Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Maryland Senate committee holds hearing on transgender rights bill

Heather Mizeur, Maryland, House of Delegates, Annapolis, SB 212, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on Tuesday testified in support of a transgender rights bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Maryland lawmakers on Tuesday held a hearing on a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the state.

Members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony from supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 212 that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced last month. The measure would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodation and credit.

“At its core, SB 212 is about securing basic civil rights for transgender Marylanders: the right to a job, a place to live and fair treatment in public spaces,” said Madaleno.

Gov. Martin O’Malley is among those who submitted testimony in support of SB 212.

Gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur pointed out during her testimony that the Baltimore County Council passed a trans rights bill after two teenagers attacked Chrissy Lee Polis at a Rosedale McDonald’s in 2011.

“This is a protection we want to make sure gets extended statewide,” said Mizeur. “Protection against discrimination shouldn’t depend on your zip code.”

Mizeur’s Democratic challengers and their running mates — Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) — back SB 212.

Brown and Gansler both submitted written testimony in support of the measure.

“The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 is critical to our ability to move forward as a state because no Marylander should face discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Brown. “Whether they’re using a public accommodation or finding housing, looking for private sector employment, leasing a commercial space for their business or deciding what to wear for work, all Marylanders deserve to be treated equally.”

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) also back SB 212.

“The protections in Senate Bill 212 are needed in real people’s lives,” said Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans. “These individuals are our spouses, our friends, our co-workers and our fellow Marylanders.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, executive co-director of the National Coalition of American Nuns, also testified in support of SB 212.

“We need to incorporate the vulnerable members of our society into our laws and our customs,” said Gramick.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is among the organizations that submitted testimony in opposition to SB 212.

“The church firmly opposes undue harassment or discrimination against any person,” said the group. “That principle does not, however, warrant creating a new class of protected individuals in the state’s anti-discrimination statute, especially when the extension of the law would presumably apply to only a small number of individuals.”

Elaine McDermott of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government and Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council are among those who also spoke against the measure.

“I am here to stand up for women, children and their safety,” said McDermott, who submitted to the committee newspaper articles that detail men who allegedly targeted women and girls in restrooms and locker rooms. “Women worry about their safety in bathrooms and locker rooms. Proponents of this bill deny that there will be problems with restrooms and locker rooms.”

Zane Walsh, 13, of Baltimore County countered McDermott.

“I am not a pervert lurking in the bathroom,” he said. “I’m pretty much a normal kid.”

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last year narrowly killed an identical bill that Madaleno introduced.

State Sens. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), who voted against the aforementioned measure in 2013, asked Madaleno and other SB 212 supporters about access to restrooms and locker rooms during the hearing. Michael Lore, an aide to state Sen. Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), told the Washington Blade on Monday that LGBT rights advocates should not expect the lawmaker’s position on the issue to change unless SB 212 supporters address his concerns over employment contracts.

“He was certainly sympathetic to some of the concerns,” said Lore, discussing Stone’s vote against the 2013 bill. “He’s willing to listen to all sides.”

Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard Counties have already added gender identity and expression to their non-discrimination laws. Hyattsville in December became the first jurisdiction in Prince George’s County to pass a trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance.

“It is time for Maryland to pass this legislation,” said Madaleno.

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who announced last week she will challenge Madaleno in the June Democratic primary, noted only 47 percent of Marylanders live in jurisdictions that have adopted trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws.

“This situation is patently unfair,” said Beyer in written testimony. “I ask you to favorably report SB 212 to the floor to remedy that situation.”

Neighboring Delaware is among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New York and other states have introduced similar measures.

The Maryland House of Delegates in 2011 approved a trans rights bill. There are enough votes in the state Senate to ensure passage of SB 212 if it advances out of committee.

04
Feb
2014

Anti-LGBT group: Va. marriage ban is ‘rational’

Josh Duggar, Victoria Cobb, Family Foundation of Virginia, Allison Howard, Concerned Women for America, E.W. Jackson, Norfolk, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-LGBT groups on April 4 filed 21 briefs with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Photo courtesy of the Family Foundation of Virginia)

Anti-LGBT organizations on April 4 filed 21 amicus briefs with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“There is a rational and even compelling justification for the Virginia amendment and statutes,” wrote Mathew Staver in a brief he filed with the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., on behalf of the Liberty Counsel and the American College of Pediatricians. “The inherent harms of living a homosexual lifestyle and the inherent benefits of encouraging intact biological families for the rearing of children.”

The Liberty Counsel and the American College of Pediatricians told the 4th Circuit the “lack of exclusivity and permanence in same-sex relationships” and “the irresponsible sexual practices associated therewith greatly affect the health, safety and welfare of homosexuals.”

Staver in his brief included a statistic that says gay and bisexual men are roughly 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than “men who only have sex with women.” He also references Mark Regnerus’ disputed study that suggests children who are raised by their mother and father are better off than those who grow up with same-sex parents.

Frank D. Mylar, a Salt Lake City lawyer, argues in a brief he filed on behalf of the American Leadership Fund and 19 professors and scholars that marriage between a man and a woman is necessary for the procreation of children.

“This social institution is rooted in deep realities and oriented towards a purpose uniquely tied to its nature as the union of the sexes – a pairing that alone may naturally create a child and provide that child with a social context that accounts for his or her biological origins,” wrote Mylar.

Mylar also dismissed comparisons that U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen – who struck down the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban in February – and others have made between this case and the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling in 1967 that found interracial marriage prohibitions unconstitutional.

“[Mildred] Loving, who, as per her name, seemed a goodhearted soul, equated the struggle for gay marriage with her own struggle for interracial marriage,” writes David Boyle, a lawyer from Long Beach, Calif., in a brief he filed with the 4th Circuit. “The judge in Bostic uses this idea… to justify mandating gay marriage in the Old Dominion. However, this well-intentioned idea lacks logical foundation.”

Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., writes in a brief he filed with the federal appeals court on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that marriage as between a man and a woman is a “time-honored tradition.”

“We support the husband-wife definition of marriage because we believe it is right and good for children, families and societies,” said Picarello.

Steven W. Fitschen of the National Legal Foundation of Virginia Beach, Va., which filed a brief on behalf of Concerned Women for America, argues “homosexuals and lesbians are not politically powerless.” He notes recent polls indicate a majority of Virginians now support marriage rights for same-sex couples and the first executive order that Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed as governor bans discrimination against LGBT state employees.

The brief also references a Washington Blade article on the 2011 election of gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) to the Virginia Senate.

“The rapid shift in voter opinion evinces that homosexuals and lesbians do not need to shortcut the political process through judicial intervention,” writes Fitschen.

Attorneys general from Alabama; Alaska; Colorado; Idaho; Louisiana; Montana; South Carolina; South Dakota; Utah and Wyoming, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrison; the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Family Research Council, former National Organization for Marriage Chair Robert George and Ryan Anderson of the Witherspoon Institute are among those who also filed briefs with the 4th Circuit.

Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield last year challenged the commonwealth’s marriage amendment after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal – which filed a separate lawsuit last summer on behalf of Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff of Winchester and Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton – have been allowed to join the Bostic case.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski in January certified the ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit as a class action.

Attorney General Mark Herring earlier this year announced he would not defend the marriage amendment. He said on April 5 during the annual Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner in Richmond that same-sex couples are not seeking “special treatment” in the state.

The 4th Circuit on May 13 is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments in the Bostic case.

The Alliance Defending Freedom argued in a brief it filed late last month on behalf of Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is necessary for the “procreation” of children. Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, III, has also challenged Allen’s ruling.

Staver and Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty both refer to a New Mexico photographer who challenged a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that said she violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when she refused to photograph a same-sex couple’s wedding ceremony because of her religious beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced it will not hear the case.

07
Apr
2014

GOP rel. rt. leader: Gay marriage caused Santa Barbara murder rampage

FRC's Ken Blackwell blamed the shooting rampage on “the attack on natural marriage and the family.”

.
03
Jun
2014

ADL slaps FRC for saying gays would send Christians to death camps

FRC's Tony Perkins: "When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?”

.
11
Jun
2014

Clash over gay conversion therapy at Council hearing

conversion therapy, gay news, Washington Blade

Supporters and opponents of a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in D.C. debated the measure on June 27. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 30 supporters and opponents of a bill that would ban licensed mental health providers from performing gay conversion therapy for minors gave strongly worded and sometimes emotional testimony before a D.C. City Council hearing on June 27 that lasted nearly five hours.

Representatives of at least nine LGBT advocacy organizations, several mental health professionals and two men who described themselves as survivors of conversion therapy urged the Council to pass the Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Amendment Act, which was introduced last year by Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3).

Supporters of the bill testified that therapy seeking to change someone’s sexual orientation from gay to straight doesn’t work, is especially harmful to minors and is strongly opposed by mainline organizations representing the medical and mental health professions.

“There is unanimous recognition by mainstream American medical and mental health professional associations that being gay is not an illness and that efforts to ‘change’ peoples’ sexual orientation are ineffective and dangerous,” said Lee Beers, a physician who serves as president of the D.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“The bill will curb harmful practices known to potentially produce lifelong damage to those who are subjected to them and help ensure the overall health and safety of LGBTQ youth,” Beers said in her testimony.

Eleven members of the 13-member Council have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, including Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), who chairs the Committee on Health that has jurisdiction over the measure.

Alexander told the Blade after the hearing that she plans to schedule a committee markup hearing in September to finalize the language of the bill and expects the full Council to pass the bill before the end of the year by an overwhelming margin.

Alexander and Council member and mayoral candidate David Catania (I-At-Large), who appeared at the hearing for about 30 minutes, were the only members of the six-member committee to attend the hearing. Alexander said conflicting schedules prevented the others from attending.

Knowing the measure enjoys strong support among Council members and by Mayor Vincent Gray, 12 people who testified against the measure urged Alexander and her Council colleagues to change course. They warned that the legislation would deny young people the right to choose to undergo what they called “Sexual Orientation Change Effort” therapy or SOCE.

Christopher Doyle, a licensed clinical professional counselor and director of the Bowie, Md., based International Healing Foundation, which performs conversion therapy, testified that he’s living proof that someone’s sexual orientation can be changed.

“Ten years ago, I experienced a dramatic change in my sexual orientation,” he told the hearing. “I am with you today because I once was a same-sex attracted man, and today, through good counseling, years of support groups, and healing non-sexual relationships with other men, I do not experience any homosexual feelings,” he said.

“Eight years ago, I met my wife, and today we have three beautiful children,” he told the hearing.

Nathan Gniewek, a current client of the International Healing Foundation, testified that he’s undergoing therapy to eliminate his “same-sex attractions.” He said the pending legislation to ban conversion therapy for minors would deny young people the freedom to choose such therapy.

In response to questions by Catania, Gniewek described his current status as a “work in progress,” adding that he is not homophobic and freely chose to change because “being gay didn’t work for me. It was just a choice.”

Catania told Gniewek the proposed legislation would not apply to him because it’s limited to people under the age of 18. Gniewek didn’t disclose his age but appeared to be in his late 20s.

Expressing concern that conversion therapy is based on the premise that homosexuality is bad, Catania pressed Gniewek on why he wants to change his sexual orientation if he doesn’t think same-sex attractions are wrong.

“Were you ever ashamed?” Catania asked him.

“In some respects,” Gniewek said.

“Do you understand that you are not inferior because you are gay?” Catania continued.

“Yes,” said Gniewek.

Doyle and Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the anti-gay Family Research Council along with other witnesses opposed to the bill, disputed claims by supporters of the legislation that conversion therapy doesn’t work. They said claims that the therapy is harmful were based only on “anecdotal” reports.

Dole said he filed two Freedom of Information Act requests with the D.C. Department of Health to find out whether complaints have been filed against therapists performing conversion therapy. He said a DOH official responded that no ethical complaints or grievances have been filed with the D.C. government concerning a client or patient claiming to be “mistreated, harmed, or coerced to undergo SOCE therapy from a licensed mental health practitioner in Washington, D.C.”

But Andrew “Bud” Brown, a gay man who identified himself as a survivor of conversation therapy, testified that he felt pressured into undergoing the therapy because of peer pressure from his family and his deeply religious upbringing. He said the therapy caused him to suffer depression and suicidal thoughts before he switched to another therapist who helped him accept “who I am.”

Brown said that he and others he met through his conversion therapy sessions were deeply in the closet and would never have come forward to file a complaint against their therapist with a governmental agency, even if they believe the therapy caused them harm.

“That would have been outing ourselves,” he said.

Rikin S. Mehta, senior deputy director of the D.C. Department of Health, who testified in support of the bill, told the committee the fact that no complaints have been filed with the city doesn’t mean that conversion therapy hasn’t caused minors to experience harm from the therapy.

“Our department has been, and continues to be, supportive of all legislation intended to protect children, minors and other vulnerable populations,” he told the committee.

“Please let me be clear about the practice of conversation therapy – it is harmful, it is dangerous and it is counterproductive,” he said. “Homosexuality is not a disease and it is not a mental health issue,” he said. “Therefore there is no scientific or medical basis for this therapy.”

Mehta’s testimony came after Brown, another gay man and a local therapist whose clients are mostly from the LGBT community testified that they personally experienced or – in the words of psychologist Gregory Jones – observed first-hand how conversion therapy caused LGBT people to suffer deep depression and contemplate suicide.

“I have conducted affirmative psychotherapy with hundreds of young adults struggling with sexuality and gender identity, and have also worked with numerous young adults who were forced to undergo conversion therapy by their parents, family, community, and/or religious community,” said Jones, a clinical psychologist licensed to practice in D.C.

Jones said he was also testifying on behalf of the Trevor Project, a national LGBT suicide prevention hotline. He told the committee that the American Psychological Association has advised parents and young people to avoid “sexual orientation change” efforts.

“Those who conduct conversion therapy utilize shame and psychological abuse to manipulate young people to internalize an extremely negative view of themselves and their sexuality,” Jones said. “I have witnessed first-hand the long-term impacts of conversion therapy upon those who were forced into this so-called treatment.”

Among the problems young people undergoing conversion therapy have faced, he said, are depression, poor self-esteem, low self-confidence, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, and self-harming behavior, including substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and attempts to commit suicide.

Doyle testified that the Sexual Orientation Change Effort therapy he oversees at the International Healing Foundation in Bowie leaves it up to the client, including minors, to decide the goals of the therapy they receive. He said if a client doesn’t wish to change his or her sexual orientation his organization supports that decision.

“Never have we allowed a family or parent, whose son or daughter was gay-identified, to force or coerce their child into a therapy to change sexual orientation,” he said.

Alison Gill, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, testified that Sexual Orientation Change Effort therapy in almost all cases “does not include therapies that provide acceptance, support or understanding of LGBT identities.” She said SOCE or conversion therapy also fails to “facilitate coping, social support, or identity” and doesn’t address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.

“This legislation enacts professional standards for state-licensed mental health providers to clarify that sexual orientation change efforts are not an acceptable or responsible practice when applied to young people under age 18,” she said.

Others testifying in support of the bill included Saul Cruz, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; Catherin Tuerk, former president, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Sam Wolfe, senior staff attorney, LGBTQ Rights Project, Southern Poverty Law Center; Gwendolyn Harter, Wanda Alston Foundation; Eugene Puryear, Statehood Green Party candidate for an at-large D.C. Council seat; Andrew Barnett, executive director, SMYAL; Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Bishop Rainey Cheeks, Inner Light Ministries; Mary Elizabeth Tuggle, National Association of Social Workers; David Kaplan, chief professional officer, American Counseling Association; Sarah Ann Nguyen, D.C. Center for the LGBT Community; and Matthew Shurka, a gay man who told of his negative experiences with conversation therapy.

Alexander said the hearing record would remain open until July 11 and others wishing to submit written testimony on the bill may do so until that time.

30
Jun
2014

Boy Scouts of America vote to partially end gay ban

Boy Scouts of America, gay news, Washington Blade

Approximately 61 percent of delegates to the Boy Scouts of America National Annual Meeting voted Thursday to partially end a policy barring openly gay boy scouts. (Photo by Steven Depolo; courtesy Creative Commons)

According to ThinkProgress, approximately 61 percent of delegates to the Boy Scouts of America’s National Annual Meeting voted Thursday to partially end a policy barring openly gay boy scouts.

The 1,400 delegates were not given the option, however, to lift the prohibition of openly gay adult volunteers and leaders.

“Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end,” Rich Ferraro, a spokesperson for LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD said in a statement after the vote. “The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people, and GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate.”

The vote comes after months of lobbying on both sides of the issue, with gay advocates pressuring the organization to remove all barriers to involvement for LGBT people — including Eagle Scouts, den mothers and scout masters — while conservative forces have pushed the organization to remain with the current policy.

On Thursday, Washington D.C.-based Family Research Council took out a half-page ad in the Dallas Morning News urging delegates to the 2013 National Annual Meeting to vote against the plan.

“Boy Scouts of America delegates will vote TODAY on a resolution that will introduce open homosexuality into Scouting’s ranks and eventually, in all likelihood, into Scouting leadership,” the ad reads. “This open letter calls on ALL DELEGATES to VOTE NO on the resolution and thereby preserve Scouting’s timeless values and honor 103 years of faithful service to our nation and her boys.”

The FRC ad goes on to list five reasons the organization believes that the ban on gays in scouting should be kept, including speculation that 400,000 members will abandon the scouts, citing “massive membership losses” after the organization’s Canadian counterpart lifted their own prohibition to gay scouts.

Despite the opposition’s virulent protests, prior to the vote, many LGBT advocates were optimistic about the vote’s outcome.

“I’m confident, especially now that the BSA leadership is behind the resolution,” Ferraro told the Blade earlier on Thursday. “I think it’s because of the stories that BSA voting members and Americans have heard over the past years from moms from Ohio and teenagers from California who shouldn’t be discriminated against.”

The Dallas Voice, earlier Thursday, released a video of a press conference held by LGBT advocates prior to the vote.

Earlier this month, Texas Governor Rick Perry also weighed in on the Boy Scouts controversy, as the Blade reported.

“The fact is, this is a private organization,” Perry said. “Their values and principles have worked for a century now, and for pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be the flavor of the month, so to speak, and to tear apart one of the great organizations that have served millions of young men — to help them become men and become great fathers — that is just not appropriate.”

Following the affirmative vote, many advocates expressed measured relief that efforts had been partially victorious.

“Today’s vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to creating a more inclusive organization,” Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and Founder of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement released by GLAAD. “Scouts for Equality is honored to be a part of the movement that has achieved a tremendous victory towards the fight for equality in America and we are proud to call ourselves Scouts. We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs.”

Others who had experienced discrimination in the scouts under this policy spoke out after the  vote as well.

“When I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts last April, I was devastated.” said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted as leader of her son’s Cub Scout pack because she’s gay. “Having to look my son, Cruz, in the eye and tell him that our family isn’t good enough was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, but until there’s a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue.”

23
May
2013

Same-sex marriage opponents blast DOMA, Prop 8 decisions

Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Bishop Harry Jackson is among those same-sex marriage opponents who criticized the Supreme Court for ruling against DOMA and Proposition 8 (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Same-sex marriage opponents on Wednesday blasted the U.S. Supreme Court after it struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance described the two rulings as “the Roe v. Wade of marriage,” referring to the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the country.

“While the justices sit in their high chairs, these decisions will have very real-life consequences for American families, especially as it relates to our religious liberties,” she said. “Those who hold a Biblical view of marriage can expect much persecution from the government in the years to come.”

Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes tweeted “Supreme Court overrules God” after the justices announced their decisions. He added it “won’t be long before they (the justices) outlaw the Bible as hate speech.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church of Beltsville, Md., also took to social media to criticize the DOMA decision.

“Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser,” he tweeted. “Criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops categorized the rulings as “a tragic day for marriage and our nation.

“The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act,” the group, of which New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan is the president, said.

The group is among those who joined National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown; Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse; American Values President Gary Bauer; New York State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr.; and Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition and others at an anti-gay marriage rally on the National Mall in March after the justices heard oral arguments in the Prop 8 case.

“By striking down the federal definition of marriage in DOMA, the court is asserting that Congress does not have the power to define the meaning of words in statutes Congress itself has enacted,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said. “This is absurd.”

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who unsuccessfully sought to place a proposed constitutional amendment on her state’s 2004 ballot that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman, is among the members of Congress who criticized the Supreme Court’s rulings.

“Marriage was created by the hand of God,” she said. “No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”

“It’s pretty hard to believe that the Supreme Court would say that the 85 Senators, 342 members of the House of Representatives, and Democrat President Bill Clinton – all who supported DOMA when it was signed into law nearly 20 years ago – voted for DOMA literally seeking to injure and impose stigma on gay individuals,” U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) added. “That may be the perception of five Justices, but it is simply not true. I’ve always felt that marriage was an issue best left up to each state, and that’s essentially what the Court ruled today. But this ruling is a disappointment because instead of allowing the American people and their elected representatives to continue the debate about same-sex marriage, the Court instead used its own personal opinion to tip the balance.”

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who on Tuesday petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling earlier this year that struck down the commonwealth’s anti-sodomy law, said in a statement the state “has followed the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman for more than 400 years.” He also noted Virginians in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment that banned nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Cuccinelli, who is also running for governor against former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe, who supports same-sex marriage, added he feels the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions will have no impact in Virginia.

“The court’s two decisions on marriage make clear that the rulings have no effect on the Virginia Marriage Amendment or to any other Virginia law related to marriage,” Cuccinelli said.

26
Jun
2013

Family Research Council shooter sentenced to 25 years

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

A lone gunman opened fire inside the Family Research Council headquarters last year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia man who pleaded guilty to shooting a security guard in the arm at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington last year in a foiled attempt to commit a mass killing of FRC employees was sentenced on Thursday to 25 years in prison.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, 29, told the FBI shortly after his arrest that he targeted the FRC because of its positions opposing gay rights and same-sex marriage. He pleaded guilty in February to committing an act of terrorism while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition.

Corkins worked for several months in 2012 as a volunteer at the D.C. LGBT Community Center, but neither law enforcement authorities nor D.C. Center officials have disclosed whether Corkins is gay.

D.C. police and the FBI, which investigated the case, have credited security guard and FRC building manager Leonardo Johnson with preventing Corkins from carrying out his stated plan to kill as many people as possible at the FRC building.

In what authorities have called an act of heroism, Johnson, 47, wrestled Corkins to the floor in the lobby of the FRC building at 801 G St., N.W., and disarmed him after Corkins fired three shots, one of which struck Johnson in the arm. Authorities said Johnson’s action prevented Corkins from gaining access to the upper floors of the building where about 80 employees were working.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office called for a sentence of 45 years while Corkins’ attorney, citing Corkins’ history of mental illness, asked for a sentence of 11 and a half years.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, Family Research Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II (Photo courtesy the U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said his sentence of 25 years took into consideration Corkins’ “horrific” action as well as mitigating factors such as his mental illness and his decision to take responsibility for his behavior.

Roberts told Corkins his stated intent to kill people to advance his political beliefs in support of gay rights would have the opposite effect. He praised others seeking to advance a political cause, including gay rights, who use peaceful means to promote such a cause.

“When the president spoke up it changed minds,” he said in referring to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.

“Killing human beings is not political activism. It’s criminal behavior,” Roberts said.

Just before Roberts handed down his sentence Johnson and FRC president Tony Perkins addressed the court to give their recommendations on the sentencing.

Johnson turned toward Corkins and said he forgave him for what he did but said he would never forget the harm Corkins inflicted on him and the negative impact it has had on his family.

After the sentencing hearing Johnson told reporters outside the courthouse that once he wrestled the gun from Corkins and feared that Corkins might still attempt to attack him he chose not to shoot Corkins “because God told me not to do it.”

Within minutes, D.C. police arrived on the scene and took Corkins into custody. He has remained in jail since the time of his arrest at the scene of the incident on Aug. 15, 2012.

At the time of his arrest, police and FBI agents found a stash of ammunition in Corkins’ backpack along with about 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Corkins later told FBI agents he planned to smear the sandwiches in the faces of the FRC employees he planned to kill as a form of retaliation against the statements by the Chick-fil-A company’s owner opposing same-sex marriage.

Perkins told the court that Corkins and his plan to kill as many FRC staff members as possible put the staff “in the crosshairs of a political assassin” and has kept the organization and its employees in a state of fear.

“Life for all of us has changed,” he said.

Leo Johnson, Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, Values Voter Summit

Leonardo Johnson with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Perkins reiterated statements he has made in the past that Corkins was instigated, at least in part, to target FRC by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He cited the Center’s decision to identify FRC as a hate group because of its anti-gay advocacy work.

Officials with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, have said their classification of FRC as a hate group is based on its attempt to disparage and demean gay people by linking them and homosexuality to pedophilia. The officials have said the ‘hate’ label is not based on FRC’s opposition to gay rights legislation or its political beliefs.

In his own statement at the sentencing hearing, Corkins apologized to Johnson and FRC, saying he still disagrees with the organization’s positions.

“I realize violence for political reasons is wrong,” he said.

In a 20-minute multi-media presentation in the courtroom, which included the showing of slides and video footage of Corkins, prosecutors argued that Corkins carried out a clearly orchestrated plan to commit mass murder in the days before the FRC shooting.

Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Patrick Martin, one of the two prosecutors working on the case, disputed defense attorney David Bos’s assertion that Corkins was not in full control of his behavior based on his diagnoses of having “major depressive disorder with psychotic features.”

Bos argued that Corkins was being treated with prescription drugs that effectively eliminated symptoms of his mental illness but Corkins failed to take his medication on the day before the FRC shooting incident.

Martin argued that in the week or so before the shooting, Corkins purchased a pistol and ammunition at a Virginia gun store, returned to the store to practice his shooting technique, purchased the sandwiches at a Chick-fil-A restaurant, and even traveled to the FRC building a few days before the incident to see if he could gain entrance as part of a “rehearsal” of his plans.

Martin pointed to one of the slides projected on a large screen in the courtroom that stated, “He knows what he was doing…The treatment he received was working. And it helped him execute his plan.”

National and local LGBT rights organizations, including the D.C. LGBT Center, issued statements at the time of the shooting condemning Corkins’ actions and wishing Johnson a speedy recovery from his injury.

19
Sep
2013

Anti-gay groups donate thousands to Va. GOP candidates

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The latest campaign finance reports that Virginia’s Republican candidates for statewide office filed last week indicate they continue to receive significant financial support from social conservatives and anti-LGBT groups.

The campaign finance report that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15 notes Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell gave the gubernatorial hopeful $19,665 on Sept. 12.

Morton, who opposed the gay group GOProud’s participation in the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference and received an award during last year’s Values Voter Summit, has given the Cuccinelli campaign a total of $25,878. Morton also gave $1,000 to state Sen. Mark Obenshain(R-Harrisonburg)’s attorney general bid on Sept. 30, according to campaign finance records.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Family Research Council Action PAC on Sept. 30 made a $5,000 contribution to E.W. Jackson’s campaign; he’s running for lieutenant governor. The group also donated $20,000 to Cuccinelli’s campaign on Aug. 31.

Obenshain’s campaign on Sept. 10 received a $10,000 contribution from Pat Robertson, according to a campaign finance report it filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15. The anti-gay televangelist also gave $2,500 to Jackson’s campaign on Aug. 31.

Foster Friess, who backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential bid, on Sept. 19 gave Cuccinelli’s campaign $20,000. Campaign finance reports further indicate the billionaire businessman has thus far contributed $50,000 to the attorney general’s gubernatorial campaign.

John Rocovich, Jr., a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors who led efforts to remove sexual orientation from the university’s anti-discrimination policy in 2003 when he was rector, has given $38,986 in cash and in-kind contributions to Cuccinelli’s campaign. He has also contributed $7,500 to Jackson’s bid and another $18,750 in cash and in-kind contributions to Obenshain’s campaign.

The Family Foundation, a Richmond-based group that supports the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and opposes LGBT-specific measures in the General Assembly, has also contributed to the three men’s campaigns.

Roger Pogge of the Family Foundation has given $400 to Cuccinelli, according to campaign finance records. Pogge has given $250 to Jackson and another $200 to Obenshain.

The re-election campaign for state Del. Brenda Pogge (R-James City), whose husband is Roger Pogge, has given $1,150 to Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial bid. Campaign finance reports indicate the Republican lawmaker has also given $500 to Obenshain.

Jackson in his latest campaign finance report noted a $1,500 donation to the Family Foundation on Sept. 24. This contribution came less than two weeks before the organization held its annual dinner in Richmond at which Cuccinelli and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke.

LGBT advocates criticize Va. Republican ticket

Cuccinelli’s, Jackson’s and Obenshain’s Democratic opponents and LGBT rights advocates note these contributions come as no surprise considering the three men’s opposition to marriage for same-sex couples and other gay-specific measures in the commonwealth.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month denied Cuccinelli’s request to appeal a lower court ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli, who has previously described same-sex sexual acts as “intrinsically wrong”, in July reaffirmed his opposition to homosexuality during a gubernatorial debate against former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe.

The current attorney general in 2010 recommended Virginia colleges and universities remove LGBT-specific provisions from their non-discrimination policies. Cuccinelli was also among those who spoke at an anti-gay marriage gathering at a Manassas church last October to which the Washington Blade was denied access — a California pastor who attended the event described gay men as “predators” during a separate event at a Baltimore church the week before that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and others attended.

LGBT rights advocates have repeatedly blasted Jackson over his comparison of gay men to pedophiles and describing them as “very sick people.”

Obenshain sponsored a bill that Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law in March that bans public universities from denying recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate in their membership based on sexual orientation and other categories that federal law does not protect. He also opposed a measure a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee in February tabled that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting” whose eldest son now works as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council in D.C., joined Cuccinelli on the campaign trail last week.

Cuccinelli reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples in response to the Blade’s question after he and McAuliffe squared off in a debate sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and NBC 4 in McLean last month. He declined to say whether he feels his position on the issue and his previous anti-LGBT statements have received too much attention on the campaign trail.

“That’s a very sensitive issue, and I respect that,” Cuccinelli told the Blade as he discussed his position on same-sex marriage. “There are people who feel very strongly about it, and I respect that. For those folks they want to hear about it, it is one of a range of issues.”

Poll: Nearly half find Cuccinelli too conservative

A poll that Rasmussen Reports conducted on Oct. 20 shows McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by a 50-33 percent margin. Eight percent of respondents said they support Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis.

Forty-six percent of likely Virginia voters who responded to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted between Oct. 2-8 said they feel Cuccinelli is too conservative.

“Ken Cuccinelli has spent his career demonizing and insulting gay Virginians,” McAuliffe campaign spokesperson Josh Schwerin told the Blade. “It’s no surprise that some of his biggest donors would have equally offensive records.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain all have a record of “being openly hostile” to LGBT Virginians through their own statements or their legislative actions.

“It’s not surprising that Pat Robertson, Family Research Council and other opponents of fairness and equality are funding the most right-wing, anti-gay, anti-choice ticket to ever run for statewide office in Virginia,” gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) added. “They’re not just conservatives; they are zealots on a mission and it’s a common mission that some of their most prominent donors share.”

Democratic statewide candidates tap gay money

McAuliffe and Jackson and Obenshain’s Democratic opponents – state Sens. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) and Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) respectively – have all publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples. The former DNC chair has repeatedly said as governor he would issue an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Campaign finance records indicate that McAuliffe, Northam and Herring continue to receive significant financial backing from LGBT contributors.

McAuliffe’s latest campaign finance report he filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15 indicates Tim Gill donated $10,000 to his gubernatorial bid on Sept. 25. The gay philanthropist on the same day made $2,500 contributions to Northam and Herring’s campaigns.

DNC Treasurer Andrew Tobias has donated $11,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign. Gay Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf on March 20 made a $5,000 contribution to the former DNC chair’s gubernatorial bid – and campaign finance reports indicate he made an in-kind donation of $4,060 on May 16 for event expenses.

California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 21 gave $1,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign, while lesbian Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen on Sept. 27 donated $1,000.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Human Rights Campaign made a $23,308 in-kind donation to the Democratic Party of Virginia for staff time and telephone calls on Sept. 11, and another $31,013 in-kind donation for the same items and e-mail advocacy on Oct. 26. The organization’s PAC on Sept. 11 made $117 in-kind contributions for online advocacy to McAuliffe, Northam and Herring’s campaigns.

23
Oct
2013

Groups link Utah polygamy ruling to gay marriage

Tony Perkins, FRC, gay news, Washington Blade, polygamy

FRC President Tony Perkins says the legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to legalized polygamy. (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

Two of the nation’s leading anti-LGBT groups — the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council — said a decision by a federal judge in Utah last week overturning part of the state’s law banning polygamy was made possible by earlier court rulings supportive of same-sex marriage.

An official with the marriage equality group Freedom to Marry disputed that assertion, saying the Utah ruling was limited to the right of people to choose personal living arrangements unrelated to marriage.

But statements by NOM and FRC linking the Utah ruling to same-sex marriage were reported widely in the media, with cable news outlets inviting FRC President Tony Perkins to appear on news programs to express his views on the issue.

Judge Clark Waddoups of the U.S. District Court of Utah ruled on Dec. 13 that a section of Utah’s anti-polygamy law that prohibits “cohabitation” violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion as well as the Constitution’s due process clause.

Waddoups’ ruling left in place the anti-polygamy law’s provisions prohibiting someone from obtaining two or more valid marriage licenses to marry more than one person.

In a statement released by the National Organization for Marriage, the group’s president, Brian Brown, called Waddoups’ ruling the first step in an effort by polygamists to bring a test case to the Supreme Court to obtain legal recognition of “plural” marriages.

“There’s no doubt that the arguments for same-sex marriage were a template for this case,” Brown said. “People in polygamist, plural marriages are just a short step away from winning official marriage rights. Adult incest practitioners will have similar claims, as will adult siblings and other close relations,” he said.

“This decision is the next step along the path blazed by same-sex marriage advocates who have convinced federal judges to transform the societal norm of marriage as the union of one man and one woman designed primarily for the benefit of any children produced of their union into an institution that recognizes intimate, romantic relationships between consenting adults,” Brown said.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry, said Brown’s interpretation of Waddoups’ ruling was incorrect.

“Contrary to yet another predictable breathless rush to misrepresent from NOM and its anti-gay ilk, this decision is no more about marriage than NOM is,” Wolfson told the Blade in an email.

“It’s about cohabitation, that is, whom you may choose to live with,” he said. “As anyone reading the judge’s ruling can see, the decision leaves intact other prohibitions on bigamy, polygamy, and fraud. Instead it’s about choices people make about living together, not marrying.”

Wolfson added, “Do the NOM/FRC crowd really believe that in a free country the government should be dictating to Americans – married or otherwise, religious or otherwise – whom they may even live with?”

The challenge to the Utah polygamy law stems from a lawsuit filed by Kody Brown, the lead figure in the reality television show “Sister Wives,” in which Brown stars with people he identifies as his four wives and 17 children.

Brown and his family are members of the Apostolic Brethren Church, a breakaway sect from the Mormon Church whose members embrace polygamy as part of their religious beliefs. The Mormon Church ended its support for polygamy in the 1890s when Congress required the then territory of Utah to prohibit polygamy as a condition for becoming a state.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley represents the Brown family in connection with their lawsuit. He argued before the court that the provision of the Utah polygamy law prohibiting cohabitation violated the family’s right to privacy and religious freedom.

17
Dec
2013