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Marriage and more

The momentous events of 2013 hit close to home, as marriage equality arrived in Maryland and Delaware. But last year wasn’t all about marriage. It was a big year for Democrats in Virginia and a lesbian lawmaker announced a bid for Maryland governor.

Here’s a look at the top 10 local news stories of 2013 as chosen by Blade editorial staffers.

 

#1 Marriage equality comes to Md., Del.

 

Clayton Zook, Tracy Staples, Wayne MacKenzie, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Tilghman Island

Marriage equality expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic in 2013 with Maryland and Delaware joining D.C. in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie tied the knot on New Year’s Day on Tilghman Island. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland and Delaware were among the states in which same-sex couples began to legally marry in 2013.

Seven same-sex couples married at Baltimore City Hall on Jan. 1 shortly after Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect in a ceremony that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated. They include long-time mayoral aide James Scales and his partner, William Tasker.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” said Rawlings-Blake.

More than half a dozen same-sex couples exchanged vows at the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on Jan. 1. These include innkeepers Tracy Staples and Bob Zuber who tied the knot almost immediately after the law took effect at midnight.

“I’m very proud of Maryland,” Michelle Miller of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County told the Washington Blade on Jan. 1 after she married Nora Clouse at the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on May 7 signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) came out as a lesbian on the floor of the state Senate while she and her colleagues debated the measure. The New Castle County Democrat and her partner of more than 20 years, Vikki Bandy, on July 1 became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple when the couple converted their civil union into a marriage during a ceremony that New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden officiated.

“It’s exciting, both historically and personally,” Peterson told reporters after she and Bandy exchanged vows inside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington. “I never thought in our lifetimes we would be getting married.”

Boulden later on July 1 also officiated Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cote’s wedding in Wilmington that Attorney General Beau Biden, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon and other local and state officials attended.

“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” said Biden.

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis and Rev. Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington are among those who testified against the same-sex marriage bill. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church on July 1 protested the law outside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington and at other locations throughout the state.

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) is the only Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored the measure. John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, on March 15 came out during an exclusive interview with the Blade at an Equality Delaware fundraiser in Wilmington.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” said Fluharty. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

 

#2 McAuliffe elected Va. governor

 

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe is Virginia’s next governor after a campaign that prominently featured gay issues. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Nov. 6 defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.

McAuliffe has repeatedly said his first executive order as governor will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. The former DNC chair in February also endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily defeated Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson in the state’s lieutenant gubernatorial race. The State Board of Elections on Nov. 25 officially certified state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) as the winner of the race to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general, but state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) requested a recount because he lost to his Democratic rival by only 165 votes.

Cuccinelli highlighted his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples during two debates against McAuliffe that took place in Hot Springs and McLean in July and September respectively. LGBT rights advocates also blasted the outgoing attorney general for appealing a federal appellate court’s March ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Jackson faced persistent criticism during the campaign over his previous comments that equated gay men to pedophiles and “very sick people.”

“Without exception, the Democratic candidates for statewide office offered unflinching support for marriage equality, a welcoming business climate and respect for a woman’s right to choose,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) after the election. “The people of Virginia aligned themselves with McAuliffe’s and Northam’s vision of an inclusive, forward moving commonwealth.”

 

 

#3 Va. lawmakers confirm gay judge

 

Virginia lawmakers on Jan. 15 confirmed gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked the former prosecutor’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s.

Thorne-Begland in 1992 publicly discussed his sexual orientation during an interview on ABC’s “Nightline.” He unsuccessfully challenged his discharge from the U.S. Navy under the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

Thorne-Begland is also a former Equality Virginia board member.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after lawmakers approved Thorne-Begland’s judgeship. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

Thorne-Begland is Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

 

 #4 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay: report

 

gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Gallup says that 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A report released in February by the Gallup polling organization showed that the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of self-identified LGBT residents in the nation in comparison to the 50 states.

Ten percent of 493 D.C. residents who responded to Gallup’s daily tracking polls between June 1 and Dec. 30, 2012 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the report. By comparison, 3.3 percent of a sample of 4,195 Maryland residents and 2.9 percent of a sample of 6,323 Virginians identified themselves as LGBT.

The report did not compare D.C. to other cities. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which studies LGBT related demographics, told the Blade the Gallop statistics appeared to be a more accurate snapshot of the country’s LGBT population than previous studies.

 

#5 Mizeur runs for governor in Md.

 

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Heather Mizeur is seeking to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on July 16 officially entered the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m running for governor because I love this state and I see limitless possibilities on what we can accomplish together,” the Montgomery County Democrat told the Washington Blade before she announced her candidacy. “There are great challenges facing us and also incredible opportunities.”

Mizeur last month raised eyebrows when she tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton as her running mate. The Prince George’s County pastor in 2012 emerged as one of the most prominent supporters of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved in a referendum.

“I have stood up for justice,” said Coates at a Nov. 14 campaign event during which Mizeur officially introduced him as her running mate. “I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”

Mizeur will face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed Martin O’Malley.

“Diversity is enormously important,” Mizeur told the Blade in July. “Not simply to have a gay governor, but to have a governor who can represent the voices of people in communities that have not always had a voice in the process.”

 

#6 Rash of violent incidents in June

 

Miles DeNiro, Manny & Olga's, hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

Drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria in June. (Screen capture)

Four transgender women, a gay man dressed in drag, and a lesbian were victims of separate violent attacks, including a murder, during the last two weeks of June, prompting LGBT activists to call a “community response” meeting to address the incidents.

Lesbian Malika Stover, 35, of Southeast D.C., was shot to death on June 22 following what police said was an argument with a neighbor that did not appear to be linked to her sexual orientation.

But transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized the meeting, said Stover’s slaying stunned people in the LGBT community who knew her.

“This is really putting all of us on edge,” she said. “You’re seeing all of these incidents happening in such a short period of time.”

Police arrested a 23-year-old male suspect for allegedly stabbing transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, multiple times on June 21 in an abandoned house in Southeast D.C. Police said the incident stemmed from a dispute and did not appear to be a hate crime. In another incident on June 23, gay male drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria near 14th and U streets, N.W. in an incident that was captured on video and posted on the Internet. The two women were arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge simple assault.

 

#7 Trans birth certificate bill hailed  

 

Vincent Gray, JaParker Deoni Jones, David Grosso, Ruby Corado, Rick Rosendall, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill in August enabling trans people to change their birth certificates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bill signed into law by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in August that removes obstacles to the process of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their new gender has been hailed as a groundbreaking measure.

Among other things, the new law repealed a provision in an existing law that required transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery as a condition for obtaining a new birth certificate. Transgender advocates said the surgery was too expensive for many people and medically hazardous to others.

The new law is named the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 in honor of a transgender woman murdered near her home in 2012.

Another key provision in the law requires the D.C. Registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition.”

 

 

#8 T.H.E. declares bankruptcy

 

Earline Budd, gay news, Washington Blade

Earline Budd called on the city to investigate T.H.E.’s management practices. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender Health Empowerment, D.C.’s leading transgender services and advocacy organization for nearly 10 years, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7. A short time later it discontinued all of its transgender-related programs.

The bankruptcy filing came after the D.C. Department of Health abruptly cut off its funding for T.H.E. when it learned that the IRS placed liens on the organization for its failure to pay more than $260,000 in employee withholding taxes over a period of at least three years. The bankruptcy filing shows that T.H.E.’s total debt comes to more than $560,000.

During a bankruptcy trustee’s hearing in August, T.H.E. executive director Anthony Hall said the group’s only source of income at the time of the hearing was a city grant calling for the organization to operate a non-LGBT related temporary housing facility for crime victims.

Longtime transgender activist Earline Budd, a former T.H.E. employee and one of its founders, has called on the city to investigate the group’s management practices to determine the cause of its financial problems.

 

 

#9 Mautner merges with Whitman-Walker

 

Don Blanchon, Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization based in Washington, D.C. since its founding in 1990, became an arm of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health in 2013 in what leaders of both groups called an “historic collaboration.”

In a joint statement released in June, the two organizations said the arrangement would bring the Mautner Project’s programs and staff under the “umbrella” of Whitman-Walker, an LGBT community health care provider founded in 1978.

Leslie Calman, Mautner Project’s executive director at the time the merger was announced, said the joining of the two groups would allow Mautner to “offer more critical services to a greater number of women who need those services throughout the region. It’s a natural fit.”

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. He said the Mautner Project’s “programs and reach within their community will help us fulfill that mission.”

Calman said that in addition to continuing its services for lesbians with serious illnesses such as cancer, the Mautner programs at Whitman-Walker would also continue various illness prevention programs such as cancer screening, smoking cessation and obesity reduction.

 

 

#10 Carson steps down as Hopkins speaker

 

Ben Carson, Values Voter Summit, Washington Blade, gay news

Ben Carson compared LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman).

A rising star in the Republican Party stirred controversy by comparing LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia, leading him to give up his role as commencement speaker at John Hopkins University.

The former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity when expressing his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition” of marriage, Carson said.

Carson’s remarks invoked the ire of students at John Hopkins University, where he was selected to speak as commencement speaker. The organization Media Matters asserted a majority of the graduating class, or around 700 students, called for his ouster. Although sources initially said Carson wouldn’t relinquish his speaking role at commencement, Carson eventually indicated he would acquiesce to students’ desires and step down as speaker.

But Carson went on to other public appearances, including one later in the year at a venue closer in tune with his views. Carson was among the speakers the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, where he articulated his opposition to marriage equality.

“We need to recognize that God created the family structure for a reason and marriage is a sacred institution from God himself, and there is no reason that man needs to change the definition of marriage,” Carson said.

02
Jan
2014

Ladies on the move

Maryland Stingers, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

The Maryland Stingers. (Photo courtesy the team)

Despite a lot of changes in rugby in this part of the country, the Maryland Stingers, a local women’s team, is gearing up for a busy spring.

The Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) was an association of youth, high school, collegiate and adult men’s and women’s rugby teams in the Mid-Atlantic United States.

In August of 2013, MARFU ceased to exist because of some reshuffling being done by USA Rugby. With approximately 6,800 players from about 180 clubs, MARFU represented the largest territorial rugby union in the United States.

MARFU was split in two and renamed the Mid-Atlantic Conference (NCR4) which now consists of two geographic unions — Capital Geographic Union and East Penn Geographic Union. The teams completed their fall 2013 season under the new designations and are still waiting on the competitive matrix schedule for the spring season.

The Stingers, a women’s Division 2-South club team, are launching their practice schedule in February in anticipation of matrix play beginning in March. The Stingers, who have a presence at Capital Pride every year, are a diverse group of lady rugby players with varying levels of skill and age.

“Because of the transient nature of the D.C. area, recruiting new players is an ongoing process,” says Taryn Michelitch of the Stingers. “In addition to former rugby players, we get a lot of crossover from lacrosse and soccer. Beginners are also always welcome.”

The Stingers’ schedule consists of spring and fall seasons played under the rugby fifteens rules and a summer season played under the rugby sevens rules.

Practices for the spring and fall seasons are held under the lights at Duvall Field in College Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Practices for the summer season are held at the Tacoma Education Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m.

Dues for the team are tiered with first-year members paying a lower amount. All players must join USA Rugby to compete.

For those who have never played Rugby, the Stingers offer skills practices at the beginning of each season.

“We start the seasons out with ‘rookie practices’ consisting of non-contact skills,” Michelitch says. “An experienced player will spend concentrated time with the rookies going over skills and rules.”

In addition to league play, the Stingers compete in rugby tournaments throughout the year. In the past they’ve competed at Ruggerfest in Manassas, Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington and Cape Fear in Wilmington, N.C.

Despite their busy schedule, the lady Stingers find time to give back to the community.  Periodically during the year, they can be found doing clean-up on Duvall Field.

They have also volunteered their time in the United States Quad Rugby Association. The University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute is home to Maryland Mayhem, a collision (wheelchair rugby) team.

Look for the Stingers to start bi-weekly practices in February for the spring season.

“Our roster of players usually ranges from 20 to 30 players,” Michelitch says. “We have a core group of women who play consistently from year to year which is why the team has remained active since the early 1980s.”

14
Jan
2014

Marriage rights seminar scheduled

wedding expo, wedding rings, gay news, Washington Blade, seminar

(Photo by iStock)

For those newly married same-sex couples and those planning to tie the knot, a seminar covering a variety of legal and financial matters will take place on Jan. 25 in Towson. Issues to be discussed include estate planning, inheritance and estate tax benefits, health issues and qualification for Medicaid, tax law issues and income tax pros and cons.

Pessin Katz Law estate planning attorneys Kimberly L. Battaglia and Helen M. Smith will be on hand for an informal discussion of these issues. The seminar will take place from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., with registration beginning at 9:45 a.m. at Pessin Katz Law, P.A.’s Seminar Room, 901 Dulaney Valley Rd., Suite 400, Towson.

The seminar is free, but registration is required. RSVP by calling Rhonda King at 410-938-8800 or email rking@pklaw.com. Parking is available in the Sheraton garage.

22
Jan
2014

Pro-LGBT banner set on fire at D.C. church

St. Luke's United Methodist Church Mission Center, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. police are investigating the Feb. 5 burning of a banner outside St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Mission Center. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in D.C. that includes St. Luke’s Mission Center Church at Wisconsin and Calvert streets, N.W.)

D.C. police are investigating the burning of a banner last week outside St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Mission Center at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Calvert Street, N.W., as a possible anti-LGBT hate crime.

Rev. Charles Parker, senior pastor of three LGBT supportive United Methodist churches in D.C., including St. Luke’s, said in a Feb. 6 statement posted on the church website that the incident appeared to be related to the heated debate within the Methodist church over same-sex marriage.

Church spokesperson Jeff Clouser told the Blade on Monday, Feb. 10, that St. Luke’s employees discovered last Tuesday, Feb. 4, that the banner had been burned but weren’t sure exactly when it happened.

“I visited our St. Luke’s campus yesterday to find that someone had burned – yes, burned – our ‘Stop the Trials’ banner calling for a stop to church trials of clergy officiating at same-gender weddings,” Parker wrote in his statement.

He was referring to a banner currently being displayed by LGBT supportive Methodist churches in D.C. and other cities that consists of a rainbow flag bearing the words, “Stop the Trials.” The message refers to a decision by church leaders to put on trial and defrock pastors who defy Methodist Church rules that prohibit its pastors from performing same-sex marriages.

“I am clear in my own wrestling with scripture, tradition, reason, and experience that the current position of our church is wrong,” Parker said in his statement. “I am also clear that other colleagues of good will and integrity have likewise wrestled with the issue and come to a different conclusion,” he said.

“What I would like to ask is, ‘can we respect each other enough to allow each of us to act in accordance with our conscience?’”

Foundry United Methodist Church, another LGBT supportive church on 16th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle, has twice welcomed as a guest speaker Frank Schaefer, a former Methodist minister from Pennsylvania who was defrocked for performing his son’s same-sex wedding.

Foundry is among the D.C.-area Methodist churches that are displaying the “Stop the Trials” banner.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said the incident occurred on Feb. 4 and was reported to police on Feb. 5. She said police have classified it as a “destruction of property-hate bias incident.”

10
Feb
2014

Uganda president: Nobody should ‘impose their views on us’

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has responded to President Obama’s criticism of him over his decision to sign a bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

“Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody,” said Museveni in a Feb. 18 statement the Washington Blade obtained on Friday, referring to Obama’s comments on the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill he issued earlier this week. “We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it.”

Museveni said he sought “scientific opinions” on whether people were “born homosexual” before he announced on Feb. 14 he would sign the controversial measure his country’s lawmakers approved late last year. The Ugandan president specifically cited Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy – with whom he met last month – for sending him information from U.S. scientists who said “there could be some indications that homosexuality could be congenital.”

Museveni said scientists from the Ugandan Ministry of Health and two other agencies came to a “unanimous conclusion” that “homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioral and not genetic.”

“I have now received their signed document, which says there is no single gene that has been traced to cause homosexuality,” said the Ugandan president. “What I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be homosexual. Then my task will be finished and I will sign the bill.”

Museveni’s Feb. 18 statement came a day before reports emerged he had signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. The Ugandan government did not return the Blade’s request for comment, and the RFK Center and other organizations were unable to confirm the reports.

“I certainly disagree with the controversial legislation that Uganda may enact in the coming days,” U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who met with Museveni in the East African country on Jan. 23, told the Blade on Thursday. “As I’ve said before, it is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”

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

The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively on behalf of a Ugandan LGBT rights group that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting homophobic attitudes in the East African country and encouraging lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last August ruled Sexual Minorities Uganda’s lawsuit can move forward.

Lively and other anti-gay advocates held a press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington on Friday where they unveiled a new coalition designed to combat the global LGBT rights movement.

“We unequivocally condemn any violence against anyone, including homosexuals,” said Lively in response to the Blade’s question about the SMUG lawsuit and whether he feels the new coalition will further exacerbate anti-LGBT violence in Uganda, Russia and other countries with controversial gay rights records. “We believe that existing laws in every country are sufficient to protect people from that kind of violence. Anyone who engages in violence against people like that should be prosecuted and punished.”

Two LGBT rights advocates heckled Lively and others who spoke at the press conference for several minutes before security personnel escorted them from the room in which it was taking place.

21
Feb
2014

Final vote on Lithuania propaganda bill postponed

Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, Lithuanian Gay League, gay news, Washington Blade

Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius of the Lithuanian Gay League. (Photo courtesy of Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius)

The Lithuanian Parliament on Thursday postponed the final vote on a bill that seeks to fine those who denigrate the “constitutional value of family life.”

Parliamentarian Petras Gražulis introduced the proposal after Baltic Pride took place in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, last July. The lawmaker whom Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius of the Lithuanian Gay League described to the Washington Blade on Wednesday during an interview from New York City as “the homophobic icon of my country” is among those who tried to disrupt the event.

Gražulis has introduced similar measures since 2011.

“It’s clearly directed against the local LGBT community,” Raskevičius told the Blade.

Gražulis introduced his bill shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a measure into law that bans so-called gay propaganda to minors.

Gražulis sent Putin a letter in his official capacity to congratulate him for signing the controversial measure. He also praised the Russian president for “fighting back against gays” during a speech he gave at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

“[Grazulis] is totally in line with what is happening in Russia,” said Raskevičius.

Lawmakers in Latvia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan and other former Soviet Republics have introduced measures similar to Russia’s gay propaganda law.

The Council of Europe, the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights and Amnesty international are among the groups that have criticized Gražulis’ proposal. It remains unclear when Lithuanian parliamentarians will again consider his bill.

“This amendment targeted at repressing the LGBT community is part of an alarming trend throughout Eastern Europe, where these bills are contributing to a dangerous culture of fear and violence against LGBT people,” said Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First.

13
Mar
2014

Chilean man dies after alleged anti-gay attack

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

A spate of anti-LGBT attacks in Chile over the last year has prompted calls for the government to strengthen the country’s existing hate crimes law named in honor of Daniel Zamudio. (Photos courtesy of Fundación Daniel Zamudio.)

A Chilean man who had been in a coma for nearly six months after a group of men allegedly attacked him because he was gay died on Sunday.

Wladimir Sepúlveda passed away at a hospital in Rancagua, a city that is roughly 55 miles south of Santiago, the Chilean capital.

The 21-year-old had been in a vegetative state after a group of six men attacked him last October in the nearby town of San Francisco de Mostazal. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, said Sepúlveda’s assailants shouted anti-gay slurs at him as they kicked him and punched him in the head.

“The death of Wladimir Sepúlveda, who spent months fighting for his life, is a painful and sad moment,” said Álvaro Elizalde, spokesperson for President Michelle Bachelet, in a statement late on Sunday. “On behalf of the government I want to express my condolences through an embrace of solidarity with his relatives.”

LGBT rights advocates in neighboring Argentina also mourned Sepúlveda’s death.

“Wladimir’s death has profoundly affected us,” said LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón. “We have kept following this case since the crime took place and we had hoped that it would not have this outcome.”

Sepúlveda’s death comes against the backdrop of a spate of anti-LGBT attacks in the South American country.

Esteban Parada Armijo, 22, died in a Santiago hospital in late January after two men stabbed him in the Chilean capital’s Bellavista neighborhood where a number of gay bars and clubs are located.

Alejandro Alfredo Bustamante Godoy, 59, died two weeks earlier after Guillermo Aguilera Guerrero, 18, allegedly stabbed the fast food restaurant owner inside his home in the coastal city of Valparaíso a few weeks earlier. Willian Villanueva, a small-time drug dealer, reportedly said he was going to “kill a faggot” before he allegedly shot Arturo Lomboi to death in the Santiago suburb of Puente Alto in December.

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

Then-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 Vera, a 24-year-old whom a group of self-described neo-Nazis beat to death in a Santiago park earlier that year because he was gay.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation noted on March 27 – the second anniversary of Zamudio’s death – that 26 people have been in murdered in Chile because of their sexual orientation or gender identity since 2002.

The Chilean LGBT advocacy group has sharply criticized a Rancagua judge who charged a man who confessed to attacking Sepúlveda with a lesser charge. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation has also renewed calls for Bachelet’s government to reform the country’s hate crimes law.

Bachelet, who succeeded Piñera last month, supports efforts to strengthen the statute.

“This new death underscores how much we still have to go to advance as a society,” said Elizalde. “We hope that justice will take its course, clarifying the facts and applying the appropriate punishments.”

Sepúlveda’s body has been brought to Santiago for an autopsy. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation said his funeral will take place in Rancagua later this week.

07
Apr
2014

Changes in store for Baltimore Pride

2013 Baltimore Pride, Parade, Gay News, Washington Blade

This year’s Baltimore Pride festivities are moving a few blocks north. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) firmed up the dates for Baltimore Pride—an enterprise run by the GLCCB.  This year’s Baltimore Pride will take place on Father’s Day weekend, June 13-15.

The Pride Parade and Block Party will take place on Saturday, June 14, with the Pride Festival taking place on Sunday, June 15. The parade route will begin at the intersection of Eager and Charles streets and continue on Charles Street up to Mount Royal Avenue. All Pride weekend events will then take place at Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral St. (No events will take place in Druid Hill Park, as in years past).

Twilight on the Terrace, the annual fundraiser for the GLCCB, will take place on June 13 at Gertrude’s restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The GLCCB had originally tapped June 21-22 for the main Pride events, but permitting issues forced the organization to revert to the second weekend in June.  This will mark the first time in more than a decade that the venue has shifted from Eager and Charles Streets for the Block Party on Saturday and from Druid Hill Park for the Sunday festival.

“We apologize for any confusion that this may have caused and are working diligently with Baltimore City officials to make this year’s event a success,” said Kelly Neel, GLCCB interim director in a statement. For more information, visit baltimorepride.org.

13
May
2014

Susan Rice criticizes Russia, others over LGBT records

Susan Rice, Barack Obama Administration, White House Forum on Global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, gay news, Washington Blade

National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Tuesday announced the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has joined a U.S-backed initiative designed to promote LGBT rights around the world. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Tuesday criticized several countries, including Russia, for their treatment of LGBT citizens during a White House forum on international LGBT issues.

Rice also singled out Uganda and Nigeria over draconian anti-gay laws that took effect in those countries earlier this year.

She noted that Brunei could become the eighth country in which those found guilty of consensual same-sex sexual acts could face the death penalty if the second phase of the new Bruneian penal code takes effect.

Rice categorized the Russian law that bans the promotion of so-called propaganda to minors as “pernicious” and noted a proposal seeks to allow the government to take children away from their gay parents. She also highlighted Harvey Milk, murdered Cameroonian LGBT rights advocate Eric Ohena Lembembe and slain Ugandan activist David Kato.

“Change never happens without passionate people willing to sacrifice for what is right,” said Rice, referring to the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and other civil rights milestones in the U.S. “Unfortunately in too many places, being gay or transgender is enough to make someone the target of slurs, torment and violence.”

Rice also announced the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has joined a U.S.-backed initiative designed to bolster global LGBT advocacy efforts.

“Political and social progress indeed go hand in hand,” she said during a speech at a White House forum on global LGBT rights that took place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. “America’s support for LGBT rights is not just a national cause, but a global enterprise.”

National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce President Justin Nelson told the Washington Blade that his organization through the nearly $4 million public-private partnership the U.S. Agency for International Development launched last April will seek to develop national LGBT chambers of commerce and other business groups. He said his organization hopes to cultivate LGBT entrepreneurship in Europe, Colombia, India and other countries in which it currently works.

“When you empower LGBT people through economics, you give an economic identity to people,” said Nelson. “People listen. It moves minds.”

LGBT rights advocates from the U.S. and around the world were among the hundreds who attended the White House forum.

Activists from Jamaica, Ukraine, Colombia, Venezuela, Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria and the Philippines on Monday discussed the support they said they receive from the U.S. during a panel at the Russell Senate Office Building the Council for Global Equality organized.

Angie Umbac of the Rainbow Rights Project in the Philippines said the U.S. Embassy in her country has sponsored trainings for authorities who investigate human rights abuses. She said a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union has also spoken with Filipino law students.

“The embassy’s been very, very good to the community,” said Umbac.

Mauricio Albarracín Caballero, executive director of Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group, described the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, the South American country’s capital, as “our most important ally in the fight for LGBT rights.”

USAID in 2009 began working with the Colombian National Police on how to more effectively work with the country’s LGBT advocacy organizations. Colombia Diversa and the Santamaría Fundación, a transgender rights organization in the city of Cali, have received USAID grants and other support to expand their efforts to document anti-LGBT violence and work with authorities to better prosecute those responsible.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, which are also part of the LGBT Global Development Partnership, over the last year have conducted two trainings in Colombia that are designed to allow LGBT Colombians to become more engaged in their country’s political process.

“This support is fundamental for our actions,” said Albarracín.

Tamara Adrián Hernández, a trans Venezuelan lawyer and LGBT rights advocate, said the U.S. and her country continue to have a “very hostile bilateral relationship” amid ongoing protests between supporters and opponents of President Nicolás Maduro who took office last year after his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, succumbed to cancer.

“Our activities with the U.S. Embassy are limited,” she said.

Rashidi Williams of Queer Alliance Nigeria said the Nigerian LGBT rights movement’s relationship with the U.S. Embassies and American consulates in his country “has been very important for us.”

He said the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, worked with local advocates to develop media strategies around a bill that sought to punish those who enter into same-sex marriages with up to 14 years in prison, ban anyone from officiating a gay union or entering into a same-sex “amorous relationship” and joining an LGBT group.

Williams said American officials have not done any programmatic work with local activists “beyond meetings.” He said the U.S. Embassy has “been very quiet” since Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the anti-gay bill into law in January.

President Obama in 2011 ordered agencies responsible for the implementation of U.S. foreign policy to support LGBT rights.

Obama last December selected retired tennis champion Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and former hockey player Caitlin Cahow to join the U.S. delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The White House last week announced a travel ban against Ugandan officials responsible for anti-LGBT human rights abuses.

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline on June 19 introduced a bill that would ban officials responsible for anti-LGBT human rights abuses in their respective countries from entering the U.S. and mandate the State Department to document them in its annual human rights report. U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) last week introduced a bill that would create a special envoy within the State Department who would coordinate Washington’s efforts in support of global LGBT rights.

25
Jun
2014

Frederick Center to honor LGBT ally

Lois Jarman, gay news, Washington Blade

Lois Jarman (Photo courtesy Jarman)

The Frederick Center is honoring Lois Jarman with Frederick’s 2013 LGBTQ Ally of the Year Award on Jan. 12. She will receive this award “because of her tireless efforts over the last decade on behalf of the LGBTQ community of central Maryland,” according Brian Walker, chair of the Frederick Center board.

Jarman founded the Central Maryland chapter of PFLAG in 2006, where she continues to be the chapter president. She has also been co-producer of the “A Little Song, A Little Dance” annual World AIDS Day benefit in Frederick for a dozen years, raising tens of thousands of dollars to benefit Positive Influence (a past Frederick-based HIV support organization), Baltimore Pediatric AIDS Fund, AIDS Response Effort out of Winchester (which now covers central Maryland), and various LGBT organizations.

Jarman has also been a resource for hundreds of LGBTQ students by being a visible ally in the local high school system and other educational institutions.

“This annual award allows us to recognize the efforts of a single person,” said Walker. “But this ceremony allows many community allies to gather to celebrate the work they have done collectively over time, and to hear first-hand how much it matters to the LGBTQ community.”

The event will take place between 3-6 p.m. at the home of Peter Brehm and John Michael Day, 318 West College Terrace in Frederick. A suggested donation of $15 for individuals and $25 for couples would benefit the Frederick Center. Beverages and light refreshments will be served.

For more information, visit thefrederickcenter.org.

07
Jan
2014