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2013 in photography

2013 was a banner year for the LGBT community. Here are the top Washington Blade photos of the year. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen, Tyler Grigsby, Michael Key, Kevin Majoros, Damien Salas, Lee Whitman and Jon Wooten) buyphoto 

03
Jan
2014

Pro-LGBT Chilean president takes office

Michelle Bachelet, Chile, Socialist Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert of Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet officially took office on Tuesday amid hopes she will bolster efforts in support of relationship recognition for same-sex couples and transgender rights in the South American country.

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Vice President Biden, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos are among those who attended Bachelet’s inauguration that took place in the coastal city of Valparaíso.

Bachelet, a left-leaning Socialist who was the country’s president from 2006-2010, defeated Evelyn Matthei by a 62-38 percent margin in a December run-off election.

Bachelet last year endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples during the campaign to succeed then-President Sebastián Piñera. She also supports a bill that would allow trans Chileans to legally change their name and sex without sex-reassignment surgery, hormonal treatments and psychiatric or psychological evaluations.

Bachelet backs efforts to strengthen Chile’s LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination law named in honor of Daniel Zamurio, a 23-year-old man who a group of self-described neo-Nazis beat to death in Santiago, the country’s capital, in 2012 because he was gay.

She also met with Chilean LGBT rights advocates during the campaign.

Juan Pablo Fuentealba of the Chilean It Gets Better Foundation (Fundación Todo Mejora in Spanish) told the Washington Blade on Monday that Bachelet “expressed her concern” over high rates of suicide among young people and bullying in the South American country.

“The declarations of the president help to pave the way for organizations like Todo Mejora that are fighting to ensure that the legal changes are not simply just on paper, but that they are also implemented in a good way,” said Fuentealba.

Andrés Ignacio Duarte Rivera, founder of the Organization of Transsexuals for the Dignity of Diversity, told the Blade last December while in New York for the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the U.N. that he feels the inclusion of the trans rights bill in Bachelet’s platform is “a position of absolute support.”

Jaime Parada Hoyl, who in 2012 became the first openly gay political candidate elected in Chile when he won a seat on the municipal council in the wealthy Santiago enclave of Providencia, questioned Bachelet’s commitment to advancing the issue of relationship recognition for same-sex couples in the Chilean Congress.

She included civil unions in her platform during her first presidential campaign in 2005. The Chilean Senate in January voted to consider a civil unions bill that Piñera first proposed in 2011.

“We made a more inclusive, more respectful and less discriminatory society towards minorities and those who think differently,” said Piñera on Sunday during a televised speech from the presidential palace in Santiago.

The president of Bachelet’s party is among those who has publicly opposed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“She has said that ‘she will open a debate about marriage equality,’” Parada told the Blade. “She does not show any conviction on this topic. Chileans have already been debating this issue for years, but what is missing now is a bill.”

11
Mar
2014

Activist tells U.N. panel LGBT people face ‘brutal’ violence

Kenita Placide, United and Strong, St. Lucia, gay news, Washington Blade

Kenita Placide of United and Strong, an LGBT rights group in St. Lucia, on March 20 testified before the U.N. Committee on the Status of Women. (Photo courtesy of United and Strong)

A St. Lucian LGBT rights advocate told a U.N. commission last week that lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people around the world face “brutal physical and psychological violence”

“Globally, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people and others with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities face brutal physical and psychological violence,” said Kenita Placide of United and Strong, Inc., in a statement she read on behalf of 76 organizations from 28 countries during a U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York on March 20. “We are subjected to harassment, assault and discrimination in the global North and South alike.”

Placide read the statement on behalf of the Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus. United Belize Advocacy Movement, AIDS Foundation of Suriname, Minority Rights Dominica, Space for Salvadoran Lesbian Women for Diversity in El Salvador, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and the Council for Global Equality are among the groups that signed onto it.

“Realities and fears of violence and discrimination have direct impact on people’s ability to live safely, earn a living, have roofs over their heads and to be healthy,” reads the statement. “When people are persecuted because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, they will be forced to recede, go underground, forfeit privacy and personal and family safety, even as they resist, organize and fight for justice at great personal risk in the North and South alike.”

St. Lucia is among the more than 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

The U.S. is among the countries that have curtailed aid to Uganda after the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, last month signed a bill into law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in January signed a draconian anti-gay measure that, among other things, bans same-sex “amorous relationships” and membership in an LGBT advocacy group.

The Jamaica Supreme Court last June heard a lawsuit that challenges the island’s anti-sodomy law under which those who are convicted face up to 10 years in prison with hard labor. The Supreme Court of the Judicature of Belize a month earlier heard a challenge to an identical statute the United Belize Advocacy Movement filed in 2010.

“The criminalization of adult consensual sexual activity and our communities, along with efforts by political and religious authorities to manipulate and stoke fears about sexual orientation and gender identity, only makes matters worse,” said the LBT Caucus in the statement that Placide read. “Whether at the national level or at the CSW (U.N. Commission on the Status of Women), decision makers must stop using these issues and our lives for their geopolitical gain.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon discussed anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in a video message during a panel with retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, current Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins and others that commemorated the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“An abuse against any of us is an affront to all,” said Ban. “Human rights can only be visible when we stand in solidarity as one.”

Vice President Joe Biden on March 22 said the U.S. should “champion” LGBT rights around the world during a speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner in Los Angeles.

“I travelled to most countries in the world, and I can tell you, they’re looking to us as an example, as a champion of LGBT rights everywhere,” said Biden.

26
Mar
2014

Beyer a longtime LGBT rights supporter

Don Beyer, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Don Beyer (Photo public domain)

The following was submitted as a letter to the editor in response to “Beyer changed position on same-sex marriage” (news, March 19).

 

I was surprised to see the Blade single out Don Beyer as someone who has changed his position on gay marriage since 1997. Let’s be honest – a vast number of Americans have changed their position on gay marriage since 1997, and that is something that should be applauded, not criticized.

The truth is, like many of our friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, Don has evolved on this issue. In fact, Don evolved long before many of our current Democratic leaders. In 2003, Don endorsed Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in a primary in which Dean and no other candidate was in favor of gay marriage.

In 2006, when several Virginia Democrats joined Republicans in their crusade to ban gay marriage in the Commonwealth, Don personally contributed significantly to the effort opposing the Defense of Marriage Act referendum in Virginia. In doing so, he bucked many in his own party and even the majority of Virginia voters.  Don came to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do well before many others, including many in the Democratic Party.

When my partner and I decided to start our own family in 2002, Don and his wife were among the first of our friends, gay or straight, to offer to help us. They have been unwavering advocates in the community for our family, which now includes two children, and we believe Don’s experience and perspective will be critical to addressing the unique issues we face going forward.

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and nearly every Democratic elected official in Virginia has progressed on this issue, and ultimately, that’s what matters.

From prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and elsewhere, to supporting the inclusion of sexual orientation-based crimes in hate crime statutes, Don has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights. To try to paint him as anything otherwise is disingenuous and misleading; it also does a disservice to the people of Virginia.

I realize that in a crowded Democratic primary field we look for points of differentiation among the candidates. This isn’t one of them. —Mark C. Lowham

26
Mar
2014

Biden cancels HRC dinner speech

Vice President Joseph Biden (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Vice President Joseph Biden (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Vice President Biden has cancelled his appearance at this weekend’s Human Rights Campaign dinner in D.C. over the federal government shutdown.

Biden had been scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Saturday event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center that is expected to draw more than 3,000 people. HRC spokesperson Fred Sainz told the Washington Blade the vice president called his organization’s president, Chad Griffin, late on Wednesday to “express his regrets.”

Sainz added Biden “reaffirmed his clear commitment to equality nationwide for all LGBT people” to Griffin.

“We’re disappointed but understand,” Sainz told the Blade.

Jennifer Lopez and pop singer Sara Bareilles are scheduled to appear at the dinner alongside DOMA plaintiff Edith Windsor and attorney Roberta Kaplan whom HRC will honor.

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03
Oct
2013

Lopez to appear at HRC Dinner

HRC, Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade

Last year’s Human Rights Campaign National Dinner. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Human Rights Campaign gives Jennifer Lopez its 2013 Ally for Equality Award at the sold out National Dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (801 Mt Vernon Pl., N.W.) Saturday night.

Lopez has supported the LGBT community for years by donating to HIV/AIDS research and supporting marriage equality. Lopez also is the executive producer of ABC Family’s hit show “The Fosters,” the story of a multi-ethnic family raised by two mothers, that garnered backlash from One Million Moms for its display of a lesbian relationship.

The keynote speaker for the evening was to be Vice President Joe Biden, however he has subsequently cancelled amid the government shutdown. DOMA Plaintiff Edie Windsor and Attorney Roberta Kaplan receive the National Equality Award. Sara Bareilles also performs her new single “Brave.” For more information, visit hrcnationaldinner.org.

03
Oct
2013

USAID-supported gay training to take place in Colombia

Colombia, Bogota, gay news, Washington Blade

El Capitolio Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia (Photo by Rikimedia via Wikimedia Commons)

The first training as part of a USAID-backed public-private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world will take place in the Colombian capital from May 30-June 2.

Advocates from across Colombia are expected to attend the Bogotá training that is designed to teach participants how to become involved in the country’s political process. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice will conduct the four-day seminar with Colombia Diversa, a nationwide LGBT advocacy group, as part of the LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next four years to activist groups in neighboring Ecuador and other developing countries.

Colombia Diversa Executive Director Marcela Sánchez on Thursday will also moderate a panel on the role out public officials play in the advancement of LGBT rights in Colombia and the United States. Bogotá City Council member Angélica Lozano; Tatiana Piñeros, a transgender woman whom Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro appointed last year to run the Colombian capital’s social welfare agency; Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe and Francisco Herrero, director of the Democratic National Institute, a group that encourages underrepresented groups to become involved in the South American country’s political process, are scheduled to take part.

“I hope there will be an opportunity to have a conversation about opportunities for LGBT people to be involved in their government,” Wolfe told the Washington Blade before he traveled to Bogotá.

Chuck Wolfe, gay news, gay politics dc, Victory Fund

Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe is among those who will travel to Colombia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The training will take place less than a week after Vice President Biden met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogotá during a six-day trip that also brought him to Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil.

Biden’s office did not return the Blade’s request for comment on whether the vice president discussed LGBT-specific issues with Santos. A senior administration official who briefed reporters before the trip said the Obama administration’s objective “is to work with our partners across the hemisphere to promote a hemisphere that’s middle class, secure and democratic.”

“They each have a government that share our democratic values, that are focused on delivering for their citizens and on working as partners to advance common interests across the region and around the world,” the official said.

Marriage debate provides training backdrop

The Colombian Senate in April struck down a bill that would have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The same chamber in 2007 defeated a measure that would have allowed gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions; but the country’s Constitutional Court in three separate rulings later that year and in 2008 extended property, social security and other rights to same-sex couples. The tribunal in 2009 ruled gays and lesbians who live together must receive the same rights that unmarried heterosexual couples receive under Colombian law.

The Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled the country’s Congress must pass legislation within two years that extends the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage to same-sex couples. They can legally register their relationships on June 20 if lawmakers fail to act on this judicial mandate.

Lawmakers in the South American country in 2011 also passed a new anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation.

Colombia was also among the countries that helped secure passage of the United Nations’ first-ever resolution in support of LGBT rights earlier in the same year.

Anti-LGBT violence remains pervasive

Colombia Diversa estimates 58 of the reported 280 LGBT Colombians who were murdered between 2010-2011 were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. A report from the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender Women (REDLACTRANS) notes 61 trans women in Colombia have been reported killed between 2005-2011.

Federico Ruíz Mora of the Santamaría Fundación, a group based in Cali that advocates on behalf of trans women, told the Blade last month while he and other Colombian LGBT rights activists and officials visited the United States that local police often exacerbate the problem.

USAID in 2009 began to work with the Colombian National Police on how to more effectively engage the country’s LGBT advocacy organizations. Law enforcement personnel from Colombia, Sweden and the United Kingdom took part in a 2010 seminar the agency and the Swedish Embassy co-sponsored on how police can better interact with LGBT Colombians.

Colombia Diversa and the Santamaría Fundación has also received USAID grants and other support to expand their efforts to document anti-LGBT violence and work with authorities to better prosecute the perpetrators.

Dan Baer, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. State Department, acknowledged to the Blade during an interview on Tuesday that trans Colombians in particular face “very serious violence.” He added the Colombian government’s protection of freedom of association that allows LGBT advocacy groups and other non-governmental organizations to operate freely allows it to adequately respond to the problem.

“That makes a huge difference because you have the facts out in the open,” Baer said. “The challenge is just implementing policies that deliver full protections.”

While applauding the Colombian government’s efforts to address anti-LGBT violence, he conceded “there are more steps that they could take.”

“That’s a conversation that’s happening principally between domestic NGOs and the government,” Baer said. “There are very committed people I’ve met with in the Colombian government for whom this is a priority issue.”

Santos’ spokesperson Pedro Ignacio Camacho Ramírez told the Blade in an e-mail on Tuesday his country remains committed to protecting the rights of LGBT people.

“Colombia is a nation founded upon the inherent dignity of every human being,” he said. “In this sense, we understand that it is a priority for the country to move forward with the construction of politics and spaces that contribute to the development of the right to equality without discrimination in support of groups like the LGBTI community with special constitutional protection.”

Editor’s note: Blade reporter Michael K. Lavers will speak to training participants in Bogotá on Saturday.

29
May
2013

Our fascination with everything Hillary

Hillary Clinton, Department of State, GLIFAA, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, gay news, Washington Blade

Hillary Clinton supporters are counting the days until her presumed 2016 campaign announcement. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

I have a fascination with Hillary Clinton and have admired her since I first met her in 1990. Today it’s clear that that fascination is pretty universal and media outlets across the nation understand that putting her on the front pages and featuring numerous stories about her even in the midst of the chaotic situation in the world today will continue to sell newspapers.

On Sunday, Sept. 15 there were two papers delivered to my door, the Washington Post and the New York Times. The Times had a story about Hillary on the front page and the Post had one on page A2. The Daily Beast had one as well. Each of the stories talks about her yet-unannounced presidential campaign. And remember that it’s less than eight months since President Obama was sworn in for his second term.

Many of us are watching the news and hoping that President Obama will be successful in his efforts to succeed in ridding Syria of chemical weapons and averting getting the U.S. involved in a war there. What may be happening today is the realization of the hopes and dreams so many placed in what we believed to be the president’s vision of the world when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before having done anything to earn it. We believed that he would do everything he could to keep the world safe without resorting to military action.

It’s nice to know that the Times has already assigned a full-time reporter to cover her every move. I am sure that Amy Chozick will be looking to get many more front-page stories out of this beat. This also isn’t the first column that Dan Balz of the Post has written on Hillary and she will provide him with many more columns and the Post with many more chances to use nearly quarter page pictures of her. (I’ve written a few columns on Hillary myself.)

The Post is following the story of Jeffrey Thompson and U.S. Attorney Ron Machen’s efforts to find something to indict D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray with. Thus far it appears that Machen hasn’t found anything in his nearly three years of looking. But Jeffrey Thompson is now providing the Post with a continuing story and Machin has uncovered a connection to the Hillary 2008 campaign. The first Post story, though not till toward the end of nearly a full page, said there doesn’t seem to be anything to connect Thompson to Hillary directly or to anything the campaign did illegally. Balz seems to confirm that conclusion in his Sunday column. But then the Post in its first column used a picture of Hillary instead of Thompson with the story since they felt it would attract more attention and the Balz column, which only incidentally mentions the Thompson story, uses a great picture of Hillary in Scotland receiving an honorary degree from St. Andrews University.

The Times story by Chozick is about Clinton and Biden’s friendship and how there have been some awkward moments. She writes that, “In December 2011, pollsters working for President Obama’s re-election campaign asked voters in battleground states a question: Would you be more likely to vote for Mr. Obama if Hillary Rodham Clinton were to campaign for him?” She goes on to write, “Of course, Mrs. Clinton, if she remained Secretary of State, could not participate in a political campaign. So the poll, and the former first lady’s popularity, only intensified speculation that Mr. Obama was considering moving Mrs. Clinton onto his ticket replacing Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.” A lot of old speculation rehashed but it did reach the level of a front-page story.

We are in for a continued stream of stories about Hillary that will dissect everything she does or says until she finally declares that she will run — and I think she will. Between Ready for Hillary with its now nearly one million supporters and Priorities,USA the Super PAC that raised money for Obama now retooling to raise funds for Hillary, everything will be ready for her announcement.

18
Sep
2013

Video: Baldwin sworn in as first ‘out’ US Senator

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcynUdYxI4g

Vice President Joe Biden swears in Wisconsin’s newest U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin, who happens to be the first U.S. Senator openly from the LGBT community.

07
Jan
2013

Del. advocates optimistic ahead of marriage debate

Jack Markell, gay news, Washington Blade

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (Photo by Molly Keresztury via Wikimedia)

Marriage equality advocates in Delaware continue to organize in advance of the expected introduction of a bill later this year that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in the First State.

More than 150 people attended an Equality Delaware-sponsored town hall meeting in Wilmington on Jan. 30 at which U.S. Sen. Chris Coons spoke. A second gathering that drew nearly the same amount of people took place at Camp Rehoboth in Rehoboth Beach on Jan. 31.

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman told the Washington Blade her group continues to work with the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, the Gill Foundation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other national and local organizations on the issue.

The organization is holding weekly volunteer events, trainings and phone banks across the state to garner further support for marriage rights for same-sex couples. Goodman said Equality Delaware also continues to engage people of faith and communities of color on the issue.

“We are doing a very serious and robust faith outreach,” she told the Blade. “We had wonderful faith support for the civil union bill, and we are very confident that we will have an even broader-based faith support for the marriage effort. We also believe that we will have even broader support of people of color and across the board.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who signed Delaware’s civil unions bill into law in 2011, suggested to the Huffington Post last August that state lawmakers could debate a same-sex marriage bill during the 2013 legislative session that ends on June 30. He referenced the looming debate in his second inaugural speech last month.

“We will advance the cause of liberty, equality and dignity in our time,” Markell said. “Our state will be a welcoming place to live, to love and to raise families for all who choose to call Delaware home.”

Goodman did not provide a specific timeline in which she feels lawmakers would consider the issue, but stressed “we expect it to happen later this session.” She further noted House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) and Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) are among the lawmakers and other state officials who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Obviously given the events of this last election cycle, there is a lot of momentum,” Goodman told the Blade.

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. that allow same-sex marriage.

An Illinois Senate committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to the knot, while the Rhode Island House of Representatives last month overwhelmingly approved a same-sex marriage measure.

Hawaii lawmakers on Jan. 24 introduced two proposals that would extend nuptials to gays and lesbians in the Aloha State. New Jersey legislators in the coming weeks are expected to once again debate the issue after Gov. Chris Christie last February vetoed a same-sex marriage bill they approved.

“Every state that passes a marriage equality bill I think starts to convince other legislators that, wow, it’s OK for us to do it too,” Andy Staton, a gay Rehoboth Beach Realtor who unsuccessfully ran for the state Senate last year, told the Blade. “Legislators are very influenced by their constituency. And if the constituency is telling them not to do it, then they’re not going to do it, which is why it’s important for people to be vocal.”

President Obama spoke out in support of the same-sex marriage referenda that passed last November in Maryland, Maine and Washington. The White House has also urged Illinois and Rhode Island lawmakers to support measures to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in their respective states.

Goodman said she expects Obama and Vice President Biden to do the same in Delaware.

“We certainly would welcome his support and have no reason to think that he will not be supportive and publicly so, as will our vice president, Joe Biden, who of course all of Delaware is incredibly proud of,” she said.

06
Feb
2013