Ahmed Danny Ramadan, a journalist who has contributed to publications in the U.S. and other countries, returned to the Syrian capital two months before the country’s civil war began in 2011.
He said his colleagues at the non-governmental organization where he worked “hated” the fact he is openly gay, so they reported him to Syrian intelligence officials as a journalist. Ramadan said authorities detained him for three hours at Damascus International Airport in May 2012 as he tried to travel to a book signing in neighboring Jordan — they let him go after convincing them he was not the person for whom they were looking.
He fled to neighboring Lebanon a few weeks later.
“I can’t go back because the regime still wants me,” Ramadan told the Washington Blade during a recent Skype interview from his apartment in Beirut, the Lebanese capital. “I can’t go back because the extremists are going to kill me because I’m an openly gay person.”
The U.N. estimates the civil war that began in March 2011 after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime brutally cracked down on protesters in the city of Daraa has left more than an estimated 200,000 people dead. Ramadan is among the more than 1 million Syrians who have fled to Lebanon, a country slightly less than twice the size of Delaware with a population of roughly 4.8 million people.
’I managed to escape’
Ramadan, 30, was born into a Sunni Muslim family that lived in a middle-class neighborhood of Damascus.
He said his father, who backs the Assad regime even though he fled to Jordan after his restaurant was destroyed, beat him and threatened him with a gun after he came out as gay during a fight when he was 17.
Ramadan told the Blade his father locked him inside his bedroom for three days without access to a bathroom. His sisters eventually helped him escape and he lived on his own in Syria for another two years before moving to Egypt.
“I managed to escape and never looked back,” he said.
Ramadan said life for a gay person in Syria was “limited” before the war.
The Assad regime censored websites after the Internet became available in the country in 2002, although those who spoke English could access gay-specific information.
Ramadan told the Blade that gay people, whom he described as “creatures of the night,” would gather on a Damascus street after dark to talk and spend time with each other. He said police officers would periodically arrest “a couple of them” and force them to undergo so-called anal tests to determine whether they were gay.
“They hang out at night, go have casual encounters like sexual encounters and then return to their families,” said Ramadan. “Most of them — a big chunk of them — actually live double lives where they hide it and feel ashamed about it.”
Ramadan noted to the Blade that Syrians generally have an “extremely traditional” view of homosexuality because of conservative religious and cultural attitudes. He said sheikhs in mosques and the parents and family members of those who are LGBT reinforce these beliefs.
“Homosexuality is an act that is seen as womanly,” said Ramadan. “You’re not a man. You become in the eyes of society a woman and that society has a problem with women as well.”
He noted these attitudes remain, even though LGBT Syrians had gained limited visibility before the war.
“The Syrian people — the normal people like me — are still the same people,” said Ramadan. “They are faced with an extraordinary situation of being in a civil war, but they are still thinking the same thing. They still have the same mindset. They still see homosexuality the same way.”
LGBT Syrians tortured, decapitated
Reports continue to emerge that LGBT Syrians have been tortured and even killed during the war because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Ramadan told the Blade he has heard “rumors” about “extremists” killing gay men as they did in neighboring Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled then-President Saddam Hussein. He said he knows “a lot of gays” from Aleppo, the country’s largest city, and Raqqah — which is under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that once had ties to al-Qaeda — who have fled to Lebanon.
“When you have 200 to 300 people dying on a day-to-day basis in Syria, the number of homosexual people who are dying is going to be lost among the number of people who are dying every day,” said Ramadan.
Bertho Makso, a gay Lebanese man who last September founded Proud Lebanon, a Beirut-based group that provides support and other services to more than 100 LGBT Syrian refugees, told the Blade he has heard reports of gay people being decapitated. He said a transgender woman in a Damascus suburb was hanged by her breasts.
“These are people who lost their friends who were kidnapped,” said Makso. “Their friends were killed because they’re LGBT.”
Lebanese groups offer services, programs to LGBT Syrians
Proud Lebanon offers LGBT refugees medical and psychological support, access to legal and advocacy services, job training, art classes and other social programs.
The group, which operates a center in Beirut, has six full-time staffers and four volunteers.
Proud Lebanon in January received a grant from the Canadian Embassy to pay for equipment for the job-training program and tutors’ salaries for a month.
The Dutch Embassy in Beirut and the European Endowment for Democracy have also funded the organization.
“They need stability and safety,” said Makso. “We are trying to create another family for them.
The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health and Helem, an LGBT advocacy group, also work with Syrians who have fled to Lebanon. Marsa, a sexual health clinic in Beirut, offers them free HIV and STI testing and counseling.
Dr. Hasan Abdessamad, president of the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health, told the Blade during an interview from Vancouver where he currently lives that depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse are among the myriad of problems that LGBT Syrian refugees face. A lack of access to sexual and psychiatric health care remain concerns for the advocates who work with them.
“There’s a lot of hostility,” Abdessamad told the Blade, referring to long-standing tensions between the two countries that stem from the Lebanese Civil War that took place between 1975-1990. “Now that we have more than a million (Syrian refugees) coming into Lebanon, (the) Lebanese people are very frustrated with the Syrian refugees.”
Abdessamad and Makso both said the Lebanese government has done nothing to specifically address the plight of LGBT Syrian refugees, in part because the conflict has left it overwhelmed.
“They’re doing a horrible job providing services or shelter or just the basic needs for the refugees in general,” said Abdessamad. “So of course there’s no attempt or even thinking about what to do for the Syrian LGBT refugees.”
Ramadan sought to create ‘bubble’ in Beirut
Those convicted of homosexuality under Lebanese law had faced up to a year in jail until a judge in March struck down the statute in the case of a trans woman who had allegedly had a relationship with a man.
The Lebanese Psychiatric Society last July stated homosexuality is not a mental illness.
Beirut has a number of gay bars and nightclubs, but anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain commonplace in spite of the country’s relative tolerance of homosexuality compared to Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.
“Lebanon has always kind of been a refuge for many people to be themselves and to just come and live freely,” Joseph Aoun, Proud Lebanon’s public advocacy officer who has managed a gay bar in the Lebanese capital for five years, told the Blade. “Beirut in a way gives you a certain freedom or a choice to live freely. I’m not pretending that it’s the best place, but in general Beirut has this sense.”
Ramadan said he decided to create a “very safe bubble” for himself when he moved to Lebanon.
His American roommate and boss are comfortable with his sexual orientation — his Syrian boyfriend of nearly two years who moved to Beirut a few months after he left Damascus remains in the closet.
Ramadan told the Blade the owner of the café across the street from his apartment building from where he works once kicked out a patron who was “talking shit” about him because of his homosexuality. He then hung a sign that said he would not tolerate homophobia, racism or sexism in his business.
“I’m lucky that I’ve found this little bubble,” Ramadan told the Blade, noting he wears a rainbow bracelet but cannot kiss his boyfriend when he leaves for work. “This is something really simple compared to the challenges of other people here. As an openly gay person, I managed to create a safe zone for myself that others who are still in the closet cannot.”
Other LGBT Syrian refugees in Lebanon are far less fortunate.
A report that Amnesty International published in February highlights the plight of many of those who have fled to Lebanon. These include a 26-year-old man who contracted Hepatitis B after his Lebanese boyfriend forced him to have sex with his friends.
The report also cites another 26-year-old man who tried to commit suicide after two men raped him and took his money and cell phone.
Amnesty International notes many gay Syrian refugees also do not disclose their sexual orientation when they register with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees out of “fear of the added stigma this would expose them to.”
“The biggest challenge is being Syrian in the first place,” Abdessamad told the Blade. “There’s a lot of social discrimination towards them. It’s not always friendly.”
Former Lebanese finance minister killed outside Ramadan’s apartment
The Syrian civil war has only further exacerbated sectarian tensions in Lebanon
Clashes between pro-Assad Shi’ites and Lebanese Sunni Muslims who largely back the Syrian rebels have left more than 300 people dead. Two suicide bombers linked to al-Qaeda killed 23 people outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut in November.
A massive car bomb that killed former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah, who opposed al-Assad, and seven others last December exploded outside Ramadan’s apartment building. The Daily Star newspaper reported the explosion left 70 others injured.
“While Lebanon is not the most stable country in the world, it got more unstable due to the crisis going on in Syria,” said Ramadan.
Ramadan hopes to move to Canada with his boyfriend and their dog.
The Canadian government has approved his asylum application, and he said he expects to receive final approval from the country’s Beirut embassy in about a year and a half. Ramadan scoffed at the Blade’s question about whether he would return to Syria if peace were to return to the country.
“That assumption is not valid because the situation is not going to get better anytime soon,” he said. “It’s a stalemate.”
Abdessamad and others in Vancouver plan to provide a support network to Ramadan and his boyfriend once they arrive in Canada that he says will allow them to integrate into Canadian society. Abdessamad was quick to point out many LGBT Syrians in Lebanon cannot leave the country.
“The majority of LGBT Syrians are stuck in Lebanon,” he said. “Their case is desperate and more hopeless.”
Meanwhile, Ramadan’s father only speaks to him when he needs money — and he sends it to him in Jordan.
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Honoring the legacy of New Orleans’ 1973 UpStairs Lounge fire
Why the arson attack that killed 32 gay men still resonates 50 years later
On June 23 of last year, I held the microphone as a gay man in the New Orleans City Council Chamber and related a lost piece of queer history to the seven council members. I told this story to disabuse all New Orleanians of the notion that silence and accommodation, in the face of institutional and official failures, are a path to healing.
The story I related to them began on a typical Sunday night at a second-story bar on the fringe of New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1973, where working-class men would gather around a white baby grand piano and belt out the lyrics to a song that was the anthem of their hidden community, “United We Stand” by the Brotherhood of Man.
“United we stand,” the men would sing together, “divided we fall” — the words epitomizing the ethos of their beloved UpStairs Lounge bar, an egalitarian free space that served as a forerunner to today’s queer safe havens.
Around that piano in the 1970s Deep South, gays and lesbians, white and Black queens, Christians and non-Christians, and even early gender minorities could cast aside the racism, sexism, and homophobia of the times to find acceptance and companionship for a moment.
For regulars, the UpStairs Lounge was a miracle, a small pocket of acceptance in a broader world where their very identities were illegal.
On the Sunday night of June 24, 1973, their voices were silenced in a murderous act of arson that claimed 32 lives and still stands as the deadliest fire in New Orleans history — and the worst mass killing of gays in 20th century America.
As 13 fire companies struggled to douse the inferno, police refused to question the chief suspect, even though gay witnesses identified and brought the soot-covered man to officers idly standing by. This suspect, an internally conflicted gay-for-pay sex worker named Rodger Dale Nunez, had been ejected from the UpStairs Lounge screaming the word “burn” minutes before, but New Orleans police rebuffed the testimony of fire survivors on the street and allowed Nunez to disappear.
As the fire raged, police denigrated the deceased to reporters on the street: “Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar.”
For days afterward, the carnage met with official silence. With no local gay political leaders willing to step forward, national Gay Liberation-era figures like Rev. Troy Perry of the Metropolitan Community Church flew in to “help our bereaved brothers and sisters” — and shatter officialdom’s code of silence.
Perry broke local taboos by holding a press conference as an openly gay man. “It’s high time that you people, in New Orleans, Louisiana, got the message and joined the rest of the Union,” Perry said.
Two days later, on June 26, 1973, as families hesitated to step forward to identify their kin in the morgue, UpStairs Lounge owner Phil Esteve stood in his badly charred bar, the air still foul with death. He rebuffed attempts by Perry to turn the fire into a call for visibility and progress for homosexuals.
“This fire had very little to do with the gay movement or with anything gay,” Esteve told a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I do not want my bar or this tragedy to be used to further any of their causes.”
Conspicuously, no photos of Esteve appeared in coverage of the UpStairs Lounge fire or its aftermath — and the bar owner also remained silent as he witnessed police looting the ashes of his business.
“Phil said the cash register, juke box, cigarette machine and some wallets had money removed,” recounted Esteve’s friend Bob McAnear, a former U.S. Customs officer. “Phil wouldn’t report it because, if he did, police would never allow him to operate a bar in New Orleans again.”
The next day, gay bar owners, incensed at declining gay bar traffic amid an atmosphere of anxiety, confronted Perry at a clandestine meeting. “How dare you hold your damn news conferences!” one business owner shouted.
Ignoring calls for gay self-censorship, Perry held a 250-person memorial for the fire victims the following Sunday, July 1, culminating in mourners defiantly marching out the front door of a French Quarter church into waiting news cameras. “Reverend Troy Perry awoke several sleeping giants, me being one of them,” recalled Charlene Schneider, a lesbian activist who walked out of that front door with Perry.
Esteve doubted the UpStairs Lounge story’s capacity to rouse gay political fervor. As the coroner buried four of his former patrons anonymously on the edge of town, Esteve quietly collected at least $25,000 in fire insurance proceeds. Less than a year later, he used the money to open another gay bar called the Post Office, where patrons of the UpStairs Lounge — some with visible burn scars — gathered but were discouraged from singing “United We Stand.”
New Orleans cops neglected to question the chief arson suspect and closed the investigation without answers in late August 1973. Gay elites in the city’s power structure began gaslighting the mourners who marched with Perry into the news cameras, casting suspicion on their memories and re-characterizing their moment of liberation as a stunt.
When a local gay journalist asked in April 1977, “Where are the gay activists in New Orleans?,” Esteve responded that there were none, because none were needed. “We don’t feel we’re discriminated against,” Esteve said. “New Orleans gays are different from gays anywhere else… Perhaps there is some correlation between the amount of gay activism in other cities and the degree of police harassment.”
An attitude of nihilism and disavowal descended upon the memory of the UpStairs Lounge victims, goaded by Esteve and fellow gay entrepreneurs who earned their keep via gay patrons drowning their sorrows each night instead of protesting the injustices that kept them drinking.
Into the 1980s, the story of the UpStairs Lounge all but vanished from conversation — with the exception of a few sanctuaries for gay political debate such as the local lesbian bar Charlene’s, run by the activist Charlene Schneider.
By 1988, the 15th anniversary of the fire, the UpStairs Lounge narrative comprised little more than a call for better fire codes and indoor sprinklers. UpStairs Lounge survivor Stewart Butler summed it up: “A tragedy that, as far as I know, no good came of.”
Finally, in 1991, at Stewart Butler and Charlene Schneider’s nudging, the UpStairs Lounge story became aligned with the crusade of liberated gays and lesbians seeking equal rights in Louisiana. The halls of power responded with intermittent progress. The New Orleans City Council, horrified by the story but not yet ready to take its look in the mirror, enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting gays and lesbians in housing, employment, and public accommodations that Dec. 12 — more than 18 years after the fire.
“I believe the fire was the catalyst for the anger to bring us all to the table,” Schneider told The Times-Picayune, a tacit rebuke to Esteve’s strategy of silent accommodation. Even Esteve seemed to change his stance with time, granting a full interview with the first UpStairs Lounge scholar Johnny Townsend sometime around 1989.
Most of the figures in this historic tale are now deceased. What’s left is an enduring story that refused to go gently. The story now echoes around the world — a musical about the UpStairs Lounge fire recently played in Tokyo, translating the gay underworld of the 1973 French Quarter for Japanese audiences.
When I finished my presentation to the City Council last June, I looked up to see the seven council members in tears. Unanimously, they approved a resolution acknowledging the historic failures of city leaders in the wake of the UpStairs Lounge fire.
Council members personally apologized to UpStairs Lounge families and survivors seated in the chamber in a symbolic act that, though it could not bring back those who died, still mattered greatly to those whose pain had been denied, leaving them to grieve alone. At long last, official silence and indifference gave way to heartfelt words of healing.
The way Americans remember the past is an active, ongoing process. Our collective memory is malleable, but it matters because it speaks volumes about our maturity as a people, how we acknowledge the past’s influence in our lives, and how it shapes the examples we set for our youth. Do we grapple with difficult truths, or do we duck accountability by defaulting to nostalgia and bluster? Or worse, do we simply ignore the past until it fades into a black hole of ignorance and indifference?
I believe that a factual retelling of the UpStairs Lounge tragedy — and how, 50 years onward, it became known internationally — resonates beyond our current divides. It reminds queer and non-queer Americans that ignoring the past holds back the present, and that silence is no cure for what ails a participatory nation.
Silence isolates. Silence gaslights and shrouds. It preserves the power structures that scapegoat the disempowered.
Solidarity, on the other hand, unites. Solidarity illuminates a path forward together. Above all, solidarity transforms the downtrodden into a resounding chorus of citizens — in the spirit of voices who once gathered ‘round a white baby grand piano and sang, joyfully and loudly, “United We Stand.”
Robert W. Fieseler is a New Orleans-based journalist and the author of “Tinderbox: the Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation.”
New Supreme Court term includes critical LGBTQ case with ‘terrifying’ consequences
Business owner seeks to decline services for same-sex weddings
The U.S. Supreme Court, after a decision overturning Roe v. Wade that still leaves many reeling, is starting a new term with justices slated to revisit the issue of LGBTQ rights.
In 303 Creative v. Elenis, the court will return to the issue of whether or not providers of custom-made goods can refuse service to LGBTQ customers on First Amendment grounds. In this case, the business owner is Lorie Smith, a website designer in Colorado who wants to opt out of providing her graphic design services for same-sex weddings despite the civil rights law in her state.
Jennifer Pizer, acting chief legal officer of Lambda Legal, said in an interview with the Blade, “it’s not too much to say an immeasurably huge amount is at stake” for LGBTQ people depending on the outcome of the case.
“This contrived idea that making custom goods, or offering a custom service, somehow tacitly conveys an endorsement of the person — if that were to be accepted, that would be a profound change in the law,” Pizer said. “And the stakes are very high because there are no practical, obvious, principled ways to limit that kind of an exception, and if the law isn’t clear in this regard, then the people who are at risk of experiencing discrimination have no security, no effective protection by having a non-discrimination laws, because at any moment, as one makes their way through the commercial marketplace, you don’t know whether a particular business person is going to refuse to serve you.”
The upcoming arguments and decision in the 303 Creative case mark a return to LGBTQ rights for the Supreme Court, which had no lawsuit to directly address the issue in its previous term, although many argued the Dobbs decision put LGBTQ rights in peril and threatened access to abortion for LGBTQ people.
And yet, the 303 Creative case is similar to other cases the Supreme Court has previously heard on the providers of services seeking the right to deny services based on First Amendment grounds, such as Masterpiece Cakeshop and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In both of those cases, however, the court issued narrow rulings on the facts of litigation, declining to issue sweeping rulings either upholding non-discrimination principles or First Amendment exemptions.
Pizer, who signed one of the friend-of-the-court briefs in opposition to 303 Creative, said the case is “similar in the goals” of the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation on the basis they both seek exemptions to the same non-discrimination law that governs their business, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, or CADA, and seek “to further the social and political argument that they should be free to refuse same-sex couples or LGBTQ people in particular.”
“So there’s the legal goal, and it connects to the social and political goals and in that sense, it’s the same as Masterpiece,” Pizer said. “And so there are multiple problems with it again, as a legal matter, but also as a social matter, because as with the religion argument, it flows from the idea that having something to do with us is endorsing us.”
One difference: the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation stemmed from an act of refusal of service after owner, Jack Phillips, declined to make a custom-made wedding cake for a same-sex couple for their upcoming wedding. No act of discrimination in the past, however, is present in the 303 Creative case. The owner seeks to put on her website a disclaimer she won’t provide services for same-sex weddings, signaling an intent to discriminate against same-sex couples rather than having done so.
As such, expect issues of standing — whether or not either party is personally aggrieved and able bring to a lawsuit — to be hashed out in arguments as well as whether the litigation is ripe for review as justices consider the case. It’s not hard to see U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has sought to lead the court to reach less sweeping decisions (sometimes successfully, and sometimes in the Dobbs case not successfully) to push for a decision along these lines.
Another key difference: The 303 Creative case hinges on the argument of freedom of speech as opposed to the two-fold argument of freedom of speech and freedom of religious exercise in the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation. Although 303 Creative requested in its petition to the Supreme Court review of both issues of speech and religion, justices elected only to take up the issue of free speech in granting a writ of certiorari (or agreement to take up a case). Justices also declined to accept another question in the petition request of review of the 1990 precedent in Smith v. Employment Division, which concluded states can enforce neutral generally applicable laws on citizens with religious objections without violating the First Amendment.
Representing 303 Creative in the lawsuit is Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that has sought to undermine civil rights laws for LGBTQ people with litigation seeking exemptions based on the First Amendment, such as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
Kristen Waggoner, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote in a Sept. 12 legal brief signed by her and other attorneys that a decision in favor of 303 Creative boils down to a clear-cut violation of the First Amendment.
“Colorado and the United States still contend that CADA only regulates sales transactions,” the brief says. “But their cases do not apply because they involve non-expressive activities: selling BBQ, firing employees, restricting school attendance, limiting club memberships, and providing room access. Colorado’s own cases agree that the government may not use public-accommodation laws to affect a commercial actor’s speech.”
Pizer, however, pushed back strongly on the idea a decision in favor of 303 Creative would be as focused as Alliance Defending Freedom purports it would be, arguing it could open the door to widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people.
“One way to put it is art tends to be in the eye of the beholder,” Pizer said. “Is something of a craft, or is it art? I feel like I’m channeling Lily Tomlin. Remember ‘soup and art’? We have had an understanding that whether something is beautiful or not is not the determining factor about whether something is protected as artistic expression. There’s a legal test that recognizes if this is speech, whose speech is it, whose message is it? Would anyone who was hearing the speech or seeing the message understand it to be the message of the customer or of the merchants or craftsmen or business person?”
Despite the implications in the case for LGBTQ rights, 303 Creative may have supporters among LGBTQ people who consider themselves proponents of free speech.
One joint friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court, written by Dale Carpenter, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who’s written in favor of LGBTQ rights, and Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment legal scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues the case is an opportunity to affirm the First Amendment applies to goods and services that are uniquely expressive.
“Distinguishing expressive from non-expressive products in some contexts might be hard, but the Tenth Circuit agreed that Smith’s product does not present a hard case,” the brief says. “Yet that court (and Colorado) declined to recognize any exemption for products constituting speech. The Tenth Circuit has effectively recognized a state interest in subjecting the creation of speech itself to antidiscrimination laws.”
Oral arguments in the case aren’t yet set, but may be announced soon. Set to defend the state of Colorado and enforcement of its non-discrimination law in the case is Colorado Solicitor General Eric Reuel Olson. Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would grant the request to the U.S. solicitor general to present arguments before the justices on behalf of the Biden administration.
With a 6-3 conservative majority on the court that has recently scrapped the super-precedent guaranteeing the right to abortion, supporters of LGBTQ rights may think the outcome of the case is all but lost, especially amid widespread fears same-sex marriage would be next on the chopping block. After the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against 303 Creative in the lawsuit, the simple action by the Supreme Court to grant review in the lawsuit suggests they are primed to issue a reversal and rule in favor of the company.
Pizer, acknowledging the call to action issued by LGBTQ groups in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, conceded the current Supreme Court issuing the ruling in this case is “a terrifying prospect,” but cautioned the issue isn’t so much the makeup of the court but whether or not justices will continue down the path of abolishing case law.
“I think the question that we’re facing with respect to all of the cases or at least many of the cases that are in front of the court right now, is whether this court is going to continue on this radical sort of wrecking ball to the edifice of settled law and seemingly a goal of setting up whole new structures of what our basic legal principles are going to be. Are we going to have another term of that?” Pizer said. “And if so, that’s terrifying.”
Kelley Robinson, a Black, queer woman, named president of Human Rights Campaign
Progressive activist a veteran of Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Kelley Robinson, a Black, queer woman and veteran of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, is to become the next president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading LGBTQ group announced on Tuesday.
Robinson is set to become the ninth president of the Human Rights Campaign after having served as executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and more than 12 years of experience as a leader in the progressive movement. She’ll be the first Black, queer woman to serve in that role.
“I’m honored and ready to lead HRC — and our more than three million member-advocates — as we continue working to achieve equality and liberation for all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people,” Robinson said. “This is a pivotal moment in our movement for equality for LGBTQ+ people. We, particularly our trans and BIPOC communities, are quite literally in the fight for our lives and facing unprecedented threats that seek to destroy us.”
The next Human Rights Campaign president is named as Democrats are performing well in polls in the mid-term elections after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving an opening for the LGBTQ group to play a key role amid fears LGBTQ rights are next on the chopping block.
“The overturning of Roe v. Wade reminds us we are just one Supreme Court decision away from losing fundamental freedoms including the freedom to marry, voting rights, and privacy,” Robinson said. “We are facing a generational opportunity to rise to these challenges and create real, sustainable change. I believe that working together this change is possible right now. This next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign is about getting to freedom and liberation without any exceptions — and today I am making a promise and commitment to carry this work forward.”
The Human Rights Campaign announces its next president after a nearly year-long search process after the board of directors terminated its former president Alphonso David when he was ensnared in the sexual misconduct scandal that led former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign. David has denied wrongdoing and filed a lawsuit against the LGBTQ group alleging racial discrimination.
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