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Geithner pledges to work against LGBT abuses overseas

Secretary responds to letter from Bachus, Frank

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Treasury Secretary TImothy Geithner (photo courtesy of wikimedia.org)

Treasury Secretary TImothy Geithner (photo courtesy of wikimedia.org)

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has pledged to voice opposition to LGBT human rights violations overseas through U.S. participation in multilateral development institutions — such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund — and to work to restrict funds from these banks to foreign governments that allow such abuses.

In a letter dated April 8, Geithner writes to gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that officials in the Treasury Department have been working against LGBT human rights violations as well as abuses against religious minorities. The secretary says he shares the lawmaker’s concern “about the incidents of human rights abuses, including persecutions based on religion and sexual orientation.”

“I want to assure you that we will continue to use our voice and influence in the MDBs, as well as engage with our colleagues at the State Department and other agencies, to seek improvements in the human rights situation in these countries,” Geithner continues. “The Treasury Department will continue to instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at each of the MDBs to seek to channel MDB resources away from those countries whose governments engage in a pattern of gross violations of human rights, and, more generally, to continue to advocate for upholding hunan rights in all countries in which the MDBs operate.”

Geithner adds that the Obama administration has “very consequential funding requests” before Congress for multilateral development institutions and that the level of U.S. funding for these banks “will directly determine our ability to maintain a strong and influential voice in all of these institutions in the years ahead.”

Multilateral development institutions, such as the World Bank, are charged with providing loans to developing countries to reduce poverty by facilitating capital programs. The Treasury Department doesn’t have the authority to mandate policy at these banks, but the United States has an influential role because the institutions rely in part on funds authorized by Congress.

The Geithner letter is in response to an earlier letter that Frank and House Financial Services Committee Chair Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) sent to the secretary on March 30 urging him to work against abuses toward LGBT people and religious minorities in foreign countries through U.S. involvement in multilateral development institutions. Geithner’s letter back to Frank, ranking Democrat on the committee, indicates that an identical letter was sent to Bachus.

The lawmaker’s letted drew attention to an amendment that the House Financial Services Committee approved on March 15 as part of “Views and Estimates on the Administration’s FY2012 Budget,” which outlines fiscal year 2012 priorities for issues under the panel’s jurisdiction, including recommended funds for the Treasury Department and the World Bank. The amendment urges the Treasury Department to advocate that foreign governments receiving assistance from the multilateral development banks don’t engage in gross violations of human rights, such as the denial of freedom of religion and physical persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The passage of the amendment and the exchange between the lawmakers and Geithner takes place as LGBT human rights overseas continued to receive international attention, particularly in Uganda, where legislation that would institute the death penalty for homosexual acts had been pending before parliament. Additionally, David Kato, an activist who was working against the pending measure, was brutally murdered after a publication in the country identified him as gay.

In response to Geithner’s letter, Frank said he appreciates Geithner has made “a special point” of recognizing the importance of the issues raised by the amendment that was adopted by the House Financial Services Committee.

“This clearly has application to Uganda because of the severe attacks on LGBT people there that the government continues to condone and encourage,” Frank said. “I am pleased that America will now be engaged in trying to do what we can to block such practices wherever they occur.”

Harry Gural, a Frank spokesperson, said Uganda has received more than $2 billion debt relief from the World Bank and the IMF. Support for the country, Gural said, includes 23 active World Bank projects and 3 proposed projects.

Bachus’ office didn’t respond on short notice to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the Geithner letter.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, said he hopes the letter is “the beginning of a rich dialogue” with the Treasury Department on how the United States can use its influence at multilateral development banks to promote human rights for LGBT people.

“It’s good that the discussion has started, but a lot more needs to be done to leverage the influence of the United States more effectively within these powerful institutions,” Bromley said.

Further, Bromley said the United States should work to ensure LGBT people overseas have access to the opportunities that multilateral development institutions provide.

“In addition to channeling resources away from countries that violate fundamental human rights, as Secretary Geithner appropriately suggests, the United States should also ensure that LGBT communities participate equally in the life-changing social and economic opportunities that the banks provide in developing countries,” Bromley 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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