It's been a very bad weekend. We will support each other, though, and the work will continue.
A mass shooting left five dead at the “only safe space” for queer people in Colorado Springs. Another Supreme Court leak raises more legitimacy questions. And Musk keeps degrading Twitter.
From our government institutions to our online infrastructure to the few truly queer spaces across our country, Saturday was a day of news about how they are all being attacked — often by those in charge and almost always to the detriment of the most vulnerable.
The New York Times published a bombshell report first thing Saturday morning making a pretty persuasive case that Justice Samuel Alito, directly or through his wife, leaked the result of the Hobby Lobby case in 2014, along with his authorship of the majority opinion in the case, to people strongly supporting Hobby Lobby’s side in the culture wars. (Alito, of course, denies it.)
It’s the third major story following Rev. Rob Schenck’s journey from an anti-abortion crusader to a man who appears to be seeking to acknowledge the harm he believes now that he caused. Earlier stories addressed parts of his former group’s efforts to influence the justices, including claims of praying with the justices in the Supreme Court building. This, however, was the first report that made the claim that the effort resulted in a leak of a case outcome.
It’s excellent reporting on the rot in the court that keeps raising more and more questions about the court’s legitimacy. As Jay Willis wrote:
The Court’s 6-3 conservative supermajority makes it the most important source of right-wing political power in America today, and the life tenure its members enjoy protects them from ever facing consequences for cheerfully abusing it. Alito is and has always been what he long insisted he is not: a loyal Republican foot soldier who happens to work across the street from the Capitol, instead of inside it.
As I noted on Twitter, the NYT story also raises, but doesn’t resolve, questions about planned contacts with the justices in 2016 — when the justices were considering Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a major abortion case.
“Don and I have been invited to a private party in Virginia to celebrate Nino’s 80th,” [Gayle Wright] wrote to [Schenck] in a January 2016 email, referring to Justice [Antonin] Scalia.
That timeline raises substantial questions, as Scalia died Feb. 13, a month before what would have been his 80th birthday on March 11. Arguments in Whole Woman’s Health were March 2. When was this private party supposed to be held? Certainly Schenck’s “Faith and Action” project would have been wanting to find out information about the vote in an abortion case if they had been making an effort to do so for Hobby Lobby. The NYT story doesn’t say more about that, though, so I am all ears if anyone has any information on that front.
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That, however, was just the start of this very bad Saturday.
The rest of this delves into hate and violence, so please skip it if you can’t or don’t want to handle that today. I’ll be back with other legal news soon enough.
On Saturday evening, Elon Musk used a Twitter poll that he ran from his personal account as his fig leaf of an excuse to reinstate Donald Trump on Twitter. His decisions to reinstate others banned for anti-transgender rhetoric (Jordan Peterson and the Babylon Bee) and his supportive engagement with Chaya Raichik, who runs the hate account Libs of Tik Tok, already signaled where he was going with this, but the Trump reinstatement understandably for many felt like a breaking point or, at least, a historical marker of the devolvement of the site’s even feigned interest in addressing hate and violence.
I don’t want to spend too much time on that, because others who know much more about those issues will be able to do a far better job at covering the implications — but also because the world didn’t get to spend too much time on that.
Overnight, before I went to bed, I saw the first reports of a possible mass shooting in Colorado. I was able to quickly ascertain, from people who just happened to be at the scene and then local journalists, that whatever happened took place in a queer space — immediately tying together the conversation about Musk’s encouragement of hate speech on Twitter in his short time owning it with the fears that a possible hate-motivated attack was taking place.
It took some time to figure out what had happened, and there is still much unknown, but America woke up today to the news that five people were killed and many more injured in a mass shooting at what a person at Club Q during the shooting described today to a local reporter as the “only safe space” for queer people in Colorado Springs.
Police report that the call for help came in at 11:57 p.m. Nov. 19 — minutes before the start of Transgender Day of Remembrance; in a time when anti-LGBTQ bills and laws, particularly anti-transgender ones, have increased exponentially; and as one of the main platforms for global activism is being made a safe space for those who spread anti-trans and, more broadly, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
It was a very bad day — with fallout for the days, months, and even years ahead. These are partially problems caused by individuals, but there also are systemic problems underlying them that we must address. There are effects — often horrible consequences — faced by individuals targeted by those exploiting these problems, but there are also effects — often intentionally — faced by groups. Those, too, must be addressed.
As with any time of crisis, however, good people are already working to confront these crises. People are working to improve our institutions, our online infrastructure, and our queer spaces. The work will continue, as it must.
Also, and as we move from the national political scene to local queer scenes, we are and will be there for each other. Vigils are already being planned and held and support is being established for those affected by the Colorado Springs shooting. Nowhere is that spirit more clearly seen than in the note posted on Facebook today by Pulse Nightclub — the queer space where a deadly 2016 mass shooting left 49 dead.
It is a heartbreaking note to read — for those who have lived through such pain now knowing that others are facing a similar pain. And yet, for Pulse, their aim is both to support their local community and also to bring support to others in this moment.
It is, even if it feels like too much, yet another time for us to prove out Tony Kushner’s claim from Prior Walter at the close of Angels in America that “the world only spins forward.”
There is much more to report on and analyze — on the legal and political fronts, about all of this and so much more — but, for today, I’ll just end with an echo of my regular Twitter refrain.
Let us try to be good to one another — and ourselves.
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These stories are connected. The religious fanaticism of Justice Alito and the hatred of transgender people stem from hatred and bigotry. It is time for those who raise certain issues to the Court to make motions to recuse and force the issue. It is time for the public to become even more aware of these issues.
I am Jewish. Chaya Raychik is a complete embarrassment to my faith.