The champion of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the U.S. House maintains that President Obama will provide the “full spectrum” of engagement in getting the military’s gay ban repealed once the Pentagon completes its report on the issue.
In an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) said Obama has been engaged in moving Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and that this effort will expand once the Pentagon working group report — due Dec. 1 — is complete.
“I think there are different levels of engagement and, I think, once the report comes out, I think we’ll see the full spectrum of that engagement,” Murphy said.
The first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress said he expects this “full spectrum of engagement” to come from not only the White House, but also the president’s “own Department of Defense.”
Murphy said he hasn’t seen a draft copy of the report, but noted media reports indicating that the study will be favorable to open service in the U.S. military. He said the study should have a positive impact on senators who’ve said they wanted to wait for the report before endorsing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
“The study group came back and said that this will not hurt national security, and the troops, like most Americans, see that it’s the right thing to do,” Murphy said. “And so, now we need the senators over there who’ve been a roadblock to put the political games aside and do what’s right for our country.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the sponsor of repeal legislation in the Senate, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) sent a letter to the Pentagon on Monday calling for the report to be made available to members of Congress as soon as possible. The Human Rights Campaign issued a similar statement last week.
Asked whether he similarly thinks the report should be available now, Murphy replied, “I think they should release it as soon as it’s completely done.”
Murphy said he’s participated in discussions with Senate leadership and Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.) about moving forward with the fiscal year 2011 defense budget bill, which currently contains “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
Still, the Pennsylvania lawmaker didn’t offer details on the discussions and characterized them only as “productive.”
Amid reports that talks are taking place to potentially strip the defense authorization bill of its repeal language, Murphy said Republicans have sought a bill without the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provision.
“I think that’s what the Republicans would like to see,” Murphy said. “But I think those of us in the House and 78 percent of the American people and those in the military currently serving want to see the Senate do what’s right and repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and put it on the president’s desk, so he can sign it into law.”
With limited time remaining this Congress, it’s possible lawmakers won’t repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year, leaving Obama to come up with another game plan — perhaps non-congressional action such as a stop-loss order — to put an end to the gay ban.
But Murphy was reluctant to call on Obama to issue a stop-loss order to end discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and maintained Congress can still repeal the law this year.
“Let’s cross that bridge when we get there,” he said. “Now it’s still in the Congress’ domain to act and especially, specifically, the Senate’s domain.”
While seeing a path forward this year, Murphy doubts that Republican leadership in the 112th Congress will be willing to consider “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal as part of its agenda.
Asked whether he thinks GOP leaders in the next Congress would be willing to address the issue, Murphy replied simply, “N0.”
During his time in Congress, Murphy has been seen as a leader for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal because of his work moving a measure that would end the ban through the U.S. House.
Murphy took up sponsorship of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation last year, which at the time had about 150 co-sponsors, and gradually built support for the measure.
In May, the work paid off when Murphy submitted a repeal amendment to the House floor that passed by a vote of 234-194.
The work earned Murphy considerable support among the LGBT community in his bid for re-election. Still, he didn’t survive the Republican tide on Election Day and was defeated by his GOP opponent, Mike Fitzpatrick.
But Murphy said he isn’t going to “second guess” whether his leadership on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal contributed to his loss on Election Day.
“My dad taught me that if you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything,” Murphy said. “And I was proud to stand for equality and for the troops and for national security, and I’ll continue to do so until I turn the keys over to this office on Jan. 3.”
Even with his loss, Murphy said he stands by other tough votes in his district, such his “yes” votes on the $787 billion stimulus package and health care reform.
“We stopped the worst recession from turning into a depression,” Murphy said. “As far as health care, there are millions of Americans that will now be covered, and that’s something that’s positive.”
And what’s on Murphy’s docket once his term is complete at the end of the year?
“I’m going to hug and kiss my kids and hopefully I’ll catch an Eagles game,” Murphy said. “That’s the game plan.”
The transcript of the Murphy interview follows:
ON ELECTION RESULTS
Washington Blade: What’s your take on the election results on Nov. 2? Do you think that your leadership on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal contributed to your loss on Election Day?
Rep. Patrick Murphy: You know, I’m not going to second guess anything. My dad taught me that if you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything. And I was proud to stand for equality and for the troops and for national security, and I’ll continue to do so until I turn the keys over to this office on Jan. 3.
Blade: Why do you think you think you lost on Election Day?
Murphy: I think it was a tough year for Democrats, and I think my opponent ran a great campaign, and I’m proud of the support that we had, but it was an historic wave that we got caught up in, but … we’re going to continue to stand for middle-class families and for our country and do what’s right.
Blade: Is there anything over your past two terms in Congress that you regret? Anything that you think you could have done differently to win re-election?
Murphy: You know, I don’t live my life with regrets. There’s things here and there. I wish I would have played the lottery numbers differently on Saturday night. … We had an incredible time serving the families of my district and our country, and we helped protect 3,000 jobs, we helped end the war in Iraq, we helped move our country in a new direction. …
Blade: So the vote for the stimulus package, the vote for the health care bill — you stand by them today?
We stopped the worst recession since the Great — we stopped the worst recession from turning into a depression. As far as health care, there are millions of Americans that will now be covered, and that’s something that’s positive.
ON ‘DON’T ASK’ REPEAL IN LAME DUCK
Blade: How confident are you that Congress is going to be able to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the lame duck session?
Murphy: Well, we need the Senate to act. It’s in the Senate’s hands. We did our job over here in the House. I was proud to lead that effort and now we’re continuing to put the appropriate pressure on the Senate to do what’s right for national security.
We’re still in Afghanistan and Iraq and we cannot be forcing honorable men and women who are willing to take a bullet to keep our families safe to be thrown out just because they happen to be gay.
Blade: Are there any conditions that you think need to be met — anything that you think needs to happen — to muster enough support for the Senate to move forward?
Murphy: I think we’ll see — we need the senators, especially on the Republican side, to do what’s right for our troops, and I think it couldn’t be more clear. A lot of them said, “Well, let’s see what the study group says.” Well, the study group came back and said that this will not hurt national security, and the troops, like most Americans, see that it’s the right thing to do.
And so, now we need the senators over there who’ve been a roadblock to put the political games aside and do what’s right for our country.
Blade: Have you had conversations with Senate leadership or Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin about moving forward with the defense authorization bill in lame duck?
Blade: How would you characterize those conversations?
Blade: What made them so productive?
Murphy: You’ll see.
Blade: How serious do you think this talk is of moving forward with the defense authorization bill with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” language stripped? Is that a serious option that’s on the table?
Murphy: I think that’s what the Republicans would like to see. But I think those of us in the House and 78 percent of the American people and those in the military currently serving want to see the Senate do what’s right and repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and put it on the president’s desk, so he can sign it into law.
Blade: You mentioned the media reports on the Pentagon study. Do you see that having an impact right now on influencing some senators who were on the fence in getting them to support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal?
Murphy: I hope so because they looked their constituents and the American public in the eye and said, “As soon as this working group comes back, we’ll do the right thing on what it says.” Well, the report came out, it shows how the American military feels that this is a non-issue and that there is … 26 other countries who allow their members to serve openly, and for the American troops, it’s offensive to them to think that they’re not as professional as 26 other countries.
So, hopefully, our senators recognize that and will do what’s right.
Blade: Have you seen the draft report?
Blade: Should the Pentagon release the report immediately — the official report? And, if they do that, what kind of impact do you think that would have on getting the ball rolling?
Murphy: I would like to read it, and I would like to see it, and I look forward to reading it.
Blade: But should they release that report immediately?
Murphy: I think they should release it as soon as it’s completely done.
ON THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
Blade: Do you think President Obama has been engaged in getting the Senate to move forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in lame duck?
Murphy: Um, uh, yes.
Blade: What evidence do you see of him doing that?
Murphy: Well, I think there’s different levels of engagement and, I think, once the report comes out, I think we’ll see the full spectrum of that engagement.
Blade: During a recent press conference, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t identify “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal as among the legislative items the president wants to see in lame duck. Is that of concern to you?
Murphy: I think they were waiting for the report to come out. The report is days away from coming out officially — and not just excerpts of it that we’ve all read.
Blade: Is there anything more right now that the president could be doing to get the Senate to move forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal?
Murphy: I think once the report comes out we’ll see the full spectrum of engagement from — and the appropriate amount of engagement from the White House once that report comes out from his own Department of Defense.
Blade: Do you think Defense Secretary Robert Gates right now is being engaged in getting the Senate to move forward with the defense authorization with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal?
Murphy: I look forward to Gen. [Carter] Ham’s testimony on Thursday.
Blade: But do you think Secretary Gates is engaged?
Murphy: I look forward to Gen. Ham’s testimony on Thursday.
Blade: Do you think that this process — having a year-long study to examine “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — was the appropriate way to address the issue? Do you think it jeopardized legislative efforts for repeal by leaving only a small window open for action in lame duck?
Murphy: Well, I think the premise behind the study was that — how we’re going to implement “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” [repeal], not if we’re going to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” So, I think it’s interesting — to read that report and how we’re going to implement it.
But the reality of this is I think that we have time to act. We all serve until Jan. 3, and we need to get out there.
Blade: There’s also been some action in courts. A California federal court ruled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” unconstitutional, and for eight days, had an injunction in place preventing enforcement of the law. Do you think it was a mistake for the Obama administration to appeal this ruling?
Murphy: Well, you know, it’s interesting. I actually met a soldier who went and enlisted after that injunction came out. And then, … he was going to get his physical and they had to withdraw.
I think that’s why it’s very clear that Congress needs to do its job and that we can’t punt this to the courts or to the White House. We need to get after it and finally repeal the law that Congress put into place 16 years ago. …
Blade: In the event that Congress doesn’t repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in lame duck, do you think the president should issue a stop-loss order to stop the discharges?
Murphy: Let’s cross that bridge when we get there. Now it’s still in the Congress’ domain to act and especially, specifically, the Senate’s domain.
ON THE NEXT CONGRESS
Blade: In the event that Congress can’t do it this year —
Murphy: Congress can do it this year. We all serve until Jan. 3.
Blade: Do you think the 112th Congress will be in an equal position to appeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compared to the 111th Congress?
Murphy: I guess time will tell. We’ll see.
Blade: Do you think Republican leadership in the House will be willing to consider “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal?
Blade: If this fight continues, can you recommend someone in the 112th Congress who can take up the mantle of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the U.S. House?
Murphy: Let’s get it done in the 111th Congress now. …
ON HIS PERSONAL FUTURE
Blade: Once your term expires, what do you plan to pursue when you go back to Pennsylvania?
Murphy: I’m going to hug and kiss my kids and hopefully I’ll catch an Eagles game. That’s the game plan.
Blade: Is there an occupation that you intend to pursue?
Murphy: We’ll see.
Blade: Do you plan on continuing to be an advocate for open service in the military?
Murphy: I continue to plan on serving my country in some capacity and fighting for the lives that I believe in to make our country even greater.
Blade: And open service in the military is among them?
Memphis police release Tyre Nichols arrest, fatal beating video
29-year-old Black man died after traffic stop
Three videos consisting of both body cam footage and street surveillance footage were made public by the Memphis Police Department Friday evening showing the violent arrest and beating of Memphis resident 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.
Nichols died three days after he was beaten by police in a traffic stop in the Hickory Hill neighborhood around 8:22 p.m. on Jan. 7, in an altercation Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis described, saying “in my 36 years in law enforcement, I don’t think I have witnessed the disregard for a human being displayed in this video.”
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday that five now-former Memphis police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith — were fired for misconduct, indicted by a grand jury and taken into custody.
Each is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression. By Friday morning, they had posted bond.
As news of the beating and death spread beyond Tennessee, officials expressed concern that release of the footage would touch off violent protest in reaction.
The attorneys and family of Nichols asked for justice for their son, and peace in their city, at a press conference in Memphis on Friday, WREG News 3 reported.
Speakers included family members, attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Van Turner, president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP.
Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said that he initially wanted first-degree murder charges against the officers, but the family is satisfied with second-degree murder.
He pleaded for peace in Memphis Friday night.
“We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance,” Wells said. “Please, please, protest, but protest safely.”
Protests took place in Memphis after police released more than an hour of footage in the case with some major highways temporarily shut down.
Other protests were organized in New York, as well as D.C., Sacramento, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle, with police at the ready for potential violence.
“Tonight, I stand with the millions of Americans sending condolences and love to the family of Tyre Nichols as the navigate this unimaginably difficult tragedy,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement. “We are a nation traumatized by violence, especially violence against Black Americans. We don’t even need to see the video to feel outraged that those five former officers, sworn to protect their community and now arrested and charged with murder, killed Tyre. But tonight, many people will see the video and it will elicit strong feelings — from sadness and anger to confusion and despair. Tonight, we are a city and country united by tragedy, but we are also determined — to deliver justice for Tyre and change for our nation.”
The White House held a joint emergency call Friday with the mayors of at least 16 cities before the video’s release “to brief them on federal preparations in support of state and local leaders.”
“Participating mayors shared their perspectives on how important it is to recognize the pain felt by communities across this country, be prepared in advance with a game plan to provide adequate community support, and to reinforce the importance of peace and calm during these difficult moments,” the White House said in a statement about the call, which included cities from New York City, to Atlanta, Los Angeles, D.C., Seattle and Portland.
The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement condemning the actions of the Memphis officers and calling for demonstrations to remain peaceful.
“The accounts of the circumstances of this heinous crime and the criminal actions of those involved are reprehensible,” the LAPD said.
“The department will do all within its power to ensure the lawful expression of the public’s anger and frustration is protected and prepared to facilitate those wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told local media that it is preparing for the possibility of disturbances after the footage is made public. and is coordinating with other state, local and federal agencies.
“Our patrol stations and specialized units remain in a state of readiness to respond to any disturbances that might occur,” the LASD said.
“The sheriff’s department supports the First Amendment and the people’s right to protest.”
Speaking with reporters as he prepared to depart for Camp David at the White House Friday evening, President Joe Biden said that he had spoken with Nichols’ mother prior to the video footage release for about 10 or 15 minutes.
“I spoke with Tyre’s mother and expressed my condolences and told her that I was going to be making the case to the Congress to pass the George Floyd Act. We should get this under control. I can only do so much on the executive order at the federal level,” Biden said. “I was really pleased that she called for peaceful protest, no violence,” he added.
When asked about the potential for violence Biden said:
“I’m obviously very concerned about it. But I think she has made a very strong plea. She’s obviously in enormous pain. I told her I had some idea of what that loss is like and although it is impossible to believe now, a time will come when his memory brings a smile before a tear.”
The White House released a statement from the president that said in part:
“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.
My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss. The footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged. Those who seek justice should not to resort to violence or destruction. Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr. Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement in response to the Memphis Police Department’s body camera footage being released, showing the deadly actions that took the life of Nichols, a Sacramento native, and led to the charging of five since fired Memphis law enforcement officers.
“Jennifer and I send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols. Tyre Nichols should be alive today. The video released shows abhorrent behavior and these officers must be held accountable for their deadly actions and clear abuse of power,” said Newsom. “Today, we are a country in mourning, and must continue our work nationwide to push reforms to prevent excessive use of force and save lives.”
“Tonight, we saw ferocious violence from an out-of-control herd,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.
Late Friday evening Vice President Kamala Harris’ office released a statement from the vice president on Nichols:
“Tyre Nichols should have made it home to his family. Yet, once again, America mourns the life of a son and father brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. The footage and images released tonight will forever be seared in our memories, and they open wounds that will never fully heal.
The persistent issue of police misconduct and use of excessive force in America must end now.
I join President Biden in his call for accountability and transparency. We must build trust—not fear — within our communities.”
VIDEO COURTESY OF KTLA:
TYRE NICHOLS VIDEO VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED, GRAPHIC CONTENT AND LANGUAGE WARNING.
FBI reports ‘explosion’ of teen boys extorted after sending explicit photos, videos
Gay adults targeted on Grindr, other dating sites
Law enforcement officials led by the FBI and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations division are reporting an alarming increase in incidents of mostly teenage boys being tricked into sending explicit photos and videos of themselves to online scammers who then attempt to extort money from the young victims.
Spokespersons for the FBI, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where sextortion cases increased dramatically, have told the Washington Blade they so far are unaware of gay teenage boys being targeted for what authorities are calling financial sextortion.
“We have not seen that,” said Catherine Pollicicchio, a spokesperson for the FBI Field Office in Pittsburgh, when asked by the Blade if gay teens were being targeted. “But that doesn’t mean it is not happening. We may not know about it,” she said.
“Homeland Security Investigations has not observed any sextortion investigations that refer specifically to gay teenagers,” said Jason Koontz, a spokesperson for HSI Philadelphia offices.
A spokesperson for the FBI’s headquarters in Washington couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm whether FBI officials are aware of gay teenagers or gay young adults being targeted for sextortion in other parts of the country.
The D.C.-based LGBTQ youth advocacy group SMYAL is also unaware of any gay male teenagers in the D.C. area being targeted for sextortion, according SMYAL spokesperson Hancie Stokes.
But the popular app Grindr reports on its website that adult gay men using Grindr and other gay hookup apps have been targeted for sextortion in ways similar to how the straight teenage boys have been targeted.
The scammers are persuading the gay adult men to send who they believe is someone interested in a possible sexual hookup or a relationship nude or sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves. The scammer then uses the explicit images to blackmail the victim into sending large sums of money to prevent the scammer from releasing the photos or videos to the victim’s family, friends, or employer.
In a Scam Awareness Guide posted on its website, Grindr says that unlike potential straight targets for sextortion, some of the scammers have threatened to out gay men, including bisexual men married to women, by sending their sexually explicit photos or videos to a spouse or other family members.
In yet another means of carrying out sextortion scams, according to Grindr, some of the scammers have set up a fake profile as an underage person. After tricking the victim into sending explicit images the scammer threatens to report the victim to police for soliciting sex with a minor unless a ransom is paid.
The FBI’s national office in Washington issued a “public safety alert” about the increasing number of sextortion cases targeting teenage males in a Dec. 19 press release.
“Over the past year, law enforcement has received over 7,000 reports related to the online financial sextortion of minors, resulting in at least 3,000 victims, primarily boys, and more than a dozen suicides,” the FBI press statement says.
“The FBI has seen a horrific increase in reports of financial sextortion schemes targeting minor boys—and the fact is that the many victims who are afraid to come forward are not even included in those numbers,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in the FBI statement. “The FBI is here for victims, but we also need parents and caregivers to work with us to prevent this crime before it happens and help children come forward if it does,” Wray said.
“Victims may feel like there is no way out – it is up to all of us to reassure them that they are not in trouble, there is hope, and they are not alone,” Wray said.
The FBI statement says sextortion schemes occur most often through sites where young people interact with each other such as social media, gaming sites, or video chat applications.
“On these platforms, online predators often use fake female accounts and target minor males between 14 and 17 years old, but the FBI has interviewed victims as young as 10 years old,” according to the statement. “Through deception, predators convince the young person to produce an explicit video or photo,” it says.
“Once predators acquire the images, they threaten to release the compromising material unless the victim sends money or gift cards,” the FBI statement continues. “In many cases, however, predators release the images even if payments are made. The shame, fear, and confusion that victims feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse,” the FBI statement says.
“A large percentage of these sextortion schemes originate outside of the United States and primarily in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast,” according to the FBI statement.
Jane Clementi, co-founder and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which advocates for programs to prevent bullying, including cyberbullying, targeting LGBTQ youth, said she and the Clementi Foundation, which is a nationwide group, were unaware of any specific gay youth or young adults being targeted for sextortion.
“The fact that this is on the rise is very disconcerting and means it needs to have more media coverage to inform youth and their parents about the harms and how to deal with the situation,” she told the Blade in an email. “My hope would be that we can prevent this situation from happening in the first place.”
Jane Clementi, her husband, and other family members founded the Clementi Foundation in 2010 a short time after their son Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman student at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, took his own life after being victimized by cyber bullying.
Tyler’s suicide drew international attention when news surfaced that his college roommate secretly pointed his laptop computer camera at Tyler’s bed when he learned that Tyler had a date with another young man and the two planned to engage in intimacy in the dorm room. The roommate informed others that he would be broadcasting a live video of Tyler’s intimate interaction with his date over the internet and would be rebroadcasting it later, a development Tyler became humiliated and devastated over after he learned what had happened.
Jane Clementi said that type of cyberbullying and other forms of what she called revenge porn or nonconsensual porn, in which someone uses private images shared with them in confidence while in a relationship and then shares the photos or videos publicly after the relationship ends has been an issue of concern for many years.
Although it is not the same as financial sextortion, it often has the same harmful impact on victims, those familiar with the two types of scams have said.
“The best place to start is by raising awareness of the issue and by having healthy conversations starting at the youngest of ages, as soon as youth have a device that is connected to the internet,” Clementi said. “And next, parents and youth need to talk through a plan for the inevitable situation they might encounter online, like harassment, intimidation or worse sextortion.”
Grindr says on its website that it has protocols in place to detect and remove fake accounts set up by scammers. “While we detect and block a huge amount of these accounts that you will never see as a user, some still get through,” Grindr says on its website.
Advice from the Grindr Scam Awareness Guide on how to avoid becoming a victim of sextortion and how best to respond if one is targeted for sextortion can be accessed at grindr.com.
LGBTQ groups commemorate 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Equality Florida staffers attended vice president’s speech in Fla.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973, issued its Roe v. Wade ruling that ensured the constitutional right to an abortion for all American citizens. The Supreme Court last June overruled this landmark decision.
Fifty years later, LGBTQ activists are among those who have commemorated Roe, despite the fact the Supreme Court has overturned it. The decision, which has since caused tension between liberal and conservative groups, prompted federal and state lawmakers to act upon the sudden revocation of what many consider to be a fundamental right.
Roe’s legal premise relied heavily upon the right to privacy that the 14th Amendment provided; however, legal experts argued that it was a vague interpretation of the amendment.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday delivered remarks on Roe’s anniversary in Tallahassee, Fla., saying how most “Americans relied on the rights that Roe protected.”
“The consequences of the Supreme Court’s ruling are not only limited to those who need reproductive care,” said Harris. “Other basic healthcare is at risk.”
The overruling of Roe put into question the security of other long-held precedents, such as Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriages, and Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision that legalized interracial marriages, because they rely on the same right to privacy that upheld Roe.
In that same speech, Harris announced President Joe Biden would issue a presidential memorandum to direct all government departments to ensure access to abortion pills at pharmacies.
“Members of our Cabinet and our administration are now directed, as of the president’s order, to identify barriers to access to prescription medication and to recommend actions to make sure that doctors can legally prescribe, that pharmacies can dispense, and that women can secure safe and effective medication,” Harris affirmed.
LGBTQ organizations and other human rights groups continue to work to protect reproductive rights.
Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said she found it intolerable that “an extremist set of judges” had taken away an important right not only for women, but also nonbinary people, trans men, and the entire LGBTQ+ community.
“Because we know that reproductive rights are LGBTQ+ rights, and that so many in our community rely on access to abortion care and other reproductive health services,” said Robinson in regards to Roe’s 50th anniversary. “The ripple effects of this decision will impact the most marginalized among us the most, and we cannot stand for that.”
“Overturning Roe v. Wade was the first time in history that the Supreme Court has taken away rights, and we know that they will not stop there,” added Robinson. “This is a dangerous turning point for our country, and we have to affirmatively defend against this assault.”
Robinson said HRC is working with coalition partners to fight the roll-back of abortion rights at the state and federal level.
Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, a statewide LGBTQ rights group in New Jersey, said his organization is “laser-focused on ensuring that people with trans and nonbinary experiences are experiencing lived equality, which includes bodily autonomy.”
Equality Florida showed its support of Roe by standing alongside Harris during her Tallahassee speech with several other lawmakers and activists. They also denounced Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ antiabortion policies, as well as the Florida legislature.
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