Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

N.C. insurer drops gay, lesbian couples

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s biggest health insurer, has canceled family insurance policies it sold last month to gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina under the Affordable Care Act, the Charlotte News Observer reports.

Blue Cross, Blue Shield, health, gay news, Washington Blade, North Carolina

Blue Cross and Blue Shield canceled family insurance policies it sold last month to gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina.

The insurer canceled policies of 20 couples — some who were legally married in states that recognize gay marriage — and encouraged them to reapply for separate insurance policies as unmarried individuals. The couples received calls from Blue Cross in mid-January, several weeks after they purchased their family health insurance, and were told their family coverage was invalid, the article said.

Blue Cross’ strategy has stung same-sex couples and gay-rights advocates because the nonprofit insurer offers domestic partner benefits to its own employees. Blue Cross insurance plans offered by large companies in North Carolina also include health benefits for employees and their same-sex partner, the News Observer said.

The problem is traced to terminology in Blue Cross policies that define “spouse” as “opposite sex.” North Carolina insurance law does not prohibit selling coverage to gay couples, but Blue Cross was legally bound by the restrictive contract language in its individual plans, said Kerry Hall, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Insurance.

Blue Cross has vowed to update the language in 2015.

29
Jan
2014

Gloria Estefan headlines Pride parade

Gloria Estefan, gay news, Washington Blade

Gloria Estefan (Photo public domain)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Singer Gloria Estefan served as the grand marshal of the annual Miami Beach Gay Pride parade that took place on April 13.

“It’s a wonderful way to support the community,” she told Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald.

The singer whose family fled to Florida when she was a young child after the Cuban Revolution brought Fidel Castro to power also discussed her support of marriage rights for same-sex couples with the Miami Herald.

“I always said that I thought everyone should be able to legally bind themselves, emotionally and religious if so be it if they want to their significant other,” Estefan told Rothaus. “That’s a human right, it’s a civil rights and I’m happy to support that.”

16
Apr
2014

Redefining marriage?

The Marriage Act, Liza Monroy, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, books, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy Soft Skull Press)

‘The Marriage Act: The Risk I Took to Keep My best Friend in America, and What It Taught Us About Love’

By Liza Monroy

Soft Skull Press

$16.95

320 pages

The room was crowded, yet filled with only two people.

At least that’s what it seemed as the groom looked at his beloved: there was no one else in the room but them. You could see it on their faces, the way their eyes danced together, alone in a sea of well-wishers, seeing only one another.

So what makes a marriage work? Is it effort, honesty, trust, acceptance, love? Or, as in the new book “The Marriage Act” by Liza Monroy, should you strive to marry your best friend — even if it’s illegal?

Throughout her life, Liza Monroy says there’ve been three important men: her father; her boyfriend, Julian; and her best friend, Emir. She’d barely seen her father since she was 6 years old, following her parents’ divorce. Julian was in Manhattan, far from Monroy’s L.A. home and, though they were engaged, their relationship was rocky. Emir, however, was nearby — just three blocks away — and Monroy saw him whenever she needed him.

She needed Emir a lot.

They met in college. He was in the U.S. on a student visa, from a country Monroy calls Emirstan. She’d been running from her mother’s influence. He was gay. She is not. They became fast friends. And in the weeks following September 11, 2001, when just being Middle Eastern was cause for suspicion, Emir’s visa was about to expire.

By that time, Monroy’s engagement had fallen apart. She was afraid of love, but more terrified of being alone. She asked Emir to marry her, which seemed like a great solution: Emirstan was intolerant of gay men and deportation was dangerous. Marrying her gay best friend would allow Monroy to practice at marriage. Never mind that the Immigration and Naturalization Service disallowed marriage for a green card’s sake and Monroy’s mother was an INS agent.

But what, exactly, makes a marriage? What characterizes it? If it’s love, then Monroy and Emir had that. If it’s needing one another, they had that, too. Did marriage have to be about sex and babies or is it possible to redefine it?

“The Marriage Act” should be a good book. Surely, it’s unusual enough since it chronicles a gutsy, illegal act that, accidentally, turned out well for all concerned.

It’s good, but not as good as I’d hoped.

With angst that would make Woody Allen proud and a near inability to keep secrets, author Liza Monroy writes of stress, misgivings and sabotaging plans to keep her gay best friend stateside. That would be tolerable, perhaps even madcap, if it wasn’t so repetitive and fussy. Add in many blame-the-parents passages and a falls-flat attempt at humor within a lack of culpability; mix in occasional, bumbling sweetness and not-so-subtle lessons, and you’ve got a memoir that’s, well, passably OK.

I think this book is worth a look-see. If you want to read an unusual story and you can handle the irritations, you might like it. If you’re looking for something a little slicker, though, “The Marriage Act” is an I do — NOT.

19
Feb
2014

Arizona gay marriage ban challenged

Jan Brewer, Republican Party, Arizona, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) (Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

PHOENIX—Four gay couples on Jan. 6 filed a federal class-action lawsuit that seeks to overturn Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban.

“We are asking for relief on behalf of all married and unmarried same-sex couples in Arizona,” attorney Shawn Aiken told the Arizona Republic. “Now is the time to take up this issue.”

The lawsuit names Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne as defendants.

Arizona voters in 2008 approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to hear Brewer’s appeal that asked the justices to allow her to ban state employees from receiving benefits for same-sex partners.

Neighboring New Mexico is among the 18 states and D.C. that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 6 issued a stay on same-sex marriages in Utah pending the outcome of an appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s decision last month that struck down the Beehive State’s constitutional amendment that bans gay nuptials.

08
Jan
2014

A reality check from Uganda

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that imposes harsh sentences on LGBT Ugandans. (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Our movement for full equality for LGBT people continues to gain momentum. We’ve seen tremendous strides in terms of marriage equality (a total of 17 states now grant the freedom to marry) and most recently with the increased visibility of black LGBT public figures. But Uganda’s current crisis and the close call in Arizona remind us that we must remain vigilant—that despite the many trails being blazed, we are still very much in the heat of the battle and all is not won yet.

Basketball star Jason Collins recently made history as the first openly gay male player in a major sports league when he joined the Brooklyn Nets. Earlier this year, Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts spoke about her longtime girlfriend for the first time on national television. Trans legends-in-the-making Laverne Cox, breakout actress of the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, hate crime survivor CeCe McDonald, and New York Times bestselling author Janet Mock are leading the national conversation around transgender equality.

On the policy front, a U.S. district judge ruled that Texas’ ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. The Maryland State Senate recently passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which now heads to the House. And Washington, D.C. now requires insurance companies to provide health coverage to trans residents, including gender reassignment surgery.

Paints a pretty picture of progress, doesn’t it? Well, look a little closer.

Just this month alone, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that imposes harsh sentences on LGBT Ugandans; Arizona passed then vetoed a piece of legislation that would have made it legal for business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers; and the 2014 Olympics brought to light the persecution of our Russian brothers and sisters. This all happened in February, the shortest month of the year. Even worse, it happened on our watch.

Under Ugandan’s anti-gay law, anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts will be sentenced to life in prison. President Museveni has cited “science” and other unfounded claims to justify this atrocious injustice against our black LGBT family overseas. Not only is it imperative that the U.S. Department of State expedite the asylum process for all Ugandans affected by this oppressive and inhumane law, it is critical that the U.S. take responsibility for and address its ties to homophobia in African countries. The truth is that when the radical right started losing ground on American soil, they invested their anti-LGBT tactics elsewhere and capitalized on a painful legacy of colonialism and white supremacy.

Addressing what is happening in Uganda goes deeper than threatening to pull U.S. foreign aid. Furthermore, our national response to what is happening in the East African nation and in countries like Nigeria speaks to our complacency and lack of urgency around matters that are literally life and death for black and brown LGBT bodies.

After Arizona’s legislature passed the controversial SB 1062, some Ugandans pointed out our hypocrisy. Everyone from local advocates to President Obama condemned the Ugandan bill, but we could barely get our own affairs together stateside. The biggest irony was the hundreds of activists that rallied and urged Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the Arizona legislation. Where were the crowds for our Ugandan brothers and sisters who will be trying to seek asylum?

It’s time we truly treat a threat to injustice anywhere with the gravity it deserves. It’s time we recognize that progress takes full partnership. Despite of our recent advancements, we still need all hands on deck, especially when it’s the lives of black LGBT people at stake—because chances are the level of outrage and action will be utterly delayed, if present.

National campaigns launched around the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, speaking against the country’s ban on so-called “LGBT propaganda.” And rightfully so. There are laws that limit adoption by same-sex couples and Russian President Vladimir Putin has equated LGBT people to pedophiles. But where was the mass mobilization when a Ugandan tabloid printed a list of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans with their photographs—a “witch hunt” reminiscent of the 2010 paper that ran both photos and addresses with the heinous headline “Hang Them?” Where was the global outcry?

That is why here at the National Black Justice Coalition, we are revising our institutional policy to take a stand internationally. We have begun turning directly to advocates abroad and asking what is the international support that they need. Going forward, increasing acceptance and respect for black LGBT people in every corner of the globe will guide the organization’s agenda as we continue to build a safer and more inclusive nation and world.

Our movement has certainly come a long way but we have so much further to go. Uganda is our reality check. And it doesn’t get realer than that.

Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks serves as executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, a national civil rights organization dedicated to empowering black LGBT people. For more information, visit nbjc.org.

19
Mar
2014

Pennsylvania couple seeks marriage rights

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

Independence Hall in Philadelphia. (Photo by Rdsmith4; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

PHILADELPHIA—A married lesbian couple from suburban Philadelphia has filed a federal lawsuit against a Pennsylvania law that prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

Isabelle Barker and Cara Palladino tied the knot in Massachusetts in 2005.

The couple moved to Pennsylvania shortly after their wedding when Barker accepted a position at Bryn Mawr College. Barker gave birth to the couple’s son in 2009.

“We took on the commitment of marriage in 2005 and have supported each other through life’s ups and down,” said Palladino. “We think it is wrong for Pennsylvania to void our marriage and treat us as though we are unmarried when we are very much a loving family.”

Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based LGBT advocacy group, initiated the lawsuit that was filed on Jan. 13 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Mary Bonauto of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders is among those who are co-counsel in the case.

“On behalf of Cara and Isabelle and other legally married same-sex families, we will take this injustice as far as is needed to affirm the nation’s 226-year-old history of recognizing marriages from sister states,” said Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin.

The American Civil Liberties Union last July filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s statutory gay marriage ban on behalf of 11 same-sex couples and a widow. State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) and Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery County) and state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) have introduced same-sex marriage bills in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

30
Jan
2014

Gay marriage opponent working for Shallal campaign

Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets, District of Columbia, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Democratic mayoral candidate Andy Shallal’s campaign has paid $4,000 to an official who ran for D.C. mayor in 2010 on a platform supporting a voter referendum to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law. (Photo by Laela25; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A candidate who ran for D.C. mayor in 2010 on a platform supporting a voter referendum to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law was paid $4,000 in December as a consultant to Democratic mayoral candidate Andy Shallal, according to campaign finance records.

Records filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance on Jan. 31 identify the consultant as 2010 mayoral candidate and former TV news anchor Leo Alexander.

In his run for mayor, Alexander’s campaign received at least $1,950 from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and was backed by Bishop Harry Jackson, the Maryland minister who led the unsuccessful campaign to repeal the city’s marriage equality law.

Alexander received less than 1 percent of the vote in the September 2010 Democratic primary, far behind then City Council Chair Vincent Gray, who won the primary and then Mayor Adrian Fenty, came in second place behind Gray.

Shallal has expressed strong support for LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage. As owner of the local Busboys and Poets restaurant chain, Shallal has hosted LGBT events at his restaurants.

Shallal campaign spokesperson Dwight Kirk told the Washington City Paper that Alexander met with Shallal before joining the campaign and promised that he changed his mind and that his positions “evolved” on the same-sex marriage issue since his 2010 campaign.

But City Paper columnist Will Sommer, who was the first to report Alexander’s connection with the Shallal campaign, said in a posting on Thursday that Alexander wouldn’t tell him whether his positions on gay marriage changed.

News of Alexander’s involvement in the Shallal campaign comes two weeks after news surfaced that an advocate for a voter referendum on the D.C. marriage equality law in 2010 was working as a paid consultant in January for Gray’s re-election campaign.

Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bob King, who was paid by the anti-gay NOM in 2010, is currently being paid to help the Gray campaign arrange logistics to drive senior citizens to the polls for the April 1 primary. Gray campaign chair Chuck Thies said King has no role in policy making issues and now accepts the marriage equality statute as the “law of the land.”

Alexander and Kirk couldn’t immediately be reached for comment by the Blade.

21
Feb
2014

Lily Tomlin marries longtime partner

Mark Twain Prize, gay news, Washington Blade, Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LOS ANGELES – Comedian Lily Tomlin and her partner of 42 years, Jane Wagner, married on New Year’s Eve.

People reported the couple exchanged vows during a private ceremony in Los Angeles.

“They’re very happy,” Tomlin’s spokesperson Jennifer Allen told the magazine.

Celebrity columnist Liz Smith broke the news of Tomlin and Wagner’s nuptials in her Jan. 3 column that ran in the Chicago Tribune.

“My longtime friends, Lily Tomlin and her love, the writer Jane Wagner, got married on the eve of 2014,” wrote Smith. “My wish is that their happiness will be as great as their combined talents.”

08
Jan
2014

HHS backs gay couples, HIV/AIDS patients

Barack Obama, Global AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade

Married gay couples will be eligible for a family health policy under President Obama’s health care reform law. (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

WASHINGTON — Married gay couples will be eligible for a family health policy under President Obama’s health care reform law, beginning in 2015, the U.S. government said on March 14, Reuters and other media outlets reported. Insurers were encouraged to begin offering coverage this year, the article said.

HHS exercised federal authority to prevent discriminatory insurance market practices on an issue that has been caught up in state marriage laws.

The move follows a February lawsuit filed by an Ohio gay couple that was unable to obtain family coverage under Obamacare, they said, because their state does not recognize same-sex marriage, Reuters said.

“If an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses,” Dr. Matthew Heinz, who heads HHS outreach to LGBT communities, said in a posting to a government website.

The HHS also said insurers cannot turn down HIV/AIDS patients whose premiums are being paid through the federal Ryan White program, the AP reports.

19
Mar
2014

Anti-gay consultant working for Gray campaign

Bob King, National Organization for Marriage, NOM, gay news, Washington Blade

Vincent Gray’s campaign manager says Robert King is ‘not a political adviser’ to the campaign. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who was paid by an anti-gay group in 2010 to work on the unsuccessful effort to overturn D.C.’s same-sex marriage law in a voter referendum is working for Mayor Vincent Gray’s re-election campaign as a get-out-the-vote consultant aimed at senior citizens.

Chuck Thies, Gray’s campaign manager, said he hired Robert “Bob” King to assist with the effort to transport senior citizens to the polls on the day of the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

“Bob is not a political adviser to this campaign,” Thies told the Blade. “He has no influence whatsoever on public policy, internal policy, or strategy — nothing — zero,” said Thies.

Instead, King, who has had ties to the city’s senior citizen community for more than 30 years, will organize logistics to transport mostly low-income seniors to the polls by bus on Election Day, Thies said.

King’s role as a paid consultant in 2010 for the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, surfaced last April when he emerged as an early supporter of the mayoral campaign of D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4). The Bowser campaign at the time listed King as a member of the host committee for the campaign’s kick-off celebration and fundraiser.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, King said he’s been a longtime friend of the Bowser family and decided to support Bowser for mayor before Gray announced he was running for a second term, believing Bowser was the best candidate at that time.

However, he said the Bowser campaign never responded to a proposal he submitted last spring to do get-out-the vote work targeting senior citizens for her campaign. So after Gray announced his candidacy in December and Gray supporters approached him to organize Gray’s senior citizen outreach effort he decided to join the Gray campaign, King said.

“I looked around and I said the lowering crime rate, the improvement in the schools, the bond ratings – and I thought he had done a great job in advancing Mayor Williams and Mayor Fenty’s blueprint” for the city were factors that prompted him to switch his support to Gray, King said.

The Gray campaign’s Jan. 31 report filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance shows that the campaign paid King $2,500 on Jan. 8 for his services during the campaign’s first reporting period.
King told the Blade last April, at the time he was supporting Bowser, that he has never taken a public position for or against the city’s same-sex marriage law. He said he was retained as a consultant by the National Organization for Marriage to coordinate a campaign to place the marriage law on the ballot in a referendum.

“My position was to give the people the right to vote on the issue,” he said. “My personal view is not the issue. The issue was democracy and whether the people should be given the right to vote.”

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said at the time that King and others who clearly opposed marriage equality for same-sex couples have sought to “hide behind the ‘let the people vote mantra’ in their efforts to kill same-sex marriage laws in D.C. and elsewhere.

“The fact is that no other people’s rights are put to a plebiscite,” Rosendall said.

Thies noted that Gray is a strong supporter of marriage equality and LGBT rights and has taken heat from clergy members and many residents – including black senior citizens – for his outspoken advocacy for gay marriage.

“And so when it comes to Mayor Gray’s position on same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues, I don’t think anyone can question his commitment and his dedication to equal rights,” Thies said.

According to Thies, King told him he now accepts the city’s marriage equality law as the “law of the land.”

“I talked to him before I hired him,” said Thies. “I said Bob, I have a problem with this and you need to address this. And he said that’s the past. I accept the law and that is the status quo now.”

King reiterated that on Tuesday, saying he’s interested in meeting with representatives of the LGBT community to open the door to working together on future projects. He said he’s also doing senior citizen outreach on behalf of the re-election campaigns of D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5).

“They are marriage equality supporters and I am working with them,” he said.

Thies said King’s efforts to arrange transportation for senior citizens to the polls will be open to everyone regardless of who they are supporting for mayor.

“We will hire buses and bring them to the senior centers and anyone can board them, including someone wearing a sticker that belongs to one of our opponents,” he said.

04
Feb
2014