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Year in review: Gray names trans women to Human Rights Commission

Vincent Gray, Jeffrey Richardson, Alexandra Beninda, Earline Budd, Human Rights Commission, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray administered the oath of office to Alexandra Beninda (second from right) and Earline Budd as members of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights at a ceremony in the Wilson Building. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In what LGBT activists considered an historic development, Mayor Vincent Gray on July 11 administered the oath of office to transgender advocates Earline Budd and Alexandra Beninda as members of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.

Gray nominated the two for the post and the D.C. City Council confirmed the nominations earlier in the year.

The appointments represent the first time a transgender person has been named to the city’s Commission on Human Rights, which acts as an adjudicatory body that enforces the city’s Human Rights Act. The act, among other things, bans discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, religion and ethnicity.

“I’m very pleased and I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m always honored to be a representative of my community,” Budd said after the swearing in ceremony. “I’m going to do the best I can in this position and make sure that discrimination ends.”

Beninda said she was looking forward to joining Budd on the commission

“I’m definitely very excited about getting started,” she said. “I look forward, myself and Earline, to be able to represent our LGBT community overall and especially our transgender community in terms of making sure our voices are heard.”

27
Dec
2012

Year in review: Trans rights bill dies in Md. Legislature

Dana Beyer, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Dana Beyer (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Baltimore County Council voted 5-2 on Feb. 21 to approve a bill that bans discrimination against transgender people in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

But a similar bill that would cover the entire state died in committee in the Maryland State Senate in April, ending chances for passing the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act in the state legislature in 2012.

Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, a statewide group that led the lobbying campaign for the state bill, said supporters were gearing up to push for the bill’s passage in the legislature in 2013.

Beyer said that while advocates were disappointed in the setback on the statewide bill, the passage of a transgender non-discrimination measure in Baltimore County increased the state’s population covered under similar protections to 47 percent.

She noted that Howard County approved a nearly identical bill in December 2011. Baltimore City and Montgomery County approved similar bills several years earlier. According to Beyer, nearly 95 percent of the state’s transgender people live in those four jurisdictions.

“So in that respect, practically speaking, we’ve done the job,” she said, in providing legal protection for transgender people in the state.

Political observers sympathetic to the state bill have said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince Georges and Calvert Counties) orchestrated its demise in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Some observers say Miller acted because he believed the bill didn’t have the votes to pass in the full Senate and he didn’t want the Senate Democratic leadership linked to the bill’s defeat on the floor. Others, however, say Miller blocked the bill because he personally opposes it. Miller’s office didn’t respond to calls for comment.

27
Dec
2012

Year in review: Maryland wins marriage equality

Martin O'Malley, Maryland, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the marriage bill on Mar. 1 in Annapolis, Md. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland voters on Nov. 6 approved the state’s same-sex marriage law by a 52-48 percent margin.

“Fairness and equality under the law won tonight,” Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition of groups that included the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Maryland that supported Question 6, said shortly after he announced voters had upheld the law. “We’re sure to feel the ripples of this monumental victory across the country for years to come.”

Election Day capped off a long and often tumultuous effort for Maryland’s same-sex marriage advocates that began in 1997 when three state lawmakers introduced the first bill that would have allowed nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Equality Maryland and the American Civil Liberties Union in 2004 filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lisa Polyak and Gita Deane and eight other same-sex couples and a gay widow who sought the right to marry in the state. Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock in 2006 ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but the Maryland Court of Appeals ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples the following year.

State lawmakers in 2011 narrowly missed approving a same-sex marriage bill, but legislators approved it in February. O’Malley signed the measure into law on March 1.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposed the same-sex marriage law, collected more than 160,000 signatures to prompt a referendum on the law — the group needed to collect 55,736 signatures by June 30 to bring the issue before voters on Nov. 6.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality struggled to raise money in the first months of the campaign, but it ultimately netted nearly $6 million. HRC contributed more than $1.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions to the pro-Question 6 campaign, while New York City Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000 in October.

Former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife Chan announced a $100,000 contribution to Marylanders for Marriage Equality during an Oct. 2 fundraiser that O’Malley, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and others attended at gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf’s Logan Circle home. The governor also headlined a star-studded New York City fundraiser for the campaign that gay former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman hosted in September.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance netted slightly more than $2.4 million, which is less than half the amount Marylanders for Marriage Equality raised. The National Organization for Marriage, the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of Baltimore are among the groups that contributed to the anti-Question 6 group. Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Family Research President Tony Perkins and Dr. Alveda King, niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., are among those who publicly opposed the same-sex marriage law.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance came under increased scrutiny as Election Day drew closer.

The Blade obtained court documents that indicate the Internal Revenue Service in 2011 filed a lien against Derek A. McCoy, the group’s chair, for more than $32,000 in unpaid taxes in 2002 and 2003. He also faced criticism from same-sex marriage advocates for defending a suburban Baltimore pastor who suggested during an October town hall that those who practice homosexuality and approve it are “deserving of death.” A California minister described gay men as “predators” during an anti-Question 6 rally at a Baltimore church on Oct. 21 that McCoy, Jackson, Perkins and others attended.

“Nobody here endorses violence, endorses bullying of any sort in any stance,” McCoy said during a Nov. 2 press conference, two days before a Frederick pastor noted during another anti-Question 6 rally that Superstorm Sandy struck New York City after Bloomberg gave $250,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “We stand collectively to love our community, to love the constituents who are in our churches and within our broader community in the state of Maryland.”

McCoy said after Election Day the Maryland Marriage Alliance respects “the results that have come from a democratic process.”

The law will take effect on Jan.1.

26
Dec
2012

Year in review: Kameny burial delayed indefinitely

Frank Kameny gravesite, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

More than a year after gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny died in his Washington home at the age of 86, an urn bearing his ashes remains in storage at D.C.’s historic Congressional Cemetery.

News of what became an indefinite delay in the burial of Kameny’s ashes at the cemetery surfaced in March, when a cemetery official said a March 3 burial ceremony had been abruptly cancelled due to an estate related dispute.

Patrick Crowley, the then interim senior manager of Congressional Cemetery, said the dispute was between Kameny’s estate, which has legal control over the ashes, and the D.C. gay charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), which owns the burial site.

The estate is under the control of Timothy Clark, the heir and personal representative, or executor, of the estate.

Both sides have acknowledged that the dispute is over a disagreement about how to transfer ownership of the cemetery plot from HOBS, which bought it earlier this year, to the Kameny estate.

HOBS executive director Marvin Carter has said HOBS is willing to sell the plot to the estate at the price the group paid for it. The estate, through one of its attorneys, said HOBS bought the plot through donations from members of the LGBT community who knew and admired Kameny and HOBS should transfer the title to the plot to the estate rather than sell it.

“The estate of Franklin Kameny is currently in negotiations in an effort to settle outstanding matters related to the estate,” said estate attorney Glen Ackerman in a statement in October. “We cannot comment on these negotiations or the status of the various matters as doing so may compromise the progress that has been made thus far. All involved are hopeful that resolution may be reached in the near future.”

In a separate statement Carter said, “HOBS is working diligently and in good faith to resolve all issues concerning the plot at Congressional Cemetery and the final burial of Frank’s ashes at the cemetery in a manner and under circumstances that will protect and advance Frank’s reputation in and contributions to the LGBT community.”

27
Dec
2012

Year in review: D.C. hosts International AIDS Conference

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Uganda

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored Ugandan human rights advocates at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

More than 30,000 people from around the world gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. in July for the International AIDS Conference.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, former First Lady Laura Bush, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.,) Bill Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg and gay singer Elton John were among the politicians, public health officials and others who spoke during the gathering that took place in the United States for the first time since San Francisco hosted it in 1990. (President Obama in 2009 completed the process that lifted the ban on people with HIV/AIDS from entering the country.)

Mayor Vincent Gray and other D.C. officials used the conference to highlight the city’s ongoing efforts to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the nation’s capital. The NAMES Project showcased tens of thousands of panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt throughout the metropolitan area in July, while the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and other HIV/AIDS service providers protested what they contend is a lack of commitment from the White House and other American politicians to combat the epidemic. U.S. Park Service police arrested Housing Works President Charles King and 12 others who tried to tie red ribbons, condoms and other items to the White House fence following a protest in Lafayette Park.

The 20th International AIDS Conference is scheduled to take place in Melbourne, Australia, in July 2014.

26
Dec
2012

Year in Review: EEOC issues landmark decision banning trans bias

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled in April that job discrimination against employees due to their gender identity is equivalent to sex discrimination under existing federal law.

Transgender advocates joined legal experts in calling the ruling a historic development that provides transgender people in the public and private sector workforce with full coverage under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“[W]e conclude that intentional discrimination against a transgender individual because the person is transgender is, by definition, discrimination ‘based on…sex,’ and such discrimination therefore violates Title VII,” said the commission in its 5-0 ruling.

The decision was handed down as part of its resolution of a case filed by the Transgender Law Center on behalf of Mia Macy, a transgender woman who charged that she was denied a job as a ballistics technician with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ lab in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Macy alleged that ATF officials were in the process of hiring her but claimed the job was no longer available due to budget cuts after she informed them she was transitioning from male to female. She learned later that ATF gave the job to someone else.

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said it would be hard to overstate the significance of the EEOC decision.

“Transgender people already face tremendous rates of discrimination and unemployment,” Davis said. “The decision today ensures that every transgender person in the United States will have legal recourse to employment discrimination and with it a way to safeguard their access to vital employment benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings plans.”

27
Dec
2012

Year in review: LGBT Center volunteer charged in shooting

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II was accused of shooting a security guard inside the Family Research Council’s headquarters building in August. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. police and the FBI have yet to disclose whether they uncovered a motive in the Aug. 15 non-fatal shooting of a security guard in the lobby of the anti-gay Family Research Council’s headquarters in downtown Washington.

Herndon, Va., resident Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, a former part-time volunteer for D.C.’s LGBT community center, has pleaded not guilty to a 10-count grand jury indictment in connection with the shooting, including the charge of committing an act of terrorism while armed.

According to the indictment and other charging documents, Corkins allegedly shot the security guard in the arm seconds after he entered the FRC building at 801 G Street, N.W., and told the guard, Leo Johnson, “I don’t like your politics.”

D.C. police and officials with the FBI said they discovered 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in a backpack Corkins brought to the FRC building. They said the finding led them to believe Corkins may have planned a mass killing if Johnson had not prevented him from gaining access to the FRC offices on the building’s upper floors.

Some have speculated that Corkins targeted the FRC because of its anti-gay positions and its statements denouncing gay activists for organizing a boycott of the Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant chain because its owner has contributed money to anti-gay groups opposed to same-sex marriage.

But authorities have yet to disclose whether Corkins is gay or whether they determined his motive for the shooting.

Officials with the D.C. Center said they knew little about Corkins other than he volunteered to staff the Center’s front desk on weekends for a period of a few months. They said there were no signs of any problems associated with his work.

Center officials joined local and national LGBT leaders in condemning the shooting. Corkins has been held in jail since the time of his arrest on the day of the shooting. A pre-trial status conference in U.S. District Court is scheduled for Jan. 8.

26
Dec
2012

Year in review: DOMA, Prop 8 challenges advance in the courts

Supreme Court, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act,

The Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Supreme Court set the stage this year for what might be the demise of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act when it agreed to take up litigation challenging the anti-gay measures.

On Dec. 7, justices agreed to take up Hollingsworth v. Perry, the lawsuit seeking to overturn Prop 8, and Windsor v. United States, a lawsuit filed by 83-year-old New York lesbian Edith Windsor seeking to overturn DOMA.

Ted Olson, one of the co-counsels representing plaintiffs, expressed optimism following the announcement that justices would rule against the California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which was approved by voters in 2008.

“We have an exhaustive record on which to build this case, and it will be an education for the American people,” Olson said. “We are very confident the outcome of this case will be to support the rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

The case comes to the Supreme Court after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February ruled against Prop 8. Had the Supreme Court declined to accept the case, the ruling would have stood and marriage equality would have been restored to California.

The DOMA case comes to the Supreme Court after numerous lower courts determined the anti-gay law was unconstitutional. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals became the first appellate court ever to strike down the law and was followed by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. This year alone, four federal district courts also ruled against DOMA.

27
Dec
2012

Year in review: Marriage victories in Maine, Md., Wash., Minn.

Washington State, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade, Dan Savage

(Seattle Gay News photo by Nate Gowdy published with permission)

Marriage equality took a giant leap forward on Election Day when, for the first time, voters in three states approved same-sex marriage rights at the ballot. In addition, voters in Minnesota rejected a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage.

The results brought the total number of states where same-sex marriage is legal to nine plus D.C.

Same-sex marriage was made legal by referenda in Maryland, Maine and Washington State. The margin of victory in each state was slim; in Maryland, the measure passed with 52.4 percent of the vote.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, praised the wins after the results of the ballot initiatives were announced.

“Our huge, happy and historic wave of wins last night signaled irrefutable momentum for the freedom to marry, with voters joining courts, legislatures and the reelected president of the United States in moving the country toward the right side of history,” Wolfson said.

But those victories came just months after a defeat for LGBT advocates in May when North Carolina approved an amendment banning same-sex marriage.

In the week prior to Election Day, the Obama campaign published a letter in each of three states where marriage equality was on the ballot saying Obama supports the legalization of same-sex marriage in each of the states.

“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the president believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” said Michael Czin, Northeast regional press secretary for the Obama campaign, in the Portland Press Herald. “The president believes same-sex couples should be treated equally and supports Question 1.”

26
Dec
2012

Year in review: LGBT issues absent from presidential election

Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, election 2012, Washington Blade, gay news

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

The presidential campaign season came to a close with virtually no reference to LGBT issues — including the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage — in mainstream discourse between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

In each of the three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, not a single reference to LGBT issues was made either by moderators or the participating candidates.

There were some exceptions to this rule. In an Obama radio spot that aired close to Election Day on stations intended for younger listeners, a woman chides others who don’t intend to go to the polls.

“What are you going to tell them,” the woman asks. “You were just too busy? You didn’t think it mattered? Is that what you’re going to tell your friends who can’t get married? The ones who couldn’t serve openly in the military?”

References to the LGBT community also came up numerous times during the Democratic National Convention, such as when Obama said the United States is a place where “we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems — any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.” Obama also touted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in his campaign appearances in swing states.

27
Dec
2012