald Trump to respect LGBT Americans and continue efforts to advance equality.

In an open letter to the president-elect, 156 elected officials express grave concerns about his cabinet appointees and implore Trump to “be a president for all Americans.”

The letter is signed by U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Mark Pocan, as well as openly LGBT mayors, state legislators, city councilmembers and other LGBT elected officials.

“These LGBT elected officials represent America at its best — diverse leaders who make the values of inclusion, fairness and justice the cornerstone of their policy positions and decision-making,” said Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, resident & CEO of the Victory Institute.

“This letter urges the president-elect to govern by those core American values, and to put forward legislation and policies that improve quality of life for all Americans. They are using their collective voice to demand continued progress on equality, and to make clear they will oppose any efforts that threaten our rights or families.”

More than 40 LGBT elected officials began work on the open letter during a strategy session at Victory Institute’s International LGBT Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8, 2016.

Full text of open letter to President-elect Donald Trump:

January 13, 2017

Dear President-elect Donald Trump:

Congratulations on being elected the 45th President of the United States. We are 156 proud lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elected officials representing millions of constituents, and we urge you to join us in embodying the highest ideals of our great and diverse nation.

The long and divisive presidential campaign is over, and now more than 300 million Americans depend on you to bring our nation together. To do this, we ask you deescalate the hostility and intolerance expressed by a small but vocal minority throughout the election season. We ask you appoint individuals with inclusive policy solutions that aim to better the lives of all Americans. And we ask you declare full support for LGBT equality, and remain true to earlier statements promising to be a president supportive of our rights.

We believe in an America that values and accepts everyone, and a country that strives to improve quality of life for all people, regardless of their background or beliefs. These principles are what distinguish America in an often-troubled world – they are what make America great. And it is the elected leadership of our nation that determines whether our government embodies or undermines those ideals. It is elected leaders like ourselves – from the U.S. president to city councilmembers – that either appeal to the better angels of our fellow Americans, or use fear and rancor to spur unproductive discord.

While we hope you appeal to those better angels and support inclusive and fair-minded policies, we have grave concerns given the individuals appointed to your administration thus far. Nearly all hold anti-LGBT views aimed at denying our community acceptance and inclusion in American society. Many proudly tout legislative records opposing basic rights for LGBT Americans, and others express disdain for our lives and relationships. Intended or not, these appointments signal a Trump administration preparing to rollback recent advances for LGBT people, and an administration opposed to LGBT people living open and free.

Our concern is not unfounded, given our historic gains are recent and vulnerable. Openly LGBT men and women can now proudly serve in the Armed Forces; committed same-sex couples can legally marry nationwide; federal contractors can no longer discriminate against LGBT employees or job applicants; the U.S. State Department is leading the world in advancing global LGBT equality; and more than 300 openly LGBT individuals were appointed to positions in the federal government over the past eight years. These hard-fought advances transformed our place in American society, and we are disturbed that most of your appointees opposed these efforts.

Mr. President-elect, our nation will be weaker if LGBT military personnel are prevented from serving openly and equally. America will be worse off if discrimination protections for LGBT government employees or students are revoked. The entire country will suffer if there is a national attempt to implement “religious exemptions” that allow businesses to turn away LGBT customers. And the world will be a darker place without America speaking against anti-LGBT violence and injustices abroad. We need you to vocally reject our country moving backward – to reject the anti-LGBT positions of your appointees and promise a pro-equality Trump administration.

We also must emphasize the LGBT community is as diverse as our nation. We are black, we are Latino, we are white, we are immigrants, we are Muslim, we are Jewish, we are women, and we are people with disabilities. LGBT elected officials know well the sting and consequences of discrimination, injustice and intolerance, and we carry that lived experience into our policy positions, legislation and decision-making. We hold central the American values of fairness, justice and liberty – and ensure these values are the foundation for our work as public servants. As the nation debates economic security, immigration, women’s rights, voting rights, policing, and mass incarceration, we ask you also apply the American values of fairness, justice and liberty, and ensure the best interests of all communities are incorporated into your policies and positions.

Americans of every political party, ideology, race, ethnicity and religion support LGBT equality – it does not need to be a partisan issue. As elected officials, we understand support for LGBT equality as both morally appropriate and politically shrewd. History looks fondly upon leaders who stand for social justice when those around them argue otherwise. History also views harshly those who fail to recognize and support morally righteous causes – and history will undoubtedly view LGBT equality as both moral and righteous.

We sincerely hope you aim to be a president for all Americans – including LGBT Americans of every race, ethnicity, gender and religion. As representatives of the LGBT community, we will hold your administration accountable for actions that infringe upon our rights and opportunities, and will oppose presidential appointees who denigrate or harm our community. But we much prefer to work with you to continue the incredible progress toward LGBT equality – to have you stand with us on the right side of history. We hope you voice your support for existing rights and protections for LGBT Americans, and commit to furthering LGBT equality during your presidency. We promise to be a strong and persistent voice for equality either way.

Sincerely,

Federal 

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney

U.S. House of Representatives

New York, Congressional District 18

 

Representative Mark Pocan

U.S. House of Representatives

Wisconsin, Congressional District 2

 

Alabama

 

Representative Patricia Todd

Alabama House of Representatives, District 54

 

Arizona 

 

Representative Daniel Hernandez

Arizona House of Representatives, District 2

 

Representative Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete

Arizona House of Representatives, District 30

 

Lawrence Robinson

Governing Board Member

Roosevelt School Board

 

Karin Uhlich

Councilmember, Ward 3

Tucson City Council

 

Arkansas

 

Kathy Webb

Vice Mayor

Little Rock City Board

 

California

 

Senator Toni Atkins

California State Senate, District 39

 

Jovanka Beckles

Councilmember

Richmond City Council

 

Kevin Beiser

Board Vice President

San Diego Unified School District

 

Sabrina Brennan

Commissioner

San Mateo County Harbor Commission

 

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon

West Sacramento

 

Adam Carranza

President

Mountain View Board of Education

 

Chris Clark

Councilmember

Mountain View City Council

 

John D’Amico

Councilmember

West Hollywood City Council

 

John Duran

Councilmember

West Hollywood City Council

 

Representative Susan Talamantes Eggman

California State Assembly, District 13

 

Joel Fajardo

Vice Mayor

San Fernando City Council

 

Ginny Foat

Councilmember

Palm Springs City Council

 

Larry Forester

Councilmember

Signal Hill City Council

 

Mayor Robert Garcia

Long Beach

 

Assemblymember Todd Gloria

California State Assembly, District 78

 

Georgette Gomez

Councilmember, District 9

San Diego City Council

 

Steve Hansen

Councilmember, District 4

Sacramento City Council

 

John Heilman

Mayor Pro Tem

West Hollywood City Council

 

Gabe Kearney

Councilmember

Petaluma City Council

 

Geoff Kors

Councilmember

Palm Springs City Council

 

Senator Ricardo Lara

California State Senate, District 33

 

Steven Llanusa

Vice President, Board of Education

Claremont Unified School District

 

Assemblymember Evan Low

California State Assembly, District 28

 

Rafael Mandelman

Trustee

City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees

 

Alex Randolph

Member

City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees

 

Jeff Sheehy

Supervisor, District 8

San Francisco Board of Supervisors

 

Rene Spring

Councilmember

Morgan Hill City Council

 

Tom Temprano

Trustee

City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees

 

Wanden Treanor

Trustee

Marin Community College District

 

Christopher Ward

Councilmember, District 3

San Diego City Council

 

Scott Wiener

California State Senate, District 11

 

Ken Yeager

Supervisor, District 4

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

 

Colorado

 

Representative Joann Ginal

Colorado House of Representatives, District 52

 

Representative Leslie  Herod

Colorado House of Representatives, District 8

 

Debra Johnson

Clerk and Recorder

Denver

 

Representative Paul Rosenthal

Colorado House of Representatives, District 49B

 

Robin Kniech

Councilmember, At-Large

Denver City Council

 

Gwen Lachelt

Vice Chair, County Commissioner, District 2

La Plata County Commission

 

Senator Dominick Moreno

Colorado State Senate, District 21

 

District of Columbia

 

Jack Jacobson

President, Ward 2

District of Columbia State Board of Education

 

Florida

 

Heather Carruthers

Commissioner, District 3

Monroe County Commission

 

Lesa Peerman

Commissioner

Margate City Commission

 

Representative David Richardson

Florida House of Representatives, District 113

 

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith

Florida House of Representatives, District 49

 

Georgia

 

Representative Park Cannon

Georgia House of Representatives, District 58

 

Representative Karla Drenner

Georgia House of Representatives, District 85

 

Representative Sam Park

Georgia House of Representatives, District 101

 

Alex Wan

Councilmember, District 6

Atlanta City Council

 

Idaho

 

Representative John McCrostie

Idaho House of Representatives, District 16A

 

Illinois

 

James Cappleman

Alderman, Ward 46

Chicago City Council

 

Representative Kelly Cassidy

Illinois House of Representatives, District 14

 

Representative Gregory Harris

Illinois House of Representatives, District 13

 

Raymond Lopez

Alderman, Ward 15

Chicago City Council

 

Colette Lueck

Trustee

Oak Park Village Board

 

Deborah Mell

Alderman, Ward 33

Chicago City Council

 

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa

Alderman, Ward 35

Chicago City Council

 

Debra Shore

Commissioner

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

 

Mark Tendam

Alderman, Ward 6

Evanston City Council

 

Thomas Tunney

Alderman, Ward 44

Chicago City Council

 

Iowa

 

Representative Liz Bennett

Iowa House of Representatives, District 65

 

Senator Matt McCoy

Iowa State Senate, District 21

 

Kansas

 

Mike Poppa

Councilmember, Ward 4

Roeland Park City Council

 

Maine

 

Senator Justin Chenette

Maine State Senate, District 31

 

Representative Ryan Fecteau

Maine House of Representatives, District 11

 

Representative Lois Reckitt

Maine House of Representatives, District 31

 

Representative Andrew McLean

Maine House of Representatives, District 27

 

Maryland

 

Delegate Luke Clippinger

Democratic Caucus Chair

Maryland House of Delegates, District 46

 

Delegate Bonnie Cullison

Maryland House of Delegates, District 19

 

Delegate Anne Kaiser

Majority Leader

Maryland House of Delegates, District 14

 

Byron Macfarlane

Register of Wills

Howard County

 

Senator Richard Madaleno

Maryland State Senate, District 18

 

Delegate Maggie McIntosh

Maryland House of Delegates, District 43

 

Mayor Jeffrey Slavin

Somerset

 

Massachusetts

 

Senator Julian Cyr

Massachusetts Senate, Cape & Islands District

 

Jeremy Micah Denlea

Vice President, Ward 5

Attleboro Municipal Council

 

Eileen Duff

Councilor, District 5

Massachusetts Governor’s Council

 

Mayor Kevin Dumas

Attleboro

 

Representative Jack Patrick Lewis

Massachusetts House of Representatives, Middlesex District 7

 

Mayor Alex Morse

Holyoke

 

Mayor E. Denise Simmons

Cambridge

 

Michigan

 

Mayor Jim Carruthers

Traverse City

 

Mayor David Coulter

Ferndale

 

Mayor Amanda Maria Edmonds

Ypsilanti

 

Representative Jon Hoadley

Michigan House of Representatives, District 60

 

Brian McGrain

Commissioner, District 10

Ingham County Board of Commissioners

 

Jason Morgan

Commissioner, District 8

Washtenaw County Commission

 

Representative Jeremy Moss

Michigan House of Representatives, District 35

 

Richard Renner

Township Supervisor

Pioneer Township

 

Mayor Kenson J. Siver

Southfield

 

Minnesota

 

Representative            Susan  Allen

Minnesota House of Representatives, District 62B

 

Carol Becker

President

Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation

 

Representative Karen Clark

Minnesota House of Representatives, District 62A

 

Senator D. Scott Dibble

Minnesota State Senate, District 61

 

Representative Erin Maye Quade

Minnesota House of Representatives, District 57A

 

Missouri

 

Shane Cohn

Alderman, Ward 25

St. Louis Board of Alderman

 

Representative Randy Dunn

Missouri House of Representatives, District 23

 

Nebraska

 

Barbara Baier

Member, District 3

Lincoln Board of Education

 

Nevada

 

Representative Nelson Araujo

Nevada State Assembly, District 3

 

Senator David Parks

Nevada State Senate, District 7

 

New Hampshire

 

Mayor Dana Hilliard

Somersworth

 

Christopher Pappas

Councilor, District 4

New Hampshire Executive Council

 

New Jersey

 

Michael DeFusco

Councilman, Ward 1

Hoboken City Council

 

Assemblyman Tim Eustace

New Jersey General Assembly, District 38

 

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora

New Jersey General Assembly, District 15

 

Pamela Renee

Councilwoman

Borough of Neptune City Council

 

Edward Zipprich

Councilmember

Borough of Red Bank Council

 

New Mexico

 

Senator Jacob Candelaria

New Mexico State Senate, District 26

 

Mayor Javier Gonzales

Santa Fe

 

Linda Siegle

Governing Board Secretary

Santa Fe Community College Board of Trustees

 

Senator Liz Stefanics

New Mexico State Senate, District 39

 

New York

 

Assemblymember Harry Bronson

New York State Assembly, District 138

 

Matt Haag

Councilmember, At-Large

Rochester City Council

 

Gregory Rabb

President, At-Large

Jamestown City Council

 

Michael Sabatino

Councilmember, District 3

Yonkers City Council

 

Assemblymember Matthew Titone

New York State Assembly, District 61

 

North Carolina

 

Representative Cecil Brockman

North Carolina House of Representatives, District 60

 

Mayor Lydia Lavelle

Carrboro

 

LaWana Mayfield

Councilwoman, District 3

Charlotte City Council

 

Damon Seils

Alderman

Carrboro Board of Aldermen

 

North Dakota

 

Representative Joshua Boschee

North Dakota House of Representatives, District 44

 

Ohio

 

Representative Nickie J. Antonio

House Minority Whip

Ohio House of Representatives, District 13

 

Sandra Kurt

Clerk of the Court

Summit County Clerk of Courts

 

Oregon

 

Representative Karin Power

Oregon House of Representatives, District 41

 

Pennsylvania

 

Mayor Matt Fetick

Kennett Square

 

Bruce A. Kraus

Councilman, District 3

Pittsburgh City Council

 

Robert Langley

Councilmember

Meadville City Council

 

Lori Schreiber

Commissioner, Ward 14

Abington Township Board of Commissioners

 

Representative Brian Sims

Pennsylvania House of Representatives, District 182

 

Tennessee

 

Chris Anderson

Councilmember, District 7

Chattanooga City Council

 

Nancy VanReece

Councilmember, District 8

Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County

 

Brett Withers

Councilmember, District 6

Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County

 

Texas

 

Representative Mary González

Texas House of Representatives, District 75

 

John Turner-McClelland

President, District 11-A

Denton County Fresh Water Supply Board of Directors

 

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Dallas County

 

Utah

 

Arlyn Bradshaw

Councilmember, District 1

Salt Lake County Council

 

Senator Jim Dabakis

Utah State Senate, District 2

 

Vermont

 

Representative Bill Lippert

Vermont House of Representatives, Chittenden-4-2 District

 

Virginia

 

Delegate Mark Levine

Virginia House of Delegates, District 45

 

Michael Sutphin

Councilmember

Blacksburg Town Council

 

Washington

 

Mayor Dave Kaplan

Des Moines

 

Senator Marko Liias

Washington State Senate, District 21

 

Representative Nicole Macri

Washington House of Representatives, District 43

 

Ryan Mello

Councilmember, At-Large Position 8

Tacoma City Council

 

Michael Scott

Councilor, Central Ward

Bainbridge Island City Council

 

West Virginia

 

Kevin Carden

Councilmember and Town Recorder

Corporation of Harpers Ferry

 

Wisconsin

 

Vered Meltzer

Alderperson, District 2

Appleton Common Council

 

Michael Verveer

Alder and Council President, District 4

Madison Common Council

 

Wyoming

 

Representative Cathy Connolly

Minority Floor Leader

Wyoming State House of Representatives, District 13

 

Gay members of Congress raise concerns about DeVos’ record on LGBT issues

Democratic U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Jared Polis of Colorado and Mark Takano of California are raising serious concerns about Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos’ views on issues affecting LGBT students and parents.

The reps — all openly gay and co-chairs of the  Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus — this week sent a letter to members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) urging them to closely examine DeVos’ record.

“It is unfathomable that the next Secretary of Education would oppose basic protections for LGBT students and roll back the progress we have made to ensure all students feel safe and supported in our schools,” Pocan said in a statement to the press. “Ms. DeVos’ history of opposing equality for LGBT individuals is deeply troubling, and the public deserves to know whether she will work with us to improve lives or continue to advocate an extremist agenda that bullies our students.”

The letter mentions the millions of dollars DeVos and her family have contributed to organizations and candidates that oppose equality for LGBT families and actively promote dangerous practices like “conversion therapy.”

The text of the letter

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray:

            As Co-Chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we write to express our deep concern with President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Betsy DeVos. While Ms. DeVos’ stances on a number of public education issues raise concerns, we cannot hold our silence regarding her opposition to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.  

Betsy DeVos’ career has been marked by repeated attempts to undermine the rights of the LGBT community. She and her family have donated extensively to groups which promote the idea that students who identify as LGBT must undergo “conversion” therapy and have also affiliated with groups that oppose anti-bullying legislation. The next Secretary of Education must represent all students in our country. Anyone who promotes such fervently anti-LGBT viewpoints is wholly unqualified to serve as the Secretary of Education.  

            Since 1998, Betsy DeVos and her family’s foundations have donated at least $6.1 million to Focus on the Family, a right-wing organization which has spent millions of dollars attempting to defeat marriage equality amendments at the state level. Even more troubling, this organization supported by the DeVos family promotes “conversion therapy,” opposes the right of LGBT parents to adopt children, and has referred to transgender individuals as “mentally ill.” This organization has even gone so far to oppose anti-bullying policies and opposes basic workplace protections for LGBT individuals. The DeVos family’s support for anti-LGBT groups and policies extends beyond just this organization to many other groups known for their anti-LGBT activities, such as:  

·         $1,000,000 to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, which has claimed that the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act amounted to a “fatwa;”

·         $15,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has opposed adoption with same-sex couples;

·         $433,750 to the Council for National Policy, a highly secretive group that is led by extremists like Focus on the Family’s James Dobson among other extremists; and 

·         $13,498,000 to the Heritage Foundation, which has stated that “Despite activist judges’ opinions, the majority of Americans continue to affirm the reasonable conclusion that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” 

The DeVos family does not stop with contributions to intolerant organizations as they also support anti-LGBT politicians. For example, the DeVos family – including Ms. DeVos – were top contributors to Michigan State Representative Andrea LaFontaine, who sponsored legislation allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT parents and deny them the ability to adopt a child. 

            The LGBT community has made significant and long overdue advancements when it comes to equality in education. During President Obama’s tenure in office, the Department of Education took important steps to combat bullying and ensure that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, appropriately reflects the rights of transgender students. It is imperative that the rights of LGBT students are adequately protected moving forward. 

            As you move to consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos, we strongly encourage you to seek out answers regarding Ms. DeVos’ stance on important education equity issues, including her views on protecting LGBT students from bullying and discrimination in K-12 and higher education spaces. We are particularly troubled by Betsy DeVos’ past support for inhumane “conversion therapy” treatments and believe it is imperative that any Secretary of Education nominee denounce such practices before being confirmed. 

            As Members of the LGBT community, we know our schools must be a safe place for all children. As you consider the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, we strongly encourage you to stand up for the civil rights of LGBT students and ensure the next Secretary opposes any action to roll back our progress toward equality.

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91-year-old gay veteran wins honorable discharge

A 91-year-old veteran who was dismissed from the U.S. Air Force as “undesirable” in 1948 because he is gay has had that discharge status changed to “honorable.”

The move by the Air Force comes in response to a lawsuit filed in November by H. Edward Spires of Norwalk, Connecticut, who served from 1946 to 1948 as a chaplain’s assistant, earning the rank of sergeant.

Spires was forced out of the military in 1948 after an investigation into his sexual orientation.

Spires’ attorneys said he was originally denied the discharge upgrade after the repeal of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy in 2010 because the Air Force said his records had likely been lost in a 1973 fire.

The Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records informed Spires on Friday that the honorable discharge had been approved by the Air Force Review Boards Agency.

Spires’ attorneys have said he is in poor health and would like a military funeral, which the upgrade makes possible.

“The idea that this man of faith who served dutifully as a chaplain’s assistant in the armed forces, who built a life and a career that has brought joy to those around him, would leave this earth considered undesirable in the eyes of his country, it’s unthinkable,” Spires’ husband, David Rosenberg, said during a briefing on the case at the Yale Law School in November.

Spires’ case also was championed by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who said Monday that the Air Force’s decision “corrects an incredible injustice.”

Also this month, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a public apology for the State Department’s institutional discrimination in the past against gay and lesbian diplomats.

In a statement, Kerry says discrimination suffered by gay State Department workers has gone on since the 1940s. He says denying some people jobs and forcing diplomats out of the foreign service was “wrong then” and “wrong today.”

Speaking on behalf of the department, Kerry apologized to all those who were discriminated against and said the department was committed to “diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.”