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A dismal future under GOP control?

Advocates fear ‘zero probability’ of pro-gay advances in next Congress

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The prospects of House minority leader John Boehner becoming speaker are frightening for LGBT rights supporters. HRC has given Boehner a zero in its annual congressional scorecard. (Photo courtesy of Republican National Conference)

LGBT rights supporters are bracing for a freeze on pro-gay legislation in the next two years if — as many pundits predict — Republicans take control of the U.S. House and Democrats have a reduced majority in the Senate.

Patrick Egan, a gay New York University political science professor, said what he sees for outstanding pro-LGBT legislation in the 112th Congress is “not a pretty picture.”

“I would say nothing’s going to happen,” Egan said. “You can see how difficult it was getting any kind of pro-gay legislation out of two houses that were solidly controlled by Democrats, and the picture’s just going to get worse to the extent that Republicans gain power on Capitol Hill.”

Egan said he couldn’t identify which bills — such as the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — have a greater chance of passing than others because he thinks, “the probability of all of them is zero.”

“I’m just so pessimistic about anything moving at all that I actually don’t think that question is very meaningful,” he said.

Michael Cole, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, drew on the record of Republican control throughout the 1990s and early 2000s in his prediction of what could happen next year.

“We saw what Republican leadership looked like in the House, and that was when we had a Federal Marriage Amendment being debated, it’s when we saw [the Defense of Marriage Act] passed, it’s where we saw a slew of efforts that delayed our progress,” Cole said.

Cole said the possibility of a hostile Congress underscores the need for LGBT rights supporters to work to elect friendly lawmakers during the campaign season.

“I don’t want to be too fatalistic about where things are going to end up because while there’s six weeks until the election, six weeks is a long time, and no one can honestly say they’ll know what’s going to happen,” Cole said.

Still, political experts across the board are predicting that Republicans will achieve enough gains in the U.S. House on Election Day to take a majority in the chamber.

Nate Silver, founder of the FiveThirtyEight blog, estimated last week that Republicans have a 65 percent chance of taking the House. His model projects that Republicans will go from holding 188 seats to approximately 223 seats and give them a narrow majority.

Earlier this month, Cook Political Report on its website also identified Republicans as modest favorites to take control of the House.

“The Cook Political Report’s current outlook is for a Republican net gain of at least 40 seats,” the website states. “A turnover of 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands.”

Such an outcome would lead to the retirement of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the ascension of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to her role.

Many Washington insiders are anticipating that House Democrats will be facing bad news on Election Day. At a recent D.C. fundraiser where Pelosi didn’t appear at the expected time, attendees joked that she was delayed because she was trying to get rid of a tape-measure wielding Boehner from her office.

Cole said the possibility of Boehner taking control of the House would be bad news for LGBT people and noted HRC has previously given the minority leader — as well as others in Republican leadership, such as Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) — a “0” on its congressional scorecards.

“These are the people who would be deciding the agenda of what gets to the floor,” Cole said.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a lawmaker known for her support for the LGBT community and co-sponsor of numerous pro-LGBT bills in Congress, said she’s unsure of what will happen with these bills if her party takes control of the House as she criticized the current Democratic majority for not taking action.

“I don’t know what will happen with Republicans,” she told the Blade last week. “I know what’s happening now. I don’t really get an opportunity to get to vote on those [bills] very often on the floor.”

Ros-Lehtinen was also reluctant to say that she’d be the champion of pro-LGBT legislation under GOP control in the House.

“I think that there are a lot of champions in a bi-partisan way on these issues,” she said. “I would not consider myself a champion of anything, but I’m proud to support the bills. But right now, it’s Democrat control, so you got to ask [U.S. House Speaker] Nancy [Pelosi] what’s up.”

Even with fears and uncertainty about how a GOP-controlled Congress would handle LGBT issues, the Republicans haven’t been emphasizing social issues in their quest to retake Congress.

The House Republicans’ “Pledge to America,” which was unveiled last week, notably has little to do with social issues and instead plays up economic policy.

The pledge has one line saying Republicans will work to defend “traditional marriage.” Other issues, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” aren’t mentioned in the document.

Brian Moulton, HRC’s chief legislative counsel, wrote in a blog posting last week that the document shows LGBT people wouldn’t fare well under a Republican-controlled Congress.

“While the document focuses heavily on economic issues, its ‘pledge’ also includes hostility to LGBT equality, promising support for ‘traditional marriage’ and, in a thinly veiled attack on LGBT advances through legislation and the courts, criticizing actions that ‘thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values,'” Moulton said.

Even under Republican control, options would be available to the Democratic minority to work to pass pro-LGBT legislation.

One possibility would be to pass bills through a discharge petition, a maneuver that could bring legislation that’s bottled up in committee to the House floor. Supporters of pro-LGBT bills in the Democratic minority could find Republican moderates to sign the discharge petition to obtain 218 signatures needed to move forward with the legislation.

But Egan was skeptical about the use of a discharge petition to pass pro-LGBT legislation and said he doesn’t think moderate Republicans would join such an effort.

“The few moderate Republicans who are left are going to be worried about a primary challenge from their right in the cycle,” Egan said. “One of the true ways to invite a primary challenge from your right-wing is to vote for LGBT-friendly legislation.”

As Democrats face dismal prospects in the House, LGBT rights supporters may be able to look to a Democratic-controlled Senate to advance pro-gay legislation.

In the Senate, where only one-third of the seats are up for grabs during any given election cycle, the forecast is better for the Democrats, although Republican gains are still expected.

Silver estimates that Republicans have an 18 percent chance of taking the Senate. Still, his model projects Democrats will go from having 59 seats in the chamber to having an estimated 52.2 seats.

The reduced Democratic majority in the Senate may mean that the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster in the chamber could be further out of reach.

Still, Democratic control in the Senate could provide the opportunity of amending larger pieces of legislation with pro-LGBT measures in the chamber in the hopes that such language would survive in conference committee for both chambers to approve and send to the president’s desk.

Such a tactic would be similar to how the Senate in 2000 amended major defense legislation with a hate crimes protections measure as a way forward. The hate crimes measure didn’t become law that year and only made it into the books last year as part of defense legislation signed by President Obama.

But Egan was skeptical about the prospects of being able to move forward with pro-LGBT legislation in the Senate even by amending larger legislation.

“That sort of tactic tends to be blocked by Republican senators who are social conservatives, and I would imagine that would continue to happen in the next session,” Egan said.

Egan said he expects a number of Democratic senators will be replaced after Election Day with “hard-core social conservatives” and said the scenario under which pro-LGBT legislation advances under those circumstances seems “really unlikely.”

With a possible block on pro-LGBT legislation in the upcoming Congress, eyes could be on Obama to make administrative changes beneficial to the LGBT community as opposed to having to rely on enacting legislation.

Matt Foreman, program director for LGBT and immigrant rights at the Haas Jr. Fund, said the Obama administration has at its disposal the means to help the LGBT community regardless of the election results in November.

“There are dozens and dozens of ways in which the Obama administration can continue to change federal policies and practices to improve the response of the federal government to needs of LGBT people,” Foreman said.

Foreman said he thinks advocates often elevate legislation over potential policy changes, such as funding for community centers and anti-violence programs as well as determining how a family is defined in the health care reform and how jobs programs treat LGBT applicants.

“All of those things are incredibly important to people, so I think that even if strong anti-LGBT majorities take control of Congress, there will still be lots and lots of opportunities to make progress within the administration,” Foreman said.

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The White House

EXCLUSIVE: Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26

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First lady Jill Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

First lady Jill Biden will host the White House Pride Month celebration on June 26, according to a press release previewed by the Washington Blade.

The party on the South Lawn will also feature a performance by singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer Deborah Cox and musical selections by DJ Trifle.

This year’s event comes on Equality Day this year, which honors the anniversaries of three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that expanded rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws, United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made marriage equality the law of the land.

The White House highlighted some of the “historic action” taken by President Joe Biden to “advance LGBTQ+ equality for the community,” including:

  • Signing into law the landmark Respect for Marriage Act which protects the rights of same-sex and interracial couples;
  • Appointing a historic number of LGBTQI+ and transgender appointees, including the first transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • Directing all federal agencies to strengthen civil rights protections on the basis of gender identity, resulting in agencies working to strengthen protections in housing, health care, education, employment, the criminal justice system, nutrition programs, and more;
  • Reversing the ban on open service by transgender members of the military;
  • Signing an executive order focused on LGBTQI+ children and families that directs agencies to address the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” and finalized rule-making that ends disparities that LGBTQI+ children and parents face in the child welfare and foster care system and protects against disparities in health care; and
  • President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.

Last year, the president and the first lady hosted the celebration, which was the largest Pride event ever held at the White House.

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National

65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member

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(Logo courtesy of the NBJC)

The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes

Five people killed in 2022 mass shooting in Colo.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Justice Department YouTube screenshot)

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colo., was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon, and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance — stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department — from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI — for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and, Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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