1776 posts categorized "News"

March 26, 2015

Quick backlash to reckless Indiana 'religious freedom' law enactment

Advocate reports on the quick and harsh reactions to Indiana Governor Pence signing what is in fact a religious supremacy bill, not a religious freedom bill--unless you mean the freedom to discriminate and split apart our diverse society.

My God is not a bully. I will not worship a god who is a bully. I will not obey a bullying god. I will not attend a bullying church. I will not respect bullying clergy. I will not remain silent as religious bullies seek to impose their beliefs on others in the guise of "religious freedom" bills. I live in a religiously and culturally diverse society, where faith-based discrimination in the public square undermines the civic order and social cohesion. I will fight the bullies. I will demand that editors and reporters call religious supremacy what it is, and not let them swallow the right-wing spin about religious freedom. Please join me in this recognition and this fight to uphold secular American values.

Indiana governor signs religious supremacy bill

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Michael K. Lavers at the Blade reports:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday signed into law a controversial religious freedom bill that critics contend would allow businesses to deny service to same-sex couples.

We have a lot of fighting ahead. It is not religious freedom our opponents want, but religious supremacy. And we've got to say so. We've got to challenge editors and headline writers to stop swallowing the right wing spin. I don't mean to pick on the Blade, where I am a columnist. Almost everyone is making this mistake. We have to stop parroting this false framing of the issue. The public desperately needs to be better educated on what is truly at stake.

Norman Scribner dies at 79

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WaPo reports:

Norman O. Scribner, founder and artistic director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington, one of the region’s preeminent symphonic choirs, died March 22 at his home in the District. He was 79.

The cause was a heart attack, said a son, Matthew Scribner.

The late Washington Post music critic Paul Hume once called Mr. Scribner “one of Washington’s finest musicians and one of the most gifted choral conductors in the country.”

Rest in peace, Norman. I sang under him for a while in the 1980s, which enabled me to experience some great music and musicians from the stage. At one point we were doing a Russian piece, possibly Boris Godunov (Washington's symphonic choruses sang many Russian pieces during Mstislav Rostropovich's tenure at the National Symphony), and they had scores in Cyrillic for the purists, one of whom was a ferocious Zionist who told me that Democracy was inimical to Israel's interests. I haven't seen Binyamin since then (I'm kidding, Bibi Netanyahu as far as I know never sang with Choral Arts). Anyway, Norman was a big guy and could be intimidating, but was a pleasure to work with.

In 1986, when I was promoting the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington's first concert in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (featuring guest soloist Maureen Forrester in the Brahms Alto Rhapsody), Norman graciously lent us the Choral Arts Society's mailing list. I remember him telling me that the flyer we mailed "struck all the grace notes."

Once in the 1990s, the Gay Men's Chorus sang Norman's setting of the "Ode to St. Cecilia," the patron saint of vocal music. Jim Holloway, GMCW's director at the time, was often a rehearsal accompanist for Norman, and they struck up a musical friendship. So after several weeks of rehearsing, Norman joined us at the dress rehearsal for a run-through. He was delightful as always. But I remember teasing him during a break by saying that a line from the text, which (regarding St. Cecilia) mentioned "her sacred organ's praise" (meaning she sang), came out "her sacred organ sprays" if we didn't enunciate clearly. He reacted with mock horror. Choristers find ways of amusing themselves during long rehearsals.

(Postscript: the ferocious Zionist I mentioned might have been from what was then called the Oratorio Society, which I also sang with in the 80s. It's hard to keep my symphonic choruses straight, especially since they joined forces for large works. The guy was bearded, and had the look of a deranged prophet. He was a good singer.)

(Photo by Neshan Naltchayan/Courtesy of Choral Arts Society of Washington)

March 24, 2015

Ghosts in the Courtroom

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(Frank Kameny; Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

My column this week examines the Mattachine Society of Washington's amicus brief in the marriage cases before SCOTUS--featuring newly unearthed original documents that show decades of anti-gay animus in the federal government--animus dismissed in 2013 by Chief Justice Roberts in his dissent in Windsor as "snippets of legislative history."

Cropping up again and again is Frank Kameny, original MSW founder, whose fearlessness, brilliance, and doggedness was a continued thorn in the side of those persecuting us. Bravo to Charles Francis and Pate Felts for their sleuthing, and to McDermott Will & Emery as counsel of record.

Here is the lede:

The late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny's exhortations ring in my ears as I anticipate arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages.

Read the whole thing here.

Phase 1 reopening postponed

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Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports:

The Capitol Hill lesbian bar Phase 1, which has been closed for renovation since early January was scheduled to reopen last Friday, March 20, according to an ad that the club placed in the Jan. 19 issue of Metro Weekly.

But customers attempting to go to Phase 1 on Friday night discovered that the door was locked and noticed through a window on the door that the bar was dark and empty, adding to the mystery surrounding its future.

Apparently, posting a note on the door was too much trouble for the owner.

March 23, 2015

Indiana House passes bill to grant faith-based exemption to laws

This new trend in statehouses is as radical as it is popular. It is not about religious freedom, but about religious supremacy. It is an assault on the secular sphere where citizens of many backgrounds and faiths encounter one another. Such laws would undermine any civil society in which everyone is not the same. What other reckless measures will the far right think up?

Puerto Rico drops defense of same-sex marriage ban

States propose wave of anti-LGBT bills

Many of us have been saying that increasingly, the fight for LGBT equality will be in the states. Well here it is.

Norton Gearing Up for Defense in the House of D.C.’s Anti-Bias Bills

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Contact: Benjamin Fritsch – o: 202-225-8050, c: 202-225-8143
March 23, 2015

Norton Gearing Up for Defense in the House of D.C.’s Anti-Bias Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following what appear to be new threats against two anti-discrimination bills recently passed by the District of Columbia Council, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that she will oppose any effort to overturn the bills in the U.S. House of Representatives as strongly as she indicated last week she would oppose the disapproval resolutions introduced in the Senate. In an interview with Roll Call, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over D.C., said about the D.C. bills, “we want to take some action in the House too” and that “we’re still working on that.” The two bills are the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, which prohibits employers in D.C. from discriminating against employees based on their personal reproductive health decisions, and the Human Rights Amendment Act, which protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students from discrimination by educational institutions in the District.

“I still hope that Chairman Chaffetz will respect D.C. home rule as he said he would when he took the chairmanship of the Committee,” Norton said. “I was not surprised that Senator Ted Cruz would leap at the opportunity to introduce two disapproval resolutions last week, perhaps in anticipation of announcing his bid for presidency at Liberty University, where reproductive choice and sexual orientation are hot-button issues. I recognize that the District’s protection of employees who do not want to answer to their employers on their reproductive choices as well as its protection of LGBT students who are singled out for discrimination at their own universities may not be the policies of other jurisdictions. We who live in the nation’s capital are American citizens and demand the same respect that is given to citizens in other jurisdictions whose local governments pass similar legislation. I appreciate the more than 50 organizations that have stepped up to oppose these disapproval resolutions. The broad coalition fully recognizes that D.C. residents not only deserve their support, but also that attempts to curtail rights here can easily spread to other parts of the country.”

Under the Home Rule Act of 1973, all D.C. bills must be transmitted to Congress for a review period before they can take effect. The anti-discrimination bills were transmitted for a 30-legislative-day review period on March 6, 2015. A bill takes effect at the expiration of the review period unless a resolution of disapproval is enacted into law during that period. Norton has prevented a disapproval resolution from being enacted into law since 1991.

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March 19, 2015

CA: gay death penalty ballot measure will likely proceed to signature gathering stage

Because Jesus, or something.

Russian man jailed for torturing gay teens faces new charges

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Gay Star News reports:

A Russian man who was jailed after torturing gay teens and driving them to suicide is facing new charges.

Maxim Martsinkevich, the leader of the anti-LGBTI group Occupy Pedophilia, is being charged with robbery, hooliganism and causing property damage.

In addition the investigators have also charged the homophobic leader, also known as 'Machete', with 'inciting hatred'.

March 18, 2015

Maddow on Schock: It's not the years, it's the mileage

The sad decline of Walter Fauntroy

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(Walter Fauntroy testifies against marriage equality in 2009; photo by Metro Weekly)

WUSA9 News reports:

A bench warrant is on file in Prince George's County for D.C. icon Walter Fauntroy. The pastor and former civil rights leader is believed to be in Africa. His passport has been revoked by the U.S. State Department.

Fauntroy's disappearance has been discussed quietly around town since he apparently came close to being killed around the time of Qadafi's fall in 2011. Prior to that, I heard him give a number of delusional, self-aggrandizing speeches. He was part of the ineffectual group of ministers that opposed marriage equality in DC, and like others in that group appears to be an overcompensating closet case.

Twelve years ago I spoke to Fauntroy in the fellowship hall at Israel Baptist Church, and tried respectfully to convince him that the backers of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment with whom he allied himself were the same people Dr. King criticized in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and that he was dishonoring his old associate Bayard Rustin in the process. I might as well have chatted up the food on the buffet table.

For years Fauntroy was a fixture at ineffectual rallies for DC Statehood. Because of his background in the civil rights movement, few criticized him publicly. His homophobia was as out of date as his boasting of his closeness to Qadafi. He lived in the past for a long time, and had many enablers. Now his mental state is in question. He has become a sad footnote in the post-Benjamin Jealous era of cooperation between the civil rights and LGBT rights movements, in which many ministers are on the side of equality, as Dr. King's widow was.

March 17, 2015

Presbyterians approve same-sex marriage

Good for them, but it comes too late to impress me. Years and years of hand-wringing and soulful discussions and hair-pulling and whatever other drama, just to end up with the bleeding obvious. How many people did they turn away in the meantime? How many gave up and left, or stayed and repressed themselves to avoid being shunned? You can't get back lost time and lost lives and loves. Sorry, but that's how it feels to me.

Aaron Schock's high living catches up with him

One of the fatal revelations was that Rep. Schock (R-Closet) had gotten reimbursed for 90,000 more miles of work- and campaign- related driving in his Tahoe than the vehicle had been driven.

Barney Frank, who is on a book tour, commented that Schock spends far too much time in the gym for a straight guy.

March 16, 2015

Laws to Stop Marriage Equality Grow Increasingly Weird

The latest marriage news roundup from AFER. Our opponents grown more desperate by the week.

March 15, 2015

Bachelor's Mill patron dies in hospital

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Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports:

D.C. police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a customer of the Capitol Hill gay bar Bachelor’s Mill, who was found unconscious on the street about two blocks from the bar about 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22.

According to a police report, Derrick Lee Powe, 46, was found “in an unconscious state” with an abrasion on the back of his head alongside 1000 7th Street, S.E., which is the address for one of the recently built U.S. Marine Corps barracks.

This is very disturbing. A friend of mine patronizes Bachelor's Mill, and the time indicated is about the time he would normally be leaving it. The police are urged to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

March 14, 2015

GLAA candidate ratings in the news

Here are news stories about GLAA's candidate ratings for the April 28 special election in D.C.:

There are a few candidates who still promise to give us their questionnaire responses. We will rate them as promptly as we can and issue an update as necessary.

March 11, 2015

Sheila Bunn Tops GLAA Ratings in Special Election

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
P.O. Box 75265, Washington, DC 20013

For Immediate Release
March 11, 2015

Contact: Rick Rosendall
202-328-6278

Sheila Bunn Tops GLAA Ratings in Special Election


Ward 8 D.C. Council candidate Sheila Bunn, who has served as Deputy Chief of Staff to former mayor Vincent C. Gray and Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, dominated the field in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) candidate ratings for the April 28 special election, earning a score of +9. She has the highest rating of any candidate in this election cycle. The top-rated candidate in the Ward 4 race is Dwayne M. Toliver, who earned a +7. No candidate earned GLAA's hard-to-get championship point in this election.

One response common among many candidates was their hedging on the "Death with Dignity Act of 2015," introduced by Councilmember Mary Cheh and endorsed by GLAA. There were virtually no other issues of controversy in the questionnaire, judging by the responses.

The following are explanations of individual ratings. Note: Ratings marked with an asterisk (*) indicate a candidate who did not return a questionnaire and provided no information regarding his or her record on LGBT issues.

Ward 4 Councilmember

Democratic candidate Dwayne M. Toliver (+7) has a strong questionnaire and a good record on LGBT issues as an attorney for the Department of Human Resources. In his answer to GLAA's first question, Toliver showed a strong grasp of the issues surrounding the District's repeal of the congressionally-imposed Armstrong Amendment, which repeal GLAA had urged.

Democratic candidate Edwin W. Powell (+6.5) turned in a strong questionnaire, including a good discussion on healthcare, and documented a pro-LGBT record.

Democratic candidate Brandon Todd (+5.5) turned in a solid questionnaire but showed little by way of a record on LGBT issues.

Democratic candidate Acqunetta Anderson (+3) agrees with GLAA on most of the issues but offered little substance and no record on LGBT issues.

Democratic candidate Renee L. Bowser (+2.5) agrees with GLAA on the issues but offered little substance and showed no LGBT-specific record.

Democratic candidate Leon T. Andrews, Jr. (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on his record.

Democratic candidate Ron Austin (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on his record.

Democratic candidate Gwenellen Corley-Bowman (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on her record.

Democratic candidate Judi Jones (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on her record.

Socialist Workers Party candidate Glova Scott (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on her record.

Democratic candidate Douglass Sloan (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on his record.

Democratic candidate Bobvala Tengen (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on his record.

Ward 8 Councilmember

Democratic candidate Sheila Bunn (+9) has a strong questionnaire and a solid record on LGBT issues as a senior staffer to both Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and former mayor Vincent C. Gray.

Democratic candidate Marion C. Barry (+4.5) agrees with GLAA on all the issues and provided some substance, but has a limited record on LGBT issues.

Democratic candidate "S.S." Sandra Seegars (+4.5) agrees with GLAA on most issues but provided limited substance. She has a record of supporting LGBT issues.

Democratic candidate LaRuby May (+4) agrees with GLAA on all the issues but provided limited substance. She documented no LGBT-specific record.

Democratic candidate Eugene D. Kinlow (+3.5) agrees with GLAA on the issues but offered almost no substance. He has been an ally on LGBT issues.

Independent candidate Keita Vanterpool (+3.5) agrees with GLAA on the issues but provided little substance or LGBT-related record.

Democratic candidate Stuart Anderson (+3) agrees with GLAA on the issues but provided little substance or LGBT-related record.

Democratic candidate Jauhar Abraham (+2) agrees with GLAA on the issues but offered no substance or LGBT-related record.

Democratic candidate Greta Fuller (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on her record.

Democratic candidate Anthony Muhammad (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on his record.

Democratic candidate Leonard Watson, Sr. (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on his record.

Democratic candidate Trayon "WardEight" White (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on his record.

Democratic candidate Natalie Williams (0*) did not return a questionnaire and provided no information on her record.

Continue reading "Sheila Bunn Tops GLAA Ratings in Special Election" »

March 10, 2015

LGBT groups issue report card on Metropolitan Police Department

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A coalition of LGBT groups in D.C. today issued their Report Card: Status of Metropolitan Police Department Implementation of Recommendations from the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force and Community Response.

The groups signing the report card include Casa Ruby, The DC Center for the LGBT Community, DC Trans Coalition, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, HIPS, and Rainbow Response Coalition. GLAA is proud to be in this company. Thanks to Jason Terry of DCTC for drafting the community response. He is presenting the report card at today's Performance Oversight Hearing on MPD being held by the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary.

Here is the report card's introduction:

In February 2014, Chief Cathy Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) released the findings of the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force (HCATF) she convened in December, 2011, accompanied by the departmentʼs response to the Task Forceʼs recommendations. Shortly thereafter, a coalition of community organizations released its own response, including recommendations not addressed in the HCATF reportʼs findings. Less than a week later, on March 19, 2014, MPD presented to the community a plan outlining “Next Steps” in its efforts to implement the Task Forceʼs recommendations. Now, nearly a year out from these proposed actions, we (the community) revisit the recommendations made by the Task Force and Community Response to evaluate what progress has been made.

The HCATF report highlighted serious problems in the functioning and effectiveness of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) and Affiliate Liaison program, a growing lack of trust in the police among transgender residents and the broader LGBTQ communities, the absence of a comprehensive, standardized training curriculum on LGBTQ hate crimes and cultural competency, the ineffectiveness of the Critical Incident Team (CIT), and several other issues requiring departmental action. In addition to these, the community coalition identified other outstanding issues not mentioned in the report but central to LGBTQ communitiesʼ relationship with MPD and included recommendations for action. These included both elaboration on matters included in the report and issues not addressed such as LGBT intimate-partner violence (IPV), interactions with LGBTQ youth, and interactions with sex workers.

To facilitate the review of the recommended actions put forth last March, we have prepared a list organized by topic and source of recommendation following the structure of the HCATF report and the MPD and community responses. Our assessment reflects information shared with community organizations by MPD. We offer this report card as a way to assess how much progress has been made over the last year, and to invite MPD to respond with updates on its activities to date.

March 04, 2015

SCOTUSblog reports on oral arguments in ACA case

Meanwhile, lots of people mistakenly think the blog is part of the Court.

Trans woman named head of MPD Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit

Congrats to Sgt. Jessica Hawkins.

David Koch supports marriage equality

The incongruities in the political alliance between the social right and plutocrats are illustrated in this report from Politico.

Holder discusses DOJ Ferguson investigation findings

The U.S. Department of Justice has released its investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. The report contains some terribly disturbing material.

At the same time, DOJ announced it is not charging Officer Darren Wilson for violating Michael Brown's civil rights. So a damning report, but a killer goes scot-free. We shake our heads. The long struggle for justice continues.

March 03, 2015

Alabama Supreme Court tries to countermand federal court ruling

This attempt at nullification will not last long. For more, check out @ChrisGeidner on Twitter.

March 02, 2015

Marriage equality wins in Nebraska

February 27, 2015

Rights groups thank Reid, Pelosi for opposing use of religion to discriminate

Today, 77 rights organizations sent a letter to Democratic Leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to thank them for opposing the use of religion to discriminate. GLAA is proud to be among them. The letter was coordinated by the Inter-Coalition Religious Refusals Working Group of the National Women’s Law Center. The text is as follows:

Dear Minority Leader Pelosi and Minority Leader Reid:

The undersigned organizations have come together to thank you for your strong stand protecting people from those who would misuse religion to harm others. Your continued leadership is critical to stopping any new legislative initiatives in this area in the 114th Congress. In fact, Congress has begun to consider these issues already, with a House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee for the Constitution and Civil Justice Hearing on “Oversight of the Religious Freedom Restoration Action and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act” on February 13, 2015.

The groups that have signed onto this letter include those working on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities; women; communities of color; youth; reproductive health; individuals facing issues around aging and end of life concerns; health care; people of faith and religious communities; secular beliefs; religious liberty; civil rights; labor; those affected by domestic violence; those living with HIV/AIDS; and a variety of other issues. Together, we represent many millions of Americans across this country.

Our nation’s laws have long protected the freedom of religion and belief – but not the right to impose those beliefs on others. The American people agree; 83 percent of adults believe that “people are entitled to their religious beliefs, but this does not give them the right to harm other people.”

The 77 organizations that have signed this letter, despite our different missions, hold in common the core principle that religion should not be used to discriminate. We thank you for doing the same. We, and the many millions of people we represent, stand with you in opposing any efforts to pass legislation that would allow religion to be misused in this way.

February 24, 2015

National Review executive editor Reihan Salam signs marriage equality statement

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(Photo by Kris Krug)

Reihan Salam, executive editor at the conservative National Review, has signed a statement drafted by David Blankenhorn that makes the conservative case for marriage equality.

I first encountered Salam when he worked for Andrew Sullivan's blog, so I sent Andrew a congratulatory note. He replies, "Reihan was my first intern. love the guy."

The ground has certainly shifted. Hooray for us.

Not OK: bill to protect parents' right to torture gay children advances in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern's bill to prohibit the state from regulating dangerous and discredited "ex-gay" therapy was approved by an Oklahoma House committee.

GLAA's testimony against conversion therapy is here.

Discriminatory Washington state florist chooses martyrdom over $2001 settlement

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(Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom)

The Blaze reports.

If the discriminators are the victims here, then erase my life.

February 23, 2015

Anti-gay #SB202 becomes law in Arkansas

Michael Sam signs with Dancing with the Stars

Recently Sam said he would continue to pursue his dreams of playing with the NFL. Someone asked if this latest news means a change to that. Don't know. We'll have to see.

SecDef Carter supports openly trans servicemembers

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Michael K. Lavers at the Blade reports. President Obama has endorsed Secretary Carter's statement.

U.S. names new LGBT rights envoy

D.C. drag community mourns Mame Dennis

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(Mame Dennis and Donn Culver at Pier 9. Photo by Rob Moore/Discomusic.com)

One of the longtime mainstays of Washington's drag community has died. Rest in peace.

Labor secretary announces same-sex couples will have access to FMLA

Labor Secretary Tom Perez announces a rule making to ensure access to the Family And Medical Leave Act for same-sex couples.

Murder of lawyer in D.C. hotel prompts concern among LGBT activists

Lou Chibbaro of the Blade reports on the David Messerschmitt murder at the Donovan Hotel.

February 20, 2015

Texas Supreme Court: no more gay weddings

Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir stated:

The Texas Supreme Court order on the Motion for Temporary Relief has stayed further proceedings in the trial court, and is not directed at the County Clerk. I have every reason to believe that the actions I took this morning were legally correct based on the trial court's order, and that the license my office issued was then and is now valid. There is no further action for me to take at this time.

February 19, 2015

BAR: U.S. Protection of LGBT Iraqis Questioned

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(Bodies of dead gay Iraqis lie in a Baghdad street. AP Photo)

Our friend Michael Petrelis blogs about a Bay Area Reporter story on the plight of gay Iraqis and the responses of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Mike includes links to the referenced British and American government files obtained through FOIA requests. Thanks, Mike.

GLAA criticizes police sex work sting

The above tweet quotes from and links to a Blade story by Lou Chibbaro Jr. on a recent sting operation by the Metropolitan Police Department. Here is something I also said to Lou which was not quoted in the article:

Several local officials have privately agreed with us, but this law that only causes harm is considered politically untouchable. Incidentally, for the benefit of the hysterics at Family Research Council (who misrepresented our views), we are talking about consenting adults, not the victims of sex trafficking. Indeed, any resources in the area of sex crimes should go to keeping the former safe and rescuing the latter, not entrapping consenting adults. In these belt-tightening times, that public funds are expended on sting operations for victimless crimes should be considered scandalous. But the greater responsibility lies with the D.C. Council, which allows the laws that MPD uses for such operations to remain on the books.

These related GLAA documents may be of interest: