The waiting rooms for a doctor’s visit on the third, fourth and fifth floors of Whitman-Walker Health’s new, six-story health center building at 1525 14th St., N.W. feature floor-to-ceiling windows, comfortable cushioned chairs and brightly colored carpeting.
With light streaming through the windows, the calming atmosphere in the waiting rooms is just one of the many new features that Whitman-Walker officials say the 43,000-square-foot facility will provide to enhance the mission of providing quality health care for the D.C. community, with a special outreach to the LGBT community and those with HIV.
“The new health center is designed around fundamental values of affirmation, vibrancy, dignity, and respect,” a statement released by Whitman-Walker says.
“We aim to improve the health of the communities we serve, expand program offerings to focus on our patients’ overall health outcomes and expand our community leadership role in LGBT health and HIV care in D.C.,” the statement says.
Whitman-Walker spokesperson Shawn Jain said the new health center was expected to open for patients on May 18, with a grand opening ceremony scheduled for June 4.
The current Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center used by Whitman-Walker, which is located on 14th Street less than two blocks from the new building, will be retained for administrative services and some programs, including the longstanding free STD clinic.
The new medical center, which Jain said Whitman-Walker officials refer to only as the “1525” building, is being rented under a 10-year lease from the Furiouso Development Company, which built the structure.
The total build-out costs for Whitman-Walker, which covered the interior structure and furnishings, came to $9.8 million, according to the Whitman-Walker statement.
“Whitman-Walker Health funded these costs through cash reserves, tenant improvement funds included in our lease, and some borrowing,” the statement says.
“Such a major capital investment is a multi-generational decision that will impact our patients for 20 or more years to come,” the statement adds.
As part of a major expansion of its programs, the new building includes 28 medical examination rooms, nine dental suites, an expanded pharmacy on the first floor and health and wellness suites and a large physical therapy room on the second floor.
The pharmacy, which takes up the entire first floor, will be open to the public and will provide same-day home delivery services for prescription medication, Jain said. He said it would also sell over-the-counter drugs.
The health and wellness facility will offer yoga classes and massage services. Also opening soon on the second floor will be a travel clinic that will provide vaccinations for those planning to travel abroad.
Floors three through five will include state-of-the-art medical examination rooms. Jain and Whitman-Walker community relations director Justin Goforth, who took a Blade reporter and photographer on a tour of the new building, said medical testing equipment used by doctors such as blood pressure measuring devices are linked directly to the center’s extensive electronic patient record system.
The two said Whitman-Walker retained an architectural and interior design firm to develop a setting on all floors to facilitate patient privacy as well as a patient-affirming atmosphere that minimizes the stigma that in the past has adversely impacted HIV patients.
They said the careful attention to the interior settings would be especially beneficial to patients of the mental health and addiction counseling programs, with most behavior therapy rooms having comfortable, cushioned seating and windows that allow natural light to illuminate the rooms.
The only patient areas without windows are the nine dental suites, which are located in the building’s basement level. To offset a lack of natural light, the interior design consultants took steps to provide cheerful furnishings and wall coverings that might be found in a home or apartment.
At Whitman-Walker’s request, the new building was designed as a “green” facility, with environmentally friendly materials and furnishings, according to Jain. Soil with growing grass has been placed on the roof and other outside spaces along the sides of the building.
All of the new building’s bathrooms are gender-neutral, single occupancy spaces, Jain said.
With the opening of the new building, Whitman-Walker has already increased its medical, dental and behavioral health provider staff along with customer service representatives and other support staff, Jain and Goforth said.
“Whitman-Walker Health ended 2014 with about 170 employees, the statement discussing the new building says. “We expect to have about 250 by the end of 2015.”
Similar to the Elizabeth Taylor Building, Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center medical building in Anacostia will remain open, Jain said. He said the Metro Teen AIDS program, which was an independent organization that merged with Whitman-Walker Health last year, will for the time being continue operating at its offices on Capitol Hill near the Eastern Market Metro station.
Whitman-Walker Health, which was founded in 1978 as the Whitman-Walker Clinic, operates as it had at the time of its founding, as a non-profit organization with a special outreach to the LGBT community.
The following is a Q&A with Don Blanchon, executive director of Whitman-Walker Health.
Washington Blade: Why did Whitman-Walker decide to move ahead with this new building and what will be its significance on your ability to care for your patients?
Don Blanchon: For me it comes down to how particularly the metro D.C.’s LGBT communities are moving forward towards full equality. And Whitman-Walker has been a part of that movement for what – four decades now? And as those communities move forward so does Whitman-Walker’s role in caring for the people in those communities.
And so if you look at what we’re doing it’s a natural evolution to serve patients in a dignified, respectful and affirming way. And it makes for me so much sense to be able to provide the highest quality care to these communities who have been with us in some places for more than 30 years. It really kind of at the end of the day mirrors how the community is moving forward.
And if you look at our buildings over the years and you’ve seen what they looked like – we’ve been in renovated space and converted space and what have you. And now in 2015 we’re going to operate a modern facility designed specifically for patients’ health care needs specifically around the values of affirmation, vibrancy, dignity, and respect. But at the end of the day it really is the reflection of how we’re moving towards equality. And every person from every walk of life who comes through that new building is going to feel that they’re treated well and that they’re treated with dignity and respect. We believe that those are really important values for us to express.
And as you know, it’s more than just a building. It’s how we treat people and take care of people.
Blade: Can you say a little about what made this possible in terms of the financing? Was it due in large part to the organizational changes you made when you first became head of Whitman-Walker?
Blanchon: You’ve got the financial number in which the project is going to cost us roughly $9.8 million. And so there are really three buckets or pools of funding that have gone on to pay for the build out of the building. And the first bucket is cash reserves. We’ve had now five years in a row of operating surpluses at Whitman-Walker. So we were able to build up some cash reserves and be able to use those to pay for a portion of this. We had some tenant improvement funding in the long-term lease that we have.
Blade: Can you explain what tenant improvement funds are?
Blanchon: Conventionally when an organization signs a lease with the building owner often times the building owner will extend some tenant improvement dollars, which in effect allows the tenant to do some build out of the space…So this in effect is just another funding pool as part of our agreement with the owner on the lease.
And then the third area is we did some borrowing on the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center property, which has a good value in the community.
Blade: Was there a mortgage on that?
Blanchon: The building has been unencumbered in that it has no kind of debt on it prior to this project. So we basically had the property free and clear. And so what we did was some borrowing on that, and those three funding pools basically get us to what we need to do. And remember, we will move our health care team down to the new location at 1525. We’ll still have other programs – some health related, some administrative and support related here at the Elizabeth Taylor Center.
Blade: But the underlying actions that made it possible for you to have cash reserves and a budget surplus – wasn’t that some type of change in the model or structure of the organization?
Blanchon: Yes. We moved from what people called traditionally an AIDS service organization to a community health center model.
Blade: And that meant you can take health insurance and Medicaid?
Blanchon: We take health insurance. And again, this isn’t solely – I come back to this all the time. Whitman-Walker lives in a community that is constantly moving forward and changing. More of our patients, particularly those living with HIV, in the mid-2000s were becoming insured. They had Medicaid, they had Medicare. They had something else. So it just made kind of good sense for us to take insurance because we would be able to collect revenue for the care we were providing. And so the whole reason we made the switch from an AIDS service organization to a health center model was really because the practicalities of our patients were now insured.
And when I say that, Medicaid and Medicare are still the two largest insurers for us. So about 60 percent of our patients are insured either by Medicaid or Medicare.
Blade: So you’ve got a substantial number of seniors who are on Medicare?
Blanchon: It runs about 42 [percent] Medicaid, 18 [percent] Medicare and then about another 30 [percent] are commercially insured and the final 10 [percent] are self-paid and other categories. But a big chunk is Medicaid and Medicare. The next biggest chunk, obviously, is commercial.
Blade: By commercial do you mean private health insurance?
Blanchon: Private health insurance is the way you’d say it, yes. And so the change that actually got us the operating surplus was this model – the move from an AIDS service organization to a health center model. It allowed us to basically get another funding stream – obviously health insurance revenue, public and private, into Whitman-Walker. And by doing that we were able to shore up what we did.
And we were very thoughtful over the last three to five years on, OK, how do we want to do this? Where do we want to be located? And what’s the statement we’re trying to make to the community and to the patients we care for. And it’s really about trying to help people live happier and healthier lives and trying to treat them in a very affirming and dignified and respectful way.
Blade: What prompted you and the board to go with the arrangement you have in the 1525 14th Street site?
Blanchon: The really simple way to look at this is that in 2012, when our board thought through how we approach the fact that we’re growing – the number of patients we’re seeing is a growing number. And at some time we would have capacity issues at the Elizabeth Taylor Center site, which we knew we would have largely at the beginning of 2016 based on our analysis. So we faced this issue of do we build on the Elizabeth Taylor site, in which there was some patient and employee safety issues? We would be providing health care here and service here and would you really construct around it? That’s always a challenge.
And the other two options were to buy another site on the [14th Street] corridor or to lease space. We actually did look at another site but we were unable to reach an agreement with a developer on another site to buy outright. And then we ultimately elected to enter into a long-term lease with Georgio Furiouso. It was a thoughtful process.
And I come back to – you saw Martha’s Table and you saw Central Mission leave the corridor. This place is home for Whitman-Walker. The Dupont-Logan Circle area has been the center of gay life for 50 years in the District – 40 years in the District. And we felt really strongly that we needed to stay here. And we also know how accessible we are on 14th Street. We’re in between two Metro stops. We get Metro bus service. We’re just in a really accessible and vibrant place. We felt really strongly that we needed to kind of stay in the place that we call home.
And I can’t overstate that because clearly every non-profit and every group has the decision when they have real estate that they could sell their real estate and move somewhere else. We really felt strongly about staying here because this is what we call home. So many of our patients walk to this health center. It’s just a practical reality that our patients want to have access to us and this is a really accessible and in this case it’s going to be a beautiful new space for them.
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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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