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Karine Jean-Pierre becomes first Black and LGBTQ+ White House Press Secretary

On May 5, 2022, President Joe Biden announced the historic appointment of Karine Jean-Pierre to be the next White House Press Secretary. Jean-Pierre, a veteran of the Obama-Biden administration and Kamala Harris 2020 presidential campaign, would serve as the first Black, first immigrant, and first out LGBTQ+ person in the role. Prior to her appointment, Jean-Pierre served as the deputy press secretary to her predecessor Jen Psaki and held multiple advisory and press roles with MSNBC, NBC News, and MoveOn.org. President Biden spoke fondly of her in a White House press release:

"Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people. Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration."

LGBTQ+ Victory Institute – which advocates for the appointment of LGBTQ+ federal officials – celebrated the news with a statement.

“Karine is a lifelong public servant and fierce LGBTQ+ advocate,” said Annise Parker, LGBTQ+ Victory Institute President & CEO..  “We are proud to have advocated for her historic nomination. As White House press secretary, she will not only be able to use her podium to represent the Biden administration, but also the LGBTQ+ community during a time of unprecedented anti-LGBTQ hate and attacks. As the first out LGBTQ+ person and the first Black person to hold this office, her appointment will inspire countless young people looking for hope and motivation during a dark chapter in our nation’s history. Shattering this lavender ceiling is a testament to Karine’s grit, power and commitment to our country’s potential. We are confident she will continue to be a strong ally and partner as she works in the highest office of the land.”

Listen to Psaki’s congratulatory message and Jean-Pierre's thoughts on the historic moment here:

The Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

Pride Month 2022 ended with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Made two days shy of the eight-year anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage, this ruling reversed the constitutional right to abortion as decided by 1973’s Roe v. Wade. Statements, like those made by Justice Clarance Thomas, left room for increased anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.  

In his concurring opinion to the Court, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested a reconsideration of the Court’s stance on additional cases regarding one’s right to privacy previously ruled as protected under the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

. . . in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold [contraception], Lawrence [consensual, adult non-procreative sexual activity], and Obergefell [same-sex marriage]. Because any substantive due process decision is 'demonstrably erroneous,'  we have a duty to “correct the error” established by those precedents.

After a draft of the Court’s June 24th decision was leaked, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights and 90 other LGBTQ+ organizations in an open letter to lawmakers in strong support of the right to abortion and its importance in our fight toward LGBTQ+ equality.

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President & CEO Annise Parker also released the following statement:

Our worst fears have come to pass. With partial or complete abortion bans and trigger laws encoded at the state level across the country, millions of Americans have lost their right to make life-saving medical decisions about their own bodies. This assault on our fundamental freedoms by a Supreme Court willing to choose politics over precedent will cost lives and will disproportionally affect access to critical reproductive health care for people of color and low-income communities. It may also have cascading effects on legal cases pertaining to the LGBTQ community, especially for trans and nonbinary people as they face an unprecedented increase in legal and legislative attacks.
Our nation must confront the devastating reality that we can no longer rely on the Court to protect our most basic rights. Lawmakers must now determine what freedoms we have and which we don’t for the foreseeable future. We call on policymakers in all branches and at all levels of government to use every tool available to fight to keep abortion legal and accessible.
This cannot and will not stand. We must go into this election cycle with fury, determined to replace those who helped create this catastrophe with pro-choice champions. The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines or remain silent.

Congress Passes the Respect for Marriage Act

On December 13, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) into law. Originally introduced in 2009 under the Obama administration, RFMA repealed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which banned federal regulations of same-sex marriages and legally defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law, however, supported RFMA upon its 2009 introduction.  

Following the 2013 United States v. Windsor and 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decisions, DOMA was deemed obsolete, tabling the progress of RFMA. However, Clarence Thomas’ aforementioned statement warranted a reintroduction of the Act including a codification of protections outlined in Lovings v. Viriginia, which lead to its successful passage. Hundreds, including act champion and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI-D), witnessed the signing at a ceremony on the White House South Lawn. The ceremony included musical performances and speeches by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.

President Joe Biden signing the Respect for Marriage Act; source: Flickr (The White House)

LGBTQ+ Victory Institute President & CEO Annise Parker commented on the historic act:

When we read Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, we knew it was intended to be a rallying cry for anti-equality forces demanding that marriage equality be on the chopping block next. We also understood that with a Supreme Court bent on choosing politics over precedent, enshrining LGBTQ freedoms into federal law once and for all was essential.
Representation is power. Despite lacking equitable representation, our LGBTQ Congressional delegation consistently punches above their weight. We aren’t always the loudest, we aren’t always the most visible, but we have the grit and thick skins to fight the hardest.
Senator Baldwin is a true political juggernaut and has solidified her place as one of the greatest LGBTQ leaders of all time. The personal conversations she had behind closed doors with reluctant colleagues certainly changed hearts and minds and led to today’s result.
This landmark piece of legislation protects the marriages of millions of LGBTQ Americans who have not slept well for months, wondering if our marriages would be dissolved by an activist court. While the Respect for Marriage Act is undoubtedly one of the most important pro-LGBTQ laws ever passed, it does not require states to grant marriages to LGBTQ couples. Until then, our fight is not over.
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