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Coming to Washington

Amy Crampton, Tonya Agnew, Supreme Court, gay marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Amy Crampton and Tonya Agnew of Lafayette, Ind., plan to marry outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26. (Photo courtesy of Tonya Agnew)

Lafayette, Ind., residents Tonya Agnew and Amy Crampton plan to travel to Washington this weekend ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments in the two cases that challenge the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The couple’s 9-year-old son Leo is what Agnew describes as a “history buff.” But she and her partner of nearly 15 years have another thing on their agenda while in the nation’s capital.

“We thought it would be an amazing experience for him and for us to be part of history and see what’s happening and just be part of the vibe in town,” Agnew says. “Our next thought was kind of like, ‘Oh well we should totally get married while we’re there.’”

Agnew and Crampton plan to exchange vows at the Supreme Court on Tuesday against the backdrop of a rally in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples that is expected to draw thousands. Opponents of nuptials for gays and lesbians on the same day are scheduled to march to the court as the justices begin to hold oral arguments on the Prop 8 case.

Same-sex marriage supporters are expected to once again gather outside the court on Wednesday before oral arguments in the case that challenges DOMA.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Agnew says. “[I’m] really just mostly excited to be there and the fact that they’re even hearing them to begin with is just incredible.”

Marriage Equality USA Board President Cathy Marino-Thomas plans to travel from New York to D.C. on Monday with her wife Sheila, their 13-year-old daughter Jackie and other same-sex marriage advocates.

She was among those who spearheaded the years-long campaign for nuptials for gays and lesbians in New York that culminated in 2011 with Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing the same-sex marriage bill the state Senate narrowly approved into law.

Marino-Thomas says from her Manhattan office she has a “really, really positive feeling about this.”

“In the beginning it was just a small group of LGBT people who believed in the right to marry,” she says. “We graduated and more of our community believed in it. Then as time went on we started to gather straight supporters and then we started to gather politicians — Democrats, and the next step was we started to get some Republican support. Now we’re reading about the conservative argument for marriage equality and somebody like Ted Olson is leading the charge on one of the marriage cases. People are coming out for marriage left and right.”

Caleb-Michael Files, a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, was in D.C. when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case that challenged President Obama’s health care reform law. He was also here last June when the justices issued their 5-4 ruling that narrowly upheld it.

The Knob Noster, Mo., native, who says his family did not accept him growing up because of his sexual orientation, plans to return to D.C. in time for the oral arguments in the Prop 8 case.

“These are important milestones that we have to be present for and understand what’s going on,” Files says.

Rallies, vigils planned across the country

The two rallies outside the Supreme Court are among the more than 170 events scheduled to take place across the country to coincide with the oral arguments.

The School Without Walls GSA in D.C. will hold a candlelight vigil and rally in front of the Supreme Court on Monday. Retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson is among those scheduled to attend an inter-faith service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Other gatherings are scheduled to take place in Cumberland, Md.; Richmond, Va.; and Keyser, W.Va.

Up to 30 people are expected to attend a candlelight vigil on the beach in Gulfport, Miss., on Tuesday.

Leiana Wortel, who tried to apply for a marriage license with her partner and four other same-sex couples in Hattiesburg, Miss., in January as part of the Campaign for Southern Equality’s efforts to highlight the lack of marriage rights for gays and lesbians in the South, decided to organize the event after she learned about other gatherings around the upcoming oral arguments in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases.

“We just thought it would be nice to do something on the coast to get more of the local LGBT community involved and start some conversation here,” Wortel says.

An estimated 500 people are expected to attend a rally in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago on Monday.

Local LGBT rights advocate Richard Streetman expects the gathering could draw even more people if the Illinois House of Representatives this week approves a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in the state.

“Throughout the history of LGBT Americans, we have gathered in Washington, D.C., to petition our government,” he says. “There are times where that’s necessary. There are times when people should be working in their home communities.”

Advocates remain cautiously optimistic

Nine states and D.C. currently allow same-sex marriage.

A Rhode Island Senate committee on Thursday will hold a hearing on a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to marry in the Ocean State. Lawmakers in Delaware, Minnesota and New Jersey in the coming weeks and months are expected to consider measures that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign a same-sex marriage bill into law, but Streetman pointed out DOMA will remain on the books even if gays and lesbians can marry in the state.

“People in Illinois are excited,” he says about the outcome of the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. “Some people have unrealistic expectations of states giving us our state rights. It is almost symbolic until you deal with DOMA.”

Mississippi and Missouri are among the 31 states that have constitutionally banned same-sex marriage.

Wortel says a lot of people with whom she speaks “are optimistic” the justices will find Prop 8 and DOMA unconstitutional. She remains less hopeful about the prospect of nuptials for gays and lesbians in the Magnolia State.

“People are not as optimistic of what the outcome will necessarily be in Mississippi,” Wortel says.

Files notes questions over the future of Missouri’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage if the justices strike down DOMA persist — Republicans control both chambers of the state Legislature, but a civil unions bill could be introduced once the Supreme Court rules on Prop 8 and DOMA.

“After the Affordable Health Care ruling, I think people are optimistic that there’s been a turning tide with the Supreme Court,” Files says. “These kinds of social and health care issues are issues we’re moving a little bit to the left on.”

Indiana lawmakers last month postponed a debate on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage until the outcome of the DOMA and Prop 8 cases is clear.

Agnew said she hopes they “really squash the current efforts underway” to amend the state constitution.

“That was exciting for us,” she says of the delayed debate in Indianapolis. “We’re hoping that it will be a positive outcome and will really trickle down to everyone — all of us out here in the Midwest and elsewhere.”

21
Mar
2013

Home for the Holy Days

22
Mar
2013

Our day in court: Supreme Court hears marriage cases

25
Mar
2013

Supreme Court oral arguments audio

The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments today in the Hollingsworth v. Perry appeal, challenging California’s anti-gay constitutional amendment passed by ballot known as Proposition 8. Check out our in-the-courtroom analysis here.

26
Mar
2013

Queery: Alan Paul

Alan Paul, gay news, Washington Blade

Alan Paul (Photo courtesy of Alan Paul)

Alan Paul says the final scene in Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” is unusually well suited to alternate interpretations. And with “Fire and Air,” a work he collaborated on with Bowen McCauley Dance, he’s getting the chance to try it.

“Cleopatra’s death is like none other in Shakespeare’s work,” he says. “She famously says, ‘I am fire and air; my other elements I give to baser life.’ Now if that line doesn’t deserve a dance, I don’t know what does.”

Paul is directing the piece, which will feature a rare performance by Lucy Bowen McCauley. It’s one of two world-premiering works slated for April 5-6 at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. Details are at bmdc.org.

Paul knows Shakespeare — he’s associate director at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington and says he was fortunate to get a fellowship to work with the legendary Michael Kahn.

“Because of Michael’s belief in me, Washington has become my artistic home and a community I’m proud to be part of.”

Paul, 28, grew up in nearby Potomac, Md., and also lived in Chicago for a time. He now lives in Logan Circle and enjoys theater, opera, piano, travel and dinner with friends in his free time.

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

I have been out since I was 15 and because I have always been in the theater, I was “in good company” from the start. Going to musical theater summer camp didn’t hurt.

Who’s your LGBT hero? 

Meryl Streep. But she’s a hero to all humans, right?

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

Larry’s Lounge: Casual. Low key. Strong drinks.

Describe your dream wedding.

Surrounded by my family and friends on a beach along the Pacific.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? 

Arts funding in America!

What historical outcome would you change? 

The 14 times Meryl Streep lost the Oscar.

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

I wrote to Bob Mackie when I was 9 years old and he sent me a handwritten letter. That was definitely a moment to remember.

On what do you insist? 

“Please” and “thank you.”

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?  

I posted a picture of the empty, but awe-inspiring, Strathmore Concert Hall. There is always something magical about an empty theater.

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

“Meals in My Car: How to Build a Career in the Arts”

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

I wouldn’t change a thing. We must accept people, and ourselves, as we are.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe that the energy we get back from the world is often indicative of the energy we put into the world.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

I am in awe of their bravery and their patient commitment to pursuing equality. We are all the direct beneficiaries of their hard work and I would rather take their advice than give my own!

What would you walk across hot coals for? 

A juicy directing project!

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? 

I’m not easily annoyed.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

Does “A League of their Own” count? And wouldn’t it make a terrific Broadway musical? Are the stage rights available?

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

Being politically correct.

What trophy or prize do you most covet? 

Personal fulfillment is harder won and longer lasting than any trophies or prizes.  Although, a Tony/Oscar/Golden Globe/Drama Desk/Obie/Olivier/BAFTA might be nice … (in any order)

What do you wish you’d known at 18? 

ANYTHING!

Why Washington?

During spring break of my senior year in college I met one of my heroes, Molly Smith, and she asked me to assistant direct her production of “Cabaret” at Arena Stage. That started it all and I moved to D.C.

27
Mar
2013

Queery: Sarah Blazucki

Sarah Blazucki, gay news, Washington Blade, Queery

Sarah Blazucki (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mid-year last year, Sarah Blazucki was ready for a professional change.

The 37-year-old Baltimore native had a good six-and-a-half year run as editor at Philadelphia Gay News and was looking for fresh vistas to tackle. In October, she moved to Washington to work as a writer and editor with The Peace Corps.

“I felt like I’d done all I could do with the paper and it was time to let someone else take over,” she says. “Someone with new, fresh ideas and for me to do something else. I was sort of looking to take my career to the next level.”

Though she says things are “very good” in her new position, it’s a huge change from what she calls “the rhythm” of the weekly newspaper rigors. She also realizes it will take time to get integrated into D.C. LGBT life.

“Just being at the PGN, I very much had my finger on the pulse of the LGBT community and down here I just don’t,” she says. “Granted I’ve only lived here three months, but it’s just going to take some time to find the community again. And not just the bars. I know where they are, but I mean really the heart of the community. The non-profits, the larger piece that really makes up the heart of the community.”

Blazucki is also active in the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the founder of website lgbtrights.me which allows web surfers to find out what laws apply in their part of the country. She also writes resumes on the side.

She has identified as queer since she was 21 and was in an 11-year relationship with a man whom she eventually married. But she says she knew all along she “was not straight.”

Blazucki’s dating but not in a serious relationship. She lives in Petworth and enjoys running, yoga, reading and “being a news junkie” in her free time.

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

Since I was 21. Sometimes I get flack from gays and lesbians because I’m not a gold-star lesbian and that can be hard.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Can I have more than one? As a journalist, I really admire Rachel Maddow. She’s super-smart and she’s got moxie. I also have a couple of personal heroes, who I can also count as friends: Gloria Casarez, who is the director of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, and Carrie Jacobs, the executive director of The Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia.

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

Tracks. I had some good times there.

Describe your dream wedding.

I was married before and that was probably as close as I would get. (See my answer about overrated social customs.) It was a 1920s carnivale theme, very fun. Less of a wedding, and more of a big party.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Gender equality/women’s rights.

What historical outcome would you change?

The 2007 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. In the case, the court ruled 5-4 against Lilly Ledbetter, who had been getting paid less than her male counterparts at Goodyear for years. The court said her claim of long-term discriminatory pay decisions was filed after the statute of limitations, 180 days, had expired.

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

Pop culture really isn’t my forte, but Kurt Cobain’s suicide was pretty significant.

On what do you insist?

It’s OK to be gay. Also, good grammar and correct language use. It’s my job.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

“So excited to have found what is likely the closest grocery store to my house, and it’s an organic grocer. That only took 3 mos. Sheesh!”

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

“Determined: How I got over a mostly shitty childhood and found my way in the world”

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

For myself, nothing. I like being queer. For others, encourage self-acceptance.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

The universe.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Keep up the good fight. Don’t let the LGBT-rights movement be sidelined by petty differences. Don’t sacrifice the minorities amongst us for the good of the majority.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My family, my close friends, LGBT equality.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That lesbians “process” too much.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Bound”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Weddings

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I’m not particularly motivated by either, but a Pulitzer would be nice.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That my life and work mattered, and that I could have a positive impact with both.

Why Washington?

Work. And it helps that my family is close.

09
Jan
2013

Video: Jodie Foster comes out

Actress Jodie Foster Sunday night made her most explicit comments ever about her personal life while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at its annual Golden Globe Awards. And though she used phrases like “coming out” and thanking her “ex-partner in love,” she never used the words gay or lesbian.

The actress/director, who started acting at age 3 and has long cited her desire for privacy in her personal life for not commenting on the matter, held to that notion but also pulled the curtain back further than she’d ever previously done.

“I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago, back in the Stone Age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family, co-workers, and then gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met,” Foster said.

“But now, apparently, I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a primetime reality show.”

She also said, “You guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo child.”

She made several jokes in the speech. After announcing she had a “declaration” and that she was ready to be “loud and proud,” she announced she is 50 and single, but even then, said she was “kinda kidding.”

Foster closed her speech by thanking long-rumored partner Cydney Bernard.

“There is no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love, but righteous soul sister in life; my confessor, ski buddy, consigliere, most beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard. Thank you, Cyd.”

Reaction was mixed in LGBT circles with some viewers saying Foster was a class act her deserves personal space, while others, like long-time lesbian activist Cathy Renna, saying the speech “would only have been worse if she talked like ‘Nell,’” referencing one of Foster’s Oscar-nominated roles.

“I am sure she prefers gay woman to — God forbid — the ‘L word,’” Renna wrote on Facebook.

Foster had thanked Bernard previously in public but had always stopped short of acknowledging any “coming out.” Even Sunday night’s speech, although seemingly obvious to all those at the ceremony, stopped short of any unequivocal “I’m a lesbian”-type language.

14
Jan
2013

Queery: Jason Perry

Jason Perry, gay news, Washington Blade, Queery

Jason Perry (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jason Perry enlisted in the Marine Corps just out of high school at age 18. After 11 years and nine months of service that found him stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C., and Quantico, Va., in addition to brief deployments to Okinawa, Japan and Iraq, he was medically discharged and has settled into a new life in Sterling, Va., after two years of treatment in Bethesda.

On Jan. 5 as his drag alter ego Charity B., he was crowned Miss Gaye America D.C.

“I was actually in shock,” he says. “I didn’t know what was going on.” Once it sunk in, Perry says he was “excited and elated.”

“I was glad I was able to carry on for the family members who’d won previously,” he says.

Drag mother Destiny B. Childs got him started in drag about six years ago.

“We were just having a good time drinking one night and they said I might do well with my high cheekbones and stuff like that, so we tried it,” he says. “I enjoy it for the entertainment portion. It’s not a job for me.”

Perry has been seeing someone for about four months but they don’t live together. He likes Sterling because it’s out of the “hustle and bustle” of D.C.

“I like having a yard where I can play with the dog,” he says.

The 31-year-old McLoud, Okla., native is a full-time student and hopes to finish an information technologies degree in the next few years.

He enjoys sculling, landscaping and drag in his free time. And “spending time with my amazing boyfriend and my dog.”

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

I came out in 2004 after my mother passed. The hardest was to my best friend and fiancée at the time.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

I don’t have any one individual whom I consider my hero. Everyone who puts forth the effort and strives for our community is a hero to me.

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

To answer the question one might have to ask which night you are referring to.

Describe your dream wedding.

This one is a toughie, but easily answered with “Whichever the other groom actually shows up to.”

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Wounded Warriors program for the service members who have given some or all in service of our nation. This goes for spouses as well.

What historical outcome would you change?

I wouldn’t change any in all honesty. I know it sounds cold considering what has happened in the past, but the past is what has made us what and who we are today.

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

I know it sounds harsh, maybe cold, but there would be two: the Oklahoma bombing and 9-11. Both were while I was sitting in a class in Oklahoma.

On what do you insist?

I insist mainly on stopping the backstabbing and hypocrisy that live within our community.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

Mentioning that I enjoyed a wonderful Wednesday evening of Beach Blanket Bingo at Freddie’s Beach Bar and Grille, in Arlington, hosted by Regina Jozet Adams and Ophelia Bottoms. It starts promptly at 8 p.m. Did that sound a little like an advertisement?

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

“The Neverending Rollercoaster of Life”

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

I would stay just the way I am.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

Reincarnation

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Listen and learn, use advice given to make things happen for the community.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

I would walk across hot coals for the one I love; this only follows second to my real mother.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

The idea that drag queens are these purse carrying, lisp spoken, feminine individuals.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Latter Days”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

I would say constantly going out. Sometimes staying in for a nice night with my boyfriend is the best custom there can be.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Currently the Miss Gaye America D.C. crown. I have joined the sisterhood of so many before me to include my drag sister, Alexandra B. Childs, and drag mother, Destiny B Childs.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Nothing more than I did at that time. I have enjoyed learning the things I have over these past 14 years.

Why Washington?

The Marine Corps brought me to Northern Virginia in 2004. After I was deployed in 2007 and then medically returned in 2008 from Iraq, I spent some time in Maryland. Since I didn’t have any main family left in my home state I decided to settle my roots out here. I have gained many friends and some of those friends I call my family. Being out here just feels right.

16
Jan
2013

Send us your best soup recipe

mushroom soup, gay news, Washington Blade, recipes

(Photo by French Recipes via Wikimedia Commons)

Got the winter blahs? Nothing takes the chill off like homemade soup. The Blade is planning a “Big Ole’ Pot of Soup” roundup soon.

Send Features Editor Joey DiGuglielmo (joeyd@washblade.com) your best soup recipe and we’ll run the most interesting ones in an upcoming edition. If you’ve made it recently, snap a photo and send along as well. If submitting photos, please send the largest version of the photo you have.

17
Jan
2013