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Family Research Council remains in federal charity program

‘Government is assisting hate groups with obtaining donations’

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Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, gay news, Washington Blade

The Family Research Council, led by Tony Perkins, is part of the Combined Federal Campaign, which facilitates donations made by federal employees to charitable groups. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has declined a request that it expel the anti-gay groups Family Research Council and American Family Association from a federal employee charitable giving program known as the Combined Federal Campaign or CFC.

OPM, which is headed by John Berry, an out gay man, responded to a request for the ouster of the two groups from the CFC by senior federal employee Gary Cunningham and other federal employees. Cunningham argued in a posting on the CFC’s Facebook page that the two organizations are designated as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national civil rights organization.

“That basically means that the federal government is assisting hate groups with obtaining donations,” Cunningham said in his posting. “If you think this is outrageous, like I do, PLEASE write CFC and OPM and tell them to take them off.”

In a reply on the same Facebook page, OPM states, “All charities included in the CFC National Capital Area are vetted and approved by OPM. Each Charity must meet the federally-mandated requirements of the CFC.”

The OPM statement, which doesn’t identify the person posting it, adds, “The ideology of a charity is not considered. No federal tax dollars are provided to any charity through the CFC. Donors can select which CFC charities they wish to contribute to and exclude charities they do not want to support.”

Cunningham, joined by several other federal workers, made the request for removing the Family Research Council and the American Family Association from the CFC on grounds that the organizations were listed as hate groups at least two weeks before Herndon, Va., resident Floyd Lee Corkins II allegedly shot a security guard on Aug. 15 in the lobby of the Family Research Council building in downtown D.C.

D.C. police and the FBI said Corkins shouted words to the effect of “I don’t like your politics” seconds before shooting the guard in the arm, inflicting a non-life-threatening wound. Authorities said the guard wrestled the gun from Corkins, preventing him from gaining access to the upper floors, where he may have intended to kill FRC employees.

The following day, FRC director Tony Perkins accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of giving someone like Corkins a “license” to unleash a violent attack against FRC by improperly designating FRC and other organizations as hate groups.

Perkins’ comments triggered a national debate over whether organizations such as FRC should be designated as hate groups based on disagreements over their positions on public policy issues without evidence that they may be promoting or encouraging violence.

A Southern Poverty Law Center official strongly disputed Perkins’ accusation that the group created a climate that prompted Corkins to commit a violent act, saying the group has denounced violence throughout its 40 years of civil rights activism.

The Southern Poverty Law Center official said it designated FRC as a hate group not because of the positions it holds on issues, including its opposition to same-sex marriage, but because it relentlessly defames LGBT people by releasing false or misleading information that, among other things, links homosexuality to pedophilia.

With that as a backdrop, the request by Cunningham and other federal workers that OPM drop organizations listed as hate groups from the Combined Federal Campaign appeared to take on a greater significance.

The CFC bills itself on its website as the world’s largest charitable giving program. It says that in 2010 federal workers donated more than $281.5 million to charitable organizations in the U.S. and abroad. A federal advisory committee reviewing the CFC this year reports that in more than 50 years since the CFC was created, federal employees donated more than $7 billion to thousands of national and local charitable groups.

CFC rules posted on its website state that the main eligibility requirement for a group to become part of the CFC is it must first obtain a tax-exempt status from the IRS known as a 501 (c) (3) charity. Other requirements include certain financial accountability standards to ensure that most of the organization’s revenue obtained by donations goes to a charitable cause rather than to salaries and overhead expenses. Groups admitted to the CFC must also file an annual IRS 990 financial disclosure form that is available for public inspection.

“OPM does not consider a charitable organization’s political activity or viewpoint when making eligibility determinations,” said OPM spokesperson Brittney Manchester. “Giving to charities through the CFC is a matter of personal choice for federal employees, who have the option to ensure that their contributions go only to the specific charities they designate.”

Manchester said Family Research Council and American Family Association have participated in the CFC since 2004. She said OPM Director Berry, who took office in 2009, does not sign off on organizations approved for the CFC.

Leonard Hirsch, president of Federal GLOBE, an LGBT federal workers group, said he agrees with the OPM decision against expelling FRC and the American Family Association from the CFC.

“The rules of CFC, which protect the freedom of speech of any group, are also what protect LGBT groups for coming in,” Hirsch told the Blade.

According to Hirsch, LGBT charitable groups faced some opposition when they initially applied for and later were admitted into the CFC more than a decade ago.

“As much as I respect the Southern Poverty Law Center, and I do enormously, I’m not certain that they should be a screen through which a program like this is put,” Hirsch said. “While they have designated these groups as hate groups that is not the federal designation.”

Added Hirsch, “So do I like it that certain groups are there? No, and there are a whole number of groups that get money from the CFC that I don’t like. However, I support their right within the rules and the guidelines to be there.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in a commentary in the Washington Post on Tuesday that the designation of the Family Research Council as a hate group is justified. Griffin said FRC’s long history of “claiming the mantle of ‘deeply held religious beliefs’” to propagate “lies that denigrate an entire group of people” supports the designation as a hate group.

However, a source familiar with HRC said HRC would not support expelling FRC and other groups from the CFC “because of the implications that it could have for pro-LGBT organizations in an unfriendly administration.”

Among the LGBT advocacy organizations participating in the CFC are Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD); International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Immigration Equality; National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Conservative religious-oriented advocacy groups participating in the CFC that oppose LGBT rights, in addition to the Family Research Council and American Family Association, include the 700 Club; Alliance Defense Fund; and Focus on the Family.

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National

Mixed views among U.S. adults on trans issues: Pew

Most back non-discrimination, but divided on other issues

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A majority of U.S. adults back non-discrimination protections for transgender people, but are less supportive on other issues (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A new survey from a leading non-partisan research center reveals Americans have mixed views on transgender issues at a time when states are moving forward with measures against transgender youth, with strong majorities favoring non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors and participation in school sports.

The Pew Research Center issued the findings on Tuesday as part of the results of its ongoing study to better understand Americans’ views about gender identity and people who are transgender or non-binary. The findings are based on a survey of 10,188 U.S. adults from data collected as part of a larger survey conducted May 16-22.

A majority of respondents by wide margins favor non-discrimination protections for transgender people. A full 64 percent back laws or policies that would protect transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public spaces, while roughly 8-in-10 acknowledge transgender people face at least some discrimination in our society.

Additionally, nearly one half of Americans say it’s extremely important to use a transgender person’s new name after they undergo a transition, while an additional 22 percent say that is somewhat important. A smaller percentage, 34 percent, say using a transgender person’s pronouns is extremely important, and 21 percent say it is somewhat important.

But other findings were less supportive:

  • 60 percent say a person’s gender is determined by sex assigned at birth, reflecting an increase from 56 percent in 2021 and 54 percent in 2017, compared to 38 percent who say gender can be different from sex assigned at birth.
  • 54 percent say society has either gone too far or been about right in terms of acceptance, underscoring an ambivalence around transgender issues even among those who see at least some discrimination against transgender people.
  • About six-in-ten adults, or 58 precent, favor proposals that would require transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth as opposed to teams consistent with their gender identity, compared to 17 percent who oppose that and 24 percent neither favor nor oppose it.
  • 46 percent favor making it illegal for health care professionals to provide transition-related care, such as hormones or gender reassignment surgery, to someone younger than 18, compared to 31 percent who oppose it.
  • Americans are more evenly split when it comes to making it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools (which is favored by 41 percent, and opposed by 38 percent) and investigating parents for child abuse if they help someone younger than 18 obtain transition-related care (37 percent are in favor and 36 percent oppose it).

Young adults took the lead in terms of supporting change and acceptance. Half of adults ages 18 to 29 say someone can be a man or a woman even if that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, compared to about four-in-10 of those ages 30 to 49 and about one-third of respondents 50 and older.

Predictably, stark differences could be found along party lines. Democrats by 59 precent say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender, while 15 percent say it has gone too far and 24 percent say it’s been about right. For Republicans, 10 percent say society hasn’t gone far enough, while 66 percent say it’s gone too far and 22 percent say it’s been about right.

Read the full report here.

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Congress

House passes resolution that calls for Brittney Griner’s immediate release

Detained WNBA star’s trial to begin on July 1

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A participant in the Capital Pride parade parade in D.C. demands Brittney Griner's release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a resolution passed on June 24 by the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers called on Russia to immediately release detained WNBA star Brittney Griner. 

Griner was first arrested in Russia in the days leading up to its invasion in Ukraine. Authorities have charged her with drug trafficking after claiming that she attempted to pass through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while in possession of cannabis oil. 

The House’s resolution, introduced in May by U.S. Reps. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) and Colin Allred (D-Texas), made multiple demands of Russia, including that the country “immediately release Brittney Griner,” provide her with consular access and humane treatment and that the U.S. “raise the case of Brittney Griner and to press for her release” in all its dealings with the Russian government.

“This legislation insists on our embassy personnel having access to Ms. Griner and restates our commitment to freeing her now,” Lee said in a statement after introducing the resolution. “We continue to pray for her family and we will continue to work together as three members of Congress, along with others, to spread the message that she is held wrongfully and must be freed now.”

The resolution also expressed support for both Griner’s family and for “all prisoners unjustly imprisoned in the Russian Federation.”

Allred, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, took to Twitter following the passage of the resolution.

“I’m proud the House has spoken in passing our resolution and calling for Brittney Griner’s swift release,” Allred wrote. “Every day an American is held abroad is a lifetime, and I will keep working with @POTUS to do all we can to bring home every American detained abroad.”

Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, welcomed the House’s passage of the resolution this past weekend.

“[Rep.] Stanton and many others are continuing to work with the White House, State Department and Brittney’s family to secure her safe return home,” the team wrote on Twitter.

The resolution comes after reporting revealed missteps on the part of the U.S. government in handling communication related to Griner’s detention. 

According to past reporting, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow failed to connect Griner with outside phone calls permitted by the Russian government when Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, attempted to call her. Cherelle Griner reportedly called 11 times on June 18 on the couple’s fourth anniversary but was unable to reach her wife due to what the State Department claimed to be a “logistical error.”

While the resolution is being heralded by its supporters, it contains no provisions intended to enforce the House’s demands for the release and humane treatment of Griner and others held by Russia. With less than one percent of criminal defendants in Russia being acquitted, it is unclear whether the resolution will do anything to persuade the country’s courts to permit Griner’s release.

Griner appeared in Russian court on Monday for a preliminary hearing prior to her trial that has now been scheduled to begin on July 1. It was also confirmed by Griner’s attorney on Monday that her detention had been extended for six months pending her trial. 

If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

“We must keep Brittney’s case on the forefront and make clear to the White House that her release should be one of the highest priorities for our government,” Cherelle Griner said in May.

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New York

Protests, revelry mark NYC Pride

Tens of thousands protested Roe ruling on Friday night

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The New York City Pride parade passes down Christopher Street in Manhattan's West Village on June 26, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sean Robinson)

New York City Pride, one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, rang in the weekend with equal parts celebration and protest. 

Although the annual Pride march was on Sunday, the entire weekend was filled with an outpouring of public anger in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Protesters took to the streets of Manhattan on Friday with an estimated 17,000 people gathering to protest the ruling, which made abortion imminently illegal in roughly half of states. At least 25 people were arrested at the Friday night protests, which spread from Washington Square Park through Midtown to Bryant Park. 

In light of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision — which advocates say will harm members of the LGBTQ community — NYC Pride announced that Planned Parenthood would kick off Sunday’s Pride march as the first group to walk. In their statement, NYC Pride said that “[The Supreme Court’s] dangerous decision puts millions in harm’s way, gives government control over our individual freedom to choose, and sets a disturbing precedent that puts many other constitutional rights and freedoms in jeopardy.” 

“As millions gather for LGBTQIA+ Pride this weekend in New York City and cities across the country, our voices will be heard — for the LGBTQ people impacted and the millions with whom we stand in solidarity,” read the statement. “Pride was born of protest and will always be a space to fight injustice and discrimination. Join us as we advocate for bodily autonomy at this year’s NYC Pride March.” 

In addition to the march; NYC Pride had a full slate of Pride programming during the week leading up to it, including Pride Island at Governor’s Island, Youth Pride and a human rights conference. Queer clubs and bars throughout the city hosted various Pride-themed events throughout the weekend.

NYC Pride was not the only organization mobilizing this weekend. 

Reclaim Pride NYC hosted a “Queer Liberation March for Trans and BIPOC Freedom, Reproductive Justice, and Bodily Autonomy,” in partnership with pro-choice groups and community organizations. 

“The [Queer Liberation March] is the annual people’s protest march without corporate funding; corporate floats; politicians’ grandstanding; or police control or involvement,” said the Reclaim Pride Coalition. 

Although Pride originated from a moment of violent tension between police and LGBTQ people at the Stonewall Inn, officers on Sunday carefully patrolled the entire NYC Pride march route. When the apparent sound of gunshots nearly sparked a stampede in Washington Square Park during the parade, the New York Police Department said there were “no shots fired,” later confirming that the sounds were due to fireworks being set off at the park. 

The Washington Post noted fears of violence against the queer community circulated at Pride celebrations across the country.

Police also responded to reports of a shooting at San Francisco Pride, although no suspects or witnesses were found. In light of the epidemic of gun violence — from last month’s elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, to the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in 2016 that left 49 people dead — a fear of active shooters and widespread public anger at the prospect of less rights characterized Pride’s usually jubilant atmosphere.

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