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Remembering the LGBT Heroes, Victims of 9/11

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FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge, Flight 93 Passenger Mark Bingham Made Ultimate Sacrifice 15 Years Ago Today

On the 15th anniversary of the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the nation pauses again to remember all who lost their lives in the assaults on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Among the most celebrated heroes of 9/11 are two gay men, Father Mychal Judge and Mark Bingham.

Judge (pictured), a Franciscan friar and a Roman Catholic priest who served as chaplain to the Fire Department of New York City, rushed with some off-duty firefighters to the North Tower of the World Trade Center, which had just been hit by the first hijacked plane, American Flight 11.

Soon after, Judge became the first recorded fatality of the attack. (He was not the first person to die in the attack — that distinction probably belongs to flight attendants on American Flight 11 — but his was the first officially recorded death.) He was struck by falling debris in the tower while administering the last rites to another victim.

Judge, a gay man who ministered to AIDS sufferers and served as chaplain to Dignity, an organization of gay Roman Catholics, exemplified a Catholic ideal of service. As biographer Michael Ford has noted, Judge’s “ministry … helped many gay people, alienated from the church, reconnect with their faith. Father Mychal was a living symbol of the church as it ought to be.”

Even before his death, many considered Judge a saint because of his compassion and service to others, especially his embrace of the homeless and those suffering from AIDS, as well as the deep spirituality he exhibited.

His former teacher and spiritual advisor, John J. McNeill, a Jesuit who pioneered the development of “queer theology” before being expelled from the order, told Judge’s biographer that he achieved an “extraordinary degree of union with the divine. We knew we were dealing with someone directly in line with God.”

Judge is the subject of a documentary film, Saint of 9/11 (2006, directed by Glenn Holsten). Narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, it is a touching portrait of Father Judge, capturing the man not only in his enormous sense of duty and service to others but also in his gifts as a witty storyteller with an irrepressible sense of humor and an abiding belief in hope.

In June 2002, Congress passed the Mychal Judge Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush over the objections of Attorney General John Ashcroft. The legislation authorized the payment of federal death benefits to anyone named as a beneficiary on the insurance policy of a firefighter or police officer who died in the line of duty. Previously, only spouses, parents, and children had been eligible. The passage of the Mychal Judge Act meant that, for the first time, gay and lesbian partners could receive a federal benefit.

Mark Bingham, an openly gay businessman who owned a public relations firm and was an avid rugby player, was the last passenger to board United Flight 93 in Newark, New Jersey. Soon after the doomed flight began its journey to San Francisco, it was hijacked by terrorists who redirected toward Washington, D. C., where they apparently planned to crash it into either the Capitol or White House.

Flight 93 passengers learned from cell phone conversations that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had already been attacked. Bingham and three other athletic young men sitting in the rear of the plane — Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick — are believed to have stormed the cockpit and forced the plane to crash into an empty field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Although all passengers on the plane were killed, the actions of Bingham, Beamer, Burnett and Glick undoubtedly saved the lives of many more.

The heroism of the brave passengers of Flight 93 has been celebrated in a number of films and television reenactments, including Paul Greenglass’s feature film United 93 (2006) and Peter Markle’s TV film Flight 93 (2006), as well as a memorial at the crash site.

Bingham has been memorialized in a number of ways, including the establishment of the Mark Bingham Leadership Fund at the University of California at Berkeley and the naming of a San Francisco gym in his honor. Along with the other passengers on Flight 93, Bingham was also posthumously presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2002.

Most fittingly, given his passion for rugby — as an undergraduate at Berkeley, he played on two national championship teams, and later for the San Francisco Fog, a predominantly gay team — the International Gay Rugby Association has named its biennial tournament the Bingham Cup.

Bingham’s heroism on 9/11 came as no surprise to his former partner, Paul Holm, who told Jon Barrett in The Advocate‘s Sept. 11, 2002 feature on Bingham as “Person of the Year,“ that, in addition to the physical courage he showed on the rugby field, Bingham had also foiled mugging and robbery attempts, including one at gunpoint. Many others also attested to the 6-foot, 5-inch, 220-pound Bingham’s protectiveness and love of action. (Barrett’s feature story was expanded into a book entitled Hero of Flight 93: Mark Bingham. A Man Who Fought Back on September 11 [2002]).

Bingham’s mother, Alice Hoagland, a former United Airlines flight attendant, has been an unfailing supporter of LGBT rights and a fierce protector of her beloved son’s memory.

Melissa Etheridge’s “Tuesday Morning” is a tribute to Bingham that specifically contrasts his heroism with the denial of equal rights that he experienced as a gay man.

Bingham is the subject of a documentary by Scott Gracheff, The Rugby Player (2013). Below is a trailer for the film, which was formerly titled With You.

Among other LGBT victims of the terrorist attack are the following: Carol Flyzik, passenger on Flight 11; David Charlebois, co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon; Graham Berkeley, passenger on United Flight 175, the second hijacked plane that crashed into the World Trade Center; Ronald Gamboa and Dan Broadhorst, a gay couple who were traveling with their adopted son, David, on Flight 175; James Joe Ferguson, a passenger on Flight 77; Jeffrey Collman, a flight attendant on Flight 11; and Waleska Martinez, a passenger on Flight 93.

The following LGBT victims of 9/11 worked at or near the World Trade Center: Pamela J. Boyce, John Keohane, Eddie Ognibene, Eugene Clark, Wesley Mercer, Luke A. Dudek, Michael Lepore, William Anthony Karnes, Seamus O’Neal, Catherine Smith, Patricia McAneny and Renee Barrett.

Sheila Hein worked at the Pentagon. When Virginia’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund administrators refused to recognize Hein’s partner Peggy Neff as anything more than a “friend,” she sued. In January 2003, the federal government’s 9-11 Compensation Fund recognized Neff as Hein’s partner and approved compensation for her.

It is believed that several of the firefighters, police officers and rescue personnel who perished on 9/11 were also members of the LGBT community, but have not been identified as such. More information about the LGBT heroes and victims may be found here

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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.

READ MORE: ‘Handmaid’s Tale’: Biden Campaign Blasts Trump Christian Nationalism Plans

“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.

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

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.”

READ MORE: ‘Insultingly Stupid’: Trump’s Move to Toss Out Classified Docs Case Torn Apart by Experts

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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