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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


Block party and heel race

Baltimore Pride continued into the evening after the Pride Parade with a high heel race and block party. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) buyphoto 


Atlanta Pride 2013

Atlanta Pride 2013 was held over the weekend of Oct. 12-13. Festivities included a concert in Piedmont Park with gay singer/songwriter Steve Grand, as well as packed bars and a march through Midtown Atlanta. (Washington Blade photos by Damien Salas) buyphoto 


Cartoon: ‘We have ways of making you drink’

Russian Vodka, Vladmir Putin, Russia, Gay Rights, LGBT Equality

Mr. Putin believes there are ways of making you drink… Russian Vodka. So don’t even try to boycott.


Rehoboth Summer Kickoff

The Washington Blade hosted its seventh annual Summer Kickoff Party at the Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach, Del. on Friday, featuring guest speaker John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party. (Washington Blade photos by Damien Salas) buyphoto 


Lucas doc explores gay life in Israel

Michael Lucas, Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Lucas explores Israel’s little known gay community in his new documentary, to be screened tonight in Roanoke. (Photo courtesy Roanoke Pride)

Michael Lucas, acclaimed gay porn mogul, screens his documentary (non-porn) film “Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land” at Rivers Edge Park (Roanoke, Va.,) Friday night at 7:30 p.m., as part of Roanoke Diversity Center’s LGBT Film Fest.

“Undressing Israel” examines the gay community in the Jewish state through interviews with local men including a member of Israel’s parliament and two dads raising their kids. Lucas also visits Tel Aviv’s nightlife scene and attends a same-sex wedding. Lucas will be at the screening and is testing models while he’s in Virginia.

Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Door sales are cash or check only. Ages 17 and above. For more details and ticket information visit or


Berry tapped as U.S. ambassador to Australia

John Berry, gay news, Washington Blade

John Berry, who’s gay, was named U.S. ambassador to Australia. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Obama nominated on Friday for the first time ever an openly gay person to serve as ambassador to a G-20 country.

John Berry, who formerly served as director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management until his departure in April, was nominated as U.S. ambassador to Australia. Before his departure from OPM, Berry was considered the highest-ranking openly gay person within the Obama administration. His nomination as ambassador is subject to Senate confirmation.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement praised the nomination of Berry, whose nomination fulfills the request from HRC for the nomination of an openly LGBT person as an ambassador to a G-20 country.

“John Berry has been a devoted public servant for 30 years, and will bring tremendous experience to our embassy in Canberra,” Griffin said. “His lifetime of professional experiences make him an outstanding choice to be the nation’s next ambassador to Australia. I urge the Senate to confirm his nomination.”

At the start of Obama’s second term, Berry was discussed as a potential nominee as secretary of interior, which would have made him the first openly gay Cabinet member. During the Clinton administration, Berry served in a senior position within the Department of the Interior and later was director of both the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and the National Zoo. However, the role of secretary of the interior ultimately went to Sally Jewell.

In the course of his time at OPM, Berry in addition to his regular duties acted as adviser on LGBT issues within the administration. The OPM director was present at the meeting in which White House officials informed LGBT advocates it wouldn’t issue at this time an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors, and Berry also took part in a White House meeting with transgender advocates on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

According to, Berry donated $5,000 to Obama’s presidential re-election campaign.

Berry wasn’t the only out nominee that Obama named on Friday. The president also named James “Wally” Brewster Jr., who’s senior managing partner for the Chicago-based consumer dynamics strategy consulting firm SB&K Global, as U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

Griffin praised Brewster, who’s a national LGBT co-chair for the Democratic National Committee and serves on HRC’s board.

“Wally Brewster is an excellent choice to be our nation’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic,” Griffin said. “His global business and management expertise is matched by his enthusiasm and commitment to human rights and democracy around the world. Wally’s political intelligence and work in public affairs and communications would make him a valuable contribution to our nation’s diplomatic efforts.”

According to, Brewster has made significant donations to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. In the last election cycle, Brewster donated $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee, $5,000 to Obama’s re-election, and made numerous donations to state Democratic parties and campaigns for Democrats, including lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Obama made the two openly gay nominations as part of a group of 15 nominations on the same day. In a statement, Obama emphasized their capabilities as U.S. ambassadors.

“These men and women have demonstrated knowledge and dedication throughout their careers,” Obama said. “I am grateful they have chosen to take on these important roles, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

The two nominations of Friday come on the heels of several other nominations of gay men to ambassadorial posts. Last week, Obama named Rufus Gifford, the finance director for his 2012 presidential campaign, as ambassador to Denmark, and James Costos, who’s HBO’s vice president of global licensing and retail, was named U.S. ambassador to Spain. In the previous week, Obama named Daniel Baer, who previously served as a senior State Department official as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe.

Three other openly gay men have previously served as U.S. ambassadors. David Huebner has been U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa since 2009. Michael Guest was U.S. ambassador to Romania during the Bush administration and James Hormel was U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg during the latter part of the Clinton administration.


Howard hosts 4th HIV Stigma Conference

Jeanne White-Ginder, Ryan White, HIV Stigma

Jeanne White-Ginder (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

More than 600 healthcare providers, public health officials, and others attended the 4th Annual International HIV Stigma Conference held Nov. 22 on the campus of Howard University in D.C.

Jeanne White Ginder, longtime AIDS activist and mother of Ryan White, was among the community activists and international experts that discussed strategies for the elimination of stigma associated with HIV, according to Howard University spokesperson Sholnn Freeman.

Experts attending previous HIV stigma conferences at Howard University have said the stigma associated with HIV often results in an increase in the HIV infection rate because it discourages people at risk for HIV from obtaining information and help they need to avoid becoming infected.

In a statement released last week, Freeman said Howard University would soon announce the launching of a new Stigma Research Center.


United Night Out

Team DC, an umbrella organization for LGBT sports teams and leagues, joined with DC United and the Federal Triangles Soccer Club to host a “United Night Out” event at RFK Stadium on Sept. 14, 2013. DC United played against LA Galaxy. (Washington Blade photos by Kevin Majoros) buyphoto