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How will Supreme Court rule on marriage?

Parsing statements, records for hints as to how justices will decide DOMA, Prop 8 cases



Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are expected to issue rulings on the Prop 8 and DOMA cases in June. (Photo public domain)

The nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court are expected to reach a decision by the end of June in two high-profile LGBT rights cases on which they heard oral arguments last week challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The justices could reach any number of decisions on either or both of the cases — upholding the anti-gay measures, dismissing the cases for lack of standing or jurisdiction, striking down Prop 8 and DOMA on grounds they violate the rights of same-sex couples under the U.S. Constitution — or even issuing a national ruling in favor of marriage equality.

Predicting how they might rule is tricky. But several of the justices made statements and asked questions during the oral arguments that offered some hints. Perhaps more significantly, many of them have a record of ruling in gay rights cases that might indicate their leanings on marriage. The Washington Blade has compiled profiles of the justices to assess how they might rule in the two marriage cases before them.

In addition to examining their comments during the arguments, the Blade has looked at how they ruled in other high-profile gay rights cases. One is the 1996 case of Romer v. Evans in which the Supreme Court struck down Colorado’s Amendment 2, which would have prohibited municipalities from passing non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people. Another is the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas in which the Supreme Court struck down state sodomy laws.

The Blade also looked at the court ruling in the 2010 case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. In that case, the court upheld the Hastings College of Law’s non-discrimination policy against a challenge from Hastings Christian Fellowship, which sought to overturn the policy to maintain its status as an official school group while prohibiting LGBT people from holding positions as officers.

John Roberts, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Chief Justice John Roberts (Photo public domain)

1. Chief Justice John Roberts

The chief justice of the Supreme Court seemed skeptical during oral arguments that Prop 8 and DOMA should be struck down as unconstitutional. He also seemed dismissive of the notion that LGBT people lack political power.

In an exchange with attorney Robbie Kaplan, Chief Justice John Roberts disputed that gay people lack political power — a characteristic that the court has considered in weighing whether a group should be considered a suspect class.

“As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case,” Roberts said.

The chief justice was likely referring to the trend of U.S. senators announcing their support for marriage equality, which just this week added Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). When Kaplan pointed out that no group has been subject to referenda in recent years like gay people, Roberts seemed unmoved.

“You just referred to a sea change in people’s understandings and values from 1996, when DOMA was enacted, and I’m just trying to see where that comes from, if not from the political effectiveness of groups on your side,” Roberts said.

Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, hasn’t ruled on many gay rights cases during his time on the bench. Still, Roberts ruled as part of the dissent that deemed exclusion of LGBT students was acceptable in the Christian Legal Society case.

On the other hand, Roberts in 1996 helped gay rights activists as part of his law firm’s pro bono work in preparation for the Romer case. He also has a lesbian cousin, Jean Podrasky, who attended arguments on Prop 8.

Suzanne Goldberg, a lesbian and co-director of Columbia University’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, pointed to another comment Roberts made indicating a parent forcing a child to make friends with another child changes the definition of friendship.

“It suggested that he might be less open to recognizing marriage rights for same-sex couples than the Olson-Boies team had anticipated,” Goldberg said.

Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (Photo public domain)

2. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, viewed by many as the most anti-gay of the justices, mused that being raised by gay parents may not be good for a child — an argument made by many anti-gay groups.

“If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not,” Scalia said. “Some states do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.”

Those words are consistent with anti-gay views that Scalia has expressed in the past. Most notably, speaking at Princeton in December, Scalia compared bans on sodomy to laws against murder, saying, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

Since his confirmation to the court, Scalia has not only made anti-gay rulings, but has taken the lead on the opinions. The Reagan-appointed justice wrote the dissenting opinions in the Romer and Lawrence cases and joined with other dissenting justices in ruling for LGBT exclusion in the Christian Legal Society case.

Doug NeJaime, who’s gay and a professor at Loyola Law School, said Scalia is likely to rule to uphold Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Justice Scalia has made clear in earlier opinions … that legislation can be justified merely by moral disapproval of homosexuality, even though a majority of the court has rejected that position,” NeJaime said. “Moreover, under his theory of constitutional interpretation, he does not believe that lesbians and gay men have a constitutional basis for their claims in these cases.”

Anthony Kennedy, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy (Photo public domain)

3. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy

The justice who’s being most closely watched because of his reputation for being a swing vote — and his previous rulings in favor of gay rights — conveyed mixed sentiments during the arguments.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy contemplated the effect that overturning or sustaining Prop 8 would have on children based on the newness of same-sex marriage.

“We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more,” Kennedy said. “On the other hand, there is … what could be a legal injury, and that’s the voice of these children. There are some 40,000 children in California … that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status.”

A Reagan appointee, Kennedy authored the majority opinions in the Romer and Lawrence cases that struck down anti-gay measures in those lawsuits. In the Christian Legal Society case, Kennedy also ruled in favor of requiring student groups to be open to all students regardless of LGBT status.

That’s what makes Kennedy’s comment questioning the Ninth Circuit ruling against Prop 8, which was largely based on his opinion in Romer, particularly noteworthy.

“The rationale of the Ninth Circuit was much more narrow,” Kennedy said. “It basically said that California, which has been more generous, more open to protecting same-sex couples than almost any state in the union, just didn’t go far enough, and it’s being penalized for not going far enough. That’s a very odd rationale on which to sustain this opinion.”

Nan Hunter, a lesbian law professor at Georgetown University, said the “single most powerful vibe” she received from Kennedy during arguments was his ambivalence.

“My best guess is that in the Perry case, he will rule in some way that avoids discussion of Prop 8’s constitutionality and that in the Windsor case, he will conclude that DOMA is unconstitutional, but his opinion may invoke federalism as much as it does the Equal Protection Clause,” Hunter said.

Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (Photo public domain)

4. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

In accordance with his custom, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas remained silent for the duration of oral arguments in the marriage cases.

Thomas is known for not asking questions. In January, after seven years of silence, the George H.W. Bush-appointed justice made news when he broke his tradition and cracked a joke about the competency of an attorney during a case unrelated to marriage.

But Thomas has a history of taking the anti-gay side. He ruled in the dissent in the Romer and Lawrence cases and ruled for LGBT exclusion in the Christian Legal Society case.

Chris Stoll, a senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said oral arguments don’t offer any information on how Thomas might rule, but noted the justice’s history of anti-gay opinions.

“He is quite conservative and historically has voted with the other conservative justices in cases involving LGBT equality,” Stoll said.

5. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Photo public domain)

One justice who has a history of ruling in favor of gay rights indicated a disdain for DOMA during oral arguments.

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the 1996 law creates two different kinds of unions for same-sex and opposite-sex couples: “the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage.”

While questioning attorney Paul Clement, Ginsburg more distinctly articulated the problems for gay couples under DOMA by enumerating benefits denied to them under the law.

“The problem is if we are totally for the states’ decision that there is a marriage between two people, for the federal government then to come in to say no joint return, no marital deduction, no Social Security benefits; your spouse is very sick but you can’t get leave; people — if that set of attributes, one might well ask, what kind of marriage is this?” Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg also has a history suggesting she’d be willing to rule against Prop 8 and DOMA. The Clinton-appointed justice ruled in favor of LGBT advocates in the Romer, Lawrence and Christian Legal Society cases. Prior to her confirmation as a Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg was a women’s rights advocate and co-founder of the women’s rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

David Gans, civil rights director for the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center, said he considers Ginsburg a likely vote to strike down DOMA and Prop 8 based on her history of rulings and comments made in court.

“I think her comments tended to be across the board very skeptical of the justifications offered, and, of course, her record, both as an advocate and justice is to honor the constitutional guarantee of equal protection applies to all persons,” Gans said.

Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer (Photo public domain)

6. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer

The other Clinton appointee on the bench also made comments during the Prop 8 arguments suggesting he might rule in favor of marriage rights for gay couples.

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer was dismissive of Cooper’s assertion that marriage is for procreation, observing California allows straight couples who cannot have children to marry.

“What precisely is the way in which allowing gay couples to marry would interfere with the vision of marriage as procreation of children that allowing sterile couples of different sexes to marry would not?” Breyer said. “I mean, there are lots of people who get married who can’t have children.”

And Breyer’s earlier rulings suggest he would be amenable to striking down Prop 8 and DOMA. Breyer joined Kennedy and other justices in the pro-gay rulings for Romer and Lawrence and sided with LGBT inclusion in the Christian Legal Society Case.

Gans said Breyer’s comments during the Prop 8 arguments indicate his rulings on the anti-gay measures will likely be consistent with his earlier decisions.

“Justice Breyer’s questions during oral argument suggested that he would find that discriminatory marriage laws violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for all persons,” Gans said.

Samuel Alito, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Associate Justice Samuel Alito (Photo public domain)

7. Associate Justice Samuel Alito

Associate Justice Samuel Alito expressed concerns about same-sex marriage, quipping that it’s “newer than cell phones or the Internet.”

“Same-sex marriage is very new,” Alito said. “I think it was first adopted in the Netherlands in 2000. So there isn’t a lot of data about its effect. And it may turn out to be a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing, as the supporters of Proposition 8 apparently believe.”

An appointee of President George W. Bush, Alito hasn’t been on the court long enough to have ruled in the earlier landmark Lawrence and Romer cases. But he wrote the dissenting opinion in favor of LGBT exclusion in the Christian Legal Society case.

Lavi Soloway, a gay immigration attorney and co-founder of The DOMA Project, said he expects Alito to be consistent and issue an anti-gay decision in the cases before him — taking note of the exchange in the Prop 8 case.

“This line of thinking was disappointing; it not only belittled the fight for equality, but suggested that Justice Alito would first need to be convinced of the ‘effects’ of same-sex marriage before he could determine whether gay and lesbian Americans have a constitutionally protected right to marry,” Soloway said. “This exchange suggested to me that Alito will most likely vote to uphold Prop 8, preferring that legislatures continue to wrestle with this issue.”

Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Photo public domain)

8. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Another justice — this one appointed by President Obama — asked some of the most pointed questions about whether there’s any reason anti-gay laws could survive the court’s lowest standard of review.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor pressed attorney Charles Cooper on whether he could conceive of anti-gay laws on other issues other than marriage that could survive rational basis review. The answer from Cooper was that he could not.

“If that is true, then why aren’t they a class?” Sotomayor responded. “If they’re a class that makes any other discrimination improper, irrational, then why aren’t we treating them as a class for this one thing?”

Sotomayor’s response suggests she might agree with the Obama administration that laws related to sexual orientation should be subjected to heightened scrutiny, or a greater assumption they’re unconstitutional.

A newcomer to the court, Sotomayor hasn’t had the opportunity to rule on many of the earlier LGBT rights cases that have come before the bench. But in the Christian Legal Society case, she joined four other justices in ruling student groups had to accept all students regardless of LGBT status.

Notably, Sotomayor was the only one among nine justices who responded to a letter from a North Carolina 6th grader named Cameron urging justices to rule in favor of marriage equality. The justice said she had no comment on the marriage cases, but urged Cameron to keep “dreaming big.”

NCLR’s Stoll pointed to Sotomayor’s exchange with Cooper as evidence she’d rule against Prop 8 and had similar expectations for how she’d rule on DOMA.

“She seemed perplexed and unpersuaded by Cooper’s argument that excluding gay people from marriage somehow promotes ‘responsible procreation’ by different-sex couples,” Stoll said.

Elena Kagan, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

Associate Justice Elena Kagan (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

9. Associate Justice Elena Kagan

Yet another justice appointed by President Obama seemed skeptical about arguments presented by proponents of Prop 8 and DOMA.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan suggested to attorney Paul Clement that Congress may have had another motive other than uniformity when it determined to pass the anti-gay law.

“This was a real difference in the uniformity that the federal government was pursuing,” Kagan said. “And it suggests that maybe something — maybe Congress had something different in mind than uniformity.”

Clement offered a lengthy response in which he talked about federal bans on polygamy and laws after the Civil War allowing freed slaves to marry. But Kagan responded by reading from the House report on DOMA, which states the law was passed “to reflect an honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality” — deemed a “gotcha” moment that elicited laughter from those in the courtroom.

During the Prop 8 arguments, Kagan was also skeptical of Cooper’s argument that the purpose of marriage is procreation and asked for a legitimate reason for excluding same-sex couples from marriage.

“Is there any reason that you have for excluding them?” Kagan said. “In other words, you’re saying, well, if we allow same-sex couples to marry, it doesn’t serve the state’s interest. But do you go further and say that it harms any state interest?”

Like Sotomayor, Kagan is a relative newcomer to the court and hasn’t had the opportunity to rule on gay cases. During her confirmation hearing, Kagan wouldn’t say whether the she thinks the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.

Still, Loyola’s NeJaime said Kagan seemed bothered during oral arguments by equal protections concerns presented by Prop 8 and DOMA.

“Given her lengthy questions about the relationship between age and procreative ability, she seems unconvinced by the ‘responsible procreation’ rationale for same-sex marriage bans,” NeJaime said. “And given her reading of the House report on DOMA regarding the ‘moral disapproval of homosexuality,’ she is suggesting that the law may not survive rational basis review.”



Texas governor signs bill banning transgender youth healthcare

Senate Bill 14 to take effect on Sept. 1



Landon Richie, a 21-year-old political science major and a leading transgender activist, protesting at the Texas Capitol in May. (Photo courtesy of Landon Richie)

By Alex Nguyen and William Melhado | Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Friday a bill that bars transgender kids from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapies, though the new law could face legal challenges before it takes effect on Sept. 1.

Senate Bill 14’s passage brings to the finish line a legislative priority for the Republican Party of Texas, which opposes any efforts to validate transgender identities. Trans kids, their parents and LGBTQ advocacy groups fiercely oppose the law, and some have vowed to stop it from going into effect.

Texas — home to one of the largest trans communities in the U.S. — is now one of over a dozen states that restrict transition-related care for trans minors.

“Cruelty has always been the point,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas. “It’s not shocking that this governor would sign SB14 right at the beginning of Pride [month]; however this will not stop trans people from continuing to exist with authenticity — as we always have.”

Authored by New Braunfels Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell, the law bars trans kids from getting puberty blockers and hormone therapies, treatments many medical groups support. Children already receiving these treatments will have to be “weaned off” in a “medically appropriate” manner. The law also bans transition-related surgeries for kids, though those are rarely performed on minors.

Those who support the law claim that health care providers have capitalized on a “social contagion” to misguide parents and push life-altering treatments on kids who may later regret their decisions. SB 14’s supporters have also disputed the science and research behind transition-related care.

But trans kids, their parents and major medical groups say these medical treatments are important to protecting the mental health of an already vulnerable population, which faces a higher risk of depression and suicide than their cisgender peers. At the same time, doctors say cutting off these treatments — gradually or abruptly — could bring both physical discomfort and psychological distress to trans youth, some of whom have called it forced detransitioning.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal and the Transgender Law Center pledged on May 18 to fight SB 14 in court. They have yet to file a lawsuit.

“Transgender people have always been here and will always be here,” Ash Hall, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, said Friday. “Our trans youth deserve a world where they can shine alongside their peers, and we will keep advocating for that world in and out of the courts.”

This legal threat is not new; some of these groups have sued several other states over their restrictions. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice also joined the legal fight against Tennessee’s ban.

While the lawsuits are tailored to each state, Sasha Buchert, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal and the director of its Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project, told the Texas Tribune last month that a major common challenge to the laws hinges on the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the argument that these laws are stopping trans kids from accessing the same medical treatments that are still available to their cisgender peers.

Buchert added that the lawsuits’ immediate goal is generally to get a preliminary injunction to stop these laws from taking effect, a tactic that has seen some success.

“It’s one thing to see some of the things that state legislators do, but it’s a completely different thing when you’re under the white-hot spotlight of judicial scrutiny,” she said.

And prior to SB 14, the ACLU and Lambda Legal successfully sued Texas last year to halt state-ordered child abuse investigations of parents who provide their trans kids with access to transition-related care. Impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton later appealed the decision in March, but the 3rd Court of Appeals has yet to issue a ruling on it.

“It’s a privilege to be able to fight,” Buchert said about the ongoing court challenges that Lambda Legal is involved in.

Editor’s note:

In a late Friday evening phone call, Landon Richie, with the Transgender Education Network of Texas, told the Washington Blade:

“Today Governor Abbott signed cruelty into law. Legislation that purports to ‘protect youth’ while stripping them of the life-saving, life-giving care that they receive will cost lives, and that’s not an exaggeration. Trans kids deserve not only to exist, but to thrive as their authentic selves in every facet of their lives, and we will never stop fighting to to actualize a world where that is undisputed. Despite efforts by our state, trans people will always exist in Texas, as we always have, and we will continue to exist brilliantly and boldly, and with endless care for one another.”


The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. 

Disclosure: The ACLU of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge rules Tenn. drag ban is unconstitutional

Law was to have taken effect April 1



(Bigstock photo)

U. S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker of the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee declared Tennessee’s anti-drag Adult Entertainment Act to be unconstitutional.

Parker’s ruling comes after a two-day trial last month. A Shelby County-based LGBTQ theatre company, Friends of George’s, had sued the state of Tennessee, claiming the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Parker ordered a temporary injunction halting the just enacted Tennessee law that criminalizes some drag performances, hours before it was set to take effect April 1. In his 15 page ruling ordering the temporary injunction Parker wrote:

“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution. […] The court finds that, as it stands, the record here suggests that when the legislature passed this statute, it missed the mark.”

Attorneys for the theatre company had argued that drag performances were an artform and protected speech under the first amendment.

In his 70 page ruling Friday, Parker wrote:

“After considering the briefs and evidence presented at trial, the court finds that — despite
Tennessee’s compelling interest in protecting the psychological and physical wellbeing of
children — the Adult Entertainment Act (“AEA”) is an UNCONSTITUTIONAL restriction on
the freedom of speech.”

“The court concludes that the AEA is both unconstitutionally vague and substantially
overbroad. The AEA’s ‘harmful to minors’ standard applies to minors of all ages, so it fails to
provide fair notice of what is prohibited, and it encourages discriminatory enforcement. The
AEA is substantially overbroad because it applies to public property or ‘anywhere’ a minor
could be present.”

Read the entire ruling:

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LGBTQ literature advocacy org to host celebrity panel

Discussion to be moderated by writer Sa’iyda Shabazz, ‘Glee’ actor Chris Colfer



‘Glee’ actor Chris Colfer will be one of four panelists at a virtual event hosted by Pride and Less Prejudice on Saturday, June 3. (Photo by Kathclick/Bigstock)

Affectionately known by fans of the show as the “fashionable soprano,” Chris Colfer’s character in “Glee” came out as gay to his father in the fourth episode of the Golden Globe-winning musical drama series. Colfer paused in between fragments of sentences to catch his breath as his pupils, set atop his recognizable rosy cheeks, dilated.

“Being a part of…the glee club and football has really shown me that I can be anything,” he said. “And what I am is…I’m gay.”

Colfer, who is also author of young adult fiction series “The Land of Stories,” will be one of four panelists at a virtual event hosted by LGBTQ organization Pride and Less Prejudice (PLP) on Saturday, June 3. At the event, panelists will discuss queer visibility in authorship and the importance of queer people telling queer stories. 

“We selected [them] because we’re trying to look at the intersection between TV, film, podcasts, [and] books because it’s all media and it’s all really great avenues for queer people telling their own story,” said Rebecca Damante, co-founder and outreach coordinator of the organization.

PLP began in 2019 when Damante had conversations with her mother about her experiences as a queer person and how she came to terms with her sexuality in high school. Although she watched shows such as “Glee” and “Pretty Little Liars” that had great queer representation, she knew that “it would’ve made a huge difference” if she had seen this as a kid.

“I was a huge reader as a kid and my mom had a lot of great books in our library about interfaith families and adoption,” said Damante. “I come from an interfaith family and have family members who are adopted, so she had diverse books in that way but never really had LGBTQ inclusive books.”

This motivated the mother-daughter duo to start an organization that donates LGBTQ-inclusive books to classrooms from pre-K to third grade.

They posted a Google form to social media that was reposted by GLAAD, where Damante had interned, and amplified by LGBTQ activist Kristin Russo. Teachers would put in requests for books and this allowed PLP to start an email chain that they could also use to solicit donations. 

It wasn’t until Damante posted to Pantsuit Nation, a Facebook group that rallied Hillary Clinton supporters during her 2016 presidential run, that PLP garnered interest from hundreds of teachers. This led to a celebrity campaign video where actors Nicole Maines, Theo Germaine, and Darryl Stephens, among others, emphasized the importance of LGBTQ literature in classrooms. 

Since 2019, the organization has raised more than $140,000 in grants and donations and donated over 8,000 books. 

Dylan Moss, a kindergarten teacher in Albany, N.Y., is among those who have benefitted from PLP’s efforts. 

During a quest for more diverse and inclusive books for his classroom, he stumbled upon PLP’s website between 2020 and 2021 and reached out to the organization. Since then, he has been actively involved in PLP’s efforts and is now a member of the advisory committee that helps to create lesson plans that accompany the books.

“Biases start to get formed [in kindergarten], so I like to help [my students] create better narratives,” said Moss in a Zoom interview. “It’s easier to learn it now than to take away all the negative biases they have from everyday society, family, and just being around other humans.”

Moss also added, over email, that when discussing diverse topics in the classroom, conversations are aligned with social studies standards. 

“I’d rather [my students] understand that people are different and that there’s a reason we’re different and that we should love that we’re different,” he said on Zoom. “You don’t have to go deep into the ideas necessarily. You can just give them the basis of what you’re saying and kind of let them take it from there.” 

For Lisa Forman, Damante’s mom and co-founder and executive director of PLP, approaching education this way is not only a form of allyship and advocacy, it’s “standing up for what’s right.”

The first half of the 2022-2023 school year saw 1,477 attempts to ban 874 individual book titles, 26% of which had LGBTQ characters or themes, according to data from Pen America, an organization that advances human rights and literature causes in the United States and worldwide. 

In 2022, the Washington Blade reported that a Loudoun County, Va., school board voted to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that Kobabe uses to tell the story of the journey and struggle in discovering the author’s gender identity.

“As much as these books are for the queer kids in the classroom, they’re for every kid,” said Forman. “We’re doing this not just for the queer kids…we want to normalize the idea of being queer in the classroom.”

Looking to the upcoming celebrity panel, Damante wants to leave attendees feeling inspired enough to own their narratives, whether they identify as queer or not. 

“If teachers are able to see the impact of these queer stories then they’ll understand why it’s important for them to share the books,” she said. 

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