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Election Day brings more out gays to Congress

But balance of power will likely prevent action on LGBT bills

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U.S. House candidate Sean Patrick Maloney

Sean Patrick Maloney was among the openly gay people elected to Congress (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The results on Election Day were hailed as a milestone as a record number of openly LGBT people were elected to Congress, although prospects for the passage of pro-LGBT legislation next year don’t look promising.

In addition to re-electing President Obama and approving the marriage equality side on ballot initiatives in four states, voters elected at least six openly LGB lawmakers to Congress in addition to electing pro-LGBT lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown in Ohio.

Tammy Baldwin made history by becoming the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate (see related story) as incumbent Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) were re-elected. Joining them will be Sean Patrick Maloney, who’ll be the first openly gay congressman from New York; Mark Pocan, who’ll occupy the seat Baldwin held in the House; and Mark Takano, a California Democrat who’ll be the first openly gay person of color elected to Congresss.

As of press time, the race to represent Arizona’s 9th congressional district between bisexual Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Vernon Parker wasn’t yet called. However, Sinema maintained a slim lead in the votes that were already tabulated. If elected, Sinema would be the first bisexual member of Congress.

Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, acknowledged the night resulted in historic wins in terms of LGBT representation at the federal level of U.S. government.

“It’s without a doubt historic,” Wolfe said. “I think you can talk about the fact that it was history-making, and those that won will be making history for years to come.”

The election results means Congress will look very different in terms of LGBT representation in the wake of Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-Mass.) retirement and Baldwin leaving the House for the Senate. The results also mean that number of openly gay House members will go from four to at least six.

Gay candidates who didn’t win were Republican Richard Tisei, who lost his bid to unseat pro-LGBT Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), and lesbian Democrat Nicole LaFavour, who lost her bid to unseat Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). LaFavour wasn’t endorsed by the Victory Fund.

Despite the excitement, the Election Day results in some respects resulted in the status quo for the legislative and executive branch of the U.S. government from what existed after the 2010 election when no pro-LGBT legislation passed Congress. Democrats retained control of the White House and the Senate, while Republican remain in control of the House.

As of press time, the Senate was poised to have 54 senators caucus with the Democrats and 45 senators caucus with the Republicans, although the Senate race in North Dakota remained too close to call. That would mean a net gain of one Democrat in the Senate. In the House, Republicans retained control of the chamber, but had a slimmer majority of 232 seats while Democrats claimed 191 seats — with 12 races being too close to call.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, acknowledged in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that these results still mean a pro-LGBT majority doesn’t exist in Congress, making the passage of favorable legislation difficult.

On the issue of federal workplace non-discrimination protections, which remain an outstanding issue for the LGBT community, Griffin said in response to a question from the Washington Blade the votes won’t be there to pass legislation known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

“We need to acknowledge that although we certainly made some gains in the Senate, and potentially some gains in the House, we are still short of having a vote for an inclusive ENDA in the House,” Griffin said. “We need to be realistic about that.”

Griffin said “more successes could be seen” on the state and local level and called on the White House to revisit the idea of an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people, which it said in April it wouldn’t issue at the time.

“It is my hope and belief that we can get an executive order out of this White House,” Griffin said. “It is something that should be done and we will continue to urge our newly re-elected president to do. That would not be the full solution, but it would be a step toward the end goal.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work and one of the leading advocates of the executive order, also said it’s time for the White House to reconsider to its decision in the wake of the Election Day results.

“Yesterday was a turning point for our LGBT movement and President Obama has proven that elected officials can stand strongly on the side of LGBT fairness without fear of voter backlash,” Almeida said. “We will continue to push for the president to sign the executive order as soon as possible because every day that passes is another day in which taxpayer money can be squandered on anti-LGBT workplace harassment and discrimination.”

Asked whether the White House would revisit this idea, Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson said, “I have no updates for you on that issue.”

Almeida also said action could be seen in the Senate to pass ENDA and called for a hearing, mark-up, and full Senate vote  in 2013 when lawmakers convene at the start of the next Congress.

“One lesson from recent LGBT advocacy efforts is that we should not wait until the second year of a congressional session to move legislation forward because that’s when some elected officials start getting nervous about the upcoming election and the legislative clock starts to run out of legislative days,” Almeida said.

In the addition to workplace non-discrimination protections, action could be done at the federal level to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Griffin said during the conference call HRC would “continue to push forward” in Congress, but expressed skepticism about passage of any legislation.

“We do have to remember the leadership in the House of Representatives is not a pro-equality set of leaders, so we still have a lot of work to do there, but I can believe we can continue this momentum,” Griffin said.

Griffin placed greater emphasis action from the Supreme Court, which on Nov. 2o will determine whether it will take up litigation challenging California’s Proposition 8 and Section 3 of DOMA. If the court declines to hear the Prop 8 case, it would mean same-sex marriage would almost immediately return to California.

Another question is which states will advance pro-LGBT legislation or relationship recognition bills in the wake of the Election Day results. Griffin said he expects progress there, but said it’s “very early” to determine which states will see action.

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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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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

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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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