Tammy Baldwin gets Democratic leadership role in the Senate

Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

 

Rep. Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, newly-named secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference

The U.S. Senate’s only openly-LGBT member earned a leadership spot Wednesday, Nov. 15, as Senate Democrats re-organize following the Nov. 8 election.

Shortly after his election Wednesday as Senate Democrats’ new minority leader, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York announced that Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin would take over as secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference (aka Senate Democratic Caucus). The position is charged with keeping minutes of the caucus meetings and helping organize its meetings.

On the Senate organizational chart, it is the fourth ranking position among the Democrats.

Baldwin replaces outgoing Secretary Patty Murray of Washington, who has served in the role for nine years. Murray becomes assistant minority leader, the third-ranking Democrat behind Schumer and Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Schumer replaces outgoing Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is retiring.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last month that Baldwin was on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s list of potential running mates. The paper said more than three dozen names were on the original list.

Baldwin was elected to the Senate in 2012, after seven terms in the House, representing the Madison, Wisc., area. Her election to the House seat was the first time an openly-LGBT person had been elected to Congress. Other LGBT members of Congress at that time had come out after being elected and serving several terms.

Baldwin was on a list of 36 names sent from John Podesta to Cheryl Mills on March 12. The email does not identify the names as potential running mates but only “people worth looking at” and “people worth considering.”

The list included Clinton’s tough Democratic challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had just days before won the Michigan primary. At that point, Clinton had secured about half of the delegates she need to win the nomination.

There were also some names on the list which suggest seem very unlikely considerations for vice president: openly-gay Apple CEO Tim Cook and both Bill and Melinda Gates of Microsoft fame.

© 2016 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

Obama names Stonewall Inn a national monument

Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn in New York City, now the centerpiece of the country’s first national monument to LGBT history.

The Stonewall Inn in New York — birthplace of the modern gay rights movement — is now a national monument, President Obama announced today (Friday, June 24).

That makes the Stonewall National Monument in New York City the first addition to the country’s national parks system specifically highlighting the history of the LGBT community, according to reports by NPR News.

NPR notes: “The monument covers nearly eight acres in New York’s Greenwich Village including a landmark gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. In June of 1969, gay patrons at the bar fought back against police persecution — an event that’s widely seen as a watershed in the campaign for LGBT rights.”

The Stonewall Riots are the reason that we celebrate June as National Gay Pride Month each year. The first “gay Pride parade” was held a year later to commemorate the riots.

In announcing the designation, President Obama said: “Raids like these were nothing new, but this time the patrons had had enough. So they stood up and spoke out. The riots became protests. The protests became a movement. The movement ultimately became an integral part of America.”

Watch the video of the president’s announcement below.

LGBT Equality Day
Baldwin.Tammy

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin

In related news, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, D-WA, this week introduced a resolution to designate June 26, as “LGBT Equality Day,” honoring the anniversary of three significant victories won at the U.S. Supreme Court for the LGBT community.

The resolution points to the courts decisions in: Lawrence v. Texas, handed down June 26, 2003, overturning the Texas sodomy laws and others like it around the country; United States v. Windsor, handed down June 26, 2013, overturning Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and requiring the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions where those marriages were legally recognized; and Obergefell v. Hodges, handed down June 26, 2015, mandating marriage equality nationwide.

“America should celebrate the progress we have made to pass on to the next generation a country that is more equal, not less equal,” said Baldwin, the first open lesbian elected to the U.S. Senate. “But we cannot mistake our progress for victory. We have more work to do in the march for fairness, freedom and full equality for the LGBT community. I believe America is ready to take the next steps forward and together we will break down barriers so that every American has an equal opportunity to dream the same dreams, chase the same ambitions, and have the same shot at success.”

DelBene added, “In the last two decades, our nation has seen the Defense of Marriage Act overturned, an end to the criminalization of same-sex conduct and now nationwide marriage equality — all through Supreme Court decisions handed down on June 26. But even as same-sex couples enjoy the right to marry in all 50 states, LGBT people continue to face violence, inequality and discrimination simply for who they are and who they love.

“Our resolution designates the 26th of June as ‘LGBT Equality Day’ not only to celebrate how far we’ve come, but also to acknowledge how much work remains to be done,” she added.

The resolution is co-sponsored by more than 175 members of Congress and is supported by the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

—  Tammye Nash

Rep. Tammy Baldwin leads push to end ban on gay blood donors

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Associated Press

STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin is leading a push in Washington to allow gay men to donate blood.

Gay men have not been allowed to donate blood in the U.S. since the emergence of HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. The ban was instituted because gay men had a higher rate of infection. The disease can be transmitted through sexual activity and blood transfusions.

Baldwin and 84 other Democratic lawmakers sent a letter Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying the ban fosters “an atmosphere that promotes discrimination,” according to Gannett Washington Bureau (http://spjour.nl/13Adeqc ). Baldwin is the first openly gay U.S. senator.

She notes there have been dramatic improvements in blood screening since the early 1980s and the medical community has a better understanding of the virus. Baldwin and other senators say blood donors should be accepted based on health factors and not their sexual orientation.

Men who have had sex with men currently face a lifetime ban as donors, regardless of when the sexual activity happened.

The American Medical Association adopted a policy in June opposing the ban. It says donors should be chosen based on their individual health.

“The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science,” AMA Trustee William Kobler said in a statement.

The National Hemophilia Foundation is among the groups that say it’s still too soon to lift the ban. Foundation Vice President John Indence said it wants to make sure the science is sound. About 10,000 hemophiliacs contracted HIV or AIDS and hepatitis through blood transfusions in the 1980s, and many died, he said.

“Our community was devastated,” he said.

HHS launched a study last year to determine whether other ways of screening donors would adequately protect the blood supply. An HHS committee had said in 2010 that the ban was “suboptimal” but should stay in place until more research was done.

—  John Wright

El Paso’s Beto O’Rourke among strongest new LGBT allies in Congress

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

The new 113th Congress was sworn into office Thursday. Six openly LGBT representatives will serve in the new House of Representatives, and Tammy Baldwin became the first openly LGBT person to serve in the Senate.

In addition, Texas has five new Democrats in its delegation including strong LGBT allies. Locally, that includes Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.

Elsewhere in Texas, Beto O’Rourke, whose district includes El Paso and far west Texas, worked hard for the LGBT community when he served on the El Paso City Council.

O’Rourke recently sat down with Dallas Voice to talk about a wide range of issues, including his long-running support for LGBT equality.

In his primary campaign, O’Rourke said he called marriage equality a core civil rights issue. He said position on the issue was a reason he unseated incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes.

—  David Taffet

The gayest election night ever

Tuesday night was generally seen as a victorious one for gay and lesbian people across the nation: The reelection of Barack Obama, the first sitting president to endorse full marriage equality; the historic election of lesbian Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate; the defeat of anti-gay legislation. But even more gay was the coverage itself.

I watched the returns in a room full of gay people, ready to pop the bubbly cork as soon as Obama was called by one of the news channels (we were swimming in champagne by 10:15 p.m.). We flipped among the channels to see who had different predictions up. And we got to hear Rachel Maddow on MSNBC announce Barack Obama was the president still.

Lesbian.

Then we watched as Anderson Cooper oversaw coverage on CNN.

Gay.

And we logged onto Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog from the New York Times to check updates.

Silver’s also gay.

All of these people are out and proud and given principal responsibilities for overseeing election coverage for their media organizations. And so far as I noticed, none of them (or their fellows on TV in the cases of Maddow and Cooper) so much as hinted at their sexual orientation during their election night coverage. Because that was irrelevant to their reporting. (Compare that to the folks on Fox News, who acted as if the vote was a rebuke of Christian heterosexuality.)

We’ve reached a special plateau when the most respected newsmen in the country get to report on popular votes about gay folks and be on the side of the majority. The excitement wasn’t just at the ballot box Tuesday night. It was right up there on the screen.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin says she hopes Democrats add marriage equality to party platform

HISTORIC CAMPAIGN | Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., speaks Saturday during the DFW Federal Club's Spring 2012 Luncheon. Baldwin is vying to become the first openly LGBT person in the U.S. Senate.

Having a seat at the table has never mattered more for the LGBT community than in the 2012 election cycle, according to Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., who’s vying to become the first openly gay U.S. senator.

Baldwin, who in 1998 became the first out non-incumbent elected to Congress, was in Texas last weekend to raise money from LGBT donors for her Senate campaign. She attended a private gathering Friday night in Dallas before speaking Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign’s Dallas/Fort Worth Federal Club’s Spring 2012 Luncheon, at the Tower Club on the 48th floor of Thanksgiving Tower in downtown Dallas. Baldwin traveled to Houston for a brunch hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund on Sunday.

Baldwin is endorsed by both HRC and the Victory Fund.

Just recovering from losing her voice, Baldwin spoke softly Saturday afternoon as she gave an address that appeared to be one part standard stump speech infused with one part rallying cry for LGBT equality. Baldwin talked about the huge advances the LGBT movement has made since she was first elected 14 years ago — but also about how much work remains to be done.

“Whether the objective is large or small, whether the arena is public or private, whether you are a lone voice or a chorus of thousands, having a seat at the table matters, and this election season, I would argue that it has never mattered more,” Baldwin told the group of some 200 at the Tower Club.

—  John Wright

Tammy Baldwin to speak in Dallas on Saturday

Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Rep. Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, who’s vying in 2012 to become the first openly LGBT person elected to the Senate, will speak in Dallas on Saturday at the Spring Luncheon of the Human Rights Campaign’s Dallas-Fort Worth Federal Club.

Federal Club representative Timothy Thomas said the luncheon isn’t limited to Federal Club members. However, admission is free to Federal Club and Steering Committee members, but $50 for the general public. Seating is limited to 200, but as of this morning seats were still available.

The luncheon begins at 10:30 a.m. with coffee and mimosas. The lunch and program begins at 11:30 a.m. The luncheon is at The Tower Club on the 48th floor of Thankgiving Tower, 1601 Elm St. in Dallas.

Register by going here.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Barney Frank to retire

Rep. Barney Frank

Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., is expected to announce his retirement today.

Frank is the longest serving of four openly gay members of the U.S. House. The other three are Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Jared Polis, D-Colo., and David Cicilline, D-R.I.

Frank will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Eastern time today in Newton, Mass., to announce that he won’t seek re-election in 2012, according to multiple reports.

Frank, 71, is the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. He was first elected in 1980.

The Boston Globe reports that a major factor in Frank’s decision to retire was the new district in which he would have had to run next year.

—  John Wright

Ready for the fight

Baldwin says she doesn’t believe anti-gay attacks against her in her U.S. Senate bid would work with Wisconsin voters

 

Baldwin.Polis
Openly gay members of Congress Rep. Tammy Baldwin, center, and Rep. Jared Polis, right, answer questions from Jonathan Capehart, left, at the International Gay Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco in December 2009. Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, has announced she is seeking the seat in the U.S. Senate left vacant by the retirement of Democratic Sen. Herbert Kohl. If she wins the election, Baldwin will become the first openly LGBT person in the U.S. Senate. (Russel A. Daniels/Associated Press)

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin said last week that her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Wisconsin “will not be about me,” but she’s “prepared to respond to any number of likely attacks in this political age,” including ones based on her sexual orientation.

Baldwin, one of only four openly gay members of the U.S. House, announced Sept. 6 that she will seek the Democratic nomination to replace Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat who announced in May that he would not seek re-election in 2012.

Although Baldwin is not the first openly gay person to run for a U.S. Senate seat, her campaign has ignited considerable enthusiasm in the LGBT political community.

Chuck Wolfe, head of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports openly gay candidates for elective office, said in a telephone conference call with LGBT media Sept. 7 that the Victory Fund “believes this will be an important race for our community.”
He predicted the community would “rally around” Baldwin, whom he called a “stellar” representative of the community.

Baldwin, who participated in that call and took questions from the media, said she expects the campaign to be “hotly, hotly contested,” as are all Senate races in recent years.

The partisan balance has been closely divided for years. Democrats currently have 51 seats plus 2 Independents who caucus with them; Republicans have 47.

It takes a majority of 60 to break a filibuster staged by a minority party, and the Republican Party has made the filibuster an almost routine maneuver since 2008, in hopes of thwarting a second term for Democratic President Barack Obama.

Following Obama’s election in 2008, Democrats and Independents held 60 seats.

Baldwin said her first challenge will be to introduce herself to parts of Wisconsin outside her district of Madison, the state capital.

She said current polling suggests between 52 percent and 55 percent of voters in the state recognize her name. And given the potential for a hotly contested Senate race to include an anti-gay attack, said Baldwin, she’s eager to introduce herself to voters around the state before an attacker does.

Baldwin doesn’t necessarily believe an anti-gay attack will be particularly effective in Wisconsin. She noted that the western part of the state has also elected an openly gay member of Congress before: U.S. Rep. Steve Gunderson.

Gunderson ran for re-election twice after he was outed in 1991.

Baldwin noted that she has been openly gay “all my adult life” and she thinks the voters of Wisconsin “appreciate values of honesty and integrity.

“And I have a lifetime commitment to equality for all,” said Baldwin.

But “this campaign,” Baldwin added, “will not be about me. It will be about the middle class, the threats they’re facing, and which candidate is the best fighter for them.”

Meanwhile, two state representatives in Wisconsin announced Sept. 7 that they will seek the Democratic nomination to run for Baldwin’s seat.

One is openly gay Rep. Mark Pocan, who filled in Baldwin’s state assembly seat when she was elected to Congress.

The other is State Rep. Kelda Roys, the youngest member of the Wisconsin assembly and former head of the Wisconsin chapter of NARAL.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Tammy Baldwin joins U.S. Senate race

Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin entered the race Tuesday for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Herb Kohl, becoming the first Democrat to officially jump in the contest.

The seat is one of at least eight open spots that will help determine the balance of power in the Senate, where Republicans need to pick up just four seats to take control.

One of the most liberal members of Congress, Baldwin had been saying since Kohl announced his retirement in May that she was seriously considering a Senate bid. Her congressional district includes the city of Madison, a liberal Democratic stronghold, and some surrounding rural areas.

Baldwin, 49, made her announcement in an email and video announcement to supporters early Tuesday. If elected, she would become the first openly gay member of the Senate.

Baldwin, the first woman whom Wisconsin voters sent to Congress, was also the first person elected to Congress after announcing they were gay. She was first elected in 1998.

She downplayed the historic significance of her candidacy during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. She said she supports equal opportunity for all people, regardless of race or sexual orientation, but that her focus of the race will be on fighting for the middle class.

“From day one, I have always been open about my sexual orientation,” Baldwin said on the call. “I think that integrity is something that is important to voters.”

She called for a new federal stimulus plan focused on improving schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructure in order to put people to work immediately.

“I hope we hear the president calling for that later this week,” she said.

Baldwin also used her video message to mention her opposition to the war in Iraq and her support for ending the war in Afghanistan, as well as to hint at the obstacles her candidacy will face as she seeks to win her first statewide election.

“I’m used to facing challenges head on,” she said. “When I first ran for Congress in 1998, people counted me out. But we worked hard, campaigned across south-central Wisconsin, and we won.”

Republicans are sure to go after Baldwin’s liberal voting record, hoping to sway independent and moderate voters their way in a state that has swung between handing President Barack Obama a 14-point win in 2008 and kicking Democrats out of power in the Statehouse in 2010.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann entered the Senate race last week. Neumann said at the time that he was focusing his campaign on Baldwin, who he presumed would capture the Democratic nomination.

Neumann and other Republicans lined up to cast Baldwin as a liberal who is unelectable statewide.

“I’m a conservative, she’s a liberal — it’s that simple,” Neumann said in his statement.

Brad Courtney, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, called Baldwin a “disastrous failure” when it comes to creating jobs and fixing the nation’s economy.

“We look forward to contrasting Baldwin’s record of less jobs and more big government spending against the proven fiscal responsibility of the Republican candidates,” Courtney said.

There promises to be a spirited contest on the GOP side, with longtime Gov. Tommy Thompson making serious moves toward his first run for office since 1998. Other Republicans indicating they plan to run include Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, a top ally of polarizing Gov. Scott Walker; state Sen. Frank Lasee, a lawmaker who once advocated arming teachers to protect their classrooms; and former state Sen. Ted Kanavas, a lower-profile candidate who’s been quietly building support.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse is considering running, as is former two-term U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Appleton. Former Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost re-election last year to Republican Ron Johnson, has said he wouldn’t run for any office in 2012.

Kind’s campaign spokesman and Kagen did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Baldwin’s entrance into the Senate race leaves her House seat open for the first time in 14 years. A number of potential Democratic candidates have already expressed interest, including state Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys.

—  John Wright