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Ricky Martin’s Coming Out. “Congratulations!” Or, “What Took So Long?”

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Yesterday I wrote, “Ricky Martin Comes Out: ‘I Am Homosexual.’ In Other News, The Earth Is Round.” The title itself got a lot of guffaws on Twitter and Facebook. But at the end of the piece I wrote,

“While I’m happy Ricky Martin has found the strength to come out, I have to ask, what took so long? Everyone must make their own journey at their own pace, but, like Sean Hayes, Ricky Martin was an assumption, and the LGBTQ community needs everyone’s help, now more than ever. Those in the public eye have a responsibility to help their community.”

That part didn’t get as many laughs. Readers were split. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts, and ask you yours.

I embrace, support, and welcome Ricky Martin into our community. I hope he will use his position to support us, just as our community has supported him. I’m sure we’re all happy that he has found himself and the strength to be true to himself.

Everyone’s journey is different and no one can truly understand another person’s choices, pain, or needs. I, myself, will confess I had it pretty easy. In honor of National Coming Out Day last year, in these very pages, I wrote, “How I Never Came Out.” In it, I tell how “I never really had to” come out. A fact that I confess I neglected to consider when I rhetorically asked of Ricky Martin, “what took so long?”

That said, after listening to many readers’ and friends’ responses, here are my thoughts:

Several reminded me that Ricky Martin has a huge Latin fanbase who would not have supported his coming out, saying Ricky Martin himself grew up in a fiercely homophobic, latin, Catholic culture.

My response is, Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, the teen whose body was decapitated, dismembered, and burned in Puerto Rico. The Governor of Puerto Rico, where Ricky Martin grew up, refused to label that despicable act a hate crime, forcing the federal government to threaten to make Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado’s murder one of the first hate crime cases prosecuted under the newly-signed Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. What a great opportunity Ricky Martin had then to speak out against this heinous and despicable act, and throw his support to battling the increase we are seeing in homophobic hate crimes.

Several mentioned that had Ricky Martin come out earlier, his career would have died and he never would have reached stardom, thus rendering him unable to use his star power to help the LGBTQ community. To that, my response is, Ellen DeGeneres, who came out at a time it was not popular to do so, and, though putting a bump in her career, rendered her ultimately more popular and more powerful.

Several mentioned that it takes courage to come out, that perhaps it was just too hard for him. To that, my response is, Constance McMillen, the rural Mississippi eighteen-year old who just wanted to take her girlfriend to her high school prom, and ultimately was scorned and chastised by her classmates. She sued, thanks to the help of the ACLU, and won.

Several mentioned that he needed to come out on his own schedule, when it was comfortable for him. To that, my response is Wanda Sykes, who felt compelled after Prop 8 to do something for her community, and came out to speak publicly about anti-gay rhetoric and hate. Her career certainly hasn’t been hurt — she’s more popular than ever.

While Ricky Martin may be seen by some as a fading icon in America, internationally he is a huge star. Again, to those who say he needed to come out on his own schedule, I think of all the bi-national couples he could have helped. While we’re fighting for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA,) what better spokesperson than someone like Ricky Martin to help educate the public? I hope now he will choose to use his position to help our community more directly.

A reader reminded me of this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.,

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

I have this final point to offer: Rock Hudson. He was a man, dying of AIDS, with no financial or career concerns left. He had all the friends and money he needed. His coming out as a gay man dying of HIV/AIDS in 1985 would have hastened this country’s move toward understanding and de-stigmatizing the disease that ultimately killed him, and put a face on a disease and a minority that desperately needed help. Instead, he pretended he was straight, went on “Dynasty” as a last attempt to prove the illusion he trying to live was real, and, sadly, died.

Times were different then. Times are different now.

OK. One last point.

If you’re in the public eye, if you chose a career in the media, in entertainment, or even in politics, you make your living from those who vote for you, buy tickets to your shows, movies, concerts, buy your recordings, buy magazines that put your picture on the cover. In short, your entire career exists because of others. Which means you have a responsibility to give something back, to help others in your community, even if it’s hard, even if it hurts a little. To those who do, from the bottom of my heart, I say, “thank you.”

Every day, too many LGBTQ teens, like Derrick Martin, are forced out of their homes, before or after coming out, because of the response they receive from friends and family. Every day, the bigotry machine on the right is working to not only stop us from gaining ground, but to actually roll back our hard-won advances. (A few of the latest examples, the Governor and Attorney General in Virginia who removed LGBTQ protections from state workers and advised public schools and colleges to do the same, and, our marriage loss in Maine.)

In his coming out letter, Ricky Martin wrote,

“This was not supposed to happen 5 or 10 years ago, it is supposed to happen now. Today is my day, this is my time, and this is my moment.”

That of course is true because it is his life. All I can do is respect that. But I ask others not yet out, make this your time, too.

I’m happy Ricky Martin found the strength to come out, and I sincerely congratulate him. I’m sure his journey, like those of Constance McMillen, Derrick Martin, and countless other youth, and even adults who choose to come out after decades of living in the closet, was not an easy one. But I fervently believe we are all in this together.

To those who are living in the closet, afraid of what they may lose, I urge you to think of how much more you will gain, and I urge you to consider how much good you could do for yourself and for your community, by taking that step to come out, and live proud.

Now, more than ever, we desperately need you.


Editorial note: This piece was originally published in The Bilerico Project.

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Another Santos Financial Concern: GOP Lawmaker Claims Campaign Paid WinRed Triple the Fees It Should Have

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According to an NBC News report there’s yet another mystery swirling around U.S. Rep. George Santos and his campaign financial activity and reports.

WinRed, the right-wing fundraising processor platform created to compete with Democrats’ ActBlue, has asked the Santos campaign to correct a financial report that claims the New York GOP lawmaker paid them more than triple what it should have – suggesting the entry on his Federal Election Commission (FEC) report is erroneous.

“Santos reported paying WinRed more than $206,000 to process donations to his 2022 campaign, records show. But that amount doesn’t match up with how much money Santos actually raised,” NBC News reports.

“WinRed charges candidates a 3.94% fee for contributions made online by credit card. At that rate, Santos would have had to have raised more than $5.2 million through WinRed to warrant a $206,000 payment to the firm,” NBC explains. “Through November, however, his campaign reported total contributions of $1.7 million, including donations that didn’t come through WinRed.”

READ MORE: ‘Deliberately Deceived the Nation’: Legal Experts Stunned by ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Report on How Barr and Durham Protected Trump

WinRed would not tell NBC News how much the Santos campaign actually paid them, with the news network offering that it could be “sloppy accounting.”

But one campaign finance expert, attorney Brett Kappel, warns, “nothing that appears on Rep. Santos’s FEC reports can be taken at face value.”

This follows reports that the Santos campaign amended two filings to indicate that a $500,000 personal loan and a $125,000 personal loan, claimed to have been from the candidate’s own personal funds, was not from his personal funds. There is no information indicating what entity loaned the Santos campaign the money, or if it actually even existed.

That bombshell was followed up this week with yet another one: the FEC reports were allegedly signed by a “treasurer” who does not and never has worked for the Santos campaign. One expert called that a “big no-no,” and “completely illegal.”

READ MORE: Watch: Santos Responds to Report He Joked About Hitler, ‘The Jews’ and Black People

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'GASLIGHTING'

‘Deliberately Deceived the Nation’: Legal Experts Stunned by ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Report on How Barr and Durham Protected Trump

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Legal experts are now weighing in on Thursday’s bombshell, massive and months-long reporting from The New York Times that reveals, among several previously unknown allegations, that then-Attorney General Bill Barr and his special counsel, John Durham were handed apparent evidence of suspicious financial acts by Donald Trump, and proceeded to create a false public narrative that Durham’s investigation found evidence of “suspicious financial dealings” related to Trump, suggesting it was on the part of the FBI, not the president, in order to protect the president.

“On one of Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham’s trips to Europe,” The Times reveals, “according to people familiar with the matter, Italian officials — while denying any role in setting off the Russia investigation — unexpectedly offered a potentially explosive tip linking Mr. Trump to certain suspected financial crimes.”

The Times adds that “Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump.”

READ MORE: Bombshell NYT Report Reveals Bill Barr’s Special Counsel Opened ‘Secret’ Financial Crimes Probe Into Trump But Never Prosecuted

“Mr. Durham never filed charges, and it remains unclear what level of an investigation it was, what steps he took, what he learned and whether anyone at the White House ever found out. The extraordinary fact that Mr. Durham opened a criminal investigation that included scrutinizing Mr. Trump has remained secret.”

Until now.

Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law expert who literally wrote the book on the U.S. Constitution, calls the Times’ report “jaw-dropping.”

“When Durham unexpectedly found evidence of crimes committed BY rather than AGAINST Trump, he and Barr deliberately deceived the nation into thinking the opposite! This deep dive by the NYT is as jaw-dropping as anything I’ve read in the past decade,” Tribe says.

Law professor and former President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Sherrilyn Ifill, one of TIME’s  2021 most influential people in the world, accused Barr of “gaslighting” the public.

READ MORE: ‘Moral Turpitude’: Trump Coup Memo Author John Eastman Now Facing 11 Counts of Alleged Ethics Violations – and Disbarment

“Every line of this article must be read,” Ifill implored. “Horrifying breaches of professional ethics, misuse of DOJ investigative resources, and deliberate lies to, and gaslighting of the public. A grotesque perversion of the appropriate role of Attorney General.”

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, the well-known MSNBC legal contributor and professor of law, also calls it “jaw dropping.”

“Jaw dropping reporting. Lots here including an explanation of why Durham’s colleague resigned: under pressure from Barr to release an ‘interim’ report damaging Clinton & the FBI as the election drew near, Durham had a draft prepared that wasn’t factual,” she says.

Andrew Weissman, the former General Counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who spent 20 years at DOJ, including working under Special Counsel Robert Mueller, calls Barr “corrupt.”

“Can anyone really be surprised by this?” he asks. “Barr was just so corrupt and so corrupted the DOJ.”

MSNBC legal analyst Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor and the first woman to serve as US General Counsel of the Army was troubled by the picture The Times painted of how close Barr and Durham were, when special counsels are supposed to have great autonomy and not be shaded by any Attorney General interference.

“Even more troubling than Barr and Durham frequently having drinks and discussing the investigation is the fact that the only crime they discovered on their foreign trip was Italian intel about crimes by Trump,” she says via Twitter. “I want to know the status of that investigation!”

READ MORE: Republicans Claiming ‘Censorship’ Threaten to Haul AT&T and DirecTV Into Congress for Dropping Far-Right Newsmax

Some legal experts lament that despite the bombshells in The Times’ report, it appears nothing will come of it – certainly nothing from the House Republicans.

Former Associate White House Counsel Ian Bassin sardonically asks, “Surely McCarthy and Jim Jordan’s new Select Committee on ‘the Weaponization of the Federal Government’ will focus on this story and the actions of Bill Barr, John Durham and Donald Trump. Surely, right? Right?”

Wine-Banks also points to House Republicans’ new committee investigating what they claim is “weaponization” of the federal government.

“Barr’s relationship with Durham, his pressure on him to reach a certain result and their failure to follow up on Trump’s crime revealed during the investigation is what weaponization of the DOJ looks like — not what Republicans want to investigate now.”

Pete Strzok, who spent 26 years at the FBI including as Deputy Assistant Director of the Bureau’s Counterintelligence Division, and led the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States election, speaks from experience.

“I can see Barr allowing the stunning amount of craziness (a gentle choice of word) described in this article,” he writes. “But does anyone in the current OAG or ODAG care about this? Durham has reported to AG Garland for twenty two (22) months now.”

“This,” Weissman adds separately, pointing to The Times article, “is all about the Trump weaponization of the DOJ – but we know that the House Rs won’t give a damn about it.”

 

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Questions Raised About Another Freshman Republican’s Finances After He Refuses to Comply With Federal Law

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Rep. George Santos (R-NY) isn’t the only freshman Republican facing questions about his personal finances.

An investigation conducted by News Channel 5 in Nashville has found that freshman Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN) never complied with federal laws requiring that he make disclosures about his personal finances.

In fact, notes News Channel 5, “not only did Andy Ogles ignore that law during the campaign, he continues to ignore it today.”

The law in question requires that Ogles and all candidates for elected office to disclose their assets and unearned income, their liabilities, and sources of income paid by one source that exceed $5,000.

READ MORE: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s amendment to bar Biden from selling oil goes down in massive bipartisan defeat

Ogles’ office hasn’t responded to News Channel 5’s questions even though the Tennessee lawmaker’s refusal to comply with the law could result in up to a year in prison.

Ogles’ defeated Democratic opponent, Heidi Campbell, told News Channel that it was “frustrating” to see Ogles flout the law, which she complied with last year by releasing her personal finance information all the way back in April of 2022.

“We, as Tennesseans, deserve to have representatives who are following the rules,” she said.

Ogles was also regularly late in filing campaign finance reports, which also contained so many discrepancies that Ogles has received four different letters from the Federal Election Commission demanding that they be explained.

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