Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Beau Biden to not seek re-election

Beau Biden, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden on Thursday announced he will not seek re-election in 2014 in order to run for governor.

“Over the past few months, as I’ve been planning to run for re-election, I have also been giving a great deal of thought to running for governor in 2016,” said Biden in a statement his office released. “What started as a thought – a very persistent thought – has now become a course of action that I wish to pursue.”

“After careful consideration, I have concluded that it is not right to ask for your support in 2014, knowing that my focus would be divided between doing my job as attorney general while at the same time running as a candidate for governor,” he added.

Biden, who took office in 2007, backed a bill last year that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in Delaware. He attended a gay Wilmington couple’s wedding that took place last July on the first day same-sex couples could legally marry in the state.

Biden joined 14 state attorneys general who filed two amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of last March’s oral arguments in cases that challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

“I know that momentum is on our side on this,” Biden told the Washington Blade during a March 2013 interview.

Biden also backed a transgender rights measure that Gov. Jack Markell signed into law last June.

“We are grateful for the support and leadership that Attorney General Biden has provided with respect to matters of LGBT equality during his time as attorney general for the great state of Delaware,” Equality Delaware Foundation President Mark Purpura told the Blade after Biden made his announcement. “In Delaware, we feel blessed to have the strong support of many of our elected officials, including Attorney General Biden.”

Biden would succeed Markell if elected.

17
Apr
2014

J. Todd Miller dies at 68

J. Todd Miller, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

J. Todd Miller (Photo courtesy of Parsell Funeral Homes)

J. Todd Miller died April 12 at his home in Lewes, Del. He was 68. His family, through contacts at Parsell Funeral Homes, declined to give the cause of death.

Miller was born Aug. 14, 1945 in Washington. He was preceded in death by his life partner, John Byron Kleminsky. He is survived by his son, Todd Adam and his wife Michele Frame-Miller; his grandson, Kevin Nolan Miller of Chicago; as well as his brother, Robert Miller.

Following graduation from the University of Maryland in 1968, he joined Aetna Life & Casualty and was appointed brokerage general agent of its Washington office in 1979. He founded J. Todd Miller, CLU & Associates, a general insurance firm, in 1982. Miller joined the firm in 1995 and it operates today as the Miller & Shook Companies of Washington, D.C.

As a result of his life-long fascination with the Eastern Shore and the Delaware beaches, Miller and Kleminsky built their first beach home in Lewes in 1980. In 1981, they founded beachaire, a small commuter airline offering flights between Washington’s National Airport and Rehoboth’s airport. The Air Traffic Controller’s strike in August 1981 forced the small new airline to cease operations.

In 1984, beachaire reorganized and became BeachAire Environments, a builder of custom homes and developer of Beachwoods and Beachwoods II at Lewes. Miller retired in 1997 and shared his time between homes in South Beach, Fla., Washington and his beloved Beachwoods. He traveled extensively, visiting about 30 countries, gardened and enjoyed every moment with his grandson and his golden retriever, Joshua.

A public viewing was scheduled for Thursday in Lewes, Del. Interment will be private. A memorial event is being planned.

Memorial contributions in Miller’s memory may be made to CAMP Rehoboth, 37 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 and/or Goldheart Golden Retriever Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 34, Phoenix, MD 21134.

A memorial website is at parsellfuneralhomes.com.

23
Apr
2014

Miss Pixie’s Now Open In Rehoboth

Miss Pixie's, Home & Garden, gay news, Washington Blade, Rehoboth

(Photo courtesy of Miss Pixie’s)

Miss Pixie’s of Rehoboth is now open and will be open every day for the season starting May 18th!

Pixie will be doing free consultations for rental properties.

The store “By The Sea” includes mostly the same style of fun, functional, affordable pieces as the D.C. location, but more of the whatnots and small finds: Garden furniture, lamps, and local art, as well as Lancaster farm tables available for order!

There will be a design consultant on staff to work with clients in the beach area. Fun weekend events will be held in the store.

Check the Miss Pixie’s Facebook pages — https://www.facebook.com/Pixiesbythesea  and https://www.facebook.com/misspixies — and Web site http://www.misspixies.com/ for more details on events, inventory, and store hours!

25
Apr
2014

Queery: Kevin Buice/Mona Lotts

Although Kevin Buice says he loves performing and wishes he had started his drag career earlier, his alter ego was almost an afterthought.

Working in restaurant management, some friends at Partners (now Rigby’s Bar & Grill) in Rehoboth Beach, Del., were talking about ways to bolster their brunch about 10 years ago.

“I said, ‘You should have a drag queen,’ and they said, ‘OK, you’re on this Sunday,’” the 49-year-old Atlanta native says. “I said, ‘I don’t do drag.’ They said, ‘You do now.’”

Buice, who performs as Mona Lotts every Thursday and Friday night at the Blue Moon (bluemoonrehoboth.com) year round (except when it’s closed in January), says, “it became obvious very quickly that entertaining was something I was supposed to do.”

Splitting time between Washington and Rehoboth, Mona also performs regularly at Freddie’s Beach Bar, Ziegfeld’s/Secrets, and other gay bars. She has a basement in D.C. and a storage unit in Rehoboth where she keeps more than 100 wigs and “probably” 500 gowns. Mona never likes to be seen in the same gown more than twice a year, Buice says with a laugh.

“Mona has her own personality, I would say,” Buice says. “I know that sounds like mental illness, but I find it’s much easier to say things, do things and be more outgoing as her. Kevin’s actually a pretty shy person. Mona is very extroverted.”

Buice and partner John Foley have been together 13 years. Buice was married to a woman years ago and has a daughter, Katie, 24. He enjoys singing, reading, movies and time with friends in his free time.

“I love meeting new people,” he says. “If you’re in Rehoboth, definitely come by and say hi.”

 

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

Twenty-five years. My daughter Katie.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero? 

I have two. Tim Ragan, one of the owners of the Blue Moon where I work. Tim is a very successful businessman and has lived his life with his partner Randy for over 30 years. He is a hero of mine because success in public and personal life does not come easy and I have huge respect for the way he’s mastered both! Also the individuals who participated in the Stonewall Riots in New York. These individuals were the catalyst that started the movement that changed the perception of LGBT persons in the USA.

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

Ziegfeld’s/Secrets

 

Describe your dream wedding.

Twenty to 30 friends and family gathered to share a short ceremony with me and my partner at the National Cathedral in D.C. followed by a HELLACIOUS party at Blue Moon in Rehoboth!

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Literacy. If you cannot read and write your chance of survival and success in life is almost nonexistent.

 

What historical outcome would you change? 

I would have stopped 9-11. America and the world were changed forever that day.

 

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

The cell phone.

 

On what do you insist? 

Honesty and loyalty.

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? 

I posted Shania Twain’s video of “Dance With The One That Brought You” to my partner John’s FB page. It was my way of telling him I was thinking of him and that he’s the only one for me!

 

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

“Mona – Life In and Out of Lipstick Was Never A Drag”

 

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

Run like hell!

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

Somebody bigger than me has got to be looking out for me. Otherwise I’d be dead.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? 

Keep on going! We have to leave this world better than we found it.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for? 

My mother’s cooking.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? 

Everyone who does drag wants to be a woman.

 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

“To Wong Foo”

 

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

Shaking hands

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet? 

The applause and smiles of an audience every time I perform.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18? 

I wish I had known that I could have a career performing. I love what I do and wish I had started the art of female impersonation as early as possible.

 

Why Washington? 

You tell me — I’d rather be at the beach!

14
May
2014

New in Rehoboth

Rehoboth Beach, gay news, Washington Blade

Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Washington Blade file photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

The long-range summer forecast from the Farmer’s Almanac predicts 2014 will be one of the hottest summers in the past decade, so expect people to head out to Rehoboth Beach in droves in the months ahead.

For those who do, some things may look a little different as a number of changes have come to the shops, restaurants and businesses in the gay-friendly beach resort town.

One difference is that smoking will no longer be allowed on the beach and only on a few designated areas on the boardwalk. While this may prove unpopular with some beachgoers, Rehoboth was the last holdout of Delaware’s major ocean resorts to ban smoking and City Commissioner Stan Mills was determined to make it happen.

First Street Station is being renovated for the first time since it went up nearly 20 years ago, with approximately 4,500 square feet of the northeast side of the building being demolished to make way for three new retail sites. Saying “so long” to the original space are Gallery Espresso and Maggio Shields Real Estate Café. Three new stores will occupy the new space — all with street-entry access.

Other renovations to First Street Station include the addition of a new roof, the installation of an HVAC system and the removal of the front catwalk, allowing a clear view to the courtyard.

Dance club Dive has opened at the site of the once-popular L Bar at 622 Rehoboth Ave.

“Yes, we are a ‘dive bar,’ but we consider ourselves a classy one,” says Christian Randolph, general manager of the new establishment and a former bartender at L Bar. “We are an ‘everybody bar’ and welcome anyone. We really see this as someplace that will be a favorite among the Rehoboth faithful.”

According to Patty Burkentine, membership representative for the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, there are a number of new businesses and restaurants opening this summer.

Perhaps the most anticipated new restaurant of the season is Papa Grande’s Coastal Taqueria at Wilmington Ave., owned by Matt Haley who just won the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Humanitarian of the Year award. Haley owns several popular restaurants in the area, including Lupo di Mare. Papa Grande’s will feature salads, tacos, quesadillas and more and is scheduled to open this month.

Cellar Door replaces Debacle at 20 Baltimore Ave., offering Southern cuisine with a Creole twist, according to the indispensible Rehoboth Foodie. The SandCrab Beach Bar will hold its grand opening on May 23 at 1 Baltimore Ave., situated on the ocean side of the Atlantic Sands Hotel and Conference Center, and boasting a swimming pool and sun deck.

The family-owned Ambrosia Restaurant & Wine Bar opened at 19 Wilmington Ave., and offers Italian and American cuisines; Otto’s Sandwich Shop serves up Philly-style subs at 4 North First St.; and Nonna’s Sweet Treats is taking over the Rehoboth Avenue spot next to Nicola’s that was last occupied by Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, to dish out ice cream and delectable treats.

After several attempts, the Dewey Beer and Food Co., was granted permission to open a new brewpub at the site of the former Bubba’s Grill on Route 1, and it will be up and running in time for summer.

Changes have come to some old favorites as well.

The former Cloud 9, a beloved LGBT restaurant and lounge that closed in the fall of 2012, will find its home at 234 Rehoboth Ave., occupied by Lula Brazil, a new coastal Brazilian restaurant and Latin-flavor dance club, owned by Meg Hudson (a former partner in Wilmington’s Domaine Hudson).

Meanwhile, the Greene Turtle will find a second home on the beach at 52 Rehoboth Ave., once the home of Irish Eyes, which closed after 27 years in Rehoboth.

Specialty stores are abundant with Burkentine listing nearly three-dozen new shops opening up. Among them are the Olive Orchard, with owners Roy and Laura Eckrote bringing a fine selection of infused oils, a variety of balsamic vinegars and honey; Blooming Boutique at 216 Rehoboth Ave., owned by Michiko Seto, and offering shoes, handbags and other apparel items; and the jewelry store Shore Silver opening at 149 Rehoboth Ave., by the Gambacorta family with a mission statement that reads, “Shore Silver will do its very best to provide quality, affordable jewelry that will make you look good at prices that will make you feel good.”

Another newcomer is Miss Pixies By the Sea, a vintage store offering hard-to-find items at 40 Baltimore Ave. It’s a sister store to the D.C. location, a staple of the burgeoning 14th Street corridor.

“You never know what interesting item you’re going to find,” says owner Pixie Windsor, who offers a laundry list of things like carnival ride seats, matchbox cars, vintage glassware and old toys. “You may find something that brings back an old memory or discover something that will lead to a new one.”

Across the street at 39 Baltimore Ave. is the fabulous gay-owned R Squared home and design store featuring stylish décor and interior design services.

No car to get to Rehoboth? No problem. The upscale bus service DC2NY has changed its name to BestBus but the amenities remain top-notch: free Wi-Fi, bottled water, power outlets at each seat, movies and more. Visit bestbus.com for rates and schedules to Rehoboth.

Several events will be sponsored by CAMP Rehoboth, the local LGBT community center, which is celebrating its 24th anniversary. There’s the Black & White Beach Ball on May 31, a cruise party on July 18 and the popular Sundance Auction on Aug. 30 and Sundance party on Aug. 31.

Of course, the main two beaches that attract an LGBT crowd are Poodle Beach at the south end of the boardwalk and Gordon’s Pond in Cape Henlopen State Park, north of town.

And many gay-friendly Rehoboth staples are open for the 2014 season, including Blue Moon (35 Baltimore Ave.), where “Queen of Rehoboth” Pamala Stanley opens the season on May 25; Aqua Grill (57 Baltimore Ave.), which opens May 16; Purple Parrot (134 Rehoboth Ave.), where the always-fun Biergarten is also open; Dos Locos (208 Rehoboth Ave.), with its awesome margaritas; and Café Azafran (18 Baltimore Ave.) and its incomparable, tres chic bartender Holly Lane.

Dos Locos, Joe Zuber, Darryl Ciarlante, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, restaurant, gay news, Washington Blade

Drinks at Dos Locos (Photo courtesy Dos Locos)

14
May
2014

Marriage and more

The momentous events of 2013 hit close to home, as marriage equality arrived in Maryland and Delaware. But last year wasn’t all about marriage. It was a big year for Democrats in Virginia and a lesbian lawmaker announced a bid for Maryland governor.

Here’s a look at the top 10 local news stories of 2013 as chosen by Blade editorial staffers.

 

#1 Marriage equality comes to Md., Del.

 

Clayton Zook, Tracy Staples, Wayne MacKenzie, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Tilghman Island

Marriage equality expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic in 2013 with Maryland and Delaware joining D.C. in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie tied the knot on New Year’s Day on Tilghman Island. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland and Delaware were among the states in which same-sex couples began to legally marry in 2013.

Seven same-sex couples married at Baltimore City Hall on Jan. 1 shortly after Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect in a ceremony that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated. They include long-time mayoral aide James Scales and his partner, William Tasker.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” said Rawlings-Blake.

More than half a dozen same-sex couples exchanged vows at the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on Jan. 1. These include innkeepers Tracy Staples and Bob Zuber who tied the knot almost immediately after the law took effect at midnight.

“I’m very proud of Maryland,” Michelle Miller of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County told the Washington Blade on Jan. 1 after she married Nora Clouse at the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on May 7 signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) came out as a lesbian on the floor of the state Senate while she and her colleagues debated the measure. The New Castle County Democrat and her partner of more than 20 years, Vikki Bandy, on July 1 became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple when the couple converted their civil union into a marriage during a ceremony that New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden officiated.

“It’s exciting, both historically and personally,” Peterson told reporters after she and Bandy exchanged vows inside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington. “I never thought in our lifetimes we would be getting married.”

Boulden later on July 1 also officiated Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cote’s wedding in Wilmington that Attorney General Beau Biden, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon and other local and state officials attended.

“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” said Biden.

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis and Rev. Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington are among those who testified against the same-sex marriage bill. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church on July 1 protested the law outside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington and at other locations throughout the state.

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) is the only Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored the measure. John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, on March 15 came out during an exclusive interview with the Blade at an Equality Delaware fundraiser in Wilmington.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” said Fluharty. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

 

#2 McAuliffe elected Va. governor

 

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe is Virginia’s next governor after a campaign that prominently featured gay issues. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Nov. 6 defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.

McAuliffe has repeatedly said his first executive order as governor will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. The former DNC chair in February also endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily defeated Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson in the state’s lieutenant gubernatorial race. The State Board of Elections on Nov. 25 officially certified state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) as the winner of the race to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general, but state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) requested a recount because he lost to his Democratic rival by only 165 votes.

Cuccinelli highlighted his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples during two debates against McAuliffe that took place in Hot Springs and McLean in July and September respectively. LGBT rights advocates also blasted the outgoing attorney general for appealing a federal appellate court’s March ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Jackson faced persistent criticism during the campaign over his previous comments that equated gay men to pedophiles and “very sick people.”

“Without exception, the Democratic candidates for statewide office offered unflinching support for marriage equality, a welcoming business climate and respect for a woman’s right to choose,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) after the election. “The people of Virginia aligned themselves with McAuliffe’s and Northam’s vision of an inclusive, forward moving commonwealth.”

 

 

#3 Va. lawmakers confirm gay judge

 

Virginia lawmakers on Jan. 15 confirmed gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked the former prosecutor’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s.

Thorne-Begland in 1992 publicly discussed his sexual orientation during an interview on ABC’s “Nightline.” He unsuccessfully challenged his discharge from the U.S. Navy under the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

Thorne-Begland is also a former Equality Virginia board member.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after lawmakers approved Thorne-Begland’s judgeship. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

Thorne-Begland is Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

 

 #4 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay: report

 

gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Gallup says that 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A report released in February by the Gallup polling organization showed that the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of self-identified LGBT residents in the nation in comparison to the 50 states.

Ten percent of 493 D.C. residents who responded to Gallup’s daily tracking polls between June 1 and Dec. 30, 2012 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the report. By comparison, 3.3 percent of a sample of 4,195 Maryland residents and 2.9 percent of a sample of 6,323 Virginians identified themselves as LGBT.

The report did not compare D.C. to other cities. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which studies LGBT related demographics, told the Blade the Gallop statistics appeared to be a more accurate snapshot of the country’s LGBT population than previous studies.

 

#5 Mizeur runs for governor in Md.

 

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Heather Mizeur is seeking to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on July 16 officially entered the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m running for governor because I love this state and I see limitless possibilities on what we can accomplish together,” the Montgomery County Democrat told the Washington Blade before she announced her candidacy. “There are great challenges facing us and also incredible opportunities.”

Mizeur last month raised eyebrows when she tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton as her running mate. The Prince George’s County pastor in 2012 emerged as one of the most prominent supporters of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved in a referendum.

“I have stood up for justice,” said Coates at a Nov. 14 campaign event during which Mizeur officially introduced him as her running mate. “I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”

Mizeur will face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed Martin O’Malley.

“Diversity is enormously important,” Mizeur told the Blade in July. “Not simply to have a gay governor, but to have a governor who can represent the voices of people in communities that have not always had a voice in the process.”

 

#6 Rash of violent incidents in June

 

Miles DeNiro, Manny & Olga's, hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

Drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria in June. (Screen capture)

Four transgender women, a gay man dressed in drag, and a lesbian were victims of separate violent attacks, including a murder, during the last two weeks of June, prompting LGBT activists to call a “community response” meeting to address the incidents.

Lesbian Malika Stover, 35, of Southeast D.C., was shot to death on June 22 following what police said was an argument with a neighbor that did not appear to be linked to her sexual orientation.

But transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized the meeting, said Stover’s slaying stunned people in the LGBT community who knew her.

“This is really putting all of us on edge,” she said. “You’re seeing all of these incidents happening in such a short period of time.”

Police arrested a 23-year-old male suspect for allegedly stabbing transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, multiple times on June 21 in an abandoned house in Southeast D.C. Police said the incident stemmed from a dispute and did not appear to be a hate crime. In another incident on June 23, gay male drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria near 14th and U streets, N.W. in an incident that was captured on video and posted on the Internet. The two women were arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge simple assault.

 

#7 Trans birth certificate bill hailed  

 

Vincent Gray, JaParker Deoni Jones, David Grosso, Ruby Corado, Rick Rosendall, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill in August enabling trans people to change their birth certificates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bill signed into law by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in August that removes obstacles to the process of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their new gender has been hailed as a groundbreaking measure.

Among other things, the new law repealed a provision in an existing law that required transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery as a condition for obtaining a new birth certificate. Transgender advocates said the surgery was too expensive for many people and medically hazardous to others.

The new law is named the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 in honor of a transgender woman murdered near her home in 2012.

Another key provision in the law requires the D.C. Registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition.”

 

 

#8 T.H.E. declares bankruptcy

 

Earline Budd, gay news, Washington Blade

Earline Budd called on the city to investigate T.H.E.’s management practices. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender Health Empowerment, D.C.’s leading transgender services and advocacy organization for nearly 10 years, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7. A short time later it discontinued all of its transgender-related programs.

The bankruptcy filing came after the D.C. Department of Health abruptly cut off its funding for T.H.E. when it learned that the IRS placed liens on the organization for its failure to pay more than $260,000 in employee withholding taxes over a period of at least three years. The bankruptcy filing shows that T.H.E.’s total debt comes to more than $560,000.

During a bankruptcy trustee’s hearing in August, T.H.E. executive director Anthony Hall said the group’s only source of income at the time of the hearing was a city grant calling for the organization to operate a non-LGBT related temporary housing facility for crime victims.

Longtime transgender activist Earline Budd, a former T.H.E. employee and one of its founders, has called on the city to investigate the group’s management practices to determine the cause of its financial problems.

 

 

#9 Mautner merges with Whitman-Walker

 

Don Blanchon, Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization based in Washington, D.C. since its founding in 1990, became an arm of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health in 2013 in what leaders of both groups called an “historic collaboration.”

In a joint statement released in June, the two organizations said the arrangement would bring the Mautner Project’s programs and staff under the “umbrella” of Whitman-Walker, an LGBT community health care provider founded in 1978.

Leslie Calman, Mautner Project’s executive director at the time the merger was announced, said the joining of the two groups would allow Mautner to “offer more critical services to a greater number of women who need those services throughout the region. It’s a natural fit.”

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. He said the Mautner Project’s “programs and reach within their community will help us fulfill that mission.”

Calman said that in addition to continuing its services for lesbians with serious illnesses such as cancer, the Mautner programs at Whitman-Walker would also continue various illness prevention programs such as cancer screening, smoking cessation and obesity reduction.

 

 

#10 Carson steps down as Hopkins speaker

 

Ben Carson, Values Voter Summit, Washington Blade, gay news

Ben Carson compared LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman).

A rising star in the Republican Party stirred controversy by comparing LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia, leading him to give up his role as commencement speaker at John Hopkins University.

The former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity when expressing his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition” of marriage, Carson said.

Carson’s remarks invoked the ire of students at John Hopkins University, where he was selected to speak as commencement speaker. The organization Media Matters asserted a majority of the graduating class, or around 700 students, called for his ouster. Although sources initially said Carson wouldn’t relinquish his speaking role at commencement, Carson eventually indicated he would acquiesce to students’ desires and step down as speaker.

But Carson went on to other public appearances, including one later in the year at a venue closer in tune with his views. Carson was among the speakers the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, where he articulated his opposition to marriage equality.

“We need to recognize that God created the family structure for a reason and marriage is a sacred institution from God himself, and there is no reason that man needs to change the definition of marriage,” Carson said.

02
Jan
2014

Summer Kickoff Party

The Washington Blade held its annual “Summer Kickoff Party” at the Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach, Del. on Friday. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) was the featured speaker. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) Summer Kickoff 

17
May
2014

2013 in photography

2013 was a banner year for the LGBT community. Here are the top Washington Blade photos of the year. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen, Tyler Grigsby, Michael Key, Kevin Majoros, Damien Salas, Lee Whitman and Jon Wooten) buyphoto 

03
Jan
2014

Delaware high school grappling with LGBT issues

Cape Henlopen High School, gay news, Washington Blade

Cape Henlopen High School (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Cape Henlopen High School is in Lewes, Del., but the school’s senior prom takes place at the convention center in nearby Rehoboth Beach, which is well known as an LGBT-friendly resort town.

Last week, as part of a longstanding tradition, Cape Henlopen’s graduating seniors attending the prom assembled in front of a bandstand next to the Rehoboth boardwalk in the center of town where each of the couples was introduced before a crowd of close to a thousand people, according to principal Brian Donahue.

Among them were at least three or four same-sex female couples and one same-sex male couple, Donahue said. Like everyone else, he said the young lesbians wore formal ball gowns and the gay guys wore tuxedos and proudly walked hand-in-hand.

“Our students are very accepting of each other,” Donahue said. He added that the school – located in staunchly conservative Sussex County – embraces diversity and inclusiveness and has welcomed a student Gay-Straight Alliance or GSA club, which formed earlier this year.

But at the same time, sources familiar with the school said Donahue turned down a request by members of the GSA for permission to wear a rainbow colored stole as part of their graduation gowns this year to show support for the club. According to the sources, Donahue threatened to disband the GSA if it pushed too hard for the rainbow stoles.

Donahue disputes that he threatened to disband the group. However, he said he turned down the request for the rainbow stoles based on a longstanding school policy of limiting such stoles to members of academic-oriented and service-oriented clubs such as the Honor Society, Future Farmers of America, and the Leo Club, a youth version of the Lion’s Club.

A rainbow stole would be making a “political statement” that is contrary to the GSA’s mission as a support group, he said.

Daryl Presgraves, communications director for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network or GLSEN, a New York-based national organization that advocates for LGBT students, said the policy restriction cited by Donahue appears to be in violation of numerous court rulings overturning similar school policies.

Presgraves said the court rulings have narrowed the categories of school clubs for the purpose of wearing graduation stoles to “curricular” and “non-curricular” clubs and organizations, with service-oriented clubs placed in the non-curricular category.

“If a school allows one non-curricular club to let its members wear a stole then it must also allow a Gay-Straight Alliance member to wear a stole,” he said. He said that should they choose to do so, members or supporters of the Cape Henlopen GSA would likely have legal grounds to challenge and overturn the school’s restriction on the stoles.

More than a half-dozen people familiar with the school – including current and former students and a parent of students who recently graduated – told the Blade that while the formation of the GSA group this year and the gay student participation in the prom were encouraging signs, LGBT students at Cape Henlopen High School continue to face anti-LGBT bias.

They say instances of bias are decreasing but more work is needed to improve conditions for LGBT students and many teachers and administrators continue to “look the other way” at such occurrences.

As an example, reports have surfaced that at least one teacher at the school has routinely made disparaging comments about LGBT people and homosexuality.

According to a student who spoke with the Blade, Family and Consumer Sciences Department teacher Alayna Aiken, who teaches a class called Human Development, told students during a meeting of an after-school club that a “homosexual lifestyle is one of the dirtiest and most disease prone things that could happen.”

The student told the Blade she was present when Aiken said this and that other students told her Aiken has made similar comments in the classroom with her students enrolled in the Human Development class.

Reached by phone in her class during another afterschool meeting, Aiken strongly denied ever making inappropriate remarks to students on any subject.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about because students are allowed to express their own thoughts,” she said. “There are no disparaging comments. I have a very open dialogue in my classroom and freedom of ideas. I facilitate classroom discussions.”

Aiken added: “Cape Henlopen High School is a great school and I have great relations with my students and I enjoy them and all of their varying perspectives in the world. I have always had a very open and inviting classroom for any kind of discussion of anything.”

“And there are competing ideas in the world and they all need to be heard and dealt with and thought through logically. It is what it is,” she said. “And so the things that are taught in my classroom are appropriate and in alignment with all state standards. And I love teaching. I love students.”

Donahue said comments by a teacher along the lines described by the student – if found to be true – are unacceptable at Cape Henlopen High School. He said he would immediately investigate the matter, saying teachers’ personal opinions should not be interjected into the classroom or afterschool club meetings.

The student who spoke with the Blade is a 16-year-old sophomore. Although she spoke on the record and didn’t place any restrictions on being identified in a news story, the Blade has chosen to withhold her name.

The decision was based in part on reports by other sources familiar with the school who spoke only on the condition that their names be withheld out of fear that they could face retaliation or ridicule for speaking about the school in a less than positive way.

The faculty adviser for the Cape Henlopen GSA, theater teacher Martha Pfeiffer, told the Blade she could not comment or be interviewed about the GSA and other school-related matters under a school policy that doesn’t allow teachers to speak to the press on controversial issues.

Among the subjects Pfeiffer apparently could not discuss was a 2011 incident involving a school theater performance under her direction that created a stir among students and parents.

Several sources familiar with the school told the Blade the incident erupted during a school pep rally at the gymnasium when about five or six theater students performed a scene from the Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” When one of the male student actors appeared as a character wearing women’s clothes, as specified in the play, many of the kids in the audience began to jeer and yell at him in a derogatory way, according to a parent who was present in the audience.

At least one male student in the audience yelled the word “fag” and others shouted similar anti-gay slurs, the parent told the Blade.

“I just happened to be sitting in the bleachers around a bunch of teachers and kids so I heard the actual words,” the parent said.

“I don’t think the reaction with the kids was terribly surprising,” she said. “Maybe in any school a bunch of teenagers see a boy dressed like a girl and they’re going to, you know, be stupid,” said the parent. “For me, the alarming part was the lack of direction by the adults.”

Asked if any of the teachers or administrators in the audience attempted to intervene or put a stop to the name-calling, the parent said they did not. She said that Pfeiffer, sensing her students were being subjected to taunting and slurs, abruptly ended the performance before the scene was completed.

Donahue said he did not attend the pep rally where the alleged anti-gay name-calling took place. But he said the school investigated the matter and could not obtain sufficient evidence to conclude that anti-gay slurs were made or who allegedly made them.

“This incident that happened was investigated as soon as we got the information, which wasn’t given to us until a day or so later,” he said. “We investigated as hard as we can investigate. There were administrators there. There was somebody from the press there,” he said.

“One of our administrators at that time was a gay administrator,” he said. “They were there. They didn’t see it. They didn’t hear it.”

According to Donahue, after questioning witnesses to come up with a name of someone who allegedly made the slurs investigators were given the name of a student that Donahue characterized as a “pretty easy target.” He said the investigation exonerated that person.

Since that time, Donahue said no further reports of incidents or problems along those lines have surfaced at the school. He said the school long ago has adopted programs to combat bullying against any student and has programs to promote diversity and inclusiveness.

“As a whole and as a group I don’t know if you’re going to find a more inclusive high school and supportive high school than we are now,” he said. “And there are people here of all nationalities, races, and sexual preferences. Is it perfect? No, I don’t think it is. But I think we’re leading the way to make it better without a doubt.”

Mike Kelley, director of curriculum and instruction for the Cape Henlopen School District, which oversees the high school, and Roni Posner, an out lesbian and longtime educator who won election to the Cape Henlopen Board of Education in 2010, echoed Donahue’s assessment that Cape Henlopen High School’s outreach programs for all minorities, including LGBT students, have improved significantly over the past several years.

Posner said that based on a call to her by the Blade asking about the LGBT-related issues raised by the sources that spoke to the Blade she has asked the school district’s superintendent, Robert Fulton, to look into the issues raised.

“He said he would look into it,” she said.

“I’m concerned about these reports but I’m also excited about the phenomenal progress we’ve made at the high school in academic achievement in the last several years,” Posner said.

As she was getting ready to attend the school’s graduation ceremony Tuesday afternoon Posner said she was excited that graduating seniors this year won $4.1 million in scholarships for college and other post-secondary educational institutions, an amount double that from one year earlier.

“Our test scores have improved a lot, too,” she said.

Concerning the LGBT-related issues at the high school and the school district, Posner, who now serves as vice president of the school board, said, “We have made a lot of progress. There is still work to do.”

05
Jun
2014

Delaware to recognize Utah same-sex marriages

Beau Biden, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden on Wednesday said his state will recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah.

“Marriage equality is the law in Delaware and I strongly believe that individuals outside our state borders should be equally free to choose whom to love and whom to spend their lives with,” said Biden in a statement that announced his decision. “More than 1,300 marriages of same-sex couples were legally performed in Utah between Dec. 20, 2013, and Jan. 6, 2014, after couples received marriage licenses by Utah authorities. It is our position that these marriages are and should be recognized as valid under Delaware law.”

Biden made the announcement hours after Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman and Equality Delaware Foundation President Mark Purpura sent him a letter that urged the Democrat “to confirm that same-sex marriages validly solemnized in Utah from Dec. 20, 2013, to Jan. 6, 2014, are recognized as valid marriages for all purposes of Delaware law.”

“The Biden family has been strong supporters of marriage — both in Delaware and nationwide,” Goodman told the Washington Blade after Biden made his announcement. “We are very happy and not surprised that Attorney General Biden would rule that Utah marriages, which we believe are and continue to be valid in the state of Utah, are valid and will be recognized as such in the state of Delaware.”

The U.S. Supreme Court last week blocked any future same-sex marriages from taking place in Utah pending the outcome of an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby’s Dec. 20 ruling that struck down the state’s gay nuptials ban.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Jan. 8 announced his state would not recognize same-sex marriages performed between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6 pending the outcome of his administration’s appeal of Shelby’s ruling. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder two days later said the federal government will recognize these unions.

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and his counterparts in Maine and Washington subsequently announced their states will follow suit. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on Monday said the nation’s capital should also recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah.

Delaware’s same-sex marriage law took effect last July. It is now among the 18 states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

“We hope that other attorneys general nationwide will follow Attorney General Biden’s lead and recognize these Utah marriages as valid in their states as well,” Goodman told the Blade.

Biden is among those who attended a gay Wilmington couple’s wedding that took place on the first day same-sex couples could legally tie the knot in the state.

“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” said Biden before Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cole exchanged vows at the Gibraltar Mansion in Wilmington.

15
Jan
2014