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Ready for Hillary group hosts Town event

Ready for Hillary, Hillary Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Ready for Hillary is a grassroots organization that supports Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 presidential run. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ready for Hillary, a grassroots organization that supports former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 presidential run, hosts “Out and Ready for Hillary” at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) Tuesday from 7-9 p.m.

Ready for Hillary was formed last year and has grown to more than one million supporters and 25,00 donors. The event is the LGBT kick-off in the District. Clinton has not stated her plans for the 2016 election.

Tickets are $20.16. For more information and to RSVP, visit readyforhillary.com/events/outdc.

08
Jan
2014

Pregnant smokers, drinkers more likely to have gay kids: study

woman, smoking, gay news, Washington Blade, pregnant

Choices made during pregnancy such as smoking can raise the chance of having a gay child, according to a new study. (Photo by Bigstock)

LONDON — A new study from an Amsterdam University neurobiology professor suggests that choices made during pregnancy such as taking synthetic hormones, smoking, drinking and stress can raise the chance of having a gay child, the Sunday Times reports.

Professor Dick Swaab says smoking, drinking and taking drugs designed to combat depression during pregnancy can lower a child’s IQ, while living in an area with high levels of traffic pollution can raise the risk of autism, the Times reports.

Swaab’s claims follow a survey of the latest academic studies about links between the lifestyles of pregnant women and the development of their babies. Each provides evidence of the sensitivity of the brain to outside influences, the article said.

“Pregnant women suffering from stress are also more likely to have homosexual children of both genders because their raised level of the stress hormone cortisol affects the production of fetal sex hormones,” the Telegraph quoted him as having said.

22
Jan
2014

SPECIAL REPORT: Poverty in the LGBT community

Kadeem Swenson, poverty, LGBT, gay news, Washington Blade

Kadeem Swenson told the Blade in 2010 that his parents kicked him out of the house for being gay. He spent a year living in abandoned buildings in D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s note: This week, the Blade kicks off a special yearlong focus on poverty in the LGBT community. The occasional series will examine the problem with special reports from D.C. and around the country. To share your ideas or personal story, visit us on Facebook or email knaff@washblade.com.

 

As the 50th anniversary of the U.S. war on poverty launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 is commemorated this year, LGBT advocates are pointing to little noticed studies showing that the rate of poverty in the LGBT community is higher than that of the general population.

In a 2013 report analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other data measuring poverty in the United States, the Williams Institute, a research arm at the University of California Law School in Los Angeles that specializes in LGBT issues, concludes that rates of poverty are higher than the general population among gay men and lesbians between the ages of 18-44 and gay men and lesbians living alone.

The report shows that couples – both gay and straight – tend to have a lower rate of poverty than single people and the population as a whole. But it found that the poverty rate for lesbian couples is higher than that of gay male couples and opposite-sex couples and the poverty rate of same-sex African-American couples is higher than it is for opposite-sex African-American couples.

Among the report’s findings that surprised LGBT activists were data showing that bisexual men and women had poverty rates of 25.9 percent and 29.4 percent respectively – higher than gay men (20.5 percent) and lesbians (22.7 percent). The report says the same set of data show that heterosexual men had a poverty rate of 15.3 percent compared to a rate of 21.1 percent for heterosexual women.

“The LGB poverty data help to debunk the persistent stereotype of the affluent gay man or lesbian,” the Williams Institute report says.

“Instead, the poverty data are consistent with the view that LGB people continue to face economic challenges that affect their income and life chances, such as susceptibility to employment discrimination, higher rates of being uninsured, and a lack of access to various tax and other financial benefits via exclusion from the right to marry,” the report says.

The report uses the U.S. Census Bureau definition of poverty for 2012 in its analysis of LGBT poverty levels based on family income. That definition lists the “poverty line” for a single person household as an annual income of $11,815 or less. The poverty line for a two-person household was $15,079, and for a four-person household was $23,684 in 2012.

 

poverty, gay news, Washington Blade

Researchers with the Williams Institute say this graph summarizes their findings of higher poverty rates among samples of mostly LGB and some LGBT people in the U.S. The bar graph on the left represents data taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey (ACS). The chart in the center is taken from data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). The chart at right is from a 2012 phone survey conducted by the Gallup Poll organization. (Graph courtesy of the Williams Institute)

Trans poverty ‘extraordinarily high’

 

A separate study prepared jointly by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2011, called “Injustice at Every Turn,” shows dramatically higher rates of poverty and homelessness among transgender Americans in each state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Kylar Broadus, senior policy counsel and director of the Trans Civil Rights Project for The Task Force, called the poverty rate in the transgender community “extraordinarily high.” He said a key factor leading to economic hardship among transgender people is the persistent problem of employment discrimination.

“There’s double the national rate of unemployment,” he said in discussing the trans community of which he said he’s a member. “And once we’re employed 90 percent of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment and discrimination on the job,” he noted in pointing to the NCTE-Task Force study.

“Forty-seven percent said they experienced adverse outcomes such as being fired, not hired or denied promotions because of being transgender or gender non-conforming,” Broadus said.

He said the respondents reported various forms of housing discrimination that are contributing factors to homelessness in the transgender community. According to the study, 19 percent of respondents reported having been refused a home or an apartment to rent and 11 percent reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression.

“Nineteen percent experienced homelessness at some point in their lives because they were transgender or didn’t conform as well, and then 55 percent were denied access to shelters,” he said.

Another study released by the Williams Institute last week reports that 2.4 million LGBT adults, or 29 percent, “experienced a time in the last year when they did not have enough money to feed themselves or their family.”

The study, written by Williams Institute demographer Gary Gates, found that LGBT people are more likely to rely on the federal food stamp program for assistance than their heterosexual counterparts.

“One in four bisexuals (25 percent) receive food stamps,” the report says, “34 percent of LGBT women were food insecure in the last year; and LGBT African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians experienced food insecurity in the last year at rates of 37 percent, 55 percent, and 78 percent respectively,” the report says.

 

LGBT homeless rate high in San Fran

 

Yet another report released last June found that 29 percent of the homeless population in San Francisco identified as LGBT. The report, which was part of the city’s biennial homeless count, included for the first time a count of the number of homeless people who identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Brian Bassinger, director of the San Francisco-based AIDS Housing Alliance, which provides services to the HIV and LGBT communities, said although the finding to some degree reflects the high LGBT population in San Francisco, which is 15 percent, he believes LGBT people make up a sizable percent of the homeless population in other cities throughout the country.

Bassinger said he also believes the 29 percent figure for San Francisco is most likely an under count and that the actual number is higher.

“LGBT people in the shelter system here are regularly targeted for violence, harassment and hate crimes, which are very well documented,” he said.

Since much of the effort to count homeless people in the city takes place at shelters, large numbers of LGBT homeless people are not counted because they generally avoid the shelters out of fear of harassment and violence, Bassinger said.

He said his group also closely monitors a development in San Francisco threatening to push the city’s older LGBT population into poverty and which may be occurring in other cities – the enormous rise in the cost of housing due to gentrification and a booming real estate market. Those who for years have lived in popular gay neighborhoods as tenants are being displaced by the conversion of rental apartment buildings and houses into upscale condominiums, Bassinger said.

“Long-term San Franciscans who have spent decades building the system to deliver access to equal treatment under the law here in San Francisco are getting displaced by all of these people moving into our community,” he said.

And because they can no longer afford to live in San Francisco many are being forced to move to other parts of the state or other states that are less LGBT friendly and don’t have the support community they came to enjoy for so many years, according to Bassinger.

The Williams Institute’s 2013 report, meanwhile, analyzes data from four surveys of the U.S. population with a demographic breakdown that included mostly gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals as well as a smaller, combined “LGBT” sample.

The four surveys were conducted by these organizations or government agencies:

• The 2010 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau with a sample of more than 500,000 and which included data from same-sex couple households.

• The National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics from 2006-2010 included a sample of more than 19,000 people throughout the country, including people who identified as LGB, the Williams Institute study says.

• The California Health Interview Survey conducted by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research in collaboration with California Department of Public Health surveyed more than 50,000 Californians, including LGB adults from 2007 to 2009.

• A Gallup Daily Tracking Poll conducted between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2012 with a sample of more than 120,000 adults from 18 and older, included people who identified themselves as LGBT in all 50 states and D.C. The poll was conducted by phone.

The report includes these additional findings on the subject of poverty in the LGBT community:

• African-American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than twice the rate of different-sex married African Americans.

• One-third of lesbian couples and 20.1 percent of gay male couples who don’t have a high school diploma are in poverty, compared to 18.8 percent of heterosexual couples.

• Lesbian couples living in rural areas are more likely to be poor (14.1 percent) compared to 4.5 percent of lesbian couples in large cities; 10.2 percent of gay male couples who live in small metropolitan areas are poor compared with just 3.3 percent of gay male couples who live in large metropolitan areas.

• Nearly one in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2 percent of children living with a female same-sex couple is in poverty. This compares with 12.1 percent of children living with married heterosexual couples who are in poverty.

• African-American children in gay male households have the highest poverty rate (52.3 percent) of any children in any household type.

• 14 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples received food stamps, compared to 6.5 percent of straight married couples. In addition, 2.2 percent of same-sex female couples received government cash assistance compared to 0.8 percent of women in different-sex couples. And 1.2 percent of men in same-sex couples received cash assistance compared to 0.6 percent of men in different-sex couple relationships who received cash assistance.

The report’s co-author Lee Badgett, a Williams Institute senior fellow and professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said it’s difficult to draw a conclusion from the Williams Institute and other studies as to why there are higher poverty levels in the LGBT community.

“The people that I know who worked with LGBT people in poverty talk about the reasons being very complex,” she said.

“I suspect that there are lots of disadvantages that people face, whether it’s in the labor market or in schools and that maybe somehow they kind of come together, that they are sort of cumulative over time and make people more vulnerable to poverty. But I think we don’t really know exactly why that happens,” Badgett told the Blade.

In the Williams Institute report, she and co-authors Laura Durso and Alyssa Schneebaum call for further studies to explore the factors that contribute both to “poverty and economic resilience” within the LGBT community.

“Our analyses highlight different demographic subpopulations that may be particularly at-risk; however, we are unable to take a more fine-grained approach to identifying factors that contribute to poverty in these different communities,” the report says.

“Identifying the conditions under which individuals and families descend into and escape from poverty will aid service organizations and government agencies in designing interventions to address this significant social problem,” the report concludes.

Broadus of the Task Force said discrimination and bias make up at least some of the conditions that force LGBT people into poverty.

“We are less economically secure as a community due to suffering at the hands of discrimination in employment, marriage, insurance and less familial and societal support,” he said. “The LGBT community as a whole lives at the margins and some at the margins of the margins such as women, people of color and children. When some of our community is vulnerable we are all vulnerable.”

12
Feb
2014

DNC honors Tom Chorlton

Tom Chorlton, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Tom Chorlton died Jan. 5 in South Carolina from complications associated with leukemia. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

The Democratic National Committee adopted a resolution at its Washington meeting on Feb. 28 honoring the late Tom Chorlton, a longtime gay Democratic Party activist and former D.C. resident.

Chorlton served as founding executive director of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs from 1981-1982 before becoming D.C.’s first openly gay candidate for the City Council.

He later became a political science professor at the College of Charleston in North Carolina and author of a nationally recognized book profiling the little known 14 presidents of the American Continental Congress prior to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

Chorlton died Jan. 5 in South Carolina from complications associated with leukemia.

The DNC resolution states, “Therefore be it resolved that the Democratic National Committee honor Tom Chorlton for his dedication to the Democratic Party, his commitment to advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, his passion for political organizing within the LGBT community, his love of American history, and his years of mentoring to future activists.”

06
Mar
2014

SPECIAL REPORT In their own words: elders facing poverty, ageism

Mary Paradise, Sage, ageism, gay news, Washington Blade

‘They never say ‘you’re too old.’ They say, ‘we want someone who graduated more recently,’ said D.C. resident Mary Paradise of her prolonged job search. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part look at how poverty affects elder members of the LGBT community and part of a yearlong Blade focus on poverty. To share your ideas or personal story, visit us on Facebook or email knaff@washblade.com. Click here to read previous installments.

 

Today — and every day for the next 16 years — 10,000 baby boomers, members of the generation born between 1946 and 1964, will turn 65, according to the Pew Research Center. About 1.5 million gay, lesbian and bisexual elders in the United States are gay. By 2030, that number is expected to increase to nearly 3 million, according to a report by Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), the Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress.

One in six Americans over 65 lives in poverty, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“For LGBT older adults, a lifetime of employment discrimination, among other factors, contribute to disproportionately high poverty rates,” the SAGE website states.

LGBT elders living in or near poverty aren’t just statistics. The Blade interviewed several LGBT elders, aged 50 and older, from St. Louis to Chicago to New York City to Washington, D.C. Here are their stories:

A little peanut butter, maybe some pizza or Ramen noodles is a typical meal for Robyn Sullivan, a 57-year-old transgender woman living in New York City, who struggles to pull together $25 a week for food. In the past, she’s lived in homeless shelters. Now, she lives in a cockroach infested third floor walk-up with four gender non-conforming struggling artists.

“This is the hardest place in the country to live if you don’t make tons of money,” said Sullivan, who suffers from clinical depression and arthritis. “They wanted me to work one day a week for eight hours at a construction site with my limitations to qualify for $190 of food stamps. Working there would be too dangerous.”

Her plight is common among transgender people, Sullivan said. “Dealing with transphobia is nothing I can win at.”

In the 1990s, Sullivan was a skilled software project manager. “I used to make six figures,” she said. “When I was living as a white male professional, I was getting privilege far beyond what any human being deserves. Then I needed to transition and there was the downturn in Silicon Valley.”

After a couple of years, her savings were gone.

“As you go along into poverty, there are things that make people avoid you,” said Sullivan, who now works part-time as a receptionist for SAGE. “I wasn’t hired for a job around the corner from here. They said I wasn’t trustworthy because I lived in a homeless shelter,” she said.

Sullivan encounters not only transphobia but ageism. “When you’re past 50, no company with a retirement plan will hire you,” Sullivan said.

Even with all that she endures, Sullivan says she doesn’t harbor regrets. “When I came out as a trans woman, I felt like I was the woman I was,” she said. “I chose to stop living a lie.  Knowing what I know now, I doubt I would have done anything differently.”

It’s not always been as good for him as it is now, 70-year-old Roger Beyers of Chicago told the Blade. But “nobody ever said, life’s going to be a bed of roses,” he said.

Beyers, who retired at 66 after working for 40 years for Jewel, a Chicago area grocer, is HIV positive.

“My income is less than $12,000 per year,” he said. “My housing is subsidized by Chicago House. Before I was admitted to Chicago House, I was on the verge of homelessness. I’m on Medicare and Medicaid.”

Medicaid pays for his HIV medication, Beyers said. “If I had to pay for it, it would cost $18,000. I couldn’t afford it,” he said. “If it were to collapse, I’d be in a fragile position.”

Though he struggles with issues of economic insecurity, he feels that he’s overcoming some of them, Beyers said. He recently started a part-time internship with the Center on Halsted in Chicago.

“My financial situation has dramatically changed,” Beyers said. “There’s a world of difference between living on Social Security and having money left over at the end of the month.”

For one day a week at the Center, he assists with an HIV counseling hotline. “I love it,” Beyers said. “I can say to an HIV-positive person: ‘I’ve been there, done that and survived it all.’”

He finds strength and joy from his boyfriend Eduardo. “A shout-out for my boyfriend! I may end up marrying this man,” he said.

Mary Paradise, 62, a Capital Pride board member and Washington, D.C. resident, has been looking for work for more than a year. She worked as a nurse for 42 years. Paradise, while working as a health marketing consultant, was laid off due to downsizing. Throughout her job search, she’s often encountered ageism, Paradise said.

“They never say ‘you’re too old.’ They say, ‘we want someone who graduated more recently’ or ‘you’re over qualified,’” she said. “I say to them, ‘you must want someone who’s younger.’”

It gets discouraging, Paradise said. She’s used up her savings and in three months her unemployment benefits will run out, unless Congress extends the benefits. “It gets scary,” Paradise said, “it’s a humbling experience. I’ve worked all my life. For Congress to think I’m lazy is insulting.”

But Paradise is optimistic. She volunteers at her church. “My faith is such that I believe I will be taken care of if I just keep moving forward,” she said. “I have friends who are wonderfully supportive. I have some job leads. Something will come my way that’s a perfect fit.”

Barbara Woodruff, ageism, gay news, Washington Blade

Barbara Woodruff, 64, of St. Louis says she gets by on her $633 Social Security check each month.

Like many baby boomers, Barbara Woodruff, 64, of St. Louis thought that she had plenty of money put away for retirement. But like far too many people, especially lesbians, she found herself with no savings when she reached retirement age, Woodruff said. She gets by on her monthly $633 Social Security check. Fortunately, Woodruff says, she has Medicare and Medicaid.

“Thank God, that paid for my medication when my thyroid went haywire,” she said. “I’m fortunate. I pay $202 in rent for a nice one-bedroom apartment. It’s HUD-subsidized through the Cardinal Ritter Senior Services housing program.”

Woodruff’s partner of 20 years died in a boating accident in 1988. “When she passed, I lost the house. It was in her name. We didn’t think about those things then,” she said.

Over the years, Woodruff has done everything from working in a nursing recruitment office to running, with a business partner, an event designing business to clerking at a convenience store. “You do what you have to do to put food on the table,” she said.

For several years, Woodruff stopped working to take care of her now deceased mother.  “Her Social Security was very little. But I’d do it again,” she said.

Because of her low income, Woodruff doesn’t go out to eat much. “The LGBT community is very supportive here. There’s a great lesbian hangout. I like to see my friends there. I can’t afford to go there now,” she said. “I eat less meat and a lot more fresh fruit and veggies for my health — meat’s expensive.”

Without the social safety net of health insurance and her housing subsidy, she doesn’t know if she’d be alive, Woodruff said.

“I wouldn’t do myself in,” she said. “My friends would make sure I’d have a place to live. I’d be grateful to have a room in their house. But it wouldn’t be my home.”

27
Mar
2014

Soaring syphilis rates mostly in MSM community

Treponema pallidum, syphilis, gay news, Washington Blade

Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes treponemal diseases such as syphilis, bejel, pinta, and yaws. (Image by Dr. David Cox; courtesy CDC Health Image Library)

NEW YORK — Health officials say syphilis has reached its highest level since 1995 with the increase all in men, the Associated Press reports.

Syphilis remains far less common in the U.S. than many other sexually spread diseases, but there has been a steady rise in gay and bisexual men catching the disease. They account for most of the recent infectious cases, health officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Since 2005, the rate in men has nearly doubled. It is much lower in women and hasn’t changed much.

Syphilis is a potentially deadly bacterial disease that surfaces as genital sores. It was far more common until antibiotics became available in the 1940s, slashing the number of annual cases to below 6,000.

Last year, there were nearly 17,000 cases, the AP reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the numbers May 8.

15
May
2014

Business owners challenge anti-gay Miss. law

Mississippi, We Don't Discriminate, gay news, Washington Blade

This restaurant in Laurel, Miss., is among the more than 1,000 businesses across the state that have joined a campaign against an anti-gay law that took effect on July 1. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

JACKSON, Miss. — Mitchell Moore, owner of Campbell’s Bakery in the Fondren neighborhood of Jackson, was at home late on April 1 when he read a Facebook post from a lesbian friend that had a “frantic feel to it.”

The Mississippi House of Representatives in a 79-43 vote had just passed Senate Bill 2681 — the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act — that activists argue would allow businesses to deny services to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.

The Mississippi Senate quickly followed suit in a late-night vote.

“I was like why would they do this?” Moore told the Washington Blade on Friday during an interview at his bakery, referring to previous incidents of bakers and photographers who denied services to same-sex couples. “I thought great, I am the only baker in Jackson that does wedding cakes. I was like great; they’re going to pass this bill and then people are going to call me and say ‘hey, are you against gay people getting married? Are you not going to make cakes for gay people now that it’s illegal to do that?’”

Moore decided to launch a Facebook page against SB 2681 even before Gov. Phil Bryant signed it into law during a private ceremony that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and members of the Mississippi-based American Family Association and other anti-LGBT groups attended on April 3.

“I thought no, I’m not going to have my name and my business attached to anything that I don’t agree with,” said Moore, a straight Republican who is married and has a 2-year-old daughter. “I’m not going to have politicians speak on my behalf. I’m not going to have them take actions that I vehemently disagree with.”

Moore, along with Eddie Outlaw, a gay salon owner who grew up outside Yazoo City in the Mississippi Delta, Joce Pritchett of Jackson and a handful of others soon launched the “We don’t discriminate” campaign that features blue stickers with a thin rainbow band and the slogan “If you’re buying, we’re selling.”

More than 1,000 businesses across the state and around the country have received stickers since the campaign formally launched.

“The message is we don’t discriminate,” said Moore, referring to four Middle Eastern men who purchased a Birthday cake and wrote a message on it in Arabic at his bakery after they read about the campaign. “I don’t care if you’re a Muslim. I don’t care if you’re black, I don’t care if you’re gay. I don’t care. You’re my customer. I’m here to sell to everybody. I have a business that’s open to the public.”

Kelly Kyle, a gay lawyer in Ridgeland, a suburb of Jackson, also launched a Facebook group called Mississippians Against Discrimination of Any Kind when he first heard about SB 2681.

He told the Blade during a Thursday interview at his office that the only thing he and others knew about the measure was that it sought to add “In God We Trust” into the state seal.

“We just feel it is leaving the door open to discrimination,” said Kyle. “Frankly the bill was unnecessary in the first place. There is no protection for community to begin with. They’re adding something on top of that that really wasn’t necessary in the first place.”

Law embodies what Old South ‘stood for’

Mississippi, We Don't Discriminate, gay news, Washington Blade

Dandelion Project co-founder Rev. Brandiilyne Dear (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The fight against SB 2681, which took effect on July 1, continues to galvanize LGBT rights advocates across the state.

Members of the Dandelion Project, an LGBT support group in Laurel, protested the measure on the steps of the State Capitol. They also worked with Moore and others who launched the “We don’t discriminate” campaign.

Some students at the University of Mississippi wore “We don’t discriminate” stickers and rainbow-colored socks as a way to protest Bryant’s decision to sign SB 2681 during their commencement ceremony in May at which he spoke.

“It wasn’t an in your face, let me shut down your speech kind of protest,” Outlaw told the Blade on Friday during an interview at the Jackson hair salon he co-owns with his husband whom he married in California last year. “It was definitely a show of support.”

Rev. Brandiilyne Dear, co-founder of the Dandelion Project, also criticized the measure during an interview at a coffee shop in downtown Laurel on Wednesday.

“SB 2681 is the living embodiment of everything that the Old South stood for,” she said. “It was a law to let the LGBT community know that there’s no place for them here.”

Members of the Dandelion Project were far more blunt about SB 2681 as they spoke to the Blade a few hours later during their weekly meeting at the small house in which Dear and her partner, Susan, live in Laurel.

“I don’t understand why they’re going to just bring up more bullshit,” said Aiden, a 20-year-old transgender man from Laurel. “I mean just get over it. If they would open up their minds like they open up their mouths, we’d be set.”

Other members of the Dandelion Project told the Blade that the manager of a popular restaurant in Hattiesburg last month brought a lesbian couple their food with carry out containers and told them it was closing, even though it was 7 p.m. and it was full of other customers.

Bob Saunders said as he and his partner, Eric Wood, and two other local LGBT advocates stuffed envelopes for the “We don’t discriminate” campaign at their Jackson home on Thursday that someone criticized the owner of a local tire shop faced criticism for supporting the effort against SB 2681. He said the business owner gave the person who questioned his position on the law a number of things about him that included he had voted for President Obama.

“It was a really potent statement,” said Saunders.

Bryant an ‘idiot’ for signing bill; has gay son

Mississippi, Eddie Outlaw, gay news, Washington Blade

Jackson, Miss. salon owner Eddie Outlaw (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mississippi’s anti-discrimination and hate crime laws do not include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Outlaw told the Blade that he and others behind the “We don’t discriminate” campaign have met with the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi to strategize a response to any incidents of businesses denying services to LGBT people under SB 2681.

“We are all being vigilant and prepared to document these stories and share them,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of if. I think it’s a matter of when something will happen.”

A number of LGBT Mississippians with whom the Blade has spoken in recent days said they feel Bryant signed SB 2681 into law to simply please his conservative base.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said Ryvell Fitzpatrick, a gay teacher, during an interview at his home in Greenville on Thursday as he discussed the measure and other controversial Mississippi laws that have recently taken effect. “There’s a good old boys connection that’s going on and if you’re in, you’re in. If you’re not, oh well. And I definitely see things happening that are almost tokens that are thrown just to kind of pacify [their supporters] or just to shut people up.”

Alyx, a 27-year-old lesbian who is a member of the Dandelion Project, said she feels the governor signed SB 2681 because he’s an “idiot.”

Bryant said in a statement he released after signing the measure that it is identical to a federal law that then-President Bill Clinton signed in 1993.

“I am proud to sign the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act today, which will protect the individual religious freedom of Mississippians of all faiths from government interference,” said Bryant. “Mississippi has now joined 18 other states to defend religious freedoms on a state level.”

Moore speculated the real reason Bryant signed the measure into law is because he has yet to accept his son’s homosexuality.

“He’s got some demons,” said Moore.

‘We don’t discriminate’

Mississippi, We Don't Discriminate, gay news, Washington Blade

Campbell’s Bakery owner Mitchell Moore (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Those involved with the campaign against SB 2681 remain hopeful it will continue to gain traction.

Moore showed the Blade a picture of a flier the New York City Commission on Human Rights used that contained the campaign’s slogan. Wood and Saunders noted people as far away as Uganda have requested stickers.

“It’s not just for the LGBT community,” said Moore. “I know it’s got a rainbow on it, but that’s because of that’s how it started. The message is we don’t discriminate.”

12
Jul
2014

Olympic athletes urged to speak out against Russia LGBT record

Queer Nation, NYSE, Russia, Russia Day, New York Stock Exchange, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of Queer Nation NY protest outside of the New York Stock Exchange. (Image via Queer Nation’s YouTube Page)

With less than a month until the 2014 Winter Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia, LGBT activists hope athletes who take part in the games will speak out against the Kremlin’s gay rights record.

“It’s important for the athletes to speak out, in Russia, about their belief that the way the Russian government is treating its gay and lesbian citizens is unacceptable,” said Andrew Miller of Queer Nation NY, which has held a number of protests in New York over the last few months to highlight Russia’s LGBT crackdown.

Speaking out against Russia’s gay propaganda to minors law and other anti-LGBT measures while in Sochi could prove easier said than done.

The Olympic Charter that the International Olympic Committee adopted in 2001 states “no form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes or other participants in the Olympic games” outside of a manufacturer’s logo. Any athlete who violates this rule could face disqualification or a loss of their accreditation at the Sochi games.

“I am very reluctant to call on athletes to do anything that would explicitly jeopardize their ability to compete in the games or jeopardize their ability to win a medal,” Hudson Taylor, a former University of Maryland wrestler who founded Athlete Ally in 2010 to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

Taylor, who is currently an assistant wrestling coach at Columbia University, described the Sochi games as “an enormous moment where international attention is going to focus on sport.” He also told the Blade the athletes who compete in the Olympics will have a platform they could potentially use to highlight LGBT rights abuses in Russia.

“I would like athletes if they are asked about their opinions on these laws, to give their opinion on the laws or give their opinion around support for the LGBT community,” said Taylor.

Ty Cobb, director of global engagement for the Human Rights Campaign, made a similar point.

“A lot’s on the line for athletes who may speak out in ways that the IOC does not like, such as losing their medal,” said Cobb. “I would never want to advocate for someone to put themselves in a situation to lose their medal or be chastised by the IOC, but at the same time we would support any athlete in their effort to really highlight what’s going on with LGBT Russians and to show solidarity with their fight.”

Retired tennis champion Billie Jean King, whom President Obama last month tapped alongside gay figure skater Brian Boitano and others to join the U.S. delegation to the Sochi games, discussed the issue on Tuesday during an appearance on “The Colbert Report.”

“I probably won’t protest,” King told Stephen Colbert. “But if the media asks me a question, I’m going to answer it.”

Doubts about enforcement of law remain

Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters during an October press conference in Sochi with IOC President Thomas Bach that gays and lesbians will not suffer discrimination during the games. The IOC maintains it has received repeated assurances from the Kremlin the gay propaganda ban will not affect athletes and others who plan to travel to Sochi, even though Russian officials have previously said the statute will apply to those who attend the Olympics.

Taylor acknowledged it is highly unlikely Russia will repeal the gay propaganda law and other anti-LGBT statutes before the Sochi games begin.

“At this stage of things I think the most that we can hope for is to make sure these laws are not being enforced for the duration of the games,” he said, noting Russian officials have created specific areas where they say people can gather and protest. “I’m not convinced those same people protesting will be safe once they leave the protest zones.”

Miller told the Blade he would like to see the U.S. Olympic Committee, along with Coke and other Olympic sponsors pressure the Russian government to overturn the country’s anti-LGBT laws. He said members of Queer Nation NY will continue to hold protests and other actions during and after the Sochi games to highlight Putin’s LGBT rights record.

“He may be counting on the world’s attention focusing elsewhere after the Olympics,” said Miller. “It’s important to pressure them.”

He also said NBC, which will broadcast the Sochi games, can “cover what’s going on in Russia beyond the Olympics.”

Gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts criticized Russia’s gay propaganda law in a series of interviews he gave before he co-hosted the Miss Universe 2013 pageant in Moscow last November with singer Mel B. Neither he, nor pageant participants discussed the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record during the broadcast of the event that NBC Universal co-owns with Donald Trump.

“They’ve done little to nothing about speaking out against the anti-gay laws and have done little to nothing about covering them or their effect,” said Miller.

Bob Costas, who will anchor the network’s prime time coverage of the Sochi games, told the Associated Press in November he welcomes the opportunity to directly ask Putin about the gay propaganda ban as opposed to offering his own commentary about it. He sought to clarify his comments during a Jan. 7 press conference in New York with NBC executives.

“If Putin doesn’t drag his butt into the studio, then we’ll talk about it without him,” said Costas as the Huffington Post reported. “But if he shows up, we’d rather talk to him. Wouldn’t you rather hear it from the horse’s mouth? I would. That’s what I was trying to say.”

State Department issues Sochi travel alert

The U.S. State Department on Jan. 10 issued a travel alert to Americans planning to travel to Sochi following two suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd late last month that killed 34 people. The advisory also highlighted the vagueness of Russia’s gay propaganda law.

“The U.S. government understands that this law applies to both Russian citizens and foreigners in Russia,” reads the State Department alert. “Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘LGBT propaganda’ and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as ‘LGBT propaganda.’”

Cobb acknowledged security remains a serious concern ahead of the Sochi games. He stressed, however, those who plan to travel to the Olympics need to know about the Kremlin’s ongoing crackdown of LGBT rights and other issues that include freedom of speech.

“It’s important for the State Department to be very clear with people traveling to Sochi about what the laws are in Russia,” Cobb told the Blade.

Hudson also said those who plan to attend the games should be “mindful of” the ongoing security concerns.

“We have to be careful and measured in how we are speaking out or how someone is protesting,” he said. “I don’t want somebody to expose themselves to potential physical harm. However, I think that there will be opportunities to speak your mind, to show support for the LGBT community without exposing yourself to those risks.”

15
Jan
2014

Why I support Vincent Gray for mayor

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is running for re-election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

On April 1, 2014, I will cast my ballot for Vincent C. Gray for mayor. It was an easy decision for me but may not be for many other voters. The open investigation surrounding his 2010 campaign is entering into many people’s decision. I am convinced that the majority will come to the same conclusion and believe the mayor when he says he has done nothing illegal. I choose to accept his apology. One look at his life, not just the politician, and you must conclude it is not in his DNA to lie or cheat. Gray’s life has been spent working for those who couldn’t fight for themselves and he dedicated himself to the non-profit field eschewing the money track. Many in government, including current Council members, have made millions being paid for their influence in office. Gray’s time in politics and government, only 13 years out of a long career, was full time and didn’t include looking for sources of outside income.

By every measurable indicator his administration has been successful. So for those who will consider voting against the mayor based on supposition and innuendo, which is all there is regarding his personal role in his 2010 campaign, it would be my hope they take a second look before casting their ballot. They might just reconsider voting for him in the primary and ensuing election based on the health of the city. The District is moving in the right direction in every area including public safety; education reform; and fiscal stability. Moreover his administration is doing everything possible to improve the lives of the residents of every ward.

The continued success of a city means giving credit to those who came before. Mayor Gray, along with starting new initiatives in the areas of employment and economic development; upping the level of service delivery; education reform and strengthening the safety net; has built on the positive initiatives begun under former Mayor Anthony Williams. That progress continued under former Mayor Adrian Fenty, elected overwhelmingly in 2006. He continued the reforms that Williams began and added his signature accomplishment, wresting control of the education system and placing it in the mayor’s office. He did that with the help of then Council Chair Vincent Gray. His chosen chancellor, Michelle Rhee, made great strides in reforming the system but after three years was under fire for how she worked, or didn’t work, with the community and her desire for personal publicity. While the Fenty administration made continued improvements in delivering city services it also spent down the city’s reserve fund by $600 million leaving the District at serious risk for lower bond ratings.

Gray became mayor at the time the nation was coming out of a recession and had the opportunity to make great strides in a fairly short time. He used all those opportunities. He continued education reform with Kaya Henderson as chancellor, and in 2013, based on national tests, the children of the District improved more than children in any other urban district. Gray authored and introduced the bill for universal pre-K education when he was Council Chair and that has resulted in some of the great strides our children are making.

Gray inherited an underfunded reserve and worked to rebuild the District’s fiscal solvency. He has been wildly successful while at the same time improving the delivery of city services. Because Gray rebuilt that reserve to $1.6 billion he was able to keep the D.C. government open during the federal shutdown. Then working with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, he ensured that the District is now exempt from federal shutdowns through 2015. Gray is the first mayor to not only stand up to the federal government but along with some members of the Council and brave citizens sit down for their beliefs. He led an act of civil disobedience and again showed what he is made of as a person. Another indication of the man is that Gray has been the most supportive elected official the LGBT community has ever had. He has lost friends because of his principled stands but never hesitated to speak openly about his support for the community.

The Gray administration has been very successful in attracting new business to the District. During the first three years of the Gray administration the District has earned high marks from those who rate cities and their achievements. In 2013, Forbes magazine rated the District the #1 New Tech Hot Spot; Politicom rated us the #1 strongest economy in the United States; and the American College of Sports Medicine rated us the #2 fittest city in the nation. The mayor created the Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Nutrition and pushed fitness in the schools and continues to build new bike lanes. In 2012, we were rated #1 for LEED-certified Projects by the U.S. Green Building Council and the mayor initiated the strongest plan for turning a city green in the nation.

The mayor revamped the city’s Department of Employment Services to ensure that city residents would be able to receive training for the jobs that would become available and his One City-One Hire program, which has now accounted for more than 9,000 new jobs for city residents, won a Harvard University Bright Idea Award in 2012. In all, since the Gray administration began the city has scored as one of the top 10 cities in the nation, often #1, on 17 best of lists from best educated, best for college grads, venture capital investment, retail investment and hippest city.

Because of the efforts of the Gray administration, the District continues to thrive and attracts more than 1,000 new residents a month, many of them young or empty nesters who contribute to the tax base. In addition all you have to do is walk through some of the city’s rebuilt neighborhoods where once there were few children to see the baby carriages and the parks being used and a new vibrancy that comes from more families making the city their home.

But D.C. is still a tale of two cities. There are great economic disparities and Mayor Gray has worked to ensure that while we rebuild our neighborhoods with a focus on housing, nightlife and restaurants, we don’t forget those who have not yet benefitted from the improving economy. Some are disingenuous and talk about the mayor only going with the flow and continuing already started projects. But a fair assessment shows how wrong this is. In 2006, Mayor Fenty held a groundbreaking for the O Street Market, which Council Chair Gray attended. It was only later that he found out there was no financing for the project. Upon taking office as mayor, he worked with Roadside, the developer, to get the financing for that project. His administration worked to get the financing on track for CityCenter as well. It was the Gray administration that finalized the financing and signed the agreement that brought $900 million from Qatar into the District of Columbia. It was the Gray administration that after 20 years of nothing happening got the Skyland project in Ward 7 on track and they are ready to start construction.

Mayor Gray fought to bring Walmart into the District over the concerns of some who felt it would harm local small business. The fact is that in areas of the District where Walmart is going there were few small businesses to harm. These were neighborhoods that had no groceries at all and where people had to go by car or public transportation if they wanted to shop for their families. At the same time the Gray administration is addressing the issue of food deserts, which we have in the District. Addressing one of the most pressing issues in the District, Mayor Gray has allocated $187 million to jump-start the building of 10,000 affordable housing units, which no previous administration has done. It is the Gray administration that has worked to get the commitment from Microsoft for a research center in Ward 8.

There are other projects and concerns that have languished under other administrations for years with only talk and which Mayor Gray has addressed successfully. For years the city has been under court order to address the issue of transportation for the District’s children with disabilities. Today that court order has been lifted because of the work of the Gray administration. He worked successfully to lift the Dixon decree, which was the mental health case that had been in place for 35 years. Mayor Gray committed in his first State of the District speech that he would stop sending our special-needs children to private schools and develop appropriate programs for them in our public schools. The year before he came into office the District spent $168 million sending special-needs children to private schools. By building the capacity in the District’s schools to give those children a good education here the cost of private placements has now been reduced to less than $80 million.

Mayor Gray’s 2010 platform of ONE CITY was recognition that every community has basic interests that are the same including safe streets, a quality education, decent housing, a place to shop and a place to recreate. But the ONE CITY vision also recognized that we are a great place to live because of our cultural diversity and that respect for everyone no matter where they come from, what their sexual orientation or gender identity, is paramount. Each person should be entitled to celebrate their heritage, culture and life, and share it with others. His vision included being the most openly supportive elected official the LGBT community has ever had. He never hesitates to speak out forcefully for the civil and human rights of all people. From his time on the Council where his efforts enabled marriage-equality legislation to pass and he worked to fight hate crimes, to his current employment and training programs for the transgender community, he has been there and accounted for every step of the way.

As mentioned earlier, Gray has spent only 13 of his working years in government and politics. It is a great misconception that he is a lifelong politician. Gray spent a career in the non-profit field eschewing many opportunities to earn the big bucks that so many are after. His disciplined approach to public service was born from humble beginnings. He grew up in a one-bedroom apartment at 6th and L streets, N.E. Although his parents never attended high school, they instilled in their son a solid work ethic and deeply rooted values. Mayor Gray attended Logan Elementary and Langley Junior High Schools, and graduated at the age of 16 from Dunbar High School, where he excelled in academics and sports. He then went on to George Washington University. While at George Washington, he became the first African American admitted to the GW fraternity system, and in his junior and senior years, became the first person to serve consecutive terms as chancellor of Tau Epsilon Phi. Upon graduation he was scouted by Major League Baseball teams but instead chose to dedicate his life to his community. His dedication to children and their families has been the hallmark of his service in both city government and the non-profit sector.

Gray began his professional career with The Arc of D.C. (then known as the Association of Retarded Citizens) where he successfully advocated for innovative policy initiatives on behalf of people with developmental disabilities, and spearheaded the closure of the District-run Forest Haven mental institution after it was exposed for poor conditions and abuse of patients.

Gray’s foray into local government was in 1991 when Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly appointed him to the post of director of the Department of Human Services where he oversaw the functions of a 7,000-person department and directed activities related to Public Health, Social Services, Mental Health Services and Health Care Finance. In this role, he spearheaded the implementation of several initiatives to address the developmental needs of children and oversaw the first citywide HIV/AIDS project. While knowing that success in that position was always going to be questioned Gray believed that ensuring the safety net for those in need was a priority and had to become a priority for the District government.

He left government in 1994 and instead of looking to cash in on his time in government as so many others have he took the position as the first executive director of Covenant House Washington, an international, faith-based organization dedicated to serving homeless and at-risk youth. During his decade at the helm of Covenant House, Gray helped make the organization one of the most effective of its kind in the District, and led successful campaigns to purchase and renovate a crisis center for homeless youth and a multi-purpose center and built a new community service center in the far southeast community of D.C.

Then in 2004, he was convinced by his neighbors to run and he won election as the Council member from Ward 7. During his first two years on the Council he chaired a special committee on the prevention of youth violence, and continued his fight against the AIDS crisis by creating the Effi Barry HIV/AIDS initiative. After only two years he was convinced to run and won his citywide election for chair of the Council. Running on the theme of “One City,” he continued his lifelong focus on uniting the disparate racial and economic groups in his hometown.

As chairman, Gray was a leader in efforts to improve the Council’s operations, transparency and oversight capacity, and was a true champion for school reform. He spearheaded the Pre-K Expansion and Enhancement Act, which established a voluntary, high-quality pre-school program to provide 2,000 new classroom slots for three-and four-year-olds over six years. The mayor’s diligence resulted in that goal being met in September of 2010, well before the 2014 target. During his time as chair, the Council was rated one of the most respected legislatures in the nation.

What people should remember in judging Vincent Gray is that he didn’t ever anticipate being mayor. When he was sworn in as Council Chair on Jan. 1, 2011, Fenty was being sworn in as mayor and had just had an overwhelming victory winning every precinct in the District. It was clear to many as it was to Gray that Fenty could be mayor for life if he chose that route. It was only after Fenty squandered that good will and the polls showed him losing to Gray that Gray even got into the mayor’s race. Fenty had a bankroll of $5 million at the time Gray began his campaign. Even counting the ‘shadow campaign’ Fenty had $1.5 million more than Gray to spend on his campaign and the power of the incumbency to go along with that.

Gray has rightfully apologized for his 2010 campaign, and he agreed that as the candidate he had to apologize even if he personally didn’t do anything wrong. After living in the District all his life and having lifetime friends who worked on his campaign he found that some of them did illegal things in a very misguided effort to help him. They were wrong but legally and otherwise we should not be held personally accountable for the mistakes of our friends. We should apologize and he has done that. We should abide by the legal system that everyone must abide by and he has done that. In the three years of the investigation no one has accused him of a crime.

We are three years into the Gray administration and there is no question, even from many of those who keep challenging him with regard to the 2010 campaign, that the city continues to move forward and he has had many successes. There are challengers who suggest that the city is under a cloud because of the mayor and that has held us back. But not one of them can point to an area where we have been held back. Most of the challengers sit on the City Council and can’t point to one piece of legislation that they wanted to introduce that they couldn’t because of the investigation into the 2010 campaign. In fact the mayor and his appointed attorney general introduced a very strict campaign finance reform bill and the Council has thus far refused to pass it.

None of the mayor’s challengers has the administrative background to indicate they could administer the city government. At most they have run small office staffs and in one case run a small chain of restaurants, which is very different from administering a city with a budget of more than $10 billion. The question voters must ask themselves is if they believe the city is headed in the right direction, then why would they take a chance on changing administrations?

Slogans are easy to campaign on but the work of running a city is very different.

29
Jan
2014