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Joseph R. Biden Jr. sworn in as the 46th President of the United States

Ending one of the most divisive chapters in American history Biden takes the oath

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WASHINGTON D. C. – Joseph R. Biden Jr was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States Wednesday, just hours after his predecessor Donald J. Trump, left Washington flying to his private club in Florida ending one of the most divisive chapters and presidencies in American history.

Before taking his oath on the U. S. Capitol’s West Front, Biden and the guests in attendance were witness to a seminal moment in the nation’s history as Kamala Harris, formerly a U.S. senator from California, was sworn in as the first woman, person of color and South Asian American to become vice president.

Full text of President Biden’s inaugural address:

Chief justice Roberts, vice-president Harris, speaker Pelosi, leader Schumer, leader McConnell, vice-president Pence. My distinguished guests, my fellow Americans.

This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested a new and America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause, a cause of democracy. The people – the will of the people – has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.

We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and, at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed. So now on this hallowed ground where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundations, we come together as one nation under God – indivisible – to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.

We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and, at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed.

As we look ahead in our uniquely American way, restless, bold, optimistic, and set our sights on a nation we know we can be and must be, I thank my predecessors of both parties. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I know the resilience of our constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation, as does president Carter, who I spoke with last night, who cannot be with us today, but who we salute for his lifetime of service.

I’ve just taken a sacred oath each of those patriots have taken. The oath first sworn by George Washington. But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On we the people who seek a more perfect union. This is a great nation, we are good people. And over the centuries through storm and strife in peace and in war we’ve come so far. But we still have far to go.

We’ll press forward with speed and urgency for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibility. Much to do, much to heal, much to restore, much to build and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now. A once in a century virus that silently stalks the country has taken as many lives in one year as in all of World War Two.

Millions of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed. A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer. A cry for survival comes from the planet itself, a cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now. The rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy – unity. Unity. In another January on New Year’s Day in 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper the president said, and I quote, ‘if my name ever goes down in history, it’ll be for this act, and my whole soul is in it’.

To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy – unity. Unity.

My whole soul is in it today, on this January day. My whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face – anger, resentment and hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness.

With unity we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs, we can put people to work in good jobs, we can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus, we can rebuild work, we can rebuild the middle class and make work secure, we can secure racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.

I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal, that we are all created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism and fear have torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never secure.

Through civil war, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setback, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of our moments enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward and we can do that now. History, faith and reason show the way. The way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature.

If we do that, I guarantee we will not failed. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we’ve acted together. And so today at this time in this place, let’s start afresh, all of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another. Show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.

My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this. We have to be better than this and I believe America is so much better than this. Just look around. Here we stand in the shadow of the Capitol dome. As mentioned earlier, completed in the shadow of the Civil War. When the union itself was literally hanging in the balance. We endure, we prevail. Here we stand, looking out on the great Mall, where Dr. King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand where, 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. And today, we mark the swearing of the first woman in American history elected to national office, vice president Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change. Here we stand where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace.

Here we stand, across the Potomac from Arlington Cemetery, where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion, rest in eternal peace. And here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen, it will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever. 

To all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you placed in us. To all those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear us out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart.

If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peacefully. And the guardrail of our democracy is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength. If you hear me clearly, disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you. I will be a president for all Americans, all Americans. And I promise you I will fight for those who did not support me as for those who did.

I will be a president for all Americans, all Americans. And I promise you I will fight for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, St Augustine – the saint of my church – wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. Defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love, that define us as Americans? I think we know. Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honour, and yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens as Americans and especially as leaders. Leaders who are pledged to honour our constitution to protect our nation. To defend the truth and defeat the lies.

Look, I understand that many of my fellow Americans view the future with fear and trepidation. I understand they worry about their jobs. I understand like their dad they lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling thinking: ‘Can I keep my healthcare? Can I pay my mortgage?’ Thinking about their families, about what comes next. I promise you, I get it. But the answer’s not to turn inward. To retreat into competing factions. Distrusting those who don’t look like you, or worship the way you do, who don’t get their news from the same source as you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say. Just for a moment, stand in their shoes.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.

Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. Some days you need a hand. There are other days when we’re called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be, that’s what we do for one another. And if we are that way our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us we’re going to need each other. We need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We’re entering what may be the darkest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation, one nation. And I promise this, as the Bible says, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning’. We will get through this together. Together.

Look folks, all my colleagues I serve with in the House and the Senate up here, we all understand the world is watching. Watching all of us today. So here’s my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances, and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power but the power of our example. We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.

Look, you all know, we’ve been through so much in this nation. In my first act as president, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those who we lost in this past year to the pandemic, those 400,000 fellow Americans – moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We’ll honor them by becoming the people and the nation we know we can and should be. So, I ask you, let’s say a silent prayer for those who have lost their lives and those left behind and for our country.

Folks, it’s a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy, and on truth, a raging virus, a stinging inequity, systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways. But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the greatest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested. Are we going to step up?

It’s time for boldness for there is so much to do. And this is certain, I promise you. We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. We will rise to the occasion. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children? I believe we must and I’m sure you do as well. I believe we will, and when we do, we’ll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America. The American story.

It’s time for boldness for there is so much to do. And this is certain, I promise you. We will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era.

A story that might sound like a song that means a lot to me, it’s called American Anthem. And there’s one verse that stands out at least for me and it goes like this:

‘The work and prayers of centuries have brought us to this day, which shall be our legacy, what will our children say?

‘Let me know in my heart when my days are through, America, America, I gave my best to you.’

Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through, our children and our children’s children will say of us: ‘They gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a broken land.’

My fellow Americans I close the day where I began, with a sacred oath. Before God and all of you, I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution, I’ll defend our democracy.

I’ll defend America and I will give all – all of you – keep everything I do in your service. Thinking not of power but of possibilities. Not of personal interest but of public good.

And together we will write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity not division, of light not darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. May this be the story that guides us. The story that inspires us. And the story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history, we met the moment. Democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrive.

That America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world. That is what we owe our forbearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So with purpose and resolve, we turn to those tasks of our time. Sustained by faith, driven by conviction and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and God protect our troops.

Thank you, America.

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National

Downey official who banned Pride flag elected to lead influential national Latino political group

Claudia Frometa elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials

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Defiantly raising the Rainbow Flag in Downey after Council Votes 3-2 to Ban It On City Property

Claudia Frometa, a Downey city councilmember who ardently defended her vote to end the city’s policy of flying the rainbow flag during Pride Month, was elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials during the group’s national conference on June 21.

NALEO, which represents more than 6,800 Latino elected and appointed officials, is an influential political group that was previously led by gay California State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who was president of the group in 2020.

Frometa’s election has raised concerns among LGBTQ Latino politicians, including Downey’s gay mayor, Mario Trujillo, who opposed the flag ban.

HONOR PAC, the prominent LGBTQ group that supports Latino candidates, expressed “deep disappointment” in the election of Frometa and posted a statement to Instagram:

“The 2024 NALEO Conference concluded with a clarion call about the importance and power of diversity, equity and inclusion. Ironically, it also just elected @claudiafrometafordowney,
who recently voted to never again allow the city of Downey, (Calif.) to fly the Pride flag, as its newest president,” the statement reads.

“NALEO is an important national leader committed to creating visibility, protecting, and defending justice and equality for all,” it reads.

“Many of us at HONOR PAC are naturalized citizens because of NALEO. Our community is better because of NALEO: For these reasons, HONOR PAC is deeply disappointed with the appointment of @claudiafrometofordowney to this important national role.”

“The Pride flag,” the HONORPAC statement reads, “is a symbol of pride, inclusion, safety, and hope. Ms. Frometa’s vote on a motion disguised as a ‘neutral flag’ policy was nothing more than an attempt to silence and ignore the voices and lives of all LGBTQ+ Downey residents and those who love them.”

HONORPAC further declared, “Ms. Frometa’s vote on this motion a shameless and violent act against our LGBTQ+ brethren whether they are out of the closet or still struggling to come out of what many know to be a dark and lonely place.”

Downey in May voted in favor (a 3-2 vote) of restricting flag flying on city property to only U.S., California and prisoners-of-war flags. The decision reversed a 2021 policy that allowed the Pride flag to be displayed throughout June.

Trujillo maintains the vote was part of an organized political attack on the LGBTQ community, lobbied for by MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ group classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

MassResistance has allegedly played a role in opposing and, in some cases reversing LGBTQ supportive programs policies in schools across the nation.

The vote shook the community and sparked a regional backlash, prompting Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn to organize an Pride flag raising ceremony outside the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey on June 3.

LA County Department of Education defiantly raises Pride in Downey. (Photo by Bryan Chan for the LA County Board of Supervisors)

Frometa denied anti-LGBTQ sentiment motivated her vote. 

At a June 11 council meeting, Frometa doubled down, “For any individual to say we are anti-LGBTQ community is incorrect,” citing continued funding for the city’s Pride festival.

Supporters of the new flag policy argued that restricting it to official state flags promotes neutrality.

Other Southern California areas have implemented similar flag restrictions, including Huntington Beach, Temecula, and Redlands.

The Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials Association at the time expressed disappointment, stating the Pride flag promotes inclusivity, especially for LGBTQ+ youth.

HONORPAC’s statement denouncing Frometa’s elevation to the presidency of NALEO concluded with a forceful denouncement which it hopes resonates with the membership of NALEO: “Shame on you @claudiafrometafordowney for not upholding full and equal rights for all so each can pursue his/her/their happiness as our U.S,” the statement concludes.

NALEO plays a critical role in Latino participation in American politics. As its new president, Frometa will lead efforts in leadership development, policy research and advocacy for Latino issues.

Some LGBTQ advocates worry Frometa’s election could indicate gains by anti-LGBTQ groups within Latino political leadership.

An unnamed LGBTQ politician from Downey told the Los Angeles Blade, “I’m very concerned about the development with NALEO. It’s important that her gaslighting not be forgotten and that it ends. She rode tearing our flag down to national prominence, buoyed by our enemies, and she will continue to blame us for being upset about it. “

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The White House

Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26

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First lady Jill Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

First lady Jill Biden will host the White House Pride Month celebration on June 26, according to a press release previewed by the Washington Blade.

The party on the South Lawn will also feature a performance by singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer Deborah Cox and musical selections by DJ Trifle.

This year’s event comes on Equality Day this year, which honors the anniversaries of three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that expanded rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws, United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made marriage equality the law of the land.

The White House highlighted some of the “historic action” taken by President Joe Biden to “advance LGBTQ+ equality for the community,” including:

  • Signing into law the landmark Respect for Marriage Act which protects the rights of same-sex and interracial couples;
  • Appointing a historic number of LGBTQI+ and transgender appointees, including the first transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • Directing all federal agencies to strengthen civil rights protections on the basis of gender identity, resulting in agencies working to strengthen protections in housing, health care, education, employment, the criminal justice system, nutrition programs, and more;
  • Reversing the ban on open service by transgender members of the military;
  • Signing an executive order focused on LGBTQI+ children and families that directs agencies to address the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” and finalized rule-making that ends disparities that LGBTQI+ children and parents face in the child welfare and foster care system and protects against disparities in health care; and
  • President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.

Last year, the president and the first lady hosted the celebration, which was the largest Pride event ever held at the White House.

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Congress

EXCLUSIVE: Markey bill would offer additional support to LGBTQ elders

Measure would create Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within HHS

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U.S. Capitol Dome
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will introduce a bill on Friday to support LGBTQ elders and older adults living with HIV by establishing an Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Among other responsibilities, the office would advocate, coordinate activities, issue policy recommendations, and oversee the collection of data from these communities.

A major piece of the work to improve health equity at HHS under the leadership of Secretary Xavier Becerra and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine has been data collection initiatives for LGBTQ and other populations that can encounter barriers accessing care.

The Elder Pride Act will also “establish a rural grants program to serve the unique needs of rural LGBTQI+ older adults, including through education and training, community outreach and creation of community spaces, and improved cultural competency,” according to a press release announcing the legislation, which the senator’s office previewed exclusively with the Washington Blade.

“After years of exclusion and discrimination from health care settings, workplaces, and their local communities, LGBTQ+ older Americans deserve the protections their neighbors are afforded,” Markey said.

“Queer and trans elders should be able to age with dignity, grace, and surrounded by community,” he added. “The Elder Pride Act will ensure that all older adults are able to have access to the care and services they need.”  

Cosponsoring senators include Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D- Calif.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The legislation’s provisions were included in a pair of bills introduced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus’s Aging Issues Task Force.

The press release from Markey’s office also highlights several of the challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults vis-a-vis their cisgender and heterosexual peers: Fewer sources of support. higher poverty rates, poorer healthcare, poorer health access, and poorer health outcomes.

At the city and county level, older adults are served by local area agencies on aging (AAAs), which receive services and activities from HHS. Fewer than half of these organizations report that they will be able to provide LGBTQ-specific activities by the time the population of LGBTQ elders reaches 7 million, which is expected by 2030.

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Rhode Island

Survey ranks Rhode Island first in nation on LGBTQ+ safety

This year a number of state lawmakers and officials could be spotted marching in the parade on Saturday, June 15

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Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, festively attired in a rainbow jacket, marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

By Alexander Castro & Christopher Shea | PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In Rhode Island, the pinnacle of LGBTQ+ Pride Month is one colorful Saturday halfway through June, when RI PrideFest and its accompanying parade fill downtown Providence from daylight until dark.

This year a number of state lawmakers and officials could be spotted marching in the parade on Saturday, June 15. The show of support from LGBTQ+ lawmakers and allies came after a productive season at the State House for legislation meant to improve both directly and indirectly the lives of queer Rhode Islanders. 

Among the bills passed by both House and Senate by end of session last week included a health care provider shield law, expanded coverage for PrEP drugs and legislation to make name changes easier in probate court. 

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee smiles as he marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
A spectator waves a pride flag in front of the Reserve banquet hall on Dorrance Street in Providence. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Providence Mayor Brett Smiley is shown on Dorrance Street after handing out pride flags during the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Sen. Tiara Mack, a Providence Democrat, in pink, marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Left to right, Sen. Victoia Gu, a Westerly Democrat, the back of U.S. Rep. Seth Magaziner, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse march in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha marches in the Rhode Island Pride Illuminated Night Parade on Dorrance Street Saturday, June 15, 2024.
(Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

Last Wednesday, June 12, Gov. Dan McKee also retweeted some positive news: Rhode Island scored first place in a national ranking of safe places for LGBTQ+ people. 

This is the third year the report cards have been released by SafeHome.org, a website that analyzes security and safety trends nationwide. State laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights are used to calculate the composite scores, which also factored in hate crime data for the first time this year.

SafeHome.org cited Rhode Island’s existing LGBTQ+ legislation, including the strength of its anti-bullying laws, lack of discrimination toward LGBTQ+ foster parents, state Medicaid inclusion of transgender people, and required hate crime reporting from law enforcement agencies. Hate crime rates in the state are low, and Rhode Island is one of only six states where every law enforcement agency needs to report hate crimes, according to SafeHome.org. 

Massachusetts — which often outpaces or matches its neighbors in quality-of-life rankings — was the lowest-ranking New England state in the SafeHome.org survey, coming in at 28th place.

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Alexander Castro

Alexander Castro covers education and health for Rhode Island Current. He has worked extensively in the visual arts as a critic, curator and adjunct professor.

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Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Rhode Island Current and is republished with permission.

The Rhode Island Current is an independent, nonprofit news outlet focused on state government and the impact of public policy decisions in the Ocean State. Readers can expect relentless reporting with the context needed to understand key issues affecting the lives of Rhode Islanders.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Attorneys in Alabama trans medical case turn over document

A U.S. District Judge ordered the lawyers to turn over the Q&A document, which was used to prepare for questions from a three-judge panel

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A sign outside the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Attorneys in an ongoing lawsuit against the state over Alabama’s gender affirming care for minors ban turned over a document Tuesday to a federal judge in an investigation of allegations of judge shopping. 

U.S. District Court Judge Liles C. Burke ordered the lawyers to turn over the Q&A document, which the attorneys said was used to prepare the lawyers for questions from a three-judge panel investigating allegations that the attorneys manipulated the random assignment of cases to seek a judge favorable to their case.

The attorneys have lodged objections to the production of the document, arguing that it is covered by attorney-client privilege. Burke wants the document for an in camera review. 

“Respondents submit the Q&A Document to confirm that their attorney-client privileged communications with their counsel were proper, to resolve this collateral issue as promptly as possible, and to dispense with the reputationally harmful allegations that they sought legal advice in furtherance of a crime or fraud,” the attorneys for the respondents wrote.

The plaintiffs sued Alabama in 2022 over a law making it a felony to prescribe hormones and puberty blockers in gender-affirming care. Burke, who heard the case, initially ruled for the plaintiffs and blocked the state law. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned his ruling last year. The plaintiffs are seeking a full review of the decision by the circuit.

Multiple challenges to the law were filed after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law in 2022. After multiple transfers of the cases, the attorneys withdrew the case and later refiled it. Burke said the moves gave the appearance of judge shopping, which the investigative panel said had occurred in a report in October.

In a separate Tuesday filing, the attorneys also objected to Burke’s order to turn over the document, objecting to the judge’s portraying of the panel’s findings.

“Even if the one or two narrow  examples cited by the panel were really ‘inconsistencies and apparent misrepresentations’  (they are not), they do not  support  or  justify this Court’s  all-encompassing claim that the Panel ‘unanimously discredited’ the Walker Respondents’ testimony or otherwise ‘reject[ed] their testimony as unworthy of belief,’” they wrote.

The attorneys also pushed back against a Burke claim that an attorney had committed perjury before the panel. In an October report from the panel the judges wrote that one attorney had “deliberately misled” the panel about a phone call to a judge’s chamber, which Burke connected to perjury.

“There is no basis to conclude that no reasonable person could believe in good faith that he potentially perjured himself,” Burke wrote. “Likewise, there is no basis to conclude that an in camera review of the Q&A document would surely fail to turn up evidence that he intentionally lied to the court.”

 The attorneys wrote that the claim of “perjury” is not supported by facts and referenced an earlier order. They also wrote that the panel did not wholly discredit their testimony and wrote that claims of a lack of candor were limited to one footnote.

“To be clear, however, Walker counsel’s candor on the whole is concerning,” the panel wrote in a footnote.

They wrote that claims of a prima-facie case only exists because of the panel’s findings, which had due-process violations. They wrote that some were denied a right to counsel and others were excluded from proceedings.

“Respondents continue to steadfastly maintain that they testified truthfully and honestly before the Panel and in subsequent submissions to this Court. There  is  no  basis  for  this  Court  to  assert  that  the  Panel  disbelieved  or  discredited Respondents’ testimony or otherwise engaged in any purported fraud on the Court,” they wrote.

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Alabama Reflector and is republished with permission.

The Alabama Reflector is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics in the state of Alabama. Through daily coverage and investigative journalism, The Reflector covers decision makers in Montgomery; the issues affecting Alabamians, and potential ways to move our state forward.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Missouri

Planned Parenthood will fight Missouri AG on trans youth records

Lawyers representing Planned Parenthood and the Missouri AG argued Monday over HIPPA protections during a St. Louis Circuit Court hearing

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Advocates with PROMO and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri rally outside of the St. Louis Civil Courts building Monday afternoon (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

By Annelise Hanshaw | ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A circuit court judge heard arguments Monday over whether the Missouri attorney general’s efforts to access medical records of transgender youth violate privacy protections.

Monday’s hearing was convened at the request of Bailey in the hopes that the court would amend a previous order that requires patients to waive HIPAA rights before their medical records could be shared. If they don’t waive HIPAA, their documents would be exempt from the attorney general’s request for medical records.

HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, protects patients from their providers disclosing their personally identifiable health information.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Joseph Whyte did not immediately rule following the hearing. Richard Muniz, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said if the decision is unfavorable, his organization will appeal.

“Our commitment to our patients is that we will fight this as long as we need to,” Muniz told The Independent. “Today, we’ve already signaled that we are going to appeal because we think that we shouldn’t have to turn over documents, especially patient records, but we shouldn’t have to partake in this investigation at all.”

Bailey launched his investigation in March 2023 looking into gender-affirming care of minors after the affidavit of Jamie Reed, who worked at Washington University’s adolescent Transgender Center. In April, another circuit court judge ruled that Bailey may continue his investigation — adding that patients must waive HIPAA rights before their private health information could be shared.

Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Washington University and Planned Parenthood Great Plains are also arguing against the attorney general’s civil investigative demands.

The April decision, beyond giving patients the ability to protect their medical records, granted Bailey power to investigate Planned Parenthood under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, a state law that allows the attorney general’s office to investigate deceptive marketing practices.

Matthew Eddy, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood said during his arguments Monday that the attorney general’s authority under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act has yet to be fully litigated.

Health care providers are fearful of what the attorney general might do with more information. Prior reporting by The Independent revealed Bailey’s use of the Division of Professional Registration, which is investigating therapists as a result of a complaint from his office.

After the attorney general’s office received a list of minor patients that received care at the Washington University Transgender Center and other documents, therapists and social workers that had written letters of support for patients to go to the Transgender Center had their licenses at risk. As of early May, 16 of 57 cases were still open.

Hearing

Deputy Solicitor General Sam Freeland, representing the attorney general, argued Monday that a federal regulation allows medical records to be released when ordered by the court. He told the judge this exception was “not discussed by the plaintiff.”

“HIPAA has not barred the disclosure of the documents in question,” Freeland argued.

He said Planned Parenthood had the burden of proof to show that HIPAA covers the documents.

Eddy this was “simply not correct.”

“Planned Parenthood has proven the general rule that HIPAA protects disclosure,” he said. “The burden is on the respondent to show that the exception applies.”

Eddy further attacked the premise of Bailey’s investigation, which Freeland argued was not on the table Monday.

He said the attorney general’s civil investigative demands, which Eddy said were titled as an investigation into the Washington University Transgender Center, “had no allegations as to Planned Parenthood’s conduct.”

“He can’t point to a single complaint from a patient, a patient’s parent,” Eddy said.

Eddy said the attorney general “had 54 incredibly broad requests for information.”

“Included in the requests are information that would be deeply sensitive to transgender minors,” he told the judge.

Muniz told reporters one of the requests was for “any document that mentions TikTok,” calling the investigation a “sprawling phishing expedition.”

In press releases, Bailey has expressed a belief that all gender-affirming medical providers are connected.

“I launched this investigation to obtain the truth about how this clandestine network of clinics subjected children to puberty blockers and irreversible surgery, often without parental consent,” he said in a statement following the hearing Monday. “We are moving forward undeterred with our investigation into Planned Parenthood. I will not stop until all bad actors are held accountable.”

Muniz said Planned Parenthood does not have a formal relationship with Washington University, which was the focus of Reed’s affidavit and the beginning of Bailey’s investigation.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood rallied before the hearing, calling the investigation a political attack.

“(Bailey) only wants (the records) so he can politicize gender affirming care and to put a target on transgender and gender-non-conforming patients,” Margot Riphagen, Planned Parenthood St. Louis’s vice president of external affairs, said during the rally.

Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO, called the attorney general’s actions “scary.”

“He has pushed credentialing committees of social workers, professional counselors and family and marital therapists to investigate every single provider on the eastern side of the state that has offered a letter of support for a trans or gender expansive kid to receive care,” she said, referencing a Division of Professional Registration investigation that stemmed from the AG’s complaint.

Around 40 people attended the rally, filling the courtroom until a small group were standing in the back. Most wore t-shirts with phrases like “protect trans kids” or “I fight with Planned Parenthood” and filed into the seats behind Planned Parenthood’s lawyers before sitting on the opposing side.

“Thank you,” a few people told Eddy as they walked out of the St. Louis courtroom.

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Annelise Hanshaw

Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Missouri Independent and is republished with permission.

The Missouri Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians. This service is free to readers and other news outlets.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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Montana

Montana court hears arguments defining sex as ‘male’ or ‘female’

The bill drew national attention from critics, who said it left no place for those who don’t fit a biologically narrow definition

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Thane Johnson, representing the state of Montana, gestures in Missoula County District Court during arguments over a bill that defines sex as “male” and “female.” (Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

By Keila Szpaller | MISSOULA, Mont. – Defining “sex” makes some people think back on the President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal — so said lawyer Kyle Gray on Tuesday in Missoula County District Court.

In that case, the president swore he didn’t have “sexual relations” with a White House intern, but questions swirled around what exactly had been happening in the Oval Office when it came to sex.

 Lawyer Kyle Gray, left, with Holland & Hart, argues on behalf of plaintiffs who allege Senate bill 458 is unconstitutional. Lawyer Alex Rate, right, with the ACLU of Montana, also represents plaintiffs.
(Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

Gray, representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit over a 2023 bill that defines “sex,” said the word can mean sexual intercourse as much as it can refer to “male” and “female.”

Senate Bill 458, the subject of litigation, aims to define sex as “male” or “female.”

The Montana Constitution, however, says the public needs to have a clear idea of the topic of a bill, and that a bill must have “only one purpose.” As such, Gray argued SB 458 missed the mark.

The bill’s title is “an act generally revising the laws to provide a common definition for the word sex when referring to a human.” It lists 41 sections of law to be revised.

“It’s the poster boy for violating the single-subject clearly expressed in the title of the bill,” said Gray, of Holland & Hart.

On behalf of the State of Montana, however, attorney Thane Johnson told Judge Shane Vannatta the point of the “single subject” rule is to prevent fraud and deception. It ensures a bill isn’t hiding things or keeping information under wraps, he said, and SB 458 spells out its plan for updates.

SB 458 defines sex as male or female, and Johnson said the title “puts the world on notice” of its intent for numerous updates. Additionally, he said, a title can’t rule out all other interpretations without going on at length.

“Plaintiffs’ argument would lead to absurd results because our title would just … fill up pages,” Johnson said.

In 2023, the Montana Legislature adopted the controversial bill that defined sex based on people’s reproductive organs and the cells they produce at the time of birth.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana sued the state of Montana on behalf of Shawn Reagor, Dandilion Cloverdale, Jamie Doe, Linda Troyer and Jane Doe, alleging the law “is hopelessly confusing, overbroad, and … invades the province of the courts.”

The bill drew national attention from critics, who said it left no place for people who don’t fit the biologically narrow and unscientific definition. The Human Rights Campaign referred to it as the “LGBTQ+ Erasure Act.”

Tuesday, however, the parties argued only about whether the bill’s title got crosswise with the Montana Constitution’s requirement that a bill generally address only one topic, and that its title clearly expresses it.

In the argument for the state, Johnson said the title did refer to a common definition of sex, and he pointed to Webster’s Dictionary as one piece of evidence. He also explained the rationale behind the bill as addressing an idea that’s emerged in the last 10 years or so.

“The legislature just felt the need to define that term more clearly under the concept of modern times, and I don’t think there’s any question that this is the state of affairs that we are in,” Johnson said.

Although Johnson said the bill meets the single subject requirement, he said he believes it fits better as one of the exceptions to the rule. To that end, he peeled apart the requirement in Article 5 Section 11 subsection 3 of the state constitution:

“Each bill, except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification and general revision of the laws, shall contain only one subject, clearly expressed in its title. If any subject is embraced in any act and is not expressed in the title, only so much of the act not so expressed is void.”

Johnson argued the constitution allows for three exceptions — appropriation bills, codification bills, and general revision bills — and said SB 458 fit the exception given it was “generally revising” the law.

But he said the bill is constitutional either way, whether it’s an exception to the rule, as he believes, or it’s not.

Vannatta asked Johnson about “male” and “female” not being in the title, and Johnson pointed out the title refers to “humans.” Vannatta also wanted to know how the state responded to sex referring also to intercourse, but Johnson said the court is “obligated to liberally construe the definition.”

Vannatta had asked the plaintiffs whether the concepts of “male” and “female” don’t naturally flow from the term “sex,” as the defendants allege. Gray countered that defining sex led her to think of the political scandal with Clinton.

Gray also said the language about bill titles had never been interpreted the way the state was interpreting it. She said the point is to ensure the public knows what is taking place, and a reference to “generally revising” in the title doesn’t cut it.

“A bill generally revising laws about dogs wouldn’t tell you that the legislature has decided to outlaw rabies,” Gray said as an example.

In this case, Gray said the title appears to be “very deceptive,” although she said it’s possible no one thought about other definitions.

Regardless, she said, the title of the bill doesn’t give the public an idea of the way the law would change things in practice.

For example, she said, with its definition of sex as “male” or “female,” is Montana saying a hospital can discriminate against admitting a person who is transgender or intersex?

“Well, if they’re saying that, certainly the public wants to know,” Gray said.

Also, what do sex and gender have to do with interstate signage or building codes? Gray said some issues relate to gender, but some “make no sense at all,” and the public would need to dig into the subject matter to find out.

 Reagor, lead plaintiff, left, speaks with observer Keppen, right, after the hearing.
(Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

After the hearing, Vannatta said he would take the request for summary judgment under advisement and rule when possible.

If the judge finds in favor of the plaintiffs, the law will be off the books, said Alex Rate, lawyer for the ACLU of Montana.

However, if the judge finds in favor of the state, the court will consider the second claim from plaintiffs, he said; they also argue it is up to the courts, not the legislature, to determine the definition of sex because it’s part of the Equal Protection clause of the constitution.

That issue wasn’t the subject of Tuesday’s hearing.

Reagor, one of the plaintiffs, said the courtroom heard just one of the arguments the bill was unconstitutional, but it’s not the only one: “I think it’s really disappointing that so many taxpayer dollars are being wasted on defending bills that are malicious and that legislators knew were unconstitutional when they passed them.”

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Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana.

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The preceding article was previously published by The Daily Montanan and is republished with permission.

The Daily Montanan is a nonprofit, nonpartisan source for trusted news, commentary and insight into statewide policy and politics beneath the Big Sky.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge wants Q&A doc from lawyers in trans medical case

The report concluded lawyers had engaged in judge-shopping, adding sometimes lawyers consider potential judges in determining where to file

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The Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama, seen on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

By Jemma Stephenson | MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A federal judge in Montgomery Friday ordered attorneys representing transgender families to turn over a document used to prep lawyers ahead of a hearing over alleged judge shopping. 

In the 51-page filing, U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke told the lawyers to provide the information, known as a Q&A document, to the judge for an in-camera review, to decide whether or not the document is covered by attorney-client privilege.

Burke, appointed by former President Donald Trump, has accused the attorneys for the families of trying to a get a judge that would be favorable to their case.

“This is not an ordinary civil case in which a court simply disbelieved testimony about an important fact: here, a three-judge panel was investigating whether lawyers intentionally attempted to subvert the administration of justice by judge-shopping, unanimously found that they did, unanimously disbelieved their explanations that they did not, unanimously expressed concern about their candor, and unanimously found that one lawyer lied outright,” he wrote. “If this is not enough to open the door for an in camera review of the Q&A document, it is difficult to imagine what would suffice.”

According to the Legal Information Institute, “in camera” reviews “are held in private before a judge where the press and the public are not allowed to take part.”

In May, a filing from the attorneys said that the document was an appropriate preparation for questions from a panel investigating the allegations and not under a continuing order from the panel or generated to further crime or fraud. They wrote that it should not trigger the crime-fraud exception and that if an in-camera review must take place, it should be done by a special master.

A message was left with attorney Barry Ragsdale, who according to Burke created the document and represents some of the accused attorneys. A message was also left with the attorney for Kathleen Hartnett, who according to Burke’s filing has her own attorney. The whole Walker team was formerly represented by Ragsdale, according to Burke’s filing.

The plaintiffs sued Alabama in 2022 over a law making it a felony to prescribe hormones and puberty blockers in gender-affirming care. Burke, who heard the case, initially ruled for the plaintiffs and blocked the state law. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned his ruling last year. The plaintiffs are seeking a full review of the decision by the circuit.

In 2022, shortly after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the restrictions on gender-affirming medical care, multiple lawsuits were filed against the law. According to an October report from a panel that investigated the charges of judge shopping, the first lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District of Alabama was originally assigned to U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco, who recused herself. The case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Staci G. Cornelius. There was not unanimous consent for “dispositive jurisdiction” by a magistrate judge, so the court was reassigned to Judge Annemarie Carnie Axon.

The second lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Middle District of Alabama, and the attorneys marked the case as related to Corbitt v. Taylor, a 2018 case. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Emily C. Marks. The attorneys filed a motion that the case be reassigned to Judge Myron H. Thompson, who presided over Corbitt. Thompson has historically ruled for abortion and civil rights cases. They also called Thompson’s chambers.

In the report, the panel accused an attorney of having “deliberately misled” the panel about the call to Thompson’s office. In the Friday filing, Burke wrote that this “provides a stand-alone evidentiary basis for a prima facie showing of fraud on the court.”

“Put differently, the Panel’s finding (and independently, the transcripts they rely on) support a prima facie case of perjury as a ‘crime,’ but they also suffice to show a prima facie case of fraud on the court under the separate heading of ‘fraud,’” he wrote.

According to the October filing, Marks entered an order to show why the case should not be transferred to the Northern District. Lawyers from the two cases had a conference call, and the parties consented to a transfer. Then the attorneys responded to the order and withdrew their motion. Marks transferred the case and it was randomly assigned to Burke, who set a hearing date. The attorneys in the cases were going to consolidate their cases.

Axon was presiding over a criminal trial, so the first case was transferred to Burke. The state attorneys then indicated that they would not file a motion to consolidate.

Within minutes of each other, both of the lawsuits were dismissed by the attorneys. Attorneys told reporters that they were planning to refile.

Burke filed an order that included that the lawyers were giving an appearance of judge shopping. At his direction, the clerk forwarded that order to the chief judge of each district in Alabama.

A new case was filed in the U.S. Middle District and was assigned to Burke by designation.

The panelists’ October report concluded that the lawyers engaged in judge-shopping.

“The Panel is not naïve,” the panel wrote in their October report. “Lawyers sometimes consider potential judicial assignments in determining where to file a case, and there may be reasons why in certain cases some judges may be considered more favorable draws than others. So the panel does not condemn the lawyers for fretting about their chances of success before a particular judge. Of course, the irony here is that counsel ultimately succeeded before Judge Burke. But in this case, counsel did more than fret. They made plans and took steps in an attempt to manipulate the assignment of these cases.”

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Since then, Burke has requested that the document be overturned and met with the accused attorneys after a recent court hearing. The panelists had asked the attorneys if they had been coached on what to say in the proceedings, and most of the lawyers said no. One lawyer, Milo Inglehart, said he had been provided the Q&A document the night before that included talking points in response to some potential questions.

The panel asked for the document to be turned over. The attorney did not do so, allegedly at the direction of Ragsdale.

“Mr. Ragsdale unilaterally decided that Mr. Inglehart could avoid producing the Q&A Document anyway—even though the Panel had just rejected counsel’s arguments that the attorney-client privilege or the work-product doctrine shielded it from disclosure—because the July 25 order exempted ‘privileged communications’ from disclosure in the respondents’ declarations,” wrote Burke in a footnote. “Even though the panel denied the request for a protective order, Mr. Inglehart nonetheless withheld the Q&A document as privileged at his counsel’s advice.”

The judge wrote that the document must be provided by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Alabama Reflector and is republished with permission.

The Alabama Reflector is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering state government and politics in the state of Alabama. Through daily coverage and investigative journalism, The Reflector covers decision makers in Montgomery; the issues affecting Alabamians, and potential ways to move our state forward.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter gets life in prison for federal hate crimes 

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history” – FBI Director Wray

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Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Screenshot/YouTube U.S. Justice Dept)

DENVER, Colo. – Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premediated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the Club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance – stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department – from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI – for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the Club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Director Steven Dettelbach of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and Trial Attorney Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals Court overturns Okla. anti-Trans birth certificate policy

The U.S. District Court dismissed the complaint in June 2023, and Lambda Legal appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals

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Courtroom, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Byron R. White U.S. Courthouse, Denver, Colorado. (Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith Archive/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

DENVER, Colo. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overturned a lower court ruling that had dismissed a lawsuit challenging Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s anti-trans birth certificate policy, which categorically prohibits transgender people from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their gender identity.

All three members of the panel agreed that the lawsuit stated a valid claim of unconstitutional discrimination against transgender people and that the government’s justifications for this discrimination were irrational.

The court explained the Constitution requires that “there must be some rational connection between the Policy and a legitimate interest. There is no rational connection here—the Policy is in search of a purpose.” A majority of the court also held that any government discrimination against transgender people triggers heightened judicial scrutiny.

“This ruling stands as a monumental win for the transgender community in Oklahoma and nationwide, sending a clear message to lawmakers everywhere that unconstitutional discrimination against transgender people will not be tolerated by the courts,” said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Peter Renn. “This ruling comes at a critical time amidst a surge in anti-transgender policies of all stripes across the country. That includes attempts, like the one here, to roll back the basic ability of transgender people to correct their identity documents to match who they are, which can expose them to harassment, abuse, and physical danger.”

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On November 8, 2021, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order that reversed the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s (OSDH) prior practice of allowing transgender people to correct their birth certificates to match their gender identity, which had existed for at least 14 years from 1997-2021.

Governor Stitt explained, “I believe that people are created by God to be male or female.  Period,” and vowing to take “whatever action necessary to protect Oklahoma values and our way of life.”  Previously, transgender people could correct their birth certificates by presenting a court order to OSDH, but following the executive order, OSDH has refused to comply with such orders.

Lambda Legal joined by Tulsa attorney Karen Keith Wilkens filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma on March 14, 2022 challenging the Oklahoma Republican Governor’s executive order.

The U.S. District Court dismissed the complaint in June 2023, and Lambda Legal appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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