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Gibbs unaware of outreach to change Senate ‘Don’t Ask’ votes

W.H. spokesperson touts meeting as part of path to end law

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday he’s unaware of any outreach the president has done in the Senate to advance “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. But he touted an upcoming meeting with LGBT advocates as evidence of the president’s desire to end the military’s gay ban.

Asked by the Washington Blade whether the president has made any outreach attempts to encourage senators who voted “no” on moving forward with repeal to vote “yes” a second time around, Gibbs replied that no such outreach has taken place to his knowledge.

Still, Gibbs acknowledged that the only way the Senate could move forward with the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill — to which repeal language is attached — is to change some of those votes.

“To my knowledge, it hasn’t taken place yet, but, look, the only way we’re going to get something through the Senate is to change the vote count,” Gibbs said.

The White House spokesperson noted there is “a promised filibuster” in moving forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the lame duck session. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has pledged to renew his objection to moving forward with the bill should it come up again this year.

“You’re going to have to get past a promised filibuster in moving to the bill,” Gibbs said. “And certainly, the only way we can move to that bill is to change some of those votes.”

Sources have told the Blade that a meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday between White House officials and repeal advocates. Gibbs said he expects the officials in attendance will express the same commitments that he has made regarding the president’s pledge to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“The president wants the defense authorization act and that repeal passed,” Gibbs said. “That is the basis for the meeting today and I think the president and the administration have committed to working to see that through.”

The White House press secretary also addressed a recently leaked e-mail stating that any discussion of pending litigation on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would prompt administration officials to terminate the meeting. Gibbs noted some participants in the lawsuit are plaintiffs in Log Cabin v. United States.

“I don’t think either side believes that those type of conversations about the litigation between two parties represented in a lawsuit is appropriate,” Gibbs said.

Asked about any contingency plan for ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the event the Senate is unable to pass repeal, such as issuing a stop-loss order, Gibbs replied that the White House is “focused on an endurable repeal of a law that the president thinks is unjust.”

Gibbs also said he couldn’t immediately say whether the White House or repeal advocates initiated the meeting.

Additionally, Gibbs added it is the “hope” of the White House that Congress can still pass “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal regardless of what happens on Election Day. Pundits expect Democrats to sustain to heavy losses and lose control of the House.

“We’re approaching the beginning of December, which is when the Pentagon’s study of implementation and of the attitudes of the military will be complete,” Gibbs said. “The president believes — continues to believe that this is a law that — the end of this law — the time for the end of this law has come.”

Both the Blade and The Advocate questioned Gibbs on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the news conference. A transcript of the exchange follows:

Blade: Robert, on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I understand a meeting is taking place today with — between the White House and repeal advocates. What commitments is the White House going to be offering during this meeting in the effort to repeal the law?

Gibbs: Well, the same — likely the same commitments that I have enumerated in here, and that is our desire to see the defense authorization bill pending before the Senate taken up. That includes a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as the House has already voted on. The president wants the defense authorization act and that repeal passed. That is the basis for the meeting today and I think the president and the administration have committed to working to see that through.

Blade: I want to follow up on that. Is among the commitments — is among the commitments reaching out to senators who may have voted “no” in September to get them to change their votes to vote “yes” in lame duck. Has that taken place yet?

Gibbs: No, to my know — to my knowledge, it hasn’t taken place yet, but, look, the only way we’re going to get something through the Senate is to change the vote count and to move past — look, you’ve got to get — you’re going to have to get past a promised filibuster in moving to the bill. And certainly, the only way we can move to that bill is to change some of those votes.

Blade: It’s been reported that any discussion of litigation on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during this meeting would terminate the discussion. Why is that?

Gibbs: …Again, understand that some of the participants in the meeting are with groups that are in litigation as a plaintiff where the United States government is the defendant. I don’t think either side believes that those type of conversations about the litigation between two parties represented in a lawsuit is appropriate.

Blade: Who initiated the meeting? You or them?

Gibbs: I don’t know the answer to that at this point.

Blade: Just one last question: is the president … expecting repeal legislation on his desk by the end of this year regardless of what happens at the polls next week?

Gibbs: That’s our hope. Again, our desire and our hope and the president’s commitment is that he will work to see this past. This is — look, we’re approaching the beginning of December, which is when the Pentagon’s study of implementation and of the attitudes of the military will be complete, and the president believes – continues to believe that this is a law that — the end of this law – the time for the end of this law has come.

The courts are signaling that, and certainly it’s been his political belief going back when I met him in 2004 — that was his position.

Advocate: Any sense of what that report looks like? Has anyone in the White House had a chance to see some of the [pre-runs] of that — the DOD report?

Gibbs: Not to my knowledge. The last time I was — I heard about this and nobody in his building had seen that.

Advocate: In terms of contingency planning, I know this is your favorite subject, but, look, there’s a very real possibility this doesn’t go through. I know you guys want it to. I know that’s the meeting today, but if it doesn’t go through, is something like stop-loss on the table? [It’s] perfectly within the president’s authority, by the way, in a time of war.

Gibbs: I think that, look, you’ve seen steps that have been taken over the past several days at the Pentagon involving service secretaries, you have a sitting chair of the Joint Chiefs who believes it’s time for this law to end [and] the president working closely with the secretary to make that happen. Our efforts in the short term will be focused on an endurable repeal of a law that the president thinks is unjust — and that’s where our focus will be.

Watch the video of the exchange here:

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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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Federal Government

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Garcia urges US officials to protect LGBTQ people during Pride Month

Gay Calif. congressman sent letter to top authorities on June 12

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Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sp) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

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