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Confronting racism in LGBT community

Black leaders speak out; inclusion in mainstream orgs called insufficient



racism, gay news, Washington Blade

‘I think what you’re seeing … is that folks are no longer waiting for these establishment or mainstream organizations to get it,” said Angela Peoples, executive director of Get Equal. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Strong concerns raised earlier this month by a local LGBT group that D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes the city’s annual LGBT Pride parade and festival, has not adequately addressed issues of concern to people of color came as a surprise to some in the LGBT community.

During a May 8 meeting of the Capital Pride Alliance’s board of directors, members of a newly formed coalition called No Justice No Pride said the board included only a few token members who were people of color and the board as a whole, according to No Justice No Pride members, remains insensitive to the needs and issues of people of color, especially transgender people of color.

Capital Pride officials, who dispute that assessment, said they nevertheless welcome the views of everyone in the LGBT community and promised to redouble their efforts to be more inclusive and to better represent people of color and the full diversity of the community.

In interviews this week, the Washington Blade asked four prominent black LGBT leaders who head local and national LGBT organizations to talk about how they see the current state of race relations within the LGBT community and within LGBT organizations.

The Blade also interviewed a prominent African-American official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the activist is not authorized to speak to the media.

Do the concerns by people of color that surfaced at the Capital Pride Alliance meeting earlier this month go beyond Capital Pride and touch on other local and national LGBT organizations?

Guillaume Bagal, the recently elected president of D.C.’s Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, who’s black, said the answer is yes.

“While race-related issues are at the forefront of the Capital Pride dispute, it is simply a manifestation of what has been brewing for decades in local and national LGBTQ organizations,” Bagal said.

“Take the District for instance,” he told the Blade in a statement. “Despite our richness in both social and advocacy LGBTQ groups, there remains an air of segregation many have either grown accustomed to or continue to justify rather than addressing head on. The call to address Black and Brown issues within the LGBTQ community will only get louder, and I hope LGBTQ organizations at the local and national level begin to reflect the needs of people living at the intersection of multiple societally marginalized identities.”

He said local and national LGBT organizations “need to come to terms with the reality that unless race is specified, it’s white.”

“By this I mean that unless you are intentional in addressing the needs of people of color or other minority groups, you are likely catering to the same white, cisgender, middle and upper-class gay men,” he said. “Furthermore, using words like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ is problematic when your leadership does not reflect the community you claim to serve, and your organizational decisions are perceived as shallow and tone-deaf by communities of color.”

GLAA President Guillaume Bagal (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Earl Fowlkes is executive director of the Center for Black Equity, a national D.C.-based group that advocates for African-American LGBT people and helps organize Black Pride events in the U.S. and abroad. He is also president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus.

‘I think there are always issues of inclusion that have to be dealt with. And we have to struggle with those,’ said longtime advocate Earl Fowlkes.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“The reality is in our community, the LGBTQ community, we still struggle with issues of race and class and age and gender identity, and they all intertwine,” he told the Blade. “It’s very complicated.”

He noted that while Capital Pride continues to encounter problems related to people of color he feels things have improved in recent years.

“I’ve noticed an increase in black participants in the parade of affinity groups and organizations,” he said in discussing the Capital Pride events. “And also people who were watching the parade – there are more people of color watching the parade,” Fowlkes said.

“But we have to look at this more holistically and understand that it’s not just the three days where we have to be better about race for Pride,” Fowlkes continued. “It should be the whole year. We don’t socialize together. There are very few places where black and white socialize together, which is the basis of relationships and friendships, the basis of understanding,” he said.

“And until we start doing that and creating those spaces to do that we’re going to have misunderstandings and a lack of sensitivity toward issues of race,” Fowlkes said.

He added, “It’s difficult because if you focus on three days of the year as opposed to looking at the entire year there are tensions as we have gentrification, where people of color, particularly blacks who lived in D.C. for many years are forced to move out because of the increase in housing costs. And a lot of those people are LGBT too.”

Angela Peoples, executive director of the national LGBT direct action group Get Equal and a member of the No Justice No Pride coalition, said she is surprised that members of the LGBT community would be asking at this time whether there are shortcomings among LGBT organizations and LGBT events pertaining to racial justice and people of color.

“I’m sorry – I’m a little taken aback by the question because this is part of the premise of the entire No Justice No Pride campaign,” she said. “It’s part of the reason that there is a Black Pride, Latino Pride, etc. in the first place,” Peoples said.

“It’s because the LGBT community historically and today has been racist and at best has encouraged people of color, particularly black folks, to fall in line.”

Most importantly, Peoples said, none of this is a new development in the LGBT community.

“So yes, there are issues. There have been issues for decades. This is not new. This is not the first time,” she said.

“And I think what you’re seeing, especially all across the country, is that folks are no longer waiting for these establishment or mainstream organizations or for the mainstream movement to get it,” she continued.

Among other things, Peoples said more LGBT organizations and advocates need to undertake a “serious conversation” about who the leadership should be, who we put our resources in,” and who should be involved in these conversations.

“And it seems to me that the mainstream movement time and time again is not willing to do that,” she said. “We’ve called on HRC to divest from Wells Fargo because of their treatment of black and brown communities. We’ve called on the Task Force and Creating Change to divest from Wells Fargo because of their relationship with the Dakota Access Pipeline and to private prisons.”

“And these groups don’t want to respond. They don’t want to hear truth,” Peoples said.

She was referring to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, and the National LGBTQ Task Force’s selection of Wells Fargo Bank as a corporate sponsor. Creating Change is a national LGBT conference organized by the Task Force.

“Wells Fargo has not been a direct sponsor of Creating Change in years and as of July 1, 2017 they will no longer be a national corporate sponsor of the National LGBTQ Task Force,” said Russell Roybal, the group’s deputy executive director.

“They remain the presenting sponsor of the Task Force Gala-Miami as they have for the last several years,” Roybal added.

A spokesperson for HRC couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. HRC has said Wells Fargo Bank has consistently received the HRC Foundation’s highest rating for a corporation on internal personnel policies for LGBT employees.

Isaiah Wilson, external affairs director for the National Black Justice Coalition, another D.C.-based group that advocates for the black LGBT community, said mainstream LGBT rights organizations have historically not focused on many of the issues deemed important for LGBT people of color.

“In thinking about the last decade, marriage equality was the fight,” said Wilson. “We were very much in support of that fight, but that was a very privileged fight,” he said. “It doesn’t take into consideration the most marginalized within the LGBTQ community and our issues. And when we look at those issues we’re just trying to survive. We’re just trying to get employment where we can be our authentic selves and that we’re protected and that we can’t be fired just because of who we are as LGBT people who happen to be LGBT people of color,” Wilson said.

“There has always been this issue around what are the issues we’re fighting for. And do those issues come from a place of privilege? It’s incumbent upon the movement to always center on the most marginalized, the most left behind,” he said.

In pointing to the issues that matter most to many LGBT people of color, Wilson added, “If you don’t have employment protections, if you don’t have housing protections, if you don’t have access to health care that is accessible and of quality then who cares about a marriage certificate when your quality of life is still marginalized, it’s still oppressed?”

When asked if what appears to be a large number of people of color in D.C., both LGBT and straight, who have jobs in professions such as law, medicine, business, and elective office is a sign of possible change, Wilson expressed caution.

“You’re speaking of individuals,” he said. “I’m talking about systemic issues. Racism is not – please quote me on this. Racism is not about only individuals. Racism is about institutions of a system that supports racist outcomes,” he continued.

“So yes, we might have a judge. We just had the first black president. But the state of black America some would argue is still horrible. We still have record unemployment rates. We still have the Affordable Care Act that gives us access to health care, but that is being taken away,” said Wilson.

“And so like everything else, the LGBT equality movement is continuing to have to deal with this notion of marginalization that really comes from a place of systemic oppression via racism.”

The activist who spoke on condition of anonymity agreed with many of the points raised by Peoples and Wilson.

“I would say that as with most things, what goes on in the LGBTQ community mirrors what goes on in the mainstream community when it comes to racism and patriarchy and socio-economic differences and oppression,” the activist said.

“So it’s never gone away and as long as it’s not addressed it’s not going to go away,” said the activist. “I think what you’re seeing is a lot of the racial tensions that are bubbling up to the surface have been there underneath.”

The activist added, “And I think while some of these organizations realize that changes have to be made, not everybody realizes the urgency. They think they can do it over the course of time. And I think what you’re seeing is young activists are saying they’re not going to wait anymore. They’re very vocal. They’re very impatient. And they’re coming from another era that most people my age aren’t used to.”

The activist said some of the issues raised by groups such as No Justice No Pride are valid while other issues being raised are not valid, such as banning police from the Capital Pride parade.

“But there seems to be no middle ground,” said the activist. “If the powers that be met the activists on some middle ground and say this is what we can do now and this is what we can do moving forward you would see some movement. But I think everybody’s in an all-or-nothing stance and that’s unfortunate.”

Fowlkes said while many hurdles remain in the quest for full inclusion of people of color in LGBT organizations and institutions he sees important progress being made on that front locally.

“Capital Pride is taking a great deal of energy into improving its relationship with different parts of our community, including Black Pride,” he said. “We work with them. We talk to them. We have a relationship with them. And we will be participating in their Pride and they participate in our Pride.”

Fowlkes, who has played a lead role in organizing D.C.’s Black Pride activities for over a decade, said the different Pride events held in D.C. each year such as Black Pride, Trans Pride, and Latino Pride are not mutually exclusive.

“People need to understand their communities and be proud of their communities, whatever part of the community they come from,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t participate in Capital Pride or Capital Pride is evil,” he continued.

“I think there are always issues of inclusion that have to be dealt with. And we have to struggle with those,” said Fowlkes. “And there’s nothing wrong with that struggle. That struggle brings growth. And we have to always keep struggling and we have to be reminded of how important that struggle is.”


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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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