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Victory Fund endorses Herod for Denver mayor

‘It’s about getting the right LGBTQ person elected’



Leslie Herod is among 20 candidates running for Denver mayor. (Photo courtesy Herod campaign)

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office, has picked its top choice for Denver’s next mayor — Leslie Herod, who currently serves as District 8 representative in the Colorado House of Representatives.

Herod hopes to continue her service to the city as its mayor and someone who believes Denver is ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

“It’s not just about getting an LGBTQ person, it’s about getting the right LGBTQ person elected. And the fact that they chose to endorse me and support me really means a lot to me,” Herod said.

Herod, who is the first African American to be elected to the Colorado General Assembly, announced the endorsement in a press release.

“I know Leslie’s commitment to smart public policy and leadership to address issues of real concern for all Denverites makes her the best candidate,” said Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund.

Herod began serving Denver in 2016, when she was first elected to represent the city in the General Assembly. 

According to statewide opinion surveys, Denver is at crossroads, coping with two major issues: crime and affordable housing versus homelessness. 

“Denver’s a city where we still have a lot of vacant lots and many of those vacant lots are owned by the city and county of Denver or Denver Public Schools. We can use that space to ensure that those across the housing spectrum have access to housing,” Herod said.

Herod said these are the primary goals she will focus on through a collaborative and equitable lens that ensures every Denverite has a voice in the conversation about the future of the city and can thrive in the place they call home.

Denver has 20 candidates running for mayor. And although that may sound intimidating, Herod is confident she is the right candidate for the job.

“I know Denver is ready to take advantage of all the opportunities that lie before us. And for me, it’s really about making sure that we are improving the lives of every single Denverite so our city and our communities can thrive,” Herod said. 

Herod has passed more than 150 pieces of legislation, and when she noticed a need for mental health services, she successfully launched Support Team Assiatnce Response (STAR). STAR provides an EMT and mental health professional in response to mental health related emergency calls instead of law enforcement and a firefighter paramedic.

Besides advocating for Denver residents’ mental and physical health, including the LGBTQ community, Herod has improved access to HIV/AIDS medications and fought for the safety of trans kids in schools. 



Five transgender, nonbinary ICE detainees allege mistreatment at Colo. detention center

Advocacy groups filed complaint with federal officials on April 9



(Photo courtesy of GEO Group)

Five transgender and nonbinary people who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a privately-run detention center in Colorado say they continue to suffer mistreatment.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, the National Immigration Project and the American Immigration Council on April 9 filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Offices for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Immigration Detention Ombudsman and Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility on behalf of the detainees at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility near Denver.

Charlotte, one of the five complainants, says she spends up to 23 hours a day in her room. 

She says in the complaint that a psychiatrist has prescribed her medications for anxiety and depression, but “is in the dark about her actual diagnoses because they were not explained to her.” Myriah and Elsa allege they do not have regular access to hormones and other related health care.

Omar, who identifies as trans and nonbinary, in the complaint alleges they would “start hormone replacement therapy if they could be assured that they would not be placed in solitary confinement.” Other detainees in the complaint allege staff have also threatened to place them in isolation.

“They have been told repeatedly that, if they started therapy, they would be placed in ‘protective custody’ (solitary confinement) because the Aurora facility has no nonbinary or men’s transgender housing unit,” reads the complaint. “This is so, despite other trans men having been detained in Aurora in the past, so Omar is very likely receiving misinformation that is preventing them from accessing the treatment they require.”

Omar further alleges staffers told them upon their arrival that “they had to have a ‘boy part’ (meaning a penis) to be assigned to” the housing unit in which other trans people live. Other complainants say staff have also subjected them to degrading comments and other mistreatment because of their gender identity. 

“Victoria, Charlotte and Myriah are all apprehensive about a specific female guard who is assigned to the housing unit for transgender women at Aurora,” reads the complaint. “Victoria has experienced this guard peering at her through the glass on the door of her form. Charlotte, Myriah and the other women in her dorm experienced the same guard making fun of them after they complained that she had confiscated all of their personal hygiene products, like their toothbrushes and toothpaste, and replaced them with menstrual pads and tampons, which she knows they do not need.”

“She said something to them like, ‘If you were real women, you would need these things,'” reads the complaint. “The same guard told them that they had to ask her for their personal hygiene products when they wanted to use them, stripping them of their most basic agency.”

Victoria, who has been in ICE custody for more than two years, also says she does not have regular access to hormones. Victoria further claims poor food, lack of access to exercise and stress and anxiety because of her prolonged detention has caused has made her health deteriorate.

The GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates the Aurora Contract Detention Facility.

Advocates for years have complained about the conditions for trans and nonbinary people in ICE custody and have demanded the agency release all of them.

Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV, on May 25, 2018, died in ICE custody in New Mexico. Her family in 2020 sued the federal government and the five private companies who were responsible for her care.

Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans Salvadoran woman, on June 1, 2019, passed away at a Texas hospital four days after her release from ICE custody. Kelly González Aguilar, a trans Honduran woman, had been in ICE custody for more than two years until her release from the Aurora Contract Detention Center on July 14, 2020.

ICE spokesperson Steve Kotecki on Friday told the Blade there were 10 “self-identified transgender detainees” at the Aurora Contract Detention Center on April 11. The facility’s “transgendered units” can accommodate up to 87 trans detainees. 

A 2015 memorandum then-ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Thomas Homan signed requires personnel to allow trans detainees to identify themselves based on their gender identity on data forms. The directive, among other things, also contains guidelines for a “respectful, safe and secure environment” for trans detainees and requires detention facilities to provide them with access to hormone therapy and other trans-specific health care.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to ensuring that all those in its custody reside in safe, secure and humane environments,” said Kotecki. “ICE regularly reviews each case involving self-identified transgender noncitizens and determines on a case-by-case basis whether detention is warranted.”

The complaint, however, states this memo does not go far enough to protect trans and nonbinary detainees.

“ICE’s 2015 guidance has some significant flaws,” it reads. “It fails to provide meaningful remedies for policy violations. It does not acknowledge the challenges that nonbinary people face when imprisoned by ICE and the lack of such guidance explains why the needs of nonbinary people are largely misunderstood and unmet.”

“Further, the language used to describe people who are TNB is not inclusive and does not reflect terminology adopted by the community it is meant to describe,” adds the complaint. “Although this list is not exhaustive, it addresses some of the primary concerns voiced by the complaints.”

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US Navy officer given valor award for actions during Club Q shooting

Massacre at LGBTQ nightclub in Colo. took place last November



Information Systems Technician Second Class Thomas James, right, receives the Navy and Marine Corps Medal from Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, director of Plans, Policy and Strategy for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, at a ceremony at Peterson Space Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo., on Oct. 5, 2023. (Photo by Joshua Armstrong/Defense Department)

U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal last week for his actions taken as one of the three persons who tackled and then disarmed the shooter in the LGBTQ Club Q nightclub mass shooting in Colorado Springs last November.

According to Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez at a press conference last year, James, U.S. Army veteran Rich Fierro and a transgender woman all joined in the courageous takedown, disarming the 22-year-old suspect and holding him until the arrival by responding Colorado Springs police officers.

James had grabbed the barrel of the weapon and restrained the gunman until the police arrived and took the assailant into custody, a Navy press release said.

He suffered a gunshot wound in his abdomen and burned his hands as a result of his actions. Still, he offered his seat in an ambulance to another injured person.

“I simply wanted to save the family I found,” James, originally from West Virginia, said in a statement in November 2022. “If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world, but I am only one person.”

The shooter walked into Club Q late on Nov. 19, 2022, with multiple firearms and is accused of killing five people. At least 18 others were injured.

U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Public Affairs)

The Navy Times reported that Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, director of Plans, Policy and Strategy for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, presented the award to James on Oct. 5 at Peterson Space Forces Base in Colorado Springs.

Robertson said ahead of the ceremony he asked James, who is assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency, why he chose to act the way he did.

“He said, ‘I wanted to buy time for my friends. I wanted to protect my community,’” Robertson said at the ceremony, according to the Navy press release.

Robertson also said James’ actions caused him to reflect on how he himself would have responded if put in the same situation.

“I myself can only hope that I would channel the courage in our Navy core values like he did,” Admiral Robertson said at the ceremony. “But, we don’t have to wait for crisis to apply core values. We can and should apply them every day. That’s what I am taking away from the lessons you taught us all.”

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is the highest noncombat award for heroism and typically is awarded to those who put their own life in jeopardy.

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Club Q shooter sentenced to life without possibility of parole

Gunman pleaded guilty before judge imposed sentence



El Paso County District Attorney Michael J. Allen on June 26, 2023, announces plea deal with shooter in the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo. (YouTube screenshot from KRDO)

In a press conference Monday after the final court hearing, El Paso County (Colo.) District Attorney Michael J. Allen announced that a plea deal had been reached with the shooter in last November’s mass shooting at the LGBTQ entertainment venue Club Q. 

Colorado Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Michael McHenry accepted the plea deal worked out with Allen’s office where Anderson Lee Aldrich, 23, pleaded guilty to five counts of murder in the first degree, 46 counts of attempted murder in the first degree. 

McHenry said that Aldrich will receive five consecutive life sentences without the possibility for parole on the murder charges, and will also receive 46 consecutive 48-year sentences for the attempted murder counts, which totals 2,208 years, followed by mandatory periods of parole. This is a final decision — a trial can not happen at a later date.

Prior to sentencing, the first victim impact statements came from the loved ones of the five murdered victims:

  • Daniel Aston
  • Kelly Loving
  • Derrick Rump
  • Ashley Paugh
  • Raymond Vance

Which was followed by the statements on behalf of the other victims, survivors and families of survivors.

In addition to Allen, other officials including Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, Deputy Fire Chief of Operations Jayme McConnellogue, former Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers along with representatives of the FBI, sheriff’s office and others spoke to the gathered reporters, witnesses families and victims.

Vasquez noted that while the families of those killed will never get their loved ones back and survivors will never will forget their experience, Vasquez vowed “that we will never forget.” He then listed the five victims by name pivoting the highlight and praise the heroic acts that happened in the moments during and directly after the gunman was tackled and held down by other two other club goers, one of whom had been shot and seriously wounded.

The chief thanked the LGBTQ community for “their patience,” and he then introduced Mobolade.

Mobolade, a Nigerian American businessman and politician and the city’s first Black mayor, opened his remarks by addressing the victim’s families and survivors.

“We see you, we remember you and we will be here for you, that’s my pledge” he said.

McConnellogue, told those assembled that as the mother of a gay son, the impact of the shooting was felt throughout the entire community of Colorado Springs. The chief ended her emotional statement quoting by name slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk saying: “Hope is never silent.”


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