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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

Anti-gay public health director in Pasadena confronted

Eric Walsh, Pasadena, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Eric Walsh (Photo public domain)

PASADENA, Calif. — Dozens of gay rights advocates from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation flooded Pasadena City Council chambers Monday to express concern about recently surfaced comments made by Public Health Director Dr. Eric Walsh in religious sermons posted online according to an article by Pasadena Star News.

Six people spoke against Walsh’s statements, which condemn gays, single mothers, Muslims and popular culture, among other groups.

“As an HIV positive homosexual man, I find Dr. Walsh’s remarks frightening and extremely offensive,” AIDS Healthcare Foundation activist Joseph Jimenez was quoted as having said. “I believe Dr. Walsh is not able to provide compassionate care for patients like myself and others. I beseech all of you to consider appointing a director who has more understanding of the LGBT community.”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein also decried Walsh’s anti-gay sentiments, saying they went against the kind of city Pasadena should strive to be.

Walsh is on paid administrative leave during an investigation into whether his religious views impacted his job performance, the Star News reports.

Links to his sermons, many of which were from before he came to Pasadena in 2010, were distributed to the media last week after Walsh was announced as the commencement speaker for Pasadena City College, the article said.

07
May
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

California divests from Russian companies over neo-Nazi gay abductions

CalPERS divested $20m from MegaFon & Mail.ru because of their ties to neo-Nazi organizing site VKontakte, VK.com.

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16
May
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

Gay Republican advances in bid for Congress

Carl DeMaio, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican Carl DeMaio will face incumbent Democrat Rep. Scott Peters in the general election. (Photo public domain)

There are seven openly gay members of the U.S. House – all of whom are Democrats. But Republican Carl DeMaio, who emerged as one of the top two candidates in a primary election for California’s 52nd congressional district Tuesday, hopes to change that.

DeMaio trailed one-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Scott Peters by about six percentage points in the four-way open primary Tuesday night, meaning the two candidates will face off in the general election in November.

“Tonight’s win sends a national message to the Republican Party: San Diegans are fed up and frustrated,” DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego City Council, said Tuesday. “We want the party to return to its traditional roots of standing up for personal freedoms where we allow individuals to decide social issues in the context of their own personal views on faith and family without interference from their government.”

DeMaio featured his husband in a campaign advertisement. He’s found himself the victim of smear campaigns: Shortly before the primary, his campaign office was vandalized, leaving computers destroyed and the floors flooded.

DeMaio has been by-and-large unable to win the backing of the mainstream LGBT establishment. The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Peters, noting his “stellar record on LGBT equality.” The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect openly LGBT candidates, stayed out of the race.

DeMaio, who was booed at a San Diego Pride parade when running for mayor of the city in 2012, has said in the past he wouldn’t “push the gay special agenda” if elected. He did, however, garner support from GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans, two conservative LGBT groups.

Although he has said he “obviously” supports same-sex marriage, he has accepted donations from individuals who contributed to Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California. Prop 8 has since been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court — but DeMaio, who has a partner, never took a public stance on the controversial measure.

Here’s how other LGBT candidates fared in California’s Tuesday primaries:

• Lesbian candidate for San Diego county clerk Susan Guinn failed in her attempt to unseat Ernest Dronenburg. During his tenure, he tried to delay same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling to strike down Prop. 8.

• San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a lesbian Republican, won her re-election effort.

• Long Beach, Calif., elected its first openly gay mayor, Robert Garcia. The 35-year-old is also the city’s first Latino mayor.

05
Jun
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

Texas GOP backs ‘reparative therapy’

Republican Party of Texas, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican Party of Texas logo.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas Republican Party’s new platform that backs so-called “reparative therapy” on June 7 received final approval.

The Associated Press reported the roughly 7,000 delegates who attended the party’s annual convention never debated the proposed plank before they ratified the platform at the Forth Worth Convention Hall. The Texas Eagle Forum, a Tea Party organization that supports what its website describes as “traditional values,” spearheaded efforts to add support of “reparative therapy” to the platform.

“The Republican Party of Texas should not allow its platform to be used to promote psychological quackery,” said Steve Rudner, chair of the Equality Texas Foundation board of directors.

Rudy Oeftering, vice president of Metroplex Republicans Dallas, a gay conservative group, is among those who also criticized the “reparative therapy” plank.

California and New Jersey currently ban “reparative therapy” to minors. Lawmakers in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other states have proposed similar prohibitions on the controversial practice the American Psychological Association and other groups have condemned.

11
Jun
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

N.Y. to consider ban on ‘conversion’ therapy

New York, Albany, capitol, gay news, Washington Blade, therapy

New York State Capitol Building. (Photo by Canucklynn; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s Democratic-led Assembly is set to consider a bill on Wednesday that would ban “conversion” therapy for minors, the Associated Press reports. Bans on the practice have already gone into effect in New Jersey and California. A proposed ban was voted down in Illinois in April.

The American Psychological Association says there is no evidence that the so-called gay conversion therapy can change someone’s sexual orientation. A task force set up by the group found that it can cause distress and anxiety.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the measure and is the only openly gay member of the Senate, said he heard from a man who had electrodes attached to his genitalia to curb his homosexual desires, the AP article said.

“On one level it’s pretty nutty stuff,” Holyman was quoted as having said by the AP, “but it’s happening in New York by licensed therapists.”

The Democrat said that the bill would extend to New York state licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health practitioners and physicians. Clergy would not be included in the ban.

Opponents of the ban say that it may infringe on a person’s freedom of speech, although a federal judge in New Jersey upheld that state’s ban in November saying that the law does not violate free speech, the AP reports.

11
Jun
2014