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D.C. judge explains leniency in hate attack

Short sentences for siblings who beat, slashed gay man



Yvonne Williams, gay news, Washington Blade
Yvonne Williams, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams said she’s known for ‘telling it like it is.’ (Image courtesy YouTube)

D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams took the unusual step of calling a special hearing on July 15 to explain why she sentenced a 22-year-old lesbian to six months in jail and her twin brother, who’s straight, to one year for instigating and leading what police and prosecutors have called a brutal gay bashing attack.

Williams called the hearing just over two weeks after she handed down the sentences at a separate hearing on June 29. The victim, a 29-year-old gay man, and his mother, who witnessed the attack, testified then that the beating and face slashing of the victim that took place during the incident have had a devastating impact on their lives.

Sources familiar with the case have said police and prosecutors believe the sentences are far too lenient for a conviction in an assault that could have resulted in the victim’s death.

“I wanted to have this hearing because at the initial sentencing, admittedly, I was pretty rushed because I had a jury waiting,” said Williams, who was referring to another trial over which she was presiding.

“It’s really an opportunity for me to just talk,” she said. “And apparently, as the judge, you can just summon people and everybody has to come listen to you. So here we are.”

Saying she is someone known at the courthouse for “telling it like it is,” Williams took about 30 minutes to explain her rationale for assessing the seriousness of hate crimes as well as the seriousness of the injuries suffered by crime victims.

According to prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Christina Lucas and her brother Christopher, who were 20 when the incident took place in October 2013, showed no remorse after a D.C. Superior Court jury convicted them on May 8 of aggravated assault while armed and designated the incident as an anti-gay hate crime.

During the trial, witnesses testified that the two defendants led a group of others in an attack on the victim on a Northwest Washington street, with the Lucas siblings and the others punching and stomping the victim multiple times after knocking him to the ground.

According to trial testimony, Christina Lucas slashed the victim’s face with a sharp object while he was lying on the ground, causing him to suffer a permanent facial scar just below his eye after she called him a “faggot motherfucker.”

The lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica Jennings, submitted a pre-sentencing memorandum to the court calling for a sentence in the upper range of voluntary sentencing guidelines established by the court for a bias-related aggravated assault while armed. The guidelines call for a sentence of between four and 15 years of incarceration.

Instead, Williams initially sentenced the Lucas siblings to four years in jail and suspended all but one year. She also sentenced them to five years of supervised probation upon their release. At the Aug. 15 hearing, Williams startled prosecutors by announcing she changed her mind and lowered the sentence for Christina Lucas to a six-month jail term.

A deputy U.S. Attorney attending the Aug. 15 hearing suggested Williams may have acted improperly by changing the sentence after the official sentencing hearing had ended. He pointed out that the reduced sentence was not included in the hearing transcript and prosecutors were not present when the change was made, preventing them from objecting to the change.

Williams said she would call another hearing to give prosecutors and the defense a chance to file a motion or brief to weigh in on the sentencing change. But she gave no indication she would change the sentence back to its original one-year jail term.

“The conduct done here by the defendants is reprehensible, right?  They’re part of a group of people that jumped another individual,” Williams said at the Aug. 15 hearing.

“However, in the aggravated assaults while armed that I have seen over my life, when I look at the severity of the injuries, you know, people are left in wheelchairs,” she said. “People are disfigured. People have broken bones…People are left with sort of lifelong disfigurements.”

By contrast, she said in the case of the Lucas siblings, the victim’s injuries weren’t as severe.

“There were no long-term injuries,” she said. “There were no broken bones…he’s obviously not in a wheelchair.”

She added, “He, like all victims of crime, sort of, is dealing with the mental frustration of having been jumped…All victims of crime, violent crime, you know, have to deal with that.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kapil Longani told Williams that recent medical reports from the victim’s doctors show he may be suffering from a long-term brain injury as a result of repeated blows to the head during the attack. But Williams said she could only base her sentencing decision on verified facts presented at the trial.

In comments that are likely to draw concern by LGBT activists, Williams said she also did not believe the hate crime aspect of the case reached a level of seriousness that called for an enhanced prison sentence that the D.C. hate crimes law gives judges the option of utilizing.

“Now I don’t want anybody to think that I’m somehow dismissing the findings that there was a hate crime, but I’ll tell you and I’ll be fully honest,” she said. “You know, there’s hate crime, from my perspective, and there’s hate crime. So when I think of hate crime, I include hate crime with the idea of domestic terrorism, right? That’s what I think it is.”

Williams said she considers a true hate crime to be a random targeting of a person because he or she is a member of a certain race, sexual orientation, gender or some other characteristic. She cited the recent murder of nine black people in a church in South Carolina by a white supremacist as an example of a serious hate crime.

“The most famous homosexual killing is the one – was it in Utah?” Williams asked. “Matthew – there’s a law named after him. I forgot his name. Matthew – I can’t think of it. But the man, the man was beaten to near death only because he was gay,” Williams said as the Lucas twins stood in silence next to their attorneys. “Those people didn’t know him.”

She appeared to be referring to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was tied to a fence post in Laramie, Wyo., and severely beaten and died a short time later. The attacker and a co-defendant who assisted in the attack were sentenced to life in prison for murder convictions.

Because Wyoming did not have a hate crimes law and there was no federal hate crimes law that covered gay people at the time, the Shepard case was not legally classified as a hate crime, even though it has become recognized as one of the nation’s most egregious anti-gay hate crimes.

Williams said that while in law school 20 years ago in Boston, when she was a teaching assistant, one of her students – a 22-year-old lesbian – was attacked and beaten by a group of men who became enraged when they saw her walking down the street holding hands with her girlfriend.

“At the time I’m only 24, so I’m not that old, but that kind of stuff sticks with you,” she said. “So I know, you know, how serious hate crimes can be and how dangerous it is.”

But in the cases of the Lucas twins, Williams said, she did not believe the attack against the gay male victim was totally random because trial testimony revealed that the victim’s mother knew the Lucases. Williams noted that the victim’s mother’s brother is the uncle of the Lucas twins.

According to Williams, the mother played a key role in identifying the Lucases to the police during the investigation, which led to their arrests. She said some type of dispute had been going on between the two parties.

“But part of it had to do with the use of the language and the hate crime,” Williams said in referring to the alleged anti-gay language used by one or both of the Lucas twins during the assault.

“Again, reprehensible behavior,” she said. “And so, but I just need to make clear that there are different levels of hate crime…For example, if two black people get into a fight and one of them uses the N word against another one I don’t think of that as…a hate crime.”

The reason she raised the issue of the N word, Williams said, is that Christina Lucas is gay. She said she isn’t certain whether certain anti-gay slurs that would be unacceptable for straight people to use are somewhat acceptable for gays to use among themselves.

“Obviously, in this context, nothing feels more comfortable because it’s a violent attack,” said Williams. “But I’m just saying, linguistically, I don’t know where we are linguistically on this issue,” she said.

“And so, we’re here at the hate crime point. And so I will admit that it’s hard for me to grasp how one gay person commits a hate crime against another.”

She added, however, that regardless of whether she understands it, the jury handed down a hate crime conviction in the Lucas case. Yet she also factored in her perception that the Lucas siblings are not likely to target gay people in the future.

“So do I have concerns with Ms. Lucas going forward, that she’s going to be terrorizing the community and going after gay people? No. I don’t have that concern.”

Likewise, concerning Christopher Lucas, Williams said she also doesn’t believe he will likely target gay people going forward because of his close relationship with his sister.

“I don’t have a concern that Mr. Lucas is just going to be chasing after gay people because then he’d be chasing after his own sister,” Williams said.

Two prominent local attorneys had opposing opinions on whether Judge Williams acted properly in the way she lowered her sentence for Christina Lucas and her decision not to “enhance” the sentence under the provision of the D.C. hate crimes law. Both spoke to the Blade on condition that they not be identified because they could have future dealings with the judge.

One of them believes Williams’ sentencing change violates judicial rules banning ex-parte actions by judges and could possibly lead to disciplinary action against her by the an arm of the D.C. Bar that investigates allegations of misconduct by judges. The same attorney said Williams acted improperly but within her authority as a judge to decline to enhance the sentences under the hate crimes law.

“This is a blatant display of judge nullification of a jury verdict,” the attorney said. “She is basically saying she doesn’t agree this is a hate crime. She nullified the hate crime conviction.”

The other attorney took strong exception to that assessment.

“I see no hint that the judge doesn’t agree with the D.C. hate crime law,” the attorney said. “She’s just fitting the sentence to all the relevant facts about the crime and the victim and the defendants, which is what we want judges to do,” said the attorney.

“Different people, different judges, will see things differently in different cases,” the attorney said. “That doesn’t make one right and one wrong. I don’t see any basis for accusing the judge of misconduct on that score.”

Concerning changing the sentence at an inappropriate time, the attorney said the judge has denied doing that. “And I certainly don’t know the facts,” said the attorney. “She has invited the parties to brief the matter, and I assume they’ll do so. If she waited too long to change the sentence, or failed to give proper notice, she can correct her error, or the court of appeals can.”


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Honoring the legacy of New Orleans’ 1973 UpStairs Lounge fire

Why the arson attack that killed 32 gay men still resonates 50 years later



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

On June 23 of last year, I held the microphone as a gay man in the New Orleans City Council Chamber and related a lost piece of queer history to the seven council members. I told this story to disabuse all New Orleanians of the notion that silence and accommodation, in the face of institutional and official failures, are a path to healing.  

The story I related to them began on a typical Sunday night at a second-story bar on the fringe of New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1973, where working-class men would gather around a white baby grand piano and belt out the lyrics to a song that was the anthem of their hidden community, “United We Stand” by the Brotherhood of Man. 

“United we stand,” the men would sing together, “divided we fall” — the words epitomizing the ethos of their beloved UpStairs Lounge bar, an egalitarian free space that served as a forerunner to today’s queer safe havens. 

Around that piano in the 1970s Deep South, gays and lesbians, white and Black queens, Christians and non-Christians, and even early gender minorities could cast aside the racism, sexism, and homophobia of the times to find acceptance and companionship for a moment. 

For regulars, the UpStairs Lounge was a miracle, a small pocket of acceptance in a broader world where their very identities were illegal. 

On the Sunday night of June 24, 1973, their voices were silenced in a murderous act of arson that claimed 32 lives and still stands as the deadliest fire in New Orleans history — and the worst mass killing of gays in 20th century America. 

As 13 fire companies struggled to douse the inferno, police refused to question the chief suspect, even though gay witnesses identified and brought the soot-covered man to officers idly standing by. This suspect, an internally conflicted gay-for-pay sex worker named Rodger Dale Nunez, had been ejected from the UpStairs Lounge screaming the word “burn” minutes before, but New Orleans police rebuffed the testimony of fire survivors on the street and allowed Nunez to disappear.

As the fire raged, police denigrated the deceased to reporters on the street: “Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar.” 

For days afterward, the carnage met with official silence. With no local gay political leaders willing to step forward, national Gay Liberation-era figures like Rev. Troy Perry of the Metropolitan Community Church flew in to “help our bereaved brothers and sisters” — and shatter officialdom’s code of silence. 

Perry broke local taboos by holding a press conference as an openly gay man. “It’s high time that you people, in New Orleans, Louisiana, got the message and joined the rest of the Union,” Perry said. 

Two days later, on June 26, 1973, as families hesitated to step forward to identify their kin in the morgue, UpStairs Lounge owner Phil Esteve stood in his badly charred bar, the air still foul with death. He rebuffed attempts by Perry to turn the fire into a call for visibility and progress for homosexuals. 

“This fire had very little to do with the gay movement or with anything gay,” Esteve told a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I do not want my bar or this tragedy to be used to further any of their causes.” 

Conspicuously, no photos of Esteve appeared in coverage of the UpStairs Lounge fire or its aftermath — and the bar owner also remained silent as he witnessed police looting the ashes of his business. 

“Phil said the cash register, juke box, cigarette machine and some wallets had money removed,” recounted Esteve’s friend Bob McAnear, a former U.S. Customs officer. “Phil wouldn’t report it because, if he did, police would never allow him to operate a bar in New Orleans again.” 

The next day, gay bar owners, incensed at declining gay bar traffic amid an atmosphere of anxiety, confronted Perry at a clandestine meeting. “How dare you hold your damn news conferences!” one business owner shouted. 

Ignoring calls for gay self-censorship, Perry held a 250-person memorial for the fire victims the following Sunday, July 1, culminating in mourners defiantly marching out the front door of a French Quarter church into waiting news cameras. “Reverend Troy Perry awoke several sleeping giants, me being one of them,” recalled Charlene Schneider, a lesbian activist who walked out of that front door with Perry.

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

Esteve doubted the UpStairs Lounge story’s capacity to rouse gay political fervor. As the coroner buried four of his former patrons anonymously on the edge of town, Esteve quietly collected at least $25,000 in fire insurance proceeds. Less than a year later, he used the money to open another gay bar called the Post Office, where patrons of the UpStairs Lounge — some with visible burn scars — gathered but were discouraged from singing “United We Stand.” 

New Orleans cops neglected to question the chief arson suspect and closed the investigation without answers in late August 1973. Gay elites in the city’s power structure began gaslighting the mourners who marched with Perry into the news cameras, casting suspicion on their memories and re-characterizing their moment of liberation as a stunt. 

When a local gay journalist asked in April 1977, “Where are the gay activists in New Orleans?,” Esteve responded that there were none, because none were needed. “We don’t feel we’re discriminated against,” Esteve said. “New Orleans gays are different from gays anywhere else… Perhaps there is some correlation between the amount of gay activism in other cities and the degree of police harassment.” 

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

An attitude of nihilism and disavowal descended upon the memory of the UpStairs Lounge victims, goaded by Esteve and fellow gay entrepreneurs who earned their keep via gay patrons drowning their sorrows each night instead of protesting the injustices that kept them drinking. 

Into the 1980s, the story of the UpStairs Lounge all but vanished from conversation — with the exception of a few sanctuaries for gay political debate such as the local lesbian bar Charlene’s, run by the activist Charlene Schneider. 

By 1988, the 15th anniversary of the fire, the UpStairs Lounge narrative comprised little more than a call for better fire codes and indoor sprinklers. UpStairs Lounge survivor Stewart Butler summed it up: “A tragedy that, as far as I know, no good came of.” 

Finally, in 1991, at Stewart Butler and Charlene Schneider’s nudging, the UpStairs Lounge story became aligned with the crusade of liberated gays and lesbians seeking equal rights in Louisiana. The halls of power responded with intermittent progress. The New Orleans City Council, horrified by the story but not yet ready to take its look in the mirror, enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting gays and lesbians in housing, employment, and public accommodations that Dec. 12 — more than 18 years after the fire. 

“I believe the fire was the catalyst for the anger to bring us all to the table,” Schneider told The Times-Picayune, a tacit rebuke to Esteve’s strategy of silent accommodation. Even Esteve seemed to change his stance with time, granting a full interview with the first UpStairs Lounge scholar Johnny Townsend sometime around 1989. 

Most of the figures in this historic tale are now deceased. What’s left is an enduring story that refused to go gently. The story now echoes around the world — a musical about the UpStairs Lounge fire recently played in Tokyo, translating the gay underworld of the 1973 French Quarter for Japanese audiences.

When I finished my presentation to the City Council last June, I looked up to see the seven council members in tears. Unanimously, they approved a resolution acknowledging the historic failures of city leaders in the wake of the UpStairs Lounge fire. 

Council members personally apologized to UpStairs Lounge families and survivors seated in the chamber in a symbolic act that, though it could not bring back those who died, still mattered greatly to those whose pain had been denied, leaving them to grieve alone. At long last, official silence and indifference gave way to heartfelt words of healing. 

The way Americans remember the past is an active, ongoing process. Our collective memory is malleable, but it matters because it speaks volumes about our maturity as a people, how we acknowledge the past’s influence in our lives, and how it shapes the examples we set for our youth. Do we grapple with difficult truths, or do we duck accountability by defaulting to nostalgia and bluster? Or worse, do we simply ignore the past until it fades into a black hole of ignorance and indifference? 

I believe that a factual retelling of the UpStairs Lounge tragedy — and how, 50 years onward, it became known internationally — resonates beyond our current divides. It reminds queer and non-queer Americans that ignoring the past holds back the present, and that silence is no cure for what ails a participatory nation. 

Silence isolates. Silence gaslights and shrouds. It preserves the power structures that scapegoat the disempowered. 

Solidarity, on the other hand, unites. Solidarity illuminates a path forward together. Above all, solidarity transforms the downtrodden into a resounding chorus of citizens — in the spirit of voices who once gathered ‘round a white baby grand piano and sang, joyfully and loudly, “United We Stand.” 

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

Robert W. Fieseler is a New Orleans-based journalist and the author of “Tinderbox: the Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation.”

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New Supreme Court term includes critical LGBTQ case with ‘terrifying’ consequences

Business owner seeks to decline services for same-sex weddings



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

The U.S. Supreme Court, after a decision overturning Roe v. Wade that still leaves many reeling, is starting a new term with justices slated to revisit the issue of LGBTQ rights.

In 303 Creative v. Elenis, the court will return to the issue of whether or not providers of custom-made goods can refuse service to LGBTQ customers on First Amendment grounds. In this case, the business owner is Lorie Smith, a website designer in Colorado who wants to opt out of providing her graphic design services for same-sex weddings despite the civil rights law in her state.

Jennifer Pizer, acting chief legal officer of Lambda Legal, said in an interview with the Blade, “it’s not too much to say an immeasurably huge amount is at stake” for LGBTQ people depending on the outcome of the case.

“This contrived idea that making custom goods, or offering a custom service, somehow tacitly conveys an endorsement of the person — if that were to be accepted, that would be a profound change in the law,” Pizer said. “And the stakes are very high because there are no practical, obvious, principled ways to limit that kind of an exception, and if the law isn’t clear in this regard, then the people who are at risk of experiencing discrimination have no security, no effective protection by having a non-discrimination laws, because at any moment, as one makes their way through the commercial marketplace, you don’t know whether a particular business person is going to refuse to serve you.”

The upcoming arguments and decision in the 303 Creative case mark a return to LGBTQ rights for the Supreme Court, which had no lawsuit to directly address the issue in its previous term, although many argued the Dobbs decision put LGBTQ rights in peril and threatened access to abortion for LGBTQ people.

And yet, the 303 Creative case is similar to other cases the Supreme Court has previously heard on the providers of services seeking the right to deny services based on First Amendment grounds, such as Masterpiece Cakeshop and Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In both of those cases, however, the court issued narrow rulings on the facts of litigation, declining to issue sweeping rulings either upholding non-discrimination principles or First Amendment exemptions.

Pizer, who signed one of the friend-of-the-court briefs in opposition to 303 Creative, said the case is “similar in the goals” of the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation on the basis they both seek exemptions to the same non-discrimination law that governs their business, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, or CADA, and seek “to further the social and political argument that they should be free to refuse same-sex couples or LGBTQ people in particular.”

“So there’s the legal goal, and it connects to the social and political goals and in that sense, it’s the same as Masterpiece,” Pizer said. “And so there are multiple problems with it again, as a legal matter, but also as a social matter, because as with the religion argument, it flows from the idea that having something to do with us is endorsing us.”

One difference: the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation stemmed from an act of refusal of service after owner, Jack Phillips, declined to make a custom-made wedding cake for a same-sex couple for their upcoming wedding. No act of discrimination in the past, however, is present in the 303 Creative case. The owner seeks to put on her website a disclaimer she won’t provide services for same-sex weddings, signaling an intent to discriminate against same-sex couples rather than having done so.

As such, expect issues of standing — whether or not either party is personally aggrieved and able bring to a lawsuit — to be hashed out in arguments as well as whether the litigation is ripe for review as justices consider the case. It’s not hard to see U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has sought to lead the court to reach less sweeping decisions (sometimes successfully, and sometimes in the Dobbs case not successfully) to push for a decision along these lines.

Another key difference: The 303 Creative case hinges on the argument of freedom of speech as opposed to the two-fold argument of freedom of speech and freedom of religious exercise in the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation. Although 303 Creative requested in its petition to the Supreme Court review of both issues of speech and religion, justices elected only to take up the issue of free speech in granting a writ of certiorari (or agreement to take up a case). Justices also declined to accept another question in the petition request of review of the 1990 precedent in Smith v. Employment Division, which concluded states can enforce neutral generally applicable laws on citizens with religious objections without violating the First Amendment.

Representing 303 Creative in the lawsuit is Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that has sought to undermine civil rights laws for LGBTQ people with litigation seeking exemptions based on the First Amendment, such as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Kristen Waggoner, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote in a Sept. 12 legal brief signed by her and other attorneys that a decision in favor of 303 Creative boils down to a clear-cut violation of the First Amendment.

“Colorado and the United States still contend that CADA only regulates sales transactions,” the brief says. “But their cases do not apply because they involve non-expressive activities: selling BBQ, firing employees, restricting school attendance, limiting club memberships, and providing room access. Colorado’s own cases agree that the government may not use public-accommodation laws to affect a commercial actor’s speech.”

Pizer, however, pushed back strongly on the idea a decision in favor of 303 Creative would be as focused as Alliance Defending Freedom purports it would be, arguing it could open the door to widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“One way to put it is art tends to be in the eye of the beholder,” Pizer said. “Is something of a craft, or is it art? I feel like I’m channeling Lily Tomlin. Remember ‘soup and art’? We have had an understanding that whether something is beautiful or not is not the determining factor about whether something is protected as artistic expression. There’s a legal test that recognizes if this is speech, whose speech is it, whose message is it? Would anyone who was hearing the speech or seeing the message understand it to be the message of the customer or of the merchants or craftsmen or business person?”

Despite the implications in the case for LGBTQ rights, 303 Creative may have supporters among LGBTQ people who consider themselves proponents of free speech.

One joint friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court, written by Dale Carpenter, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who’s written in favor of LGBTQ rights, and Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment legal scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues the case is an opportunity to affirm the First Amendment applies to goods and services that are uniquely expressive.

“Distinguishing expressive from non-expressive products in some contexts might be hard, but the Tenth Circuit agreed that Smith’s product does not present a hard case,” the brief says. “Yet that court (and Colorado) declined to recognize any exemption for products constituting speech. The Tenth Circuit has effectively recognized a state interest in subjecting the creation of speech itself to antidiscrimination laws.”

Oral arguments in the case aren’t yet set, but may be announced soon. Set to defend the state of Colorado and enforcement of its non-discrimination law in the case is Colorado Solicitor General Eric Reuel Olson. Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would grant the request to the U.S. solicitor general to present arguments before the justices on behalf of the Biden administration.

With a 6-3 conservative majority on the court that has recently scrapped the super-precedent guaranteeing the right to abortion, supporters of LGBTQ rights may think the outcome of the case is all but lost, especially amid widespread fears same-sex marriage would be next on the chopping block. After the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against 303 Creative in the lawsuit, the simple action by the Supreme Court to grant review in the lawsuit suggests they are primed to issue a reversal and rule in favor of the company.

Pizer, acknowledging the call to action issued by LGBTQ groups in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, conceded the current Supreme Court issuing the ruling in this case is “a terrifying prospect,” but cautioned the issue isn’t so much the makeup of the court but whether or not justices will continue down the path of abolishing case law.

“I think the question that we’re facing with respect to all of the cases or at least many of the cases that are in front of the court right now, is whether this court is going to continue on this radical sort of wrecking ball to the edifice of settled law and seemingly a goal of setting up whole new structures of what our basic legal principles are going to be. Are we going to have another term of that?” Pizer said. “And if so, that’s terrifying.”

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

Progressive activist a veteran of Planned Parenthood Action Fund



Kelley Robinson (Screen capture via HRC YouTube)

Kelley Robinson, a Black, queer woman and veteran of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, is to become the next president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading LGBTQ group announced on Tuesday.

Robinson is set to become the ninth president of the Human Rights Campaign after having served as executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and more than 12 years of experience as a leader in the progressive movement. She’ll be the first Black, queer woman to serve in that role.

“I’m honored and ready to lead HRC — and our more than three million member-advocates — as we continue working to achieve equality and liberation for all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people,” Robinson said. “This is a pivotal moment in our movement for equality for LGBTQ+ people. We, particularly our trans and BIPOC communities, are quite literally in the fight for our lives and facing unprecedented threats that seek to destroy us.”

Kelley Robinson IS NAMED as The next human rights Campaign president

The next Human Rights Campaign president is named as Democrats are performing well in polls in the mid-term elections after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving an opening for the LGBTQ group to play a key role amid fears LGBTQ rights are next on the chopping block.

“The overturning of Roe v. Wade reminds us we are just one Supreme Court decision away from losing fundamental freedoms including the freedom to marry, voting rights, and privacy,” Robinson said. “We are facing a generational opportunity to rise to these challenges and create real, sustainable change. I believe that working together this change is possible right now. This next chapter of the Human Rights Campaign is about getting to freedom and liberation without any exceptions — and today I am making a promise and commitment to carry this work forward.”

The Human Rights Campaign announces its next president after a nearly year-long search process after the board of directors terminated its former president Alphonso David when he was ensnared in the sexual misconduct scandal that led former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign. David has denied wrongdoing and filed a lawsuit against the LGBTQ group alleging racial discrimination.

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