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LGBT rights vs. ‘religious freedom’ on full display at hearing

Frank, Obergefell testify against First Amendment Defense Act



First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade
First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) spoke at a hearing for ‘religious freedom’ on July 12, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The national debate between LGBT rights and anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom” was on full display Tuesday during a congressional hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act.

The House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held the three-and-a-half hour hearing on the federal legislation on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the committee, said during his opening statement he convened the hearing because free exercise of religion “has been and still is the fundamental part of the foundation of our nation.”

“Religion is part of what so many Americans believe in, that is their choice to believe in,” Chaffetz said. “It does not mean I want to hurt or restrict somebody else of their rights, their pursuit of happiness.”

Introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) in the U.S. House and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the U.S. Senate, the First Amendment Defense Act would block federal government action against individuals and businesses that oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds, but critics contend it would legalize anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.”

Opponents of the First Amendment Defense Act say it would allow businesses to withhold benefits from LGBT employees, allow companies to deny time off to an employee to care for a same-sex spouse and permit housing discrimination against same-sex couples.

The legislation has undergone changes since it was first introduced. Among other things, it now would prevent federal government action against individuals and businesses that oppose same-sex marriage and sexual relations outside of marriage as well as action against individuals who support gay nuptials.

Also now excluded from the religious protections the bill affords are federal employees acting within the scope of government, for-profit federal contractors acting within the scope of that contract as well as hospitals and nursing homes for the purposes of visitation and medical treatment.

Both Labrador and Lee testified in favor of the bill before the committee, but didn’t stay to take any questions from committee members.

Lee said the First Amendment Defense Act is necessary as a result of uncertainty felt by opponents of same-sex marriage in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in favor of marriage equality nationwide.

“What an individual or an organization believes about marriage is not and never should be any of the government’s business,” Lee said. “It certainly should never be part of the government’s eligibility rubric in distributing licenses, awarding accreditations or issuing grants, and the First Amendment Defense Act simply ensures that this will always remain true in America.”

The legislation has 171 co-sponsors in the House and 37 co-sponsors in the Senate, but only one, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), is a Democrat.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), top Democrat on the committee, said during his opening statement the hearing marks a “terribly sad day” for LGBT people and the nation because of the one-month anniversary of the Orlando shooting.

“As I sit here now, it is difficult to imagine a more inappropriate day to hold this hearing,” Cummings said. “Even if you truly believe that being gay is morally wrong, or that people should be allowed to discriminate against gay people, why in the world would you choose today of all days to hold a hearing on this discriminatory legislation? To say this hearing is ill-timed is the understatement of the year.”

Cummings asked during his opening statement for Labrador and Lee to address what is the difference between discriminating against someone for being gay and being black.

“With everything going on in the country right now — these horrific shootings of gay people, black people, police officers — what we should be doing is coming together as a nation, not tearing each other apart, which is exactly what this bill does,” Cummings said.

Responding to Cummings, Labrador insisted in his testimony “our bill does not take away anyone’s rights” or enable discrimination against LGBT people.

“We have gone through painstaking time and effort to make sure that this takes nothing away from any individual, but in a measured way, we protect the right enshrined in the Constitution,” Labrador said.

Representing conservative concerns that inspired the legislation during the hearing was former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who was suspended without pay, then terminated last year after he distributed to subordinates a book he wrote that expressed a biblical condemnation of homosexuality.

“Only a few paragraphs of the 162-page book address teachings, biblical teachings, on marriage and sexuality, verses taken directly from the Holy Scripture,” Cochran said. “Yet the City of Atlanta’s officials, including Mayor Reed made it clear that it was those beliefs that resulted in my suspension, the investigation and my termination.”

Recalling the racial discrimination he faced at the start of his firefighting career, Cochran said he “made a promise that if I were ever in charge no one would have to go through the horrors of discrimination that I endured because I was different from the majority.”

Cochran said that’s why he created a doctrine for Atlanta fire rescue personnel that he said protected every member of the department and the community it serves.

Counterbalancing Cochran among the minority witnesses was Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that won same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court. During the hearing, Obergefell talked about his story as he cared for his dying spouse, John Arthur, but was unable to obtain state recognition of his marriage.

“As important that it is that same-sex couples like John and I have the ability to obtain a civil marriage license in any state of the country, it is also critically important that this constitutional right is not undermined by proposals like this legislation that would subject loving couples like me and John and other LGBTQ people to discrimination,” Obergefell said.

First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade

Jim Obergefell speaks at a hearing about the First Amendment Defense Act. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former Rep. Barney Frank, who’s gay and in a same-sex marriage, offered testimony against the legislation that was characteristically colorful, saying the measure is “very personal” because it singles out a particular religious tenet for protection under current law.

“This is a legislative enactment that essentially the fact that I live in a loving, committed marriage with another man is somehow a threat to other people’s freedom, and that Congress has to single that out to act against it,” Frank said.

Among other things, Frank condemned the legislation because it would allow a non-profit housing organization to collect taxpayer money, including from LGBT people, and subsequently deny that housing to them on the basis of opposition to same-sex marriage.

Frank also said the legislation would disadvantage children being raised by gay couples by allowing agencies receiving federal grants to deny benefits to same-sex households and, even though the bill excludes federal workers, would allow state workers administering federal programs to discriminate against LGBT people.

Under questioning, Frank said he doesn’t think Cochran should have been fired and admitted he’d support a bill prohibiting the termination of an employee from expressing opposition to same-sex marriage, so long as that opinion isn’t relevant to the position, but doesn’t think the First Amendment Defense Act accomplishes that.

Katherine Franke, a law professor and director of Columbia University’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, testified against the legislation on the basis that it “creates an absolute immunity for opponents of same-sex marriage.”

“Even more worrisome than the fact that FADA is creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, FADA does not defend, but rather violates the First Amendment,” Franke said. “It does so by unsettling the delicate balance our Constitution and our courts have struck between protecting the free exercise of religion and preventing the establishment of religion by the federal government.”

Under any reading of the bill, Franke said the First Amendment Defense Act wouldn’t provide relief to Cochran because it would “never address” the facts of his termination as Atlanta fire chief.

Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel and senior vice president of U.S. legal advocacy for the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, testified in favor of the bill on the basis the protections it affords are narrowly crafted.

“We’ve already today heard tall tales that Americans will lose rights under FADA if it is adopted,” Waggoner said. “Let us be clear that is not true. FADA is very limited in scope and it does not take away civil rights protections. Any suggestion to the contrary is not supported by the bill’s text.”

Matthew Franck, a political science professor from the New Jersey-based Witherspoon Institute, said the bill is needed because the Supreme Court’s marriage decision “cast a shadow” on “religious freedom.”

“The reasonable belief that the true meaning of marriage is its traditional meaning, the conjugal union of a man and a woman, can be expected to persist among millions of our fellow citizens,” Franck said. “In part, this is because that view is supported by their religious faith, though moral convictions on this subject can be strongly held for non-religious reasons, too.”

Franck compared the First Amendment Defense Act to the Hyde Amendment, which passed in 1976 to bar federal government payments on abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to the procedure in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Republicans on the committee expressed support for the bill as a means to protect “religious freedom” while Democrats said it would undermine LGBT rights. Generally, the committee members sought validation of their views by questioning witnesses in line with their perspective without seeking comment from the other side.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said language in the First Amendment Defense Act defining D.C. as part of the federal government would effectively “make the capital of the nation a discrimination zone” for LGBT people.

“On behalf of the people that I represent in the District of Columbia of every sexual orientation, I’m deeply offended by this bill because it is not only an attack an our own LGBTQ community’s rights we have gone very far in protecting, but it is an attack on the sovereignty of the District of Columbia itself,” Norton said.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a committee member and founder of the House Freedom Caucus, was among the Republicans expressing indignation over Cochran’s firing, saying “people like Cochran are heroes.”

“That is exactly why we have a First Amendment,” Jordan said. “You do not have to check your beliefs, right? That’s what this country is about when you talk about the First Amendment. You have to check your beliefs at the door? Are you kidding me? That’s why this bill is so important.”

The next steps for the legislation weren’t immediately known. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who filled in as chair of the committee after Chaffetz departed, obtained commitments from Franke and Waggoner to come to an agreement on a change to the bill that would ensure it doesn’t impinge on federal civil rights law.

House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform didn’t respond to the Washington Blade on when, if at all, the committee would seek to move the legislation for a vote on the House floor.


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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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