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Stuck in an intransigent holidaze

intransigent, Kate Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Kate Clinton (Photo by David Rodgers)

This year I was in Provincetown, Mass., for New Year’s Eve and was able to stay on an extra week. There is nothing like being at the end of the Earth to get a little perspective on things. I would share those thoughts with you but I have succumbed to an intransigent holidaze that is worse whenever Christmas falls on Wednesday. Even my weekly pillbox can’t figure out what day it is.

And why bother? The days don’t last that long here. Despite my Solstice impatience, the sun sets at 4 p.m. Ptown should really petition the Greenwich Mean people for admission into a more easterly, Atlantic time zone. After January first, the last seasonal, business holdouts succumb to retail hibernation or southern migration. Even the delightfully, potty-mouthed barista-in-chief at Joe’s Coffee, caps the capo machines and heads for warmer weather. The Christmas lights on Pilgrim monument dim after Jan. 6.

The town’s business goes on. The nights are long. But without summer visitors or high season mania, year-rounders attend to delayed projects.  Painting pictures or baseboards. Writing novels or memoirs. The Fine Arts Work Center fairly hums with creativity in the east end of town. Residents meet up at the few rear-round restaurants, or host in-home potlucks. There are open mike nights and readings. Also a lot of drinking and a lot of new sobriety. Like Santa-come-down-the-chimney, Tom Brady and his New England Patriots visit every true believer’s home via satellite dish on Sunday. Binge TV watching soars, especially in a three-day nor’easter, if the power stays on.

For the less-than-fully employed, like me, without quotidian markers, morning New York Times at the West End deli, a late afternoon coffee at Joe’s, an evening show at the Crown and Anchor — the days take on an unsettling, off-the-grid freedom. A local poet/lobsterman once told me about his winter experiment. One January he did whatever his dog did. If Clark slept, he slept. If Clark ate, he ate. If Clark went outside, he went outside. I try not to imagine the hygienic realities, but I do admire the ability to challenge daily practices that a bit of free time affords.

So as a much-anticipated nor’easter bears down on the tiny island nation of Ptown – check out the webcam from Spiritus or MacMillan Wharf! – and with a bit of free time on my hands, I will think about changes I can make in my daily life to change the realities — poverty, hunger, homelessness, religious homophobia, transphobia, violence — for LGBT people in 2014.

When the storm ends, I’ll bundle up and walk down to the West End beach and picture the double rainbow arching over town the day of the Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8. And then remember the swarm of bloodthirsty mosquitos that attacked as we stood watching.

Kate Clinton is a humorist who has entertained LGBT audiences for 30 years. 


Kennedy Library showcases Kameny letters to JFK

Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade, letters

‘In 1961, it has, ironically, become necessary for me to fight my own government, with words,’ Frank Kameny wrote to President Kennedy. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston is taking steps this month to publicize the dozens of letters, pamphlets and press releases that D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny sent to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963.

In a prominent write-up on the Kennedy Library website, library official Stacey Chandler, a reference archives specialist, said the letters poignantly document Kameny’s role as one of the nation’s first advocates for the rights of gay people before the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Chandler said the letters and other documents from Kameny are part of the library’s archives and are available for viewing online. Kameny died at the age of 86 in 2011.

“In World War II, I willingly fought the Germans, with bullets, in order to preserve and secure my rights, freedoms, and liberties, and those of my fellow citizens,” Kameny told Kennedy in a letter dated May 15, 1961 that’s part of the archive collection.

“In 1961, it has, ironically, become necessary for me to fight my own government, with words, in order to achieve some of the very same rights, freedoms, and liberties for which I placed my life in jeopardy in 1945,” wrote Kameny. “This letter is part of that fight.”

In a letter dated Aug. 28, 1962 Kameny told Kennedy, “You have said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ We know what we can do for our country; we wish to do it; we ask only that our country allow us to do it.”

Kameny wrote the letters in his role as president of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the city’s first gay rights organization that Kameny co-founded in 1961 and led through the 1960s and early 1970s.

Chandler noted in her article that the Mattachine Society of Washington came into being shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case of a legal challenge that Kameny filed against the then U.S. Civil Service Commission.

In a first-of-its-kind action, Kameny contested the Civil Service Commission’s decision in 1958 to fire him from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in Washington following an investigation into alleged homosexual activity by Kameny.

Among other things, the Commission cited a 1953 executive order by President Dwight Eisenhower that barred from the federal workforce anyone with a history of “sexual perversion” and other “immoral or notoriously disgraceful conduct.” Homosexual acts between consenting adults were considered among the prohibited conduct.

“Kameny wrote an astounding number of letters throughout his lifetime of advocacy, most of which are now in the Library of Congress,” Chandler wrote in her Kennedy Library article. “The huge volume of his correspondence makes the personal nature of his letters to President Kennedy especially surprising for archivists here,” she said.

“In these letters, he tenaciously argued for the right of gay Americans to work as civil servants,” she said.

In the same May 15, 1961 letter in which he told of his combat service in World War II, Kameny told Kennedy, “Yours is an administration that has openly disavowed blind conformity…You yourself have said, in your recent address at George Washington University, “…that (people) desire to develop their own personalities and their own potential, that democracy permits them to do so.’

“But your government, by its policies certainly does not permit the homosexual to develop his personality and his potential,” Kameny wrote.

In a Feb. 28, 1963 letter, Kameny told Kennedy about his fledgling effort to persuade the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

“Homosexuality is neither a sickness, disease, neurosis, psychosis, disorder, defect, nor other disturbance, but merely a matter of the predisposition of a significantly large minority of our citizens.”

Chandler said the Kennedy Library’s archivists could find no response from Kennedy or anyone else at the White House to Kameny’s letters.

“In fact, the only response we’ve found in our archives is a brief note from John W. Macy, Chairman of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, to Bruce Schuyler, Secretary of the Mattachine Society, who requested a meeting,” Chandler wrote.

In his note to Schuyler, Macy said, “It is the established policy of the Civil Service Commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.”

Chandler said that in a March 6, 1963 letter to Kennedy, Kameny appeared to be referring to the government’s lack of response to his and the Mattachine Society of Washington’s overtures to the Kennedy administration.

“We wish to cooperate in any way possible, if the chance for friendly, constructive cooperation is offered to us by you,” Kameny wrote, “but if it continues to be refused us, then we will have to seek out and to use any lawful means whatever, which seem to us appropriate, in order to achieve our lawful ends, just as the Negro has done in the South when he was refused cooperation.”

In 1975, after several court rulings against the Civil Service ban on gay employees that Kameny played a role in organizing, the Civil Service Commission ended its prohibition on gay federal workers. In 2009, John Berry, the gay director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the successor to the Civil Service Commission, presented Kameny with an official government apology for his 1958 firing.

“Things have changed,” Chandler quoted Kameny as saying around the time Berry issued the apology with the full backing of President Obama. “How they have changed. I am honored and proud that it is so.”

The Kennedy Library, which is part of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, highlighted its collection of Kameny correspondence this month as a follow-up to a video that the NARA released in support of the It Gets Better Project, Chandler said.

LGBT rights advocates led by gay author and syndicated columnist Dan Savage created the It Gets Better Project to draw attention to bullying targeting LGBT youth. With President Obama among the political leaders and celebrities who have spoken in an “It Gets Better” video, organizers say the project has helped lift the spirits of many LGBT youth that have suffered from taunts and physical violence.

NARA director David S. Ferriero, who holds the title of Archivist of the United States, recorded a recent “It Gets Better” video that is available for viewing on the NARA website.

“It is so exciting that the Kennedy Library is highlighting Kameny’s letters to President Kennedy,” said Charles Francis, founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for Kameny’s voluminous correspondence and writings to be given to the Library of Congress.

Francis noted that copies of the Kameny letters to President Kennedy are among the collection at the Library of Congress but that the letters at the Kennedy Library are the originals.

“This was done on Frank’s typewriter from Frank’s living room,” Francis said.

“It’s progress. It’s real progress,” he said of the prominent treatment the Kennedy Library is giving to the Kameny letters.

See the Kennedy Library article on Kameny letters here.



Pride House

The Human Rights Campaign, Team DC, Capital Pride, Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies and Pride House International hosted “Pride House: Washington Olympics Opening Ceremony Watch Event” at HRC headquarters on Friday to benefit the Russia LGBT Sport Federation. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) Pride House 


Louganis: Russian Open Games marred by disruptions

Gay News, Washington Blade, Greg Louganis

Retired Olympian Greg Louganis last December took part in a Russia briefing on Capitol Hill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Retired Olympic diver Greg Louganis is among those who participated in the Russian Open Games that ended in Moscow on Sunday.

Louganis, who competed in a table tennis tournament during the five-day event that drew more than 300 LGBT athletes from Russia and other countries that include the U.S. and Sweden, arrived in the Russian capital early last week after he received a last-minute visa.

He left Moscow on Feb. 28.

The gay retired Olympian who won two gold medals during the 1998 Summer Olympics in Seoul and in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles participated in a Feb. 27 press conference at a Moscow gay nightclub that opened the Russian Open Games. A bomb threat forced him and organizers to speak with reporters outside in the building’s parking lot.

The Washington Post reported the U.S. Embassy hosted a basketball game between participants and diplomats on Sunday after a smoke bomb disrupted a tournament two days earlier.

Louganis, who learned he was living with HIV six months before competing in Seoul, told the Blade police escorted him and more than 30 other Russian Open Games participants out of an ice rink on Feb. 27 after someone reported a group of “strange people” had arrived. He said they had simply gone to the rink for what he described as a “group workshop” about “teaching us some skating skills.”

“They made it clear we were not welcome,” said Louganis. “Just the looks of disdain as we were escorted off the premises was just really concerning.”

Louganis told the Blade he was sending e-mails from a coffee shop across the street from the building where the Russian LGBT Network was holding a panel after the ice rink incident when Konstantin Yablotskiy of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, which organized the Russian Open Games, said the event had been interrupted. He said Yablotskiy told him somebody suddenly turned off the lights and told them the venue would have to close if they didn’t leave.

Louganis said Yablotskiy and Elvina Yuvakaeva of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation told only one person about venues they had secured for various competitions – and this person escorted participants to them after they met at a Metro station. Louganis told the Blade that Yablotskiy told him to take precautions that included not saying anything specific during telephone conversations because he was sure “others were listening.”

“It was a very interesting environment,” said Louganis, noting he had last been to Moscow more than a decade before the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. “It kind of reminded me of that; that everything was watched, was observed, scrutinized.”

The Russian Open Games took place a few days after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi ended.

The Kremlin’s LGBT rights record that includes a 2013 law banning gay propaganda to minors overshadowed the Sochi games. Organizers of the Russian Open Games did not allow anyone under 18 to participate – they also included a disclaimer on its website that read “the information on this site is intended only for the use of those aged 18 and over.”

St. Petersburg Legislative Assemblyman Vitaly Milonov, who spearheaded his city’s gay propaganda ban that inspired the law Russian President Vladimir Putin signed last June, denounced the Russian Open Games. The lawmaker also urged Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin to cancel the event.

Yuvakaeva last week said four venues that had initially agreed to host the games abruptly cancelled their agreements. The hotel where the Russian LGBT Network had planned to hold its forum also cancelled the scheduled event.

Louganis told the Blade he had not heard about the 10 LGBT rights advocates who were arrested near Moscow’s Red Square on Feb. 7 as they tried to sing the Russian national anthem while holding rainbow flags before the Sochi opening ceremony. He said a gay couple he met in the Russian capital told him about the arrests – and the officers who reportedly beat and threatened to sexually assault the activists while inside a local police station.

St. Petersburg police on Feb. 7 arrested Anastasia Smirnova and three other LGBT rights advocates as they tried to march with a banner in support of the campaign to add sexual orientation to the Olympic charter’s non-discrimination clause.

“I really wanted to be a participant [in the Russian Open Games] just to get an objective view rather than the propagandized vision of what it was in Sochi,” Louganis told the Blade, discussing Russia’s LGBT rights record. “Sochi I heard was wonderful and everybody was bragging and the media was over-reacting and all of this. You don’t know until you’re there.”

Louganis was also in Moscow as Russian troops prepared to take control of Ukraine’s Crimea region amid outrage from the U.S. and Europe.

The Kremlin on Monday reportedly issued an ultimatum that demanded the surrender of the crews of two Ukrainian warships on the predominantly Russian-speaking peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday as tension between Washington and Moscow continues to escalate after the country’s Kremlin-backed president went into hiding following the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters in Kiev.

“We were aware of what was going on with the borders being enforced,” said Louganis. “There was talk of invasion. There was this thing going on, but we were just focused on the event… with every turn we had to adjust and adjust and adjust. We were constantly trying to adjust to the immediate present and trying to make the Open Games as successful as we possibly could.”

Louganis added he was repeatedly impressed with the games’ organizers’ resilience against efforts to disrupt events.

“It was very impressive,” he told the Blade. “It was also very eye-opening for me from my personal experience.”


Activists differ over calls to cut Uganda aid

Dickson Mujuni, RPL AIDS Foundation, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Dickson Mujuni of the RPL AIDS Foundation in Uganda working with youth
peer educators in the East African country. (Photo courtesy of Dickson

LGBT rights advocates in Uganda and other countries continue to disagree over whether the East African nation should lose foreign aid over a law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

BuzzFeed late on Sunday reported the Obama administration will divert $6.4 million originally earmarked for the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda – which backs the Anti-Homosexuality Act that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed last month – to other organizations. The website also noted a study designed to identify groups at risk for HIV/AIDS the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had planned to conduct with a Ugandan university has been suspended.

Jonathan Lalley, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told BuzzFeed the Obama administration will also redirect roughly $3 million that had been earmarked to promote tourism and biodiversity to non-governmental organizations that work on the issue. The website further reported the Pentagon has suspended or cancelled “near-term invitational travel” for Ugandan officials and plans to relocate events that had been scheduled to take place in the East African country in the coming weeks and months.

Dickson Mujuni of the RPL AIDS Foundation told the Washington Blade on Monday the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda should not receive U.S. aid because he said HIV/AIDS programs the group funds “don’t consider” the “most at-risk populations.”

“Those leaders themselves have been promoting homophobia, putting pressure on the president to assent to the AHB (Anti-Homosexuality Bill) which he did and commending him for signing that bill into law,” he said.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, offered a different perspective.

“I don’t support aid cuts in any form,” he told the Blade. “People should know that those are country policies which don’t comply with legislation such as the anti-gay law.”

A number of African advocates who traveled to New York last December to attend the 65th anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights told the Blade they oppose efforts to cut foreign aid to Uganda and other countries over their country’s LGBT rights records.

“We’re not asking the U.K. or foreign governments to cut aid to Africa,” said Juliet Mphande, executive director of Rainka Zambia, during a briefing the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission hosted. “LGBTI individuals are also Africans, so ultimately we all benefit from that aid.”

Ben Summerskill, who recently stepped down as chief executive of Stonewall U.K., last December applauded British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to directly channel foreign aid to non-governmental organizations in Uganda and other countries with controversial human rights records. Summerskill spoke to the Blade in New Hampshire hours after the Ugandan Parliament approved the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

“I don’t think any LGBT campaigner, however strongly they feel about Uganda, would think that it was a good thing that people should starve just so we feel we’re making some progress around human rights for gay people,” said Summerskill.

The Obama administration last month announced after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law that it had begun a review of its relationship with Uganda.

A CDC-funded program that fully or partially funded the salaries of 87 employees of the Ugandan Ministry of Health who support the country’s HIV/AIDS response ended on Feb. 28. The World Bank, the Netherlands and other European countries have also cut aid or postponed loans to the East African country after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

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

The Washington Post on Sunday reported the White House will send 150 Air Force special operations personnel and several aircraft to Uganda to help the country’s government track down Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army whom the International Criminal Court has indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity that stem from the group’s decades long insurgency against the Ugandan government. The Lord’s Resistance Army is among the issues that U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and four other members of Congress discussed with Museveni during a meeting on Jan. 23.

The delegation did not meet with Ugandan LGBT rights advocates while in the country, but Inhofe has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to the Blade.

“I certainly disagree with the controversial legislation that Uganda may enact in the coming days,” said the Oklahoma Republican before Museveni signed the measure into law. “It is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”

Mugisha is among the Ugandan human rights advocates who signed onto a challenge of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law filed with the country’s Constitutional Court earlier this month.

“We are cognizant that there are many who share our concerns about Ugandan President Museveni’s recent enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act,” said Grant Harris and Stephen Pomper of the National Security Council on Monday. “Ensuring justice and accountability for human rights violators like the LRA [Lord's Resistance Army] and protecting LGBT rights aren’t mutually exclusive. We can and must do both.”


Terry McAuliffe bans discrimination against LGBT state employees

Terry McAuliffe, Richmond, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Saturday signed an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT state employees. (Photo by Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

RICHMOND, Va.—Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Saturday signed an executive order that bans discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“By virtue of the authority vested in me as governor, I hereby declare that it is the firm and unwavering policy of the commonwealth of Virginia to assure equal opportunity in all facets of state government,” reads the directive McAuliffe signed shortly after he took office on the South Portico of the State Capitol. “The foundational tenet of this executive order is premised upon a steadfast commitment to foster a culture of inclusion, diversity and mutual respect for all Virginians.”

McAuliffe repeatedly promised during his campaign against then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that the first executive order he would sign as governor is a ban on anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell did not issue such a mandate, but U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner as governor banned discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation.

Julian Walker of the Virginian-Pilot reported gender identity and expression for the first time was included in the anti-discrimination order.

“My administration is committed to keeping Virginia open and welcoming to all who call our commonwealth home,” said McAuliffe after signing the directive. “Executive Order Number 1 sets the tone for an administration that will not accept discrimination in any form, and one that will work tirelessly to ensure all Virginians have equal opportunity in the workplace, no matter their backgrounds, race, religion, or whom they love.”

McAuliffe on Saturday also signed an executive order that prohibits gifts of more than $100 to himself, his family, statewide officials and their families in response to the ethics scandal surrounding former Gov. Bob McDonnell over a Rolex watch and other items he, his wife and their children and other family members received from outgoing Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. The directive also created an ethics commission to oversee the execution of the executive order.

The former Democratic National Committee chair supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.

His inauguration took place against the backdrop of two federal lawsuits challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that bans gay nuptials.

It remains unclear whether the former Democratic National Committee chair and Attorney General Mark Herring will defend the ban that Virginia voters approved in 2006 by a 57-43 percent margin.


Pride Reveal

The Capital Pride Alliance held the 2014 Pride Reveal event at the P.O.V. Lounge of the W Hotel on Thursday evening to announce the theme for Pride 2014: “Build Our Bright Future.” (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) buyphoto 


Former Italian parliamentarian arrested at Olympics

Queer Nation, New York City, New York, Russia, Sochi, homophobia, Winter Olympics, gay news, Washington Blade

Russian police on Sunday arrested a former Italian parliamentarian who unfurled a rainbow flag with a pro-gay slogan at the Olympics. (Photo courtesy of Queer Nation NY)

Reports indicate Russian police have arrested a transgender former Italian parliamentarian who unfurled a rainbow flag at the 2014 Winter Olympics that contained a pro-gay slogan. reported Irma Battaglia of the Gay Project, an Italian LGBT advocacy group, said Vladimir Luxuria told her during a telephone call that authorities in Sochi took her into custody while holding a flag that said “gay is ok” in Russian. Luxuria earlier on Sunday posted a picture to Twitter that showed her with a rainbow-colored fan at the games.

“I am in Sochi,” tweeted Luxuria in Italian. “Greetings with the colors of the rainbow, in the face of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.” reported Luxuria told Battaglia the officers who arrested her were “brutal and aggressive.” She also said none of them spoke English.

Luxuria’s reported arrest took place nine days after authorities in Moscow and St. Petersburg took 14 LGBT rights advocates into custody hours before the 2014 Winter Olympics officially opened.

Elena Kostynchenko, who is one of the 10 activists arrested near Moscow’s Red Square on Feb. 7 as they sang the Russian national anthem while holding Russian and rainbow flags, told the Washington Blade after her arrest that officers beat one activist and choked another while they were at a local police station. Kostynchenko said authorities also threatened to sexually assault her and another female advocate before they released them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last month those who protest his government’s LGBT rights record during the Olympics would not face prosecution under his country’s controversial law that bans gay propaganda to minors. The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly said it has received assurances from the Kremlin that gays and lesbians will not suffer discrimination while in Sochi for the games.

Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, highlighted the campaign in support of adding sexual orientation to the Olympic charter’s non-discrimination clause while in Sochi between Feb. 4-9.

David Pichler, a gay U.S. diver who competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics and 2000 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney, left the Black Sea resort city on Feb. 11 after spending five days at the games with two Human Rights First staffers. The group met with Anastasia Smirnova and two other Russian LGBT rights advocates in St. Petersburg on Feb. 6 – one day before authorities took Smirnova and three other advocates into custody as they tried to march with a banner that highlighted support for the Principle 6 campaign.

A spokesperson for the 2014 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee on Monday referred the Blade to an Associated Press story that said Sochi police officials denied Luxuria’s claims she was arrested.

“We’ve talked to police and they have told us there is no record whatsoever to any detention or arrest,” said Alexandra Kosterina of the Sochi organizing committee, during an Olympics press briefing as the AP reported.

Luxuria served in the lower house of the Italian Parliament from 2006-2008.

Battaglia told the Blade authorities released Luxuria late on Sunday after Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino personally intervened. The activist added the former parliamentarian plans to wear a rainbow-colored suit on Monday at the Olympic Village and at a hockey game to protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws and speak out against the arrests of Smirnova and the 13 other LGBT rights advocates before the opening ceremony.

“We are all proud of her strength and courage,” Luca Possenti of Famiglie Arcobaleno, a group that advocates on behalf of Italian LGBT parents and those who want to have children, told the Blade on Sunday. “We know that she consciously decided to protest this way against the shameful anti-gay laws and we will support her in any way.”

The Blade’s attempts to speak with Luxuria have thus far proven unsuccessful.


SMYAL executive director to step down

Andrew Barnett, SMYAL, gay news, Washington Blade

Andrew Barnett (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

SMYAL Executive Director Andrew Barnett on Tuesday announced he plans to step down in August in order to pursue his doctorate in clinical psychology.

“After nine years as part of the SMYAL family, I look forward to this new chapter of my life, where I plan to research psychosocial factors impacting health among LGBTQ youth,” said Barnett in a press release. “Serving as SMYAL’s executive director and being part of such an extraordinary organization has been an incredible experience. The SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth have such tremendous passion and commitment to our mission. I leave knowing that an amazing team of people will continue to build this organization and carry out its critical work.”

Barnett became a SMYAL staffer in 2005. He has been the organization’s executive director since 2009.

SMYAL in 2012 adopted a new strategic plan that Barnett said would allow his organization to identify issues facing LGBT youth and how it can most effectively respond to them. It includes a new logo and acronym – Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders as opposed to Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League – that Barnett unveiled last April.

“Andrew has been an extremely dynamic and visionary leader for SMYAL who will leave the organization even stronger than it was when he started nine years ago,” said SMYAL Board of Directors Chair Mike Schwartz. “The board is enormously grateful for his service and we wish him well as he embarks on this next exciting phase of his career.”

Former SMYAL Board of Directors Chair Betsy Pursell will oversee the effort to select Barnett’s replacement.


Chilean man dies after alleged anti-gay attack

Chile, vigil, Santiago, gay news, Washington Blade, Daniel Zamudio

A spate of anti-LGBT attacks in Chile over the last year has prompted calls for the government to strengthen the country’s existing hate crimes law named in honor of Daniel Zamudio. (Photos courtesy of Fundación Daniel Zamudio.)

A Chilean man who had been in a coma for nearly six months after a group of men allegedly attacked him because he was gay died on Sunday.

Wladimir Sepúlveda passed away at a hospital in Rancagua, a city that is roughly 55 miles south of Santiago, the Chilean capital.

The 21-year-old had been in a vegetative state after a group of six men attacked him last October in the nearby town of San Francisco de Mostazal. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, said Sepúlveda’s assailants shouted anti-gay slurs at him as they kicked him and punched him in the head.

“The death of Wladimir Sepúlveda, who spent months fighting for his life, is a painful and sad moment,” said Álvaro Elizalde, spokesperson for President Michelle Bachelet, in a statement late on Sunday. “On behalf of the government I want to express my condolences through an embrace of solidarity with his relatives.”

LGBT rights advocates in neighboring Argentina also mourned Sepúlveda’s death.

“Wladimir’s death has profoundly affected us,” said LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón. “We have kept following this case since the crime took place and we had hoped that it would not have this outcome.”

Sepúlveda’s death comes against the backdrop of a spate of anti-LGBT attacks in the South American country.

Esteban Parada Armijo, 22, died in a Santiago hospital in late January after two men stabbed him in the Chilean capital’s Bellavista neighborhood where a number of gay bars and clubs are located.

Alejandro Alfredo Bustamante Godoy, 59, died two weeks earlier after Guillermo Aguilera Guerrero, 18, allegedly stabbed the fast food restaurant owner inside his home in the coastal city of Valparaíso a few weeks earlier. Willian Villanueva, a small-time drug dealer, reportedly said he was going to “kill a faggot” before he allegedly shot Arturo Lomboi to death in the Santiago suburb of Puente Alto in December.

Doctors last June amputated Esteban Navarro Quinchevil’s leg after a group of six men attacked him in the Santiago suburb of Peñalolén because he is gay. A transgender teenager from the coastal city of Cartagena the month before lost an eye during an alleged anti-trans attack.

Then-President Sebastián Piñera in 2012 signed into law a hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The statute is named in honor of Daniel Zamudio Vera, a 24-year-old whom a group of self-described neo-Nazis beat to death in a Santiago park earlier that year because he was gay.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation noted on March 27 – the second anniversary of Zamudio’s death – that 26 people have been in murdered in Chile because of their sexual orientation or gender identity since 2002.

The Chilean LGBT advocacy group has sharply criticized a Rancagua judge who charged a man who confessed to attacking Sepúlveda with a lesser charge. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation has also renewed calls for Bachelet’s government to reform the country’s hate crimes law.

Bachelet, who succeeded Piñera last month, supports efforts to strengthen the statute.

“This new death underscores how much we still have to go to advance as a society,” said Elizalde. “We hope that justice will take its course, clarifying the facts and applying the appropriate punishments.”

Sepúlveda’s body has been brought to Santiago for an autopsy. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation said his funeral will take place in Rancagua later this week.