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Coronavirus lockdown leaves LGBTQ Salvadorans even more vulnerable

Advocacy groups, gay National Assembly candidate deliver food

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Aspidh Arcoíris Trans, a transgender rights group in El Salvador, has helped vulnerable LGBTQ people during the national lockdown. (Photo courtesy of Aspidh Arcoíris Trans)

Editor’s note: The Washington Blade published a Spanish version of this article on June 16.

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — In the months since the coronavirus pandemic began in China, it has affected the whole world and El Salvador is no exception. Apart from not acquiring this virus and taking necessary sanitation measures, there are also concerns over the violation of human rights and the lack of support for the most vulnerable people who have been affected by the country’s mandatory lockdown.

One of the vulnerable groups that has been affected has been the LGBTQ community.

El Salvador since March 11 has been under a mandatory national lockdown that has, among other things, closed down the country’s businesses and face-to-face academic life. The situation has already had a significant impact on the Salvadoran economy.

“At the beginning, the situation in the country was handled correctly, such as the decision to close the airport in a timely manner; but there was poor planning,” Karla Guevara, a lawyer who is executive director of Colectivo Alejandría, told the Blade.

Guevara adds quarantine centers became “the epicenter of the pandemic” in El Salvador because they were “poorly … managed.” They have also been accused of violating the human rights of those who have been sent to them.

One such case involves a transgender man whose gender identity was not respected. 

The El Salvador Transgender Men Organization (HT El Salvador) told the Blade a trans man returned from Guatemala on March 13, the day the country’s state of emergency took effect. Authorities detained him and temporarily sent him to a quarantine center in Usulután Department.

“He spent a few days in that place with other LGBTI people who had arrived in the country,” an HT El Salvador representative told the Blade. “At no time was trans people’s gender identity respected.”

The trans man was then transferred to another quarantine center in Chalatenango Department, which did not have adequate conditions. People who were housed there were not healthy and were not given food.

“HT El Salvador later brought food and personal hygiene kits to this man that could also be distributed to more trans people isolated there,” said HT El Salvador.

The organization does not know whether the kits were distributed to trans people, which led them to file complaints with El Salvador’s human rights ombudsman’s office. The conditions subsequently improved for the trans man and others isolated in the quarantine center.

“It was a clear violation of human rights for those people who allegedly violated the lockdown to be in quarantine centers,” Erick Ortiz, an openly gay National Assembly candidate for the Nuestro Tiempo party, told the Blade. “It was more complex for the LGBTI community, since there were no protocols in those quarantine centers that guaranteed an environment free of discrimination and violence; and there were unfortunately cases of discrimination and violence against gay men, lesbian women and trans people within these quarantine centers.”

Erick Ortiz, a gay National Assembly candidate for the Nuestro Tiempo party, brings help to a transgender woman in downtown San Salvador. (Photo courtesy of Erick Ortiz).

While everyone was finding a way to survive the mandatory lockdown, Tropical Storm Amanda struck El Salvador in the early hours of May 31. It hit hard and affected the country’s most vulnerable areas.

Jessica Nahomy Gómez, a trans sex worker, is one of the LGBTQ people who has been affected by the heavy rains.

“My house came down because a wall next to my house collapsed; it fell on top of it,” she told the Blade.

“I have not received help either from the government nor from the municipality where I had my house. My mother, who is in very poor health, depends on me,” said Gómez, speaking about her current situation. “The only ones who have helped me with a little food have been the Trans Feminist Association of El Salvador and Aspidh Arcoíris Trans. I have felt good with that help. It is not a large amount, but I am very grateful to them.”

Help during the pandemic

The Salvadoran government’s lack of planning to meet the needs of the population under mandatory lockdown has been questioned. Civil society organizations themselves even admit they were not prepared, but it has not stopped them from trying to help.

“There are LGBTI people who, in the face of all this, have gone hungry,” Roberto Zapata, general secretary of Asociación AMATE El Salvador, told the Blade. “We, as LGBTI organizations and community, have tried, to the extent that we are able, to bring support in solidarity to people we have met who are in need. We do this to be able to cover a little of what the government is not doing.”

“None of the civil society organizations are prepared for this situation,” Aspidh Arcoíris Trans Director Mónica Linares told the Blade, noting the Salvadoran government, like others around the world were also not prepared for the impact the lockdowns would have.

“We have tried to deliver a basket of food to LGBTI people in need with the help of donors and individuals,” she noted.

Aspidh Arcoíris Trans, a transgender rights group in El Salvador, has helped vulnerable LGBTQ people during the national lockdown. (Photo courtesy of Aspidh Arcoíris Trans)

Advocacy groups try to fill aid gaps

The LGBTQ community — and especially trans people who are most likely not to be able to find a job — have suffered disproportionately during the lockdown

“Trans women who are sex workers have already not been able to work for more than 80 days, like LGBTI people who work in informal jobs,” Guevara told the Blade. “Around 40 percent of the LGTBI community has a stable job, while the other 60 percent run their own business, work in informal commerce or sex work.”

“We have been in social confinement for three months,” said Ortiz. “We are experiencing an induced economic coma. This has left part of the LGBTI community that also suffers the scourge of poverty in a very serious state of vulnerability.”

As previously mentioned, the portion of this population who engages in sex work have been hard hit by the lockdown. It will also be more affected not only because of the time out of work, but because of the precautions they will have to take to protect themselves against COVID-19 once they return to their activities in their entirety.

“I do sex work and when I can I also work in informal sales, but now that I have come to the capital of San Salvador, the place where I am staying has a sanitary code,” Gómez told the Blade. “You are always harassed by the authorities when you want to go outside.”

“I had to go to a hotel after I lost my house,” she said. “Sometimes I wash and iron the clothes of people who know me and so I earn about $5 or $3 a day.”

Before the pandemic it was already difficult to receive adequate payment for sex-related services. Gómez said no one will want to pay for sex work after the lockdown ends because the Salvadoran economy will be bad and new sanitary measures will have to be implemented.

“I have not received any help from the mayor of La Libertad, which is where I am from, nor food, material or something that I can use to fix my home,” she said.

A lack of support for LGBTQ entrepreneurs has forced them to take matters into their own hands during the pandemic. This is the case with Weirdo Sportwear, a brand of sportswear.

“As a small business, we had already planned out our first months of 2020, but we never thought of having a contingency plan for our business’ continuity,” said Eugenia Folgar, the brand’s founder.

“We took on the task of adapting to our new needs and developing a minimally viable product that would meet that need,” added Folgar.

“Today we make textile face coverings with our fabrics. We managed to reinvent ourselves,” Folgar told the Blade. “We hope that in these tough times the government will encourage support for new ventures, and for existing medium and small businesses to gain access to financing in these times of crisis.”

Branches of government at odds over COVID-19 recovery

In the midst of the crises that affect the country, the various branches of the Salvadoran government are unable to agree on measures or protocols that will help the population after the lockdown ends and economic activity resumes. The Executive and Legislative Branches continue to battle each other.

“The handling of the crisis at the Executive level has been regrettable, as it has maintained a confrontational presidential tone towards the rest of State entities,” Ortiz told the Blade.

“It is worrying because in the midst of a health crisis and an economic and social crisis that is unprecedented in the country, we also have a serious political crisis that is putting at risk the democratic advances that El Salvador has made in the years after the war,” he added.

“We as organizations are alarmed to see how the Executive has deepened its anti-human rights discourse, using its social networks and those of its officials to attack organizations that defend human rights,” says Zapata. “The government has cynically ignored, has blatantly and continuously ignored the resolutions of the constitutional chamber (of the El Salvador Supreme Court) and all apparently due to a stated electoral policy.”

Linares, on a personal note, believes the government has carried out COVID-19 prevention efforts to prevent an increase in the number of cases and deaths in the country.

“it will be regrettable that when the lockdown is lifted, the cases will increase and the LGBTI population will be affected,” she said.

“The health centers are already full,” argued Linares. “Let’s hope that this situation does not get worse and that the powers of the State can reach a consensus for the good of the general population, including us as members of the LGBTI community.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on April 21 expressed concern about possible human rights violations in El Salvador committed in compliance with measures imposed to stop the pandemic.

“I call on the authorities to investigate all the alleged human rights violations in the context of the implementation of the measures to fight against COVID-19,” said Bachelet in a statement.

The El Salvador Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber has taken this concern into account, as well as the many unconstitutional processes that have been presented to them as a result of the Temporary Restriction of Concrete Constitutional Rights Law to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic, contained in Legislative Decree 594, which was approved on March 14 and published in the Official Gazette the following day.

“All rights are complimentary, so therefore all laws and all decrees that come from the Legislative and Executive (branches) must be for the sake of respecting human rights, and the constitutional chamber has already said this repeatedly to the Executive and Legislative (branches),” Guevara told the Blade. “They must sit down to work out a law or a decree that respects all of the people’s rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.”

Guevara applauded the Judiciary’s work because at least it has been worried about all Salvadorans’ health and well-being. She said the problem has originated from the Legislative and Executive branches.

Government statistics as of deadline indicate there have been 3,720 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,843 of them recovered. The Salvadoran government also notes 74 people have died from the virus.

Due to the failure to reach an agreement between the Executive and Legislative branches, the country’s government opted to issue Executive Decree 31 that includes health protocols to guarantee people’s rights to health and life in the process to gradually reopen the economy.

The economy’s reopening was divided into five phases, which began on June 16. The reopening is expected to be completed on Aug. 31.

Aspidh Arcoíris Trans, a transgender rights group in El Salvador, has helped vulnerable LGBTQ people during the national lockdown. (Photo courtesy of Aspidh Arcoíris Trans)
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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

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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

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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

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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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