Connect with us

homepage news

Buoyed by Dem wins in N.H., Buckley seeks DNC chair post

Would become first openly gay leader of major party



Ray Buckley, gay news, Washington Blade
Ray Buckley, gay news, Washington Blade

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley isn’t taking a break after an Election Day in which Democrats at the top of the ticket, including Hillary Clinton, did well in his state amid losses elsewhere. He’s thrown his hat into the ring to become the next chair of the Democratic National Committee.

At a time when the DNC is reassessing after its election losses, recuperating from apparent hacking of emails by Russia and preparing for the vote on a new party chair, Buckley — the first openly gay state chair for a major party — has a lot on his plate. At the start of an interview Monday with the Washington Blade, Buckley quipped after reviewing the proposed topics for discussion, “Are you prepared to be talking for an hour or two?” (The conversation lasted a little more than 30 minutes.)

Boosting Buckley’s prospects in his bid for DNC chair is that he was the state party chair in New Hampshire on Election Day on 2016. Although Clinton’s win there was marginal, she won the state at the same time she lost Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which are states Democrats traditionally win. Gov. Maggie Hassan also won election as a Democrat over incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) in a year that was good for Republicans.

“We have a proven record here in New Hampshire by surviving the Republican wave of ’14 and ’16 — the first time in history having our entire congressional delegation as Democratic,” Buckley said. “And when you compare that to the other battleground states or purple states, nobody fared as well as we did.”

Running on a 15-point plan that he says will restore the Democrats to power much like Howard Dean’s 2006 “50-State Strategy,” Buckley said New Hampshire “should be used as a model for ground operations across the country.” Among the items in the plan is reforming the process for the Democratic presidential nomination, cultivating vibrant local and county committees and permanent Democratic headquarters in every congressional district that would be used as community centers.

“One difference that we did here in New Hampshire — and there’s a lot that has already been written about this — that we actually did persuasion to our voters,” Buckley said. “We identified them. In most of the other states, if not all of them, they simply did the modeling and did the get out the vote. There have been stories written that perhaps the Clinton campaign actually pulled out Trump voters in some states. That didn’t happen here in New Hampshire because we knew exactly who we were talking to because we actually had conversation, and more than likely it was a conversation by somebody who was their neighbor, and that had a very powerful impact on our ability to be successful.”

Buckley, 57, said a number of factors contributed to why Hillary Clinton lost the election, but he placed significant blame on the process for nominating the Democratic presidential pick. Among the ways Buckley proposed to reform the process is projecting neutrality, ensuring state delegations are reflective of their primaries, ending joint fundraising agreements during a primary and removing the chair from scheduling decisions about debates.

“I think there were millions of Democratic voters that were turned off by our nominating process and either voted for Jill Stein or wrote in Bernie Sanders or simply didn’t show up to vote, and I think that we need to reform that process significantly,” Buckley said.

Despite the wins for Democrats in New Hampshire, Republican Chris Sununu won the gubernatorial election and the state legislature remains in GOP hands.

That could spell trouble for one LGBT issue that remains outstanding in New Hampshire: The lack of transgender protections under state law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity. Earlier this year, Hassan signed an executive order barring anti-trans discrimination, but that directive is limited to state government.

Buckley said legislation to bar anti-trans discrimination in New Hampshire “certainly is going to be introduced,” but acknowledged a difficult path forward.

“I would hope that Gov. Sununu and the Republican majorities would be supportive of it,” Buckley said. I’m hopeful that they would, but that said, just four years ago, we had a Democratic majority in the New Hampshire House and a Democratic governor willing to sign it and a very close state Senate. We could not get a single Republican state senator to be supportive of the issue.”

Should Buckley succeed in his effort to become the next DNC chair, he’d become the first openly gay person to take on that role — a distinction Buckley acknowledged has significance.

“I think the reality of growing up gay in the ‘70s and ‘80s certainly has given me a particular sensitivity to all who feel marginalized in society,” Buckley said. “It has been [part of] my work within the Democratic Party from the time of my teen years — whether it’s been very supportive of electing women to office, making sure that people of color are properly represented and supported, encouraged, to young people, to the parts that make up the wonderful rainbow of the Democratic Party, making them feel they’re being reflected within the party and respected by the party.”

When Buckley first became chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party in 2007, he was the only openly gay party chair. There are now five. Buckley also enjoys the distinction of being the first openly gay person elected president of the Association of State Democratic Chairs.

“People are feeling more comfortable with running for political office, for running for party office and being openly gay,” Buckley said. “And that means transgender, bisexual, gay men and lesbians as well. It was just a few years ago, there wasn’t a single transgender member of the DNC, and now we have a couple. I think that’s progress.”

Buckley said he’d put front-and-center the 2016 Democratic Party Platform to champion LGBT issues as DNC chair. The platform, he said, has pro-LGBT language he said makes clear “elected Democrats down to the municipal level understand that we are the party of non-discrimination and the welcoming party.”

“I don’t think it’s an additional issue that needs to be included in our platform, but our platform needs to be articulated in a way that it reminds Democratic activists and elected officials from every corner to know that the party stands with the LGBTQ community,” Buckley said.

The New Hampshire Democrat is running to become next DNC chair in a crowded field that includes Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who has accrued significant endorsements, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez. But Buckley rejected the perception he’s a long-shot contender.

“The last thing I knew there were only 447 members of the DNC and as of any list I’ve seen, less than 30 of those 447 endorsed the two of them combined,” Buckley said. “And they’re terrific folks and either one of them would be a fine choice, but I also think Jamie Harrison is a phenomenal chair in South Carolina as well. I think that while folks with within Washington may have a perspective, the reality is the votes are in the states, not within the Beltway.”

Barbra Casbar Siperstein, who’s transgender and represents New Jersey as a member of the Democratic National Committee, said she intends to back Buckley in his bid to become DNC chair.

“He is smart, tough and well respected by members and staffers alike,” Siperstein said. “As a state party chair, a former Eastern Caucus Chair and now president of the Association of State Chairs he knows not only the importance of connecting to the grassroots and all the constituencies, but also the individuals in the states, the strengths, weaknesses as well as the differences among the states. The fact that he was neutral throughout the primary is a plus for bringing the different factions from within the party together.”

The election for chair will take place at the DNC’s winter meeting in Atlanta, scheduled for Feb. 23-26.

Buckley defensive over DNC email hacks

One factor cited as contributing to Clinton’s loss was the illegal hacks of the DNC and John Podesta emails, which were then published by Wikileaks and reported on by the media, including the Washington Blade. Media outlets have reported the CIA and FBI believe with “high confidence” the cyberattacks were the result of Russian hackers seeking to tilt the election in favor of Donald Trump.

Although Buckley maintained other factors were in play, such as Democrats’ ground operation in the states, he acknowledged the apparent Russian hacks were “a piece” contributing to the election results and said more investigation is warranted.

“It was unprecedented to have foreign actors be involved so aggressively and openly in our election of president,” Buckley said. “I think that it is going to go down as one of the darkest points in our political history and in the country. It certainly is important for Democrats and Republicans to work together, to find out all of the evidence that can be found and work diligently in a bipartisan manner to make sure that this never happens again.”

In his final news conference of 2016, President Obama said his administration was aware of the the hacking, but he told Russia “to cut it out” and no further attempts were made. But during an interview Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” Interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile contradicted Obama and said Russia “came after us absolutely every day until the end of the election” and “tried to hack into our system repeatedly.”

Buckley conceded he agrees with Brazile when pressed on the issue.

“I know for a fact that Donna is right,” Buckley said. “Perhaps I would assume that the president was not briefed every time there was an attempt at hacking into the DNC, but certainly she can very much document what was going on within the building.”

On whether he personally was subjected to hacking attempts, Buckley said “of course” and acknowledged Wikileaks obtained some of his emails, but added they were “simply nothing” and said he was “referenced in a few here and there, but nothing in a negative way.”

Buckley was defensive when asked to confirm whether Russian hackers sought to obtain DNC emails by hacking his personal accounts.

“I think you need to understand how horrific this really is,” Buckley said. “I don’t think it does anyone any good to taunt them, and so I prefer that we just not get into all of this. I don’t want to freak you or anything, but this really is really, really serious and it’s stuff that isn’t much fun when you’re the victim.”

After the Blade acknowledged the situation was serious, Buckley responded, “I believe it’s safe to say that most Democratic Party leaders were a victim of it in one way or another.”

To guard against further hacking, Buckley said the DNC has spent “an enormous amount of money” and established a “constant around-the-clock monitoring system” to monitor for potential cyberattacks.

“Apparently, that’s what might have happened, where somebody went in, planted something and then six months later it came alive and then sent someone’s entire email system out, so it’s having that sort of extraordinarily sophisticated system,” Buckley said. “But trust me, we are in the beginning stages of how to deal with this, and this is going to be a bipartisan challenge. The concept that a foreign power was actively engaged in manipulating the electoral process is something that you’d only think was in the movies.”

LGBT people must ‘stand up’ to Trump

Speaking to the Blade at the same time members of the Electoral College were casting their votes in state capitals and making Trump’s win official, Buckley said Democrats have the power to thwart Trump’s agenda and any reversal of LGBT rights under his administration.

“We have to stand up against any attempt to roll back any of our rights, and I’m not talking just specifically about the LGBT community,” Buckley said. “We should be fighting just as hard for voting rights, fighting just as hard for reproductive rights, for environmental rights. All of these issues affect all of our community, and people need to be very, very strong and very, very loud and very, very organized in the sense of organizing your own group of friends to do your own visibility or your own messaging.”

Among the officials Trump has picked to administer his policies are Cabinet members with a history of anti-LGBT views, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of health and human services and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as energy secretary.

Buckley said the Cabinet picks demonstrate any predictions Trump would govern as a moderate are false and compared to his nominees one could “look back at George W. Bush’s nominees for Cabinet as being moderate.”

“And I think that if we had a Democratic majority, I think a lot of them would have very difficult time being confirmed,” Buckley added. “I suspect that there will be a couple that have a very difficult time being confirmed even with a Republican majority.”

For LGBT people fearing a roll back of their rights under the Trump administration, Buckley said the main thing is to maintain solidarity — both within the LGBT community and with other groups affected by the president-elect’s policies.

“If we stick together, we will succeed because they can’t come after us all,” Buckley said. “There’s too many of us and too many of us are willing to support the transgender youth in Dallas or the young lesbians in Utah. If we all support each other, we all stand together, we will be victorious.”


homepage news

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.”

Continue Reading

homepage news

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.”

Continue Reading

homepage news

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)
Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade