OutNEWS – Joyful Pride

I have a joy hangover. I’m writing this the morning after Broadway Bares – the most joyful highlight of Pride Season, in my opinion. You’ve read about it many times in this space: Broadway Bares is the 30-plus-year-old juggernaut of artistry, volunteerism, and philanthropy that once a year showcases some of the world’s best dancers, singers, and personalities (all volunteers!) coming together to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Broadway Bares sprang from the mind (and swiveling hips) of my dear friend Jerry Mitchell, who has raised more than $20 million for the community. Out Leadership has been a sponsor of Broadway Bares for years and I am very proud to share in the legacy of this extraordinary event.

So, yeah. I overindulged in joy a bit last night. Because I really needed to.

This Pride Week arrives after a series of gut punches that have left me, for the first time in a long time, feeling afraid for my community. Twice in recent months, I’ve either witnessed or have been a part of wonderful, peaceful, joyful celebrations of LGBTQ+ life that were shut down by the police for no lawful reason.

Pictured above: Alan Cumming (Tony and Olivier Award winner and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Trustee) and Nick Kenkel (Broadway Bares Executive Producer, former Broadway Bares director and choreographer) present fundraiser Jennifer Geller (Actor, Hamilton: The Musical) with an honorary sash and tiara. Geller raised $53,103. The top fundraiser, Mark MacKillop raised an all-time record of $212,625.

The first was an evening, ocean-side dance party on Fire Island. A couple dozen Islanders were creating their own joy by dancing in the sand under the moon (well beyond the earshot of the nearest house). Out of nowhere, the police came racing down the beach – absent any legitimate legal infraction – to intimidate the gathering into silence. Almost immediately the group pointed out (with direct references to specific ordinances) that no laws were broken. After further argument, when they knew they were wrong, the police finally backed off — but the entire crowd was left with an uneasy feeling that the whole interaction was targeted.

It was a small reminder of the bigger issues that LGBTQ+ people are facing across the country. Trans people are afraid to use public restrooms, and doctors are afraid to provide life-saving medical care. In states like Florida, they even risk going to jail. Nationwide, the climate for LGBTQ+ is getting worse (our 2024 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate measured the second annual dip in scores on average across the country) and even in a gay historical enclave like Fire Island, we are not immune from the reminders of this cultural decline.

The second was at a house party just a few weeks ago – do you sense a pattern? I was gathered with old friends and new acquaintances, laughing and celebrating life in that unique, joyful way that hurts no one and helps everyone. And then the police were there. The guests, myself included, were forced into the house and told to remain quiet as we listened to the officers verbally abuse the hosts. Again, with no legitimate reason, armed only with fear and aggression, joy was silenced.

Pictured above: A moonlight beach party on the shores of Fire Island Pines.

Every day at Out Leadership, we work in data – statistical, qualitative, anecdotal – that shows our hold on equality is more fragile than ever before. We raise this alarm across our many platforms, in our research, and at our global convenings, not to cause fear but to call to action. We amplify the growing risks to LGBTQ+ people because we believe that leveraging the power of business can win back what we’ve lost and strengthen our hold on what we have. This work has never been more important because these threats to our rights and way of live will spread.

This pride season, don’t shy away from what’s happening in the world – from the fear that we all feel, and that many have felt for far longer. Because while fear may dampen our joy, it will never extinguish it. Joy will always be there: on the beach; at a house party; or at the Hammerstein Ballroom seeing Broadway Bares. Fear for the LGBTQ+ community is nothing new. But joy is also here, and believe me, she isn’t going anywhere. Our community has always persevered through even more challenging times than this, and as always, we will thrive.

Have a joyful pride,

Todd G. Sears
Founder and CEO
Out Leadership

Here’s what you need to know this week…

The criminalization of homosexuality has fallen to 64 countries worldwide.

Pictured above: World map showing which jurisdictions still ban homosexuality, measured by the Human Dignity Trust.

Worldwide, governments have eased restrictions that have criminalized homosexuality for decades. Today, consensual, private sexual relations between men remain illegal in an estimated 64 nations, down from about 70 just three years ago. The number of countries that outlaw sex between women is even lower – at just 40.

Recent nations to decriminalize same-sex relations include a number of Caribbean countries, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, and Antigua and Barbuda.

The presence of sodomy laws serves as a baseline measurement for LGBTQ+ equality worldwide. Nevertheless, LGBTQ+ communities can still experience legal, social, and political challenges, as well as state-sponsored violence even in the absence of an outright ban (in Russia, for example).

Stay informed, wherever you do business. Out Leadership’s  Country CEO Business Briefs ensure that staff who do business in-country are aware of the laws and other regulations that impact LGBTQ+ people and that they’ve adopted the appropriate internal policies for their location. They equip business leaders and policymakers with a clear sense of the most impactful steps countries can take to make themselves more hospitable to forward-thinking, innovative, inclusive businesses.

Support for same-sex marriage is declining in the US and in countries that once led the LGBTQ+ movement.

Pictured above: Acceptance of same-sex marriage in the United States, measured by Gallup.

Has the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people reached its peak?

While an overwhelming majority of Americans – 69% – still believe that gay marriage should be legal, that figure has declined since its peak in 2022, when 71% of respondents in the United States were in favor of marriage equality. A slightly larger share of Americans – over one-third of the country – do not believe that same-sex marriage is morally acceptable.

In the Netherlands, the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community is rapidly declining. In Amsterdam – with its reputation as a cosmopolitan, open-minded capital – just 43% of youth surveyed believed that homosexuality was acceptable. Just two years ago, that number was 69%. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001.

Biden pardons LGBTQ+ servicemembers convicted under former sodomy rule.

Pictured above: Out Leadership Founder & CEO Todd Sears at the White House Pride Celebration on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden issued a pardon to LGBTQ+ members of the United States Armed Forces who were convicted under a now-defunct military rule that forbade consensual gay sex. By righting this “historic wrong,” the Biden Administration will clear the way for thousands of veterans to receive the benefits and recognition to which they are rightfully entitled.

Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalized sodomy from 1951 until 2013 when it was amended to allow consensual sex between members of the opposite sex while retaining prohibitions on assault. Servicemembers charged under Article 125 can apply to have their convictions erased, their discharge status retroactively upgraded, and they are eligible for to recover lost pay and benefits.

The pardon is expected to cover nearly 2,000 veterans. Out Leadership Founder & CEO Todd Sears attended the White House Pride celebration on the day of the announcement.

Pride in the fight for equality: The Briggle Family hits the Silver Screen.

Pictured above: Amber and Lulu Briggle at the 2024 Trans & Nonbinary Leadership Summit.

Soon to screen at Aspen Film’s 33rd annual Shortsfest is a new film “Love to the Max,” a story of triumphant resilience and the fight for trans rights

The film chronicles the Briggle family’s heroic fight against appalling harassment and persecution from the state of Texas, which has targeted them unjustly with accusations of child abuse and attempted to seize custody of their children because they are supporting the rights and identity of their transgender child. Since 2021, guidelines issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have characterized the provision of gender-affirming care for transgender youth as child abuse, in contravention with prevailing medical opinion.

The Briggle family is the lead plaintiff in the case PFLAG v. Abbott, the case challenging Texas’ ban on gender-affirming care.

Amber Briggle spoke at the 2023 US Summit and was joined at the 2024 Trans & Nonbinary Leadership Summit by her younger child, Lulu. Out Leadership is immensely proud of the Briggle family and we are honored to support their fight for equality.

Broadway Bares raises record-shattering $2.3 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

Pictured above: Trans Advocate and “Orange is the New Black” Actor Laverne Cox performs at Broadway Bares. Photo via Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS.

The bright lights of Vegas couldn’t compete with the starpower of more than 200 of NYC’s most dazzling dancers as they erupted into electrifying modern-day burlesque production numbers at Broadway Bares: Hit the Strip on Sunday, June 23, 2024, at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.

This year’s Broadway Bares invited two sold-out performances into a Las Vegas-inspired world of luxury, liberation and love, which raised a record-shattering $2,259,134 and bested the previous record of $2 million set in 2019. Included in that total is Stripathon, the online fundraiser led by the show’s cast and crew, which raised a record $1,155,133.

Broadway Bares is produced by and benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Out Leadership is a proud sponsor of Broadway Bares. You can support Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS at the Fire Island Dance Festival from July 19-21 in Fire Island Pines, New York.

Religious right wins victory as court greenlights employers’ right to refuse insurance coverage.

Pictured above: President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) into law on March 23rd, 2010. Photo via Doug Mills/The New York Times.

Should employers be required to provide health insurance to their employees – even when the employee engages in behavior the business owner finds morally objectionable? The United States might be headed in that direction. Last Friday, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a small group of Texas businesses who sought a religious exemption to a provision of the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) that required them to include coverage) in their health insurance plans for the HIV prevention drug known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP is a lifesaving, preventive remedy that has virtually eliminated the risk of HIV transmission among users. The main limit to its effectiveness is access, which is widespread as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act.

The ramifications of the ruling remain unclear, with legal experts worrying such a precedent could allow employers to arbitrarily decide not to cover treatments for any disease an employer of a certain persuasion could conceivably find morally objectionable, including the treatment of liver disease for consumers of alcohol, the treatment of cancer in smokers, or the treatment of heart disease in people who are not vegans. Health experts also fear that a widespread rollback of HIV prevention drugs could cause a devastating and expensive decline in public health, putting millions of people at risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.


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