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Avenatti says more Trump sex news to come

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer also hints at a presidential run

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Photo of West Hollywood Mayor John Duran and attorney Michael Avenatti by Jon Viscott for the City of West Hollywood

Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, revealed another pre-2016 election “hush money” development in the ongoing scandal enveloping Trump during an appearance in West Hollywood Thursday night.

“We represent three additional women that you haven’t heard about yet. We’re in the process of getting clearance from those clients to release details relating to those payments and the efforts to silence those women by AMI, Donald Trump, and Michael Cohen, and I will tell you that at least one of those women claimed to be pregnant at the time, “Avenati said. “So we’re going to see how that plays out in the coming weeks and months.”

“Last time I checked, they weren’t just handing out checks to anyone whether they had a relationship or not,” Avenatti told reporters later.

Avenatti was part of a panel organized by the City of West Hollywood entitled, “Update on Washington D.C. Politics: the Mueller Investigation, Human Rights and Immigration, and the Future of Resistance,” moderated by West Hollywood Mayor John J. Duran. The panel included Avenatti, Duran, former federal prosecutor Steve Madison, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Trial Lawyers, and Mariana Magana Gamero, who is part of the Coalition for Human Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

Avenatti went on to question Trump’s capacity to serve as President in light of the Daniels case, the seizing of over 100 taped conversations of Cohen by federal prosecutors and the ongoing Mueller investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

“The problem is not that we elected a celebrity to the White House, but that we elected a man without the temperament, knowledge, and heart to lead our nation,” asserted Cohen to audible agreement from the capacity audience.

Former federal prosecutor Steve Madison noted that he has been acquainted with Special Counsel Robert Mueller for many years and has worked with Mueller periodically. “Bob Mueller is as straight a shooter as they come, Madison said. “He’s the right person for that job.”

In his professional capacity, Madison believes that the constitutionality of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which has been questioned by Trump, would be upheld in the Supreme Court. This is due to the precedent set by Morrison v. Olson (1978), which validated the legitimacy of the similar Independent Counsel a case disputed by current Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

However, under the Constitution and established case law, a sitting President almost certainly cannot be criminally indicted, said Madison. The only remedy under the Constitution would be impeachment. If successfully impeached (which would require, realistically, at least 10-15 Republican Senators to stand up to the President), Trump could then be criminally prosecuted as a civilian defendant. Avenatti agreed that Trump would likely not be indicted, though Avenatti said he “would indict [Trump] and make the Supreme Court overrule me.”

Madison later asserted that the Trump scandal is “very similar to Watergate, but this is arguably worse because this involves Russia and the hostility they’ve expressed towards our country.”

Avenatti had a similar viewpoint, stating that “we know when, where, who, and how…What we don’t know is why. Why is this President choosing Russia over the United States?”

He and Madison do not think that we will have a President Trump by this time next year.

Mariana Magaña Gamero, Regional Policy Advocate at the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA spoke about human rights and immigration under the Trump Administration.

Trump’s election in 2016 “immediately changed [CHIRLA’s] trajectory, platform and strategic plan for the next four years,” she said. Having dialogue with opposition groups was made more difficult for organizations like CHIRLA, because people were emboldened to take xenophobic positions on immigration policy. It was no longer a policy debate, but “trying to convince someone of a child’s humanity,” said Gamero.

Worsening immigration rights under the Trump administration should be of special importance to the LGBT community. “We’ve had some incidents where LGBT people were seeking asylum based on [oppression of the LGBT community in their home countries] and have been denied asylum,” Gamero told the Los Angeles Blade. “We also work with the LA LGBT Center to make that a prominent voice.”

Gamero also discussed SB54, the law making California a sanctuary state in 2017. The law was recently upheld as fully constitutional, but not without “racist, xenophobic rhetoric” at City Council meetings throughout California. SB54 is impactful because it provides “some disentanglement between ICE and local law enforcement,” says Gamero. “We want to make sure that our undocumented immigrant communities feel comfortable going to law enforcement and reporting crime. This makes our communities safer.”

On the topic of ICE, Gamero noted that July 26 was the federal court-imposed deadline for detained children to be reunified with their families. But the Trump administration has “failed miserably,” stated Gamero. There is currently no plan as to how reuniting families will happen, largely because many parents have already been deported. “How are you going to find those parents in countries where communications may not exist?”

Gamero stressed the importance and power of communicating directly with immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, in determining how they can best be assisted. “Our best guardian is to know your rights,” she said.

Duran agreed, expressing his “shame” at the state of American immigration policy and appealing that making immigrants feel welcome is of tantamount importance.

At the end of the event, Avenatti conveyed how critical vote in the November midterm elections in light of the absolute disaster that is the current Administration.

“We are in a battle for what the Republic stands for, not only domestically, but around the world,” said Avenatti.” This sentiment was met with great enthusiasm from the crowd, a type of enthusiasm that Democrats will need to win the battle of flipping the House and Senate in November.

Avenatti said he is willing to fight his battle himself, if necessary, in 2020. “If I do not get a sense that the Democratic Party has the right street fighter and the right person to go up against Donald Trump in the general election, I will absolutely run and I will defeat him – period,” Avenatti said.

“It’s too soon to worry about 2020,” Duran told the LA Blade, noting that there are other good possible presidential candidates such as LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and Sen. Kamala Harris, along with his pal Avenatti. “Personally, I’m focused on the next 100 days (until the Nov. 6 election).  If the Democrats retake the House, Adam Schiff is Chair of the House Intelligence Committee with full subpoena powers and Maxine Waters is the Chair of the Banking Committee with full subpoena powers. It becomes a whole new game.”

The White House

Biden outlines plan to renew fight against HIV/AIDS

Biden on the eve of World AIDS Day outline ways his administration will fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. & globally

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White House on World AIDS Day 2021 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden detailed how his administration plans to improve the lives and health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS while strengthening treatment and prevention efforts at home and abroad in a statement published Wednesday on the eve of World AIDS Day.

Proposed healthcare reforms on the domestic agenda included improving access to lifesaving treatments, broadening the use of preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the rate of new infections, and strengthening efforts to reduce stigma associated with the disease. Biden noted his request for $850 million from Congress to fund these initiatives.  

Policy wise, he highlighted the administration’s pressure on the Armed Forces to sunset rules prohibiting deployments and commissions for servicemembers with HIV, and on state legislatures to repeal HIV criminalization statutes used to prosecute people for exposing others to HIV.

Internationally, the president said, “My administration has also pledged up to $6 billion to the Seventh Replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria — an initiative that has saved an estimated 50 million lives to date.” He called on other countries to match the pledge “so we can together deliver on the promise of health and well-being for millions around the world.”

“World AIDS Day presents an opportunity to renew America’s commitments to fighting the disease,” Biden said, while also acknowledging the tremendous progress in science, medicine, public health, and other arenas that have made the prospect of an end to AIDS and the worldwide transmission of HIV achievable. “At the same time, while these advancements have saved so many lives, they also exposed longstanding racial and gender-based disparities in access to prevention and care.”

“For the more than 38 million people around the world now living with HIV — especially members of the LGBTQI+ community, communities of color, women, and girls — a diagnosis is still life-altering,” Biden said. “We can do better.”

“As we today honor the 700,000 Americans and 40 million lives lost worldwide to AIDS-related illnesses over the years, we have new hope in our hearts,” the president’s statement concludes. “We finally have the scientific understanding, treatments, and tools to build an AIDS-free future where everyone — no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love — can get the care and respect they deserve.”

The full statement is available here.

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Federal Government

Homeland Security: More attacks against LGBTQ people possible

Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration

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Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a terror threat bulletin today warning that domestic extremists have posted online praise for the fatal shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado earlier this month. and have called for copycat attacks.

In its bulletin, DHS officials noted that several recent attacks, plots, and threats of violence demonstrate the continued dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment in the United States:

“Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration. Following the late November shooting at an LGBTQI+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado—which remains under investigation—we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker. Similarly, some domestic violent extremists in the United States praised an October 2022 shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Slovakia and encouraged additional violence. The attacker in Slovakia posted a manifesto online espousing white supremacist beliefs and his admiration for prior attackers, including some within the United States,” DHS warned.

DHS also asked that Americans report potential threats:

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Colorado

Colorado Governor Jared Polis visits Club Q & memorial to victims

Polis stated Club Q will be back & that the community will be safe adding the perpetrator will be held fully accountable under Colorado law

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis (Screenshot/YouTube The Associated Press Channel)

COLORADO SPRINGS – Accompanied by Club Q owners Nic Grzecka and Matthew Haynes, Colorado’s openly gay Governor Jared Polis visited the growing memorial to the victims of the mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ nightclub two weeks ago on Tuesday.

In his remarks to reporters, Polis stated that the Club Q will be back and that the community will be safe adding that the “perpetrator will be held fully accountable under the laws of Colorado for the heinous acts committed.”

In response to a question asking if he thought the sharp uptick in anti-LGBTQ hate speech and rhetoric online contributed to the mass shooting, the governor responded saying;

“I mean we certainly don’t know the contribution of the hostile rhetoric that’s out there to this particular case, um but of course there’s no excuse for rhetoric that targets or attacks individuals based on who they are or who they love, and that cannot only be incendiary or um ah inspire acts against the LGBTQ community- but it could also make life harder for those who are dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation issues, and need to see positive role models and get the support they need to be themselves.”

“Five people are lost forever. We celebrate their lives. We mourn them,” Polis said to reporters
(Screenshot/YouTube The Associated Press Channel

Grzecka, a co-owner of Club Q, had told the AP in one of his first interviews after the shooting 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.”

Later Tuesday afternoon at the Atrevida Brewery owned by one of the three people hailed as heroes for tackling and subduing the shooter until arriving Colorado Springs Police officers were able to arrest him, the governor embraced Atrevida owner Richard Fierro.

Fierro, a former U.S. Army officer and combat veteran was honored with $50,000 from a local credit union as Polis and Colorado Springs Mayor John W. Suthers looked on.

Matthew Haynes, the other co-owner of Club Q, created a verified GoFundMe fundraiser this week to help support staff and performers at the LGBTQ+ venue after a shooting took the lives of five people earlier this month.

“This fund is managed by Club Q directly and will be used to ensure the Club Q staff and entertainers don’t suffer financial hardship due to this horrific act,” Haynes wrote. “This fund will also go towards the total remodel of Club Q, the construction of an appropriate memorial for our victims and a small museum onsite. The goal is to return Club Q as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.

Plans for the return of Q are not fully developed yet. There will be many discussions ahead with stakeholders within the community. We are hopeful of making it more than just a bar. We envision a community resource center, state-of-the-art security precautions a gathering place to heal, remember and empower,” Haynes wrote.

GoFundMe (Link)

From the Associated Press:

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Congress

Senate passes Respect for Marriage Act with 61 votes

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, and LGBTQ groups celebrated Tuesday’s victory

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U.S. Senate floor vote on Nov. 29 2022 for the Respect for Marriage Act (Screen capture via CSPAN)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate voted 61-36 on Tuesday to officially pass the Respect for Marriage Act, a historic piece of legislation that is expected to soon become law after members in the U.S. House of Representatives sign off on a bipartisan amendment added by their Senate colleagues.

Designed as a vehicle to mitigate the fallout if the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority guts the constitutional protections for marriage equality, the bill was narrowly construed – in part to help guarantee that it withstands potential challenges from conservative legal actors.

Nevertheless, the Respect for Marriage Act is a landmark bill that has been backed by virtually every LGBTQ advocacy organization in the country. The legislation repeals the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act while enshrining into law substantive protections for same-sex couples.

Regardless of whether or how the high court might decide to revisit the marriage question, the Respect for Marriage Act will protect the federally ordained rights and benefits that have long been enjoyed by married gay and lesbian couples. And should the court pave the way for conservative states like Texas to renew their bans on same-sex marriage, the law will require them to officially recognize and honor those that are performed in jurisdictions where they remain legal.

Despite earning broad bipartisan support from lawmakers in the U.S. House, which passed its version of the bill this summer with an overwhelming majority – including votes from 47 Republican members – the Respect for Marriage Act faced an uncertain future in the Senate.

Conservative members in the chamber’s Republican caucus argued the bill would jeopardize religious freedoms, concerns that a group of five bipartisan senators sought to allay with an amendment that, among other provisions, clarifies the right of religious nonprofit organizations to refuse “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

Writing the amendment were Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who was considered the driving force behind the bill’s passage through the Senate.

Several Republican senators proposed additional amendments that – per a narrow procedural vote before and another shortly after the Thanksgiving break – were not put up for debate, thereby allowing the Respect for Marriage Act to clear the Senate with Tuesday’s vote.

Barely surpassing the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority with one extra “yea,” the Senate’s passage of the bill came despite the best efforts of conservative opponents who had run coordinated campaigns to erode support among GOP members.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris each issued statements shortly after Tuesday’s vote.

The President celebrated the “bipartisan achievement” by Congress, writing: “For millions of Americans, this legislation will safeguard the rights and protections to which LGBTQI+ and interracial couples and their children are entitled. It will also ensure that, for generations to follow, LGBTQI+ youth will grow up knowing that they, too, can lead full, happy lives and build families of their own.”

Harris wrote: “The Respect for Marriage Act ultimately stands for a simple principle: all Americans are equal and their government should treat them that way. Today, we are one step closer to achieving that ideal with pride.”

The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus also praised the victory. “Today, a bipartisan group of 61 Senators made clear that this country will not roll back the clock on marriage equality,” said Congressman David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Chair of the Equality Caucus. “The Respect for Marriage Act is a crucial safeguard for LGBTQ+ people whose lives have been forever changed by Obergefell v. Hodges and Americans who are in interracial marriages thanks to Loving v. Virginia. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court declared marriage equality as the law of the land. Today, the Senate ensured those marriages will continue to be protected.”

LGBTQ groups celebrate the win

“Diverse faith traditions across the nation came together to demand respect for LGBTQ+ Americans – we staked our ground and refused to let this opportunity slip away, ” said Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance, in a statement Tuesday.

“The  LGBTQ+ community has faced ongoing deadly violence, legislative assaults and constant threats – including the deadly shooting in Colorado Springs barely one week ago,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement from the organization.

“Today, with the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in the Senate — a historic moment that marks the first federal legislative win for LGBTQ+ equality in over ten years, since the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — the 568,000 same-sex married couples in this country can breathe a sigh of relief that their marriages will be protected from future attacks,” said Robinson, who yesterday began her tenure as the first Black queer woman to lead America’s largest LGBTQ organization.

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis responded on Twitter and in a statement, writing: “As so many LGBTQ people face uncertainty and harm on the state level and extremists on the Supreme Court vow to reconsider the landmark Obergefell decision, this victory will provide comfort and security to millions of people and their families.”

“Today’s bipartisan vote in the Senate to pass the Respect for Marriage Act is a proud moment for our country and an affirmation that, notwithstanding our differences, we share a profound commitment to the principle of equality and justice for all,” reads a statement from National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director Imani Rupert-Gordon.

LGBTQ Victory Institute President and CEO Annise Parker said, “This landmark piece of legislation protects the marriages of millions of LGBTQ Americans who have not slept well for months, wondering if our marriages would be dissolved by an activist court. While the Respect for Marriage Act is undoubtedly one of the most important pro-LGBTQ laws ever passed, it does not require states to grant marriages to LGBTQ couples. Until then, our fight is not over.”

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Federal Government

Nonbinary Dept. of Energy official replaced after felony charges

Extreme right-wing Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) published an offensive tweet yesterday targeting their nonbinary identity

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Sam Brinton addressing Trevor Project gathering in 2018. Screenshot/YouTube The Trevor Project

WASHINGTON – The Department of Energy replaced a nonbinary senior official who had served as the agency’s deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition after they were charged with a felony over an incident at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Sept. 16.

Sam Brinton, whose departure from the Energy Department was confirmed by a spokesperson to the New York Post, did not immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment via Facebook Messenger.

Brinton, who has dual degrees from MIT and years of experience in nuclear waste management and climate change work, is also an LGBTQ activist who made history this year with their appointment as the first openly gender-fluid person to serve in a senior government post.

A 2018 column in the Los Angeles Times argued there was a cultural shift afoot towards greater acceptance of transgender and gender fluid people — using, as an introductory anecdote, Brinton’s appearance at the Academy Awards. According to the author, Brinton spoke passionately about their suicide prevention work for the Trevor Project and was embraced by Hollywood icons like Jane Fonda.

They also encountered some hateful backlash from anti-LGBTQ figures on the right, which was renewed on Monday with the news about Brinton’s dismissal pursuant to the felony charges filed against them, which conservative-leaning outlets were among the first to report.

Extreme right-wing Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) published an offensive tweet yesterday targeting Brinton and their nonbinary identity:

According to reporting in the New York Post, during an initial conversation with police, Brinton allegedly denied that they had stolen another passenger’s suitcase. Subsequently, Brinton told investigators they accidentally grabbed the wrong bag at the luggage carousel by mistake out of exhaustion.

Court filings indicate that Brinton, upon realizing they had mistakenly taken someone else’s bag, emptied its contents into dresser drawers in their hotel room, anxious about the prospect of facing accusations of property theft.

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Congress

U.S. Senate vote sets up passage of same-sex marriage act

Coordinated campaign by anti-LGBTQ groups fails to weaken support among GOP Senators as the bill sees clear path to near-certain passage

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U.S. Capitol Building (Photo Credit: Rev. Brandan Robertson)

WASHINGTON – Passage of the Respect for Marriage Act became all but certain with the U.S. Senate’s procedural 61-35 vote on Monday night to forego additional debate in the chamber over the landmark legislation.

From here, the bill will return to the U.S. House of Representatives, which will consider — and is expected to approve — an amendment that was added by a bipartisan group of Senators led by Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Then, it will reach President Joe Biden’s desk.

The president has repeatedly urged lawmakers to pass the bill so he can sign it into law. His administration, along with Congressional Democratic leadership, has made the Respect for Marriage Act a top legislative priority in the weeks before the new Congress is seated in January.

Today’s move by the Senate came on the heels of a coordinated campaign by conservative and anti-LGBTQ advocacy groups that wield considerable influence on Capitol Hill and marshaled their efforts to peel off support from Republican senators in the days leading up to Monday’s vote.

Republican Sens. Todd Young (Ind.) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), who were among the 12 Senate Republicans who supported advancing the legislation in a procedural vote taken before Thanksgiving, cast the final two votes on Monday allowing the measure to clear the 60-vote majority threshold to pass. Axios reports the two lawmakers faced particular pressure from conservative activists who sought to erode their support for the legislation.

The Respect for Marriage Act will repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, adding legal protections for same-sex couples, many of whom would otherwise face devastating consequences if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses or substantially weakens the constitutional right to marriage equality.

Notwithstanding criticism from some progressives who feel the bill is too conservative in scope, the Respect for Marriage Act — along with the bipartisan amendment that was introduced in the Senate to enshrine protections for religious liberty — is supported by major LGBTQ organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Transgender Equality, GLSEN and PFLAG National, among others.

The bill’s aim, narrowly tailored, was to gird against the possibility that the high court would revisit its precedential decisions in United States v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).

Justice Clarence Thomas signaled his intention to do so with his concurring opinion earlier this year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — a case that revoked Americans’ constitutional right to abortion, overturning the Court’s historic rulings in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).

Over the summer, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act with an overwhelming majority, including votes from 47 Republican members. Dozens of religious denominations and groups that represent a broad spectrum of beliefs have endorsed the legislation, including the Mormon church, which took pains to reaffirm its position that same-sex relationships are sinful. Scholars representing a similarly diverse range of opinions on germane legal questions have also publicly backed the bill.

Still, the opposition remained steadfast.

“Religious Americans will be subject to potentially ruinous litigation, while the tax-exempt status of certain charitable organizations, educational institutions, and non-profits will be threatened,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in a statement opposing the legislation as written and proposing an additional amendment to the bill.

Organizations like the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, echoed Lee’s concerns about the Respect for Marriage Act vis-à-vis protections for religious liberty. Others, like the Liberty Counsel, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group, peddled outrageous arguments including the lie that the Respect for Marriage Act would normalize or facilitate child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Even in the aftermath of the deadly shooting on Nov. 19 at a Colorado Springs, Colo., LGBTQ nightclub, these attacks from conservative groups continued apace and even increased as the Senate’s vote on Monday drew nearer.

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