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LGBT March on Washington participants celebrate King legacy

Those who took part said civil rights leader would have backed gay rights

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José Gutierrez, founder of the Latino GLBT History Project, at the National March on Washington (Washington Blade photo by Jon Wooten)

Liz Abzug, daughter of the late-former New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug who introduced the first federal gay rights bill in 1975, was 11-years-old when she and her mother attended the March on Washington in 1963.

She told the Washington Blade on Saturday her mother would have certainly returned to the Lincoln Memorial five decades later.

“She’d be up there speaking in the front,” Liz Abzug said as she stood with members of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBT synagogue in New York City, on the National Mall. “She’d be screaming and speaking and charging up and thrilled, but saying we have unfinished business.”

Liz Abzug is among the LGBT rights advocates who joined the tens of thousands of people who commemorated the 1963 march during which Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Rev. MacArthur Flournoy of the Human Rights Campaign; Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and Adrian Shanker, president of Equality Pennsylvania, are among those who joined Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and others at the Lincoln Memorial. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Equality Maryland, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, the Latino GLBT History Project and other LGBT groups also took part.

“I’m here with my brothers and sisters, not only in the union movement, but with LGBT people, with African Americans from the civil rights movement,” Suzanne Keller of Richmond, Va., told the Blade as she stood along the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial with her girlfriend who was 13-years-old when she watched the 1963 March on Washington on television. “I know I’m here with my people.”

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Participants in the National March on Washington (Washington Blade photo by Jon Wooten)

Lance Chen-Hayes of Princeton, N.J., held a sign in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and affordable health care as he stood on the Mall with his husband, Stuart Chen-Hayes, and their son Kalani. Stuart Chen-Hayes cited a list of people whom he considers heroes that include Bayard Rustin, who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and former U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning whom a military judge on Wednesday sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks.

“If we don’t stand up, speak up and be in the streets, who will,” Stuart Chen-Hayes told the Blade. “It’s especially important for us who are lesbian, gay, transgender and parents because there’s all sorts of folks who fought for us 50 years ago and long before that. It’s just continuing the struggle for civil rights and human rights.”

Anders Minter, a gay man who is a member of the United Auto Workers, traveled to the nation’s capital from Amherst, Mass. to attend the march.

He told the Blade he felt “incredible power and solidarity” while marching, but noted what he described as a “great tension.”

“It’s been 50 years since we’ve come together as a country with a focus on economic justice and social justice,” Minter said, noting the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington took place against the backdrop of June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a crucial portion of the Voting Rights Act and last month’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. “It’s been a long journey, but there’s a long journey ahead.”

D.C. officials used the march to highlight the issue of statehood for the nation’s capital.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray noted during a pro-statehood rally at the D.C. War Memorial near the Mall that people of “different sexual orientations and genders” were among those who attended the 1963 March on Washington.

“We’re demanding justice because justice is exactly what we are here to accomplish,” he said.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large,) D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2,) Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4,) Marion Barry (D-Ward 8,) Vincent Orange (D-At-Large,) Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) and David Grosso (I-At-Large) and D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier are among those who also attended the pro-statehood rally.

Roland Martin, a former CNN commentator whom the network suspended in 2012 over homophobic tweets he sent during that year’s Super Bowl, also spoke.

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D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton speaks at a pro-D.C. statehood rally at the D.C. War Memorial on Aug. 24, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

“This morning we serve notice as the March on Washington 2013 begins that we, who have fewer rights than almost any who will march today, can no longer allow the deliberate disempowerment and denial of our rights to go unnoticed, unnoted, unmentioned and ignored,” D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, said. “No more marches and ignoring D.C.”

King understood rights are ‘not divisible’

Many of the march participants with whom the Blade spoke said they feel King would have supported LGBT rights if he were still alive.

“His message of equality, his message of inclusion of all people was loud and clear in everything that he wrote and every speech that he gave,” Grosso said.

“We’re humans and everybody deserves the same rights,” Daniel Trejo of Columbia Heights told the Blade as he prepared to march to the Lincoln Memorial with the D.C. Office on Latino Affairs.

Minter referenced King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as he discussed how he feels the slain civil rights leader would have backed LGBT rights.

“Martin Luther King was an incredible listener, as much as he was an incredible orator,” Minter said. “Part of acceptance and love is listening and understanding and I think he would have added this to his work.”

Both Liz Abzug and Keller noted to the Blade the slain civil rights leader’s widow, Coretta Scott King, backed marriage rights for same-sex couples before she passed away in 2006.

“Dr. King had a key understanding that rights are not divisible,” Keller said. “If we don’t have human rights for everybody, we don’t have human rights for anybody.”

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National

Vigil held after Wilton Manors Pride parade accident

Fort Lauderdale mayor expressed ‘regret’ over initial terrorism claim

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A vigil in the wake of the accident at the Stonewall Pride Parade took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — More than 100 people on Sunday attended a prayer vigil in the wake of an accident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

The vigil took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

Clergy joined activists and local officials at a vigil at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

A 77-year-old man who was driving a pickup truck struck two men near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday. One of the victims died a short time later at a Fort Lauderdale hospital.

The pickup truck narrowly missed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade, and Florida Congressman Ted Deutch.

The driver of the pickup truck and the two men he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday described the incident as a “fatal traffic crash” and not a terrorism incident as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially claimed.

“As we were about to begin the parade, this pickup truck, this jacked up white pickup truck, dashed across, breaking through the line, hitting people, all of us that were there could not believe our eyes,” said Trantalis as he spoke at the vigil.

Trantalis noted the pickup truck nearly hit Wasserman Schultz. He also referenced the arrest of a 20-year-old supporter of former President Trump earlier in the week after he allegedly vandalized a Pride flag mural that had been painted in an intersection in Delray Beach, which is roughly 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

“I immediately knew that something terrible was happening,” said Trantalis, referring to the Stonewall Pride Parade accident. “My visceral reaction was that we were being attacked. Why not? Why not feel that way?”

“I guess I should watch to make sure there are no reporters standing by when I have those feelings, but that was my first reaction and I regret the fact that I said it was a terrorist attack because we found out that it was not, but I don’t regret my feelings,” he added. “But I don’t regret that I felt terrorized by someone who plowed through the crowd inches away from the congresswoman and the congressman, myself and others.”

Trantalis also told vigil attendees that “I guess we forgive” the pickup truck driver.

“But I regret that his consequences resulted in the death of an individual who was innocent and who was there to have a good time, like the rest of us, and I regret there is a man who is in serious condition … fighting for his life and there,” added Trantalis.

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Police describe Wilton Manors Pride incident as ‘fatal traffic crash’

Pickup truck driver identified as 77-year-old man

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A screenshot from a video taken at the scene by Joey Spears. (Image courtesy of @pinto_spears, via Twitter.) Screenshot used with permission from South Florida Gay News.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday released additional information about an incident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

A press release notes a 77-year-old man who was “a participant who had ailments preventing him from walking the duration of the parade and was selected to drive as the lead vehicle” was behind the wheel of a 2011 white Dodge Ram pickup truck that struck the two people near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly, striking two pedestrians,” reads the press release. “After striking the pedestrians, the driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business on the west side of the street.”

“The driver remained on scene and has been cooperative with investigators for the duration of the investigation,” further notes the press release. “A DUI investigation of the driver was conducted on scene and showed no signs of impairment.”

The press release confirms the driver and the two people he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue transported both victims to Broward Health Medical Center “with serious injuries.” The press release notes one of the victims died shortly after he arrived at the hospital.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department, which is leading the investigation, has not publicly identified the victims and the driver, but the press release describes the incident as a “fatal traffic crash.” The press release notes the second victim remains hospitalized at Broward Health Medical Center, but “is expected to survive.”

“While no arrests have been made, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department continues to investigate this incident and will not be releasing the names of the involved parties due to the status of the investigation,” says the press release. “The Fort Lauderdale Police Department asks anyone who may have witnessed this incident, who has not already spoken to investigators, to contact Traffic Homicide Investigator Paul Williams at (954) 828-5755.”

The pickup truck narrowly avoided U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade. Florida Congressman Ted Deutch was also nearby.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic accident that occurred when the Stonewall Pride Parade was just getting started,” said Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus President Justin Knight in a statement he issued after the incident. “Our fellow chorus members were those injured and the driver was also part of the chorus family.”

“To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” added Knight. “We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community’s love and support.”

Fort Lauderdale mayor initially described incident as anti-LGBTQ ‘terrorist attack’

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially described the incident as “a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” without any official confirmation. Detective Ali Adamson of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Saturday confirmed to reporters that investigators are “working with” the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but stressed the “investigation is active and we are considering and evaluating all possibilities.”

“Last evening, at the start of what was to be a celebration of pride for the LGBT community and commemoration of our hard-won victories for equality, our community faced the worst of tragedies. The grief of our LGBT community — and greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole — is palpable,” said Trantalis on Sunday in a statement he posted to his Facebook page.

“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he added.

Trantalis added “law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job.”

“As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control,” he said. “As a result, one man died, two others were injured and the lives of two members of Congress were at risk. My heart breaks for all impacted by this tragedy.”

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ACLU and Justice Department to jointly challenge anti-Trans laws

Recently passed anti-transgender laws in West Virginia and Arkansas violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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U.S. Department of Justice, Robert F. Kennedy Building (Photo Credit: GSA U.S. Government)

WASHINGTON – In court documents filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, the U.S. Department of Justice, in Statement of Interest filings, joined the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU), arguing that recently passed anti-transgender laws in West Virginia and Arkansas violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The suits filed by the ACLU challenges an Arkansas law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth and a West Virginia law banning transgender youth from participating in school sports.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ & HIV Project, issued the following statement responding to the Department of Justice submitting a statement of interest in two federal courts supporting transgender youth;

“Today’s filings from the Department of Justice send a powerful message that discrimination against transgender youth is not just wrong, it is also plainly unconstitutional. These filings from the Department of Justice confirm what we have been telling legislatures all year: Banning trans youth from sports and denying trans youth health care violates the Constitution and federal law. We hope that state legislatures finally get the message.” 

Law and Crime reported that in the West Virginia case filing, the Justice Dept. argued that House Bill 3293, which bans transgender athletes at public schools from competing in female sports at the middle school, high school, and collegiate level, violates both the Equal Protection Clause and  Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the parents of transgender girl who said their daughter was unlawfully prohibited from trying out for the school’s cross-country track team because of the measure.

In Arkansas, the Justice Dept. backed an ACLU-filed lawsuit challenging a state law (Act 626) which bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youths. The DOJ also claims that state ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Law & Crime reported.

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