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Fake Grindr profiles in Calif. run by health workers

Grindr, social media app, gay news, Washington Blade, profiles

Health workers have been creating fake Grindr profiles to encourage more men who have sex with men to get tested for HIV and other STDs.

SAN FRANCISCO — Health workers in California’s San Mateo County have been creating fake profiles on the online hookup application Grindr to encourage more men who have sex with men to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, the Bay Area Reporter, a gay San Francisco paper, reports.

Darryl Lampkin, prevention supervisor for the STD/HIV program at the county’s health department, told the Reporter that the efforts have enabled staff to reach far more people than they had been able to in the county, which is just south of San Francisco but includes no physical venues such as gay bars or community centers where outreach can be focused.

Lampkin, who spoke March 13 to members of San Francisco’s HIV Prevention Planning Council, said staffers don’t initiate contact with others on the site and the profiles contain minimal information. Instead, they respond when someone expresses interest in the profile.

26
Mar
2014

Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory?

gracious, Mozilla-Firefox, Brendan Eich, gay news, Washington Blade

Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution? (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

Based on the over-hyped pseudo controversy of the past week, it appears that pitchforks and lit torches have suddenly become fashion accessories among some gays and lesbians and even a few straight supporters.

It’s an ugly trend.

If you’re out of the loop on this, be grateful. It’s almost too painful to recount. The gay community has, once again, been embarrassed by the impulsive impatience and frenzied frustration of activist-extremists. It is likely we’ve also lost the confidence of more than a small number of more conscientious allies along the way.

A troubling display of bloodlust tends to do that.

Most reputable LGBT organizations didn’t take the bait when last week’s controversy regarding open-source technology company Mozilla and its selection of Javascript and Firefox developer Brendan Eich as CEO exploded online like projectile vomiting. The political fringe began calling for his head on a platter, or at least the loss of his employment. He would resign in the wake of the ensuing brouhaha over a long-ago political donation.

No matter that had the situation, or politics, been reversed, the outcry would have been righteously and inversely indignant. Why quibble over principle when a retributive beheading is possible?

His offense? As was long-ago known and publicly debated, Eich had made a small personal contribution to support California’s Proposition 8 campaign opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage. He did so eight years ago, when quite a few others, including prominent public figures and national politicians of many stripes, were not yet willing to support marriage equality – along with the voters of the state.

Never mind that he was universally regarded as a fair administrator, had no history of discriminating against anyone, and pledged to continue and expand corporate diversity policies and programs encouraging acceptance and accommodation. A sort of hapless techno-nerd unskilled in public relations would not be accorded the same courtesy or rights his detractors would expect if roles were reversed.

The transparently ill-considered and contradictory rationalizations for demanding his firing were both simultaneously disheartening and hilarious. Cultural cleansing and purification of opinion were deemed to be superior considerations.

Too many in the chattering class and so-called “progressive” activists gleefully rushed to make an example of an iconic heretic. Consternation by others, notably writer and political commentator Andrew Sullivan, only fueled the ire of what was rapidly devolving into a seething, albeit small, online mob. Soon the crazy only got crazier. Leftist anger bred right-wing outrage and vice-versa, generating the inevitable cycle of viciousness and cartoonish characterizations.

It wasn’t long until liberal Bill Maher dismissively belittled this boorish behavior on his political-comedic TV show, telling viewers amid a backdrop of chortling guest panelists and cackling audience members, “I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them you do get whacked.”

A well-reasoned op-ed by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni last weekend concluded, “Sullivan is right to raise concerns about the public flogging of someone like Eich. Such vilification won’t accelerate the timetable of victory, which is certain. And it doesn’t reflect well on the victors.”

It is astonishing that in the midst of winning hearts and minds on the most essential elements of equality, some would gamble the goodwill of the many for the pleasure of revenge on the few. Punishing those reluctant or unwilling to yet concur only yields suspicion that those who countenance divergent political views might be next.

Call it a moral issue exception if you want, but concocting an illegitimate justification offers no comfort to those caused to wonder exactly who might suffer a good old-fashioned public shaming. If this type of inappropriate and unacceptable reaction is allowed on one instance, what citizen-suspects on what other public issues will also be rounded up for punishment?

Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory? Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution?

If so, that’s sad.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

09
Apr
2014

2013: The year in quotes

Edith Windsor, Edie Windsor, gay news, marriage equality, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Washington Blade, quotes

Edith Windsor (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“The gay community is my ‘person of the year’ and I look forward to continuing to fight for equal rights and educate the public about our lives alongside my gay brothers and sisters and our allies … Thea would be thrilled, proud and so happy to see what we have all accomplished together.” Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, reacting to be named one of the Top 3 individuals for “Person of the Year.” (Joe.My.God, Dec. 11)

 

“There is no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life. My confessor, ski buddy, consigliere, most-beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard. “

Jodie Foster during her Jan. 13 acceptance speech for the Cecil B. Demille Award during the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards (ABC News, Jan. 14)

 

Cory Booker, United States Senate, New Jersey, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that the root of my hatred did not lie with gays but with myself. It was my problem. A problem I dealt with by ceasing to tolerate gays and instead seeking to embrace them.”

Newark, N.J., Mayor Corey Booker in a 1992 op-ed where he wrote about coming to terms with his negative feelings toward homosexuals. (Stanford Daily, Jan. 9)

 

“Just letting you know… that using ‘your gay’ as a way to put someone down ain’t ok! #notcool delete that out ur vocab”

NBA star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, responding via Twitter to someone using “you’re gay” as an insult. In 2011, Bryant was fined $100,000 for calling an NBA official a fag. (CBS Sports, Feb. 11)

 

“I don’t think it’s very controversial to suggest that a candidate who favors gay marriage and free contraception might have more appeal to a younger demographic. Does anyone want to argue … that there are more gay rights organizations on college campuses than in VFW halls?

— Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s lead presidential campaign strategist, in an op-ed about what caused Romney to lose to President Obama. (Washington Post, Feb. 24)

 

President Bill Clinton (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Bill Clinton (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is … incompatible with our Constitution.”

Former President Bill Clinton, in a column against the Defense of Marriage Act, which he signed in 1996. The law, which the Supreme Court will take up on March 27, denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore same-sex marriages from other states. (Washington Post, March 7)

 

“Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?”

One of several scenarios included in a Boy Scouts of America survey sent to members and their parents as the BSA considers whether to relax its ban on gay Scouts, volunteers and leaders. The BSA board may consider the policy in May. (Dallas Voice, March 11)

 

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, responding at the company’s annual shareholder meeting to a stock owner who questioned whether the coffee chain was being hurt by its support for same-sex marriage. (NPR.org, March 20)

 

“Life is life and love is love, and I’m just trying to be a better me, you know what I’m saying?”

Rapper Snoop Lion, asked by paparazzi his stand on gay marriage. “I don’t have a problem with gay people. I got some gay homies,” he also said. (TMZ.com, April 7)

 

“I think this is going to be good for a lot of black young people who want to come out. E.J. is going to be that symbol — a symbol of hope that they can now come and tell their parents, tell their friends.”

Basketball legend Magic Johnson, who came out as HIV-positive in 1992, on his support for his son, Ervin “E.J.” Johnson III, coming out as gay after being photographed by TMZ holding hands with his boyfriend. (Denver Post, April 7)

 

Jason Collins, Washington Wizards, NBA, gay news, Washington Blade, Sports Illustrated

Jason Collins (Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay. … If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

NBA veteran Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards, coming out in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated. Collins becomes the first gay athlete in major U.S. men’s professional sports to come out during his career. (Sports Illustrated, released online April 29)

 

“In making the film, the socio-political aspect of it was not really in my mind but I was focused on … trying to make this relationship as believable and realistic as we could. When this issue comes up, of equal rights for gays, I am hoping 50 years from now we will look back on this and wonder why this was even a debate and why it took so long.”

Director Steven Soderbergh discussing his latest film, Liberace biopic “Behind the Candlebra,” which made its Cannes debut May 21 (Reuters, May 21)

 

Robbie Rogers, soccer, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

Robbie Rogers (Photo by Noah Salzman via Wikimedia Commons)

“I’ve been on this huge journey to figure out my life, and now I am back here I think where I am supposed to be.”

Professional soccer player Robbie Rogers in a May 26 post-game press conference after his debut with the LA Galaxy made him the first openly gay athlete to compete in U.S. men’s professional team sports. Rogers, a former national team player, came out in April and announced his retirement. (YouTube, May 27)

 

“Our community has been targets of bigotry, bias, profiling and violence. We have experienced the heart-breaking despair of young people targeted for who they are, who they are presumed to be, or who they love … Every person, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, must be able to walk the streets without fear for their safety.”

Open letter from national LGBT organizations supporting a federal investigation into Trayvon Martin’s death after his accused killer was found not guilty. (Press release, July 15)

 

“We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins. Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, announcing new code of conduct that will be distributed individually to professional baseball players at every level of the game. (New York Attorney General’s Office press release, July 16)

 

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, telling reporters that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation. The former pope, Benedict XVI, had said gay men should not be priests. (New York Times, July 29)

 

“If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads.”

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, stating at a rally that homosexuality “seeks to destroy our lineage” and Zimbabwe will not “accept the homosexuality practice” even if it costs the country U.S. aid. (News Day, July 25)

 

“As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.”

White House press release announcing that Bayard Rustin, who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut in space, will also receive the Medal of Freedom; she became known publicly as gay when her obituary listed her longtime partner. (Aug. 8)

 

“I was excited to hear today that more states legalized gay marriage. I, however, am not currently getting married, but it is great to know I can now, should I wish to.”

Actress Raven-Symone, who gained fame as a child on “The Cosby Show,” coming out in a statement after tweeting, “I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you.” (Washington Times, Aug. 4)

 

“Dude, lesbians love me. I’m tall, I have a deep voice, I’m like, ‘Hello, catnip!’ Now that this show’s out I’m curious what happens from here because whenever I go out lesbians try to, y’know, turn me.”

Actress Laura Prepon, discussing playing lesbian drug dealer Alex Vaus on “Orange is the New Black.” (Canada.com, Aug. 1)

Vladimir Putin, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo public domain)

“Putin, end your war on Russian gays!” a shout by an unidentified man at the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.” Gay activists protested the opera to bring awareness to Russia’s law banning “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships” that President Vladimir Putin signed into law in June. (Sept. 23, The New York Times)

 

“I am usually a very strong and confident person, but I have my moments too. Although there was positive feedback, there was a lot of negative too, and the negative affected me more than it ever has before. I recorded this because I didn’t know how else to vent, I didn’t want to talk to anybody.” – Cassidy Lynn Campbell, a transgender teen who was named Huntington Beach high school homecoming queen, in a YouTube post where she was visibly upset by negative reactions. (Sept. 23, Los Angeles Times)

 

“Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.” Mary Cheney responding on Facebook on Nov. 17 to her sister’s response on “Fox New Sunday” saying she opposed same-sex marriage and that was an area where she and her sister disagreed. Liz Cheney is running for U.S. Senate in Wyoming.

Compiled by Georgia Voice

 

01
Jan
2014

Dustin Lance Black disinvited from giving commencement address

Dustin Lance Black, gay news, Washington Blade

Dustin Lance Black (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A California college has disinvited Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black from giving its commencement address because of pictures that show him having sex with his then-boyfriend nearly a decade ago.

Anthony Fellow, president of the Pasadena City College Board of Directors, told the Pasadena City College Courier the 2006 photos that were posted online three years later may tarnish the institution’s reputation. He specifically referred to a “porno professor” who admitted to sleeping with students and other “sex scandals we’ve had on campus” over the last year during the interview with the student newspaper.

“It just didn’t seem like the right time for Mr. Black to be the speaker,” said Fellow. “We’ll be on the radio and on television. We just don’t want to give PCC a bad name.”

Black, a Pasadena City College alum, criticized the college’s decision in an open letter.

“I had hoped to share the story of how I turned my community college education at PCC into a fruitful career,” he wrote. “I had hoped to share the message that each and every one of you is capable of the same. But now I must ask you to do something for me: speak out.”

“As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC,” added Black. “They are sending the message that LGBT students are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise.”

Black in 2009 won an Academy Award for “Milk.” He is also a founding board member of the American Federation for Equal Rights that successfully challenged California’s Proposition 8.

A federal judge in 2010 issued an injunction against those whom Black accused of stealing the pictures from his ex-boyfriend’s computer after they broke up and gave them to gossip websites.

“In the eyes of anyone who has seen the devastating effects this trespass has had on me personally, creatively and professionally over these many years, in the eyes of my mother and friends who have held me as I’ve cried, and under the blind scrutiny of the law of this land, I am the victim of this ‘scandal,’ not the perpetrator,” wrote Black in his open letter.

Black is reportedly dating British Olympic diver Tom Daley who acknowledged late last year he is in a relationship with another man.

A Letter to PCC Students
Posted by Dustin Lance Black on April 18, 2014
Dear PCC Students,

In 1992 my parents lost their jobs in the months leading up to my leaving for college. We could no longer afford the University I was accepted at, so I turned to the Community College system and Pasadena City College. I enrolled in honors courses, worked two jobs to pay rent and still found time to tutor both math and ESL at PCC. My mother taught me there is nothing more meaningful than serving your fellow man. It was a proud day when she watched me walk at PCC’s graduation with an AA Degree, an honors tassel and a Dean’s scholarship.

November of last year, I received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Community College League of CA. In the presentation, my film work, Academy Award, WGA and Spirit Awards were all mentioned, but the accomplishment I was most proud of was my half-decade of work with AFER to strike down Prop 8 at the Supreme Court last summer and bring equality back to California.

After my acceptance speech I was approached by PCC Administrators and asked to speak at my old campus. A few months later, I received an invitation asking that I be PCC’s 2014 Commencement speaker. I confirmed the invitation, booked the international flights to get back to Southern California, canceled work and turned down paid invitations. This invitation was that meaningful to me.

This morning, I woke up to the headline that I have been disinvited to speak at my Alma Mater. The reasoning: that I was involved in a “scandal” in 2009 regarding extremely personal photographs that were put up on internet gossip sites of me and my ex-boyfriend.

For too long now I’ve sat silent on this issue. That ends here and now and with this sentence: I did nothing wrong and I refuse to be shamed for this any longer.

In 2009 a group of people surreptitiously lifted images from my ex’s computer and shopped them around to gossip sites in a money making scheme. These were old images from a far simpler time in my life, a time before digital camera phones and internet scandals. They were photos of me with a man I cared for, a man who shared my Mormon background and who was also struggling with who he was versus where he came from. And yes, we were doing what gay men do when they love and trust each other, we were having sex. I have never lied about my sexuality. If you invade my privacy, this is what you will find. I have sex. It brings me joy, fosters intimacy and helps love grow. I hope anyone reading this can say the same for themselves and for their parents.

In 2010 I took the perpetrators of this theft to Federal court and Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled unequivocally that the defendants had indeed broken the law. The details of this case are readily available for anyone to read — including PCC’s leadership and Board of Trustees.

In the eyes of anyone who has seen the devastating effects this trespass has had on me personally, creatively and professionally over these many years, in the eyes of my mother and friends who have held me as I’ve cried, and under the blind scrutiny of the law of this land, I am the victim of this “scandal,” not the perpetrator.

With this cruel act, PCC’s Administration is punishing the victim. And I ask you this: If I was a heterosexual man or woman with this same painful injury in my past, would PCC’s Administration still be rescinding such an honor?

Over these past five years, I have spoken at over 40 major universities including Harvard’s Kennedy School, Penn, UCLA, USC and recently spoke at UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television graduation. I’ve been the featured speaker at NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Conference), NACA (National Association for Student Activities), HRC’s National Gala, spoken to over 200,000 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at the March on Washington, walked up the steps of the Supreme Court to help win a fight for my people and been honored for my work for equality on the floor of the California House of Representatives. Never once, at any of these events has this issue ever come up. Not once. Not in the press. Not with the students. Not ever.

In fact, PCC is now only the second institution to ever blame me for what happened in 2009. The first was Hope College in Michigan whose Dean pro-actively made a statement openly admitting he did not want a pro-LGBT message on his campus. It seems to me that same animus is at play here now.

I congratulate all of the 2014 graduates. I had hoped to share the story of how I turned my Community College education at PCC into a fruitful career. I had hoped to share the message that each and every one of you is capable of the same. But now I must ask you to do something for me: speak out.

As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC. They are sending the message that LGBT students are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise.

While I deal with the legal and financial ramifications of this injury, I urge you not to let PCC’s Administrators get away with sending such a harmful message. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the struggle for equality it is that when you are stung by injustice, you must find your pride and raise your voice. If you are outraged like I am, you must show it. You must speak truth to fear and prejudice and shed light where there is ignorance. Now is that time at PCC.

DUSTIN LANCE BLACK
PCC ’94 UCLA ‘96

PCC CONTACT INFORMATION:
PCC PRESIDENT — Mark Rocha, mwrocha@pasadena.edu
NOTE: In a subsequent letter from Robert Bell, rhbell@pasadena.edu, who I am told lead the fight to rescind the invitation, no mention was made of the invitation or confirmation, but it is clear that he and others on the Board of Trustees were aware that this offer was extended and accepted. Their discussion of this issue (at time code 02:08:20) can be viewed here.

18
Apr
2014

GLSEN warns of ‘school to prison pipeline’ for youth

Eliza Byard, GLSEN, Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Ending discriminatory practices in school discipline is one of the most critical civil rights issues facing K-12 education today,’ said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, a national group that advocates for LGBT youth in the nation’s schools, says LGBT students and youth of color have long been disproportionately impacted by overly harsh school disciplinary practices.

In a statement released earlier this month, GLSEN praised a new Obama administration initiative to discourage elementary and secondary schools from administering student discipline based on race or other discriminatory grounds.

But the GLSEN statement notes that the initiative issued jointly by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice doesn’t specifically reference LGBT youth, raising concern that overly harsh disciplinary practices will continue to funnel LGBT students into what education experts call a “school to prison pipeline.”

This so-called “pipeline,” education reform advocates say, refers to students who land in the criminal justice system, including prison, after being repeatedly suspended or expelled from school. Reform advocates, including GLSEN, have argued that alternative disciplinary approaches should be employed to ensure school safety without overly relying on suspension and expulsion as punishment.

GLSEN has pointed to numerous cases where LGBT students are suspended or expelled for “fighting back” after being targeted for bullying and violent attacks by other students.

“Ending discriminatory practices in school discipline is one of the most critical civil rights issues facing K-12 education today,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said in the group’s statement.

“GLSEN commends the Departments of Education and Justice for these long-overdue guidelines that will help to erode decades of policies that have robbed countless youth of a chance to get an education and forced many of them out of school and into the criminal justice system,” she said.

She added, “While the omission of the specific challenges facing LGBT youth is disappointing, we are pleased that the guidelines focus on prevention and intervention strategies by supporting developmentally appropriate and proportional responses to school discipline that encourage and reinforce positive school climate…We encourage the Departments to examine the extent and effects of discipline disparities among LGBT youth and to provide leadership and guidance to ensure that school discipline practices do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

An example of what LGBT activists called biased school treatment of LGBT youth took place in November when a female transgender student at Hercules High School in Contra Costa County, Calif., was arrested and charged with battery for fighting with three other straight female students.

The transgender student said a fight broke out between her and her classmates, which was captured on video, after she defended herself from repeated taunts and harassment from the three girls. Activists noted that all four students were suspended from the school for fighting but the transgender student, Jewlyes Gutierrez, 16, was the only one arrested and charged in the incident.

The school and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office have declined to disclose the reason that Gutierrez was prosecuted in the case while the others were not, saying the matter is pending in juvenile court and they are prohibited form discussing cases involving a minor.

GLSEN has said studies have shown that LGBT youth disproportionately experience bullying and harassment in schools. The group cites a 2010 study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, showing that LGBT youth experience a significantly higher level of disciplinary action in schools along with youth of color than do heterosexual youth and whites.

In response to a call from the Blade, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said she would make inquiries on why the joint DOE-DOJ school guidance document didn’t include specific reference to LGBT youth, but did not immediately respond.

In a Jan. 8 press release announcing the guidance document, DOE and DOJ said the school discipline guidance initiative was aimed at helping states, school districts, and schools develop “practices and strategies to enhance school climate and ensure those policies and practices comply with federal law.”

The press release noted that federal law currently prohibits schools from engaging in discrimination based on race and disability.

President Obama and most heads of federal departments and agencies in the Obama administration have said that although Congress has yet to pass federal legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, federal agencies would do what they could to put in place policies to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

29
Jan
2014

Gay juror removed from AIDS drug trial

gay juror, National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco court ruled last week that a case against an AIDS drug company will get a new trial after it was determined that the company improperly excluded a gay man from the jury, Bloomberg reports.

In 2011, an Oakland jury ordered Abbott Laboratories to pay GlaxoSmithKline $3.5 million for breaching a drug agreement, though Abbott was cleared of charges that it sought to stifle competition over HIV drugs when it quadrupled the price of the drug Norvir in 2003, the article said.

The judge overseeing the trial permitted the exclusion during jury selection when Abbott exercised its right to keep certain individuals off the jury. When questioned, the man said he had a male partner and had lost friends to AIDS, Bloomberg reports.

“Permitting a strike based on sexual orientation could send the false message that gays and lesbians could not be trusted to reason fairly on issues of great import to the community or the nation,” a three-judge appellate panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals wrote last week.

30
Jan
2014

Queery: Cass Johnson

Cass Johnson, gay news, Washington Blade

Cass Johnson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 15 years ago, a friend of Cass Johnson’s convinced him to join a pottery class.

“He dropped out after five or six weeks, but I was hooked,” Johnson says. “I just kept on taking classes.”

On Jan. 28, Johnson saw his dream come true when he opened District Clay, a new 2,000-square-foot ceramic and pottery studio in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood (2414 Douglas Ave., N.E.). Johnson says it’s the first new ceramic teaching studio to open in D.C. in 20 years. Classes are offered in sculpture, tile and more and the space includes several kilns, wheels and other pottery accoutrements. Classes will be offered during the day, evenings and weekends. A discount is being offered this month in relation to the grand opening (details at districtclay.com).

Johnson says he sensed a demand when he realized other studios in the city frequently were full.

“There is something almost soulful about turning a lump of clay into an elegant vase or mug,” the 54-year-old gay Redondo Beach, Calif., native says. “If you think about it, there are not many opportunities to make something with your own hands. I find it a very relaxing atmosphere, one where the outside world just fades away.”

Johnson came to Washington 24 years ago and worked as a lobbyist. He and husband, Matt, live in Woodley Park. He enjoys gardening, bicycling, dog walking, reading, bread making and, of course, pottery, in his free time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I have been out since I was 18. The hardest person to tell was my mother, who broke down and cried. She thought I would not have a happy life.  In contrast, my Dad was great and very supportive.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero? 

Harvey Milk, because of his passion.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

This is going to date me but it has got to be Tracks from way back when. I remember a time when I couldn’t imagine not going to Tracks on a weekend.

 

Describe your dream wedding. 

My wedding was my dream wedding. Matt and I got married in Ptown and honestly a number of people said it was their favorite wedding too. We sent people on a treasure hunt, I made tea bowls for everyone and we gave them out dressed in kimonos and then we had a lovely and tearful wedding ceremony at the Red Roof Inn. Wouldn’t do anything different except stopping all the rain that weekend.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? 

I love making pots. That’s why I opened District Clay.

 

What historical outcome would you change? 

I’d make it so that Al Gore officially beat George Bush. Then we would not have had Iraq or a gay bashing White House.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Cher in Las Vegas

 

On what do you insist? 

Being considerate.

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

About opening District Clay!

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“What a Wonderful World It Is”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Encourage more people to become gay.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe that there is a life force that is beyond the physical world and we will discover what it is when we get there.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Keep charging.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for? 

My partner Matt. We have been in love since our second date and have never had a bad day. It sounds impossible but it’s true. It is miraculous for me.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?  

That gay men have to be effeminate.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

“Milk.” Great political movie.

 

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

I don’t know what the most overrated custom is but the most underrated is hugging.  People should hug more.

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet? 

I would love to have a piece of my pottery in a major museum collection.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18? 

I wish I had started doing pottery at 18 rather than at 40. At 18, I had no real idea what I wanted to do.

 

Why Washington? 

I came here to get involved in public policy. I had no idea at the time what a great city Washington is. Coming from L.A., where you had to drive everywhere, to Washington, a city of real neighborhoods, was mind blowing in a very positive way.

12
Feb
2014

Anti-trans referendum won’t make 2014 California ballot

California, Gov. Jerry Brown, Gay News, Washington Blade

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that says schools must allow trans students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms and play on sports teams that match their gender identification. (Photo public Domain)

Despite the efforts of anti-transgender groups, a referendum on a law allowing California students to participate in student activities in accordance with their gender identity won’t appear before state voters in 2014.

On Monday, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced via Twitter that the signature check on the referendum for the law, known as the School Success & Opportunity Act, didn’t yield enough valid signatures to place the measure on the state ballot. A spokesperson for the office confirmed for the Blade the measure failed to qualify.

After a signature-check process that lasted months, state officials found opponents of the law submitted 487,484 valid names — which is 17,276 short of the necessary 504,760 names to qualify. They submitted 619,387 names, but 131,903 were deemed invalid.

The law, signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 13, requires California public schools to respect students’ gender identity and ensures transgender students have access to school activities, facilities and sports teams in accordance with their gender identity. But critics say it violates the rights of students who may feel uncomfortable sharing facilities with someone of a different biological sex.

LGBT advocates responded to the news by saying the law, which went into effect Jan. 1, ensures all students, including those who are transgender, can do well in school.

Masen Davis, executive director of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, said the law fosters a positive environment for students in California schools.

“This law gives schools the guidelines and flexibility to create an environment where all kids have the opportunity to learn,” Davis said. “We need to focus on creating an environment where every student is able to do well and graduate. This law is about doing what’s best for all students — that’s why it’s supported by school boards, teachers, and the PTA.”

The Transgender Law Center is part of a coalition known as the Support All Students campaign, which consists of nearly 100 state and national organizations including Equality California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and Gender Spectrum.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the failure of the referendum to qualify for the ballot reflects the growing support for transgender rights.

“The forces of discrimination tried to go after California’s LGBT young people, and it’s a sign of our progress that they fell short of their goal,” Griffin said. “Yet unfortunately there are groups out there that are actively working to make the lives of LGBT youth harder. This law does nothing more than safeguard transgender students from being excluded and ensures all students are provided the same opportunities – regardless of gender identity.”

The lack of insufficient valid signatures to place the measure on the ballot isn’t surprising. John O’Connor, executive director of Equality California, predicted in November that it was “unlikely, [but] it’s not impossible” for the measure to qualify given the signature validation rate at that point.

Enough signatures deemed valid last month after a randomized spot-check was conducted to trigger a full count of all of the signatures acquired in the 58 counties. But, as revealed on Monday, the full count revealed the anti-trans campaign had failed to gather enough names to put the issue up for referendum.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, nonetheless vowed in a statement to continue the fight against the trans student law through other means.

“Make no mistake, Pacific Justice Institute is committed to protecting the privacy of children,” Dacus said. “We are ready to review and challenge every signature that was not counted towards the referendum of this impudent and in-your-face bill. Our children’s privacy is worth doing all that we can.”

The statement says the Privacy for All Students, the coalition behind the referendum effort, has a right to review and appeal to the courts each of the around 131,000 signatures that were rejected. Additionally, the organization “to defend any child who has their privacy rights violated” because of the trans law.

It’s also still possible for opponents of the law to repeal it through a separate ballot initiative process different from the referendum process. But the deadline has passed for such a measure to qualify for the 2014 ballot, so the soonest that would be is 2016. A statutory ballot initiative would require 504,760 signatures to qualify for the ballot; a constitutional amendment would require 807,615 names.

Erik Olvera, spokesperson for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the odds aren’t favorable for path anti-trans groups have to strip the student law from the books.

“They would have to do an initiative or go to the legislature — both very hard,” Olvera said.

25
Feb
2014

Health disparities reported for Calif. gays

asthma, inhaler, health disparities, Calif, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT residents suffer higher rates of asthma, cancer, substance abuse and smoking. (Photo public domain)

SAN BERNADINO, Calif. — LGBT residents in California’s Inland Empire (the metro areas of Riverside and San Bernadino counties) suffer higher rates of asthma, cancer, substance abuse and smoking, a report released last week found. The Press-Enterprise, a paper in the region, reported the news.

The report, believed to be the first of its kind in California, also found a greater likelihood of depression and suicidal thoughts, believed to be linked to discrimination and stigma, the article said.

Much of the Inland-specific data in the report is based upon the California Health Interview Survey. That statewide survey, conducted by UCLA, includes 150 LGB people from Riverside and San Bernardino counties who were selected to be representative of the community’s gender, ethnicity and age. Both counties’ data were used in the report to include more people and make the statistics more representative, according to Aaron Gardner, a health department research specialist who prepared the report and was quoted in the Press-Enterprise article.

Some of the local statistics mirror results of national and state studies that find that LGBT people have higher rates of smoking, substance abuse and binge drinking. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that may in part be a reaction to homophobia and discrimination, the article said.

05
Mar
2014

Study finds meth use affects T-cell counts

crystal meth, methamphetamine, gay news, Washington Blade, drugs, T-cell

Crystal meth (Photo by Radspunk via Wikimedia Commons)

SAN DIEGO — Researchers in California have found that U.S. men who have sex with men and use methamphetamine had greater T-cell activation and proliferation than non-users, even though they had an undetectable viral load.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Diego, studied 50 men and produced evidence that meth users may have a deeper HIV DNA reservoir than non-users.

Users who are HIV-positive have a higher risk of cognitive impairment and faster progression to AIDS, researchers said.

But the reasons for these associations remain unclear. Worse antiretroviral adherence or meth-related risk behaviors could explain worse health outcomes in meth users, or some physiologic mechanism could explain these health deficits, researchers said.

19
Mar
2014