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U.S. Federal Courts

Lesbian National Guard member discriminated against, says lawsuit

“I truly, truly hope that positive changes come from what has happened to me to where no other individual has to walk this path”

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Courtesy of Kristin Kingrey

CHARLESTON, Wv. – For 14 years, Kristin Kingrey, a lesbian member of the West Virginia Air National Guard, has served her country and steadily moved through the ranks. But a lawsuit alleges that “despite her dedication,” the National Guard discriminated against her sexual orientation and gender expression. 

In the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in West Virginia, Kingrey claims she was informed that her superiors would not allow her career to advance unless she appeared more “feminine” by growing her hair out and wearing make-up. She alleges “intentional and unlawful” discrimination by the National Guard, culminating in two adverse employment actions. 

“This has been a very long and dark road,” Kingrey told the Blade. 

According to court documents, Kingrey, who began employment as a federal civilian employee for the National Guard in 2016, was deployed to Qatar from August 2018 to March 2019. While in the country, she applied for the position of Human Resource Specialist (HRDS). 

Kingrey, who was working as an HRO Benefits Specialist at the time, remotely interviewed for the position and was informed the same day that she was selected, the complaint said. She accepted that day. 

Upon returning to Charleston, West Virginia, Kingrey began training for the HRDS position, but she could not assume the position due to “ongoing medical restrictions.” However, she was to start serving in the position when cleared, documents state. 

The HRDS position was then rescinded due to “budgetary” claims, so she was pulled from the position, despite accepting it. Months later, according to the lawsuit, the job was reposted, but Kingrey was never notified. The job ended up going to someone outside the protected class for the employee benefits position. 

Behind the scenes, Kingrey’s superiors were having “inappropriate, disparaging, and intentionally discriminatory” conversations about her outward appearance. According to the complaint, Colonel Michael Cadle was the one who made the comments. 

The lawsuit states that during the meeting that took place when she was still in Qatar, Cadle requested that a lieutenant instruct Kingrey on how to appear more “feminine.” In addition, he threatened Kingrey’s career advancement with the National Guard. 

According to the suit, Kingrey is tall and broad in stature, keeps her hair short in length and does not wear make-up or jewelry.

In her 14 years in the National Guard, Kingrey said that this was the first time she has dealt with discrimination and harassment to that magnitude, although she has heard “comments throughout” her time. 

Court documents said that Kingrey was “frequently harassed” for the length of her hair. Due to the “volume of complaints,” she started to, and still, carries the appropriate Air Force Instruction demonstrating that her hair is and was of an appropriate length. 

In other instances, according to the lawsuit, Kingrey’s superiors perpetuated the rumor that she was “transitioning” from female to male.

“I do not fit the mold that they feel that I should being a female,” she said. 

Though Kingrey doesn’t want to speak for the whole LGBTQ community, she feels that “if I had long hair and wore make-up and still identified as being of the LGBTQ community, that’s a different case.”

The West Virginia National Guard did not immediately return a request for comment. 

Kingrey called the whole situation “disheartening,” adding that “it’s been a very long and dark road.”

She said that she works with “some of the greatest individuals that you will ever encounter at all,” but the “problem lies with the individuals that are in key leadership roles.”

At one point, Kingrey said that one of her superiors called her in to check on her, given her recent hardships and high suicide rate amongst LGBTQ service members. According to a JAMA Network Open report from last year, LGB veterans are at greater risk of suicide than the general population.

“There’s so much pushed out via the Air Force and down through the Guard about diversity and inclusion, which is great,” said Kingrey. “It looks good. It sounds good. But when you have individuals in key leadership positions that allow their personal beliefs to override the guidance that is being put out – it’s just disheartening.” 

“No one should have to go through the kind of harassment and discrimination Technical Sergeant Kingrey faced over the years,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. “This is someone who has devoted her life to serving her country and her state, and this is how she’s treated? We’re better than this. For all of the lawmakers who say discrimination isn’t a problem any more — here’s proof it is.”

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that existing federal law prohibiting discrimination in employment based on an employee’s sex also protects LGBTQ employees.

Still, according to Fairness West Virginia, LGBTQ people face a “patchwork of protections” against discrimination. West Virginia is one of 29 states with no state law to ban discrimination in employment. According to a Norman Analytics and Research poll, 81% of West Virginians believe non-discrimination laws in the state should be strengthened. 

Currently, a bipartisan proposal, called the Fairness Act, would update human rights law to include explicit protections for LGBTQ people in the state. The legislation has been endorsed across the state, including by more than 100 diverse faith leaders.

“Each person is created by God, for the Kingdom of God, and nothing we can say or do will remove us from the Love of God,” said Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia. “This is why the Fairness Act is needed. While the discussion of human sexuality continues to consume many people’s conversations, nowhere in the Gospel of Jesus Christ are we allowed to remove the ‘God-givenness of any individual or group of people.”  

However, the bill has not made it out of the state legislature. 

“Kristin Kingrey’s story goes to show that discrimination is still a major problem in West Virginia,” Schneider said. “If respected members of the National Guard can face this kind of harassment, what happens to other LGBTQ people across our state? It’s time for our leaders to stop sitting on their hands and to act. It’s time for West Virginia to pass the Fairness Act and for Congress to pass the Equality Act.”

Overall, Kingrey hopes some good will come out of what happened to her. “I truly, truly hope that positive changes come from what has happened to me to where no other individual has to walk this path,” she said.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Florida gay man found guilty of threatening a member of Congress

Lawyers for Stanzione noted that he told federal agents that “he feels offended by Santos and does not want him in his (gay) community”

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USCG Station Eatons Neck Officer-in-Charge BMCS Erich White, disgraced former U.S. Rep. George Santos, and Capt. Eva J. Van Camp, former Commanding Officer U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, April 2023. (Photo Credit: USCG Public Affairs)

MIAMI, Fla. – On Feb. 22, following a two-day trial, a federal jury in Ft. Lauderdale convicted a man for calling the office of a Congress member in Washington, D.C. and threatening to kill the member of Congress and another person. 

On Jan. 29, 2023, Frank Stanzione, 53, of Boynton Beach, Florida, made a telephone call from his residence in Boynton Beach to the office of a member of the United States House of Representatives. Stanzione left a voice message for the member that stated the following:

[Victim 1 former Rep. Santos] you fat fucking piece of shit fucker. You better watch your mother fucking back because I’m gonna bash your mother fucking fucker head in with a bat until your brains are splattered across the fucking wall. You lying, disgusting, disgraceful, mother fucking fucker. You mother fucking piece of shit. You’re gonna get fucking murdered you goddamn lying piece of garbage. Watch your back you fat, ugly, piece of shit. You and [Victim 2 Redacted] are dead.

The Congress member’s chief of staff reported the message to the United States Capitol Police (USCP) the next morning. The USCP began investigating the voice message as a threat and determined that it was made from a telephone number assigned to Stanzione. 

On Jan. 31, 2023, USCP special agents went to the address associated with the telephone number and interviewed Stanzione. USCP confirmed that Stanzione had left the voice message for the Congress member. Stanzione found the telephone number on an online search engine. 

In a motion to dismiss, lawyers for Stanzione noted in the interview he told federal agents that “he feels offended by Santos and does not want him in his (gay) community.” He said he left the message to make Santos “feel like a piece of shit.”

The court filing described Stanzione as “a long-standing, active advocate for gay rights.”

In the motion to dismiss, Stanzione claimed his prosecution was “retaliatory and vindictive” and “based upon his exercise of political speech related to gay rights.”

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“Others who have allegedly committed similar acts,” his attorneys stated in the motion, “have not been prosecuted.”

U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Chief J. Thomas Manger of USCP announced the guilty verdict. The USCP – Threat Assessment Section investigated the case.

Stanzione will be sentenced in May and faces penalties including up to five years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Appeals court allows Indiana’s ban on gender care for Trans youth

“This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, & their families”

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Main courtroom, for the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: U.S. Courts/GSA)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a stay that will lift a lower court’s injunction blocking Indiana’s gender-affirming care ban. The law, originally set to take effect on July 1, 2023, will now take effect immediately.

In June 2023, Judge Patrick Hanlon, a Trump-appointed federal judge, issued a temporary restraining order halting Indiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The request for a preliminary injunction against SB 480 came in a lawsuit brought by four transgender youth and their families, as well as a doctor and health care clinic,

The law prohibits medical providers from providing gender-affirming health care to transgender youth, effective immediately.

“This ruling is beyond disappointing and a heartbreaking development for thousands of transgender youth, their doctors, and their families. As we and our clients consider our next steps, we want all the transgender youth of Indiana to know this fight is far from over and we will continue to challenge this law until it is permanently defeated and Indiana is made a safer place to raise every family,” said Ariella Sult, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Indiana in a joint statement issued with the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Guilty verdict in first federal trial of murder based on gender identity

After a four-day trial a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment

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Dime Doe (Family photo)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A federal jury handed down a guilty verdict of a man accused of murdering a Black transgender female in what is classified as the first in the nation federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity.

After a four-day trial in a federal hate crime case, a jury found a South Carolina man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of all charges in the indictment, which included one hate crime count, one federal firearms count, and one obstruction count, all arising out of the murder of Dime Doe, a transgender woman.

“Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people, including transgender women of color like Dime Doe, are on the rise and have no place in our society,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer. “The Justice Department takes seriously all bias-motivated acts of violence and will not hesitate to hold accountable those who commit them. No one should have to live in fear of deadly violence because of who they are.”

According to court documents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evidence presented at trial showed that Ritter was upset that rumors about his sexual relationship with Dime Doe were out in the community. On Aug. 4, 2019, the defendant lured Doe to a remote area in Allendale, South Carolina, and shot her three times in the head. At trial, the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ritter murdered Doe because of her gender identity. Ritter then burned the clothes he was wearing during the crime, disposed of the murder weapon, and repeatedly lied to law enforcement. 

This was the first trial under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for violence against a transgender person. The Shepard-Byrd Act is a landmark federal statute passed in 2009 which allows federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated, and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This case is historic; this defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identify under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community, and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families.”

Ritter faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Pair of lawsuits filed against Virginia guidelines for trans students

Equality Virginia and other advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things, would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

RICHMOND, Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and a private law firm on Thursday filed two lawsuits against the state’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

One of the plaintiffs, a high school student in York County to whom the press release refers as “Jane Doe,” claims “at least one teacher refused to address by her correct first name.” The second plaintiff, “Lily Loe,” a middle school student in Hanover County, “is not allowed to participate in a girls’ sports team.”

“When you look at the ways that VDOE’s (Virginia Department of Education) model policies are hurting transgender and nonbinary students like our clients, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that their authors were purposefully trying to erase gender non-conforming students from the classroom,” said Andrew Ewalt, co-counsel and partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, which has an office in D.C. “That flouts both existing nondiscrimination law and the Virginia law that directed VDOE to develop model policies in the first place.”

The Virginia Department of Education last July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. 

Equality Virginia and other advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things, would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

“It was clear since the day that he took office that Gov. Youngkin and his Department of Education would target LGBTQ+ Virginians and single out transgender and nonbinary students for discrimination, and now that some school boards are implementing and enforcing their model policies for public schools, it’s even more clear that the harm is real,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman on Thursday in a statement. 

“We applaud the ACLU of Virginia for taking on these harmful policies and for fighting for the health and well-being of students,” added Rahaman. “We’re proud to work toward those goals, together.” 

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal appeals court upholds block on Idaho trans care ban

The law bans puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and certain surgeries if they are used to affirm the gender of trans people under 18

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James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Courthouse San Francisco (Photo Credit: US Courts/GSA)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The Ninth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a lower court’s ruling blocking enforcement of an Idaho law banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender people under 18.

HB 71 bans puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and certain surgeries if they are used to affirm the gender of transgender people under 18, and threatens medical providers who provide this widely accepted care with a felony conviction and up to 10 years in prison.

Chief United States District Judge for the District of Idaho, B. Lynn Winmill, in December ruled that HB 71, a ban on gender-affirming care in the state violates the equal protection and due process rights of parents and their transgender children.

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The state of Idaho asked the Ninth Circuit to stay that injunction pending the appeal and allow the law to go into effect immediately, and today’s order refuses to do so.

“This ruling should be celebrated by everyone who decries discrimination,” said Paul Carlos Southwick, ACLU of Idaho Legal Director. “We celebrate alongside transgender youth and their families throughout Idaho who will continue to have access to the health care they need and deserve.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

18 Years in Federal prison for firebombing LGBTQ friendly church

“Penny is being held accountable for trying to burn down a house of worship because he disagreed with the church hosting certain events”

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Aimenn D. Penny (center) of Alliance, Ohio is shown here with fellow extremists and neo-Nazis at anti-drag protest rally. (Photo Credit: FBI)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The neo-Nazi who attempted to burn a church to the ground after learning the church was holding multiple drag show events was sentenced yesterday to 18 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for attempting to burn down a church because of its support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Aimenn D. Penny, 20, of Alliance, Ohio, was arrested and charged last year with one count of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, one count of using fire to commit a federal felony, one count of malicious use of explosive materials, and one count of possessing a destructive device.  On Oct. 23, 2023, Penny pleaded guilty to the church arson hate crime and using fire and explosives to commit a felony. 

“Aimenn Penny will spend the next 18 years in prison because he committed crimes fueled by hate, attempting to burn down a church because its members supported the LGBTQI+ community,” said U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio. “Hate crimes like Penny’s hurt not only the individual target, but the entire community, causing people to fear attack based on who they love and undermining the sense of safety within places of worship. Violent, bias-motivated extremism has no place in our country, and our office will aggressively prosecute those who commit such crimes.” 

According to court documents, Penny attempted to burn the church to the ground after learning the Community Church of Chesterland, in Chesterland, Ohio, was holding multiple drag show events the following weekend. He was initially arrested and charged with federal offenses on March 31, 2023.

The FBI Cleveland Field Office, which is investigating the case, finding a Nazi flag, a White Lives Matter of Ohio T-shirt, and other hateful memorabilia in Penny’s home. During the interviews with the FBI, he told FBI agents his only regret was that the church didn’t burn to the ground.

“We hope this significant sentence sends a clear and resounding message that this type of hate-fueled attack against a church will not be tolerated in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This defendant tried to burn down a church simply because its members created space for and provided support to the LGBTQ+ community. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute such senseless, bias-motivated violence against people exercising their constitutionally protected right to practice their religion and express their beliefs.”

The FBI Cleveland Field Office investigated the case.

“Aimenn Penny is being held accountable for trying to burn down a house of worship because he disagreed with the church hosting certain events,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “Individuals who commit acts of violence, destroy property, and interfere with the free exercise of religion will face justice for those crimes. As in this case, the FBI, together with our law enforcement partners, will use our lawful authorities to protect our communities from such violence, and ensure those responsible pay the price.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

BBC: Ex-A&F CEO denies trafficking allegations- FBI investigates

The BBC reported the FBI has begun an investigation and that agents have been interviewing & issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses

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Former head of Abercrombie & Fitch facing sexual abuse allegations by former male models. (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News)

NEW YORK – Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F), the American lifestyle retailer based in New Albany, Ohio, along with its former CEO Mike Jeffries, and his partner Matthew Smith, have petitioned a federal court in New York to dismiss a class action lawsuit alleging the fashion brand company, Jeffries and Smith were complicit in a multi-decade-long sex trafficking scheme.

The class action suit was brought by a former model for Abercrombie & Fitch, actor David Bradberry, whose account of the abuse was documented by BBC journalist Rianna Croxford, in the BBC Select film documentary:  The Abercrombie Guys: The Dark Side of Cool

According to a BBC follow-up report this past week, Jeffries alleges the claims of the suit fall outside the statute of limitations, and are “meritless.” The company says the lawsuit failed to show it knew about the alleged exploitation, and cannot be held liable.

Jeffries transformed Abercrombie and Fitch from a failing retail chain to a multibillion-dollar empire and the epitome of cool. He built Abercrombie into a global brand during his tenure as CEO from 1992 until 2014 when he departed.

In the lawsuit’s court documents, it states that Jeffries allegedly had modeling scouts scouring the internet and elsewhere to identify attractive young men seeking to be the next face of Abercrombie and Fitch. Often these prospective models became sex-trafficking victims, sent to New York and abroad and abused by Jeffries and other men, all under the guise that they were being recruited to become the next Abercrombie model, the lawsuit contends.

“Jeffries was so important to the profitability of the brand that he was given complete autonomy to perform his role as CEO however he saw fit, including through the use of blatant international sex-trafficking and abuse of prospective Abercrombie models,” the suit contends.

Former model for Abercrombie & Fitch and actor, David Bradberry.
(Screenshot/YouTube BBC Select)

In the recent court filings the BBC reported that Jeffries’ lawyers state that he “vehemently denies every allegation made against him” in the civil lawsuit, and “asks the court to look beyond the sensationalized narrative presented by the plaintiff, and to address the glaring legal deficiencies in the complaint, which necessitate the dismissal of this action”.

A separate legal document filed on behalf of Smith also asks for the lawsuit to be dismissed because the allegations “concern events that allegedly occurred in 2010,” and claim they have been “time-barred since 2011.” That court document also states that the claim “does not detail any specific, factual occurrences” of an alleged sexual offence by Smith.

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The BBC noted that A&F filed a separate response, arguing that the retailer had no knowledge of the “supposed trafficking venture” or alleged sexual misconduct, and “up until the moment that the BBC’s reporting was released in October 2023, there was nothing public about the allegations against Jeffries.”

The BBC is also reporting that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun an investigation, and that FBI agents have been interviewing and issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Trans veterans sue the VA for coverage of surgeries

The lawsuit, filed by the Transgender American Veterans Association, aims to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough (Screen capture/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – A group of transgender veterans on Thursday sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to compel the agency to cover gender affirming surgeries, following verbal assurances that it would begin providing these services.

The lawsuit, filed by the Transgender American Veterans Association, aims to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes that can result from lack of access to medically necessary healthcare interventions for people with gender dysphoria.

This includes suicides, depression and psychological distress.

In its complaint before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, the group argued gender affirming surgeries are often prohibitively expensive when administered by private doctors.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in 2021 said the agency was engaged in a rule making process to provide these services to trans veterans such that they can “go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side.”

The process, he said, would take a few years to “develop capacity to meet the surgical needs.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

5th circuit court blocks Texas from enforcing book rating law

Plaintiffs: Law required book vendors to rate the explicitness of sexual references in books sold to schools- was unconstitutionally broad

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Vandegrift High School Austin, Texas library on March 2, 2022. (Photo Credit: Lauren Witte/The Texas Tribune)

By William Melhado | NEW ORLEANS. La. – The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday from enforcing a state law requiring booksellers to rate the explicitness and relevance of sexual references in materials they sell to schools.

The appellate court, one of the most conservative in the nation, sided with booksellers who sued the state after claiming House Bill 900 violated their First Amendment rights. The court affirmed a lower court’s decision to prevent TEA Commissioner Mike Morath from enforcing the 2023 law.

Wednesday’s decision was somewhat surprising since the appellate court blocked the lower court’s ruling in November. Addressing the reversal, Judge Don Willett with the 5th Circuit wrote that a “different panel of this court” had granted the state’s appeal to block that ruling.

The plaintiffs — which include bookshops in Houston and Austin, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild — argue that it is logistically impossible and cost-prohibitive to comply with the law.

The law requires vendors to rate all their books and materials for appropriateness, based on the presence of sex depictions or references, before selling them to school libraries. The law’s definitions of sexual conduct lean on state criminal statutes that are somewhat vague and open to interpretation to outline what might be considered “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant” content.

“The ratings [HB 900] requires are neither factual nor uncontroversial,” the court’s ruling read.

The law requires booksellers to submit ratings of materials to the TEA for review, which the state can correct and then publicly post online. The appellate court agreed with the vendors’ argument that the rating system violates their free speech protections and amounted to compelled speech that forced vendors to support a certain point of view.

The court also agreed that complying with the law would be an undue economic burden on the vendors.

Wednesday’s decision did not completely block the law. Still in effect is a component of HB 900 that requires the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to create new library collection standards. The new rules must prohibit school libraries from acquiring or keeping sexually explicit materials.

Plaintiffs originally sued Keven Ellis, chair of the Texas Board of Education, and Martha Wong, chair of the Texas State Library, alongside Morath. The 5th Circuit on Wednesday dismissed claims against Ellis and Wong because those officials don’t have purview over the book ratings that the court found to be unconstitutional.

Supporters of HB 900 have argued the law restores parents’ rights to protect their children from certain themes, rather than exposing them to potentially inappropriate material in publicly funded books. Book bans have gained steam across the state since the Texas law was passed, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica found.

Opponents, which include librarians, literacy advocates and other parents, say laws like HB 900 often target books and materials that explore sexuality and race — topics that, while uncomfortable to some, they say are important for youth who may not typically see their lived experiences reflected in literature.

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William Melhado is an Austin-based general assignment reporter. He originally joined the Tribune in 2022 as a Poynter-Koch fellow. He previously worked as a staff writer at the Santa Fe Reporter, an alt-weekly newspaper in New Mexico. A native of Boulder, Colorado, William graduated from Middlebury College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and earned a master’s in secondary science education at CUNY Lehman College.

The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal hate crime charges against Club Q mass-shooting killer

“The attack on Club Q was a horrific act of hate — the kind of anti-LGBTQ+ hate we must work to combat across the country”

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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. – Assistant United States Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced Tuesday federal hate crimes and firearms charges were made against the shooter related to the mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Nov. 19, 2022.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 23, is currently housed in a Wyoming State Correctional facility after pleading guilty to Colorado’s state-level charges in the Club Q shooting which garnered him a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Aldrich was moved to the Wyoming Correctional facility last year according to the Colorado Department of Corrections due to concerns about threats to Aldrich’s safety in Colorado’s prison facilities.

In this latest legal development, the Justice Department entered 50 hate-crimes charges and 24 weapons charges — Aldrich used a semiautomatic rifle in the attack. According to the announcement by Assistant U. S. Attorney General Clarke, Aldrich filed a notice of disposition and requested that the court schedule a change of plea hearing.

In consultation with the victims of this incident, the parties jointly filed a motion requesting that the U.S. District Court schedule the change of plea and sentencing hearings on the same date, which the court granted.

The parties further informed the court that there is a plea agreement in this matter, and it is anticipated that the defendant has agreed to plead guilty to all charges in the information. The time for the entry of the guilty plea has not yet been set.

Brandon Wolf, the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign in an emailed statement to the Blade reacted to the news saying:

“The attack on Club Q was a horrific act of hate — the kind of anti-LGBTQ+ hate we must work to combat across the country. It matters to have a Justice Department pushing back against hate instead of fomenting it. It matters to have policies like the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act that protect communities and hold perpetrators accountable. These charges won’t bring back those stolen from their loved ones, but they mark a step toward justice. Our fight to honor the victims and survivors with action continues.”

The court filing charges that Aldrich murdered five people, injured 19 and attempted to murder 28 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious and premediated attack at Club Q. According to the filing, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded assault weapon and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until Aldrich was subdued by patrons of the Club. The information also alleges that Aldrich committed this attack because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

During the state court trial in El Paso County Superior Court in Colorado Springs last year, Aldrich identified as nonbinary. El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen told reporters that he believed Aldrich claimed to be nonbinary to avoid being charged with hate crimes under the state’s laws. There was no indication Aldrich identified as nonbinary before the shooting, the District Attorney added.

The FBI Denver Field Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the case.

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