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BREAKING: White House names interim LGBT liaison

Alvillar, from Biden’s office, to replace Bond

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Raul Alvillar (photo courtesy of the White House)

The White House has designated a gay administration official as the interim point of contact for the LGBT community until a permanent liaison is named, the Washington Blade has learned exclusively.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said Raul Alvillar, who currently serves as associate director for public engagement at the Office of the Vice President, will serve as a temporary replacement for Brian Bond, the current LGBT liaison. Bond, who’s leaving later this month for a position at the Democratic National Committee, is deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and handled LGBT outreach as part of his portfolio.

“Following Brian’s departure from the White House to his new position at the DNC, we will have a full-time liaison to the LGBT community in the Office of Public Engagement in October,” Inouye said. “In the interim, Raul Alvillar from the Office of the Vice President will serve as the point of contact for the LGBT community for OPE.”

Alvillar, 33, served for two-and-a-half years as the congressional relations officer for the Department of Housing & Urban Development. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Alvillar was western political director for Obama and assisted with LGBT outreach and LGBT super delegates at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

David Smith, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of programs, said in a statement HRC has heard “good things” about Alvillar.

“He has been with President Obama since the earliest days of the campaign,” Smith said. “Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Jon Carson, director of the Office of Public Engagement continue to shepherd our issues in the White House so we don’t anticipate these changes to cause any problems.”

Winnie Stachelberg, senior vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, said she’s “thrilled” the White House has selected Alvillar as the interim LGBT liaison because of his work on LGBT politics and issues.

“He’s certainly got the ear of senior leadership in the White House, and it’s a good step,” Stachelberg said. “He’s got a sense of the policy from having worked in the legislative office. He’s worked in state politics, which I think is terribly important. He’s worked on the campaign. So, he’s someone who’s absolutely worked in a range of different positions, which I think will help him, and, ultimately, help the community to navigate these times and continue the progress that we’ve made on LGBT issues in the past two-and-a-half years.”

It’s unclear from the statement given by the White House whether Alvillar, or his permanent successor, will have the same role as Bond or if the position will be modified. Some LGBT advocates have been calling for the appointment of a more senior LGBT adviser who could more directly and consistently counsel Obama on LGBT issues.

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, said the opportunity for the White House to create a more senior LGBT adviser still exists in the time period before a permanent replacement for Bond is named.

“What I think the community wants and deserves is a senior, full-time White House official at the special assistant or higher level whose sole responsibility is to represent the interests of the LGBT community at the White House and in the federal government,” Socarides said. “We deserve no less — and the time, the political moment calls for it. It should be clear to everyone.”

But Stachelberg maintained Obama already has a circle of senior advisers who counsel him on LGBT issues — including Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president; Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and John Berry, who’s gay and director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — and said the appointment of a senior LGBT adviser would be redundant.

“What the White House has with respect to LGBT issues is a senior leadership team to work on these issues,” Stachelberg said. “It’s important that it’s not just about a person, but that it’s about the senior leadership team that the president has around him that really deals with these issues all the time.”

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Jeremiah Jones

    August 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    He is HOT!!!

  2. MPetrelis

    August 10, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I want to know if Raul has done anything to lobby the president to award Frank Kameny the Medal of Freedom, or if he will do so in the near future. It’s time for the community to wage a campaign to pressure the White House to honor Frank with the Medal of Freedom. More info here:

    http://…. [URL removed]

    • MPetrelis

      August 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      Hey Blade folks,

      Why was the link to my blog post removed?

  3. Kathy

    August 11, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Let’s forget shiny baubles like medals until after we get enda.
    Seriously – that’s our ask? WTF?

    • MPetrelis

      August 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm

      No, I will not forget about campaigning to secure the Medal of Freedom for this giant of the movement. Seriously, honoring Frank Kameny is one of the things we are asking for. Get used to it.

  4. Judson

    August 11, 2011 at 7:22 am

    try all you want. your not getting my vote again.

  5. Angelic

    August 11, 2011 at 10:40 am

    You will do a awesome job!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Rebecca Juro

    August 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Medals are irrelevant, jobs are what’s relevant. When we see the Senate hold hearings on repealing DOMA in the middle of a heated budget battle, but at the same time is still running away full speed from dealing with ENDA (read: jobs) you know that for Obama and the Democrats it’s not about what’s right for LGBT Americans, it’s about who has the deepest pockets and are writing the biggest checks to Democratic Party reelection coffers.

    How much justice can YOU afford to purchase from our elected leaders? Apparently, if you’re a lower or middle-class LGBT American working family, the answer is: You can’t even afford to get their attention.

    • MPetrelis

      August 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm

      Who made you the decided-in-chief of what is important to us? Not into honoring Frank Kameny? Allow those of us who are to do our work. We don’t have to put every important gay agenda item on hold until job protections are enacted by Congress. We can walk, talk and chew gum at the same time. You offer the lamest of excuses not to seek the Medal of Freedom for this 86-year-old leader who more than earned the honor years ago.

      • Rebecca Juro

        August 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm

        In a word, bullshit. Kameny’s been honored plenty over the years, and this isn’t something which should be high on our community’s agenda. What should be top on the agenda is that we still live in a country where in 29 states you can still be fired or thrown out of your home just for being gay, and in 35 just for being transgender. That’s where our elected officials should be focused, on helping Americans survive this recession, not on handing out awards to make us feel better about ourselves. These people were elected to lead, not host cocktail parties, and it’s time they started doing it.

  7. MPetrelis

    August 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Let’s allow those of us who admire Frank and want him to receive the Medal of Freedom to do our work, and you and your allies can do yours. Different gays can have different agendas, and we can all make lots of demands on the White House. Pretty crappy of you, Rebecca, to say the rest of us can’t advocate on Frank’s behalf till you get what you want or that he’s been honored enough. Frank can never receive too many honors.

  8. P

    August 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Raul is a great and natural leader to fill this role. He has his challenges cut out for him but he is the right leader to be in a position to affect change. Congrats Raul.

  9. dee omally

    August 11, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    As a trans latina, I applaud a fellow latin person with such stature! Yah!!

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National

Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall

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Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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