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Smiling under the mask

How transparency in business can keep us all sane in a pandemic



How transparency in business can keep us all sane in a pandemic

As our national isolation grinds on, and with little hope of change anytime soon, the crisis adrenaline that kept us going in the early weeks has worn off, and we’re over the novelty of it all. We’ve amused ourselves with Zoom backgrounds and we’ve delighted over one another’s kids and we’ve learned the value of the mute button. We’ve dug into the logistical challenges of this new landscape and figured out how we’ll survive. Small business owners, myself included, dove deep into the art of the pivot (in the before times, we thought we knew all about pivoting! Ha!). The new normal is getting old, and yet we know the end is nowhere in sight. It’s hard not to feel deeply burdened with the state of the world.

I’m the owner and founder of Flock, a family of mid-sized property management companies in Washington, DC that keeps 52 folks employed. Our weekly staff meetings have become an exercise in bearing witness, as we each begin to  comprehend the scope of this crisis, grapple with what it means for us and our families, and slowly accept the painful reality that much more of this lies ahead. Possibly and unbearably, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

In this shared reality, I frequently remind myself that I have to leave room for the sadness, frustration and anger of my team members. Each of them are grieving on their own timelines.

I worry for their emotional and mental health. I worry about their families and their futures. I worry that they’re falling into the same internet rabbit holes as me, those gloomy places where you find disturbingly educated speculations on food supply chains, riots, political unrest, economic collapse. Where you read credible sources saying we’ll be here for 18 months, 24 months. Except nobody knows what “here” really is.  That the lives we’re living now is a new baseline, and things will never really return to the way they were.

We cope by embracing kindness and celebrating the smallest of victories. We remind ourselves that the old way of life was pretty lousy for a whole lot of people and for our planet anyway, and that a newer, better way of life is ours for the making. My personal morale-boosting coping strategies include tapping into my inner inspirational leader; suspending disbelief; and, let’s be honest, a fair amount of wine.

A few days ago I was video chatting with our team member Ben Berkow about life during the pandemic. Hiring Ben was a big win for the company. When our residents slip into their new front doors and are welcomed by a fresh, perfectly maintained and prepared space, it’s Ben they have to thank. 

He’s a former elementary school teacher with seriously good people skills who  can also mix up a killer cocktail. Ben is a fountain of extroverted positivity and chatty good cheer, great with residents, clients and his team. To make a living helping folks navigate one of life’s most stressful activities–moving house–you’ve got to like people a lot.  And anyone who knows Ben also knows the feeling is mutual.

Ben is not built for social distancing, nevermind a lockdown. Nearly all aspects of his job have become virtual, from managing maintenance to conducting move-out inspections, and he’s struggling. The human interactions he feeds on aren’t entirely gone, but he finds them disturbingly muted.  “Video meetings are fine, and I’m grateful for the technology, but it’s not even close to the same,” he said. “And in the rare instances when I’m face to face with an actual person, I find myself smiling like crazy under the mask. Then I remember they can’t gauge my expression. But I just keep grinning, in the hope they can see it in my eyes.”

My team is bruised but still scrappy. The company is set back but still fundamentally well. It helps that our industry is essentially recession-proof.  Maybe even depression proof.  The reality is,  everyone needs a place to live. Still, others in our field are not faring as well.  Our saving grace has turned out to be the same asset that got the company this far, the asset that grew us from a single adobe bungalow in Tucson Arizona to a family of companies that aggregate $6.5 million in business annually. That asset is our company culture.

Our culture manifests in a lot of ways, one of which is transparency. This tool has served me well during this crisis. I chose early to be honest and painfully open.  I prefer this over the quiet, solo fretting and sleeplessness nights that some CEOs are “leading with.” Not that worry and insomnia are strangers to me. I’m inclined to bolt out of bed at all hours with a new idea for salvaging what I can, or else to stay in bed all day long. But I talk about it with the team. I tell them what the outlook is, good or bad. I make sure they understand the numbers, and the danger those numbers represent. They knew very early on that our livelihoods were at stake. And with that, the bottom line was seen as ours, not just mine.

I realized very early on that the first payroll protection plan I could count on was simply to gut my salary, so I cut it by 75 percent.  Servant survival mode is my new set point.  In many ways this period feels like a return to the origins of the company. Very few members of my team remember the long period when the leader truly ate last. In the early days, to keep payroll…paid.  I went four years without taking a salary: I’d promised to take care of my staff and I did. You can’t run a service based business with servers that are underpaid and too few.. That math was simple, even if the financial realities scared me.

The math worked, as did the team.. And they worked hard. As the company thrived, I committed to bonusing nearly all profits back to the talent. We added benefits whenever and however we could: unlimited time off, fully paid healthcare, cell phone coverage, commuter stipends, short and long term disability, three month paid family leave, 401k matches, student loan assistance, and more. We shared the bounty early and often, so much so that creating a “best place to work” sometimes felt like an exercise in outbidding ourselves. And to be honest, some folks began to take these measures for granted rather than understanding them as an investment in our culture and our team. In the minds of a few, no matter how much we did, it never seemed quite enough.

Corona times changed all that, as our team looks around and sees how many friends and family have been left in the cold by their employers. With genuine  transparency, we eliminated every unnecessary expense and put under lock and key every job and every benefit we could. These measures, along with the leaders eat last mind-set, have not gone unnoticed. Gratitude has emerged stronger than before. My team has seen that not only am I willing to walk the talk, but that if necessary I’ll do it barefoot.

We’re also celebrating everything. We no longer take for granted the small wins. We repaired a roof? Incredible! We leased a dinky parking space? Hell yes! Coached a tenant through a toilet flapper repair? WOOT!

“It’s the uncertainty,” Ben told me when we spoke recently. I’ve been scheduling one-on-one check-ins with every one of our fifty plus people. Check-ins are a big part of our culture.  Even more so now. Every manager, every day, calls every member of their team. Task number one is to find how they’re doing, personally.  How’s their health, how are their kids, parents, partner?  How are the pets? The distant relatives?  How’s their home? How’s their state of mind?

“I feel consumed by the unknown,” Ben said. What could I say to this? Exactly nothing: Despite my name, I have no wise words. All I can do is listen, and empathize. Ben recognizes this. At the end of the call he told me how he values the cultural foundation we’ve built, the trust and social capital necessary to support one another authentically. “I’m really comforted by these personal check-ins, both from my managers and with my team. Nobody has the answers, but here we all are, learning how to survive. Taking care of ourselves emotionally is a survival skill. And so is empathy.”

 We closed our offices at 15th and U on March 13. That afternoon I stood with Grace, the Flock President and my professional right hand, under the now iconic mural of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. that we commissioned for the side of our building. When the Justice sent a personal note of appreciation, I was flying high.  Now my work life feels more like a crash landing.
But it’s a crash we’ve survived.  On Friday March, 13th, Grace and I wondered aloud how we would manage properties we couldn’t visit. How we would we survive remotely. How we would keep the team functioning. How we would solve problems–and do it as cheerfully as usual–when we can’t see them with our own eyes.

We’ve learned the answer isn’t Zoom meetings or Google Hangouts or virtual happy hours. These are nice, but they’re just tactics, not a safety net. What’s saving us now is the company culture we’ve worked so hard to develop. Leaning into our culture is a way of work life for our Flock, but we’ve never tried it during a  pandemic.  Yet it feels natural and authentic. Even as we distanced, we moved fast and furious to protect and nurture our connections to one another.

Practically, this  means daily updates from me to the entire staff on business solvency, continuity and strategy. I keep transparency at the forefront, along with a bit of inspiration. We are deliberate about consistent and meaningful time to engage visually rather than reverting to audio calls. We give one another permission and leeway not to be operating at 100 percent, especially for those with kids at home. We give the staff time off: on a recent Friday, we designated a personal “(re)treat day,” the kind you can spend with a cocktail or two, or giving yourself a four hour pedicure, or while asleep. Nobody was watching. We have also gifted our team with simple, cost-effective surprises like delivering a six pack of craft beer or a nice red wine to their door.

Alongside personal check-ins, we launched a staff survey to determine not just productivity but everyone’s mental wellness and work-life balance. We hired a therapist to offer a professional ear during this time. And because philanthropy makes everyone feel better, we’re doubling down on our work to support the community. Last week we raised $4,000 in donations to help our local belagured restaurants deliver meals to medical teams and to staff tending to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  To be frank, we’ve never felt so rich. We are grateful for the reminder that good fortune is measured more than just financially.

Before Grace and I parted ways on that gorgeous March day, I had one last unanswerable question. “When?” I wanted her to tell me when we would  return to this building, to our work home. When we would congratulate one another for having survived and succeeded.

She couldn’t, of course. “Who knows,” Grace said. “But we do know that we are essential. No matter what or when, we will always be welcoming people home.”

When I look through my bird watching binoculars, I see a future where we’ll be reunited sooner than we think. Human ingenuity will beat a path to safe togetherness once again. As for us, we’re busy working on a 24 month business plan that considers the need for Flock-branded personal protective equipment (already someone has invented a mask with a window for the hearing impaired, so safe smiling may be coming soon!), staff rotations, small scale meetings and whole new ways of engaging meaningfully with our residents, our property owners and our community. Soon enough we will emerge from this all-consuming unknown into a future we’ve created. We’ll nest back into our groove, tap into our creativity and our moxie, and when we come back together we’ll have invented a new normal that’s far better than the old.


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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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