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Supporters camp out for 3 days awaiting marriage cases

Undaunted by snow forecast, some determined to see Supreme Court in action



Supreme Court, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, gay news, Washington Blade
Supreme Court, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, gay news, Washington Blade

A line formed at the Supreme Court on Saturday in anticipation of oral arguments in the marriage cases. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Three days before justices will hear oral arguments on California’s Proposition 8, supporters of marriage equality were already lined up before the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday to ensure they’ll have a seat for the historic event.

Jeffrey DeSoto, a gay 33-year-old computer programmer from New York, stood cross-legged in line next to his sign reading: “I AM A 2ND CLASS CITIZEN: NOH8.” Near him was his sleeping bag, air mattress, blanket and solar cell to charge his cell phone.

“New York State does have marriage equality, but I would want marriage equality across the entire country,” DeSoto said. “That’s an outside outcome to this, but it is there, so I definitely would want to have been at the case where that happens.”

Jordan Haedtler, a straight 24-year-old resident of Oakland, Calif., said he’s closely watched the Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, from its beginnings and attended oral arguments in the case when they were before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I’m kind of a public policy and politics junkie,” Haedtler said. “I’ve been to several oral arguments in other cases as well, but this case holds a lot of importance for me because I really think that gay rights and marriage equality are one of the main civil rights issues of our time.”

As of Saturday afternoon, about 15 people were camped out outside the building awaiting entry to Tuesday’s hearing. Wearing coats and hats to keep warm in a lingering winter cold, those in line occupied themselves with journal writing, conversation and newspaper reading to pass the time.

For DeSoto, simply coming early on Tuesday morning wasn’t enough. He arrived Friday afternoon to wait in line before the Supreme Court with days remaining before the arguments for an assurance he would have access to the courtroom.

“Actually, I did a little research,” DeSoto said. “I found the names of people who waited in line for the Affordable Care Act, and then I found them on Facebook and messaged a couple of them. One girl messaged me back, and I asked her how far in advance she had come. I think she said four days, so I pretty much tried to match that.”

DeSoto said those waiting in line have a “good amount of camaraderie.” As if living in a commune on the sidewalk of First Street, he said they’re offering food to each other and keeping an eye on each other’s possessions as they wait.

Among them are a gay couple seeking a ruling in favor of their marriage rights; college students with an affinity for legal cases and equality issues; a group of older black men at the front of the line played a game of dominoes to pass the time.

Tyrone Henderson, Supreme Court, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. resident Tyrone Henderson supports marriage equality. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Tyrone Henderson, a 48-year-old D.C. resident, talked about his personal support for marriage equality as he glanced over the Metro section of the Washington Post.

“I think people should have the choice of what they want to do,” Henderson said. “You should be able to be with who you want to be with instead of trying to predict who you should be with. I figure you should have the choice whether you want to marry a man or a woman.”

Each of the people in line was a supporter of marriage equality. No opponents of marriage rights for gay couples were waiting outside and braving the chilly weather to attend the arguments. There was one protester who was wearing a sandwich sign, but he was speaking out against the Obama administration’s extrajudicial killing of suspected terrorists overseas by drone attack.

DeSoto said he was heckled by a passer-by who deemed marriage rights for gay couples an unimportant issue.

“I did have one person come by — a heckler, a dissident, whatever,” DeSoto said. “He didn’t like my sign. He pretty much said marriage equality was not a serious issue and that we’re all throwing a hissy fit.”

Those in line were also undaunted by weather reports indicating that they would be snowed upon as they awaited a place in the courtroom. Differing forecasts ranged from cold rain to a few inches of snow on Sunday and Monday.

Dariann Powers, Supreme Court, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, gay news, Washington Blade

Darienn Powers came from New York to watch the Prop 8 oral arguments. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Darienn Powers, a 19-year-old straight student from the State University of New York at New Paltz, said she came early in the morning on Saturday prepared in the event of inclement weather.

“I’ve heard that it might be snowing,” Powers said. “I’m wearing my rubberized rain boots, so my feet will be dry, and I have an umbrella. Otherwise, I’m just taking it as it comes.”

A common theme among those waiting in line was a plan to stay for oral arguments for Prop 8 on Tuesday, but leave without attending the arguments on Wednesday for the Defense of Marriage Act. The reasoning — aside from the need to return to work — was the belief the Prop 8 proceedings were more historic than the DOMA case.

Still, that didn’t take away from the historic nature of what they’d be able to see on the first day of oral arguments on marriage equality.

Dexter Smith, a gay junior political science major at Georgia State University, said he expects an intense experience on that day for those on both sides of the marriage equality movement.

“I think it’s going to be packed,” Smith said. “You’re going to have protesters out here. People saying crazy things; you already having people saying crazy things. It’s going to be crazy, and I just want to be here to be in the thick of things.”


The White House

EXCLUSIVE: Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26



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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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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