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Nearly 300 mayors join same-sex marriage campaign

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry launched last year.

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Mike McGinn, Washington, Seattle, Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, gay news, Washington Blade, marriage equality, gay marriage, marriage equality
Annise Parker, Houston, Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, gay news, Washington Blade, marriage equality, gay marriage, marriage equality

Houston Mayor Annise Parker (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mayors from across the country on Friday attended a reception during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual D.C. meeting to commemorate the first anniversary of a campaign that features city executives who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker, gay Gainesville (Fla.) Mayor Craig Lowe and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn are among those who attended the reception at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, who is the former mayor of Stamford in his state’s Fairfield County, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who sparked controversy last year when he refused to join the campaign, also made brief appearances.

“This has been an exceptionally monumental year for this cause — the cause of the freedom to marry,” Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said. He noted 294 mayors from 42 states have joined the campaign since his organization formally launched it last January. “One thing I’ve learned that instead of going to Capitol Hill, if you really want to get something done you go to a mayor. You all were a crucial part of the historic wins this year.”

Solomon specifically thanked Villaraigosa, who chaired the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and Nutter for their efforts in support of the addition of a same-sex marriage plank to the party’s platform. He also praised Parker’s decision to join the campaign in spite of backlash she received from socially conservative pastors and others in her city who sharply criticized her public support for marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“If you’re out from L.A. and represent Hollywood and you have to come with the experiences that I come with, it’s a lot different than when you live somewhere where maybe not everybody is quite on board,” Villaraigosa said. “She [Parker] was steadfast in her commitment to this issue.”

Parker further discussed the controversy.

“Talking about marriage strikes a visceral cord in people and it changes the entire debate,” she said. “That is precisely why we have to have that conversation. Domestic partner benefits and the ability to recognize the relationship through complicated legal processes is not the same thing as marriage, which is an institution that we all recognize, that we understand in our hearts and in our minds that speaks across generations… we deserve full equality.”

The reception took place less than three months after voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same-sex marriage referenda and Minnesotans rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have banned nuptials for gays and lesbians.

The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a same-sex marriage bill. Lawmakers in Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey and Hawaii are expected to consider the issue in the coming weeks and months.

The U.S. Supreme Court in March will hear oral arguments in cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in the Golden State in 2008. The justices are expected to issue their rulings in June.

“America would be a stronger place if folks were able to love who they want to love, be who they want to be with, ” Nutter said.

Des Moines (Iowa) Mayor Frank Cownie recalled the 2009 court ruling that struck down his state’s ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians. He described the recall of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who issued the decision as “shameful,” but stressed the fight for marriage rights for same-sex couples continues.

“It’s about equal rights,” Cownie said, noting gays and lesbians flocked to Iowa to tie the knot after the ruling took effect. “Here we are in the Heartland; conservative, really white Iowa and we had some judges that had the guts to stand up in front of everybody and say this ain’t right. Everybody has equal rights and you can’t separate those rights based on anybody’s decision on who they love and who they want to marry. So let’s keep up the right. We’ll keep it going in Iowa.”

St. Paul (Minn.) Mayor Chris Coleman noted to the Washington Blade during the reception that Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, which led the effort against his state’s proposed constitutional amendment, is a former staffer. He said he remains proud that Minnesota is the first state to reject a proposal that “would discriminate against way too many of our citizens.”

“No mayor in this country should allow their residents — their constituents — to be discriminated against,” Coleman said. “This is a seminal moment in this country where the tide has turned and I don’t think there’s any turning back on this one.”

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, Antonio Villaraigosa, Annise Parker, Michael Nutter, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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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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