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Bannon, Mattis and the fate of the trans military ban

Will the trans military ban become a pawn in a war between Bannon and Trump?

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Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon at CPAC 2017, February 24th 2017. (Photo by Michael Vadon)

Former White House strategist and Presidential advisor Steve Bannon is out. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement Friday saying: “White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

Pressure from human rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, had been mounting on the administration to fire populist Bannon after Trump’s full-throated defense of white supremacy in the aftermath of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The president, who continues to sow hate and division, clearly did not fire [Steve] Bannon because of his white supremacist views and ties to the so-called ‘alt-right,’” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a statement. “Unless and until the president calls out evil; disavows neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and white supremacists; fires these staffers; and abandons his administration’s anti-civil rights agenda, he will continue to have no moral credibility.”

What Bannon will do next is fodder for rampant speculation.  Several media outlets have reported that he will return to Breitbart News or he may launch his own media outlet with backing from billionaire Robert Mercer.

Jonathan Swan from Axios reports: “A source familiar with Breitbart’s operations told me they would go ‘thermonuclear’ against ‘globalists’ that Bannon and his friends believe are ruining the Trump administration, and by extension, America. Watch for Breitbart’s Washington Editor Matt Boyle to be a central figure in this war — which has already begun — against White House officials like HR McMaster, Dina Powell, Gary Cohn, and Jared and Ivanka.”

Others think Bannon will side-step a war on Trump and only go after the “globalists,” which includes the generals: retired four-star Marine Corps general Sec. John F. Kelly, now Trump’s chief of staff, who fired him and National Security Advisor Army Lt. General H.R. McMaster, who pushed Bannon off the national security council and the subject of a relentless Breitbart attack.

The tension between McMaster and Bannon got so bad at one point that Sec. of Defense James Mattis had to intervene. Mattis, a retired four star Marine general, has also not escaped Bannon’s ire, albeit more subtly, as noted in a surprising interview with the liberal American Prospect magazine.

Bannon, the co-founder and co-editor Robert Kuttner wrote, was in “high spirits” during the interview, asserting that he knew better about trade and military policy in Asia than the professionals. “But what about his internal adversaries, at the departments of State and Defense, who think the United States can enlist Beijing’s aid on the North Korean standoff, and at Treasury and the National Economic Council who don’t want to mess with the trading system?” Kuttner asked.

“Oh, they’re wetting themselves,” [Bannon] said, explaining that the Section 301 complaint, which was put on hold when the war of threats with North Korea broke out, was shelved only temporarily, and will be revived in three weeks. As for other cabinet departments, Bannon has big plans to marginalize their influence.”

Trump’s own fate is also a subject of many questions.  But the latest chaos presumably buys some time before the White House remembers the latest draft of the “Guidance” on Trump’s tweeted decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the American Armed Forces. It is not beyond imagination that the trans ban could become a pawn in a narcissistic battle between Bannon and a weakened president who needs to flex his muscles and orders “his” generals to change the policy forthwith. How might that stand against the backdrop of complaints about Trump’s expressed bigotry?

Defense Sec. Mattis has made it clear that he has higher priorities than a disruptive change in military personnel policy. As he noted Thursday at a press briefing with Sec. of State Rex Tillerson and Japanese officials, “In the event of a missile launch towards the territory of Japan, Guam, United States, Korea, we would take immediate, specific actions to take it down.”

Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all spoke out against the forces of racism and bigotry Trump emboldened last Tuesday by proclaiming that “both sides” were at fault for the violence.
And with their tweets, they further confirmed their support for an inclusive military.

“The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley tweeted Wednesday. “It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.”

“No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act,” tweeted Marine Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller.

On Monday, August 14, Mattis made a surprise appearance before reporters where he said he was “saddened” to learn the man accused of mowing down Heather Heyer and 19 others in Charlottesville had served four months in the Army before being discharged. The secretary also took numerous questions on the status of the transgender ban.

Mattis said: “On the service chiefs and the comments after Charlottesville, these are leaders of our diverse armed forces. They simply said the same message that we have lived by for decades and we continue not to serve in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps; we serve in the United States Army, United States Navy, et cetera. And in that regard, it’s a widely diverse force. We look at E Pluribus Unum on our coins. Out of many, one. They were simply emphasizing on the battlefield we are one team and that’s the way we stay.” (Transcript here).

The day after Trump tweeted that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the current policy of open service will remain in effect until it is formally replaced. That enabled the trans servicemembers who have been serving openly for 13 months since former Obama Sec. of Defense Ash Carter announced the end of the ban, to continue serving June 2016. Full service, the accessions policy and recruitment were expected to start July 1.

There had been a frantic legislative effort to halt the progress,  lead by anti-LGBT Reps. Duncan Hunter and Vicki Hartzler, which Mattis had quietly helped to head off before the Religious Right worked with Vice President Pence to get Trump to tweet the ban. Their main focus was transgender medical care and deployment ability, which former U.S. Surgeon General and retired Flag and General officers had already studied, concluding that: “With few exceptions, transgender service members are deployable and medically ready.” The American Medical Association had also conducted anin-depth analysis and announced that “there is no medically valid reason” for transgender people to be denied the right to serve.

However, in June before the policy was due to take effect, Mattis ordered a six-month review. “I’d come out a short time before [the July start date], unable to answer certain questions from the uniformed leadership, and without the people in my personnel department, the civilian oversight of policy in the military, due to the — you know, the challenges we face trying to get people through the nomination and confirmation process. So I wanted the time to get them in, and to be able to answer those questions.”

“Why not let that six months bring back a full review of the policy decision before the president jumps in?” a reporter asked.

The secretary replied: “You all elected — the American people elected the commander in chief. I — they didn’t elect me. So the commander in chief in our country and our system of government is elected by the people. He has that authority and responsibility. So that was fully within his responsibility.”

Mattis added that he needed accurate data on the total number of serving transgender personnel—a point Politifact made, how-many-people-military-are-transgender/ as well, noting the discrepancy between the Williams Institute study whih cited there were up to 15,000 trans servicemembers and the then-Pentagon-commissioned Rand Study.

Mattis went back and forth with another reporter about the numbers of trans service members from the Rand study and others—“It’s up to 7,000” and the low end, “It think it was 2,400, 2,500,” the reporter said.

“What does that tell you about the statistic?” asked Mattis. “I cannot find the data to support it right now. So that’s why I don’t want to sign up for a number that I can find no rigor behind, which is — and — but that’s — it is what it is. Whatever the number is, your point is some people have come out.”

And “they felt safe to do so,” the reporter noted. But now there is a concern about whether they might be kicked out.

“The chairman immediately went out and said everybody just stand fast until we get the direction,” Mattis said. “I understand that this is probably more about your suspicion about what could be coming, but the fact is we have received no direction that would indicate any harm to anybody right now.”

But will those who are currently serving be able to finish their contracts?

“I’m going to wait, again, until I get the direction from the White House, and then we will study it and come up with what the policy should be. But I’m not willing to sign up for the numbers you just used, and I’m not willing to sign up for the concern any of them have, considering what the chairman said.

I’m not willing to pre — what would it be — prejudge what the study and — will now bring out to the policy,” Mattis said.

He expects to get the president’s guidance “very soon,” the secretary noted. “White House staff is working it. I’ve got my people over there in the room to give them any military background that they might need, to inform them, but they write their own policy, of course. So we’re in a supporting role right now. And I — soon we’ll have the — (inaudible) — direction — (inaudible) — to answer your question.”

For a story published Wednesday, Stars and Stripes asked Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, http://www.palmcenter.org/who was one of the leaders of the successful effort to repeal the anti-gay and lesbian military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” for his reaction.

“Secretary Mattis insulted the troops and violated core military values of honesty and integrity when he implied there are problems with transgender military service,” Belkin told Stars and Stripes. Mattis knows, Belkin added, “that all of the research has already been done, and that there is nothing ‘complex’ or ‘complicated’ about treating everyone according to the same standards.”

A Pentagon official familiar with the ongoing issue of the Defense Department Transgender Service Ban, speaking on condition of anonymity since the official is not authorized to speak on the record, told the Los Angeles Blade that Belkin’s statement to the Stars and Stripes reporter “completely misconstrues and mischaracterizes” Mattis’ public statements.

“Mr. Belkin seems to forget that Secretary Mattis told reporters that, ‘we have received no direction that would indicate any harm to anybody right now.’ He [Mattis] also has made it quite clear that the impetus for this latest round swirling around the issue came from the President himself along with certain members of the White House staff.”

But trans servicemembers are anxious. “We, as a military, operate on standards. We operate on clear direction and guidance. It’s how we do everything,” Jennifer Peace, an Army captain, company commander and intelligence officer with a wife and three children, and more than 12 years’ service including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, told Stars and Stripes. “I understand how critical it is to provide clear guidance to soldiers. Now I am worried about my family. I am worried about my future.

I’m worried about my organization because I’m not the only transgender soldier [here]” and her “battle buddies” will be impacted. “There is a lot of anxiety every day,” she said. But the previous secretary of defense had studied the issue in depth and concluded, “we are qualified and capable to serve. And I think anything less is a disservice to this nation.”

Riley Dosh, the first trans graduate from West Point, told The Los Angeles Blade:

“Secretary Mattis is simply doing whatever he can to ensure readiness of the military. Banning transgender service, especially after its implementation, reduces readiness – he knows this. He will follow the orders given to him, and will duly study the effect transgender service has on the military. Until then, he is quietly avoiding sudden shifts in military policy that the President and some in Congress are proposing.”

The truth is—no one knows what’s going to happen next, especially considering the shrewd Religious Right activism of Vice President Mike Pence.

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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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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