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HRC’s Chad Griffin ready to step aside

Looking back on seven history-making years atop LGBTQ movement

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HRC’s Chad Griffin (Photo by Conrad Schmidt/AP for Human Rights Campaign)

Donald Trump’s shocking election in 2016 jolted the LGBT community out of its sleepwalking trek toward full equality and first-class citizenship. Like most voters—including apparently Trump himself—LGBT people expected Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to win and progress to continue, building on the freedom to marry and to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.

Chad Griffin wasted no time pivoting, leading the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights lobbying organization, into an historic national partnership with women and other minority groups in the exploding Resistance movement and building political power. HRC spent $26 million targeting specific races and buffeting local organizations, helping generate and galvanize equality voters to flip the House in 2018 and elect LGBT and pro-equality officials.

Griffin was ubiquitous, traveling to 23 states, campaigning for 50 candidates in 47 cities and building a locally based LGBTQ voting bloc unlike anything seen since Los Angeles-based David Mixner and ANGLE backed dark-horse Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton for president in 1991, during the Second Wave of AIDS. Ironically, like Bill Clinton, Griffin hales from Hope, Ark., and wound up serving in the Clinton White House press office as the youngest staffer ever at age 19.

When Griffin announced he was leaving HRC in 2019 after seven years of service, Hillary Clinton was one of the first to respond.

“Even in 1992, when I first met him, it was clear Chad Griffin would do a lot of good in the world. Little did I know! Grateful for his leadership at @HRC in fighting against discrimination and for marriage equality, and mobilizing millions to build a more just, equal America,” Clinton tweeted on Nov. 15, 2018.

During this critical time, Griffin has helped build HRC into a political powerhouse, doubling membership from 1.5 million to more than 3 million. The 2018 CNN exit poll pegged the self-identified LGBT voter turnout to be 6 percent, meaning more than 7 million LGBT people voted, making the difference in numerous narrow races around the country. HRC also created an energized infrastructure in such key electoral states as Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan with an eye to the 2020 elections.

Driven by his personal experience as a young, frightened closeted gay boy lying awake at night in Hope, Ark., Griffin proudly launched an HRC campaign in the Deep South, including Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama, no longer abandoning the region as too inhospitable to fight for LGBT rights.  Griffin embraced the intersectionality of LGBT people, creating coalitions with other social and racial justice movements. He also focused on justice and programming for the transgender community and youth of color.

Griffin’s latest focus has been on passing the federal Equality Act, which would amend existing civil rights law to provide protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill was introduced on March 13 with bipartisan support from 241 original co-sponsors, as well as backing from more than 105 major businesses operating in all 50 states. HRC organized several intense lobbying days with more than 600 board members and grassroots supporters flying to Washington for their annual Equality Convention. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic presidential candidate, gave a rousing speech and got a standing ovation.

“These days it is challenging to break through” the cacophony of the day, Griffin tells the Blade in a March 18 phone interview. “I think the House leadership has said they intend to have the vote by June, or in early June.”

On the larger stage, Griffin says the 2020 elections have become “the most important elections of our lives” given the rollbacks and what’s at stake under this administration.

“We need to protect the House, protect the victories we’ve had; we need to make progress in the Senate; and we need to take back the White House – and all three of those are possible, but is going to take a lot of work between now and Election Day, 2020,” he says. “But I do believe that when all the dust settles, come January of 2021, that a new pro-equality president and vice-president will be sworn in. But there is a hell of a lot of work to do between now and then to insure that that happens.”

Griffin is excited by the Democratic primary, including out South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg making the Democratic primary debate stage. “I think it’s historic. I think he is running a very smart campaign that is engaging both LGBTQ people and straight folks alike all across this country,” he says.

HRC is teaming up with UCLA to host its own LGBT-focused forum on Oct. 10, an idea he formulated with Gary M. Segura, Dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Segura had been an expert witness for Griffin’s American Foundation for Equal Rights when they successfully fought Prop 8 in federal court.

HRC’s Chad Griffin with federal Prop 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo at the Resist March in LA in 2017 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

During the forum and the primary battles, each candidate will have to “make the case to our community—how they will move the Equality Act forward, how they will protect transgender troops, how they will lead and bring back many of the protections through regulations that we have lost under Donald Trump and Mike Pence.”

Meanwhile, Griffin says HRC is holding itself to high standards: transgender employees are 7 percent of the staff; Griffin is the only white gay man at the senior table, with one trans man and the rest women, two of whom are women of color. He also elevated the head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to that senior table.

“I understand, like a lot of legacy organizations, we are too slow to move and to catch up with where this country is and we cannot do our jobs unless our staff, volunteers, volunteer leaders, and our programs reflect the broad, diverse community that we are,” Griffin says. “We have prioritized that, not just from a staff perspective but from a volunteer perspective and in our programs – really using a racial equity and justice lens across all of our programs at HRC to ensure that we are truly reaching everyone in our community. And we are consistently checking ourselves, asking ‘where are we falling short, and what more can we do?’ And that is not something that you reach a finish line on. That is something that will always be ongoing for us here, and for other organizations.” 

While proud of the progress, “we still have a long way to go,” Griffin says.

HRC has worked hard in the area of trans justice and wants leaders to do the same. “Anyone who wants to be president needs to make the case on how they are going to extend protections to transgender people, how they are going to address the epidemic of violence that plagues this country – and quite frankly, the world –and also to be very specific about how they’re going to bring back protections that folks like Betsy DeVos staked their career on undermining,” Griffin says.

He points to what happened in North Carolina when Gov. Pat McCrory attacked the rights of trans North Carolinians and visitors – thinking it would excite his base and ensure his re-election. 

“Instead it did just the opposite,” Griffin notes. “It ensured his defeat. In a year where Donald Trump won the state of North Carolina, the Republican incumbent governor lost because he attacked transgender North Carolinians, and I think that says a lot about the political power of LGBTQ people. And that is something that we all need to continue to invest in and continue to build the political power of LGBTQ people – that’s how we stop these rollbacks, that’s how we defeat those who choose to come after us. In politics, there have to be consequences and Pat McCrory is an important consequence.”

McCrory’s loss is a message. “Democrats running for president or House or Senate need to understand the significance and importance of our voting bloc in order to win elections. We went from 5 percent of the electorate in 2016, to 6 percent in the midterms – one of the only demographic groups that increased our support from the presidential to the midterms – and that’s 7 million voters in this country,” Griffin says.  “And that’s just the number of people that answer the question to a stranger, that they’re LGBTQ.  There are lots of surveys that show upwards and near 20 percent of millennials that identify as LGBTQ.” 

Politicians should fear this powerful voting bloc. “If you attack us, we are going to organize, mobilize, and oust you on Election Day,” he says. “But more proactively, it is a voting bloc to be taken seriously, and it’s a voting bloc that you have to talk to, and you have to vocalize your agenda to, if you want to get their votes.”

Griffin says he’s proud of HRC’s expansion “across the country and around the world” and building and harnessing the power of LGBTQ and allied voters. But the importance of coalition work has never been more important.

“LGBTQ people are as diverse as the fabric of this nation and an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Griffin says. “Today, HRC, in so many places, stands united in coalition across social justice movements  — standing up with immigrants and women, and people of color – and the same is true for many of those organizations. That is something that’s going to need to continue and strengthen over the next months and years.”

Griffin says he’s coming home to LA but has not yet decided what is next for him professionally.

“But I’m serious when I say that I am not leaving the fight,” Griffin says. “All of us need to find ways that we can engage and do everything in our power to ensure that we have a pro-equality president in January of 2021, and that will certainly be a priority for me.”

The HRC/LA gala is on Sat. March 30 at the Ritz-Carlton/JW Marriott LA Live. For tickets, go to hrcladinner.com.

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Kansas

Anti-LGBTQ Kansas lawmaker who assaulted student given probation

In the classroom incident last Spring students recorded videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, God and the Bible

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Kansas State House Representative Mark Samsel (R- House District 5/Wellsville) (Photo Credit: Kansas House)

OTTAWA, Ks. – Fourth Judicial Circuit Magistrate Judge Kevin Kimball sentenced Kansas House Representative Mark Samsel, (R- House District 5/Wellsville) to 90 days in jail (suspended) and probation for a year on Monday. Samsel was convicted of assaulting a male student after a physical altercation while he was substitute teaching at the Wellsville High School last April.

Samsel originally faced three misdemeanor battery charges following his arrest in April that involved two male victims, both approximately 16 years old.

The Kansas City reported that during a short hearing conducted over Zoom, Kimball in his ruling ordered that Samsel must apologize to his teenage victims. Samsel is also prohibited from using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms for personal use. An exception is included to allow social media for political and legislative purposes.

In the classroom incident last Spring that sparked four months of court proceedings according to the Kansas City Star, high school students began recording videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, God and the Bible.

In one video shared with The Star, Samsel tells students about “a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times,” adding that it was because “he has two parents and they’re both females.”

“He’s a foster kid. His alternatives in life were having no parents or foster care parents who are gay,” Samsel said.

The student videos additionally showed the lawmaker verbally targeting one student and encouraging other students to bully him.

The Star also reported: At one point, Samsel tells the student, “You’re about ready to anger me and get the wrath of God. Do you believe me when I tell you that God has been speaking to me?” He then pushes him, and the student runs to the other side of the classroom.

“You should run and scream.” In another video, he tells students, “Class, you have permission to kick him in the balls.”

Parents told The Star that Samsel “put hands on the student” and allegedly kneed him in the crotch. In a video apparently taken immediately after the incident, the student is shown on the ground. Samsel is standing over him and says, “did it hurt?”

He then asks him why he is about to start crying, pats him on the shoulder and apologizes, and then says he can “go to the nurse, she can check it for you.” Samsel addresses another student and says, “do you want to check his nuts for him, please?”

In another video, Samsel is shown telling the student about “distractions from the devil,” and then grabs him from behind and lifts him off his feet. In a different clip, he tells the student to go to the office. “You were not following — not my rules — God’s rules right now,” he tells the student. “You better take a Bible.”

“Keep denying God, keep denying God, see how it’s going to turn out,” he told the student.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal appeals court orders Trans professor fired in 2011 reinstated

The Tenth Circuit also rejected Southeastern’s cross-appeal in its entirety, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County

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U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Byron White Courthouse Denver Colorado (Photo Credit - Library of Congress Collections)

DENVER – The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 55-page ruling issued Monday, ordered Southeastern Oklahoma State University located in Durant, Oklahoma to reinstate a Trans professor who was fired over a decade ago.

Douglas N. McMillan, then interim vice president for academic affairs at the university reportedly said that the professor’s “lifestyle” offended his Baptist beliefs.

Dr. Rachel Tudor, a 54-year-old Native American member of the Chickasaw Nation, in a statement released after the appellate court’s ruling said that [she is] “looking forward to being the first tenured Native American professor in her department in the 100-plus year history of the Native American-serving institution that is Southeastern Oklahoma State University.”

The 10th Circuit in its ruling overturned a lower District Court in Oklahoma City that had ruled “reinstatement would not be possible due to alleged hostility between Dr. Tudor and Southeastern.”

Tudor worked as a tenure-track professor of English at Southeastern Oklahoma State University between 2004 and 2011. In 2007, she informed Southeastern that she would be transitioning and that her gender identity was female. Following this, she was denied tenure and terminated even though her own students and the English Department supported her tenure application.

In her appeal, Tudor was represented by the Washington D.C. based National Women’s Law Center and its private law firm counsel, Erica Lai, who argued for NWLC.

In a recap statement NWLC noted:

The Tenth Circuit also rejected Southeastern’s cross-appeal in its entirety, heavily citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which overruled previous 10th Circuit precedent and held that discrimination against transgender employees is sex discrimination under Title VII.  

 After fighting her case in the courts, she won her jury trial on November 20, 2017. Although the jury awarded her $1,165,000, the court both lowered this amount to $300,000 and then awarded her only front-pay wages in an amount of $60,040.77. This front-pay figure was calculated without the court undertaking any meaningful analysis as to her ability to return to a tenure job in English at Southeastern as she wanted, or what amount would make up for her lost future earnings.

[…] Also, courts have made clear that employers may not cite litigation-related hostility as a reason to refuse someone a job. Finally, as the jury found, Dr. Tudor was only denied tenure because of sex discrimination.

Tudor’s statement reflected her desire to return to the classroom and press on the Tulsa World reported:

As injurious as the sex discrimination and retaliation were to Dr. Tudor, she did not consider it merely personal. Rather, she was a symbol to those who discriminated against her. They wanted to create an environment where certain views and certain people are punished to create fear and shame instead of self-confidence and opportunity for all.

“They wanted people like Dr. Tudor to be afraid, and to go away. Instead of going away, instead of accepting a settlement — conditioned on never teaching in Oklahoma — she fought for the rights and dignity of her Native and LGBT communities.

“Dr. Tudor would like to thank her allies and colleagues for their support through 10 long years of fighting for justice. She is grateful and honored to be the recipient of their goodwill. She promises to repay their trust by being the best professor she can be.”

 

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Colorado

Anti-LGBTQ extremist Bob Enyart who spread COVID lies- dies from virus

Enyart proudly referred to himself as “America’s most popular right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice talk show host”

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Bob Enyart (Screenshot via KUSA9 NBC News Denver)

DENVER – The vehemently anti-LGBTQ preacher who made national headlines over his gleefully reading out the obituaries of AIDS victims on his cable television show, while cranking out the song “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen- whose lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died from that disease, has himself died from complications after contracting COVID-19.

Bob Enyart, 62, who had proudly referred to himself as “America’s most popular self-proclaimed right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice talk show host” and pastor of the Denver Bible Church, died Monday after a short battle with the coronavirus. The news was confirmed by his longtime radio and podcast show co-host Fred Williams in a Facebook post Monday.

Enyart and his second wife Cheryl, had both contracted COVID-19 after refusing to take the vaccine citing pro-life reasons; “Bob and Cheryl Enyart have sworn off taking the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson vaccines because, as those firms admit, they tested these three products on the cells of aborted babies,” according to a statement in August on Enyart’s webpage.

In addition to falsely claiming that the vaccines were developed using fetal tissue, Enyart urged his followers to boycott the vaccines to “further increase social tension and put pressure on the child killers. (Remember, many institutions and celebrities who have been “pro-choice” all along are now also calling to legalize infanticide, what they call after-birth abortion.

In October of 2020, Enyart filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver asking to overturn the Colorado State Public Health order on facial masks at religious services, as well as rules limiting gatherings to 175 people amid the pandemic.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico, who was appointed by President Trump, granted a temporary restraining order against the health order.

A long time radical anti-abortion activists and a spokesperson for the pro-life Colorado Right to Life, Enyart in 2009 along with other antiabortion protesters were jailed over protest at Focus on the Family after the group accused Focus founder James Dobson of not being antiabortion enough.

After attempting to deliver a letter to Focus president James Daly deploring Dobson’s endorsement of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, American Right to Life Action members staged an hour long standoff with ministry security, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

In addition to his open hostility towards the LGBTQ community on air, in 2016 protesting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling the previous year that granted same-sex couples the right to marry, the Huffington Post reported that he released a bizarre video as part of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) boycott of Starbucks, after the coffee-based chain announced its support of same-sex marriage.

As first reported by Good As You blogger Jeremy Hopper, Pastor Bob Enyart of Denver Bible Church purchased a Starbucks coffee before proceeding to dump it down a sewer in protest.

“Jesus Christ said God made us male and female at the beginning of the creation,” Enyart proclaims. “Starbucks, in a move that’s not wise for eternity and not good for business here and now, has decided to promote homosexual marriage.”

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