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Hung jury in trans murder case sparks courthouse protest

Attorney’s office explains hate crime policy, will retry Dodds case



Dodds verdict, gay news, Washington Blade
About 70 demonstrators turned out this week to protest a hung jury outcome in the murder of transgender woman Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 70 transgender activists and their supporters turned out on Tuesday for a protest outside the D.C. Superior Court building after a trial at the courthouse of two men charged with the 2016 murder of transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds, 22, ended last week with a hung jury.

Organizers of the protest pointed out that the deadlocked jury in the Dodds case marked the second time in less than two years that male perpetrators charged in the murder of young transgender women of color in D.C. ended without a conviction.

In August 2017, a Superior Court jury found a D.C. man charged in the 2012 stabbing death of 23-year-old transgender woman Deoni Jones at a Northeast D.C. bus stop not guilty. Similar to the Dodds case, police and prosecutors said they believed the evidence against Gary Montgomery, 55, who was charged in the Jones case was strong and convincing.

Tuesday’s protest organizers, led by the D.C. LGBT community services center Casa Ruby, said the latest two cases were among at least 19 murders of transgender women in D.C. since 1991 in which the cases remain unsolved or the male defendants charged in the murders were not convicted.    

Noting that most of the transgender murder victims in D.C. have been young trans women of color, Casa Ruby Executive Director Ruby Corado told protesters the city’s criminal justice system was failing the trans community and creating a chilling effect for young trans people.

“What are we teaching the young people when they are gunned down on the streets of this city and their murderers go unpunished?” said Corado. “What are we teaching our young people about the value of their lives?” she said.

“That is the reason why we’re here because we must change the narrative that is telling our young people that their lives have no value,” Corado said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes criminal cases in D.C., told the Blade on Tuesday that it has decided to retry the two men charged in the Dodds murder following the hung jury on the murder charge that ended their first trial on March 6.

Monte Johnson, 23, and Jolonta Little, 28, were charged with first-degree felony murder while armed, conspiracy, and multiple robbery and gun possession charges in connection with the Dodds murder.

Prosecutors said Johnson, Little and two other men allegedly conspired to target transgender women for armed robberies in the early morning hours of July 4, 2018 because they believed they would be easy targets. Prosecutors said Dodds was among at least seven trans women that the men targeted that night.

The two other men, Cyheme Hall, 23, and his brother, Shareem Hall, 25, had been charged along with Little and Johnson with first-degree murder while armed in connection with the Dodds murder. But prosecutors informed the jury at the start of the trial for Johnson and Little that the Hall brothers agreed to become cooperating witnesses for the government after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the Dodds case.

In his testimony at the trial, Cyheme Hall told the jury it was Johnson who fatally shot Dodds in the neck at point blank range after she fought back by grabbing the barrel of Johnson’s handgun after he and Johnson attempted to rob her on Division Avenue, N.E., as she was walking to her nearby home.

Defense attorneys for Johnson and Little urged the jury to discount the testimony by the Hall brothers, who they said were habitual liars interested only in telling prosecutors what they wanted to hear to get off with a lighter prison sentence.

While the jury was deadlocked on the murder, conspiracy and several other robbery related charges, it found Johnson not guilty on seven of the 15 other charges filed against him. It found Little not guilty on five of the 15 other charges filed against him.

The jury found Little guilty of a single count of carrying a pistol without a license outside a home or business, the only guilty verdict it handed down in the Dodds case.

Meanwhile, in a development that raised concern among LGBT activists, especially transgender activists, Superior Court Judge Milton Lee, who presided over the trial, granted separate motions by the defense and prosecutors to dismiss a hate crime enhancement designation for the murder charge and other charges against Johnson and Little. Lee said he dismissed the hate crime designation because he considered the evidence supporting such a designation insufficient.

Knowledgeable observers of criminal trials, including D.C defense attorney Cheryl Stein who specializes in criminal law, said hate crime designations are often hard to prove because a jury must decide whether a defendant’s motive for a particular crime is hatred or bias based on the victim’s status such as race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender status.

“A hate crime is hard to prove,” Stein told the Blade. “If a prosecutor over charges a case with a hate crime enhancement they could lose on the other charges with stronger evidence,” she said.

But several of the transgender activists at the courthouse protest on Tuesday said the perception of the judge’s dismissal of the hate crime designation in the Dodds case and numerous past cases in which prosecutors with the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office have declined to list cases of anti-LGBT violence as hate crimes leaves the activists with the perception that the system is biased against trans and LGBT crime victims.

“Today we’re here because we know that in D.C., the city that most of us call home, we know that trans people, and in particular trans people of color, are hurting and they deserve better,” said Mateo De La Torre, a transgender man who works for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

De La Torre and others speaking at the protest called on the trans community and its allies to help draw attention to what they believe is a flawed criminal justice system for many in the trans community so that steps can be taken to improve it.

“Yes, we need the MPD do to better,” said Del La Torre. “We need the court system to do better. We need the D.C. Council to do better. And we need the press to do better as well.”

Joeann Lewis, Dee Dee Dodds’ mother, told protesters the outcome of the trial for the men charged with killing her daughter was devastating to her and other family members, who took turns attending the trial each day for nearly a month.

“My daughter was a beautiful person,” she said. “I am hurting so bad that the system failed her for this hung jury,” she told the gathering. “It makes me feel like, hey, the system is saying she is transgender. She died. She doesn’t matter,” said Lewis. “She does matter. All of our transgenders matter. All our gay people matter.”

Upon learning of the outcome of the trial in the Dodds case, Judean Jones, the mother of trans murder victim Deoni Jones, released a statement to the Washington Blade expressing solidarity with the Dodds family and raising concerns about the judicial system and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Jones and her husband Alvin Bethea criticized the U.S. Attorney’s office for not listing the murder of their daughter a hate crime.

“I stand with the Dodds family and friends and the LGBTQ community to say we are again having to witness and experience this miscarriage of justice at the hands of the United States Attorney’s Office and judge,” she said.

Corado, however, told the Blade she met with representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office recently, saying “they are committed to working with us and the young people” on trans cases.

Other speakers at the protest, including Lisa Jones of the D.C. sex worker advocacy group HIPS, and veteran D.C. transgender activist Dee Curry, criticized D.C. police for stepping up arrests of trans female sex workers at a time when the city’s murder rate is rising and LGBT-related hate crimes continue to account for more than half of all hate crimes in the District.

“It is amazing to me that in a city that has an increase in gun violence and murder that the police are going after in a much bigger way people who are committing commercial sex work and doing little when it comes to the people who are killing us or maiming us or doing harm to us,” Curry told the crowd at the protest. “We have got to say enough is enough.”

Others who spoke at the rally were trans activist Tiffany McGee of the Baltimore group Safe Haven; Achim Jeremiah Howard, a trans man and founder of the group Trans Men Rising; Bishop Allyson Nelson Abrams, pastor of D.C.’s Empowerment Liberation Cathedral; Kisha Allure, Casa Ruby’s Crime Victims Manager; and veteran D.C. trans activist Kimberly Gordon.

In a related development, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says it’s committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who commit “bias related crimes” in the District of Columbia, according to the office’s spokesperson, William Miller.

In response to a request from the Blade, Miller released a statement explaining his office’s policy and procedures for prosecuting hate crimes at a time when transgender activists have criticized the office for seeking the dismissal of a hate crime designation for one of two men charged in the July 2016 murder of Dodds. 

Miller told the Blade the U.S. Attorneys’ Office plans to retry Little and Johnson on the murder charge but declined to provide further details, saying his office never comments on pending cases.

Miller declined to say why prosecutors wanted the hate crime designation dropped against Johnson, but legal observers have said it most likely was because prosecutors determined the evidence they had to support the hate crime designation wasn’t strong enough. Lee cited a lack of sufficient evidence as his reason for dismissing the designation against both defendants.

“We seek [hate crime] enhancements in cases that we believe will meet the legal threshold in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia,” the statement released by Miller says.

“In order to meet that standard, we must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a specific criminal act covered by federal or D.C. law and that the crime was motivated by prejudice,” the statement continues.

“In assessing whether the crime was committed because of specific bias, we carefully evaluate factors such as the words used by defendants while committing the crimes, the use of symbols of hatred, patterns of conduct on the part of the defendants, and any other information that indicates that the defendants were motivated in whole or in part by animus against a particular group,” the statement says.

“We investigate those cases flagged by our law enforcement partners as well as others that come to our attention,” it says. “As in all of our matters, we make decisions based on the applicable law and the facts and circumstances of each case.”

Deeniquia Dodds, gay news, Washington Blade
The Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds murder trial ended last week with a hung jury. Prosecutors tell the Blade they will try the case again. (Photo via Facebook)

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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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