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Will Obama speak at Int’l AIDS conference?

President hasn’t yet responded to invitation to attend



Advocates are calling on President Obama to deliver remarks on combatting the HIV/AIDS epidemic at the upcoming International AIDS Conference in Washington, noting the White House hasn’t yet to responded to an invitation for him to speak at the event.

Those calling on Obama to speak at the 19th International AIDS Conference for 2012 — which will take place in D.C. starting the week of July 22 — say the president should take the opportunity to highlight his administration’s work to combat the disease.

Whether the president will make an appearance remains in question. Adina Ellis, a spokesperson for the conference, said Obama has been officially invited to speak at and said the White House has acknowledged the invitation, but as of Monday conference officials “still have not received confirmation” on whether he’ll attend.

Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, said he wants the president to take the opportunity to speak and “announce to the world that we are going to begin to end AIDS” and the ways in which that will happen.

“I think it would be very important for the president of the United States … to make a strong announcement that it is the policy of the United States that we’re going to end AIDS in the United States, and this is what I’m going to do to do it,” Schmid said. “We are looking for his strong affirmation. This is the place to do it; the eyes of the world are looking at this International AIDS conference.”

Schmid acknowledged the president has “a lot of competing interests” for his time.

“I don’t see why there should be any reluctance for them to attend,” Schmid said. “I think most people are expecting him and wanting him to attend, and I think it would be not a good sign if he did not come.”

The conference is taking place within the United States for the first time since 1990 thanks in part to the work of the Obama administration. The lifting of the HIV travel ban, which previously had prevented foreign nationals with HIV from coming into the United States, enabled international participants who may have HIV to come into the United States for the conference.

Brian Hujdich, executive director of the AIDS non-profit HealthHIV, said he wants Obama to speak at the conference to discuss ways in which health care reform will help HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment now that the Supreme Court has upheld the law’s constitutionality.

“I think the president could speak very meaningfully to what access to health insurance really means to people with HIV, including preventing HIV by having prevention programs and testing efforts in primary care settings, so that we can be both helping prevent HIV as well as ensuring the best quality care for all those with HIV,” Hujdich said.

Hujdich said he doesn’t know why Obama has yet to accept the invitation, but would be “shocked” if the president didn’t attend and speculated the administration was waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on health care “so the messaging and communication on [health care reform] implementation would be enhanced” before confirming attendance.

Last week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said under questioning from the Washington Blade that he has no updates on Obama’s schedule when asked if the president would speak at the conference in D.C.

“I appreciate the question, but I do not have a scheduling update for you,” Carney said.

High-ranking members of the Obama administration are slated to address the conference, including Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. Other high-profile speakers include former President Bill Clinton, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and singer Elton John, who founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Despite general praise for his work on HIV/AIDS, Obama’s record isn’t without criticism, particularly in the global fight against the epidemic — an area where some critics have questioned whether former President George W. Bush accomplished more than his successor.

In his budget request for fiscal year 2013, Obama bumped up domestic spending for HIV/AIDS work, including a $102 million increase in funds for the Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Program from the previous year’s allocation of $1 billion. But the request cut the administration’s signature program in the global AIDS fight, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, by more than a half billion dollars, or almost 13 percent.

Bush established PEPFAR to provide anti-retroviral treatment to people with AIDS overseas. The HIV Medicine Association criticized the cut when the request was made public, saying the amount allocated “falls short” of support needed, although the White House contended at the time the administration was doing more with less funding and the cost of providing treatment for AIDS patients has fallen 50 percent since 2008.

Carney denied any connection between the cut in PEPFAR funds and any apparent hesitation in accepting the invitation to speak at the conference out of fear the president wouldn’t be well-received by global AIDS activists during his speech as a result of these cuts.

“Again, you’re connecting things, and I just don’t have an update for you on the president’s schedule,” Carney said.

Hujdich, who’s been at each conference since their start in Amsterdam 20 years ago, said attendees may take the opportunity to push Obama to do more in the global AIDS effort because the purpose of the conference is to mobilize people, including the president, to act — even though the president’s record on HIV/AIDS is considered substantial.

“I’m sure there will be some that will feel the need to criticize the president and be negative, but I firmly believe that would be a minority of the attendees,” Hujdich said.”That would come with the territory, but I still believe, all things considered, he is well regarded by the HIV community domestically and internationally.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Brian Hujdich and called HealthHIV an AIDS research organization. The Blade regrets the error.



65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member



(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.



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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Federal Government

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Garcia urges US officials to protect LGBTQ people during Pride Month

Gay Calif. congressman sent letter to top authorities on June 12



Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sp) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

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