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Local LA couple raises $300,000 after lawmakers defund Univ. of Tenn. LGBT center

Chad Goldman and Brian Pendleton organize to privately fund LGBT Center for University of Tennessee students

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After Tennessee’s Legislature defunded the Pride Center at the University of Tennessee, Chad Goldman and his husband Brian Pendleton organized a Nashville Fundraiser and raised more than $300,000. Left to right: Scott Black, Todd Metcalf, Beth Joslin Roth, Brian Pendleton and Chad Goldman. (Photo from Facebook page of Michael Roth)

A fundraising campaign launched by a gay University of Tennessee graduate and his husband raised more than $300,000 on Feb. 1 in the kickoff event for a plan to establish a private $3 million endowment to permanently fund the LGBT Pride Center at the university’s campus in Knoxville.

Chad Goldman, an alumnus of the university, and his husband, Los Angeles businessman, philanthropist and LGBT rights advocate Brian Pendleton, helped organize the Feb. 1 fundraiser at the Nashville home of another University of Tennessee gay alumnus, Gary Bynum.

Pendleton told the Washington Blade that the three men and many others were motivated to support the fundraising drive in response to a bill passed by the Tennessee Legislature in 2016 that eliminated state funding for the university’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

The Pride Center was part of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. It lost its funding when the legislature defunded the diversity office. Last year, Pendleton and Goldman helped raise $9,000 to keep the Pride Center open and functioning.

“It’s unfortunate we are in this place because of the politics of the legislature, but this effort is not at all about politics,” Goldman told USA Today Network Tennessee. “It’s just about funding a place for LGBTQ and questioning students to go where they can find fellowship and guidance and support at a time that’s very difficult,” he told the news service.

Although the bill approved by the Republican-controlled legislature doesn’t specifically mention the Pride Center, it was introduced when several conservative lawmakers took aim at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Among other things, critics of the office accused it of promoting “political correctness” by encouraging the use of gender-neutral pronouns and supporting an annual student-initiated event called Sex Week, which involves panel discussions and forums addressing issues including sexuality, sexual assault prevention, and sexually transmitted diseases.

University officials have said most of the funding for the Sex Week events comes from student activity fees rather than state funding.

The bill passed by the legislature took effect in May 2016 after Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced he would neither sign nor veto the measure thus allowing it to become law without his signature. One of its two provisions reallocated all funds in the budget for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for fiscal year 2016-2017 to scholarships for minority students enrolled in the university’s engineering programs.

The second provision permanently bans the University of Tennessee from using state funds “to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns, to promote or inhibit the celebration of religious holidays, or to fund or support Sex Week.”

The bill’s reallocation of state funds for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to engineering student scholarships technically ended in May 2017. But university officials were reluctant to immediately restore full funding for the diversity office out of concern that the legislature would take action again to block the funds.

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), a lead sponsor of the State Senate version of the bill, has accused the diversity office of being “very political and polarizing” and giving a “horrible reputation” to the university and the state.

“If they clean up their act, then I’ll focus my attention on something else,” USA Today Network Tennessee quoted him as saying. “But if that office continues to become very radical and polarizing, then I will of course focus my attention back on that to take that money away and apply it to something very useful instead of something very divisive,” he said.

With that political sentiment as a backdrop, Pendleton told the Blade the effort to support the Pride Center through private funding was all the more needed. He noted that university officials are highly supportive of the effort to establish the independent endowment as are other elected officials in the state.

Among those attending the Feb. 1 fundraising event for the endowment in Nashville were University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport, the dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences Theresa Lee, and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), whose district includes Nashville.

“We’ll be raising money in cities all around the country and of course including Knoxville,” Pendleton said. “But we’ll be in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, making sure that people from all over have an opportunity to help support the Pride Center,” he said.

More information about the fundraising campaign, which is called Vol Means All, can be accessed at volmeansall.org.

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Virginia

Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate opposes marriage equality

The Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center categorized as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group has endorsed Youngkin

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Glenn Youngkin (Blade file photo)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – Glenn Youngkin in an interview with the Associated Press has reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Youngkin—a Republican who is running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam—said in an interview published on Friday that he feels “called to love everyone.” Youngkin then reiterated his opposition to marriage equality before he added it is “legally acceptable” in the state. “I, as governor, will support that,” Youngkin told the AP.

McAuliffe was Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018. Same-sex couples began to legally marry in Virginia a few months after McAuliffe took office.

McAuliffe in 2014 became the first governor of a Southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple who McAuliffe married recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

McAuliffe on Friday criticized Youngkin. “As governor, I worked my heart out to keep Virginia open and welcoming to all,” said McAuliffe in a tweet. “This type of bigotry and intolerance has no place in our commonwealth.”

The Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin, but Log Cabin Republicans are among the groups that have backed his campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign in 2019 named Youngkin’s former company, the Carlyle Group, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.

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Utah

Deal with LDS church promoted model for LGBTQ rights/religious liberties

The agreement led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion

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Salt Lake City Utah Mayor Erin Mendenhall raises Pride Flag, June 2021 (Blade file photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Supreme Court will hear Texas abortion ban- won’t block enforcement

“Every day the Court fails to grant relief is devastating, both for individual women and for our constitutional system as a whole.”

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Blade file photo by Michael Key

WASHINGTON – The United States Supreme Court Friday ruled that it will hear oral arguments in two separate filings next month over the Texas abortion ban, known as SB8, which bans abortion after six weeks, a point that most women are not even aware they are pregnant. This is also a point that is counter to what the high court has allowed in pervious rulings.

The Court however in granting the petitions declined to enjoin the law prompting Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor to write in her dissent, “Every day the Court fails to grant relief is devastating, both for individual women and for our constitutional system as a whole.”

The U.S. Justice Department had filed an emergency writ of centori in United States v. Texas, asking the justices to block enforcement after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined a lower court ruling that blocked enforcement of the Texas anti-abortion law on Tuesday.

The Justice Department is seeking the high court’s review in order to block the law while legal litigation continues over the controversial law while a lower Federal court in Austin, Texas, addresses the underlying constitutional questions raised in the challenge to the law.

The second case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, SCOTUSblog journalist Amy Howe reported;

Texas abortion providers have asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the law’s unusual enforcement mechanism, which deputizes private individuals to bring lawsuits against anyone who either provides or “aids and abets” an abortion. In a rare procedural move, the providers urged the court to take up the question without waiting for a final ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, where the case returned after the justices rejected the providers’ earlier request to block the law from going into effect.

Although the providers came to the Supreme Court in late September, the justices did not act on their request to fast-track consideration of their appeal for nearly a month. But shortly after the Biden administration filed its application on Monday to block enforcement of S.B. 8, the court ordered Texas officials to respond in both S.B. 8 cases by noon on Thursday – suggesting that the justices may act on both at the same time.

The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a separate high-profile abortion case on Dec. 1. That case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involves a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. Mississippi and its supporters have asked the court to overturn Roe v. Wade 

That case Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), was a landmark decision in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

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