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2013: The year in superlatives

2013, Supreme Court, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Proposition 8, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay marriage advocates rallied at the Supreme Court earlier this year during oral arguments for two major cases. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The year 2013 will be remembered as the tipping point for LGBT rights, thanks largely to the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. More states are marrying same-sex couples; we even have hints of a supportive new pope. So before we get too far into 2014, a look back at the 2013 year in superlatives.

Happy New Year and thanks for supporting the Blade.

 

2013, Edith Windsor, gay news, Washington Blade

Edith Windsor (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

PERSON OF THE YEAR: Edith Windsor. Forget Time and the Advocate — they both named Pope Francis person of the year — Windsor deserves this accolade for ignoring the advice of so-called experts and pressing ahead with her ultimately successful lawsuit that led to the demise of Article 3 of DOMA. She’s a remarkably courageous and fearless woman who deserves recognition and our gratitude.

 

MOST OVER-HYPED STORY: Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. President Obama had barely finished his eloquent, inclusive inaugural address when LGBT rights activists began laying the groundwork for Hillary’s inevitable 2016 run. Yes, she’s smart, tough and finally came around to endorsing marriage equality in 2013 but Obama represents a generational turning-of-the-page and we shouldn’t go back to the divisive, petty Clinton-Bush years. The U.S. isn’t a monarchy; we don’t need dynasties. We need new ideas, new leaders, a new generation stepping forward. Hillary has earned her place in history and the nation’s first female president will owe her a huge debt but let’s move on.

 

Anderson Cooper, CNN, gay news, Washington Blade

Anderson Cooper (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MOST SANCTIMONIOUS JOHNNY-COME-LATELY ACTIVIST: Anderson Cooper. After hiding in the closet for 45 years, Cooper finally came out in 2012 and suddenly he’s our most prominent scold — bravely taking Alec Baldwin and others to task on Twitter for their homophobic slips. Cooper should let GLAAD enforce all the politically correct language rules and stick to reading his CNN teleprompter.

 

BIGGEST TOOL: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts. Talk about delusional. Roberts in 2013 snapped up Andy Cohen’s sloppy seconds and agreed to host the cheesy Miss Universe pageant for Donald Trump in Moscow. In defense of taking a paycheck from the homophobic birther Trump, Roberts inexplicably likened himself to Harvey Milk, writing that going to Moscow would somehow give LGBT Russians “hope.” Of course, Roberts didn’t even mention gay rights from the Miss Universe stage. He dutifully did Trump’s bidding, all the while giving cover to Vladimir Putin and his anti-gay crackdown. Shame.

 

Pope Francis I, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis (Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho via Wikimedia Commons)

MOST IMPROVED: The papacy. Just a few years ago, the Blade featured Pope Benedict on the year-in-review cover, labeled “Public enemy No. 1.” What a difference Pope Francis has made. In less than a year, he’s questioned the church’s attacks on marriage equality and contraception and turned the focus back to serving the poor. He’s questioned capitalism and is a welcome voice for challenging income disparities around the world, arguably one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. economy.

 

LEAST CONVINCING CLOSET CASE: It’s a tie! Queen Latifah, who debuted her eponymous talk show in 2013, and longtime Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, share this dubious honor. Latifah could have followed Anderson Cooper’s lead and come out just in time to juice ratings for her talk show. Instead she stubbornly refuses to answer “the question,” and in the process fools no one. Smith, meanwhile, made headlines in 2013 when two New York Times columnists debated the ethics of outing him. (This was old news to Blade readers — I wrote back in 2005 of Smith’s efforts to pick me up at a NYC bar.) Like Latifah, Smith is fooling no one and should finally acknowledge what the rest of the world has been whispering about for years.

 

MOST ANTICIPATED 2014 LOCAL STORY: The Maryland gubernatorial election. The primary is scheduled for June 24 and on the Democratic side, three candidates are vying to replace Martin O’Malley: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and lesbian Del. Heather Mizeur. Most expect Brown to win the primary but don’t count Mizeur out. With Gansler prone to gaffes and his campaign likely to implode at any moment, Mizeur would remain the only alternative to the bland Brown who is merely waiting his turn. Mizeur has made several bold policy announcements and, if she can raise the necessary money, could shock the political establishment to become the nation’s first openly gay governor (we don’t count former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey).

 

MOST ANTICIPATED 2014 INTERNATIONAL STORY: The Sochi Olympics. Will gay athletes protest? Who will lead the U.S. delegation? Will NBC do any tough reporting about Putin’s anti-gay crackdown or will the sunny, lobotomized Today show team engage in more Russia cheerleading? Will Rachel Maddow get to go? What will Johnny Weir wear? The anticipation is almost too much to bear.

01
Jan
2014

The story behind the Harvey Milk stamp

Harvey Milk stamp, gay news, Washington Blade

The Harvey Milk commemorative stamp is set to be released this spring.

While no specific date has been announced for the official release of the United States Postal Service’s first-ever Harvey Milk stamp, the Washington Blade has confirmed that the release date will be in May—not as late as June, as has been reported by several media outlets and as the postal service’s own Web site still indicates is possible.

“It will be May, not June,” said Susan McGowan, director of USPS Office of Stamps and Corporate Licensing. “And we hope people will turn out to experience a very special release ceremony.”

The stamp’s coming out party promises to be a big affair for the postal service—one that’s been nearly a decade in the making.

“Let’s just say it’s going to be a great celebration,” McGowan told the Blade.

Today, Harvey Milk may seem like a shoe-in as a candidate to be honored with the issuance of a U.S. postage stamp bearing his likeness.

But according to organizers of the National Harvey Milk Stamp Campaign, there was fervent opposition from some of the country’s most fundamentalist religious groups, as well as from some members of the Citizens Stamp Approval Committee (CSAC), which votes to approve about 25 stamp requests out of about 1,000 requests each year.

“I know for a fact that some of the stamp committee members were absolutely opposed to the idea of a Harvey Milk stamp or a stamp honoring any homosexual leader,” said San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, head of the International Imperial Court System, which led the national campaign to win approval for the stamp.

“That was early on, of course. I think as the process moved on and they saw how much support we had not only from Democrats, but from top Republicans, support grew.”

Although she couldn’t say whether the Citizens Stamp Approval Committee’s vote for the Harvey Milk stamp was divided or unanimous, USPS’s McGowan was adamant that there is no story of impassioned opposition to the stamp on the committee.

“I think you’re trying to find controversy where there wasn’t any,” she said. “It’s quite possible the vote was unanimous; we don’t keep those details because all that is needed is a simple majority for approval.”

What matters, says McGowan, is that the committee did approve the Harvey Milk stamp, and that it will be released in May.

Ramirez said the process for winning approval for the Harvey Milk stamp was arduous. But he added that he and his colleagues on the stamp campaign, including Stuart Milk — Harvey Milk’s nephew who is also a gay civil rights advocate — GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the Harvey Milk Foundation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, numerous senators and members of Congress, mayors and others, were gratified that it succeeded.

“I don’t think it was as hard as it would have been 20 years ago,” Ramirez said. “In the end, I think we were treated fairly and we got approval for the stamp faster than a lot of other stamp campaigns.”

Still, some organizations such as Save California, a right-wing religious group, plan to protest the postal service’s decision to commemorate Harvey Milk, whom they call a “sexual predator.”

Nevertheless, Ramirez said national symbols, such as commemorative stamps, speak louder and resound for longer than any words of hate or bigotry espoused by angry ultra-conservatives.

“The fact that we now have the image of one of our greatest GLBT leaders on a beautifully designed United States postage stamp says more than anything else about how far we have come as a country fighting against the hatred that we still face as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez knows about that history through his own experience. He helped lead historic marches for LGBT rights in the early 1970s in downtown San Diego and other California locales to protest police abuse of gay people.

“Young people don’t know how bad it was,” Ramirez said. “You could get beat up or worse by the police, just for being in a gay bar. This stamp honoring Harvey Milk shows that by fighting for our rights and never giving up, we can change the way the majority of people behave toward minorities, whether it’s racial minorities or GLBT people.”

According to McGowan, the postal service received thousands of letters of support for the Milk stamp.

“It was overwhelming,” she said. “We get about 30,000 letters of support for stamp proposals every year, but that’s for all of the thousand or so annual stamp proposals combined. The amount of public support for this stamp was really amazing.”

The stamp campaign began with a simple letter, dated Oct. 20, 2009, signed by Ramirez in his capacity then as chair of the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission, asking the Citizens Stamp Approval Committee to consider and approve the design and issuance of a U.S. postage stamp commemorating and bearing an image of San Francisco City and County Supervisor Harvey Milk.

In essence, the Harvey Milk campaign asked the postal service for the first time to specifically honor a person for being a tireless soldier in the battle for equal rights for LGBT people—and for having the courage and tenacity to become one of the nation’s first openly gay elected public officials.

Ramirez and his fellow signers of the San Diego Human Relations Commission’s letter to CSAC wrote in 2009: “The governor of the state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently inducted Harvey Milk into the California Hall of Fame, saying ‘he embodies California’s innovative spirit and has made a mark on history.”

By citing California’s then Republican governor’s support for the stamp, the campaign hoped to demonstrate the principles Milk stood for crossed party lines.

“Harvey Milk is recognized nationally and globally as a pioneer of the LGBT civil rights movement for his exceptional leadership and dedication to equal rights,” the letter continued.

That same year, the film “Milk” won Sean Penn an Oscar for best actor in recognition of his critically acclaimed portrayal of the slain civil rights leader. The hit film also brought home an Oscar for writer Dustin Lance Black for best screenplay.

That was also the year that President Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now, five years later, a postage stamp featuring Milk’s smiling face will finally be released. The stamp will find its way into the stamp collections of philatelists throughout the world.

According to one gay stamp collector, given the fact that this is the first stamp expressly honoring an openly gay American hero, it is conceivable that the postal service may get a whole new generation of LGBT philatelists as stamp-collecting customers.

“Harvey Milk continues to inspire us all to strive for a society that provides unlimited and equal opportunities for all our citizens,” wrote Rep. Nancy Pelosi to CSAC when she was still speaker of the House of Representatives, imploring the committee to approve the stamp. “The United States Postal Service has yet to honor an LGBT American hero with a stamp, commemorating the life and efforts of Harvey Milk would be a testament to Harvey’s courage and a symbol of pride to anyone who has ever felt discrimination or cared about those who have.”

Recently, a new stamp campaign was launched for another openly gay Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

In January, the Blade broke the news that many of the same people and organizations that won approval for the Harvey Milk stamp have joined with Walter Naegle, Mandy Carter and the National Black Justice Coalition (which Carter cofounded), to win approval for a United States postage stamp commemorating the life and work of the late Bayard Rustin.

Along with A. Phillip Randolph, Rustin was chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

“The current campaign is a new effort, but there have been letters written for more than a decade suggesting that Bayard be honored with a stamp,” said Walter Naegle, Rustin’s surviving partner. “Perhaps an increase in the number of supporters will help, but the postal service doesn’t seem to be influenced by such efforts.”

Naegle is currently engaged in an ongoing Rustin awareness campaign, focusing his efforts on a multitude of fronts. He promises to do what he can to help the Bayard Rustin National Stamp Campaign succeed.

19
Mar
2014

Closeted Fox News anchor attends gay fundraiser

Shepard Smith, NLGJA, gay news, Washington Blade

Shepard Smith is among those who posed for a selfie that CNN anchor Don Lemon took at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s annual Headlines and Headliners fundraiser in New York on March 20, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

NEW YORK – Fox News anchor Shepard Smith on Thursday refused reporters’ requests to ask him about his sexual orientation during a National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association fundraiser.

“I’m going to walk over here,” he said as the Washington Blade asked him about his sexual orientation during NLGJA’s Headlines and Headliners fundraiser at the Prince George Ballroom in Manhattan.

A Gawker reporter with whom the Blade spoke outside the venue said Smith took a picture of him with his cell phone as he walked to his car. The Fox News anchor rushed past the reporter as he tried to ask him questions.

Blade Editor Kevin Naff outed Smith in 2005 after Smith hit on him in a Manhattan bar. That incident was featured in the documentary film “Outrage;” he recounted the experience earlier this month.

NLGJA invited Smith as a “special guest” to attend the annual Manhattan fundraiser. He appeared in a selfie with CNN anchors Don Lemon and Ashleigh Banfield, MSNBC host Ronan Farrow, Fox News anchor Jamie Colby, “Good Morning America” correspondent Amy Robach, who emceed the event, and others.

CNN reporter Jeanne Moos and Bryan Norcross of The Weather Channel are among those who also attended the fundraiser.

“Our company’s the sponsor,” Smith told the Blade. “I’m really happy to be here and it’s great to see a lot of old friends.”

LGBT rights advocates have repeatedly criticized Fox News over the network’s coverage of LGBT issues.

GLAAD earlier this month criticized Fox News host Jeanine Pirro after the group said she didn’t challenge Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors’ over his anti-LGBT rhetoric during a segment on whether U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should be impeached. Media Matters for America in February highlighted a series of guests on “The O’Reilly Factor” and other Fox News programs who criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to not march in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade because organizers do not allow LGBT people to openly participate.

 

21
Mar
2014

UMass basketball player comes out as gay

Derrick Gordon, gay news, Washington Blade, basketball, Division I, University of Massechusetts

Derrick Gordon came out to fans on his Instagram account with the statement, “This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living…No more HIDING!!!” (Photo via FlashGordon Instagram)

A University of Massachusetts guard has become the first member of a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I basketball player to come out as gay.

“I’ve always loved sports but always felt I had to hide and be someone that I’m not,” Derrick Gordon told ESPN in an interview published on its website on Wednesday. “I am telling my story so that athletes never feel like they have to hide. You can be true to yourself and play the sport that you love.”

Outsports.com reported Gordon disclosed his sexual orientation to his teammates on April 2 after the team lost to the University of Tennessee in the NCAA tournament. The website said Wade Davis, a gay former National Football League player, and Gordon’s high school basketball coach, Anthony Nicodemo, worked with the UMass guard to help him come out.

“I was deeply moved watching Derrick open his heart to his UMass basketball family,” said Davis, who is the executive director of the You Can Play Project, in a GLAAD press release. “His desire to invite his teammates into his life speaks to how athletes view their teammates as their family,” said Wade Davis, Executive Director of the You Can Play Project.”

Gordon came out roughly two weeks after Mitch Eby, a football player at Chapman University in California, publicly announced his sexual orientation.

Michael Sam, a defensive lineman at the University of Missouri, in February came out.

The potential mid-round NFL draft pick is poised to potentially become the first openly gay professional football player.

09
Apr
2014

National LGBT groups: ‘Trayvon deserves justice’

Trayvon Martin, gay news, Washington Blade

Trayvon Martin (Photo released into the public domain by the family of Trayvon Martin)

A coalition of 34 national LGBT rights organizations and the ACLU issued a joint statement late Monday expressing solidarity with the family and supporters of teenage shooting victim Trayvon Martin following the acquittal on Saturday of the Florida man charged in his death.

“We cannot begin to imagine the continued pain and suffering endured by Trayvon Martin’s family and friends,” the statement says. “We stand in solidarity with them as they continue to fight for justice, civil rights and closure.”

The statement adds, “Trayvon Martin deserves justice and his civil rights. We support the organizations and community leaders who are urging the federal government to explore every option to ensure that justice is served for Trayvon and that his civil rights are honored and respected.”

The National Black Justice Coalition, a national LGBT group; and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force initiated the statement, which the groups are calling an open letter entitled “Trayvon Deserves Justice.”

Nearly all of the most prominent national LGBT groups signed on to the statement, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, GLAAD, the Transgender Law Center, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

The statement comes two days after a jury of six women in Sanford, Fla., found neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Martin, who was unarmed.

The case triggered a heated debate throughout the country over racial profiling, with back civil right leaders and many supporters arguing that Zimmerman assumed Martin was a criminal because he was black. Zimmerman is white and Hispanic.

Zimmerman told police he followed Martin after seeing him walking through his gated community. He claimed he shot Martin in self-defense after the two got into a fight and Martin allegedly knocked him down and began pounding his head into a cement sidewalk.

Prosecutors noted that Martin was living in the community with his father and had done nothing wrong. They told the jury Zimmerman was responsible for his death by starting a confrontation based on the false assumption that Martin was a potential criminal.

The statement by the LGBT organizations stops short of a national online petition circulated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that calls for the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute Zimmerman on one or more federal civil rights law violations.

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday that the Justice Department he heads is continuing an investigation into the case begun last year. He said the department would make a determination on whether or not to prosecute Zimmerman based on “the facts and the law.”

The national LGBT organizations said in their statement that the advocacy for justice and civil rights should not end with the final outcome of the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trayvon Martin case.

“[W]e will honor Trayvon Martin by strengthening our commitment to end bias, hatred, profiling and violence across our communities,” the statement says.

“We represent organizations with diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituencies. Our community has been targets of bigotry, bias, profiling and violence,” says the statement. “We have experienced the heart-breaking despair of young people targeted for who they are, who they are presumed to be, or who they love…”

LGBT activists in the D.C. area were expected to participate in protests over the Zimmerman verdict planned for Saturday in cities throughout the country. Details on the time and location of any D.C. area protests had yet to be announced as of late Monday.

Following is the text of the statement by the national LGBT organizations and the names of the groups that signed it:

An Open Letter: Trayvon Deserves Justice

We cannot begin to imagine the continued pain and suffering endured by Trayvon Martin’s family and friends. We stand in solidarity with them as they continue to fight for justice, civil rights and closure. And we thank everyone who has pushed and will continue to push for justice.

Trayvon Martin deserves justice and his civil rights. We support the organizations and community leaders who are urging the federal government to explore every option to ensure that justice is served for Trayvon and that his civil rights are honored and respected. But our work does not end there: we will honor Trayvon Martin by strengthening our commitment to end bias, hatred, profiling and violence across our communities.

We represent organizations with diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituencies. Our community has been targets of bigotry, bias, profiling and violence. We have experienced the heart-breaking despair of young people targeted for who they are, who they are presumed to be, or who they love: Rashawn Brazell, Lawrence King, Ali Forney, Brandon Teena, Brandon White, Matthew Shepard, Marco McMillian, Angie Zapata, Sakia Gunn, Gwen Araujo and countless others.

Every person, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, must be able to walk the streets without fear for their safety.

Justice delayed is justice denied and in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “a right delayed is a right denied.” We honor Trayvon by seeking justice for all people.

All Out
American Civil Liberties Union
Believe Out Loud
BiNet USA
Bisexual Resource Center
Center for Black Equity
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Freedom to Work
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network
Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network)
GetEQUAL
GMHC
GLAD
GLAAD
Harvey Milk Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
Immigration Equality
Lambda Legal
Movement Advancement Project
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Minority AIDS Council
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
PFLAG National
The Trevor Project
Trans Advocacy Network
Transgender Law Center
Trans People of Color Coalition

16
Jul
2013

Miss Universe Organization criticizes Russia LGBT rights record

Russia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Protesters gathered outside of the Russian Embassy on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

The Miss Universe Organization on Tuesday expressed concern over a law that bans gay propaganda to minors in Russia and the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown in the country.

“The Miss Universe Organization believes in equality for all individuals and is deeply concerned by the laws recently enacted in Russia and currently in place in several other countries,” it said in a statement GLAAD released. “Both the law, as well as the violence experienced by the LGBT community in Russia, are diametrically opposed to the core values of our company. Our organization has always embodied a spirit of inclusion and is a celebration of people from all countries and walks of life.”

The statement comes less than a week after Andy Cohen told E! News he turned down a request to co-host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that will take place in Moscow in November, in part, because “he didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”

Francesco Pascuzzi, a gay man from Somerville, N.J., urged the Miss Universe Organization that Donald Trump co-owns with NBC Universal, in a Change.org petition to relocate this year’s pageant from the Russian capital over the country’s LGBT rights record.

“It is our hope this year’s Miss Universe contest in Moscow will help foster a common understanding and appreciation of the rights of all individuals, regardless of their nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation,” the Miss Universe Organization statement said.

Cohen could not be reached for comment.

Trump’s representatives last week did not return the Blade’s request for an interview.

“While I appreciate the Miss Universe Organization’s concern over Russia’s anti-gay policy, statements alone won’t protect gay staff and fans traveling to the pageant,” Pascuzzi said in a statement.

Growing outrage over the country’s gay rights record threatens to overshadow the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov and playwright Harvey Fierstein are among those who have called for a boycott of the Sochi games. Author Dan Savage, LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones and others have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

Gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who was unable to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because then-President Jimmy Carter boycotted them over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the year before, is among those who feel the U.S. should compete in the Sochi games. President Obama, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova and a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups that include Outsports.com and Athlete Ally also oppose an Olympic boycott.

Figure skater Johnny Weir, whose husband is of Russian descent, told CBS News earlier this month he is “not afraid of being arrested” while at the Sochi games.

American runner Nick Symmonds criticized the gay propaganda ban after he competed at the World Athletic Championships in Moscow last week. High jumper Emma Green Tregaro and sprinter Mao Hjelmer, who are from Sweden, painted their fingernails in rainbow colors as they competed in the same event.

The Miss Universe Organization said in its statement the “safety of our contestants, staff and crew is of the utmost importance.” It added it continues to work with “our Russian hosts to ensure the security and well-being of those traveling to Russia for the pageant.”

GLAAD said it plans to urge the Miss Universe Organization to continue speaking out against the gay propaganda law and anti-LGBT violence in Russia.

“Miss Universe is an organization with incredible impact all around the globe,” GLAAD spokesperson Omar Sharif, Jr., said. “Following this important first statement, Miss Universe has a unique opportunity to continue to speak out against the anti-LGBT violence and laws in Russia and demonstrate that the international community does not support Russia’s anti-LGBT brutality.”

20
Aug
2013

Actor comes out, declines invitation to attend Russian film festival

Wentworth Miller, Prison Break, gay news, Washington Blade

Wentworth Miller (Photo by watchwithkristin via Wikimedia Commons)

Actor Wentworth Miller on Wednesday came out as gay in a letter to organizers of a Russian film festival.

Miller, who appeared in the series “Prison Break” and two Mariah Carey videos, referred to his sexual orientation in his decision to decline an invitation to be the “guest of honor” at the St. Petersburg International Film Festival that will take place from September 13-22. He also cited Russia’s LGBT rights record in his letter to festival organizers.

“I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government,” Miller wrote in a letter that GLAAD released. “The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.”

Miller’s announcement comes against the backdrop of growing outrage over Russia’s LGBT rights record ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

President Vladimir Putin in June signed a broadly-worded law that bans gay propaganda to minors. A second statute that prohibits same-sex couples and anyone from a country that allows gays and lesbians to tie the knot from adopting Russian children took effect last month.

A 2012 law requires organizations that receive funding from outside Russia to register as “foreign agents.”

Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov and playwright Harvey Fierstein are among those who have called for a boycott of the Sochi games. Author Dan Savage, LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones and others have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

Gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who was unable to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because then-President Jimmy Carter boycotted them over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the year before, is among those who feel the U.S. should compete in Sochi. President Obama, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova and a number of LGBT advocacy groups also oppose an Olympic boycott.

Andy Cohen last week told E! News he turned down a request to co-host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that will take place in Moscow in November over concerns about Russia’s LGBT rights record.

“Wentworth’s bold show of support sends a powerful message to LGBT Russians, who are facing extreme violence and persecution: you are not alone,” GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said. “As people from across the globe continue to speak out against Russia’s horrific law, more celebrities and corporations should follow his courageous lead in openly condemning Russia’s anti-LGBT law.”

“We really wanted Wentworth Miller to come to our festival and we are very upset by his refusal,” a festival spokesperson told the Washington Blade on Wednesday. “It is his choice that deserves respect.”

The spokesperson added the festival is “really sad that politics may influence… cinematography.”

“Our festival is about art, not about politics,” the spokesperson told the Blade.

22
Aug
2013

Trans woman to co-chair GLAAD board

Jennifer Finney Boylan, GLAAD, gay news, Washington Blade

Jennifer Finney Boylan (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

NEW YORK – GLAAD on Nov. 8 announced Jennifer Finney Boylan and Steve Warren had been appointed co-chairs of its board of directors.

Boylan, an English professor at Maine’s Colby College who has written 13 books, is the first transgender woman to serve in such a position with the media watchdog.

“The transgender community continues to face alarming rates of violence and inequality while transgender people and issues remain relatively invisible in our national dialogue,” GLAAD Acting President Dave Montez said. “Jenny’s proven leadership will be instrumental as GLAAD continues to grow mainstream media attention and public understanding around transgender issues.”

13
Nov
2013

MSNBC suspends Alec Baldwin talk show over anti-gay slur

Alec Baldwin, gay news, Washington Blade

Alec Baldwin (Photo by David Shankbone; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

MSNBC on Friday suspended Alec Baldwin’s new weekly talk show for two weeks after he used an anti-gay slur against a New York photographer.

A video that TMZ posted on its website shows Baldwin calling a paparazzo who tried to take a picture of his wife and infant daughter as they sat in a car parked outside their Manhattan apartment as a “cocksucking fag.” The confrontation took place hours after Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum sentenced a Canadian woman who prosecutors accused of stalking the actor to six months in jail.

Baldwin initially claimed he called the photographer “fathead,” but he subsequently apologized for the incident.

“I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone with my choice of words, but clearly I have – and for that I am deeply sorry,” Baldwin said in a statement MSNBC posted to its website late on Friday. “What I said and did this week, as I was trying to protect my family, was offensive and unacceptable. Behavior like this undermines hard-fought rights that I vigorously support.”

Baldwin has previously faced criticism for using anti-gay slurs.

He described British reporter George Stark as a “toxic little queen” after he said Baldwin’s wife tweeted about recipes during actor James Gandolfini’s funeral in June. Baldwin subsequently apologized for the comment in a statement to GLAAD.

“MSNBC has sent a message that anti-gay slurs carry consequences, and that’s an important standard to uphold at a time when LGBT people continue to face disproportionate levels of bullying and violence just because of who they are,” GLAAD Vice President of Communications Rich Ferraro said on Friday. “Mr. Baldwin can’t lend his support for equality on paper, while degrading gay people in practice. It’s clearly time he listens to the calls from so many LGBT people and allies to end this pattern of anti-gay slurs.”

16
Nov
2013

Warren Beatty’s trans son featured in GLAAD video

Stephen Ira, Annette Bening, Warren Beatty, gay news, Washington Blade

Stephen Ira, the 21-year-old son of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, joined GLAAD for the video ‘Healthcare for all: Give trans people access to the care they need.’ (Image via YouTube)

NEW YORK — The transgender son of a Hollywood power couple appears in a new public service announcement championing trans health care, several news outlets reported this week.

Stephen Ira, the 21-year-old son of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, joined GLAAD and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project for the video “Healthcare for all: Give trans people access to the care they need.” Ira comments in the video about New York State’s Medicaid regulation that excludes transgender people.

“I grew up outside of New York, but I’ve always known I’ve wanted to move here for the city’s vibrant artistic community,” he says in the video posted to YouTube Nov. 15. “As a trans person, I would hope that I’d be welcomed, but many trans people aren’t because we don’t have the basic healthcare coverage that we need to survive.”

Ira has previously said he started transitioning when he was 14. His parents have not commented publicly on his gender identity, E! News reports.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfzfUzU_574

20
Nov
2013