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Trump’s HIV/AIDS inaction in focus after 6 advisers resign

PACHA members insist Trump ‘simply does not care’ about epidemic



The White House under the Obama administration adorned with a HIV/AIDS ribbon to observe World AIDS Day. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Trump’s commitment to combatting HIV/AIDS — traditionally a bipartisan issue — has come into question following the resignation of six members of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

In a joint letter to Newsweek published on Saturday, the members who resigned — Scott Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle and Grissel Granados — said they no longer feel they can effectively combat the disease “within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care” and would engage in advocacy elsewhere.

Schoettes, counsel and HIV project director at Lambda Legal, cited in an interview with the Washington Blade as a major factor for his decision to resign the absence of concern for people with HIV/AIDS as seen in Trump’s efforts to repeal Obamacare.

“In a nutshell, it was because we wanted to make sure people living HIV were actually being taken into account as we engage in this debate around health care,” Schoettes said. “There doesn’t seem to be too much a debate going on as they write the law secretly in the Senate, but we wanted to do everything we could to raise the issue and make sure that the needs of this community were being considered as the heath care system in this country is being overhauled.”

Created in 1995, PACHA has provided advice starting in the Clinton administration and into the George W. Bush and Obama administrations to the secretary of health and human services on policy and research to promote effective treatment and prevention for HIV — maintaining the goal of finding a cure.

Such advice may now fall on deaf ears. Trump has yet to articulate a plan for HIV/AIDS in his administration, nor has his new administration made a concerted effort to address the epidemic.

Cited in the letter as a major reason for their decision to resign was the absence 132 days into the administration of a director for the White House Office of National AIDS Policy and the elimination of the Office of National AIDS Policy website.

Ogle, director of infectious diseases at the Warren-Vance Community Health Center in Henderson, N.C., said she was among those who resigned because of repeated snubs from the Trump administration on HIV/AIDS.

“Everything that we’re trying to do, they were undoing,” Ogle said. “When you add into that there was no consultation with us, there were no meetings with us to involve us in these decisions on cutting HIV/AIDS service programs, cutting prevention programs to the CDC, there was no consultation. So, we just felt that we needed to advocate at a different level and that maybe we would be better advocates outside of the government.”

At the start of the Trump administration, Ogle said PACHA sent a list of recommendations to Trump and Secretary of Health & Human Services Tom Price, and a subsequent letter on HIV/AIDS stigma, but said “there was no reaching out to us, there was no real engagement.”

That silence isn’t new. During the 2016 presidential election, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met with HIV/AIDS stakeholders (although Sanders met with them after cancelling once and was criticized for backing the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s California Drug Price Relief Act ballot proposal). As Ogle recalled, Trump “refused to meet with our stakeholders and advocates” despite their efforts.

“That was maybe an initial sign that it may be a bit more challenging to work with this administration,” Ogle said.

Trump’s approach to the disease also became apparent in cuts to HIV/AIDS programs in his proposed fiscal year 2018 budget request, which Ogle said eliminates entirely the AIDS Education Training Center as well as substance abuse and mental health services.

In addition to Medicaid rollbacks, the budget seeks to cut $150 million from the Centers for Disease Control’s HIV/AIDS prevention programs, $550 million from HIV research at the National Institutes for Health and 17 percent cuts each to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which both seek to combat the epidemic globally.

“In his budget, everything that he proposed harms what it is were doing, harms people with HIV and AIDS and makes it very difficult of us to do what we do,” Ogle said.

Ogle said other members of PACHA decided to resign from the council immediately after Trump’s election out of a lack of faith in his leadership, but said nothing at the time. Ogle declined to identify them because she said they didn’t want publicity.

Under questioning from the Blade, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Monday said he doesn’t know whether Trump would replace the PACHA members, but denied the president has no interest in HIV/AIDS, insisting he “cares tremendously about that and the impact it has.” (That was likely the first time a member of Trump’s team — either his administration or his campaign — publicly addressed HIV/AIDS.)

“Obviously, the individuals that he’s appointed here in the White House have been in communication with various stakeholders in that community to help develop policies and formulas going forward, but we’re going to continue to do what we can from a government standpoint,” Spicer said.

A White House official said Trump administration domestic policy council staffers have met HIV/AIDS groups or their representatives several times already.

Further, the White House official noted Trump hired as lead for health policy on the council, Katy Talento, an HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases expert whom health advocates have praised as “talented” as the Blade reported in January.

Talento, the official said, has met twice with the head of HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control Center on HIV/AIDS to get briefed on the state of the epidemic. Talento and the head of PEPFAR, the U.S. global AIDS program, are on speed dial and speak frequently, the official said.

The official said PACHA members who resigned never reached out to Talento or Domestic Policy Council Director Andrew Bremberg. As Spicer alluded to in the briefing, the Obama administration eliminated all of George W. Bush’s appointees on the commission during the former administration before making new appointments.

Schoettes rejected Spicer’s assertion Trump cares about HIV/AIDS, saying “actions speak louder than words” the president’s actions “demonstrate the exact opposite.”

“It is an administration that has not been talking about this issue, considering this issue, working with the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS to consider the policy recommendations that we have been making,” Schoettes said. “Then they went and backed a piece of legislation that will have a devastating effect on people living with HIV and our ability to slow-curb the epidemic, so anyone who does that is demonstrating that they don’t actually care about people living HIV.”

Other members of PACHA who elected to stay as members of the council, not joining the six others who resigned, said they respect the decision of their colleagues, but felt a continued presence was needed.

Adaora Adimora, a medical doctor and professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said she understands why PACHA members decided to step down, but felt for her “it would be best to try to continue to work toward having a favorable effect on policies from inside the council.”

Under the Obama administration, Adimora recalled working toward a common goal — with the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy as a guide — to combat the disease, which she said has changed under Trump.

“However, since this administration came, I can’t say I’ve heard specific statements about HIV,” Adimora said. “Instead we’ve seen proposal of policies that oppose expansion of health care coverage and many things that are essential for public health — and especially for people with HIV. And I think that’s a very clear problem.”

Cecilia Chung, senior strategist for the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center and the third transgender person ever appointed to PACHA, said she “struggled with whether to resign,” but decided against it to ensure trans representation.

“I have two predecessors, one was a trans woman of color living with HIV, the other was a trans man who is a researcher and an academic,” Chung said. “Being appointed to PACHA did not seem such a big deal in the beginning but I do take these opportunities to make room for other trans women and color quite seriously, and since my term is ending after September, I decided to stay and hope that I will have a chance to recommend other trans women of color to my seat.”

Bishop Oliver Clyde Allen III, founder and senior pastor of the Vision Cathedral of Atlanta, said he does “respect those that left” and that the proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid are different from his own perspective, but he decided to stay with PACHA nonetheless as a representative of the faith community.

“My being part of PACHA was not about any president or any political party,” Allen said. “I was not on the Presidential Advisory Council to be friends with Obama, who appointed me, or any administration. My role is to advocate for my community, and that’s what I do. I’ve stayed on as a faith leader because the other part is as a faith leader I hadn’t believed God told me to leave PACHA, so I’m staying.”

Patrick Sullivan, a professor of epidemiology at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, said he respects those who resigned, but elected to stay “for the same reasons that they chose to leave, which is to say that we’re all trying to put ourselves where we feel like we can have the most impact at this moment.”

“HIV is the same virus and the pressures are the same pressures regardless of what party is in office,” Sullivan said. “We have amazing scientific tools to combat the HIV epidemic in the U.S. Treatment of people with HIV, which vastly reduces the chances that someone living with HIV will pass on the virus to someone else, and now Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, which provides additional protection to people who are HIV negative and might be at risk — these are really amazing tools, and it shouldn’t be matter of partisanship.”

A common theme among PACHA members — both those who resigned and those who elected to stay – emerged over the Trump administration seeking to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the American Health Care Act.

An estimated 40 percent of people with HIV receive health coverage under Medicaid, which was significantly expanded under the Affordable Care Act for states that wanted to participate. Under the American Health Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office has determined 23 million would lose care largely due to cuts to Medicaid.

The U.S. House approved the American Health Care Act by a narrow party-line 217-213 vote. Now the U.S. Senate under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is drafting Senate Republicans’ version of the legislation in closed-door sessions with the intention of holding a vote before Congress adjourns in a matter of weeks.

Adimora didn’t hold back in her assessment that Trump’s plan to replace Obamacare with the American Health Care Act would be anything other than “disastrous” for people with HIV.

“The American Health Care Act and the administration’s previously stated interest in decreasing Medicaid is obviously disastrous for people with HIV and for the American public in general,” Adimora said. “It’s unclear to me why that is not obvious to everyone. There’s no way that you can leave so many people with inadequate health care coverage and expect the public’s health to do anything but get worse. There’s no way.”

Ogle recalled with indignation the news conference Trump held at the White House heralding as a victory House passage of the American Health Care Act.

“I saw them celebrate this in the Rose Garden on the White House lawn, a bunch of privileged white men with insurance, well-to-do, celebrating throwing 23 million people off of health insurance,” Ogle said.

Schoettes said if the U.S. government doesn’t seek to care for people with HIV with the Affordable Care Act, the nation needs “something a lot like it.”

“We need a health care system that is actually going to meet the needs of people living with HIV — as well as those with higher risk for people with HIV — and the proposal that they currently have on the table does not do either of those things,” Schoettes said.


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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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