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The evolution of Judge Posner on marriage equality

Reagan appointee becomes unlikely hero to gay couples



Richard Posner, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner has evolved on the issue of same-sex marriage. (Photo by chensiyuan; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner has earned the distinction of delivering one of the most sharply written decisions affirming a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but a look at the jurist’s three-decade career on the federal bench reveals it took time for him to reach those views.

Already renowned as a a legal scholar, the 75-year-old Reagan-appointed judge has become an overnight sensation for advocating marriage rights for gay couples. He won praise for his aggressive questioning during oral arguments of state attorneys defending bans on same-sex marriage before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and his ruling on Thursday striking down same-sex marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana.

In a 40-page decision loaded with as much legal analysis as social science, Posner, joined by judges Anne Claire Williams and David Hamilton, conclude that these lawsuits are not only about gay couples seeking marriage equality, but also “about the welfare of American children.”

“Children, being natural conformists, tend to be upset upon discovering that they’re not in step with their peers,” Posner writes. “If a child’s same-sex parents are married, however, the parents can tell the child truthfully that an adult is permitted to marry a person of the opposite sex, or if the adult prefers as some do a person of his or her own sex, but that either way the parents are married and therefore the child can feel secure in being the child of a married couple.”

Often in a colloquial tone, Posner shreds the arguments offered in defense of the marriage bans. In response to an argument that marriage is intended to facilitate “responsible” procreation, for example, Posner concludes that amounts to saying only straight couples need marriage because they “tend to be sexually irresponsible, producing unwanted children by the carload.”

“Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry,” Posner continues. “Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure.”

A look at the congressional record reveals Posner breezed through his confirmation process. The Senate approved him in a group of other judicial nominees on Nov. 24, 1981 by unanimous consent.

Prior to his confirmation, Posner served stints in the 1960s with the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Solicitor General’s office before becoming a law professor in 1969 at the University of Chicago. As a scholar, Posner earned a reputation for controversy.

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 20 1981, the late Sen. Charles Percy, an Illinois Republican, backed his nomination with a caveat.

“He has written so many articles on many subjects that he could be hanged for almost any of his views,” Percy said. “They are controversial, without any question. But even those who might oppose those views look upon them as creative, imaginative, bold and scholarly in every respective.”

During his tenure on the Seventh Circuit, Posner has developed a reputation as an independent and often conservative thinker. For example, he has expressed skepticism about anti-trust laws but also has been supportive of abortion rights and decriminalization of drugs. In 2012, he said in an interview with National Public Radio that he’s become less of a conservative “since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”

Still, like many Americans, Posner hasn’t always held the view that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In a 1997 book review published in the Michigan Law Review, for example, Posner was skeptical that the Constitution guaranteed same-sex marriage. The subject was “The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment” by Yale Law Professor William N. Eskridge, Jr. The book, which came out at a time when Hawaii was on track through the judiciary to legalize same-sex marriage, espouses the idea that courts must grant same-sex couples the right to marry as quickly as possible.

Although Posner acknowledges his belief that, without further study, same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children just the same as different-sex couples, he disputes the notion that the right to same-sex marriage is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

Citing public opinion that was overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage at that time, Posner says for the time being the marriage issue should be resolved through the democratic process in the state legislatures.

“It thus is to me a significant weakness of Eskridge’s book that it does not examine the pragmatic objections to constitutionalizing the question of same-sex marriage,” Posner concludes. “He wants the courts in the name of the Constitution to require every state and the federal government, at a stroke, tomorrow if possible, to confer all fifteen perquisites of the married state on parties to homosexual marriage, including full rights of adoption, plus the symbolic crown — the name ‘marriage.’ The country is not ready for Eskridge’s proposal, and this must give pause to any impulse within an unelected judiciary to impose it on the country in the name of the Constitution.”

In 1998 piece titled, “Against Constitutional Theory,” published in New York Law Review, Posner also takes issue with the 1996 landmark Supreme Court decision of Romer v. Evans, which found Colorado’s Amendment 2 — a law that prohibited localities from establishing LGBT non-discrimination ordinances — was unconstitutional.

Looking at the Romer decision — as well as United States v. Virginia, a 1996 ruling in which the Supreme Court overturned the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admission policy — Posner doesn’t argue the cases were wrongly decided, but says the two decisions lack adequate empirical data to back the determination in the rulings.

The Romer decision, Posner says, determines that Colorado passed Amendment 2 out of hostility toward gay people, but fails to examine whether Amendment 2 was a rational expression of that hostility.

“No allusion to the scientific and social scientific evidence bearing on the phenomenon of homosexuality was made in the Romer opinion, however, so that as it stands the Court seems prepared to forbid discrimination against homosexuals even if the Colorado ban on protective legislation for homosexuals is entirely rational discrimination — the equivalent of ‘discriminating’ against airline pilots who have the misfortune to be old or infirm and as a result are grounded against their will,” Posner writes.

Posner says his personal belief is that evidence shows sexual orientation is “genetic or at least congenital, and not acquired,” but notes most Americans dislike homosexuality, don’t want their children to become gay and worry about AIDS spreading to the straight population.

Hostility directed at gay people, Posner writes, is different from other kinds of hostility, like anti-Semitism, so must be analyzed on its own terms, and a law intended to “prevent peaceable private discrimination” against gay people, such as Amendment 2, “falls far short of savagery.”

One decision that Posner issued from the bench that touches on gay rights came in 2001 as the result of a lawsuit filed by Milagros Irizarry, a female employee of the Chicago public school system, who sued the city because it excluded her and her female partner from the domestic partner registry, which was intended for same-sex couples. Posner affirms a district court decision against the couple on the basis that they haven’t articulated a reason why they haven’t married.

Referencing a brief apparently filed in the case by Lambda Legal on behalf of the straight couple, Posner somewhat derisively refers to the LGBT legal group’s efforts as an attempt to ensure “marriage will lose some of its luster.”

Decades later, a shift is apparent in the way Posner perceives gay people and granting them access to the institution of marriage. It’s distinctly articulated in a posting two years ago on a blog he co-wrote with the late economist Gary Becker.

Three days after President Obama’s announcement that he had come to support marriage equality after 18 months of evolving on the issue, Posner admits his own perception of gay people has changed over the course of his lifetime.

“Although I knew in the 1950s that there were homosexuals, if asked I would have truthfully said that as far as I knew I had never met one, or expected ever to meet one, any more than I had ever met or expected to meet an Eskimo,” Posner writes.

Observing the history of discrimination faced by gay people and their efforts to conceal their sexual orientation, Posner observes that it seems to be abating amid “legal changes and changes in public attitudes.” The judge writes, “there seems very little doubt that homosexuality is innate” and, therefore, is in no need of regulation.

“It seems that the only remaining basis for opposition to homosexual marriage, or to legal equality between homosexuals and heterosexuals in general, is religious,” Posner concludes. “If as it appears homosexuality is innate, and therefore natural (and indeed there is homosexuality among animals), and if homosexuals are not an antisocial segment of the population, why should they be thought to be offending against God’s will?…I do not know the answer. But whatever the answer, the United States is not a theocracy and should hesitate to enact laws that serve religious rather than pragmatic secular aims, such as material welfare and national security.”

It was when Posner’s name was drawn as one of three judges in the Seventh Circuit who would decide the cases challenging marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana that the full force of this view became apparent.

The septuagenarian judge’s aggressive questioning of state attorneys from Wisconsin and Indiana — which sometimes left them unable to answer — was widely disseminated online.

Some highlights: When Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson couldn’t immediately answer why allowing same-sex couples to wed might have a negative impact and pledged to offer a brief later on the issue, Posner replied, “How can you brief it if you don’t know anything about it?” At another point when the attorney said any negative impact on same-sex marriage is unknown, Posner quipped, “You don’t have any sort of empirical or even conjectural basis for your law. Funny.”

When Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher responded to Posner’s question about why his state preferred heterosexual adoption over homosexual adoption for children, the judge apparently answered for him, saying, “You want them to be worse off.”

What makes Posner’s aggressive questioning of state attorneys general during oral arguments particularly striking is he was the sole judge on the panel appointed by a Republican president. The two judges appointed by Democrats — Ann Claire Williams, a Clinton appointee; and David Hamilton, an Obama appointee — hinted they would rule against the same-sex marriage bans, but were more even-handed in their approach with attorneys.

Adam Romero, federal legal director for the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said Posner’s evolution on marriage reflects his empirical approach to constitutional law.

“That approach often leads Posner to strive to interrogate what we know (and do not know) empirically about the costs and benefits to individuals and society of discriminatory laws or constitutional rights,” Romero said.

Sometimes that philosophy has led Posner to express skepticism of judicial rulings, Romero said, including landmark civil rights decisions that he sees as lacking sufficient empirical support.

“But for this same reason, Judge Posner’s views on what the constitution has to say about same-sex marriage  evolved as the empirical support for same-sex marriage, and LGBT rights more broadly, has only continued to build — as documented in the Seventh Circuit’s lacerating decision against Wisconsin’s and Indiana’s marriage bans,” Romero said. “The American public is on a similar trajectory but we have a long way to go, rendering continued academic research on LGBT people all the more important.”

Similar to his own evolution, Posner predicts in his decision against marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana that support for same-sex marriage will only continue to grow among the public after it sees empirical facts of its positive value.

“Not that allowing same-sex marriage will change in the short run the negative views that many Americans hold of same-sex marriage,” Posner writes. “But it will enhance the status of these marriages in the eyes of other Americans, and in the long run it may convert some of the opponents of such marriage by demonstrating that homosexual married couples are in essential respects, notably in the care of their adopted children, like other married couples.”


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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



Fifty years ago this week, 32 gay men were killed in an arson attack on the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans. (Photo by G.E. Arnold/Times-Picayune; reprinted with permission)

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.

(Photo by G.E. Arnold/Times-Picayune; reprinted with permission)

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.” 

(Photo by H.J. Patterson/Times-Picayune; reprinted with permission)

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.” 

(Photo by Philip Ames/Times-Picayune; reprinted with permission)

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.”

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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 is to set consider the case of 303 Creative, which seeks to refuse design services for same-sex weddings. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

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.”

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Kelley Robinson, a Black, queer woman, named president of Human Rights Campaign

Progressive activist a veteran of Planned Parenthood Action Fund



Kelley Robinson (Screen capture via HRC YouTube)

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.”

Kelley Robinson IS NAMED as The next human rights Campaign president

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.

Kelley Robinson, Planned Parenthood, Cathy Chu, SMYAL, Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, Amy Nelson, Whitman-Walker Health, Sheroes of the Movement, Mayor's office of GLBT Affairs, gay news, Washington Blade
Kelley Robinson, seen here with Cathy Chu of SMYAL and Amy Nelson of Whitman-Walker Health, is the next Human Rights Campaign president. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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