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Vikings investigate homophobia allegations

Chris Kluwe, National Football League, gay news, Washington Blade, Minnesota Vikings

Chris Kluwe (Photo by Joe Bielawa)

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe claims his advocacy for marriage equality prompted the team to cut him from its roster last year.

Kluwe claimed in a Jan. 2 post to the website Deadspin that special teams coach Mike Priefer said in “one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing” during a November meeting that, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island and then nuke it until it glows.” The outspoken same-sex marriage advocate went on to say Vikings owner Zygi Wilf backed his efforts, but head coach Leslie Fraiser asked him to stop his efforts.

Priefer has denied Kluwe’s allegations as CBS News reported.

The Vikings stressed Kluwe’s performance and salary — and not his activism in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples — contributed to the decision to release him from the roster. The team has launched an investigation into their former punter’s allegations.


Putin: Gay rights protesters won’t face prosecution during Olympics

ABC News, George Stephanopoulos, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Sochi, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade

ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) in Sochi, Russia, on Jan. 17. (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC)

Russian President Vladimir Putin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos during an interview his network aired on Sunday that those who protest the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record during the 2014 Winter Olympics will not face prosecution under Russia’s controversial law that bans gay propaganda to minors.

“Acts of protest and acts of propaganda are somewhat different things,” Putin told Stephanopoulos through a translator during an interview with him and a handful of other journalists from Russia, China and the U.K., that took place in Sochi, Russia, on Friday. “They are close, but if we were to look at them from the legal perspective, then protesting a law does not amount to propaganda of sexuality or sexual abuse of children.”

Putin once again sought to downplay concerns over the gay propaganda law ahead of the Sochi games that begin on Feb. 6 during his interview with Stephanopoulos that aired on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

“It has nothing to do with prosecuting people for their non-traditional orientation,” he told Stephanopoulos. “In this country, everybody is absolutely equal to anybody else, irrespective of one’s religion, sex, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Everybody is equal. So no concerns exist for people who intend to come as athletes or visitors to the Olympics.”

Putin said during the interview that “homosexuality remains a felony” in some U.S. states — Stephanopoulos pointed out the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down these anti-sodomy laws.

The Russian president also noted homosexuality remains a crime in 70 countries — and seven of these nations impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of same-sex sexual relations.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993.

“Russia does not criminally prosecute people for being gay, unlike in over one-third of the world’s nations,” said Putin.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin criticized Putin’s comments to Stephanopoulos.

“President Putin’s public interpretation of the country’s anti-LGBT law is beyond comprehension,” said Griffin in a statement. “This law was designed to do nothing less than secure second class status for LGBT Russians and visitors. It does nothing to protect children, but goes great lengths to harm families.

Putin spoke with Stephanopoulos and other journalists from Russia, China and the U.K. a day before authorities detained a protester who unfurled a rainbow flag as the Olympic torch relay passed through the city of Voronezh.

Putin on Friday once again sought to downplay concerns over Russia’s gay propaganda law during a meeting with Olympic volunteers in Sochi.

“We aren’t banning anything, we aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations unlike many other countries,” said the Russian president as the Associated Press reported. “One can feel relaxed and at ease, but please leave the children in peace.”

LGBT rights advocates blasted Putin’s comments.

“This statement demonstrates very well how the official discourse labels LGBT people as a threat to children, instilling fear and hatred in the society,” Anastasia Smirnova, spokesperson for a coalition of six Russian LGBT advocacy groups that includes the Russian LGBT Network, told the Blade on Friday.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who has frequently criticized the Kremlin over its LGBT rights record, described Putin’s comments as “sickening.”

The U.S. State Department on Jan. 10 issued an alert to Americans who plan to travel to Sochi that highlighted ongoing security concerns and the vagueness of Russia’s gay propaganda law.

“The job to Olympics host is to ensure security of the participants in the Olympics and visitors,” Putin told Stephanopoulos. “We will do whatever it takes.”


Judge hears oral arguments in Va. marriage case

Josh Duggar, Victoria Cobb, Family Foundation of Virginia, Allison Howard, Concerned Women for America, E.W. Jackson, Norfolk, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

From left: Josh Duggar, Victoria Cobb of the Family Foundation of Virginia, Allison Howard of Concerned Women for America and EW Jackson take part in an anti-gay marriage rally outside the Norfolk ,Va., federal courthouse on Feb. 4. (Photo courtesy of the Family Foundation of Virginia)

A federal judge in Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Ted Olson and David Boies, who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, told Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Virginia the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman violates the 14th Amendment. The two men represent Timothy Bostic and Tony London and Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield who filed suit against the gay nuptials ban last year.

“As a proud Virginian, I am gratified to represent two loving couples in my home state who want nothing more than to have the state recognize their relationships,” said Olson. “Virginia’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples relegates gay and lesbian Virginians to second-class status. Laws excluding gay men and lesbians from marriage violate personal freedom, are an unnecessary government intrusion, and cause serious harm. That type of law cannot stand.”

Attorney General Mark Herring, who announced last month he would not defend the marriage amendment, is among those who attended the hearing.

“Today was a very significant day in the journey toward full equality under the law for all Virginians,” said Herring in a statement after he left the courthouse. “I am proud to say that the commonwealth of Virginia stood on the right side of the law and the right side of history today in opposing this discriminatory ban.”

Lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom who are representing Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg defended the marriage amendment that Virginia voters approved by a 57-43 percent margin in 2006. Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer tapped attorneys with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Virginia Beach law firm to represent him in the case.

The Family Foundation of Virginia and a group of professors from Regent University and other conservative academic institutions filed amicus briefs with the court in support of the marriage amendment.

“These citizens support marriage as defined by our constitution because they understand and recognize that our children deserve, whenever possible, to have both a mom and a dad,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia. “They are also frustrated that they’ve been disenfranchised by an unconscionable and unprecedented decision by the attorney general of Virginia to take a position in court against the marriage amendment.”

Cobb joined former Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial candidate E.W. Jackson, Josh Duggar of the TLC series “19 Kids and Counting” who works for the Family Research Council, Allison Howard of Concerned Women for America and other same-sex marriage opponents who rallied outside the courthouse before the hearing. Roughly 60 LGBT rights advocates and other supporters of nuptials for gays and lesbians attended a candlelight vigil on Monday night.

“We want to be married for the happy times, but we need to be married for the sad times,” Schall told the Washington Blade on Monday during an interview with her and Townley and Bostic and London. “Virginia should not be in the business of standing in the way of people wanting to care for each other and take responsibility for each other.”

The hearing took place a day after the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so.

The measure’s sponsors — state Dels. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) and Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) — are among the 30 lawmakers who asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to appoint a special counsel to defend the marriage amendment.

The governor, who supports marriage rights for same-sex couples, last week declined to do so.

A federal judge in Harrisonburg on Jan. 31 certified a second lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia filed on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth as a class action.

Allen said she would issue her ruling in the AFER case “soon.”

“We want to be married,” London told the Blade on Monday. “It’s important to us as Virginians that we get married in the state that we love.”


Cartoon: Ellen Page comes out

Ellen Page, Human Rights Campaign, Juno, coming out, HRC, gay news, Washington Blade

Ellen Page comes out. (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)


Author of disputed study takes stand in Mich.

Regnerus, gay juror, National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

DETROIT — The author of a controversial study of adult children often cited by opponents of gay marriage defended his work in court this week but also said it was too early for social scientists to make far-reaching conclusions about families headed by same-sex couples, the Associated Press reports in a story carried by the Washington Post.

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan, which is defending a ban on gay marriage. The constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2004, is being challenged by two Detroit-area nurses in a rare trial.

Regnerus was the leader of a study that screened thousands of people, ages 18-39, and found roughly 250 who said they grew up in a house where a mom or dad eventually had a same-sex relationship, the AP reports.

He found they were more likely to have problems — welfare dependence, less education, marijuana use — than young adults from stable, straight-led families. But he later acknowledged that his study didn’t include children raised by same-sex couples in stable relationships.

The results ignited a blast of criticism when they were published in an academic journal in 2012, the AP reports.


Mayor honors ‘Sheroes’ of LGBT movement

Kelley Robinson, Planned Parenthood, Cathy Chu, SMYAL, Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, Amy Nelson, Whitman-Walker Health, Sheroes of the Movement, Mayor's office of GLBT Affairs, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Kelley Robinson of Planned Parenthood, Cathy Chu of SMYAL and Amy Nelson of Whitman-Walker Health received their Sheroes of the Movement awards at a ceremony in the Fannie Mae Conference Center on Friday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

On behalf of his Office of GLBT Affairs, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on March 21 presented the city’s 2014 Sheroes of the Movement Award to three women chosen for outstanding contributions to the “LGBT movement and community” of the District of Columbia.

In a ceremony at the federal Fannie Mae Conference Center on Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Gray handed the awards to Cathy Chu, Youth Leadership Manager for the local LGBT youth advocacy and services group SMYAL; Amy Nelson, Supervising Attorney at Whitman-Walker Health’s Legal Services Program; and Kelley Robinson, Assistant Director for Youth Engagement at Planned Parenthood.

“The purpose of these awards is to honor Sheroes of the District of Columbia GLBT community for their achievement and community service during Women’s History Month,” said Earl Fowlkes, chair of the Mayor’s GLBT Advisory Committee, which selected this year’s honorees.

“These unsung Sheroes have contributed so much to our community and are often not recognized for their work in helping to make the District one of the most vibrant GLBT communities to live and work in the United States,” Fowlkes in a statement in the ceremony’s program book.

A statement released by the mayor’s office says the Office of GLBT Affairs organized this year’s 3rd annual Sheroes of the Movement Award program with the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives and the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs.

The statement describes the 2014 awardees as “three lesbian, bisexual or queer women who have made significant contributions to the LGBT movement and community in the District.”

Chu, among other things, develops programs and training initiatives “designed to empower young LGBTQ-identified individuals in the District, Maryland and Virginia,” according to biographical information released by the mayor’s office. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the National Association of Gay-Straight Alliance Networks and Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sisters.

As part of her work at SMYAL, she facilitates the Women’s Leadership Institute, which provides a weekly discussion group and overnight retreats for more than 100 “young LGB women and gender non-conforming youth” in the D.C. area, information released by the mayor’s office says.

Nelson, an attorney, among other things, oversees Whitman-Walker Health’s client intake, supervises staff attorneys and represents clients — about half of whom are LGBT — in the areas of health care access, public benefits, consumer rights and workplace rights cases.

She is credited with playing the lead role in launching the city’s first Name and Gender Change Clinic to assist transgender people in updating their legal identity documents and personal records. In partnership with the local group TransLAW, the Name and Gender Change Clinic has served more than 270 clients and has trained more than 150 volunteers to carry out its services.

Among other things, Nelson has served on the board of Miriam’s House, a residence for HIV-positive, homeless women.

Robinson operates Planned Parenthood’s national youth and campus engagement programs known as the Planned Parenthood Generation, which is a project of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, information released by the mayor’s office says.

“She is dedicated to cultivating, engaging, and supporting a broad, diverse network of young leaders, especially young people of color and LGBTQ youth,” a statement in the program book says. “Kelley has doubled Planned Parenthood’s campus presence over the last two years, for a total of 250 campus groups nationwide, nearly 100 teen advocacy programs and thousands of individual activists,” it says.

“It’s a real honor to be here,” Gray told the awards gathering. “I’ve said there’s a lot of people who have done a lot for the residents of the District of Columbia to bring about a level of understanding and acceptance that otherwise might not exist in the District of Columbia – maybe more so than any other city or state.”

Gray added, “We need to recognize people who work and do this kind of advocacy. I’m proud to be in a city that is a leader on the issues that are important to us…I want to again congratulate the honorees tonight.”

Kelley told the Blade after the ceremony that she was “so proud” to have been selected as an honoree.

“It is an incredible honor and I’m just honored and privileged to be able to do the work that I do every day working with young people, working with communities of color, working with queer folks,” she said.

Nelson said she, too, was “honored and humbled to be recognized along with” Chu and Robinson. “And I’m thrilled that the mayor and his office decided to honor us and create this event.”

Chu said after the ceremony that an important part of her work is to monitor the growing number of Gay-Straight Alliance groups or GSAs that students are forming in D.C.-area high schools as well as some middle schools.

“We definitely see growth. We know of 93 GSAs right now,” she said in both public and private schools in the D.C. metro area.


Gov’t picks up in vitro costs for Quebec couples

Quebec, IVF, Legendre, gay news, Washington Blade

Quebec was the first province to fully fund IVF, whose cost exploded this year to $67 million. (Photo by AzertyFab; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

MONTREAL — Quebec is picking up the cost for fertility treatments of a surrogate mother acting on behalf of a gay male couple, a novelty that has spawned controversy over the province’s generous in vitro fertilization program, the Globe and Mail reports.

Media personality Joël Legendre joyfully announced on his Facebook page last week that he was expecting twins with his partner this summer, thanks to a Quebec woman who agreed to act as a surrogate. Her in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment is being covered under the province’s health-insurance plan, the Globe and Mail article says.

Legendre, a radio host, said the IVF program had been unfair because while lesbian couples could benefit, gay men could not.

After multiple rejections by the Quebec health-insurance board, Legendre appealed to his provincial Member of the National Assembly for help, who in turn passed along the request to Réjean Hébert, health minister under the previous Parti Québécois government.

A week later, Legendre said, an aide to Hébert contacted him to say “we opened everything, and now gays can have children if they want.”

Several male couples he knows followed suit, Legendre told the Globe and Mail.

The issue stirred a heated debate, partly because of the soaring cost of the province’s fertility treatments at a time of budget constraints. Quebec was the first province to fully fund IVF, whose cost exploded this year to $67 million, from $27 million in its first eight months of operation starting in 2010. Each IVF cycle costs the government $4,750.


Cuban LGBT advocate arrested for ‘peaceful protest’

David Bustamante Rodríguez, gay news, Washington Blade

Cuban authorities reportedly beat David Bustamante Rodríguez on May 26 as they arrested him during a “peaceful protest” at his home near the city of Santa Clara. (Image courtesy of Ignacio Estrada Cepero)

A Cuban LGBT rights advocate with HIV remains in jail more than two weeks after authorities reportedly arrested him because he criticized the country’s government.

Ignacio Estrada Cepero of the Cuban League Against AIDS told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Miami on June 6 that David Bustamante Rodríguez, 21, was “savagely beaten” and “arrested in a violent way” on May 26 after he staged what he described as a “peaceful protest” on the roof of his home near the city of Santa Clara.

Estrada said that Bustamante, who is a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum that operate independently from the Cuban government, has been accused of “criticizing a figure who led Fidel Castro’s revolution” in 1959 and “criticizing the authorities.”

Estrada told the Blade that Bustamante suffered a broken rib and a fractured hand during his arrest.

He said the activist has also not been able to speak with his mother, Sandra Rodríguez de Bustamante. Estrada further noted Rodríguez, with whom he said he speaks regularly, said her son has not received anti-retroviral drugs since his arrest.

“We are concerned that David is not receiving specialized medical attention,” said Estrada.

Rodríguez, who is a member of Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White who have staged weekly protests against the Cuban government since a 2003 crackdown on dissidents, claims her son has been targeted because he is gay.

Estrada told the Blade that authorities earlier this year forced Bustamante to cut his hair.

He said police have also arrested and beat Rodríguez on several occasions. Estrada told the Blade that Bustamante’s mother has been on a hunger strike for two weeks to protest her son’s detention.

“Last Monday marked two weeks since David has been in the prison for criminals with HIV and AIDS in the city of Santa Clara,” said Estrada. “They have kept him without bringing formal charges.”

Bustamante’s arrest took place less than a month after more than 400 LGBT rights advocates from across the world attended the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean Conference in the Cuban beach resort of Varadero.

Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), was president of the local committee that organized the ILGALAC conference. Her supporters in recent years have applauded her for efforts to lobby her father’s government to begin offering free sex-reassignment surgery to trans Cubans, implementing a condom distribution campaign and sexual education curriculum and speaking out against anti-LGBT discrimination and for marriage rights for same-sex couples in the Communist country.

Estrada, whose wife, Wendy Iriepa Díaz, once worked for CENESEX, has frequently criticized Mariela Castro and her father’s government.

“She does not recognize the work that is done on the part of the independent gay community,” Estrada told the Blade last July while he and Iriepa were in D.C. “She only recognizes the official part.”

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has repeatedly criticized Mariela Castro and her father’s government over the country’s human rights record. The Cuban-born Republican in May 2013 blasted Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based LGBT advocacy group, for honoring Mariela Castro.

“It’s very important for the U.S. community to understand what is the status of LGBT rights and the denial of rights in Cuba,” Ros-Lehtinen told the Blade last August after she met with Estrada and Iriepa in her Capitol Hill office. “Mariela Castro, as part of the regime, has been on a propaganda tour internationally and here in the U.S. especially trying to sell this facade that is really non-existent in Cuba.”

Neither Mariela Castro nor the Cuban government responded to the Blade’s request for comment.

“Until now there has not been any reaction from the government in Havana,” Estrada told the Blade. “I was monitoring it; there is absolutely nothing.”


Chilean Senate committee approves civil unions bill

National Congress of Chile, gay news, Washington Blade

A Chilean Senate committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a civil unions bill. (Photo by the Photographic Collection of the Library of the National Congress of Chile; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A Chilean Senate committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to advance a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

The vote sets the stage for a potential vote on the measure in the full Senate.

“Today we have taken a step forward in this fight for civil unions that we began a decade ago,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in a statement. “The step that was once a dream is becoming real.”

Luis Larraín, president of Fundación Iguales, another Chilean LGBT advocacy group, also applauded the vote.

“We are one step closer to the state of Chile recognizing that there are distinct types of family and that all of them deserve protection,” he said.

Former President Sebastián Piñera first introduced the civil unions bill in the Chilean Congress in 2011.

Senators in January voted 28-6 to move the proposal out of committee.

President Michelle Bachelet, who took office in March, publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples in the South American country during last year’s presidential campaign.

Chile’s highest court in 2011 ruled the country’s ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians is constitutional in a case the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation filed on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights.

The Piñera administration argued in a brief it filed with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights last November in response to the same-sex marriage lawsuit that the plaintiffs have “not exhausted domestic remedies to obtain the nullification of the administrative act for [the] alleged violation of fundamental rights.” Lawyers representing the three couples have repeatedly urged Bachelet to reject her predecessor’s position in the case.

Anti-LGBT violence casts shadow over advances

LGBT rights advocates have seen a number of legal and political advances in the conservative South American country in recent years.

Piñera in 2012 signed an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill that had languished in the Chilean Congress for seven years. It 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.

The country’s Senate in January advanced a bill that would allow trans Chileans to legally change their name and sex without sex reassignment surgery.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012 ruled in favor of Karen Atala, a lesbian judge who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband seven years earlier because of her sexual orientation.

Claudio Arriagada last November became the first openly gay person elected to the Chilean Congress.

Jaime Parada Hoyl, a former spokesperson for the Movement of Homosexual Integration and Liberation, in 2012 won a seat on the municipal council in Providencia, a wealthy Santiago enclave.

Voters in the Santiago suburb of Lampa re-elected transgender Councilwoman Alejandra González during the same municipal elections. Trans activist Zuliana Araya also won a seat on the Municipal Council in the coastal city of Valparaíso.

Anti-LGBT violence remains a serious concern in spite of these political and legal advances.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation said in a press release on Tuesday that Zaconi Orellana Acevedo, a 22-year-old trans woman, was killed earlier this week in a town outside of Santiago.

“We cannot forget that the female transsexual population is particularly vulnerable, because from an early age all doors are closed for them and a great many of them are forced to engage in commercial sex work to survive,” said the advocacy group. “The lack of a gender identity law that would allow trans people to change their name with a simple process in the Civil Registry and not in the judiciary as occurs right now, would bring more development possibilities to this social group.”

A rash of other anti-LGBT attacks over the past year have sparked outrage among Chilean advocates. These include the death of Esteban Parada Armijo in January after two men stabbed him in Santiago’s Bellavista neighborhood where several gay bars and clubs are located.

Guillermo Aguilera Guerrero allegedly stabbed Alejandro Alfredo Bustamante Godoy to death inside his Valparaíso home a few weeks before Parada’s murder.

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


‘Kinky’ Grand ‘Candelabra’

Here is our Top 10 countdown of the entertainment world’s gayest moments of the year:

Thomas Roberts, gay news, Washington Blade

Thomas Roberts (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

10. Gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts draws criticism for hosting the Miss Universe pageant in Russia in November. Roberts and Miss Universe co-owner Donald Trump claimed it was a chance to make a positive impact in the country where anti-LGBT laws are abundant. “We are good, regular, hard-working people who come from solid families,” Roberts said. “So when I heard there was a chance at this assignment, I aggressively went after it.” Many gay rights activists criticized any work in Russia with some even calling for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.


Steve Grand, NGLCC National Dinner, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Building Museum, gay news, Washington Blade

Steve Grand (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

9. Gay country singer Steve Grand has a massive YouTube hit with his video “All-American Boy” in July. While many enjoyed the hot video,  some gay viewers objected to the storyline, which finds the friend ultimately rejecting Grand’s advances. Grand, who appeared at D.C.’s Town Danceboutique in November, said the video was more about “longing for someone” as opposed to “being gay.”


Frank Ocean, music, gay news, Washington Blade

Frank Ocean (Photo by Nabil Elderkin; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

8. Out hip-hop newcomer Frank Ocean won two Grammy Awards in February. His 2012 project “Channel Orange” won in the new category Best Urban Contemporary Album and he shared a joint award with Kanye West and Jay-Z in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “No Church in the Wild.” He was nominated in four other categories. Ocean’s acceptance in the mainstream hip-hop world — where homophobic lyrics are not uncommon — was seen as a major sign of progress.


Kinky Boots, Broadway, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

The cast of ‘Kinky Boots.’ (Photo courtesy of Foresight Theatrical)

7. The hit Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” was a major triumph on Tony night in June when out actor Harvey Fierstein, ally Cyndi Lauper and out actor Billy Porter all won. The show, which tells the story of a struggling British shoe factory whose owner forms an unlikely partnership with drag queen Lola to save the business, was a critical and commercial success. Lauper performed one of the songs (“Sex is in the Heel”) in Washington in November at the Warner Theatre during her “She’s So Unusual 30th Anniversary Tour.”


6. However, gay themes can’t in and of themselves save a show, especially on TV. It was an uneven year for TV shows with gay characters. For every success, like Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” which features a lesbian lead character serving jail time, there were also high-profile failures such as the Ryan Murphy-helmed “The New Normal,” a sitcom about a gay couple that NBC cancelled in May, and “Partners,” the CBS sitcom cancelled at the end of 2012 before its remaining seven episodes were aired in the U.S.


5. MSNBC suspended Alec Baldwin from his weekly talk show in November two weeks after he used an anti-gay slur against a New York photographer. A TMZ-captured video appeared to show Baldwin calling a paparazzo who tried to take a photo of his wife and infant daughter a “cocksucking fag” though the actor claimed he said “fathead” and subsequently apologized. Baldwin has been in hot water before for similar comments. He apologized to GLAAD earlier in the year for calling British reporter George Stak a “toxic little queen.”


Matt Damon, Liberace, Scott Thorson, Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra, HBO, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Douglas, left, as Liberace, and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson in ‘Behind the Candelabra.’ (Photo courtesy HBO)

4. The HBO Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra” starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon is a critical and ratings success when it airs in May. It won three Emmys in September including Best Miniseries or Movie and Best Director for Steven Soderbergh who said earlier that he originally planned the film for theatrical release, but couldn’t get backing. “Nobody would make it,” the straight director told the New York Post. “We went to everybody in town. They all said it was too gay.”


Matthew Shepard, The Book of Matt, gay news, Washington Blade

Cover of ‘The Book of Matt’

3. “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard” creates major controversy when it’s released in September. Gay journalist Stephen Jiminez, publishing around the 15th anniversary of Shepard’s death, claims Shepard had a sexual relationship with convicted murderer Aaron McKinney and that Shepard’s death was not a hate crime so much as a crystal meth-fueled attack based on alleged conflicts over a drug deal at a time when the two were working for rival drug suppliers. Many LGBT activists including the Shepard Foundation dismissed the book as “attempts now to rewrite the story” based on “untrustworthy sources, factual errors, rumors and innuendo.” Jiminez says he worked on the book for 13 years and interviewed more than 100 people on the record.


2. It was another big year for celebrities coming out. Among this year’s crop are “Prison Break” actor Wentworth Miller, “Cosby Show” vet Raven-Symone, Los Angeles Galaxy pro soccer player Robbie Rogers, Broadway vet Victor Garber, “Kyle XY” actor Matt Dallas and actress/singer Maria Bello. Perhaps most memorable — though hardly shocking — was Jodie Foster. While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in January, Foster she’d been out for years to her family and friends and though not ever using the word “lesbian,” acknowledged her former partner Cydney Bernard. In the political world, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) came out, making him the eighth openly LGB member of Congress.


Brendon Ayanbadejo, gay news, Washington Blade, Baltimore Ravens

Former Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo has been an outspoken supporter of LGBT rights since 2009 and served as guest editor of the Blade in August. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

1. If Hollywood seemed surprisingly squeamish about gays (see the “Candelebra” entry at No. 4), gay visibility in the sports world was unprecedented in 2013. Among the notables were basketball player Jason Collins who came out on the cover of Sports Illustrated in May; swimmer Diana Nyad, who swam from Cuba to Florida in August; British diver and Olympic Bronze medalist Tom Daley who came out in December; and Brendan Ayanbadejo who was part of the Super Bowl-XLVII-winning Baltimore Ravens in 2012 and has been a staunch advocate of same-sex marriage as a straight ally. Ayanbadejo guest edited the Aug. 30 edition of the Blade.