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

Statement puts lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin a step closer to historic Senate bid

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Press release from Wisconsin Democrat’s campaign identifies her as ‘likely candidate’ for seat being vacated by Herbert Kohl

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

Her campaign stationery says “Tammy Baldwin 2012.” But the text of the July 13 press release walks the U.S. House’s only openly lesbian member one step closer to an historic bid for a U.S. Senate seat:

“She is a likely candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI).”

That statement echoed a comment she made to the Capital Times newspaper in Madison July 2 when she said, “I think I am likely to run.”

If she does enter the race, Baldwin will become the first openly gay person to make a run for the U.S. Senate. And clearly, her supporters are urging a bid.

According to the press release, Baldwin raised more than $435,000 in the month of June, the month after the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund reported sources close to Baldwin as saying she was eyeing the seat.

Kohl announced May 13 that he would retire, rather than run for re-election in 2012. Newspapers in Wisconsin immediately began identifying a list of potential candidates that included Baldwin.

Others mentioned, on the Democratic side, include former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost his re-election bid only last year to newcomer Republican Ron Johnson.

Feingold would be considered the Democrats’ strongest candidate because of his name recognition and long-time service in the Senate.

A Public Policy Polling survey in May of 784 likely Democratic primary voters in Wisconsin found 70 percent supported Feingold for the seat; Baldwin came in second with 12 percent. Six other Democrats earned between one and five percent each.

“Remove Feingold from consideration,” said a Public Policy Polling press release May 27, “and the race becomes considerably more wide open, but Baldwin would start out with 30 percent….”

Her closest competitors, according to the survey, would be former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen with 17 percent and current Rep. Ron Kind with 16 percent.

Capital Times Executive Editor Paul Fanlund said, in a July 5 article, that Baldwin is “steaming toward a 2012 candidacy” for the Senate seat and “it almost seems the only person who could alter her course is former senator Russ Feingold … .”

Feingold has said he would make an announcement of his intentions in September. But he urged other Democrats considering a bid to go ahead with their plans and not wait for his decision.

Baldwin told the Capital Times she thinks she would have to raise between $15 million and $20 million for a Senate race.

Her July 13 press release indicates that her July 15 quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission shows she has raised $502,485 “for the second quarter” of the 2011-2012 election cycle. For the same second quarter in the previous election cycle (2009-2010), she reported raising $107,533.

At her July 15 quarterly in 2009, she had $561,563 cash-on-hand in her campaign coffers. Her press release this month says she has $1.1 million.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Who’s your favorite lesbian?

How could U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the first out lesbian elected to Congress, NOT be on anybody’s list of favorite lesbians?!

Who’s your favorite (celebrity) lesbian? AfterEllen.com wants to know. In fact, the website is currently conducting an online survey to find out “who ranks as the creme de la creme” when it comes to well-known lesbians. And AfterElton.com is doing the same survey, only with gay men.

Here are the rules: You get to vote for your favorite 10 open lesbians. They have to be women who are publicly out, not just ones that everyone knows are gay even though they have never said so publicly. They have to be living (so you can’t vote for Sappho). And they can come from any field, including politics, music, TV, movies, etc.

I went and voted and then I read some of the comments, and I have to say I was a bit disheartened to see that at least one person put Lindsey Lohan on the top 10 list. Lindsey Lohan? Give me a break! When we have women like Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Ellen DeGeneres to choose from, you’re gonna pick Lindsey Lohan? Come on people, get on over to AfterEllen.com and vote so that Lindsey Lohan won’t make the list!

Voting is open through midnight on Friday, March 4 and results will be published on Monday, March 14. And you can only vote once, so make it count!

—  admin