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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.


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.”


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.


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.


Chicago Catholics fire church choir director for being gay

Because this apparently came as a surprise to absolutely no one.


The Pope’s kinder, gentler Catholic Church

Kate Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

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

In 1978, Joan Rivers made “Rabbit Test,” a movie about the world’s first pregnant man. In his first movie role, Billy Crystal played the lead and Imogene Coca, George Gobel and Paul Lynde wandered through in cameo roles. The movie was panned as visually coarse, too jokey, and lacking continuity. The critics complained that Miss Rivers never even bothered to reveal how Crystal’s character got pregnant. Apparently her plot point explanation that he was a bottom was not enough for them. Gays in theaters everywhere must have been blowing popcorn out their noses.

The scene with the pope is my personal favorite. Stock footage of the cheering throngs in Vatican Square. Camera pans in on the tiny white figure of the Pope waving from his balcony. Quick cut to the room behind the balcony, where a young cleric is crouching behind the railing laboriously waving a large, cardboard cutout of the Pope slowly back and forth. Soundtrack of the roaring assembled crowd below.

In the room off the balcony, the actual Pope is having a mani-pedi. At the end of the pedi, he asks for his Ah-di-das. Accent on the Ah. More than a pregnant man, that little transgressive scene laid me out.

Once again a transgressive papal scene has knocked me out. This time it’s a very real, newly installed Pope Francis I. No red Prada pumps for him. No mani-pedi for him. He washes and kisses the feet of the poor. My recovering Catholic friends and I have been marveling for days.

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

Pope Francis has dramatically shifted the church’s tone on gays, abortion and contraception. (Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho via Wikimedia Commons)

When asked about gay priests searching for Jesus in their hearts, Pope Francis responded, “Who am I to judge?” It sounded like “BTDT, been there, done that.” Wait, did he just come out?

In a long interview, Pope Francis said that the church must not be so obsessed with gays, gay marriage and birth control. He said pastoral duties must trump the fixation on such dogma.

He takes selfies! He has eschewed the Popemobile for a Fiat and encouraged people to buy less expensive used cars, making him very popular with the used car salesman faction.

Sidebar: Has the retired Pope, Ex-Benedict heard the news on his little radio in the renovated mother-in-law cottage out behind the Vatican? And is he steamed?

What will be the effect, if any, of Francis’ shift in tone? Selfishly, if this keeps up, it means about 15 fewer minutes devoted to papal outrages per show.  I will offer it up.

After the Pope’s Wednesday interview, U.S. clergy must have been up all night re-working their Sunday morning sermons. Cardinal Dolan of New York, the jovially dangerous president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, outspoken critic of gay marriage initiatives and federal funds for contraceptives, said it was a “magnificent” interview. Less cheerily he concluded that bound as Pope Francis is by the timeless doctrine of the church, his words really won’t change church doctrine or policy.

As someone who has lived through popes Pius XII, John XXIII, John Paul and Benedict, this new Jesuit Pope Francis is a stunning surprise. Yet because of my personal history and lived experience, I find myself waiting for the other Adida to drop. I hope this Pope is not just Vaticannily rebranding Catholicism to a ‘kinder, gentler Catholic Church.’ The Pope has established a group of eight advisers and has signaled that he wants to shake up the Vatican hierarchy, but the proof is in the poping. We will be the judge.

Also, I would recommend the Pope have a food taster on standby in his cafeteria.


College cancels gay marriage lecture

John Corvino, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. John Corvino of Wayne State University in Detroit was to have spoken at the event. (Photo courtesy of

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A Catholic college in Rhode Island has cancelled a lecture that a prominent same-sex marriage supporter had been scheduled to give on Thursday.

Hugh Lena, provost and senior vice president of Providence College, cited a 2004 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in an e-mail the New York Times reported he sent on Sept. 21 that announced the cancellation of the event at which Dr. John Corvino of Wayne State University in Detroit was to have spoken.

“The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement that Lena referenced reads. “They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Rhode Island is among the 13 states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

Lena announced his decision to cancel Corvino’s lecture two days after Jesuit journals across the world published an interview with Pope Francis in which he said the Catholic Church has grown “obsessed” with same-sex marriage and other social issues.

“Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s new leader, has been justly celebrated for his welcoming tone towards gays and lesbians,” Corvino wrote on his website. “Notwithstanding my abrupt dis-invitation, I remain hope that Providence College may soon reflect that tone.”


School fires teacher after she weds

Barbara Mariani, Tippi McCullough, gay news, Washington Blade

Barbara Mariani and Tippi McCullough (Photo courtesy of HRC)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— LGBT rights advocates have urged a Catholic all-girls high school to reinstate an English teacher who lost her job after she married her same-sex partner.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tippi McCullough said Diane Wolfe, principal of the all-girls Mount St. Mary Academy called her 45 minutes after she married Barbara Mariani in New Mexico on Oct. 16 and told her the school would fire her if she did not resign. McCullough told the newspaper that Wolfe said her wedding violated her contract’s morality clause.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin spoke at a Little Rock press conference with McCullough and Mariani on Oct. 22.

“As an educational institution and one of deep faith, Mount St. Mary should be setting an example of tolerance and acceptance — ideals put forward recently by Pope Francis as he urges the Catholic Church hierarchy to put aside judgment of LGBT people,” Griffin said.

Mount St. Mary Academy President Karen Flake defended the school’s personnel policies in a statement to the Associated Press.

“Sometimes adherence to the church’s teachings may be difficult, challenging and/or unpopular,” she said. “We recognize that some may disagree with our actions, and we respect their right to do so.”


Lesbian student sues Catholic school

Bronx, New York, N.Y., Gay News, Washington Blade, Catholic

Bronx, N.Y. (Photo by Teofilo via Wikimedia Commons)

BRONX, N.Y.—A New York City teenager has accused administrators of a prominent Roman Catholic high school of expelling her because she is a lesbian.

The New York Post on Nov. 3 reported that Amanda Acevedo alleges in a lawsuit that an administrator at Preston High School in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx objected to her bringing a girl to a school dance when she was a sophomore. The teenager claims the administrator — whom the newspaper identified as Dean Joseph de Bona — separated her and her date and asked whether they were “more than just friends.”

Acevedo further alleges de Bona expelled her in September after she and another girl fought in a locker room.

The student involved in the altercation with Acevedo remains suspended.

“[Amanda] was targeted,” Acevedo’s father, John Acevedo, told the New York Post. “There was prejudice against her.”

The school did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.


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."