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Virginia Senate committee kills second-parent adoption bill

James Parrish, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish on Jan. 24 criticized lawmakers who voted against a second-parent adoption bill (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia lawmakers on Friday killed a bill that would have extended second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Members of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee by a 6-6 vote margin struck down the measure that state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) introduced on Jan. 7.

State Sens. Linda “Toddy” Puller (D-Fairfax County), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), George Barker (D-Alexandria), Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), John Miller (D-Newport News) and Kenneth Alexander (D-Norfolk) voted for Senate Bill 336. State Sens. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta County), Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover County), Richard Black (R-Loudoun County), Bryce Reeves (R-Fredericksburg) and Walter Stosch (R-Henrico County) opposed the measure.

State Sen. Thomas Norment (R-Williamsburg) did not vote.

There are also two vacancies on the committee that have yet to be filled since Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring — both of whom were state senators before their election last November — took office on Jan. 11.

“By denying passage of the second-parent adoption bill, Senators Wagner, Hanger, McDougle, Black, Reeves and Stosch are simply denying children across Virginia who are being raised by loving lesbian or gay parents the protection and security that having two legal parents would offer,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish. “Today’s Senate committee vote against second-parent adoption is just another example of how completely out of touch these senators are with their constituents and the majority of Virginians. They are standing on the wrong side of history.”

Virginia law currently allows only heterosexual couples and single gays and lesbians to adopt children.

A 2012 law allows private adoption and foster care agencies to reject prospective parents based on religious or moral beliefs. Parrish and other LGBT rights advocates maintain this so-called “conscience clause” could subject gays and lesbians to additional discrimination in the commonwealth.

The House Civil Law Subcommittee on Monday is scheduled to debate a second-parent adoption bill that state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) introduced earlier this month.

State Dels. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson), Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church), Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke), Tom Rust (R-Fairfax County) and Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) have co-sponsored House Bill 1113.

25
Jan
2014

McAuliffe links marriage, LGBT rights to economic development

Terry McAuliffe, Richmond, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

RICHMOND, Va.—Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday said extending marriage and other rights to LGBT Virginians is good for his state’s economy.

“I’ve got to grow and diversify this economy,” McAuliffe told the Washington Blade after he spoke at an Equality Virginia reception at the Library of Virginia. “This is what voters elected me to do, and in order to do that we’ve got to send a message that we’re open and welcoming to everyone.”

McAuliffe spoke to Equality Virginia supporters less than a week after Attorney General Mark Herring announced he would not defend a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Pat Mullins, chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, suggested Herring should resign because he won’t defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown also said state lawmakers should impeach the attorney general over the issue.

“I’ve been in politics too long, I’m never surprised anymore,” McAuliffe told the Blade when asked whether the way Virginia Republicans and social conservatives have reacted to Herring’s announcement came as a surprise.

A federal judge in Norfolk on Thursday will hold a hearing in a lawsuit that two same-sex couples filed last year against the marriage amendment. The ACLU, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia last August filed a class action federal lawsuit on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth.

McAuliffe on Monday told state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) that he will not appoint a special counsel to defend the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage amendment after 30 lawmakers asked him to do so. A Virginia House of Delegates committee on Jan. 24 approved a bill that Marshall and state Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) introduced that would allow any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so.

“Let’s get to work and do what voters want us to do and help them get jobs,” McAuliffe told the Blade, stressing Medicaid expansion and improving the state’s transportation infrastructure remain two of his administration’s top priorities. “Let’s focus on things that proactively get things done in the commonwealth and let’s stop the negative attacks.”

McAuliffe told Equality Virginia supporters before he spoke with the Blade that Democrats last year swept all three statewide offices for the first time in 24 years. His party also regained control of the state Senate after the party won two special elections that filled seats Herring and Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam vacated last year after they won statewide office.

“Our ticket as you know was not shy about being out front on the issues that matter to us,” said McAuliffe. “I talked every day about how Virginia needs to be open and welcoming.”

McAuliffe backed marriage rights for same-sex couples last February. He repeatedly said during his campaign against then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that the first executive order he would sign as governor would be a ban on discrimination against LGBT state employees.

McAuliffe said he was “proud” to issue the aforementioned mandate shortly after he took office on Jan. 11.

“Mark and Ralph and I and the state Senate are going to continue to work to make sure that Virginia is opening and welcoming to treat everybody with equal respect,” said McAuliffe. “I need to grow and diversify the economy. We need to do that by making ourselves open and welcoming.”

29
Jan
2014

EXCLUSIVE: Va. Republican lawmaker backs gay nuptials

Joseph Yost, Virginia, Republican Party, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) (Photo public domain)

RICHMOND, Va.—A member of the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday became the first Republican state lawmaker to back marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“As far as same-sex marriage goes, it does not bother me,” state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) told the Washington Blade during an interview at an Equality Virginia reception that took place at the Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond. “Why not?”

Yost, who represents the 12th Senate District that includes Radford, Giles County and portions of Montgomery and Pulaski Counties in southwestern Virginia, spoke with the Blade less than a week after Attorney General Mark Herring announced he would not defend the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Yost, 27, also discussed the Republican Party of Virginia’s blistering criticisms of Herring over his announcement.

“It boils down to tradition; it’s just a generational gap,” said Yost. “I don’t think the government should be involved in marriage period — straight or gay. I feel like we have bigger things to worry about.”

The House of Delegates Civil Law Committee later on Wednesday is scheduled to vote on Yost’s bill that seeks to extend adoption rights to same-sex couples in Virginia. A state Senate committee on Jan. 24 killed an identical measure that state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) introduced earlier this month.

Yost earlier this month introduced a bill that sought to extend adoption rights to same-sex couples in Virginia.

“It’s pretty much a no-brainer issue,” Yost told the Blade. “It’s not about Democrats; it’s not about Republicans; it’s not about gay couples; it’s not about straight couples. It’s about the kids.”

Yost further discussed the issue.

“If there are two loving individuals out there who want to raise a child together, I see no reason why they can’t,” he said. “Quite frankly it’s about fairness.”

State Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) earlier this month introduced a bill that sought to ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in Virginia. State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester) last week voted for a bill that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees, while state Dels. Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson) and Tom Rust (R-Fairfax County) have co-sponsored Yost’s second-parent adoption measure.

“I think when you look at where the party started and its history, it’s a party that was based on equality,” Yost told the Blade. “It’s what we do.”

Yost further described second-parent adoption and non-discrimination as “small potato issues.”

“I come from a younger generation,” he said. “I don’t get wrapped around the axle on these issues like some of my other colleagues. I think the more young people you see coming into politics, that’s what’s going to happen.”

29
Jan
2014

Plaintiffs in Va. case prepare for day in court

Carol Schall, Mary Townley, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia

Carol Schall (left) with Mary Townley and their daughter Emily. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two same-sex couples who have filed a lawsuit against Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban told the Washington Blade on Monday they simply want the commonwealth to legally recognize their relationships.

“We want to be married,” said Tony London of Norfolk, who has been with his partner, Timothy Bostic, for 25 years. “It’s important to us as Virginians that we get married in the state that we love and this is a state we’ve called home for so long.”

Bostic and London last July filed a federal lawsuit against Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman after the Norfolk Circuit Court denied their application for a marriage license. Carol Schall and Mary Townley, a Chesterfield couple who has been together for 30 years, joined the case in September.

Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk will hold oral arguments in the lawsuit on Tuesday. A snowstorm postponed the hearing that had been scheduled to take place on Jan. 30.

“We want to be married for the happy times, but we need to be married for the sad times,” Schall told the Blade. “When one of us is sick or when one of us needs surgery or when health care is an issue, we need to be there for each other. And Virginia should not be in the business of standing in the way of people wanting to care for each other and take responsibility for each other.”

Schall and Townley, who have been together for 30 years, married in California in 2008.

The women’s 16-year-old daughter Emily joined them and Bostic and London at a D.C. press conference last September where the American Foundation of Equal Rights announced Ted Olson and David Boies, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, had joined their case.

“’You know mom, I think it’s cool what you guys are doing,’” said Schall as she recalled the conversation she and Townley had with their daughter as they drove home from the nation’s capital after the press conference. “’I would be there no matter what.’”

Bostic, who is an assistant English professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, told the Blade his neighbors in the neighborhood in which he and London have lived for 17 years have been “extremely supportive” of them. Schall, who is an assistant professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education in Richmond, said her 80-year-old father told her earlier on Monday to “go get em’ kid; don’t let anybody stand in your way.”

“We’re just a family – we go out to Martin’s to shop and Target and all of that,” Townley, who works at Health Diagnostic Laboratory in Richmond, told the Blade as she discussed how her colleagues and others with strong religious beliefs have supported her and Schall’s decision to challenge Virginia’s marriage amendment. “It’s an amazing transformation for them. It’s a really nice feeling for them and for us.”

Virginia voters in 2006 approved the marriage amendment by a 57-43 percent margin.

Schall was a canvasser for Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, when state lawmakers were debating whether to put the issue on the ballot.

“As the election results came in, [I was] just feeling really overwhelmingly sad that my friends and neighbors had voted against me,” she said.

Bostic told the Blade he and London also “fought very hard against” the marriage amendment.

“It really did feel like a repudiation by our friends and neighbors,” said Bostic, noting a majority of Norfolk voters did not support the gay nuptials ban. “Why should I have to ask for this right? Why is this fight even here? I’m a citizen.”

Attorney General Mark Herring on Jan. 23 announced he would not defend the marriage ban.

The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill that state Dels. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) and Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) introduced that would allow any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so. Governor Terry McAuliffe last week denied a request from Marshall, Gilbert and 28 other lawmakers to appoint a special counsel to defend the marriage amendment.

A federal judge in Harrisonburg on Jan. 31 certified a second lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia filed on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth as a class action.

“Having the attorney general on our side just greatly amplifies our efforts to bring fairness and full rights to gay and lesbian couples all across the commonwealth,” London, a real estate agent and U.S. Navy veteran, told the Blade. “We have a very strong case and look forward to succeeding and I believe we will.”

Schall said she and Townley “are prepared” to hear attorneys who are representing the defendants in their case – Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg and Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer – discuss their relationship “maybe in not so much complimentary ways.” Their daughter is also expected to attend the oral arguments with a close family friend.

“At the end of the day, we are just so regular and typical,” Schall told the Blade. “People who fuss about this just really don’t understand this is just about being in love.”

Bostic had a similar view.

“Tony is my soul mate,” he said. “I don’t think that there’s anybody out there–gay or straight–that would have a difficult time understanding our desire to marry our soul mates.”

04
Feb
2014

Judge strikes down Virginia gay marriage ban

Carol Schall, Mary Townley, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia

Carol Schall (left) with Mary Townley and their daughter Emily. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A federal judge Thursday struck down Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman as unconstitutional.

“The court is compelled to conclude that Virginia’s marriage laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry,” said Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.”

Allen, who President Obama nominated to the federal bench in 2010, repeatedly referenced the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 ruling that struck down Virginia’s interracial marriage ban in her 41-page decision. She also opened her decision with a quote from Mildred Loving, who publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples before her death in 2008.

“Tradition is revered in the commonwealth, and often rightly so,” said Allen. “However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.”

Allen also dismissed arguments made by those who defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban that marriage rights for gays and lesbians harms children.

“Of course the welfare of our children is a legitimate state interest,” she said. “Limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples fails to further this interest. Instead, needlessly stigmatizing and humiliating children who are being raised by the loving couples targeted by Virginia’s Marriage Laws betrays that interest.”

Allen’s ruling comes less than two weeks after she heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield filed last year.

“We want to be married for the happy times, but we need to be married for the sad times,” Schall told the Washington Blade earlier this month before Wright heard oral arguments in their case. “When one of us is sick or when one of us needs surgery or when health care is an issue, we need to be there for each other. And Virginia should not be in the business of standing in the way of people wanting to care for each other and take responsibility for each other.”

Virginia voters in 2006 approved the marriage amendment by a 57-43 percent margin.

Attorney General Mark Herring last month announced he would not defend the amendment.

The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates earlier this month overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so. Gov. Terry McAuliffe a few days earlier denied a request from 30 state lawmakers to appoint a special counsel to defend the marriage amendment.

A federal judge in Harrisonburg on Jan. 31 certified a second lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia filed on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth as a class action.

“This decision is a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law,” said Herring in a statement after Allen issued her ruling in the Bostic case.

McAuliffe also applauded the decision.

“In order to grow our economy and attract the best businesses, entrepreneurs, and families to Virginia, we must be open and welcoming to all who call our commonwealth home,” he said in a statement. “As this case continues through the judicial process, I will enforce the laws currently on the books, but this decision is a significant step forward in achieving greater equality for all of our citizens.”

Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court with David Boies, joined the lawsuit last September with the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Olson said in an AFER press release that Allen’s decision has “upheld the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded.”

“Virginia’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples relegates gay and lesbian Virginians to second-class status,” he said. “Laws excluding gay men and lesbians from marriage violate personal freedom, are an unnecessary government intrusion, and cause serious harm. That type of law cannot stand.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said Wright’s ruling “finally puts Virginia on the path toward allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry the person they love here in the place they call home.”

“This is an historic day in Virginia,” added Parrish.

National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown blasted Allen.

“This is another example of an Obama-appointed judge twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia,” said Brown in a statement.

Brown also again sharply criticized Herring for not defending the commonwealth’s marriage amendment.

“This case also leaves a particular stench because of the unconscionable decision of Attorney General Mark Herring to not only abandon his sworn duty to defend the laws of the state, but to actually join the case against the very people he is duty-bound to represent,” said Brown.

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, also criticized Herring.

“Regardless of one’s stance on marriage, the people of Virginia were disenfranchised by this ruling as our voice and our vote that amended our Constitution have been rendered meaningless by a single federal judge with the assistance of our own attorney general,” she said.

Neighboring Maryland is among the 18 states and D.C. that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Southern Poverty Law Center earlier on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban on behalf of a gay widower who married his late-husband in Massachusetts in 2011.

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

Gays and lesbians in West Virginia, Utah, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Louisiana and other states have filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision last June that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto earlier this week announced she will no longer defend her state’s same-sex marriage ban in court.

Attorney General Eric Holder on Feb. 10 announced the Justice Department will now recognize same-sex marriages in civil and criminal cases and extend full benefits to gay spouses of police officers and other public safety personnel. This directive applies to Virginia and the 31 other states that have yet to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) earlier on Thursday introduced a bill that would ban the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states that ban gay nuptials.

Allen has stayed her ruling, pending the outcome of an appeal.

14
Feb
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

 

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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

Herring: Va. gay couples not seeking ‘special treatment’

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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring spoke at the Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Saturday said the same-sex couples who are challenging the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman are not asking for “special treatment.”

“They’re not asking for special privileges,” he said during the annual Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner at the Greater Richmond Convention Center that Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post emceed and during which Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black” delivered the keynote address. “They’re just asking to be treated fairly and equally.”

Herring – who announced in January shortly after taking office that he would not defend the marriage amendment that Virginia voters approved in 2006 – said one of the “great missions of attorney general is the pursuit of justice.” He told the more than 1,000 people who attended the Equality Virginia dinner he thought about what he described as the importance of the commonwealth’s position on the issue before U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in February heard oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban that Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield filed last year.

“We as Virginians have so much to be proud of in our long history, but the truth is there have been times when courageous Virginians were leading the way on civil rights and a lot of elected officials, including the attorney general were standing in the way,” said Herring, referring to former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples. “I was determined not to let the injustice of Virginia’s position in those past cases happen this time. This time the commonwealth, speaking through it’s attorney general, would stand up to protect for those individuals and all its people fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.”

Allen on Feb. 13 ruled Virginia’s marriage ban is unconstitutional.

“She agreed with our arguments,” said Herring.

Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer and Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg, who is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-gay legal group, appealed Allen’s ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal appellate court is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments in the Bostic case on May 12.

“We still have a long way to go and a lot of hard work lies ahead of us.” said Herring. “Let’s keep working together to make sure that Virginia’s on the right side of the law and let’s keep working together to make sure Virginia’s on the right side of history.”

Bostic, London, Schall, Townley, and Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester – who are also challenging the commonwealth’s marriage amendment in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed last August – received a standing ovation at the Equality Virginia dinner alongside Herring.

“We’re just ready to get that ruling so that our marriage is going to be recognized,” Kidd, who married Berghoff in D.C. in 2011, told the Washington Blade before the dinner as she discussed next month’s oral arguments before the 4th Circuit. “We’re so excited to celebrated.”

“We want to just have equality,” added Duff.

06
Apr
2014

‘It’s a new day’ in Virginia politics

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe takes office three days after the 2014 legislative session begins. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Efforts to ban anti-LGBT discrimination and repeal a state constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex marriage are among the priorities for Virginia LGBT rights advocates during the 2014 legislative session that begins on Wednesday.

State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) has once again introduced a bill that would ban discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The state Senate last January approved the measure by a 24-16 vote margin, but a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee subsequently killed it. Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has repeatedly said the first executive order he will issue once he takes office on Saturday is a ban on anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.

“We definitely want to continue that momentum,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish.

McEachin, state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) and state Dels. Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico County), Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County), Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria), Ken Plum (D-Fairfax County) and Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) have sponsored proposed resolutions that would seek a repeal of the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin. Howell and state Del. Joseph Yost (D-Giles County) are expected to introduce bills in their respective chambers that would extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Parrish told the Blade that more than 50 families have already said they want to testify in support of the measure.

“We expect that to be a big bill in the House and in the Senate,” he said.

State Del.-elect Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) has pre-filed a bill that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. State Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) has introduced an identical measure.

Simon has also proposed a measure that seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

State Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County) next week is expected to introduce a bill that would ban so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the commonwealth.

The Alliance for Progressive Values has worked with the Arlington County Democrat to write the bill that Ebbin is expected to introduce in the Senate.

Hope told the Blade on Tuesday similar bills that California Gov. Jerry Brown and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law last year “certainly inspired me that this is the right time to bring this to Virginia.”

Parrish said Equality Virginia would support the proposal, but Hope conceded it will likely face resistance.

“This is an uphill battle,” he said. “This is Virginia that we’re talking about, so I expect some stiff opposition and some hurdles.”

Christopher Doyle, director of the Maryland-based International Healing Foundation, singled out the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations that oppose “ex-gay” therapy for encouraging Hope and other state lawmakers to introduce measures that seek to ban the controversial practice.

“No one has ever tried to ban a specific therapeutic modality for any mental health issues,” Doyle told the Blade. “The foundations of the bill are incorrect and politicians are being misinformed and deceived.”

Krupicka and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Fairfax County) have introduced bills that would allow the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to issue license plates to Equality Virginia supporters that contain the slogan “Equality for All.”

Parrish said his group will also oppose a measure state Del. Bob Marshall (D-Prince William County) introduced that would require married same-sex couples to file their Virginia income tax returns as single individuals because the commonwealth does not recognize their unions. This measure seeks to codify the policy outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell announced in November.

“We have been reaching out to the new administration though about what we can possibly do about that very punitive tax opinion that came out of the [outgoing Gov. Bob] McDonnell administration,” said Parrish.

The 2014 legislative session will begin three days before McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and Attorney General-elect Mark Herring take office.

All three men publicly support marriage rights for same-sex couples. It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend Virginia’s gay marriage ban in two federal lawsuits that challenge it.

“It’s a new day,” Ebbin told the Blade as he discussed McAuliffe, Northam and Herring. “We’ll be dealing with people who are looking to help us instead of looking to harm and stymie us.”

Parrish said the tone from the governor and the attorney general’s offices will be “a 180” compared to McDonnell and outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He added the House will continue to remain a barrier to advancing LGBT-specific legislation during this legislative session.

“Now that we have a friendly administration in the governor and the attorney general’s office, it will allow us to better make the narrative that the Senate and the governor and the attorney general and the Virginia public are all on the same page,” said Parrish. “And it’s the House of Delegates that’s blocked any forward movement for the LGBT community.”

08
Jan
2014

Commonwealth Dinner

Actress Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black” gave the keynote address at Equality Virginia‘s 2014 Commonwealth Dinner held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on April 6. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) Commonwealth Dinner 

06
Apr
2014

Terry McAuliffe sworn in as Virginia governor

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe was sworn in on Saturday as Virginia’s 72nd governor. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

RICHMOND, Va.—Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Saturday became Virginia’s 72nd governor amid hopes his administration will extend rights to LGBT Virginians.

“An open and welcoming state is critical to the 21st century economy, but it’s also imperative for justice and fairness,” said McAuliffe.

The former DNC chair stressed throughout his inaugural address the economy remains among his administration’s top priorities. McAuliffe also said the commonwealth needs to “ensure that someone can’t lose their job simply because they are gay.”

“As the legislature and my administration work to diversity our economy, we need to remember that our sense of urgency is driven by those Virginians who struggle each and every day just to get buy and whose dream is simply to give their children the opportunities that may never have had,” said McAuliffe. “My administration will work tirelessly to ensure opportunities are equal for all Virginia’s children no matter if you are a girl or a boy, no matter what part of the commonwealth you live in, no matter your race or your religion and no matter who you love.”

Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring were also sworn in.

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) told the Washington Blade in November after McAuliffe defeated then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the hotly contested gubernatorial race and Northam beat Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson that the election results were a “clear victory for equality” that brings “the promise of a new day for Virginia.”

McAuliffe, Northam and Herring support marriage rights for same-sex couples. The former Democratic National Committee chair later on Saturday is expected to issue an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“We couldn’t be more ecstatic,” Maggie Sacra, chair of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, told the Washington Blade earlier on Saturday during a brunch her group hosted at a downtown Richmond hotel.

Kathy Green of Henrico County said during the same event she feels former Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cuccinelli’s policies towards women’s reproductive health rights were “frightening.”

“Having Democrats in the statewide offices will really help to advance equal rights for our friends and co-workers and neighbors,” added Green.

Members of Public Advocate, an anti-LGBT group founded by Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delguadio, placed posters around the State House against the expected directive. They also handed out stickers that read “preserve traditional marriage” to passersby outside security checkpoints.

Lawmakers are expected to consider a number of LGBT-specific bills during the 2014 legislative session that began on Wednesday. These include measures that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in Virginia, extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians and prohibit “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the commonwealth.

Eight lawmakers have also introduced proposed resolutions that would seek a repeal of Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin.

A federal judge in Norfolk on Jan. 30 is scheduled to hold the first hearing in a case challenging the commonwealth’s gay marriage ban that Ted Olson and David Boies, who argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, joined last September. The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia in August filed a separate class action federal lawsuit against the state’s ban on nuptials for same-sex couples on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who were denied marriage licenses.

It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish told the Blade during a Jan. 8 interview the tone from the governor and the attorney general’s offices will be “a 180” compared to former Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cuccinelli. He said the state House of Delegates will remain a barrier to advancing pro-LGBT measures even with McAuliffe, Northam and Herring in office.

“Now that we have a friendly administration in the governor and the attorney general’s office, it will allow us to better make the narrative that the Senate and the governor and the attorney general and the Virginia public are all on the same page,” said Parrish.

Equality Virginia is among the groups that marched in the inaugural parade after McAuliffe, Northam and Herring took office. It is the first time an LGBT organization had been invited to take part in the quadrennial event.

Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade, Richmond

Equality Virginia was among the groups that marched in the Inauguration parade in Richmond, Va., on Saturday. It was the first time an LGBT group took part in the quadrennial event. (Photo courtesy of Kirsten Bokenkamp/Equality Virginia)

11
Jan
2014