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Judge refuses to dismiss bias case against Library of Congress

Peter TerVeer, gay news, gay politics dc

Peter TerVeer was allegedly subjected to harassment based on his sexual orientation while working at the Library of Congress. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A federal judge on March 31 ruled that a gay man who sued the Library of Congress for firing him in 2012 because of his sexual orientation has legal standing to claim he’s entitled to protection under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a 34-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a motion by the U.S. Attorney for D.C. that the discrimination lawsuit filed by former Library of Congress management analyst Peter TerVeer should be dismissed on summary judgment.

Kollar-Kotelly rejected the U.S. Attorney’s assertion that TerVeer failed to show he has standing to pursue his claim that he’s covered under the U.S. Civil Rights Act on grounds that he was subjected to illegal sex discrimination based on gender stereotyping as a gay man.

In a split ruling, Kollar-Kotelly granted the U.S. Attorney’s request to dismiss other claims by the lawsuit that the Library of Congress violated TerVeer’s constitutional rights as well as violated Library of Congress regulations and policies.

But according to TerVeer’s attorney, Christopher Brown of the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown, the ruling upholding TerVeer’s ability to move ahead to trial on the Title VII grounds is an important development for gay rights.

“We are pleased that we will have the opportunity to develop these claims and present them in court,” Brown told the Blade. “In my opinion this represents movement forward for the LGBT community bringing us one large step closer to equal treatment under Title VII.”

He noted that had Kollar-Kotelly dismissed the lawsuit’s claim seeking redress under Title VII, as the U.S. Attorney had urged, the opportunity to push for Title VII protection for gay people would have been lost in this case.

Title VII of the famed 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and, according to recent court rulings, gender identity, but not sexual orientation by itself.

With legislation calling for banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity stalled in Congress, gay rights attorneys have argued in cases similar to TerVeer’s that lesbians and gay men are covered under Title VII. The attorneys, including those with Lambda Legal, claim that anti-gay discrimination is based on sex discrimination – which is covered under Title VII – because its perpetrators perceive gay people as not conforming to traditional gender roles.

In prior decisions, federal courts have ruled that transgender people are covered under Title VII’s prohibitions against sex discrimination.

In his lawsuit, TerVeer charges that he was fired after being harassed and humiliated by a supervisor who repeatedly quoted biblical passages condemning homosexuality.

The lawsuit says although TerVeer was targeted because he’s gay, he encountered employment discrimination and harassment based on his gender, gender stereotyping and his religious beliefs, which he says didn’t conform to those of supervisor John Mech.

Mech and library officials have declined to comment on TerVeer’s allegations, saying they are bound by a Library of Congress policy of not discussing pending litigation.

Brown said the judge’s decision to grant the government’s motion to dismiss the constitutional and other legal claims by the lawsuit don’t pose a significant disadvantage to the case. He said those claims had been made as a backup in the event that the court dismissed the Title VII claims.

“As Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant denied him promotions and created a hostile work environment because of Plaintiff’s nonconformity with male sex stereotypes, Plaintiff has met his burden of settling forth ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief’ as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure,” Kollar-Kotelly said in her ruling.

“Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim (Count I) for failure to state a claim,” the judge stated in her ruling.

03
Apr
2014

Kameny’s ashes still not buried 2 years after death

Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade

Activist Frank Kameny died on Oct. 11, 2011. His remains have not yet been buried. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A memorial site recognizing the legacy of the late D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny was scheduled to be unveiled Friday, Oct. 11, in Chicago on the second anniversary of his death while plans for the burial of his ashes in Washington remain stalled.

New information behind that unusual turn of events emerged this week from one of the parties in a dispute over ownership of the planned interment site for Kameny’s ashes in D.C.’s historic Congressional Cemetery.

Marvin Carter, executive director of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), said his attorney told him an agreement reached about two months ago in which HOBS would transfer ownership of the cemetery plot to the Kameny estate was awaiting the signature of Timothy Clark, Kameny’s friend, housemate and principal heir to the estate.

“The last update I got was we are all in agreement but Ackerman Brown cannot find Clark to sign the paperwork,” Carter told the Blade.

Carter was referring to the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown, which has represented Clark in legal matters pertaining to the estate since shortly after Kameny died in his home of natural causes on National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, 2011. In his will, Kameny left his house and all other possessions except his voluminous gay rights papers to Clark. He bequeathed his papers to the Library of Congress. Kameny’s house sold last year for $725,000.

Glen Ackerman, managing partner of Ackerman Brown, emailed a statement to the Blade this week disputing Carter’s assertion that Clark can’t be found.

“Ackerman Brown is in regular contact with Timothy Clark, the personal representative of the Estate of Frank E. Kameny and all negotiations on behalf of our client have been in good faith,” the statement said. “The decision regarding interment of Frank Kameny’s ashes rests solely with Mr. Clark and he is discharging his duties with full knowledge of the past negotiations. Neither Marvin Carter nor his attorney have ever discussed the placement of a monument in lieu of the cemetery plot with Ackerman Brown.”

Ackerman noted that the status of the negotiations between Ackerman Brown and HOBS over the ownership transfer of the cemetery plot had not changed since July. At that time, Ackerman’s law partner, Christopher Brown, said a “tentative agreement” had been reached to end the dispute that has prevented Kameny’s ashes from being interred for nearly two years.

“The tentative agreement was reached on July 9 and the estate is awaiting further input from HOBS’ counsel that is necessary to finalize the transaction,” Brown said in a July 24 statement to the Blade.

“The estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,” Brown said in his July statement.

Earlier this year, Carter said HOBS dropped a previous condition that called for the Kameny estate to pay HOBS for the cemetery plot that HOBS purchased with money donated by members of the LGBT community.

“We are not asking for a dime from the estate,” Carter told the Blade in an Oct. 4 interview. “The delay is not on our end.”

Carter said that once the tentative agreement was reached the two parties asked Congressional Cemetery President Paul Williams to draft the documents needed to finalize the ownership transfer of the cemetery plot.

When contacted by the Blade last week, Williams said he could not provide details but suggested the long-awaited resolution to the dispute was in the hands of Clark and his attorneys.

“We have put forth a proposal to the estate and we’re waiting to hear back,” he said. “That’s about all I can say. We’re just waiting to hear back.”

Timothy Clark, gay news, gay politics dc

Timothy Clark (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Clark said in August, one day prior to Brown’s statement to the Blade, that he understood an agreement had been reached over the cemetery plot. He said he was thinking about when to arrange for a burial ceremony and that he would welcome suggestions from Kameny’s friends and fellow activists about the details for such a ceremony.

Clark didn’t respond to a phone message from the Blade this week.

HOBS and a group of Kameny’s friends and colleagues in the LGBT rights movement initially scheduled an interment ceremony for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery for March 3, 2012. At the time, Charles Francis, a Kameny friend who helped Kameny organize his papers to facilitate their donation to the Library of Congress, arranged for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a military headstone for the gravesite that recognized Kameny’s service in the Army in World War II.

With money raised by HOBS, Francis and Kameny’s friends and fellow activists Rick Rosendall and Bob Witeck also arranged for the purchase of a separate headstone for the gravesite bearing the inscription “Gay is Good.” Kameny, who coined that slogan in the 1960s to advance the cause of gay rights, said it was something for which he wanted to be remembered as much if not more than any of his other accomplishments.

But just as both stones were placed at the gravesite, Witeck announced that the burial of Kameny’s ashes had been cancelled after the estate told the cemetery it would not release Kameny’s ashes until it obtained legal ownership of the burial plot from HOBS. Cemetery officials later removed the headstone and “Gay is Good” marker and placed them in storage, saying it was inappropriate for them to remain in place while the ownership of the gravesite was in dispute.

Michael Bedwell, a longtime friend and gay activist colleague of Kameny’s who helped select the gravesite, said the removal of the two stones displaced an important and historic site where people could go to reflect on Kameny’s accomplishments, which he said improved the lives of LGBT people.

“It is a disgrace that people don’t have a place to pay homage to him two years after his passing,” Bedwell said. “I feel those stones should be returned to the site even if the ashes are not interred there at this time.”

Tension between the Kameny estate and Carter, Francis, Witeck and Rosendall increased in the months following the cancellation of the burial when the estate sued the four men on grounds that they removed without permission items from Kameny’s house shortly after his death. The four said they removed the items for safekeeping at a time of confusion following Kameny’s death when Clark, who was living in the house at the time, gave them permission to enter the house to sort through Kameny’s belongings. They said they planned to return the items, some of which were papers slated to go to the Library of Congress.

Rosendall said this week that the men were accompanied by local attorney Michele Zavos when they entered Kameny’s house shortly after his death. Zavos had worked for Kameny and prepared his will, Rosendall said.

Zavos on Wednesday confirmed that she was present during that visit. She said Clark gave them permission to enter the house and that he understood that Rosendall and the other men wanted to look through Kameny’s papers and other historic items to take steps to preserve them.

According to Zavos, it was during that visit that Rosendall, Francis and Witeck found the original signed copy of Kameny’s will and turned it over to Zavos, who read and explained its provision to Clark.

“Tim was completely aware of what we were doing,” she said.

Rosendall added that he was especially troubled when Clark told the Blade in an interview in March 2012 that someone placed an anonymous letter in the mail slot at Kameny’s house where Clark was living that used a racial slur and denounced him for being the beneficiary in Kameny’s will.

“And that’s just horrible for anybody to say,” Clark said in the 2012 interview. “It said, ‘The nigger got everything.’”

When the Blade asked to see the letter, Clark claimed it was so upsetting to him that he discarded it in the trash before realizing it may have been better to keep it and have others help him discover the person who wrote it.

Rosendall, however, said Clark’s disclosure of the letter at a time when the Kameny estate was making public statements accusing him, Carter, Witeck and Francis of improperly taking items from the house could have raised suspicions that they may have been responsible for the anonymous hate letter.

“I was not under any impression that he had made an explicit accusation,” Rosendall said this week. “The whole point was he throws that out there as red meat and there is an implication that somebody else that he was talking about was to blame for it.”

The Blade requested a response from Ackerman to Rosendall’s statements about the hate letter. The Blade further asked Ackerman if anyone besides Clark saw the letter and could corroborate its existence. Ackerman emailed the following statement: “The questions you ask regarding the letter are not relevant to this firm’s representation of the Estate of Franklin E. Kameny and any comment on this topic would be inappropriate.”

10
Oct
2013

When minority communities intersect

Library of Congress, gay news, Washington Blade, minority communities

The Library of Congress. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Recently, I, a mild-mannered, queer, legally blind, writer morphed into a ticked-off diva.

I was invited to an event held at the Library of Congress on Dec. 3. Because my vision’s impaired, I asked LOC’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator Eric Eldritch to have someone escort me from the Library’s entrance to the gathering. Eldritch said LOC would accommodate my request if it could – but that the Library might not be able to assist me. I didn’t have a problem with this. Here’s what angered me: If LOC couldn’t accommodate me, Eldritch said, I could get to the event by following his directions.  “Just go toward the elevators in the middle,” he said.

Like many blind people, I walk most places by myself. But, as Penny Reeder, who has a master’s in special education from George Washington University told me, “few visually impaired people could follow directions in a building as labyrinth-like as LOC.”

Eldritch, who’s committed to working with the disability community, later apologized to me for his insensitive (though well-meaning) comments about directions and my fangs disappeared.  The event — “Portrayal or Betrayal: People with Disabilities in Film and Media” — was engaging. Sponsored by LOC’s Motion Picture, Broadcast and Recorded Sound Division and the American Association of People with Disabilities, the panel discussion was an eye-opener on the ways in which disabled people have been excluded from and stereotyped in the media. Yet, I couldn’t help thinking: how ironic to encounter ableism (insensitivity toward people with disabilities) when trying to get to a gathering on issues of inclusion of disability in the media.

Why am I telling you this? Because my story isn’t unique. Daily, the 20 percent (according to the U.S. Census Bureau) of Americans who have disabilities experience exclusion – from wheelchair-inaccessible bars to workplace discrimination to being nearly invisible on TV. Three to five million people with disabilities in the United States are LGBT, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

My experience coming to an understanding with Eldritch reminded me that many of us aren’t members of just one community. Millions of us are not only LGBT, but Latino, African-American, Asian-American, Jewish, disabled, young, old, married, single, parents, childless — any permutation of humanity — you can imagine. We live in the sometimes conflicted, sometimes parallel intersections of our communities.

Carolina V. Alcade, Latina and lesbian, became a paraplegic at age 37, when a tree fell on her back while she was riding her motorcycle in Washington, D.C.  “This disability is the most apparent part of me that is susceptible to discrimination and I need to educate myself about my new extended family,” Alcade emailed the Blade, “just as I consistently do with my Latino and LGBT communities.”

“The issues of discrimination are all the same,” Alcade continued, “it takes a community and allies to help bring these issues to light.”

Both the LGBT and disability community have been portrayed inadequately by the media, Ray Bradford, a gay man and former national EEO director of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, emailed the Blade. “Because these communities are at the forefront of civil rights in the workplace and across the land,” said Bradford, a national executive board member of Pride at Work, an AFL-CIO group, “the ties that bind are more apparent than most may think.”

Just as with LGBT youth, “young people with disabilities increasingly feel a sense of disability pride,” said Tari Hartman Squire, CEO of EINSOFcommunications, a company that works with marketing and diversity, in a telephone interview. “Increasingly, LGBT groups such as GLAAD and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are working as allies with the disability community.” (GLAAD includes disability in its “Where We Are on TV” reports.)

Living in the intersections of communities is a hard, but vital part of our lives. Let’s work as allies to meet, and even savor, this challenge.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

11
Dec
2013

HIV/AIDS returning to the spotlight?

Act Up, Silence = Death, AIDS, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade, HIV/AIDS

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

After years of being overshadowed by other issues like marriage equality and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” an issue that decades ago was at the center of the gay rights movement is once again moving to the forefront.

Following hard-fought victories for marriage rights at the Supreme Court, in states throughout the country and across the globe, the persistence of HIV/AIDS is grabbing new attention as recent news stories have documented progress toward a cure and the disease’s continuing impact on gay youth and people of color.

Sean Strub, founder of POZ magazine, said LGBT leadership is taking a renewed look at the issue in response to community pressure and stubbornly high infection rates among young gay men — particularly men of color — which he said are “skyrocketing and simply impossible to ignore.”

In the past week, two separate articles in the mainstream media were published following World AIDS Day that documented the persistence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among gay and bisexual men.

One article, which appeared on the front page of the New York Times, reported the disease is “rapidly becoming concentrated” among poor, black and Latino men who have sex with men.

Jonathan Mermin, director of HIV prevention at the Centers for Disease Control, is quoted as saying reaching these men is “the Holy Grail” in confronting HIV/AIDS.

Although his agency has granted millions of dollars to local health departments, Mermin reportedly couldn’t identify any city or state that has succeeded in lowering infection rates among young men of color.

An op-ed published on CNN.com written by Perry Halkitis, associate dean of New York University’s Global Institute of Public Health, raised the question of whether there’s a “gay generation gap” with regard to the perception of HIV. Halkitis points to the growing rate with which young gay men have unprotected sex now that the disease is perceived as chronic, but not fatal.

“The disease may not be front and center — it may not be the primary presenting problem faced by young gay men, as it was for me at age 18 in 1981 — but it is a concern,” Halkitis writes. “However, it’s a concern that must be spoken about and dealt with differently for this ‘new’ AIDS generation.”

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men remain the most profoundly affected by HIV.

In 2010, an estimated 29,800 men were infected with HIV after having sex with another man  — a 12 percent increase from the 26,700 new infections among this group in 2008. In 2010, men who have sex with men accounted for 63 percent of all new HIV infections nationwide.

At the same time as the disease gets renewed attention from the gay community, Strub said young gay men infected with HIV face new challenges — even though the disease is no longer a death sentence — because of the lack of solidarity with other gay men.

“People with HIV no longer inspire a sympathetic response from the public, especially not the gay public, but are more often seen and defined — particularly by the public health and criminal justice systems — as potential threats,” Strub said. “We’re living longer so we’re around to infect longer, viral vectors, potential infectors, an inherent risk to society.”

Meanwhile, advocates working on HIV/AIDS contend the issue has always belonged to the gay community, but is rising again in prominence for various reasons.

Richard Socarides, a gay New York Democratic activist, was among those predicting HIV/AIDS will “emerge as a major issue for the gay community.”

“Especially now, as a whole new generation of young gay men face issues relating to safe sex head on for the first time,” Socarides said. ”But now in a context where ‘silence’ may not equal death but instead, a long-term chronic but treatable disease.”

Mark Mazzone, a spokesperson for the LGBT military group SPART*A, said he thinks HIV will come to forefront for advocates working on LGBT military issues in the wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and the Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act.

“I think this will return as an LGBT military issue simply because of the lack of education given to our service members and the high risk behaviors mostly younger LGB men engage in, which need to be mitigated through a comprehensive training and prevention program,” Mazzone said.

Mazzone said service members become non-deployable once they’re discovered to have HIV; can’t commission as an officer or warrant officer; can’t fly aircraft or work in any jobs requiring a flight physical; are restricted to stateside duty assignments (with the exception of the Navy); and are not eligible for special schools such as Ranger, Special Forces or other special ops jobs.

And the nation’s largest LGBT group says that it continues to make a priority efforts to bring the HIV/AIDS epidemic to an end.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said HIV/AIDS has been and continues to be at the forefront for LGBT groups like HRC.

“Until the scourge is gone, fighting HIV/AIDS has, is and will remain a top priority for the LGBT civil rights movement,” Sainz said.

Strub said in recent months he’s seen HRC devote more attention to HIV/AIDS.

“I am heartened by HRC’s outreach to HIV advocates in the last several months and am cautiously optimistic we will see a greater commitment from them in 2014, on HIV issues, than we have seen in recent years,” Strub said.

One HIV/AIDS issue that has particularly risen in prominence is the HIV criminalization laws in some states. Under such laws, an HIV-positive person can face criminal charges for failing to disclose their HIV status before engaging in sex.

LGBT and HIV/AIDS advocates have railed against the laws, saying they send an inaccurate message regarding prevention responsibility, create a disincentive to receiving testing and may discourage disclosure of HIV status. According to Lambda Legal, 39 states have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have brought HIV-related criminal charges, which have resulted in more than 160 prosecutions in the United States in the last four years.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced on Tuesday legislation in the Senate known as the Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal (“REPEAL”) HIV Discrimination Act, which would require an interagency review of federal and state laws that criminalize certain actions by people living with HIV.

“A disturbing number of state and local criminal laws pertaining to individuals with HIV/AIDS are rooted not in science, but in outdated fear,” Coons said in a statement. “They run counter to effective public health strategies, discourage HIV testing, and perpetuate unfair stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS – people who are our friends, family, and neighbors.”

In May, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced the House version of the legislation along with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). According to the Library of Congress, the bill has 37 sponsors, although Ros-Lehtinen is the only Republican co-sponsor.

In Iowa, the punishment for being found guilty of violating Code 709C can be imprisonment for up to 25 years and registration as a sex offender.

Donna Red Wing, executive director of the LGBT group One Iowa, said in the wake of securing marriage equality in her state, working with local HIV groups to repeal her state’s HIV criminalization law has become the No. 1 legislative priority for the organization.

“Over the years, I’ve been troubled that as the face of AIDS changes, fewer and fewer LGBT organizations are engaging in this struggle,” Red Wing said. “It seems like the right thing to do, you know? Because in the early days, if it wasn’t for our people, if it wasn’t for the LGBT communities, we would not be where we are today.”

Although the Iowa Legislature is no longer in session, Red Wing said efforts are underway to move forward legislation with lawmaker reconvene in January.

“We already have laws that deal with communicable diseases, and the fact that HIV/AIDS gets this special treatment and these enhanced sentences is so draconian,” Red Wing said. “A communicable disease is a communicable disease is a communicable disease, and there should be nothing special and no enhanced sentences for people living with AIDS/HIV.”

The potential for discovering a cure for the disease has also received significant attention amid new developments from the Obama administration as part of the goal of achieving an “AIDS-free generation.”

Last week, President Obama announced he’s redirecting $100 million over the course of three years at the National Institutes for Health to an initiative with the goal of developing a cure for the disease.

“The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries in how to put HIV into long-term remission without requiting live-long therapies, or better yet, eliminate it completely,” Obama said.

A NIH official later clarified for the Blade the $100 million will be on top of another $60 million previously directed toward the effort and comes from grants for other initiatives that have expired at the agency.

But the prospects for a cure were dealt a blow last week, following media reports that two men who had hoped they were cured of HIV after bone marrow transplants found they still had the virus.

After the two men underwent life-threatening procedures intended for cancer, they initially were virus-free as of July in four months in one case and two months in another and stopped taking their HIV medication. But doctors announced last week that virus has reemerged in their systems.

Despite the reemergence of the virus in the systems of the two men, doctors said they learned from the procedure that even if you make HIV seemingly disappear, it can hide in the body — possibly held up in the organs and inside the intestines — and reactivate.

Strub said while efforts to eliminate the disease are important, changing the way society looks at HIV/AIDS should also be a priority.

“The advocacy needs are immense, but one of the most important — to which we in the LGBT community can contribute to greatly — is in reducing stigma by supporting and empowering people with HIV and refocusing on the human rights approach, rather than just a biomedical approach, to HIV prevention.”

12
Dec
2013

Library of Congress acquires papers of Lilli Vincenz

Lilli Vincenz, gay news, Washington Blade

Lilli Vincenz was a pioneer in the gay rights movement beginning in the early 1960s. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Lilli Vincenz, 75, a D.C.-area resident who worked with Frank Kameny as a pioneer in the gay rights movement beginning in the early 1960s, has donated to the Library of Congress some 10,000 papers, photographs, 16-mm films and memorabilia collected over a period of 50 years.

In a statement released on July 25, the Library of Congress said the papers and other items, which document Vincenz’s “personal biography and the larger gay rights movement,” will be available to researchers and the public once the materials are organized and catalogued.

The statement notes that Vincenz was one of the first lesbian members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the nation’s first full-fledged gay civil rights organization co-founded by Kameny and then D.C. gay activist Jack Nichols. It says Vincenz became the first editor of the organization’s newsletter, The Homosexual Citizen.

In that capacity, Vincenz and lesbian activist Nancy Tucker co-founded in 1969 an independent gay newspaper as a spinoff of the Mattachine newsletter called the Gay Blade, which later evolved into the Washington Blade

“She marched in the historic [gay rights] picket of the White House on April 17, 1965, participated in annual July 4th gay rights demonstrations in Philadelphia, and was part of the delegation that met with U.S. Civil Service Commission officials in 1965 to discuss the continued federal ban on hiring homosexuals,” the Library of Congress statement says.

“Vincenz was also an early member of the Daughters of Bilitis, a national lesbian rights organization, wrote a bi-weekly column for the New York-based Gay magazine, and was interviewed often by the media with other lesbian leaders,” the statement says.

The Library of Congress statement says the donation of Vincenz’s papers was made through her agent, Charles Francis, the co-founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which donated Kameny’s papers to the Library of Congress in 2006.

Vincenz and her partner Nancy Davis live in Arlington, Va.

30
Jul
2013

Calendar through October 3

Lady Bunny, gay news, Washington Blade

New York City drag performer Lady Bunny comes to Town (Photo courtesy of Town)

Friday, Sept. 27

The Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA) and Imperial Court host their USO-themed Show at Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd St., Arlington, Va.,) tonight at 8 p.m. The show is a tribute to the United States military and a celebration of the second anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” There is a suggested door donation of $10. For details, visit their Facebook events page.

Whitman-Walker hosts free HIV testing at Town (20009 8th St., N.W.) tonight from 8 p.m.-midnight for National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. For more details, visit towndc.com.

SMYAL hosts “The Body Party” at Foundry Methodist Church (16th and P streets N.W.) tonight from 7-10 p.m. The party celebrates the end of #SafeSextember and is open to LGBT and allies. The winner of tickets and transportation to Six Flags Fright Fest will be announced. For more information, visit smyal.org.

Saturday, Sept. 28

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club hosts its 37th Annual Leaderships Awards Reception at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar (223 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.) today from 2-4 p.m. D.C. leaders who have contributed to policies protecting transgender people, young queer people of color and older LGBT Americans will be honored. Light food and drink will be served. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased online and at the door. For more details, visit steindemocrats.org.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts its Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Constitution Gardens (17th St. and Constitution Ave.) today at 5 p.m. Registration is from 3-5 p.m. Proceeds benefit local and national suicide prevention and awareness programs. For more information, email simone.poetscher@gmail.com or visit afsp.donordrive.com.

Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) hosts its “CTRL” dance party tonight from 10 p.m-3 a.m. Cover is $5. There will be $3 PBR Tallboys, $5 rail drinks and $4 Jameson shots. For details, visit cobaltdc.com.

Legendary drag entertainer Lady Bunny performs at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) tonight. Doors open at 10 p.m. Drag show begins at 10:30 p.m. Cover is $8 from 10-11 p.m. and $12 after 11 p.m. $3 drinks before 11 p.m. Admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit towndc.com.

Sunday, Sept. 29

Special Agent Galactica, cabaret, Jeffrey Johnson, gay news, Washington Blade

Special Agent Galactica (Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Johnson)

Special Agent Galactica begins her four-week run with guitarist Peter Fields at L’Enfant Cafe (2000 18th St., N.W.) tonight at 7 p.m. A mix of jazz, blues and today’s hits will be performed. Admission is free. For details, visit lenfantcafe.com.

Perry’s (1811 Columbia Rd., N.W.) hosts its weekly “Sunday Drag Brunch” today from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost is $24.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. For more details, visit perrysadamsmorgan.com.

Adventuring, an LGBT outdoors group, host a bike ride along Mt. Vernon Trail meeting at Columbia Island Marina (George Washington Memorial Pkwy., Arlington, Va.,) near the snack bar today at 11 a.m. All levels of experience welcome. Bring your own lunch or buy it during the planned stop at Firehook Bakery (430 S Washington St., Alexandria, Va.,) or at the Mount Vernon concessions. Helmet is required but any type of clothing may be worn. For more information, visit adventuring.org.

Monday, Sept. 30

PEN/Faulkner, Folger and Library of Congress host “District of Literature” today at Library of Congress (101 Independence Ave., S.E.) in the Thomas Jefferson building and The Church of the Reformation (212 East Capitol St., S.E.) from 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. There will be readings from writers Dolores Kendrick, George Pelecanos and Elizabeth Alexander among others. A public reception at Folger Shakespeare Library (201 East Capitol St., S.E.) in the Exhibition Hall will be from 9-10 p.m.  Admission for all events is free. For more details, visit folger.edu.

Frank Bruni , The New York Times first openly gay op-ed columnist, speaks at Goucher College’s Kraushaar Auditorium (1021 Dulaney Valley Rd., Baltimore) tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit goucher.edu/tickets or call 410-337-6333.

The D.C. Center (1318 U St., N.W.) hosts coffee drop-in hours this morning from 10 a.m.-noon for the senior LGBT community. Older LGBT adults can come and enjoy complimentary coffee and conversation with other community members. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.

Men’s Circle for gay, bi, trans and questioning men is tonight from 7-9:30 p.m. at a location near the Convention Center. The men meet to discuss thoughts, feelings and life in general. To RSVP and find out location, e-mail Randy Marks at rmarksftc@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, Oct. 1

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) hosts “A Fall Party” for its 30th anniversary at former Councilmember of D.C. Carol Schwartz’s home (2029 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) from 6-8 p.m. tonight. Tickets are $30. For more details or to purchase tickets, visit pflagdc.org or call 202-638-3852.

D.C. Strokes, a LGBT rowing club, hosts a meet and greet happy hour at Nellie’s Sports Bar (900 U St., N.W.) tonight from 7-9 p.m. Meet current teammates and those curious about rowing. For details, visit dcstrokes.org.

Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct., N.W.) hosts its weekly FUK!T Packing Party tonight from 7-9 p.m. tonight. For more details, visit thedccenter.org or greenlanterndc.com.

Wednesday, Oct. 2

Bookmen D.C., an informal gay men’s literature group, discusses Tom Spanbauer’s novel “The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Tenleytown Library (4450 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.). All are welcome. Visit bookmendc.blogspot.com for details.

Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) hosts the “Semi-Annual D.C. Gay Flag Football League and Stonewall Sports Mixer” tonight from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Wearing your league T-Shirt/jersey is encouraged. There is a $10 suggested donation that will benefit the Team D.C. Scholarship Fund and the D.C. Center. For more information, visit towndc.com.

The Bachelor’s Mill (1104 8th St., S.E.) hosts happy hour from 5-7:30 p.m. today. All drinks are half price. Enjoy pool, video games and cards. Admission is free. For more details, visit bachelorsmill.com.

Us Helping Us (3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.) hosts a support group for black men living with HIV/AIDS tonight from 7-9 p.m. For more details, visit uhupil.org or call 202-446-1100.

Thursday, Oct. 3

Author Juan Ahonen-Jover reads from his book “The Gay Agenda 2013: All In” at the D.C. Center (1318 U St., N.W.) tonight at 7 p.m. He will discuss both LGBT equality in D.C. and in New York City. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.

NOVA Dynamic Lesbians host its monthly happy hour at the Pinzimini  Lounge at the Westin Hotel (801 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, Va.,) at 7 p.m. tonight. Valet parking is free with a validated ticket. For more details, visit meetup.com/dynamic2595.

26
Sep
2013

U.S. Attorney challenges use of civil rights law

Peter TerVeer, gay news, gay politics dc

Peter TerVeer (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The United States Attorney for the District of Columbia filed court papers on Dec. 17 arguing that a gay man, who sued the Library of Congress for firing him because of his sexual orientation, failed to show he’s entitled to protection under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court filing by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., who was appointed by President Obama, places the Obama administration in the awkward position of opposing a gay discrimination claim under Title VII.

In a lawsuit filed against the Library of Congress in August 2012, former management analyst Peter TerVeer, 30, says he was fired from his job after being harassed and humiliated for more than a year by a supervisor who repeatedly quoted biblical passages condemning homosexuality.

The lawsuit charges that although TerVeer was targeted because he’s gay, he suffered employment discrimination and harassment based on his gender, gender stereotyping and his religious beliefs, which he says didn’t conform to those of supervisor John Mech.

Title VII of the famed 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender and, according to recent court rulings, gender identity, but not sexual orientation by itself.

According to the lawsuit, TerVeer and Mech had a cordial working relationship from the time TerVeer was hired in February 2008 as a management analyst in the library’s Auditing Division. It says TerVeer received high performance ratings and two promotions between 2008 and 2010.

The lawsuit says Mech allegedly became hostile and unfairly critical of TerVeer’s work performance and created an unbearably hostile work environment after Mech learned TerVeer was gay.

The government’s filing of a motion to dismiss the case on legal and procedural grounds comes at a time when gay rights attorneys are seeking to persuade courts to treat anti-gay discrimination as a form of sex discrimination protected under Title VII.

“We believe that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to substantiate a Title VII claim,” said Charles Miller, a spokesperson for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

Miller pointed to an April 2012 ruling by the Library of Congress’s in-house equal employment opportunity division, which investigated TerVeer’s allegations of discrimination and harassment and dismissed an in-house complaint he filed in September 2011 on grounds that the allegations could not be substantiated.

“The Executive Branch is of course opposed to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and this filing does not reflect any contrary policy,” Miller told the Blade.

But Christopher Brown of the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown, which is representing TerVeer, said the government’s motion to dismiss the case “relies on legal precedent that excludes LGBT employees from protection under Title VII.”

Brown declined to comment further on the government’s arguments, saying TerVeer’s legal team prefers not to comment in detail on pending litigation.

Greg Nevins, supervising attorney for the gay litigation group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is monitoring the TerVeer case, said the government’s motion to dismiss appears to be arguing that TerVeer did not present sufficient evidence to show that his supervisor targeted him for discrimination because TerVeer displayed mannerisms or behavior of a stereotypical gay man, which some might view as being effeminate.

“I think what the U.S. Attorney is saying here is a masculine gay man or a feminine lesbian would not be covered under Title VII,” Nevins said. “Some court rulings have essentially said Title VII does not apply to sexual orientation.”

In a landmark ruling last April, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that transgender people are protected against job discrimination under Title VII because bias against their gender identity is equivalent to sex discrimination. The EEOC ruling followed several appeals court decisions holding that transgender people were protected under Title VII.

Lambda Legal and other LGBT advocacy organizations say they hope to persuade courts that gay men and lesbians enjoy Title VII protections. They argue that sexual orientation discrimination is also linked to gender role stereotyping and bias, regardless of whether the victim is perceived as masculine or feminine.

TerVeer’s lawsuit says he also was targeted for retaliation after he filed his discrimination complaint with the library’s in-house EEO office, which is known as the Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness and Compliance.

“Plaintiff’s discrimination and retaliation claims fall short,” Machen and two other government attorneys argue in their Dec. 17 motion seeking to dismiss the case, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“Plaintiff alleges that he was subject to harassment after his employer learned that he was gay, and he presents his claim as one of non-conformity with sex stereotypes,” the motion to dismiss says. “But the detailed allegations in the complaint do not provide what courts have held is required to show that sex stereotyping was the cause of his employer’s actions.”

The motion to dismiss adds, “[C]ourts have generally required plaintiffs to set forth specific allegations regarding the particular ways in which an employee failed to conform to such stereotypes — generally relating to an employee’s behavior, demeanor or appearance in the workplace — and allegations to support the claim that this non-conformity negatively influenced the employer’s decision … In this case, however, plaintiff fails to offer anything more than the conclusory statement that, as a result of his sexual orientation, ‘he did not conform to the defendant’s gender stereotypes associated with men under Mech’s supervision.’”

One civil rights attorney familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. Attorney’s office was fulfilling its role in defending its client — the Library of Congress — and should not be faulted for arguing against TerVeer’s attempt to invoke protection from Title VII.

“The government’s argument that the complainant fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim … are typical arguments that they’d make equally if the plaintiff were female or black rather than gay,” the attorney said.

The government’s motion to dismiss the case is based mostly on procedural and legal grounds rather than on the merits of TerVeer’s specific allegations of discrimination and retaliation.

The government’s motion cites legal and procedural grounds to seek the dismissal of a separate claim in the lawsuit that the firing violated TerVeer’s Fifth Amendment constitutional right to due process and equal protection under the law.

In addition, it cites procedural grounds to call on the court to dismiss separate claims in the lawsuit that the library violated the Library of Congress Act, which bans discrimination based on factors unrelated to an employee’s ability to perform his or her job; and an internal library policy banning sexual orientation discrimination.

Library investigation finds no substantiation of discrimination

The motion to dismiss releases publicly for the first time the April 26, 2012 ruling by the library’s Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness and Compliance (OIC) that rejects TerVeer’s allegations on grounds that they could not be substantiated or proven.

The 14-page ruling by the OIC, which was filed in court by the U.S. Attorney’s office as “Exhibit D,” was based on an in-house library investigation into a discrimination complaint filed by TerVeer on Nov. 9, 2011, according to OIC acting supervisor Vicki Magnus.

Magnus discusses the findings in an April 26 letter to Brown, TerVeer’s attorney, which the U.S. Attorney’s office submitted in court as part of Exhibit D.

“Based on the available evidence, the Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness and Compliance (OIC) does not find sufficient evidence to support Complainant’s allegations that he was discriminated against based on religion, sex, and reprisal, and that he was subjected to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment in his meetings with supervisors regarding performance and in actions taken by supervisors regarding his performance,” Magnus said in her letter.

In what potentially could be damaging to TerVeer’s lawsuit, Magnus notes that the OIC investigation into TerVeer’s discrimination and retaliation complaint included interviews of and testimony by five of TerVeer’s co-workers. Each of the five testified that they personally observed less than satisfactory work performance by TerVeer, according to the OIC ruling.

In his complaint, TerVeer accuses his immediate supervisor, John Mech, and a higher level supervisor, Nicholas Christopher, of giving him a lower job performance rating based on anti-gay bias.

The five co-workers, “each of whom personally observed complainant’s performance, fully support the reasons presented by management justifying their decision to issue complainant poor performance ratings and to deny complainant a [performance based salary increase].”

Brown, TerVeer’s attorney, declined to comment on the OIC ruling or its potential impact on the lawsuit.

The library’s official reason for firing TerVeer was his failure to report to work after a leave of absence he requested and received permission to take had expired. TerVeer told reporters in a news conference in April that his doctor and therapist urged him to take a leave from work after the hostile work environment he said Mech created caused him to suffer severe emotional distress.

He said the library refused to grant his request to be transferred to another office under another supervisor, making it impossible for him to return to work.

02
Jan
2013

The cure for HIV rides a bike

As I watched Timothy Ray Brown mount his new red mountain bike, my parental instincts kicked in. What if he fell or couldn’t stop or hurts himself in some other way? Frightened, I kept visualizing how the media would handle the story: “Timothy Ray Brown, the first person cured of HIV, dies,” they’d say, “but not from HIV or cancer or his chemotherapy, stem cell transplant or other invasive treatments. Rather, he fell off his bicycle and succumbed to a severe head injury.”

The answer for an HIV cure for the world lies within Timothy, somewhere. I’m aware some may criticize Timothy’s riding a bike or going skydiving, bungee jumping, even driving a car.  Yes, he’s the first person to be cured of the world’s most unrelenting disease, but what’s even more important is he’s a human being who wants to live life to its fullest.

“The Berlin Patient” is the name the media gave Brown. At the time, he was living in Berlin and wished to remain anonymous. Why the anonymity? Because Timothy couldn’t believe it was true, he told us. He feared his cure was temporary and the HIV would return. After all, he said, it was only a year or so earlier that his leukemia had resurfaced. Of course, eventually the media learned his name.

On Feb. 20, Timothy celebrates the sixth anniversary of the procedure that led to his cure.

As many of you know, I’m the founder and Chad Johnson is the co-founder of the World AIDS Institute (WAI), established to document and preserve the global history of AIDS, inspire action today to improve the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS (and their family, friends, and communities) and strengthen the spectrum of innovative initiatives to find a cure.

Timothy is co-founder of WAI and founder of the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation of WAI that Chad and I helped launch eight months ago. The Timothy Ray Brown Foundation is the world’s first organization in the 31-year history of the AIDS epidemic whose sole mission is to find a cure for HIV.

Let me tell you a story. A few months ago, I was having lunch with Timothy when he said — in a burst of outrage — he wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building and tell the world about the injustices people living with HIV face on a daily basis. Timothy vowed he would use his energy to make this right.

I told Timothy that I understood his anger and frustration, but felt diluting our message – finding a cure – might be counterproductive. “I think not,” he said, pointing out he had been HIV positive twice as long as he has been cured. Then he looked at me the same way he did months ago when he told me he was launching an organization to find a cure. His plan was to announce it during the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. He asked us to help him.

The day before we were to launch the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation, we hosted a reception with Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Library of Congress. I remember seeing her aide whisper to her that Timothy was at the other end of the room. It would be the first time they would meet. Immediately, she started toward Timothy. As they met in the middle of the room, she looked him in the eyes and said, “You are miracle. You are a miracle.” Then they embraced.  She held onto him for a long time as if his energy would help heal the wounds of the hundreds of people in her California district who had died from AIDS, many of them her friends.

It is true: Timothy Ray Brown may be a miracle. But he also is a human being. And if he wants to ride his new red mountain bike, he should do it as fast and as far as he wants. Timothy Ray Brown, the first person in the world cured of HIV, wants to live life to the fullest.

Dave Purdy is Founder and CEO of the World AIDS Institute. Reach him at dpurdy@worldaidsinstitute.org.

13
Feb
2013