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Barack Obama spoke to a mostly warm reception of gay rights activists at an LGBT gala in New York City tonight, endorsing the principle of civil equality for gay and lesbian couples without coming out for gay marriage, which he backed in the mid 1990s and then distanced himself from as he ran for national office over the past decade.

“I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” he told the audience of high-dollar contributors.

He spoke favorably of New York State’s push for marriage equality — it has passed the Assembly but has yet to receive a vote in the State Senate–but didn’t answer a heckler who intoned, “Do you support it?!”

The president quoted pop icon and prominent LGBT activist Lady Gaga — “I had no choice … I was born that way,” he said in reference to discrimination he experienced growing up — and tried to keep the tone light in the face of occasional “marriage!” cat calls.

Americans have become increasingly supportive of gay marriage over the past decade; a Gallup poll last month showed a majority of 53 percent of Americans–about the percentage of votes Obama received in 2008–support marriage equality, but the president and his political team seem to have decided to steer clear of a full-on endorsement, at least for now.

Nonetheless, successful repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in the military, as well as the administration’s abandoning the “discriminatory” Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, has boosted the president’s support in the LGBT community, which is a key fundraising resource.

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Mark Levin

Politico reported Friday that John Eastman, the disgraced ex-law professor who formulated many of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, was also apparently in communication with Fox News host Mark Levin. The story gets even more interesting from there, revealing the shell game that right-wing media personalities engage in while doubling as political operatives.

A legal filing by Eastman’s attorneys reveals that, among the messages Eastman is still attempting to conceal from the House January 6 committee are 12 pieces of correspondence with an individual matching Levin’s description as “a radio talk show host, is also an attorney, former long-time President (and current board chairman) of a public interest law firm, and also a former fellow at The Claremont Institute.” Other details, including a sloppy attempt to redact an email address, also connect to Levin, who did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment.

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Sen. Wendy Rogers

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There have been powerful indicators of the full-bore radicalization of the Republican Party in the past year: the 100-plus extremist candidates it fielded this year, the apparent takeover of the party apparatus in Oregon, the appearance of Republican officials at white nationalist gatherings. All of those are mostly rough gauges or anecdotal evidence, however; it’s been difficult to get a clear picture of just how deeply the extremism has penetrated the party.

Using social media as a kind of proxy for their real-world outreach—a reasonable approach, since there are few politicians now who don’t use social media—the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights decided to get a clearer picture of the reach of extremist influences in official halls of power by examining how many elected officials participate in extremist Facebook groups. What it found was deeply troubling: 875 legislators in all 50 states, constituting nearly 22% of all elected GOP lawmakers, identified as participating members of extremist Facebook groups.

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