Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Obama asks gay Bishop Gene Robinson to give prayer at Easter breakfast

Obama embraces openly-gay Bishop one week after Anglican head says he doesn't want Africans to think he's gay.


A milestone of faith

Cameron Partridge, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge in his Boston office. (Photo courtesy Partridge)

Transgender visibility may be at an all-time high, but most agree there’s a long way to go.

Another chip of the proverbial glass ceiling is slated to be knocked out this weekend when Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge becomes the first openly transgender priest to preach from the historic Canterbury Pulpit at Washington National Cathedral.

“Cameron Partridge is a priest of great intellect, pastoral presence and possesses a deep passion for the gospel,” said Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Cathedral, in a statement.

Partridge, during a phone interview from Boston where he serves as Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, says he’s excited about the strides being made for transgender visibility.

Actress and activist Laverne Cox is “phenomenal,” he says.

“And [transgender activist] Janet Mock, the two of them, they are so incisive and insightful and smart and they speak incredibly well. I’m very proud of the things they have to say,” he says.

But there’s at least one part of being a transgender person that Partridge, a lecturer at Harvard Divinity School, argues has not earned enough media attention: “I don’t think the intersection of trans people and religion has received a whole lot of conversation yet.”

“I’m really honored and grateful for the invitation,” he says.

Through his sermon at the National Cathedral and other work in the church, he hopes to “open people’s eyes” about how “gender is more complicated than male or female. I experience it that way.”

“I think creation is much richer and more diverse and dynamic than we understand and trans folks are part of that,” he says. “There is much more ambiguity in the world than we tend to want to acknowledge.”

The story of a transgender person who is also a religious leader likely raises eyebrows for many, but these two parts of his identity don’t conflict, he says. In fact, pushing traditional boundaries within the church is part of what he says is his calling.

“Difference is real. We have human differences, and they are not simply impediments to get over,” he says. “They are part of what we need to engage in order to realize our full humanity. That can be something that trans people can be called to.”

For Partridge, 40, the church has been one of his few constants. He grew up Episcopalian, a denomination he says has “progressive traditions.”

“It’s a church that has a big tent, with a lot of people from different perspectives in it. That’s important to me.”

In 2003, the church elected its first gay bishop, Rev. Gene Robinson. He’ll preside over this weekend’s service.

Partridge came out twice: first as a lesbian as an undergraduate at all-women Bryn Mawr College, and again in 2001 as a transgender man a few years after he obtained his master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.

While he doesn’t have any horror stories to tell — he never faced rejection from friends, family or even religious leaders — he did struggle with one thing as a newly ordained priest: the sense that he was alone.

Early on, Partridge didn’t know of any other transgender members of the Episcopal clergy. That quickly changed, however, when he learned about TransEpiscopal, an online group exclusively for transgender Episcopalians and their friends and families to share stories.

“Even though I personally felt supported by the non trans people in my life and the trans people I knew who were not in the church, I did still feel kind of alone,” he says. “The wonderful thing was discovering that in fact, I wasn’t.”

Over time, the ever-growing TransEpiscopal has “brought trans people into the foreground of the church’s national conversation” and “driven the passage of pro-transgender legislation,” according to the group’s website.

Fighting for increasing visibility for transgender clergy has been one of Partridge’s goals. In 2012, the Episcopal Church added gender identity and expression to its non-discrimination laws after advocacy from Partridge, among others.

And while he doesn’t interject his personal life into every single class he teaches at Harvard, he says dialogues about his own identity come up in class just as often as that of any other professor.

“I’ve had a sense that being openly trans and being willing to say that at the start of a class gives people permission to bring who they are into the classroom,” he says. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re gonna talk about it, but [students] don’t have to bracket themselves off or compartmentalize themselves. That’s true whether the people in the classroom are trans or not.”

The inclusive environment he’s fostered in his classroom is slowly becoming a norm in the Episcopal church, Partridge says, but he acknowledges there are still more steps to take.

“I’d love to see more different traditions of Christianity engage gender identity in ways that they have not yet.”

There’s work to be done in the political sphere, too. He points out that without Congressional passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), transgender people are denied many legal protections, not to mention the persistently high rates of homelessness and violence within and against transgender communities.

He finds himself heartened, though, by glimmers of hope. Take, for example, when conservative television host Pat Robertson said last summer that going through gender realignment surgery was not a sin after being prompted by a caller.

Partridge acknowledges that for many religious leaders — especially evangelical ones — conversations about transgender people are still new.

“That someone doesn’t have a knee-jerk negative reaction, I think that’s important,” Partridge says, even though Robertson’s comments later on weren’t as inclusive. “We’re at an important moment and we need to dig deeper.”

The trajectory of the movement is going in a “great direction,” Partridge says. “But there’s a lot to do.”


Bishop Robinson to speak in Baltimore

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson will talk about the role of faith and religion in public life. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church and an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, will speak on Sunday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1316 Park Avenue, in the Bolton Hill section of Baltimore.  He will talk about his experiences and the role of faith and religion in public life. A free reception will follow.

When Robinson was elected bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, his consecration was so controversial it threatened to split the Anglican Church. Despite death threats, he became an activist for marriage equality and authored “God Believes in Love.” In 2009, President Obama chose him to give the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial that opened the presidential inaugural ceremonies.

Clergy wellness has long been a focus of his ministry, and he has led clergy conferences throughout the U.S. and Canada.  He has also done extensive work in helping congregations and clergy in times of conflict.

Co-author of AIDS education curricula for youth and adults, Robinson has done AIDS work in the United States and in Africa, and has been an advocate for antiracism training in the larger Anglican Church.

Robinson is now retired and works as a part-time senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He lives in Washington with his husband Mark Andrew.

The Tiffany Series, sponsor of this event, is named for the church’s collection of 11 original Tiffany stained glass windows, which include two of the largest windows Tiffany ever made.

Tickets to this event are $15 ($5 for students) and are available at the door and online at For more information, call 410-523-1542.


‘Love Free or Die’

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay Bishop in 2003, setting the stage for a decade of advances for LGBT people in the church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The documentary “Love Free or Die,” a film about Bishop Gene Robinson who became the first openly gay bishop in the history of traditional Christiandom, screens at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (3rd and A St. SE) tonight at 7 p.m.

Robinson was consecrated as a bishop in 2003 in which he wore a bulletproof vest and caused such an international stir, he has lived with death threats almost every day since. The film follows his story as the nation debates whether LGBT people are equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of God and the eyes of the law.

This is part of a Lenten series in which Robinson will also preach on March 10 at 10 a.m.

There is a suggested $5 admission. For more information, visit


Gay retired N.H. Episcopal bishop to speak at Supreme Court

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay Bishop in 2003, setting the stage for a decade of advances for LGBT people in the church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson and his daughter Ella are among those who will speak later today at a rally in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s so exciting to be a part of history in the making,” he told the Washington Blade on Monday afternoon. “For the Supreme Court it’s a time for them to decide if they’re going to be on the right side of history.”

Robinson, who became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003, will join Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and others at the rally that will coincide with oral arguments in the case that challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Rev. Al Sharpton, OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, Republican strategists Margaret Hoover and David Frum and National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguía are also expected to speak.

Robinson said he expects recent polls that indicate a sizeable majority of Americans now support marriage rights for same-sex couples could potentially influence the justices.

“They’re not stupid,” he said. “They know where this is going and do they want to be the last court that ruled against it or do they want to be the first court that ruled for it. It’s very exciting.”

Robinson said he remains “really confident” about the Defense of Marriage Act case on which the justices will hear oral arguments on Wednesday. He predicted a possible 6-3 vote against the 1996 law “because you can really argue it from a conservative stance that it’s the federal government messing in states’ business.”

“It would be a great thing if we could get something other than just a squeak by 5-4 vote,” Robinson said.

He added he expects a far narrower ruling in the Prop 8 case.

“I think they’re apt to rule narrowly just for California, but it will be a way of signaling to the country that marriage equality is on its way for everybody,” Robinson said. “Had they not taken it up, we would still not have known where they stood on that.”

New Hampshire is among the nine states and D.C. that currently allow same-sex marriage.

“It’s always helpful to us I think when a place that’s considered conservative comes out for marriage equality,” Robinson said. “Iowa and New Hampshire certainly qualify there.”

He added New Hampshire was the first state that “really figured out the power of restating the First Amendment rights for religious liberty” in a same-sex marriage bill — then-Gov. John Lynch in 2009 signed it into law. A bill that would have repealed the statute failed last March in the state House of Representatives by a 211-116 vote.

“New Hampshire was the first one that just restated what was already true, but put it there front and center that no clergy person would ever have to preside over such a service, no church would ever have to bless or authorize such a service,” Robinson said. “That has now been copied in all the succeeding states. It was just a powerful strategy and it just took a lot of the wind out of the sails of people who were saying oh they’re trying to force this down our religious throats.”


Church of England to allow partnered gay bishops

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay Bishop in 2003, setting the stage for a decade of advances for LGBT people in the church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Church of England on Friday announced that clergy in same-sex civil partnerships can become bishops as long as they remain celibate.

“The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships and living in accordance with the teaching of the church on human sexuality can be considered as candidates for the episcopate,” Rt. Rev. Graham James said on Friday on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. “The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate’s suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case.”

The House of Bishops said in 2005 before a law that allowed same-sex couples to register as civil partners in the United Kingdom took effect that gay celibate men could become clergy. The body voted to extend the policy to bishops last month during a meeting outside London.

The ordination of gay bishops in the Church of England has remained controversial since Rev. Jeffrey John in 2003 became the first person in a same-sex relationship successfully nominated as bishop. He stepped down before he was to have been officially consecrated.

Gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson’s 2003 election sparked a firestorm of controversy that threatened to divide the broader Anglican Church — he wore a bullet proof vest during his consecration that took place inside a hockey area on the University of New Hampshire. Sharp-shooters were stationed on nearby rooftops during the ceremony, while protesters gathered outside the venue.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams barred Robinson from attending the decennial Lambeth Conference in England in 2008.

Los Angeles Bishop Mary Glasspool in 2010 became the first partnered lesbian to be ordained within the Episcopal Church. John had been considered a candidate to become Bishop of Southwark the same year, but his nomination was blocked.

LGBT rights advocates largely mocked the church’s statement — and especially its insistence on celibacy.

“We’re sure many Anglicans will be happy to hear of the church’s latest epiphany on gay clergy, although many lesbians will be disappointed that they remain unable to serve as bishops,” Ruth Hunt, spokesperson for Stonewall, an LGBT rights group in the U.K., told the Washington Blade earlier on Friday. “I’m sure celibate gay men will be thrilled by this exciting new job opportunity, if perhaps somewhat perplexed as to how it will be policed by the church.”

Reverend Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, an LGBT Anglican group, did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment. He told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the church’s statement “will be laughed at by the majority in this country.”

Conservative Anglicans criticized any effort to allow gay bishops within the church.

“That would be a major change in church doctrine and therefore not something that can be slipped out in the news,” Rev. Rod Thomas, chair of Reform, an evangelical group within the Church of England, told the BBC. “It is something that has got to be considered by the General Synod.”

The church’s announcement coincides with the British government’s plan to introduce a bill later this month to introduce a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Scottish lawmakers are expected to consider a similar measure this year.


Washington National Cathedral to allow same-sex weddings

Washington National Cathedral, Episcopal Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Washington National Cathedral (Photo by Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz/Camila Santos Ferreira via wikimedia commons)

The Washington National Cathedral — an Episcopal church — will welcome same-sex weddings effective immediately, according to Dean Gary Hall, who made the announcement Tuesday. The news comes on the heels of legislative victories at the ballot for same-sex marriage in Maine, Washington and Maryland.

“For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of same-sex couples,” Hall said. “It is now only fitting that the National Cathedral follow suit. We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God—and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.”

The Washington National Cathedral, for which construction began in 1907 and was completed in 1990, is the second-largest church in the United States and often hosts important religious ceremonies for the country. Just last month, the cathedral hosted a funeral service for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, which was attended by President Obama.

The Cathedral is allowed to permit same-sex weddings because of new policy adopted by Episcopalian Church leadership in August during the General Convention. At that time, church leadership said it would allow bishops who oversee each diocese to determine whether or not to allow clergy to permit marriages for same-sex couples. Following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland, Bishop Mariann Budde declared her diocese would allow this expansion of the rite, leading to the new policy at the Washington National Cathedral.

“In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served,” Hall contunued. “I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality—and I am pleased that this step follows the results made clear in this past November’s election, when three states voted to allow same-sex marriage.”

According to the Cathedral, because the weddings are conducted as Christian marriages, same-sex couples must commit “to lifelong faithfulness, love, forbearance, and mutual comfort” and one person in the couple must have been baptized. Additionally, only couples who are directly affiliated with the life of the Cathedral — as active, contributing members of the congregation; as alumni of the Cathedral schools; as individuals who have made significant volunteer or donor contributions over a period of time; or those judged to have played an exceptional role in the life of the nation — may be eligible to marry there.

Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, praised the move from the cathedral, calling it “another milestone in the Episcopal Church’s embrace of all God’s children, including LGBT people.”

“The Episcopal Church is one of a growing number of denominations to see a new day in the intersection of faith and sexual orientation and gender identity,” Flournoy said. “This is not only good LGBT people, it is good for the soul of the church.”


Anti-gay group targets National Cathedral over gay marriage

Washington National Cathedral, gay news, Washington Blade

Washington National Cathedral (Public domain photo by Carol M. Highsmith)

An organization started by religious right figure Ralph Reed is circulating an online petition demanding that the federal government halt all “current or future” funds for the Washington National Cathedral because of its recent decision to perform same-sex weddings.

In a statement released on Friday, the Faith and Freedom Coalition noted that in recent years the National Cathedral has received a $700,000 grant from the National Park Service’s “Save America’s Treasure’s” program, which funds efforts to preserve and maintain historic buildings.

“With this policy change, taxpayers are being asked to subsidize gay marriage ceremonies for a church that can readily access millions of their own,” the group said in its statement.

“We believe the definition of ‘marriage’ to be the union of one man to one woman,” the statement says. “If the National Cathedral wants to continue to receive taxpayer funding from Congress, they should respect Congressional action like the Defense of Marriage Act.”

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, prohibits the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages and providing federal benefits to married same-sex couples. But the law doesn’t prohibit the government from providing historic preservation funds for churches that support or perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

The National Cathedral, an Episcopal church, announced on Jan. 8 that it would welcome same-sex weddings on its premises effective immediately.

The action is considered significant because the National Cathedral is the second largest church in the United States and often hosts religious ceremonies of national significance such as presidential inaugural prayer services and state funerals for U.S. presidents and members of Congress.

“Our response would be that we certainly are not going to be deterred by the petition,” said Richard Weinberg, a spokesperson for the National Cathedral, in commenting on the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s call for denying the Cathedral federal funds

He said the Cathedral views as “totally separate” the issue of receiving a one-time federal grant for historic preservation of the Cathedral’s building and its position on same-sex marriage.

“The issue of marriage equality at least within the Episcopal Church is more or less is a settled issue,” Weinberg said. “So we’re actually exercising our First Amendment rights to function from a pastoral-sacramental standpoint and to perform the same-sex ceremonies that we plan to perform.”

He said the $700,000 grant from the National Park Service was awarded in May 2011. The cathedral continues to raise private funds from members and supporters for building maintenance and preservation work, including ongoing efforts to repair damage caused by the August 2011 earthquake that hit the D.C. area, Weinberg said.

People for the American Way, a liberal political advocacy group that supports LGBT rights, issued a statement saying Faith and Freedom Coalition’s call for cutting off federal funds for a church appears to contradict its longstanding calls for the government to support religious institutions.

“[T]he same FFC which believes Obama is waging a ‘war on religion’ and trampling on ‘religious liberty’ wants the government to cut off its grants to a church due to its opposition to marriagae equality,” said People for the American Way spokesperson Brian Tashman.

“For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of same-sex couples,” said Rev. Gary Hall, the cathedral’s dean, or director, in a statement last month.

“It is now only fitting that the National Cathedral follow suit,” he said. “We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God – and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.”

Reed served from 1984 to 1997 as executive director of the Christian Coalition, a conservative Christian political organization created by Virginia televangelist Rev. Pat Robertson. The Christian Coalition emerged as one of the nation’s most outspoken groups opposing LGBT rights. Reed left the organization under a cloud after the Federal Election Commission began an investigation of alleged campaign funding irregularities.

He founded Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2006 after working as a political consultant in Georgia.

In arguing for a ban on federal funds for the National Cathedral, FFC says the cathedral should be able to obtain all the money it needs from the Episcopal Church, which the group describes as “one of the richest denominations in the United States.”

“Why is a church with untold billions in assets asking American taxpayers to fund their church?” the group asks in its statement promoting its petition. “We demand an immediate suspension of any current or future federal funds to this institution until such time that it ceases the practice of homosexual ‘marriage’ certification.”

Weinberg said the National Cathedral operates as a privately owned, independent entity.

“The Episcopal Church does not own it,” he said. “So it was built entirely through the support of generous donors across the country, and that’s how it has been maintained for its 107 year history now.”


Revisiting sinners of the past

Over the past 10 years, I’ve often used this space to target and critique a series of anti-LGBT figures — from politicians to criminals to closeted celebrities. My attacks have ranged from stinging to the occasional angry full-on takedown. It’s remarkable how much things have changed for the LGBT movement in those 10 years. So a quick look back at some of my favorite targets of the last decade and how they have evolved during that time.

1. The Democratic National Committee. This might seem an unexpected target, but the reality is that the party’s support for LGBT rights and legislation is an Obama phenomenon. From Bill Clinton’s support for DOMA to Howard Dean’s firing of a gay liaison and other shenanigans (pitting black delegates against gay ones, denigrating the gay press and threatening to sue the Blade), the Democratic Party has a complicated history with our community. Obama deserves the credit for turning around that sorry record. Today, the Democratic Party includes marriage equality in its platform. Ten years ago, there had been no movement on pro-LGBT federal legislation. Today, we have an expanded hate crimes law and have repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” DOMA is next to go.

2. The Bush administration. George W. Bush became the gay community’s public enemy No. 1 after his cynical assault on marriage equality in 2004, a crusade masterminded in part by former RNC Chair and Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman. The Bush years were ugly, from his calls for a federal marriage amendment to an odd and stubborn refusal to even utter the word “gay” in public. Ten years later, Mehlman is out of the closet and raising money to support marriage equality. Dick Cheney supports marriage equality, as does Laura Bush. And George has paid a steep price for his horrendous, reckless presidency — relegated to the dustbin of history and rendered persona non grata at last year’s Republican National Convention. He is rightly blamed for the country’s economic mess and will be remembered as among the worst presidents in American history.

3. Martin O’Malley. Another unlikely target, considering O’Malley was popular with LGBT residents of Baltimore from his days as a City Council member and mayor. He even endorsed marriage equality in a TV interview years before running for governor. He later disavowed that interview and was booed off the stage at a private LGBT donor gathering after advocating for civil unions over full marriage rights. After a 2007 court ruling limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, O’Malley issued a cruel, stinging statement invoking the Catholic sacraments and reiterating a call for civil unions. But after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo successfully shepherded marriage through a Republican Senate there, O’Malley had an epiphany and adopted full-throated support for the cause. He was a latecomer, but ultimately played a key role in passage of the bill and of the subsequent ballot measure last year. He’s now a rumored 2016 presidential aspirant (along with Cuomo).

4. Religion. Perhaps the greatest force opposed to our full equality, organized religion gets a lot of ink. From the attacks of Pope Benedict to the reparative therapy efforts of Scientology, religions (and cults in the case of Scientology) remain a key threat to LGBT people. But even that’s changing. If you visit a local Catholic church, you’ll find openly LGBT people in the pews and gay support groups operating. And they have something to celebrate with the news this week that Benedict is stepping down after nearly eight years of anti-gay pronouncements. More and more religions are moderating their views on our full inclusion in church life, including in marriage. Evangelical Lutherans now recognize the same-sex relationships of church leaders; the U.S. Episcopal Church allows same-sex marriages in states where it’s legal. There’s a long way to go to full acceptance, of course, but progress is undeniable and change is happening at a brisk pace.

5. Anderson Cooper & Jodie Foster. Closeted rich and famous people have come in for a healthy dose of criticism on this page over the years. After all, if the wealthiest and most successful among us won’t come out, how can we expect the schoolteacher in Alabama or the construction worker in Iowa to do the same? Cooper and Foster became the poster children for the closet but in the last year, both publicly came out. Better late than never, right? Maybe Shepard Smith and Queen Latifah will follow their lead.

6. Mark Foley & Larry Craig. The Blade wrote about Foley’s sexual orientation for years before he was forced to publicly acknowledge the truth after his page scandal. Craig’s story is more twisted but both ultimately got what they deserved. Their names haven’t appeared in the Blade for years — two relics of a closeted past. Good riddance. Now if only Lindsay Graham would come out.

Even after all that progress, there’s still no shortage of organizations and public figures to take to task — think Sam Arora, Rick Santorum, Tony Perkins and the National Organization for Marriage. And our work is far from complete. We need a federal law outlawing anti-LGBT employment discrimination; a stop to religion-based bigotry; and an openly gay professional athlete would be nice, too. But the list of our enemies is a lot shorter than it was 10 years ago. Here’s to the next 10 years of progress.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at