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Taking sides in ‘painful’ mayoral race

Hillary Rosen, mayoral race, gay news, Washington Blade

Hilary Rosen, a longtime LGBT advocate and CNN commentator, endorsed David Catania for mayor. A Blade survey of prominent D.C. activists reveals a split in support for Catania and rival Muriel Bowser. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

An informal survey of 37 prominent LGBT advocates in D.C. found that 13 of them would vote for Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor if the election were held this week, 12 would vote for Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and 12 were undecided.

All but five of the activists identified themselves in the survey conducted by the Washington Blade as registered Democrats This development suggests a significant number of LGBT Democrats who are normally loyal to their party in D.C. elections are considering voting for Catania, the openly gay independent and former Republican.

Veteran transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who was among those saying she’s undecided in the mayoral race, appeared to reflect the views of many in the LGBT community in weighing their choice between Catania and Bowser.

“Party lines become blurred when the independent candidate represents the Democratic Party line supporting the needy and social welfare to a greater extent and better than most Democrats,” said Hughes.

“I am inclined to vote along my party line, Democrat, but I need to know more about Council member Bowser’s vision for the District,” she said.

Hughes was also among about 30 mostly Democratic LGBT activists that met privately with Catania on Monday at Catania’s campaign headquarters on Connecticut Avenue, N.W., to engage in a “frank” discussion on a wide range of issues, including non-LGBT issues, according to those familiar with the meeting.

Others attending the meeting were transgender activists Earline Budd, Ruby Corado, and Alexandra Beninda and gay Latino activist Jose Gutierrez.

Gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who organized the meeting, said most of the attendees, including him, supported Mayor Vincent Gray in the April 1 Democratic primary and are now either undecided or are leaning toward Catania in the November general election.

Bowser beat Gray in the primary by a margin of 43 percent to 33 percent according to final returns released by the Board of Elections. Six other candidates, including another three members of the City Council, finished far behind Bowser and Gray.

Hudson said he now supports Catania. Although he said Catania’s record on LGBT rights is far more extensive than Bowser’s, his decision to back Catania is based on his belief that Catania is better qualified to lead the city.

David Catania, Muriel Bowser, mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT advocates in D.C. are divided between David Catania and Muriel Bowser in the race for mayor. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

Among the LGBT advocates supporting Bowser are Bil Browning, founder of the LGBT news blog Bilerico Project, and his partner, Jerame Davis, former executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats.

Other Bowser supporters, as identified in the Blade survey, include Kurt Vorndran and Lateefah Williams, both former presidents of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club; Courtney Snowden, public relations executive and former Human Rights Campaign official; A. Billy S. Jones, veteran gay rights activist; and Riley Temple, an attorney and gay rights advocate.

Gay Democratic activist and businessman Everett Hamilton, who serves as a communications consultant to Bowser’s campaign, said other Bowser supporters include Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign; Jeff Marootian, former LGBT outreach director for the Democratic National Committee; and veteran lesbian activist Sheila Alexander-Reid, a radio talk show producer and founder of the lesbians of color advocacy organization Women In the Life Association.

Also among Bowser’s LGBT supporters is Christopher Dyer, the gay activist who served as director of the City’s Office of GLBT Affairs under former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Hamilton pointed to a statement released by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz congratulating Bowser on the day following her primary victory. He said Wasserman Schultz’s strong backing of Bowser would prompt D.C. Democrats, including LGBT Democrats, to remain loyal to their party’s nominee.

“Muriel’s vision to move D.C. in a positive direction resonates with the District’s working and middle class families,” Wasserman Schultz said in her statement. “Her plans to invest in the city’s schools, infrastructure, and economic development embody the Democratic Party’s priorities to increase opportunity for all.”

Although Wasserman Schultz said she believes D.C. Democrats are committed to uniting behind Bowser following the April 1 primary, at least two nationally recognized lesbian and gay Democrats have come out in support of Catania.

Hilary Rosen, a communications firm executive, Democratic Party advocate and commentator on CNN, announced on her Facebook page last month that she’s backing Catania because, among other things, he’s a “candidate who can bring people together.”

Steve Elmendorf, chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and current principal in the Democratic leaning lobbying and public affairs firm Elmendorf-Ryan Communications, raised eyebrows in Democratic Party circles when he, too, announced his endorsement of Catania.

Among other things, Elmendorf serves as chairman of the board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which also has endorsed Catania. The group raises money for openly LGBT candidates for public office across the country.

“I think David is a candidate who can bring people together and most importantly has shown himself to be willing to do the work,” Rosen said in her Facebook statement. “For example, when he chaired the [D.C. Council] Health Committee he created accessible health clinics for residents all over D.C. but most importantly east of the River.”

Others who identified themselves as Catania supporters in the Blade survey include Deacon Maccubbin, former Lambda Rising bookstore owner; Joel Lawson, Dupont Circle civic activist; Roger Moffatt, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Southwest Waterfront area; Alexandra Beninda, transgender activist and member of the D.C. Human Rights Commission; and William Waybourn, former publisher of the Washington Blade. Each of them said they are Democrats.

Also identifying themselves as Catania supporters in the survey are Marvin Carter, CEO of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters; Charles Francis, public relations executive and founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for the preservation of the papers of the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny; and Berin Szoka, a Libertarian Party activist and 2012 supporter of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Carter and Francis said they are registered as independent voters. Szoka said he’s a registered Republican.

Among the 12 Blade survey participants who identified themselves as being undecided in the mayoral race, gay activist Bob Dardano, transgender activist Toni Collins, and gay ANC commissioner and Georgetown University student Craig Cassey said they are “leaning” toward backing Catania. Each said they are registered Democrats.

Gay rights advocate and journalist Isaiah Poole and gay Asian and Pacific Islander association director Gregory Cendana said they are undecided but are leaning toward Bowser. The two said they are also registered Democrats.

Others identifying themselves as undecided are A. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic; Bob Summersgill, a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; lesbian activist Barbara Helmick, a Ward 1 civic activist; attorney, tax preparer and Ward 1 civic activist Wallace Dickson; and attorney and Dupont Circle civic activist Edward Grandis. All five said they’re Democrats.

Another survey participant saying he was undecided was Robert Turner, the gay executive director of the D.C. Republican Party. Turner, a registered Republican, said the local GOP has the legal authority to nominate its own mayoral candidate and may do so in time for the June filing deadline for the November general election.

In addition to Bowser and Catania, gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors and Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith, a former Broadway musician and perennial D.C. mayoral candidate, will also appear on the November ballot for mayor.

Majors and Faith ran unopposed in their respective party primaries on April 1. However, Board of Elections returns show that Faith received 191 votes, 19 fewer than the 210 write-in votes cast for several people not yet identified by the Board.

A Board of Elections spokesperson said Faith was expected to be certified as the winner because she received more votes than any of the individual write-in candidates.

The returns showed that Majors received a total of 30 votes in the primary by Libertarian Party members. Three write-in votes were cast by members of his party.

The Blade’s survey included Majors’ and Faith’s names as mayoral candidates in the November election, but none of the LGBT advocates participating in the survey expressed support for them.

Majors, a D.C. real estate agent and longtime supporter of LGBT rights, has said he plans to wage an aggressive campaign espousing Libertarian Party principles and how they would benefit the city.

The Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, did not endorse a candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote of the club’s membership. Gray received the most votes but fell just short of the 60 percent threshold.

In a development that surprised some longtime Stein Club members, the club didn’t take immediate steps to endorse Bowser as the Democratic nominee at its regularly scheduled meeting on April 14.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club’s officers would soon discuss plans for when to hold an endorsement meeting. She noted that the club’s bylaws prevent the club from endorsing a non-Democrat in races where a Democratic candidate is running.

Former Stein President Vorndran, who didn’t attend Monday’s meeting, said the club’s longstanding tradition since its founding in the 1970s has been to endorse Democratic primary winners at the club’s first meeting following the primary if the club had not already endorsed those candidates.

As a Democratic Party organization, endorsing primary winners almost never involved controversy assuming they were supportive on LGBT issues, Vorndran said.

“It was as routine as approving the minutes,” he said.

But he said the club’s apparent hesitation to endorse Bowser at its meeting this week suggests the club’s officers are uncertain that Bowser would garner the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement at this time.

With a number of club members supporting Catania, a sizable number of members would be expected to vote for the option of “no endorsement,” at least two club members told the Blade.

Peoples said the club and its officers are following an endorsement process adopted last year in which a club endorsement-political committee was formed to determine procedures for making endorsements.

“Our goal is to involve members in the process as much as possible,” she told the Blade. “At Monday’s meeting I said that we would take the feedback to the political committee and give them a chance to determine what the best next step is for the process,” she said.

“The only thing that can be inferred from that is that the Stein Executive Committee remains committed to an open and transparent endorsement process,” she said.

The possible complication in the Stein Club’s endorsement process is yet another example of how divisions within the LGBT community over the Bowser-Catania race may create tension between fellow Democratic activists.

“This race has been painful because I have been forced to make choices which adversely affect individuals whom I respect and admire,” said transgender activist Hughes.

“David Catania has been an LGBT champion, an exemplary and effective Councilman, and personally I love him,” Hughes said. “Muriel Bowser has supported LGBT rights and many in our community love her.”

Added Hughes, “It would be a relief to abdicate choice and rely solely on party line, but this choice will have a real impact on how the District will fare and prosper in the next four years.”


Some key LGBT donors ho-hum about Dems despite exec order

Barack Obama, United States of America, White House, Democratic Party, executive order, discrimination, gay news, Washington Blade

President Barack Obama signed an executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two years ago, President Obama’s announcement that he supported marriage rights for gay couples galvanized his progressive base and prompted donors to pump money into his coffers ahead of Election Day in November 2012. But two years later,  after Obama signed an executive order barring LGBT discrimination among federal contractors, some key LGBT donors aren’t having the same enthusiastic response.

Based on comments to the Washington Blade, the sense anecdotally is that some prominent LGBT donors who were motivated to contribute to Obama’s re-election campaign after he came out for marriage equality aren’t motivated to donate to the Democratic National Committee during the congressional mid-terms. Moreover, a Blade analysis of fundraising numbers in the three-day period after the order announcement shows no increase in the degree of contributions to the DNC, although the number of individual donors who gave money did increase.

Some donors expressed resentment over the fact that Obama withheld employment protections for LGBT workers until the sixth year of his administration.

Juan Ahonen-Jover, a gay donor and co-founder of eQualityGiving, said he and spouse Ken contributed $10,000 “within minutes” of Obama coming out for marriage equality in 2012, but the executive order hasn’t prompted him — or other donors he knows — to contribute money to the Democratic Party.

“While Ken and I appreciate the value of the executive order, it took lots of work from many donors, activists, insiders, and many others to get it signed,” Ahonen-Jover said. “Actually, it took six years of pushing to get this done — much more effort than one would expect from a fierce advocate for our cause. There was no real justification for him to wait well past his first election much less his re-election to issue an executive order which simply expanded an executive orders already signed by prior presidents.”

Lane Hudson, a D.C.-based Democratic activist, was among those who were critical of Obama for the timing of the executive order, saying he’s not motivated to give to the Democratic Party because of the delay.

“Given the amount of time, effort and resources that went into this instead of electing more Democrats, I’m not inclined to get excited enough to increase my giving or raising for the Democratic Party,” Hudson said. “I view this as a tardy fulfillment of a long ago promise. If the president had done this in a more timely manner, then it might be different.”

That stands in contrast to 2012, when Hudson, upon Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality, helped raise $16,283 for Obama’s re-election via a page set up on the president’s campaign website.

The executive order was announced in June as Obama participated in a flurry of DNC fundraisers. Presumably, the White House announced plans to sign the executive order at that time to bolster fundraising efforts among gay donors as the Democrats try to hold the U.S. Senate in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Jonathan Lewis, a gay Miami-based philanthropist, last year said he wouldn’t donate more money to Democrats in part because of delays over the executive order. Now that Obama has signed the directive, he said he’s unsure whether he’ll contribute to the DNC.

“Today, it’s important to watch as the apologists who protected the president’s inaction by claiming the EO was weak or not needed, sing his praises and talk about how important and historic this move is — something we knew and pushed for impatiently and unapologetically for years,” Lewis said.

Despite his pledge to withhold money, Lewis this cycle has contributed to individual Democrats who support LGBT rights, such as Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) and U.S. House candidate in Pennsylvania Kevin Strouse.

Known for backing causes that push Democrats to act on LGBT rights, Lewis also indicated he plans to withhold donations to Hillary Clinton following her testy interview on National Public Radio in which she talked about a state-by-state approach to advancing marriage equality.

“Looking to the future, as much as I like Hillary, with her recent statements that marriage equality should be determined state-by-state, it might be wise to hold off until society’s progress on LGBT equality has made its way into Secretary Clinton’s campaign,” Lewis said.

According to an analysis from National Public Radio, the amount of contributions to Obama’s re-election committee went up three-fold in the 72 hours after his marriage announcement. In the three days prior to the endorsement, he took in $3.4 million, but afterward he saw a three-day spike to $8.8 million in donations. In the next three days, his fundraising went back down to $2.7 million. Those numbers reflected donations greater than $200.

But a Blade analysis of numbers provided by the Federal Election Commission this time around on DNC fundraising yielded no similar spike. In the three-day period from June 15-June 17 prior to the announcement, the DNC raised $510,005, but in the three-day period from June 18-20 after the announcement, the DNC raised $405,584, and in the subsequent three days from June 21-23, the DNC raised $246,221.

Despite those numbers, there was a spike in the number of individual donations made to the DNC. In the first three-day period prior to the announcement, 1,336 people donated to the DNC, the second three-day period after the announcement, that number went up to 2,882 people, but in the next three days it went down to 914 people. Like with the marriage numbers, these numbers reflect donors who gave $200 or more.

The fundraising numbers for the time period when Obama actually signed the executive order in July aren’t yet available.

Dan Pinello, a political scientist at the City University of New York, accounted for the discrepancy between now and 2012 by saying discrimination in marriage is faced by LGBT people on a constant basis as opposed to discrimination in the workforce.

“There are a lot more LGBT people in the United States who are conspicuously being denied the right to marry than there are LGBT people who are blatantly being denied, or fired from, jobs,” Pinello said. “In other words, the sense of urgency surrounding the pursuit of marriage equality is, comparatively, enormous, while the same isn’t true of a quest for job security as a nationwide policy issue.”

Still, there are other indications that the executive order was deeply appreciated within the LGBT community. At a New York City gala to raise money for the DNC that took place days after the White House announced Obama’s intention to sign the executive order, attendees welcomed a reference to the planned order with sustained applause. Tickets for the high-dollar event, which was attended by 550 people and sold out, ranged from $1,200 to $32,400.

Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, pointed to the success of the fundraiser as evidence that the LGBT community is excited about the Democrats in the aftermath of the signing of the executive order.

“The Democratic Party continues to maintain deep ties to the LGBT community, and they’ve been strengthened in recent years as Democrats, led by President Obama, have secured victories in the fight for equality,” Sams said. “And for what it’s worth, just last month, more than 500 supporters helped the DNC sell out its annual LGBT Gala in New York, which was one of the most successful LGBT events that we’ve ever had.”

Hilary Rosen, a D.C.-based Democratic activist, said withholding donations to the Democratic Party in the aftermath of the executive order “makes no sense to me,” although she acknowledged the order hasn’t had an impact on her own donations.

“It’s not too little, too late,” Rosen said. “The president has done a lot and deserved our support even before this moment.  Even though the EO took too long, this is an issue we really need Congress to pass ENDA for. From a donor perspective —and I am a donor — elections are about choices, not perfection. While I am glad some are bringing Republicans along, I still find Democrats a much better community investment.​​​​​”

Among small donors who spoke to the Blade, a split in opinions can be found in whether the executive order merits donations to the Democratic Party.

Tommy Rossman, a gay D.C. resident who made a donation to Obama of $100 after he came out for marriage equality, acknowledged he hasn’t yet made a contribution to political candidates this cycle, but would donate soon and called on others to donate in the aftermath of the executive order.

“We still need a federal non-discrimination law passed by Congress, and with the president’s effort, he has helped inform and educate others that protections are truly needed,” Rossman said. “Though I’ve previously given and have been inundated with emails seeking donations, I haven’t yet given to an election campaign this year. However, I plan on donating soon to candidates that have publicly supported Obama on this issue.”

Dan Ingram, a gay 24-year-old Chicago resident, donated $30 to Obama after his marriage announcement, but said now the situation is “trickier” because the president isn’t up for re-election.

“If a candidate was running on this as one of their major issues, and had championed the cause in the past, I’d be much more likely to donate to them, but I can’t say for certain that I would,” Ingram said. “Mid-terms make everything so much murkier, especially in this gerrymandered clusterfuck we’ve created over the past few decades.”

A common theme among donors large and small is that Obama’s move to sign the executive order won’t impact donation decisions in no small part because Obama won’t be on the ballot.

Ray Mulliner, political adviser for James Hormel, said his boss hasn’t discussed the EO with other donors. Heir to the Hormel Foods empire, Hormel is a former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg and has supported the Democratic Party with his wealth.

“President Obama’s signing of the executive order has not affected Mr. Hormel’s personal political giving at all,” Mulliner said. “What the president does or doesn’t do frankly will have little influence on funding decisions this election cycle.  Neither of us have had conversations with other donors about the EO or their giving after the signing.”

Then again, Hormel has already maxed out on contributions this cycle prior to the announcement about the executive order. Last year, Hormel donated $32,400 to the Democratic National Committee, $32,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $25,000 to the Ready for Hillary PAC.


Gay candidates trailing rivals in money raised for Nov. election

David Catania, candidates, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayoral candidate David Catania this week won the endorsement of the city’s police union. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Seven of the eight out gay or lesbian candidates running for various positions in the city’s Nov. 4 general election are trailing their opponents in the amount of money they have raised to support their campaigns.

According to the latest round of candidate reports filed on Aug. 10 with the city’s Office of Campaign Finance, D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who’s gay, is trailing Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) by nearly $2 million in money raised in the race for mayor.

The reports show that Bowser, the Democratic Party nominee, has raised more than $2.7 million since she began her campaign last year and had more than $1 million in cash on hand. Catania has raised just under $775,000 since entering the mayoral race earlier this year and had just under $464,000 in cash on hand, according to his finance report.

Former Council member Carol Schwartz, who’s also running for mayor as an independent candidate, has raised $65,623 as of Aug. 10 and had $50,375 in cash on hand as of that date. Schwartz’s report shows that $33,000 of the total amount she raised came from a personal loan she made to the campaign.

Gay mayoral candidate Bruce Majors, who’s running under the banner of the Libertarian Party, has so far raised $6,549 for his campaign and had $128 in cash on hand as of Aug. 10, as shown in his finance report.

Most political observers view Catania’s fundraising effort so far as a respectable showing in a city where Democrats make up the overwhelming majority of registered voters and where no non-Democrat has ever won election as mayor.

Catania’s campaign received a boost on Wednesday when the city’s police union announced it has endorsed him over Bowser and Schwartz.

In other city races, lesbian public relations executive Courtney Snowden came in second place in the fundraising department for the hotly contested 15-candidate race for two at-large D.C. Council seats up for grabs in November. Snowden is running as one of 11 independent candidates in the race in which a Democrat is only eligible for one of the two seats.

In the contest for the newly created elective position of D.C. Attorney General, lesbian attorney and former Gertrude Stein Democratic Club President Lateefah Williams appears to have finished last in fundraising in a five-candidate race, with $9,685 raised and just over $9,000 in cash on hand. Her opponents have raised between $45,000 and over $200,000, with some of them kicking in large sums of their own money they earned as attorneys for big name law firms.

“I see a pathway for overcoming the money advantage that several of my opponents currently hold,” Williams told the Blade. “During the petition signature phase of the campaign, I was not able to focus on fundraising to the extent that I would have liked,” she said. “Moving forward, I will be working with my fundraising team on a daily basis.”

Ward 1 school board candidate Scott Simpson, one of two gay men running in a five-candidate race, is leading the pack in money raised. His finance report shows he raised $22,493, with close to $20,000 in cash on hand. Rival gay candidate David Do has raised $11,420 and has $5,000 in cash on hand.

A campaign finance report for gay Libertarian candidate Martin Moulton, who’s running for the city’s non-voting “shadow” U.S. House seat, couldn’t immediately be found on the Office of Campaign Finance’s website.

In the at-large Council race, incumbent Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, is considered the odds on favorite to win re-election to the so-called “Democratic” seat.

Campaign finance records show Snowden has raised $87,123 since the start of her campaign and had $81,123 in cash on hand as of Aug. 10. Her lead rival, restaurant owner and progressive activist Khalid Pitts, who’s also an independent, has raised $115,873 since the start of his campaign and had $98,052 in cash on hand as of Aug. 10.

However, the campaign finance reports show that the total amount raised by both Pitts and Snowden include a $15,000 loan by Pitts to his campaign and an $11,000 loan by Snowden to her campaign.

Gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Marc Morgan, who’s running for the at-large seat as the Republican nominee, raised $18,516 and had $726 in cash, his finance report shows.

Several of the other independent candidates running for the at-large seat raised between $10,000 and over $50,000 since starting their campaigns. Among them former City Paper news reporter and civic activist Elissa Silverman, who came in third with $56,324 raised and $20,221 in cash on hand.

Silverman drew support from many of the city’s prominent LGBT activists when she ran for the same seat two years ago. But this time, Snowden’s finance report shows that many well-known local and national LGBT leaders gave money to her campaign, with no recognizable LGBT big-wigs giving money to Silverman.

Among those contributing to Snowden’s campaign were Rea Carey and Darlene Nipper, executive director and deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Paul Smith, the gay rights attorney who argued the 2003 Supreme Court case that overturned state sodomy laws; businesswoman and prominent Democratic Party activist Hilary Rosen; Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund Vice President Denis Dison (the Victory Fund endorsed Snowden); and former assistant U.S. Attorney General and public affairs and lobbying firm owner Robert Raben.


D.C. panel examines DOMA impact on older gay couples

Edith Windsor, Edie Windsor, gay news, marriage equality, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Washington Blade

Advocates say Edith Windsor‘s case clearly demonstrates DOMA’s harmful effect on older gay couples. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Advocates and public policy officials on Monday discussed the impact they say the Defense of Marriage Act continues to have on older same-sex couples during a panel at the National Press Club in D.C.

“We know that LGBT older adults want to marry for the same reasons that all other Americans want to marry,” Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) Executive Director Michael Adams said during the SAGE and Freedom to Marry-sponsored gathering. “It’s a basic freedom at should not be denied to any committed couple.”

Democratic political strategist Hilary Rosen moderated the panel that featured Sarah Byrne of the Alliance for Retired Americans, National Senior Citizens Law Center Executive Director Paul Nathanson, Web Phillips of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Stacy Sanders of the Medicare Rights Center and New York attorney Thomas Sciacca. National Hispanic Council on Aging CEO Yanira Cruz and Imani Woody, founder of Mary’s House for Older Adults, which has eight units of housing for LGBT Washingtonians over 60, also took part.

Panelists noted same-sex couples are denied Social Security spousal and survivor benefits and Medicaid spousal impoverishment protections because of DOMA.

Phillips stressed the roughly 250,000 children who are raised by gay and lesbian parents also “lose benefits” because they can only claim Social Security benefits from their biological parent — as opposed to either parent if they were a married heterosexual couple. Sciacca noted same-sex couples face additional challenges around state laws that allow biological next of kin to challenge a person’s will and permit only blood relatives to make burial or cremation arrangements upon a person’s death.

Woody said she must pay almost $700 a month in additional health care costs because she is unable to get onto the insurance plan her spouse has through her employer.

“This is a burden for us,” she said. “This is a terrible burden on our lives; one that heterosexual married couples do not share.”

The National Press Club panel took place ahead of this month’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings on cases that challenge both DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in the state in 2008.

Edith “Edie” Windsor challenged DOMA after she paid $363,000 in federal estate taxes after Thea Spyer, her partner of more than 40 years whom she married in Canada in 2007, passed away in 2009.

“In the midst of my grief I realized that the federal government was treating us as strangers,” Windsor told reporters outside the Supreme Court in March after the justices heard oral arguments in her case. “I paid a humongous estate tax. And it means selling a lot of stuff to do it, and it wasn’t easy.”

Adams noted the Windsor case is “emblematic” of the inequalities older same-sex couples face because of DOMA.

“Edie was treated in a really unconscionable way in terms of discriminatory treatment under our tax code,” he said.

California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez last year introduced a bill – the Social Security Equality Act – that would extend the same survivor and pension benefits heterosexual receive to gay couples and their families. It has yet to be reintroduced during this Congress.

Lawmakers are expected to reintroduce a DOMA repeal measure until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the law.

“[We support] the repeal of DOMA, invalidation of DOMA or whatever else needs to be done to eliminate the barriers that would provide equal protection and equal benefits to all America’s families,” Phillips said. “We regard this as a matter of simple fairness.”


Elmendorf hosts Mizeur fundraiser

Heather Mizeur, Deborah Mizeur, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (on right) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

About sixty people attended a fundraiser for lesbian Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) at gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf’s D.C. home on Monday.

Former Human Rights Campaign President Elizabeth Birch, Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress and lesbian Democratic political strategist Hilary Rosen are among those who served on the event’s host committee. Tickets for the fundraiser ranged from $100-$1,000.

Mizeur, who did not immediately return the Washington Blade’s request for comment, said during an exclusive interview in November that she is “taking a very serious look” at a 2014 gubernatorial campaign. She would likely face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman if she sought to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley.

O’Malley told the Blade in a post-Election Day interview that he would support Brown in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Mizeur’s supporters remain adamant, however, that she would prove an effective governor if elected.

“I met Heather when she worked for John Kerry and have always admired her work ethic and commitment to progressive issues,” Elmendorf, who chairs the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, said.

“Heather is one of the hardest workers in politics and the importance of that cannot be underscored; and being the only woman competing in a primary with several other men could be the advantage she needs to win the primary,” gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson added.