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Washington Blade sues State Dept. for Grenell’s emails on LGBTQ work

FOIA unanswered nearly one year after it was filed



Ric Grenell, Richard Grenell, gay news, Washington Blade

The Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest LGBTQ newspaper, has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking the emails of Richard Grenell, the face of LGBTQ outreach for President Trump, regarding his work on a global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality.

The complaint was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the State Department and contends the continued delay in responding to a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the emails violates the law, which requires an expeditious process in responding to requests.

Chris Johnson, White House reporter for the Washington Blade, is a named plaintiff and said the lawsuit is intended to aid in efforts to learn more about the Trump administration’s initiative, which some highlighted as evidence that former President Trump supported LGBTQ people.

“Our litigation goals are obtaining the information sought in our FOIA request to educate the public on the extent the Trump administration was committed to the initiative to decriminalize homosexuality,” Johnson said. “Our readers are interested in knowing how the initiative Grenell led was received in the Trump administration and any support he found or opposition he encountered.”

Although the request was made in September 2020, the State Department has said the process for finding and handing over the emails would not be complete until October 2023. FOIA requires the U.S. government to respond to a request within a matter of weeks, not months or years.

“This marks the second time in a year the Blade has filed suit to force our government to comply with the law and respond in a timely manner to FOIA requests,” said Blade Editor Kevin Naff. “We expect the State Department to respond to this action in a timely manner so we can get answers to these important questions.”

An estimated 69 countries still have laws on the books making homosexual acts a criminal offense. International LGBTQ advocates have made efforts in recent years to convince these nations to repeal the laws and for the global community to increase penalties and limit access to economic opportunities if these laws remain in place.

Defenders of the Trump administration’s entre into this area said it was evidence the Republican Party was moderating on LGBTQ issues, but critics contended it was a facade with little substance and wasn’t transgender inclusive. At least two countries — Sudan and Gabon — made progress in recent years to decriminalize homosexuality, but there’s no evidence that was because of the efforts under the Trump initiative.

Grenell, a Republican political strategist who helped in the initial phases with Trump’s effort to challenge the 2020 election results, has been the subject of speculation about a run for governor of California. Grenell opted not to enter the gubernatorial recall in California, but has left the door open for a future candidacy.

Representing the Washington Blade in the lawsuit on a pro bono basis is the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, which has expertise in communications as well as media and entertainment.

Dan Fiedler, an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine, said the Blade’s lawsuit is important to uphold the principles of the First Amendment.

“We all rely on the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press to let the Blade play its essential role in American Democracy: Keeping people informed of the most relevant topics of the day, especially topics having to do with our governing officials,” Fiedler said. “The State Department cannot continue to ignore its duties under the Freedom of Information Act, and we are proud to represent the Blade in this suit so it can obtain the simple relief to which it is entitled — access to the government records it requested nearly a year ago.”

Read a copy of the Blade complaint here. All contact information in this version is redacted.

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article misspelled the name of Dan Fiedler and misstated the State Department’s estimated time of completion for the FOIA request. The Blade regrets the errors.



Shutdown averted with bipartisan bill over objections of far-right House caucus

45-day continuing resolution passed 335-91.



U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) (Screen capture/PBS News)

The U.S. House on Saturday approved a 45-day continuing resolution that, should the Senate approve the stopgap measure, as expected, will avert a government shutdown.

In a stunning turn of events, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats backed the proposal, H.R. 5860 advanced by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which was passed with a vote of 335-91.

Ninety Republicans and one Democrat voted against the continuing resolution which, in addition to funding U.S. government agencies through mid-November, will provide billions in disaster relief .


Democrats agreed to the bill even though it did not contain U.S. aid to Ukraine. Still, the most conservative members of McCarthy’s caucus have warned they would replace their speaker if he cooperated with Democrats on a deal to avoid a shutdown.

In recent weeks, these members advanced far-right anti-LGBTQ amendments to spending packages that stood no chance of becoming law.

The Senate voted 88-9 to pass a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government at current levels through Nov. 17 and gives the Biden administration $16 billion it requested to assist victims of natural disasters.

“Bipartisanship, which has been the trademark of the Senate, has prevailed. And the American people can breathe a sigh of relief,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

After the Senate voted late Saturday evening to pass the House stop-gap continuing resolution, the White House released the following statement from President Biden:

“Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans. This bill ensures that active-duty troops will continue to get paid, travelers will be spared airport delays, millions of women and children will continue to have access to vital nutrition assistance, and so much more. This is good news for the American people.

But I want to be clear: we should never have been in this position in the first place. Just a few months ago, Speaker McCarthy and I reached a budget agreement to avoid precisely this type of manufactured crisis. For weeks, extreme House Republicans tried to walk away from that deal by demanding drastic cuts that would have been devastating for millions of Americans. They failed.

While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support. We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

Biden is expected to sign the measure once it is delivered to the White House before the midnight deadline.


On Saturday, September 30, 2023, the President signed into law:
H.R. 5860, which provides fiscal year appropriations to Federal agencies through November 17, 2023, for continuing projects of the Federal Government and extends several expiring authorities.

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Eswatini government refuses to allow LGBTQ rights group to legally register

Supreme Court previously ruled in favor of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities



Members of the Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities, an LGBTQ and intersex rights group, after the Eswatini Supreme Court on May 5, 2023, heard arguments in their case in support of legally registering in the country. (Photo courtesy of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities)

The Eswatini Commerce, Industry and Trade Ministry this week said it will not allow an LGBTQ rights group to register.

The country’s Supreme Court in June ruled the government must allow Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities to register.

The Registrar of Companies in 2019 denied the group’s request. Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities the following year petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case. The Supreme Court initially ruled against the group, but it appealed the decision.

“[The] Minister of Commerce and Trade refuses to register ESGM citing the ‘Roman Dutch Law,'” said Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities on Thursday in a tweet to its X account. “This was after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the refusal to register ESGM by the registrar was unconstitutional.”

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Virginia Beach high school students stage walkouts to support transgender rights

City’s school board approved policy to out trans students to parents



Transgender flags (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)

Students at five Virginia Beach high schools on Friday staged walkouts in support of transgender rights.

The walkout is in response to the Virginia Beach School Board potentially approving policy 5-31, which the Pride Liberation Project says will require schools to out trans students to their parents.

Students have been organizing walkouts across the state since Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year announced new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students.

“Students like me aren’t going to be able to talk to our teachers if we’re constantly worried about our school officials calling home to forcibly out us,” AJ, a trans Kellam High School Student, told the Pride Liberation Project.

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