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20% rise in those having unprotected sex

The number of men who have sex with men having unprotected sex has steadily been increasing from 2005.

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08
Jan
2014

Ambassador of 17th St.

Dito Sevilla, Dito's Bar, Floriana, gay news, Washington Blade

Dito Sevilla (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I live above a restaurant on 17th Street and work below another one,” chuckles Dupont Circle neighborhood bar manager Dito Sevilla. It’s clear that is where he feels most at home.

“Entertaining has always been in my blood,“ the offspring of a prominent ambassadorial family says. Sevilla’s paternal grandfather served as Nicaraguan envoy to the U.S. for nearly four decades, until 1979, later becoming a dean of the Washington diplomatic corps. His father would also serve as an emissary, first representing Nicaragua in Argentina and later as United Nations ambassador. Sevilla’s elegantly beautiful mother, who stops by to see her son at his bar on occasion, was a Miss Nicaragua international pageant contestant in her youth.

“I fell in love with hospitality,” explains the 35-year-old Sevilla, “and find it extremely rewarding.” “Serving guests is an expression of my best traits, the ones that come naturally to me.” The suburban Maryland native studied finance and marketing in college, but made a “conscience decision to stay” in the business.

Sevilla can be found most nights orchestrating the cozy conviviality for which Dito’s Bar at Floriana restaurant has long been known. Tucked away down a short stack of steps behind a door obscured from street view, the small lower-level bar at 1602 17th St., N.W., opened 10 years ago next month. The business moniker, like the friendly familiarity that often develops among the bar’s patrons, naturally evolved.

As the venue became a popular destination and pop-by hotspot, “we discovered we needed a name,” explains Sevilla. Floriana restaurant management and staff suggested referencing it as the customers already did – using the bartender-host’s name.

Dito’s Bar is part of the 65-seat noted culinary contributor on the commercial stretch. Known for its well-regarded modern Italian cuisine and extensive wine list, Floriana relocated to a previously converted multi-level row house near Q Street in 2000. Sevilla launched the basement bar a few months after he joined the staff of the upscale yet comfortable dining venue.

The restaurant menu is also available at the bar, enlisting early evening customers following a 5 p.m. opening each night. The bar generally stays open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, extended to 1 a.m. on weekends.

“Guests refer to the bar as ‘the bunker’,” Sevilla jokes. Its 450 sq. ft. size is smaller than most studio apartments in the area but is surprisingly spacious. The set-up offers 16 stools at both an angular bar and alongside wall-hugging ledges.

Seated patrons engage in private conversations amid the bustle of others standing and moving about, as if at a house party. Sevilla will wave a hand or shout out a greeting as new arrivals enter – welcoming both frequent customers and first-timers alike.

Although Sevilla considers contrived the “speakeasy” motif adopted in recent years in the industry, “we have a sort of clandestine feel,” he admits. The exposed brick walls and subterranean environment give the bar a decidedly “underground” vibe and “hideaway” ambience.

Devotion to conveying high-quality cocktails, utilizing his own specially batched mixers infused with natural ingredients, along with a personable service style have earned Sevilla a high-profile reputation as “ambassador of 17th Street.” He regularly assists nearby businesses in promoting the area and coordinating community events. “Cobalt/Level One manager Mark Rutstein and JR.’s bar manager David Perruzza are my mentors,” he says, giving them “huge credit” for their business acumen and “understanding the constant need to reinvent.”

Dito’s Bar is “a community room with liquor,” Sevilla laughs, describing the diverse clientele. “The more different types of people spend time together the better we understand one another,” he adds. “That’s what happens here.”

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

14
Jan
2014

Chilean man attacked during alleged anti-gay hate crime dies

Chile, vigil, Santiago, gay news, Washington Blade, Daniel Zamudio

Chilean LGBT rights advocates maintain hate crimes remain a serious problem in the country nearly two years after Daniel Zamudio’s death. (Photos courtesy of Fundación Daniel Zamudio.)

A Chilean LGBT advocacy group has urged authorities to prosecute a man accused of killing a business owner under the country’s hate crimes law.

Guillermo Aguilera Guerrero, 18, on Jan. 6 allegedly slashed Alejandro Alfredo Bustamante Godoy’s throat with a kitchen knife during an attack inside his home in the coastal city of Valparaíso. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh) said Aguilera also stabbed Bustamante, 59, in his head and leg during the incident.

Bustamante, who owned a local fast food restaurant, remained in critical condition in a Valparaíso hospital until he passed away on Jan. 15.

Bustamante’s relatives and Movilh lawyers on Friday asked a Valparaíso court to charge Aguilera under Chile’s LGBT-inclusive hate crimes law. The group said Aguilera had previously taunted Bustamante because of his sexual orientation — Movilh said in a press release that an anti-gay slur was written onto the front of Bustamante’s restaurant on the same day Aguilera allegedly attacked him.

“[Aguilera] always had a bad disposition when he came to buy something at my brother’s business,” said Bustamante’s daughter in a Movilh press release.

President Sebastián Piñera in 2012 signed into law a hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The statute is named in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a 24-year-old man whom a group of self-described neo-Nazis beat to death inside a park in Santiago, the country’s capital, earlier that year because he was gay.

The convicted mastermind of the attack against Zamudio last October received a life sentence for the crime.

Movilh and other gay rights advocates maintain anti-LGBT violence remains a serious problem in the South American country in spite of the law that Piñera signed.

Willian Villanueva, a small-time drug dealer, reportedly said he was going to “kill a faggot” before he allegedly shot Arturo Lombo to death with a shotgun in the Santiago suburb of Puente Alto on Dec. 26.

Doctors last June amputated Esteban Navarro Quinchevil’s leg after a group of six men attacked him in a Santiago suburb of Peñalolén because he is gay. A transgender teenager from the coastal city of Cartagena the month before lost an eye during what Movilh maintains was an anti-trans attack.

Movilh said two victims of anti-gay attacks that took place in recent weeks remain in critical condition in Santiago hospitals.

“We are tremendously concerned, affected, saddened and upset by what is happening,” said Movilh after Bustamante died.

President-elect Michelle Bachelet said she supports efforts to strengthen Chile’s hate crimes and anti-discrimination law.

18
Jan
2014

Florida student appears in gay porn

COCOA, Fla.—A Florida school district has allowed a student who appeared in a gay pornographic film to return to class.

Robert Marucci, 18, told an Orlando television station on Jan. 20 the Brevard County School District suspended him after appearing in a Sean Cody film. Marucci told WKMG he turned to pornography to help his mother who was struggling financially.

“I feel like I have been treated unfairly and this is unjust,” said Marucci. “This was completely legal. I didn’t break any laws, and this took place out of the school.”

Michelle Irwin, a spokesperson for the Brevard County School District, told WKMG that Marucci was to have been allowed back to class on Jan. 22.

23
Jan
2014

Why I support Vincent Gray for mayor

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is running for re-election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

On April 1, 2014, I will cast my ballot for Vincent C. Gray for mayor. It was an easy decision for me but may not be for many other voters. The open investigation surrounding his 2010 campaign is entering into many people’s decision. I am convinced that the majority will come to the same conclusion and believe the mayor when he says he has done nothing illegal. I choose to accept his apology. One look at his life, not just the politician, and you must conclude it is not in his DNA to lie or cheat. Gray’s life has been spent working for those who couldn’t fight for themselves and he dedicated himself to the non-profit field eschewing the money track. Many in government, including current Council members, have made millions being paid for their influence in office. Gray’s time in politics and government, only 13 years out of a long career, was full time and didn’t include looking for sources of outside income.

By every measurable indicator his administration has been successful. So for those who will consider voting against the mayor based on supposition and innuendo, which is all there is regarding his personal role in his 2010 campaign, it would be my hope they take a second look before casting their ballot. They might just reconsider voting for him in the primary and ensuing election based on the health of the city. The District is moving in the right direction in every area including public safety; education reform; and fiscal stability. Moreover his administration is doing everything possible to improve the lives of the residents of every ward.

The continued success of a city means giving credit to those who came before. Mayor Gray, along with starting new initiatives in the areas of employment and economic development; upping the level of service delivery; education reform and strengthening the safety net; has built on the positive initiatives begun under former Mayor Anthony Williams. That progress continued under former Mayor Adrian Fenty, elected overwhelmingly in 2006. He continued the reforms that Williams began and added his signature accomplishment, wresting control of the education system and placing it in the mayor’s office. He did that with the help of then Council Chair Vincent Gray. His chosen chancellor, Michelle Rhee, made great strides in reforming the system but after three years was under fire for how she worked, or didn’t work, with the community and her desire for personal publicity. While the Fenty administration made continued improvements in delivering city services it also spent down the city’s reserve fund by $600 million leaving the District at serious risk for lower bond ratings.

Gray became mayor at the time the nation was coming out of a recession and had the opportunity to make great strides in a fairly short time. He used all those opportunities. He continued education reform with Kaya Henderson as chancellor, and in 2013, based on national tests, the children of the District improved more than children in any other urban district. Gray authored and introduced the bill for universal pre-K education when he was Council Chair and that has resulted in some of the great strides our children are making.

Gray inherited an underfunded reserve and worked to rebuild the District’s fiscal solvency. He has been wildly successful while at the same time improving the delivery of city services. Because Gray rebuilt that reserve to $1.6 billion he was able to keep the D.C. government open during the federal shutdown. Then working with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, he ensured that the District is now exempt from federal shutdowns through 2015. Gray is the first mayor to not only stand up to the federal government but along with some members of the Council and brave citizens sit down for their beliefs. He led an act of civil disobedience and again showed what he is made of as a person. Another indication of the man is that Gray has been the most supportive elected official the LGBT community has ever had. He has lost friends because of his principled stands but never hesitated to speak openly about his support for the community.

The Gray administration has been very successful in attracting new business to the District. During the first three years of the Gray administration the District has earned high marks from those who rate cities and their achievements. In 2013, Forbes magazine rated the District the #1 New Tech Hot Spot; Politicom rated us the #1 strongest economy in the United States; and the American College of Sports Medicine rated us the #2 fittest city in the nation. The mayor created the Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Nutrition and pushed fitness in the schools and continues to build new bike lanes. In 2012, we were rated #1 for LEED-certified Projects by the U.S. Green Building Council and the mayor initiated the strongest plan for turning a city green in the nation.

The mayor revamped the city’s Department of Employment Services to ensure that city residents would be able to receive training for the jobs that would become available and his One City-One Hire program, which has now accounted for more than 9,000 new jobs for city residents, won a Harvard University Bright Idea Award in 2012. In all, since the Gray administration began the city has scored as one of the top 10 cities in the nation, often #1, on 17 best of lists from best educated, best for college grads, venture capital investment, retail investment and hippest city.

Because of the efforts of the Gray administration, the District continues to thrive and attracts more than 1,000 new residents a month, many of them young or empty nesters who contribute to the tax base. In addition all you have to do is walk through some of the city’s rebuilt neighborhoods where once there were few children to see the baby carriages and the parks being used and a new vibrancy that comes from more families making the city their home.

But D.C. is still a tale of two cities. There are great economic disparities and Mayor Gray has worked to ensure that while we rebuild our neighborhoods with a focus on housing, nightlife and restaurants, we don’t forget those who have not yet benefitted from the improving economy. Some are disingenuous and talk about the mayor only going with the flow and continuing already started projects. But a fair assessment shows how wrong this is. In 2006, Mayor Fenty held a groundbreaking for the O Street Market, which Council Chair Gray attended. It was only later that he found out there was no financing for the project. Upon taking office as mayor, he worked with Roadside, the developer, to get the financing for that project. His administration worked to get the financing on track for CityCenter as well. It was the Gray administration that finalized the financing and signed the agreement that brought $900 million from Qatar into the District of Columbia. It was the Gray administration that after 20 years of nothing happening got the Skyland project in Ward 7 on track and they are ready to start construction.

Mayor Gray fought to bring Walmart into the District over the concerns of some who felt it would harm local small business. The fact is that in areas of the District where Walmart is going there were few small businesses to harm. These were neighborhoods that had no groceries at all and where people had to go by car or public transportation if they wanted to shop for their families. At the same time the Gray administration is addressing the issue of food deserts, which we have in the District. Addressing one of the most pressing issues in the District, Mayor Gray has allocated $187 million to jump-start the building of 10,000 affordable housing units, which no previous administration has done. It is the Gray administration that has worked to get the commitment from Microsoft for a research center in Ward 8.

There are other projects and concerns that have languished under other administrations for years with only talk and which Mayor Gray has addressed successfully. For years the city has been under court order to address the issue of transportation for the District’s children with disabilities. Today that court order has been lifted because of the work of the Gray administration. He worked successfully to lift the Dixon decree, which was the mental health case that had been in place for 35 years. Mayor Gray committed in his first State of the District speech that he would stop sending our special-needs children to private schools and develop appropriate programs for them in our public schools. The year before he came into office the District spent $168 million sending special-needs children to private schools. By building the capacity in the District’s schools to give those children a good education here the cost of private placements has now been reduced to less than $80 million.

Mayor Gray’s 2010 platform of ONE CITY was recognition that every community has basic interests that are the same including safe streets, a quality education, decent housing, a place to shop and a place to recreate. But the ONE CITY vision also recognized that we are a great place to live because of our cultural diversity and that respect for everyone no matter where they come from, what their sexual orientation or gender identity, is paramount. Each person should be entitled to celebrate their heritage, culture and life, and share it with others. His vision included being the most openly supportive elected official the LGBT community has ever had. He never hesitates to speak out forcefully for the civil and human rights of all people. From his time on the Council where his efforts enabled marriage-equality legislation to pass and he worked to fight hate crimes, to his current employment and training programs for the transgender community, he has been there and accounted for every step of the way.

As mentioned earlier, Gray has spent only 13 of his working years in government and politics. It is a great misconception that he is a lifelong politician. Gray spent a career in the non-profit field eschewing many opportunities to earn the big bucks that so many are after. His disciplined approach to public service was born from humble beginnings. He grew up in a one-bedroom apartment at 6th and L streets, N.E. Although his parents never attended high school, they instilled in their son a solid work ethic and deeply rooted values. Mayor Gray attended Logan Elementary and Langley Junior High Schools, and graduated at the age of 16 from Dunbar High School, where he excelled in academics and sports. He then went on to George Washington University. While at George Washington, he became the first African American admitted to the GW fraternity system, and in his junior and senior years, became the first person to serve consecutive terms as chancellor of Tau Epsilon Phi. Upon graduation he was scouted by Major League Baseball teams but instead chose to dedicate his life to his community. His dedication to children and their families has been the hallmark of his service in both city government and the non-profit sector.

Gray began his professional career with The Arc of D.C. (then known as the Association of Retarded Citizens) where he successfully advocated for innovative policy initiatives on behalf of people with developmental disabilities, and spearheaded the closure of the District-run Forest Haven mental institution after it was exposed for poor conditions and abuse of patients.

Gray’s foray into local government was in 1991 when Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly appointed him to the post of director of the Department of Human Services where he oversaw the functions of a 7,000-person department and directed activities related to Public Health, Social Services, Mental Health Services and Health Care Finance. In this role, he spearheaded the implementation of several initiatives to address the developmental needs of children and oversaw the first citywide HIV/AIDS project. While knowing that success in that position was always going to be questioned Gray believed that ensuring the safety net for those in need was a priority and had to become a priority for the District government.

He left government in 1994 and instead of looking to cash in on his time in government as so many others have he took the position as the first executive director of Covenant House Washington, an international, faith-based organization dedicated to serving homeless and at-risk youth. During his decade at the helm of Covenant House, Gray helped make the organization one of the most effective of its kind in the District, and led successful campaigns to purchase and renovate a crisis center for homeless youth and a multi-purpose center and built a new community service center in the far southeast community of D.C.

Then in 2004, he was convinced by his neighbors to run and he won election as the Council member from Ward 7. During his first two years on the Council he chaired a special committee on the prevention of youth violence, and continued his fight against the AIDS crisis by creating the Effi Barry HIV/AIDS initiative. After only two years he was convinced to run and won his citywide election for chair of the Council. Running on the theme of “One City,” he continued his lifelong focus on uniting the disparate racial and economic groups in his hometown.

As chairman, Gray was a leader in efforts to improve the Council’s operations, transparency and oversight capacity, and was a true champion for school reform. He spearheaded the Pre-K Expansion and Enhancement Act, which established a voluntary, high-quality pre-school program to provide 2,000 new classroom slots for three-and four-year-olds over six years. The mayor’s diligence resulted in that goal being met in September of 2010, well before the 2014 target. During his time as chair, the Council was rated one of the most respected legislatures in the nation.

What people should remember in judging Vincent Gray is that he didn’t ever anticipate being mayor. When he was sworn in as Council Chair on Jan. 1, 2011, Fenty was being sworn in as mayor and had just had an overwhelming victory winning every precinct in the District. It was clear to many as it was to Gray that Fenty could be mayor for life if he chose that route. It was only after Fenty squandered that good will and the polls showed him losing to Gray that Gray even got into the mayor’s race. Fenty had a bankroll of $5 million at the time Gray began his campaign. Even counting the ‘shadow campaign’ Fenty had $1.5 million more than Gray to spend on his campaign and the power of the incumbency to go along with that.

Gray has rightfully apologized for his 2010 campaign, and he agreed that as the candidate he had to apologize even if he personally didn’t do anything wrong. After living in the District all his life and having lifetime friends who worked on his campaign he found that some of them did illegal things in a very misguided effort to help him. They were wrong but legally and otherwise we should not be held personally accountable for the mistakes of our friends. We should apologize and he has done that. We should abide by the legal system that everyone must abide by and he has done that. In the three years of the investigation no one has accused him of a crime.

We are three years into the Gray administration and there is no question, even from many of those who keep challenging him with regard to the 2010 campaign, that the city continues to move forward and he has had many successes. There are challengers who suggest that the city is under a cloud because of the mayor and that has held us back. But not one of them can point to an area where we have been held back. Most of the challengers sit on the City Council and can’t point to one piece of legislation that they wanted to introduce that they couldn’t because of the investigation into the 2010 campaign. In fact the mayor and his appointed attorney general introduced a very strict campaign finance reform bill and the Council has thus far refused to pass it.

None of the mayor’s challengers has the administrative background to indicate they could administer the city government. At most they have run small office staffs and in one case run a small chain of restaurants, which is very different from administering a city with a budget of more than $10 billion. The question voters must ask themselves is if they believe the city is headed in the right direction, then why would they take a chance on changing administrations?

Slogans are easy to campaign on but the work of running a city is very different.

29
Jan
2014

Study finds gay love similar to straight love

young happy gay couple relaxing, gay news, Washington Blade, gay love

(Photo courtesy Bigstock)

FAIRFAX, Va.  — A new study finds that same-sex couples experience feelings of love in ways similar to straight couples with 92.6 percent of men whose most recent sexual encounter was with a relationship partner reporting they were in love with the person, Medical Xpress reports.

The study, conducted by researchers at George Mason University and Indiana University Bloomington and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that the capacity to love and want to be loved is not limited by gender or sexual orientation, researchers said.

Researchers collected data from an Internet-based survey of almost 25,000 gay and bi men in the U.S. who were members of online websites facilitating social or sexual interactions with other men, Medical Xpress said.

Additional key findings include:

• Nearly all men in the study, 91.2 percent, were “matched” when it came to their feelings of love and their perceptions of their partner’s feelings of love.

• With regard to age, having been in love with their sexual partner during their sexual event was experienced most commonly by men age 30 to 39 years. Uncertainty of love for a sexual partner was less frequent in older cohorts, with a greater proportion of young men reporting that they were unsure if they loved their sexual partner or if their sexual partner loved them.

• Men in love with their partner were significantly more likely to endorse the experience as being extremely or quite a bit pleasurable compared to sexual events in which the participant was not in love.

05
Feb
2014

Russian LGBT rights record overshadows Olympics

GetEQUAL, Russia, Vladimir Putin, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of GetEQUAL on Feb. 9 protested outside the Russian embassy in Northwest D.C. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Kristofferson)

The 2014 Winter Olympics officially opened on Feb. 7 amid outrage over the arrest of 14 Russian LGBT rights advocates earlier in the day.

Police arrested 10 activists near Moscow’s Red Square who held rainbow and Russian flags as they sung the Russian national anthem just before the games opened in Sochi.

Elena Kostynchenko, who is among those taken into custody, told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Moscow on Feb. 8 that officers beat one activist and choked another once they arrived at a local police station.

She said authorities also threatened to sexually assault her and another female advocate. Kostynchenko told the Blade officers also made lewd comments about her body and spit in her face before her release.

“They didn’t care about anything,” said Kostynchenko.

St. Petersburg police earlier on Feb. 7 arrested Anastasia Smirnova and three other Russian LGBT rights advocates as they marched with a banner that read “discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic movement. Principle 6. Olympic charter” in reference to a campaign in support of adding sexual orientation to the Olympic charter.

Smirnova appeared on a U.N. panel in December that commemorated the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She later took part in a Capitol Hill briefing on Russia’s LGBT rights record.

Smirnova told the Blade she and the three other activists faced additional harassment after St. Petersburg officials released them from custody on Feb. 7. She said it took them three hours before local police officers and other authorities allowed them to retrieve their car that had been towed.

“We are sorry to learn of the detention of activists in Russia for making political statements,” Aaron Jensen, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department, told the Blade after Russian police arrested Smirnova and the other LGBT rights advocates in St. Petersburg and Moscow. “This is an example of the disturbing trend in the Russian Federation of legislation, prosecutions, and government actions aimed at suppressing dissent and groups that advocate for human rights and government accountability.”

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is among those who also criticized the activists’ arrest.

“Tonight’s about solidarity,” said Ty Cobb, director of global engagement for the Human Rights Campaign, as he read an e-mail from Smirnova during an opening ceremony watch party his organization co-hosted with Team D.C., Capital Pride and Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies and Pride House International that benefitted the Russian LGBT Sports Federation. “Let them know we stand in solidarity with them.”

rainbow flame, Berlin, Russia, Sochi, Germany, Winter Olympics, anti-gay, Vladimir Putin, gay news, Washington Blade

Advocates showed their support for LGBT Russians in Berlin on Feb. 11. (Photo courtesy of David Ehinger)

Activists in New York, Philadelphia and nearly 40 other cities around the world held similar events during the opening ceremony. A handful of activists gathered outside the Russian embassy in Northwest D.C. on Feb. 9 to protest the Kremlin’s gay rights record.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last month those who protest his government’s LGBT rights record during the Olympics would not face prosecution under the country’s controversial law that bans gay propaganda to minors. The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly said it has received assurances from the Kremlin that gays and lesbians will not suffer discrimination during the games that are taking place in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

The Blade’s attempts to reach the Russian government for comment on the arrests were unsuccessful.

“We understand that the protesters were quickly released,” said IOC spokesperson Sandrine Tonge on Feb. 9. “As in many countries in the world, in Russia, you need permission before staging a protest. I understand this was the reason that they were temporarily detained.”

IOC President Thomas Bach said during his speech at the opening ceremony that people should “have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful” way and “not on the backs of these athletes.”

“Olympic games are always about building bridges about bringing people together,” he said before he and Putin officially opened the games. “Please respect the Olympic message of good will, of tolerance, of excellence, of peace.”

Bach also said it is possible for competitors “to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason.” NBC omitted this portion of the speech from its broadcast of the opening ceremony.

Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, spent several days in Sochi highlighting the campaign in support of adding sexual orientation to Principle 6 of the Olympic charter.

David Pichler, a gay U.S. diver who competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics and 2000 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney, told the Blade during a telephone interview from Sochi on Feb. 9 that he had not seen any athletes publicly speak out in support of LGBT rights. Gay figure skater Brian Boitano, lesbian hockey player Caitlin Cahow and former Secretary of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano are among the members of the U.S. Olympic delegation to the games.

“We haven’t been to a lot of the different games where somebody might try to flash a symbol,” said Pichler, who was in the Olympic host city with Shawn Gaylord and Mary Elizabeth Margolis of Human Rights First. “I imagine we would have heard if there had been something like that.”

Shawn Gaylord, Human Rights First, Olympics, Sochi, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Winter Olympics, David Pichler, Mary Elizabeth Margolis, Rosa Khutor, gay news, Washington Blade

From left: Mary Elizabeth Margolis and Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First and Olympian David Pichler in front of the Olympic torch in Sochi, Russia. (Photo courtesy of Human Rights First)

The group visited a gay nightclub on Feb. 8 where they met with Andrei Ozyorny, a 24-year-old man who wrote to Sochi Mayor Anatony Pakhomov last month after he said there are no gay people in the city. Pichler, Gaylord and Margolis met with Smirnova and two other Russian LGBT rights advocates in St. Petersburg on Feb. 6 – one day before police arrested her and three other activists.

Pichler noted to the Blade an anti-LGBT protest took place in Sochi before the games officially opened.

“[It] is kind of contradictory of the standards of the protest zone and everything that was set up,” he said. “There was not anything negative or any type of action taken on them.”

LGBT rights advocates continue to target Coca-Cola and other Olympic sponsors for not criticizing Russia’s LGBT rights record – HRC served Coke and other Coca-Cola products during its opening ceremony watch party in D.C. Queer Nation NY on Feb. 10 criticized lesbian speed skater Ireen Wust after she said she had a “cuddle” with Putin after winning a gold medal for the Netherlands.

“The Olympic athletes have said that they will not make political statements during the Games yet that is exactly what Ireen Wust did,” said Queer Nation NY member Duncan Osborne. “By embracing Vladimir Putin, a man who has trampled on the human rights of LGBT Russians, political dissidents, artists, undocumented immigrants, and others in Russia, Wust has endorsed his fascist agenda.”

12
Feb
2014

Cartoon: Ellen Page comes out

Ellen Page, Human Rights Campaign, Juno, coming out, HRC, gay news, Washington Blade

Ellen Page comes out. (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

19
Feb
2014

Anderson Cooper obliterates dithering idiot supporter of Arizona’s anti-gay “Stand Your God” law

If Arizona's governor signs this law, the Super Bowl, Apple and Google had better cancel their plans in the state.

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25
Feb
2014

Businesses still have ‘license to discriminate’ in Arizona

Arizona, rainbow flag, gay news, Washington Blade

While LGBT Americans today celebrate the defeat of anti-gay bills such as SB 1062, they also await the passage of state and federal laws that would positively provide them the protections they deserve but currently lack. (Wikimedia Commons image of Arizona by Huebi modified)

By CROSBY BURNS

 

As LGBT activists cheered the demise of Arizona’s controversial “license to discriminate” bill, one thing seemed lost on the media, in progressive circles and among most Americans: Even with Gov. Jan Brewer’s (R) veto, businesses in a majority of Arizona cities still have the legal right to discriminate against LGBT people.

If passed, SB 1062 would have afforded business owners the right to refuse service to patrons that identify as LGBT based on those owners’ religious beliefs. In this respect, SB 1062 is part of a broader pattern of dangerous “religious freedom” bills being proposed throughout conservative statehouses in the United States. In this respect, the defeat of SB 1062 is something to celebrate, as anti-gay legislators in other states will think twice before introducing similar legislation that sanctions LGBT discrimination behind the guise of “religious freedom.”

However, most activists are celebrating last week’s veto as if SB 1062 would have stripped all Arizonans of nondiscrimination protections they currently enjoy under state law. This is far from the truth.

Looking broadly, federal law affords no legal protections against discrimination on the basis of either sexual orientation or gender identity. While an alarming nine out of 10 Americans believe laws like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act already exist, the cold hard truth is that under the law of the land in the United States, it’s perfectly legal to deny someone employment, refuse someone service, or kick someone out of their apartment simply because they are LGBT.

Where federal policymakers have failed to enact comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination legislation, a number of states have filled the void with nondiscrimination laws that provide LGBT people protection in employment, housing and public accommodations. However, fewer than half have done so. Or put another way, in a majority of states—states like Arizona—LGBT people have no protections against discrimination under state or federal law.

It’s true that in Arizona, the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson and Gilbert have municipal ordinances that afford their LGB citizens some protections against discrimination (Phoenix, Tucson, and Tempe also afford protections to transgender citizens). Signing SB 1062 into law would have invalidated these city’s ordinances, which according to U.S. Census data account for 2.6 million people, or 40 percent of Arizona’s total population. In that respect, the defeat of the bill was certainly a huge victory in maintaining these important protections.

However, the bill’s defeat legally changes nothing for LGBT people living in the remaining cities accounting for 60 percent of Arizona’s population. If SB 1062 had been passed into law, businesses could legally turn away LGBT customers. But even today without SB 1062, businesses can still turn away LGBT customers in the 86 Arizona municipalities that do not have any LGBT protections on the books. Nevertheless, this fact seems lost in the media and among LGBT activists.

There is a lot to celebrate with SB 1062’s veto. The massive opposition to this bill is one more indicator of the huge cultural shift we have made as a country, a shift away from bigotry and toward fairness and inclusion of LGBT people in our society. Moreover, the groundswell of opposition to the bill included Arizona’s two Republican senators, Fortune 500 companies, and even many of the Arizona state legislators that voted for the bill in the first place.

In this respect, the defeat of this bill is a significant symbolic victory for the LGBT movement. And as mentioned earlier, it’s a significant legal victory for LGBT Arizonans living in cities like Phoenix where they are afforded some protections against discrimination.

And yet despite these victories, the controversy that was SB 1062 was a missed opportunity. It was a missed opportunity to have an important conversation about the lack of legal protections afforded to LGBT Americans in this country. While marriage equality is on the march both in the courts and in the statehouses, legislation outlawing discrimination against LGBT people has stalled. To change that, we need to acknowledge that those laws don’t even exist in the first place.

So yes, in many ways the veto was something to celebrate. But while LGBT Americans today celebrate the defeat of anti-gay bills such as SB 1062, they also await the passage of state and federal laws that would positively provide them the protections they deserve but currently lack. This means, for example, Congress finally passing comprehensive protections for LGBT Americans such that all people are protected against discrimination, regardless of the state where they reside. Now, that would be something to celebrate.

Crosby Burns is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is the managing editor of the LGBTQ Policy Journal at the Kennedy School.

04
Mar
2014