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Op-Ed: How I’m Feeling on the Day After Orlando



Not very well at all.

Sunday, June 12th, 2016 marks the largest LGBT hate crime in American history. This tragedy will be remembered as one of the most brutal and terrifying incidents of mass violence our country has ever confronted. Several issues have been raised in response to the attack. Gun control. Terrorism. Global attitudes to the LGBT community. Homeland security. Public safety. Hate. These are important conversations, and should be conducted with open hearts, a clarity of purpose, and a common dedication toward urgent resolution.

I keep saying those things to myself, because I cannot connect to them yet. I’m sure that in time I will. Right now, on the day after, it’s the little details that haunt me. I think of the investigators processing the scene at Pulse, trying to tune out a cacophony of cell phones ringing with calls from loved ones hoping for a confirmation of safety that will never come. Text messages between the soon to perish and their terrified families. People hiding under piles of bodies in hopes they could evade their own butchering. The smell of gunfire. Slipping in pools of blood while fleeing from unclear danger. Families, so many families, hoping for word that their loved ones had possibly survived this nightmare, and the crushing weight of learning that their hope was in vain. Screaming. Chaos. Horror. I keep visiting these things over and over. I’m not ready for the big conversations yet. I’m still stuck on the event itself.

It was closing time at Pulse. I’ve closed out a few gay bars in my life, and I’m usually drunk, tired, and ready to go home. I imagine it was much the same at Pulse that night. You’ve had a full evening. The energy is high. Maybe you’ve met new friends, or had a good time with old ones. Maybe you’re planning for where you’ll get a post-club sandwich or trying to figure out which late night diner might be open. The weight of the real world is 10,000 miles away. Then you hear a noise. The atmosphere in the room shifts. You notice people dropping. Then the entire world changes. For some of you, it will be the very last change.

As a gay man, this hits very close to home. Most of us have been in a place like Pulse at one time or another. Nightclubs, bars, cabarets, and other safe spaces where members of the LGBT community congregate are supposed to be just that. Safe. When I first came out, unsure of my footing, at a later age than most, it was a club in Davenport, Iowa called Fusion that made me feel welcome. As I grew into some measure of confidence, it was places like Fusion, like Pulse, like countless other similar establishments across the country, in which I could feel comfortable being myself. I knew my community would be there. I like to think about them, in all the bars, in all the towns. A legion of LGBT people getting to know each other, finding community, feeling free to be who they are. A place where you don’t have to ask yourself the question, “Is it okay to be gay here?”

But we are never as safe as we think. Members of the LGBT community have always been targets for violence, as this tragedy demonstrates. We will fight, we will love, and we will win. I’m confident of that. The LGBT community has tremendous strength, and we will require every ounce of it in the weeks and months ahead.

Still, I’m filled with a profound sense of loss. The struggle has more casualties than it should. I think about Kimberly Morris. She was a 37 year old bouncer at Pulse. Her only crime was punching a time clock. I think about Jason Benjamin Josaphat. Jason was just nineteen years old. Nineteen. You’ve barely begun to live your life at nineteen years old. He liked photography and studied computer science. I wonder what he would have become? Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon and his partner Jean Carlos Mendez Perez went to Pulse together that night. They died together. Leroy Valentin Fernandez. Angel L. Candelario-Padro. Amanda Alvear. The list goes on, and on, and on. The pain their families and friends are going through must be incomprehensible. My god, the size and depth of that pain. I didn’t know any of these people personally, but each of their stories hits me like an arrow to the heart.

Today I will leave the punditry to other, more organized minds. I don’t want to think about the political ramifications for the campaigns, or the need for comprehensive gun control, or anything other than these beautiful people that we’ve lost. That ground will be well tended without me. I don’t want to hear about the madman behind this tragedy. At the moment, I don’t particularly care why he did what he did, or what particular brand of monster he’ll ultimately prove to be. I’ll eventually care deeply about each of these issues, but today I don’t. Today I grieve for the families. I grieve for the fallen. I grieve for each safe space that now feels a little less safe. I grieve for my community, who has lost so much over the years, despite all we’ve gained. We must remember these people, their faces, and their stories. We will make our places safe again. We will find ways to bear such unbearable tragedy. But we shouldn’t have to. We really shouldn’t have to.


Photo: Toronto Vigil for Orlando Shooting
Image by Lws & Clrk via Flickr and a CC license

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‘Scared to Death’: Trump’s Prison Panic Admission Means He Knows He’s Doomed Says Legal Expert



Reacting to a report that Donald Trump has been quizzing his attorneys about what type of prison he likely will be sent to, former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner stated that is not only an indication that he knows he’s going to be convicted but also an admission of guilt.

Speaking with MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart, the attorney was asked about a recent Rolling Stone report about Trump’s prison panic.

As Rolling Stone reported, Trump asked if he’s “be sent to a ‘club fed’ style prison — a place that’s relatively comfortable, as far these things go — or a ‘bad’ prison? Would he serve out a sentence in a plush home confinement? Would government officials try to strip him of his lifetime Secret Service protections? What would they make him wear, if his enemies actually did ever get him in a cell — an unprecedented set of consequences for a former leader of the free world.”

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

According to the attorney, Trump is revealing himself by asking for so many details.

“What does this tell you about Trump’s mindset?” host Capehart asked.

“It tells me he is scared to death” Kirschner quickly answered. “It tells me he has overwhelming consciousness of guilt because he knows what he did wrong and he knows he is about to be held accountable for his crimes. So it is not surprising that he is obsessing.”

“If he was confident that he would be completely exonerated, would he have to obsess about what his future time in prison might look like?” he suggested. “I think the last refuge for Donald Trump can be seen in a recent post where he urged the Republicans to defund essentially the prosecutions against him. which, to this prosecutor, Jonathan, smells a lot like an attempt to obstruct justice.”

Watch below or at the link.


Image via Shutterstock

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‘Vulgar and Lewd’: Trump Judge Cites Extremist Group to Allow Drag Show Ban



A federal judge in Texas known for a ruling that attempted to ban a widely-used abortion drug is citing an extremist anti-LGBTQ group in his ruling allowing a ban on drag shows to stay in place.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a former attorney for an anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian legal organization, and a member of the Federalist Society, in his 26-page ruling dated Thursday cited the “About” page of Gays Against Groomers to claim, “it’s unclear how drag shows unmistakably communicate advocacy for LGBT rights.”

Judge Kacsmaryk, appointed by Donald Trump twice before finally assuming office in 2019, suggests the First Amendment does not provide for freedom of expression for drag shows, calls drag “sexualized conduct,” and says it is “more regulable” because “children are in the audience.”

READ MORE: ‘The Public Deserves to Know’: Abortion Pill Banning Judge Redacted Details About Millions of Dollars in His Stock Portfolio

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern adds, “Kacsmaryk’s conclusion that drag is probably NOT protected by the First Amendment conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression. It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people.”

Calling the judge “a proud Christian nationalist who flatly refuses to apply binding Supreme Court precedent when it conflicts with his extremist far-right beliefs,” Stern at Slate writes that Kacsmaryk ruled drag “may be outlawed to protect ‘the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.’ In short, he concluded that drag fails to convey a message, while explaining all the reasons why he’s offended by the message it conveys.”

Stern does not let Kacsmaryk off the hook there.

“From almost any other judge, the ruling in Spectrum WT v. Wendler would be a shocking rejection of basic free speech principles; from Kacsmaryk, it’s par for the course. This is, after all, the judge who sought to ban medication abortion nationwide, restricted minors’ access to birth control, seize control over border policy to exclude asylum-seekers, and flouted recent precedent protecting LGBTQ+ equality,” Stern says.

READ MORE: Far-Right Judge Under Fire for Failing to Disclose Interviews on Civil Rights – but LGBTQ Community Had Warned Senators

“He is also poised to bankrupt Planned Parenthood by compelling them to pay a $1.8 billion penalty on truly ludicrous grounds. And he is not the only Trump-appointed judge substituting his reactionary beliefs for legal analysis. We have reached a point where these lawless decisions are not only predictable but inevitable, and they show no sign of stopping: Their authors are still just settling into a decadeslong service in the federal judiciary.”

West Texas A&M University President Walter V. Wendler penned the letter that sparked the lawsuit.

Titled, “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing,” Wendler wrote: “I believe every human being is created in the image of God and, therefore, a person of dignity. Being created in God’s image is the basis of Natural Law. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, prisoners of the culture of their time as are we, declared the Creator’s origin as the foundational fiber in the fabric of our nation as they breathed life into it. Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not.”

Journalist Chris Geidner concludes, “It’s an extremely biased ruling by a judge who has established that he does not care about being overturned — even by the most conservative appeals court in the nation.”

READ MORE: ‘Corruption of the Highest Order’: Experts ‘Sickened’ at ‘Definitely Bought’ Clarence Thomas and His ‘Pay to Play’ Lifestyle



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Gaetz Praises GOP Congressman Who Echoes His Call for Change ‘Through Force’



U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL). largely seen as pushing Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s Republican-majority House of Representatives toward shutting down the federal government, is praising and promoting remarks made by a freshman GOP lawmaker that appear to suggest the use of violence. U.S. Rep. Eli Crane‘s comments, posted Friday (below), call for change “through force,” remarks echoing Congressman Gaetz’s recent comments which were denounced by an expert on authoritarianism as fascistic.

“The only way we’re going to see meaningful change in this town is through force,” wrote Congressman Crane, Republican of Arizona atop a three-minute video in which he frames what is now an almost guaranteed government shutdown as a “spending fight.” In his video he says, “the only way you’re gonna get any change in this town is through force.” Gaetz in August had said, “we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C.”

Congressman Crane is a former Navy SEAL. He has promoted the false “Big Lie” conspiracy theory that there was massive fraud in the election President Joe Biden won, and called “on the state legislature to decertify the 2020 election.” He is one of six House Republicans who voted against McCarthy’s speakership all 15 times in January.

READ MORE: White House Mocks GOP With ‘Worst Person You Know’ Meme After Matt Gaetz Blames McCarthy for Shutdown

“Congressman Eli Crane is a fountainhead of political courage,” said Rep. Gaetz Friday afternoon. “He holds the line.”

Crane recently came under fire for calling Black people “colored,” during debate on his legislation that would force the U.S. Armed Forces to not use any diversity requirements in its hiring practices.

READ MORE: ‘Corruption of the Highest Order’: Experts ‘Sickened’ at ‘Definitely Bought’ Clarence Thomas and His ‘Pay to Play’ Lifestyle

Just days before he won his House seat last year, The Washington Post reported Crane had urged an “audience to look up an antisemitic sermon at a recent campaign stop.”

“Crane said that he was motivated to run because of ‘radical ideologies that are destroying this country’ and that he was most concerned about ‘Cultural Marxism,’ which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as an antisemitic baseless claim gaining traction on the American right.”

“He encouraged the audience to watch a speech by a right-wing pastor who blamed cultural change on a group of German Jewish philosophers and condemned Barack Obama for having a ‘homosexual agenda.'”

“If we don’t wake up,” Crane said, according to the Post, “if we don’t study what they’re doing, and if we don’t put people in influential positions that understand what this war is all about, what they’re trying to do and have and have the courage to call it out, we’re going to lose this country.”

In August, while standing next to Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Congressman Gaetz said, “Mr. President, I cannot stand these people that are destroying our country. They are opening our borders. They are weaponizing our federal law enforcement against patriotic Americans who love this nation as we should.”

“But we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C. And so to all my friends here in Iowa, when you see them come for this man, know that they are coming for our movement and they are coming for all of us.”

At the time, Raw Story reported, “historian and author Ruth Ben-Ghiat called Gaetz comments alarming.”

READ MORE: Pete Buttigieg Just Testified Before Congress. It Did Not Go Well for Republicans.

“What he is saying is that they are not going to have change through elections or through legislation or through reform. They are going to have change through violence,” she warned.

“And that’s how fascists talk,” Ben-Ghiat added. “So, even if Trump is out of the picture, these are people who have adopted methods very familiar to me as a historian of fascism, that violence and corruption and lying that’s what the party is today.”


Image via Shutterstock


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