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UPDATED: In Wake Of Scandalous Resignation, Puerto Rico Senator’s Homophobic Legacy Lives On

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Guest Author Andrés Duque shares this important story with The New Civil Rights Movement. It is cross posted from his own site, Blabbeando.

 

Last week Republican Puerto Rican Senator Roberto Arango became embroiled in a public scandal when images of a shirtless man who appeared to be him were leaked to the press.

The images were from the gay dating phone app Grindr, which was a tad curious considering Arango’s public image was that of a divorced heterosexual man who was raising a daughter.  The Senator was also known for voting in favor of several anti-gay bills.

Initially, Arango scoffed at suggestions that he was the man in the images. Then he admitted he often took photos of himself shirtless to document a weight-loss regimen but didn’t remember taking those specific images. When more explicit images leaked out, the Senator stopped talking to media altogether.

Yesterday, he resigned from the Senate.

Our favorite Latino gossip site Guanabee, broke the news in the United States.  Since then, several people have asked me if I have documentation of the Senator’s homophobia. It’s been surprisingly tough to find articles and reports because most of it is offline. But, going through my files, I managed to find a few tidbits.

Senator Arango and civil unions / marriage rights for same-sex couples:

In early 2007 reports emerged that a legislative commission studying changes to Puerto Rico’s Civil Code was considering allowing civil unions for all couples regardless of sexual orientation. Conservative religious organizations were outraged and warned that civil unions would weaken marriage and change the family structure. They mounted a campaign against the measure and Senator Arango served as their messenger in the legislature.

From “La Católica contra unions de hecho / The Catholic leadership against civil unions” (El Vocero, March 27, 2007 – No online link):

From his seat in the Senate chamber, Senator Roberto Arango of the New Progressive Party spoke about the recent mandates from the Catholic Church regarding the governing body and announced he would present thousands of signatures against changes to the book of law.
According to his statements, the signatures were given to him on Saturday during a rosary ceremony organized by the Catholic Church on the vicinity of the Capitol building. The signers want to put a stop to the proposed changes to the Civil Code that have received sustained opposition from the more conservative organizations.
“We have received 150,000 petitions signed by people of all orientations in favor of maintaining the current Civil Code,” said Arango during yesterday’s senate session. “We will hand them over to the Secretary of the Senate so they take into consideration the massive support of the people.”

The pressure from conservative groups led the legislative commission to shelve debate on changes to the Civil Code.

Emboldened by their success, religious organizations went a step further and called for an amendment to the state constitution banning legal recognition of any relationship other than marriages between a man and a woman.

A bill was quickly introduced and, on November 7th of 2007, it passed in the Senate by a vote of 20 to 2 and 1 abstention. Senator Arango voted in favor (a tally of those voting in favor can be found in a blog post by leading Puerto Rican LGBT rights advocate Pedro Julio Serrano titled “The New Progressive Party and the LGBT community”).

“Resolución 99”, as the constitutional amendment bill is known in Puerto Rico, was blocked in the House of Representatives that same year and proponents have dropped efforts to re-introduce it for now.

Senator Arango and adoption rights for same-sex couples:

In September of 2009, Senator Kimmey Raschke managed to sneak in a bill banning adoption rights for gays by keeping the language of the bill under wraps until the last day of the legislative session. Arango, a close ally of Raschke, defended the secrecy behind the bill and assured reporters that it would be brought to the Senate floor. From “La adopción en el menú del dia / Adoption on the day’s menu” (El Nuevo Dia, September 25, 2009) :

“You will see the bill. I already spoke with Tommy [Puerto Rican Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz]”, said Arango, who stated that he had yet to see the amendments despite being a member of the conference committee created to iron out the [bill language] differences between the legislative bodies.

Arango would go on to vote in favor of the adoption ban and the bill. It eventually passed both houses and is currently the law in Puerto Rico.

Senator Arango and the word “pato”:

The allegation that had been the toughest to confirm over the weekend were reports that during his first senate election campaign, Arango had held a rubber duck at a public campaign stop and mocked an opponent’s sexuality by making quaking noises and calling him a “pato” [“Pato”, the Spanish word for “duck”, is used in the island as a pejorative word for gays, akin to calling someone a “faggot” in English].

Lucky for us, today’s print issue Primera Hora includes it in a chronology of the Senator’s career and even provides a photo.

The chronology says that Arango’s political career began in 2004 when he led the Bush – Cheney presidential re-election campaign in Puerto Rico. It was then that Arango decided to run for office and became a strong ally of San Juan mayoral candidate Jorge Santini. And it was at a Santini campaign event that Arango called Santini’s opponent a ‘pato’.

From the chronology:

On October of 2004, at the closing of the San Juan mayoral campaign, rumors of [Eduardo] Bhatia’s homosexuality spread through the New Progressive Party’s rally and its leaders as they danced to a song with a chorus duck quacks. A featherless rubber chicken was thrown at the stage and rescued by Arango who referred to it as a ‘rubber duckie’

A photo caption reads Arango was overheard talking about Bhatia to someone else on the stage and saying “No le vamos a dar donde le gusta… sino hasta dentro del pelo”.  It’s a difficult phrase to translate but could be interpreted to mean “We won’t give it where he likes it… instead we’ll drill it deep inside him.”

Reaction from Puerto Rican LGBT-rights leader Pedro Julio Serrano:

In researching these articles, I reached out to my friend Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of the leading LGBT-rights organization Puerto Rico Para Todos. He sent me this excerpt from a press release he released to Puerto Rican media yesterday (a full Spanish-language statement is available at Pedro Julio’s blog):

This isn’t a moment to kick someone when he’s down, but I have to denounce senator Roberto Arango’s complicity with a fundamentalist agenda that promotes the exclusion and marginalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. His votes in favor of Resolution 99 which would have amended Puerto Rico’s constitution to ban the recognition of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, his homophobic acts such as using a rubber duck to make fun of an opponent because in Puerto Rico the word duck means ‘faggot,’ and violating his constitutional duty to guarantee equality for all should be the real reasons for his resignation.

Senator Arango’s homophobic legacy is still in full effect:

In the meantime, Arango might be gone from the Senate but his legacy remains.

Yesterday’s Primera Hora reports that the legislature seems ready to re-open debate of changes to the Civil Code — except for parts of the draft that address civil unions or partnership rights for same-sex couples (“Family topic postponed in Civil Code debate”).

That sole part of the draft caused so much public controversy that it swallowed the rest of the work that had been done and there was no expectation that we’d get back to it,” said Jennifer Gonzalez, President of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives, “So what did we do? We looked at all the [Civil Code] books and we took out those issues that might generate public controversy and that might block passage of the other books, and we will start with those four.

Allegedly, once there is legislative agreement on the ‘non-controversial’ areas, they will come back to address whether the gays deserve human rights.  In other words, Arango’s homophobic spirit lives on in the Puerto Rican congress.

UPDATE: This is my exact point —

Not one hour after I posted this entry a friend on Twitter alerted me to an article from today’s El Vocero (“Rivera Schatz: Bhatia and Garcia Padilla are the ones who should talk the least“).

While Arango has yet to speak to press about his resignation, it was a close ally, Senate Presdent Thomas Rivera-Schatz who yesterday told reporters he had received the resignation letter from Arango.  Today, in an audio interview posted in El Vocero, Rivera-Schatz goes after Arango’s past political opponents and tells them to watch their words.

So, get this: Arango quacked like a duck when making fun of then mayoral candidate Eduardo Bhadia all those years ago in 2004.  Today, now that he has resigned, we get this from the Senate President:

People are tired of “the bla, bla, bla of the PPD President and the ‘quack’, ‘quack’, ‘quak’ from Bhadia”

So there you have it. The Puerto Rican Senate President calling Bhadia a fag just today. INCREDIBLE.

Pedro Julio has replied (“Rivera Shatz reckless and recurring homophobia condemned“. He states, in part, “It’s not the first time that Rivera Shatz has recklessly used sexist and homophobic comments, as he has called us ‘mentally ill, deviant and criminal.”

Pedro Julio calls for Rivera Shatz to keep his homophobia in check or resign.

Andrés Duque is long-time LGBT-rights advocate and award-winning Latino gay blogger. He writes at Blabbeando.

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Democrats Discredit GOP Claims on IVF as Republicans Try to Regain Ground After Fallout

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One week after the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled frozen human embryos are “children,” causing several medical institutions to pause their in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs, Alabama and the GOP have seen tremendous nationwide anger, upset, and confusion from the left and the right over the decision, the Christian nationalist chief judge, and the Republican Party that set this in motion.

Now, GOP lawmakers and political groups are trying to regain ground after some Republicans quickly embraced the decision that, as White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre predicted Tuesday, would cause “exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make.”

“As a reminder,” Jean-Pierre added, “this is the same state whose attorney general threatened to prosecute people who help women travel out of state to seek the care they need.”

President Joe Biden condemned the Alabama ruling: “The disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families is outrageous and unacceptable.”

But U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) cheered his state’s Supreme Court, while appearing to not fully grasp what IVF is.

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“I was all for it,” he said of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, calling young people “our number one commodity.”

But when pressed, Tuberville declared, “I’d have to look at the entire bill, how it’s written, I have not seen it,” referring not to legislation but the ruling.

And when told that women will now not be able to have IVF treatments, Tuberville repeatedly replied it was “unfortunate.”

On Thursday night, speaking to a group of religious broadcasters, Donald Trump denounced the Alabama ruling and vowed to protect IVF. On Friday, the beleaguered Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) issued a memo directing Republicans to defend IVF. Also Friday, the Attorney General for the state of Alabama, mentioned earlier by the White House Press Secretary, effectively suggested he would ignore the state supreme court’s ruling, promising to not prosecute IVF families, as ABC News reported.

But Democrats are making clear that despite whatever claims or promises Republicans make, the IVF ruling is the direction conservatives are taking the Republican Party.

READ MORE: Smirnov Scandal: Experts Call for Investigations, Warn GOP of Possible Conspiracy Charges

“First Republicans banned abortions so women couldn’t terminate a pregnancy. Now they are coming for IVF so women can’t begin a pregnancy. The GOP agenda is about one thing: government control of women,” observed U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) (photo).

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox reports a new NRSC memo “instructs [GOP] candidates to reject clearly and concisely government attempts to restrict access to IVF.”

Just hours later, Sen. Murphy responded, saying, “umm the chairman of the NRSC sponsored the bill to ban IVF.”

He added, “newsflash: no matter what they tell their candidates to pretend, when they get power they use it to control women.”

The NRSC’s goal is to help get Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate. It is chaired by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a MAGA Republican and member of the Senate’s Pro-Life Caucus.

As Bloomberg’s Matthew Yglesias notes, Senator Daines is an original co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act.

The Center for American Progress’ Colin Seeberger adds, Daines “quite literally has been a longtime co-sponsor of the Lifetime at Conception Act, which would establish legal protections for the unborn just as the Alabama Supreme Court ordered and has led to the suspension of fertility care across AL.”

Meanwhile, Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz notes that the “text of GOP‘s most recent platform claims that ‘the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed’ and calls for a constitutional amendment that would ban all abortions — and jeopardize IVF — by granting 14th Amendment rights to fetuses.”

READ MORE: Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

Indeed, as The New York Times reported, far-right Christian conservative Tony Perkins, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ extremist group Family Research Council, called the Alabama Supreme Court ruling a “beautiful defense of life and the Alabama Constitution.”

Friday afternoon Donald Trump followed up his vow to protect IVF with a social media post that claims in part, “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder! That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every State in America. Like the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Americans, including the VAST MAJORITY of Republicans, Conservatives, Christians, and Pro-Life Americans, I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby.”

Former Obama senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer responded, asking: “Why would anyone believe this? In 2016, Trump pledged no cuts to Medicaid and then spent four years trying to gut the program.”

And as Axios reports, “House Democrats’ main super PAC is promising to pour money into attacking Republicans on fertility treatments in the wake of a controversial, first-of-its-kind Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Axios has learned.”

“Trump’s call came a day after President Biden’s re-election campaign blamed him for the ruling, noting his appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” Axios adds. House Majority PAC, in a memo set to be released Friday, listed nearly a dozen current and former House Republicans in competitive districts who have co-sponsored at least one version of the Life at Conception Act between 2021 and 2023.”

See the social media posts and video above or at this link.

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Why Was GOP’s Star Witness Re-Arrested? He May Have Been Trying to Flee the Country: Report

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The re-arrest of Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant who allegedly may have provided House Republicans with Kremlin propaganda that was the basis for their efforts to impeach President Joe Biden and attack his son Hunter, raised some eyebrows on Thursday.

Smirnov, once considered House Republicans’ Jim Comer and Jim Jordan’s star witness, was re-arrested even after a magistrate judge ordered him released, and at his attorneys’ offices, raising eyebrows from even national security experts, insisting there had better be a good reason for it.

Now, according to a noted legal expert, it appears there was.

“A California judge seems to be suggesting [Smirnov’s] lawyers are complicit in his efforts to flee, in a remarkable line ordering detention for the FBI source whose lies propelled Biden impeachment efforts,” writes professor of law and MSNBC legal contributor Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney.

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U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II in his order wrote on Thursday: “It has come to this Court’s attention that counsel for defendant has sought an emergency hearing in the District of Nevada to arrange the release of Defendant Smirnov, likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States.”

After detailing Smirnov’s arrest and release, Judge Wright ordered his re-arrest, adding: “The U.S. Marshal Service is advised there is to be no deviation from this Order.”

Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld calls Judge Wright’s order “wild,” and adds that Smirnoff’s lawyers released “a terse statement about the extraordinary order.”

“They did not respond to questions about the language in the judge’s order suggesting a ‘likely’ aim to ‘facilitate’ their client ‘absconding from the United States.'”

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Vaccine-Laced Lettuce and Tomatoes? Tennessee GOP Lawmaker Worried

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A Tennessee Republican state lawmaker says he’s worried Tennesseans might overdose on vaccines if they eat too many tomatoes.

State Rep. Scott Cepicky claims vaccines can already be added to foods like lettuce and tomatoes, and to tobacco products, so he has filed legislation to require grocery store items containing vaccines to be labeled.

“University of California Riverside has already perfected the ability to put human vaccines into our lettuce right now,” Rep. Cepicky told his fellow lawmakers Wednesday while discussing his legislation. “Also, tomatoes, has the ability to do that also per UC Berkeley. And then big tobacco, RJ Reynolds and stuff has perfected the ability to put a human vaccine in tobacco products.”

NCRM could find no evidence supporting his claims, although researchers starting in 2021 were studying if it is possible to do so.

Cepicky, who has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), warned, “there is no law, deeming those that when you go into a grocery store, you should know as a consumer, this head of lettuce is a head of lettuce. The head of lettuce right next week could contain a vaccine in it. All we’re saying is if it does have the vaccine in it, make sure it’s listed as a pharmaceutical so people can get the proper dosage.”

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Facing some pushback from Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Cepicky went on to say, “This is more of a consumer protection bill right here, is to make sure that if you’re going in to buy tomatoes, and there’s a polio vaccine in there, that you are aware of what you’re buying has a polio vaccine. The problem you have is if it’s not treated as a pharmaceutical, being the size and difference between you and me, how many tomatoes do I have to eat to get the proper dosage versus how many tomatoes that you have to eat? And if you eat too many do you get a overdose?”

Asked if his legislation was necessity, Cepicky added, “Well, if you’d have a child that is allergic to a certain vaccine, and it’s not disclosed, when you go to buy that, that vegetable, whatever it is, and your child dies from that, I would think that having place is going to make sure that that is treated as a pharmaceutical so that the consumers know exactly what they’re buying.”

Anti-vaxers gained a foothold during the COVID pandemic, spreading false claims about vaccines. Last year the fact-checking website Snopes deemed it “false” that “mRNA from COVID-19 vaccines has entered the food supply via genetically modified plants bred to contain it or through the consumption of vaccinated livestock.”

“Claims regarding COVID-19 vaccines ‘in your salad‘ have persisted on the internet and recirculated due to misreadings or misinterpretations of several press releases or scientific research,” Snopes added, “Mike Flynn, during a September 2021 podcast appearance, referenced this research, describing it as ‘putting the vaccine in salad dressing.'”

READ MORE: Kremlin Infiltration of Congress Alleged by Ex-Trump Prosecutor: Republicans ‘Duped or in on It’

Flynn, the former Trump U.S. national security advisor, is a far-right Christian nationalist and Trump MAGA activist.

Tennessee lawmakers voted to move Rep. Capicky’s forward.

Watch Rep. Capicky’s remarks below or at this link.

 

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