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D.C. activists seek to ‘build on victories’ in 2014

Vince Gray, activists, Vincent Gray, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade, Capital Pride Parade

Mayor Vincent Gray announced late last year that he would seek re-election. The primary is slated for April 1. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT activists in D.C. acknowledge that they live in a city that has had one of the nation’s strongest anti-discrimination laws protecting their community for more than 20 years, the city passed a same-sex marriage law in 2009, and virtually all elected officials strongly support LGBT equality.

With that as a backdrop, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance last week released its 2014 Election Year Agenda for LGBT Equality in Washington, D.C., which, among other things, calls for more than a dozen policy initiatives and for the approval of five LGBT-related bills currently pending before the City Council.

In an announcement last week, GLAA said the 16-page policy document was used to formulate a questionnaire on LGBT issues that the group has sent to all candidates running in the April 1 D.C. primary for mayor and seats on the City Council, just as it has done in every city election since the early 1970s.

“We have won most of the policy reforms for LGBT equality, which is reflected in the title of this year’s policy brief, ‘Building on Victory,’” said GLAA President Rick Rosendall.

“What remains mostly falls into two broad categories – translating our model policies and laws into reality, especially for at-risk populations including LGBT youth and transgender persons, and remaining vigilant,” Rosendall said.

The issues covered in the five pending bills include:

• The Surrogacy Parenting Agreement Act, which calls for updating the city’s surrogate parenting law that gay rights attorneys have called archaic to add provisions to better enable same-sex couples to enter into surrogacy agreements.

• The Domestic Partnership Termination Recognition Amendment Act, which calls for changing D.C.’s existing domestic partnership law to enable couples that don’t live in D.C. to terminate their partnerships in a way that is recognized by courts in other states.

• The LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Amendment Act calls for, among other things, city funds to pay for beds reserved for LGBT youth in homeless shelters and other homeless facilities that activists say traditionally have not met the needs of LGBT or “questioning” youth.

• The Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Act calls for prohibiting licensed therapists in the city from seeking to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of people under the age of 18 through so-called “conversion” therapy. Advocates for the legislation point out that virtually all professional mental health organizations have said the therapy is harmful to the mental health of those participating in such therapy, especially young people.

• The Marriage License Issuance Act calls for amending the city’s marriage law to eliminate the current mandatory, three-day waiting period for obtaining a marriage license. Marriage reform activists, both gay and straight, have called the waiting period requirement an unnecessary relic of the past.

The GLAA policy brief also calls for a requirement by city regulators and the mayor’s office that health insurance plans offered to D.C. government employees and the city’s Health Link insurance exchange program under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act include full coverage for sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatment for transgender people.

GLAA’s candidate questionnaires ask all candidates running for mayor and for the City Council to state whether they would support such a proposal.

“This is a huge priority in our community,” said Nico Quintana, senior organizer for the D.C. Trans Coalition.

 

Voters to choose among friends in election

 

Many LGBT activists have said that since nearly all of the candidates running this year for mayor and seats on the City Council have strong records of support on LGBT issues, LGBT voters will likely choose among them based on non-LGBT issues.

Mayor Vincent Gray, who some activists say has the strongest record on LGBT issues of any mayor in D.C. history, is being challenged by four members of the City Council, all of whom have expressed strong support for the LGBT community.

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) each have longtime records as strong supporters of LGBT equality. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who opposed same-sex marriage when he ran for mayor in 2006, has said he changed his mind and has become a committed supporter of the city’s same-sex marriage law while continuing his support on all other LGBT-related issues.

Former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis and, Busboys and Poets Restaurant owner and businessman Andy Shallal have also expressed strong support for LGBT rights. The positions of lesser-known mayoral candidates Carlos Allen, a music promoter, Christian Carter, a businessman and civic activist, couldn’t immediately be determined.

Political observers say the LGBT vote, which surveys show will likely comprise at least 10 percent of the vote in the April 1 Democratic primary, could be a key factor in the outcome of the election.

But based on interviews with LGBT activists following the campaigns of the mayoral candidates, the LGBT vote will likely be divided among Gray and his City Council rivals, although many activists believe Gray remains highly popular in the LGBT community.

David Catania, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) has said he will enter the mayor’s race as an independent if Vincent Gray wins the primary and becomes the Democratic Party nominee. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In looking beyond the primary to the November general election, gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) is being viewed as the wildcard of the 2014 mayoral race. Catania last fall formed an exploratory committee to consider whether to enter the mayoral race, knowing that as an independent he doesn’t have to file papers as a candidate until June, long after the winner of the Democratic primary is known.

In a development that startled some political observers, Catania told the Washington Post that he has already decided he will enter the race if Gray wins the primary and becomes the Democratic Party nominee.

In every mayoral election since the city obtained its home rule government in 1974, the Democratic Party nominee has won his or her race as mayor in the November general election. Catania, however, is telling potential supporters that this year is different and that the electorate is “tired” of politics of the past.

LGBT voters, who have long supported Catania in large numbers, could be faced with a dilemma if forced to choose between Gray and Catania, according to some LGBT advocates.

Next week: A preview of City Council races and the prospects for gay longtime Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).

08
Jan
2014

Chilean man attacked during alleged anti-gay hate crime dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18
Jan
2014

Mexican Supreme Court rules on gay partner benefits

Supreme Court, Mexico, gay news, Washington Blade

Mexican Supreme Court (Photo by Thelmadatter; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Mexican Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled the same-sex spouses of those who receive benefits under the country’s social security system must receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

El Economista, a Mexican newspaper, reported the justices in a 3-2 ruling said the Mexican Social Security Institute – Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Spanish – must extend the same benefits that married heterosexual couples receive to gays and lesbians who have either tied the knot or entered into civil unions.

José Alberto Gómez Barroso, who married his partner in Mexico City in 2012, sought legal recourse through the Mexican judicial system after officials denied his request to add his spouse as a beneficiary under the country’s social security system. A lower court last year dismissed Gómez’s case after he passed away.

“The court’s ruling without a doubt is cause for celebration,” Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, a lawyer who filed lawsuits in 2011 and 2012 on behalf of three same-sex couples who tried to apply for marriage licenses in Oaxaca, told the Washington Blade. “The Supreme Court has been at the forefront of taking up decisions in relation to the rights of the LGBT community in Mexico.”

The ruling comes against the backdrop of the movement in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in Mexico that continues to gain momentum.

The Mexican Supreme Court last February ruled the Oaxacan law that bans same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. States must also recognize gay nuptials that have taken place in Mexico City since the Mexican capital’s same-sex marriage law took effect in 2010.

A lesbian couple last month exchanged vows in Guadalajara in Jalisco. Gays and lesbians have also married in Colima, Chihuahua and in Quintana Roo and Yucatán on the Yucatán Peninsula on which the resort city of Cancún is located.

Same-sex couples in Baja California del Norte in which Tijuana is located and other states have sought marriage rights through the Mexican legal system. Coahuila currently extends property and inheritance rights and other limited legal protections to gays and lesbians.

“Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in Mexico City, the Mexican Social Security Institute has been one of the toughest organizations to lobby, one of the most stubborn institutions when it comes to amending their rules and giving equal treatment to its affiliates who have same-sex couples,” Enrique Torre Molina, an LGBT rights advocate and blogger in Mexico City, told the Blade on Thursday as he discussed the Mexican Social Security Institute ruling. “This is another step towards equality for gay and lesbian couples.”

Méndez stressed gay and lesbian Mexicans continue to suffer discrimination as long as they are unable to secure marriage rights.

“The court responded within the extent of its authority, but the result is insufficient,” he told the Blade. “The respect of human rights should be the general rule and its violation is an exception that must be addressed.”

31
Jan
2014

‘Old age isn’t for sissies’

senior citizens, seniors, LGBT seniors, gay news, Washington Blade, life expectancy

As we age, we hope that the government, along with our community, will be there for us. (Photo by Bigstock)

Old age isn’t for sissies, queer icon Bette Davis famously said.

Lately, as a lesbian and a boomer, I’ve wondered about this. Earlier this month, like many of my generation, I recalled a milestone of my youth. Fifty years ago on Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles, in a moment that transformed our culture, appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Then, our parents were aghast over the Beatles’ unkempt hair (it went below their ears!) and the subversive tilt of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Recently, watching Paul McCartney, 71, on the piano and Ringo Starr, 73, on the drums on “Hey Jude” on CBS’s “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America – A Grammy Salute,” I thought: we boomers may not be, as Bob Dylan sang “forever young,” but getting old looks damned good. At least if you’re Paul or Ringo.

Straight people aren’t the only ones leading fab lives as they age. LGBT boomers and elders are going strong from singer and musician Elton John, 66, to tennis and gay rights icon Billie Jean King, 70, to newly out TV morning show co-host Robin Roberts, 53. Ellen DeGeneres, 53, will host the Oscars next month and actor Ian McKellen, 74, is appearing in “Waiting for Godot” and “No Man’s Land” on Broadway.

For many of us who aren’t celebs, old age isn’t the misery that it was for our grandparents.  Fifty-something, 60-plus or even 70 are far different for most of us, with our Smart Phones, gym workouts and online dating, than for our grandparents. Thanks to better health care, we’re living longer and more productively.

Half a century after Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, far fewer elders live in poverty, according to a recent Akron Beacon Journal analysis of Census data. Fifty years ago, according to the Beacon’s analysis, 27 percent of seniors lived below the poverty line. Today, nine percent of elders live in poverty, the Beacon reported earlier this month. While the poverty rate among seniors has declined, the population of people over 65 in the United States has doubled to 40.8 million.

Why has the poverty rate so dramatically decreased among seniors? Not surprisingly, experts on aging told the Beacon Journal: because of Social Security, Medicare, pensions and 401k programs. “That is a success story,” Harvey Sterns, director of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology at the University of Akron told the Journal.

Despite this apparent good news, I can’t help but wonder: Are things that wonderful for seniors – especially for LGBT elders? Americans worry (only 26 percent) far less about getting old than people in other countries according to “Attitudes About Aging: A Global Perspective,” a report released by the Pew Research Center last month. I worry about this – especially one finding from the report. “In only four countries–South Korea, the U.S., Germany and Britain–do more than one-third of the public say that the primary responsibility for the economic well-being of people in their old age rests with the elderly themselves.”

This finding is scary, especially for LGBT elders. The social safety net, which had its beginnings in the New Deal, has kept many seniors from living in poverty. Yet, even with Social Security, numbers of elderly in the LGBT community live in or near poverty. Medical expenses (not paid for by Medicare of Medicaid), housing and other expenses keep LGBT seniors below the poverty line. Some were unable to find work in their earlier lives due to homophobia. Ageism within the queer community contributes to their hardship.

In an age of partisan politics and budget cuts, it’s frightening to think that the social safety net in place for elders could be diminished. Most of us want to be independent. We don’t want government to solve all our problems. Yet as we age, we hope that the government, along with our community, will be there for us.

18
Feb
2014

Mayor would welcome Arizona’s LGBT residents

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, gay pride, gay news, Maryland, Washington Blade, LGBT residents

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. In discussing the vetoed legislation in Arizona that would have allowed business owners to discriminate against gays and lesbians on religious grounds, she invited LGBT residents from Arizona to move to Baltimore even though Arizona has better weather.

“On balance, I think the LGBT community would be better off, save the weather, we can’t promise you the weather, but better off in Baltimore. I’m more than happy to deal with the welcome. I think it’s a much friendlier place. It burns me up to know that a community that has given so much, particularly for the Democratic Party, is under siege. It’s 2014.

“We have a great LGBT community in Baltimore.  I’ve been a big supporter to the first LGBT, the same-sex marriage in the state right after New Year’s. And there’s no war going on in Baltimore.”

05
Mar
2014

Voting is an important responsibility

Anita Bonds, Phil Mendelson, Vincent Gray, D.C. Council, Washington, Washington Blade, gay news, election, endorsements

From left, D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), D.C. Council chair Phil Mendelson and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Early voting has begun. When you cast your ballot there are many things to consider. By all statistics, the District of Columbia is doing better than ever before. Crime is down; student test scores are up; we are winning awards for the District’s environmental policies and as a new high tech center. The mayor has added more than $1 billion to the reserve fund, the envy of every other state and city. Vincent Gray is the strongest supporter we’ve ever had for the LGBT community and has backed that support with action.

We see tremendous progress in many areas and need to continue that momentum. While some pretend that none of this is the doing of the current mayor, to believe that is to live in a never-never land where all things just happen on their own. Some blame everything that happened in the mayor’s 2010 election on him, though he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Still others are willing to give the mayor credit for the progress our city has made. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “Mayor Gray knocked the ball out of the park in terms of improvement” when talking about D.C. schools. The Coalition for Non-Profit Housing said, “We applaud Mayor Gray… His plan makes strong investments in the production and preservation of affordable housing.” Then recently the mayor accomplished what many in politics say is nearly impossible to do: He won the endorsement of nearly all the unions in the District and also the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce.

I understand the problems facing the mayor and voters especially after the statements that came out in the indictment of Jeffrey Thompson. I know Jeff Thompson and if it comes to believing him or the mayor I still choose to believe the mayor. Jeff did everything he did for personal gain. But for the moment that is something each person will have to settle in their own mind and heart. There are other good and decent candidates in this race; they just don’t have the experience and record of success of the mayor.

For Council chair I urge support for Phil Mendelson. He has proven himself a steadfast supporter of progressive policies and is a stabilizing force on the Council. From his support of LGBT human and civil rights issues to his work to preserve and build affordable housing; from his efforts to make sure the criminal justice system is working fairly to his support of a cleaner environment, Mendelson has stood with and worked diligently for all the people of the District. He deserves our support and to be reelected as chair of the Council.

For Council-at-large I urge support for Anita Bonds. Like many, I was wary when she was first running for office that her connections to old-time politics in the District would not be productive on the Council. But she has impressed many with her hard work and willingness to listen to the community and make decisions based on the facts. She was willing to stand up to one of her first mentors in government when it was called for and make a stand for ethical government. Her work on issues such as raising the minimum wage, helping seniors to remain in the District and in their homes, and her support for forward-looking environmental policies make her deserving of reelection.

The District of Columbia is changing and growing. There are some good people who have been a part of making that happen. There are some politicians who should be turned out of office. But others are still forward looking and effective and should be rewarded with another term. Gray, Mendelson and Bonds are three such politicians. They are moving the District forward and have more to do and the proven ability to do it.

It is my hope that we will see huge numbers of voters come to the polls on April 1 and make their voices heard. That is what democracy is all about. Voting is not only a privilege it is a responsibility.

21
Mar
2014

Let’s go to the videotape!

D.C. Strokes, sports, gay news, Washington Blade, Kyle Suib

Kyle Suib of the D.C. Strokes on his way to a gold medal at the World Outgames in Belgium last year. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Freedman).

Washington has long been a leader in the world of LGBT sports and 2013 was another banner year for the clubs and teams in the area.

Stonewall Darts, Arlington Outriders (bicycling), Washington Scandals Rugby Football Club and an LGBT branch of D.C. Triathlon Club emerged as new teams last year along with new leagues that were formed by Stonewall Darts and D.C. Sentinels Basketball.

Sports tournaments were hosted locally in 2013 by the Capital Area Rainbowlers Association, D.C. Sentinels Basketball, D.C. Frontrunners, D.C. Strokes Rowing Club, Federal Triangles Soccer Club, Chesapeake and Potomac Softball, Washington Wetskins Water Polo, Capital Tennis Association, Charm City Volleyball, Lambda Links Golf, Capital Splats Racquetball, Capital City Volleyball and the District of Columbia Aquatics Club.

The international LGBT sports movement saw continued support in 2013 from straight sports allies such as Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe, Hudson Taylor, Ben Cohen and Patrick Burke. In August, the Washington Blade published its first sports issue with Ayanbadejo as guest editor.

Also gaining momentum in 2013 was the CCE Sports Network, which has focused its attention on covering LGBT sports with a live streaming feed and live commentary. Its video archives of LGBT sports tournaments continues to grow along with its presence on the LGBT sports scene. Look for expanded offerings from the CCE Sports Network this year.

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League, with close to 300 players, just wrapped up season seven of League play with the Maroon Sox defeating the Harvest Mooners in the championship game. They sent two travel teams to Gay Bowl XIII in Phoenix in September where the Washington Generals finished as runner-up in the championship game.

The D.C. Strokes Rowing Club hosted the 20th annual Stonewall Regatta in June along with a multitude of rowing programs. In August, its members returned from the World Outgames in Antwerp, Belgium with multiple medals in the rowing events.

The District of Columbia Aquatics Club hosted the 22nd annual Maryland Swim for Life on the Chester River in July. In August, members won their 11th IGLA World Championships title in Seattle setting multiple IGLA world records in the process. Two months later they hosted the annual Columbus Day Classic which drew 150 swimmers from the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Federal Triangles Soccer Club hosted the fourth season of the Summer of Freedom Soccer League. Players also hosted two competitive tournaments: the Women’s Winter Wrap-Up Indoor Cup and the Rehoboth Beach Classic.

The Capital Tennis Association hosted the Capital Classic XXI in September, which was broadcast live on the CCE Sports Network. Its players also continue to host fall and winter tennis leagues for roughly 300 players.

The Chesapeake and Potomac Softball League hosted the NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series in August, which brought in about 3,000 athletes from across North America. Its Magic Tournament will resume this year. Its members also wrapped up their 31st year of league play with about 500 men and women playing in multiple divisions.

D.C. Sentinels Basketball kicked off the Washington, D.C. Gay Basketball League in January and has just filled all 80 player slots for its second season to begin this month. Its travel teams won two tournaments in 2013: Ballin on the Bayou in New Orleans and the Freedom Festival in D.C.

Charm City Volleyball hosted the Charm City Invitational 28 in April and Capital City Volleyball hosted the President’s Queer Cup Classic in November. In May, Capital City Volleyball and New York’s Gotham Volleyball will co-host the 2014 NAGVA Championships in Washington. The event is expected to draw approximately 1,000 players to the area.

Stonewall Kickball just wrapped up its seventh season in November with 620 players. This month, they will send be sending a travel team to Las Vegas for the Sin City Shootout.

The Washington Wetskins water polo team captured fifth place at the IGLA World Championships in August in Seattle. In October, they hosted the annual Columbus Day Classic and won the team title.

The D.C. Front Runners hosted Pride Run 2013, which was the inaugural running of a chip-timed 5K run and walk coinciding with the festivities of D.C.’s Capital Pride week. They also continue to host an extensive series of runs, walks and running programs.

The D.C. chapter of Ski Bums is hosting its first overnight trip to Snowshoe, W.Va., on Jan. 24-26, with ski-in/ski-out accommodations and a coordinated carpool from D.C. for all participants.

Stonewall Bocce recently completed its fall season with 200 players and Stonewall Darts is just beginning its third season with 108 players.

With all the LGBT sports opportunities in the District, there is truly something for everyone. Besides the teams mentioned above, there are the Adventuring Group, D.C. Velo Cycling, Lambda DanceSport, Lambda Links Golf, D.C. Icebreakers (skating), D.C. Triathlon Club, Capital Splats Racquetball, Rainbow Rock Climbing, Washington Renegades Rugby, Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing, Lambda Divers (scuba), D.C. Lambda Squares (square dancing), Ultimate Out Frisbee and Washington Scandals Rugby.

01
Jan
2014

Gray says D.C. should recognize Utah marriages

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a meeting of the Stein Club that the city should recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah before the Supreme Court issued a stay and halted the weddings. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Monday night that he believes the city should recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah.

Gray said he would consult with D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan on the matter. But he said he sees no reason why the city shouldn’t recognize the Utah marriages performed prior to a Supreme Court decision putting same-sex nuptials on hold in the state until the courts resolve the issue.

“I’ll talk to Irv Nathan about it,” Gray said. “But my position would be unequivocally that we ought to do that.”

Gray’s statement on the Utah marriage issue came in response to a question by Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance President Rick Rosendall.

Gray’s response came three days after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Jan. 10 that the federal government would recognize the Utah same-sex marriages. On that same day, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler told the Blade that Maryland would also recognize the Utah same-sex marriages.

A spokesperson for Nathan told the Blade on Monday that Nathan and his legal team were reviewing the Utah marriage question and would likely develop a position for the District to take on the matter shortly.

A U.S. District Court Judge in Utah startled the state’s conservative political establishment on Dec. 20 when he ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution and refused to put a stay on his ruling while state officials appealed his decision. The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals also refused to place a stay on the right of gay and lesbian couples to obtain marriage licenses in the state.

During the period between the District Court judge’s Dec. 20 ruling and the Supreme Court’s decision to issue the stay on Jan. 6, more than 1,300 gay and lesbian couples married in Utah. Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, responded to the Supreme Court stay order by declaring the same-sex marriages invalid.

Gay rights attorneys quickly disputed Herbert’s assertion, saying the marriages were performed at a time when the District Court ruled they were legal under the federal Constitution.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club invited Gray to speak before its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Monday night as part of a series of appearances the club has arranged for mayoral and City Council candidates competing in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

She said other mayoral candidates, including City Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 1), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) have already appeared before the club.

Others who spoke at the Stein Club meeting on Monday were Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who’s running for re-election; Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who is also up for re-election; and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who is running for mayor.  Also speaking was shadow U.S. House member Nate Bennett-Fleming, who is one of four candidates running against Bonds, and Shadow U.S. Senator Paul Strauss, who is running for re-election.

Gray, who spoke for about 20 minutes before answering questions from club members, acknowledged that several of the eight candidates challenging him in the primary have strong records of support on LGBT issues.

“But the fact of the matter is I’m the only one who’s actually been in the seat where you really implement and have the ability to influence policy as the mayor,” he said. “And as a result, while I think they have done some good things, I don’t think they have come near matching what I have done and I don’t think they will.”

Gray said his support for the LGBT community dates back to his days as a student at D.C.’s Dunbar High School when he observed firsthand how his class valedictorian, who was gay and later realized he was transgender, was subjected to hostility.

“It was painful to me watching what he had to go through, what he had to endure as a human being,” Gray said. “And I said to myself if I ever had the chance I’m going to do something to be able to ensure equality for people who should have the opportunity to be themselves.”

Years later, when he was chair of the D.C. Council at the time the city’s same-sex marriage law came up for a vote in 2009, Gray said he experienced hostility and rejection from same-sex marriage opponents in response to his support for marriage equality.

“Frankly, what I went through as chairman nobody hopefully will ever have to go through,” he told Stein Club members. “I had people screaming at me. There were some ministers that supported me for Ward 7 Council member and then for Chair. And they don’t speak to me anymore,” he said.

“And I said fine. If that’s the way you want to row, that’s all right with me. I know who I am. I know what I stand for and I am not flinching. I am not blinking. This is the right thing to do and we’re going to continue to do the right thing in the District of Columbia. And you all let me know when you get on board, OK?”

The latter comment drew applause from club members, many of whom are supporting Gray’s re-election.

The Stein Club’s former president and current vice president for political affairs, Martin Garcia, announced at the meeting that the club will hold a joint candidate forum and endorsement meeting for City Council candidates on Feb. 26 and a combined mayoral candidate forum and endorsement meeting on March 5.

Garcia said the club has yet to decide whether to make endorsements in other races, including  the congressional delegate seat current held by Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton; the races for “shadow” U.S. senator and U.S. representative; and Advisory Neighborhood Commission races.

14
Jan
2014

Pregnant smokers, drinkers more likely to have gay kids: study

woman, smoking, gay news, Washington Blade, pregnant

Choices made during pregnancy such as smoking can raise the chance of having a gay child, according to a new study. (Photo by Bigstock)

LONDON — A new study from an Amsterdam University neurobiology professor suggests that choices made during pregnancy such as taking synthetic hormones, smoking, drinking and stress can raise the chance of having a gay child, the Sunday Times reports.

Professor Dick Swaab says smoking, drinking and taking drugs designed to combat depression during pregnancy can lower a child’s IQ, while living in an area with high levels of traffic pollution can raise the risk of autism, the Times reports.

Swaab’s claims follow a survey of the latest academic studies about links between the lifestyles of pregnant women and the development of their babies. Each provides evidence of the sensitivity of the brain to outside influences, the article said.

“Pregnant women suffering from stress are also more likely to have homosexual children of both genders because their raised level of the stress hormone cortisol affects the production of fetal sex hormones,” the Telegraph quoted him as having said.

22
Jan
2014

Pride House

The Human Rights Campaign, Team DC, Capital Pride, Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies and Pride House International hosted “Pride House: Washington Olympics Opening Ceremony Watch Event” at HRC headquarters on Friday to benefit the Russia LGBT Sport Federation. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) Pride House 

08
Feb
2014