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In reversal, Kameny heir says no ashes for public memorial

Timothy Clark, gay news, gay politics dc

Timothy Clark, who earlier said he would release half of Frank Kameny’s ashes to be interred at Congressional Cemetery, changed his mind and now plans to inter the ashes at an undisclosed location. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Timothy Clark, the man D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny named in his will as heir to his estate, has released a statement through his lawyers saying he has decided to inter Kameny’s ashes at an undisclosed location.

The statement released Feb. 20 by the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown represents a dramatic change from Clark’s earlier statements, including comments in an interview with the Blade in 2012, that he would release half of the ashes for burial at a memorial site in the city’s historic Congressional Cemetery. He reiterated his intent to inter ashes in D.C. in another Blade interview in July 2013.

“We reached an agreement on that so I’m going to keep the burial plot,” Clark said at that time. “I just have to decide on when I want to have something,” he said in referring to a burial ceremony at Congressional Cemetery.

Clark, 37, Kameny’s housemate and longtime friend, had said in the months following Kameny’s death on Oct. 11, 2011, that he planned to keep some but not all of the ashes for his personal reflection and possible interment elsewhere. Kameny died in his Washington home of natural causes at the age of 86.

“The decision regarding interment of Frank Kameny’s ashes rests solely with Timothy Clark, the Personal Representative of the Estate of Franklin E. Kameny,” the Ackerman Brown statement says.

“Mr. Clark has decided to inter the ashes at an undisclosed location. Mr. Clark asks the community to respect his wishes and his privacy,” the statement says.

Clark’s announcement through his attorneys comes more than two years after the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS) purchased a burial plot for Kameny’s ashes at Congressional Cemetery.

HOBS and some of Kameny’s gay activist friends and supporters who worked with the group to choose the location of the cemetery site said it would become a monument to Kameny’s legacy and a place where people could go to pay their respects to a nationally known figure considered a hero to the LGBT rights cause.

The site they selected is located just behind the gravesite of the late gay rights leader and U.S. Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who, with Kameny’s assistance in 1975, became the first active duty military service member to come out of the closet and challenge the military’s ban on gay service members. Matlovich died in 1987.

A planned ceremony and burial of Kameny’s ashes scheduled for March 2012 was abruptly cancelled at the request of the estate, according to Patrick Crowley, who worked as senior manager of Congressional Cemetery at that time. Lawyers for the Kameny estate wanted HOBS to transfer ownership of the cemetery plot to the estate, Crowley said.

Although HOBS agreed to the transfer, a dispute arose over the terms of an agreement proposed by lawyers for both parties, and negotiations dragged on for nearly two years.

Last July, both sides said a tentative agreement had been reached, raising hopes among Kameny’s friends and admirers that a burial ceremony and the official opening of a Kameny memorial site at Congressional Cemetery would soon take place.

“The estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,” said attorney Christopher Brown of Ackerman Brown at that time.

However, no announcement of an agreement emerged since that time. When Ackerman Brown released its statement last week saying Clark decided to inter the ashes at an undisclosed location, neither Ackerman Brown nor HOBS would disclose where things stood with the cemetery plot.

“The estate has no further comment,” said Glen Ackerman, principal partner of Ackerman Brown, in a Feb. 23 email to the Blade.

Matthew Cook, an attorney with the national law firm Fried Frank, which is representing HOBS, sent the Blade a separate statement from HOBS that made no mention of whether ownership of the cemetery plot had been transferred to the estate or whether HOBS would seek to set up another memorial site for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery.

“Dr. Kameny was a true gay rights pioneer and local legend,” the HOBS statement says. “HOBS was proud to work with and for Dr. Kameny during the last years of his life. Of course, as the executor of the Kameny Estate, it is Mr. Clark’s decision where to inter Dr. Kameny’s ashes.”

Veteran D.C. gay activist Paul Kuntzler, who worked with Kameny on gay rights activities beginning in 1962, and San Francisco gay activist Michael Bedwell, a friend of Kameny’s, each told the Blade that the LGBT community should now take immediate steps to arrange for another memorial site for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery, even though the ashes won’t be interred there.

The four local activists and Kameny friends who initiated plans to inter Kameny’s ashes at Congressional Cemetery in early 2012 – Marvin Carter, CEO of HOBS and LGBT rights advocates Charles Francis, Bob Witeck and Rick Rosendall – have declined to comment on Clark’s decision to inter the ashes at another location.

They also declined to comment on what, if anything, they may do to set up a Kameny memorial site at the cemetery now that the ashes are out of the picture.

“Frank Kameny’s monumental legacy may be best remembered by laws he helped overturn, the hateful policies he defeated and the causes of equal rights he unselfishly advanced for the LGBT community,” said Witeck in an email statement on Sunday.

The relationship between the four men and the Kameny estate became strained in 2012 shortly after they announced plans for a Congressional Cemetery memorial site and burial when Clark stated through his attorneys that Clark was never given the courtesy of being consulted about those plans.

Carter, however, has said Clark was informed about the plans and invited to participate in the planned ceremony.

The relationship between the four men and the estate became further strained when the estate filed individual lawsuits against each of them, charging that they took without permission items from Kameny’s house that belonged to the estate shortly after Kameny’s death. The men disputed the allegations, saying Clark along with Clark’s lawyer at the time, Michele Zavos, gave them permission to enter the house and take an inventory of Kameny’s papers and other possessions to arrange for their safe keeping.

The lawsuits, which were filed by Ackerman Brown on Clark’s behalf, were later dropped after undisclosed settlements were reached in three of the cases. The court dismissed the case against Rosendall on grounds that no cause was shown to justify the complaint, according to Rosendall’s attorney, Mindy Daniels.

Upon learning of Clark’s decision to inter the ashes in an undisclosed location, Bedwell expressed concern that Clark, who among other things, inherited Kameny’s house that the estate sold in 2012 for $725,000, was not doing his part to promote Kameny’s legacy.

“Frank’s trust and affection made Mr. Clark a wealthy man,” Bedwell said. “His sacrifices helped make him, like all LGBTs, a freer man,” Bedwell said.

“Now that Mr. Clark has disappeared with Frank’s ashes along with any hopes of his repaying Frank’s extraordinary generous friendship by sharing them for a memorial, I trust that others will create one without them,” he said.

Clark didn’t respond to a phone message from the Blade this week.

In a 2012 interview with the Blade, Clark described himself as a private person who shunned the spotlight, saying he intentionally remained in the background during the 19 years he lived in Kameny’s house.

Frank Kameny, gay news, gay politics dc

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Also remaining unclear this week is what will become of a headstone and separate grave marker that HOBS and the activists working with the group installed at the cemetery site before the dispute with the estate surfaced.

Francis, the founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged several years before Kameny’s death to have Kameny’s voluminous collection of letters and gay rights documents donated to the Library of Congress, obtained the headstone from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Francis and others working on the memorial site said the military headstone would recognize Kameny’s role as a World War II combat veteran. The stone is identical to gravestones used for soldiers and veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and is issued free of charge to all deceased military veterans.

HOBS purchased a separate footstone inscribed with the slogan Kameny coined in the 1960s, “Gay is Good.” Carter said HOBS paid for the footstone along with the cemetery plot through funds donated by members of the LGBT community.

HOBS had both stones installed at the gravesite in March 2012 in anticipation that plans for burial of the ashes would move forward as planned.

Cemetery officials later removed the headstone and the “Gay is Good” marker and placed them in storage, saying it was inappropriate for them to remain in place while the ownership of the gravesite was in dispute.

Bedwell, who has played a role in managing the Matlovich gravesite, said he owns a separate plot next to the Matlovich site that he offered to donate for the Kameny burial shortly after Kameny died. HOBS instead chose to buy a plot a short distance away. Now, Bedwell said he is open to donating the plot he owns for a new Kameny memorial site at the cemetery.

“Neither [Clark’s] permission or Frank’s ashes are required for anyone to create a memorial to Frank anywhere,” Bedwell said in a comment to the Blade in October. “Millions more visit Lincoln’s Memorial in Washington every year than his actual gravesite in Springfield, Ill.,” he said.

“I’m confident many would be eager to contribute to the purchase of another marker bearing Frank’s name,” Bedwell said, in the event that the Veterans Administration stone or the “Gay is Good” stone won’t be released by the estate.

Ackerman, while repeating his firm’s written statement that the Kameny estate would have no further comment on Clark’s decision to inter the ashes in a private location, said the estate would welcome inquiries “by anyone” interested in establishing a public memorial for Kameny.

“All they have to do is call us,” he said.

25
Feb
2014

Judge refuses to dismiss bias case against Library of Congress

Peter TerVeer, gay news, gay politics dc

Peter TerVeer was allegedly subjected to harassment based on his sexual orientation while working at the Library of Congress. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A federal judge on March 31 ruled that a gay man who sued the Library of Congress for firing him in 2012 because of his sexual orientation has legal standing to claim he’s entitled to protection under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a 34-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a motion by the U.S. Attorney for D.C. that the discrimination lawsuit filed by former Library of Congress management analyst Peter TerVeer should be dismissed on summary judgment.

Kollar-Kotelly rejected the U.S. Attorney’s assertion that TerVeer failed to show he has standing to pursue his claim that he’s covered under the U.S. Civil Rights Act on grounds that he was subjected to illegal sex discrimination based on gender stereotyping as a gay man.

In a split ruling, Kollar-Kotelly granted the U.S. Attorney’s request to dismiss other claims by the lawsuit that the Library of Congress violated TerVeer’s constitutional rights as well as violated Library of Congress regulations and policies.

But according to TerVeer’s attorney, Christopher Brown of the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown, the ruling upholding TerVeer’s ability to move ahead to trial on the Title VII grounds is an important development for gay rights.

“We are pleased that we will have the opportunity to develop these claims and present them in court,” Brown told the Blade. “In my opinion this represents movement forward for the LGBT community bringing us one large step closer to equal treatment under Title VII.”

He noted that had Kollar-Kotelly dismissed the lawsuit’s claim seeking redress under Title VII, as the U.S. Attorney had urged, the opportunity to push for Title VII protection for gay people would have been lost in this case.

Title VII of the famed 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and, according to recent court rulings, gender identity, but not sexual orientation by itself.

With legislation calling for banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity stalled in Congress, gay rights attorneys have argued in cases similar to TerVeer’s that lesbians and gay men are covered under Title VII. The attorneys, including those with Lambda Legal, claim that anti-gay discrimination is based on sex discrimination – which is covered under Title VII – because its perpetrators perceive gay people as not conforming to traditional gender roles.

In prior decisions, federal courts have ruled that transgender people are covered under Title VII’s prohibitions against sex discrimination.

In his lawsuit, TerVeer charges that he was fired after being harassed and humiliated by a supervisor who repeatedly quoted biblical passages condemning homosexuality.

The lawsuit says although TerVeer was targeted because he’s gay, he encountered employment discrimination and harassment based on his gender, gender stereotyping and his religious beliefs, which he says didn’t conform to those of supervisor John Mech.

Mech and library officials have declined to comment on TerVeer’s allegations, saying they are bound by a Library of Congress policy of not discussing pending litigation.

Brown said the judge’s decision to grant the government’s motion to dismiss the constitutional and other legal claims by the lawsuit don’t pose a significant disadvantage to the case. He said those claims had been made as a backup in the event that the court dismissed the Title VII claims.

“As Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant denied him promotions and created a hostile work environment because of Plaintiff’s nonconformity with male sex stereotypes, Plaintiff has met his burden of settling forth ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief’ as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure,” Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling.

“Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim (Count I) for failure to state a claim,” the judge stated in her ruling.

03
Apr
2014

Kameny’s ashes still not buried 2 years after death

Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade

Activist Frank Kameny died on Oct. 11, 2011. His remains have not yet been buried. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A memorial site recognizing the legacy of the late D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny was scheduled to be unveiled Friday, Oct. 11, in Chicago on the second anniversary of his death while plans for the burial of his ashes in Washington remain stalled.

New information behind that unusual turn of events emerged this week from one of the parties in a dispute over ownership of the planned interment site for Kameny’s ashes in D.C.’s historic Congressional Cemetery.

Marvin Carter, executive director of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), said his attorney told him an agreement reached about two months ago in which HOBS would transfer ownership of the cemetery plot to the Kameny estate was awaiting the signature of Timothy Clark, Kameny’s friend, housemate and principal heir to the estate.

“The last update I got was we are all in agreement but Ackerman Brown cannot find Clark to sign the paperwork,” Carter told the Blade.

Carter was referring to the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown, which has represented Clark in legal matters pertaining to the estate since shortly after Kameny died in his home of natural causes on National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, 2011. In his will, Kameny left his house and all other possessions except his voluminous gay rights papers to Clark. He bequeathed his papers to the Library of Congress. Kameny’s house sold last year for $725,000.

Glen Ackerman, managing partner of Ackerman Brown, emailed a statement to the Blade this week disputing Carter’s assertion that Clark can’t be found.

“Ackerman Brown is in regular contact with Timothy Clark, the personal representative of the Estate of Frank E. Kameny and all negotiations on behalf of our client have been in good faith,” the statement said. “The decision regarding interment of Frank Kameny’s ashes rests solely with Mr. Clark and he is discharging his duties with full knowledge of the past negotiations. Neither Marvin Carter nor his attorney have ever discussed the placement of a monument in lieu of the cemetery plot with Ackerman Brown.”

Ackerman noted that the status of the negotiations between Ackerman Brown and HOBS over the ownership transfer of the cemetery plot had not changed since July. At that time, Ackerman’s law partner, Christopher Brown, said a “tentative agreement” had been reached to end the dispute that has prevented Kameny’s ashes from being interred for nearly two years.

“The tentative agreement was reached on July 9 and the estate is awaiting further input from HOBS’ counsel that is necessary to finalize the transaction,” Brown said in a July 24 statement to the Blade.

“The estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,” Brown said in his July statement.

Earlier this year, Carter said HOBS dropped a previous condition that called for the Kameny estate to pay HOBS for the cemetery plot that HOBS purchased with money donated by members of the LGBT community.

“We are not asking for a dime from the estate,” Carter told the Blade in an Oct. 4 interview. “The delay is not on our end.”

Carter said that once the tentative agreement was reached the two parties asked Congressional Cemetery President Paul Williams to draft the documents needed to finalize the ownership transfer of the cemetery plot.

When contacted by the Blade last week, Williams said he could not provide details but suggested the long-awaited resolution to the dispute was in the hands of Clark and his attorneys.

“We have put forth a proposal to the estate and we’re waiting to hear back,” he said. “That’s about all I can say. We’re just waiting to hear back.”

Timothy Clark, gay news, gay politics dc

Timothy Clark (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Clark said in August, one day prior to Brown’s statement to the Blade, that he understood an agreement had been reached over the cemetery plot. He said he was thinking about when to arrange for a burial ceremony and that he would welcome suggestions from Kameny’s friends and fellow activists about the details for such a ceremony.

Clark didn’t respond to a phone message from the Blade this week.

HOBS and a group of Kameny’s friends and colleagues in the LGBT rights movement initially scheduled an interment ceremony for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery for March 3, 2012. At the time, Charles Francis, a Kameny friend who helped Kameny organize his papers to facilitate their donation to the Library of Congress, arranged for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a military headstone for the gravesite that recognized Kameny’s service in the Army in World War II.

With money raised by HOBS, Francis and Kameny’s friends and fellow activists Rick Rosendall and Bob Witeck also arranged for the purchase of a separate headstone for the gravesite bearing the inscription “Gay is Good.” Kameny, who coined that slogan in the 1960s to advance the cause of gay rights, said it was something for which he wanted to be remembered as much if not more than any of his other accomplishments.

But just as both stones were placed at the gravesite, Witeck announced that the burial of Kameny’s ashes had been cancelled after the estate told the cemetery it would not release Kameny’s ashes until it obtained legal ownership of the burial plot from HOBS. Cemetery officials later removed the headstone and “Gay is Good” marker and placed them in storage, saying it was inappropriate for them to remain in place while the ownership of the gravesite was in dispute.

Michael Bedwell, a longtime friend and gay activist colleague of Kameny’s who helped select the gravesite, said the removal of the two stones displaced an important and historic site where people could go to reflect on Kameny’s accomplishments, which he said improved the lives of LGBT people.

“It is a disgrace that people don’t have a place to pay homage to him two years after his passing,” Bedwell said. “I feel those stones should be returned to the site even if the ashes are not interred there at this time.”

Tension between the Kameny estate and Carter, Francis, Witeck and Rosendall increased in the months following the cancellation of the burial when the estate sued the four men on grounds that they removed without permission items from Kameny’s house shortly after his death. The four said they removed the items for safekeeping at a time of confusion following Kameny’s death when Clark, who was living in the house at the time, gave them permission to enter the house to sort through Kameny’s belongings. They said they planned to return the items, some of which were papers slated to go to the Library of Congress.

Rosendall said this week that the men were accompanied by local attorney Michele Zavos when they entered Kameny’s house shortly after his death. Zavos had worked for Kameny and prepared his will, Rosendall said.

Zavos on Wednesday confirmed that she was present during that visit. She said Clark gave them permission to enter the house and that he understood that Rosendall and the other men wanted to look through Kameny’s papers and other historic items to take steps to preserve them.

According to Zavos, it was during that visit that Rosendall, Francis and Witeck found the original signed copy of Kameny’s will and turned it over to Zavos, who read and explained its provision to Clark.

“Tim was completely aware of what we were doing,” she said.

Rosendall added that he was especially troubled when Clark told the Blade in an interview in March 2012 that someone placed an anonymous letter in the mail slot at Kameny’s house where Clark was living that used a racial slur and denounced him for being the beneficiary in Kameny’s will.

“And that’s just horrible for anybody to say,” Clark said in the 2012 interview. “It said, ‘The nigger got everything.’”

When the Blade asked to see the letter, Clark claimed it was so upsetting to him that he discarded it in the trash before realizing it may have been better to keep it and have others help him discover the person who wrote it.

Rosendall, however, said Clark’s disclosure of the letter at a time when the Kameny estate was making public statements accusing him, Carter, Witeck and Francis of improperly taking items from the house could have raised suspicions that they may have been responsible for the anonymous hate letter.

“I was not under any impression that he had made an explicit accusation,” Rosendall said this week. “The whole point was he throws that out there as red meat and there is an implication that somebody else that he was talking about was to blame for it.”

The Blade requested a response from Ackerman to Rosendall’s statements about the hate letter. The Blade further asked Ackerman if anyone besides Clark saw the letter and could corroborate its existence. Ackerman emailed the following statement: “The questions you ask regarding the letter are not relevant to this firm’s representation of the Estate of Franklin E. Kameny and any comment on this topic would be inappropriate.”

10
Oct
2013

L.A. LGBT Center secures federal grant

The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, California, gay news, Washington Blade

The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. (Photo by Minaert; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center has been designated a “federally qualified health center” and was awarded a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, WeHoville, a West Hollywood news outlet, reported.

The designation is given only to clinics that meet the highest standards of care and serve underserved populations (Washington’s Whitman-Walker Health also has attained the status). The Center provides primary care services for LGBT people. The designation and award will enable the Center to eventually provide medical care for more than 4,000 additional patients, particularly low-income people on Medicaid, the article said.

The Center is one of the few LGBT clinics in the nation to receive the designation and the only such clinic in California.

“This is a huge turning point for the Center and for the LGBT community of Los Angeles because we have always believed that health care is a right for every single human being,” said Christopher Brown, the Center’s Health and Mental Health Services director in the WeHoville article. “For far too long, LGBT people have suffered discrimination in health care.”

20
Nov
2013

An end to Kameny burial stalemate?

Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade

Frank Kameny died in October 2011 but his ashes remain in limbo due to a dispute between his estate and a local non-profit. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An attorney representing the estate of nationally acclaimed gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny said on Wednesday that a “tentative agreement” has been reached to end a dispute that has prevented Kameny’s ashes from being interred at D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery nearly two years after his death.

Christopher Brown, an attorney with the gay-owned law firm Ackerman Brown, said the tentative agreement was reached on July 9 with Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), a local LGBT charitable group that bought a plot for the burial of Kameny’s ashes at Congressional Cemetery after soliciting donations from the community to pay for it following Kameny’s death on Oct. 11, 2011.

Brown’s comment came one day after Ackerman Brown’s client, Timothy Clark, Kameny’s longtime friend and heir to his estate, told the Blade that he understood that an agreement between the two parties over the cemetery plot had been reached.

“We reached an agreement on that so I’m going to keep the burial plot,” Clark said in a telephone interview.

“I just have to decide on when I want to have something,” he said in referring to a burial ceremony at the cemetery. “I just don’t know. But I’m open to any suggestions that anybody wants to have because that was Frank’s life. The gay community was Frank’s life. That’s what he fought for.”

HOBS and a group of Kameny’s friends and colleagues in the LGBT rights movement initially scheduled an interment ceremony for Kameny at the cemetery for March 3, 2012. But they abruptly cancelled it after the estate reportedly told the cemetery it would not release Kameny’s ashes until it obtained legal ownership of the burial plot from HOBS.

For more than a year, HOBS and Ackerman Brown have declined to publicly disclose specific details of the nature of the dispute between the two parties over the burial plot other than to say they were negotiating an agreement to enable HOBS to transfer ownership of the plot to the estate.

“[W]e would point out that HOBS has never stood in the way of or delayed the burial of Dr. Kameny’s ashes,” said HOBS President Marvin Carter in an email to the Blade earlier this month. “HOBS has made numerous proposals and overtures to the Kameny estate to have Dr. Kameny’s remains buried at Congressional Cemetery.”

Brown told the Blade in an email on Wednesday that the estate, which is in possession of Kameny’s ashes, also is interested in moving ahead with the burial.

“The estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,” Brown said in his email.

In response to a request from the Blade last month, HOBS on Wednesday released information about the money it raised and spent both for Kameny’s personal needs in the last years of his life and for expenses related to Kameny’s funeral and planned burial.

HOBS’s IRS 990 finance reports filed with the IRS for 2010 and 2011 – the most recent such reports publicly available for HOBS – don’t include specific information about money raised for Kameny-related projects.

But the reports show that HOBS’s income increased dramatically in 2010 and 2011 during a period when the non-profit, tax-exempt group and its supporters appealed to the LGBT community for Kameny-related donations — initially to help Kameny pay household expenses and property taxes and later for Kameny’s funeral and burial.

The 990 reports, which all tax-exempt organizations are required to file, show that HOBS’s income was $2,125 in 2008, the first year for which such figures are reported, and $6,544 in 2009. The reports show that in 2010, HOBS’s income rose to $61,480 and in 2011 its income increased to $115,440.

In an op-ed column published in the Blade just before the Thanksgiving holiday in November 2011, Carter discussed efforts by HOBS and other groups and individuals to arrange two separate memorial services for Kameny, one of which was held at the Carnegie Library building in downtown D.C.

“Thus far, with the generosity of many friends, we have covered expenses for Kameny’s viewing at Carnegie Library and his essential funeral costs, too,” which Carter later explained involved paying for Kameny’s cremation and the rental of a casket and the service of a funeral hearse for the viewing ceremony.

“In addition, we have now paid the deposit on a fitting, public gravesite for Kameny at the historic Congressional Cemetery,” he said in the op-ed. “For all who wish to help raise the remaining $4,000 anticipated; you may make your tax-deductible contribution online…or simply mail a check to HOBS…”

The Blade and other local publications also published stories on HOBS’s Kameny-related fundraising activities for the funeral and burial and efforts by HOBS to help Kameny prior to his death.

One effort organized by local gay activist Ben Carver in 2010 was billed as the “Buy Frank a Drink” campaign, which Carver promoted on a Facebook page.

HOBS’s 990 report for 2012, which would include that year’s income, has yet to be released by the charitable watchdog group Guidestar.com, which obtains 990 reports for nearly all U.S. non-profit groups each year from the IRS. HOBS’s 990 report for 2010 was filed in November 2011, and its 2011 report was filed in November 2012. This suggests that its 2012 990 report will likely be filed in November of this year.

The 2011 report shows that HOBS during that year spent $66,413 on “direct support to qualified individuals,” $20,222 on “mentoring programs,” and $11,605 on “educational programs.”

Those three programs, which came to a total of $98,240, accounted for the bulk of HOBS’s expenditures for that year. The 2011 report shows that all other expenses were under $4,000 and were for administrative and overhead expenses such as supplies ($3,727), board meetings ($1,007), Internet ($1,555), meals and entertainment ($505), and telephone ($1,494). More detail on those reported expenses wasn’t available.

Carter discussed HOBS’s mission in an email he sent the Blade on July 24, which also provided information about money HOBS raised and spent on Kameny-related projects.

Frank Kameny, Marvin Carter, Dan Choi, Washington Blade, gay news, HOBS, Helping Our Brothers and Sisters

The late Frank Kameny (left) standing next to Marvin Carter at a HOBS benefit dinner in 2010. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

HOBS “is an all-volunteer micro-charity that helps marginalized LGBT individuals in our community to meet short-term and often life-sustaining needs,” Carter said. “We focus on helping those who often do not fit the criteria for help from other organizations or agencies – filling gaps in human distress here in Washington, D.C.  A sizable portion of our work involves discrimination cases too, many involving torture and asylum,” said Carter, referring to cases noted on the group’s website in which HOBS assists LGBT foreign nationals seeking U.S. political asylum to escape persecution in their home country.

“Before his passing, HOBS assisted Dr. Kameny frequently with some of his essential needs, including transportation for doctor’s appointments, the use of a mobile phone, groceries and meals, urgent bathroom plumbing repairs, repair of his eyewear, and the payment of past property tax bills to prevent his home foreclosure – spending in total thousands of dollars in the years before his death,” Carter said.

Carter provided these figures and related information in connection with the contributions HOBS received and expenditures it incurred for Kameny-related projects in 2010 and 2011:

  • Contributions earmarked by donors for Kameny’s burial expenses totaled about $800.
  • Other donors “make clear that their donations may be used for HOBS’ general mission,” were silent about how to use the donations.
  • During this period, “approximately $15,000 was raised in connection with our general fundraising efforts.”
  • HOBS incurred expenses totaling approximately $8,500 related to the purchase of a cemetery plot for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery, cremation expenses and “other expenses of the funeral home (including rental of a casket and hearse for transporting Dr. Kameny’s ashes to the memorial service…and a gravesite marker reading ‘Gay is Good.’”
  • There was no surplus of funds from contributions for Kameny’s burial and memorial service efforts. HOBS used money from its general operating account to cover the Kameny funeral and burial expenses not covered by earmarked donations.
  • HOBS did not solicit funds for payment of Kameny’s property taxes in 2011. It did raise money for and contributed to Kameny’s property tax payments in 2010.
25
Jul
2013

U.S. Attorney challenges use of civil rights law

Peter TerVeer, gay news, gay politics dc

Peter TerVeer (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The United States Attorney for the District of Columbia filed court papers on Dec. 17 arguing that a gay man, who sued the Library of Congress for firing him because of his sexual orientation, failed to show he’s entitled to protection under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court filing by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., who was appointed by President Obama, places the Obama administration in the awkward position of opposing a gay discrimination claim under Title VII.

In a lawsuit filed against the Library of Congress in August 2012, former management analyst Peter TerVeer, 30, says he was fired from his job after being harassed and humiliated for more than a year by a supervisor who repeatedly quoted biblical passages condemning homosexuality.

The lawsuit charges that although TerVeer was targeted because he’s gay, he suffered employment discrimination and harassment based on his gender, gender stereotyping and his religious beliefs, which he says didn’t conform to those of supervisor John Mech.

Title VII of the famed 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender and, according to recent court rulings, gender identity, but not sexual orientation by itself.

According to the lawsuit, TerVeer and Mech had a cordial working relationship from the time TerVeer was hired in February 2008 as a management analyst in the library’s Auditing Division. It says TerVeer received high performance ratings and two promotions between 2008 and 2010.

The lawsuit says Mech allegedly became hostile and unfairly critical of TerVeer’s work performance and created an unbearably hostile work environment after Mech learned TerVeer was gay.

The government’s filing of a motion to dismiss the case on legal and procedural grounds comes at a time when gay rights attorneys are seeking to persuade courts to treat anti-gay discrimination as a form of sex discrimination protected under Title VII.

“We believe that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to substantiate a Title VII claim,” said Charles Miller, a spokesperson for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

Miller pointed to an April 2012 ruling by the Library of Congress’s in-house equal employment opportunity division, which investigated TerVeer’s allegations of discrimination and harassment and dismissed an in-house complaint he filed in September 2011 on grounds that the allegations could not be substantiated.

“The Executive Branch is of course opposed to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and this filing does not reflect any contrary policy,” Miller told the Blade.

But Christopher Brown of the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown, which is representing TerVeer, said the government’s motion to dismiss the case “relies on legal precedent that excludes LGBT employees from protection under Title VII.”

Brown declined to comment further on the government’s arguments, saying TerVeer’s legal team prefers not to comment in detail on pending litigation.

Greg Nevins, supervising attorney for the gay litigation group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is monitoring the TerVeer case, said the government’s motion to dismiss appears to be arguing that TerVeer did not present sufficient evidence to show that his supervisor targeted him for discrimination because TerVeer displayed mannerisms or behavior of a stereotypical gay man, which some might view as being effeminate.

“I think what the U.S. Attorney is saying here is a masculine gay man or a feminine lesbian would not be covered under Title VII,” Nevins said. “Some court rulings have essentially said Title VII does not apply to sexual orientation.”

In a landmark ruling last April, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that transgender people are protected against job discrimination under Title VII because bias against their gender identity is equivalent to sex discrimination. The EEOC ruling followed several appeals court decisions holding that transgender people were protected under Title VII.

Lambda Legal and other LGBT advocacy organizations say they hope to persuade courts that gay men and lesbians enjoy Title VII protections. They argue that sexual orientation discrimination is also linked to gender role stereotyping and bias, regardless of whether the victim is perceived as masculine or feminine.

TerVeer’s lawsuit says he also was targeted for retaliation after he filed his discrimination complaint with the library’s in-house EEO office, which is known as the Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness and Compliance.

“Plaintiff’s discrimination and retaliation claims fall short,” Machen and two other government attorneys argue in their Dec. 17 motion seeking to dismiss the case, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“Plaintiff alleges that he was subject to harassment after his employer learned that he was gay, and he presents his claim as one of non-conformity with sex stereotypes,” the motion to dismiss says. “But the detailed allegations in the complaint do not provide what courts have held is required to show that sex stereotyping was the cause of his employer’s actions.”

The motion to dismiss adds, “[C]ourts have generally required plaintiffs to set forth specific allegations regarding the particular ways in which an employee failed to conform to such stereotypes — generally relating to an employee’s behavior, demeanor or appearance in the workplace — and allegations to support the claim that this non-conformity negatively influenced the employer’s decision … In this case, however, plaintiff fails to offer anything more than the conclusory statement that, as a result of his sexual orientation, ‘he did not conform to the defendant’s gender stereotypes associated with men under Mech’s supervision.’”

One civil rights attorney familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. Attorney’s office was fulfilling its role in defending its client — the Library of Congress — and should not be faulted for arguing against TerVeer’s attempt to invoke protection from Title VII.

“The government’s argument that the complainant fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim … are typical arguments that they’d make equally if the plaintiff were female or black rather than gay,” the attorney said.

The government’s motion to dismiss the case is based mostly on procedural and legal grounds rather than on the merits of TerVeer’s specific allegations of discrimination and retaliation.

The government’s motion cites legal and procedural grounds to seek the dismissal of a separate claim in the lawsuit that the firing violated TerVeer’s Fifth Amendment constitutional right to due process and equal protection under the law.

In addition, it cites procedural grounds to call on the court to dismiss separate claims in the lawsuit that the library violated the Library of Congress Act, which bans discrimination based on factors unrelated to an employee’s ability to perform his or her job; and an internal library policy banning sexual orientation discrimination.

Library investigation finds no substantiation of discrimination

The motion to dismiss releases publicly for the first time the April 26, 2012 ruling by the library’s Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness and Compliance (OIC) that rejects TerVeer’s allegations on grounds that they could not be substantiated or proven.

The 14-page ruling by the OIC, which was filed in court by the U.S. Attorney’s office as “Exhibit D,” was based on an in-house library investigation into a discrimination complaint filed by TerVeer on Nov. 9, 2011, according to OIC acting supervisor Vicki Magnus.

Magnus discusses the findings in an April 26 letter to Brown, TerVeer’s attorney, which the U.S. Attorney’s office submitted in court as part of Exhibit D.

“Based on the available evidence, the Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness and Compliance (OIC) does not find sufficient evidence to support Complainant’s allegations that he was discriminated against based on religion, sex, and reprisal, and that he was subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment in his meetings with supervisors regarding performance and in actions taken by supervisors regarding his performance,” Magnus said in her letter.

In what potentially could be damaging to TerVeer’s lawsuit, Magnus notes that the OIC investigation into TerVeer’s discrimination and retaliation complaint included interviews of and testimony by five of TerVeer’s co-workers. Each of the five testified that they personally observed less than satisfactory work performance by TerVeer, according to the OIC ruling.

In his complaint, TerVeer accuses his immediate supervisor, John Mech, and a higher level supervisor, Nicholas Christopher, of giving him a lower job performance rating based on anti-gay bias.

The five co-workers, “each of whom personally observed complainant’s performance, fully support the reasons presented by management justifying their decision to issue complainant poor performance ratings and to deny complainant a [performance based salary increase].”

Brown, TerVeer’s attorney, declined to comment on the OIC ruling or its potential impact on the lawsuit.

The library’s official reason for firing TerVeer was his failure to report to work after a leave of absence he requested and received permission to take had expired. TerVeer told reporters in a news conference in April that his doctor and therapist urged him to take a leave from work after the hostile work environment he said Mech created caused him to suffer severe emotional distress.

He said the library refused to grant his request to be transferred to another office under another supervisor, making it impossible for him to return to work.

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