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D.C. competing against two cities to host Gay Games

A look at LGBT rights in two cities competing with Washington to host Gay Games



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The Gay Games attract thousands of athletes and spectators; D.C. faces competition from two cities in its bid to host the 2022 event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Advocates in Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico say LGBT rights and the quality of life for LGBT people have advanced significantly over the past decade in their respective cities as they compete against D.C. to host the 2022 Gay Games.

With the assistance of LGBT sports groups, both cities have submitted a bid to the Federation of Gay Games highlighting their city’s reputation for hosting large international events and its ability to accommodate tourists and visitors, especially LGBT visitors.

The FGG announced in February that Washington, D.C., Hong Kong and Guadalajara had been selected as the three finalists in the process of selecting the host city for the 2022 Gay Games. The FGG said it would select the winning city at its annual meeting in October following visits by its site selection committee to each of the three cities in June.

As many as 15,000 mostly LGBT athletes and as many as 10,000 spectators are expected to attend the Gay Games in 2018 in Paris, and it’s possible that a similar number could turn out for the 2022 Gay Games, observers have said.

Mayor Bowser and the City Council have expressed strong support for D.C.’s bid and the region’s existing sporting venues, infrastructure, and its long record of inclusive pro-LGBT laws make the city a strong contender for the Gay Games, observers have said.

A 300-plus page bid document submitted by Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 and an LGBT sports group called Out in Hong Kong says efforts to bring the Gay Games to Hong Kong have received “active support” from the Hong Kong government, the city’s Equal Opportunities Commission, the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, which oversees relations between Hong Kong and China.

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said the city government is working diligently to support the city’s bid for the 2022 Gay Games. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT sports leaders in Guadalajara have joined with the Guadalajara Convention and Visitors Bureau to submit that city’s bid for the 2022 Gay Games, according to FGG official David Killian. Similar to Hong Kong, Guadalajara’s bid document says the city government and a large number of mainline sports organizations as well as LGBT sports groups in Guadalajara and other cities in Mexico, including Mexico City, have expressed strong support for holding the Gay Games in Guadalajara and have pledged to assist in hosting the Games.

Both Hong Kong and Guadalajara state in their bid documents that holding the Gay Games in their respective cities would mark the first time the Games have been held in either Asia or Latin America. The two documents also point out that while LGBT rights have advanced significantly in both cities discrimination and bias still exists and holding the Gay Games in their respective cities could play a role in strengthening support for LGBT equality.

Recent reports published by Out Right Action International, an LGBT advocacy organization that monitors LGBT-related developments in countries throughout the world, confirm that LGBT equality has advanced significantly in Hong Kong and Mexico. The reports also point out that similar to other countries, including the United States, LGBT people are not fully protected under the law in some areas and anti-LGBT bias and discrimination remain a problem.

Status of LGBT rights in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong (Photo by Diliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

As a British colony, Hong Kong had long criminalized homosexual acts under British law and did not repeal its anti-sodomy law until 1991, long after it had been repealed in Great Britain. However, under the decriminalization in Hong Kong the age of consent for gay men was set at 21 while it remained at age 16 for heterosexuals. The law was silent about lesbians. It was not until 2006 that a court ruled the higher age of consent for gay men violated Hong Kong’s Bill of Rights Ordinance, resulting in an age of consent at 16 for gays and straights.

In a separate court ruling in 2005 it was declared that the Bill of Rights Ordinance could be interpreted to cover sexual orientation in its non-discrimination protections. But the ordinance only applies to government agencies and not to private sector institutions.

Despite a growing LGBT rights movement with numerous LGBT advocacy groups and annual LGBT Pride celebrations, advocates have yet to persuade the Hong Kong government to legally ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the private sector. Hong Kong law also does not recognize same-sex relationships.

Although tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community has grown significantly in Hong Kong since the 2000s, according to activists there, a setback surfaced in 2011 when Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department retained a controversial psychiatrist to train social workers on how to use conversion therapy to change people from gay to straight.

Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 nevertheless says in its bid document that the fight for LGBT equality in Hong Kong has been gathering momentum in recent years, “fueled by renowned local figures proudly proclaiming their homosexuality and encouraged by progressive legislation in other countries.”

Meanwhile, the arrest this week by Hong Kong police of nine leaders of a 2014 pro-democracy campaign one day after a committee considered supportive of China chose Hong Kong’s next chief executive officer is not expected to adversely impact Hong Kong’s bid to host the 2022 Gay Games, according to activists familiar with Hong Kong politics.

Some observers said the arrests of the protest leaders immediately after the selection of a new Hong Kong government leader, Carrie Lam, who was favored by Beijing, is a sign that China’s influence over Hong Kong is on the rise and the longstanding tension between Hong Kong and China was expected to increase.

“Lam’s victory, despite her lack of representation and popular support, reflects the Chinese Communist Party’s complete control over Hong Kong’s electoral process and its serious intrusion of Hong Kong’s autonomy,” Joshua Wong, leader of a dissident political party in Hong Kong, told the New York Times.

With China’s policies on LGBT issues considered significantly less supportive than Hong Kong’s policies, some observers say it’s hard to predict where Hong Kong’s LGBT community will stand five years from now when the Gay Games would be held.

But in response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade, Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 officials Dennis Philipse and Benital Chick sent the Blade an email statement saying the association with China by Hong Kong’s newly selected government leader, Carrie Lam, could be a benefit to the LGBT community.

“We know from our constant contact with those close to Ms. Lam that she appears to be supportive and we have no reason to believe otherwise,” the statement says. “Ms. Lam is both aligned with Beijing and strongly vested in maintaining Hong Kong as the open Western gateway to Asia as it has for hundreds of years,” the statement says.

“While tensions between China and Hong Kong exist on many levels in terms of economic and political issues, China has been tolerant toward apolitical gay issues as seen in the many gay events now held in China such as the Shanghai Pride and homosexual movies/TV series in China,” the two activists said in their statement.

“There have been LGBT+ sports leagues in China and gay issues have never been a source of tension between Hong Kong and China. As such, we don’t see any potential problems that will arise in holding the Gay Games,” the statement concludes.

Under an agreement with Great Britain in 1997, the British returned Hong Kong to China with the understanding that for the next 50 years Hong Kong would retain an autonomous system of government and its relationship with China would consist of “one country, two systems.”

Experts familiar with China note that since that time China has pushed hard to increase its influence over Hong Kong, leading to growing tension between Beijing and Hong Kong’s leaders and its diverse population. Observers say that so far China has not sought to curtail LGBT rights advances in Hong Kong.

According to Out Right Action International, since China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from its official list of mental disorders in 2001, the Chinese government “has remained largely silent on the issue of homosexuality.”

However, the policy of silence has left in place widespread discrimination against LGBT people throughout Chinese society that is not covered under China’s non-discrimination laws covering employment and other areas, Out Right Action says in a 2014 report on China. LGBT couples are not recognized as families under China’s laws, the report says.

As of early this week the Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to a question from the Washington Blade asking if China has a position on whether the Gay Games should be held in Hong Kong.

LGBT rights in Guadalajara

Guadalajara, Mexico. (Photo by Allenpivot; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Although LGBT rights in Mexico have advanced significantly in recent years, LGBT Mexicans can boast that same-sex sexual acts were decriminalized in Mexico 1871 – far ahead of the United States. The decriminalization came shortly after France’s brief occupation of Mexico ended and the Napoleonic Code was adopted, which, among other things, did not define consensual sodomy as a crime.

Activists familiar with Mexico note, however, that separate laws prohibiting “public immorality” or “indecency” have long been used to prosecute gays under certain circumstances.

LGBT organizations began to form in some regions of Mexico in the 1970s, with LGBT parades taking place in Mexico City since 1979 and in Guadalajara since the 1990s.

Out Right Action International reports that although Mexico’s constitution doesn’t specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, a clause in the constitution banning discrimination based on “preferences of any kind” and for “any other reason which degrades human dignity” have been interpreted by some legal experts means LGBT people should be covered under the document.

In a separate development, Mexico’s national legislature in 2003 passed a law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in employment, but the law doesn’t cover gender identity or expression.

In 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for states and regions to ban same-sex marriage. However, the ruling did not make the action immediately and fully binding on states, where, like in the U.S., marriage laws are written. Unless approved by newly adopted state laws, same-sex couples must file a legal petition and incur legal costs of $1,000 or more in order to obtain a marriage license.

In a separate ruling, the Mexican Supreme Court in January 2016 effectively legalized same-sex marriage in the state of Jalisco, which includes Guadalajara and the popular gay resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

Several other Mexican cities, meanwhile, including Mexico City, had legalized same-sex marriage, resulting in a patchwork of places where same-sex couples could marry in a way similar to heterosexual couples.

Last year, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto attempted to resolve that problem by introducing legislation to amend the constitution to fully legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country. The legislation died in committee last November following a groundswell of opposition from the Catholic Church and conservative factions in the country.

The vote to kill the legislation followed numerous protest rallies both for and against the measure, prompting LGBT people to become active in many parts of the country where LGBT activism had not been visible.

Guadalajara’s bid document for the 2022 Gay Games expresses optimism that the overall LGBT rights advances in Mexico will make Guadalajara an excellent setting for the Games.

“Since 1982, at the start of the Gay Games, the people of Mexico have pushed our legislative system into the modern era and there is no going back,” the document says. “With progress year by year, Mexico has seen at first hand change in its citizens and in its political system.”

The document praises President Pena Nieto for his support for LGBT equality and notes that, among other things, he has taken steps to make sure transgender people can enter Mexico to participate in or watch the Gay Games even if their passports or birth certificates don’t reflect the gender to which they currently present.

“It is our intension to increase the participation of members of the LGBT community in Latin America for the first time in the history of the Gay Games,” the bid document says.

The bid document notes that Guadalajara has hosted large international events, including the Pan American Games in 2011, and its infrastructure for hosting the Gay Games is already in place.

“As a community, not only Guadalajara but Mexico, we have moved forward with the inclusion and integration of the LGBT community,” the bid document says. “Growing year by year, Mexico is hungry and anxious for an opportunity to demonstrate our potential,” it says.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said the city government and several of its key agencies are working diligently to support the city’s bid for the 2022 Gay Games.

Brent Minor, president of Team D.C., which is coordinating the city’s bid for the Games, said he prefers not to comment on whether political issues in Hong Kong might impact that city’s bid for the Games.

“I don’t know enough about the geopolitics of Hong Kong,” he said, adding that he hasn’t closely followed Hong Kong’s or Guadalajara’s bids for the Games.

“We are focused on the D.C. bid and we really want the Games to come here because we think we can offer a quality experience that’s accessible to a lot of people,” said Minor. “And so we’re very focused on that.”


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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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