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Boehner tells LGBT caucus ‘no way’ ENDA will pass

John Boehner, Ohio, Republican Party, GOP, United States House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, State of the Union, 2014, gay news, Washington Blade

For the first time ever, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) met with the LGBT Equality Caucus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told attendees last week at his first-ever meeting with the LGBT Equality Caucus there was “no way” the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would pass this year, according to a gay lawmaker who attended the meeting.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who’s gay and one of the caucus co-chairs, volunteered information Tuesday night about the meeting in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol when the Washington Blade asked him about his views on the absence of the ENDA from the State of the Union address.

“A number of us did meet with, actually the caucus met with Speaker Boehner,” Takano said. “He said no way was it going to get done in this session.”

Calling the discussion between Boehner and the lawmakers “a historic sort of meeting,” Takano later clarified he was referring to the LGBT Equality Caucus, a 113-member group of lawmakers committed to advancing LGBT rights, and said the meeting took place “a few days ago” or last week.

A “session” of Congress is equivalent to one of the two years in which a particular Congress meets before a new Congress is seated, so Takano’s account of the meeting indicates ENDA won’t see a House vote in 2014.

Asked to clarify whether he meant that ENDA won’t come up this year, Takano said, “Yeah. He said it wasn’t going to happen in this session.”

Despite his account of the meeting, Takano remained optimistic about the passage of ENDA at a later time, perhaps after Election Day this year, saying “it’s still a huge priority for me to get that done.”

“There’s obviously differences between the two parties on ENDA, but, you know, who knows what can happen in a lame duck Congress?” Takano said.

Others with knowledge of the meeting declined to divulge on the record significant information, saying the meeting wasn’t open to staffers and not meant to be public. No one would disclose the exact date of the meeting or identify who participated.

But House aides did confirm the historic nature of the meeting, saying Boehner has never before met with the LGBT Equality Caucus and the discussion took place within the speaker’s office. Aides said Boehner has also met with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, but discussions in meetings like these are private.

Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, responded to the Blade’s inquiries about the meeting by saying the speaker meets all the time with various groups on Capitol Hill.

“John Boehner is the speaker of the whole House, and often meets with groups of members from both sides of the aisle,” Steel said.

One aide said the entire 113-member caucus didn’t attend the meeting, although it was attended by more lawmakers than just the six co-chairs of the group, who consist of openly LGB members of the U.S. House. The co-chairs are Takano as well as Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Brad Jacklin, executive director of the LGBT Equality Caucus, confirmed a meeting took place, but offered only a few details.

“A number of members asked to meet with the speaker, who tries to accommodate such requests,” Jacklin said. “It was a members-only meeting and was off the record. The Equality Caucus and its leadership continues to work together to educate members of the House on LGBT issues and build bipartisan support for legislation like ENDA.”

Jacklin took note that just this week, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) signed on as the sixth House Republican to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Immediately after the announcement, he received significant attention in the media for physically threatening a reporter from New York-affiliate NY1 who asked him about the current investigation into his potential violation of campaign finance law.


Congress urged to pass anti-bullying bill

Linda Sánchez, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, California

U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) (Photo public domain).

Four members of Congress joined LGBT students and advocates outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday who called for the passage of a bill that would require schools to implement anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) described the Safe Schools Improvement Act she introduced last month as a “common sense piece of legislation.” The measure – which has 193 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle – needs only 25 more co-sponsors to ensure passage if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allows it to come up for a vote.

Sánchez told the Washington Blade after the press conference she has not “recently” spoken with Boehner or his office about scheduling a potential vote for the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The California Democrat said having more than 200 co-sponsors for the measure she first introduced it in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 “tees it up for that conversation with the speaker’s office.”

“As awareness about the issue grows, as members are personally affected or see constituents personally affected, I think they see the value in supporting this piece of legislation,” Sánchez told the Blade.

California Congressman Mike Honda – who founded the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus – discussed how his classmates subjected him to racial insults once he returned to the Golden State after living in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.

“Our parents send our kids to school to be safe, not to be harassed,” said Honda.

Christin Manus of Dacula, Ga., said her classmates called her a “dyke” and other anti-gay slurs after she was outed during her freshman year of high school. She noted a group of girls told her they were going to “beat her straight.”

The suburban Atlanta teenager said during the press conference her parents did not accept her sexual orientation. Manus added she thought her teachers would have been disappointed at her because she was a lesbian if she told them about the bullying she was experiencing.

“If the Safe Schools Improvement Act were law, I would have had the protection I needed to feel safe in school,” she said. “With the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, students like us will no longer have to suffer in silence.”

Honda noted during the press conference that 13 million students experience some form of bullying each year in the U.S. California Congressman Mark Takano referenced a Department of Education study that shows bullying affects 80 percent of LGBT students.

“We are just 25 votes away from doing something about it,” said the gay Democrat.

The press conference took place a day before the annual Day of Silence the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network organizes.


House race divides LGBT advocates

Richard Tisei, Republican, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Richard Tisei said he would serve as a strong advocate for LGBT rights within the ranks of House Republicans if elected. (Photo courtesy of Tisei).

The controversial decision earlier this year by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund to endorse gay Republican Richard Tisei over pro-LGBT Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) has prompted five openly gay or bisexual U.S. House members, all Democrats, to sign on as supporters of a fundraiser for Tierney.

The fundraiser, scheduled for June 25 in Washington, is being backed by at least two-dozen prominent LGBT Democrats and straight allies, including the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, former Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, and transgender advocate and Maryland State Senate candidate Dr. Dana Beyer.

Gay former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is among those signing on as an honorary co-chair of the fundraising event, which is being organized by two of Frank’s former staff members.

The former staffers, Joseph Racalto and Maria Giesta, principals in the Washington political consulting firm Giesta Racalto, said they initiated the event to “blunt” the Victory Fund’s endorsement of Tisei.

Tisei is a former Massachusetts State senator. He has a strong record of support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality. He backed a transgender rights bill that came up before the legislature.

Racalto and other LGBT Democrats supporting Tierney said they have no objection to an LGBT supportive gay Republican running for Congress.

But they said the Victory Fund should not have endorsed such a candidate in a race against a longtime straight ally such as Tierney, who has received a perfect 100 percent rating on LGBT issues from HRC.

“Although I applaud Tisei – and all LGBT political candidates who run for public office — this endorsement is not justified and sets a dangerous precedent,” Racalto said in a Blade commentary.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Tisei told the Blade he would be a champion for LGBT issues if elected to the House and would serve as a strong advocate for LGBT rights within the ranks of House Republicans.

He said he would not hesitate to defy House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) by signing a discharge petition to force Boehner and other House GOP leaders to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, to the House floor for a vote.

ENDA, which calls for banning employment discrimination against LGBT people, has been stalled in the Republican-controlled House. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the legislation last year.

Racalto said that while Tisei has personally been supportive on LGBT issues, his commitment to push for those issues came into question last month when he formed a joint fundraising committee with conservative Republican Frank Guinta, who’s running for a House seat in New Hampshire.

Guinta opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights and had considered aligning himself with the ultra conservative Tea Party.

Tisei said the joint fundraising arrangement will enable the two candidates to share expenses and won’t in any way compromise his positions in support of LGBT rights.

“During the past 10 years I have seen a lot of people’s positions change and evolve, including the president’s, by the way,” Tisei said.

He added that he sees his role as an advocate for change within the Republican Party and the Republican caucus of the House.

“A lot of people are re-examining their positions on marriage equality and other LGBT issues,” he said. “And I’m going to work with as many different types of people on as many types of issues as I can…And I can serve, especially within the Republican caucus, as someone who helps bring people over to the right side of the issue.”

Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, said the group endorsed Tisei last week. Angelo said he isn’t troubled over Tisei’s joint fundraising effort with Guinta.

“The more interesting aspect of this story to me is that ‘Tea Party’ types who contribute to this fund will be donating money to a gay Republican running for the House of Representatives,” Angelo said. “That’s the real story here.”

Victory Fund press secretary Steven Thai said his group saw Tisei as a change agent for the Republican Party along with Tisei’s longstanding record in support of LGBT rights when it endorsed him.

“I think it is sometimes shortsighted for folks to focus on the kind of short-term gains that can be made right now instead of the long-term goal that this world would be very different if we had more Republicans that supported us on our issues,” Thai said. “And the only way we’re ever going to get to that point is by electing openly gay Republicans that care about our issues.”

D.C. gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who signed on as a member of the host committee for the Tierney fundraiser, said he agrees with the Victory Fund’s mission of helping to elect LGBT-supportive candidates but not at the expense of long-time LGBT-supportive incumbents like Tierney.

“I don’t see this as a conflict with my support for the Victory Fund,” he said in referring to his role in the Tierney fundraiser. “I support the Victory Fund but not all of their candidates.”

Political observers in Massachusetts say Tisei has a shot at unseating Tierney in part because he’s perceived by many voters as a moderate Republican with a progressive record as a state legislator for more than 10 years.

Tisei came within just one percentage point of beating Tierney in the 2012 election at a time when Tierney’s wife and two brothers-in-law became embroiled in an illegal gambling scheme that landed his wife and one brother-in-law in jail.

Tierney himself was cleared of any wrong-doing in the scandal, in which his wife, Patrice Tierney, pleaded guilty in 2010 to filing false tax returns in connection with a checking account belonging to one of her brothers. As much as $7 million in illegal gambling funds passed through the account, according to law enforcement officials.

Politico reported that Tierney blames his brothers-in-law for duping his wife into believing the funds were part of a legal sports gambling business based in the Caribbean island of Antigua, which the brothers claimed to have been operating.

Republican Party operatives both in Massachusetts and outside the state have been raising the gambling scandal in attack ads targeting Tierney.

As if that were not enough, Tierney is being challenged by two Democrats in the state’s Democratic primary in September. One of the candidates, former U.S. Marine and Iraq war veteran Seth Moulton, raised more money than Tierney in the most recent campaign reporting period, raising concern among Tierney supporters. On his campaign website, Moulton has expressed support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality.

The gay House members signing on as honorary co-chairs for the Tierney fundraiser are Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), and Mark Takano (D-Calif.). Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the first openly bisexual member of Congress, also signed on as an honorary co-chair.

The name of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), the first openly gay person to win election to the U.S. Senate, is conspicuously absent from the list of honorary co-chairs for the Tierney fundraiser. Racalto said organizers invited Baldwin to participate but have not heard back from her office.

A Baldwin spokesperson didn’t respond to a request from the Blade for a comment on why Baldwin hasn’t signed on to the fundraiser. The Victory Fund endorsed Baldwin in her hotly contested Senate race in 2012 and helped raise money for her successful campaign.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has signed on as an honorary co-chair for the Tierney fundraiser along with Tierney’s eight House colleagues from Massachusetts, all of whom are Democrats. The state’s other senator, Elizabeth Warren (D), has so far not signed on as an honorary co-chair.

Other supporters of the event, in addition to Solmonese, Rosenstein, and Beyer, include former Barney Frank staffers Peter Kovar and Diego Sanchez; Brad Luna; John Weinfurter; Tucker Gallagher; Lane Hudson; and Paul Hazen.

Racalto said he didn’t extend an invitation to participate in the event to Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), who came out as gay last year and who has been endorsed by the Victory Fund in his race for governor of Maine.

“We didn’t invite him simply because of his run for governor,” Racalto said. “The Victory Fund played no part in that decision.”

Barney Frank, Massachusetts, World Bank, human rights, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Rep. Barney Frank and several of his former staffers are involved in a June fundraiser for Rep. John Tierney. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


Should we always vote for the LGBT candidate?

Richard Tisei, Republican, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Richard Tisei (Photo courtesy of Tisei).

A gay man is running for Congress in Massachusetts against a straight incumbent. The gay man has been endorsed by the Victory Fund. So why are so many members of Congress who are strong supporters of both the Victory Fund and LGBT rights holding a fundraiser in Washington on June 25 for the straight guy?

Those hosting the fundraiser include Sen. Ed Markey, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and participating are Steny Hoyer, Richard Neal, James McGovern, Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch, Niki Tsongas, as well as members who are themselves gay or bisexual, including Reps. David Cicilline, Jared Polis, Mark Takano, Kyrsten Sinema, Mark Pocan and former Congressman Barney Frank. The easy answer is that the gay man is running as a Republican and the straight incumbent is a Democrat. But the answer is really much more complicated than that.

The gay Republican is Richard Tisei and he first ran and lost against the straight incumbent John Tierney (D-Mass.) in 2012. Tisei served in the Massachusetts Legislature for 26 years. He then ran and lost as the lieutenant governor candidate on Charlie Baker’s ticket in 2010. It was at that time that he came out. The Democratic incumbent is Tierney, who has served in Congress since 1997. He is a liberal member of Congress who has voted with other Democratic representatives from Massachusetts. He is the co-author of the Green Jobs Act of 2007 and the College Affordability and Accountability Act of 2008 and a strong supporter of LGBT rights.

The issue is more than just gay or straight because in Congress today, seemingly even more than in the past, party affiliation is paramount. That is the reason so many LGBT members are willing to raise money and support a straight person over a gay person. Should Tisei win and come to Washington, his first vote would be for the Republican leadership. Today that would be John Boehner for speaker and most likely even more conservative Republicans for majority leader and whip. Those votes alone will dictate what Tisei can or can’t accomplish during his tenure in office.

The man Tisei is committed to supporting for speaker is John Boehner. Boehner has so far refused to bring ENDA to a floor vote, even though it passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. So even if Tisei campaigns and says he supports ENDA it won’t matter. He will be casting that first hypocritical vote for leadership that controls the agenda and opposes what he says he supports.

Tisei’s supporters say that having an openly gay Republican in the House can impact others in his party. Tisei’s history suggests otherwise. When he ran for lieutenant governor with Baker in 2010, he wasn’t able to convince his running mate to support transgender rights.

The issue for many Democrats is simple: Electing another Republican just helps Boehner and the far right stay in power. We have often seen that contrary to changing the Republican Party, LGBT groups in the Republican Party like Log Cabin, went along to get along and supported Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan who campaigned on a pledge to appoint judges opposed to marriage equality.

Like many, I hope the Republican Party will change in the future. I believe that enough Republicans will decide that they can’t continue to support leadership and a platform that is consistently on the wrong side of history. They will see that a Republican Party that refuses to pass an immigration reform bill, continues to carry on a war against women’s rights, including denying equal pay for equal work, campaigns against raising the minimum wage and works to deny full civil and human rights to the LGBT community is not a path to a better future for America. But that fight will have to be carried on internally in the Republican Party.

Democrats shouldn’t be led to believe that they are helping by electing Republican members of Congress — gay or straight — who will support the current leadership.


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 


Obama’s State of the Union light on LGBT issues

State of the Union, 2014, Barack Obama, United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama was criticized by LGBT advocates over his State of the Union address. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Obama had few words in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night on LGBT issues, disappointing advocates who had wanted him to address the lack of federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

Devoting a large portion of his speech to income equality, Obama called on on Congress to pass other initiatives — such as a Voting Rights Act, a measure to ensure equal for pay women, immigration reform — and pledged to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contractors.

“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together,” Obama said. “Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want: for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.”

LGBT advocates had been pushing Obama to include in his speech a call to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and a pledge to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

Obama’s continued decision to withhold the LGBT executive order became more pronounced after he promised during his speech to take executive action if Congress doesn’t pass legislation, and enumerated a specific plan to boost the minimum wage through executive order. That raised questions about why he hasn’t done the same for LGBT workers.

“What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” Obama said. “Some require congressional action, and I am eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

But Obama’s speech wasn’t completely devoid of any references to the LGBT community. The president identified marriage equality as one of those issues with which the White House is partnering with “mayors, governors and state legislatures” on throughout the country.

Further, he said the administration pursues a robust foreign policy because “we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being” regardless of categories like sexual orientation. Obama also said American values “equality under law” in his speech, which is of importance as courts decide the issue of marriage equality.

Joe Biden, John Boehner, Democratic Party, Republican Party, State of the Union, 2014, Barack Obama, United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner at the 2014 State of the Union Address. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Nonetheless, the speech fell short of what LGBT advocates were calling in terms of federal workplace non-discrimination policy, prompting disappointment.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, responded the president’s failure to address LGBT issues in his speech with criticism, a striking change in tone from the organization’s usual praise of Obama as a strong LGBT ally.

“The President’s message tonight failed to address the needs of LGBT workers looking for a fair shake in this economy,” Griffin said. “Not only was there no call for the House to pass a federal law to protect LGBT workers nationwide, President Obama also sidestepped his commitment to take action where Congress has left off, leaving out an order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors.”

Griffin added Obama “missed a real opportunity” to commit in the State of the Union to “executive action to address anti-LGBT discrimination for the millions of Americans employed by federal contractors.”

The absence of ENDA was particularly noteworthy because just months ago, for the first time in history, the Senate approved the measure on bipartisan basis, leaving the House as the only obstacle toward passage.

Although the president made no mention of ENDA during his speech, the White House included the legislation as part of a fact sheet distributed to reporters prior to the address, identifying LGBT non-discrimination as an issue in which the administration is “continuing to work with Congress.”

“Today, federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and disability,” the fact sheet states. “It’s time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list, so that no American worker can lose his or her job simply because of who they are or who they love. ”

After noting that the Senate last year passed ENDA by a bipartisan vote, the fact sheet says Obama “renews his call for the House to do the same.”

Others advocates said they would continue to push Obama on the executive order despite the president’s exclusion of the directive from the State of the Union address.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said Obama’s pledge to issue an executive order on minimum wage was “great news” because it means there’s an opportunity for Obama to sign an executive order against LGBT discrimination.

“It’s disappointing ENDA did not make it into the State of the Union,” Almeida said. “But no matter what was omitted from this one address, we can still make 2014 a year of action for LGBT workplace protections by pushing the House of Representatives to allow an ENDA vote and pushing the President to keep his promise of the federal contractor executive order.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, gave Obama mixed reviews after previously calling on Obama to use the word “transgender” and address immigration reform during his speech in addition to LGBT workplace protections.

“The President is right to urge congress to fix our broken immigration system this year, the creation of more jobs, equal pay for women, and the restoration of the Voting Rights Act,” Carey said. “We are also pleased that the President is using his pen like he said he would to move things forward: in this instance by signing an executive order to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers. However, he must go further and sign an executive order that bans discrimination against the same contract workers who are LGBT.”

Carey noted some of the workers who are set to receive pay raises because of the minimum wage executive order are vulnerable without the executive order for LGBT workplace non-discrimation.

“The irony is that some LGBT federal contract workers will get a pay raise but they could still be fired for who they are and who they love,” Carey said. “The longer the President waits the more damage LGBT people will face; discrimination is a painful reality that is too often the lived experience of LGBT people. The President has to act when Congress won’t.”

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, took issue with the speech as a whole, not simply for Obama’s handling of workplace issues.

“For a moment, I thought the news accidentally re-ran last year’s State of the Union, because all I really saw was more of the same,” Angelo said. “In the midst of a stagnant economy, understated unemployment, and ballooning debt, the only new ideas presented by the President involved using ‘a pen and a phone’ to push a liberal agenda for which hard-working Americans have no appetite.”

Coming off a victory in which Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) agreed to sign on as co-sponsor of ENDA, Angelo also chided Obama for his lack of attention in the State of the Union to LGBT non-discrimination in the workforce.

“While the President’s calls for a more equal nation are welcome, there is a profound irony in the absence of any mention of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for LGBT workers tonight, and likewise in the President’s threat to exercise unilateral Executive actions with the explosive potential to ignite class warfare, while at the same time remaining silent on signing a common-sense Executive Order barring federal workplace discrimination: an empty promise to LGBT Americans that stands unfulfilled after six years,” Angelo said.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, defended the speech by saying it wasn’t “a comprehensive list of all of the president’s positions or priorities. ”

“The President has long supported ENDA, and its inclusion in our fact sheet reflects the President’s belief that Congress needs to act,” Inouye said.

Among the guests seated behind first lady Michelle Obama in her box during the speech was Jason Collins, a former Washington Wizards center who made headlines last year after coming out as gay.

Following the speech, lawmakers who spoke to the Washington Blade on Capitol Hill said they noted the absence of the ENDA in his speech, but felt assured by the president’s leadership.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she thinks the minimum wage executive order will be a “down payment” on an LGBT directive the president will issue at a later time, but took issue with the lack of any mention of ENDA.

“I would love to have seen a mention, and I don’t think I saw, other than a passing mention of the LGBT community,” Norton said. “I think the way to have done it, frankly, would have been with ENDA, because ENDA is overwhelmingly supported by the American people. It’s already been supported by the Senate. It’s ripe, so I am disappointed that that did not occur, but I’m heartened that he’s going to move, and, frankly, I think we can get ENDA out of here in the next year or two.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), one of seven openly gay members of the U.S. House, said he was confident Obama would take executive action to protect LGBT workers based on his previous actions.

“I tell you, 2013 was one of the gayest years in the history of human kind, and this president has used his executive orders already in how he’s interpreted the Supreme Court decisions, the way he’s applied in the ruling in the Windsor case, in ways that have been very favorable,” Takano said. “He’s done that through executive orders and interpretations, so he’s already used his executive order in the gayest way possible. So, I have hope that he’ll continue to do so.”

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Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) at the 2014 State of the Union Address. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


End of the movement?

National Equality March, gay rights, gay news, Washington Blade

The National Equality March in Oct. 2009 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

With the Supreme Court wrestling with some of our biggest issues and marriage rights expanding around the country, we asked several LGBT folks from all walks of life if the end of the movement could be near. Specifically, we asked:

“Have we reached a turning point in the LGBT rights movement and what does the end of the movement look like to you?”

Their answers will delight, surprise, provoke — and make you think.

(Compiled by Blade staff writers Michael K. Lavers, Chris Johnson, Lou Chibbaro Jr., Phil Reese and Joey DiGuglielmo)


Heather Mizeur (Maryland State Delegate)

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Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Co.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

We have definitely reached a tipping point. With 12 states and counting, LGBT equality is on the march and there is no turning back. It was exciting for Maryland to play such a central role in being the first state below the Mason-Dixon line to pass marriage equality, and the first to affirm its support through the popular vote at the ballot box in 2012. In Takoma Park, when I ran for City Council a decade ago, my sexual orientation was not seen as anything interesting or special because the community had already grown to fully embrace all of its LGBT residents. Now, as I explore a run for governor of Maryland, I find that voters throughout the state are more impressed and interested in my ideas for the future than any concern over the fact that my wife would be their First Lady. We have come a long way.

I do not ever envision an “end of the movement” because as soon as we are done securing our own equality, we move on together as a community to address and tackle inequality every place it exists – poverty, racial bias and gender discrimination, to name a few. We will continue to work collaboratively, putting our community’s best talents forward, to affect positive social change for everyone.

Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez (GetEQUAL)

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Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

It’s time to push for what we deserve.

Forty-four years ago, a group of drag queens and trans women of color — tired of the constant institutional violence perpetuated against our community — led the Stonewall riots. Riots turned into Pride and Pride continues to be our community’s opportunity to reflect on our progress, set forth our vision for equality and organize — because our lives depend on it.

Though we have made many gains, we are still severely unequal under United States law. We only have 15 percent of the rights of our straight counterparts. In my home state of Florida, I can be denied work, credit, housing, a marriage license and all manner of other rights essential to living the American dream. These issues become even more magnified when taking into account the multiple oppressions of race, immigration status, gender, etc. We have much ground to cover and waiting around is not an option.

Congress and the White House will continue to play politics with our lives unless we stand up now and push for what we truly deserve. Recently, Democratic leaders denied same-sex bi-national couples protections under immigration law; the president is sitting on an executive order that could protect 25 percent of the labor force in our nation against workplace discrimination. The incremental approach to equality is ineffective. We need a full federal equality bill. We owe it to those first mavericks who rose up and fought back against our oppression. It’s time for us to push our allies in Congress to stand up for our equality.

Gautam Raghavan (White House adviser)

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White House advisor Gautam Raghavan (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In his second inaugural address, President Obama spoke of our nation’s commitment to advancing equality for all people, a journey that “guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.”  For the LGBT community and allies, those words were received with deep gratitude, applause and more than a few tears.

Since 2009, we have seen tremendous change unfold across the country: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed, hate crimes laws expanded to better protect the community,  anti-bullying efforts increased, discrimination in federal housing prohibited and benefits for same-sex couples extended. As President Obama has said, this progress has not been led by lawmakers in Washington, but by ordinary citizens. It’s change driven by friends, families, colleagues and neighbors having important, heartfelt, sometimes tough conversations in neighborhoods, small towns and cities all across America.

As we reflect upon this rapid progress in the context of a decades-long movement toward equality, it can be easy to assume we’re near our journey’s end.

But if we take the president’s words to heart — “Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall” — we remember that movements for equality and social justice require continued commitment. Today, more than 160 years after the Seneca Falls Convention, women still don’t receive equal pay in the workplace. Nearly 50 years after Bloody Sunday, we continue to work toward full racial equality in education, housing and voting. And although the protesters at Stonewall may not have imagined marriage equality in their lifetime, their experience of violence, harassment and discrimination at work and at home still resonate in our community today.

This Pride month, we celebrate the progress we have made — through laws, policies and victories at the ballot box and in the courtroom — and we recommit ourselves to continuing our march toward a more perfect union.

I’m confident that our president will be with us every step of the way.

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.)

Mark Takano, Democratic Party, California, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The LGBT rights movement is undoubtedly at a turning point as public opinion has moved in favor of LGBT rights and there are more LGBT federal elected officials than ever before.

But even more evident is that legislation coming out of Congress has become more reflective of true equality as laid out in the Constitution. With the Matthew Shepard Act and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” hate-crimes protections were expanded and gay service members were allowed to serve openly in the military. Meanwhile, an increasing number of states have approved marriage equality and prohibited employment discrimination against the LGBT community through state initiatives and legislation.

For the first time in United States history, the president and a majority of United States senators support marriage equality and the Department of Justice is no longer defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” At this moment in the LGBT rights movement, the arc is actually an acceleration curve. This is a turning point, but there is more to do before we reach the end of the arc, where full equality is recognized under the law and throughout our society.

Hassan Naveed (Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence)

Hassan Naveed, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, GLOV, gay news, Washington Blade

Hassan Naveed (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

I think we’re at a crossroads. We’ve witnessed tremendous strides toward equality in the past few years. Public opinion on LGBT issues is progressing unquestionably in our community’s favor.

The recent political victories for marriage equality in several states represent major milestones. As we celebrate these successes and others to come, it’s important to recognize that only history will attest to the true turning points of the LGBT rights movement.

For now, advocates must stride toward equality mindful of all the issues faced by LGBT peoples. Job discrimination, unfair immigration policies, health inequities, homelessness and hate crimes are not new problems, but continue to haunt our community.

The movement’s path forward must address the needs of the most vulnerable and continually accommodate our immense diversity. We’ve reached a crossroads and the direction forward will be the true test of our morality as a people and our success as a movement. For me, the movement will end when we are truly free; to live our lives to the fullest without barriers based on gender expression and identity or sexuality.

Martin Garcia (Gertrude Stein Democratic Club)

Martin Garcia, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Martin Garcia (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

As we watch the news and look at the national trends, it gets me very excited seeing all signs pointing to moving toward full equality. The number of successes in achieving marriage equality on the state level, the optimistic views on the upcoming Supreme Court decisions, national polls showing a rise in favor of LGBT rights show we definitely have the wind at our backs.

However, we still have a very long journey ahead of us on a number of issues affecting LGBT people and will need to continue fighting.

We need to continue the fight for HIV/AIDS research, education and funding to decrease the infection rate and raise awareness, that schools are safe for all LGBT students and staff, that we are secure being out at our jobs, that we are not discriminated against when finding housing, that we are supporting our youth to ensure they do not end up homeless or worse no longer with us, and fight to ensure that not only some of us are winning but that we are lifting everyone in our community up.

So as exciting and promising as these recent, and hopefully soon-to-be, victories are, we are not done and need to continue the fight for full equality.

Chad Griffin (president, Human Rights Campaign)

Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin (Washington Blade file photo by Blake Bergen)

This Pride month, the LGBT movement has so many reasons to be hopeful. From historic oral arguments at the Supreme Court, to victories for marriage equality in Delaware, Rhode Island and Minnesota, to the out-and-proud leadership of athletes like Jason Collins, Brittney Griner and Robbie Rogers, LGBT people and our families have never been so visible and so welcome in American life.

But, as a community, we can’t let progress distract us from the work left to do. We’ve got to make sure that every person in this country gets to see that progress, too.

The fact is that when transgender people still face truly shocking rates of harassment and violence, when a gay man can still be openly murdered on the streets of New York City for who he is, when LGBT youth are still roughly 10 times more likely to be homeless, our work is far from complete. We’re not even close to where we need to be.

So as we gather as a community to celebrate Pride, this movement needs a fire in its belly now more than ever. As long as any LGBT young person feels unwelcome in their community, their church or even around their own dinner table, we’ve got work to do.

Pride, after all, is a celebration with a message: equality everywhere for everyone. And that vision isn’t achieved until it reaches every single person in every corner of this vast country.

Amy Loudermilk (Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs)

Amy Loudermilk, Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs, gay news, Washington Blade

Amy Loudermilk (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

I think we’ve absolutely hit a turning point in the LGBT rights movement. With the recent explosion in the number of states approving marriage-equality measures, our president supporting full equality and the two Supreme Court cases set to be decided very soon, how could anyone deny the country’s mood is changing about this issue and that the momentum is very much in favor of equality? I also couldn’t be more proud that the District was one of the first jurisdictions with marriage equality.

That said, there are still lots of legal issues that need to be addressed and will take some time, with everything from retirement benefits to the availability of restraining orders to same-sex couples involved in domestic-violence situations. Ultimately, I don’t know what the end of the movement will look like because I don’t necessarily think it will end. For example, the women’s rights movement is still going on today because women still don’t make equal pay for equal work and in some states don’t have full control over their own bodies. Similarly, the civil rights movement continues today because we are still trying to fix policies that unfairly target people of color and still overcoming the lingering effects of centuries of institutionalized racism.

Prejudice in general will always exist, so I think this movement and others will continue for a very long time. And it should continue because the world’s learned a lesson about what happens when you are silent about discrimination.

Scott Wooledge (activist)

Scott Wooledge, gay news, Washington Blade

Scott Wooledge (Photo courtesy of Wooledge)

There is no end.

The work is never done, nearly 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, the battle to stamp out institutionalized racism that denies people of color their votes is still front and center; in the Supreme Court, in lower courts and legislatures. And 93 years after the 19th Amendment was ratified, women still hold only 18.3 percent of the 535 seats in the 113th U.S. Congress (and zero presidents thus far).

Though we have nearly all one could hope for in here in New York, we have yet to pass transgender protections. And all LGBT communities will forever be tasked with fighting for their seats at the table and ensuring government serves the unique and specific needs of our community. In New York, we have ongoing battles to ensure our leaders don’t balance tightening state and local budgets by slashing funding for our most vulnerable (and lobbyist-free). Constituencies like indigent with HIV and homeless youth depend on our voices. Social safety net programs, like unemployment, are particularly important to a community that faces discrimination in employment and housing.

But of course I have seen the LGBT community evolve dramatically in my lifetime.

We’ve long been bound by our shared desire not to be outcasts from stalwart mainstream institutions, like the military, the Boy Scouts and marriage. And we’re winning. The question becomes, does the LGBT community have core values that bind us other than just being shunned by straight people? Fighting to expand options will result in more people exercising them. Witness the malaise of the gayborhood as LGBT people no longer feel awkward and unwelcome in more traditionally straight areas.

Ironically, there now seems to be a sense among some that actually choosing to join those institutions is an expression of betrayal to the larger community; “assimilate” and “heteronormatives” are said with derision.

I tip my hat as enthusiastically to the gender-transgressive anarchist as I do the Marine and the suburban soccer mom. I am confident this is the beautiful mosaic that makes our community, and America, beautiful.

Zack Ford (

Zack Ford, ThinkProgress, gay news, Washington Blade

Zack Ford (Photo courtesy of Ford)

The LGBT movement will not end during any of our lifetimes. In the next few decades, we may complete many of our legislative goals, such as marriage equality, nondiscrimination protections, bullying oversight and others, but the work will continue. These legal victories will shift the priorities of our movement to focus more on education, advocacy and support, but opponents of LGBT equality will no doubt continue to challenge our community’s full inclusion in society.

People of color still endure unfair treatment under “Stop and Frisk” and voter suppression laws; women still don’t have equitable salaries or access to health care; and people with disabilities still must fight for accessibility as they challenge basic prejudices. History proves that a change in the laws does not automatically end all oppression.

As LGBT people, we will always be a minority with identities that are, by nature, invisible. We will always have to come out; we will always have to help other people understand how our lives are different. But my perspective is not a pessimistic one. Our momentum is strong and the work is rewarding. For many people, advocacy — and even pride — may become a much smaller priority as it becomes easier for them to integrate, an acknowledgment of the movement’s success. But equality is not a box to be simply checked off; it must be maintained like a garden. Until being queer is as uncontroversial as being left-handed, there will always be a place for the movement in some form.

Michael Crawford (Freedom to Marry)

Michael Crawford, Freedom to Marry, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Crawford (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

I’m not sure that there will be an end to the LGBT movement. We tend to think about the “LGBT movement” as being about established groups and activists fighting to pass legislation and that the goals of the movement as being primarily legislative. I think we limit our possibilities for achieving true equality if we limit ourselves to thinking solely about passing legislation.

Instead, we should think about our legislative goals around issues like nondiscrimination, marriage and bullying as first steps toward transforming and reshaping the dominant culture in ways that will result in freedom for everyone.

I also think we need to take seriously the responsibility we have to help improve the lives of LGBT people across the globe. And we need to recognize that we have a lot to learn from activists in other countries who are advancing more rapidly than we are.

Just as there’s a continued need for black advocacy groups, I think there will be a continued need for activists who push us toward greater freedom. What those activists and advocacy groups will look like will change as we change the culture, but there will be a continued need for them as long as there are LGBT people.

Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)

Emily Saliers, Indigo Girls, gay news, Washington Blade

Emily Saliers (Photo courtesy of Russell Carter Artist Management)

It’s a very good and complicated question. What’s good for some of us is good for all of us. Gay marriage — even if the whole population of queer folks decided not to get married, that’s not the point — is an important right to have. And I know exactly what the other issues are. We’ve got high teen suicide rates and homelessness. You can start talking about the church and forget about it. I’ve seen the personal pain, the issues of health, gay couples lacking protection. I know all these realities. But gay marriage has become the linchpin because for society, it’s such a huge shift. The idea that gay marriage could be legislated and protected is one of those massive, massive things that is good for all of us.

The evolution of social issues is painfully slow. Just ask an African American if they’re still suffering the effects of slavery. Of course they are. You see it all the time in the stereotyping of black people in culture. My partner is Canadian, so the day after our show I’m going to be on the Hill with my partner and my baby to say, “This is what a family looks like.” If DOMA isn’t repealed, we’re moving to Canada. We’ll have no other choice. But having the right to get married is a massive sociological shift and for gay marriage to be legislated, I don’t have anything negative to say. It’s about the recognition of equal rights.

Bil Browning (Bilerico Project)

Bil Browning, Bilerico Project, gay news, Washington Blade

Bil Browning (Photo courtesy of Browning)

The LGBT movement will never die. Instead it will slowly amorphize as the dollars dry up and interest wanes. As we’ve already seen after the repeal of DADT, success means downsizing is inevitable.

Once basic protections for employment, public accommodations and housing have been passed and same-sex marriages are recognized at a federal level, LGBT people will become complacent. The fight for LGBT rights will move to the states as each one separately fights for marriage equality.

Groups that work on other issues will consolidate with larger organizations as funding shrinks and our community is mainstreamed. As with African-American civil rights organizations currently, a couple of groups will dominate the landscape with smaller orgs buzzing around the periphery.

I see Freedom To Marry flourishing by investing in these local battles and wouldn’t be surprised if it became deeply involved internationally. It would likely require a name change, but it could easily swallow other groups that work on family issues like Immigration Equality, Family Equality Council and PFLAG. Established and respected organizations like GLAAD, Trevor Project, Outserve/SLDN, and the Task Force all do valuable work, but in the end could comfortably be incorporated into a more broadly invested HRC, which already has more funding and name recognition.

Sadly, many of these third-tier groups are already struggling financially and will always remain in the “also ran” category because they’re not as well known. The non-profit industry at its core is a business like any other. As in the corporate world, the LGBT movement will consolidate for ease of operation, a larger customer base and maximum profits.

Carl Schmid (The AIDS Institute)

Carl Schmid, the AIDS Institute, gay news, Washington Blade

Carl Schmid (Photo courtesy of Schmid)

The LGBT rights movement has progressed slowly over several decades, spurred on by distinct events, including the AIDS crisis in the early ‘80s that led many gay men to publicly “act up” and all too often see either themselves or their friends and loved ones die. Sadly, thousands did die, though much has changed since those early days, in some ways things are still the same. Although we know how HIV can be prevented and treated, and research continues toward finding a vaccine and cure, the end is not in sight.

While people are living longer due to the advent of antiretroviral medications, gay men still shoulder two-thirds of all new HIV infections, about 33,000 new cases each year. A recent study found that one in five gay men in 21 cities have HIV, half of whom do not even know it. Unfortunately, the number of new cases is rising for those under age 25, particularly among young black gay men.

But how many of your friends talk about HIV or their own HIV? While the stigma and discrimination surrounding LGBT people has decreased, the same cannot be said for people with HIV.

It is my hope the progress that has been made in the LGBT movement can impact HIV among gay men. With a more accepting and affirming society and legalization of same-sex marriage, perhaps some factors that lead to HIV transmission will be reduced.

While much progress has been made, I do not see an end of the movement as it relates to HIV among gay men until parents and schools not only teach sexual education that encompasses homosexuality but normalizes being gay and gay relationships. Yes, great strides have been made, but so much more must occur.

Dave Kolesar (WGAY)

Dave Kolesar, Patrick Wojahn, gay news, Washington Blade, marriage equality, Maryland, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Dave Kolesar, left, and his partner, Patrick Wojahn, in Annapolis for the Maryland marriage bill signing. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

I think we have reached a turning point in the LGBT rights movement. When my partner Patrick Wojahn and I first became involved in the Maryland marriage lawsuit in 2004, many of our friends thought we were crazy. Support for same-sex marriage was polling in the 30s and Massachusetts was looking like an outlier, having just granted equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Almost 10 years later, marriage equality exists in about a dozen states and the victories for LGBT issues in four states at the ballot box last year showed not only that the sky didn’t fall, but that momentum has decisively swung in favor of the LGBT movement.

I don’t know what the end of the movement would look like, as I think it still has a long way to go. The marriage question may be largely settled within a decade, but there are many other important issues that need to be addressed — employment discrimination and transgender rights are probably the next big fights. And while we certainly have been successful over the past few years, recent attacks in New York City suggest that we have to be on guard against a violent counter-reaction to the success of our movement.  Unfortunately it seems that in society, wherever there is a minority, there is discrimination and the hope is that one day there will be enough moral progress such that we all realize that all of us have much more in common than we do differences.

Chris Kluwe (Oakland Raiders, ally)

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

Chris Kluwe (Photo by Joe Bielawa)

This is a question that I don’t think has an answer anyone wants to hear.

I’ve always tried to be honest and examine the world through the lens of what is, not what I would like it to be and yes, I think we’ve reached a turning point in the LGBT rights movement in the United States, but I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the end of the movement.

The struggle for LGBT rights is the same struggle for women’s rights, the same struggle for religious rights and the same struggle for civil rights humanity has waged for the entirety of its existence, and it’s happening all over the globe — the struggle to live your own life, free of oppression, without oppressing others.

This is the battle that every generation in every nation has to fight, and will continue fighting, until the day comes when we’re all finally empathic enough to understand what effect our actions can have on other people.

Yet even though we may not see the end of that struggle in our lifetime, it is a struggle worth fighting for, because every step we take, every inch we gain in treating others with respect and dignity, is another building block our children can use to make their own progress, to build their own better world.

The end of the movement may never come, but that doesn’t mean we should stop working toward it.

Ruby Corado (transgender activist)

Ruby Corado, Casa Ruby, gay news, Washington Blade

Ruby Corado (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

No, we haven’t reached a turning point in the LGBT rights movement yet. We have helped others reach that point and helped changed the minds of many people.

These days we have many politicians who are legislating for us not just against us. We have a mainstream media that covers more positive stories about our lives than ever before. We have faith communities that are embracing our pursuit of dignity. We have America understanding LGBTs as human beings not just as a sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression. But our LGBT movement has not reached a turning point among those who are LGBT. We are a movement divided by race, gender, social and economic status, ideals, geographical areas. We are a movement that does not support the young, the elder, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, the gender non-conforming and/or transgender.

I see the end of our movement looking like the rainbow that we love and embrace so much, a movement where every color (every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) complements, sticks together and supports one another no matter what challenges or struggles we face through our individual storms.

At the end, we, just like the rainbow, shine together happily.

Hector Fonseca (DJ)

Hector Fonseca, gay news, Washington Blade

Hector Fonseca (Photo courtesy of Management 360)

I think there have been a number of turning points recently. The end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Legalization of marriage in several states and countries. An active pro athlete coming out. Those are all great moments and turning points in the LGBT community we should celebrate.

I personally think Lady Gaga should get more credit than she is getting. In my eyes, she got the ball really rolling a few years ago. Gaga made it cool again for other pop artists and celebrities like her to care about gay rights again. Kudos to her for restarting the movement.

The end of the movement to me would be a few things including openly gay pro athletes, an openly gay president and the same full equal rights that heterosexuals globally enjoy. I don’t think any of this will happen until we as a community really stick together to support LGBT causes and those who respect our community, only.

We also need to stop glorifying bullying and putting hateful people on pedestals (e.g. “She’s such a bitch, I love her.”). When we stop doing this, we will get much further much quicker. We have come a long way but there is much more work to be done.

Holly Twyford (actress)

Holly Twyford, Studio Theatre, Dirt, gay news, Washington Blade

Holly Twyford (Photo by Scott Suchman, courtesy Studio Theatre)

There’s a big difference between a tipping point and an end point. The biggest challenge the gay community has always had is we’ve never had any clear agenda other than equality. Is marriage equality the golden egg? Maybe legally so, but what does it really mean for us to reach an end point because you have to address the continued bigotry that still exists.

Of course it’s incredibly important that marriage is in front of the Supreme Court but now we need Joe Schmoe American to say, “OK, I buy into that too” or “I just met two lesbians with a child and they seemed like great parents.” So I guess my answer is yes and no. Yes, it’s a huge, exciting paradigm shift, but is it the end of the movement? No.

I think marriage is being very much held up as the brass ring because it’s a clear, visible, everyday symbol of what has been denied to us. You know, we can talk about workplace discrimination, but it’s harder to see, whereas me and my partner getting up in front of a church and someone saying, “By the power vested in me … ” that’s something very visible and you can say wife, not partner. It’s like, “Oh, OK, so you’re not married?” “Well no, but we’ve been together 20 fucking years — we’ve been together longer than you and your husband.” It’s just so great not to have to explain all that. It’s a huge symbol.

Melissa Etheridge (singer)

Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade

Melissa Etheridge (Photo by James Minchin III)

I don’t think there will ever be an end of the movement.

I think the time we can kinda go, “Whew,” is when we know that we can walk in any city and beside any stranger and understand that what makes me different from them is not something that’s fearful to them. I’ve seen such fear among people of what is not understood and what we’ve done over the last 20 years is to slowly, day by day, say, “We are people. We’re your neighbors, your children, your friends, we work with you, we are part of every community. We’re everywhere in the whole world, we are a piece of every civilization and what we bring to the table only makes us better as a nation and as a world.”

To understand that diversity and not be fearful of it is really the ultimate step. Gay marriage is important because it’s actually something you can legislate. You can’t go before the Supreme Court and say, “They’ve gotta stop hating me,” you just can’t pass that kind of a law. But you can find a way to legislate certain rights. I’m not saying we should all get married. Anybody can see I personally haven’t really been very good at it so far. Yet to have the right to do so is vitally important.

When I was a teen, for instance, there wasn’t even really any sense of gay marriage as a concept. We didn’t even really have the words for it or if there was, it was all bad. And yet here it is a generation later in front of the Supreme Court. As every new generation comes along, the fear dilutes.

Mame Dennis/Carl Rizzi (Academy of Washington)

Mame Dennis, Ziegfeld's, Academy of Washington, gay news, Washington Blade

Mame Dennis (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

We’ve had gay weddings in the Academy for years. They weren’t legal of course, but we had them. I guess if the Supreme Court makes them legal and everything, that’s fine, but I don’t really think it’s going to solve anything.

I have to be honest, I shudder a bit when I think of all these people who will probably rush out and get married. I do think the gay girls take it a little more seriously than the men, but I think with the guys, they trick with someone and think they’re in love and I can easily see them running off and getting married and then what, eight weeks later or something, realize, well no, I’m not really in love. I’m concerned about the after effects. I think there’s going to be a huge spate of gay divorces if this goes through and that will look really bad for the community. That might give us an even worse name. You know how some of these queens are.

I think we have to spend more time earning respect and acceptance in the workplace and in the community and society in general. That’s the most important thing we have to concentrate on.

People seem so obsessed with this marriage stuff and there are so many things out there that are more important. I’m also concerned with how it will turn out when these queens run out and jump into marriage and realize later they can’t get out of it so easily. That’s not to say everyone will get divorced, of course, but some will and we’ve been so used to just shacking up for so many years and being able to leave whenever we want. It won’t always be so easy to do that. The gay girls, at least the ones I know and have been associated with, seem to stay in their relationships forever. They seem to want to make more of a commitment.

David Lett/Lena Lett (priest/drag queen)

David Lett, Lena Lett, gay news, Washington Blade

David Lett (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

For me, marriage is not the brass ring. It certainly is a milestone and it does get us a little bit closer to overall equality, but is this the end of the movement? Unfortunately I don’t think that will ever happen. I don’t think blacks could ever foresee a day when the NAACP could go away and everything would be fine from then on. Even struggles that we think of as being from a totally different era, like the Irish fully finding their place in society, as long as there’s sickness and sadness in the world, there will be discrimination and as long as you have people bound by ignorance and bound by fear, then you will have the haves and the have nots and there has to be a group for the have nots.

I don’t think it’s realistic at all given human nature, for any of the groups to just say, “OK, we’re done — let’s pack up and go home.” The people who are there to make sure these things are fully accepted over the long haul, those people will always have a job.

I don’t really see marriage — and this is from somebody who performs them — as that big a deal. I can see it symbolically and for long-term relational issues like money and securities and inheritance and that sort of thing, but it’s not really as big as some of the other issues.

If you think about it, most professionals who are involved in weddings — clergy, dress designers, event coordinators, cake decorators, organists — you’re dealing with a lot of people who happen to be gay themselves and so to be denied that themselves is a real slap in the face. It’s the same thing as it was for black people — “Oh, it’s OK for me to work in the dining room but it’s not OK to sit in the dining room?” That shit doesn’t work anymore. We’ve progressed too far and worked for too long to get where we are.

And all this will outlast the conservative movement. They’ve basically said, “Marriage, oh my God, you can’t touch that, we’ll have a constitutional amendment,” but once you start messing with the Constitution, that’s a really big deal. That’s not just a little state picking on you, that’s the whole government saying, “No, you’re an invalid creature.” But no, you will not mess with the Constitution to say that I am less than. The movement has really been the perfect example of Newton’s Law — for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. They came out with this stuff and we came back full force. I don’t see that ending anytime soon.

Allyson Robinson (OutServe-SLDN)

OutServe-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson (photo courtesy Outserve Magazine)

Allyson Robinson (photo courtesy Outserve Magazine)

At OutServe-SLDN, we’ve seen the future of the LGBT civil rights movement. We live in that future every day.

As the morning of September 20, 2011 dawned on American military installations around the world, gay and lesbian service members awoke to a new reality: their service in defense of this country would no longer be contingent on a willingness to lie about who they were. Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was an historic accomplishment, decades in the making, and with it, our two predecessor organizations — Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and OutServe — achieved the goal around which they had been rallying support for years.

But when the celebrations ended and we took stock of the new military we’d helped create, we realized our work wasn’t over. It was just getting started. Gay and lesbian troops could now be “out,” but they were anything but equal.

Passing good laws and enacting good policies is hard work. Changing culture is much harder. That’s the mission we’ve claimed for ourselves at OutServe-SLDN — building a culture of inclusion and respect for LGBT people in our military — even as we continue the fight to end the discriminatory policies that remain. And that’s the work that awaits nearly every LGBT advocacy organization in America on the other side of that new world we’re hoping to create by pulling down DOMA and enacting nondiscrimination policies. It will be the work of generations, but take it from us: if you haven’t started yet, you’re already behind the power curve.














Ros-Lehtinen, Cicilline criticize Russia over LGBT rights record

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Florida, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Council for Global Equality

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) speaks about Russia’s LGBT rights record during a Council for Global Equality reception at the Rayburn Building in D.C. on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Gabriella Boffelli)

U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) on Monday criticized Russia’s LGBT rights record during a Center for Global Equality reception on Capitol Hill.

“I strongly believe that every person deserves to live a life that is free from persecution and harassment and I am committed to guaranteeing the full enjoyment of universal rights for all members of LGBT community,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Unfortunately, the situation in Russia for the LGBT community has been rapidly deteriorating.”

The Florida Republican criticized the Kremlin for passing a law that bans gay propaganda to minors and other laws she maintains “restrict free speech and free association of LGBT individuals.” Ros-Lehtinen also blasted Russian lawmakers who are reportedly seeking to remove children of gay and lesbian parents from their homes.

“The actions of an increasingly hostile Russian government takes the country far backwards in time, just as much of the world is moving forward towards tolerance and equality,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “No government ought to be able to dictate who we love. And no government ought to be able to use children as pawns to punish those who are different.”

Cicilline, who is gay, categorized the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record as “one part of a much bigger human rights problem” in the country.

“It was really sponsored or authorized or approved by government actors in a really profoundly different way,” Cicilline said. “We see experiences like this around the world where organizations or individuals are engaging in bad behavior, but this I think was very different and I think really requires our full attention.”

The Center for Global Equality reception took place against the backdrop of mounting outrage over Russia’s LGBT rights record that threatens to overshadow the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein is among those who have called for a boycott of the Sochi games. Author Dan Savage, Cleve Jones and other LGBT rights advocates have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

President Obama, who met with two Russian LGBT rights activists last month during the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, is among those who oppose any effort to boycott the Sochi games. He, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have repeatedly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government over its LGBT rights record.

International Olympic Commission President Thomas Bach on Sunday said before the lighting of the Olympic torch in Greece that Olympic values include “respect without any form of discrimination.”

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun in August told RIA Novosti, an online Russian newspaper, that American athletes should comply with the laws of the countries in which they compete. USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky later sought to clarify Blackmun’s comments by tweeting Russia’s gay propaganda law is “inconsistent with fundamental Olympic principles.”

Sandusky added in the same tweet that the USOC has “shared our view with the IOC.”

LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. and around the world last week expressed outrage after IOC Coordination Commission Chair Jean-Claude Killy appeared to suggest the statute does not violate the Olympic Charter.

Ros-Lehtinen, who met with Russian LGBT rights advocate Igor Kochetkov and two other gay activists from Ukraine and Georgia last month, criticized the USOC during a brief interview with the Washington Blade after she spoke at the Council for Global Equality reception.

“The U.S. Olympic Committee has been complicit in this act of aggression because they say we respect Russia’s right to do this,” the Florida Republican said. “That is not worthy of Olympic standards.”

Ros-Lehtinen and gay California Congressman Mark Takano continue to seek additional signatories for a letter they plan to send to the USOC that asks it to explain the steps it plans to take to ensure the safety of American athletes who plan to compete in the Sochi games. She applauded both Obama and Kerry for publicly criticizing Putin over his government’s LGBT rights record, but she suggested to the Blade they can do more to respond to concerns over athletes and others who will travel to Russia for the games.

“It’s up to the U.S. to step up,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “[It is] time to step up and tell Putin what you think so he knows that the eyes of the world are upon Russia.”

The USOC did not immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment on Ros-Lehtinen’s criticisms.


Lawmakers press U.S. Olympic Committee over Russian LGBT rights record

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican Party, United States House of Representatives, Florida, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Council for Global Equality

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) speaks about Russia’s LGBT rights record during a Council for Global Equality reception at the Rayburn Building in D.C. on Sept. 30, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Gabriella Boffelli)

More than three dozen members of Congress on Monday asked the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee to explain how he plans to ensure the safety of American athletes who plan to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The letter to U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun, which gay California Congressman Mark Takano and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen circulated among their Capitol Hill colleagues, notes Russia’s LGBT rights record that includes a law that bans gay propaganda to minors. It also states that signatories are “concerned about the treatment of athletes and spectators traveling to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics who disagree with Russia’s violation of the human rights of LGBT people.”

“We call on the United States Olympic Committee to ensure that any American athlete, or someone associated with an American team, is afforded the right to show solidarity with, and support of, LGBT people around the globe to be free from discrimination and harm,” the letter reads. “Wearing a pin or another outward manifestation of solidarity with LGBT athletes should not be defined as ‘political’ if it is not intended to support any clear political party or position but is intended, instead, to highlight the spirit of the Olympic games, which celebrates the unique humanity of all athletes from every country and culture.”

The signatories — U.S. Reps. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Eric Slalwell (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) along with Takano and Ros-Lehtinen — also criticized the International Olympic Committee for prohibiting athletes from challenging Russia’s LGBT rights record during the Sochi games.

“While we agree that the Olympics are a time of friendly competition where displays of political disagreement are not appropriate, we are deeply troubled that the International Olympic Committee would find raising awareness of the abuse of an entire population’s human rights to be a political statement in violation of Rule 50,” the letter reads.

Lawmakers wrote to Blackmun amid growing outrage over Russia’s LGBT rights record that includes calls to boycott the Sochi games.

Blackmun in August told a Russian online newspaper that American athletes should comply with the laws of the countries in which they compete. A U.S. Olympic Committee spokesperson later said the country’s gay propaganda law is “inconsistent with fundamental Olympic principles” and the American Olympic body has “shared our view with the IOC.”

Blackmun told reporters last week the U.S. Olympic Committee would support efforts to bolster anti-discrimination provisions within the Olympic charter. IOC President Thomas Bach earlier on Monday told All Out Executive Director Andre Banks in a letter his organization “will do everything it can to ensure” the Sochi games and any future Olympics “will be free of any form of discrimination.”

Bach did not specifically say whether the Olympic Charter explicitly opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in his letter to Banks.

Ros-Lehtinen criticized the U.S. Olympic Committee’s response to Russia’s LGBT rights record during an interview with the Washington Blade after she spoke at a Council for Global Equality reception on Capitol Hill on September 30.

“The U.S. Olympic Committee has been complicit in this act of aggression because they say we respect Russia’s right to do this,” the Florida Republican said. “That is not worthy of Olympic standards.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment.


How goes transition to open military service? Don’t ask

Mark Takano, Democratic Party, California, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) has co-sponsored a bill that would ensure married gay veterans receive benefits. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite rosy pronouncements from the Obama administration and others about the supposedly smooth transition to open service in the military following the lifting of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a host of new problems has emerged for gay and lesbian troops.

Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partners Association, said “there are clearly challenges that remain” for gay service members following the implementation of open service.

“These military families are still facing challenges that need to be addressed sooner rather than later,” Peters said. “All they are asking for is to be treated the same way as their counterparts — simple equality, no more and no less.”

In the past week, attention has focused on state national guard units refusing to process spousal benefit applications for troops in same-sex marriages; an Army base having to make special arrangements for chaplains to accommodate a lesbian couple; gay veterans not receiving benefits in non-marriage equality states; and the condition for gay cadets at the Air Force Academy, where a practitioner of “ex-gay” conversion therapy holds a leadership role.

Nat’l Guards refusing benefits for gay troops

Several state national guards continue to refuse to process spousal benefit applications for troops in same-sex marriages, citing state constitutional amendments banning gay nuptials. This comes after an edict from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel saying he’s directed the National Guard Bureau to ensure the guards follow Pentagon policy to provide these benefits everywhere in the wake of the Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act.

One state that has received significant attention is Oklahoma, where Gov. Mary Fallin on Nov. 6 ordered her national guard facilities to stop processing benefits altogether and directed all couples — gay and straight — to federal installations within her state to apply for benefits.

“Oklahoma law is clear,” Fallin said. “The state of Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages, nor does it confer marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies.”

Like other states, Fallin cited a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage or conferral of spousal benefits to gay couples. In the case of Oklahoma, voters approved an amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004 by 75 percent of the popular vote.

According to the National Guard Bureau, a total of five states are not complying with the edict: Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina. The list omits Oklahoma, but the Guard wouldn’t respond to a request for comment on why the state isn’t included.

These states maintain only the processing of same-sex benefit applications is being denied, so once these troops are enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, they’d be able to receive them wherever their assignment. However, LGBT advocates have said participation by same-sex couples in national guard activities, such as “Strong Bonds” retreats for married couples, is threatened by these states’ decisions.

Although the Pentagon has threatened additional action if these states refuse to comply with the Defense Department directive on benefits, a Defense official wouldn’t speculate as to what this action would be.

“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said. “The Secretary has directed General Grass to resolve this issue with the TAGs. We’re not going to speculate on legal options at this time.”

Some ideas that have been speculated include a lawsuit against these states, deprivation of federal funds or federalization of these guards by President Obama.

Gay veterans not receiving spousal benefits

Also gaining attention in recent weeks is the inability of gay veterans to obtain certain spousal benefits if they live in a non-marriage equality state.

Even though the Supreme Court struck down part of DOMA, Section 103(c) of Title 38 looks to the state of residence, not the state of celebration, in determining whether a couple is married. That means that gay veterans who marry their same-sex partner in one state and move to another that doesn’t recognize their marriage can’t apply for benefits while living in that state.

Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, last week introduced a bill that would change Title 38 to enable benefits to flow to gay married veterans no matter where they live.

Joining him as original co-sponsors for the bill, known as the Protecting the Freedoms and Benefits for All Veterans Act, were gay Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Reps. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

In an interview with the Blade, Takano said the legislation is a “backup” plan should the Obama administration decide it must continue enforcing the marriage state of residency statute even after the Supreme Court ruling against DOMA.

“We are not 100 percent sure whether the administration will or is able at this point to do that,” Takano said. “We’re introducing this legislation as a backup. We’re not finding fault with the administration; it’s just that it came to the attention of committee staff and the Equality Caucus in the Congress that this is a potential issue, and so we wanted to make sure that we drop along with the necessary Republicans and Democratic co-sponsors.”

Calls on the Obama administration to stop enforcing the state of residency statute under Title 38 in the wake of the court ruling against DOMA have previously come from Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who has called on the administration to stop enforcing the statute until a legislative fix happens.

Chaplains can’t accommodate gay couple on retreat

The issue of chaplains not being able to accommodate same-sex couples at “Strong Bonds” retreats run by the U.S. Army Chaplain’s Corps for members of the national guard has also emerged as an issue.

Last week, the American Military Partners Association issued a news release saying that a lesbian U.S. soldier, whose named wasn’t disclosed, and her same-sex spouse, Shakera Leigh Halford, were denied access to a retreat at Fort Irwin in California.

After the story generated media attention, the public affairs team at Fort Irwin shot back by insisting the couple wasn’t denied access, and instead the chaplains at the base had sought to find other chaplains to make accommodations.

Pamela Portland, a spokesperson for Fort Irwin, confirmed that account for the Washington Blade, saying chaplains had sought to find an appropriate person to make the accommodation following a Nov. 7 meeting between couples and the commanding general — even before the news story broke.

“We have eight chaplains here at Fort Irwin,” Portland said, “and they were restricted by their religious affiliation, they could not move ahead, but they immediately went out to find someone who could.”

Still, in a statement from the American Military Partners Association that followed, Halford decried the notion that she and her spouse required special arrangements.

“It makes the whole thing very awkward and embarrassing,” Halford said. “Why can’t we just be another couple at the retreat, like everyone else? Why do we have to have special arrangements?”

Air Force Academy hires ‘ex-gay’ advocate

Finally, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., has received criticism after AMERICAblog first reported that Mike Rosebush, an advocate of widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy, was hired by the Academy to oversee its character coaching program.

As AMERICAblog’s editor John Aravosis points out on his blog, Rosebush served as a clinical member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, a fringe group that advocates for “ex-gay” therapy, and as a vice president of the anti-gay Focus on the Family.

“Rosebush’s entire career for the past two decades has been devoted to ‘curing’ gay people of what he clearly deems a problem, and what his former employers consider an illness and a depravity,” Aravosis writes. “How then could Rosebush not include a discussion of sexual orientation in his character and leadership coaching at the US Air Force Academy?”

During a conference call with reporters last week, the Air Force Academy presented three gay cadets at the Academy in an attempt to dispel the notion the Academy fostered an anti-gay atmosphere.

While presenting a general sense of acceptance, the cadets reportedly acknowledged they did face issues at the academy, but they had been addressed. To the consternation of reporters on the call, the Academy wouldn’t go into the nature of the issues, citing privacy concerns.

The presence of Rosebush at the academy inspired a response from the American Military Partners Association and the Human Rights Campaign, which both called for the removal of the “ex-gay” practitioner from the school.

“It’s stunning that Air Force Academy officials think it’s even remotely appropriate to have someone like Mike Rosebush in a leadership position,” HRC’s Fred Sainz said. “While it’s positive that some cadets feel the culture at the Academy is welcoming to openly LGB people, it’s undeniable that Mike Rosebush’s toxic views send a harmful message that there is something fundamentally wrong with being gay.”

In addition to these problems, other issues remain unresolved, such as the inability of transgender service members to serve openly in the military.

AMPA’s Peters said one pathway to accommodate many of the problems faced by gay service members is the codification of an explicit non-discrimination clause in the military’s equal opportunity policy — a request the Pentagon has repeatedly rebuffed.

“A reliable and trustworthy system must be in place to address incidents of inappropriate discrimination against gay and lesbian service members and to foster command climates that are supportive of all military families,” Peters said. “Inclusion of orientation in the non-discrimination policy would send a strong message that all service members, regardless of their sexual orientation or the gender of their spouse, deserve fair and equal treatment.”

Marc Mazzone, a spokesperson for the LGBT military group SPART*A, said new issues are entering the public dialogue following repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Supreme Court decision against DOMA.

“The recent news gives a very loud and clear message we are moving into a dialogue on how to battle discrimination in its newest forms throughout the military, and we will be working to find a strong resolution to these problems to ensure all service members and spouses receive fair and equal treatment and benefits they are entitled to,” Mazzone said.

UPDATE: Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, responded to the Blade’s request to comment on the issues facing gay service members in the post-”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after the posting of this article.

“The President remains proud of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which has strengthened our national security and upholds the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend,” Inouye said. “We are confident that the Department, under Secretary Hagel’s leadership, will ensure that all service members are treated with dignity and respect.”