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Advocate ‘confident’ Boy Scouts will end ban on gay youth

boy scouts, gay news, Washington Blade

The Boy Scouts to set to vote on a resolution today to end its ban on gay youth (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An LGBT group working to end the gay ban for the Boy Scouts of America is striking an optimistic tone on the day leaders are set to vote on a resolution to partially lift it.

Rich Ferraro, vice president of communications for Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said he expects the 1,400 members of the Boy Scouts National Council to approve a measure allowing gay youths to participate.

“I’m confident, especially now that the BSA leadership is behind the resolution,” Ferraro said. “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 vote is taking place in Grapevine, Texas, during the organization’s 2013 National Annual Meeting. An announcement on the vote is expected around 6 pm. The Washington Blade will provide updates as warranted.

Currently, openly gay people are unable to participate in the Boy Scouts in any capacity. The proposal would alter the policy so gay youths can take part in the organization. Even if the resolution is approved, gay adults would still be unable to serve as scoutmasters.

Ferraro based his optimism on work activists have done to draw attention to the gay ban as well as statements from Boy Scouts’ leadership in opposition to current policy.

Wayne Perry, president of the Boy Scouts of America, called on the organization to approve the resolution in an op-ed in USA Today published on Thursday.

“The BSA’s executive committee unanimously presented this resolution because it stays true to Scouting’s mission and remains focused on kids,” Perry writes. “No matter what your opinion is on this issue, America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation’s children.”

According to GLAAD, thousands of people on both sides of the issue are at the hotel to make their views heard — many of them clad in their Boy Scouts’ uniform.

“I think it shows just what I’ve seen over the past year running this campaign how dedicated people are to the institution of scouting,” Ferraro said. “The message that we’re trying to send is that including gay adults and gay teenagers will only strengthen the institution of scouting.”

Members of Congress have also weighed in. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), along with 20 other House members, delivered to the Boy Scouts earlier this week a letter asking the group to change its policy.

“Today, BSA has a policy that excludes gay Scouts and Scout leaders from participating,” the letter states. “This is counter to BSA’s mission to teach our youth to combat discrimination. … We strongly urge the BSA to pass the proposed resolution to end discrimination against gay youth. Furthermore, we believe that BSA should implement a full non-discrimination policy.”

Zach Wahls, a 21-year-old activist and Eagle Scout, said the time is right for the Boy Scouts to change during an event in Grapevine called the Equal Scouting Summit.

“It is clear that if Scouting is not willing to move forward on this issue, it will be left behind by an America that supports our LGBT friends, neighbors, family members and even our fellow Scouts who made it through the program,” Wahls said. “America needs the values that Scouting has to offer now more than ever, and we cannot afford to lose this great cultural icon.”

In February, President Obama voiced support during an interview that aired before the Super Bowl for lifting the gay ban in the Boy Scouts.

But anti-gay groups are also at work to urge the Boy Scouts to keep the ban on gay youth in place. On Thursday, the Family Research Council ran a half-page advertisement in the Dallas Morning News. The ad identifies five reasons to support the current policy, including saying the change “forces all scouting units to accept openly gay youth.”

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a freshman U.S. House member, took to the House floor this week to criticize what he called the “intolerant left” for efforts such as repealing the gay ban in the Boy Scouts.

“The left’s agenda is not about tolerance, and it’s not about diversity of thought,” Bridenstine said. “It’s about presenting a worldview of relativism, where there is no right and wrong, then using the full force of the government to silence opposition and reshape organizations like the Boy Scouts into instruments for social change.”

Bridenstine concluded,”To my friends on the left, this is not tolerance. But here’s the good news about true tolerance: the most tolerant one of all has the ability to redeem us all.”

But Ferraro dismissed efforts from anti-gay groups, saying they won’t have significant impact and are only an effort to spread hate against LGBT people.

“People like Tony Perkins and the FRC are continuing to paint themselves not as scouting supporters, but as anti-gay activists, and that’s going to make the difference,” Ferraro said. “Their messages are clouded by anti-gay hate, especially when you consider faith leaders and so many officials in the BSA pushing for change.”

23
May
2013

Cooper discusses coming out

Anderson Cooper, CNN, gay news, Washington Blade

Anderson Cooper (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ROME—Gay CNN anchor Anderson Cooper discussed his decision to come out with journalist Michelangelo Signorile on Monday.

“Being gay is a blessing,” Cooper told Signorile from the Italian capital where he is covering the papal conclave.

Cooper, one of America’s most prominent openly gay celebrities, who came out last July in a statement published on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, at the time at the Daily Beast, also discussed his brother’s 1988 suicide. He also spoke with Signorile about the award he is scheduled to receive at the 2013 GLAAD Media Awards in New York City on Saturday.

13
Mar
2013

Disney Channel film features lesbian moms

Disney Channel, gay news, Washington BladeNEW YORK — A crowdsourced anti-bullying featurette last month on the Disney Channel introduces the world to a 14-year old aspiring filmmaker named Ben who happens to have two moms.

The short film is part of a social outreach campaign called “Make Your Mark,” which “encourages kids to make a difference in the world,” according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Ben uses the film “Stop” to introduce the Disney Channel audience to his two moms, before discussing his experiences with being bullied at school. According to GLAAD, Disney Channel has never featured an openly gay character in any of its offerings before.

03
Jan
2013

Madonna presents Anderson’s GLAAD Award

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI7wRDMsk5k

Madonna hits a home run with her speech prior to presenting Anderson Cooper the Vito Russo Award at this year’s GLAAD Media Awards, taking on Russian President Vladmir Putin, the anti-gay bills in Russia, the Boy Scouts and so much more.

17
Mar
2013

Critics assail Pentagon over blocked gay sites

Pentagon, military, gay news, Washington Blade

Activists are pressuring the Department of Defense to lift a block on the websites of LGBT blogs and organizations. (Public domain photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond)

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department has blocked access to several popular LGBT websites, angering activists, according to AmericaBlog.

The Internet filter, provided by software maker Blue Coat, blocks not just adult sites, but also blogs like Americablog and the sites of organizations like GLAAD and HRC.

“Blue Coat is banning any and all news related to gay and trans people, and even banning anti-bullying and suicide prevention information,” Americablog’s John Aravosis writes. “That’s an incredibly offensive category for any company to create, but adding in anti-bullying and suicide prevention as two specific things that need to be censored, is beyond offensive, especially when Blue Coat admits that sites are ‘generally suitable for viewing by all age groups.’”

HRC and GLAAD have both mobilized readers to reach out to Blue Shield and the Pentagon over the filter block, and a Change.org petition to lift the block had garnered 3,232 supporters as of Wednesday.

10
Jan
2013

Video: Anderson thanks his partner at GLAAD Awards

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7xuD8rVVRw

After Madonna presented CNN anchor Anderson Cooper with the Vito Russo Award at the GLAAD Media Awards, Cooper named his LGBT heroes and thanked his partner.

20
Mar
2013

Mixed reaction to Boy Scouts plan on gay members

Zach Walls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

‘This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,’ said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. (Photo courtesy of Change.org)

A statement issued by the Boy Scouts of America on Monday saying the organization is considering dropping its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders was hailed by LGBT advocates as an important breakthrough in the fight for equality.

But two of the nation’s leading anti-gay groups warned that if the BSA’s board votes next week to drop its ban on gays, as predicted by sources familiar with the Boy Scouts, it would lead to a “mass exodus” of scouts and scout leaders from traditional, religious-oriented families and communities.

In its statement released on Monday, the BSA said the change it was considering would allow the religious, civic and educational organizations that are chartered to operate scouting units throughout the country to make the final decision on whether or not to accept gays.

“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” the statement says.

“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” says the statement.

“BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families,” it says.

NBC News, which first reported that BSA was considering lifting its gay ban prior to the release of the statement, also reported that the organization was expected to approve the changes at a board of directors meeting within the next week.

Janelle Moritz, a public relations representative for the Boy Scouts of America, told the Blade she could not confirm the NBC report about the timing of a board meeting or what the board would decide. She said BSA would not comment on the matter beyond what it said in its statement, which doesn’t say when the group will decide on the issue.

Other news media outlets, however, reported that BSA sources confirmed that the board meeting would take place next week, mostly likely at the BSA national headquarters in Irving, Texas.

“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations, and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” said Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect,” he said.

“This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,” said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. “We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Boy Scouts’ expected policy change follows the growing support for LGBT equality from the American people.

“The pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination,” Griffin said in a statement. “Our nation and its leaders respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, and it’s time the Boy Scouts echo those values.”

A far different response emerged from leaders of the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, two national conservative groups that oppose LGBT rights.

“The Boy Scouts of America board would be making a serious mistake to bow to the strong-arm tactics of LGBT activists and open the organization to homosexuality,” said FRC President Tony Perkins in a statement.

“The mission of the Boy Scouts is to ‘instill values in young people’ and ‘prepare them to make ethical choices,’ and the Scouts’ oath includes a pledge ‘to do my duty to God’ and keep himself ‘morally straight,” he said. “It is entirely reasonable and not at all unusual for those passages to be interpreted as requiring abstinence from homosexual conduct.”

The American Family Associated posted on its website a column by anti-gay advocate Bryan Fischer, who quipped that Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach convicted on child molestation charges, would become “the new poster boy” for the Boy Scouts.

“This move, unless the BSA dramatically reverses itself in the immediate future, represents the capitulation to the forces of sexual deviancy,” he said. “The Scouts will have made a deliberate decision to put the sexual integrity of every young man in their care at risk.”

Within a day of the BSA’s announcement that it was considering changing its policy on gay scouts and scout leaders, the FRC and the American Family Association posted appeals on their websites urging members and supporters to call the BSA to urge the group to leave its ban on gays in place.

“As the BSA board meets next week, it is crucial that they hear from those who stand with them and their current policy regarding homosexuality,” FRC said.

Possibly in anticipation of strong opposition by conservative and religious groups, the BSA emphasized in its own statement that the change would allow local units to decide whether or not to admit gays.

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a policy to units, members, or parents,” the statement says. “Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”

The BSA website says more than 100,000 scouting units are owned and operated by independent chartered organizations.

“Of these, 64.9 percent of all units are chartered to faith-based organizations, 22.7 percent of all units are chartered to civic organizations, and 7.9 percent of all units are chartered to educational organizations,” it says.

It says the chartered organizations are responsible for providing meeting facilities, providing “quality leadership for the scouting unit,” and appointing a representative to coordinate unit operations

A list of BSA chartered organizations posted on its website shows a wide range of religious and civic groups that are likely to differ on whether or not to admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

Among them are the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and “Baptist Churches,” which traditionally have condemned homosexuality. Others, however, include the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church and Lutheran churches, which have had more accepting policies toward LGBT people.

Civic groups listed on the BSA website as chartered organizations include local Chambers of Commerce, Lions and Rotary clubs, American Legion organizations, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, YMCA groups, “non-profit agencies,” and “home owners” groups.

The BSA’s statement saying it is considering removing its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders comes seven months after the BSA announced it had conducted a two-year review of the ban and decided to leave it in place.

Monday’s announcement also comes after several prominent corporations, including United Parcel Service and Intel Corporation, withdrew as BSA financial sponsors, saying the gay ban violated their corporate polices of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Others opposing the Boy Scouts ban on gays have organized online petition drives that have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures calling on the BSA to drop its gay ban.

Among those drawing attention to efforts to end the ban is Eagle Scout Wahls of Iowa, who is straight but has spoken publically about his two lesbian moms.

Sharon Brackett, co-founder and board chair of the statewide transgender advocacy organization Gender Rights Maryland, said she experienced firsthand how at least some Boy Scout troops and the chartered organizations that operate them are LGBT supportive.

Brackett said she served as a scout master for the local Boy Scout troop in Savage, Md., where her sons were members, before she transitioned from male to female. She said after taking a break during her transition period, the troop and a local Methodist church that served as the chartered organization, welcomed her back once she completed her gender transition.

“My experience has been positive,” she said, noting that women have long served as Boy Scout troop leaders and officials in the chartered organization covering her area had no problem with her coming back.

Brackett said she supports the proposed change by the BSA to leave it up to the chartered organizations to decide whether gay scouts or troops can be admitted. At least in Maryland, she said, there are enough local troops and chartered organizations to choose from that would result in gay youth finding one that will be welcoming.

“Having that choice is the best next step for us at this time,” she said.

30
Jan
2013

What a difference a tweet makes

By RETINA BROUSSARD

It’s been more than a year since the national uproar ignited by CNN’s Roland Martin — my first cousin — over those infamous Super Bowl tweets perceived by some as insensitive and allegedly promoting violence against gay men.

(During the 2012 Super Bowl, Martin sent several tweets, including, “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!”)

The tweets caused the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to pounce on Martin like Broadway cats on a hood dog, and it left me thinking, “Wow what a difference a tweet makes.”

When the news broke that GLAAD called for the firing of Roland from CNN and demanded an apology, as a “gay” relative, I asked myself if I should speak out about this and then wondered if anyone would listen. It took me about a day or so to decide to share my initial opinion with a few close friends. Admittedly some of my thoughts were emotional reactions in my social media arena, which were probably perceived as leaning in Roland’s defense. Back then I wasn’t sure on which side of this social and political madness I really stood.

However, in response to a recent “Washington Watch” video from RolandMartinReports.com, I am clear about where I stand now and I believe (as a black woman and an advocate for equality for all people and openly LGBTQ), that black people — gay or straight — have no business speaking out against their white counterparts until “the collective” steps up and truly takes care of their own in ALL human rights agendas.

We have the worst history of shunning and ostracizing our own people. I firmly believe the real problem is a racial issue within the black community for not taking full responsibility for this cause.

Advocating for human rights from a global perspective is extremely important and changing the culture of discrimination and violence against the black LGBT community within my own race, within our own families is critical and concerns me the most.

I have been known to support Roland’s political views, but obviously, I am not his typical demographic and I seldom follow his off-color twitter updates.

I will never discount the fact that words can be harmful, I just think we make way too much about what some people say and tweet and end up bringing more attention to that which may otherwise go unnoticed. Ironically, Roland’s twitter following has doubled since those infamous Super Bowl tweets that GLAAD apparently thought were going to start a gay bashing epidemic.

In a Washington Watch segment on TVOne, entitled, “Perspective: At The Table Of Brotherhood, Discussing Differences And Gaining Understanding,” Roland said, “Now, if you’re gay or straight, your voice matters.” Well, I agree, my voice does matter and I would like to hear from more voices that genuinely and actively advocate for me and my sisters and brothers in the entire LGBT community.

If Roland really wants to gain an understanding and help stop violence against gays, he should work more on eradicating homophobia at home before doing a show that appears to demonize GLAAD and others as racist. Really get at the grassroots level in black communities and encourage each he encounters to first understand and accept their own family members, then perhaps collectively we will all have a different perspective and understanding of the LGBT community.

Initially, during the “tweet scandal,” I was a bit harsh on GLAAD, accusing them of being overly sensitive as did many. In the past, I’ve also quietly questioned what, if anything, GLAAD has done for the black LGBT community. In hindsight, I realize GLAAD may have its problems, but so do most black organizations advocating for any community related issue. So who are we to judge GLAAD?

Who’s really to blame here? And who’s really responsible for changing it? I believe since we continue to judge each other, we are all at fault and responsible for changing it. Surely, it’s going to take a whole lot more than surface conversations on a TV talk show to break this perpetual cycle of mistreating those we are called to love. And until then, it is and will always remain just talk.

ReTina Broussard — aka “The Lifeologist” — is a writer, speaker, performer and proud mother of two. She works to inspire, educate and entertain by sharing her real life experiences. Reach her via retinabroussard.com.

27
Mar
2013

Boy Scouts board meets to consider lifting gay ban

Zach Wahls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

Zach Wahls, who is straight, but has two lesbian mothers, delivers petitions to lift a ban on gay scouts to the national Boy Scouts of America conference in Orlando last year. (Photo courtesy of Change.org)

The Boy Scouts of America’s national board began a three-day meeting in Irving, Tex., on Monday in which it was expected to vote Wednesday on a proposal to end its national policy of banning gay scouts and scout leaders.

As the board met behind closed doors in a hotel near the BSA’s national headquarters just outside Dallas, a contingent of current and former gay scouts, scout leaders, and their straight supporters delivered stacks of petitions with 1.4 million signatures calling for the Boy Scouts to end the gay ban.

“Today’s delivery marks one final push by the more than 1.4 million signers who’ve taken action on Change.org demanding an end to the Boy Scout’s national ban on gay youth and parents,” said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, senior campaign manager for Change.org.

The national LGBT groups Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Human Rights Campaign joined the gay-supportive scouts and scout leaders, including Scouts for Equality, in drawing national attention to the BSA’s board meeting.

Groups opposed to lifting the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays, including the Family Research Council, announced they had organized their own efforts to lobby the board against changing its policy. Among those calling on the BSA to leave the gay ban in place is Texas Governor Rick Perry.

But the gay supportive side appeared to be capturing more media attention on the opening day of the board’s meeting.

In a full-page ad in Monday’s edition of the Dallas Morning News, HRC urged the Boy Scouts to go beyond their proposal to allow local Boy Scout councils to decide whether to admit gay scouts or scout leaders.

The BSA announced last week that its proposal would end the organization’s national ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. The announcement said the change, if adopted by the board, would leave it to the local Councils and chartered organizations that sponsor Boy Scout troops across the country to decide whether to admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

“While the proposed change is a step in the right direction, we can’t pretend that passing the buck to the local level will eliminate anti-gay discrimination because it won’t,” said HRC’s vice president for communications Fred Sainz.

“Generations of gay Americans have been told they’re not good enough to join the Scouts, simply because of who they are,” Sainz said. “BSA has an opportunity to change that this week by adopting a non-discrimination policy.”

HRC also announced that its foundation has adopted a more stringent criterion for its widely watched Corporate Equality Index, which rates corporations on their policies on LGBT related issues, including personnel policies.

“To receive a perfect score in the future, companies would have to prohibit philanthropic giving to non-religious organizations that have a written policy of anti-gay discrimination, or permit its chapters, affiliates, or troops to do so,” HRC announced in a Feb. 4 press release.

The newly announced criterion would lead to a lower the rating for companies that donate money to the Boy Scouts if the BSA or local Boy Scout councils don’t eliminate their ban on gays.

D.C. area Boy Scouts Council calls for ‘courteous’ discussion

Daniel Mullin, director of the D.C. district for the BSA’s National Capital Area Council, told the Blade on Monday that Boy Scouts and scout leaders in the D.C. region were watching with interest over how the national board will decide on the issue of the gay ban.

He pointed to a statement in the National Capital Area Council’s February newsletter, which invites the scouting community to share their opinions and concerns on the issue with the Council’s leadership.

“This is a topic that many leaders, parents and community members have strongly held opinions about,” the Council’s newsletter statement says. “It is a complex issue and can engender significant debate. As you discuss the issue with your friends and fellow Scouts, please remember that a Scout is courteous and kind.”

05
Feb
2013

GLAAD honoring all the wrong people

Are the good people at GLAAD suffering from amnesia?

First, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation honored lifelong closet case Anderson Cooper with its Vito Russo Award last month. Then came word that former President Bill Clinton will be honored with the Advocate for Change Award.

Russo was a pioneering LGBT activist and author who wrote “The Celluloid Closet.” Cooper became infamous in the gay community after Out magazine published a 2008 cover story featuring his image along with Jodie Foster’s above the headline “The Glass Closet, Why the Stars Won’t Come Out and Play.”

Cooper finally came out publicly last year in a blog post and is immediately honored by GLAAD for doing what exactly? Is GLAAD so desperate to sell tickets to its awards shows that it must genuflect at the feet of anyone with a modicum of fame? This star-fuckery does a disservice to the movement and overlooks the hard work and visibility of more deserving honorees.

As transparent as the Cooper award was for its pandering, the Clinton award is even more disappointing. Clinton gave us “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He signed the Defense of Marriage Act and later bragged about it in 1996 campaign ads. Former HRC President Elizabeth Birch recently revealed that during that time, Clinton White House officials threatened to re-air the offensive ads if she took credit for their being yanked amid a firestorm of protest. More recently, Clinton reportedly advised John Kerry to support state constitutional amendments barring marriage equality during the 2004 presidential campaign. He only recently changed his position; his wife only endorsed marriage last month.

With such a stellar record of support, it’s time for a GLAAD award! I’m sure the wealthy Los Angeles gays will shell out plenty of cash for tickets to the award show later this month. (Individual tickets start at $500; a platinum table will set you back $25,000.) For some inexplicable reason, the gays are drawn to the Clintons like moths to the flame.

While GLAAD is busy dispensing awards to the unworthy, others who are actually making a difference go unrecognized.

Take Ken Mehlman, for example, who ran the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign and cynically unleashed a barrage of state constitutional amendments attacking our relationships. He has since repudiated his dirty deeds and worked behind the scenes to do his penance. He has raised money for the New York and Maryland marriage efforts, among other contributions. Where is the award for Mehlman? He has certainly done more to advance gay rights than Cooper.

And what about Sen. Rob Portman, who bravely endorsed marriage equality last month, becoming the first Republican senator to do so? He was pilloried by progressive bloggers because he attributed his evolution on the issue to having a gay son. The Wonkette blog went so far as to suggest we buy him a cake to celebrate with “Fuck that guy” written in icing.

But just days later when Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, announced her newfound marriage support and attributed it in part to having gay staff and friends, the progressive bloggers erupted in predictable praise.

This misguided strategy of turning LGBT rights into a partisan issue and the LGBT movement into a wing of the Democratic Party is as much a mistake today as it was 20 years ago.

Of course, we should welcome converts like Cooper and Clinton to the cause, but we mustn’t rewrite history in the process. And if our national advocacy groups are going to honor public figures like Cooper and Clinton who have such complicated records on LGBT issues, then shouldn’t they reach across the aisle and honor some Republicans, too?

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

10
Apr
2013