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Spicer hints at coming action on anti-LGBT ‘religious freedom’ order

Trump transition official says directive being redrafted and coming soon

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Sean Spicer, gay news, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says he expects something on a “religious freedom” executive order.

Amid renewed concerns President Trump would sign a “religious order” undermining LGBT rights, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday he expects the administration would soon “have something.”

Spicer made the remarks in response to a question from the Daily Signal, an arm of the anti-LGBT Heritage Foundation, on whether the order is still coming and whether it would extend beyond the Johnson Amendment, a law Trump has pledged to repeal barring churches from making political endorsements.

“I think we’ve discussed executive orders in the past, and for the most part, we’re not going to get into discussing what may or may not come until we’re ready to announce it,” Spicer replied. “So, I’m sure as we move forward we’ll have something.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the “something” to which Spicer was referring was an actual executive order or a statement on a policy position for the way forward.

Although Trump initially passed up the opportunity to sign a proposed anti-LGBT “religious freedom” executive order at the time of the National Prayer Breakfast during the start of the administration, a recent report in The Huffington Post raised concerns a different order will come soon.

The report quotes Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the anti-LGBT Family Research Council who oversaw domestic policy for the Trump transition team, from an interview he had with Sirius XM’s Michelangelo Signorile in which Blackwell says the order is being redrafted and on the way.

“In the final analysis, what we want is an executive order that will meet the scrutiny of the judicial process,” Blackwell is quoted as saying. “If there is no executive order, that will disappoint [social conservatives]. But a good executive order will not. So we’re still in the process.”

Blackwell reportedly said the former director of Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, Ken Klukowski, had “actually structured” the initial draft order as a legal adviser to Trump’s transition team and is now one of the lawyers “in the process of redrafting it.” Klukowski is now a senior attorney at the Liberty First Institute and a contributor to Breitbart, a conservative website.

The “anchor concept” of the order, Blackwell is quoted as saying, is a directive allowing people in the course of business to refuse services to LGBT people out of religious objections.

“I think small business owners who hold a religious belief that traditional marriage is between one man and one woman should not have their religious liberty trampled upon,” he explained. “I would imagine that that will be, strongly and clearly, the anchor concept [of the order].”

No federal law prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity and an executive order like this would send a signal to individuals they should feel free to discriminate. A federal “religious freedom” executive order wouldn’t preempt state laws barring anti-LGBT discrimination.

Klukowski is also quoted in the Huffington Post article as saying he’s “not at liberty to speak about” the order specifically, but nonetheless expressed confidence Trump would act to protect religious freedom both through judicial appointments and possibly administrative actions.

“And I’m confident,” Klukowski reportedly said, “that the president is showing ― much to the shock of many establishment people who said, ‘There’s no way this’ll happen’ ― that he keeps his promises, even when they’re things that an establishment player would never do. And I’m confident that he’s going to keep his promise when it comes to protection of religious liberty as well.”

Last month, a draft executive order began circulating among federal advocacy groups that would allow persons and religious organizations — broadly defined to include for-profit companies — to discriminate on the basis of religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion and transgender identity.

At the time, the White House downplayed the draft executive order and said Trump wouldn’t sign it — at least for the time being. Media reports circulated that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kuskner convinced Trump not to sign the “religious freedom” order and the president wasn’t ever seriously considering doing so.

The White House issued a statement saying Trump would preserve the Obama-era order against workplace discrimination among federal contractors and is “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights.” That pledge of support was undermined after the administration later rescinded guidance protecting transgender students from discrimination at schools.

Olivia Dalton, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior vice president for communications and marketing, said renewed plans for an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” order shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“Donald Trump and Mike Pence have repeatedly threatened the LGBTQ community, and by their own admission this ‘license to discriminate’ order has been circulating for weeks,” Dalton said. “No one should be surprised — their despicable attack on transgender kids last week showed just how low they’re willing to go.”

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Mass shooting in Norwegian capital leaves 2 dead, cancels Pride

Gunman opened fire at Oslo gay bar

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Head of Oslo Pride Inger Kristin Haugsevje. (Screen capture via Global News YouTube)

A gunman entered an establishment popular with the LGBTQ community in the Norwegian capital city’s nightlife district on Saturday morning at approximately 1 a.m. local time and opened fire, killing two people and injuring dozens more.

A spokesperson for the Norwegian Police Service told the Washington Blade in a phone call that officials are investigating the matter as an act of terrorism. According to the official, the suspect is a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran.

Multiple eyewitnesses reported that the suspect had entered the bar and produced a semi-automatic rifle from a bag and started shooting.

Olav Roenneberg, a reporter with Norway’s largest broadcast media outlet NRK who was on scene when the shooting started, told NRK colleagues in an interview “I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting. First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”

The police official, while not confirming the weapon used, did acknowledge that the shooter had been known to Norwegian officials in the country’s security services since 2015 as a “suspected radicalized Islamist” and also apparently had a history of mental illness. The official also pointed out that up until the incident there were no previous major criminal acts committed by the suspect.

Because of the incident, organizers of the Pride parade which had been scheduled to start hours after the shooting was cancelled. The parade was set to culminate the week long Pride festivities in Oslo.

Norwegian Prime Minister Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere wrote in a public post on Facebook that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.” He added “We all stand by you,” showing support for the country’s LGBTQ citizenry.

Norway’s King Harald V issued a statement offering condolences and said he and Norway’s royal family were “horrified by the night’s shooting tragedy.”

“We sympathize with all relatives and affected and send warm thoughts to all who are now scared, restless and in grief,” the Norwegian monarch said. “We must stand together to defend our values: Freedom, diversity and respect for each other. We must continue to stand up for all people to feel safe.”

Oslo Pride issued a statement concerning cancelling the Pride parade;

“Oslo Pride has received clear advice and recommendation from the police that the parade, Pride park and other events in connection with Oslo Pride be canceled. Oslo Pride therefore asks everyone who has planned to participate in or watch the parade not to attend. All events in connection with Oslo Pride are canceled.

Now we will follow the police’s recommendations and take care of each other. Warm thoughts and love go to relatives, the injured and others affected. We will soon be proud and visible again, but today we will hold and share the pride celebrations from home,” says Inger Kristin Haugsevje, leader of Oslo Pride, and Inge Alexander Gjestvang, leader of the Association for Gender and Sexuality Diversity.

Oslo Pride has close communication with the police and is following the situation, and will provide ongoing information.

The White House reacted to the news of the shooting issuing a statement by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan;

“The horrific shooting in Norway this morning has been felt around the world. The United States strongly condemns this act of terror. We stand in solidarity with the families of the victims, the diverse and strong LGBTQI+ community of Oslo, our close NATO ally Norway, and all who have been devastated by this senseless act. The United States has been in touch with the Norwegian government and offered to provide assistance. We remain committed to continuing to partner with Norway to advance a more equitable and just world for all, free from violence and discrimination.”

Oslo shooting being investigated as act of terrorism:

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‘Gay marriage, gay sex are going to fall like fucking dominoes’

Anger, fear as protesters decry Supreme Court ruling

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Hundreds of protesters gathered Friday after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Just moments after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its decision on Friday overturning its landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade that had legalized abortion nationwide for 49 years, hundreds gathered outside the court to both protest and celebrate the ruling.

In a 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court found that access to abortion was not a right guaranteed under the language of the Constitution. The ruling effectively reversed the court’s 1973 decision that mandated states to allow the procedure in most instances throughout the first two trimesters of pregnancy.

Immediately following the decision, a group of those welcoming the decision quickly gathered in front of the court.

Anna Lulis, a member of Students for Life of America, welcomed the decision as long overdue.

“I think it is a huge victory for human rights,” Lulis said. “For far too long, since 1973, human rights have been infringed upon at an egregious level.”

Beside Lulis, Olivia Cowin, a member of Survivors LA, shared a similar reason for gathering outside the court.

“This is a celebratory day to show our support of the unborn and of women and support both simultaneously,” Cowin said.

But across the way from the court’s west side, Virginia resident Alysia Dempsey feared what the verdict in Dobbs could mean for women’s rights – including those of her four daughters.

“I believe in women’s rights, and I think that our country needs to be able to start listening to each of our stories and to have empathy for them in so many different aspects,” Dempsey said. “I feel like we’re sort of going back in time with regard to so many rights.”

Hailing from Arizona, a state under Republican legislative leadership where Planned Parenthood has already halted all abortion services pending legal clarity from the state, Hannah Waldrip cast doubt on the sincerity of anti-abortion rationale.

“For a country about personal rights and personal freedom, we’re doing an awful lot right now to limit women’s or people with uterus’ ability to do what they want with their body,” Waldrip said.

Stark divisions between the groups arose as ideological lines could be seen physically emerging between the crowds. 

And as the day progressed, those protesting the ruling quickly began to outnumber its supporters.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Among the protesters, the color green – a symbol for abortion rights activists borne out of similar movements in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America – could be seen lining the street on scarves, shirts, stickers, and elsewhere.

As the crowd grew and green began to eclipse the simmering pavement beneath the protesters, several speakers emerged at the center of the crowd.

One of those speakers was Elizabeth Paige White, a civil rights lawyer working under nationally renowned attorney Ben Crump.

In connecting Friday’s decision to the United States’ history of patriarchal structure, White called into focus the disproportionate effect the repeal of nationwide abortion access is widely expected to have on minorities and communities of color with fewer resources to travel to abortion-friendly states.

“As Black, brown, and all these women out here know, we’ve been fighting for our rights since the inception of this country,” White said. “We have been fighting to have rights over our own bodies since the inception of this country.”

With the repeal of Roe, decisions on whether to legalize or outlaw abortion will now be left to each state. As of Friday’s ruling, 13 states are set to make almost all abortions illegal, having passed “trigger bans” designed to take effect in the immediate aftermath of Roe’s demise or within the next month.

However, many abortion rights supporters, activists, and lawmakers still fear that the curtailing of reproductive rights won’t end with the court’s decision.

Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) addressed the crowd with a message of urgency and revelation.

“At the end of the day, let me just say, here’s what’s next,” Cortez-Masto said. “I’ve got some of my Republican colleagues based on this decision who are already drafting legislation to restrict abortion in this country. If they win this election, they will pass that legislation and it will preempt all of the state laws we have protecting women in this country when it comes to our right to choose.”

Beyond a nationwide restriction on abortion, some fear even more privacy restrictions are coming.

Such privacy rights have been established in other Supreme Court rulings based on the same Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment that justices used to interpret nationwide abortion rights nearly half a century ago. These cases have included those that established access in all states to contraception, same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and the right to same-sex relations in the privacy of one’s home.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Among the crowd gathered on Friday, such was a sobering outlook for many.

“Gay marriage, interracial marriage, gay sex are going to fall like fucking dominoes if we let them,” one speaker outside the court said.

Anger and fear could be felt permeating the crowd. Activists, however, were determined to turn their compatriots’ fears into action and change.

“We must get out in the streets,” the speaker said. “We need millions of people all around the country because this affects every single living, breathing person in this country whether they realize it yet or not.”

Among protesters’ trepidation regarding the future of women’s rights and privacy rights in America, many clung to a message of hope as speakers and activists pledged to continue fighting.

“They have worked to keep us down, they worked to keep us enslaved, they worked to keep us out of the polls, they worked to keep us out of political offices, they’ve worked to keep us in the home,” White said. “But we know, as we fought for centuries, that this will not stand.”

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Comings & Goings

Cummings joins White House Office of National Cyber Director

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John Cummings

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Congratulations to John Cummings on joining the Office of the National Cyber Director at the White House as Director of Supply Chain and Technology Security. Upon getting the position, he said, “I am beyond thrilled to join the growing team at the National Cyber Director’s Office and bring my experience to our mission of mitigating the cyber threats facing our nation and ensuring every American can enjoy the full benefits of the digital ecosystem. It is truly a privilege to work with this incredibly brilliant and collegial group of cyber experts.” 

Prior to joining the White House, Cummings served as Associate General Counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Before that role, he served as interim Chief Counsel for ODNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center and as Associate General Counsel for the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

He has provided legal advice and counsel on matters of government-wide and interagency policy and national security in the areas of executive authority, cyber, constitutional law, civil rights and civil liberties, legislative affairs, and international cooperation. He has worked on recruiting LGBTQ, women, and minority applicants for government roles in national security and is experienced in public relations, stakeholder relationships, and international partnerships. 

Cummings began his career clerking for the Honorable Ivan L.R. Lemelle, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and also clerked for the House Committee on Homeland Security and the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security.

He attended Villanova University where he received a bachelor’s degree in English. He earned his J.D. from Loyola Law, New Orleans, and his LL.M. in National Security Law from Georgetown Law.

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