Santorum Endorses Romney

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum on Monday endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“We both agree that President [Barack] Obama must be defeated,” wrote Santorum in a late-night e-mail to supporters. “The task will not be easy. It will require all hands on deck if our nominee is to be victorious. Governor Romney will be that nominee and he has my endorsement and support to win this the most critical election of our lifetime.”

Santorum endorsed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee three days after they met in Pittsburgh. His announcement also comes less than a week after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suspended his own White House bid.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has also endorsed Romney.

 

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Biden Endorses Marriage Equality

Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday became the highest-ranking administration official to announce their support marriage for same-sex couples.

“The president sets the policy,” he told “Meet the Press” host David Gregory. “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.”

A vice presidential spokesperson sought to clarify Biden’s comments almost immediately after he appeared on the program.

“The vice president was saying what the president has said previously – that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans, and that we oppose any effort to rollback those rights,” said the official. “That’s why we stopped defending the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges and support legislation to repeal it.  Beyond that, the vice president was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue, after meeting so many committed couples and families in this country.”

The vice president’s remarks came against the backdrop of increased criticism over President Barack Obama’s failure to publicly endorse marriage for same-sex couples. Obama’s decision not to issue an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees sparked outrage among LGBT activists.

Eleven state Democratic Party chairs last Thursday announced their support of a proposal that would add marriage for gays and lesbians to their party’s 2012 platform. Former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and 22 U.S. senators are among those who have backed the proposed.

It remains uncertain whether the DNC will adopt the proposed platform plank during this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Activists, however, welcomed Biden’s comments.

“We are encouraged by vice president Biden’s comments, who rightly articulated that loving and committed gay and lesbian couples should be treated equally,” said Human Rights President Joe Solmonese. “Now is the time for President Obama to speak out for full marriage equality for same-sex couples.”

 

 

 

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Gay GOP Group to Honor Top N.Y. Republican

Log Cabin Republicans will honor New York’s top GOP lawmaker at an Albany fundraiser on Monday.

The group will honor New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) at the Brown Derby. The Long Island Republican is the only member of the Senate’s GOP conference who is thus far scheduled to attend the event that will raise funds for Log Cabin Republicans of New York’s PAC.

The fundraiser comes less than a year after the state Senate narrowly passed a bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed that allowed gays and lesbians to marry in New York. Skelos is not among the four GOP state senators who supported the bill, but he announced at a 2010 Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser in Manhattan that he would allow his members to “vote their conscience” on the measure.

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Ugandan Gay Activist Speaks at Georgetown

Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha discussed the plight of LGBT people in his East African homeland during an appearance at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

The executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda who received the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights last November spoke at length about the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill that Parliamentarian David Bahati introduced in 2009. The provision that would have imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts has since been removed, but the measure itself has been reintroduced.

“When the bill was introduced in the Parliament of Uganda, we were not expecting such an extreme legislation,” said Mugisha, who once again blamed American evangelicals for stoking anti-LGBT sentiments in the country before Bahati introduced the bill. “As we tried to survive and ask the Ugandans to let us live in peace, there was a force and there was another organized group that was out to challenge our own humanity and our own living.”

This homophobia has often manifested itself in violence against LGBT Ugandans.

David Kato, who was SMUG’s then-advocacy and litigation officer, was beaten to death in his Kampala home in Jan. 2011 after a tabloid published his name and home address. Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Ugandan authorities to investigate the crime. A judge last November sentenced Nsubuga “Enock” Sydney to 30 years in prison for the crime.

“In my country, we are talking about homophobia,” said Mugisha, framing the persecution of LGBT Ugandans as a human rights issue. He stressed that this homophobia has not only prevented them from working or going to school, but has left them particularly susceptible to violence. “If I’m doing something that’s not hurting someone, then it is my right to do it. If I’m doing something that is hurting someone, then maybe that’s when we need to draw the line and bring in the rule of law. My sexual orientation does not hurt anyone.”

The White House in December released a presidential memorandum that directed agencies that carry out American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights. Clinton said during a speech she delivered almost simultaneously at the United Nations in Geneva that gay rights are synonymous with human rights.

British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested last fall that his government would cut aid to countries that continue to criminalize homosexuality and deny legal protections to their LGBT citizens.

Is this strategy effective?

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last month that nobody has been killed in his country because of their sexual orientation, is among the African leaders who criticized Obama and Cameron over their foreign aid comments. Mugisha described the British prime minister’s suggestion to Boy in Bushwick immediately after he spoke at Georgetown as somewhat “counterproductive to our movement” because the Ugandan media interpreted it as a former colonial power’s attempt to interfere with the country’s affairs. He was quick to stress, however, that he very much welcomed the content of Clinton’s speech.

As donor countries continue to debate the allocation of foreign aid based on a recipient’s LGBT rights record, Mugisha and his group have taken their fight to the courts.

SMUG accused American evangelical Scott Lively of violating international law in a lawsuit it filed in a Massachusetts federal court in March. The group specifically claims that the leader of the “ex-gay” movement conspired with Ugandan political and religious leaders to implement strategies that exacerbated homophobic attitudes in the East African country. SMUG’s lawsuit also documents Lively’s 2009 statements that compared Ugandan LGBT activists to Nazis and those who participated in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

“The issue of the case was to highlight his [Lively’s] homophobic behavior,” said Mugisha. “The role is for us to show his corruption leads to this homophobic behavior.”

In spite of the systemic challenges that LGBT Ugandans continue to face, Mugisha remains characteristically hopeful about the future. He noted the support SMUG has received from Uganda’s civil society and even some parliamentarians have given him glimmers of hope.

“I’m seeing the small changes,” said Mugisha. “Right now I’m seeing the change. I cannot say that there’s no progress.”

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Eleven State Democratic Party Chairs Endorse Marriage Equality Platform Plank

Eleven state Democratic Party chairs on Thursday announced their support of a proposal that would add marriage for same-sex couples to their party’s 2012 platform.

California Democratic Party Chair John Burton, Kansas Democratic Party Chair Joan Wagnon, Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair John Walsh, Minnesota Democratic Party Chair Ken Martin, New Jersey Democratic Party Chair Jon Wisniewski, New York Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs, Oregon Democratic Party Chair Meredith Wood Smith, Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie, Vermont Democratic Party Chair Jake Perkinson, Washington Party Chair Dwight Pelz and Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate announced their support of the proposed platform plank in a Freedom to Marry press release.

“Ensuring that all Americans are free to marry whomever they love will move our nation one step closer to becoming a more perfect union with liberty and justice for all,” said Walsh. “As Democrats, we know that the fight for equality is never easy, but it is always worthwhile.”

“These state chairs represent diverse states and a diverse range of constituents, including the biggest states in America from coast to coast, critical swing state voters in Wisconsin, and voters combating a cruel proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment in Minnesota,” added Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson. “But whether from red, blue, or purple states, these party leaders know that including the freedom to marry in the 2012 national Democratic platform is not just the right thing to do, it’s the right thing politically.”

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.,) 22 U.S. senators, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Rep. Shelly Berkley (D-Nev.) and other members of Congress are among those who have publicly backed the proposal.

The White House announced in Feb. 2011 that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. The Obama administration has also backed a DOMA repeal bill, but a growing number of LGBT activists have become increasingly critical of the president in recent months for his failure to publicly endorse marriage for same-sex couples.

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Bachmann to Endorse Romney

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is scheduled to endorse Mitt Romney at a Portsmouth, Va., campaign event later on Thursday.

The former Republican presidential candidate’s expected announcement will come a day after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich formally suspended his campaign. Bachmann ended her own White House bid after a disappointing sixth place finish in the Iowa Republican caucuses.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who ended his own campaign last month, is scheduled to meet with Romney in Pittsburgh on Friday.

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Gingrich Suspends Presidential Campaign

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Wednesday officially suspended his presidential campaign.

“Today I am suspending the campaign, but suspending the camp does not mean suspending citizenship,” he said during a press conference at an Arlington, Va., hotel. “Callista and I are committed to remaining active citizens.”

The announcement capped off a contentious Republican primary season during which Gingrich often clashed bitterly with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the media. The thrice-married former House speaker also faced criticism over his opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians and other issues.

Gingrich thanked former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michael Reagan, Todd Palin and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. He did not specifically endorse Romney during the lengthy press conference, but Gingrich stressed that voters will have a clear choice in November.

“This is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan,” he said, answering his own question about whether the former Massachusetts governor is conservative enough. “This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist president in American history.”

 

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