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Gill Action Fund ‘shut down’: sources

Spokesperson disputes claim; website offline

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Tim Gill (Image courtesy of YouTube)

The Gill Action Fund, a prominent LGBT political organization founded by gay philanthropist Tim Gill, has effectively been “shut down” according to two knowledgable sources.

Sources familiar with Gill Action said the recent departures of two individuals — Shawn Werner, who served as national political director, and Tim Meinke, who served as director of political outgiving — brought the group’s operations to an end.

A spokesperson confirmed the departures of the two employees, but said Gill Action continues its work. The only change is turning to a consultant model and one of the two employees was retained in that capacity, the spokesperson said.

Tim Gill and his spouse, Scott Miller, remain as engaged in political work as they’ve always been, the spokesperson said.

But one source insisted the departures — even if one is retained as a consultant — means the organization, which once had 15 employees working on political activities, has “shut down.”

“I don’t think anything exists anymore,” one source said. “It’s probably there on paper, but I know that they’re not really doing anything anymore.”

The spokesperson called the assertion Gill Action is closed “not true” and said the organization remains as active as it has been in previous capacities.

“There’s no change in the way that they’ve been doing business other than the fact that they are using consultants as opposed to using two employees in house,” the spokesperson said. “So the things that they have been funding and the things that they have been focused on for years are going to be the things that they continue to fund and continue to work on.”

As evidence of the organization’s closure, another source pointed to Gill Action’s website, which is no longer in operation. The spokesperson said the website had merely contained the bios of the two employees who left and is being redesigned, but couldn’t say when the website would be back online.

Meanwhile, the Gill Foundation, a Denver-based non-profit funder for LGBT causes, remains in operation as it has, both sources and the spokesperson said. Although the former CEO of the organization, Courtney Cuff, departed last week, the organization has launched a campaign to replace her.

No similar campaign is underway to find a new executive director for Gill Action and instead the consultants report directly to Tim Gill, the spokesperson said.

Founded in 2005, Gill Action has aimed to advance LGBT rights behind the scenes without attention in the public and the media. That’s consistent with Tim Gill’s mode of operation; he made a fortune as a founder of the software company Quark and has a reputation for being averse to media coverage.

Early efforts include a TV ad in 2006 against former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), who introduced a U.S constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide. Instead of targeting her for the anti-gay measure, the ad featured a depiction of Musgrave pilfering the graves of fallen U.S. troops during the height of the Iraq war. Musgrave didn’t lose that year, but lost her seat during the Obama Democratic wave in the 2008 election.

In 2010, when the New York State Senate failed to approve a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state, Gill Action launched a campaign called Fight Back New York, which sought to oust Democrats who voted “no.” The campaign successfully ousted three senators in the Democratic primaries, replacing them with candidates who supported same-sex marriage. New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011.

Among the efforts in which Gill Action was engaged was passing state legislation and lobbying. In recent years, the group has sought to pass LGBT non-discrimination legislation in Michigan, but that effort failed after lawmakers wouldn’t agree to pass a trans-inclusive bill. Gill Action and others opposed the bill.

Gill Action has also had a role in managing the annual OutGiving conference, an effort for high-dollar donors seeking to give to causes that advance LGBT rights. The conference is for funders and philanthropists whose annual giving to LGBT causes exceeds $25,000. This year, OutGiving took place in May in Miami.

Traditionally, Gill Action has hosted OutGiving in even-numbered years and Gill Foundation has hosted it in odd-numbered years. The Gill Action years were political in nature, and the Gill Foundation years were philanthropic in nature.

A spokesperson said, however, the model changed in 2014. The political OutGiving was dropped in favor of regional conferences for political donors, while the model for philanthropic OutGiving remained the same. The regional conferences, the spokesperson said, will happen as planned in 2018.

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The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar and lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’

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J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
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