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2013: The year in superlatives

2013, Supreme Court, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay marriage advocates rallied at the Supreme Court earlier this year during oral arguments for two major cases. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The year 2013 will be remembered as the tipping point for LGBT rights, thanks largely to the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. More states are marrying same-sex couples; we even have hints of a supportive new pope. So before we get too far into 2014, a look back at the 2013 year in superlatives.

Happy New Year and thanks for supporting the Blade.

 

2013, Edith Windsor, gay news, Washington Blade

Edith Windsor (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

PERSON OF THE YEAR: Edith Windsor. Forget Time and the Advocate — they both named Pope Francis person of the year — Windsor deserves this accolade for ignoring the advice of so-called experts and pressing ahead with her ultimately successful lawsuit that led to the demise of Article 3 of DOMA. She’s a remarkably courageous and fearless woman who deserves recognition and our gratitude.

 

MOST OVER-HYPED STORY: Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. President Obama had barely finished his eloquent, inclusive inaugural address when LGBT rights activists began laying the groundwork for Hillary’s inevitable 2016 run. Yes, she’s smart, tough and finally came around to endorsing marriage equality in 2013 but Obama represents a generational turning-of-the-page and we shouldn’t go back to the divisive, petty Clinton-Bush years. The U.S. isn’t a monarchy; we don’t need dynasties. We need new ideas, new leaders, a new generation stepping forward. Hillary has earned her place in history and the nation’s first female president will owe her a huge debt but let’s move on.

 

Anderson Cooper, CNN, gay news, Washington Blade

Anderson Cooper (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MOST SANCTIMONIOUS JOHNNY-COME-LATELY ACTIVIST: Anderson Cooper. After hiding in the closet for 45 years, Cooper finally came out in 2012 and suddenly he’s our most prominent scold — bravely taking Alec Baldwin and others to task on Twitter for their homophobic slips. Cooper should let GLAAD enforce all the politically correct language rules and stick to reading his CNN teleprompter.

 

BIGGEST TOOL: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts. Talk about delusional. Roberts in 2013 snapped up Andy Cohen’s sloppy seconds and agreed to host the cheesy Miss Universe pageant for Donald Trump in Moscow. In defense of taking a paycheck from the homophobic birther Trump, Roberts inexplicably likened himself to Harvey Milk, writing that going to Moscow would somehow give LGBT Russians “hope.” Of course, Roberts didn’t even mention gay rights from the Miss Universe stage. He dutifully did Trump’s bidding, all the while giving cover to Vladimir Putin and his anti-gay crackdown. Shame.

 

Pope Francis I, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis (Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho via Wikimedia Commons)

MOST IMPROVED: The papacy. Just a few years ago, the Blade featured Pope Benedict on the year-in-review cover, labeled “Public enemy No. 1.” What a difference Pope Francis has made. In less than a year, he’s questioned the church’s attacks on marriage equality and contraception and turned the focus back to serving the poor. He’s questioned capitalism and is a welcome voice for challenging income disparities around the world, arguably one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. economy.

 

LEAST CONVINCING CLOSET CASE: It’s a tie! Queen Latifah, who debuted her eponymous talk show in 2013, and longtime Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, share this dubious honor. Latifah could have followed Anderson Cooper’s lead and come out just in time to juice ratings for her talk show. Instead she stubbornly refuses to answer “the question,” and in the process fools no one. Smith, meanwhile, made headlines in 2013 when two New York Times columnists debated the ethics of outing him. (This was old news to Blade readers — I wrote back in 2005 of Smith’s efforts to pick me up at a NYC bar.) Like Latifah, Smith is fooling no one and should finally acknowledge what the rest of the world has been whispering about for years.

 

MOST ANTICIPATED 2014 LOCAL STORY: The Maryland gubernatorial election. The primary is scheduled for June 24 and on the Democratic side, three candidates are vying to replace Martin O’Malley: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and lesbian Del. Heather Mizeur. Most expect Brown to win the primary but don’t count Mizeur out. With Gansler prone to gaffes and his campaign likely to implode at any moment, Mizeur would remain the only alternative to the bland Brown who is merely waiting his turn. Mizeur has made several bold policy announcements and, if she can raise the necessary money, could shock the political establishment to become the nation’s first openly gay governor (we don’t count former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey).

 

MOST ANTICIPATED 2014 INTERNATIONAL STORY: The Sochi Olympics. Will gay athletes protest? Who will lead the U.S. delegation? Will NBC do any tough reporting about Putin’s anti-gay crackdown or will the sunny, lobotomized Today show team engage in more Russia cheerleading? Will Rachel Maddow get to go? What will Johnny Weir wear? The anticipation is almost too much to bear.

01
Jan
2014

U.N. report criticizes Vatican over anti-gay rhetoric, sex abuse

Pope Francis, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis. (Photo by Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A U.N. committee has sharply criticized the Vatican over its opposition to homosexuality and other issues.

“The committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples,” said the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in a report it released on Wednesday.

The committee described Pope Francis’ statement last July that gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized as “progressive” and “positive.” The U.N. body nevertheless urged the Catholic Church to address discrimination against gay and lesbian children and those born to unmarried parents.

“The committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalization of homosexuality,” reads the report.

The report also criticized the Vatican over its response to the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church.

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators,” it said.

The committee also criticized the Holy See over its ongoing opposition to abortion, access to contraception and information about sexual and reproductive health.

The Associated Press reported that Archbishop Silvano Tomasi on Wednesday said LGBT advocacy groups and those who back marriage rights for same-sex couples “reinforced an ideological line” with the committee.

The report’s release comes against the backdrop of Francis’ ongoing efforts to temper the Vatican’s rhetoric against homosexuality, marriage rights for same-sex couples and other social issues since he succeeded Pope Benedict XVI last March.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” said Francis during an extensive interview that La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit magazine, published last September. “When we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

Francis, who is the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, in 2001 kissed and washed the feet of 12 people with AIDS during a visit to a local hospice. He also spearheaded opposition to Argentina’s same-sex marriage law that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed in 2010.

Fernández sharply criticized then-Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio after he categorized the gay nuptials measure as a “demonic plan” and called for a “holy war” against it.

Esteban Paulón, president of the LGBT Federation of Argentina, on Twitter questioned what the Advocate — which named Francis as their 2013 person of the year — and Rolling Stone — which placed him on the cover of the magazine’s Jan. 29 issue — would say “about their idol the pope after the U.N.’s definitive report about sexual abuse and cover-up”

“Beyond the nice declarations about sexual diversity, Francis and the Vatican cannot continue turning their backs to the reality that it has affected the lives of millions of boys and girls around the world,” Paulón told the Washington Blade from New York where he and six other Latin American LGBT rights advocates are on a U.S. State Department-sponsored trip. “They clearly demonstrate a network of guaranteed impunity from senior Vatican officials (including the pope) for those criminals.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md., also welcomed the U.N. report.

“Many government leaders around the world and many Catholics in the pews have expressed the opinions that report articulated so clearly that the Vatican’s negative messages against LGBT people cause violence, harm and in some cases death,” he said.

DeBernardo added he expects Francis will respond to the report because “a prestigious organization like the U.N. puts weight behind that message.”

05
Feb
2014

You won’t believe what the Pope just said about civil unions

The Pope already had people buzzing about his earlier "who am I to judge?" comments about gays.

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05
Mar
2014

Pope Francis says he’d baptize a Martian (video)

I'm not ready to name Francis an honorary "amicus Theodora" just yet, but I am becoming increasingly Pope-curious.

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15
May
2014

Catholic bishop of Springfield, IL to do `exorcism` on day governor signs gay marriage bill

Catholic Bishop Paprocki: "[S]ame-sex 'marriage' comes from the devil and should be condemned as such."

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15
Nov
2013

Dan Savage has no respect for child-raping Catholic priests

Far-right Catholics are upset at Dan Savage for not show child-raping Catholic priests the appropriate respect.

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02
Dec
2013

Feel-good ‘Philomena’

Philomena, gay news, Washington Blade, Judy Dench, Steve Coogan

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in ‘Philomena.’ (Photo courtesy the Karpel Group)

With its winning combination of comedy, moral uplift and righteous indignation, and the surprisingly effective pairing of Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, “Philomena” is an excellent addition to your holiday festivities.

The film is based on the true story of Philomena Lee (Dench), an unwed mother in Ireland who was forced to give her son up for adoption and to work in a convent laundry to atone for her sins and to reimburse the nuns for their obstetrical care. (The outrageous treatment of women like Philomena is explored in the award-winning 2002 documentary “The Magdalena Sisters.”)

With the help of former journalist and disgraced politician Martin Sixsmith (Coogan), she decides to track down her son. After being stonewalled by the nuns at the convent in Roscrea where Philomena was confined, the unlikely duo travel to Washington to follow up some promising leads.

Sixsmith discovers that Michael was adopted by wealthy American parents and ended up as a closeted advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Philomena is devastated to learn that her son died of AIDS, but the unlikely duo decide to track down Michael’s friends and family to find out more about the young man. Their road trip is both sad and funny, bringing together Philomena’s amusing observations of American life (she can’t wait to watch “Big Momma’s House” on the hotel TV) and the moving memories of Michael’s sister (who has been adopted from the same convent), female friend (and beard) and widower.

The screenplay by Coogan and Jeff Pope (based on Sixsmith’s memoir) deftly weaves together Philomena’s sexual indiscretion with her son’s repressive politics and closeted life, her unshaken faith in the Catholic Church against Sixsmith’s world-weary cynicism and atheism, and her belief in forgiveness versus the unyielding and unchanging judgments of the nuns. It leavens these serious themes with some delicious comic moments — Sixsmith’s interactions with his editor and former colleagues, Philomena’s delights at the perks of traveling on an expense account, and especially Philomena regaling the exasperated Sixsmith with the convoluted plot of one of her beloved romance novels.

But despite its many strengths, the screenplay does not fully manage to make the real-life story believable as a free-standing movie. For example, although we learn that Philomena has married and had children and moved to London, we never find out any details about her adult life. Likewise, we never learn in any detail about the scandal that has derailed Sixsmith’s high-flying career. These details could have amplified the powerful themes of redemption, betrayal and secrecy in powerful ways.

More seriously, though, the actions of the supporting characters are unmotivated. Michael’s widower, for example, goes to great lengths to avoid Martin and Philomena, but we never know why, and Michael himself remains a closeted but pleasant cipher.

Despite these flaws, the center of this thoroughly enjoyable movie is the stellar performance of Dame Judi Dench. She creates a richly multi-faceted character with great sensitivity and restraint. Her performance is ably echoed by the talented Sophie Kennedy Clark as the young Philomena in well-written flashback sequences. Both actresses bring to vivid life Philomena’s sensual delight in the fling that resulted in her pregnancy and the psychic and physical horrors of her cruel treatment by the avaricious nuns, as well the deep belief in the possibilities of human nature that brings about the powerful acts of forgiveness that cap the movie.

Dench is also well-supported by Coogan, who is best known for his comic turns in such movie as “Hamlet 2,” but shines in the more dramatic role of the disgraced politician Martin Sixsmith. As both writer and director, Coogan avoids the sentimental clichés that could have bogged the movie down and fully embraces the less savory aspects of Sixsmith’s character to make him a more effective foil to Philomena.

Both funny and inspirational, “Philomena” is satisfying holiday-season cinematic fare. It’s playing at Landmark E Street, Bethesda Row Cinemas and other area theaters.

04
Dec
2013

The Catholic conundrum named Francis

Pope Francis moves away from dogma, while US Bishops focus on gays and abortion: Will there be a Catholic schism?

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09
Dec
2013

Lead gay magazine picks Pope Francis as Person of the Year

The leading gay news magazine, the Advocate, has picked Pope Francis as their Person of the Year.

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17
Dec
2013

As 2013 ends, remember to give back

champagne, 2013, gay news, Washington Blade

As 2013 comes to a close there is optimism in the air. Our troops are coming home; the economy is improving even if not quickly enough; and even Brian Boitano, the figure skater, and the British diver Tom Daley finally came out. (Photo by Bigstock)

Having the years seem to go by faster and faster is a sign of age I am told. December whizzed by with lots of food and drink in D.C. and a few great days seeing good friends in New York. Soon the crystal ball will drop in Times Square signaling it’s 2014 and I will be a year older, maybe not wiser, but older nonetheless.

My contemporaries who connect over the holidays naturally ask, “How are you feeling?” That usually leads to a lengthy diatribe about various aches and pains and ends with, “But isn’t it great we’re still alive?” After those conversations I’m thankful for my younger friends who haven’t yet reached the stage in their life where that discussion is the norm.

This has been a good year for me and thankfully for so many of my friends. But the holiday spirit means taking a moment to think of those less fortunate. While the economy is better, too many people are still unemployed or stuck in menial and underpaying jobs. We should celebrate that in 18 states and D.C., with the recent additions of New Mexico and Utah, same-sex couples can marry. Yet, at the same time we are making great progress in gaining LGBT rights, in Russia, India and Australia things are moving backwards. We should celebrate nearing the end of the war in Afghanistan and that young men and women who have been in harm’s way will be coming home. This year saw a real chance to end the Syrian war and stop the bloodshed and even possible openings in our relationship with Iran. But clearly vigilance will be required in both countries if we are to be successful.

This year the world lost a true hero when Nelson Mandela died. But his memorial service provided the opportunity that President Obama took to shake hands with Cuban President Raoul Castro, which could lead to a thaw in relations with Cuba. This year we learned some disturbing things about the NSA from Edward Snowden, who released information on the extent of our government’s spying operations. But while I am glad that is now in the open I think Snowden should be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows as a traitor for how he did what he did.

Pope Francis was named Time magazine’s man of the year for taking a much more rational position on what the church should focus on and yet Catholic schools continue to fire LGBT teachers. The Advocate also named him man of the year and to me that was like giving President Obama his Nobel Peace Prize in the hope he would do something to deserve it. Clearly Edie Windsor would have been a better choice for their person of the year.

We reached the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination and were reminded that it was 53 years ago that we elected the first Catholic president. It took us another 47 to elect the first African American and many hope it will take a lot less until we inaugurate our first woman president.

As we look toward celebrating the New Year it is also the time to think about all those charities that do good work here at home and around the world. Time to look at the bank account and determine how much you can donate to the causes or groups that need money to continue their work. Remember you still have a few days to make donations and deduct them on your 2013 taxes so the government is actually contributing a percentage of what you give.

I always start by writing checks (yes, I still write checks) to Whitman-Walker Health, MetroTeen AIDS, SMYAL, US Helping US, UNICEF, and the Southern Poverty Law Center among others. I think of my parents who escaped the Nazis and my father’s parents who I never met because they died in Auschwitz as I write my check to the Holocaust Museum. I remember my mom as I write that check to hospice, which took such good care of her when she was dying.

We all have our favorite charities that mean something to us or our loved ones. What’s important is that we give generously to those causes in which we believe. It helps to remember that they depend on us as much as they depend on our neighbors.

As 2013 comes to a close there is optimism in the air. Our troops are coming home; the economy is improving even if not quickly enough; and even Brian Boitano, the figure skater, and the British diver Tom Daley finally came out. May you all have sweet dreams into the New Year and dream about kissing that someone you love or want to love under a bough of mistletoe.

23
Dec
2013