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Supreme Court gun ruling: New York Gov. says its ‘a Dark day’

The opinion expands the scope of the Second Amendment to establish a new test that will render many gun control laws unconstitutional

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul (Screenshot/YouTube Reuters)

WASHINGTON – Reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling issued Thursday that New York’s strict limits on the concealed carry of firearms in public violates the Second Amendment was swift and angry from the state’s Governor Kathy Hochul who categorized the announcement as a “dark day.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom weighed in echoing his fellow Democratic Governor wrote on Twitter, “A dark day in America. This is a dangerous decision from a court hell bent on pushing a radical ideological agenda and infringing on the rights of states to protect our citizens from being gunned down in our streets, schools, and churches. Shameful.”

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Second Amendment does protect the right of individuals to carry a gun outside the home.

Washington D.C. based attorney, legal analyst and senior writer for Slate magazine noted; “Clarence Thomas’ opinion for the court dramatically expands the scope of the Second Amendment, blasting past ostensible restrictions laid out in Heller to establish a new test that will render many, many more gun control laws unconstitutional.”

Stern also pointed out that in a concurring opinion, Alito snidely points out that New York’s now-invalidated restrictions on concealed carry did not stop the recent mass shooting in Buffalo.

He added that Thomas overrules the “two-step approach” used by many courts of appeals when assessing gun control laws, instead placing an incredibly heavy burden on the government to prove that every regulation of firearms “is part of the historical tradition.”

The White House released President Joe Biden’s reaction to the Supreme Court ruling: “We must do more as a society — not less — to protect our fellow Americans.”

Full Text of the President’s statement:

I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

Since 1911, the State of New York has required individuals who would like to carry a concealed weapon in public to show a need to do so for the purpose of self-defense and to acquire a license.

More than a century later, the United States Supreme Court has chosen to strike down New York’s long-established authority to protect its citizens.

This ruling contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all.

In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as the daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines, we must do more as a society — not less — to protect our fellow Americans.

I remain committed to doing everything in my power to reduce gun violence and make our communities safer.

I have already taken more executive actions to reduce gun violence than any other President during their first year in office, and I will continue to do all that I can to protect Americans from gun violence.

I urge states to continue to enact and enforce commonsense laws to make their citizens and communities safer from gun violence. As the late Justice Scalia recognized, the Second Amendment is not absolute.

For centuries, states have regulated who may purchase or possess weapons, the types of weapons they may use, and the places they may carry those weapons. And the courts have upheld these regulations.

I call on Americans across the country to make their voices heard on gun safety. Lives are on the line.

“For all who care about ending hate violence and gun violence, today the Supreme Court issued a devastating ruling in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The case is about enforcing reasonable gun regulations adopted by the State of New York that required a person to show proper cause to get a license to carry a concealed handgun by showing a special need for self-protection. Court conservatives reversed the Second Circuit Court’s decision and ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect people’s ‘right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense,’”   Liz Seaton, Policy Director, National LGBTQ Task Force said in an emailed statement to the Blade.

“The Task Force joined Lambda Legal and the law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP’s amicus brief in this case because it detailed the use of guns in hate violence against LGBTQ people, especially transgender and Black and Brown LGBTQ people. The brief urged the Supreme Court to uphold the New York law because gun violence disproportionately impacts LGBTQ people—especially transgender and LGBTQ people of color— therefore keeping the law would continue to protect LGBTQ+ people from gun-related hate crimes. The decision on this case is a loss.” 

In a press conference Thursday Gov. Hochul said in part:

“Does everyone understand what a concealed weapon means? That you have no forewarning. That someone can hide a weapon on them and go into our subways, go into our grocery stores, like stores up in Buffalo, New York, where I’m from. Go into a school in Parkland or Uvalde, This could place millions of New Yorkers in harm’s way.

As governor of the state of New York, my number one priority is to keep New Yorkers safe, but today the Supreme Court is sending us backwards in our efforts to protect families and prevent gun violence.

And it’s particularly painful that this came down at this moment, when we are still dealing with families in pain from mass shootings that have occurred, the loss of life, their beloved children and grandchildren.

I’m prepared to call the Legislature back into session to deal with this. We’ve been in contact with leadership — we’re just looking at dates — but I will say, we are not powerless in this situation.

We’re not going to cede our rights that easily, despite the best efforts of the politicized Supreme Court of the United States of America.

This decision isn’t just reckless, it’s reprehensible. It’s not what New Yorkers want, and we should have the right of determination of what we want to do in terms of our gun laws in our state.”

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on the ruling on New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen:

“Today’s decision will make our communities less safe, plain and simple. At the same time as the Senate advances bipartisan legislation to take on America’s crisis of gun violence, the extreme right-wing majority on the Supreme Court has chosen to exacerbate it. This dangerous decision misinterprets the Constitution and jeopardizes gun safety laws in a number of states, including California, which has some of the most effective gun safety measures in the nation.

“The majority of Americans want commonsense gun reform. Everyone deserves to live without fear in their schools, grocery stores, places of worship, and neighborhoods. But today, the Supreme Court moved us backward in keeping our communities safe.”

New York Governor Reacts To Supreme Court Ruling On Guns:

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U.S. Federal Courts

Supreme Court sides with ex-football coach who led prayers at school

“Justice Gorsuch’s majority opinion is yet another dangerous example of this Court overturning decades of precedent”

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The Justices of the United States Supreme Court (Photo Credit: U.S. Supreme Court)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in a 6-3 ruling sided with the former Bremerton, Washington assistant high school football coach removed for refusing to halt his practice of praying at mid-field after games on school property.

The ruling is a victory for Joseph Kennedy, who in court documents described himself as a practicing Christian whose religious beliefs require him to “give thanks through prayer, at the end of each game.”

When he began his job as an assistant coach at Bremerton High School, a public school in Washington state, he initially prayed alone after games, but over time some of his players – and eventually a majority of the team – joined him. One parent complained that his son, a player on the team, felt like he had to join in the prayer, even though he was an atheist, or face a loss of playing time.”

Bremerton School District officials had attempted to accommodate Kennedy after warning him to stop the prayers as District officials clarified that they did not want to violate the Constitution’s establishment clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another.

The district offered Kennedy the ability to pray after the crowd had left the stadium or in a private space both options that he refused. Kennedy had retained counsel and the legal team indicated that they would pursue father legal action.

The case eventually ended up at the high court which agreed to hear it at the beginning of this last term in January.

Joseph Kennedy being interviewed by NBC News affiliate KING-TV 5, Seattle, Washington

Reaction from groups advocating for greater safeguards in separation of ‘church and state’ decried the majority decision written by Trump nominated Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Equality California noted that the Court’s ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District effectively was overturning decades of established legal precedent.

“Justice Gorsuch’s majority opinion is yet another dangerous example of this Court overturning decades of precedent to impose the personal religious beliefs of some on the rest of the country — whether that be a public school football coach’s religious beliefs on his team, a legislator’s views on people in their state seeking abortion care or the views of a religious private school on taxpayers now forced to fund them.

“Parents have always been free to send their children to schools that align with their religious beliefs, and coaches who want to lead their players in prayer have always been free to work at private schools where that is encouraged. But students — of any religion or none at all — attending public schools funded by taxpayers should not be coerced into school-sponsored prayer,” Equality California’s Executive Director, Tony Hoang, said in an emailed statement.

“Every public school student deserves to feel safe, supported and welcome at school. Today’s decision undermines that fundamental idea at a particularly dangerous time for our LGBTQ+ students.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Justice Thomas said the Court should also reconsider the decisions that extended marriage equality & the right to private, consensual sex

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Crowds gather outside SCOTUS after Roe v Wade was overturned June 24, 2022 (Blade Photo by Josh Alburtus)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday in a 6-3 ruling overturned Roe v. Wade. Justice Clarence Thomas in the decision said the Supreme Court should also reconsider the decisions in the Obergefell and Lawrence cases that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples and the right to private, consensual sex.

LGBTQ rights groups were quick to condemn the ruling.

“Today the Supreme Court issued a devastating ruling in Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs — a huge setback to our long-standing fundamental right to bodily autonomy,” said National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson. “This decision by the conservative majority on the bench also marks the beginning of the vital work to re-establish our constitutional foundation for reproductive justice and freedom. We must redouble our work to protect access to abortion and reproductive justice at the state and national levels. We will never give up.”

“When the Supreme Court is willing to throw 50 years of precedent out the window, it proves that we are at an exceedingly dangerous, unprecedented moment. The Court’s majority opinion does not reflect the will of our nation — two thirds of whom support Roe v. Wade but instead fulfills an extreme, out of step, ideological agenda. And it shows that all of our rights are on the line right now, as state lawmakers will be further emboldened to test the limits of our hard-won civil rights,” added interim Human Rights Campaign President Joni Madison. “Women are under attack, LGBTQ+ people are under attack, BIPOC people are under attack, and we are justifiably outraged. We cannot relent — we must fight back.”

Jim Obergefell, a candidate for the Ohio House and the lead plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme case that affirmed marriage equality as the law of the land, issued the following statement today following news that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“It’s a sad day for womens’ rights. This U.S. Supreme Court continues to erode the rights of citizens at an alarming rate. We are facing a health and human rights crisis in this country and as a result countless lives will be at risk. Women deserve responsive leaders who support reproductive justice. Leaders who respect their basic right to have control over their own body. The reality is that women today will have less rights than their own mothers. We are going backwards and it’s both enraging and terrifying to see the excessive government overreach that this court is imposing on our country.”

In his remarks on the Supreme Court ruling, President Joe Biden speaking live from the Great Cross Hall in the White House said at one point, “It just stuns me,” adding that poor women would be hit the hardest by the decision. “This is a sad day for the country in my view but it does not mean the fight is over.”

He called on Congress to restore abortion protections into law and pointed to the November midterm elections, saying, “this fall, Roe is on the ballot.”

He urged protests to be conducted peacefully and said violence is never acceptable.

“This decision must not be the final word,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden’s remarks ended at 12:49 p.m. EST after speaking for nearly 12 minutes. He did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about the ruling and the future of the Supreme Court. 

Screenshot/YouTube NBC News

U. S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland released a statement condemning the high court’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court has eliminated an established right that has been an essential component of women’s liberty for half a century – a right that has safeguarded women’s ability to participate fully and equally in society. And in renouncing this fundamental right, which it had repeatedly recognized and reaffirmed, the Court has upended the doctrine of stare decisis, a key pillar of the rule of law.

“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Court’s decision. This decision deals a devastating blow to reproductive freedom in the United States. It will have an immediate and irreversible impact on the lives of people across the country. And it will be greatly disproportionate in its effect – with the greatest burdens felt by people of color and those of limited financial means. “

The Attorney General went on to warn that acts of violence in the wake of today’s ruling will not be tolerated.

“Advocates with different views on this issue have the right to, and will, voice their opinions. Peacefully expressing a view is protected by the First Amendment. But we must be clear that violence and threats of violence are not. The Justice Department will not tolerate such acts.”

Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Blade in an email; Justice Thomas’s concurrence is an open assault on the landmark precedents that have transformed the place of LGBTQ people in our society. Historically, the Supreme Court has relied on substantive due process to protect essential liberties such as the freedom to decide whether to conceive a child, to marry or be in an intimate relationship with the person of one’s choice, to raise children as one sees fit, and to travel or move anywhere in the country.

“These are among our most basic and cherished freedoms, and Justice Thomas is urging the court to scrap them all. While the majority opinion does not go that far, it is full of landmines that appear to lay a foundation for future decisions that may cast these fundamental rights into question or eliminate them altogether. Today’s decision is even more alarming than the leaked opinion and strongly suggests that this is only the beginning of a radical campaign to undo decades of precedent.  The question is no longer if this Court is willing to jettison other fundamental freedoms, but how quickly they are likely to do so, and which ones are likely to be on the chopping block first,”  Minter added.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Read the Supreme Court’s opinion:

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U.S. Federal Courts

National Black Justice Coalition CEO indicted on conspiracy, fraud charges

The indictment was handed down on June 7 by a federal grand jury with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida

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Sharon Lettman-Hicks (Photo courtesy National Black Justice Coalition)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Federal prosecutors in Tallahassee, Fla., on Wednesday unsealed a grand jury indictment charging Sharon Lettman-Hicks, the CEO of the D.C.-based LGBTQ+ group National Black Justice Coalition, and former Tallahassee mayor and unsuccessful Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, with conspiracy and multiple counts of fraud.

The indictment was handed down under seal on June 7 by a federal grand jury associated with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee before being publicly released in court on Wednesday.  

It states, among other things, that “Andrew Demetric Gillum and Sharon Janet Lettman-Hicks did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with other persons to devise a scheme to defraud and to obtain money and property by means of material false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promise, and to cause wire communications to be transmitted in interstate and foreign commerce for the purpose of executing such scheme, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.”

The indictment says the alleged illegal actions by Gillum, who identifies as bisexual, and Lettman-Hicks took place between 2016 and 2019, including while Gillum served as mayor of Tallahassee through 2018 and when he became the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida in 2018.

Gillum, a Democrat, lost to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2018 race by about 32,000 votes, garnering more support than many political observers had expected.

According to the 26-page indictment, Gillum and Lettman-Hicks became targets of an FBI public corruption investigation in Tallahassee that began in 2015. It says Lettman-Hicks allegedly helped Gillum improperly funnel money solicited from FBI agents posing as real estate developers with the promise of providing something “very significant in return” in Gillum’s role as mayor in exchange for financial support for Gillum’s campaign for governor.

The indictment says much of the money went to Gillum for his personal use through a company Lettman-Hicks operated called P&P Communications. It charges both Gillum and Lettman-Hicks with 19 counts of wire fraud and one count of attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reports that both Gillum and Lettman-Hicks pleaded not guilty to the grand jury charges against them at a June 22 court hearing. The newspaper reports that both declined to comment when approached by reporters outside the courtroom. But Gillum and his attorneys a short time later released separate statements saying the allegations against Gillum were political and would be refuted in court.

“Throughout my career I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power,” Gillum said in his statement. “There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee,” the statement continues. ‘They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”

Florida attorneys Marc Elias and David Oscar Markus, who are representing Gillum, said in a separate statement that prosecutors got the facts wrong. “The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges,” the lawyers said in the statement.

The Tallahassee Democrat has also reported that Lettman-Hicks was qualified last week to run as a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives in District 8, which includes Tallahassee.

Lettman-Hicks, 53, is listed on the National Black Justice Coalition website as the group’s CEO and board chair. Its website says she served as the group’s CEO and executive director from 2009 to 2017, when she stepped down as executive director. It says she is based in Tallahassee. David Johns, the current NBJC executive director, is based in the organization’s headquarters in D.C.

A spokesperson for the group couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.  

On its website, NBJC says it has served since its founding in 2003 as “America’s leading national civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+, and same gender loving (LGBTQ+/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS through coalition building, federal policy change, research, and education.”

Gillum, 42, became the subject of media reports in March of 2020 when police found him in a Miami Beach hotel room too inebriated to talk and with an unconscious male in the room with him who police said had suffered from a drug overdose and who was later identified as a male sex worker.

Police said they found three plastic bags with suspected crystal meth in the room where Gillum and the other man had been staying. Gillum, who was not charged, denied using any drugs and said he had “too much to drink.” A short time later he announced he had entered a rehab program, citing struggles after losing his race for governor. Six months later, in a television interview with his wife beside him, Gillum disclosed he was bisexual.

The indictment against Gillum and Lettman-Hicks can be accessed here.

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