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Part one: Living in the lion’s den

Gay men in Nigeria have been targeted online



Gay and bisexual men in Nigeria have been targeted for kidnapping and extortion through online hookup apps. (Photo courtesy of Peter Okeugo)

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series about gay men in Nigeria who are held hostage, blackmailed and extorted after using hookup apps. The series will also explore their psychological struggles with trauma.

LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigerian born, U.K.-based LGBT activist Bisi Alimi, on March 22 sent out an alert on Twitter about men who posed as members of the LGBT community to lure victims to unknown locations where they were held against their will, extorted and blackmailed. He wrote he had responded to six cases the previous day and the victims were lured through Grindr, a mobile dating application for gay men. The tweet read:

“Let’s get this right. In the last 24hrs, I have had to deal with six cases of gay men being set up on @Grindr in #Nigeria. The operation is the same. The men are tricked by men who pretend to be gay, lured them (sic) to a secluded area, beat (sic), rape (sic) and collect their money (sic).”

“These men threatened their victims not to tell the police or anyone about what has happened…”

The genesis

March 21 is a day that Kelvin (not real name) may not soon forget, or perhaps, in his entire life. The day started unusually boring for him, but he hoped to make it eventful. Ironically, it turned out to be a sad event.

“I was bored that morning,” Kelvin said. “I called one of my friends and told him that I was tired of staying at home. He encouraged me to sign up on Grindr, and possibly find someone I could talk with to get over the boredom.”

Kelvin heeded his friend’s advice and after about an hour and 30 minutes of being on the app, he was “lucky” to find someone (Charles) with whom he could talk. It was no such luck. They settled into the conversation; and when they got a bit comfortable with each other, they exchanged pictures and Instagram profile details. Because the pictures Charles had on Instagram were the same as the ones on Grindr, Kelvin felt at ease.

They set up a date and agreed to meet that morning.

“He invited me over to his house because he was bored as well,” said Kelvin. “But I declined the invitation with the excuse that I was preparing for my examinations and needed to read.”

However, he convinced Kelvin, who felt a change of environment was the motivation he needed to study and agreed to visit him.

Plot twist, different strategy

Apart from using Grindr, it seems blackmailers have devised a new method of luring their victims. For Tunde (not real name), an accountant, it was emotional blackmail. March 4 was his doomsday. After he returned from church, he received a call from an unknown number, requesting him to visit a friend who was “seriously ill.” Sympathetic and disturbed, he did not know that he was about to fall into trap.

“I did not know the identity of the caller, but because he mentioned Obinna, my friend’s name, I did not suspect any foul play,” he said with tears in his eyes. “My wife was present when I received the call.”

Tunde got up from the sofa, informed his wife of the courtesy visit and set out to see Obinna.

The set-up

Kelvin had never met anyone on the first day of communicating with them. But he waived all suspicions of being entrapped because Charles had erased all doubts. According to him, Charles lived at Ijegun area of Lagos State and they agreed that Kelvin would call him when he got to the bus stop.

The story changed when Kelvin arrived.

“I got to Ijegun at about 11:05 a.m.,” he said. “I called to notify him but he said he was busy at the shop and would send one of his assistants at the shop to come pick me up. He sent me his assistant’s number so I could communicate with him.”

An unsuspecting Kelvin waited for about 25 minutes while still communicating with Charles. He became impatient and decided to go home, but Charles pleaded with him. Just as he made up his mind to leave, the assistant arrived. They spoke on the phone and when he identified Kelvin by the color of his gray shirt, Kelvin hopped on the motorcycle and they drove off. The journey to Charles’ house was not as short as Kelvin had thought. After several diversions, the motorcycle eventually made one last turn onto a pathway that led to the last house on Aboke Street. He had arrived at his destination — a small gateless compound that could be accessed through an entrance between a block of whitewashed bachelor’s quarters and makeshift iron kiosks. Then, the assistant broke the news to him: “You have been set up,” he stated.

Tunde’s set-up was somewhat similar.

Agbara, the bus stop to which he was directed, was not far from his house. According to him, that was another reason he agreed to visit Obinna. When he got to the bus stop, he called the number to inform the person who answered that he had arrived. The caller arrived a few minutes later, informed him that Obinna was recuperating in his house and offered to lead him there. The house was a one bedroom apartment. He was shocked by his discovery.

“We got to the house, but I could not find Obinna,” said Tunde. “I inquired, but I was asked to relax. Almost immediately, four other men came into the room. At that moment, I felt a cold chill run down my spine. I was afraid and did not want to believe what I thought the situation had turned into. But my suspicion was confirmed. One of them accused me of coming to have sex with their brother. I did not even know who the brother they referred to was. I was shocked and instantly knew Obinna was not there. I had been tricked.”

The hell they faced

Charles’ assistant warned Kelvin not to make a sound and to cooperate with them if he wanted to go home alive. They were joined by four other men and to his surprise, Charles was not present. He was made to sit on the floor; when they saw he had his textbook with him, they seized his bank debit card and the smaller phone he had with him. Then they requested that he call someone at home to bring the tablet which he had used to sign up on Grindr.

“I told them I left the tab at home because the battery had died,” said Kelvin. “I suggested I could go home to get it but they refused and insisted that I called someone to bring it for me.”

When they sensed Kelvin was being uncooperative, one of the men shouted at him, then hit him twice as hard on the head. At that moment, his prescription glasses fell to the ground and the lenses were broken. He developed an instant headache. While he was there, another victim (a student) was brought in and was surprised to learn he had been set up. According to Kelvin, the new boy peed in his pants. They threatened to expose him to his family and kill him if he was unable to give them some money. When their efforts became unsuccessful, they beat him up, seized his phone and sent him home with only 500 naira. ($1.39).

The situation was even more extreme for Tunde.

Without any warning, the men began to beat him simultaneously. They stripped him totally naked and mocked him.

“They took nude pictures and videos of me, and threatened to post them on Facebook and YouTube, if I did not comply with their demands,” he said. “I wished the ground would open up and swallow me but that did not happen. I cried like baby.”

When they had beaten him to their satisfaction, they asked him how much he had in his bank account and requested his debit cards. Tunde, who had just started a new job in January, told them he had no money and that his debit cards were at home. When they failed to gain access to his account through his phone, they asked him to dress up and take them to his house. He obliged, but instead of taking them to his house, he took them to Obinna’s house.

Unfortunately, Obinna was not at home. Obinna’s landlord, who saw them arrive, became suspicious. At that moment, they figured that was not his house and they left, promising to carry out their threats.

Tunde hurried home.

Kelvin, who was a victim of extortion, lives in Lagos State. (Photo courtesy of Peter Okeugo)

The blackmail and extortion

The men instructed Kelvin to call someone who could send them 10,000 naira ($27.74). He called a friend who could not understand why he was stranded and needed such amount of money. Upon sensing Kelvin may have been set up, he began to argue with the blackmailers.

“The calls were placed on speaker mode, so they could hear my conversations,” said Kelvin. “They snatched the phone from me and told him I had been set up. They argued with him and eventually dropped the conversation. I was asked to call another friend (Paul) and request for the money. I complied and the money was sent into my account.”

Greedy and sensing they had hit a goldmine, the blackmailers called Kelvin’s mother to request the money. They told her Kelvin had boarded a “one chance” bus (the Lagos parlance for kidnappers who pretend to pick up other passengers with the intent of extortion or rituals) and threatened to kill him. Kelvin could barely hear his worried mother when he was put on the phone to speak with her. The negotiation was fruitless. Still pushing their luck, they sent another text message to Paul without Kelvin’s knowledge, requesting for extra money.

“Paul got the message and sent 5,000 naira ($13.87) into my account. They requested again and he sent an extra 10,000 naira, making a total of 30,000 naira ($83.22).”

The whole ordeal lasted nearly two hours and two of the men left to make withdrawals from the account. They released Kelvin and gave him 500 naira for his fare back home.

For Tunde, who hurried home in fear, his nightmare had just begun.

His captors called his wife and requested her to meet them at a certain location where she could pick the phone that Tunde “forgot.” But she was confused about the directions and did not go. When Tunde got home, he explained to her was that he was abducted and they had requested for cash.

The phone calls continued till the next day, and he left the office to go to an Internet café before close of work in order to change his Facebook password. Unknowingly, hell had already been let loose because they still had his phone, Tunde said his nude pictures were leaked on Facebook and WhatsApp.

According to him, his family, friends and colleagues at work and church members saw them. Tunde also said they sent videos in which he was naked to his brother-in-law who lives abroad.

“I do not want to escalate the case because they have screenshots of my conversations with my friends,” he said. “I have spoken with Obinna and he said he does not know them. I still do not know how they got my contact; at this point, I do not know who to believe or trust anymore.”

Luckily for him, his cousin in Abuja helped him gain access to his account on Facebook and deleted the pictures. But the damage had already been done.

No longer at ease

Leaking Tunde’s nude pictures was unsettling for him.

“A lot of things have been going on in my head,” he said. “I unconsciously introduced errors while reconciling accounts at work. That was when I knew I had lost concentration and decided to take the time off.”

Tunde took three weeks off from work but it did nothing for him. He has yet to get over the shock.

For Kelvin, who is currently writing his professional exams, the story is not any different. Apart from losing concentration on his studies, he seems to be having challenges with his health as well.

“I am still trying to get over the trauma,” said Kelvin. “I was devastated for about two weeks. In fact, I have absolutely forgotten everything I have read before the incident. When I’m reading, I have flashback because I had my textbook with me that day. My heart beats faster whenever I remember my ordeal. I barely eat.”

He said little situations trigger his fear and he keeps having constant headache. He also finds it difficult to talk about his ordeal but is considering confiding in a therapist who will help him forget about the ordeal.

The impact of kidnap on victim’s mental health

Stella Iwuagwu, executive director of the Center for the Right to Health in Nigeria, who has responded to numerous cases of LGBT kidnapping victims, said blackmail and the extortion of community members causes severe stress that can negatively impact their health and well-being. She added it can also affect those who are around them.

“Under such pressure their ability to concentrate and make wise decisions is compromised,” said Iwuagwu. “In some cases, the victims may become suicidal.”

Stella Iwuagwu, executive director of the Center for the Right to Health in Nigeria. (Photo courtesy of Peter Okeugo)


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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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