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LGBTQ rights roundup: A court ruling, violence in a gender studies class, and more

The latest events impacting LGBTQ+ communities and their rights.

By Will Fritz - July 05, 2023
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A demonstrator holds an Intersex-inclusive Pride Flag during a press conference outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on June 30, 2023.
A demonstrator holds an Intersex-inclusive Pride Flag during a press conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on June 30, 2023, after the Court ruled against a case regarding LGBTQ protections and rules President Biden's student loan forgiveness program unconstitutional. (Photo by Bryan Olin Dozier/NurPhoto via AP)

This series is a weekly roundup of LGBTQ+-related news, covering various laws and bans, as well as efforts to push back against them.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, one of the last cases it would decide this year, that a Colorado web designer has the right to refuse service to a gay couple that may never have existed in the first place. In other news, two federal judges ruled against state bans on gender-affirming care; a Canadian gender studies professor and three students were stabbed in what police believe was a hate-motivated attack; a trans social media influencer spoke out after conservative backlash to an advertisement she appeared in; and the United States’ highest-ranking trans elected official announced she will run for Congress in 2024.

Supreme Court ruling

In a 6-3 vote on partisan lines, the U.S. Supreme Court announced on June 30 that it had ruled in favor of a Denver-area web designer who claimed she was asked to create a website for a same-sex wedding, despite questions that had been raised about whether her services were even solicited in the first place.

The plaintiff in the case, Lorie Smith, first sued the state of Colorado over its anti-discrimination law in 2016. In filings related to that lawsuit, she cited a request from a man named Stewart about doing some design work for a wedding to a man named Mike. A writer for the New Republic reported this week that Stewart said he never made that request. In fact, he said he was married to a woman at the time the request was allegedly sent to 303 Creative.

“I wouldn’t want anybody to … make me a wedding website?” Stewart, identified only by his first name, told the New Republic. “I’m married, I have a child—I’m not really sure where that came from? But somebody’s using false information in a Supreme Court filing document.”

The veracity of the case’s origins notwithstanding, the court held, in an opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, that Colorado’s law violates Smith’s right to free speech.

“In this case, Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance,” Gorsuch wrote.

In her dissent, joined by Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed to the far-reaching consequences the court’s decision could have, not just for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, but for those of other protected groups as well.

“Although the consequences of today’s decision might be most pressing for the LGBT community, the decision’s logic cannot be limited to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Sotomayor wrote. “The decision threatens to balkanize the market and to allow the exclusion of other groups from many services. A website designer could equally refuse to create a wedding website for an interracial couple, for example. How quickly we forget that opposition to interracial marriage was often because ‘Almighty God … did not intend for the races to mix.’”

President Joe Biden blasted the ruling as well.

“In America, no person should face discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love,” Biden said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s disappointing decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis undermines that basic truth, and painfully it comes during Pride month when millions of Americans across the country join together to celebrate the contributions, resilience, and strength of the LGBTQI+ community.”

Federal court rulings on gender-affirming care

Two federal judges this week blocked restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender youth before they were set to go into effect.

Judge David Hale of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, an Obama appointee, on June 28 granted a preliminary injunction against parts of Kentucky’s ban on puberty blockers and hormone treatments for trans minors.

In that case, seven trans minors and their parents sued the state over the law, alleging it violated their 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. 

The state’s Republican-dominated Legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto in March.

The same day, Judge Eli Richardson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, a Trump appointee, blocked provisions of the state’s law against gender-affirming care for minors, signed by Gov. Bill Lee in March.

The law would have gone into effect in full on July 1, including a provision forcibly detransitioning minors by requiring them to halt gender-affirming treatment by March 31, 2024.

Richardson’s decision stopped Tennessee from enforcing a ban on puberty blockers and hormone treatments, but left in place its ban on gender-affirming surgical procedures for minors.

Richardson noted in his opinion that he is far from alone in his opinion. The rulings are only the latest in a series of federal court decisions blocking similar laws.

Judge James Patrick Hanlon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana struck down an Indiana law that banned gender-affirming care for youth on June 16. Judge James Moody Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas struck down Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for minors on June 20. On June 22, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida struck down Florida’s ban on Medicaid payments for gender-affirming care.

Hanlonx is a Trump appointee, while Moody and Hinkle are Obama appointees.

Stabbing in gender studies class in Canada

On June 28, at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, a professor and three students were stabbed in a gender studies class. Police say the suspect intended to make a statement about gender identity. The alleged assailant, former student Geovanny Villalba-Aleman, is believed to have asked the professor to confirm the topic of the class before becoming violent, according to the Associated Press.

The professor, a 38-year-old woman, and two students were hospitalized with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decried the attack in a thread posted to Twitter.

“The fact that the stabbings at the University of Waterloo were hate-motivated is absolutely despicable,” Trudeau wrote. “I strongly condemn this vile act. It is another reminder that we can never let misogynistic, anti-2SLGBTQI+ rhetoric escalate – because these words have real-life consequences.”

Dylan Mulvaney speaks out against Bud Light after controversy

Dylan Mulvaney, a trans social media influencer who appeared in a Bud Light advertisement that sparked a backlash from conservatives against both her and the brand’s parent company Anheuser-Busch, said the brand did nothing to address the hate she received in the aftermath.

Though she did not address the company by name, Mulvaney said in a video posted to social media that she has been scared to leave her house for months, has been both “ridiculed in public” and followed, and that she has felt “a loneliness that I would never wish on anyone” ever since she became the focus of conservatives’ ire.

“What transpired from that video was more bullying and transphobia than I could have ever imagined,” Mulvaney said. “And I should have made this video months ago, but I didn’t. And I was scared, and I was scared of more backlash, and I felt personally guilty for what transpired, so I patiently waited for things to get better, but surprise, they haven’t really, and I was waiting for the brand to reach out to me, but they never did.”

“For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them is worse, in my opinion, than not hiring a trans person at all,” Mulvaney said. “Because it gives customers permission to be as transphobic and hateful as they want, and the hate doesn’t end with me. It has serious and grave consequences for the rest of our community.”

Anheuser-Busch said in a statement to the Associated Press: “As we’ve said, we remain committed to the programs and partnerships we have forged over decades with organizations across a number of communities, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.”

Nation’s highest-ranking trans elected official announces congressional run

Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride announced she is running to represent the state’s at-large congressional district in 2024. McBride, the highest-ranking trans elected official in the U.S., would be the first trans person to hold office in Congress if elected.

She was first elected in 2020, already making history as the nation’s first trans state elected official. She represents Delaware’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Wilmington.

“In Delaware, we’ve proven that small states can do BIG things,” McBride wrote in the June 26 tweet announcing her congressional campaign. “It’s time to do it again.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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