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Obama asks gay Bishop Gene Robinson to give prayer at Easter breakfast

Obama embraces openly-gay Bishop one week after Anglican head says he doesn't want Africans to think he's gay.


A milestone of faith

Cameron Partridge, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge in his Boston office. (Photo courtesy Partridge)

Transgender visibility may be at an all-time high, but most agree there’s a long way to go.

Another chip of the proverbial glass ceiling is slated to be knocked out this weekend when Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge becomes the first openly transgender priest to preach from the historic Canterbury Pulpit at Washington National Cathedral.

“Cameron Partridge is a priest of great intellect, pastoral presence and possesses a deep passion for the gospel,” said Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Cathedral, in a statement.

Partridge, during a phone interview from Boston where he serves as Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, says he’s excited about the strides being made for transgender visibility.

Actress and activist Laverne Cox is “phenomenal,” he says.

“And [transgender activist] Janet Mock, the two of them, they are so incisive and insightful and smart and they speak incredibly well. I’m very proud of the things they have to say,” he says.

But there’s at least one part of being a transgender person that Partridge, a lecturer at Harvard Divinity School, argues has not earned enough media attention: “I don’t think the intersection of trans people and religion has received a whole lot of conversation yet.”

“I’m really honored and grateful for the invitation,” he says.

Through his sermon at the National Cathedral and other work in the church, he hopes to “open people’s eyes” about how “gender is more complicated than male or female. I experience it that way.”

“I think creation is much richer and more diverse and dynamic than we understand and trans folks are part of that,” he says. “There is much more ambiguity in the world than we tend to want to acknowledge.”

The story of a transgender person who is also a religious leader likely raises eyebrows for many, but these two parts of his identity don’t conflict, he says. In fact, pushing traditional boundaries within the church is part of what he says is his calling.

“Difference is real. We have human differences, and they are not simply impediments to get over,” he says. “They are part of what we need to engage in order to realize our full humanity. That can be something that trans people can be called to.”

For Partridge, 40, the church has been one of his few constants. He grew up Episcopalian, a denomination he says has “progressive traditions.”

“It’s a church that has a big tent, with a lot of people from different perspectives in it. That’s important to me.”

In 2003, the church elected its first gay bishop, Rev. Gene Robinson. He’ll preside over this weekend’s service.

Partridge came out twice: first as a lesbian as an undergraduate at all-women Bryn Mawr College, and again in 2001 as a transgender man a few years after he obtained his master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.

While he doesn’t have any horror stories to tell — he never faced rejection from friends, family or even religious leaders — he did struggle with one thing as a newly ordained priest: the sense that he was alone.

Early on, Partridge didn’t know of any other transgender members of the Episcopal clergy. That quickly changed, however, when he learned about TransEpiscopal, an online group exclusively for transgender Episcopalians and their friends and families to share stories.

“Even though I personally felt supported by the non trans people in my life and the trans people I knew who were not in the church, I did still feel kind of alone,” he says. “The wonderful thing was discovering that in fact, I wasn’t.”

Over time, the ever-growing TransEpiscopal has “brought trans people into the foreground of the church’s national conversation” and “driven the passage of pro-transgender legislation,” according to the group’s website.

Fighting for increasing visibility for transgender clergy has been one of Partridge’s goals. In 2012, the Episcopal Church added gender identity and expression to its non-discrimination laws after advocacy from Partridge, among others.

And while he doesn’t interject his personal life into every single class he teaches at Harvard, he says dialogues about his own identity come up in class just as often as that of any other professor.

“I’ve had a sense that being openly trans and being willing to say that at the start of a class gives people permission to bring who they are into the classroom,” he says. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re gonna talk about it, but [students] don’t have to bracket themselves off or compartmentalize themselves. That’s true whether the people in the classroom are trans or not.”

The inclusive environment he’s fostered in his classroom is slowly becoming a norm in the Episcopal church, Partridge says, but he acknowledges there are still more steps to take.

“I’d love to see more different traditions of Christianity engage gender identity in ways that they have not yet.”

There’s work to be done in the political sphere, too. He points out that without Congressional passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), transgender people are denied many legal protections, not to mention the persistently high rates of homelessness and violence within and against transgender communities.

He finds himself heartened, though, by glimmers of hope. Take, for example, when conservative television host Pat Robertson said last summer that going through gender realignment surgery was not a sin after being prompted by a caller.

Partridge acknowledges that for many religious leaders — especially evangelical ones — conversations about transgender people are still new.

“That someone doesn’t have a knee-jerk negative reaction, I think that’s important,” Partridge says, even though Robertson’s comments later on weren’t as inclusive. “We’re at an important moment and we need to dig deeper.”

The trajectory of the movement is going in a “great direction,” Partridge says. “But there’s a lot to do.”


Bishop Robinson to speak in Baltimore

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson will talk about the role of faith and religion in public life. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church and an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, will speak on Sunday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1316 Park Avenue, in the Bolton Hill section of Baltimore.  He will talk about his experiences and the role of faith and religion in public life. A free reception will follow.

When Robinson was elected bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, his consecration was so controversial it threatened to split the Anglican Church. Despite death threats, he became an activist for marriage equality and authored “God Believes in Love.” In 2009, President Obama chose him to give the invocation at the Lincoln Memorial that opened the presidential inaugural ceremonies.

Clergy wellness has long been a focus of his ministry, and he has led clergy conferences throughout the U.S. and Canada.  He has also done extensive work in helping congregations and clergy in times of conflict.

Co-author of AIDS education curricula for youth and adults, Robinson has done AIDS work in the United States and in Africa, and has been an advocate for antiracism training in the larger Anglican Church.

Robinson is now retired and works as a part-time senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He lives in Washington with his husband Mark Andrew.

The Tiffany Series, sponsor of this event, is named for the church’s collection of 11 original Tiffany stained glass windows, which include two of the largest windows Tiffany ever made.

Tickets to this event are $15 ($5 for students) and are available at the door and online at For more information, call 410-523-1542.


Church of England to allow partnered gay bishops

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay Bishop in 2003, setting the stage for a decade of advances for LGBT people in the church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Church of England on Friday announced that clergy in same-sex civil partnerships can become bishops as long as they remain celibate.

“The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships and living in accordance with the teaching of the church on human sexuality can be considered as candidates for the episcopate,” Rt. Rev. Graham James said on Friday on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. “The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate’s suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case.”

The House of Bishops said in 2005 before a law that allowed same-sex couples to register as civil partners in the United Kingdom took effect that gay celibate men could become clergy. The body voted to extend the policy to bishops last month during a meeting outside London.

The ordination of gay bishops in the Church of England has remained controversial since Rev. Jeffrey John in 2003 became the first person in a same-sex relationship successfully nominated as bishop. He stepped down before he was to have been officially consecrated.

Gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson’s 2003 election sparked a firestorm of controversy that threatened to divide the broader Anglican Church — he wore a bullet proof vest during his consecration that took place inside a hockey area on the University of New Hampshire. Sharp-shooters were stationed on nearby rooftops during the ceremony, while protesters gathered outside the venue.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams barred Robinson from attending the decennial Lambeth Conference in England in 2008.

Los Angeles Bishop Mary Glasspool in 2010 became the first partnered lesbian to be ordained within the Episcopal Church. John had been considered a candidate to become Bishop of Southwark the same year, but his nomination was blocked.

LGBT rights advocates largely mocked the church’s statement — and especially its insistence on celibacy.

“We’re sure many Anglicans will be happy to hear of the church’s latest epiphany on gay clergy, although many lesbians will be disappointed that they remain unable to serve as bishops,” Ruth Hunt, spokesperson for Stonewall, an LGBT rights group in the U.K., told the Washington Blade earlier on Friday. “I’m sure celibate gay men will be thrilled by this exciting new job opportunity, if perhaps somewhat perplexed as to how it will be policed by the church.”

Reverend Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, an LGBT Anglican group, did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment. He told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the church’s statement “will be laughed at by the majority in this country.”

Conservative Anglicans criticized any effort to allow gay bishops within the church.

“That would be a major change in church doctrine and therefore not something that can be slipped out in the news,” Rev. Rod Thomas, chair of Reform, an evangelical group within the Church of England, told the BBC. “It is something that has got to be considered by the General Synod.”

The church’s announcement coincides with the British government’s plan to introduce a bill later this month to introduce a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Scottish lawmakers are expected to consider a similar measure this year.


‘Love Free or Die’

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay Bishop in 2003, setting the stage for a decade of advances for LGBT people in the church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The documentary “Love Free or Die,” a film about Bishop Gene Robinson who became the first openly gay bishop in the history of traditional Christiandom, screens at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (3rd and A St. SE) tonight at 7 p.m.

Robinson was consecrated as a bishop in 2003 in which he wore a bulletproof vest and caused such an international stir, he has lived with death threats almost every day since. The film follows his story as the nation debates whether LGBT people are equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of God and the eyes of the law.

This is part of a Lenten series in which Robinson will also preach on March 10 at 10 a.m.

There is a suggested $5 admission. For more information, visit


Coming to Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rallies, vigils planned across the country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advocates remain cautiously optimistic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ayanbadejo, Sharpton among those expected at marriage rally

Martin O'Malley, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Question 6, Maryland, election 2012, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley outside Northwood Elementary School in Baltimore on Nov. 6 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade has obtained a list of same-sex marriage supporters who are scheduled to speak outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Republican strategists Margaret Hoover and David Frum, OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguía, Rev. Al Sharpton, CNN commentator LZ Granderson, retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, Leadership Conference on Civil Human Rights President Wade Henderson and Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall are among expected to speak.

Craig Stowell of the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, Lt. Col. Linda Campbell and a number of same-sex couples are also schedule to attend.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in cases challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

Supporters and opponents of marriage rights for same-sex couples are expected to gather outside the court on both days.


Activists clash over marriage

Opponents of same sex marriage held a rally on the Mall and marched to the Supreme Court where they were met with chants from LGBT rights advocates. Activists from both sides of the marriage debate had gathered on Capitol Hill during the oral arguments for the Hollingsworth v. Perry case which will decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key and Blake Bergen) buyphoto 


‘Uganda’ doc explores gay persecution

God Loves Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image from the poster to the film, ‘God Loves Uganda‘)

A screening of the documentary “God Loves Uganda” happens Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at Landmark E Street Cinema (555 11th St., NW).

The film follows the American Evangelical movement in Uganda as missionaries and evangelical leaders attempt to eliminate “sexual sin” and converting the population to fundamentalist Christianity. There will be a panel discussion following the screening with Santiago A. Canton, Rev. Kapya Kaoma and Bishop Gene Robinson.

This event is free but registration is required. For more information, visit