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Dan Savage pulls 49ers ‘It Gets Better’ video

Players denied participating in project

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San Francisco 49ers, NFL, gay news, Washington Blade
Brendon Ayanbadejo, Baltimore Ravens, gay news, Washington Blade

Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is an ally and vocal LGBT advocate, and hopes to use the Super Bowl to raise awareness of issues important to the LGBT community. His comments differ greatly from some recent comments from players for the San Francisco 49s, some of whom participated in an ‘It Gets Better’ video. (Photo by Thibous via Wikimedia Commons)

Dan Savage, founder of the “It Gets Better” video project, removed from the project’s website the first contribution to the series by a professional football team after two of the four players denied involvement.

“We’ve removed the #49ers #ItGetsBetter video from our website,” Savage tweeted Thursday after USA Today published an account of the confusing exchange between a reporter and linebacker Ahmad Brooks and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, in which they first deny taking part in the project before being shown the video. Both men will face off against the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans on Sunday with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII:

“I didn’t make any video,” Brooks said. “This is America and if someone wants to be gay, they can be gay. It’s their right. But I didn’t make any video.”

When told USA TODAY Sports had seen the video and he was in it, Brooks replied, “I don’t remember that. I think if I made a video, I’d remember it.”

He was shown the video on an iPhone.

“Oh, that. It was an anti-bullying video, not a gay [rights] video,” he said.

When told that studies show that the majority of teens who are bullied are harassed over sexual identity issues, Brooks thought for a second.

“I know that. I know that,” he said. “Okay, you’re right and I’m wrong. Are you from one of those New York newspapers?”

Brooks’ teammate Sopoaga also denied being in the video before backtracking after being shown the video.

“Yeah, you made that video, remember?” [teammate Will] Tukuafu said.

“No,” Sopoaga said. “I never went. And now someone is using my name.”

Sopoaga was shown the video.

“What was that for?” he asked.

To ask teens to stop bullying other teens because of sexual identity, he was told.

“Yeah, OK,” he said.

Would you like to comment on it, he was asked.

“No,” he said.

The controversy comes just days after 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver told radio personality Artie Lange that a gay player would not be welcome in the 49ers locker room, according to Yahoo Sports.

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” said Culliver.

“I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.

“Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”

Later, when Lange asked if gay football players should stay in the closet while active in the pros, Culliver continued, “Yeah, come out 10 years later after that.”

Culliver has since issued an apology:

“The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel,” Culliver said in a statement released by the 49ers. “It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”

Former and current 49ers denounce Culliver’s statement

Culliver’s statements were denounced by recently outed former-49er Kwame Harris, who has been charged with domestic violence and assault causing great bodily harm, after allegedly attacking his boyfriend, Dimitri Grier in a restaurant parking lot during an argument.

“It’s surprising that in 2013 Chris Culliver would use his 15 minutes to spread vitriol and hate. I recognize that these are comments that he may come to regret and that he may come to see that gay people are not so different than straight people,” Harris told NBC. Harris’ ex-boyfriend Grier suffered broken bones around his eye sockets after the attack. Harris had not been revealed to be gay before the story came to light.

According to gay sports site Out Sports, the team was also quick to release a statement denouncing Culliver’s words.

“The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made yesterday, and have addressed the matter with Chris,” the statement reads. “There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”

Culliver’s comments are a far cry from much more supportive remarks made in December by 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh — brother of Ravens coach John Harbaugh — who told the team’s magazine he would welcome a gay player to San Francisco:

“I ask all players to play through their own personality and be who they are. What you ask of a player is to be a great teammate and be a good player. My expectations would be the same.”

Harbaugh went on to say, “Personally, there’s no discrimination in my heart.”

He also said that he believes most of the team would welcome a gay player, and his comments were echoed by 49ers players Larry Grant and Tarell Brown.

“At the end of the day, we are all family in this locker room, and we accept each player for whoever they are,” linebacker and San Francisco native Grant told the magazine.

“Whatever makes you happy, do it,” cornerback Brown said. “I just feel like, you shouldn’t hide it. At the end of the day don’t be embarrassed with what you are, or what you do. If you are that way, that’s you.”

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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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