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2013 in photography

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


D.C. paid anti-gay gospel singer $80,000

Kirk Franklin, gospel, gay news, Washington Blade, music

Gospel singer Kirk Franklin (Photo by Bigstock)

LGBT activists have expressed concern that the D.C. government paid $80,000 this year for a performance at the city’s annual Emancipation Day celebration by a gospel singer who has publicly called for gays to abandon the “homosexual lifestyle.”

Internationally acclaimed gospel singer and musician Kirk Franklin, the winner of seven Grammy Awards, gave an outdoor concert April 16 in Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington as part of this year’s Emancipation Day festivities.

“He has a First Amendment right to say whatever he believes,” said Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of the Center for Black Equity, which advocates for the black LGBT community.

“However, I would not want my tax dollars to go to anyone who espouses which is in essence homophobia any more than I would want my tax dollars to go toward anyone who espouses racism or who was anti-Semitic,” Fowlkes told the Blade. “It’s just not appropriate.”

Although Franklin, 43, reflects his deeply held Christian beliefs in his songwriting and performances, his comments about LGBT people and homosexuality have surfaced mostly in media interviews and in his 2010 book, “The Blueprint: A Plan for Living Above Life’s Storms.”

In most of his comments on the subject, Franklin has called on the church to treat LGBT people with kindness, compassion and love but has insisted “we can never compromise what the Bible says about homosexuality,” as stated in his book.

When he was asked in an Associated Press interview what he sees in the future for the LGBT community in the black church, Franklin reiterated his theme of compassion along with change.

“I think that you have to be, as Scripture would say, ‘as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove’ to lovingly share the truth, to lovingly and to passionately speak the truth in love into the lives of all people to allow that message that you speak…trust that it has enough power to do the changing,” the AP quoted him as saying.

The decision to bring Franklin to D.C. for the Emancipation Day event was made by the office of D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), which has organized and promoted the event since Orange persuaded the Council and city officials to host and sponsor Emancipation Day as an annual city event.

Legislation introduced by Orange and approved by the Council and mayor has made Emancipation Day, which commemorates the freeing of the slaves in the District of Columbia during the Civil War, as an official city holiday.

The total cost of this year’s event, which included a parade as well as entertainment, was $250,000, according to the Washington Post. The Post reported that, “Franklin traveled to the District with a 16-person entourage, including backup singers, …. In addition to Franklin’s $55,000 booking fee, city taxpayers spent $8,758 for airfare, $1,557 for his limousine and $8,721 to put Franklin and his entourage up at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington, including $2,600 for Franklin’s VIP suite. Records attributed $4,215 in food and beverage costs to the entourage.”

Orange has proposed increasing the budget to $350,000 for next year, the Post reported.

“I’m sure that in the decision of securing Mr. Franklin the Council member was not aware of any anti-gay or anti-human rights comments that he might have made,” said James Brown, Orange’s chief of staff.

“The Council member is a strong supporter of the gay community,” he said.

Brown said Orange was out of town this week and couldn’t immediately be reached but would be available for comment upon his return. According to Brown, plans for next year’s Emancipation Day event won’t begin until after the Council returns from its summer recess in September.

Ron Hill, an official associated with the RCA Inspiration recording label who serves as Franklin’s manager in Grapevine, Texas, a Dallas suburb, didn’t return calls seeking an interview with Franklin.

Wayne Besen, founder and leader of Truth Wins Out, a national LGBT organization that monitors efforts by religious groups to help gays change their sexual orientation to heterosexuality through a process known as “conversion therapy,” said many of the advocates of that debunked process have changed their rhetoric and public statements in recent years.

Besen said on the heels of overwhelming scientific evidence that conversion therapy doesn’t work and is harmful to people who undergo such treatment, many of the groups promoting the treatment have dropped their previous harsh rhetoric condemning homosexuality as being evil and calling gay people sinners condemned to hell.

“What we have from people like Kirk Franklin and others is an exercise in double- speak and dishonesty,” Besen said. “But their message is the same – gay people are inferior and we should punish them. As we’re enacting punitive laws and conferring second-class citizenship on them we’re going to sugarcoat it and tell them that we love them.”

Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Faith Partnership Mobilization program, said he, too, supports Franklin’s right to his own views on the subject of homosexuality.

Similar to Fowlkes, Flournoy said he also is concerned that city funds were used to finance Franklin’s appearance.

“To bring someone to an event that symbolizes freedom and the removal of oppression and celebrating freedom and it’s paid for with taxpayer dollars who’s going to espouse a perspective that is oppressive – that’s problematic,” Flournoy told the Blade.

“I think it would help us to get Kirk Franklin, sit him down and have a conversation with him, hear his perspective, hear what his thinking is and simply share what we know to be true,” said Flournoy.

“But at the end of the day, we simply don’t support the use of taxpayer dollars to bring in someone who clearly espouses a perspective that is detrimental to folks and their mental and spiritual health,” he said.

Rev. Cathy Alexander, minister for congregational connections at D.C.’s Metropolitan Community Church, which reaches out to the LGBT community, said she would urge Orange’s office to consider inviting a representative of the LGBT community to help in the selection process for future performers or speakers at the Emancipation Day event.

“My personal statement would be I would certainly hope there would be a conversation around who may be coming on the city’s behalf for an official function recognizing especially emancipation,” she said.

“In my view, we’re honoring the past, the present, and the future of emancipation, Alexander said. “And freedom comes in all forms.”

Joseph Kitchen, a 26-year-old Baptist minister and Prince George’s County Democratic Party activist who’s gay, said he has met Franklin several times at religious functions.

Kitchen, who campaigned for Maryland’s marriage equality law in last year’s referendum election, called on LGBT activists to be cautious about overreacting to situations similar to that surrounding Franklin’s performance at D.C.’s Emancipation Day celebration.

“If Kirk Franklin was a bigot, if he was someone who has espoused hateful feelings toward homosexuals or who had opposed their rights and fairness and equality before the law, then I think that would be different,” he said. “But he has not ever done that.”

Added Kitchen, “He was asked a theological question in a biblical setting and he answered it in the way in which he has been taught. And I think some people just need to understand that.”


Union leaders among LGBT speakers at MLK rally

Adrian Shanker, Equality Pennsylvania, civil rights, Martin Luther King III, gay news, Washington Blade

Pennsylvania gay rights leader Adrian Shanker (left), one of at least four LGBT people, including union leaders, scheduled to speak on Saturday at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington, with Martin Luther King III at a Philadelphia event earlier this month promoting the march. (Photo courtesy Equality Pennsylvania)

Union leaders Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, both out lesbians, will be among at least four LGBT rights advocates to speak on Saturday at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.

Also confirmed as out gay speakers are Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, director of faith partnership and mobilization for the Human Rights Campaign, and Adrian Shanker, president of the statewide LGBT rights organization Equality Pennsylvania.

Other LGBT advocates were expected to speak at the Lincoln Memorial rally, but organizers of the event said they could not confirm additional speakers until an official list was released later this week.

“Fifty years later, our nation is also more diverse than ever,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s largest civil rights organization, in discussing the 1963 march, in which famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“And Saturday’s march will be a true reflection of that diversity,” said Henderson in a telephone news conference this week. “Women, who held no speaking roles at the original march, will play leading roles in Saturday’s event. Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Arab Americans will all be represented as well,” he said.

“And whereas Bayard Rustin, executive director of the 1963 march, was silenced because of his sexual orientation, the LGBT community has been embraced as an out and equal partner in Saturday’s event,” Henderson said.

Joining Henderson in speaking at the news conference were Chad Griffin, president of HRC; Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT organization; and Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Shanker, a marketing director for a company near Bethlehem, Pa., said he was honored to have received a letter from Martin Luther King III and Rev. Al Sharpton inviting him to speak at the event. King III is the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. and one of the lead organizers of the 50th anniversary march. Sharpton, president of the New York-based National Action Network (NAN), is another of the lead march organizers.

Shanker has worked on LGBT rights initiatives in Pennsylvania for at least 10 years. This year he said he has followed in the footsteps of his grandfatherAlbert Shanker, who, as a teacher’s union leader, helped arrange for thousands of teachers to travel to Washington for the 1963 march.

He said that as part of his organizing for the 50th Anniversary March he recently spoke at an event in Philadelphia promoting the march at which King III also spoke.

“I guess some of the people who were there thought I was a good enough speaker that they wanted me to speak at the march,” Shanker said. “I do a lot of speaking and I do a lot of organizing in Pennsylvania…But I certainly wasn’t expecting an invitation to speak at the march. It’s a major honor.”

He added, “This is a time when we can really make it clear that the LGBT movement is focused on the broader civil rights agenda and is part of that broader civil rights agenda. So I’m very excited to be among many speakers at this event.”

Weingarten and Henry have been vocal supporters of LGBT equality as part of their work in the U.S. labor movement. The unions they head have endorsement LGBT rights, including marriage equality.

MacArthur Flournoy, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. MacArthur Flournoy (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Flournoy of HRC is a theologian, author, and preacher who has worked on civil rights issues for more than 30 years. He served as Faith Director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group that led the successful ballot campaign last fall for Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

In an open letter released on Monday, HRC, NBJC, the Task Force and Pride At Work, an LGBT arm of the AFL-CIO, along with 36 other LGBT advocacy organizations declared their strong support for the 50th anniversary commemoration March on Washington.

“History was made that day 50 years ago when thousands came to Washington, D.C. to lift up their voices in support of civil rights, employment protection, and an end to racial segregation in our nation’s schools,” the open letter says. “On Aug. 24, 2013, we will rededicate ourselves to that dream of equality and justice.”

The letter also notes that the LGBT rights movement celebrated historic victories in the past year, including voter approval of marriage equality in several states and the Supreme Court’s rulings striking down a key provision of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the nation’s largest state.

But the open letter says that LGBT people – like other minorities and immigrants – continue to face discrimination in employment and other areas, and that gays and transgender Americans continue to be victimized by violence based solely on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Working together, this rally and mobilization are an opportunity to lift up the voices of LGBT people as part of a broad progressive agenda for social and economic justice,” the letter says. “Please join us on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, at 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. in Washington, D.C. at the D.C. War Memorial at 900 Independence Ave., S.W.

The D.C. War Memorial, located across Independence Ave. from the Martin Luther King Memorial, is being used as the starting point for an LGBT contingent in one of many feeder marches that will culminate at the Lincoln Memorial, where the main rally was scheduled to be held.

At least eight LGBT-related events, including forums and receptions, were scheduled to take place this week and next week in association with the 50th Anniversary March on Washington.

Several of the events will honor Bayard Rustin, whom LGBT activists such as National Black Justice Coalition official Mandy Carter of North Carolina have described as an unrecognized gay hero in the U.S. civil rights movement.

At one of the events Tuesday night, D.C. gay activist Paul Kuntzler was one of four panelists to reflect on their participation in the 1963 March on Washington. Kuntzler told a gathering at D.C.’s Martin Luther King Library that he marched with a contingent of United Auto Workers Union members from Detroit, where he lived before moving to Washington.

March on Washington
LGBT-related events

Friday, Aug. 23

  • Celebrating the Legacy of A. Philip Randolph & Bayard Rustin 44th Annual A. Philip Randolph Institute National Conference
8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Hotel
400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.
  • What is the Unfinished Business for the LGBT Community?
A Conversation and Reception on the Heels of the Anniversary of the March on Washington
4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Rayburn House Office Building
  • Welcoming Reception for LGBT Participants 50th Anniversary March on Washington
6–10 p.m.
Us Helping Us HIV/AIDS services organization
3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Saturday, Aug. 24

• LGBT March contingent
assembles at D.C. Statehood Rally
D.C. War Memorial (North side of Independence Ave. between World War II Memorial and Lincoln Memorial)
Mayor Vincent Gray to speak
8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
• 50th Anniversary March on Washington rally
speakers and entertainers to be announced later in week
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.,
Lincoln Memorial

Monday, Aug. 26

A Tribute to Bayard Rustin & the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington
sponsored by National Black Justice Coalition, American Federation of Teachers, A. Philip Randolph Institute
6– 9 p.m.,
Lincoln Theater,
1215 U St., N.W.

Wednesday, Aug. 28

The Life and Legacy of Bayard Rustin: How an African American gay man became the lead organizer of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.
Panel discussion and reception, hosted by the Center for Black Equity
and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign,
7 p.m.
in the HRC Equality Forum Hall,
1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.


LGBT March on Washington participants celebrate King legacy

Jose Gutierrez, Latino GLBT History Project, National March on Washington, civil rights, gay news, Washington Blade

José Gutierrez, founder of the Latino GLBT History Project, at the National March on Washington (Washington Blade photo by Jon Wooten)

Liz Abzug, daughter of the late-former New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug who introduced the first federal gay rights bill in 1975, was 11-years-old when she and her mother attended the March on Washington in 1963.

She told the Washington Blade on Saturday her mother would have certainly returned to the Lincoln Memorial five decades later.

“She’d be up there speaking in the front,” Liz Abzug said as she stood with members of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBT synagogue in New York City, on the National Mall. “She’d be screaming and speaking and charging up and thrilled, but saying we have unfinished business.”

Liz Abzug is among the LGBT rights advocates who joined the tens of thousands of people who commemorated the 1963 march during which Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Rev. MacArthur Flournoy of the Human Rights Campaign; Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and Adrian Shanker, president of Equality Pennsylvania, are among those who joined Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and others at the Lincoln Memorial. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Equality Maryland, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, the Latino GLBT History Project and other LGBT groups also took part.

“I’m here with my brothers and sisters, not only in the union movement, but with LGBT people, with African Americans from the civil rights movement,” Suzanne Keller of Richmond, Va., told the Blade as she stood along the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial with her girlfriend who was 13-years-old when she watched the 1963 March on Washington on television. “I know I’m here with my people.”

National March on Washington, civil rights, gay news, Washington Blade

Participants in the National March on Washington (Washington Blade photo by Jon Wooten)

Lance Chen-Hayes of Princeton, N.J., held a sign in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and affordable health care as he stood on the Mall with his husband, Stuart Chen-Hayes, and their son Kalani. Stuart Chen-Hayes cited a list of people whom he considers heroes that include Bayard Rustin, who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and former U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning whom a military judge on Wednesday sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks.

“If we don’t stand up, speak up and be in the streets, who will,” Stuart Chen-Hayes told the Blade. “It’s especially important for us who are lesbian, gay, transgender and parents because there’s all sorts of folks who fought for us 50 years ago and long before that. It’s just continuing the struggle for civil rights and human rights.”

Anders Minter, a gay man who is a member of the United Auto Workers, traveled to the nation’s capital from Amherst, Mass. to attend the march.

He told the Blade he felt “incredible power and solidarity” while marching, but noted what he described as a “great tension.”

“It’s been 50 years since we’ve come together as a country with a focus on economic justice and social justice,” Minter said, noting the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington took place against the backdrop of June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a crucial portion of the Voting Rights Act and last month’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. “It’s been a long journey, but there’s a long journey ahead.”

D.C. officials used the march to highlight the issue of statehood for the nation’s capital.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray noted during a pro-statehood rally at the D.C. War Memorial near the Mall that people of “different sexual orientations and genders” were among those who attended the 1963 March on Washington.

“We’re demanding justice because justice is exactly what we are here to accomplish,” he said.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large,) D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2,) Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4,) Marion Barry (D-Ward 8,) Vincent Orange (D-At-Large,) Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) and David Grosso (I-At-Large) and D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier are among those who also attended the pro-statehood rally.

Roland Martin, a former CNN commentator whom the network suspended in 2012 over homophobic tweets he sent during that year’s Super Bowl, also spoke.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, District of Columbia, D.C. statehood, War Memorial, gay news, March on Washington, Washington Blade

D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton speaks at a pro-D.C. statehood rally at the D.C. War Memorial on Aug. 24, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

“This morning we serve notice as the March on Washington 2013 begins that we, who have fewer rights than almost any who will march today, can no longer allow the deliberate disempowerment and denial of our rights to go unnoticed, unnoted, unmentioned and ignored,” D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, said. “No more marches and ignoring D.C.”

King understood rights are ‘not divisible’

Many of the march participants with whom the Blade spoke said they feel King would have supported LGBT rights if he were still alive.

“His message of equality, his message of inclusion of all people was loud and clear in everything that he wrote and every speech that he gave,” Grosso said.

“We’re humans and everybody deserves the same rights,” Daniel Trejo of Columbia Heights told the Blade as he prepared to march to the Lincoln Memorial with the D.C. Office on Latino Affairs.

Minter referenced King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as he discussed how he feels the slain civil rights leader would have backed LGBT rights.

“Martin Luther King was an incredible listener, as much as he was an incredible orator,” Minter said. “Part of acceptance and love is listening and understanding and I think he would have added this to his work.”

Both Liz Abzug and Keller noted to the Blade the slain civil rights leader’s widow, Coretta Scott King, backed marriage rights for same-sex couples before she passed away in 2006.

“Dr. King had a key understanding that rights are not divisible,” Keller said. “If we don’t have human rights for everybody, we don’t have human rights for anybody.”


Washington National Cathedral to allow same-sex weddings

Washington National Cathedral, Episcopal Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Washington National Cathedral (Photo by Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz/Camila Santos Ferreira via wikimedia commons)

The Washington National Cathedral — an Episcopal church — will welcome same-sex weddings effective immediately, according to Dean Gary Hall, who made the announcement Tuesday. The news comes on the heels of legislative victories at the ballot for same-sex marriage in Maine, Washington and Maryland.

“For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of same-sex couples,” Hall said. “It is now only fitting that the National Cathedral follow suit. We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God—and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.”

The Washington National Cathedral, for which construction began in 1907 and was completed in 1990, is the second-largest church in the United States and often hosts important religious ceremonies for the country. Just last month, the cathedral hosted a funeral service for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, which was attended by President Obama.

The Cathedral is allowed to permit same-sex weddings because of new policy adopted by Episcopalian Church leadership in August during the General Convention. At that time, church leadership said it would allow bishops who oversee each diocese to determine whether or not to allow clergy to permit marriages for same-sex couples. Following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland, Bishop Mariann Budde declared her diocese would allow this expansion of the rite, leading to the new policy at the Washington National Cathedral.

“In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served,” Hall contunued. “I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality—and I am pleased that this step follows the results made clear in this past November’s election, when three states voted to allow same-sex marriage.”

According to the Cathedral, because the weddings are conducted as Christian marriages, same-sex couples must commit “to lifelong faithfulness, love, forbearance, and mutual comfort” and one person in the couple must have been baptized. Additionally, only couples who are directly affiliated with the life of the Cathedral — as active, contributing members of the congregation; as alumni of the Cathedral schools; as individuals who have made significant volunteer or donor contributions over a period of time; or those judged to have played an exceptional role in the life of the nation — may be eligible to marry there.

Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, praised the move from the cathedral, calling it “another milestone in the Episcopal Church’s embrace of all God’s children, including LGBT people.”

“The Episcopal Church is one of a growing number of denominations to see a new day in the intersection of faith and sexual orientation and gender identity,” Flournoy said. “This is not only good LGBT people, it is good for the soul of the church.”