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Anti-LGBTQ+ Colo state Rep. wants “Let’s Go Brandon” on primary ballot

Williams has publicly opposed same-sex marriage and is in favour of a measure that would be similar to Florida’s Parental Rights Act

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State Representative Dave Williams (Screenshot via The Colorado Channel/YouTube)

COLORADO SPRINGS – State Representative Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) is seeking to have the political slogan and Internet meme “Let’s Go Brandon” appear with his name on the June 28 primary ballot. Williams is running for election to the U.S. House to represent Colorado’s 5th Congressional District and is up against 8 term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.

“Let’s Go Brandon” is a political slogan and Internet meme that has been used as a minced oath for “Fuck Joe Biden”, in reference to President Joe Biden. Used frequently by right-wing extremists and radical right lawmakers at political rallies including Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert.

KUSA NBC 9 in Denver reported that Williams filed a lawsuit on Monday to force Democratic Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold to list his name on the ballot as “Dave ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Williams.” The lawsuit states that Williams uses the phrase as a nickname.

Colorado law allows candidates to use a nickname on the ballot if they regularly use it and it doesn’t include any part of a political party’s name.

The lawsuit claims that the Colorado secretary of state rejected the phrase because it was a slogan and not a nickname. “This ‘political slogan’ standard does not exist in Colorado law,” the lawsuit states.

The Associated Press noted that Chants of “Fuck Joe Biden” started being repeated at sporting events beginning in early September 2021. On October 2, 2021, during a televised interview of the Sparks 300 race winner Brandon Brown at Talladega Superspeedway, NBC reporter Kelli Stavast misinterpreted the chant in the background as “Let’s Go Brandon”, which sparked the meme.

Williams has espoused political viewpoints that oppose coronavirus pandemic vaccination and protective measures, has targeted immigrants- stating in a January 2018 radio interview on KNUS’ Peter Boyles show where he slammed sanctuary cities claiming that “People have been murdered, mayhemmed, [and] raped” by immigrants in sanctuary cities.

He had sponsored and coauthored the 2017 Colorado Politician Accountability Act, that made national news when it was introduced, that targeted what Williams referred to as “lawless politicians” who promote sanctuary city politics. It was later defeated.

Williams also has a problem with the LGBTQ+ community. In 2013 a Colorado Political website reported:

As student body President at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Williams was impeached for acting in a discriminatory manner against gay students.Williams cited his personal beliefs in refusing to sign off on funding for a “Coming Out Day” event. Although the event ultimately received funding, GBLT student group Spectrum and the student body senate, along with the school’s chancellor, agreed that Williams failed to act objectively–a requirement of his student leadership office–in evaluating Spectrum’s funding request.

But, here’s the rub: It wasn’t Spectrum that led the fight to impeach David. It was a coalition led by UCCS College Republicans, burned by Williams’ alleged “inquisitions” into whether or not his fellow College Republicans were “friends of the gay community.” According to Republican sources, Williams believes that homoesexuality is the biggest problem in society today. His McCarthy-esque attempt to purge gay sympathizers from the College Republicans amounts, in my opinion, to bullying–and UCCS gay students agreed, eventually holding a safety rally to address concerns about verbal and physical abuse of gay students on campus during Williams’ term as student body president.

Williams has publicly opposed same-sex marriage and is in favour of a measure that would be similar to Florida’s Parental Rights Act, the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, to restrict mention of the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado schools.

Williams is also an ally of the embattled currenty El Paso County Republican Party Chairperson Vickie Tonkins, who recently earned a rebuke from the state Republican party leadership GOP State Chair Kristi Burton Brown who signed a letter indicating that Tonkins “behaved improperly in regard to her duty of neutrality during a Republican primary” by trying to use a scorecard from an outside organization, Principles of Liberty, to rank state lawmakers, and when she used county party funds to donate to the conservative group FEC United, which is affiliated with a right-wing militia and has also taken positions in Republican primaries. 

Williams responded to this by texting to Colorado Politics: “Because establishment RINOS, like Liz Cheney or Mitt Romney, continue to violate our Republican Platform, block Election Integrity, and attack President Trump, I will enthusiastically support this revamped county censure proposal that will allow the grassroots to hold these failed insiders accountable when necessary,” Williams said, using a popular acronym for “Republican in name only.”

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Trans Colo. State Rep. shares lessons from legislative victories

Privacy and autonomy are under attack whether the targets are reproductive rights or the rights to access gender affirming care

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Colo. state Rep. Brianna Titone (D) (Photo courtesy of Brianna Titone)

WASHINGTON – Recently, the focus of interviews of trans Colorado State Rep. Brianna Titone (D) have largely been defined by matters like last November’s deadly anti-LGBTQ shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs and the escalating legislative attacks on the trans community.

However, when she sat down with the Washington Blade on Thursday in the Washington, D.C. offices of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and Institute, Titone dove into another challenge that she, perhaps more than any other state lawmaker, has taken on directly:

Why is it so difficult, or even impossible, for consumers, even those with the inclination and know-how, to repair their automobiles, wheelchairs, farm equipment, and electronics like printers, smartphones, and, as Titone experienced, video game consoles?

A self-described “tinkerer and scientist” who has a degree in information communications technology and considerable programming experience, Titone was dogged by the question after discovering there was no way for her to fix the optical drive of her Xbox. “I couldn’t even figure out how to open the thing because there’s not even a screw on it,” she said.

As it turned out, the answer was even more frustrating.

Reading about the “right to repair” movement, Titone learned how manufacturers deliberately, anticompetitively, and, many argue, unlawfully erect barriers that discourage or prohibit their customers from fixing certain products – by, for example, allowing only the manufacturer’s own maintenance services, restricting access to tools and components, and implementing software barriers.

Titone was first elected in 2018, becoming Colorado’s first openly trans state lawmaker and only the fourth in the U.S. Shortly afterwards, she said, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) – who is the country’s second openly-LGBTQ governor – asked Titone to create and introduce a right to repair bill.

She was ultimately successful by strategically taking on one industry at a time. Meanwhile, among the other issues Titone was working on was a bill protecting trans Coloradans’ access to healthcare, which she passed by taking the exact opposite approach.

As Titone quickly learned, when it comes to right to repair, new legislation from federal or state lawmakers or new rules by the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection are met with powerful opposition from well-resourced industries backed by armies of lawyers and lobbyists. With her bill, Titone took on three: manufacturers of electric wheelchairs, , farm equipment, and consumer electronics.

Titone told the Blade her first right to repair bill was tabled as the legislature worked to prioritize pandemic-related matters, and her second attempt was stymied in committee, having faced an “immense” lobbying effort, particularly from consumer electronics companies.

Partially because electric wheelchairs are often owned by Medicaid and purchased by insurance providers, they can be extremely costly and difficult to repair. As one patient with multiple sclerosis told Colorado Public Radio, each of the many adjustments that were necessary to accommodate his needs required a service visit from a technician, who made each fix with a smartphone app. It was available to download on the App Store – but only for “authorized users.”

Of all the witnesses who were called to testify in favor of Titone’s bill, she said it was these Coloradans whom her colleagues considered the most compelling. So, in 2021, Titone introduced a third right to repair bill focused only on electric wheelchairs, and “we were able to pull the heartstrings of the committee [members] so the legislature would pass it,” she said, adding, “it wasn’t an overwhelming vote, but I did get a couple of Republicans.”

When the measure was signed into law in March, it became just the second statewide right to repair law since Massachusetts’s successful ballot initiative in 2012, which focused on automobiles. “My bill,” Titone said, “was the first right to repair bill after many, many, many attempts by many States over the last four or five years.”

Up next was farm equipment. Companies like John Deere, the sector’s largest manufacturer, have long been criticized for using software locks to prevent customers from fixing their tractors. And on the day in which the Colorado Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources was set to debate Titone’s bill, the industry submitted a memorandum of understanding that was intended to allay concerns, likely in an effort to forestall the right to repair law.

“But we still we still went forward,” Titone said, “we still passed the law” with Polis’s signature on April 25.

Colorado’s legislative session wrapped in May, but Titone expects to turn her attention next to the consumer electronics industry. In the meantime, she hopes to use some of her time in Washington to share experiences and insights that might help shore up efforts to pass federal right to repair protections like Agriculture Right to Repair Act introduced last year by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

The primary reason, however, that Titone was in the nation’s capital was for a White House State Legislative Convening on Reproductive Rights, held on Thursday with Vice President Kamala Harris and officials from the administration like White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.  

The White House held two State Legislative Convenings – one with Democratic lawmakers in red states and the other, which Titone attended, with Democratic lawmakers in blue states.

With these events, Titone said the Biden-Harris administration, which “has a strong position on reproductive rights,” sought to provide a forum for the exchange of information on what the former group of legislators need to pass legislation protecting reproductive rights and what each group has done on this front that could be instructive or serve as a model.

Titone has considerable experience and insight to offer on this front, having successfully led passage of legislation protecting reproductive freedoms with provisions also guarding Coloradans’ access to gender affirming care.

Grouping these issues together in one bill, a departure from how she advanced the right to repair legislation, proved to be a winning strategy.

For one thing, Titone said, reproductive healthcare and guideline directed gender affirming healthcare interventions largely concern the same biological systems (sex hormones, for example). She added the overlaps only continue from there, extending all the way to the methods and tactics used by anti-abortion and anti-trans activists.  

For example, she noted, lawmakers in conservative states are looking for ways to prevent transgender residents and their families from crossing into other states to access gender affirming treatments that they have banned or restricted within their own borders.

Likewise, the Washington Post reported that shortly after the U.S. Supreme struck down the constitutional right to abortion last year, conservative legal activists drafted model legislation that “would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident of a state that has banned abortion from terminating a pregnancy outside of that state.”

“It hasn’t come to the same level that abortion has, but those same aspects of attacking people [who are] getting this kind of care could easily be translated to gender affirming care,” Titone said. 

“Why should we stop at abortion care and leave this group of people out when [opponents are] just going to clone the bills that they have against the abortion providers and seekers to [target] the gender affirming care providers and seekers?”

Perhaps even more fundamental and more salient, Titone said, is how privacy and autonomy are under attack whether the targets are reproductive rights or the rights to access gender affirming care. “What does a politician have to do with a medical decision?”

Another important feature is the bedrock of support for access to both reproductive and gender affirming care, which comes from every scientific and medical institution with relevant expertise, Titone noted.

Even in liberal Colorado, passing Titone’s bill was a considerable challenge politically

Titone said that ultimately, because gender affirming care is comparably more controversial than reproductive care, bundling them together in one bill weakened opposition from Republicans because most voters support access to safe and legal abortions.

“When I debated my bill,” Titone said, she told Republicans, “Look, this is the wrong issue for you to debate because when I [knocked on] doors, people said abortion was one of the issues that made them vote for Democrats.”

Still, some GOP members like Colorado’s House Minority Leader Mike Lynch objected to the provisions in Titone’s legislation protecting abortion seekers from coming to Colorado from neighboring states that have restricted access to the procedure.

Titone’s bill also protects the right of people in all states to travel to Colorado to begin puberty blocking medication or undergo gender-affirming surgery without the risk of interstate prosecution.

The lawmaker said debates in the legislature over, especially, the gender affirming care provisions in the bill “really showed some of the true colors of some of my colleagues.” For example, she said one member argued access to gender affirming care “leads to people being murdered,” pointing to the Nashville elementary school shooting in March that was committed by a trans gunman. Another member, she said, publicly declared during multiple town hall style events that he would never use Titone’s feminine pronouns.

“I expected these things,” Titone said, noting that “the attacks on social media were pretty harsh.” At the same time, she said, “doing the hard work has its risks and has its rewards.”

While Colorado is led by a Democratic governor and Democrats retain control of the state’s General Assembly, Titone said it took some work to convince even colleagues from her own party to buy into the rationale for grouping reproductive and trans healthcare rights together in her bill.

Additionally, Titone said, she was approached by healthcare providers in Colorado who administer gender affirming care and were concerned that her bill might inspire threats of violence like those made recently against clinicians and facilities in Massachusetts.

“They said we’re nervous about this bill,” Titone said, but she told them, “Without this, your providers are going to get sued.” Plus, she said, the anti-trans extremists “are going to find you eventually,” so let’s “rip the band-aid off and just do it.”

Titone’s bill was signed into law last month. She expressed gratitude for the coalition of people who made the law’s passage possible, including a trans man who had a major hand in drafting the language on gender affirming care. As it happens, he works for Planned Parenthood.

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis signs four gun control bills

For many in the state who have advocated for reform, the history of mass shootings in particular has been a focal point

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Colorado's Out Democratic Governor Jaren Polis signs gun control measures, April 28, 2023. (Screenshot/CBS Colorado)

DENVER – Colorado’s Out Democratic Governor Jaren Polis signed four gun control measures Friday aimed at quelling rising suicides and youth violence, preventing mass shootings and opening avenues for victims of gun violence victims to be able to sue the firearm industry.

For many in the state who have advocated for reform, the history of mass shootings in particular has been a focal point although lawmakers were unable to pass a measure that would have banned sales of assault-style weapons in Colorado.

Earlier this month House Bill 1230, that would have banned the sale or transfer of so-called assault weapons, was rejected in a dramatic, 6-7 vote in the House Judiciary Committee at about 1 a.m. following a 14-hour hearing that featured testimony from hundreds of people, the Colorado Springs Sun newspaper reported.

House Bill 1230 was introduced in the aftermath of the mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ Club Q night club in Colorado Springs that killed five people and injured another 25.

A handful of states including California, Illinois, New York and Maryland have bans on assault weapons.

CBS Colorado noted Friday Before the ink was even dry on Gov. Jared Polis’ signature, gun rights groups sued to reverse two of the measures: raising the buying age for any gun from 18 to 21, and establishing a three-day waiting period between the purchase and receipt of a gun. The courts are already weighing lawsuits over such restrictions in other states.

Screenshot/CBS Colorado

The Colorado Springs Gazette on Mar 15, 2023 published a list of the state’s mass shootings:

Chuck E. Cheese, 1993, 4 dead 

On Dec. 14, 19-year-old gunman and former employee Nathan Dunlap opened fire on the staff of an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese, killing four and injuring one employee. 

Columbine High School, 1999, 15 dead 

Two armed teens went on a shooting rampage April 20, killing 12 students and one teacher, and wounding more than 20 others. After the attack, gunmen Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, killed themselves. At the time, this was the largest school shooting in U.S history. 

Platte Canyon High School, 2006, 2 dead 

On Sept. 27, armed 53-year-old Duane Roger Morrison entered Platte Canyon High School, taking six young girls hostage and sexually assaulted them. Following a three-hour standoff with police, Morrison killed one of the girls before turning the gun on himself. 

Youth With a Mission Center and New Life Church, 2007, 5 dead

In the morning of Dec. 9, 24-year-old Matthew John Murray opened fire on the Youth With a Mission Center in Arvada. He killed two, and injured two before escaping. Later that day, he made a similar attack on New Life Church in Colorado Springs, killing two and wounding three before shooting himself. 

Aurora Movie Theater, 2012, 12 dead 

One armed gunman, later identified as 25-year-old James Holmes, opened fire at a midnight showing of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 and leaving 70 wounded. 

Arapahoe High School, 2013, 2 dead

Student and gunman Karl Pierson, 18, made an armed attack on Dec. 13 that killed one 17-year-old girl. Pierson took his own life on the scene.

Halloween 2015, 3 killed, shooter killed by police 

Noah Harpham armed himself Halloween morning with an AR-15 rifle and two handguns, and went on a bloody rampage near downtown Colorado Springs that ended when Colorado Springs police officers fired on him.

Planned Parenthood, 2015, 3 dead 

An armed anti-abortion radical entered a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs on Nov. 27, killing three including one police officer. Following a standoff that lasted nearly five hours and left nine others injured, the shooter was identified as Robert Lewis Dear Jr., 57. 

Walmart, 2017, 3 dead 

On Nov. 1, 47-year-old Scott Ostrem opened fire in a Thornton Walmart, killing three shoppers. Ostrem escaped the scene and was later found and arrested in Westminster.

STEM school, 2019, 1 dead 

An 18-year-old student, Devon Erickson, opened fire in the Highlands Ranch school, killing one teen and leaving eight others injured. The 18-year-old victim and two other students charged Erickson, an effort that disarmed the shooter but resulted in the student being fatally shot to the chest. 

King Soopers, 2021, 10 dead 

On March 22, a gunman attacked a Boulder King Soopers grocery store. Among the 10 killed was a Boulder police officer. The suspect, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, has so far been ruled incompetent to stand trial.

Birthday party massacre, 2021, 7 dead

The last mass shooting in Colorado Springs, prior to the Club Q LGBTQ+ nightclub mass-shooting, happened in May 2021, when a gunman killed six members of an extended family at a birthday party at a mobile home in Colorado Springs, before turning the gun on himself. It was the fourth deadliest mass shooting in state history, tied for the deadliest mass murder in the city’s history.

Gov. Jared Polis signs 4 gun safety laws:

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Colorado Gov. Polis signs abortion & trans healthcare protections

Polis signs a trio of healthcare bills into law as Republicans in surrounding states have taken action to severely limit those rights

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Gov. Jared Polis speaks before signing a trio of healthcare bills on Friday, April 14, 2023, surrounded by lawmakers, advocates and health care providers (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

DENVER – Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed a trio of healthcare bills into law Friday that will protect the reproductive rights of women and preserve gender-affirming care in the state as Republicans in surrounding states have taken action to severely limit those rights.

The three pieces of legislation signed by the governor; SB23-188 Protections for Accessing Reproductive Health Care; SB23-189 Increasing Access to Reproductive Health Care; SB23-190 Deceptive Trade Practice Pregnancy-Related Service, are all structured to ensure people in surrounding states and beyond can go to Colorado to have an abortion, begin puberty blockers or receive gender-affirming surgery without fear of prosecution.

Colorado now joins its neighboring state to the South, New Mexico, in protecting abortion care and gender-affirming care. However the bordering states of Wyoming and Oklahoma have passed abortion bans, while Utah has severely restricted transgender care for minors.

In January, labeling Senate Bill 16 “a nuanced and thoughtful approach to a terribly divisive issue” Utah’s Republican Governor Spencer Cox signed the bill into law. SB16 will take affect in May that will ban most gender-affirming health care for transgender youth.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on March 16, signed into law House Bill 7, the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Act, which prohibits public bodies, including local municipalities, from denying, restricting, or discriminating against an individual’s right to use or refuse reproductive health care or health care related to gender.

In signing the trio of bills on Friday, Governor Polis said: “Here in Colorado, we value individual freedoms, and we stand up to protect them. Last year we took an important step to protect the right to choose how and when to start a family. Today, we are building on those protections by: Codifying the Executive Order I issued last year ensuring healthcare professionals are safe to provide legal healthcare services; Expanding access to reproductive healthcare services in both commercial insurance and Medicaid; And protecting consumers from harmful practices and false advertising by organizations and providers regarding reproductive health services. I’m proud to sign these bills today to further Colorado’s reputation as a beacon of freedom and choice.”

The Associated Press reported:

The governor’s office was packed with lawmakers, advocates and health care providers, many of them women, for a ceremony with a celebratory feel that resembled a rally at times with loud applause and call-and-response chants.

“We see you and in Colorado, we’ve got your back,” Democratic state Sen. Julie Gonzales said during the ceremony.

With the new laws, Colorado joins Illinois as a progressive peninsula offering reproductive rights to residents of conservative states on three sides. Illinois abortion clinics now serve people living in a 1,800-mile (2,900-kilometer) stretch of 11 Southern states that have largely banned abortion.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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United Airlines trans flight attendant dies in apparent suicide

Police said the final determination of cause of death will be made by the Medical Examiner’s office

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Kayleigh Scott (Screenshot/YouTube United Airlines)

DENVER – After posting farewell notes to her Instagram and Facebook pages, Kayleigh Scott, a popular United Airlines flight attendant was discovered deceased in her Denver area apartment by responding police units alerted by her followers alarmed by her posts.

A spokesperson for a Denver area police department said that an investigation is ongoing and that the final determination of cause of death will be made by the Medical Examiner’s office.

Scott, who had been prominently featured in a video diversity campaign on Trans Day of Visibility in 2020 by United, wrote in her posts:

As I take my final breaths and exit this living earth, I would like to apologize to everyone I let down. I am so sorry I could not be better. To those that I love, I am sorry I could not be stronger. To those that gave me their everything, I am sorry my effort was not reciprocated. Please understand that me leaving is not a reflection of you, but the result of my own inability to turn myself for the better. To Ashley, Cynthia, Regine & Sophia. I am so sorry. Please remember me for the good memories we have shared, and never for my downfall. I will see you all again on the other side. Brianna, I’m coming.”

In previous posts Scott acknowledged battling depression and this past December, she posted: “2022 has been a year packed with upset and difficulty. I saw too much death & loss in my life, I came to realize I work a meaningless job for a company that doesn’t value me as an employee, I had my heart destroyed, I lost my nice little home and had to downsize significantly and start over. I’m really struggling to find happiness and hope. I’m begging 2023 to be better to me. Please.”

In a Facebook post her mother, Arizona resident Andrea Sylvestro wrote:

Kayleigh Scott…I am so unbelievably proud to have you as my daughter, proud and amazed by everything that you have done in your life, your smile was absolutely beautiful, your laughter was unbelievably contagious, your heart was bigger than any of us could have ever understood.

“We are all prone to think that there is something wrong with the mental thought processes of those who disagree with us. It is up to us to rough hew them as you will” . “ I am who I am and I’ll always be who I am, someday the world will catch up to me “ .

I miss you so much already, everything that you have been through, every morning you woke up and looked in that mirror, I hope you saw what we all saw.. a beautiful, eloquent, compassionate, courageous beautiful soul!

I love you so so much!!!

Fly high my beautiful daughter, I will not let a day go by that I don’t honor your name and everything you stood for.

Go climb those mountains, live free and let the wind take you away…all my love my beautiful girl!

Love your Mumma ♥️

United — Kayleigh’s story:

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Club Q suspect: 300+ charges to include murder & hate crimes

The 22-year-old suspect will face 305 charges including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime

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Memorial to the victims of the Club Q outside of the nightclub (Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

COLORADO SPRINGS – El Paso County Colorado District Attorney Michael Allen announced in the first in-person hearing Tuesday, the 22-year-old suspect in the mass shooting at the LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q, which killed five and wounded dozens other will face 305 charges including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime.

The Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper reported that Anderson Aldrich appeared in a Colorado Springs courtroom wearing a green jumpsuit and handcuffs. Aldrich’s facial bruising had significantly healed since a video hearing two weeks ago. 

The total list of charges according to the Gazette is as follows: 

• 10 counts of first-degree murder.

• 86 counts of attempted first-degree murder.

• 86 counts of first-degree assault.

• Four counts of second-degree assault.

• 48 counts of bias motivated crime. 

• 71 counts of violent crime causing death and using a weapon.

Allen said the prosecution may request to amend the charges in the future.

“We are not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity,” Allen said at a news conference after the hearing. “Members of that community have been harassed and intimated and abused for too long. And that’s not going to occur in the 4th Judicial District.”

During the hearing Judge Michael McHenry, following the filing of formal charges, granted a request from District Attorney Allen for the suspect’s arrest affidavit to be unsealed. The court papers should be available to the public by the end of the day Wednesday, the Judge noted according to the Gazette.

Allen said that while he couldn’t talk about what is in the affidavit, he told reporters that it might contain “much less information than you might expect.”

Suspect in Club Q shooting appears in court:

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis visits Club Q & memorial to victims

Polis stated Club Q will be back & that the community will be safe adding the perpetrator will be held fully accountable under Colorado law

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis (Screenshot/YouTube The Associated Press Channel)

COLORADO SPRINGS – Accompanied by Club Q owners Nic Grzecka and Matthew Haynes, Colorado’s openly gay Governor Jared Polis visited the growing memorial to the victims of the mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ nightclub two weeks ago on Tuesday.

In his remarks to reporters, Polis stated that the Club Q will be back and that the community will be safe adding that the “perpetrator will be held fully accountable under the laws of Colorado for the heinous acts committed.”

In response to a question asking if he thought the sharp uptick in anti-LGBTQ hate speech and rhetoric online contributed to the mass shooting, the governor responded saying;

“I mean we certainly don’t know the contribution of the hostile rhetoric that’s out there to this particular case, um but of course there’s no excuse for rhetoric that targets or attacks individuals based on who they are or who they love, and that cannot only be incendiary or um ah inspire acts against the LGBTQ community- but it could also make life harder for those who are dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation issues, and need to see positive role models and get the support they need to be themselves.”

“Five people are lost forever. We celebrate their lives. We mourn them,” Polis said to reporters
(Screenshot/YouTube The Associated Press Channel

Grzecka, a co-owner of Club Q, had told the AP in one of his first interviews after the shooting he believes the targeting of a drag queen event is connected to the art form being cast in a false light in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children.

Even though general acceptance of the LGBTQ community has grown, this new dynamic has fostered a dangerous climate, he said.

“It’s different to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and getting spit at (as opposed to) a politician relating a drag queen to a groomer of their children,” Grzecka said. “I would rather be spit on in the street than the hate get as bad as where we are today.”

Later Tuesday afternoon at the Atrevida Brewery owned by one of the three people hailed as heroes for tackling and subduing the shooter until arriving Colorado Springs Police officers were able to arrest him, the governor embraced Atrevida owner Richard Fierro.

Fierro, a former U.S. Army officer and combat veteran was honored with $50,000 from a local credit union as Polis and Colorado Springs Mayor John W. Suthers looked on.

Matthew Haynes, the other co-owner of Club Q, created a verified GoFundMe fundraiser this week to help support staff and performers at the LGBTQ+ venue after a shooting took the lives of five people earlier this month.

“This fund is managed by Club Q directly and will be used to ensure the Club Q staff and entertainers don’t suffer financial hardship due to this horrific act,” Haynes wrote. “This fund will also go towards the total remodel of Club Q, the construction of an appropriate memorial for our victims and a small museum onsite. The goal is to return Club Q as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.

Plans for the return of Q are not fully developed yet. There will be many discussions ahead with stakeholders within the community. We are hopeful of making it more than just a bar. We envision a community resource center, state-of-the-art security precautions a gathering place to heal, remember and empower,” Haynes wrote.

GoFundMe (Link)

From the Associated Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a statement released this past Tuesday, the U.S. Navy confirmed that James was in hospital but added that “is currently in stable condition and we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.”

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

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

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

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Biden calls Club Q owners; community grapples with aftermath

Fallout over the shooting continues as anger mounts at what many in the LGBTQ+ community see as a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech

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Entrance to the Focus on the Family complex in Colorado Springs after the mass-murder at LGBTQ+ Club Q (Photo Credit: Twitter)

COLORADO SPRINGS – As the LGBTQ+ community continues to mourn the loss of the five people killed in last weekend’s mass shooting, focus is now shifting to a reflection of anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has evolved from prejudice to incitement according to Nic Grzecka a co-owner of Club Q.

In an interview with the Associated Press, one of his first since the chaos of the aftermath created by the mass-shooting, Grzecka said he believes the targeting of a drag queen event is connected to the art form being cast in a false light in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children.

Even though general acceptance of the LGBTQ community has grown, this new dynamic has fostered a dangerous climate, he said.

“It’s different to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and getting spit at (as opposed to) a politician relating a drag queen to a groomer of their children,” Grzecka said. “I would rather be spit on in the street than the hate get as bad as where we are today.”

On Thursday, President Joe Biden spending the Thanksgiving holiday with the First Lady and family members in Nantucket, Massachusetts, called Grzecka and Club Q co-owner Matthew Haynes.

The President and the First Lady offered condolences and reiterated their support for the community as well as their commitment to fighting back against hate and gun violence. They also thanked the two men for the ‘incredible contributions they have made and will continue to make to Colorado Springs.’

The president told reporters enroute to Nantucket, reflecting on the mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ club and then another mass-shooting Tuesday, at a Wal-Mart store when a night manager opened fire in a breakroom in Chesapeake, Va., killing six, and wounding at least half a dozen more, said he has plans to support a bill banning assault rifles during the lame-duck session before the next Congress is seated in January.

“I’m going to do it whenever — I got to make that assessment as I get in and start counting the votes,” Biden said

As the memorial outside Club Q grows, more attention is now being focused on the needs of the survivors and others in the LGBTQ + community in Colorado Springs affected by the mass-shooting.

An annual ‘Friendsgiving’ feast for the members of the LGBTQ+ community unable to spend time with relatives because of their being LGBTQ+ and which was normally held by the owners and staff of Club Q was shifted to a community dinner at the Colorado Springs MCC Church.

In an Instagram post, earlier in the week, Grzecka thanked Colorado Governor Jared Polis, state Attorney General Phil Weiser, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez and city councilmember Nancy Henjum whose district the LGBTQ+ club is located, “for your hard work to ensure there was a Crisis Center to service the Club Q and Colorado Springs community during the holiday.”

Fallout over the shooting continues as anger mounts at what many in the LGBTQ+ community see as targeted hate amplified by a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech online and by right-wing media outlets and far-right figures such as Fox host Tucker Carlson.

Colorado Springs is also home to Focus on the Family, one of the largest anti-LGBTQ+ groups in the United States. The Christian ministry group has opposed same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ service in any branch of the U.S. armed forces and continues to advocate for the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

Late Thursday person or persons unknown vandalized the sign at the main entrance to the group’s headquarters complex. “We went out there to investigate if there was a crime that took place,” Colorado Springs Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Jason Ledbetter told the Gazette regarding the overnight incident. “There is no suspect information at this time.”

In a Instagram post, Club Q owner Grzecka displayed a picture of the vandalized sign with graffiti spray painted in black reading; “Their blood is on your hands five lives taken.”

In his message accompanying the picture, Grzecka noted:

Focus on the Family moved to our city in the 90’s, was a large group behind pushing through amendment 2 along with Colorado for family matters. People such as Dr. James Dobson and Will Perkins have spread a nasty, false and hurtful narrative about our LGBT community.

Amendment 2 was passed in 1992, and Colorado Springs ( El Paso county) were the votes to pass the amendment, the same amendment that gave our city the nickname “hate city USA”

Words have consequences and your continuous false narrative about the lgbt community has consequences,
@focusonthefamily this message added to your sign has more truth to it than you may actually be able to understand.

This is not vandalism this is not an attack on Christian’s. This message is just that a message that was delivered in a way to ensure you receive it.

@cityofcos, Mayor Suthers when can we meet to discuss how this type of Anti Gay speech, is coming from our own backyard.

The Gazette also reported that people from around the nation are holding in-person and online fundraisers for victims and families of the Club Q mass shooting. 

While the state has an official online donation site, the Colorado Healing Fund, a private online drive, also has become one of the largest appeals.

Good Judy Garage in Denver, an LGBTQ business, raised $25,000 in two hours after starting a GoFundMe drive on Sunday. The initial goal was upped to $50,000 and now is at $750,000, as donations continue to pour in. As of Friday, the amount collected was $761,707 raised.

Link to the GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-the-club-q-families-and-survivors.

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Club Q suspect in court, friend says never claimed to be nonbinary

He told NBC 9 News that he informed investigators the suspect made several hateful comments toward the LGBTQ community

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Booking photo via Colorado Springs Police Department

COLORADO SPRINGS – The person police say murdered 5 people and is responsible for injuring 25 others appeared in a El Paso County, Colorado court Wednesday via a video link from the county’s detention center.

Slumped over in a chair in a yellow-gold jail issued jumpsuit and mumbling answers to the judge’s questions, suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich visibly bore the marks of the beating received by U.S. Army veteran, Major Richard Fierro, and U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James, in the struggle by both to disarm Aldrich.

Fierro’s daughter Kassy’s longtime boyfriend and “affectionate member” of the Fierro family, 22-year-old Raymond Green Vance, was killed in the shooting. Fierro the owner of a local microbrewery along with Petty Officer James, who was shot in the struggle and hospitalized, were able to disarm the suspect.

Multiple media outlets reported that another Club Q patron, a trans woman, then joined in the courageous takedown, removing a high-heeled shoe and smashing the spike into the shooter’s face and head.

In a statement released Tuesday, the U.S. Navy confirmed that James was in hospital but added that “is currently in stable condition and we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.”

Wednesday tweet of booking photo of suspect in Club Q mass shooting released by the Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department.

Known as an advisement hearing to inform a person suspected of a crime of the charges and also potential bail requirements, Joseph Archambault, the chief trial deputy for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender and Michael Bowman, another state public defender, appeared with the suspect as Judge Charlotte Ankeny set the first in-person appearance in court for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 6 and ordered Aldrich held without bail.

Included in the court documents, the suspect’s defense team noted: “Anderson Aldrich is non-binary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal [court] filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

The Gazette reported District Attorney Michael Allen said following the advisement hearing, that Aldrich’s identity as nonbinary would not impact how the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes the case.

“His legal definition in this proceeding is ‘the defendant,’” Allen said.

NBC 9 News Denver correspondent Kelly Reinke reported that a recent neighbor of the suspect said he spent hours talking to the FBI on Tuesday morning. He told Reinke that he informed investigators the suspect made several hateful comments toward the LGBTQ community.

“Just expressed he didn’t like the LGBTQ community,” said Xavier Kraus, a neighbor of the accused shooter, said he and his girlfriend lived across the hall from Aldrich and his mother until September. “And pretty sure at one point he expressed he hated the LGBTQ community, he hated gays.”

Kraus said he specifically remembered one time “Aldrich vocalized verbally using a derogatory term for them [LGBTQ people].” He added that many other “outbursts” were “racial.”

“This is not the type of person I would take around my gay friends,” he said. 

Kraus told NBC 9 News he and Aldrich became close friends last year. They bonded over tech and video games. Kraus added that Aldrich never mentioned being nonbinary in their times together.

“If I knew what he was going to do what he did, I would have done something. I would have said something. I just didn’t know,” Kraus said.

KFMB-TV CBS News 8 San Diego spoke with the biological father of the suspect, a former federal inmate and adult porn actor Aaron Brink, 48, who told News 8 “we’re Mormons, we don’t do gay!” He added that his ex-wife called him from Colorado in 2016 to tell him their son, Nicholas Brink, had changed his name to Anderson Aldrich, and had killed himself.

Then, two days ago, Brink got a call from his son’s defense attorneys, telling him Aldrich was involved in a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, News 8 reported.

Brink said he’s a Mormon and his first reaction was to question why his son was at a gay bar.

“You know Mormons don’t do gay. We don’t do gay. There’s no gays in the Mormon church. We don’t do gay,” Brink said.

“They started telling me about the incident, a shooting… And then I go on to find out it’s a gay bar. I got scared, ‘Shit, is he gay?’ And he’s not gay, so I said, phew… I am a conservative Republican,” Brink said.

He told News 8 his ex-wife, the daughter of California State Assemblyman Randy Voepel, and his son moved to Colorado around 2012.

Laura Voepel, Aldrich’s mother, had been arrested for arson and a series of probation violations according to an emerging portrait of the alleged shooter pieced together by CNN.

CNN also reported that Voepel called police last year and reported Aldrich had entered the Colorado Springs house she was renting a room in and threatened her with a homemade bomb.

Several hours after the initial police call, the local sheriff department’s crisis negotiations unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the house. Authorities did not find any explosives in the home, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said.

Aldrich was arrested and booked into the El Paso County Jail on two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, according to a 2021 news release from the sheriff’s office.

It was not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved; the Colorado Springs Gazette reported the district attorney’s office said no formal charges were pursued in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.

Brink, who currently works as a mixed martial arts coach says he taught his son how to fight.

“I praised him for violent behavior really early. I told him it works. It is instant and you’ll get immediate results,” Brink said.

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Club Q ‘Family’ gathers at city hall in Colorado Springs

“We are honored to share this symbol of hope, love and unity with the people of Colorado Springs in their time of sorrow”

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Club Q 'Family' gathers on the steps of City Hall in Colorado Springs on November 23, 2022 (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

COLORADO SPRINGS – In a show of solidarity, support, and love for its LGBTQ+ community devastated by the mass-shooting in the LGBTQ+ safe space Club Q last Saturday, several thousand people gathered in front of city hall in downtown Colorado Springs Wednesday.

In the rally of support was accompanied by the unfurling of a 25-foot segment of the larger LGBTQ Pride Flag that was created and displayed to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Pride flag created by Gilbert Baker, which was also displayed in Orlando after the Pulse mass-shooting.

Club Q ‘Family’ gathers on the steps of City Hall in Colorado Springs on November 23, 2022
(Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

Addressing the massive gathering, City Council Representative Nancy Henjum whose district includes Club Q, said:

This morning I am honored to serve as manager this ceremony and to represent our City Council, our Mayor, and other City Leaders. Standing with us today are(Mayor John Suthers, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, Fire Chief Randy Royal, District Attorney Michael Allen and Jessie Pocock, the Executive Director of Inside Out and the many folks she has gathered to help make today happen.”

This flag which we are about to unfurl was designed and created by Gilbert Baker. He was the designer of the original rainbow flag. 25 years later to commemorate its anniversary Mr. Baker then worked with over 2000 volunteers to create a 1.25-mile-long rainbow flag. The flag was later cut into 25- foot sections for display and use around the world. The section we will unfurl today – section 93 — has been in dozens of ceremonies across the world. To name just a few: It appeared at The Supreme Court for the announcement of the 2015 decision for marriage equality. And as it was leaving the White House from an LGBT Presidential Reception on June 9, 2016, it was diverted from a preplanned display in New Orleans to arrive in Orlando, Florida where it was offered as a gesture of love support and healing in response to the Pulse nightclub massacre. It hung in downtown Orlando and graced a memorial ceremony for those 49 lives lost. It returns each June on the anniversary of that massacre. We receive this flag with the same gratitude that the City of Orlando did those 6 years ago.

(Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

What does the future look like for Colorado Springs and especially for the LGBTQ+ community? There is so much love and support for you here today. We MUST continue that for the days, weeks, years, and lifetimes to come – especially for queer people of color and for transgender people. We heard from many of you yesterday in this very building that you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel respected – that we must do better. Yes – we MUST do better. We WILL do better. And we will start with our display of support by unfurling this flag on our historic 1904 building.

In hearing the story of the journey of this sacred cloth from its custodian Mark Ebenhoch, we learned of its incredible healing power. Flags are important symbols that express identity, community, and solidarity. SO NOW – Let’s call this flag down from the top of our City Hall. All together let’s say: LOVE BEATS HATE! LOVE WINS!

Jessie Pocock, the executive director and CEO of Inside Out Youth Services LGBTQ noted, “As Colorado Springs mourns, we are heartened that this historic flag has been offered for display. We are grateful for this incredible demonstration of compassion.”

The flag, measuring 14 by 25 feet, is one section of the historic Rainbow25 flag sewn together by Gilbert Baker in Key West, Fla., in 2003 to create a 1.25 mile long flag in the original eight colors (versus the six colors that became more common). That flag marked the 25th anniversary of the 1978 flag originally created by Baker. The Sea to Sea Flag was later cut into sections, and Section 93 is preserved as the Sacred Cloth. It has traveled the globe to be displayed at celebrations, occasions of mourning, and historic moments.

“We are honored to share this symbol of hope, love and unity with the people of Colorado Springs in their time of sorrow,” said Mark Ebenhoch, Sacred Cloth Project director.

The person alleged have committed the mass-shooting is scheduled for a video “Advisement Hearing” later today. In response to the court documents filed Tuesday in which defense lawyers alleged that the suspect is non-binary, GLAAD responded in an emailed statement:

“GLAAD stands in full solidarity with the Club Q family devastated by the heinous and horrific acts of a mass murderer. As our community has said from the beginning, regardless of the motive, the LGBTQ community has been, and continues to be, under attack. As we wait for evidence and information to emerge, what we do know is that this violent and unspeakable crime, which clearly targeted LGBTQ people, illustrates two facts:

One, the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, especially anti-transgender rhetoric, is infecting every part of America, created by politicians in their crass drive for power, parroted by right-wing media outlets, and amplified by social media platforms who prioritize profits over public safety. And two: assault weapons continue to senselessly end American lives and we need common-sense gun safety reform now.

In fact, newly released GLAAD polling now shows a worsening climate for LGBTQ people: 72% of transgender people and 48% of the LGBTQ community overall say that the current political environment makes them fear for their personal safety.”

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