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Larry Kramer dies at 84

‘Anger is a wonderful motivator for me!’

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Larry Kramer, gay news, Washington Blade

Larry Kramer “First there were a dozen, then two dozen, suddenly 100 and then too, too many.” — an email about the founding of Gay Men’s Health Crisis to Troy Masters.. (Photo by Jean Carlomusto; courtesy Farrar Straus Giroux)

Larry Kramer died Wednesday at 84 years old during a pandemic that today reached a milestone 100,000 death count in the US. The cause was neither the AIDS crisis he so passionately fought nor the Covid-19 crisis he watched aghast as it unfolded. Kramer died of pneumonia, according to his husband David Webster.

Kramer was often soft-spoken, almost shy, and, at least the first time you met him, was unfailingly polite. But when he spoke in public his voice became a Moses-like lightning rod, parting the waters — some would say the nation — demanding respect and dignity for the lives of a people that were being decimated by a then hidden plague, AIDS. He turned his audience into an army that was unafraid to confront the evils of prejudice, hatred and ignorance. They created ACT UP.


In March 1983, Kramer wrote in his famous essay “1,112 and counting,” published in the Native, then a New York City gay publication: “If this article doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If this article doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get.”

That essay was a call to arms. “Larry was asked to speak at the LGBT Community Center in a writers speaking series after,” according to ACT UP founding member Eric Sawyer. “Nora Ephron cancelled with the flu.”

Kramer called a number of friends and asked them to come to the speech. He planned to call for the formation of a civil disobedience group to protest governmental, drug company and society’s refusal to take appropriate action to respond to the needs of people living with AIDS or to find a cure for the disease, which was killing gay men at an exponentially growing rate.

“Larry asked me to bring a bunch of my pretty boy Fire Island friends and to stand up and volunteer to help with forming the protest group as boy bait to encourage others to join,” Sawyer said.

At one point in the speech, Kramer asked half of the room to stand up. He then said “All of you standing will be dead within 12 months unless we get off our asses and get into the streets to demand a major research project to find a cure for AIDS.”

The actor Martin Sheen, a friend of Kramer’s, also spoke, imploring the room that government inaction was not acceptable and that the community must demand a cure.

The first demonstration was planned in front of Trinity Church at the base of Wall Street where a handful of people demanded drug companies and the government begin, according to Sawyer, “an emergency project to cure AIDS.”

The event amassed massive media coverage: having a group of patients demanding a cure from the government was unheard of at the time.

Larry Kramer portrait by Tracey Litt.

Kramer was a noted author and playwright who began his career at Columbia Pictures and United Artists.

His screenplay for the 1969 film “Women in Love” (1969) earned an Academy Award nomination. Among his many accomplishments and awards, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his play “The Destiny of Me” (1992), and a two-time recipient of the Obie Award.

Even before AIDS, Kramer was known as a critic of his own community; his novel “Faggots” (1978) depicted gay male relationships of the 1970s as hedonistic, destructive and unaware.

He co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), which has become the world’s largest private organization assisting people living with AIDS. But Kramer felt the agency had frozen and become reactive.

His highly acclaimed 1985 play “The Normal Heart,” produced at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater reflected on the failings of a bureaucratic approach to combating an epidemic and honed his belief in the power of collective political provocation.

He was known for his rage and brazen behavior and New York City Mayor Ed Koch was among his favorite targets for his disregard of the emerging AIDS crisis.

Kramer and Koch both lived in the same building, One Fifth Avenue but the activist refused to speak to the Mayor, even when the Mayor made nice and attempted to pet his dog. “I said, ‘Molly, you can’t talk to him. That is the man who killed all of Daddy’s friends,” Kramer told the New Yorker in 2002.

Kramer’s 2015 novel “The American People, Vol. 1: Search for My Heart,” was a behemoth —nearly 800 pages that tells variously of prehistoric monkeys, the Puritans, the American Revolution, the Civil War and also the abundant — in Kramer’s vision — homosexual proclivities of the U.S. Founding Fathers with a dizzying cast that includes Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln and even John Wilkes Booth.

Kramer, a D.C. native, is widely known for his groundbreaking and searing play “The Normal Heart,” adapted into an HBO Emmy-winning film, and other works. He lived in New York’s Greenwich Village with his husband, David Webster (they wed in 2013) and their Cairn Terrier, Charlie, a rescue dog Kramer, a dog person, said is “very good natured.”

Kramer spoke to the Blade in 2015 about his husband.

“I first started dating David in the mid-‘60s. We dated for many years but he didn’t want to be pinned down. We finally got together permanently in 1995 or so and got married just a year or so ago. I promptly got very sick and spent almost a year in and out of hospitals. He saved my life several times when doctors were not helping; he found the right ones. It is certainly not the marriage one wanted to have, lover and caregiver. His own career as an architect has suffered as he worries for me. We have both certainly been put to the test and it has brought us even closer together.”

Kramer could be cantankerous to say the least. Of that reputation, he told the Blade, “I am not bitter. I am angry. Anger is a wonderful motivator for me!”

Some reactions are being posted as they come in:

Ann Northrop, ACT UP member and media advisor and co-host of GAY USA with Andy Humm:
“I truly loved Larry, even when I disagreed with him. He was a fully genuine human being who never hesitated to speak what he saw as the truth. Definitely not a diplomat. But it was his insistence on pushing and prodding that was the greatest evidence of how much he loved gay people. He wouldn’t let us settle for any mistreatment or second-class status. He always said we were the best and he wanted us to feel that level of self-respect.”

Torie Osborn, now Senior Strategist for Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl:
During the height of the AIDS epidemic, she was the executive director of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center. In 1993, during the March on Washington, Osborn was the executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force in Washington DC.

“I had a few dinners with Larry in NYC, several phone chats, more than a few arguments. He attended and helped host my NYC fundraiser for my (valiant, if failed) 2012 Assembly race. Most notably, I arranged secretly for some lesbian friends to escort him up on stage totally against the will of ‘the committee’ at the 1993 March on DC rally. We put him up on stage, right ahead of my own speech. Then we formed a phalanx around him while he spoke (trashing a bit too harshly the Clinton administration on AIDS). I was super proud of that.

“Larry was a prophet, as well as an artist. I remember where I was when I read his essay in Frontiers in 1983: ‘A.I.D.S. 1,112 and still counting….’ He jolted us all awake and by founding GMHC and ACT UP, he showed us the way to both fighting back against the genocidal Republicans and caring for our own. Larry was one of the great ones — a prophet and artist for the ages. And a giant pain in the ass.”

Phill Wilson is a longtime HIV/AIDS advocate and founder and former executive director of the Black AIDS Institute:

“There is so much one can say about Larry. Like most of us, he was a very complicated person. There’s no doubt, I don’t think that it’s debatable that maybe his largest contribution to both the LGBT and the HIV/AIDS community is that he taught us both how to be angry, how to use that anger, and to be comfortable with being angry. It was OK to be angry.

That was an important lesson to learn. Prior to Larry elevating the art of anger, if you will, many of us were stuck in that ‘best little boy’ or ‘best little girl’ mode and feeling that the best way to maneuver the world was to NOT to be seen because to be seen was to put yourself at risk and at danger. Larry basically led the way for us to maneuver in the world in a different way.

The other thing that for me is important in the lesson of Larry Kramer is an appreciation of the complexity because while Larry was very powerful and very passionate and his contribution was immense, he had blind spots. And he had a huge blind spot when it came to race, and when it came to women and when it came to poor people.

I remember a phone conversation (during a radio interview) that I had with him right around the time when the protease inhibitors came out. And Larry was talking about his experience taking his first medication in Barbra Streisand’s bathroom while I, on the other hand, am watching the lines and lines and lines of black and brown and young people at the food banks in LA. I was trying to make the case that while we certainly were happy about the protease inhibitors, but a few pills that work for some people some of the time does not a cure make.

I don’t think that Larry had an appreciation for the intersectionality of HIV and AIDS. He clearly understood the relationship between homophobia and HIV and AIDS. He got that. It was not evident to me that he always understood the relationship between racism and misogyny and classism and HIV and AIDS.”

Robin Tyler, Activist and organizer of the 1983 March on Washington
When the 1993 March on Washington happened, the ‘March committee’ decided they did not want Larry Kramer to speak. I was producing the main stage, and during the March, Torie Osborn came up to me (I had a lot of security on stage but because she was an ex, got through,) ‘Act Up’ was going to attack if I didn’t let him on stage.

I looked at the crowd of a million.  I did not see a group poised to attack.  But I had been angry he wasn’t invited to speak.  So I made a split second decision, and Torie introduced him.  He was fabulous!

Needless to say, the co-chairs were angry with me. (one in particular) I got in a lot of trouble.  But then again, so did Larry.

I am honored to have known him and to have introduced him at that March.  He was one of the greatest gay activist who ever lived, a giant of a man!

David France, Academy Award nominated director of “How to Survive a Plague”:
Larry was always complaining that the gays had no Martin Luther King, which was silly, of course, because he was our King. More imperfect, more intemperate by far, certainly more polarizing, but no less impactful. Everything he did seemed designed to fail, yet somehow he gathered up a lackluster movement and a dysfunctional community and shouted and insulted us forward. In this indirect way, he launched a powerful and transformative AIDS movement, which remained his lifelong focus, but he also managed to fuel the most rapid social transformation in history. America owes Larry a postage stamp at the very least, and a long weekend for sure.

Michael Weinstein, co-founder of AIDS Healthcare Foundation who attended ACT UP/LA’s first meeting and collaborated closely with ACT UP/LA leader Mark Kostopoulos:

“Larry Kramer was a giant in our movement. He was the grandfather of AIDS activism. All of us learned from him even when we didn’t always agree. He was there at the founding of institutions such as GMHC and Housing Works. And, his cultural contributions, particularly Normal Heart, spoke eloquently to not only our minds but our hearts. Larry, you will be sorely missed.”

David Mixner, longtime politico, author and theatre soloist Performer:
“My friend Larry Kramer never ever negotiated our personal freedom or health to make others comfortable.   Being liked or personal power just wasn’t part of his strategy.”

Lambda Legal’s Kevin Jennings, in a statement:
“Lambda Legal –its staff and community of advocates for LGBT rights and everyone living with HIV– deeply mourn the passing of Larry Kramer, who fought tirelessly throughout his life to focus resources on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to eradicate the stigma of living with HIV, changing forever the landscape of activism, the LGBT civil rights movement, and the lives of people living with HIV worldwide. Larry Kramer has been an endless source of inspiration to our lawyers and our work to help end the HIV epidemic. We owe Larry Kramer an immeasurable debt of gratitude for teaching us how to stand up and fight back, how to survive a plague and how to channel our anger into direct action for social change.

“Larry Kramer founded and helped lead Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), an organization critical to providing life-saving services to people with AIDS at a time when our government had turned its back on the dying.   Larry then turned his anger into helping create ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), the groundbreaking AIDS activist group that used creative, nonviolent civil disobedience to reshape the dynamics of the epidemic itself.

“We are facing again a federal government that does not care about LGBT people, , people living with HIV or communities of color. Kramer’s passing should serve as a wake-up call and a reminder that righteous anger is an appropriate response when the powers that be fail in their duty to serve all citizens equally and fairly, and we should continue to channel that energy into action until we have won the fight for fully equitable and fair treatment in law, medicine, and society.”

(In 2017, Lambda Legal honored Larry Kramer with the Kevin M. Cathcart Legacy Award at our annual Liberty Awards.  To watch a video of Mr. Kramer’s acceptance speech, click here.)

Jay Blotcher, ACT UP and AmFAR Publicist:
I first met Larry Kramer in the spring of 1983. I was associate producer of a lesbian and gay TV show called “Our Time,” co-produced and co-hosted by veteran activist Vito Russo.

The epidemic was just beginning to devastate New York City’s gay community, so Vito planned an hour program on the epidemic. He invited his longtime friend Larry, a co-founder of GMHC,  to be one of the guests. There was one major problem: Larry had a fear of heights — and our studios were on the 25th floor of the Municipal Building.

So, the date of the shoot, Vito had me and other staff members meet Larry in the lobby. Our quest: to calm the man on the elevator ride up and especially to distract him so he didn’t look out any windows en route to the studio. The Larry I got to meet that day was a gentle and nervous man with a severe case of acrophobia. Four years later, when I joined ACT UP, I got to know his infamously fiery, relentless, and pugnacious side.

But Larry never turned that side on me. I think I got a pass because I worked for his cherished friend Vito all those years before.

Sarah Schulman, ACT UP Member, Author and Filmmaker
He was one of the few privileged people who used his access to yell at those in power and I wish more like him would do the same today. He came from a culture of Dissent, not cooperation.

Peter Staley, founding member ACT UP and Treatment Activist Group:
There were two Larry’s back then. The first deserves every statute that gets built in his honor – the Larry who used anger to launch the two main branches of our community’s AIDS response, the beautiful self-care response that Gay Men’s Health Crisis valiantly built while the world looked away, and the activist response that forced that same world to look, and respond.

The second Larry was the moralist whose finger-wagging, like all finger-wagging, brought adulation from other moralists, but had no effect on the rest of us. AIDS was not a price we paid for finally building communities of freedom on both coasts. There have been only two sexually transmitted pathogens in all of human history that have killed in the millions – syphilis and HIV – and they hit us 500 years apart. AIDS was not an inevitable result of gay life in the 1970s. As an epidemiological event, it was simply bad luck.

To this day, gay men carry the added burden of a society that sexually shames us. Larry played a part in this. To be fair, most of this critique is inside baseball. To the larger world, Larry was our community’s greatest advocate. He constantly told straight America that his gay brothers and sisters were the most beautiful people on earth. He pushed back against the hate directed at us like no advocate before him. Larry loved gay people, and spent his entire life fighting for us.

I just got off the phone with Tony Fauci. I broke the news to him via text earlier today. We’re both surprised how hard this is hitting. We both cried on the call.

Larry Kramer (Photo by Bob Krasner)

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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U.S. State Department

Negotiations to release Griner stalled for now diplomat says

“We have made a serious proposal to free American prisoners. We did not see a serious response from the Russian side to our proposal”

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Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargée d’affaires in Moscow (Photo Credit: Embassy of the United States, Russia)

MOSCOW – In remarks published Monday, Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargée d’affaires in Moscow, told Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency that talks to free jailed Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan were continuing through the “designated channel.”

During the long ranging interview covering a variety of subjects, Rood was asked if she intended to visit the imprisoned WNBA star who is serving time in a Mordovian prison.

“Of course, we are going to do this as soon as the Russian authorities give us permission to visit Brittney Griner in the new colony where she was recently transferred,” the American diplomat responded and in answer to a follow-up question regarding Griner’s status Rood answered; “As far as we understood from talking to her, she is healthy and doing as well as can be expected in her difficult circumstances.”

RIA then focused on the negotiations asking for some of the details including the possibility of convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout being included in the “exchange list” in the potential prisoner swap deal between the Russian and American authorities.

“I can say that the United States continues to discuss with the Russian authorities through special channels the issue of the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.  As we have already said, the United States has submitted a serious proposal for consideration. We finalized this proposal and offered alternatives. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation has so far received no serious response to these proposals, ” the U.S. chargée d’affaires answered.

“However, I would like to emphasize that the main concern and the first priority of the US Embassy is to ensure the well-being of the American citizens who are here. And the situation is not limited to the names of those who are mentioned in the media headlines – a number of American citizens are kept in Russian prisons. We are extremely concerned about the condition of each of them, and we continue to follow their affairs very closely and support them in every possible way,” she added.

RIA then asked: “What did you mean by “serious response” from Russia? Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the negotiations are being conducted through professional channels… What does the American side mean by “serious response”?

Rood answered telling RIA; “I mean, we have made a serious proposal that reflects our intention to take action to free American prisoners. We did not see a serious response from the Russian side to our proposal.

By “serious answer” do you mean consent? RIA asked in a follow-up question.

“I mean an answer that would help us come to an agreement,” she answered.

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Colorado

USN’s Club Q hero who helped tackle gunman issues statement

“I simply wanted to save the family I found- If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world”

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U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy Public Affairs)

COLORADO SPRINGS – One of the three persons who charged and then disarmed the suspect in the LGBTQ+ nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs last weekend issued a statement Sunday.

“I simply wanted to save the family I found,” James said. “If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in the world, but I am only one person.”

“To the youth, I say be brave. Your family is out there. You are loved and valued. So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging,” U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James said through a Centura Penrose Hospital spokesman Sunday.

This the first public comments by James since he, U.S. Army veteran, Major Richard Fierro, and another Club Q patron, a trans woman, all joined in the courageous takedown, disarming the 22-year-old suspect and holding him until the arrival by responding Colorado Springs police.

James is recovering from unspecified injuries at Centura Penrose, where a number of the Club Q shooting victims were sent. The hospital spokesman releasing the statement added that James is now in stable condition.

In a statement released this past 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.”

CBS Colorado reported Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers had called out and identified James as one of the heroes whom had charged and helped subdue the shooter. Details as to each person’s role in subduing the shooter are still under investigation.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said that James was one of two people who helped to stop the suspected shooter who walked into Club Q late on Nov. 19 with multiple firearms and is accused of killing five people. At least 17 others were injured.

James reportedly pushed a rifle out of the suspect’s reach while Fierro repeatedly struck the shooter with a handgun they brought into the bar, officials have said.

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New York

New bills to prevent hate crimes in New York signed by Gov. Hochul

“New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters”

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) (Screenshot/YouTube)

NEW YORK – On the same day that a 34-year-old man was arrested for allegedly throwing bricks at the window of a gay nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen, New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced new measures to stop hate crimes in the Empire State.

Speaking to reporters last Tuesday at an emotional press conference, the governor called on New Yorkers to reclaim the state from “bigots who have butchered communities’ sense of security.”

“New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters, bigots and white supremacists,” Hochul said.

The governor’s actions comes after comes after the NYPD arrested two men for allegedly plotting to shoot synagogues and wreak havoc on the Jewish community, targeted attacks on the Asian community, and the recent mass-shooting at an LGBTQ nite club in Colorado Springs.

NYPD detectives arrested Sean Kuilan Tuesday afternoon and charged him with criminal possession of a weapon, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment for allegedly throwing bricks and a rock at the window of a gay nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen three times last week in what a NYPD spokesperson characterized as a potential hate crime.

Hochul, who led the state through the racist Buffalo massacre last spring, said that a horrifying mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado and a sinister anti-Semitic plot foiled in New York over the weekend offered “painful reminders that there is a rising tide of hate in our country,” the New York Daily News reported.

“This is our defining moment, New Yorkers,” the governor declared.

“Every one of us has a role to play,” Hochul said. “From this day forward, ask yourself: Did I do something to help spread the love that should be part of who we are as New Yorkers?”

After delivering her remarks, Hochul then signed two bills, Senate/Assembly Bill (S.6570/A.1202) to “Require individuals convicted of hate crimes to undergo mandatory training in hate crime prevention and education.”

Legislation (S.6570/A.1202) amends the penal law to establish that in addition to other penalties, individuals convicted of hate crimes shall undergo mandatory training in hate crime prevention and education as part of their sentence. The programs, training sessions, or counseling sessions must be authorized by the court or local agencies in cooperation with organizations serving the affected community.

The second measure, (S.123A/A.5913A) establishes a statewide campaign, developed and run by the New York State Division of Human Rights to promote the acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, and understanding of the diversity of the people of New York.

Legislation (S.123A/A.5913A) amends the executive law to establish and implement a statewide campaign for the acceptance, inclusion, tolerance, and understanding of diversity. The campaign, which will be developed and implemented by the Division of Human Rights, will coordinate and cooperate with public and private organizations, including, but not limited to, local governments, community groups, school districts, places of worship, charitable organizations, and foundations and will develop educational materials to be published on the internet, social media, and other platforms to reach the public.

“Our hearts are broken after a weekend during which LGBTQ Americans were massacred and Jewish New Yorkers were targeted in horrific acts of hateful violence,” Hochul said. “New York belongs to the good, not those with hate in their hearts – we’re taking bold action to reclaim our city and state from the haters, bigots and white supremacists. Domestic-based violent extremism is the greatest threat to our homeland security, and that is why we continue to remain laser-focused on combatting hate and keeping New Yorkers safe.”

Governor Hochul Announces Actions to Prevent Hate Crimes and Protect New Yorkers:

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