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February 25, 2015

April 23 - GLAA to present Distinguished Service Awards at 44th anniversary reception

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

For Release:
Friday, February 20, 2015

Contact: Rick Rosendall
(202) 328-6278

GLAA Announces 2015 Distinguished Service Awards

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., is pleased to announce its 2015 Distinguished Service Award recipients. GLAA presents awards to local individuals and organizations that have served the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the national capital area. The awards will be presented at GLAA’s 44th Anniversary Reception on Thursday, April 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Policy Restaurant and Lounge at 1904 14th Street, NW (at T Street). Tickets are $55 and can be purchased at http://www.glaa.org/anniversary/ or calling (202) 667-5139; a range of donor levels is also available.

GLAA’s 2015 Distinguished Service Award recipients are:

  • Chuck Hicks
  • Alexandra Andrea Beninda
  • Anne Phelps

Continue reading "April 23 - GLAA to present Distinguished Service Awards at 44th anniversary reception" »

February 24, 2015

Trigger Warnings and Twitter Wars

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My column this week looks at clashes over gender politics that are testing the civil rights community. Here is an excerpt:

For years, some radical feminists have vociferously opposed transgender people. An example is Janice Raymond, a lesbian ex-nun who wrote in her 1979 book, The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, that trans women, whom she regarded as male predators, were the "avant garde of the patriarchy invading women's spaces." As a liberal feminist and a supporter of trans equality, I very much disagree with Dr. Raymond. Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, explains, "[G]ender identity (the sex of one's brain) drives trans persons to transition, regardless of genital anatomy."

For the LGBT advocates with whom I work in Washington, D.C., that ship has sailed. We do not sit around discussing gender theory. We take it as a given that trans people are citizens entitled to equal protection. We work in coalition to ensure that the "T" is included in legislation, data gathering, and public services (and D.C. is among the top states in the Human Rights Campaign's State Equality Index). Science is on our side: the American Psychiatric Association declassified transgender identity as a disorder in 2012, as it did homosexuality in 1973.

For some, this is not enough. There is a movement to "no-platform" trans-excluding radical feminists (TERFs), that is to bar them from campuses and deny them a platform for their views. This is part of a broader and distinctly illiberal trend whereby universities are seen not as centers for the robust exchange of ideas, but as frightening places full of triggers and micro aggressions....

Read the whole thing here.

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.

'Glory' sales surge after Oscar win

Billboard reports:

Common and John Legend's "Glory" is basking in the glow of its Academy Award win for best original song on Feb. 22, and is on course for big sales gains in the wake of the Oscars.

A small comfort for a film unjustly snubbed.

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.

Lady Gaga shows her musical chops

Lady Gaga's performance of a medley from The Sound of Music in tribute to Julie Andrews at the Oscars on Sunday night was the introduction for a lot of people to her musical talent. Behind the meat dress, the bubble dress, and assorted other theatrics, she is an accomplished musician. Then the surprise entrance by Julie Andrews herself put icing on the cake. (BTW, Gaga transposed into a lower key during "Climb Every Mountain. The pipes Andrews had cannot be replicated in most mortals.)

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 22, 2015

Celebrities defend gay rights in Ghana

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.

Matt Baume explains the bakery wars

AFER's Matt Baume explains it all for you.

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:

The blood ban and the celibacy challenge

A message from Alan Cumming. Second option: sign the petition to pressure the FDA to screen donors based on their exposure to risk, not on their sexual orientation.

First same-sex couple marries in Texas

Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History

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(Students protest proposed changes to U.S. history curriculum in Colorado. AP photo)

Think Progress reports:

An Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History class, persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students “what is bad about America.” Other lawmakers are seeking a court ruling that would effectively prohibit the teaching of all AP courses in public schools.

The reason I don't advocate nuking Oklahoma for this is that history teaches us that it would be a terrible idea.

Pussy Riot: I can't breathe

Pussy Riot expresses solidarity with Eric Garner and other victims of police brutality.

Boehner's heavy-handed attempt to take over foreign policy on Israel

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(AP photo)

Polls are showing that Speaker John Boener's invitation to Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu to address Congress two weeks before he is up for re-election is unpopular with Americans. A recent story in Haaretz shows Boehner's dishonesty and recklessness:

House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that he had asked Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer not to inform the Obama administration about their contact over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Congress speech so as to avoid "interference."

"I wanted to make sure there is no interference," Boehner told Fox News' Sunday morning program. "There is no secret here about the animosity that this White House has for Netanyahu and I didn’t want them getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity,” Boehner continued.

How dreadful it would be for the president to interfere with Boehner's foreign policy. Pardon me, I seem to have fallen down a rabbit hole.

EEOC says Wal-Mart discriminated against lesbian

AP reports:

A federal agency says Wal-Mart discriminated against a lesbian employee who sought health coverage for her ailing wife and has ordered "a just resolution" for violating her civil rights.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ordered the retail giant to work with Jacqueline Cote of New Bedford, Massachusetts, who hopes the determination will help her pay off $100,000 in medical bills.

In a Jan. 29 EEOC ruling, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, the agency said Cote "was treated differently and denied benefits because of her sex."

Our colleague Craig Howell writes, "Now that Wal-Mart has entered the 21st century [See this and this], I hope they can settle this case promptly."

Gay Catholic group attends Ash Wednesday papal audience

Francis DeBernardo at New Ways Ministry writes:

In what is surely the most official welcome from Church officials that New Ways Ministry has received in its 38-year history, and one of the warmest welcomes the LGBT community has received, a pilgrimage group of 48 LGBT Catholics and supporters led by our co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, received VIP seating at the papal audience in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015....

Two weeks before departure on February 12th, [Gramick] received a letter from Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, letting her know that he had reserved tickets for the group for the Ash Wednesday audience. She assumed that these were the general seating tickets. On the night of February 17th, when the group picked up the tickets at St. Peter’s, they learned that they were VIP seating.

It was not a private meeting, which is hard to get, but it was a gracious gesture. I note that Archbishop Ganswein is the Vatican heartthrob who became known as "Bel Georgio" when he attended Pope Benedict XVI.

I am glad for Sister Jeannine and her colleagues. What will really be telling is whether they are invited to participate in the next synod, at which a substantive discussion can occur. The Church's doctrine on gay people is wrong and harmful. We are not a threat to anyone's family. We ourselves are family. The pope's considerable pastoral gifts notwithstanding, there is no sign that he wants or intends to change this policy. Without some sign of doctrinal reform, his embraces and compassionate words are like an animal shelter volunteer petting a dog as it is being euthanized. I appreciate the compassion, but what I am looking for are understanding and affirmation. If the prime seating at a papal audience is a sign of greater welcome ahead, it will be more significant.

February 14, 2015

Meet Solomon Georgio

On Himalayan sea salt, Pocahontas, and how an Ethiopian came to have an Italian last name. Hey Sampson, you have competition.

February 13, 2015

Evergreen

For all who are far from their loved ones on Valentine's Day. As nationwide marriage equality nears, there are so many for whom it will have come too late. Live in the moment, for that is the only thing of which any of us can be truly certain. Here is to lovers.

February 12, 2015

Jon Stewart on 'Wedding Crushers'

Jon Stewart takes on Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Federal judge orders Mobile County probate judge to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Campbell Robertson at NYT reports from Mobile:

A federal judge here on Thursday ordered that a county probate judge must comply with her earlier ruling and cannot refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The federal judge, Callie V. S. Granade of Federal District Court here, wrote that the county judge, Don Davis, of Probate Court in Mobile County, cannot deny a marriage license “on the ground that plaintiffs constitute same-sex couples or because it is prohibited by the sanctity of marriage.”

The decision was an effort to clarify that Judge Davis should follow Judge Granade's earlier ruling striking down a state ban on same-sex marriage, rather than a conflicting order from the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy S. Moore.

Read Judge Granade's ruling here.

The People's Brief for marriage equality

I have signed the people's brief. Will you?

Getting Off Our High Horse

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My latest column, now online at the Washington Blade, looks at the controversy over President Obama's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. Here's an excerpt:

At its best, faith challenges us to reflect on how far our actions have strayed from the standards we profess. The Christian Right, by contrast, uses faith as a weapon against its political opponents. Its standard bearers cannot acknowledge crimes even nine centuries in the past. So forget the anti-Semitic Rhineland Massacres of 1096; the sack of Constantinople in 1204; the destruction of ancient libraries and art treasures; the hundreds of thousands who died from slaughter, famine, and disease before the Crusaders even reached the Holy Land. Do not mention the estimated 1.7 million deaths from the Crusades, or that the savagery was launched by Pope Urban II in 1095.

The denial is not only about the Middle Ages. Millions were caught up in the Middle Passage that brought slaves to the western hemisphere, and black men in America were being burned alive in public lynching festivals well into the twentieth century. People cut off parts of the victims for souvenirs. Innumerable photos of these horrors are a few clicks away.

We can talk about this. At bottom, that is the president's message. He does our country a service by raising it, though he knows his opponents are waiting to pounce on whatever he says. He can speak less guardedly with his last race and last midterm election behind him.

Read the whole thing.

Mourning in Chapel Hill

February 11, 2015

Obama: critical mass reached, time for marriage equality nationwide

Whether he evolved or revolved on marriage, the president has it exactly right now.

Obama responds to Axelrod

Justin Sink at The Hill reports:

President Obama is denying a former top political adviser's contention that he intentionally deceived voters about his position on gay marriage in an interview published Wednesday.

The president said David Axelrod, his former senior adviser, was “mixing up my personal feelings with my position on the issue” when he said Obama publicly backed civil unions rather than gay marriage because it was more politically palatable.

“I always felt that same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the same rights, legally, as anybody else and so it was frustrating to me not to, I think, be able to square that with what were a whole bunch of religious sensitivities out there,” Obama said in an interview with BuzzFeed....

“I think the notion that somehow I was always in favor of marriage per se isn’t quite accurate,” Obama said.

Unfortunately, Mr. President, we have this evidence from 1996.

It's a good thing the president isn't a news anchor.

February 10, 2015

American sins: history of lynchings in the South

SPLC: New Jersey judge rules conversion therapy group can’t claim homosexuality is a disorder

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports excellent news:

A New Jersey Superior Court judge has ruled misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder in marketing conversion therapy services violates the state’s consumer protection laws – a devastating ruling for the conversion therapy industry, which claims to “convert” people from gay to straight, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced today.

GLAA's 2015 policy brief discusses DC's bill prohibiting conversion therapy for minors, which is currently undergoing congressional review. We are part of a nationwide movement to protect youth from this fraudulent and harmful practice.

A critical mass

May it be so.

Obama comments on the freedom to marry in Alabama

From Cuba to Stephen, some chocolate love

I have been a fan of Cuba Gooding, Jr. since his soulful performance in Boyz N the Hood. I like him even better after this bit of play with BAFTA Film Awards host Stephen Fry, a hugely popular British writer, actor, and comedian. BAFTA is the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and this year's film awards happened on the same day as the Grammys. Fry last month married his partner Elliot Spencer.

This was just a bit of foolery at a glitzy awards ceremony, but it says so much about how far we have come. Gooding has aged quite well, and is getting meaty parts these days on television, in addition to playing civil rights attorney Fred Gray in the movie Selma. His last-minute turn to kiss Fry on the lips was quite charming. Made me a little jealous of Stephen.