Connect with us

homepage news

Evans, gay candidates far behind in D.C. primary early returns

Pinto leads Kennedy by just 102 votes in Ward 2 race



DC election, gay news, Washington Blade
John Fanning was far behind frontrunner Brooke Pinto in the Ward 2 race; Patrick Kennedy is running a close second in early results. (Photos courtesy of the campaigns) (Photos courtesy of the campaigns)

Former D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), a longtime LGBTQ community ally who resigned from the Council in January following allegations of serious ethics violations and who asked Ward 2 voters to give him another chance to represent them, was in seventh place in an eight-candidate race with just 292 votes or 3.8 percent of the vote, according to a preliminary vote count released Wednesday morning by the D.C. Board of Elections for the city’s June 2 Democratic primary.

Gay Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner John Fanning, who political observers say waged a credible campaign for the hotly contested Ward 2 Council seat, and gay Ward 7 ANC member Anthony Lorenzo Green, who received endorsements from the AFL-CIO and the Washington Teachers Union, were far behind with 6.8 percent and 11.7 percent of the vote respectively in the preliminary count.

In the Ward 2 contest, former Assistant D.C. Attorney General Brooke Pinto was in first place in the preliminary vote count with 2,150 votes or 27.7 percent, just ahead of Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Kennedy, who received 2,048 votes or 26.4 percent.

Community activist Jordan Grossman was in third place with 1,562 votes or 20.1 percent as of early Wednesday morning.

With Pinto leading Kennedy by just 102 votes and with her lead over Grossman amounting to 588 votes, it couldn’t immediately be determined whether the as-yet-to-be-counted mail-in ballots would change the outcome of the vote between Pinto, Kennedy, and Grossman.

The Board of Elections stated on its website that as of 2:42 a.m. Wednesday it had counted the ballots it has received so far from each of the city’s 144 voter precincts. But the BOE did not disclose whether it knows how many absentee mail-in ballots it has yet to receive. The BOE said it would count all mail-in ballots postmarked before midnight on Tuesday, June 2.

Grossman released a statement Wednesday morning saying more than 4,400 mail-in ballots had not been returned or counted and the race was now a three-way contest between him, Pinto and Kennedy. But Grossman’s statement didn’t say where he obtained that information and a Board of Elections spokesperson couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm the actual number of outstanding mail-in ballots.

Grossman spokesperson Morgan Finkelstein told the Blade in an email that the Grossman campaign based its 4,400 outstanding mail-in ballot figure on the election board’s disclosure that a total of 10,583 mail-in ballots had been requested and that 6,110 mail-in ballots had been counted as of Wednesday morning.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Board of Elections said it would take at least a week or longer for the outstanding mail-in ballots to be received and counted. The statement says that if postmarked by June 2, the board would count the ballots that arrive by mail before or on June 12, indicating that the final outcome of the election in the Ward 2 race may not be known until at least June 12.

Evans, who has been the D.C. Council’s longest serving member, told the Washington Post he had no regrets about running for the seat from which he had just resigned as his fellow Council members were about to expel him.

“I am glad I ran,” the Post quoted him as saying on Wednesday. “I’m glad I gave voters in Ward 2 an opportunity, and I want to thank the voters and residents of Ward 2 for their support over the last 29 years and the opportunity to serve,” he said.

Gay nightlife advocate and Washington Blade columnist Mark Lee, who was one of the few who endorsed Evans in the June 2 primary, has said Evans’ support for the ward’s and the city’s small businesses, including bars and restaurants, has been beneficial to the city’s large LGBTQ community.

“Fortunately for the ward and the city as a whole, the two leading candidates running neck-and-neck both campaigned as political moderates and hold centrist positions reflective of voters in the economically vibrant and commerce intensive district,” Lee said. “Patrick Kennedy and Brooke Pinto are business-friendly candidates well equipped to best represent their potential constituencies, whichever candidate ultimately prevails as the remaining votes are counted and a winner is determined,” Lee said.

Although Lee did not say so directly, the third candidate with a shot at winning the Ward 2 seat, Jordan Grossman, has positioned himself as a progressive, left-leaning candidate who has received support from the ward’s progressive voters and organizations. In his own statement on Wednesday, Grossman said he and his campaign team are pleased with his status as one of the top three remaining contenders after more than a year of campaigning. He said he doesn’t expect the outcome of the Ward 2 race to be known for at least several days.

“But we feel very good about where we are – and I couldn’t be prouder of everything we’ve done together in this campaign to put us in this position,” he said.

Vincent Gray, who nearly all political observers believe will go on to win re-election as the Ward 7 Council member in November, issued his own statement on Wednesday saying he will dedicate his efforts going forward to address the inequities and challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the strife related to the murder by a Minneapolis police officer of African American George Floyd.

“Today we celebrate our victory, but please also pray for calm,” Gray said in his statement. “Tomorrow we continue with the work brought on by pandemic and the urgent need for change not only in the White House, but in the American psyche,” he said. “We will heal, but we cannot rest. There is grave injustice in our country and we must end it once and for all.”

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the election board and most city officials, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, urged city residents to apply for absentee ballots to enable them to vote by mail. However, according to media reports on Tuesday, numerous residents waiting on long lines to vote at 20 special voting stations set up by the BOE said they never received the absentee ballots they applied for.

And although the polling stations were scheduled to close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, the city’s social distancing requirements prevented more than 10 people from entering the voting stations at one time, resulting in the voting continuing until past midnight at several of the polling stations, according to media reports.

Similar to nearly all candidates on the ballot in the June 2 primary, each of the Ward 2 candidates, including Pinto and Kennedy, expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights, with Pinto, Kennedy, and especially Fanning pointing to actions they have taken in the past to support the LGBTQ community.

The final but preliminary vote count in the Ward 2 D.C. Council race for all eight Democratic candidates is as follows: Brooke Pinto, 27.7 percent; Patrick Kennedy, 26.4 percent; Jordan Grossman, 20.1 percent; Kishan Putta, 9.8 percent; John Fanning, 6.8 percent; Yilin Zhang, 4.1 percent; Jack Evans, 3.8 percent; and Daniel Hernandez, 1.3 percent.

Republican Ward 2 candidate Katherine Venice, who has expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights, ran unopposed in the D.C. Republican primary on June 2, ensuring that she will be on the ballot in the November general election in the Ward 2 contest.

Venice released a statement on Tuesday calling for President Donald Trump to resign from office because of what she called his mishandling of the civil unrest that has erupted across the country during the past week over the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Surprise in Ward 4

In what most political observers will likely consider a surprise outcome, incumbent Ward 4 Council member Brandon Todd appears to have been defeated by community activist Janeese Lewis George by a margin of 54.1 percent to 43.6 percent in a three-candidate race. Ward 4 community activist Marlena Edwards finished third with 2.1 percent of the vote.

However, the final but preliminary unofficial vote count as of Wednesday morning shows George was leading Todd by 1,540 votes. If in fact more than 4,000 mail-in ballots remain uncounted, the outcome of the Ward 4 race could change, although it would be unlikely that many outstanding mail-in ballots were for Ward 4.

Todd and George have each expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights. George, who identifies herself as a Democratic socialist, received a rating of +6.5 out of a possible +10 on LGBTQ related issues from the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. Todd received a +6 GLAA rating. Todd, a longtime ally of Mayor Bowser, received Bowser’s strong endorsement in the Ward 4 race.

With George leading Todd by 1,540 votes it appears unlikely that the outcome would change after the remaining mail-in ballots are counted.

In the Ward 7 race, incumbent D.C. Council member and former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray finished first in a six-candidate contest with 45.7 percent of the vote. Gray, who is considered one of the city’s strongest LGBTQ community supporters, received the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political organization.

Gray received a +8 rating from GLAA compared to Gray’s closest rival, Ward 7 community activist Veda Rasheed, who received 22.7 percent of the vote and a GLAA rating of “0.” Rasheed expressed support for LGBTQ issues during the campaign, but GLAA said it assigned her and three of the other candidates in the race — Rebecca Morris, James Leroy Jennings, and Kelvin Brown — a “0” rating because they did not return a GLAA candidate questionnaire and the group wasn’t aware of their records on LGBTQ issues.

Gay candidate Green, who has a record of support on LGBT issues and who has spoken out on those issues, received a +4 GLAA rating rather than a higher rating because he too failed to return the questionnaire, according to GLAA.

The final but preliminary outcome in the Ward 7 race is as follows: Vincent Gray, 45.7 percent; Veda Rasheed, 22.7 percent; Kelvin Brown, 17.8 percent; Anthony Lorenzo Green, 11.7 percent; Rebecca Morris, 1.4 percent; and James Leroy Jennings, 0.3 percent.

In the Ward 8 D.C. Council race, incumbent Democrat Trayon White finished a strong first with 58.7 percent of the vote in a four-candidate contest. White has expressed support for LGBTQ issues during his first term on the Council and has appeared at events hosted by the LGBTQ youth organization Check It Enterprises, which is based in Ward 8. White received a +4.5 rating from GLAA.

The final but preliminary vote count in the Ward 8 D.C. Council race is as follows: Trayon White, 58.8 percent; Mike Austin, 26.2 percent; Yaida Ford, 7.6 percent; and Stuart Anderson, 4.9 percent.

In the local city-wide races in the Democratic primary, D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large) ran unopposed and are considered the strong favorites to win re-election in the November general election.

Also running unopposed in the primary were incumbent D.C. U.S. Shadow Senator Paul Strauss (D) and D.C. Shadow U.S. House candidate Oye Owolewa (D), who are also considered strong favorites to win in the general election.

Biden wins D.C. vote

In a component of the D.C. primary that has received little attention following former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s status as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Biden, as expected, was running far ahead in D.C.’s presidential preference primary as of Wednesday morning, with 74.5 percent of the vote.

Three of Biden’s former rivals for the Democratic nomination were on the D.C. primary ballot even though they suspended their campaigns and announced they were endorsing Biden. They include U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who received 14.4 percent of the D.C. primary vote on Tuesday; U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), who received 9.4 percent of the D.C. vote; and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who received 0.7 percent of the D.C. vote.

With the outcome of the Ward 2 Council race still uncertain, the Washington Blade will provide updated information as it becomes available, including comments from some of the candidates.

The election returns released so far can be accessed at


homepage news

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.”

Continue Reading

homepage news

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.”

Continue Reading

homepage news

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)
Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade