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Big Marriage Defeat Looms In 2014 (Parts 1 And 2)

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Parts 1 & 2 in a 7-part investigative series

Republican political operatives are about to give anti-LGBT hate groups just what they crave:  a lopsided defeat for gay rights in the deepest South.  NCRM’s 7-part investigative series reveals how progress toward marriage equality in other states is threatened by current events in Florida.

Part 1 of 7:  LGBT Groups Oppose Equal Marriage Campaign

As marriage equality soars in its longest unbroken string of victories ever, opponents are still trying to dismiss the first 18 states as mere flukes.  Behind the scenes, however, those same enemies are desperate to defeat any gay rights measure, anywhere, by any means, especially if that defeat makes marriage equality look less inevitable.  The best way to do that would be by breaking the string of recent successes with a giant loss.

Enter Vanessa Brito, a Republican political consultant in Miami, Florida.  Last June, with donations from former Republican Governor of New Mexico and Republican/Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, and with expertise from GOP political strategist Tim Mooney, Vanessa Brito established Florida Political Action Committee #60477, and named it Equal Marriage Florida (EMFL).  After appointing herself as both Chairperson and Treasurer, and getting the Log Cabin Republicans on board as an “active partner and leading proponent,” she predicted that her group would raise and spend $6 million repealing Florida’s constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage.  In 2008, Floridians voted 62% for the ban, and only 38% against the ban.  Six years later, that 38% figure has not changed.

Thirteen Florida organizations quickly rejected Brito’s plan, which they deemed costly, psychologically harmful, and doomed at the polls.  They feared that such a loss would needlessly postpone LGBT rights in Florida, and as well as break the nationwide winning streak.

The timing of Brito’s idea was so inopportune, and its execution has been so lackluster, that some wonder if this might be a stealth campaign, secretly launched by anti-LGBT forces, and engineered to fail on purpose. An alternate explanation might be that this tax-exempt campaign could have been created to funnel some of its supposed $6 million of donations into revenue at Brito’s political consulting business, MYami Marketing, Incorporated.

Even though local leaders opposed her idea as premature and reckless, Brito charged ahead anyway. Less than three months later, she began complaining that her campaign suffered from negative articles written by careless reporters.  She said she wanted to set the record straight, and promised journalists interviews in which she would provide clarity and insight, and would keep information “seamless and transparent.”

Part 2 of 7:  Leaders Retreat

The pre-interview questions forwarded to Brito to prepare for this article were standard political fare.  The questions focused on figures for staffing, signatures collected and verified, and funds raised and spent, with updates for actual success vs. future plans in those areas.  Campaign managers expect to be asked such questions about people, progress, and money, both before and during media interviews.

As soon as she was asked for current figures, Brito went mute.  From mid-November through early January, 24 written requests for an interview were sent to Equal Marriage Florida.  Many were never answered, although one request was officially declined by Ms. Heather Gray, who is connected to Vanessa Brito in three unique ways.  Heather Gray is the Media Coordinator at EMFL, reporting to Chairperson/Treasurer Vanessa Brito.  Heather Gray also is Deputy Director, and apparently the only other worker at MYami Marketing, Brito’s Republican political consultancy, where Brito is President.  And Heather Gray also is Brito’s common-law partner.  They say they are legally single, but in a committed relationship.

After they saw the pre-interview questions, Gray canceled the interview that Brito had requested, and together they broke Brito’s promise to share “seamless, transparent” data about the EMFL campaign.  Gray not only denied the accuracy of statistics that EMFL itself had previously published, but she also would not explain why she withdrew them, when they changed, what they changed to, or why she changed them.

Since Brito and Gray declined to discuss both their progress and their plans, inquiries were sent to the only three EMFL district co-chairs who still had working e-mail addresses, so that they could shed some light on the campaign’s progress and plans for staffing, signature collection/verification, and fund-raising/spending.  Multiple interview requests were e-mailed to:  EMFL Broward County District Co-Chair Terry Gray, EMFL Tallahassee District Co-chair Angel de Armendi, and EMFL Miami-Dade County District Co-Chair Mimi Planas, who also is President of the Miami chapter of Log Cabin Republicans.  In total, five different leaders were contacted — Brito, Heather Gray, Terry Gray, de Armendi, and Planas — but no one provided any figures, and no one gave any interviews.  Four other leaders appear on EMFL’s Web site, but with no working e-mail address or phone.

Since last June, the EMFL Web site has referred to a stream of “exciting” upcoming events such as Pride weeks, parades, film festivals, and church services in which EMFL said it was slated to participate. But spokeswoman Heather Gray declined to identify any events where EMFL actually participated, or any events where it is scheduled to participate.

Tomorrow in this investigative series:  Part 3 – Counts for Workers, Signatures, and Dollars

Image by Equal Marriage Florida via Facebook

skitched-20130320-084004Ned Flaherty is an LGBT activist currently focused on civil marriage equality, and previously on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. He writes from Boston, Massachusetts, where America’s first same-gender civil marriages began in 2004. He suffered a childhood exposure to Roman Catholic pomp and circumstance, but the spell never took, and he recovered.

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BREAKING NEWS

Republican Attempts to Create Special Religious Rights Fail as Bipartisan Historic Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate

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Far right activists and organizations for months have been falsely claiming legislation to protect same-sex marriages would destroy different-sex marriages and take away religious rights from ordinary Americans, but early Tuesday evening on a bipartisan basis the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, 61-36.

The legislation itself is very simple. It essentially leaves in place the status quo on marriage from the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling. Should right wing Supreme Court justices strike that ruling down, the Respect for Marriage Act would require the federal government and states to recognize any marriages that were legal when they were entered, now and in the future.

35 states currently still have same-sex marriage bans on the books. If the Supreme Court overturns Obergefell, many of those could become law immediately.

READ MORE: Franklin Graham’s Ugly Lie Ahead of Senate Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Bill

In order to overcome a Republican-led filibuster Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday agreed to allow three GOP Senators to offer amendments to the legislation, amendments that would have created special religious rights to discriminate.

An amendment from Senator James Lankford (R-OK) failed, as did one from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT). 60 votes were needed for each.

Sen. Lee’s was seen by some as the most extreme, and was strongly supported by the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

READ MORE: 37 Senators Just Voted Against a Bill Protecting Same-Sex and Interracial Marriages. All Were Republicans.

Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts, in a false claim, had said: “The ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ contains so many infringements and encroachments on religious freedoms and on conscience that Republicans should unite solidly against it. Instead, it should be called the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.'”

Far right evangelical activist Franklin Graham falsely claimed the “bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals & ministries & is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.'”

The Pennsylvania Family Council wrongly called it “a bill that would redefine marriage and attack religious freedom & Christian social services.”

But despite GOP fear-mongering, the legislation has religious protections built in, protections so strong 20 faith-based organizations including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, have supported its passage.

The bill now heads back to the House for a final vote, and then to President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign it into law.

 

 

 

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'WAY LATE'

‘Punditry, Not Leadership’: McConnell Slammed for Refusing to Say if He Would Support Trump in 2024

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to say if he would support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2024. McConnell spoke in broad terms about antisemitism and white supremacy Tuesday afternoon, a full week to the day after the former president had dinner with the antisemite Kanye West, and the white supremacist Nick Fuentes, but could not bring himself to disavow Trump by name.

“First, let me just say, there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy,” McConnell said as he began a press conference, his first remarks about Trump’s dinner with West and Fuentes. “Anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected President of the United States.”

McConnell did not mention Trump, and moments later, when CNN’s Manu Raja specifically asked about the former president, McConnell would only repeat his previous statement.

READ MORE: RNC Taps Right Wing Extremists to Head Group Designed to Expand GOP Appeal in Wake of Midterm Losses

“Look, let me just say again, there is simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and that would apply to all of the leaders in the party who will be seeking offices,” he told CNN’s Raju.

Many were critical of McConnell’s refusal to denounce Trump.

Boston Globe opinion writer Abdallah Fayyad said, “McConnell will absolutely back Trump if he wins the GOP nomination.”

Previously, McConnell had said he would support Trump if he is the GOP’s nominee.

“Notice how McConnell said such a person is ‘highly unlikely’ to be elected, rather than manifestly unfit. He needs to keep his rhetorical options open for Trump getting the nomination again,” observed Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld.

READ MORE: Questions Swirl Around Herschel Walker as New Report Shows His Georgia Residence Was Rented Out for Over a Decade

Law professor and former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Sherrilyn Ifill says, “McConnell, Pence, McCarthy and the other folks clutching their pearls today stood beside this man. Distancing from Trump over ‘the dinner’ is way late.”

Political consultant and writer Jamison Foser criticized the Republican Minority Leader, saying: “‘Will not likely be elected’ is punditry, not leadership. McConnell will support Trump if Trump is the Republican nominee; everything else is his attempt to distract from that.”

Before McConnell’s remarks, Ifill had taken the media to task.

“The most dispiriting aspect of the discussion about Trump’s meal w/those two odious ppl is that I thought there was consensus that Trump is a white supremacist. In which case 3 white supremacists had dinner. Why is Trump getting portrayed as an innocent who was snookered?”

 

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News

‘Beyond Horrific’: Tucker Carlson’s Fox News Producer Is an Out Gay Man Helping ‘Ramp Up’ Hate Says LGBTQ Journalist

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Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson, whose nightly show frequently has the largest reach of any on cable news, regularly attacks the LGBTQ community with fear-mongering and hate-filled segments about gay people, transgender people, “groomers” and the latest target: “drag queen story hours.”

His senior executive producer, who oversees Carlson’s media empire at Fox News, is a married, out, gay man named Justin Wells, according to veteran journalist and SiriusXM Progress host Michelangelo Signorile, who is calling it “beyond horrific to think a gay man has helped to shape and widely disseminate a message of hate against LGBTQ people.”

Last week, in the wake of the horrific anti-LGBTQ hate crime mass shooting Carlson hosted a guest, the head of the so-called “Gays Against Groomers,” who told Fox News viewers the attack on LGBTQ people at a gay bar in Colorado Springs was “predictable” and warned that these hate crime massacres will continue, “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care.

Carlson has repeatedly hosted Jaimee Mitchell, the Gays Against Groomers founder who fear mongers against LGBTQ people, with the apparent consent of Wells, who “helped promulgate the kind of hate that leads to violence,” says Signorile.

READ MORE: Watch: Chasten Buttigieg Says Tucker Carlson Is Focusing on ‘Hate’ After Host’s Latest Anti-Gay Attack on His Husband

“It’s unlikely that any narrative would get broadcast by Tucker without significant buy-in from Justin,” Angelo Carusone, President and CEO of media watchdog Media Matters, told Signorile.

Indeed, referring to the Colorado Springs mass shooting massacre, Signorile noted it is “the same kind of nightclub at which Wells, in years past, danced the night away in Miami Beach and elsewhere, liberating himself from the world outside and surely never imagining he’d be shot dead.”

“Now he’s aided the extremists who deny that sense of safety and liberation to every future generation of queer people,” says Signorile, explaining that “Wells runs the entire Tucker Carlson operation, and is responsible for imprinting the Tucker Carlson brand, which is all about emboldening white heterosexual male grievance, furthering the racist conspiracy of ‘replacement theory’ and pushing an increasingly virulent anti-LGBTQ agenda.”

READ MORE: Tucker Carlson Serves Up 12-Minute Long Homophobic Hate-Filled Rant Attacking Pete Buttigieg Over ‘Equity’

One of Carlson’s frequent LGBTQ targets is Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who he has called an “unqualified ‘kid’ who ‘breastfeeds,’ and has no business running the agency,” as Mediaite reported.

“And as Carlson further pushed white nationalism, attacked transgender people and embraced Hungary’s authoritarian leader Victor Orban,” Signorile reports, “Wells, in 2021, was named a Vice President at Fox News, in charge of all Carlson product that airs on Fox News TV as well as on Fox’s streaming network, Fox Nation.”

Signorile says, “it’s quite stunning that Wells would work for Carlson, who has a well-known history of visceral homophobia. That’s something that came to light again last year when it became known that Carlson had offered a tribute to Dan White, the assassin of San Francisco supervisor and gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk, in his college yearbook back in 1991, as well as to the late vociferously anti-gay Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who whipped up homophobia during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.”

READ MORE: Tucker Carlson Once Allegedly Bragged He Belonged to a ‘Society’ Named After the Man Who Assassinated Harvey Milk

“I wrote about those jarring revelations when they surfaced last year,” he continues, “as well as about what I dubbed Carlson’s ‘pathological obsession with homosexuality’ throughout his career. Carlson has expressed revulsion at homosexuality, and in one incident he reveled in a violent response. In a TV interview in 2007 he described having smashed a man’s head ‘against the stall’ in a public rest room, after the man ‘bothered’ him.”

“Wells, as a gay man, only emboldens Carlson further,” Signorile concludes. “He gives him permission to launch the ugly attacks and helps Carlson validate, for himself (and likely for executives at Fox News), the vitriol he espouses. That makes Justin Wells’ presence as the powerful gay man behind Tucker Carlson all the more newsworthy. And all the more dangerous.”

Signorile notes that his reporting is not an outing.

“This story is not, however, about a warped closet case, tormented by self-loathing, hiding his true self while bashing those like him. And thus, this story is not an outing, which involves exposing someone who covers up their sexual orientation while publicly presenting as heterosexual — though it certainly may be a startling revelation to a great many. It is, rather, about connecting the dots regarding a reality that seems to have been hiding in plain sight.”

You can read Signorile’s entire report on his Substack newsletter.

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