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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.


Victory Fund’s dangerous endorsement

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

Gay Republican Richard Tisei is challenging a pro-LGBT Democrat for Congress in Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of Tisei).



Recently, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed former Massachusetts Republican Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, who is openly gay, for Congress. Although I applaud Tisei — and all LGBT political candidates who run for public office — this endorsement is not justified and sets a dangerous precedent.

Tisei’s opponent, Democratic Rep. John Tierney, has been a staunch champion for LGBT rights — even when it wasn’t popular. He backed marriage equality in Massachusetts, despite the criticism. He has supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act; he was a strong and early supporter of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and he has a HRC score of 100 percent in the 112th Congress.

Tierney’s support for LGBT causes is clean, clear and perfect.

And, Congressman Tierney will do one thing Tisei will not do — vote for Leader Nancy Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House.

It is no secret that Speaker John Boehner does not support ENDA, claiming it is not necessary. Nor is it a secret that the GOP continues to block or stall every single LGBT advancement at all levels, and in all parts of the country. Given the recent events in Arizona, ENDA is needed now more than ever and if Democrats were in control, ENDA would be the law of the land. Make no mistake, Tisei’s potential vote for Boehner would be a vote to further delay justice for LGBT Americans who face employment discrimination.

Torey Carter, COO of the Victory Fund, said Tisei’s election to Congress would “shatter a glass ceiling for the Republican Party” and “further the dialogue within the GOP about LGBT issues.”  With all due respect to Carter, at what cost and at whose expense? Should those who fight for LGBT rights have to sit by and wait for the Republicans to understand? Additionally, in order to “further” one must “start.” They have had 40 years to start the dialogue and who is gullible enough to believe Tisei can help them with that process?

This country has moved on and the election of Tisei over Rep. Tierney would represent a major setback for LGBT Americans. We must never, ever turn our backs on those who have championed our causes, like Tierney, simply to “shatter glass” or “further dialogue (within the GOP)” or whatever other reason the Victory Fund uses to describe this dangerous endorsement.

Joe Racalto is president of Giesta Racalto, LLC. He served as former Rep. Barney Frank’s senior policy adviser and is a board member at Freedom to Work.


Bipartisan organizations will shape our movement

LGBT Republicans, LGBT politics, gay news, Washington Blade

The Victory Fund supports the election of openly LGBT candidates, both Democrats and Republicans as well as independents, who have demonstrated leadership in advancing freedom and equal rights for all LGBT Americans.



As a Democrat from San Francisco and a Republican from New England, we have put our heads together on why the work the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund does is critically important to achieving LGBT equality.

From Arizona to Mississippi to Kansas, recent attempts to pass anti-LGBT legislation remind us of the adage “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” These examples illustrate why it is so important that we elect openly LGBT candidates to office: to ensure that our voice is heard, and that basic freedom and human rights are guaranteed for everyone, regardless of whom they are or who they love. That goal has remained the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s central credo ever since its founding in 1991.

Last week, the Victory Fund was proud to announce the endorsement of two openly gay congressional candidates: Dan Innis, running in New Hampshire, and Richard Tisei, running in Massachusetts. These two candidates were key players in their states’ push for marriage equality. They also happen to be Republicans. We understand the frustration that many individuals in our community are having with Victory’s endorsements of Republicans, particularly in races against strong Democratic allies. Victory’s endorsements do not take place without considerable amounts of forethought and planning.

This debate brings our community to a critical juncture. Without openly LGBT members of Congress from both parties, how will we continue to move full speed ahead toward the equality we deserve?  The answer does not lie in concentrating on short-term partisan gains, but by continuing to endorse openly LGBT viable candidates across the political spectrum who have a demonstrated leadership record in support of LGBT equality.

We believe it is important to acknowledge our appreciation for the significant contributions of our allies and what they have been able to accomplish at all levels of government, but it is Victory’s firm belief that to sustainably move the needle forward we must help create change in both cloakrooms. As we have seen with marriage equality in state legislatures, out LGBT legislators have to be at the table to help their colleagues understand how these votes affect them as people. Put another way, does anyone think Arizona Republicans would have had such an easy time passing anti-LGBT discrimination if an LGBT colleague sat alongside them in those caucus meetings?

If elected, Dan Innis and Richard Tisei will have the ability to speak to their colleagues about why DOMA needs to be fully repealed. As married men with same-sex spouses, they deserve to have the same privileges as their peers. They will be credible voices, spoken from personal experiences as openly gay Americans — about the need for progress on laws, such as ENDA to protect LGBT workers. We know this because their commitment to equality is not new; they both have considerable track records on LGBT issues.

Many in the LGBT community rightfully call on the Republican Party to drop its outdated opposition to LGBT rights. But to do so will require change to the GOP from the inside as well as the outside, and at all levels of government. That is why Victory supports the election of openly LGBT candidates, both Democrats and Republicans as well as independents, who have demonstrated leadership in advancing freedom and equal rights for all LGBT Americans. The election of openly LGBT candidates in recent years has helped bring that goal within reach — but we cannot expect to achieve all we deserve without having out LGBT Republicans at all levels of public office, especially in Congress.


Trans workers in Boston eligible for health coverage

Martin J. Walsh, Marty Walsh, Democratic Party, workers in Boston, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Boston Mayor Martin “Marty” Walsh. Photo by David Parsons; courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

BOSTON — City workers in Boston seeking gender reassignment surgery would for the first time have their care covered by health insurance under a City Council proposal supported by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Boston Globe reports.

City Councilors at Large Michelle Wu and Ayanna Pressley said they planned this week to file a proposal that would guarantee transgender city employees access to gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy and mental health services, the article said.

Wu said on April 11 that the ordinance is meant to affirm human rights for transgender people and also make city jobs attractive and welcoming to the widest range of talent.

“The city of Boston and our city government should be doing everything we can to make sure we are doing that with the most inclusive policies,” Wu was quoted as having said in the Globe. “It’s the best business decision, as well as the right thing to do.”

Walsh recently recommended a coverage mandate for transgender treatment to the city’s Public Employee Committee, which advises officials on health care and other human resources issues, according to his spokeswoman, Kate Norton. With Boston’s strong-mayor form of government, Walsh’s backing is the surest sign the measure will become reality, the Globe reports.

Walsh asked that the mandate take effect on July 1, when the city begins its new fiscal year, Norton said. The committee discussed the proposal at a meeting last week but did not vote, the Globe reports.

The ordinance set to be filed by Wu and Pressley would ban the city from contracting with any health insurer that denies benefits or “discriminates in the amount of premium, policy fees, or rates charged” on the basis of gender identity, according to a draft provided to the Globe last week.

It grew out of the Elevate Boston Coalition, cofounded by Pressley during last year’s mayoral race to highlight issues affecting women and girls, communities of color, and the LGBT community.

Transgender city workers are guaranteed medical treatment by statutes in San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; and other U.S. cities, according to Andrew Cray, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan educational institute in Washington.


Stuck in an intransigent holidaze

intransigent, Kate Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Kate Clinton (Photo by David Rodgers)

This year I was in Provincetown, Mass., for New Year’s Eve and was able to stay on an extra week. There is nothing like being at the end of the Earth to get a little perspective on things. I would share those thoughts with you but I have succumbed to an intransigent holidaze that is worse whenever Christmas falls on Wednesday. Even my weekly pillbox can’t figure out what day it is.

And why bother? The days don’t last that long here. Despite my Solstice impatience, the sun sets at 4 p.m. Ptown should really petition the Greenwich Mean people for admission into a more easterly, Atlantic time zone. After January first, the last seasonal, business holdouts succumb to retail hibernation or southern migration. Even the delightfully, potty-mouthed barista-in-chief at Joe’s Coffee, caps the capo machines and heads for warmer weather. The Christmas lights on Pilgrim monument dim after Jan. 6.

The town’s business goes on. The nights are long. But without summer visitors or high season mania, year-rounders attend to delayed projects.  Painting pictures or baseboards. Writing novels or memoirs. The Fine Arts Work Center fairly hums with creativity in the east end of town. Residents meet up at the few rear-round restaurants, or host in-home potlucks. There are open mike nights and readings. Also a lot of drinking and a lot of new sobriety. Like Santa-come-down-the-chimney, Tom Brady and his New England Patriots visit every true believer’s home via satellite dish on Sunday. Binge TV watching soars, especially in a three-day nor’easter, if the power stays on.

For the less-than-fully employed, like me, without quotidian markers, morning New York Times at the West End deli, a late afternoon coffee at Joe’s, an evening show at the Crown and Anchor — the days take on an unsettling, off-the-grid freedom. A local poet/lobsterman once told me about his winter experiment. One January he did whatever his dog did. If Clark slept, he slept. If Clark ate, he ate. If Clark went outside, he went outside. I try not to imagine the hygienic realities, but I do admire the ability to challenge daily practices that a bit of free time affords.

So as a much-anticipated nor’easter bears down on the tiny island nation of Ptown – check out the webcam from Spiritus or MacMillan Wharf! – and with a bit of free time on my hands, I will think about changes I can make in my daily life to change the realities — poverty, hunger, homelessness, religious homophobia, transphobia, violence — for LGBT people in 2014.

When the storm ends, I’ll bundle up and walk down to the West End beach and picture the double rainbow arching over town the day of the Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8. And then remember the swarm of bloodthirsty mosquitos that attacked as we stood watching.

Kate Clinton is a humorist who has entertained LGBT audiences for 30 years. 


Playwright dies in N.Y. fire

fire, the Strand, Hell's Kitchen, New York City, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image capture via YouTube)

NEW YORK—An aspiring playwright died on Jan. 5 from injuries he suffered during a fire in his Manhattan high-rise building.

The New York Times reported Daniel McClung, 27, succumbed to smoke inhalation after he and his husband, Michael Cohen, 32, sought refuge in a smoky stairwell in the Hell’s Kitchen high-rise. The New York Daily News on Jan. 6 reported Cohen suffered critical injuries.

The couple married last year in Massachusetts.

“This was a legally married couple living a new life together,” Marriage Equality USA Executive Director Brian Silva told the New York Times.

The Daily News and other New York media outlets reported an overloaded power strip in a 20th floor apartment sparked the blaze.


Collins marches in Boston Pride parade

Jason Collins Washington Wizards screenshot via YouTube

Jason Collins (Screenshot via YouTube)

BOSTON—Former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins marched in Boston’s annual gay Pride parade on June 8.

The Boston Globe reported the NBA center who played for the city’s professional basketball team until February marched with Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy, III, with whom he lived in college. Collins wore a black T-shirt that read “#betrue” in rainbow colored letters during the parade that wound its way through Boston’s Back Bay and South End neighborhoods.

Collins in May became the first male athlete who actively plays in a major American professional sports league to come out as gay.

He has repeatedly declined the Washington Blade’s requests for an interview, but he wrote in a Sports Illustrated op-ed that announced his homosexuality that he is “black. And I’m gay.”

“I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie,” Collins wrote.

President Obama, NBA Commissioner David Stern and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn are among those who applauded Collins after he came out.


Gabriel Gomez endorses ENDA

Gabriel Gomez, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez supports ENDA (Photo by Gabriel Gomez for Senate; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Republican candidate vying for the open U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts has come out in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade from his campaign via email, Gabriel Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, announced his support for ENDA in response to an inquiry on the legislation.

“I support ENDA, because I do not believe in discrimination of any kind, including discrimination by sexuality,” Gomez said.

Gomez, who after leaving the military became a private equity investor, hasn’t before explicitly addressed ENDA, although he said in March during a Republican primary debate that he opposes discrimination. In the same debate, Gomez said he backs DOMA repeal and marriage equality.

But on California’s Proposition 8, Gomez said in that debate marriage is a state issue and, while he doesn’t agree with the measure, added “you need to respect what the states decide on a state-by-state issue.”

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said Gomez’ support for ENDA means he’s next-generation Republican.

“Clearly, hearing that Gomez supports ENDA is encouraging news, and only goes to raise his profile as a next generation Republican who should have broad appeal to the voters of Massachusetts,” Angelo said.

Only two sitting Republicans U.S. senators are co-sponsors for ENDA: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

Gomez isn’t the first Republican U.S. Senate candidate to campaign in favor of ENDA. In 1994, then-U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney told Log Cabin Republicans he would co-sponsor ENDA and seek to broaden it to include housing and credit.

The gay conservative group GOProud has already endorsed Gomez. Log Cabin hasn’t yet made an endorsement, but Angelo said the group has spoken with the campaign and has a Board of Directors meeting in Boston next week — including a reception at the Algonquin Club on Friday — that will be attended by Gomez campaign representatives.

The candidate is running against Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) for U.S. Senate seat in a special election set for June 25 to succeed John Kerry, who left the Senate to become Secretary of State. Both Markey and Gomez made appearances at Boston Pride last week.

Markey, who’s served as a U.S. House member since 1976, has a long history of backing LGBT rights and is a co-sponsor of ENDA. He was among 67 U.S. House members in 1996 to vote against DOMA. More recently, he voted for hate crimes protections and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

Andrew Zucker, a Markey spokesperson, drew attention to Gomez’ belief that marriage is a state issue in response to the Republican candidate’s support for ENDA.

“Gabriel Gomez says that he supports same-sex equality, but he also supports the rights of 29 states like Texas, North Carolina and California to ban same sex marriages and enact discriminatory policies that bar gay and lesbian couples from receiving equal visitation rights and spousal benefits,” Zucker said. “The bottom line is Gabriel Gomez can’t be trusted to support same sex equality in the Senate. There’s only one candidate in this race whom the LGBT community can count on to fight for them in the Senate, and that’s Ed Markey.”

Markey enjoys a considerable lead over Gomez in the polls in the closely watched race. A poll conducted last week week from The Mass INC Polling Group gives the Democratic candidate a 7-point lead over the Republican.

CLARIFICATION: This article has been amended to clarify that the email from Gomez was given to the Blade by his campaign in response to an inquiry on the legislation.


The class of Edie Windsor

Edith Windsor, Edie Windsor, gay news, marriage equality, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Washington Blade

Edie Windsor wasn’t alone, but comes from an entire generation of great, strong lesbians. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

My friend Roslyn Garfield of Provincetown, Mass., was a pioneer. Now that she has died at age 91, I can call her that. She wouldn’t hear of it when she was alive. And forget calling her a role model. When she said, “Do not call me an R.M.,” it was like a slap upside the head.

Roslyn grew up in Providence, R.I., graduated high school and moved to New York to get a bachelor’s from NYU, and a master’s from Columbia. She lived in Greenwich Village and was known as Danny. On her way to classes, she would stop at the gay bar run by the mafia and put her dollar down for their happy hour drink special on her way home.

The men who ran the place took a shine to her and would take her aside to warn her about women they saw her flirt with — “That one is trouble.” When they heard she was having trouble paying her electric bill, someone went over to her walk-up, rigged the box and she never received another bill.

After graduation, she taught health at a girl’s school in North Carolina and left just before they fired her for being a lesbian. She took all her money and moved to Paris. After a year, when her money ran out, she returned to New York and in 1956 on a whim one night took a ride with a friend to Provincetown. They arrived before sunrise and slept in the dunes. She fell in love with the town.

In Ptown, Roslyn had many careers. She was a guidance counselor and field hockey coach at a local high school. During the summers she worked packing fish in the ice-house. She was an antiques dealer, shop owner and successful Realtor. She was also a successful butch with great stories of the minister’s wife, summer visitors and martini afternoons in her Boston Whaler.

Phyllis Temple, a gorgeous femme from New York, visited Ptown in 1968, and Roslyn went into serious wooing mode. Phyllis left Manhattan and moved to be with Roslyn. Eventually Phyllis took over the real estate business and encouraged Roslyn at age 50 to get a law degree. Phyllis, an avid reader, never got a library card because she said she didn’t want the commitment.  Nonetheless, they were together for 40 years.

Roslyn began practicing law in 1977 and though she was known for her hours of pro bono work during the AIDS epidemic in Ptown, she preferred to tell another story. She once convinced a judge that her client, arrested for jerking off in the dunes, had just finished peeing and was merely shaking off the last drop.

For nearly 60 years she navigated the changes in small-town politics and civil society. She was involved in the arts, the film festival and coastal studies.   For 18 years she was Town Moderator and wielded a deft gavel during contentious annual town meetings. She loved her community.

Roslyn was also a l’chaim poster girl. She was a gourmet cook, rare books collector, bonsai grower, Red Sox fanatic, tennis player, world traveler, jazz lover and devoted partner. Late in life she took up the cello. She said she loved how it felt between her legs. She built a harpsichord for Phyllis. She took up drawing, “mostly the figure classes,” she’d say and nudge-nudge, wink-wink me. Until two months before she died, she drove her beloved Mercedes Benz down Commercial Street. All the locals knew to dive for the bushes.

In this summer season of celebration of the courageous Edie Windsor and her lioness-hearted stand against DOMA at the Supreme Court, I celebrate Roslyn Garfield and the many courageous old lesbians, especially the butches, who came out and made a difference in their communities and in the world.


Record number of LGBT candidates in 2013 races

Annise Parker, Houston, gay news, Victory Fund, Democratic Party, Washington Blade

Houston Mayor Annise Parker is favored to win re-election to a third term. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund on Tuesday named 10 openly LGBT candidates as part of its annual “Races to Watch” list after endorsing a total of 85 LGBT candidates that it says represents an all-time high for an off-year election.

Among those on the “Races to Watch” list are lesbian Annise Parker, who’s considered the favorite to win re-election to her third term as mayor of Houston; and gay Washington State Sen. Ed Murray, who’s ahead in the polls in his race for mayor of Seattle.

“2013 isn’t an off year,” said Victory Fund Political Director Lucinda Guinn. “It’s definitely on at the Victory Fund.”

Guinn said the national LGBT advocacy group that raises money and provides campaign support for LGBT candidates for public office was focusing on candidates in places where LGBT rights have not advanced as rapidly as in other parts of the country.

“We’re working hard this year to help build up heroes in places where equality is late in arriving,” she said in a statement. “Places where these candidates can be the spark to help their own communities move toward equality.”

Of the 85 LGBT candidates the Victory Fund endorsed this year, 18 have won primaries and advanced to the general election on Nov. 5; 14 have won in general elections already held; and one emerged as the victor in a run-off election, bringing the total number of winning LGBT candidates so far to 33.

Nine Victory Fund-endorsed candidates lost their 2013 races in primaries and three have lost in a general election, bringing the total number of losses so far to 12, according to data released by the group.

One of the most prominent candidates who didn’t make it through their primary race was lesbian Democrat Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, who lost her race to become New York’s first openly gay mayor to pro-LGBT Democrat Bill de Blasio.

Also losing in a primary contest was gay State Rep. Carl Sciortino of Massachusetts, a Democrat who ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives formerly held by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.

Fifty-four Victory Fund-endorsed candidates are running in the Nov. 5 general election for local and state offices throughout the country, according to information released this week by the Victory Fund.

Among them are at least three openly gay candidates in the D.C. metropolitan area. Gay Democrat Jay Fisette is running for re-election to a fifth term on the Arlington County Board, the county’s legislative governing body. He’s considered a strong favorite to retain his seat.

In nearby Falls Church, Va., Lawrence Webb, who lost his re-election bid for his seat on the Falls Church City Council, is running for a seat on the Falls Church School Board.

In Maryland, gay attorney Patrick Wojahn, a former board member of the state LGBT advocacy group Equality Maryland, is running for re-election to the College Park, Md., City Council. He’s considered a favorite to retain his seat.

In April, gay Mayor Jim Ireton of Salisbury, Md., won his re-election bid by a comfortable margin.

Although Quinn lost her race for mayor, seven openly gay or lesbian candidates are either seeking re-election or election to the New York City Council on Nov. 5 after winning primary elections in September. The Victory Fund has endorsed each of them.

The remaining candidates the Victory Fund announced on Tuesday as members of its “10 Races to Watch” list are Celia Israel, candidate for the Texas House of Representatives; Robert Lilligen, candidate for the Minneapolis City Council; Chris Seelbach, candidate for the Cincinnati City Council; Darden Rice, candidate for the St. Petersburg, Fla., City Council; Michael Gongora, candidate for Mayor of Miami Beach, Fla.; Tim Eustace, candidate for the New Jersey State Assembly; LaWana Mayfield, candidate for the Charlotte, N.C., City Council; and Catherine LaFond, candidate for the Charleston, S.C., Water System Commission.

The Victory Fund says it doesn’t release the names of openly LGBT candidates who seek the group’s endorsement but don’t receive it.

“We have a set of criteria for endorsing candidates,” said Victory Fund spokesperson Jeff Spitko. “We want to confirm that they are qualified, have a campaign plan and a path to victory,” he said. “We want to make sure they are viable.”

Spitko said the Victory Fund endorsed 180 openly LGBT candidates in 2012 and 124 of them won their races.

A full list of the openly LGBT candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund and appearing on the Nov. 5 election day ballot can be found here.