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Gloria Allred: HRC prez may be liable if found to have aided in Cuomo cover-up

High-profile attorney says taking personnel file violates privacy rights

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Gloria Allred says taking a personnel file after leaving the workplace a violation of privacy rights.

Attorney Gloria Allred, responding to questions about the Human Rights Campaign president’s links to the Andrew Cuomo scandal, said taking an employee’s personnel file after leaving a place of employment would be a violation of privacy rights — and Alphonso David could be individually liable if a court found he aided in disseminating that information to the media.

“Mr. David may be individually liable under New York law if a court determines that he did in fact ‘aid and abet’ Gov. Cuomo in retaliating against Ms. Boylan by providing Gov. Cuomo’s aides with a copy of her personnel file to leak to the media,” Allred said.

Allred, the Los Angeles-based women’s rights attorney known for taking high-profile cases and the lawyer for three of the women accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment, made the assertions Tuesday via email in response to inquiries from the Washington Blade on David’s presence in the New York attorney general’s damning report, which found Cuomo violated the law by sexually harassing as many as 11 women in his office.

Asked by the Blade whether she’s aware of any New York State or federal law, policy, regulation, rule or ethics guidance against taking personnel files and whether David’s actions as described in the report would violate that, Allred said she’s not aware of any such law or rule for a departing public entity employee, but didn’t stop there.

“I would argue that doing so may be violative of the privacy rights of the employees whose personnel file was taken,” Allred said.

Allred conceded public sector employees generally may have fewer privacy protections than a private sector employee, pointing out the public may request a public sector employee’s personnel file through New York’s Freedom of Information Law. Further, Allred said New York law “does not expressly state that the entire contents of an employee’s personnel file is ‘confidential.'”

Nonetheless, Allred said personnel files typically contain confidential information under New York law, including personal identifying information like Social Security numbers, home addresses, telephone numbers, personal electronic mail addresses, internet passwords, confidential medical information/history protected by HIPAA.

Disciplinary records, Allred added, may also be included in this category of confidential information “depending on a number of factors.”

“Thus, I would argue that a departing employee should not keep copies of a coworker’s personnel files because it likely contains confidential information and doing so may violate that employee’s privacy rights,” Allred concluded.

According to the New York attorney general’s report, Cuomo aides sought to distribute unflattering material from the personnel file for Lindsey Boylan, who made sexual harassment accusations against him, in an attempt to discredit her. One aide — as part of that effort — reached out to David in December 2020, after David had left the governor’s office as counsel and was serving as Human Rights Campaign president, and asked for the “full file” for Boylan, the report says.

David, according to the report, took material from a separate, unrelated employment incident unflattering to Boylan, and arranged for the material to be given to Cuomo. The report doesn’t explicitly say David participated in efforts to distribute that material to the media, which was revealed to be an incident of alleged racial discrimination. David has denied all wrongdoing.

Allred, however, said Boylan can argue that she experienced illegal retaliation in violation of New York State law because she believes the AG office sent her personnel file to the media — and David could be in trouble if a court found he helped with that effort. Allred concluded David may be “individually liable” if a court found he was engaged in efforts to leak personnel material to the media.

The Human Rights Campaign, which announced on the day after the report was released that David’s contract as president has been renewed for five years, has stood by him, but announced it has hired the law firm Sidney Austin LLP to conduct an independent investigation of the matter that will take no longer than 30 days.

A representative for David, asked by the Washington Blade to respond to Allred’s assertions, denied the underpinnings on which they were made, saying the Human Rights Campaign president didn’t take a “personnel file.”

“David did not take any employee’s ‘personnel file’ as suggested,” the representative said. “This claim arises from blatant misinformation concerning Mr. David’s role in the Cuomo investigation. Mr. David did keep a copy of a memorandum concerning a matter he worked on because it was, in part, his work product (which is entirely permissible and standard practice for many).”

The legal representative added “to be absolutely clear,” as David has said before, he was required to produce the memo pursuant to rule 1.16 of the rules governing legal counsel.

“He did not provide any documents to the media concerning any Cuomo accuser,” the representative said. “This insinuation is categorically false and is not supported by any finding in the Attorney General’s investigation.”

Allred, asked to respond to those refutations, made clear she never said David undertook those actions in responding to the Blade’s question on his actions as described in the New York attorney general report.

“I never stated that Mr. David provided any documents to the media concerning any Cuomo accuser, nor did I ever state that Mr. David took any employee personnel file or records,” Allred said.

The situation with David continues to leave the Human Rights Campaign in turmoil After a tense staff meeting last week, another meeting with David, the board and staff took place over the phone on Tuesday that was emotional and confrontational, sources familiar with the meeting told the Blade.

David spoke at the beginning, reiterated his denial of wrongdoing, was emotional, but mostly stepped aside so others could talk, sources said. Michael Vazquez, an HRC staffer who has worked on faith organizing for the LGBTQ group, announced he is leaving, citing a culture of bullying and harassment, sources said.

A representative for the Human Rights Campaign, asked to comment on the meeting, confirmed it took place, but said it was a regularly scheduled staff meeting.

It’s unclear whether the situation will have any major impact on the ability of the nation’s leading LGBTQ group to conduct its mission, or whether its fundraising efforts have suffered, which could lead to layoffs for an organization already experiencing high turnover.

The HRC representative referred the Blade to an earlier statement on the matter when asked about changes in fundraising or plans for layoffs.

“This investigation will in no way hinder the organizations’ continued pursuit of the critical work necessary to bring equity and liberation to the LGBTQ+ community,” the representative said.

Allred, in addition to representing women in sexual assault cases, has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights and represented a same-sex couple in California that won marriage rights in the state in 2008 before they were taken away by Proposition 8 and later restored by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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National

65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member

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(Logo courtesy of the NBJC)

The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes

Five people killed in 2022 mass shooting in Colo.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Justice Department YouTube screenshot)

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colo., was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon, and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance — stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department — from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI — for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and, Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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Federal Government

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Garcia urges US officials to protect LGBTQ people during Pride Month

Gay Calif. congressman sent letter to top authorities on June 12

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Participants of the Capital Pride Festival in D.C. on June 8, 2024. Gay U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) has urged U.S. officials to ensure LGBTQ people are safe during Pride Month. (Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) on June 12 sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray to work to ensure LGBTQ people during Pride events.

“Over the last several weeks, your respective agencies and departments have issued stark warnings, and travel advisories to the public over potential threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), and their supporters during this year’s Pride Month,” said Garcia in his letter. “I understand that these steps have come after deeply concerning increases in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, calls for targeted violence, and foiled violent plots.”

The FBI on May 10 issued an advisory that warned of potential violence at Pride events and other LGBTQ-specific events. The State Department on May 17 — the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia — announced a similar warning.

“Ensuring that people can peacefully and safely celebrate Pride and the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community is of utmost importance,” wrote Garcia, a gay man who represents California’s 42nd Congressional District that includes Long Beach.

June 12 also marked eight years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, even though there is no evidence that suggests the extremist group ordered him to carry out the massacre. 

“This week marks the eight (sp) anniversary of the horrific Pulse nightclub Orlando shooting — during which the attacker deliberately and viciously targeted the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Garcia in his letter. “It is important to put the recent escalation of extremist anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda and messaging in the context the Pulse nightclub shooter who was influenced by these same forces of extremism.”

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