Brandon Straka, the 44-year-old New York-based hairstylist and Trump loyalist who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for his role in the January 6 Capitol Insurrection, was finally sentenced on Monday.
Judge Dabny Friedrich, a Trump appointee, gave Straka no jail time but sentenced him to three months of house arrest, 36 months of probation, $5,500 in fines, and community service.
According to court documents, FBI officials identified Straka from a since-deleted video he posted to his own social media page in which he could be heard shouting “Go! Go!” to the other insurrectionists as they stormed inside the U.S. Capitol building.
Two days after he pleaded guilty, Straka emailed his mailing list asking them to send him money for his legal bills.
“Start posting positive things that you believe about me,” he wrote. “Push back against the one sided hate attacks that are happening right now. I still have nothing to say about my case, other than this- as it’s being widely (and likely INTENTIONALLY) misreported: I did NOT enter the Capitol building.”
“After being PERMANENTLY BANNED from PayPal, Venmo, and Stripe,” Straka added, “I have CUSTOM CREATED a support platform using a conservative friendly payment processor company.”
Officials were also able to tie Straka to the insurrection based on several since-deleted posts from his Twitter account, including:
“Patriots at the Capitol – HOLD. THE. LINE!!!!”
“I arrived at the Capitol a few hours ago as Patriots were storming from all sides. I was quite close to entering myself as police began tear-gassing us from the door. I inhaled tear gas & got it in my eyes. Patriots began exiting shortly after saying Congress had been cleared.”
“I’m completely confused. For 6-8 weeks everybody on the right has been saying ‘1776!’ & that if congress moves forward it will mean a revolution! So congress moves forward. Patriots storm the Capitol – now everybody is virtual signaling their embarrassment that this happened.”
“Also- be embarrassed & hide if you need to- but I was there. It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republic because literally nobody cares about them. Everyone else can denounce them. I will not.”
“Perhaps I missed the part where it was agreed this would be a revolution of ice cream cones & hair-braiding parties to take our government back from lying, cheating globally interested swamp parasites. My bad.”
Multiple other people sent the FBI videos that reportedly showed Straka at the Capitol building on January 6. In one of the clips, he allegedly tells the mob, “We’re going in!” In another, he allegedly orders them to attack a police officer, yelling, “Take the shield! Take it! Take it!”
Straka signed a plea deal with prosecutors, agreeing to provide agents with “copies of any social media accounts, postings, videos, or photos” and answer questions “regarding events in and around January 6, 2021.” In exchange, prosecutors sought a lighter sentence.
André Leon Talley, giant of the fashion industry, has died aged 73.
Talley, who was Vogue’s first Black creative director, and later editor-at-large, passed away on Tuesday (18 January), his literary agent confirmed.
He had been suffering from an unknown illness.
A pioneer in fashion, Talley passionately championed diversity and inclusion in an industry that for years resisted it. He was remembered by friends and fans for his glamour, grace and grit.
Talley grew up with his grandmother in the city of Durham in Jim Crow era North Carolina, and told NPR in 2018 that he first came across a copy of Vogue at his local library when he was nine or 10 years old.
He described it as a “rabbit hole” into “a world of glamour”, and added: “[Vogue] was my gateway to the world outside of Durham.
“It was the world of literature, what was happening in the world of art, what was happening in the world of entertainment.”
Talley went on to study French literature at Brown University, where he wrote his thesis on the influence of Black women in Charles Baudelaire.
He later moved to New York City, working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Andy Warhol’s Factory studio, and at Women’s Wear Daily, Interview, W, and the New York Times.
Talley finally made his way to Vogue, where he was fashion news director from 1983 to 1987, creative director from 1988 to 1995, and editor-at-large from 1998 to 2013.
The fashion icon became known for his signature kaftans and capes, and told NPR: “I went to [Morocco] and saw that the men in North Africa in Marrakech and Casablanca walked around in caftan shirts and loose-fitting clothes all day, every day… I decided: I want to be like that. I want to wear that instead of a suit because it’s comfortable. You are ventilated. You’re roomy. You’re cozy, and you can just stretch.
“I’m not a tall stick anymore! I’m a big, big guy of great girth and people think I look like maybe my clothes don’t look that important, but I have taken great time and [done] fittings for my capes and caftans made by the great designers.
“I will continue to wear these things for the rest of my life!
Talley published three books during his lifetime: A.L.T.: A Memoir in 2003, the photography book A.L.T. 365+, and in 2020, The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, which became a New York Times best seller.
In 2010 and 2011, he had a place on the judging panel of America’s Next Top Model.
Diane von Furstenberg, the designer who was a close friend of Talley’s, wrote: “Goodbye darling André … no one saw the world in a more glamorous way than you did. No one was grander and more soulful than you were.”
Bette Midler added: “I’m sorry to say the extraordinary André Leon Talley has died.
“He was such a force and believed in the magic of fashion and its illusions with all his being. His life was a saga of great highs, great lows, the dramatic, the ridiculous, and the endless pursuit of beauty. Love and RIP.”
Slave Play writer Jeremy O’Harris tweeted: “For a little Black gay boy who reached for the stars from the south there were few people I could look up to up there amongst the stars who looked like me just more fab except for you André.
“For a generation of boys André Leon Talley was a beacon of grace and aspiration. RIP.”
Preston Mitchum, attorney and director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, tweeted: “André Leon Talley made it possible for so many Black queer boys and men to express ourselves out loud. No reservations.
“A legend. An icon. May he rest in peace and power knowing that he paved the way for many people who looked up to him.”
As we mark one year into the Biden administration, Lambda Legal reviews the progress made (or not) on ten asks from a year ago to rectify the harms done by the Trump administration and to address the ongoing inequities experienced by LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV.
The Trump administration damaged the integrity of our federal judiciary by packing it with right-wing extremists who oppose LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and civil rights more broadly. We called on the Biden administration to make the restoration of fairness and impartiality to the courts one of its highest priorities.
What the administration accomplished
The administration has worked with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to confirm more judges in its first year than any president since Ronald Reagan; a record-tying 40 lifetime appointments to the federal bench. Of these 40 judges confirmed, 32 are women; 27 are people of color; 21 are women of color; 27 add professional diversity, including 15 former public defenders; and one is the first openly gay or lesbian circuit court judge in the country.
What more we need
The administration must nominate more openly LGBTQ+ people, and particularly LGBTQ+ people of color, for judicial vacancies, focusing on the five circuits—D.C., First, Fourth, Eighth, and Tenth—that do not have a single openly LGBTQ+ judge on the bench of either the circuit court or the district courts in its jurisdiction.
Specifically, the administration should nominate the country’s first transgender or nonbinary judge and the first openly bisexual judge. To be legitimate, the judiciary should reflect the society it serves.
With the new majority on the Supreme Court created by Trump and increasingly hostile lower court appointments, we have every reason to believe our opponents will seek to undermine marriage equality for same-sex couples. Now more than ever, we need a robust ally in the White House who will vigorously defend and fully implement marriage equality, including things like the right of LGBTQ+ widows and widowers to access Social Security survivor’s benefits. The Biden administration must ensure that marriages between same-sex couples are respected and that LGBTQ+ families are treated like all other families.
What the administration accomplished
Lambda Legal won victories that allow the surviving members of same-sex couples who were barred from marriage in the past to access a key protection of marriage: Social Security survivor’s benefits. The administration chose the right side of history in standing down from appeals of these victories, which unlock millions of dollars in benefits and give a piece of dignity to thousands.
What more we need
The vestiges of marriage discrimination still live on, and they have yet to be fully remedied. From survivor pension benefits to veterans’ benefits, there are still ongoing inequalities that persist today because same-sex couples were barred from marriage in the past. We need to see a deeper commitment and proactive engagement throughout the federal government (including agencies like the IRS) to address these lingering inequities.
At every turn, the Trump administration granted licenses to discriminate to health care providers, social service agencies, and private businesses, but we know that religious freedom does not include the freedom to harm people because of those beliefs. The Biden administration must reassert protections for LGBTQ+ people when we are at our most vulnerable; in hospitals, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and foster care, and end the effort to grant a “license to discriminate” in the name of religion.
What the administration accomplished
The administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) withdrew broad exemptions from nondiscrimination requirements in federally-funded child welfare programs granted by the Trump administration, based on the religious objections of child welfare agencies that did not want to have to work with same-sex couples. Lambda Legal is still working to undo some of the harms caused by these waivers.
What more we need
The administration must be a champion for robust nondiscrimination protections, including passing the Equality Act.
The Biden administration must begin enforcing robust nondiscrimination requirements for HHS-funded programs, which provide health and welfare services to millions of vulnerable people across the country. Lambda Legal filed suit to challenge HHS’s nonenforcement of the Obama-era rule and to stop the Trump grants rule from going into effect. Every day that HHS fails to either enforce the previous rule or establish new protections, vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth, seniors, people living with HIV, and others who rely on grant-funded programs may face denials of critical supports and services.
The Biden administration must end discrimination against LGBTQ+ prospective foster parents in federal foster care programs for immigrant children. Rather than ending this discrimination, HHS has facilitated it, authorizing the segregation of LGBTQ+ would-be foster parents and sending them to alternative providers, regardless of the harm this causes to both the adults and the refugee children, who deserve the chance to be considered for placement in all homes that would best serve their individualized needs. It is well past time for HHS to stop enabling discrimination against LGBTQ+ people by agencies receiving federal tax dollars to carry out functions on behalf of the government.
The Biden administration must eliminate the so-called “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” at HHS and issue new regulations that safeguard the ability of LGBTQ+ people and people seeking reproductive health care to access the life-saving care that they need.
The Biden administration must revisit Trump-era rules lifting basic protections put in place by the Obama administration for people receiving federally-funded social services from religious organizations. To protect the religious and other interests of people receiving services, those protections included requirements that the agencies post notices advising people receiving services that they are protected against discrimination and may request a referral to an alternate provider if they are uncomfortable receiving services in that religious setting. Lambda Legal and our partners sued the Trump administration to block those rules and the litigation is ongoing.
In the final days of the Trump administration, the Department of Labor announced it was changing the rules that limit the freedom of companies receiving federal contracts to discriminate based on religion against their employees. The new Trump rules took effect in January 2021, and allowed nearly all such contractors to claim religious rights to discriminate, even large, for-profit companies with no evident religious aspects to the goods or services they wish to sell to the federal government. This type of contracting rule, which makes equal workplace opportunity a condition of receiving taxpayer-funded contracts, has been critical to efforts to reduce many kinds of discrimination against workers, including discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. The Biden administration has proposed rescinding the Trump rules but has not yet done so.
The Trump administration repeatedly relied on a distorted, legally mistaken interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to justify many policies designed to facilitate special religious exemptions from rules that usually apply equally to everyone to protect others against many types of harm, including the harms of discrimination. The Biden administration should issue formal legal guidance correcting the prior opinions so that federal agencies and the general public have appropriate directions about the protections and limits of religious freedom under federal law.
The Trump administration called efforts to train medical and other personnel on the pernicious effects of systemic racism “un-American” and issued an executive order banning the use of federal funds for such training. The Biden administration must reverse and repudiate this order and the many other racist directives and policies of outgoing President Trump, such as the Muslim travel ban and other attacks on Black and brown communities.
What the administration accomplished
In September 2020, then-President Trump issued an Executive Order prohibiting Federal contractors and grantees from instituting diversity training programs that discuss implicit bias or other such “divisive concepts.” Understanding that there cannot be any LGBTQ+ equality without race equity, Lambda Legal obtained the only nationwide injunction prohibiting enforcement of this racist executive order. On January 20, 2021, as one of his first acts in office, President Biden rescinded Trump’s racist executive order and replaced it with a new one, the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.
Also, on January 20, 2021, President Biden revoked then-President Trump’s Muslim Ban Executive Order, referring to it as a “stain on our national conscience” and “inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.” Lambda Legal participated in multiple challenges to the Muslim Ban, because the LGBTQ+ community knows all too well that official government discrimination against a persecuted group contributes to irrational prejudice and violence.
On January 25, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce.
What more we need
The Biden administration must do all it can to encourage the Senate to pass the NO BAN Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion in numerous immigration-related decisions.
As commander-in-chief of the military, one of the world’s largest employers, President Biden must end the ban on open service by transgender people and ensure that Pentagon leadership understands that our patriotic transgender service members have a right to serve their country openly, as who they are, and free from discrimination.
What the administration accomplished
President Biden rescinded the Trans Military Ban on January 25, 2021 with an Executive Order. This action, taken in coordination with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, ended the years-long nightmare for the thousands of brave transgender people who were already serving or who wish to serve our country.
What more we need
The Biden administration should champion legislation prohibiting discrimination in the Armed Forces that would prohibit future administrations from reimposing a ban on open service.
School is tough enough without bullying from the federal government. The Biden administration must get the Department of Education back in the business of protecting the educational opportunities of all students, and in particular, should end its relentless assault on the ability of transgender students to be their authentic selves and to have equal opportunity.
What the administration accomplished
Consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling and analysis in Bostock v. Clayton County, the Department of Education published a notice of interpretation to clarify that Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, the Departments of Justice and Education issued a resource for students and families entitled “Confronting Anti-LGBTQI+ Harassment in Schools.” The notice of interpretation and fact sheet are currently the subject of ongoing litigation.
The Department of Education held public hearings regarding Title IX in June 2021 and invited students, educators, and members of the public to provide comments on steps the agency can take to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in educational environments.
The Department of Justice filed statements of interests or briefs in cases challenging laws or policies discriminating against trans youth in schools, including in Lambda Legal’s challenges to West Virginia’s ban on sports participation by trans youth (B.P.J. v. West Virginia) and a Florida school district’s discriminatory restroom policy.
What more we need
President Biden needs to speak out forcibly, and often, in staunch defense of trans and gender nonconforming youth. This administration should use all tools available, including the bully pulpit, to stem the tide of anti-trans laws.
Additionally, the proposed rules should add a new regulation clarifying that Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the application of any rules of appearance; that dress and grooming codes shall not be written or enforced in a manner that disproportionately impacts LGBTQI+ students; and that dress and grooming codes shall not be written or enforced based on gender stereotypes.
With respect to school-based policing, the Department of Education should gather examples of quality, effective training for school-based police on child development, implicit bias, and reducing the disparate impact of school policing on: youth of color, youth with disabilities, LGBTQI+ and GNC children and youth, and children and youth at the intersection of those identities.
Every American needs access to affordable, quality health care. And the COVID-19 global pandemic has exposed how barriers to health care can put vulnerable communities at great risk. The Trump administration was relentless in its efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act and to restrict the ability of many—including LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV—to access care, regardless of who they are. The Biden administration’s Department of Justice should stop trying to undermine health care in our courts, and its Department of Health and Human Services should be fighting for quality health care, free from discrimination or harassment.
What the administration accomplished
The Biden administration appointed Rachel Levine, the highest-ranking and first Senate-confirmed openly transgender U.S. government official in U.S. history, to the post of Assistant Secretary for Health.
HHS announced that, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock, it would interpret the health care nondiscrimination law, enacted as Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in health care programs that received federal funding.
The Biden administration issued proposed rules that prohibit qualified health insurance plans sold in the health exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, or from adopting designs that exclude coverage of gender-affirming health care for transgender people.
President Biden issued an Executive Order on Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, which orders HHS and other federal agencies to examine policies or practices that may present unnecessary barriers to individuals and families attempting to access Medicaid or ACA coverage.
President Biden also issued an Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery, which establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to develop recommendations for mitigating the health inequities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing future inequities.
President Biden revoked Executive Order 13828, which created barriers for low-income people to access federal benefit assistance, including Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
The Biden administration’s Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in a case challenging Arkansas’s dangerous and discriminatory ban on the provision of medically necessary gender-affirming health care to transgender minors suffering from gender dysphoria.
The Biden administration supported access to abortion by suing Texas to strike down its unconstitutional abortion ban; defending the right to access abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, calling for passage of a federal law that would protect access to abortion; and removing the in-person requirement for dispensing mifepristone.
What more we need
In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration finalized a rule eliminating protections for LGBTQ+ people and people with limited English proficiency, among others, under the health care nondiscrimination law, enacted as Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Lambda Legal successfully stopped some parts of the Trump health care rule from taking effect. However, other parts remain in effect and the administration must issue new regulations reversing the Trump health care rule without delay.
And as previously stated, HHS must rescind the notice of nonenforcement of the 2016 rule prohibiting discrimination by recipients of HHS funding, and it has not replaced the 2021 rulemaking. The administration must move quickly to clarify that grant recipients are prohibited from using federal funds to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in need of those services.
We need the federal government to eliminate all discriminatory barriers to transition-related health care in the systems that it operates, including the VA health system, the federal employee health benefits program (FEHB), and TRICARE, the military health system. For example, in June of 2021, VA Secretary McDonough announced a process to remove the bar on surgical gender-affirming care for transgender veterans. There has been no movement and advocates are pushing for action. The VA expects to move forward with rulemaking in July 2022. It is important for the VA to implement this policy as soon as possible to ensure that transgender veterans can obtain the care they are currently being denied and to create sufficient infrastructure to withstand future partisan attacks. Across all of its programs, the federal government should operate at the gold standard, and use its position as a key provider of health care and insurance coverage to raise the bar for the health care industry as a whole.
The Trump administration showed total disregard for family ties when it did not approve of the families involved—such as immigrant families and those headed by LGBTQ+ people—and used the power of the government to separate and undermine such families. The Biden administration must respect—not target and persecute—all families by immediately reuniting families separated at the border, by creating a pathway to citizenship that allows families to stay together, and by ensuring that LGBTQ+ families are treated the same in the eyes of the law as all others.
What the administration accomplished
Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality won victories declaring as unlawful the U.S. Department of State’s policy of treating the marital children born abroad to U.S. same-sex couples as “born out of wedlock” because they were not biologically related to both parents and therefore ineligible for recognition as U.S. citizens at birth. The administration ended this unlawful policy in May 2021. With the policy change, children born abroad to married parents, at least one of whom is a U.S. citizen, are citizens at birth if they have a biological relationship to any one of their parents.
The Biden administration rescinded the Trump “Zero Tolerance” policy of separating immigrant and asylum-seeking families and established a task force to reunite separated families.
What more we need
The families separated by the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy are entitled to damages. The Department of Justice should cease arguing that the government does not owe these traumatized families compensation for the harms inflicted upon them.
President Biden must direct the Pentagon to end its discrimination against our patriotic service members living with HIV and ensure that our military’s policies are informed by science and not outdated and stigmatizing views about who can serve our country safely, with honor and distinction.
What the administration accomplished
President Biden appointed a number of strong leaders in the spaces of HIV-related medicine and policy, including Harold Philips, Director of The White House Office of National AIDS Policy, to the administration. These expert advisors to the President know that major scientific and medical advances have transformed HIV into a chronic, manageable condition that presents essentially no risk to the health or safety of other service members.
What more we need
The Biden administration needs to address, with an inclusive policy based on health metrics, the Department of Defense Instructions that prohibit the enlistment or commissioning as officers and exclude service members who are diagnosed with HIV in the course of their military careers from deployment opportunities, which, in turn, impacts eligibility to maintain a career in the military.
President Biden must rescind the discriminatory restrictions on the military service of people living with HIV by permitting them to enlist or commission in any branch of the U.S. Armed Services. Both President Biden and Vice President Harris committed to eliminating this type of discrimination within the military.
LGBTQ+ people from around the world come to the United States, sometimes literally running for their lives. But the Trump administration tarnished our reputation as a safe harbor by making it virtually impossible for people to seek refuge in the United States and enacted historically low ceilings on the number of refugees that can be admitted. The Biden administration must reestablish asylum rules to ensure those seeking safety from persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status can find refuge in the United States.
What the administration accomplished
In January 2021, just before the Biden administration took office, Lambda Legal won a nationwide injunction stopping the Trump administration’s “Death-to-Asylum” rule from taking effect. The “Death-to-Asylum” rule would have made it virtually impossible for LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV fleeing persecution to secure asylum in the United States, as well as eliminated eligibility for asylum to anyone with a gender-based claim. Since then, the administration proposed a rule reversing some aspects of the rule in Fall 2021 and announced plans to issue a proposed rule addressing the remainder of the “Death-to-Asylum” rule in 2022.
What more we need
The Biden administration must issue new regulations to fully reverse the “Death-to-Asylum” rule and improve the ability of refugees, including those who are LGBTQ+ or living with HIV, to seek asylum within our borders.
The administration needs to end the “Remain in Mexico” Policy and stop deporting immigrants who are otherwise entitled to asylum or other forms of relief.
The administration must release from custody or detention people with underlying health conditions that make them susceptible to COVID-19. As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues, prisons, jails, and detention facilities are dangerous centers for the spread of the deadly virus.
There must be accountability when federal immigration officers and their agents engage in dangerous, dehumanizing, and often blatantly racist behavior, whether targeting LGBTQ immigrants in custody or Haitian refugees fleeing disaster.
YEAR TWO: A new year brings new concerns and goals. Therefore, in addition to the above, Lambda Legal calls upon the Biden administration to prioritize these five critical issues in Year Two.
Protect Voting Rights
Voter suppression tactics used in hostile states silence the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community, minimizing our political power and ability to inform conversations around policies that directly affect us. President Biden must convince Congress to pass the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Restoration Act, and the Washington, D.C. Admission Act to ensure the integrity of our democracy, restore the efficacy of the Voting Rights Act, and enfranchise D.C. citizens, ten percent (10%) of whom identify as LGBTQ+.
Protect Black Trans Women
Hate crimes continue to rise and each subsequent year is the deadliest year on record for transgender people. The vast majority of transgender victims are Black and brown transgender women. To help ensure their safety, the Biden administration needs to champion legislation that works to decriminalize sex work; push Congress to repeal SESTA and FOSTA; invest in research showing the harms inflicted on transgender women of color as a result of criminalizing sex work; appoint Department of Justice leadership who will investigate the epidemic of violence against Black trans people and take guidance and direction from local and state LGBTQ+ anti-violence groups on how to begin to address the epidemic; and implement the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, which was included in the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, by adopting a community-based approach that is inclusive of LGBTQ+ communities.
Protect the Constitutional Rights of Trans People in Federal Custody
Being in federal custody does not mean one loses all of one’s rights. The Biden administration must reverse the Trump administration’s changes to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Policy Manual regarding the housing of incarcerated trans people. Furthermore, it should establish policies and procedures ensuring that incarcerated trans people have access to gender-affirming health care, including surgical care, and establish policies and procedures that address names and pronouns, search protocols, and housing determinations. And finally, the administration must ensure that the constitutional and statutory rights of LGBTQ+ people in federal custody are protected in re-entry programs.
Collect Data on LGBTQ+ People and People Living with HIV
Systemic inequities in our society disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV in a myriad of ways, but the government does not have enough data on sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, and the intersection of other identities to adequately understand and address these inequities. The administration must collect additional data, provide analysis, and release to the public findings on HIV-related disparities in stigma, discrimination, new infections, knowledge of status, and more among marginalized segments of our society. Additionally, the administration should initiate new rulemaking to reinstate the national collection of data on tribal and LGBTQ+ foster youth and foster and adoptive parents and guardians; reinstate the collection of information about trans older adults in the National Survey of Older Americans; and develop best practices and technical assistance for schools for collecting sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression-related demographic information of youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and of youth experiencing homelessness or school arrests, and prioritize the safety and well-being of these youth, especially LGBTQ+ youth of color, in the data collection process.
Update HIV Policies to Reflect Science and Reject Stigma
Although we welcomed the FDA’s change in 2020 from a 12-month to a 3-month deferral for blood donations from men who have sex with men as a step in the right direction, the FDA can and should implement a policy that is based on a person’s actual risk behaviors instead of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For years, Lambda Legal has urged the FDA to adopt an approach that looks to actual risk factors based on a person’s sexual activity and safer sex practices rather than blanket approaches that disqualify gay men along with many trans people and others in our community who would welcome the opportunity to donate in light of our nation’s blood shortage.
Click here to download the full PDF of this report.
Sex workers and strippers explained how the pandemic has forced them into unsafe working conditions and hit them financially.
United Sex Workers is a trade union branch organising for better working conditions and to change the sex work industry from within. Among its aims is to establish ‘worker’ status for strippers and sex workers, which bestows basic employment rights such as sick pay and annual leave.
Its work has become even more important during the pandemic, which has seen strip clubs fall quiet and close down, and has seen sex workers often forced to gamble with their safety in order to make a living.
While some people have been able to work remotely during the pandemic, many people’s livelihoods depend on in-person contact.
To make matters worse, sex workers are classed as self-employed, meaning they can’t access sick pay or other benefits. The result is that many sex workers are left struggling to make ends meet if they test positive for COVID-19.
That puts sex workers in a uniquely difficult position – how do you stay afloat when you have no guaranteed income and no safety net to fall back on?
We spoke to members of United Sex Workers to find out what it’s been like to work in the sex industry since the arrival of the Omicron variant. They spoke about financial instability, the fear that comes with being exposed to COVID-19, and working with riskier clients in a bid to make ends meet.
Surnames have been withheld to protect identities.
December is always a slow month, yet the Omicron wave reduced it to a glacial pace. When I tested positive for COVID over Christmas it meant I had to take 10 full days off work, which only increased the anxiety I felt about not being able to make rent. When you’re self-employed, 10 days of work can mean the difference between paying bills or subsisting on super noodles. I had to take on potentially dangerous clients I would have usually refused to see just to make ends meet, alongside juggling the health anxiety of being so close to strangers in the middle of a global pandemic.
Being a hooker, I was unable to access any financial support from the government earlier in the year, and any savings I had at the start of the pandemic are now long gone, so all I can do is continue to see clients and hope I don’t fall ill again. The longer the pandemic stretches on, the more terrified I am of never being able to financially recover. I often wonder if this perpetual anxiety is how it would feel if sex work were criminalised; having to take riskier bookings due to there being less clients, knowing that with each booking I’m gambling with my own safety.
My work phone was quieter than usual and I needed to take any booking I could. This meant that I screened less than usual and men tried to push my boundaries a bit more I think because they knew I was desperate for the money.
This is what it might be like if we have the Nordic model, the nicer clients will behave and not come out and the bad clients will still be there and they will know that we need the money and push us.
Omicron has hit the stripping industry really hard. November and December is usually the best time of the year for dancers, but this year it has been very quiet. We saw a massive decline in the number of customers visiting our clubs, as Christmas parties and stag dos were often cancelled. This, combined with the arrival of COVID passports has made it incredibly hard for strippers to make a decent amount of money. A lot of us also tested positive for COVID and have had to self-isolate and miss out on work. Due to being self-employed, we had no access to sick pay.
The last two years have been incredibly hard for the industry. A number of clubs did not get any financial support as a result of their local authority discriminating against them simply because of the nature of those establishments. This has led to the closure of some clubs which did not manage to make it through the pandemic. Some of them tried to recoup their financial losses through higher house fees, fines given to the workers for very arbitrary reasons, and booking more dancers than they usually would, making it harder for everyone to make money.
Many strippers are queer, and a significant proportion of the customer base also is.
Some cities such as Bristol, Edinburgh and Blackpool have used those difficult times to try and introduce nil-caps, essentially a ban, on strip clubs. Blackpool has unfortunately been successful, although the process they went through to achieve this was more than questionable. No decision has been made in Bristol and Edinburgh so far. Those decisions from local authorities have received a massive backlash from the industry itself, with us dancers in Bristol organising ourselves with the Bristol Sex Workers Collective and advocating against the ban, arguing it would push the industry underground and make us unsafe. We have been supported by our trade union United Sex Workers, which is also campaigning against nil-caps.
These caps would not only endanger the dancers, who would lose safe and regulated workplaces, but it would also be a huge loss for the LGBTQ+ community. Many strippers are queer, and a significant proportion of the customer base also is. Closing them down would once again be removing safe spaces for the community, due to the high security presence in those venues and the very strict licensing.
I tested positive for COVID along with many others in the week leading up to Christmas. This meant that I had to isolate and therefore couldn’t work. It was very stressful to be sat at home with no income worrying that if there was another lockdown I could be facing even more losses and that I could struggle to pay my rent and bills. There’s no furlough pay and no sick pay if you’re a sex worker. I just wish that we had access to these basic rights so that we can feel protected and supported along with other workers.
At the start of COVID, I managed to take a few months off sex work because I had a few days work each week in a civvie job. When money got tight I started seeing clients again and, perhaps due to their mental health being bad, and mine too, the sessions were so difficult, with clients pushing boundaries or being more emotionally intense than usual and less respectful of boundaries.
Touch also felt strange after so long avoiding human contact. I was missing the people I wanted to be close to so much, so the touch from those I didn’t love felt stifling. I also think, as sex work is so stigmatised and I have internalised some of that, I was worried about spreading COVID that I’d picked up via clients, as if this somehow was worse than if I’d picked it up working in an office.
You can join the United Sex Workers trade union or find out more about the work they do here.
Jim Obergefell, who was at the center of the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized marriage equality in the United States, announced Tuesday that he is running for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.
“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement.
Obergefell, 55, was not involved in politics before the Supreme Court case. In 2015, a Washington Post profile described him as “a soft-spoken real estate broker with little previous interest in political activism.”
On Martin Luther King Jr Day, we revisit the legendary civil rights leader’s relationship with LGBT+ rights.
Dr King’s legacy is towering and complex. He devoted his life to – and was ultimately murdered for – advancing the rights of Black Americans, rallying against the “three major evils” – racism, poverty and war. But when looking back at his life and work, it is of course natural to wonder about the things that largely went unsaid. For many, queer Black folk in particular, his stance on LGBT+ rights is a topic of much conversation.
During his lifetime, Martin Luther King Jr was not a vocal advocate for gay rights (he was assassinated a year before Stonewall, in 1968), nor did he speak out against them. One of the rare (if not only) examples of him discussing sexuality publicly comes from an advice column written in 1958, in which an anonymous boy who felt “about boys the way I ought to feel about girls” asked Dr King what he could do, or where he could “go for help”.
“Your problem is not at all an uncommon one,” Dr King replied. “However, it does require careful attention. The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired.
“Your reasons for adopting this habit have now been consciously suppressed or unconsciously repressed. Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit.
“In order to do this I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist who can assist you in bringing to the forefront of conscience all of those experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognise the problem and have a desire to solve it.”
Were such words written in 2020, they would rightly be condemned. Do they indicate that Dr King saw homosexuality as something that could, in this boy’s case at the very least, be fixed? It seems so. Attitudes like this were hugely prevalent at the time, with the LGBT+ community under constant attack from the government and by society.
However, they were usually combined with an aggression and a hate that was entirely absent in Dr King’s response. It’s possible that he both believed this boy’s sexuality could be changed, and truly believed in equality for all, with no exception.
The opinions of those who knew and loved him, however, suggest he was no homophobe.
Bayard Rustin on Martin Luther King Jr: ‘He would not have had the prejudicial view’
Bayard Rustin, the legendary organiser of the 1963 March on Washington, became one of Dr King’s most trusted advisors while he was organising the Montgomery bus boycott and was influential in his adoption of non-violence tactics. He was also a gay man.
In 1987, almost 20 years after Dr King’s assassination, Rustin approached the subject of his attitudes towards gay people in an essay.
“It is difficult for me to know what Dr King felt about gayness except to say that I’m sure he would have been sympathetic and would not have had the prejudicial view,” he wrote.
“Otherwise he would not have hired me. He never felt it necessary to discuss that with me.”
Rustin said this his own gayness “was not problem for Dr King but a problem for the movement”, explaining that eventually some of the reverend’s inner circle eventually “came to the decision that my sex life was a burden” and “advised him that he should ask me to leave”.
“I told Dr King that if advisors closest to him felt I was a burden, then rather than put him in a position that he had to say leave, I would go,” he continued.
“He was just so harassed that I felt it was my obligation to relieve him of as much of that as I could.” After the split, Rustin said, King “continued to call on me, over and over”.
Dr King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, certainly believed his central mission was inclusive of LGBT+ rights, even if he remained quiet.
Coretta Scott King was a tireless gay rights campaigner
In 1998, addressing a Lamda Legal anniversary luncheon, Mrs King said: “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people, and I should stick to the issue of racial justice.
“But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr said: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”
Mrs King was a tireless LGBT+ rights campaigner, coming out in support of the groundbreaking Gay and Civil Rights Act that would have banned anti-gay discrimination in many public arenas in 1983.
Until her death in 2016 she continued to fight for LGBT+ equality: calling on then-president Bill Clinton to stop the gay military ban in 1993 and condemning George W Bush in 2004 for his anti-marriage equality stance.
Declaring marriage equality a civil rights issue at the time, she said: “With this faith and this commitment we will create the beloved community of Martin Luther King Jr’s dream, where all people can live together in a spirit of trust and understanding, harmony, love and peace.”
On the other hand, there are those who have positioned Dr King’s legacy as against LGBT+ rights. Most notable, his own daughter, Bernice King, said in 2004 her father “did not take a bullet for same-sex unions” while campaigning against marriage equality (though it appears she has since changed her own position, having welcomed the 2015 Supreme Court ruling on the matter).
Those who believe Dr King would have supported the community have dismissed Bernice King’s words, noting that she would have been approaching five-years-old when her father died and therefore, couldn’t possibly know his view on the matter.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to know what Dr King’s true position was. The fights for queer liberation and Black liberation have overlapped and diverged and various points in history – and continue to do so to this day. Neither community (not its intersection) is a monolith, and no person is all good or all bad.
It’s impossible to say exactly how Martin Luther King Jr felt about LGBT+ people and their rights simply because he isn’t around to tell us. On the evidence and testimonies available, it seems his thinking was flawed, but not malign, and he may well have considered himself empathetic to the community. Ultimately, the biggest crime is that he isn’t around to tell us today.
American Idol star Clay Aiken has launched a second congressional bid after being inspired to fight hate perpetuated by North Carolina’s top lawmakers.
Aiken was the runner-up on the second season of American Idol in 2003. Afterwards, he launched a music and acting career – even appearing as acontestant on Celebrity Apprentice hosted by former president Donald Trump.
In 2014 he turned his attention to politics, winning the Democratic primary in North Carolina’s second congressional district, but he was defeated in the general election by Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers.
“He gave a speech in which he said: ‘What is the purpose of homosexuality? What purpose do homosexuals serve?’” Aiken said.
He continued: “I watched that sort of with just dumbstruck awe that someone could be so ignorant.
After watching it, I said, you know, ‘I got your purpose, bitch. I will show you’.”
Aiken described himself as a “North Carolinian” his entire life, adding his family has “been here since the 1700s”. He said Robinson’s anti-LGBT+ hatred made him “really think about the reputation” the state has “gotten over the past several years”.
“In my entire life, I’ve never known a time when this state has had a reputation that wasn’t progressive and welcoming and friendly,” he added.
He added that some friends wouldn’t want to visit because they didn’t feel “comfortable in North Carolina”. Aiken said he was “sick” that his beloved state has such a reputation, and he isn’t “willing” to let it continue any longer.
“And that p**ses me the hell off,” he said. “Because this area is not like that, and the fact that people outside of this state have this opinion or this perception of North Carolina based on people like Mark Robinson and Madison Cawthorn.”
A group of North Carolina voters have launched a bid to keep Cawthorn, a Republican congressman, off the ballot in this year’s midterm elections, citing his alleged involvement in the 6 January Capitol riot.
Cawthorn claimed the election was stolen from Trump during the “Save America Rally” before the riot and has been accused of firing up the crowd, The Guardian reported.
A group of voters have said that Cawthorn can’t run for Congress because he fails to comply with an amendment in the Constitution.
The 1868 amendment says no one can serve in Congress if they have “previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same”.
Nearly seven years after the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage the law of the land, New Jersey enacted a law Monday to protect this relatively new right throughout the Garden State.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges — which legalized sex-marriage nationwide in 2015 — New Jersey’s state courts had already struck down a same-sex marriage ban in 2013.
But as a majority of the Supreme Court’s conservative justices appeared open to overturning Roe v. Wade last month, new fears that the court could also make an about-face on the Obergefell ruling have prompted some lawmakers to enshrine same-sex marriage into state law.
“We’ve been fighting for marriage equality for decades, and to turn back the clock would be devastating,” New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, who co-sponsored the newly passed bill, told NBC News. “I can’t emphasize enough the fact that we need to safeguard it in light of what’s happening on a federal level today.”
Both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature passed the bill last month, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed it into law Monday.
“Despite the progress we have made as a country, there is still much work to be done to protect the LGBTQ+ community from intolerance and injustice,” Murphy said in a statement. “New Jersey is stronger and fairer when every member of our LGBTQ+ family is valued and given equal protection under the law.”
Last month, the Supreme Court heard 90 minutes of oral arguments concerning a Mississippi law that would ban almost all abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A majority of the court’s conservative justices appeared prepared to uphold the law and possibly overturn Roe v. Wade — the 1973 landmark decision holding that women have a constitutional right to have an abortion before fetal viability, usually around 24 weeks.
The prospect of the 1973 ruling being overturnedhas prompted fears among lawmakers and LGBTQ advocates that the justices might also walk back precedent on a range of other cases, including Obergefell.
Before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, 37 states and U.S. territories had already legalized marriage equality. But of those, only 19 had legalized the nuptials through state legislation, according to an NBC News analysis. Therefore, if the Supreme Court were to overturn Obergefell, same-sex marriage would be prohibited in the majority of the country and vulnerable in states where it was not written into law.
“The Supreme Court right now is showing us that nothing is guaranteed,” West Virginia Del. Cody Thompson said. “A lot of things that we take for granted right now, that we think are enshrined and are safe, ultimately now we’re realizing are not safe and are not necessarily always going to be there for us unless we remain vigilant.”
In response to the court’s oral arguments on reproductive rights, Thompson and fellow West Virginia Del. Danielle Walker — who are the Legislature’s only out LGBTQ lawmakers — said they will introduce a bill this month to codify same-sex marriage into law, similar to the legislation New Jersey enacted this week. West Virginia legalized same-sex marriage through litigation in 2014, but it never enshrined the right through legislation.
While the court’s seeming willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade has sparked fears among some state lawmakers, lawyers who argued in favor of gay rights in landmark LGBTQ cases shot down the notion that the high court would overturn the same-sex marriage decision even if given the opportunity to do so.
“I appreciate that you have legislatures who are trying to step in and do what they can to update their laws,” said Mary Bonauto, who argued on behalf of same-sex couples in Obergefell and now serves as the civil rights project director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD. “We all just have to be careful to avoid giving credence to the idea that reversing Obergefell is inevitable. We are not expecting this. It would be outrageous.”
Bonauto added that Obergefell was “constitutionally correct” because the court has repeatedly made clear that “marriage is a choice for the individual to make and not the government” and is “part of equality.”
Over the last several decades, the court has struck down laws when states tried to prevent people from marrying on the basis of their race, criminal history and their ability to pay child support payments.
Paul Smith, who argued in favor of gay rights in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state laws criminalizing consensual same-sex activity in 2003, agreed with Bonauto, saying it is “unlikely” that the court would overturn Obergefell because it is “incredibly popular.”
Support for same-sex marriage among Americans reached an all-time high last year, according to a June Gallup Poll, with 70 percent of Americans — including a majority of conservatives — in favor of it.
“The court would be shooting itself in the foot if it were to do this,” Smith said.
Regardless, in 2020, following the Supreme Court’s rejection of an appeal from Kim Davis, a former Kentucky county clerk who denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples, two of the court’s conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, issued a blistering rebuke of the Obergefell ruling and signaled that they would be open to reversing it.
The justices said Davis “may have been one of the first victims of this Court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision, but she will not be the last,” adding that the high court “has created a problem that only it can fix.”
Some legal experts pointed to this statement and some of the court’s more recent rulings involving same-sex couples as evidence that marriage equality remains vulnerable.
“The justices have been asked to chip away at the equality and liberty of same-sex couples in a variety of different contexts, and the Supreme Court has not done an adequate job in recent years of rebuffing those efforts,” said Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation for LGBTQ civil rights organization Lambda Legal. “And so, certainly our opponents feel like they have an open invitation right now.”
On January 6, 2021, Trump supporters who believed that President Joe Biden had secretly and successfully stolen millions of ballots across multiple states to usurp the presidency stormed the Capitol with the intent of stopping Congress from accepting the states’ election results.
The crowd chanted for the death of Mike Pence – who was presiding over the Senate that day – and fashioned a makeshift noose as elected officials were swept to safety by the Secret Service and Capitol Police.
He has been charged with unlawfully entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds.
After the charges were announced, Shroyer released a video claiming his innocence and that he was merely at the Capitol as a journalist.
Yet the complaint filed against him quotes his appearance in a video that day saying, “Today we march for the Capitol because on this historic January 6, 2021, we have to let our Congressmen and women know, and we have to let Mike Pence know, they stole the election, we know they stole it, and we aren’t going to accept it!”
Mark Sahady is the Vice President of the far-right conservative group Super Happy Fun America (SHFA) and was arrested after the riots for entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disruptive and disorderly conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.
On its website, SHFA describes itself as “a right of center civil rights organization focusing on defending the Constitution, opposing gender madness and defeating cultural Marxism.”
It’s tagline: “It’s Great to be Straight.”
In 2019, Sahady was an organizer for the group’s infamous Straight Pride Parade in Boston, the city where he would be arrested in January 2021.
Gina Michelle Bisignano
Gina Michelle Bisignano, a Trump supporter who made headlines in 2020 for shouting anti-gay slurs at an anti-mask protest, was arrested last January for participating in the Capitol riots.
“You’re a faggot,” Bisignano, said in the viral video from December 2020. “I said it. I don’t give a shit. You’re disgusting. You’re a New World Order Satanist.”
Bisignano owns Gina’s Eyelashes and Skincare salon in Beverly Hills and was taken into custody by the FBI on charges of civil disorder, destruction of government property, and aiding and abetting in connection with the January 6 riots at the Capitol.
“Everybody, we need gas masks, we need weapons,” a woman believed to be Bisignano shouts on a megaphone in a video posted to social media during the riots. “We need strong, angry patriots to help our boys, they don’t want to leave. We need protection.”
In another video, a woman who identifies herself as Bisignano at the MAGA riots said, “I’m a patriot!”
Suzanne Ianni, the operations director of Super Happy Fun America, was arrested for entering a restricted building or grounds as well as disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
The international news agency Agence France Presse captured photographs of Ianni inside the Capitol on January 6, MetroWest Daily News reported in July. Ianni also reportedly helped organize 11 buses of protestors that traveled from Massachusetts to Washington to denounce President Joe Biden’s victory.
After police officer Kevin Tuck was charged for participating in the riots, he began ranting on YouTube about how he believes it’s unjust that people are getting arrested for rioting in Congress.
“Patriots were fed up – fed up,” he said about that day, calling himself “Pastor Kevin.”
“Patriots are being arrested left and right for trespassing. You’ve got to be kidding me.”
He told conservatives to “rise up” and said that the GOP is supporting “alternative lifestyles.”
“The Republican Party is weak,” he said. “We need to rise up and be conservative again. Do you remember what conservative means, Republicans? Hear me out: We are embracing the homosexual lifestyle as if this is normal.”
“Was that your motivation for going to Washington?” she asked. He said he couldn’t answer without talking to his attorney first.
Prosecutors say that Tuck texted his family immediately after the insurrection: “We stormed the Capitol, fought the police, took the flag. It is our flag.”
Tuck was charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, aiding and abetting, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, entering and remaining in the Gallery of Congress, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
Pioneering Chinese-American gay rights activist and social worker Jim Toy, widely considered to be the first gay man to come out publicly in Michigan, has died at the age of 91.
Toy died on 1 January, according to Washtenaw county commissioner Jason Morgan, who shared the news on social media.
“Jim Toy was and will always be a champion for LGBTQ rights and the our community,” said Morgan. “He was a mentor, friend and someone I admired. I am honoured to have known Jim.”
Morgan added that Toy helped pass LGBT+ protections throughout Washtenaw county, founded the first on-campus LGBT+ resource centre at the University of Michigan, and spent his life fighting for LGBT+ equality – so much so, that he was the namesake of the The Jim Toy Community Center, a resource for the community in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and greater Washtenaw County.
Toy came out as gay at a rally in Detroit in 1970, where he was representing the Detroit Gay Liberation Front, of which he was a founding member.
In 2015, Toy described this moment to the Ann Arbor News: “Our speaker at the anti-Vietnam War rally in Detroit said he wasn’t going to speak, so finally I spoke, and I came out. That was April 15, 1970.”
Toy was a trained clinical social worker, who graduated from the University of Michigan and then worked at the university, first as a diversity coordinator and then helping to establish the university’s human sexuality office – the first on-campus centre in history dedicated to supporting people from sexual-minority groups.
He also founded the Ann Arbor Gay Hotline in 1972, wrote the city’s sexual orientation non-discrimination policy, and in 1971 was appointed to the Diocesan Commission on Homosexuality by the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan – helping to inspire more support for LGBT+ people within Christian churches.
A regular at political rallies and a trailblazer for gay rights, Toy said in 2020: “I am committed to making as much trouble as I can to create and maintain justice.”
Remembering Jim Toy, many spoke to how he had advocated for the gay community since the 1970s, when he raised awareness of anti-gay discrimination and wrote policies to protect the gay community.
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell said Toy was a “champion for equality”.
“He was a trailblazer not only for LGBTQ rights in Michigan but across the country. And he was a dear friend to me and John. Throughout his life, he worked to ensure that Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County communities were safe spaces where residents could live with pride in who they are and without fear of discrimination.
“Often I think about Jim’s words, ‘I am committed to making as much trouble as I can to create and maintain justice.’ He fought with every bone in his body to support the LGBTQ community, to fight for marriage equality, to ensure protections for so many.
“Love continues to win because of the dedication that Jim put into his work. We owe so much to him and it’s on all of us to ensure his legacy continues. I’m thinking about his family, friends, and the Ann Arbor community as we mourn this great loss.”