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What does Republican Senate takeover mean for LGBT issues?

Fears of inaction may prompt ENDA move in lame duck

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Republican Party LGBT, United States Senate, Tom Cotton, Shelley Moore Capito, Mitch McConnell, Mike Rounds, gay news, Washington Blade
Republican Party LGBT, United States Senate, Tom Cotton, Shelley Moore Capito, Mitch McConnell, Mike Rounds, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Gov. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) are responsible for Republican gains in the U.S. Senate. (Photos public domain)

When the polls closed on Tuesday, the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate made clear further advancement of LGBT rights in Congress became a lot more complicated — if not totally put on ice.

Shortly after 11:20 pm, the Associated Press reported Republicans won control of the Senate — presumably clearing the way for Sen. Mitch McConnell to become Senate Majority Leader — by picking up seats in Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. Additionally, media outlets projected Republicans would win about 10 seats in the U.S. House.

Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said the GOP gains will be a test for LGBT groups on whether they’re willing to work in a bipartisan fashion in the 114th Congress.

“This is really a time of choosing for LGBT advocates on the left,” Angelo said. “Do you support the left agenda, or do you actually support equal rights for Americans? Those who fall in the latter category are going to be the ones who are going to be come to the table with Republicans and find solutions, ways to pass things, like employment protections for LGBT individuals, that also reach consensus among Republicans.”

Angelo said he’ll meet with Log Cabin’s board of directors in January to discuss priorities, but one area of interest for which he’s seen a “tremendous appetite” among Republicans on Capitol Hill — even if they’re not on board with other pro-LGBT initiatives — is confronting human rights abuses against LGBT people overseas.

One bill that LGBT advocates may continue to push is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would bar employers from engaging in anti-LGBT bias in the workplace. There’s also interest in a comprehensive civil rights bill, which has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, which would institute LGBT protections in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, education and federal programs.

But Republican control may put the kibosh on these bills in the upcoming Congress, let alone versions of the legislation sought by LGBT advocates that would narrow the religious exemption along the lines of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the pro-LGBT Republican group American Unity Fund, nonetheless said he sees a way forward if an “authentically bipartisan strategy” is applied.

“Instead of being contentious, we’re going to have to meet Republican legislators where they are and engage in thoughtful conversations about the time in which they have the level of comfort to move legislation forward,” Cook-McCormac said. “I think it presents both new challenges and new opportunities for the movement to advance these issues.”

An important part of this strategy, Cook-McCormac said, is making sure Republican members are carrying bills of interest to the LGBT community in consultation with Democratic allies in Congress.

“With regard to advancing the ball forward on an issue that garners broad bipartisan support like non-discrimination, I think there will be an increasing level of interest,” Cook-McCormac added.

Even with Democratic control of the Senate, the current Congress didn’t yield much pro-LGBT legislation. A version of ENDA passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis last year, but the House Republican leadership never brought up the measure.

The one exception to the inaction on LGBT legislation was reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which included non-discrimination protections for victims of domestic violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the LGBT arm of the AFL-CIO known as Pride at Work, predicted more of the same inaction on LGBT legislation when Congress reconvenes in January thanks to Republican victories on Election Day.

“I think it means more gridlock and no movement on LGBT issues in Congress,” Davis said. “We’ve been, as you know, waiting for something akin to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to pass Congress for over 30 years and with a Republican-controlled Senate, we’re not likely to see movement. In fact, the last time that ENDA made any movement was in the Senate, and the Republican takeover means that bill is certainly dead in that house of Congress.”

With movement on pro-LGBT legislation in question, advocates may be looking elsewhere in arenas other than Congress to advance LGBT rights.

That includes action from Obama, whom advocates are pushing to lift the ban on transgender service in the U.S. military, and the courts, which are still issuing decisions on marriage equality and may soon interpret existing civil rights law to bar workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Davis said LGBT advocates will increasingly turn to state legislatures to act on initiatives if federal pro-LGBT bills continue to languish in Congress.

“Labor contracts protect LGBT union workers even in states with no legislative protections, but that’s not always an option,” Davis said. “Until Congress can pass a clean version of ENDA without extraneous religious exemptions, we will have to look to state legislatures to pick up the slack.”

Anti-gay group pledges ‘religious liberty’ bill

One fear is that Republican control of Congress could lead to passage of anti-LGBT legislation, much like the Federal Marriage Amendment that was brought up for a vote, but failed, the last time the party had majorities in both chambers of Congress during the administration of George W. Bush.

While the rapid growth in support for marriage equality makes such an amendment unlikely, anti-gay groups may push for some kind of federal religious exemption bill that would allow individuals or officials to opt out of facilitating same-sex marriages throughout the country.

In an email blast to supporters on Monday, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said immediately after the election his organization will “be meeting with the newly elected to discuss the upcoming term and what bills need to be advanced to protect marriage and religious liberty.” The plans, Brown said, include organizing for a 2015 “March for Marriage.”

Cook-McCormac said he doesn’t think anti-gay legislation along these lines will come up based on the Republican lack of interest in moving such bills in the House during the current Congress despite control of the chamber.

“I think there will still be reluctance by Republicans, as we’ve seen over the past two years in the House to advance legislation that in any way rolls back recent gains for LGBT Americans,” Cook-McCormac said. “Most Republican elected officials recognize that any efforts to turn the clock back on freedom for LGBT individuals is something that is extremely unpopular with the American people.”

That forecast for anti-gay bills is bolstered by recent history in Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a “turn away the gay” bill that would have enabled businesses to discriminate against LGBT people following a media frenzy after the Arizona Legislature passed the bill.

Moreover, any anti-gay bill that comes up in the Senate could be subject by minority Democrats to filibuster, which would take 60 votes to overcome. These bills would also be likely voted down by pro-LGBT members of the Republican caucus, such as marriage-equality supporters Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). In the event that anti-gay legislation somehow passes Congress, LGBT advocates would look to President Obama for a veto.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization views new Republican members of Congress as “an opportunity to educate and change hearts and minds.”

“LGBT equality isn’t a partisan issue,” Sainz said. “After all, LGBT people are born to all sorts of parents. We’re just as likely to be born to conservative Republican Baptist parents from Mississippi as we are to liberals from New York City. So it’s incumbent on us to reach out to individuals who we’ll hope to turn into allies and advocates.”

Will Republican House pass ENDA in lame duck?

The uncertainty about the upcoming Congress may also mean Democrats will take the opportunity of the lame duck session to move forward with pro-LGBT legislation while they remain in control of the Senate. Now that the election has taken place, lawmakers are due back in D.C. on Nov. 12 to finish their current session.

One idea sources close to ENDA have articulated is attaching the measure to a larger bill in the Senate, such as to the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill, to ensure it reaches Obama’s desk.

Cook-McCormac said Republican supporters of ENDA have “considerable interest” in seeing ENDA passed in the lame duck through one vehicle or another, but the limited timeline and few remaining “must-do” items in Congress to which ENDA could be attached present challenges.

“I think that it’s a little early to tell what the prospects are for something like that, but I do believe that over the next week, week-and-a-half, we’re going to have a much clearer idea of the type of things that might be possible in the lame duck, what the window looks like, and what types of efforts will be necessary to help that move forward,” Cook-McCormac said.

Angelo said he’s “hearing mixed messages” on whether passage of ENDA is a possibility during the lame duck session of Congress.

“I’m hearing Democrats in the Senate are hesitant to attach ENDA to something like NDAA reauthorization, and I’m hearing Republicans in the House are leaning toward attaching ENDA to NDAA reauthorization,” Angelo said.

Angelo identified Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) as an ENDA supporter who would be open to passing ENDA as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) as a Democrat who “did not have an appetite” for such a strategy. Their offices didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for a comment on the issue.

In a July interview with the Washington Blade, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), an ENDA co-sponsor, said he wanted to see the legislation passed as an amendment to a larger vehicle, but at that time wasn’t sure which legislation would be appropriate for ENDA.

An aide for outgoing Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, said the senator backs “any effort to pass” ENDA when asked if he supports attaching it as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

Any attempt to move ENDA in lame duck may encounter opposition from LGBT advocates because it would likely be the Senate-passed version of the legislation. That version has a religious exemption that would allow religious-affiliated businesses to continue to discriminate against LGBT workers in non-ministerial positions, unlike protections afforded to other groups under existing civil rights law. Many pro-LGBT organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National LGBTQ Task Force, have dropped support from this version of ENDA.

“Rather than getting into those fights, I want after the election to see if it’s something that is feasible during the lame duck session, and then we can talk strategy,” Angelo said. “But there are definitely those mixed signals that I’m getting.”

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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

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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

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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

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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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