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Pelosi on National Pulse Memorial, Maloney on Pride (video)

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America is lurching into a new era. Though Donald Trump desperately clings to the racist confederate heritage he reveres, the pulse of a newly awakened generation, more empathic, more colorful and more demanding is coursing through the country.

And helping guide the transition to a more enlightened civilization is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is also ensuring the inclusion of the LGBTQ community that is otherwise overshadowed by momentous events.

Friday, June 26, the fifth anniversary of marriage equality since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The historic decision was noted by some, though most of the media focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the police reform and anti-racist revolution underway since the murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.

But Pelosi, a decades-long LGBTQ ally, remembered on Twitter and though a House statement, noting the work that still remains:

“Five years ago, our nation made a historic step toward fulfilling the promise of equality and justice for all when the Supreme Court unequivocally declared that marriage is right of all people, regardless of who you are or whom you love.  Today, the love and commitment of countless LGBTQ couples and families enriches and strengthens our communities and honors our nation’s most fundamental values.

 

“As we mark this momentous anniversary, we also celebrate the recent Supreme Court victory, affirming the right of all LGBTQ individuals to live free from discrimination in the workplace.  Despite this great progress, the LGBTQ community still endures a relentless assault on their rights from the Trump Administration and widespread discrimination and violence throughout the country, particularly trans women of color who are face disproportionately high rates of homelessness, sexual assault, HIV and murder.

 

That is why, over a year ago, House Democrats took bold action to pass the landmark Equality Act to finally and fully end discrimination against the LGBTQ community, not just in the workplace but in every place.  Now, Leader Mitch McConnell must abandon his outrageous, partisan obstruction and allow the Senate to vote on this critical legislation.

 

“In honor of this important day, we must remain vigilant in defense of the rights and dignity of the LGBTQ community.  Together, we can confront the discrimination that continues to undermine our democracy as we work to build a brighter, more just and equal future for the LGBTQ community and all Americans.”

But more solemnly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the House Floor to deliver remarks in support of H.R. 3094, legislation to designate the National Pulse Memorial, four years after the mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“Pulse was a peaceful haven where young LGBTQ Americans could enjoy music, dancing, celebration knowing they were in a sanctuary of safety and solidarity.  Pulse was a monument to joy, a tribute to resilience and pride born out of the grief that Barbara Poma experienced after losing her brother, John, to AIDS.  That was her motivation for starting this.  May the grief that we experience now, at the loss of 49 who were murdered, move us to turn our pain into purpose,” Pelosi said.

“Shortly after the horrific act of hatred at Pulse, I had the solemn privilege of traveling to Orlando and meeting with survivors and families who had lost loved ones.  Their message to the Congress was – to a person that I met with there – was: ‘Please, do something to stop gun violence,’” she continued.  “Yet, painfully, since that tragic night, the horror that we saw in Orlando has been replicated in countless other communities across the country.  In too many places the epidemic of gun violence has killed too many innocent people and left too many families suffering unimaginable pain and loss.”

“Four years later, four years after Pulse, our grief remains raw, but our resolve to end the deadly scourge of gun violence and hatred – discrimination, that’s what it was about too – remains unwavering, strengthened by the memories of those who are lost to gun violence: 49 souls here, so many others,” Pelosi said. “Inspired by the spirit of hope that we celebrate during Pride month, especially this weekend, let us never relent in our mission to end the horror of gun violence once and for all, and end discrimination against anyone in our community.” (See her full remarks and video below)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York took the occasion of delivering the Weekly Democratic Address to discuss and celebrate Pride Month “and the critical legislation passed by House Democrats to ensure equality for the LGBTQ community, people of color and all Americans, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the Equality Act.” (See his full remarks below)

“Remember, we celebrate Pride in June to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots from June 1969, which happened when police raided that Greenwich Village hangout, a normal thing back then, and brutalized the peaceful patrons for no other reason than they were Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  But that night was different.  The people fought back, and that changed everything,” said Maloney. “Every year since, even in the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, LGBTQ people and our allies have grown stronger and marched on.  Now, 51 years after Stonewall, the riots and marches have become parades and parties, but at its core, Pride Month commemorates a moment when brave men and women said enough and demanded equality.  People like me stand on the shoulders of those pioneers, and we must pick up their torch and carry it forward for ourselves and for all oppressed communities.”

Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  And I thank you and him for making this important memorial possible for us today.

 

Can I have the photos?  Set the photos?

 

I rise to solemnly join my colleagues to honor the 49 beautiful souls murdered four years ago in an unfathomable act of hatred and bloodshed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

 

Thank you, Congressman Soto.  Thank you, Madam Speaker, for giving us this opportunity of observing, and for being a voice for peace and healing for all those affected.

 

Pulse was a peaceful haven where young LGBTQ Americans could enjoy music, dancing, celebration knowing they were in a sanctuary of safety and solidarity.  Pulse was a monument to joy, a tribute to resilience and pride born out of the grief that Barbara Poma experienced after losing her brother, John, to AIDS.  That was her motivation for starting this.  May the grief that we experience now, at the loss of 49 who were murdered, move us to turn our pain into purpose.

 

This poster is all of them, but sometime after the terrible tragedy we stood on the steps of the Capitol holding individual – their individual pictures.  And, at that time, we said we will never forget.  And thank you for giving us the opportunity to keep that promise, to turn pain into purpose.

 

Shortly after the horrific act of hatred at Pulse, I had the solemn privilege of traveling to Orlando and meeting with survivors and families who had lost loved ones.  Their message to the Congress was – to a person that I met with there – was: ‘Please, do something to stop gun violence.’

 

Yet, painfully, since that tragic night, the horror that we saw in Orlando has been replicated in countless other communities across the country.  In too many places the epidemic of gun violence has killed too many innocent people and left too many families suffering unimaginable pain and loss.

 

As one of the first actions of our Majority, last year, the House took action to end the bloodshed by passing H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112.  H.R. 8, so designated because it had been eight years since the assault on the life of our colleague, Gabby Giffords.  She survived.  She is doing remarkable things in terms of trying to end gun violence.  But other people died, including a 9-year-old child.  Hence H.R. 8, because it was eight years since.  And then, H.R. 1112, Mr. Clyburn’s legislation to address what happened in South Carolina.

 

485 days, nearly 500 days later, we continue to urge the Senate to take up this legislation, supported broadly: Democrats, Independents, Republicans, gun owners, hunters, many of whom have had to pass background checks in order to have their guns and to enjoy their sport and protect themselves.  They are not against background checks.

 

Across the country, this has broad support, nonpartisan support.  And yet, in the Congress of the United States, there is resistance to that safety of simply commonsense background checks.  And it isn’t – it isn’t as if we were starting something new.  This is just an expansion of the background checks that already exist to include gun shows and online sales, etcetera, just an extension.

 

I remind my colleagues that, on average, 100 people die every day from gun violence.  And let me restate: it has been almost 500 days since the House passed those bills and the Senate has failed to take them up.  Almost 500 times 100 a day, you see the consequences.  Not that all of them would have been saved, but many would have.  And many have been saved since the original background check legislation passed.

 

Four years later, four years after Pulse, our grief remains raw, but our resolve to end the deadly scourge of gun violence and hatred – discrimination, that’s what it was about too – remains unwavering, strengthened by the memories of those who are lost to gun violence: 49 souls here, so many others.

 

Inspired by the spirit of hope that we celebrate during Pride month, especially this weekend, let us never relent in our mission to end the horror of gun violence once and for all, and end discrimination against anyone in our community.

 

With that I, again, commend Mr. Soto, you, Madam Speaker, and urge a yes vote, and yield back the balance of my time.  Thank you.”

Below is a full transcript of Sean Patrick Maloney the address:

“Hello, I’m Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, and it is my honor to represent New York’s 18th Congressional District in the Hudson Valley.  I am also proud to be New York’s first openly gay Member of Congress.

 

“Each June, the LGBTQ community and our allies come together to celebrate Pride Month.  Pride is different this year, but its fundamental promise has never been more important.

 

“Remember, we celebrate Pride in June to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots from June 1969, which happened when police raided that Greenwich Village hangout, a normal thing back then, and brutalized the peaceful patrons for no other reason than they were Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  But that night was different.  The people fought back, and that changed everything.

 

“Every year since, even in the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, LGBTQ people and our allies have grown stronger and marched on.  Now, 51 years after Stonewall, the riots and marches have become parades and parties, but at its core, Pride Month commemorates a moment when brave men and women said enough and demanded equality.  People like me stand on the shoulders of those pioneers, and we must pick up their torch and carry it forward for ourselves and for all oppressed communities.

 

“Just a few days ago the Supreme Court ruled that Americans cannot be fired simply because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Millions of Americans in dozens of states where no protection existed can now legally fight back if they are fired because of who they are or who they love.  That’s reason to celebrate.

 

“Last year, the Democrats in the House, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, passed the Equality Act.  This landmark bill would finally protect LGBTQ people in the same way we protect all other minority groups in employment, education, access to credit, jury service, federal funding, housing and public accommodations.  No more, no less.  Simple equality.  But like so many other important bills passed by the Democratic House, this legislation is still sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk.

 

“So, we still have work to do.  We must keep pushing and marching until all vulnerable LGBTQ people – our youth who’ve been rejected, our international brothers and sisters who face brutal persecution, our transgender neighbors, particularly trans women of color who face an epidemic of violence – until all of us are equal and free.

 

“Yes, this Pride is different.  There are few parades or parties, but we are still marching.  This time we’re protesting police brutality against people of color.  That’s the spirit of Stonewall.

 

“You know, my husband Randy and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this week.  We could legally marry just a few years ago, of course, but we’ve been together for 28 years.  Today, we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, the historic ruling that delivered marriage equality to the United States.  It’s a beautiful thing when your country catches up to you.  Randy and I have raised three kids together, Reiniel, Daley and Essie.  We all joined the vigils and protests following the murder of George Floyd this month because, for us, demanding that Black Lives Matter is a powerful way to celebrate Pride Month.

 

“And this week, those of us in the LGBT Equality Caucus joined our colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in casting our votes for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.  This is the living embodiment of what Pride Month truly means.  You see, Pride Month isn’t something disease or violence can diminish or defeat.  Pride is the strength of people who come together across all our lines of difference to say, enough.  We want better – we want the promise of America for ourselves, for our families and for everyone.

 

“Thanks for listening, and Happy Pride!”

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Anti-LGBTQ Colorado baker loses Trans birthday cake court case

Phillips violated Colorado’s ant-discrimination law citing the fact that at issue was a ‘product’ not freedom of speech or expression

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Screenshot via CBSN Denver

DENVER – A Colorado State District Court Judge ruled against the baker who had previously refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding and won at the U.S. Supreme Court a partial narrow victory in that case in 2018.

CBSN Denver reported that Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones order that Jack Phillips violated Colorado’s anti discrimination law Tuesday citing the fact that at issue was a ‘product’ not freedom of speech or expression.

In court documents, Jones said that Phillips refusal to make the plantiff, Autumn Scardina a cake made with blue icing on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate her gender transition on her birthday because of her transgender status but without a written message, was in violation of the law. Phillips was ordered to pay a $500 fine.

Jones noted in his ruling that Phillips testified during a trial in March that ‘he did not think someone could change their gender’ and he would not celebrate “somebody who thinks that they can.”

“The anti-discrimination laws are intended to ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others,‘” the judge wrote.

The Scottsdale, Arizona based Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ legal group that has been place on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch List for spreading propaganda and lies about LGBTQ people, told CBSN that the group would appeal Jones’ ruling.

“Radical activists and government officials are targeting artists like Jack because they won’t promote messages on marriage and sexuality that violate their core convictions,” ADF’s general counsel, Kristen Waggoner, said in a media statement.

The maximum fine for each violation of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act is $500. But it was not clear from the ruling if the fine was for the two attempts that Scardina made to order the cake or just one.

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Supreme Court rules for religious agency rejecting LGBTQ families

A key portion of the Roberts decision that could limit its reach is language specific to Philadelphia’s contract with the city

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Blade file photo by Michael Key

WASHINGTON – In a ruling released Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled decided in favor of a religious-affiliated foster care agency seeking to refuse child placement into LGBTQ homes, determining the City of Philadelphia’s enforcement of a contract with non-discrimination provisions violates freedom of religion under the First Amendment.

In a surprise twist, the ruling was unanimous with nine justices on the court agreeing to the result in favor of Catholic Social Services, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the opinion. As noted by SCOTUSblog, the court seemed much more divided in oral arguments, although inclined to rule for the foster care agency.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” Roberts writes.

Although Catholic Social Services had also contended a freedom of speech right under the First Amendment to reject same-sex couples, Roberts adds the court didn’t reach a conclusion on that part of the argument.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the Catholic LGBTQ group DignityUSA, condemned the decision in a statement immediately after it was handed down.

“Today, the well-being of our country’s most vulnerable children has been sacrificed to preserve tax-payer funded discrimination for a powerful group of religious institutions,” Duddy-Burke said. “The Supreme Court just decreased the number of homes available to our youth in foster care, making what was already a crisis worse. Same-sex couples are seven times more likely than straight couples to adopt or be foster parents and are more likely to have trans-racial families. This ruling means tens of thousands of children may never have a family to love and support them.”

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded decision of the U.S. Third Circuit of Court of Appeals, which had ruled in favor of City of Philadelphia enforcing its contract with Catholic Social Services. Both the appeals courts and the lower trial court had come to the opposite conclusion of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A key portion of the Roberts decision that could limit its reach is language specific to Philadelphia’s contract with the city allowing for discretion on enforcement, which he says means the measure isn’t generally applicable measure.

“Section 3.21 of the contract requires an agency to provide services defined in the contract to prospective foster parents without regard to their sexual orientation,” Roberts writes. “But section 3.21 also permits exceptions to this requirement at the ‘sole discretion’ of the Commissioner. This inclusion of a mechanism for entirely discretionary exceptions renders the non-discrimination provision not generally applicable.”

David Flugman, a lawyer at the New York-based Selendy & Gay PLLC whose practice includes LGBTQ rights, said in a statement the technical nature of the Fulton is “sure to invite even more litigation.

“Today the Supreme Court held, on narrow, technical grounds, that the City of Philadelphia’s attempt to ensure that Catholic Charities abide by the same non-discrimination provisions applicable to all other city contractors could not withstand Catholic Charities’ religious right to refuse to screen loving same-sex couples to act as foster parents,” Flugman writes. “The Court did not take up Catholic Charities’ invitation to scuttle the 30 year-old test for free exercise claims that was announced in Smith v. Employment Division, which held that a neutral law of general applicability could survive even if it burdens religious practice.”

Notably, although the City of Philadelphia in addition to the contract it struck with Catholic Social Services has in a place LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance, the Supreme Court determines that measure doesn’t apply in the context of foster care services because it’s limited to the services “made available to the public.”

“Certification is not ‘made available to the public’ in the usual sense of the words,” Roberts writes. “Certification as a foster parent is not readily accessible to the public; the process involves a customized and selective assessment that bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or riding a bus.”

Fatima Goss Graves, CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement the decision from the Supreme Court is a harmful loss to the children in the foster care system in Philadelphia as well as the countless LGBTQ parents.”

“Weakening the government’s ability to protect their civil rights is hardly in their best interest, and we’re committed to ensuring this loophole is not stretched to further justify hatred or prejudice,” Graves added. “We must protect the right of every person to live without fear of discrimination because of who they are or who they love, and we must hold that value particularly close when it comes to the best interest of LGBTQ youth and the families who love them.” 

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U.S. Senate to consider apology for past anti-LGBTQ discrimination

Report shows 70-year history of gov’t persecution, purges of ‘sex deviates’

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Pioneering activist Frank Kameny, who was fired from his government job for being gay, received an apology from the government decades later, but that apology did not extend to the thousands of other LGBT Americans persecuted by their government. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are preparing to introduce a first-ever resolution calling on the Senate to acknowledge and apologize for the federal government’s discrimination against LGBTQ federal workers and members of the military over a period of at least 70 years.

The two senators have agreed to introduce the proposed resolution at the request of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., an LGBTQ group that specializes in archival research into the federal government’s decades-long policy of banning LGBTQ people from working in federal jobs and serving in the U.S. military and purging them when found to be in those positions.

The Mattachine Society, in partnership with the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery, prepared a 28-page white paper reporting in extensive detail the U.S. government’s history of what it calls discrimination and persecution of LGBTQ federal workers and LGBTQ military service members.
The white paper is entitled, “America’s Promise of Reconciliation and Redemption: The Need for an Official Acknowledgement and Apology for the Historic Government Assault on LGBT Federal Employees and Military Personnel.”

In a statement, the Mattachine Society says the paper is the product of a two-year research project involving a team of five attorneys with the McDermott Will & Emery firm and Mattachine Society.

“Over many decades, the United States government, led by teams within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and nearly every agency and branch of government, began the process of investigating, harassing, interrogating, court-martialing, terminating, hospitalizing, and, in some cases, criminally prosecuting LGBT Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation or gender expression,” the paper says.

“This wholesale purging left tens of thousands in financial ruin, without jobs, with personal lives destroyed, and, in many cases, completely estranged from their own families,” the paper states.

“A straightforward acknowledgement of the mistreatment of these military and civilian employees and an official apology is overdue,” the paper continues. “Both the Congress and the Executive Branch were complicit in this pervasive mistreatment of LGBT citizens.”

The paper points out that over the past 30 years Congress has officially acknowledged and apologized on six different occasions for U.S. mistreatment of other marginalized groups.

Among the subject areas of those apologies were the enslavement of African Americans, the failure to enforce anti-lynching laws to protect African Americans, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the mistreatment of Native Hawaiians, the mistreatment of Native Americans, and government polices of exclusion of Chinese immigrants.

The paper says the time has come for the federal government to issue its own “acknowledgement and apology” to the LGBT community by following the precedent established by Congress with respect to apologies to the other marginalized groups.

Jeff Trammell, a Mattachine Society board member who led the project to prepare the white paper, said Baldwin and Kaine were in the process of lining up other senators to sign on as co-sponsors of the resolution.

Baldwin is the Senate’s only out lesbian member. Kaine is a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights.
Trammell said Mattachine of Washington considers the Senate resolution the first step in an ongoing effort to obtain a similar resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives and a possible similar statement of acknowledgement and apology from the executive branch, including the Biden administration.

He said he and the resolution’s supporters were hopeful that most senators, including Republicans, would view it as non-controversial and as a nonpartisan measure because it seeks only the acknowledgement of historical facts. Trammell noted that unlike other resolutions of apology pertaining to other minorities approved by Congress in the past, the LGBT apology resolution does not call for any financial reparations.

The eight-page proposed resolution addresses that question by stating, “Nothing in this resolution…authorizes or supports any claim against the United States or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.”

Trammell noted that under the Obama administration, John Berry, the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, issued an official government apology for the firing of D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny from his government job in the late 1950s. But Trammell said the apology to Kameny, which was considered important and groundbreaking, did not extend to the thousands of other LGBTQ employees fired or harassed in the years before and after Kameny’s firing.

The white paper also points out that at least seven U.S. allied nations have issued apologies for past mistreatment of their own LGBTQ citizens. Among them are Spain, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Brazil, and The Netherlands.

“We believe the time has come to understand and acknowledge the historical animus that LGBT federal employees and military personnel faced for generations from their own government to ensure it can never happen again,” Trammell said.

The white paper can be accessed here.

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