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No suspects in shooting of Texas lesbian couple

Teens found in park, one dead; coast to coast vigils planned for Wednesday, Friday

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Mary Kristene Chapa, Mollie Judith Olgin, gay news, Washington Blade

Two young lesbians in Texas were shot over the weekend, killing one of the girls.

A national outcry has followed news that on Saturday morning, Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, were found in a Corpus Christi area park with gunshots to the head, according to Portland, Texas police. Olgin was declared dead at the scene, while Chapa is in stable condition.

Friends described the pair as a couple, and say they had been dating for five months before the shooting occurred, fueling speculation that hate may have been a motivating factor behind the crime, according to the Dallas Voice.

However, due to the nature of Chapa’s injuries, police have yet to interview the only witness to the crime, and without a suspect, cannot attribute a motive.

“Information from family and friends indicates that Mollie and Mary were engaged in a same-sex relationship,” Portland Police Chief Randy Wright wrote in a press release Tuesday night. “However, there is no current evidence to indicate the attacks were motivated by that relationship.”

Wright did not return calls regarding the investigation.

“We’re at a point in the investigation where we’re hopeful for the recovery of Mary Christine Chapa because she’s going to be the primary witness at this point in time,” Chuck Smith, deputy executive director of Equality Texas, told the Washington Blade. He noted the group is staying in touch with the Justice Department and the FBI as the investigation unfolds.

“I think the general reaction, both in the Portland area as well as in the larger community is one of shock,” Smith told the Blade. “Portland is a small town, they haven’t had a murder in two years, so it is certainly unusual for the city of Portland to have a violent crime like this. It is also unusual fortunately, to have this type of crime anywhere in the state that’s this violent in nature.”

“They apparently do not have evidence either way whether or not the crime was motivated by bias,” Smith added. “The surviving victim is going to be an important part of helping solve that investigation.”

Smith encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact the Portland Police Department.

Vigils were planned to call attention to the shooting in San Francisco on Wednesday, as well as planned observances Friday in Portland, where the shooting took place, and Washington, D.C, at 6:00 p.m. at Dupont Circle.

“Whether or not it was a hate crime, it was a crime against humanity and for that reason alone we must stand up as a human family and support all who are in mourning,” said Michael Diviesti, Texas co-state lead organizer for grassroots LGBT group GetEQUAL, in a statement. “When something like this happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.”

GetEqual is maintaining a hub for information regarding the many local vigils being planned at a portal located at getequaltx.org/vigil.

“[The vigil] was initiated by friends of the victims, but it has quickly grown to be of interest to advocacy organizations and advocacy groups all across the state, and I think that is particularly important in terms of the coastal area that includes Corpus Christi, because historically it’s not been an easy place for LGBT people to organize in some respects because people don’t have the level of self-safety in order to be out and open,” Equality Texas’s Smith told the Blade of the Portland vigil, saying the organization will participate and observe, but is not organizing the event. “There is some level of trepidation in that area in terms of being out all the time.”

“I’m pleased to see that it motivates people to speak up,” Smith continued. “I would like to see people be involved all the time, not just when horrendous crimes like this occur. If it is violence against LGBT people that motivates people to wake up and recognize that they can’t just sit on the sidelines and expect other people to work and advance our movement, then on some levels it’s a good thing.”

According to Portland police, a spent shell casing from a handgun matching the bullets that killed Olgin was found at the scene, indicating, according to the release, the shooting occurred at the scene.

The news comes at a time when the Texas LGBT community — particularly along the Gulf Coast — continues to face hostility.

Last year in Corpus Christi, the ACLU intervened on behalf of students after the Flour Bluff Independent School District denied the students’ request to form a gay-straight alliance at the school and school administrators attempted to shut down all extracurricular activities rather than let the GSA form. The school board intervened and the clubs were again allowed in the school, including the GSA.

The news also comes the same week the Texas Republican Party published an anti-gay party platform, writing, in part, “We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle, in public policy, nor should ‘family’ be redefined to include homosexual ‘couples.’ We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.”

The platform also calls for the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment, the repeal of any domestic partnership or civil union legislation anywhere in the country, and states its opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

According to Smith, Equality Texas does not operate a specific statewide hate crime reporting mechanism where Texans can seek assistance in dealing with a case of anti-LGBT bias crime or discrimination.

“It’s sort of more done on the local level,” Smith said, saying that while Equality participates in community-based hate crime task forces, and some police departments have hate crime liaisons, the system is a “hodge podge” that causes problems throughout Texas. “While we do have a statewide hate crimes law, it has not been adequately implemented. Law enforcement has not had the level of training that one would need or expect to have in order for law enforcement jurisdictions across the state to adequately enforce and use the law.”

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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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