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National News in brief: March 30

Pro-gay effort dwarfs NOM Starbucks boycott,7 in 10 hid orientation in Alaska, Philly to pay damages to Boy Scouts, and more



Despite a concerted push, a pro-gay effort supporting Starbucks is beating an anti-gay boycott in number of pledges by a factor of nearly 10 to 1. (Screen capture

Pro-gay effort dwarfs NOM’s Starbucks boycott

SEATTLE — Despite an effort by an anti-gay group to pressure coffee retail giant Starbucks to change course on its stance supporting same-sex marriage, the push is severely lagging behind a pro-gay effort to thank the company.

After Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stood by the company’s backing of an effort to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Washington State, the National Organization for Marriage launched the boycott website called where visitors recorded their pledge to avoid the coffee retailer. However, with less than 25,000 pledges, the effort has been overshadowed by a pro-gay response in which nearly 300,000 have recorded their appreciation for Starbucks through the corporate accountability site,

“Frankly, we were stunned,” Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of told the Washington Blade, saying she believes they’re on track to reach 500,000 signatures. “I think it shows that consumers really are for LGBT rights, and they really are for marriage equality.”

‘Bully’ to be unrated after petition protest

LOS ANGELES — After a public outcry, the MPAA has reversed its decision to rate as “R” a movie about the effects of bullying.

About 475,000 people signed Katy Butler’s petition on to urge the ratings group to change or lower the rating on the documentary, slated for a March 30 release, because of its message to teens to combat bullying. The “R” rating was applied due to some offensive language that appears in the film — language that advocates say reflects a small portion of what bullied kids actually hear in their schools every day. The movie will now be released unrated, according to the Weinstein Company.

7 in 10 hid orientation in Alaska: survey

ANCHORAGE — A recent Identity, Inc survey shows that more than 70 percent of LGBT respondents in Anchorage, Ala., hid their sexual orientation from an employer for fear of losing their jobs. Forty-four percent report having been harassed by an employer or co-worker for their sexual orientation.

The survey results, published in the Anchorage Daily News, come just ahead of a citywide vote on a proposed ordinance to extend job protections to citizens based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Alaska is one of 31 states where it is legal for private employers to fire someone solely based on sexual orientation. Anchorage votes on April 3.

 2 school districts face LGBT-related lawsuits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The school district in the small town of Camdenton, Mo., faces a lawsuit by the ACLU after allowing students to visit anti-gay websites, while blocking safe, pro-gay sites.

The New York Times reports that students complained they could reach anti-gay websites, like those of “ex-gay” group Exodus International, but could not visit the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. Though the blocking was done by software, the ACLU accuses the school of inaction after complaints were filed.

In another school in Atlanta, Reuben Lack is suing to be reinstated as Student Council president, after he was removed by administrators for proposing gender-neutral replacements to “Prom King,” and “Prom Queen” in an effort to be inclusive to LGBT students, according to TV station 11 Alive.

Philly to pay damages for evicting Boy Scouts

PHILADELPHIA — A judge has ruled the city of Philadelphia must pay the Boy Scouts nearly $900,000 after attempting to evict the group from a city building over the national organization’s policy of excluding gays as troop leaders.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the scouts won their case in 2010, but have been wrangling with the city over a settlement until now.


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.”

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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.

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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)
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