Three years after the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” enabled openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military, a renewed push is underway to allow transgender Americans to serve openly in the armed forces — and the challenges and opportunities in making progress are remarkably similar.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Palm Center, a San Francisco-based think-tank on sexual minorities in the military, hosted a day-long conference at the ACLU offices in D.C. featuring policy experts on LGBT-inclusive militaries as well as transgender service members from around the globe.
Their stories were intended to highlight the continued ban keeping transgender people from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces. Even though “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed, transgender people are still barred from military service under medical regulation.
Similar to the struggle against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the success of foreign militaries that have integrated transgender people into their ranks is serving as a potential model for the United States. And also like the early days during the fight against the military’s gay ban, fears about shared access to shower facilities, in addition to a perceived reluctance from senior leaders to move forward, are blocking the way.
At the conference, representatives who hail from foreign militaries talked about the integration of openly transgender people into their armed forces. Even though instances of harassment or objections to the service were acknowledged, the general sense was that militaries were able to allow transgender people to serve without impeding operations.
Maj. Alexandra Larsson, the first person to transition and serve in the Swedish Armed Forces, beamed with pride about being able to deliver a 60-minute presentation before Swedish intelligence, saying she has “the best job in the world.”
Based on her experience, Larsson told the Washington Blade the best argument for lifting the ban in the United States is the realization that transgender people already serve in the U.S. armed forces.
“In order to create an even more effective force, the best way, I think, is to make them available to be who they are and perform and to contribute to the U.S. armed forces as a professional individual,” Larsson said.
Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Lassaline, who reviews social policy for Canadian Forces in the Directorate of Human Rights & Diversity, emphasized that “training, training, training” is responsible for creating an environment favorable to transgender inclusion in the military.
Some countries — such as the United Kingdom and Sweden — never had outright bans on transgender people serving (the ban repealed 15 years ago in Britain affected only gay people). Instead, those countries experienced greater inclusion through the adoption of nationwide non-discrimination laws and policies.
Squadron Leader Sarah Maskell, who promotes equality and diversity in the British Royal Air Force, told the Blade the “openness” withrespect to transgender service helps creates a more combat effective force for the United Kingdom.
“They put their personal perspectives in their diversity of thinking, so you don’t just get a standard vanilla-flavor of decision-making,” Maskell said. “You get people bringing their cultural specifics, you get people bringing their relationship views. You get the whole person; they bring their whole selves to work. There’s no double life.”
The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, which is based in The Netherlands, distributed at the conference its 2013 report commissioned by the Dutch Military of Defense on the LGBT-inclusivenesss of militaries across the globe. The United States ranked No. 40 out of 103.
Landon Wilson, a sailor who was booted from the U.S. Navy earlier this year for being transgender, told the Blade foreign militaries with successful transgender policies are a good example for the United States.
“We’re hearing a lot of stories from foreign militaries who our are big allies,” Wilson said. “So, these are the countries that we serve beside, that we go to war with. And to know that they’re implementing policies that have been in place for 15 years, we need to catch up to that, and it shows that it’s possible.”
An estimated 15,500 transgender people are serving in silence in the U.S. military because of the policy that bars them from being open about their gender identity, according to a May report from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The stories that some of these U.S. service members told at the forum were different than the experiences of their overseas counterparts.
Capt. Jacob Eleazer, a transgender member of the Kentucky National Guard, said he’s in a state of “limbo” regarding his status in the military.
After he came out as trans to his commander in February, a request for resignation was filed on his behalf. Eleazer said he was sent to medical evaluation, where he was asked if he was sexually assaulted as a child under the suggestion that, despite established medical opinion to the contrary, that may have caused him to be transgender.
Eleazer’s potential resignation was later rescinded on behalf of his commanding officer, whom Eleazer said put her career in jeopardy by sticking her neck out for him. Despite these difficulties, Eleazer said he wants to continue military service.
“Even though I identify as male … I’m a soldier first,” Eleazer said.
Despite models for transgender service in other countries, anti-transgender forces in the United States are already at work to preserve the status quo.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center of Military Readiness, was quoted in an Associated Press article last month as saying the prospects of openly transgender service “is putting an extra burden on men and women in the military that they certainly don’t need and they don’t deserve.”
Many of the arguments made against openly transgender service, including fears of service members having to shower in shared facilities with transgender comrades, are the same arguments opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” made years ago during the legislative process to repeal the law.
Kristin Beck, a transgender former Navy SEAL who transitioned after leaving the service, utterly dismissed the notion that service members would have a problem.
“I want to work with professionals; I don’t want to work with Beavis and Butthead,” Beck said.
The Obama administration has been slow to push for a change in the policy.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during an interview in May the ban on transgender service should “continually” be reviewed, but five months later, a Pentagon official confirmed to the Blade last week no review has been ordered.
And although the White House said at the time it backs Hagel’s efforts in reviewing the policy, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest last week deferred to the Pentagon for a status update on its “ongoing review.” Earnest said he wasn’t sure if President Obama would call for an end to the ban before the end of his administration, but more broadly said his boss believes equality “makes our armed forces stronger.”
Allyson Robinson, policy director for the LGBT military group SPARTA and an attendee at the conference, said leadership is necessary at senior levels of the Pentagon to bring change.
“My understanding is that the secretary views his comments as of last May about the need for review as a promise — a promise to the nation and a promise to these service members,” Robinson said. “It’s important that we be asking, ‘Mr. Secretary, when are you going to make good on this promise?”
Although the Pentagon doesn’t seem at this time to be moving on the issue, a handful of lawmakers have already spoken out in favor of openly transgender service.
Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) have all endorsed openly transgender service, and a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the Blade last week she also favors allowing transgender people to serve openly in the U.S. military.
Beck told the Blade all that’s necessary to ensure the United States joins other countries that have successfully implemented openly transgender service is leadership from defense officials.
“There’s no obstacle and there’s no argument that makes sense against having transgender people,” Beck said. “So, there’s no barriers. All it’s going to take is somebody up there within the Department of the Defense at the Pentagon to really step up and say, ‘This is it.'”
In all, the path ahead for transgender service is remarkably similar to the path for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The Palm Center’s Aaron Belkin predicts that the ban on transgender service will meet the same fate as the military’s gay ban.
“Both policies are about trying to squeeze a social judgment into a phony argument about military effectiveness,” Belkin said. “In this case, those who don’t like the policy don’t like trans people, but instead of just being honest about that, just like in ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ they try to conceal their arguments in military effectiveness, this time not unit cohesion, but medical readiness.”
But there is one significant difference between “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the trans ban: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a law and required action from either Congress or the courts to be stricken from the books; the ban on transgender service is a regulation that could be changed at any time by senior officials.
Belkin said the ease with which the policy could be changed makes apparent stagnation and remarks from the White House deferring to the Pentagon all the more baffling.
“Can you imagine if the Post Office had a rule in place that said we are going to fire all Chinese postal delivery people, and the White House said, ‘Yeah, just ask the Post Office about that,'” Belkin said. “That is not leadership.”
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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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