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Vanguard Awards celebrates a growing LGBT Center and new allies

49 years, stronger and more relevant than ever

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Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Vanguard Awards. (Photo by Troy Masters)

Vanguard was the fitting name for an Awards celebration that happened on Saturday night, September 22 for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s annual awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Many of Los Angeles’ most notable and generous LGBTQIA people from around the world came out to make a major philanthropy push for the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the nation’s oldest LGBT non-profit organization.

The gathering, attended by more than 1500 people, may even have retired the underlying mortgage on the now under-construction Anita May Rosenstein campus building, as a result. And that was in no small part made possible by some of the notables the Center honored.

Gigi Gorgeous, Nats Getty, Ariadne Getty and August Getty. (Photo by Getty Images)

The night began with a simple and loving tribute to a mom, but not just any mom. Ariadne Getty, 56, an actress and granddaughter of John Paul Getty, was introduced by her children.

Nats, a 25 year old fashion designer who is set to marry transgender model and pop-star Gigi Gorgeous, portrayed her mother as a vibrant, accepting and engaged woman who she once found holding court after a late night party at their home. “I went downstairs and found mom cooking food and serving drinks for a kitchen full of drag queens.” Her brother August, 24, an internationally known fashion designer who recently opened a boutique in Beverly Hills, August Getty Atelier, said he didn’t have to come out, “I just told her I was going on a date with the room service guy and that was that.”

Ariadne Getty returned the chiding, telling the audience that it was her sons exes who introduced her to the work of the Center. “My office is filled with all of August’s exes.”

However that happened, they opened her eyes. August’s exes took her to a fundraiser for the Center where she met Lorri Jean and Bill McDermott.

“Why didn’t I know this before? How could this have been happening right before my eyes and I didn’t know,” she said, explaining that that event gave her courage to come out of the shadows as a philanthropist and encourage others to be brave and step up their giving. “I encourage everybody to get connected, start being active and don’t be shy like me.”

Ariadne Getty and Lorri Jean. (Photo by Getty Images)

Getty said, “I talked to Lorri all night. I was hooked. I had a maximum amount of money I was going to donate and obviously I went way beyond that. We’re talking, like, shameless. You know, I couldn’t say no.”

Lorri Jean and her wife Gina soon found themselves at the Getty home, frying pan in hand, teaching Ariadne “how to cook a mean steak.”

Getty, who recently donated 1 million dollars to GLAAD’s Media Institute, says she was moved to support the Center because “Los Angeles cannot afford to be without a place (like the Center) where there are so many things for for people of every age category to do, where a staggering 42,000 people walk through the Center’s door every month.” She said she was moved by meeting kids who had been “brutally, emotionlessly left on the streets to fend for themselves.”

Sarah Jones. (Photo by Troy Masters)

Tony Award-winning Bridge & Tunnel creator Sarah Jones, who will bring her latest solo work to the Los Angeles LGBT Center this fall (Sep. 27 to Nov. 4 at the Center’s Renberg Theatre), followed Getty.

Jones broke into one of her famous characters, an elderly Jewish woman, who reprimanded the audience to give and then, reverting back to herself said, “Part of the reason I am so proud to bring my diverse cast of characters to the LGBT Center is that last year they welcomed more than half a million visitors who represent the full diversity of community. They come to the Center for medical care, for counseling, for a place to live while they are experiencing homelessness.”

Jones told the Los Angeles Blade she believes in celebrating intersectionality. “As a woman of color and someone who cares about my LGBTQ family members and friends, I represent someone who looks at all of our human rights as essential.” She says an important part of intersectionality, as a straight ally, is “about looking at all the different ways that our identities help create who we are and how we protect who we are.”

Lorri Jean received a standing ovation and gave a rousing speech, covering the arc of the Center’s history from being rejected by the Los Angeles offices of the IRS for using the word gay in incorporation papers to purchasing the very building in which they had been rejected, “draping it with 8 story rainbow stripes.”

She applauded the donations of people like Anita Mae Rosenstein who helped the Center raise more than 11 million dollars through a matching grant. And of course she praised Getty and other major donors in the room, some who had donated millions, making it possible to help spark a transformation of the area around McAdden Place on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Nick Robinson, who starred in Love Simon, told the story of his brother, who came out while he was filming “Love Simon” and said the experience helped them both.

Greg Berlanti and Robbie Rogers. (Photo by Troy Masters)

He introduced the movie’s director, Greg Berlanti and his husband, Soccer star and author (“Coming out to play”) Robbie Rogers, and made the funniest slip of the tongue of the evening, calling Robbie a “star ass-lete, ah, um athlete.”

The husbands showed great affection on stage for one another, vowing their love and telling stories of parenting their children. “The universe grants Robbie a talent even more pure than his soccer — that’s his skill for fatherhood.” On cue, the audience was awed and Robbie was visibly moved by Berlanti’s words and emotion. “Watching Robbie be called Daddy R, as he’s called in our house, Daddy R and Daddy G,” Berlanti said to even more audible crowd awes. “He’s the favorite Daddy.”

“Watching him with all his patience, tenderness and playful love is the single greatest joy of my life,” Berlanti said, moving closer to and engaging a suddenly very shy Rogers who looked at the crowd and back at Berlanti again with great emotion.

Rogers said he knew Berlanti’s work before they met. “His LGBT storylines had already been a lifeline to me when I was in the closet,” explaining that since he has witnessed Berlanti at work and fighting for diverse representation in his characters.“What good are these heroes if they don’t reflect the world they are saving,” Rogers said, quoting his husband to thunderous applause from the audience.

“Without the LGBT Center and the changes in the world it has helped bring about, all the blessings we would not have been fortunate enough to have the successes we’ve had,” Berlanti said.

And that set the stage for a live auction of several high end items. Two nights in New York, Hawaii, five nights in Paris and a meet and greet with Cher brought more than $125,000 from those lucky enough to be livin’ La Vida Loca.

Ricky Martin, one of the world’s best selling musical artists and recent Emmy nominee for his role in the “Assassination of Gianni Versace” was the recipient of the night’s final award.

When he took to the stage, audience members shouted, “I love you Ricky,” to which he responded, opening his speech with “I love you, too. Love is the key word. That’s amazing. I walked into this room and I was overwhelmed with love.”

Martin remembered the thousands of lives lost one year earlier in the hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico.

He said during his speech that it was a blessing “to be raw, honest open, vulnerable.” And, referring to his family with artist Jwan Yosef, “I think the inspiration comes from my kids because when I held them for the first time in my arms, I said, ‘I can not teach you to lie.’”

Using it as a metaphor for combating homophobia, he said, “Whenever they ask questions, I answer honestly. If they don’t grasp the answer, eventually they will come back with the same question and I make sure I give the same answer again and again. They taught me not to lie.”

Later Martin said “My mission is to go to those little towns in Latin America where the word gay is a curse.”

“We are all blessed, Jwan and I are blessed,” Martin told the Los Angeles Blade. “We are blessed to have a place like the LGBT Center and we are blessed to be able to support it.”

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Newsom will face recall, second time in state history to recall a governor

Newsom’s recall election will mark the second time in California’s history that a recall effort triggered a ballot, out of 55 attempts

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Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking with Vax Lottery Winner June 2021 (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – California Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced Wednesday that a recall election against Governor Gavin Newsom will proceed. Only 43 signatures were withdrawn from the recall petition, according to Weber’s office, bringing the total number of verified signatures to 1,719,900, which “still meet[s] the threshold to initiate a recall election.”

State law provides a thirty day window for voters to withdraw their signatures from petitions to recall the governor.

California’s Department of Finance will now begin estimating the costs of the recall — including costs of holding it as a special election or as part of the next regularly scheduled election — which will then be submitted to the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state and the chairperson of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee by August 5, according to a letter outlining the process from the Secretary of State’s office.

The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported on June 10 that the effort to recall Newsom is estimated to be nearly $215 million according to a report compiled by the California Department of Finance based on data from the state’s 58 counties.

That’s more than the $200 million local public health officials requested from Newsom in this year’s budget to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future challenges, the SacBee noted.

Newsom’s recall election will mark the second time in California’s history that a recall effort triggered a ballot, out of 55 attempts the Los Angeles Times reported.

CapRadio’s political correspondent Nicole Nixon reported Wednesday that organizers of the current recall movement say there are a list of reasons Californians signed their petitions: frustration over Newsom’s handling of the pandemic and business restrictions, worsening housing and homelessness crises, high taxes and cost of living, and more.

“This is about Gavin Newsom and his failed policies that have put us in the state of despair we are in today,” said Orrin Heatlie, the main proponent of the recall effort.

But Newsom and his team have framed the recall as an effort by supporters of former President Donald Trump and right-wing extremists to wrest control of the government from progressives CNN reported.

“It is what it is. This is a Republican recall,” Newsom said in an exclusive interview with CNN earlier this year. “An RNC-backed Republican recall of White supremacists, anti-Semites and people who are opposed to immigration and immigrants is an accurate assessment of who’s behind this recall.”

Polling conducted since the Spring seems to show that amajority of California voters want to keep Newsom in office, though voters are deeply divided along partisan lines. The Public Policy Institute of California’s May survey found 57% of likely voters would support Newsom in a recall election, while 40% would vote to recall him.

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The Stonewall Inn bans Anheuser-Busch during NYC Pride weekend

“We urge Anheuser-Busch and other companies doing this to publicly commit to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians”

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NYC Pride 2019 passes in front of the Stonewall Inn (Photo by Andrew Nasonov)

NEW YORK – In response to news that the Anheuser-Busch InBev company had made political contributions to lawmakers behind bills targeting transgender youth, the owners of the Stonewall Inn announced its ban of AB InBev products during New York City’s Pride weekend.

The historic West Village pub, widely regarded as the location of one of the seminal defining events in the history of the LGBTQ rights movement, is sponsoring a public ‘pour-out’ of Bud Light, Michelob ULTRA, and Stella Artois in front of the bar on Wednesday, June 23, to demand that the Leuven, Belgium based AB InBev stop donating to anti-LGBTQ legislators and commit to using its lobbying efforts to advance the Equality Act.

Should the Equality Act be passed, it would afford LGBTQ people with equal nondiscrimination protections under federal law.

“You can’t turn your logo rainbow on social media, call yourself an ally, and then turn around and make donations that fuel hate. There are really no excuses, and companies like Anheuser-Busch need to own up to what they’ve done,” said Stonewall Inn co-owner Stacy Lentz. “As a business owner, it’s never easy to stop selling a product that affects your bottom line — especially during the busiest weekend of the year. But I’m an activist above all else and we at The Stonewall Inn know we bear a unique responsibility to call out hypocrisy when we see it. Anheuser-Busch and other companies must do better.”

According to data from the Keep Your Pride campaign, since 2015, Anheuser-Busch has made 48 donations totaling $35,350 to 29 anti-LGBTQ legislators behind recent bills attacking trans youth. 

Through its nonprofit arm, The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, Stonewall recently launched the Safe Spaces program, which identifies and certifies entertainment venues, food and beverage locations, stores, businesses, and other public venues as Safe Spaces for LGBTQ people. Under its criteria for certification, businesses that donate to anti-LGBTQ lawmakers would not qualify for designation as a Safe Space.

“As one of our best-selling products, Bud Light has been a longtime staple here at The Stonewall Inn. It’s deeply disappointing to learn that Anheuser-Busch has given money to lawmakers who are attacking trans kids, some of the most vulnerable people in the LGBTQ community,” said Stonewall Inn co-owner Kurt Kelly.

“We’re horrified to see so-called allies supporting lawmakers who would make life harder for anyone in our community. We urge Anheuser-Busch and other companies doing this to publicly commit to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians and use their lobbying power to support the Equality Act,” Kelly added.

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SCOTUS ruling on Philadelphia case, LGBTQ groups view with some relief

Immediate reaction from some LGBTQ groups and individuals was dismay, while others viewed the decision as a relief.

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Graphic: The Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision Thursday in a unanimous 9-0 ruling that sided with Catholic Social Services (CSS),  a Catholic social services organization that sued the city of Philadelphia after the city excluded it from a foster-care program due to the organization’s refusal to certify same-sex couples as foster parents.

Immediate reaction from some LGBTQ groups and individuals was dismay, while others viewed the decision as a relief. Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Blade in a phone call Thursday that ruling was exceedingly narrow, aimed at a section of the contract by the City, and more importantly was not a ruling that would be citable in future litigation in terms of an anti-LGBTQ basis.

Specifically, Minter noted that with this unanimous ruling, the court avoided a situation that would overrule the 1990 SCOTUS ruling in the case of [the] Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith. That ruling, authored by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had made it more difficult for religious people and groups to secure exemptions from generally applicable laws governing anti-discrimination

Scalia in the Smith case wrote; [that] “the Court has never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that government is free to regulate. Allowing exceptions to every state law or regulation affecting religion would open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.” Justice Scalia goes on to cite examples such as compulsory military service, payment of taxes, vaccination requirements, and child-neglect laws.

Minter opined that while there would be definite support to overturning Smith by three of the court’s conservative justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, he was doubtful that Chief Justice John Roberts, or the court’s other conservative justices Stephen Breyer, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett are that eager, given that there isn’t a legal remedy or replacement for Smith that would not create chaos within the federal judiciary in future challenges.

Properly understood, today’s decision is a significant victory for LGBTQ people, Minter said. The focus is on a contractual clause which is what the court focused in on. Writing in concurrence, Justice Alito noted, albeit it somewhat sarcastically, “This decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops. The City has been adamant about pressuring CSS to give in, and if the City wants to get around today’s decision, it can simply eliminate the never-used exemption power. If it does that, then, voilà, today’s decision will vanish — and the parties will be back where they started.”

Minter pointed out that the Court did not change the current constitutional framework, which permits governments to enforce antidiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people even when doing so may have a disparate burden on those who hold certain religious beliefs.

“As a result of today’s decision, those who feared the Court might create a sweeping new religious exemption to such laws can breathe a sigh of relief,” he concluded.

Also weighing in was Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We are relieved that the court did not recognize a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs,” she said.

“Opponents of LGBTQ equality have been seeking to undo hard-won non-discrimination protections by asking the court to establish a constitutional right to opt out of such laws when discrimination is motivated by religious beliefs. This is the second time in four years that the court has declined to do so. This is good news for LGBTQ people and for everyone who depends on the protections of non-discrimination laws,” Cooper added.

Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law, writing in his Volokh Conspiracy blog noted;

Justice Barrett, joined by Justice Kavanaugh, concurring: The original meaning of the Free Exercise Clause is unclear on the broader question of religious exemptions from generally applicable laws, but “As a matter of text and structure, it is difficult to see why the Free Exercise Clause—lone among the First Amendment freedoms—offers nothing more than protection from discrimination.” Yet Justices Barrett and Kavanaugh are “skeptical about swapping Smith‘s categorical antidiscrimination approach for an equally categorical strict scrutiny regime, particularly when this Court’s resolution of conflicts between generally applicable laws and other First Amendment rights—like speech and assembly—has been much more nuanced.” In particular,

To name a few: Should entities like Catholic Social Services—which is an arm of the Catholic Church—be treated differently than individuals? Cf. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (2012) [providing broad protection for certain decisions by religious institutions -EV]. Should there be a distinction between indirect and direct burdens on religious exercise? Cf. Braunfeld v. Brown (1961) (plurality opinion). What forms of scrutiny should apply? Compare Sherbert v. Verner (1963) (assessing whether government’s interest is “‘compelling'”), with Gillette v. United States (1971) (assessing whether government’s interest is “substantial”). And if the answer is strict scrutiny, would pre-Smith cases rejecting free exercise challenges to garden-variety laws come out the same way? See Smith.

M. Currey Cook, Counsel and Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project Director at Lambda Legal, issued the following statement. “Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is troubling but, importantly, it refused to give a free pass to people or agencies that want to discriminate against LGBTQ people for religious reasons and is limited to the specifics of Philadelphia’s foster care system. Instead, the Court validated the City’s ‘weighty’ interest in the equal treatment of LGBTQ prospective foster parents and foster children. The only reason those interests did not carry the day was due to the specifics of the City’s contract. Because the Court decided the case on contract-specific grounds, the City can address the situation by rewriting its contracts.” 

“But make no mistake.  Philadelphia has never refused to work with Catholic Social Services. The agency has continued to receive millions of dollars in foster care contracts from Philadelphia and the contract at issue simply applied a standard, important nondiscrimination principle to its contract agencies. Foster care is a government function, and all governments have a compelling interest in ensuring their contract agencies, including faith-based ones, treat all children and families equally. And today’s ruling does mean, at least for now, that different-sex married couples have access to all city agencies, while same-sex couples do not,” Cook said.

“The court’s ruling today on Fulton is a narrow one, limited in both nature and scope. The most important take-away is that the Supreme Court unanimously refused to allow a religious entity to have a license to discriminate. We stand in solidarity with the community in Philadelphia that is working for the fair and equitable treatment of  those who want to provide safe and loving homes to children and hold in our hearts the many children who will be impacted by this decision,” Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force said.

“The work ahead for our community is clear – we must continue to advocate for local and state non-discrimination laws, apply the ones that exist and most importantly, fight for the Equality Act, which would provide long overdue Federal protections to the LGBTQ community and many others,” she added.

Equality California’s Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur, a prominent civil rights attorney weighed in saying, “Today’s ruling by the Court is limited in nature and scope. While the Court ruled against the City based on the specific facts of this case, we are heartened by the fact that it did not recognize or create a license to discriminate. The Court’s ruling means that governments can — and must — continue to enforce neutral, generally applicable laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination both inside and out of the foster care system.”

There was a note of defiance and dissent to the ruling from the SPLC listed anti-LGBTQ hate group, the Family Research Council, which released this tweet:

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