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HRC rolls out support for Biden on anniversary of marriage endorsement

Alphonso David says Tara Reade allegations should be ‘fully evaluated’

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Joe Biden, gay news, Washington Blade

The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Biden for president. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The nation’s leading LGBTQ group has officially thrown its support behind Joseph Biden in the presidential election, drawing on the anniversary of his famous words in support of same-sex marriage on “Meet the Press” to make the case the candidate should unseat President Trump.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Tuesday night in an interview with the Washington Blade that the board of directors voted unanimously to endorse Biden after an extensive review, which concluded the candidate had a commitment to LGBTQ people and other minority communities.

“We reviewed his record on marginalized communities,” David said. “We reviewed his prior comments on LGBTQ issues as well as issues that affect people who bring intersectional identities to the table. As an example, I’m black, I’m gay, I’m an immigrant. All of those issues are for me and they happen to be for the Human Rights Campaign.”

The announcement of the endorsement was timed to coincide with the eighth anniversary of Biden coming out in favor of marriage equality on “Meet the Press,” which helped bring a once contentious idea into the mainstream and preceded former President Barack Obama’s own endorsement three days later.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=171204870873659

The Human Rights Campaign, unlike in 2016, during this election cycle had stayed out of the Democratic presidential primary. Even before Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dropped out, making Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee, David said the Human Rights Campaign had been reviewing Biden along with other candidates and had planned “a few days and weeks” to make the endorsement announcement on May 6.

“We thought it would be most appropriate — both from a symbolic perspective, but also substantively — to make the endorsement and we made the decision that May 6 was the right date,” David said. “It reminds us where we were several years ago, when same-sex couples could not marry in so many states in the country. And Joe Biden stood up, and was very vocal about his support of LGBTQ equality and that really changed the public discourse.”

As evidence of Biden’s commitment to LGBTQ rights, David pointed out the candidate’s promise to sign LGBTQ non-discrimination legislation known as the Equality Act, a plan to end HIV/AIDS by 2025 and a commitment to ensuring the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.

In contrast, the Trump administration has established a transgender military ban, taken administrative actions in favor of religious freedom at the expense of LGBTQ rights and has refused to include LGBTQ people in the enforcement of civil rights law — going so far as to argue against it before the U.S. Supreme Court. (The Trump administration has, however, set up a plan aimed at ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030.)

As part of the endorsement, the Human Rights Campaign has unveiled a plan built on its successful strategies from 2016 and 2018 to get LGBTQ people and “equality voters” — voters who prioritize LGBTQ issues — to the polls.

There are an estimated 57 million “equality voters” across the nation and their demographics skew toward suburban women and more toward minority groups than the general population. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 60 percent are women, 48 percent are people of color and 30 percent are under the age of 35.

David said an estimated 3.4 million voters in that category are at risk of not turning out for the election and the Human Rights Campaign plans to work to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“We are going to be focused on those folks who may not be inclined to vote to make sure they understand the importance of the election, they’re engaged in the process,” David said.

To turn out those voters, the Human Rights Campaign is set to focus on seven states considered battlegrounds in the coming election. Six of the states — Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — were priorities in previous years, but the seventh is Texas and a new addition.

David said Texas was added because significant infrastructure was built in the state after years of beating back anti-LGBTQ legislation in the state legislature.

“We decided to make Texas one of our major priority states because there are half a dozen competitive U.S. House races on the ballot in 2020,” David said. “We also have the state houses in play in 2020, and we anticipate that the presidential campaigns will invest in the states more so than any other presidential election in recent memory because of the number of people in Texas. So for those three reasons we made a decision to include Texas.”

Polling shows Texas may be an attainable target for Biden. A University of Texas, Tyler/Dallas Morning News poll of registered voters out this week found Trump and Biden neck-and-neck at 43 percent in the state.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) told the Blade help from the Human Rights Campaign would be a boon for Biden because the nation’s leading LGBTQ group was essential to her U.S. House win in 2016 and the U.S. Senate win in 2018.

“Candidate support for LGBTQ equality is a crucial, a determining factor for over 55 million people across the country — and over 600,000 people in Nevada — they’re equality voters, so that’s why it matters,” Rosen said.

The upcoming election, Rosen said, is important not just for LGBTQ rights but other progressive issues because Biden is “in that fight as well.”

“You want somebody who’s going to stand up for equality, to stand up for human rights, try to stand up for all the things care about: health care, education, the environment…LGBTQ rights, but everyone has families so they care about all it,” Rozen said.

David: Tara Reade allegations should be ‘fully evaluated’

The endorsement also comes amid the emergence of sexual misconduct allegations against Biden from Tara Reade, a former staffer who worked for him when he was a senator in the 1990s.

The allegations have been picking up steam in the media and the public. A survey from POLITICO/Morning Consult— conducted in the days after Biden appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Friday to deny the charges personally for the first time — found 28 percent of Democrats “definitely” or “probably” favor replacing Biden with another nominee to take on Trump.

David struck a middle ground when asked if he believes Biden in his denial, underscoring the importance of listening to survivors who have made their voices heard in the “Me Too” movement.

“It is absolutely critical that we listen to survivors, who for a long time, had to have their voices dismissed,” David said. “Survivors should be heard, survivors should be listened to, taken seriously, treated with respect and dignity. And when these allegations came forward and allegations like these come forward, we need to make sure that they’re fully evaluated — and I believe that is happening right now.”

At the same time, David emphasized the importance of electing a candidate to unseat Trump in the upcoming election.

“We cannot afford for LGBTQ voices to be marginalized in this election. We have six months, we cannot afford for Donald Trump to win this election in November, and every day his administration, as you know, rolls back our rights, and another queer kid contemplates suicide, another black trans woman is killed,” David said. “So this election is life or death for us in our community and we chose to fight for our lives.”

One distinction between the current presidential election and previous years is the contest is taking place amid the global pandemic of COVID-19, which makes grassroots organizing — traditionally a get-out-the-vote and door-knocking effort — difficult to say the least.

David, however, said the Human Rights Campaign will rise to the challenge with a focus on digital organizing as opposed to traditional methods.

Among other things, David said efforts will include use of the Team app to coordinate via text messages, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Twitter, which he said is “nine times more effective than traditional door-to-door knocking where you’re engaging with strangers.” Other efforts, David said, are phone banking and volunteer opportunities at virtual or remote events.

“We are actively and aggressively, doing political organizing virtually because we understand that COVID-19 has changed the way we live, it’s changed the way we work, and it’s changing political organizing as well,” David said.

The Human Rights Campaign also launches its plan to elect Biden one week after confirming it had laid off 22 employees due to the coronavirus.

David, however, said that was the result of adjustments after initial projected growth for the organization and won’t impact their work in the presidential election.

“In fact, we’re going to be more effective because we have been planning and building a virtual network, which is why we’re prepared to launch the Team, app, which is why we have community hub, which is why we’re able to do virtual training, because the Human Rights Campaign is actually invested in this virtual infrastructure,” David said. “But it’s not going to affect our political work.”

The election of Biden to the White House, David said, would be a key victory for LGBTQ people hungry for change after four years of Trump.

“In addition to interacting with someone who’s sane and rational, and not abusive, and not dismissive of LGBTQ people, I think we would have a president who understands and values LGBTQ people at its very basic level, someone who understands us and values us as human beings, understands the value that we bring to the table provides us with the dignity that we are hiding,” David said. “And that is what we would expect of any human being but we would expect this of Joe Biden, and he’s shown us time and time again that not only does he respect us, but he’s going to make sure he protects and supports LGBTQ people.”

The Washington Blade has placed a request with the Biden campaign seeking comment on the Human Rights Campaign endorsement.

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Los Angeles County

LA Mayor Garcetti volunteers at Project Angel Food’s Thanksgiving

For many of the celebrities joining Project Angel Food’s Thanksgiving Day volunteers the day was about sharing the experience with family

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(L-R) Ava Maybee, Trisha Cardoso and Mayor Eric Garcetti attend Lisa Rinna Joins Celebs Volunteering In Project Angel Food Kitchen on Thanksgiving at Project Angel Food on November 24, 2022 (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)"

LOS ANGELES – In the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Project Angel Food CEO Richard Ayoub, celebrity supporters and 225 volunteers and staff to prepare and deliver 7,400 meals on Thanksgiving Day to seriously ill and housing insecure people throughout 4,700 square miles of L.A. County.

“Mayor Eric Garcetti epitomizes what it is to be part of a community and lift one another through compassion and service. As he rolled up his sleeves and helped plate meals, he brought attention that while this is a day most of us are surrounded by people we love, we need to remember that some people don’t have that,” Project Angel Food CEO Richard Ayoub said. “He reminded us that no Angeleno should be alone and with a warm smile, a conversation and a meal, our volunteers can change the entire day for our clients, become angels in the City of Angels,” Ayoub added.

For many of the celebrities joining Project Angel Food’s Thanksgiving Day volunteer pool, the day was about sharing the experience with family. Volunteers included Lisa Rinna and husband Harry Hamlin; “Weird Al” Yankovic with his wife Suzanne and daughter Nina.

Also volunteering was Out actor and singer Cheyenne Jackson and husband Jason Landau with their twins Willow and Ethan. Jackson said the couple brought the children because, “I want to teach my kids to be grateful and thankful for everything that we have, and when you have the capability to give to other people, do it.”

He also talked about the death of friend Leslie Jordan, a Project Angel Food supporter who died exactly one month earlier. “He was one of my best friends and it hit me really, really hard like so many people,” he said.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 24: (L-R) Cheyenne Jackson, Jason Landau and family attend Lisa Rinna Joins Celebs Volunteering In Project Angel Food Kitchen on Thanksgiving at Project Angel Food on November 24, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

American Idol favorite Ava Maybee with her mother, and Melissa Rivers with son Cooper Endicott, continuing her mother Joan Rivers’ legacy of volunteering on Thanksgiving.

Avatar: The Way of Water star Trinity Bliss brought her parents just weeks before the December 16 release of the highly anticipated film. “I’m so honored to work alongside so many people to bring a warm, delicious, tasty meal to people in need.”

Of her much-anticipated film, Avatar: Way of Water, Trinity added, “Avatar was amazing, but I think Avatar: The Way of Water is going to be just so much more dramatic and be an experience people are going to need to experience in theaters.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 24: Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna attend Lisa Rinna Joins Celebs Volunteering In Project Angel Food Kitchen on Thanksgiving at Project Angel Food on November 24, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Lisa Rinna reflected on the fact that Project Angel Food is the primary source of food for most of its clients. “It’s so important because that is going to be their only meal of the day.” her husband Hamlin added, “to have the opportunity to give back is amazing.”

Other celebrities included Eileen Davidson (RHOBH, Days of Our Lives), Peter Porte (Days of Our Lives), Juan Pablo Di Pace (DWTS, Fuller House), Olympian Tai Babilonia, Tim Bagley (Gracie & Frankie, Will & Grace), Michael Hitchcock (The Resort, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Lawrence Zarian (The Kelly Clarkson Show), Marc Malkin (Variety), James Wallington and Will Jardell (Amazing Race Season 32 winners), Romeo Escobar (Survivor 42 runner-up), and parenting author Donna Tetreault.

The 7,400 meals being delivered on Thanksgiving included 1,600 traditional turkey dinners to critically ill men, women, children and their caregivers, 5,600 Medically Tailored Meals and breakfasts regularly scheduled for Thursday delivery, and another 200 meals were provided to Project Angel Food community partner PATH for residents for two of PATH’s Interim Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing sites. 

Volunteers provided contactless “drive-by” pick-up of the meals which were then delivered to Project Angel Food clients. Traditional Thanksgiving dinners consisted of roasted turkey, root vegetables, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. Vegetarian meals were also provided.

The meal was sponsored by the Stanley and Joyce Black Family foundation with Glamazon (Amazon’s affinity group for the LGBT+ community) sponsoring the volunteer event.

Project Angel Food CEO Richard Ayoub noted that Project Angel Food strives to end food insecurity and improve health outcomes of critically ill men, women and children in Los Angeles with Medically Tailored Meals, delivered with care and compassion.

Over 2,500 clients are fed daily. Project Angel Food delivers 1.3 million meals each year.

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Russia

Russian Duma’s lower House passes anti-LGBTQ propaganda law

The legislation still needs the approval of the upper House and President Putin- introduces an expanded “all ages” anti-LGBTQ propaganda ban

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Russian State Duma (Госуда́рственная ду́ма) parliament building Moscow (Photo Credit: Russian Government)

MOSCOW – A new law which expands Russia’s “gay propaganda” law signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in June 2013 passed the lower House of the State Duma (parliament) on Thursday.

The legislation, which still needs the approval of the upper House of the Duma and President Putin, introduces an expanded “all ages” ban on “propaganda of non-traditional relations,” paedophilia, as well as a ban on the dissemination of information about LGBTQ people in the media, the Internet, advertising, literature and cinema. 

The language of the bill, according to the official Russian state news agency TASS, also introduces a ban on issuing a rental certificate to a film if it contains materials that promote non-traditional sexual relations and preferences is established. The document also provides for the introduction of a mechanism that restricts children’s access to listening to or viewing LGBTQ+ information on paid services. 

The newly expanded law provides for the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, abbreviated as Roskomnadzor, to be vested with the right to determine the procedure for conducting monitoring on the Internet to identify information, access to which should be restricted in accordance with the federal law on information.

A requirement is also set on paid services to enter codes or perform other actions to confirm the age of the user. At the same time, access to LGBTQ+ information is prohibited for citizens under 18 years of age.

In addition, it provides for a ban on the sale of goods, including imported goods, containing information, the dissemination of which provides for administrative or criminal liability. 

Also, the law “on the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development” is supplemented by an article on the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations, pedophilia and information that can make children want to change their sex.

The latter language pointedly inserted as transgender people have been a frequent target of attacks by the Russian president in speeches recently blaming the West for a global decay in moral values that run counter to what Putin describes as “Russia’s strong morals.”

In an October speech announcing the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian territories, Putin attacked the Western nations on the issue of gay and transgender rights.

“Do we want children from elementary school to be imposed with things that lead to degradation and extinction?” he asked. “Do we want them to be taught that instead of men and women, there are supposedly some other genders and to be offered sex-change surgeries?”

It’s not just the Russian leader. Patriarch Kirill, head of the powerful and influential Russian Orthodox Church, portrayed the war with Ukraine as a struggle seeking to reject Western values and LGBTQ+ pride parades.

Vyacheslav Viktorovich Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma and a former aide to Putin, is one of the bill’s sponsors. Volodin told TASS that the bill is “adopted exclusively in the interests of all Russians.”

“We have a different path, our grandfathers, great-grandfathers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers chose it. We have traditions, we have a conscience, we have an understanding that we need to think about children, families, the country, to preserve what we handed over by the parents,” Volodin said.

A spokesperson for Human Rights Watch told the Blade this expansion of the 2013 “gay propaganda” law “is a classic example of political homophobia. It targets vulnerable sexual and gender minorities for political gain.”

A young Russian LGBTQ+ activist, who asked to not be identified for fear of Russian government reprisals, spoke to the Blade from Helsinki, Finland, regarding this latest effort by the so-called conservative “family values” politicians in the Duma.

“This is a distraction to avoid the real news of dead young Russian males killed in his illegal war in Ukraine,” they said. “These [Russian obscenity] politicians want to so-called “non-traditional” LGBTQ+ lifestyles practised by lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people out of public life- make us erased. They and their so called colluders in church are ignorant of truth that LGBTQ+ people will exist no matter what. It is scientific fact not their religious fairytales and fictions.”

The activist also told the Blade they had fled to avoiding the Russian military draft enacted by Russia to replenish the levels of combat troops fighting in Putin’s illegal war, in the face of mounting casualties and wounded soldiers.

HRW noted that given the already deeply hostile climate for LGBTQ+ people in Russia, the organization warned there will be uptick in often-gruesome vigilante violence against LGBTQ+ people in Russia—frequently carried out in the name of protecting Russian values and Russia’s children.

Legal scholars say the vagueness of the bill’s language gives room for government enforcers to interpret the language as broadly as they desire, leaving members of the Russian LGBTQ+ community and their allies in a state of even greater fear and stress filled uncertainty.

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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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Colorado

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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Southern California

Triple A: Drivers can be thankful, gas prices plunge before holiday

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.16, which is 24 cents lower than last week

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Thanksgiving pre-holiday traffic in Los Angeles (Screenshot/YouTube VOA)

Editors Note: The Weekend Gas Watch is being published one day early due to the holiday.

LOS ANGELES – A hefty gas price decline of more than 20 cents in the past week has now brought pump prices lower than at the start of the September-October price spike, but those driving to Thanksgiving holiday destinations will still be paying about 50 cents more per gallon than at this time last year, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.16, which is 24 cents lower than last week. The average national price is $3.61, which is 13 cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.21 per gallon, which is 25 cents lower than last week, 60 cents lower than last month, and 51 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.19, which is 26 cents lower than last week, 58 cents lower than last month, and 53 cents higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.20, which is 21 cents lower than last week, 59 cents lower than last month, and 55 cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.09, which is 25 cents lower than last week, 56 cents lower than last month, and 46 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.42 average price is 19 cents lower than last week, 54 cents lower than last month, and 77 cents higher than a year ago today.

“With an all-time record number of 3.9 million Southern California Thanksgiving travelers hitting the road this week, the large price declines are very helpful for holiday getaway budgets,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “The lowest-priced gas stations in Southern California are now charging less than $4.40 a gallon. Make sure to use a tool like the free AAA Mobile app during your travels to find the cheapest gas prices close to you.”

The Auto Club reminds drivers of the following tips to save money on gas:

  • If you use premium unleaded fuel, make sure it is required for your vehicle, not just recommended. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center found that vehicles with recommended premium fuel performed safely with regular unleaded gasoline.
  • Make sure your tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
  • Maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit. Fuel economy peaks around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speed increases. Reducing freeway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads because you could lose control of the vehicle.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Avoid extended idling to warm up the engine, even in colder temperatures. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel.
  • Remove unnecessary and heavy items from your car.
  • Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use.
  • Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices near you. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Nov. 23, averages are:

Nov 23 22
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Politics

Marjorie Taylor Greene tweets homophobic attack on Sen. Wiener

“Greene is a toxic person & embodies why the MAGA movement is dangerous, a threat to our democracy & to the personal safety of LGBTQ people”

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Calif state Sen. Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) (Photo credit: California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus)

LOS ANGELES – Far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene attacked Calif. State Sen. Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) on Tuesday after Wiener made a point of calling out use of the word “groomer,” as the abusive reaction and fallout from right-wing sources regarding the mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, continues to ratchet up against the LGBTQ+ community.

The word “groomer” is categorically an anti-LGBTQ hate word. It’s super homophobic/transphobic. It plays into the slander that LGBTQ people are pedophiles. It’s no different than calling someone a fagg*t. If you call someone groomer, you’re inciting violence against LGBTQ people,” Wiener stated in his tweet.

Quoting Wiener’s tweet the far-right MAGA Georgia congresswoman called the Senator a “communist” questioning Wiener’s loyalty and service to both the State of California and the U.S. she then went on to accuse Wiener of being a “groomer” implying that the Senator was a predator of minors for sexual purposes:

Pass my Protect Children’s Innocence Act to stop communist groomers like this from using state government power to take children away from their parents to allow a for-profit medical industry to chop off these confused children’s genitals before they are even old enough to vote.”

In an emailed statement, Senator Wiener responded to the homophobic attack by the Georgia Republican:

“The same day Elon Musk reinstated QAnon extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene, she launched a vile homophobic attack on me because of my vocal advocacy in response to the Club Q slaughter. When Greene has attacked me in the past, threats against me have typically increased. She is a toxic person and embodies why the MAGA movement is so dangerous. Green is a threat to our democracy and to the personal safety of LGBTQ people.”

The term ‘groomer’ is considered highly offensive as it broadly brushstroke paints LGBTQ+ people as child molesters.

The definition according to the Urban online dictionary:

groomer

1 (the crime definition): An adult that builds a sense of trust with a minor to exploit and/or abuse them, typically (but not always) in a sexual manner. This is a crime, and it also causes harm to the minor.

2 (in US politics): What republican politicians and supporters refer to LGBTQIA+ people and their allies as, to manipulate their audience to pass anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. This is targeting and harming LGBTQIA+ people and the people using the word in this manner typically are (or have connections with those who are) actual groomers.

National Public Radio, (NPR) reported this past May the Movement Advancement Project’s executive director, Ineke Mushovic, pointed out:

“What the far right often does is they engage people’s reptilian brains, the fight-or-flight instinct,” says Mushovic. “And so it behooves far-right conservatives to put people in a state of fear, because then they’re reactive. They don’t support change.”

The “grooming” narrative, Mushovic added, “taps into this primal sense of fear and this kind of parental protective instinct. But we know it’s a completely false narrative.”

The “grooming” narrative has been actively promoted by conservative activist Christopher Rufo, and Daily Wire pundit and transphobe Matt Walsh who have both attacked gender affirming care in their assaults on the LGBTQ+ community.

Green’s H.R.8731 – Protect Children’s Innocence Act, was introduced this past August 19 and has forty-nine Republican members listed as co-sponsors. The language as introduced stated targets primarily Trans youth healthcare and targets colleges and universities from “offering instruction in gender affirming care:”

This bill places restrictions on the provision of gender affirming care. Gender affirming care includes performing surgery, administering medication, or performing other procedures for the purpose of changing the body of an individual to correspond to a sex that differs from the individual’s biological sex.

Specifically, the bill makes it a felony to perform any gender affirming care on a minor and it permits a minor on whom such care is performed to bring a civil action against each individual who provided the care.

Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of federal funds for gender affirming care or for health insurance that covers such care. Such care may not be provided in a federal health care facility or by a federal employee. The bill also prohibits qualified health plans from including coverage for gender affirming care. Further, plans that include coverage for such care are not eligible for federal subsidies. […]

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