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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Dec
2012

Year in review: Anti-LGBT violence triggers D.C. marches

gay news, gay politics dc, Muriel Bowser, Jim Graham, Jeffrey Richardson

Public officials joined D.C. residents and other supporters in calling for an end to anti-LGBT violence in a march through the streets of Columbia Heights on Mar. 20. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Two marches and a candlelight vigil were among the actions taken by LGBT activists in response to at least seven widely reported incidents of anti-LGBT violence in 2012, including the murder of a transgender woman at a D.C. bus stop.

More than 200 people turned out for a candlelight vigil on Feb. 7 at the site of a city bus stop at East Capitol Street and Sycamore Road, N.E., to mourn the loss of transgender woman Deoni Jones, 23. Jones was stabbed to death while sitting at the bus stop five days earlier in an incident that police said could have been motivated by anti-trans hatred.

At least three citizens came forward with information that enabled D.C. police to arrest 55-year-old Gary Niles on a charge of second-degree murder while armed in connection with the case. While horrified over the Jones murder, activists and the victim’s family members expressed optimism over the help in solving the case by witnesses who lived in the community where the crime occurred.

But less than a month later, three more incidents of anti-LGBT violence took place within a few days of each other, including the shooting of a gay man in a Columbia Heights restaurant. The incidents prompted more than 700 people to participate in a rally and march through the streets of Columbia Heights near where two of the incidents occurred.

Police arrested a female suspect in the non-fatal shooting inside the International House of Pancakes restaurant, which they said occurred minutes after the victim was called anti-gay names. The second incident, which occurred on Georgia Avenue, N.W., a few blocks away from the I-HOP restaurant, involved a group of about five unidentified males who attacked and assaulted a 29-year-old gay man as he was walking to his nearby home. The victim said the attackers shouted anti-gay names as they punched, kicked, and dragged him along the street. He suffered a broken jaw and serious facial injuries. The case remains unsolved.

The attack on a transgender woman, who didn’t suffer serious injuries, also remains unsolved.

The other incidents include a non-fatal stabbing of a gay man outside the Howard Theatre in July by assailants he said called him anti-gay names; the beating of a gay male couple as they walked toward their apartment in the city’s Eckington neighborhood that same month; and the beating in October of a Latino gay man, which also occurred as he was walking to his apartment in Columbia Heights.

Officials with the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence and the D.C. Trans Coalition have said police have improved their outreach to the LGBT community over the past few years, but they said more work is needed by the city to change attitudes that lead to violence against LGBT people.

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Dec
2012

Year in review: Chick-fil-A, Boy Scouts assailed for anti-gay policies

Chick-fil-A, anti-gay donations, gay news, Washington Blade

Chick-Fil-A Appreciation drew supporters and protesters. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Advocates in 2012 criticized a number of national business chains and organizations for their anti-LGBT policies.

Activists organized protests outside Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country after Dan Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based fast food chain, spoke out against same-sex marriage during an interview. A University of Maryland-College Park student launched a petition to remove Chick-fil-A from the campus food court, but some questioned the effectiveness of those efforts.

Vandals targeted Chick-fil-A restaurants in Frederick, Md., and in at least two other locations across the country in the weeks after Cathy’s controversial comments. Local and federal law officials said Floyd Lee Corkins, II, had 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack when he allegedly shot Family Research Council security guard Leo Johnson at the anti-gay group’s downtown Washington headquarters in August.

The Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing policy against openly gay scouts and scout leaders came under increased scrutiny in April after the organization ousted Jennifer Tyrrell as leader of her son’s troop in Ohio. The Boy Scouts of America Executive Board in July reaffirmed the policy, but the organization has lost funding from a number of prominent organizations. These include the Merck and UPS Foundations.

27
Dec
2012

Year in review: Baldwin elected first openly gay senator

Tammy Baldwin, gay news, Wisconsin, Washington Blade

Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin made history on Election Day when she became the first openly gay person to win election to the U.S. Senate.

In a closely watched contest in Wisconsin, Baldwin, a Democrat, won election to the Senate in a race against Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson. She won the election after serving nine terms in the U.S. House and being the first non-incumbent openly gay person to win a congressional race.

Following the announcement of her victory, Baldwin said she’s “well aware” that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate, but said she “didn’t run to make history.”

“I ran to make a difference — a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security,” Baldwin said.

Attacks on Baldwin’s sexual orientation were virtually absent from the Wisconsin race, though Brian Nemoir, a Thompson campaign official, circulated a video of her dancing at a gay Pride festival and told media outlets, “Clearly, there’s no one better positioned to talk ‘heartland values’ than Tammy.” The incident resulted in negative press for Thompson, who apologized for his aide’s action.

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Dec
2012

Year in review: Va. prosecutor becomes state’s first gay jurist

A Richmond prosecutor in June became Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

The Richmond Circuit Court approved the nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland, chief deputy commonwealth attorney for the city of Richmond, nearly a month after members of the House of Delegates rejected it.

“I am humbled by the Circuit Court’s decision,” Thorne-Begland said in a statement. “I look forward to serving the citizens of the city of Richmond as a jurist, and over the coming months I hope that my service provides comfort to all Virginians that I remain committed to the faithful application of the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States of America.”

Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) stressed before the May 15 vote in the House of Delegates that Thorne-Begland, who is a former Navy pilot, “misrepresented” himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in 1992. State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) who sponsored his nomination in the state Senate, applauded the Circuit Court judges for recognizing “Mr. Thorne-Begland’s skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses” in a statement after they approved his nomination.

Equality Virginia, state Sen. A. Donald McEachin and Gov. Bob McDonnell also applauded Thorne-Begland’s appointment. Former Attorney General Richard Cullen and former Virginia Bar Association President James Meath are among those who backed his nomination.

The Richmond Circuit Court had the authority to appoint Thorne-Begland on an interim basis because lawmakers did not fill the vacancy. Lawmakers could rescind the temporary appointment once they reconvene next month.

27
Dec
2012

Year in Review: 2012 Photography

2012 was another momentous year in LGBT News. Here are some of the highlights of the year from the Washington Blade photo archive. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key, Blake Bergen, Pete Exis, Jonathan Ellis and Ann Little)buyphoto 

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Dec
2012