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World Bank president meets with LGBT advocates

IMF, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, gay news, Washington Blade

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund held their spring meetings in D.C. from April 11-13. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on April 11 met with 15 LGBT rights advocates in D.C.

Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health President Hasan Abdessamad; Jonas Bagas of TLF Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators Collective, Inc., in the Philippines; Clare Byarugaba of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Uganda; Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania General Director Altin Hazizaj; Miroslava Makuchowska of the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia; Khemraj Persaud of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Guyana; Slava Revin of Spectrum Human Rights; Simran Shaikh of the India HIV/AIDS Alliance; Josefina Valencia Toledano of Clóset de Sor Juana AC in Mexico City; K.K. Verdade of the ELAS Fund in Brazil; Beijing Gender Health Education Institute Executive Director Xiaogang Wei and Beijing LGBT Center Executive Director Ying Xin are among those who met with Kim in downtown Washington.

The Washington Blade was unable to attend the meeting because of press restrictions that restricted access to the building in which it took place, but a World Bank press release described the gathering as the “first conversation of its kind.” It coincided with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s annual spring meetings that took place in Washington over the past weekend.

“I want to thank the gay and lesbian activists from around the world for their courage in speaking up on behalf of others in vulnerable situations in their countries, and for pressing home the point that discrimination against any group is unacceptable – whether it is religion, race, gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Kim. “Their stories will inform us as we move ahead with revisions to the World Bank Group’s long-standing safeguards, which were designed to protect the interests of individual people in our projects.”

The advocates on the same day attended a roundtable on LGBT-specific issues with 17 World Bank executive directors and board members from the Middle East, Europe, Japan and China. World Bank Alternate Executive Director for the U.S. Sara Aviel, Robert B. Tan and César Guido Forcieri, executive directors for the World Bank in the Philippines and Argentina respectively, co-hosted the gathering.

“Social inclusion is core to the World Bank Group’s mission,” said Aviel during an April 9 reception on Capitol Hill that former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank emceed. “At its core poverty is about exclusion and that’s exclusion from service, exclusion from resources, exclusion from opportunities. There’s plenty of evidence that shows discrimination is bad for economic growth and development.”

Abdessamad told the Blade on April 11 that he welcomed the opportunity to meet with Kim.

“It is a very important step,” said Abdessamad. “This is what the bank has been missing over the years – to listen to the people and especially people who might be affected by the bank’s policies and projects.”

The meeting between Kim and the advocates took place less than two months after the World Bank postponed a $90 million loan to the Ugandan government that had been earmarked to bolster the East African country’s health care system. This decision came in response to President Yoweri Museveni signing a bill into law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual relations.

The U.S. last month suspended a study to identify groups at risk for HIV/AIDS that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had planned to conduct with a Ugandan university after Museveni signed the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill. A CDC agreement that funded the salaries of 87 employees of the Ugandan Ministry of Health who supported the country’s response to the epidemic expired on Feb. 28.

Frank noted during testimony he gave during an April 9 hearing on the World Bank the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights held that he was among the members of Congress who in 2000 supported debt forgiveness for Uganda.

“Uganda was not so angry about gay people intruding in their business when in 2000, along with three of my colleagues, I was one of the leaders in passing a bill that gave them hundreds of millions of dollars in debt relief,” said the former congressman who retired in 2012. “We put that through and it was serious debt relief for Uganda.”

Aviel applauded Kim’s decision to postpone the World Bank’s loan to Uganda after the Anti-Homosexuality Bill became law.

“We fundamentally believe that there should be zero tolerance for discrimination,” she said. “That’s why we pushed for and supported the decision to postpone the Uganda project a few weeks ago and strongly supported Kim’s strong statements on discrimination.”

Aviel also applauded GLOBE, a group for the World Bank’s LGBT employees, as she spoke during the Capitol Hill reception. She acknowledged the bank needs to do more to not only protect its aforementioned employees, but incorporate LGBT-specific issues into the projects it funds.

“Social inclusion is core to the mission of the World Bank, but hasn’t been as core to some of its practices or operations that it should be,” said Aviel, referring to a 2013 organizational report that specifically referred to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders for the first time. “Now we’re working very hard to make sure the findings and the analysis are operationalized into the work that the bank does.”


Victory Fund endorses Catania for mayor

David Catania, Catania for mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania won the Victory Fund’s endorsement even though he hasn’t yet announced his candidacy for mayor. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an influential national group that raises money for LGBT candidates for public office, created a stir among local activists this week when it announced it has endorsed D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor.

With many LGBT activists supporting Mayor Vincent Gray’s re-election bid and others in the LGBT community supporting one of the four other City Council members running for mayor, some are asking why the Victory Fund would endorse Catania before he has formally announced he’s running for mayor.

Catania has formed an exploratory committee for a mayoral race and has said he most likely would run if Gray wins the Democratic primary on April 1.

Victory Fund Press Secretary Steven Thai said that while the group doesn’t endorse unannounced potential candidates very often, it has taken this step before. He noted that the Victory Fund endorsed former U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) for the U.S. Senate in 2012 before she officially announced she was running for the Senate.

Baldwin went on to declare her candidacy for the Senate and won that race, making history by becoming the first out lesbian or gay person to become a U.S. senator.

“David Catania brings an incredible amount of passion and commitment to his job,” the Victory Fund’s chief operating officer, Torey Carter, said in a statement released by the group on Tuesday.

“He helped guide Washington through a period of unprecedented growth and revitalization,” Carter said. “He is ideally positioned to lead a city with such a diverse and dynamic people.”

The Victory Fund also announced on Tuesday its endorsement of gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in his race for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Ebbin is running in a hotly contested Democratic primary scheduled for June 10 in which two other openly gay candidates are running in an 11-candidate race.

“Adam Ebbin has distinguished himself as an outspoken voice of progressive values,” Carter said in a separate statement on Tuesday. “After ten years in the state legislature, he has remained committed to his goal of increasing equality and opportunity for those who are often left behind.”

Virginia State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), who came out publicly last week in a column in the Washington Post, emerged as an unexpected ‘out’ candidate in the 8th District congressional race. Also running is gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine, who worked as a legal counsel for gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Levine says he’s been out as gay since the 1980s.

As of this week, the Victory Fund has endorsed 71 out LGBT candidates in national, state and local races and expects to endorse more than 200 out candidates across the country in the 2014 election cycle, the group says on its website.

Among those endorsed so far are at least nine gay or lesbian candidates running in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including Catania and Ebbin.

But missing from its endorsement list so far are lesbian Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Country), who’s running for governor, and gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is running for re-election to a fifth term.

Spokesperson Thai reiterated the Victory Fund’s longstanding policy of not disclosing why the group has not endorsed a candidate. However, he said many more candidates are in the endorsement pipeline and the group could very well endorse candidates not on the list in the next few weeks and coming months.

He said the group’s criteria for endorsing any candidate, as posted on the website, include a demonstration that the candidate is viable and can show a path to victory; a record of support on LGBT rights; and the completion of a detailed application seeking an endorsement. Thai said an endorsement for a prior election doesn’t carry over to the next election and all incumbents must re-apply each time they run.

Graham couldn’t immediately be reached to determine if he applied for an endorsement in his Council race.

The Mizeur for governor campaign didn’t say specifically whether the campaign formally applied for a Victory Fund endorsement.

“We are in close communication with the Victory Fund and we would welcome their support,” campaign spokesperson Steven Hershkowitz told the Blade.

Meanwhile, in a little-noticed development, Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles County), one of eight openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly, announced last month that he is not running for re-election to that position. Instead, Murphy said he decided to run for president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners, a position equivalent to a county executive.

“Whether you’re a state legislator or a county commissioner president, it’s all about the quality of life for all people,” Murphy said in a Feb. 3 statement. “I’ve always been accessible and responsive as a delegate, and I look forward to the opportunity of continuing to serve all our residents with the same enthusiasm and dedication.”

As a candidate for governor, Mizeur is giving up her seat in the House of Delegates. Records with the state board of elections show that she did not file for re-election to her delegate post prior to the filing deadline of Feb. 25. The election board lists Mizeur as an “active” candidate for governor in the June 24 Maryland primary.

The departure of Mizeur and Murphy from the House of Delegates would lower the number of out gay or lesbian members of the Maryland General Assembly from eight – the highest in the nation for a state legislature – to six if all six remaining lawmakers are re-elected this year.

The others running for re-election are State Sen. Richard Madelano (D-Montgomery County) and Delegates Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County).

All except Kaiser have been endorsed by the Victory Fund.

Other out gay or lesbian candidates in Maryland that have received the Victory Fund’s endorsement this year are Evan Glass, Montgomery County Council; Byron Macfarlane, Howard County Register of Wills; and Kevin Walling, Maryland House of Delegates, Montgomery County.

Walling is running in a different district than that of Mizeur and Kaiser’s districts in Montgomery County.


Levine seeks U.S. House seat from Va.

Mark Levine, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Levine (Photo courtesy of Levine for Congress)

Gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine on March 9 officially launched his campaign for the U.S House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D).

At a rally in his Old Town Alexandria townhouse packed with supporters and family members, including his parents, Levine described himself as an “aggressive progressive” who will fight for the progressive causes and policies that he said many fellow Democrats have shied away from.

As a staff attorney for gay former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Levine said LGBT rights and marriage equality would be an important part of his campaign platform and would be at the top of his agenda if elected to Congress.

“I think all too often Democrats take what they can get and maybe cast a vote but aren’t out there changing the course of the debate,” he said.

“So those of you who know me and even some of you that don’t know me that well know that I’m really not a quiet person,” he said, drawing laughter and applause. “I don’t think we need quiet people in Congress.”

Levine is one of 11 candidates running in the hotly contested Democratic primary in a heavily Democratic district where the winner of the primary is expected to win the general election in November.

Among the others running are gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), and State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), who came out as gay last month in a column in the Washington Post.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which raises money for out LGBT candidates, has endorsed Ebbin. The group called Ebbin a champion for progressive causes and LGBT equality during his nine years in the Virginia General Assembly, both as a senator and former delegate.

Levine said he hopes to distinguish himself from his rivals by drawing attention to his experience in legal and public policy work for more than 20 years. He pointed to his stint as a congressional staffer and his outspoken advocacy for progressive causes, including universal health care, in his regular appearances on radio and TV political talk shows such as those on Fox News and MSNBC.


Recommitting to the Victory Fund mission

Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund Champagne Brunch, gay news, Washington Blade

Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe told Sunday’s crowd about his recent heart attack and thanked supporters for their work during his absence. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Last Sunday was the annual Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch and by all accounts it was a success. There were fewer people than last year but that could be attributed to the steep price increase for tickets.

Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, began the program and spoke of his recent heart attack and thanked the staff and board for all their hard work during his illness. It was good to see him back. He is often seen as the heart and soul of the Victory Fund and deserves much of the credit for its success in recent years. He introduced Steve Elmendorf, board chair, along with Kim Hoover, board treasurer and event co-chair.

The brunch is often a moving event in which LGBT leaders from across the nation gather to celebrate how far we have come and remind each other how far we still have to go for full equality. Each year there is a featured speaker and this year it was Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) who is running for governor and recently came out as gay. If elected, he would be the first openly gay person to be elected as a governor. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced him and remarked that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be the first of anything in the LGBT community because of the successes we have had in recent years.

We had a New Jersey governor who came out in office and a gay governor who never came out in another state, but this would still be a first. Polis talked about how hard it must have been for Barney Frank when he was the only out person in Congress while today when Michaud came out there were others there to throw him a coming out party. They served pink cupcakes and the musical selections included “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

When Michaud spoke he said, “never before, and most likely never again will I eat pink cupcakes.” He also commented on the beautiful people in the room and reminded everyone that he is still single and was going to be in Washington all weekend. The line formed to the right.

Among the other candidates who spoke to the welcoming crowd were Maura Healey, who’s running for attorney general in Massachusetts, and Mary Gonzalez, a candidate for the House of Representatives in Texas. David Catania, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate, also spoke and talked about his record in D.C. and how the Victory Fund has been instrumental in his past races. He commented on how far behind he is in the polls at this point but said he could make that up. The applause for him was definitely on the lighter side as many in the room are from D.C. and supporting the Democratic nominee.

It is my understanding that the Victory Fund will be going through a strategic planning process in the coming months. All good organizations do this and it is time for the Victory Fund to reaffirm its mission and to look at what they are doing well and what they need to work on. There were people I spoke to who didn’t come to this year’s brunch for reasons other than the cost. Some stayed home because of the Victory Fund’s endorsement of Republican Richard Tisei in his bid for Congress from Massachusetts. Others didn’t come because of the early endorsement of Catania, which occurred before he even announced. These and other issues surely will be part of the discussion during the strategic planning process.

The Victory Fund should find a way to let their huge mailing list and those visiting their website know about LGBT candidates they aren’t endorsing. There are many such candidates around the nation running for posts from county commission to school board to town council. They are running for the first time and may not meet the criteria for an endorsement. But these candidates deserve to have people know they are stepping up to the plate. Others, like longtime activist Dana Beyer, who is running for State Senate in Maryland against an LGBT incumbent endorsed by Victory Fund, at least deserves recognition on the website to let people know she is running even if she isn’t endorsed.

These candidates are part of the future and they make up, as they say in baseball, our bench.


Barney Frank blasts Uganda over anti-gay law

Barney Frank, Massachusetts, World Bank, human rights, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank on Wednesday blasted the Ugandan government over a law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The gay Democrat noted during a hearing the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights held on the World Bank and human rights at the U.S. Capitol that he was among the members of Congress who in 2000 supported debt forgiveness for Uganda under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

“One of the things that we were told by some leaders of some countries who have engaged in vicious persecution of people who share my sexual orientation [is] ‘stay out of [our] business; you have no right to tell us what to do,’” said Frank. “Uganda was not so angry about gay people intruding in their business when in 2000, along with three of my colleagues, I was one of the leaders in passing a bill that gave them hundreds of millions of dollars in debt relief. We put that through and it was serious debt relief for Uganda.”

Frank also dismissed claims that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who signed the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law in February, and others have made that suggest the West brought homosexuality into Africa.

“The argument that we’re meddling in other people’s business; that’s total hypocrisy,” said the former congressman, referring once again to the 2000 debt cancellation. “People welcomed our help.”

Frank also noted during his testimony the U.S. backs efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

The East African country receives nearly $300 million each year through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to fight the epidemic. The Ugandan government in 2013 received more than $485 million in aid from the U.S.

“There was a tremendous response on the part of the United States to combat AIDS in Africa and it was led politically by the people the Ugandans are persecuting – gay men and lesbians,” said Frank. “The terrible nature of what they are doing is particularly undermined by the fact that they are turning around and persecuting people who were rightfully supporting them.”

The World Bank postponed a $90 million loan to the Ugandan government that had been earmarked to bolster its health care system after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.

The U.S. has suspended a study to identify groups at risk for HIV/AIDS that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had planned to conduct with a Ugandan university. A CDC agreement that funded the salaries of 87 employees of the Ugandan Ministry of Health who support the country’s response to the epidemic expired on Feb. 28.

“The world now accepts that sustainable development is impossible without human rights,” said Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern, who co-chairs the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, during the hearing.

Frank said decisions to delay loans and suspend foreign aid should not be “done ad hoc” because he feels countries that receive it can “complain” they had not been warned in advance.

“It’s important to have a framework in place so when a country contemplating anything that brutal in the future will be on notice,” he said.

Ugandan authorities on April 3 raided a health clinic and medical research facility in Kampala, the country’s capital, for allegedly conducting “unethical research” and “recruiting homosexuals.” The Makerere University Walter Reed Project receives funding through PEPFAR.

The Capitol Hill hearing coincided with the World Bank and the IMF’s spring meetings that will take place in D.C. this weekend.

Frank, who retired from Congress in 2012 after 16 terms in office, also emceed a reception at the Rayburn House Office Building that took place after he testified before the committee. LGBT rights advocates from countries that include Uganda, Lebanon, China and Russia joined Sara Aviel of the World Bank and U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and others.


Why coming out still matters

Mike Michaud, Democratic Party, Maine, gay news, Washington Blade, coming out

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) (Photo public domain)

Growing up, I never dreamed that openly LGBT people could be politicians, athletes or celebs, let alone thrive as teachers, cops, doctors or clergy. It was shocking news when the late Rock Hudson was outed by AIDS; tennis icon Billie Jean King revealed she is a lesbian; and former Rep. Barney Frank came out. Yet, as I write this, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) who’s running for governor, has just come out as gay, and the sky hasn’t fallen.

“My #gaydar missed it, but happy to welcome @RepMikeMIchaud to team lgbt,” Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who is gay, tweeted. Many in the media agree with Michaud, who wrote in an op-ed column in the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News, “Why should [being gay] matter?”

Media mavens had the same reaction recently when Gawker, the news and gossip site, seemingly confirmed what many have long suspected: Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is likely gay. Smith was in a New York bar with “a muscular 6-foot-2-30-something white male.”

“At a time when gay people can marry and fly helicopters in the Marines, is it time to consign outing to history, alongside other 90′s crazes like Zima and square-toed shoes?” Alex Williams wrote in the New York Times about Gawker’s Smith reveal.

At the risk of sounding so 1999, I beg to differ. We can marry now in 14 states plus Washington, D.C.; a celeb comes out every nano-sec; and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed. Coming out often no longer involves the drama, tears, fears and angst of yesteryear.  When I was young, I felt like I was in an “After School” special when I told my family I was queer. Last summer, when I saw relatives for the first time in years, we chatted about same-sex weddings we’d attended. Jim Parsons of the “Big Bang Theory” came out seamlessly by briefly mentioning his partner in a New York Times interview.

“That may seem like a big announcement to some people. For me, it’s just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation millworker or a lifelong Mainer,” Michaud wrote in the op-ed saying that he’s gay, “One thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine.”

Michaud’s being gay has nothing to do with how effective a governor he would make.  Yet, fair or not, his being gay and coming out do matter. Michaud isn’t a right-wing, anti-gay hypocrite. Yet, he didn’t come out voluntarily. He disclosed his sexual orientation after his opponents insinuated that he’s queer. “I wasn’t surprised to learn about the whisper campaigns … some of the people opposed to my candidacy have been using to raise questions about my personal life,” Michaud wrote in his op-ed. “They want people to question whether I am gay.  Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer. Yes I am.”

Some may not care who Shepard Smith dates or which celebrities and politicians are closeted. Yet many of us still struggle with homophobia. In this country, you can be fired in the workplace for being gay in 29 states, and 33 states have no protection for employment discrimination based on gender identity. While ENDA is likely to pass the U.S. Senate, it’s unlikely to be passed by the House of Representatives.

My friend Penny recently talked to her pal. “Her 19-year-old nephew just came out,” she said, “ His father said to him, ‘being gay is a sin! How can you still go to church?’”

This young man’s story is far from unique. In a world where despite much progress, homophobia remains a part of our daily life, coming out still matters.


National Stonewall Democrats curtails operations

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Democrats, Jerame Davis

National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis (Blade photo by Michael Key)

National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis confirmed to the Washington Blade on Tuesday his organization will cease operations through at least the end of this year after it failed to bridge a $30,000 budget gap.

“We obviously had the budget shortfall that we announced late last year and in that process we learned a few things,” he said shortly after the Dallas Voice broke the story earlier in the day. “When we were talking with various interested parties, whether they were from the DNC [the Democratic National Committee] or the labor movement or just LGBT Democrats in general, while finding the money that we needed in the short amount of time like that wasn’t possible, what we did find was there was an interest in keeping the org around. A lot of people really believe there’s a need and a place for Stonewall, it’s just that circumstances over the past several years have led to funding crisis that we found ourselves in.”

Davis told the Blade in an exclusive interview on Dec. 4 that his organization would likely close its doors if it didn’t raise $30,000 by the end of the year. He said the last-minute fundraising appeal netted less than $10,000 as of deadline.

“The decision was made that we would close down our office, cut our expenses down to next to nothing,” Davis, whose last day as a paid executive director was on Dec. 31, said. He remains with the organization in a volunteer capacity. “We tend to spend odd number years in a rebuilding mode anyway. This just kind of fit with what we normally do, the only difference being is we’re not going to have paid staff or an office for this year. Obviously that means our operations will be curtailed, but that also gives us the ability to focus our time and energy on figuring out what the systemic problems are for why we’ve had such funding problems and take the time to look at the org and figure out is there a future and what does that future look like.”

National Stonewall Democrats’ financial problems had previously threatened to shutter the organization.

The Blade reported in Feb. 2011 an anonymous donor gave $100,000 to the organization amid reports then-Executive Director Michael Mitchell did not effectively manage the group’s budget. Davis said there was “1,800 in the bank and a boat load of debt” when he took over in November 2011.

“Most people agree that a big part of our problem was that we had strayed from our original mission,” he said. “We had a muddy, undefined reason for existence and you combine that with the other missteps that we’ve made operationally, turnover in staff, especially at the top and so forth and it just kind of all compounded.”

Melissa Sklarz, who co-chaired National Stonewall Democrats Board of Directors from 2009 through early 2011, noted to the Blade last month then-President Bill Clinton had signed the ban on openly gay service members and the Defense of Marriage Act into law in the years before former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank founded the organization in 1998.

“The Democratic Party and the LGBT political landscape have changed dramatically in the past 15 years since National Stonewall was founded,” she added earlier on Tuesday. “The Democrats needed to understand the LGBT community and the community needed to understand that the Democrats were the true party of progress. NSD was the right idea at the right time.”

Sklarz further described Davis as “a great leader.”

“I look forward to helping with the new NSD next year,” she said.

“It is not unusual for organizations to take a time out every once in awhile,” gay New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley told the Blade. “There are many conversations going on right now, I am confident that NSD will emerge from this process stronger and more focused than ever before. I look forward to being part of that process.”

Gregory T. Angelo, interim executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, tweeted on his personal Twitter account that he is “not shedding any tears over” National Stonewall Democrats’ decision to curtail operations.

“It’s ironic that Republicans can throw big bucks around and use the partisan Log Cabin Republicans to try and destroy Democrats and their positive initiatives,” Barbra Casbar Siperstein, a former National Stonewall Democrats board member from New Jersey who is a member of the DNC Executive Committee, told the Blade. “Yet it appears that LGBT Democrats who talk about partisanship cannot support a partisan organization that exists to build for equality and expose the damage and destructiveness that the modern Republicans time and time again, almost single mindedly attempt to destroy the Great Society, the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, but also the work of the great Progressive, Republican Teddy Roosevelt.”

Derek Washington of Stonewall Democrats of Nevada agreed.

“Jerame Davis has done the best he probably could considering the hand he was dealt upon taking charge of national Stonewall,” he said. “Having said that I think it’s time for Stonewall to take this hiatus as a wake up call and rebrand itself as the premiere LGBT political organization regardless of party as we’ve done here in Nevada. Log Cabin and GOProud have no ground operation or presence here due to our aggressive branding and take no prisoners attitude in both our state and Southern Nevada chapters of Stonewall. And I’m not talking about sometime in the future. I’m talking about now.”


Frank passed over as interim U.S. senator

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was passed over for the role of interim U.S. senator (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was passed over for the role of interim U.S. senator (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The governor of Massachusetts on Wednesday announced his choice for the interim replacement for outgoing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — and it’s not the gay former U.S. House member who was publicly lobbying for the position.

Gov. Deval Patrick selected William “Mo” Cowan, his former chief of staff, to fill the open seat vacated by Kerry, whom the Senate confirmed this week as the next secretary of state by a vote of 94-3. Patrick also announced the special election to fill the slot permanently will be held on June 25.

“Mo’s service on the front lines in our efforts to manage through the worst economy in 80 years and build a better, stronger Commonwealth for the next generation has earned him the respect and admiration of people throughout government,” Patrick said in a statement.

After his retirement from Congress following 32 years as a U.S. House member, Frank was public about his interest in the position as interim U.S. senator, telling the Boston Globe he believes his experience on financial issues would be beneficial as the House takes on budget issues.

Had he been appointed, Frank would have been the second openly gay person to serve in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who was sworn in earlier this month.


Frank ‘troubled’ by process of naming interim senator

Rep. Barney Frank said he wished being LGBT would weigh more as a diversity factor (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Barney Frank said he wished being LGBT would weigh more as a diversity factor (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former Rep. Barney Frank said he wishes consideration of being LGBT would have been weighed more heavily as a diversity factor in the decision to appoint an interim U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

In a brief interview with the Washington Blade on Wednesday, Frank said he didn’t want to discuss his personal feelings about Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) passing him over for the role in favor of former chief of staff William “Mo” Cowan, but noted he was “eager to get in and work on the issues.”

“But let me tell you, there was one thing that sort of troubled me in the discussion about it — nobody was particularly quoted; they attributed something to governor’s office and others — was that the governor would want to appoint someone who’s either a minority or a woman,” Frank added. “And what troubled me is the question of LGBT people was just kind of swept out. I’ve never asked for any appointment based on me being gay, but when they begin talk about the importance of diversity and leave us out, that troubles me.”

While Cowan’s appointment was hailed a milestone for diversity in terms of race because he’s black, Frank said the lack of attention to being LGBT as a diversity factor suggests those involved with the decision were unaware of President Obama’s inaugural address in which he mentioned the 1969 Stonewall riots in the same line as other iconic civil rights moments.

“It’s almost as if some people didn’t listen to the president when he said, ‘Seneca, Stonewall and Selma,’ and didn’t hear the Stonewall part,” Frank said.

Additionally, Frank said he thinks being first the person in the Senate who’s in a same-sex marriage would have had an impact on other senators.

“Just as it was in the House, I think being a same-sex married couple in the Senate could have took an important lesson home to some of them,” Frank said.

Patrick’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.

The former lawmaker was public about his interest in the position of interim U.S. senator, telling the Boston Globe he believes his experience in finance would be beneficial as the Senate takes on budget issues.

Frank said he met Cowan a couple of times when they were working together on a project for Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district, but doesn’t know him well enough to evaluate whether he’d be a good interim senator.

“I don’t know him well,” Frank said. “I assume anybody is going to vote a particular way in Massachusetts. I don’t know him well enough to be able to judge.”

After announcing he was interested in the interim position, Frank reversed himself on earlier opposition to the appointment of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary based on 1998 anti-gay comments made against James Hormel and came out in support of the nomination. Hagel’s confirmation hearing is Thursday.

Even though he was passed over for the interim job, Frank said he’s still supportive of Hagel based on a desire to end the war in Afghanistan and reduce the military budget, despite those anti-gay remarks.

“I don’t think there’s any excuse for it; I wish Obama had appointed somebody else,” Frank said. “I guess what I have to say about Hagel, there’s an old Arab proverb, I’m told, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That makes Hagel my friend-enemy. My unhappiness over his bigoted comment is outweighed by the substance today of whether or not we pull out of Afghanistan and cut the military budget.”

Frank also had positive things to say about President Obama’s gay inclusion in the inaugural address, calling it a “victory lap” after Obama’s earlier endorsement of same-sex marriage and victory at the polls.

“When he did that, it was both a celebration and a reinforcement for the future,” Frank said.


Newsom: Supreme Court defeat would trigger new ballot measure

Calif. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom by Michael Key Washington Blade

On the same day the Supreme Court hard oral arguments in a case challenging his state’s gay marriage ban, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke at length about Prop 8, Barney Frank and more in an interview. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

California Lt. Gov. and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom says a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage would prompt the California Legislature to place a pro-marriage equality referendum on the ballot in 2014.

In an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade on Tuesday, after attending the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Prop 8 case, Newsom said he is confident the court will strike down Prop 8. He said he’s hopeful but less confident that the high court will issue a broader decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

But Newsom predicted that a “worst case scenario” ruling upholding Prop 8 would trigger an immediate backlash in the LGBT community in California and among the state’s pro-marriage equality lawmakers. This would lead to placing a Prop 8 repeal measure on the ballot, most likely in the 2014 election cycle, he said.

“I don’t know if I want to use the word shock because that’s a little hyperbolic,” he said in describing the reaction to a decision leaving Prop 8 in place. “But that backlash would immediately precipitate a ballot measure that most likely in this case…the legislature would put that on the ballot,” he said.

“It would require two-thirds of the legislature. There is two-thirds of the legislature now that supports marriage equality,” he said.

“So you wouldn’t even have to get the signatures,” Newsom added. “And I think that would immediately happen. And we would put on a campaign to end all campaigns. And we would win quite handily in 2014.”

Newsom told the Blade he has no regrets over his highly controversial decision in 2004 to use his authority as San Francisco mayor to direct the city to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples before any court or state governmental body gave the go-ahead for such marriages.

In February 2004 Newsom himself performed the first of the city-authorized same-sex nuptials in a City Hall ceremony that drew national and international press coverage. The couple joined in marriage in that ceremony was longtime lesbian activists Phyllis Lion and Del Martin, who were in their 80s.

“[T]hat one couple, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, became 4,036 additional couples from 46 states,” Newsom said, noting that other same-sex couples came to San Francisco from eight countries to get married.

“And it wasn’t just the couples,” he said. “What was so profound about that in February 2004 were the mothers and fathers and the brothers and sisters and the grandparents and grandkids that all assembled there – tens of thousands of people celebrating life, celebrating love, celebrating marriage.”

Less than a year later, however, gay marriage opponents succeeded in obtaining a court ruling barring Newsom and San Francisco authorities from performing same-sex marriages. The ruling also declared all of the same-sex marriages performed by the city as invalid.

Critics of Newsom’s decision to authorize the marriages, including then-U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who’s gay, blamed Newsom for playing into the hands of anti-gay groups seeking to ban same-sex marriage through state constitutional amendments.

Close to a dozen such amendments passed through ballot measures that year, and some political pundits said the ballot measures helped Republican George W. Bush win the 2004 presidential election by drawing conservative voters to the polls in larger than usual numbers.

Newsom and LGBT activists who supported his decision to authorize the San Francisco marriages say the action boosted efforts to challenge California’s ban on same-sex marriage in the state courts. In early 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry under the state’s constitution, opening the way for same-sex couples to marry throughout the state.

But voters overturned the court’s decision in November 2008 when they approved Proposition 8. Subsequent court challenges to Prop 8 resulted in it coming before the U.S. Supreme Court in Tuesday’s oral arguments.

Newsom said he was troubled by the criticism he received, especially criticism form Frank, who he says he deeply respects as an LGBT rights advocate.

“So I respectfully disagree with him,” Newsom told the Blade. “And I think there’s thousands and thousands of people who came to San Francisco who would respectfully disagree with him.”

According to Newsom, his and his city’s decision to permit same-sex marriages led to marriage equality advances in subsequent years.

“I think it required shaking things up a little bit because I think just waiting around for the courts…we could take 30 years, 40 years,” he said. “And I think in many ways what we did certainly inspired the California Supreme Court.”


Following is a transcript of Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s interview with the Washington Blade:

Washington Blade: What were your thoughts on how the arguments went on Tuesday as you observed them in the Supreme Court chambers?

Gavin Newsom:  It’s a humbling experience any time you listen to oral arguments at the Supreme Court because in most every instance history is being made. And to see this arc over the last nine, 10 years and to see the progress that’s been made, public opinion shifting and knowing what’s at stake for California and Californians but also for the country in its prospects on marriage equality, it was a pretty wonderful experience.


Blade: Did you have a sense of which direction the justices may go?

Newsom: We all come in with our preconceived biases. I’ve long felt that the narrow decision was most likely, although I confess that I got caught up in the spirit of the times in the last two months, hoping perhaps the issue and the arguments persuade a broader, national conversation.

That clearly didn’t happen in the courtroom at least. It certainly happened in the briefs, but not in the courtroom in terms of the oral arguments. So I left with that as a caveat of disappointment but realizing an hour or so later, reflecting on it, that it went as well as I could ever have hoped a few months ago.

And I feel stronger now that the likelihood of Prop 8 being struck down has grounded itself in the oral arguments either on standing, which everyone seemed to be coveting. It was interesting, the focus on that, or on the limited, narrow question of the Ninth Circuit.


Blade: Are you sensing the court may rule on the narrow issue of allowing same-sex marriages in California but not in other states?

Newsom: Yeah, I think it’s more likely than not. I want to be surprised and I desperately want to be wrong because I think this is a fundamental civil right. It’s a constitutional right. And it should be afforded every American, not just Californians. And so I really do hope I’m wrong. But based on the passing reference, ironically, from [Justice Antonin] Scalia – the notion of 50 states being impacted by this decision – I walked away feeling that’s less likely. Again, I hope I’m wrong.


Blade: Are you basing that also on what some of the more liberal and progressive justices were saying?

Newsom: Yeah. Even [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor’s own comments – I was sort of struck by that. I hope people were playing devil’s advocate, and that’s often the case with this court. So perhaps that was a reflection of that point of view or at least that kind of Socratic engagement with the attorneys.

But you know, this idea that you can let states decide the rights of a minority is preposterous to me. I mean, it just flies in the face of our history. If you submit the rights of a minority to the whims of the majority you’ll get what we’ve historically gotten. And that’s oppression of the minority rights. And I just don’t accept it.


Blade: You have been involved with this from the outset or at least since 2004. Could you say a little about what you were thinking when you shook up a lot of people by having San Francisco perform same-sex marriages at that time before any court declared they were legal? Weren’t you the first to perform one of those marriages for a lesbian couple at City Hall?

Newsom: I guess I was, certainly from an elective office. So there’s no doubt about that. You know, it’s interesting. We wanted to put a human face on it, period. And you know what? Frankly, that was the one thing – if there was anything that sat with me [on Tuesday] it was how little we talked about the human element here at the [U.S. Supreme] court. And I understand that. My father is a judge. This is a courtroom. There are legal briefs. But with the exception of [Justice Anthony] Kennedy, who brought up children into the courtroom, which I thought was significant and telling. I thought it was an important take away in terms of where Kennedy may be.

You know, what we did in 2004 was I didn’t want to listen to President Bush out there on the campaign trail supporting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage…

But that one couple, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, became 4,036 additional couples from 46 states. It was truly nationalized. It was not a local issue in San Francisco – 46 states and eight countries – and it wasn’t just the couples. What was so profound about that in February 2004 were the mothers and fathers and the brothers and sisters and grandparents and grandkids that all assembled there — tens of thousands of people celebrating life, celebrating love, celebrating marriage.

And it deepened my connection to not only the issue but to the community and my passion for equal rights. And I was struck by how many of my fellow Democrats ran, didn’t walk, from the issue in 2004, 5, 6, 7, 8. And only until recently have we seen a cascade of leadership which is fabulous, from [New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo and [Maryland Governor Martin] O’Malley to the president himself and others elected who are showing courage now. And I’m humbled by that now. But I’m frustrated a bit that it took even this long because we were having a lot of private conversations, and they weren’t disclosing publicly. There’s nothing worse than politicians saying one thing privately and doing another thing publicly.


Blade: Are you saying they were saying they supported marriage equality privately but not publicly?

Newsom: Yeah – in most cases. And they were just worried about their political career. I get that. But you know what? I like the politicians that are worried about the people they claim to represent more than they do their own political future. That’s sort of my argument on this assault weapons discussion right now. It kind of gets me a little angry – that people are worried more about their own elections than the faces of those kids in Newtown.


Blade: Then Congressman Barney Frank was among those that said your decision to perform same-sex marriages as mayor of San Francisco led to the passage of the state ballot measures banning same-sex marriage and raised the threat of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage passing in Congress.

Newsom: You know, I’m not going to – he’s gone out of his way to say that over and over again. And I’ll continue to go out of my way to celebrate his leadership in terms of LGBT rights. I don’t even belong in the same room as he in terms of what he’s done for the community. So I respectfully disagree with him. And I think a lot of people do. And I think there’s thousands and thousands of couples who came to San Francisco who would respectfully disagree with him.

And I think it required shaking things up a little bit because I think just waiting around for the courts – one off here, one off here – we could take 30 years, 40 years. And I think in many ways what we did certainly inspired the California Supreme Court [to declare same-sex marriages legal]. So I would hope that Congressman Frank sees that. But he’s long expressed his condemnation of what I did and continues to do so for whatever reason.


Blade: On the other hand, Evan Wolfson, head of the same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry, has said pushing for marriage equality, even if it leads to setbacks, changes the hearts and minds of the public and leads to advances in the long run.

Newsom: Yeah – and I’ve talked to – and this sounds preposterous – but I’ve had the privilege of talking to people overseas that said this had an impact on their decision-making in Europe and their leadership there when they saw the human face and they saw those images. So I’m with Evan. I’ve long admired Evan. And you’re not kidding. He was out there in the early ‘90s. So he’s one of my heroes and one of the heroes of the movement. But there are many. I just left Rob Reiner. He was a huge supporter of what we did in 2004 and, of course, sponsored so much of the good work that Ted Olsen just did and is doing and Boies and Chad Griffin. It’s just incredible. Our own city attorney, Dennis Herrera, he put together a great team — Theresa Stuart. There’s so many champions and heroes in the fight. And I respect Barney Frank, but he wasn’t in the courtroom today and a lot of folks were, and they deserved to be and I respect their advocacy.


Blade: Now that you’re in a statewide office as lieutenant governor, do you have a sense of what kind of repercussions there might be in California and the nation as a whole if the Supreme Court rules either for or against marriage equality?  What about the people of the eastern part of California, who seem to be so different politically than the people of San Francisco or L.A.?

Newsom: You’re not kidding. I’ll be out there tomorrow. I’ll be in the Modesto Central Valley area at 1 o’clock tomorrow. The old frame of California used to be north and south. And you just hit it on the head. It’s increasingly now coastal-inland-east-west.  The politics is radically different in the central part of the state.

I think most pundits, and they may, in hindsight, dismiss this assertion. But I’ll tell you that I can point to almost every pundit in California that said I could never get elected statewide in California because of my support of same-sex marriage. And we proved them wrong. Though candidly, I didn’t know they would be wrong. I thought it was questionable as well.

In some parts of our state they’re particularly conservative. So there will be repercussions, absolutely. But you now see – and I never read the polls in 2004 because if I did I never would have done what I did because it was partly unpopular even in San Francisco.

The polls today are two to one in favor of marriage equality in California – two to one in the recent polls. So I think the repercussions will be negligible at best.

Across the country, you know this. You write about this. You guys have been at this forever. This is not even Republican-Democrat any more. It’s generational and it’s overwhelming. You cannot deny the generational component. So these guys are holding on – the opponents – they’re just holding on. I don’t want to say this is the last gasp because I think some states will hold on for a much longer time unless the courts intervene.

But this is a tsunami, a generational tsunami that 80 percent of 30-year-olds or younger [support marriage equality]. This court – I hope they – they’re human beings. I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of history on this. If I’m a relatively young judge like [Chief Justice John] Roberts, why do you want to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to a civil right?


Blade: Will you be going to the DOMA case tomorrow?

Newsom: I wish I could. I’ve got to head back to my events in the Central Valley. But I feel confident. The good news about DOMA is it kind of hits these guys on both sides of the ideological aisle. From a federal perspective, this is federalism and states’ rights on the right. And then on the left we can make similar arguments that we made today. I feel a little more confident on DOMA, though I feel equally confident in both cases. Although, again, I think it’s going to be a narrow decision on Prop 8 and then a repeal of DOMA outright.


Blade: If Proposition 8 were to somehow go back to the voters are you optimistic that it wouldn’t pass and marriage equality would prevail?

Newsom: To be candid with you, the backlash would exist there. I think there would be an intense response if the [Supreme Court] overturned the Ninth Circuit [U.S. Court of Appeals in California that ruled against Prop 8]. I don’t know if I want to use the word shock because that’s a little hyperbolic. But that backlash would immediately precipitate a ballot [measure] that most likely in this case – and this is one of the interesting facts of California right now – I think the legislature would put that on the ballot. It would require two-thirds of the legislature. There is two-thirds of the legislature now that supports marriage equality. So you wouldn’t even have to get signatures. And I think that would immediately happen.

And we would put on a campaign to end all campaigns. And we would win quite handily in 2014. So eventually even in the worst case scenario we would win at the ballot box, I believe. But the impact of that, I think, would be intensely felt across the country.

And I think, frankly, if I were opposed to marriage equality I’d be more worried about that because I think the backlash would inspire, with intensity, aggressive movements to overturn not just Prop 8 in California but all across the country in those 31 constitutional restricted states, etc.


Blade: Marriage equality advocate Robin Tyler of L.A. told us this week that she feels Prop 8 helped the LGBT cause and marriage equality because it energized and activated the LGBT community like never before and helped bring on the recent successes in passing same-sex marriage laws in several states. Do you agree with that assessment?

Newsom: I agree with that generally. I’ll never forget. I was so intimately involved in that. My image was used against our campaign or against our efforts. And whether we like it or not, it was a painful thing. The backdrop was we were celebrating Obama’s win at the same time we were lamenting Prop 8’s victory.

And people were stunned in many ways. We saw it coming in the last two weeks of the campaign when the polls started to shift. So some of us on the inside weren’t as surprised. But I think the general consensus was one of shock. And it really did galvanize people to say, you know what? If California can legally grant same-sex marriage and in California see them take it away, my gosh, we’ve got to wake up every state and get organized with great intensity. So I think she’s right.

I think you saw a lot of great work done across the country that built up the momentum in New York and Maryland and got us where we were in Maine and Washington State and, of course, all the other legislative victories on civil unions. But you’re right, it was painful. And guys like Congressman Frank could say, ‘Look, I told you so’ after the blowback with all those state constitutional amendments. But that’s the nature of the right struggle, good days and bad days.

And now we’re leaning into history in a very positive way and I hope and like to think it’s much faster than it would have been if we just sat back passively and waited our time and got permission. Some people argue we all need permission. David Boies also needed permission to do what they did. And I’m glad they didn’t wait. I’m glad they did what they did. And I’m glad we did what we did. So good people can disagree and history will judge.