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National news in brief: April 8

Montana abandons anti-gay bill, Rhode Island lawmakers consider marriage alternatives and more

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McDonnell opposes adoption by gays in Va.

WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said this week that he opposes proposed regulations his predecessor devised that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children in the state, the Washington Post reported. Only married couples and single men and women can adopt in Virginia now. The proposed legislation would mandate that gay and unmarried couples be able to access faith-based groups to adopt, the Post said. “I don’t think we ought to force Catholic Charities to make that part of their policy or other similar situated groups,’’ the Post quoted McDonnell as saying. He has until April 16 to make a recommendation to the State Board of Social Services. Former governor Tim Kaine, who announced Tuesday that he is running for U.S. Senate in 2012, proposed the change to the regulations in November 2009.

Montana Senate abandons anti-LGBT bill

HELENA, Mont. — A Montana bill that would have made it unlawful for any city, town or county in the state to pass a law protecting LGBT residents from discrimination has been abandoned, according to a report from the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. The state Senate sent the bill back to committee last week where it’s doubtful anything will be done with it prior to April 29, when the legislature’s session ends. The bill had passed in the House. A pro-gay Council ordinance last year in Missoula, Mont., inspired the proposed legislation.

Patrick nominates first out gay justice to high court

BOSTON — Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick is making history again with one of his judicial selections, nominating Barbara A. Lenk, an associate justice of the state Appeals Court who is married to a same-sex partner, to a seat on the Supreme Judicial Court, the Boston Globe reported this week. If confirmed by the Governor’s Council, Lenk would be the first openly gay judge on the state’s highest court. She would also be the only justice who was married as a result of the court’s landmark 2003 ruling that made Massachusetts the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, the Globe said.

Swarthmore student and friend gay bashed

PHILADELPHIA — A Swarthmore College student and his friend were attacked on campus Sunday by a group of teens in what may have been a gay-bashing assault, a college official told the Philadelphia Inquirer. The attack occurred on Mertz Field on the Delaware County campus, Elizabeth Braun, dean of students, wrote to the college community Tuesday. Neither the student nor his friend was identified. The student reported that he and his friend were punched and knocked to the ground, and then were repeatedly kicked and stomped by at least five boys and one girl, Braun said. They were not seriously injured.

Rep. Holt pushes for end to spouse deportation

HADDONFIELD, N.J. — U.S. Rep. Rush Holt is pushing the Obama administration to halt deportation proceedings against the same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens, the Associated Press reported this week. The Democrat wrote a letter to the federal Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday to make the request on behalf of a couple who live in his central New Jersey district. An estimated 36,000 bi-national same-sex couples are in the U.S., and all have reason to be worried if deportations are not stopped, the couple’s lawyer said according to the AP. Homeland Security did not immediately comment on Holt’s request.

R.I. lawmakers consider alternatives to marriage

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island lawmakers will consider a proposal to allow gay couples and others who can’t legally marry, such as siblings, to enter into an agreement providing many of the benefits of marriage, the AP reported this week. A House committee will review legislation Tuesday that would extend benefits and rights associated with insurance, health care decisions, inheritance and property ownership to so-called “reciprocal beneficiaries.” The legal relationships would be restricted to anyone older than 18 who cannot legally marry their partner. Committees in the House and Senate have held hearings on legislation allowing gay marriage, but neither chamber has scheduled a vote on the bill.

Nashville Council approves non-discrimination law

NASHVILLE — Nashville made a significant move Tuesday to limit discrimination against LGBT residents as the Metro Council approved new rules for city contractors, joining more than 100 communities across the United States the Tennessean reported. The Council voted 21-15 — which was, despite appearances, the narrowest of margins — to require firms doing business with the city to promise not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Those companies will have to sign affidavits to that effect. The legislation needed approval from at least 21 of the 40 council members to pass on the third and final vote, the Tennessean said.

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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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