Connect with us


Gay Games trial set for July in Cleveland

Lawsuit says games run by straight ‘front group’



A lawsuit filed last fall by a Cleveland-based foundation contesting a decision by leaders of the Gay Games to terminate its contract to operate the 2014 LGBT athletic event is scheduled to go to trial July 25.

A spokesperson for the Federation of Gay Games said the organization remains hopeful that a settlement can be reached with the Cleveland Synergy Foundation before the start of the trial.

But the spokesperson, Kelley Stevens, said plans for the quadrennial LGBT sports competition are moving forward and the group is confident the Gay Games will take place in the Cleveland-Akron area as scheduled in the summer of 2014.

“Because there’s a completely different entity running the plans for the 2014 games, they’re not spending any of their time on this,” he said, referring to the lawsuit. “So things are moving ahead as planned.”

The Cleveland Synergy Foundation charges in its lawsuit that the FGG, the City of Cleveland, a high-level city official, and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission conspired to illegally terminate its contract to operate the 2014 games. The Sports Commission is a non-gay organization that initially pledged to help the Synergy Foundation promote the games.

The lawsuit asks a judge with the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas to force the FGG to reinstall Synergy Foundation as the operator of the games. It also calls for compensatory damages against the FGG and the city “in an amount to be proven at trial” plus interest, fees and possible punitive damages.

The FGG says it terminated the agreement because Synergy failed to fulfill its obligations under the terms of the agreement. It says it acted legally because the agreement included a provision allowing the FGG to invoke a termination provision for non-fulfillment of the contract.

In October, the FGG announced it was replacing Synergy with a newly formed non-profit organization called the Cleveland Special Events Group Corp. through an exclusive licensing agreement. The group consists of LGBT and non-LGBT organizations and individuals from the Cleveland area.

Richard Haber, the attorney representing Cleveland Synergy Foundation, said the new entity appears to be a front group for the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, which he said has emerged as the “behind the scenes” operator of the Gay Games.

He said testimony in depositions given as part of the lawsuit shows that the Sports Commission and Cleveland city official Valerie McCall from the mayor’s office are actually running games operations.

According to Haber, this appears to violate the Gay Games’ longstanding policy of having an LGBT organization in the host city operate the games. The Sports Commission clearly is not an LGBT organization, he said.

Stevens said such a claim doesn’t merit a comment from the FGG.

“I’m not going to comment on the Cleveland Synergy Foundation’s claims,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of claims. So I’m not going to comment on what they think.”

In a competitive bidding process held in 2009, the FGG awarded the games contract to Cleveland Synergy on behalf of the City of Cleveland. The group won the contract over competing bids submitted by LGBT sports groups from D.C. and Boston.

The D.C. group, Metropolitan Washington Gaymes, Inc., has said the FGG’s subsequent decision to oust Cleveland Synergy from operating the games meant that the games should go to D.C., which had been picked as the first runner up for the games.

FGG officials dispute Washington Gaymes’ interpretation of the bidding process, saying the FGG has authority to keep the games in Cleveland even though it was forced to oust Synergy Foundation as the operator of the Gay Games.

Meanwhile, in its court filings and depositions, Cleveland Synergy says it has uncovered e-mails and accounts of private conversations among Cleveland Sports Commission officials making anti-gay remarks and jokes about gays.

Haber said the findings, uncovered during the lawsuit’s discovery process, show that a historically LGBT-run sporting event may now be in the hands of a straight organization whose leaders are, at best, insensitive, to the LGBT community.

Cyd Zeigler, editor and publisher of the blog Out Sports, said he doubts that any of this will make a difference to the overwhelming majority of the 15,000 LGBT athletes expected to turn out for the Gay Games in Cleveland. FGG officials say a combined total of more than 50,000 people are expected to either participate in or attend the 2014 Gay Games.

“Why would anyone care whether the Gay Games are organized by a bunch of gay people or a bunch of straight people?” he said. “Your average gay swimmers and gay softball players just don’t care about any of this.”

Added Ziegler, “If the event is fun, if the event breaks even financially, and the athletes and their friends have fun the event is going to be a success, just as it has in nearly all prior years,” he said.


The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke



President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar and lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’



J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

Continue Reading

The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions



U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade