Cleaning out Bush’s White House Closet

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I know a lot of people who find it nearly impossible to believe that any self-respecting LGBT person could ever actively support a Republican candidate or the Republican Party — especially here in Texas where our top GOP elected official is Gov. Rick Perry and the state GOP platform, even in its new and improved form this year, calls for reparative therapy for LGBT people and has been denounced by the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans.

But at the same time, there are LGBT people — there are two LGBT Republican groups in Dallas, Log Cabin Dallas and Metroplex Republicans — who insist its possible to be a proud LGBT person and believe in traditional Republican values. And even though many gay Republicans acknowledge that today’s GOP doesn’t necessarily adhere to traditional conservative Republican values — again, the Texas Republican Party is a prime example — they still believe the best way to change the GOP is from the inside out.

Now Politico Magazine, in its July/August issue, has published a fascinating piece by Timothy J. Berger, called “Inside George W. Bush’s Closet,” in which he talks to several gay men who worked in G.W.’s administration and on his campaign, helping to get him elected to the White House twice.

Steven Levin, who was then a 22-year-old White House advance aide, recalls for Berger the day in 2006, after he had spent a week getting things ready in Sellersburg, Ind., for a presidential visit, that President Bush spoke against an “activist court” ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, adding, “We believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman, and should be defended.” The crowd loved it, but for the young gay aide, “It was like a slap in the face.”

But still, Levine stayed with Bush through the end of his term.

Then there’s Scott Evertz, Bush’s openly gay AIDS czar, who told Berger how people used to make appointments with him just so they could come by his office to pray for him.

Another gay staffer in the Bush White House estimated that there were at least 70 LGBTs on the staff then, some of them closeted, others not. And most of those who worked with or for President Bush describe him personally as a kind, thoughtful man who accepted them despite his public anti-gay statements.

It’s a really good read and it might give some folks new insight into why LGBT people worked for Bush and why so many of them are determined to stay active in the GOP. Check it out.

—  Tammye Nash

White House responds to Texas secession petition

A White House spokesman responded Monday to a petition asking that Texas be allowed to peacefully “withdraw from the United States.”

The answer is no.

The petition had gained more than 125,000 signatures, although at the time of this writing, 10 of the last 12 signers were not from Texas.

According to the site, petitions that gain more than 25,000 signatures in 30 days will get an official response. The petition was first posted by “Micah H” of Arlington on Nov. 9.

The response was written by Jon Carson, director of the Office of Public Engagement. He opens by politely thanking the signers for participating in their government in “free and open debate.”

“But as much as we value a healthy debate, we don’t let that debate tear us apart,” Carson wrote.

Those in Texas hoping to create a new country under President Rick Perry will be disappointed. And those elsewhere hoping to get rid of Texas may be even more disappointed.

But most of us will just laugh, as the last word on this invites those who hate President Barack Obama to read more about his ideas:

So let’s be clear: No one disputes that our country faces big challenges, and the recent election followed a vigorous debate about how they should be addressed. As President Obama said the night he won re-election, “We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future.”

Whether it’s figuring out how to strengthen our economy, reduce our deficit in a responsible way, or protect our country, we will need to work together — and hear from one another — in order to find the best way to move forward. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about the President’s ideas and share more of your own.

—  David Taffet

Resource Center’s Cece Cox attends White House ‘fiscal cliff’ meeting

RCD CEO Cece Cox, right, at the White House with Texas ACLU Executive Director Terri Burke.

Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox is in Washington, D.C. today at a meeting called “Working together to avoid the fiscal cliff” with about 70 other community leaders from Texas.

The main issue of concern is money for HIV/AIDS programs. Should automatic cuts go into effect, Ryan White money and programs would be affected. An automatic 9 percent funding cut would also affect HOPWA and ADAP programs. HOPWA is housing money that could impact AIDS Services of Dallas and other programs that subsidize rent. ADAP pays for HIV medication for those who cannot afford it.

“When it comes down to people’s lives, there should be no compromise,” said RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell. “These monies are priorities for people living with HIV, and we should be mindful of how important these programs are to members of our community.”

More than 14,000 people in Texas receive their medication through the ADAP program. About 1,300 people could be removed from the program with an automatic funding cut.

The meeting was called by the White House Office of Public Engagement. The White House has been meeting with corporate and civic leaders all week to put pressure on Congress to reach a compromise on taxes and spending.

—  David Taffet

Obama hasn’t replied to TX secession petition, but Rep. Garnet Coleman has

Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, a staunch LGBT ally who also happens to be African-American, sent out the below statement on Wednesday — complete with the image above — responding to a now-infamous petition we mentioned the other day calling for the White House to allow Texas to secede. Perhaps President Barack Obama should incorporate some of Coleman’s remarks into his own response to the petition. We’d especially recommend this paragraph:

The online petition, which currently has around 60,000 signatures and counting, is unfortunately not surprising. Ever since the election of this country’s first black president, there has been a surge of  rhetoric that had mostly lied dormant since the Civil War and subsequent Jim Crow era. After the election of President Obama, however, Governor Perry, whose hunting ranch was named “Niggerhead” until just recently, openly hinted at secession, and we spent much of last session talking about things like “states’ rights,” including a “Committee on State Sovereignty” and a House Resolution incorrectly asserting the state’s “rights under the Tenth Amendment.” This kind of rhetoric needs to end.

Read Coleman’s full statement below.

—  John Wright

Equality TX attends White House policy meeting

Equality Texas was among more than a dozen groups at the White House Friday to discuss policy changes they could implement federal polices at a state level.

Equality Texas was represented by Board of Directors Vice Chair Kayla Shell and directors Tim McCabe and Richard Farias, according to Equality Texas’ Facebook page.

Pro-LGBT policies considered could include hospital visitation and guidance for partners receiving long-term Medicaid care.

A similar meeting happening in 2010 when statewide organizations met during a time when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was being widely debated, the Washington Blade reports.

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye told the Blade that the White House routinely meets with organizations and would not comment on possible topics or policies.

From the Washington Blade:

Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation, said the main topic at the meeting would be ways in which state agencies could enact pro-LGBT administrative changes that have been seen at the federal level.

“So in states, for example, that are very hostile, where the legislatures are not amenable, potentially within the state agencies they might be able to make more headway,” Isaacs said. “People in civil service in the states might not be as ideologically opposed to helping the LGBT community as a legislator might.”

Among the things Isaacs said might be duplicated at the state level is the federal hospital visitation memorandum that President Obama issued in April 2010. She said action by the states could ensure this guidance is enforced at the state level.

Additionally, Isaacs said states could also duplicate guidance issued by the Department of Health & Human Services in June 2011 allowing healthy partners in a same-sex relationship to keep their homes while their partners are receiving support for long-term care under Medicaid.

Issacs estimated around 20 advocacy groups would participate in the meeting and some groups would have as many three representatives at the event.

—  Dallasvoice

White House launches LGBT video contest

The White House announced a new video contest Monday for LGBT Pride Month.

Along the lines of the White House Champions of Change series that spotlights Americans doing great things to create change and a positive impact in their community, the LGBT Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge will visually explore the efforts many Americans are making on behalf of equality.

Videos should be no longer than three minutes and cover issues like coming out stories, struggles with culture and identity, heroes that haven’t been recognized for their work, artwork that inspires acceptance, innovative solutions to challenging situations, and accounts of allies and families who fight for equality.

Various video forms such as music videos, PSAs, short films, video blogs and interviews will be accepted.

Essays of no longer than 750 words will also be accepted. Video and essay entries are due May 4.

Submissions will then be reviewed by a panel that will select semi-finalists. The public will then help select finalists in June to attend a Champions of Change event at the White House.

View the full press release after the jump.

—  Dallasvoice

UTA to host White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Valerie B. Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Barack Obama, are scheduled to speak at the conference.

The next White House LGBT Conference will be at the University of Texas at Arlington on March 20 and will focus on safe schools and communities, according to an announcement from the White House this afternoon.

The event is the third conference in a series of several the White House launched in February. It will be hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice in partnership with UTA’s College of Liberal Arts Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the College of Education and Health Professions.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Valerie B. Jarrett, senior advisor to the president, will speak at the event, according to a White House release.

“The White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools & Communities will provide advocates, community leaders, and members of the public an opportunity to engage with the Obama Administration on efforts to ensure safety and security for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in schools and communities throughout the country,” the release states.

“Participants will receive updates from Administration officials, connect with Federal government resources and opportunities through workshop sessions, and provide valuable feedback through the ‘Open Space’ process.”

This is the third conference after the White House Office of Public Engagement launched the series focused on LGBT Americans.

The first in the series, the White House LGBT Conference on Health, was held in Philadelphia on Feb. 16 and focused on various issues like access to care, aging, mental health and substance abuse with remarks by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

The White House LGBT Conference on Housing and Homelessness is scheduled for Friday, March 9. That event is co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Ruth Ellis Center and will feature remarks by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan focusing on housing and homelessness issues that impact LGBT Americans.

Additional conferences are expected to take place through June with topics covering HIV/AIDS prevention and other issues affecting LGBT Americans.

The White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools & Communities is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20 at The University of Texas at Arlington.

Representatives with UTA could not immediately be reached.

View the full White House release below.

—  Dallasvoice

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Langbehn receives citizens medal at White House

Janice Langbehn, left with President Barack Obama

Janice Langbehn was among 13 recipients of a citizens medal awarded by President Barack Obama on Oct. 20. She was chosen from among thousands of nominations. As a result of her experience of being denied access to her dying partner, the president issued an executive order requiring hospitals to allow gays and lesbians to name a partner as family for visitation and to make medical decisions.

From an email sent to Dallas Voice by the White House:

Janice Langbehn, Lacey, WA
While on vacation with her family in February 2007, Janice Langbehn’s partner, Lisa Pond, suddenly fell ill and was rushed to the hospital. Langbehn was refused access to her partner, who had experienced a brain aneurysm and later died alone. With the help of Lambda Legal and GLAAD, she filed a federal lawsuit and worked to get her story out to the nation. Janice’s story received attention from President Obama, who personally apologized to her for the way she and her family was treated. He went on to revise hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian couples, which went into effect this past January for any hospitals receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funds. Langbehn receives the Citizens Medal for her efforts to ensure all Americans are treated equally.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Civil unions in Rhode Island; marriage in Maine; White House Pride reception

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday approved a civil unions bill that’s already passed the House, but LGBT groups are calling on Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee to veto the measure because they say its religious exemptions are too broad. For example, church-affiliated hospitals could deny same-sex partners visitation or decision-making, and religious employers could refuse family medical leave.

2. Two LGBT groups are set to announce this morning that they’re launching a citizens initiative to put marriage equality back on the ballot in Maine in 2012. Maine voters rejected same-sex marriage 53-47 percent in 2009 after the Legislature approved it, but new polls show a majority in the state support marriage equality.

3. Speaking at an LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said, “I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community.” Obama also said he plans to certify DADT repeal “in a matter of weeks, not months.” Watch video of Obama’s full speech below, and read a recap of the event here.

—  John Wright