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Trans military ban halted by war threat

LGBT groups file lawsuit as White House reportedly finalizes guidance

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transgender military ban, gay news, Washington Blade, transgender service

President Trump caved to pressure from religious conservatives and announced a ban on trans service members. (Photo The White House Youtube channel)

It took the threat of nuclear war with North Korea to reportedly get the White House to put a hold on the policy re-instituting the ban on open transgender service in the military.

A White House source, who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity, said “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out”— which had been certified by the White House Counsel’s Office after repeated advice that it would result in lawsuits—was expected to be sent to Defense Secretary James Mattis sometime during the week starting Aug. 7.

However, according to a Pentagon source, after President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un got into a fiery verbal sparring match on Aug. 8, the Defense Secretary sent a message to major U.S. commands letting them know that the threat by North Korea was his overriding priority and that other issues “were to be temporarily sidelined.”

Additionally, the Pentagon source says that Mattis intends to put a hold on all personnel matters, though disciplinary issues such discharges will continue. However, anything that affects military strength and readiness, specifically troop numbers, will be put on hold. Meanwhile, the Pentagon confirmed to the New York Times Aug. 9 that it has not yet received the trans guidance.

More pressing is possible nuclear war. On Aug. 5, the United Nations Security Council imposed tougher economic sanctions on North Korea after the isolated country tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles. China and Russia voted with the United States, something of a diplomatic coup, considering China’s connections to North Korea. Trump and his advisers had been warned by President Obama and National Security Adviser Susan Rice that Kim Jong-un was developing a threatening nuclear program—a fact made more concerning when the Washington Post reported that North Korea has developed a miniaturized nuclear weapon that can fit on top of an ICBM, which is capable of reaching the United States. Los Angeles, considered a prime target, is 5,935 miles from North Korea.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” warned Trump from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening — beyond a normal statement,” Trump said of Kim Jong-un. “As I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

North Korea threatened a preemptive strike creating “enveloping fire” against Guam, a sovereign U.S. territory that’s home to combined Navy and Air Force forces at Joint Region Marianas, with 6,000 service members, a port for nuclear submarines and other major military forces and more than 162,000 Americans. Last June, Guam held its first LGBT Pride parade with 150 people, including Guam Legislature Speaker Benjamin Cruz.

While Mattis did not specifically mention tabling the transgender service ban, it can be extrapolated that dealing with such a major policy change would be exceedingly disruptive during a time of crisis, especially when a military leader would want the ability to deploy all available troops.

Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann is continuing to do his job, despite President Trump’s announcement that he intends to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Meanwhile, GLAD and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a “Doe v. Trump lawsuit on Aug. 9 in federal court in D.C., seeking an injunction against Trump’s directive to reinstate a ban.

“President Trump is needlessly attacking courageous transgender service members who put their lives on the line for our country,” GLAD and NCLR said in a press release. “Trump’s efforts to reinstate the ban are already harming service members, who have been blindsided and are scrambling to deal with what this means for their families and their futures—including the loss of job security, retirement benefits, healthcare, and other serious harms.”

The two LGBT-focused law firms note that the military has already carefully studied the ban, which led to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter agreeing to lift the ban on open trans service in June 2016 after a RAND Study he commissioned indicated there would be no problems either with service or limited costs for medical care. Thousands of trans service members subsequently came out and have been serving openly without incident. The firms represent five of those active duty service members.

The lawsuit asserts that Trump’s tweeted directive violates the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Constitution, discriminates against one group with no legitimate purpose and contradicts the military’s own conclusion that there is no reason for the ban.
Transgender service members also relied on the continuity of the policy after Mattis’ Jan. 12 confirmation hearing in which he assured lawmakers that he would not roll back the Obama administration rules. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked specifically if Mattis thought there was anything innate about being a woman or LGBT that would disqualify them from serving in a lethal force, Mattis said, “No,” The Hill reported.

“We are heartened by Gen. Mattis’ stated commitment during his testimony not to reverse the profound progress we have made in ensuring LGBT service members and their families are able to serve our nation with pride,” American Military Partner Association President Ashley Broadway-Mack and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn said in a joint statement.

So how did the White House, the Defense Department and the LGBT community come to this point, especially after then-candidate Trump promised to protect the LGBT community?

Trump, shows a crowd at Colorado campaign rally an upside down Rainbow flag. Upside down flags are a sign of distress. An omen of things to come (Trump campaign Instagram)

“Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” he tweeted on June 14, 2016.

Then there was his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016. “Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time the terrorist targeted our LGBT community. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” Trump said.

But that promise clashed with another promise Trump made to his more reliable base, the evangelical community, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.

The specific drive to repeal and replace the open transgender service commitment started behind the scenes with a series of anti-LGBT nominations in March and April, with the growing sense that some military officers were pressing the chiefs to roll back the policy through an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. They found an opening when on May 10, USA Today reported on two transgender cadets at the Air Force Academy and at West Point. That exposed a glaring loophole in the accessions policy, the procedure for accepting new troops into service.

“Currently, there is an Air Force Academy cadet who has identified as a transgender individual,” said Lt. Col. Allen Heritage, an academy spokesman, told USA Today. “The cadet can graduate. But, per the current (Defense Department) transgender policy, this cadet cannot commission into the Air Force. However, we are strongly recommending this individual for Air Force civil service as an option for continued service after the academy.”

On May 21, USA Today reported on a May 8 memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work instructing the service secretaries and chiefs of the armed services to assess the military’s “readiness to begin accepting transgender applicants on July 1, 2017.” Their assessments are due May 31.

“The personnel policies of this Department are designed to enhance the warfighting readiness and lethality of the force that protects our country,” Work wrote. “We do not intend to reconsider prior decisions unless they cause readiness problems that could lessen our ability to fight, survive and win on the battlefield.”

Brad Carson, a top Carter official for military personnel and an advocate for lifting the ban, told USA Today he was concerned about how the other ordinary memo, for a new administration, could be interpreted.

General Mattis – Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates speaks with outgoing acting U.S. Central Command commander Lt. Gen. John Allen (right) and incoming commander Gen. James N. Mattis before an assumption of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., on Aug. 11, 2010. (Photo for Department of Defense by Cherie Cullen)

“This could be seen as an opportunity to reconsider the policy,” Carson said. “It is certainly possible, and it would invite litigation. I do have full confidence in (Defense Secretary) Jim Mattis to do the right thing here.”

He was right. The articles exposing the loophole in the accessions policy and the May 8 memo, triggered a Religious Right chain reaction, with the Heritage Foundation reaching out to the Military Times to follow up. This was also during the same period that there was much coverage of Chelsea Manning in the media. On May 16, 85 conservative leaders, many like Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and scores of retired anti-LGBT military officers, issued a statement opposing transgender service.

“Conservative leaders urgently suggest that the Trump Administration review and rescind the Obama-era policies that hinder military readiness and overall effectiveness,” the statement said. “Politically correct policies have been imposed largely through administrative fiat. They can be removed in like manner while further study and congressional guidance is obtained. The most problematic policies in this category are those addressing the presence of transgender individuals in the military.”

That was enough to motivate a number of religious Republican conservatives in the House — led by Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Rep. Vicki Hartzler from Missouri — to launch a series of amendments to the NDAA.

By now, Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Mo Brooks from Alabama, Steve King from Iowa, and Trent Franks from Arizona were involved.

Meanwhile, Perkins, along with his colleagues Ken Blackwell and Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (ret), went to Vice President Mike Pence who agreed to step in and help if he could, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

The LGBT movement leadership knew what was going on but tried to keep everything quiet. “We were trying desperately to get to May 31 because we knew at that point the accessions policy would be locked into place by the Pentagon,” said a source who asked to remain anonymous. “Then it was just a simple matter of letting it ride until Secretar Mattis signed off on it.”

The LGBT coalition quietly working on this were confident (if they could get to May 31) because there had already been one year of open service without incident for an estimated 15,000 trans service members in all five branches of service, and because of the assumed power of the RAND Study.

But Hartzler’s focus on the Pentagon not paying for what Hartzler called “transition surgeries,” as well as hormone therapy, became a media talking point. “The job of Congress is to ensure that our military is the most effective, efficient and well-funded fighting force in the world. With the challenges we are facing across the globe, we are asking the American people to invest their hard-earned money in national defense. Each dollar needs to be spent to address threats facing us,” she said in a July statement. She threw out wild estimate that the surgeries would cost “a billion dollars over the next ten years.”

The RAND study flat contradicted that, underscoring that “not all of these transgender service members would be expected to seek medical treatment related to their gender status or become non-deployable.”

“Only a small portion of service members would likely seek gender transition-related medical treatments that would affect their deployability or health care costs,” said Agnes Gereben Schaefer, lead author of the study and a senior political scientist at RAND.

RAND estimated that “between 30 and 140 new hormone treatments could be initiated a year and 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries could be utilized a year among active component service members. Additional health care costs could range between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, representing an approximate 0.13-percent increase.”

Vice President Mike Pence addressed The Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. (Photo by Gage Skidmore, Wiki Commons)

Hunter, Hartlzer, Brooks, Franks and Meadows approached White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs Rick Dearborn to get involved. “Dearborn has the ear of Vice President Pence. So he and the VP talked about it,” the source said.

This same week, there was a meeting of evangelical leaders at the White House and they briefly discussed the transgender issue. “But when Pence got back to his office, he made a call over to Meadows and they had another discussion about it,” the source says.

It was at this point that Rep. Pete Sessions, who is chair of the House Rules Committee, was basically saying we’re not going to let it in on the final rule, it’s basically going to have to go as an amendment to the bill on House floor. Speaker Ryan agreed.

Hunter and Hartzler, Brooks and Franks lined up as many votes as they could get, as did the pro-LGBT side.

The day before the vote, on Wednesday, July 12, the Pentagon source says Mattis reached out to Hartzler herself. Late that night, the source said Hartzler, “in a very polite way, told him to fuck off.”

The LGBT side needed all the Democrats and at least 25-30 Republican moderates to cross over, which happened after it was confirmed that Mattis had lobbied against the amendment. Though it was a narrow vote—214-209—the amendment was defeated. But the issue didn’t die, even after Mattis spoke directly to Ryan and others.

Hunter, Hartzler, and Meadows would not take “no” and eventually went to Pence.

While Trump was on his way to a rally in Ohio, Pence, Dearborn, Steve Bannon, and others held a conference call with the Republican legislators. At some point, the source says, Pence made a call to the plane and discussed the situation with Trump. About five hours later, Pence called the plane again as it was on its way back to Joint Base Andrews.

The issue was brought up again the next morning during the morning briefing and 25 minutes after that came the first tweet. There was a nine-minute gap, then came the second tweet, and then that was quickly followed by the third tweet.

Mattis and the Pentagon were told something was going on the day before, but not what it was. They were told to stand by for a change of direction in policy. They were all reportedly caught off guard by the tweets. And everyone was caught off guard by the swift backlash from such conservatives as Sens. Orin Hatch of Utah and Joanie Ernst of Iowa. The consensus was that this is not how policy is done.
Reversing the policy of inclusion for transgender service members has been a priority of Pence’s base—the religious right—since the ban was lifted on June 30, 2016. Just because of the possibility of war, a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the expected White House guidance, and the fact that Mattis does not want the anti-trans policy should not mean the LGBT community should drop its guard. Trans service may be constitutional but it’s still under attack in a war of the Religious Right’s making.

The Blade is producing a detailed timeline on the transgender military issue that will be posted online.

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Colorado

Biden calls Club Q owners; community grapples with aftermath

Fallout over the shooting continues as anger mounts at what many in the LGBTQ+ community see as a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech

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Entrance to the Focus on the Family complex in Colorado Springs after the mass-murder at LGBTQ+ Club Q (Photo by Nic Grzecka/Instagram)

COLORADO SPRINGS – As the LGBTQ+ community continues to mourn the loss of the five people killed in last weekend’s mass shooting, focus is now shifting to a reflection of anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has evolved from prejudice to incitement according to Nic Grzecka a co-owner of Club Q.

In an interview with the Associated Press, one of his first since the chaos of the aftermath created by the mass-shooting, Grzecka said he believes the targeting of a drag queen event is connected to the art form being cast in a false light in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children.

Even though general acceptance of the LGBTQ community has grown, this new dynamic has fostered a dangerous climate, he said.

“It’s different to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and getting spit at (as opposed to) a politician relating a drag queen to a groomer of their children,” Grzecka said. “I would rather be spit on in the street than the hate get as bad as where we are today.”

On Thursday, President Joe Biden spending the Thanksgiving holiday with the First Lady and family members in Nantucket, Massachusetts, called Grzecka and Club Q co-owner Matthew Haynes.

The President and the First Lady offered condolences and reiterated their support for the community as well as their commitment to fighting back against hate and gun violence. They also thanked the two men for the ‘incredible contributions they have made and will continue to make to Colorado Springs.’

The president told reporters enroute to Nantucket, reflecting on the mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ club and then another mass-shooting Tuesday, at a Wal-Mart store when a night manager opened fire in a breakroom in Chesapeake, Va., killing six, and wounding at least half a dozen more, said he has plans to support a bill banning assault rifles during the lame-duck session before the next Congress is seated in January.

“I’m going to do it whenever — I got to make that assessment as I get in and start counting the votes,” Biden said

As the memorial outside Club Q grows, more attention is now being focused on the needs of the survivors and others in the LGBTQ + community in Colorado Springs affected by the mass-shooting.

An annual ‘Friendsgiving’ feast for the members of the LGBTQ+ community unable to spend time with relatives because of their being LGBTQ+ and which was normally held by the owners and staff of Club Q was shifted to a community dinner at the Colorado Springs MCC Church.

In an Instagram post, earlier in the week, Grzecka thanked Colorado Governor Jared Polis, state Attorney General Phil Weiser, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez and city councilmember Nancy Henjum whose district the LGBTQ+ club is located, “for your hard work to ensure there was a Crisis Center to service the Club Q and Colorado Springs community during the holiday.”

Fallout over the shooting continues as anger mounts at what many in the LGBTQ+ community see as targeted hate amplified by a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech online and by right-wing media outlets and far-right figures such as Fox host Tucker Carlson.

Colorado Springs is also home to Focus on the Family, one of the largest anti-LGBTQ+ groups in the United States. The Christian ministry group has opposed same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ service in any branch of the U.S. armed forces and continues to advocate for the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

Late Thursday person or persons unknown vandalized the sign at the main entrance to the group’s headquarters complex. “We went out there to investigate if there was a crime that took place,” Colorado Springs Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Jason Ledbetter told the Gazette regarding the overnight incident. “There is no suspect information at this time.”

In a Instagram post, Club Q owner Grzecka displayed a picture of the vandalized sign with graffiti spray painted in black reading; “Their blood is on your hands five lives taken.”

In his message accompanying the picture, Grzecka noted:

Focus on the Family moved to our city in the 90’s, was a large group behind pushing through amendment 2 along with Colorado for family matters. People such as Dr. James Dobson and Will Perkins have spread a nasty, false and hurtful narrative about our LGBT community.

Amendment 2 was passed in 1992, and Colorado Springs ( El Paso county) were the votes to pass the amendment, the same amendment that gave our city the nickname “hate city USA”

Words have consequences and your continuous false narrative about the lgbt community has consequences,
@focusonthefamily this message added to your sign has more truth to it than you may actually be able to understand.

This is not vandalism this is not an attack on Christian’s. This message is just that a message that was delivered in a way to ensure you receive it.

@cityofcos, Mayor Suthers when can we meet to discuss how this type of Anti Gay speech, is coming from our own backyard.

The Gazette also reported that people from around the nation are holding in-person and online fundraisers for victims and families of the Club Q mass shooting. 

While the state has an official online donation site, the Colorado Healing Fund, a private online drive, also has become one of the largest appeals.

Good Judy Garage in Denver, an LGBTQ business, raised $25,000 in two hours after starting a GoFundMe drive on Sunday. The initial goal was upped to $50,000 and now is at $750,000, as donations continue to pour in. As of Friday, the amount collected was $761,707 raised.

Link to the GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-the-club-q-families-and-survivors.

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Club Q suspect in court, friend says never claimed to be nonbinary

He told NBC 9 News that he informed investigators the suspect made several hateful comments toward the LGBTQ community

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Booking photo via Colorado Springs Police Department

COLORADO SPRINGS – The person police say murdered 5 people and is responsible for injuring 25 others appeared in a El Paso County, Colorado court Wednesday via a video link from the county’s detention center.

Slumped over in a chair in a yellow-gold jail issued jumpsuit and mumbling answers to the judge’s questions, suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich visibly bore the marks of the beating received by U.S. Army veteran, Major Richard Fierro, and U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James, in the struggle by both to disarm Aldrich.

Fierro’s daughter Kassy’s longtime boyfriend and “affectionate member” of the Fierro family, 22-year-old Raymond Green Vance, was killed in the shooting. Fierro the owner of a local microbrewery along with Petty Officer James, who was shot in the struggle and hospitalized, were able to disarm the suspect.

Multiple media outlets reported that another Club Q patron, a trans woman, then joined in the courageous takedown, removing a high-heeled shoe and smashing the spike into the shooter’s face and head.

In a statement released Tuesday, the U.S. Navy confirmed that James was in hospital but added that “is currently in stable condition and we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.”

Wednesday tweet of booking photo of suspect in Club Q mass shooting released by the Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department.

Known as an advisement hearing to inform a person suspected of a crime of the charges and also potential bail requirements, Joseph Archambault, the chief trial deputy for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender and Michael Bowman, another state public defender, appeared with the suspect as Judge Charlotte Ankeny set the first in-person appearance in court for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 6 and ordered Aldrich held without bail.

Included in the court documents, the suspect’s defense team noted: “Anderson Aldrich is non-binary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal [court] filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

The Gazette reported District Attorney Michael Allen said following the advisement hearing, that Aldrich’s identity as nonbinary would not impact how the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes the case.

“His legal definition in this proceeding is ‘the defendant,’” Allen said.

NBC 9 News Denver correspondent Kelly Reinke reported that a recent neighbor of the suspect said he spent hours talking to the FBI on Tuesday morning. He told Reinke that he informed investigators the suspect made several hateful comments toward the LGBTQ community.

“Just expressed he didn’t like the LGBTQ community,” said Xavier Kraus, a neighbor of the accused shooter, said he and his girlfriend lived across the hall from Aldrich and his mother until September. “And pretty sure at one point he expressed he hated the LGBTQ community, he hated gays.”

Kraus said he specifically remembered one time “Aldrich vocalized verbally using a derogatory term for them [LGBTQ people].” He added that many other “outbursts” were “racial.”

“This is not the type of person I would take around my gay friends,” he said. 

Kraus told NBC 9 News he and Aldrich became close friends last year. They bonded over tech and video games. Kraus added that Aldrich never mentioned being nonbinary in their times together.

“If I knew what he was going to do what he did, I would have done something. I would have said something. I just didn’t know,” Kraus said.

KFMB-TV CBS News 8 San Diego spoke with the biological father of the suspect, a former federal inmate and adult porn actor Aaron Brink, 48, who told News 8 “we’re Mormons, we don’t do gay!” He added that his ex-wife called him from Colorado in 2016 to tell him their son, Nicholas Brink, had changed his name to Anderson Aldrich, and had killed himself.

Then, two days ago, Brink got a call from his son’s defense attorneys, telling him Aldrich was involved in a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, News 8 reported.

Brink said he’s a Mormon and his first reaction was to question why his son was at a gay bar.

“You know Mormons don’t do gay. We don’t do gay. There’s no gays in the Mormon church. We don’t do gay,” Brink said.

“They started telling me about the incident, a shooting… And then I go on to find out it’s a gay bar. I got scared, ‘Shit, is he gay?’ And he’s not gay, so I said, phew… I am a conservative Republican,” Brink said.

He told News 8 his ex-wife, the daughter of California State Assemblyman Randy Voepel, and his son moved to Colorado around 2012.

Laura Voepel, Aldrich’s mother, had been arrested for arson and a series of probation violations according to an emerging portrait of the alleged shooter pieced together by CNN.

CNN also reported that Voepel called police last year and reported Aldrich had entered the Colorado Springs house she was renting a room in and threatened her with a homemade bomb.

Several hours after the initial police call, the local sheriff department’s crisis negotiations unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the house. Authorities did not find any explosives in the home, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said.

Aldrich was arrested and booked into the El Paso County Jail on two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, according to a 2021 news release from the sheriff’s office.

It was not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved; the Colorado Springs Gazette reported the district attorney’s office said no formal charges were pursued in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.

Brink, who currently works as a mixed martial arts coach says he taught his son how to fight.

“I praised him for violent behavior really early. I told him it works. It is instant and you’ll get immediate results,” Brink said.

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Colorado

Club Q ‘Family’ gathers at city hall in Colorado Springs

“We are honored to share this symbol of hope, love and unity with the people of Colorado Springs in their time of sorrow”

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Club Q 'Family' gathers on the steps of City Hall in Colorado Springs on November 23, 2022 (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

COLORADO SPRINGS – In a show of solidarity, support, and love for its LGBTQ+ community devastated by the mass-shooting in the LGBTQ+ safe space Club Q last Saturday, several thousand people gathered in front of city hall in downtown Colorado Springs Wednesday.

In the rally of support was accompanied by the unfurling of a 25-foot segment of the larger LGBTQ Pride Flag that was created and displayed to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Pride flag created by Gilbert Baker, which was also displayed in Orlando after the Pulse mass-shooting.

Club Q ‘Family’ gathers on the steps of City Hall in Colorado Springs on November 23, 2022
(Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

Addressing the massive gathering, City Council Representative Nancy Henjum whose district includes Club Q, said:

This morning I am honored to serve as manager this ceremony and to represent our City Council, our Mayor, and other City Leaders. Standing with us today are(Mayor John Suthers, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, Fire Chief Randy Royal, District Attorney Michael Allen and Jessie Pocock, the Executive Director of Inside Out and the many folks she has gathered to help make today happen.”

This flag which we are about to unfurl was designed and created by Gilbert Baker. He was the designer of the original rainbow flag. 25 years later to commemorate its anniversary Mr. Baker then worked with over 2000 volunteers to create a 1.25-mile-long rainbow flag. The flag was later cut into 25- foot sections for display and use around the world. The section we will unfurl today – section 93 — has been in dozens of ceremonies across the world. To name just a few: It appeared at The Supreme Court for the announcement of the 2015 decision for marriage equality. And as it was leaving the White House from an LGBT Presidential Reception on June 9, 2016, it was diverted from a preplanned display in New Orleans to arrive in Orlando, Florida where it was offered as a gesture of love support and healing in response to the Pulse nightclub massacre. It hung in downtown Orlando and graced a memorial ceremony for those 49 lives lost. It returns each June on the anniversary of that massacre. We receive this flag with the same gratitude that the City of Orlando did those 6 years ago.

(Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

What does the future look like for Colorado Springs and especially for the LGBTQ+ community? There is so much love and support for you here today. We MUST continue that for the days, weeks, years, and lifetimes to come – especially for queer people of color and for transgender people. We heard from many of you yesterday in this very building that you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel respected – that we must do better. Yes – we MUST do better. We WILL do better. And we will start with our display of support by unfurling this flag on our historic 1904 building.

In hearing the story of the journey of this sacred cloth from its custodian Mark Ebenhoch, we learned of its incredible healing power. Flags are important symbols that express identity, community, and solidarity. SO NOW – Let’s call this flag down from the top of our City Hall. All together let’s say: LOVE BEATS HATE! LOVE WINS!

Jessie Pocock, the executive director and CEO of Inside Out Youth Services LGBTQ noted, “As Colorado Springs mourns, we are heartened that this historic flag has been offered for display. We are grateful for this incredible demonstration of compassion.”

The flag, measuring 14 by 25 feet, is one section of the historic Rainbow25 flag sewn together by Gilbert Baker in Key West, Fla., in 2003 to create a 1.25 mile long flag in the original eight colors (versus the six colors that became more common). That flag marked the 25th anniversary of the 1978 flag originally created by Baker. The Sea to Sea Flag was later cut into sections, and Section 93 is preserved as the Sacred Cloth. It has traveled the globe to be displayed at celebrations, occasions of mourning, and historic moments.

“We are honored to share this symbol of hope, love and unity with the people of Colorado Springs in their time of sorrow,” said Mark Ebenhoch, Sacred Cloth Project director.

The person alleged have committed the mass-shooting is scheduled for a video “Advisement Hearing” later today. In response to the court documents filed Tuesday in which defense lawyers alleged that the suspect is non-binary, GLAAD responded in an emailed statement:

“GLAAD stands in full solidarity with the Club Q family devastated by the heinous and horrific acts of a mass murderer. As our community has said from the beginning, regardless of the motive, the LGBTQ community has been, and continues to be, under attack. As we wait for evidence and information to emerge, what we do know is that this violent and unspeakable crime, which clearly targeted LGBTQ people, illustrates two facts:

One, the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, especially anti-transgender rhetoric, is infecting every part of America, created by politicians in their crass drive for power, parroted by right-wing media outlets, and amplified by social media platforms who prioritize profits over public safety. And two: assault weapons continue to senselessly end American lives and we need common-sense gun safety reform now.

In fact, newly released GLAAD polling now shows a worsening climate for LGBTQ people: 72% of transgender people and 48% of the LGBTQ community overall say that the current political environment makes them fear for their personal safety.”

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Colorado

Club Q suspect claiming to be non-binary defense attorneys say

“They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal [court] filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich”

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Screenshot/YouTube KRDO 13 ABC News

COLORADO SPRINGS – The suspect in the killing of five people and the wounding of over a dozen others in the Saturday night mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ Club Q is non-binary say attorneys in documents filed Tuesday in the 4th Judicial District and El Paso County, Colorado Combined Courts.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that lawyers for suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich filed a series of motions after Aldrich was released from the hospital and transferred to the El Paso County jail in downtown Colorado Springs.

Joseph Archambault, who is the chief trial deputy for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender and Michael Bowman, another state public defender, included a footnote in the documents which read: “Anderson Aldrich is non-binary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal [court] filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

The suspect has 10 charges stemming from the shooting. Five felony counts of first degree murder and 5 felony counts of  bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury.

In a press briefing earlier, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said the suspect had not made any statements to CSPD investigators despite attempts to interview Aldrich.

The Gazette reported that Aldrich is scheduled to make a virtual appearance for an advisement hearing at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in 4th Judicial District Court. There is no date set for the suspect’s first in-person court appearance. 

According to the Gazette the six motions filed by the defense include a motion to unseal the arrest affidavit for the defense, a motion to limit pretrial public comment, a motion to provide ongoing disclosures to the defense, a motion for the court to prohibit ex parte search warrants by law enforcement, a motion for preservation of discoverable materials, and a motion demanding a preliminary hearing. 

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Colorado

Black queer lawmaker speaks out: ‘Hell yes, I support trans youth!’

Herod, who grew up in Colorado Springs, is the first Black LGBTQ person to hold office in the Colorado General Assembly

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Rep. Leslie Herod (Screenshot/YouTube Denver NBC 9 News)

DENVER – State Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) is calling on local officials to enforce the state’s red flag gun laws and for all to take action against hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the aftermath of the Club Q shooting that killed five.

Herod, who grew up in Colorado Springs, is the first Black LGBTQ person to hold office in the Colorado General Assembly and has been a Club Q patron for more than 20 years. 

She called the act a heinous attempt to silence the LGBTQ community.

“I’m very upset because I know that people were targeted for loving who they love, just for presenting how they present — just for being themselves and wanting to celebrate and party and find connection,” Herod said.

Herod is critical of the recent explosion of anti-LGBTQ comments, including those made and amplified by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) about Colorado’s LGBTQ community. 

Herod herself was the target of hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on Trans Day of Remembrance,  just a few hours after Club Q was attacked. 

tweet from a popular anti-LGBTQ account notorious for possibly inciting bomb threats against hospitals that provide trans-affirming healthcare earlier this year blamed Herod and another representative for supporting drag performances at venues like Club Q. 

“And just as I’m hearing the news, I get tagged by some horrible, right-wing site trying to target me for supporting trans youth. Hell yes, I support trans youth! and your threats and trolls won’t stop me from ALWAYS standing up against hate,” Herod tweeted back.

Hatred toward the LGBTQ community continues to be a hot button topic in politics, sharply dividing the Republican right and Democratic left. This politicized divide, Herod says, both shelters and fuels violent rhetoric against the LGBTQ community. 

“They’re the ones who embolden, indoctrinate and groom young people to have this hate in their hearts and think it’s OK to walk into a club and shoot people simply for who they are,” Herod said.

Colorado’s red flag gun law should have prevented the gunman, who has a history of bomb threats and making threats of physical violence, from easily buying the two firearms used in the Club Q attack but didn’t.

Herod says that El Paso County, where Club Q is located, is part of the problem. El Paso County declares itself a “Second Amendment county” and largely refuses to enforce gun regulations.

Herod co-sponsored Colorado’s Red Flag Gun Law, HB19-1177, which  Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in April 2019. But since the bill went into effect in January 2020, Herod says it hasn’t been enforced. 

“We have local law enforcement that have said very publicly they refuse to enforce it,” Herod said.

Because the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office refuses to enforce the state’s red flag law, Herod hopes the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement will step in.

It is El Paso County Sheriff’s Office’s explicit policy not to petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) or Temporary Risk Protection Order (TRPO) to remove firearms from at-risk people. A 2021 Colorado Department of Law report found that ERPO petitions filed by law enforcement are granted 85% of the time, while only 15% of petitions filed by others are granted. 

Only seven petitions for ERPOs were filed in El Paso county in fiscal year 2020 according to the Colorado Judicial Branch Annual Statistical Report.

“I hope that those law enforcement agencies that refuse to do anything and to implement the red flag law get sued,” Herod told the Blade. 

Recovery for Club Q, which is closed indefinitely, and the LGBTQ community, both in Colorado Springs and nationwide, lies ahead. Only time will tell when that healing will begin. Herod continues to support the LGBTQ community throughout Colorado, the families of the victims, and those who survived.

“My hope is that we use this moment to continue to be ourselves, continue to speak out, continue to live our lives as fully as we want and can imagine. And when we’re ready, I hope we rebuild.”

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Colorado

Colorado Springs mayor grateful for support, Biden offers help

Biden committed to continuing to press Congress for an assault weapons ban because “thoughts and prayers are just not enough”

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Screenshot/YouTube NBC News

COLORADO SPRINGS – In a late afternoon press briefing, law enforcement and the civic leadership of Colorado Springs spoke to reporters updating the investigation into the mass shooting at the LGBTQ+ community space Club Q late Saturday.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the state’s former Attorney General, expressed his and officials gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy and offers of support from his city’s residents and the entire Pikes Peak region.

Aboard Air Force One en route to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters:

“Earlier this afternoon, President Biden had the opportunity to speak with Colorado Governor Jared Polis following the deadly shooting in Colorado Springs over the weekend.  The President extended his condolences and offered to provide support in any way that would be helpful. 
 
He committed to continuing to press Congress for an assault weapons ban because thoughts and prayers are just not enough,” Jean-Pierre said.

Police Hold Briefing on Colorado Springs Mass Shooting | NBC News:

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