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Cicilline Brunches With Victory Fund

Cicilline Brunches With Victory Fund

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As a freshman member of the Rhode Island legislature in the mid 1990s, David Cicilline, now the fourth openly gay member of Congress, was given advice by colleagues about how to deal with virulently antigay forces who would spew their rhetoric for hours at committee meetings: "Let the crazies be crazy."

"But I was determined -- and every nutty, unproven, mean-spirited, homophobic statement they made, I challenged," Cicilline told a crowd of about 1,200 people at the Washington Hilton Sunday. "The committee meeting dragged on for six hours, but no one left believing their arguments had an ounce of legitimacy. And for those watching and particularly for young LGBT kids, it made a difference."

Praised by event organizers for upping the percentage of openly gay congressional representatives by 33% (he joins Jared Polis of Colorado, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Barney Frank of Massachusetts), Cicilline was the keynote speaker at the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund's National Champagne Brunch in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the group's 20th anniversary.

Cicilline, a cosponsor of House legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act introduced last week, called the Obama administration's February decision to no longer defend DOMA in court "a shining example of refusing to use the power of the presidency to sustain blatant discrimination against our community" and urged Congress to repeal the "horribly discriminatory law" it passed in 1996 (the Republican House leadership's position on defending DOMA in multiple lawsuits makes that a highly unlikely prospect in this term, though a Senate version of the bill introduced last week by California senator Dianne Feinstein was hailed by advocates as a breakthrough step forward).

"There's just so much more work ahead. Passing a fully inclusive ENDA is a top priority," Cicilline said, referring to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. "We need to wipe our laws clean of DOMA and treat all married couples equally. And we must gain the American right to sponsor our same-gender partners for immigration."

Speakers at the event included Victory Fund cofounders Vic Basile and Terry Bean; president and CEO Chuck Wolfe; Oregon secretary of state Kate Brown; Sherry Harris, the group's first endorsee, who won a Seattle city council race in 1991; and Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan's gay student assembly president who rose to national prominence after the state's assistant attorney general attacked him for promoting a "radical homosexual agenda."

Click here for a short retrospective of Victory Fund endorsees in the April issue of The Advocate.

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