Live coverage of the Republican National Convention DAY ONE

(Above photo by the Washington Blade’s Michael Key.)

Watermark Publishing Group is a member of the National Gay Media Association, a group of the leading LGBT newspaper publishers in the United States.

The Washington Blade, a member of the NGMA and D.C.’s LGBT newspaper, is providing coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions for Watermark and our readers.

July 18, 2016

Gospel duo Mary Mary

AIDS Healthcare Foundation holds pre-RNC concert

By Michael K. Lavers

CLEVELAND More than 3,000 people attended an AIDS Healthcare Foundation concert at Cleveland State University that took place on the eve of the Republican National Convention.

Gospel R&B duo Mary Mary and the Roots were among those who performed during the concert that took place roughly a mile from the arena in which the RNC will take place.

Journalist Soledad O’Brien, who emceed the concert, described HIV as among the issues of “global importance.”

“It is up to all of us to use our collective voices to hold those who are in elected office accountable,” she said.

Cornel West, a prominent civil rights activist, was among those who also spoke.

“United we stand in support of human rights, civil rights, immigrant rights and united we stand in support of the black lives matter movement,” said “Orange Is The New Black” actress Diane Guerrero.

Queen Latifah and thousands of others on Saturday took part in a march in Durban, South Africa, that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation organized ahead of the International AIDS Conference.

Sunday’s concert took place hours after a gunman killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, La.

The convention will take place against mounting security concerns in the wake of this shooting, last week’s terrorist attack in the French city of Nice and the killings of five Dallas police officers and two black men – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castle in Falcon Heights, Minn. – earlier this month.

A gunman on June 12 killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre reiterated his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and to suspend immigration from areas “when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe and our allies.” President Obama is among those who repudiated the billionaire’s comments that sparked widespread outrage.

“We are all in this together,” said Guerrero. “The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can work together to end this violence, to end this hate.”

“Please, please do not let our opponents divide us,” she added. “We will keep our promise to vote to end hate if they don’t keep the promise to defend our rights.”

S.C. congressman spoke at voting rights town hall

By Michael K. Lavers

CLEVELAND South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn on Monday described this year’s election as the “most consequential” of his lifetime.

“I hear people telling me that they’re so upset about what happened in the primaries that they’re going to boycott their voting in November,” said the South Carolina Democrat during a voting rights town hall at Cleveland State University that U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, hosted. “Just remember this, on Nov. 8 you’re going to have national elections. When you wake up on the morning of the 9th, somebody is going to be elected. Now whether or not you participate in that process or not, there’s going to be an election and somebody’s going to get elected.”

“This is the most consequential election of my lifetime,” he added.

Clyburn specifically pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and cases around voting and abortion rights, the DREAM Act and immigration.

“These things are going to end up before the Supreme Court,” he said. “Who will be sitting on that Supreme Court will be determined by who wins on Nov. 8.”

Clyburn did not mention the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who is challenging his Virginia school district’s bathroom policy, that could go before the justices during their upcoming term.

Thompson: Voters must ‘promote our interests’

MSNBC anchor Joy-Ann Reid moderated the panel that took place on the first day of the Republican National Convention.

Ohio state Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, Julie Fernandes of the Open Society Foundations, Camille Wimbish of Ohio Voice and Mike Brickner of the American Civil Liberties Union were also panelists alongside Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson.

“The greatness of this country is that we settle our differences at the ballot box,” said Thompson. “Nov. 8 will come, you choose your person, others choose theirs. It doesn’t matter on Nov. 9 other than who won, but we don’t have a coup. We don’t burn buildings or shoot people because we are a democracy.”

“It’s inherent upon us to make sure that we promote our interests,” he added.

The town hall took place a day after a gunman killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, La. Factions within the Turkish military over the weekend staged an unsuccessful coup against their country’s president.

July 19, 2016


GOP delegates ratify platform, express support for anti-LGBT language

By Chris Johnson

CLEVELAND Delegates at the Republican National Convention ratified Monday afternoon with little opposition a party platform considered to have the most anti-LGBT language in history.

As Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chair of the platform committee, presided over the convention, delegates approved the 66-page document by voice vote at 4:42 pm. The number of “ayes” among the 2,470 delegates seemed overwhelming compared to the barely audible “nays.”

Despite efforts from pro-LGBT Republicans to remove opposition to same-sex marriage from the 2016 platform, the document seeks to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality through either judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning the issue to the states.

Virgil Goode, a Virginia delegate and former six-term members of the U.S. House, told the Washington Blade at the Republican convention he backs the platform language in opposition to the ruling.

“I think the Supreme Court legislated,” Goode said. “The Supreme Court is not the decider of what marriage is. It should be the individual states have that right. They way overstepped their bounds on that.”

Goode said under his view allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses and have those relationship recognized “would be up to the states.”

“You have in the United States, including California, the people voted for a definition of marriage, and I think that vote should stand, that the Supreme Court shouldn’t be overriding,” Goode said.

In addition to opposition to same-sex marriage, the platform also objects to use of federal law to ensure transgender people can use the restroom consistent with their gender identity, indicates support for widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy and endorses the First Amendment Defense Act, a “religious freedom” bill that critics say would enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

Joseph Knox, a 20-year-old alternate delegate from Washington, N.C., said he agrees with language in the platform on transgender restroom use — which is consistent with a law in his state signed by Gov. Pat McCrory requiring transgender people to certain public restroom according to their birth certificates, not their gender identity.

“I support that because I believe it’s the duty of our government in order to protect people for the cases where it may abused,” Knox said. “I understand where the argument is made for people and their rights, and they feel they need to use the bathroom of their choice. However, in public schools, or taxpayer buildings, or stuff like that, then it should be up to your birth certificate, and that’s where you should have to go.”

Knox said he also “absolutely” backs language in the platform in opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.

“I believe as a conservative, as a Republican, that the federal government has taken leaps and bounds that are involving themselves within states rights way too much,” Knox said. “It wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers were not worried about that along with a lot other things.”

Knox added he believes the establishment of the Department of Education is also unconstitutional “things like that should be left up to the individual states.”

Delegates at the convention who spoke about the language in the platform against LGBT rights were largely in support of those planks. Many of the delegates and alternate delegates at the Quicken Loans Arena refused to speak with the Washington Blade on the subject of gay rights in the party platform.

Dwayne Collins, a delegate from the Dallas-area in Texas, said he agrees with the platform’s opposition to the same-sex marriage on the basis that “marriage between a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, is just not biblical.”

In response to the platform’s veiled endorsement of “ex-gay” conversion therapy, Collins indicated support for that language as well.

“There should not be anything to force anybody to do such therapy, but if it’s out there and available, then, yes,” Collins said. “But to force somebody into therapy, no, no, not at all.”

Collins, who identified himself as a small business owner, also voiced concerns about non-discrimination laws threatening the livelihoods of those offering wedding-related services.

“I feel intimidated by what the gay movement is doing to my business,” Collins said. “I own a wedding venue, OK? It’s privately owned. I rent it to people for weddings, but it’s got to be a man and a woman. Now in the state of Texas, I have a little bit of protection, but in other states, if you don’t do that, you get sued. And that’s my business, they are infringing on my rights. That’s why we got to come to a consensus here and say, ‘Hey, enough’s enough. You got your rights; we got our rights.'”

A North Dakota delegate, who refused to offer his name, said in response to the language, “I’m a live and let live guy.” Asked if supports the platform calling for reversal of the Supreme Court decision and returning the issue of same-sex marriage, he replied, “I prefer that when states can make their own decisions.”

Joel Craig, an 18-year-old delegate from Colorado Springs, Colo., and pledged to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said he supports platform language in opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage because “states should be allowed to choose what their definition of marriage is.”

“I think that this is a deal for the states,” Craig said. “The states are in charge of issuing marriage licenses, why then are they not in charge of how the marriage licenses are issued?”

But Craig contested the notion the platform endorses conversion therapy, saying the platform mentions it, but doesn’t endorse it. The language says, “We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children. ”

“I believe that the current language, the way it is set, does not endorse conversion therapy, as you’ve suggested, however it is mentioned,” Craig said. “I didn’t exactly read how it was mentioned, but I do believe the platform as a whole represents the Republican electorate very well.”

Not every delegate at the convention was behind the anti-LGBT planks in the Republican Party platform.

Sharon Jackson, a 52-year-old delegate from the Anchorage-area of Alaska and pledged to Trump, said she’s against the platform language and thinks same-sex couples should be able to wed throughout the nation.

“I feel that everyone should have the freedom to feel and do what they choose, and that’s American is all about,” Jackson said.

Asked if applies to gay couples seeking to marry, Jackson replied, “If that’s what the want to do, they should be able to do that.”

Jackson also said she’s against platform language opposing transgender people using the restroom consistent with their gender identity.

“I don’t think that should be politicized,” Jackson said. “It happens already, right? No one says anything, so to make it a political issue, I think, it opens the doors for perpetuators, and that’s not fair, that’s not fair. So, if it was just left alone, everything would be fine just as it is today.”

LGBT advocates blasted the platform upon its ratification by delegates. The National Log Cabin Republicans, which had previously dubbed the platform the most anti-LGBT in the party’s 162-year history, placed a full-page ad Monday in USA Today with the message against the document.

“LOSERS! MORONS! SAD! No, these aren’t tweets from Donald Trump,” the ad says. “This is what common-sense conservatives are saying about the most anti-LGBT platform the Republican Party has ever had. Out of touch, out of line, and out of step with 61% of young Republicans who favor same-sex marriage.”

Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, also condemned the platform, saying it doesn’t represent the views of many Americans.

“It’s disappointing that the far right wing of the Republican Party has successfully pushed for a platform that discriminates against LGBT Americans and their families,” McTighe said. “This platform just does not reflect the direction that many Republicans – nor the majority of Americans – want to see the party move.”

For a time, efforts among pro-LGBT Republicans were underway for a motion on the convention floor to strip the platform of its anti-LGBT language.

A minority report signed by 37 delegates of the platform committee petitioned the Republican National Committee to replace the platform with a 1,200 word statement of 17 core principles of the Republican Party with neutral language on LGBT issues.

Although only 28 delegates are needed for a successful petition, the efforts failed when the delegates who initiated the report — Boyd Matheson of Utah and David Barton of Texas — disavowed it.

Giovanni Cicione, a Rhode Island delegate who circulated the petition to replace the platform, said afterwards the initiative failed amid disagreement on those behind it and queasiness in Republican leadership over a floor fight.

“To have contentious floor votes on anything, content aside is very disruptive to the process that they’re trying to lay out this week,” Cicione said. “In my opinion, that didn’t matter. This was more important than us running a convention where each speaker gets their five minutes. I think we needed to try to make a point here, but they were able to pull back.”

Annie Dickerson, a New York member of the platform committee and adviser to GOP philanthropist and LGBT rights supporter Paul Singer, said the goal now is to advance LGBT non-discrimination legislation regardless of the platform.

“Polling on non-discrimination is going off the charts on the Republican side,” Dickerson said. “But those are just not the people that were those delegates, which is why Gio and I are here, to give rise to that voice, so we can be a bigger tent because this is not the ‘Big Tent’ document.”


At GOP convention, speakers make, undertake LGBT attacks, outreach

By Chris Johnson

CLEVELAND Over the course of one night at the Republican National Convention, two different speakers Monday exemplified the party’s desire of LGBT outreach on one hand and continuing attacks on LGBT people on the other.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, took a knock at the Obama administration’s effort to advance LGBT rights in which he called President Obama “spineless” and Hillary Clinton “reckless.”

“Our soldiers deserve to hear from our leaders with clarity and precision,” Flynn said. “Too often, way too often, our troops are instead are distracted by trivial matters, trivial matters about what words to use, what terminology is politically correct and what bathroom door to open up. My God, my God, war is not about bathrooms, war is not about political correctness or words that are meaningless.”

It’s hard to say what exactly the “bathroom” remarks were intended to mean, but given national debate on transgender use of restrooms, it could be a reference to the end of the ban to transgender military service. It conceivably could also be an attack on Obama’s effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that prohibited openly gay people from serving in the armed forces.

The nation’s largest LGBT group, the Human Rights Campaign, took the remarks as an attack on transgender service and condemned Flynn via its Twitter account.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who energized the crowd more than any other speaker Monday night, on the other hand offered a gay-inclusive vision as he praised police officers in the aftermath of fatal attacks on them.

“We say thank you to every police officer and law enforcement agent who’s out tonight, protecting us, black, white, Latino, of every race, every color, every creed, every sexual orientation,” Giuliani said. “When they come to save your life, they don’t ask if you are black or white, they just come to save you.”

The line may have inspired the loudest applause line for the night at the convention, although Giuliani was well-received throughout his entire speech as he bashed Obama’s policies, criticized Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi and praised the potential of a Trump presidency.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said Giuliani’s remarks had greater effect on the crowd than Flynn’s attack.

“Judging by the reaction from the crowd I witnessed in the arena, it’s clear Giuliani’s inclusive message resonated far more than Flynn’s rambling remarks,” Angelo said.

Both speakers made the remarks just hours after the delegates ratified a Republican platform considered the most anti-LGBT in history. Among other things, the platform seeks to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage and opposes laws enabling transgender people to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.

TJ Helmstetter, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said “the GOP’s extremism was on full display” regardless of remarks from Giuliani.

“Even the Log Cabin Republicans admit their party just adopted the most anti-LGBT platform in history,” Helmstetter said. “Not enough fog machines in the world exist to hide the discrimination and divisiveness at the RNC this week.”

Star of “Duck Dynasty” Willie Robertson

Another speaker on Monday was Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander and star of A&E’s hit series “Duck Dynasty,” which is known for stars who hold anti-LGBT views. Although Robertson didn’t say anything anti-LGBT during his remarks, his show was once cancelled after co-star Phil Robertson decried homosexuality as a sin.

Melania Trump, wife to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, was the highlighted speaker of the evening. Despite Trump’s reputation for running a campaign based on demonizing minority groups, Melania Trump insisted he would be an inclusive leader as president.

“Donald intends to represent all of the people, not just some of the people,” Melania Trump said. “That includes Christians, Jews, and Muslims. It includes Hispanics and African-Americans and Asians and the poor and the middle class.”

As first noticed on Twitter by Los Angeles-based Jarrett Hill, large portions of Melania Trump’s speech seemed to have been lifted from first lady Michelle Obama’s speech during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Also on Monday, the “Never Trump” movement, which sought to deprive Trump of the Republican presidential nomination, seems to have met its end after the delegates approved the rules as written by the Rules Committee.

Republican opponents of Trump were seeking a conscience clause allowing delegates to select a nominee of their choice as opposed to being forced to vote for Trump, which didn’t make it into the final rules.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), presiding as chair, sought a voice vote twice on accepting the rules but after the second vote, determined the “ayes” had won. A brief floor fight ensued in which delegates alternately chanted, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

A Utah delegate sought a roll-call vote. Although nine states initially supported it, Womack said some delegates withdrew support and only six states had valid requests. Seven were necessary.

Christian Berle, a gay D.C. delegate pledged to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a proponent of the “Never Trump” effort, said the delegates’ decision to accept the rules as proposed is “very disappointing.”

“There are a large degree of delegates from across the country who believe that the rules report should have included a conscience clause in particular to allow delegates to support who they fully believe should run the party and run the country,” Berle said.

Trump supporter: Armed club-goer could have stopped Fla. massacre

By Michael K. Lavers

CLEVELAND A prominent gun control opponent who supports Donald Trump said on Monday that fewer people would have been killed inside the Pulse nightclub if a club-goer had shot the gunman with their weapon.

“What happened to all those people,” said Jan Morgan, founder of Armed American Women, as she spoke at the “America First” rally in Settlers Landing in downtown Cleveland. “If one citizen had been in that club with a gun, they could have stopped (it.)”

Morgan — who owns a shooting range in Hot Springs, Ark., from which Muslims are banned — had a handgun tucked into her waistband as she spoke to hundreds of people who attended the rally that radio host Alex Jones and GOP operative Roger Stone organized.
“Maybe some people would have died,” said Morgan, referring to the Pulse nightclub massacre. “But the statistics prove that fewer people die in situations where law-abiding citizens have guns.”

Forty-nine people died inside the Pulse nightclub on June 12.

Trump in the days after the massacre suggested that club-goers should be able to carry firearms. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee later backed away from these comments.

A man who was attending Monday’s rally had a semi-automatic machine gun next to him with an American flag placed into its muzzle. Another man who declined the Washington Blade’s request for an interview was holding a large pole with Trump and rainbow flags.

Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, two black Trump supporters from North Carolina who are known as Diamond and Silk on YouTube, did not mention the Pulse nightclub massacre when they spoke at the rally. They did, however, touch upon the so-called Islamic State and immigration.

“When I go up and walk up in your house, ain’t this breaking and entering,” asked Hardaway. “Why the hell hasn’t somebody been arrested for breaking up into America’s house? That’s breaking and entering.”

Hardaway also described Hillary Clinton as a “bitch.”

“We’re not going to let a crook off the hook,” she said immediately after she and Richardson took the stage that overlooked the Cuyahoga River. “You know I hear some say life’s a bitch, that’s why we shouldn’t vote for one. Don’t need one in the White House.”

Photos by the Washington Blade’s Michael Key.

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