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Twerker Beez, D.C. Gay Flag Football League, gay news, Washington Blade, DCGFFL, sports, Brian Sparrow

Twerker Bee Brian Sparrow in action. (Photo by Trey Phillips)

The Washington Blade continues its sponsorship of the DC Gay Flag Football League this fall. The Blade team is gold, known as the Twerker Beez. The Beez won this week’s game, 34-6, improving their record to 2-0. The Beez are in first place in Division A of the Victory Fund conference.

The next game is 8 p.m. Friday against I Just Blue Myself. Visit for more information. Go Beez, Twerk it!


Latino Pride

The Latino GLBT History Project held a number of events for D.C. Latino Pride 2013. A panel discussion on immigration and LGBT Latinos was held at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters on May 30. On June 6, the official Latino Pride Dance Party, ‘La Fiesta,’ was held at Town Danceboutique with special guest Carmen Carrera from Ru Paul’s Drag Race. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen and Damien Salas) buyphoto 


Fisette weds on 30th anniversary

Jay Fisette, Arlington County Board, gay news, Washington Blade

Arlington County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Arlington County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette married his longtime partner, businessman Bob Rosen, on the couple’s 30th anniversary on Sept. 17.

Fisette became Virginia’s first openly gay elected official in 1997, when he won election to his first term on the Arlington board.

In an announcement sent to his board colleagues immediately after the wedding, Fisette said, “We held a brief, private ceremony at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. … We were joined by our mothers, my sister, and a handful of close friends. It was lovely.”

Added Fisette: “The world is changing. If you would have asked us 15 years ago if we would ever have the opportunity to get married, we would have said, ‘Not in our lifetime.’”

Now, Fisette said, he and Rosen expect marriage equality “will actually arrive in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the next five years.”

He said the Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this year and the Obama administration’s announcement that the IRS would give the same tax benefits as heterosexual couples to same-sex married couples regardless of where they live prompted him and Rosen to marry at this time.


Baldwin leads call for HHS to reevaluate gay blood ban

Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin, United States Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is leading 85 lawmakers in a call for HHS to reevaluate its gay blood ban. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is leading a new effort to call on the Department of Health & Human Services for an update on the process with which reviewing its regulatory ban prohibiting gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

In a public letter dated Aug. 2, Baldwin as part of 86 members of the House and Senate asks Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for an update on the previously announced reevaluation of the policy, saying they’re “deeply concerned about the timeline of such research.”

“Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages,” the letter states. “Further, the existing lifetime ban continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men, and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination and discourages individuals from HIV testing and treatment services.”

Under current regulation, men who have had sex with other men since 1977 — even once — aren’t eligible to donate blood. The policy was set up administratively in 1985 at the height of the AIDS crisis, but could be overturned at any time without a change in law.

Others who have signed the bipartisan letter include Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Wis.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) as well as Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). Other signers are openly gay members of the U.S. House: Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.). Bisexual Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) isn’t yet a signer.

Baldwin supplemented the letter to the Department of Health & Human Services with a message via Twitter drawing attention to the current policy on gay blood donation.

The letter takes HHS to task for not moving quickly in the wake of announced plans to reevaluate existing policy. As the Washington Blade reported in 2010, the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety & Availability voted 9-6 against lifting the ban, but recommended additional research to support a change that would allow low-risk gay and bisexual men to donate.

According to the letter, HHS informed the committee last month that three studies are underway as well as a task force to help inform policy changes. The Quarantine Release Error Task Force is due to release a white paper this month, while the REDS-II, and Donor History Questionnaire studies are both scheduled to report results in October. The REDS-III study will be completed in August 2014.

The letter also notes, as the Washington Blade reported last year, HHS announced in March 2012 it’s seeking comments on a plan to design a pilot study to establish “alternative donor deferral criteria” that would enable gay and bisexual men to donate blood. Among the suggested changes is having them go through additional screening so they can be allowed to donate, although the notice admits such a policy may be seen as discriminatory.

According to the letter, HHS informed the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety & Availability that the RFI has received 11 responses to this proposal and a report to HHS senior leadership is scheduled for next month. According to public record, 10 responses were received from 10 different organizations, totaling 75 pages, including support documents.

The letter enumerates four things on which lawmakers seek clarity from HHS in reassessing blood donation criteria for men who have sex with men:

• The criteria used to assess the 75 pages of comments and what the assessment activities took place from June 2012 to July 2013;

• A copy of the July 2013 report to leadership on the response to the RFI on pilot study design;

• A detailed plan and a timeline for how results from the Quarantine Release Error Task Force, the Donor History Questionnaire Study; the REDS-II and REDS-III studies will be used to inform changes to the blood donation criteria; and

• Whether HHS plans to leverage data from other countries that currently allow MSM to donate to inform analysis of an alternative policy, and if not, why not.

In response to the letter, an HHS spokesperson pointed to the decision adopted by the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety & Availability in 2010 without providing an update on the research.

“The committee found the current donor deferral policies to be suboptimal in permitting some potentially high risk donations while preventing some potentially low risk donations, but voted in favor of retaining the existing policy, and identified areas requiring further research,” the HHS spokesperson said.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, deferred comment to HHS on the issue.

As noted in the letter, the American Medical Association in June adopted a resolution in opposition to the gay blood ban in favor of a policy that weighs individual risks other than sexual orientation.

AMA board member Dr. William Kobler at the time said the lifetime ban on gay blood donations “is discriminatory and not based on sound science.”

“This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone,” Kobler said.


Flavors of 14th

Ted's Bulletin, dining, 14th Street, gay news, Washington Blade

The playful menu at Ted’s Bulletin is reminiscent of an old-school dining experience. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The restaurant business is a fast moving one. Restaurants open and close at the blink of an eye. However, the rapid pace of restaurants opening on 14th Street is astonishing. Here’s a preview/review of what is hot on the street, some personal favorites and some places I would avoid.

B Too (1324 14th Street NW): If you’re looking for the full Belgian experience with classics reinterpreted by Chef Bart Vandalay, then B Too is the place to try. Refreshed versions of Belgian dishes are all over Vandalay’s menu including waffles topped with sausage and pastries stuffed with potatoes and bacon. This restaurant pays homage to Belgian beer with more than 150 bottles varieties. Be prepared to pay a few extra bucks, as the price-point is a bit high.

Drafting Table (1529 14th Street NW): When The Drafting Table opened last year, I wasn’t overly impressed by dinner, but I enjoyed the brunch menu. While I haven’t returned, this restaurant still remains a favorite neighborhood pub.

Etto (1541 14th Street NW): Peter Pastan and Amy Morgan of 2 Amys and Ted Curtz and David Rasnar of Garden District (formerly The Standard) bring this 42-seat Italian eatery to Logan Circle. Chef Cagla Onal Urel serves up pizzas, salads and a few other specialties. Washington Post Reviewer Tom Sietsema gave Etto three stars; I however was not as impressed.


Le Diplomate, dining, food, French cuisine, gay news, Washington Blade

Le Diplomate (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Le Diplomate (1601 14th Street NW): Right across Q Street from Etto is my favorite new dining establishment in the neighborhood. After reviewing Le Diplomate as they opened, I have returned numerous times, and every time I have had excellent food and fantastic service. I even brought my very picky father to Le Diplomate, and to my surprise, he was blown away by every bite. If you dine at Le Diplomate and are unsure of what to eat, I recommend my current favorite dish the sea scallops, and for dessert, the absolutely divine crème brulee.

Ghibellina (1610 14th Street NW): This restaurant is an Italian-influenced gastro pub. The wood oven-fired pizzas are delectable, smoky and blisteringly hot. My favorite thing is that you get to cut your own pizza with scissors; pizza shears to be exact. Clearly, I am easily amused.

Pearl Dive (1612 14th Street NW): When Pearl Dive Oyster Palace opened in 2011, Jeff and Barbara Black were trailblazers of sorts. Now this oyster bar is always packed and in the center of all the action on 14th Street. Even if you aren’t a fan of oysters, you can just have a drink at Blackjack, the bar upstairs.

Barcelona (1622 14th Street NW): It’s not open yet, but you may have seen the beautiful patio that is in the former BodySmith space. This is soon to be a tapas bar named Barcelona. I wonder how Barcelona will do against already established Estadio right down the block? I think a head-to-head battle may be in the works (or a column that pits the two against each other).

M Café Bar (1634 14th Street NW): The newest of the Italian restaurants to hit the street calls itself a “contemporary Italian restaurant.” To me, the space is reminiscent of a hotel lobby and the food is slightly above average. If you’re craving contemporary Italian food, I would recommend Posto over M Café Bar.

Bar di Bari (1401 R Street NW): On the corner of 14 and R Streets is a new coffee and wine bar called Bar di Bari. Considering that I am sitting outside at this location writing this column, I would say it’s a great place to linger, enjoy a coffee, a light snack or a glass of wine. The people watching is great and the staff is friendly. They even encourage you to hang out and do some work, exactly what owner Aaron Gordon (who also owns The Drafting Table) wants.

Doi Moi (1800 14th Street NW): Approximately three weeks ago Mark Kuller and Haidar Karoum’s new restaurant Doi Moi opened, featuring southeast Asian cuisine. While I haven’t yet had the pleasure of dining here, the early word from EaterDC is positive with people praising the food, the atmosphere and the chic unmarked basement bar.

Ted’s Bulletin (1818 14th Street NW): Homemade pop tarts, adult milk shakes, awesome grilled cheese (ask for it with Mac and Cheese in it) and great chili, what more could you ask for? I’m a huge fan of all the fare at Ted’s and there’s a rumor going around that I was spotted dining at Ted’s three times in one weekend.

Matchbox (1901 14th Street NW): If you want more than what is offered at Ted’s Bulletin, then head across the street to sister restaurant, Matchbox. Pizzas and mini burgers are the specialty at Matchbox (my favorite pizza is the Matchbox Meat) but if you aren’t in the mood for those items then you can try a steak, grilled salmon or scallops. I love sitting at the back pizza bar, watching the nimble hands of the chefs’ prep the pizza.

Diego’s (2100 14th Street NW) This Tex-Mex restaurant, from the owners of Dupont Italian Kitchen, was opened for approximately two weeks before the owners let Chef Jessica Sidman and the rest of the staff go and closed the doors. Owner Michael Askarinam was not satisfied with the food or service. Diego’s is supposed to open soon with a new chef and new staff.

Kapnos (2201 14th Street NW): Mike Isabella’s newest restaurant Kapnos did not impress me on my first visit, although the adjoining sandwich shop G was enjoyable.

Kapnos, Mike Isabella, dining, Top Chef, gay news, Washington Blade, Briam

Briam from Kapnos (Photo by Greg Powers)

The restaurant boom is in full swing on 14th Street and this is just a sampling of what these restaurants have to offer. I am lucky enough to live right by this bustling street and I can enjoy an entire day starting with brunch at Le Diplomate, some shopping at Universal Gear or Miss Pixies, grab a glass of wine and cheese plate at Bar did Bari, and then dinner at Doi Moi. If you don’t live on the street, I recommend picking a spot that intrigues you and enjoy a nice meal. 14th Street is definitely the place to eat right now.













Mass wedding at Baltimore Pride

We Do, mass wedding, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Baltimore, Baltimore Pride Festival, Druid Hill Park, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Nineteen couples were surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers at Druid Hill Park on Sunday for Baltimore’s first mass same-sex wedding. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated at the ceremony held during the Baltimore Pride Festival. The event was organized by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB).

Same-sex marriage became legal in Maryland on Jan. 1 following a referendum passed in November 2012 by a 52-48 percent margin.


Covering the action

CCE Sports Network, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy of the CCE Sports Network)

The recognition of LGBT sports in the United States has reached new levels in the past few years with help from the support of advocacy groups, politicians and straight allies.

The emergence in 2012 of the CCE Sports Network is the latest stamp of validation for the growing LGBT sports movement. The CCE Sports Network is the nation’s only live web streaming sports network dedicated to the LGBT sports community.

The United States is home to more than 200 LGBT sports tournaments and the Network is presenting a portion of those events to athletes, family members, friends, fans and supporters all over the world.

The Network, which launched in May 2012, is the brainchild of Thomas Garnet and Adrian Uribazo who bring 17 years of video experience to their company.

“We had been searching for something new and different,” says Garnet. “We had been considering Pride Festivals, but that was already being covered.”

During the Miami Pride Festival, the pair stumbled across the tennis booth, which was promoting a tournament in Key Biscayne. The Sunshine Tennis Cup would become their first tournament coverage.

As of September 2013, the Network has filmed 12 live broadcasts in cities such as Miami, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Washington. The sports covered so far have been tennis, soccer, swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming. They recently covered the Capital Classic XXI tennis tournament in D.C.

“Our goal for 2014 is 20 tournaments,” says Garnet. “We are also planning on adding volleyball, flag football, basketball, rugby and softball to the sports line up.”

The network’s production workflow is set up for a multi-camera live web streaming, complete with play-by-play commentary, score updates, social media updates, live chats, commercials and music. Upgrades can be made to the broadcast to make it look and feel more like traditional sports television.

“Guest commentators have been a big hit for us,” says Garnet. “We invite player-athletes into the booth to give their own perspective and insight into the players and matches. It ends up being informative and funny.”

My first interaction with the CCE Sports Network was at the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships (IGLA) in Seattle last month. I walked into the natatorium, saw their equipment and was immediately intrigued. I finished my swimming races for the day and Kris Pritchard of the Washington Wetskins told me their next water polo match was that afternoon.

After returning to my hotel room, I logged onto the CCE website and there was the water polo match; live and with commentary. I was overwhelmed that this network has set up a platform to profile and recognize the skill, talent and athleticism of the LGBT athlete.

The stories that that emerged as a result of the CCE Sports Network coverage of IGLA were incredibly touching.

A water polo athlete went up to the commentator booth and asked to give a shout out to his brother, who was serving in the Paktika Province in Afghanistan and was watching his little brother play water polo on his iPad.

A sister got to watch her brother compete in swimming for the first time since high school and a father almost missed his flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport; he wanted to watch his little girl compete.

Similar stories were heard after the CCE coverage of the Capital Classic tennis tournament, here in D.C. From their Twitter feed:

@CCESportNetwork I’m thrilled w/ your coverage! I hadn’t been able to see my brother compete since HS! I still can’t get over how fun it was to watch my brother play again! I missed getting to cheer for him!

With the CCE Sports Network still ramping up their operations, there will be many more feel-good moments to come for athletes and their friends and families.

“By 2015, we hope to have weekly live tournament broadcasts along with our own monthly sports show,” says Garnet.

For now, CCE is working on gaining new sponsorships, building their video archives and acquiring connections in the European market. The visibility they’re providing in showcasing the athleticism of the LGBT sports athlete will certainly help to further the cause of the LGBT sports movement to rid the playing field of homophobia.

You can see the Capital Tennis Association players, the Washington Wetskins water polo players and the District of Columbia Aquatics Club swimmers in action in their video archives at


Labor Dept. says gay couples eligible for family and medical leave

The Labor Department under Secretary Thomas Perez is preparing guidance for gay couples under the Family & Medical Leave Act (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

The Labor Department under Secretary Thomas Perez is preparing guidance for gay couples under the Family & Medical Leave Act. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

The Labor Department is preparing guidance to inform employers throughout the country that married same-sex couples are now eligible for family and medical leave under the law.

A Labor Department spokesperson affirmed for the Washington Blade the department will issue guidance to inform employers about the change under the Family & Medical Leave Act in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

“The Wage & Hour Division is working closely with the Department of Justice and looking through all the materials that touch on this issue to determine what public guidance is necessary,” the spokesperson added. “We expect to have additional information available in the near future.”

The Family & Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Prior to the ruling against DOMA, the Labor Department didn’t require employers to grant married gay couples leave if one spouse in the relationship fell ill and needed  care because DOMA prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage. But with DOMA out of the picture, the Obama administration is free to enforce FMLA on behalf of married same-sex couples.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, praised the Labor Department for moving forward with this guidance and credited it to the leadership of the recently confirmed Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

“Freedom to Work endorsed Tom Perez for Labor Secretary because we know him to be a champion for good jobs for everyone, so we are thrilled that the Wage & Hour Division is moving forward now with public guidance that will let employers know that gay and lesbian married couples must be treated with respect when they seek workplace leave to take care of a same-sex spouse that gets into an accident or is diagnosed with an illness,” Almeida said.

In 2010, the Labor Department enacted a change with DOMA in place that enabled a gay employee to take absence under the Family & Medical Leave Act to care for a non-legal, non-biological child of a partner. But that change was obstensibly as far as the Obama administration could go with DOMA in place.

Almeida continued to call for further action in the form of additional guidance saying an existing executive order issued under President Lyndon Johnson prohibiting gender discrimination applies to transgender workers as well. Such guidance would align the Labor Department’s enforcement of the directive with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision last year in Macy v. Holder interpreting Title VII to protect transgender workers.

“We are told by numerous government sources that it was the White House senior staff that decided to disregard American law and ignore Macy vs. Holder for federal contractors,” Almeida said. “These sources say that the White House has forbidden the Labor Department from doing what everyone knows is morally right and legally correct. Given the incredible passion and intellect that Secretary Perez brings to these important issues, we remain hopeful that he will persuade the White House staffers to stand on the right side of American history.”


Former Obama official calls for ENDA executive order

Barack Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

A gay former counsel for USAID is calling on President Obama to take action against LGBT workplace discrimination. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A gay former member of the Obama administration says it’s time  for President Obama to issue an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors as he touts his agency’s independent action on the issue.

In an op-ed published in Washington Post late Thursday, Jeffrey Marburg-Goodman, special counsel for the U.S. Agency for International Development and a foreign policy adviser to the 2008 Obama campaign, called on Obama to issue the order to build on his record in advancing LGBT rights.

“Although admittedly imperfect and only partial, an executive order that helps advance employment equality nationwide is overdue,” Marburg-Goodman writes.

Issuing the executive order, Marburg-Goodman writes, would build off Obama’s earlier LGBT achievements, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and naming a record number of LGBT government appointees.

Additionally, Marburg-Goodman says issuing the directive could be “a tipping point” that would lead to passage of legislation to protect LGBT employees known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Marburg-Goodman makes a special point of touting the work USAID has undertaken to address LGBT workplace discrimination. In October 2011, the agency issued guidance saying it “strongly encourages” its contractors to adopt non-discrimination policies for workers, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Individual federal agencies have done what they could to advance equality and reflect current American norms and values,” Marburg-Goodman said. “Last year, we at the U.S. Agency for International Development, under the leadership of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Administrator Rajiv Shah, announced the most advanced position any federal agency has taken on this issue.”

The Obama administration has repeatedly said it prefers a legislative solution to addressing LGBT workplace discrimination as opposed to issuing an executive order.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said Friday he has no updates on the directive in response to the op-ed piece.

“Regarding a hypothetical Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors, I have no updates for you on that issue,” Inouye said.

Marburg-Goodman isn’t the first former Obama administration official to call on Obama to issue the executive order. In March 2012, Elizabeth Warren, then a candidate for U.S. Senate, endorsed the idea in an interview with the Washington Blade, saying, “Any steps that the president can take toward non-discrimination benefit the whole country.” Prior to representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, Warren was special adviser for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Obama.

Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work, praised Marburg-Goodman for calling on Obama to issue the executive order.

“I suspect some White House staffers are fairly annoyed with Mr. Marburg-Goodman for calling them out in such a high-profile way for their unforutnate desicion to delay President Obama’s executive order for LGBT workplace fairness, but I think he deserves our praise for using his stature as a distinguished Obama appointee to advocate on the LGBT workplace issues that some other administration officials have neglected for too long,” Almeida said. “I commend him for using his strong voice in favor of the pending executive order.”

Further, Almeida called on other former members of the Obama administration to speak out in favor of the executive order, including John Berry, who until last month was head of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly gay person in the Obama administration.

“It would be great if other gay former Obama appointees like John Berry followed Mr. Marburg-Goodman’s lead in advocating for this long overdue policy from the Obama Administration,” Almeida said.

Berry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. According to the Washington Post, he’s on Obama’s short list for U.S. ambassador to Australia.


Concert Opera troupe to perform Verdi

Russell Thomas, Carlo, Washington Concert Opera, gay news, Washington Blade

American tenor Russell Thomas makes his D.C. debut as Carlo, the chief bandit in Washington Concert Opera’s presentation of Verdi’s I masnadieri. (Photo courtesy Washington Concert Opera)

The Washington Concert Opera presents “I masnadieri”  (The Robbers) at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University (2121 I St., N.W.) Sunday at 6 p.m.

“I masnadieri” is one of two operas the Washington Concert Opera has dedicated to 19th century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. “I masnadieri” is a tragic opera that focuses on the manipulation and power struggle in one family. American tenor Russell Thomas makes his D.C. debut as Carlo, the chief bandit, baritone Scott Hendricks plays Carlo’s evil brother Francesco and Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa performs the role of Amalia.

There is a pre-performance lecture at 5 p.m. Tickets prices range from $40-110. For details, visit