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2013 in photography

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


Robin Roberts comes out — take that Duck Dynasty

Robin Roberts, ABC, gay news, Washington Blade

Robin Roberts (Photo public domain)

Sometimes I wonder if we should care any more when a celeb comes out. When seemingly every couple you know is planning their same-sex wedding; openly LGBT politicos serve in the U.S. Congress; and gay hosts are an indelible part of awards shows – what difference does it make if someone in the public eye is openly queer? Yet when Robin Roberts, an anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” recently came out as a lesbian, I felt as if a cultural milestone had been reached.

Back in the day, we rarely saw (openly) LGBT people on TV. The few images of gay life then showed us to be “deviant,” monstrous or “sick.” An out game show host, sit-com star — let alone news anchor — would have been inconceivable. If Jane Pauley, Bryant Gumbel, Joan Lunden, David Hartman, Tom Brokaw or any of the many morning shows co-hosts over the years had been gay, their careers would have ended instantly if they’d left the closet. When Ellen came out, you’d have thought the Apocalypse had arrived. News outlets blazed with the story and her career, for a time, hit the skids.

It’s hard to imagine a morning show anchor coming out even five years ago without risking being fired and unleashing vociferous homophobia. If an anchor had opted to be openly gay then, the announcement would have entailed as much choreography as a Busby Berkeley production number. The complex, nervous dance would have involved publicists, magazine covers and handwringing over sponsors and ratings.

Yet Roberts’ coming out on Dec. 29, like that of many celebs lately, appeared almost as an aside. As is often the case now with revelations from news anchors, actors and others, Roberts bypassed old school outlets for social media. Most tellingly, no Barbara Walters interview or “After School” type special was involved. In 2012, Roberts had a bone marrow transplant to treat a rare blood disorder. “I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together,” she wrote in a Facebook post on her recovery.

Far from firing her, ABC supported Roberts. “We love Robin and Amber, who we have all known for a long time,” the network said in a statement, “We were so touched by Robin’s Facebook message today and so thankful for all the loving support she has in her life.”

The Twitterverse lit up with love for Roberts.  “I am so happy for you and Amber!  You continue to make us all proud – mo,” Michelle Obama tweeted.

“Go on with your bad self,” comedian and actress Wanda Sykes wrote on Twitter.

“Sending good thoughts to Robin Roberts#Loveislove,” wrote Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons.

Sure, nearly every celeb seems to be queer now, and another famous person coming out can be as exciting as your BFF’s sister’s Facebook status update. Yet, Roberts’ coming out matters.

Broadcast TV doesn’t have the power it had in the days of Yesteryear. TV audiences today are fragmented, smaller and many of us watch shows (or pieces of shows) on mobile devices.  But the TV morning shows still earn big profits and ratings. The hosts of these programs continue to serve as our morning “families” and to kick-start pop culture. A politician who appears on “Today” or “Good Morning America” makes news and a movie or book plugged on these shows is likely to do well.

The TV show morning co-hosts have to daily “appear alive and alert and attractive on the air…no matter how sleepy or stressed or ugly they really feel,” writes Brian Stelter, author of “Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.”

Homophobia remains alive and well. Think “Duck Dynasty.” Roberts will encounter haters.  Still, an anchor of the No. 1 morning TV show in America coming out is a moment to celebrate.


Jason Collins to attend State of the Union

Jason Collins Washington Wizards screenshot via YouTube

Jason Collins is slated to attend the State of the Union address (Screenshot via YouTube).

The professional basketball player who caused a media frenzy by coming out as gay last year is slated to attend the upcoming the State of the Union address, the Washington Blade has learned.

Jason Collins, a former center for the Washington Wizards and now a free agent, is slated to sit next to first lady Michelle Obama during the speech in her box in the House gallery. President Obama is set to deliver the remarks before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening.

After coming out as gay in a Sports Illustrated article in April, Collins has enjoyed a strong relationship with the Obamas. On the day the piece was published, Collins received a personal phone call from Obama, who later said during a news conference he was “very proud” of the athlete.

Collins also appeared alongside Michelle Obama during the Democratic National Committee’s annual LGBT gala in New York City in May.

Even though Collins is considered the first openly gay player in a major North American team sport, he has yet to land a contract with any sports team or play a single game after coming out. In December, he told the Washington Blade he doesn’t think his sexual orientation is a factor in why he hasn’t been signed. The deadline for teams to send their playoff rosters to the NBA is March 1.

Other guests slated to sit in the box with the first lady are Boston residents Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman, who survived the Boston Marathon Bombing; Fire Chief Gary Bird of Moore, Okla.; Joey Hudy, an intern for the company Intel from Anthem, Ariz.; and D.C.’s Public School Teacher of the Year for 2013 Kathy Hollowell-Makle.


Cartoon: Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)


DNC treasurer defends Michelle Obama’s LGBT speech

Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias pushed back in email over ENDA, immigration criticism (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

DNC Treasurer Andrew Tobias pushed back against ENDA, immigration criticism. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The treasurer of the Democratic National Committee is defending first lady Michelle Obama for failing to address LGBT workplace discrimination and the exclusion of bi-national gay couples from immigration reform during a fundraising speech she gave Wednesday in New York.

Andrew Tobias, who’s gay, responded to concerns expressed in an off-the-record listserv for major LGBT donors in an email obtained by the Washington Blade on Thursday.

In the email, Tobias praised Obama for her speech, which did not mention her husband’s failure to issue an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors. She also didn’t directly address the exclusion of bi-national same-sex couples from the immigration reform bill.

“My own feeling is that she did it just right, and that almost everyone in the room – certainly including the First Lady and the DNC Chair – are very much aware of these specifics (as are the key players in the WH),” Tobias wrote to the listserv. “You and all the rest of us are absolutely right to be frustrated by the delays and to keep pushing (I’m hoping this Exxon/Mobil hook might be the one that puts it across the finish line).”

Tobias attempts to allay concerns about Senate Democrats rejecting the Uniting American Families Act by saying the Supreme Court will likely address the issue soon by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act — thanks in part to “two Justices McCain would never have appointed” — and by estimating that 500,000 LGBT people are among the 11 million undocumented immigrants who would obtain a pathway to citizenship if reform were passed. (The Williams Institute estimates a smaller number, 267,000, are LGBT.)

“Some are certain the Republicans in the Senate and House would NEVER have torpedoed the immigration bill over this or anything else, because they’d be crazy to,” Tobias wrote. “But the Tea Party types are getting ever more extreme and short-sighted, so I’m not certain either way.”

Tobias enumerates the many high-profile LGBT people who attended the event — including Edith Windsor, the New York widow who is the plaintiff in the DOMA case, and Super Bowl champ Brendon Ayanbadejo — before concluding by saying people are right to push for more rights, but the other major national party wouldn’t have held such an event.

“The RNC has never had a dinner like this,” Tobias writes. “We are truly not yet welcome in their party; they are still a huge obstacle to the equality we deserve; and until that changes, those of us who can afford to plant the seed corn for further success in 2014 and 2016 could not possibly make a more leveraged investment in equality.”

Tobias wrote the email days after one Democratic donor, Miami-based philanthropist Jonathan Lewis, said he is withholding donations to Democrats and asking others to do the same over the immigration issue and the executive order.

The first lady spoke at the annual LGBT gala for the Democratic National Committee, which she headlined along with gay NBA player Jason Collins. A DNC official said tickets were between $1,250 and $32,400 and approximately 350 people attended.

The DNC wouldn’t reveal the total amount raised at the event. It’s unclear whether Lewis’ email had any impact on the money raised.

After being introduced by Collins, Obama spoke for about 20 minutes, according to a pool report from the event, and touted the president’s achievements on LGBT issues and other matters.

“Because of you, we are taking on climate change, gun violence, comprehensive immigration reform,” the first lady said. “And because of you, yes, we have a president who stands up for our most fundamental rights, from ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to strengthening hate crimes to supporting our right to marry the person we love. Because of you.”

Obama urged the attendees to max out the donations they can offer the Democratic Party over the course of an election cycle. For the DNC, that’s $32,400 in each of the two years of this cycle, so $64,800 if someone maxes out both years.

“We need you to keep on writing those checks — and if you haven’t maxed out, you know, what’s my motto?” the first lady said. “Max out. Let’s say it together. Max out. And if you’ve maxed out, get your friends to max out. …  Sounds kind of baller, too — maxing out. Everyone here should be maxed out.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on why LGBT workplace discrimination and immigration were absent form the first lady’s speech.

LGBT groups working on these issues said they’d welcome the first lady’s help by the addition of her voice to efforts to protect bi-national couples and institute LGBT workplace discrimination protections.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said Michelle Obama’s voice would be a boon to efforts to pass ENDA over the course of this year and the campaign to institute an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination.

“I think the first lady’s a rock star, and she’s admired by many, many Americans,” Almeida said. “I admire her a great deal. In part, I admire her because she’s an incredibly effective advocate for many issues, and important issues, that she’s championed over the past years. It would be wonderful if the first lady helped our ENDA advocacy and made the case this year as we’re moving toward the full Senate vote that LGBT Americans should be able to build a career without fear of getting fired just because of who they are, or who they love.”

Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, redirected attention to another speech from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in which he called for UAFA-inclusive immigration reform.

“I wasn’t in the room with the first lady last night,” Ralls said. “But I can tell you that, as she was speaking, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was addressing Immigration Equality’s supporters — just a few blocks away — at our New York gala. Mayor Bloomberg called on Congress to include LGBT families in immigration reform, putting one of the most important advocates for reform solidly on record in support of our families.”

The full email from Tobias follows:

My own feeling is that she did it just right, and that almost everyone in the room – certainly including the First Lady and the DNC Chair – are very much aware of these specifics (as are the key players in the WH).

You and all the rest of us are absolutely right to be frustrated by the delays and to keep pushing (I’m hoping this Exxon/Mobil hook might be the one that puts it across the finish line). One key player I spoke with praised Jeffrey Marburg’s Washington Post op-ed (posted here a few days ago) as exactly the right way to do it: respectful, well-reasoned, powerful.

But while I have you, a few other notes from the glass half-full side of the ledger:

1. It was a wonderful dinner, celebrating the progress we HAVE made since the last time, as a senator’s wife, the First Lady spoke at our dinner.  Here was the video we showed.  It begins with an excerpt from her remarks five years ago.

2. As frustrating as the UAFA situation is – and deeply wrong that anyone has to choose between love and country – I’m pretty sure that in part because of the two Justices McCain would never have appointed, DOMA will fall in a few weeks and a great many couples will no longer have to make such a choice.  We should keep pushing until we have an even better resolution, but I’m hopeful it will truly change the lives of most who’ve had to deal with this so long.

2a. Let’s not lose sight of our 500,000 undocumented LGBT brothers and sisters who, if the immigration bill does get signed into law, will have their lives transformed with legal status and a pathway to citizenship. (I’m assuming that 4% or 5% of the 11 million are LGBT.) They can’t afford to come to dinners like the one we had last night, but they count too.

Some are certain the Republicans in the Senate and House would NEVER have torpedoed the immigration bill over this or anything else, because they’d be crazy to.  But the Tea Party types are getting ever more extreme and short-sighted, so I’m not certain either way. (To borrow Barney Frank’s line from a different context: “We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts.”) This isn’t to say I’m not disappointed. But given the two points above, and what will be our continued efforts to get where we all want to end up, there’s reason, I think, to be less angry than some are.  And room for many of us, equally committed to equality, to be more supportive.

3. There were many highlights last night – Super Bowl champ Brendon Ayanbadejo was there!  Inaugural poet Richard Blanco was there!  P-FAW’s Michael Keegan, GLSEN’s Eliza Byard, Lambda’s Kevin Cathcart, and GMHC’sMarjorie Hill were there! A SINNER IN MECCA’s gay Muslim documentarianParvez Sharma was there!  Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson and the ACLU’s James Esseksand the Victry Fnd’s Chuck Wolfe were there! Media Matters founder David Brockand Athlete Ally founder Hudson Taylor and All Out co-founder Andre Banks and SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis were there! The first transgender member of the DNC’s executive committee, Babs Siperstein, was there!  Robbie Kaplan, who argued Edie Windsor’s case before the Supreme Court, was there! Edie Windsor HERSELF was there! – along with terrific elected officials, local and national, gay and straight, and Ambassador James Hormel . . .

. . . but the unexpected highlight of the evening (everyone knew Bravo’s Andy Cohen would do a great job emceeing and that NBA center Jason Collins would give the First Lady a great into and that the First Lady herself would leave the assembled on their feet cheering) was a 22-year-old transgender woman who did a lovely job of introducing DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (whose congressional district, she notes, which include South Beach, she now refers to as “straight friendly”) and then turned to where DWS was supposed to enter from backstage to give her remarks . . . and waited a little more . . . nervous, supportive laughter riding from the crowd . . . and then — far from freezing in the headlights — just won us over completely by telling us her story, taking questions . . . it was completely charming, and the transgender CEO of a multi-billion-dollar biotech firm seated next to me with her wife was just loving every minute of it, as were 280 others.  Young Evie Renee Arroyo was a star.

Anyway, and as always:  everyone is right to push, and also to support, because BOTH are in our self-interest to do.  The RNC has never had a dinner like this.  We are truly not yet welcome in their party; they are still a huge obstacle to the equality we deserve; and until that changes, those of us who can afford to plant the seed corn for further success in 2014 and 2016 could not possibly make a more leveraged investment in equality.




Meet the lesbian who heckled Michelle Obama

Ellen Sturtz, GetEqual, gay news, Washington Blade

Ellen Sturtz heckled Michelle Obama at a DNC fundraiser. (Washington Blade file photo from a previous protest by Michael Key)

A lesbian activist had a testy exchange with first lady Michelle Obama at a fundraiser on Wednesday evening over a much sought-after LGBT non-discrimination executive order, leading to the ejection of the activist from the event.

Ellen Sturtz, a 56-year-old D.C.-based activist affiliated with the grassroots LGBT group GetEQUAL, had the exchange with the first lady — which involved not just the executive order, but the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — at a Democratic National Committee fundraising event in D.C.

“I think she was upset by the interruption, no doubt,” Sturtz said. “But I really didn’t feel like there was a lot of anger or felt like I was in danger at all. Even though she was pretty — I would like to say assertive — but obviously it was pretty aggressive.”

According to Sturtz, the exchange began when Michelle Obama began talking about children without delving too much into LGBT issues beforehand. Sturtz said she shouted out to the first lady something about the importance of LGBT children, and Michelle Obama wasn’t happy.

“She cut me off immediately and leaned over podium, sort of her put her big hand towards me and said something to the effect of ‘You don’t do that to me’ or ‘I don’t do that,’” Sturtz said. “Then I made a comment that I’m interested in making sure that we have employment protections, and I’m not going to be quiet any longer.”

Sturtz said things became even more testy as Michelle Obama left the podium to talk to the activist face to face.

“She came down from the podium and got into my face — probably within three inches of my face,” Sturtz said. “She basically took the microphone down, and she said to me, ‘I don’t do this, and if you want the microphone, it’s either I have the microphone or you have the microphone. I said, ‘I’ll take the microphone.’ And she said, ‘If you take the microphone, then I’m leaving.’”

At that point, the crowd called for the first lady to stay and expressed its disapproval of Sturtz as she was kicked out, but not before she concluded that she wants President Obama to sign the non-discimination executive order for federal contractors.

“When I left, I made some comments as they were kicking me out about a being an old abrasive lesbian just looking for full federal equality,” Sturtz said. “And I think I may have said something like, ‘Is there anything wrong with that?’ as I’m sort of escorted out.’”

Sturtz’s account is consistent with what The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel reported happened during the event in her pool report for the fundraiser:

“One of the things I don’t do well is this,” replied FLOTUS to loud applause. She left the lectern and moved over to the protester, saying they could “listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”

Crowd started shouting that they wanted FLOTUS to stay.

“You need to go!” said one woman near the protester.

The protester was then escorted out, shouting “…lesbian looking for federal equality before I die.” (First part of the quote was inaudible.) Pool could not get their name before they were taken out.

The crowd was generally favorable to the first lady. According to a transcript of the first lady’s remarks, Michelle Obama was greeted by someone shouting, ‘We love you!’ at the start of the event and concluded her remarks with applause.

Sturtz, who’s also affiliated with the anti-war group Code Pink, said she’s seeking “full federal equality” and moved to D.C. in December to help make the case after having lived in California since 1986.

“I know it’s probably unrealistic and whatever people think — whether you can get ENDA passed this year or next year, or we have until 2015 — I don’t want to wait anymore,” Sturtz said. “I have the been the nice lesbian; I’m not nice anymore. I’m nice, but I don’t want to be quiet any longer. I don’t want to listen to the non-profit organizations telling me what the timeframe is — how many decades I’m going to have to wait for full federal equality.”

Sturtz paid the ticket price of $500 to attend the event held in Northwest D.C. at the home of lesbian couple Karen Dixon and Nan Schaffer — with the intent of talking with someone at the DNC about the executive order. Sturtz said she donated to the Democratic Party in the previous election cycle.

“They cashed my check … they were asking for more money today,” Sturtz said. “We’re just asking them to do something that’s really simple, and I don’t think we’re really getting many answers about why they’re not willing to do it.”

The DNC and the White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the exchange. The Office of the First Lady didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday evening.

Just hours before the fundraiser, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was questioned about the executive order, but reiterated the line that the administrative prefers a legislative path to addressing LGBT workplace discrimination.

“The president believes that the right approach to this problem is an inclusive piece of legislation, and that’s the approach that we’re taking,” Carney said. “It was the approach that we took with repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and we continue to support this effort.”

Prior to her ejection, Sturtz said she had a conversation with Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz about ENDA and the executive order. According to Sturtz, the Florida congresswoman expressed interest in the directive and was surprised by estimates it would cover 22 percent of the workforce.

“Obviously, she was very supportive, and obviously, like everyone, there’s a lot of frustration about what’s happening in the House,” Sturtz said. “But she understood the strategy of getting the executive order to help fuel the effort of getting it passed in the House.”

Two other GetEQUAL members, college students, were also present at the event along with activist Autumn Leaf, of Columbus, Ohio, who told the Blade she interrupted Wasserman Schultz’s remarks delivered at the same fundraiser.

“I felt very frustrated with the rosy picture of what was done for the LGBT community, especially when the executive order is something that literally requires the effort signing a piece of paper,” Leaf said. “I called her out, ‘What about the executive order that President Obama promised back in 2008 as a candidate, and she looked over and just glared.”

Leaf said Wasserman Schultz told the audience ENDA would be passed, but only with Democratic control of the U.S. House and urged those in attendance to max out their donations.

According to Leaf — who said she wasn’t ejected from the event, but was watched closely by a Secret Service agent — no arrests were made at the fundraiser as a result of the interruptions.

Sturtz emphasized that her action wasn’t about herself, but ENDA, the executive order and equality.

Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL, said more protests similar to what happened at the fundraiser will continue if the executive order is withheld.

“We’ll keep speaking up and speaking out until we’re equal — and we hope the president and the first lady have a long conversation tonight,” Cronk said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of article incorrectly identified activist Autumn Leaf as someone else. The Blade regrets the error.


Carney says first lady ‘brilliantly’ handled heckler

Michelle Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

Michelle Obama (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday that First Lady Michelle Obama “brilliantly” handled a lesbian heckler who called for an LGBT workplace non-discrimination executive order.

Carney made the remark in response to a question from CBS News’ Mark Knoller, who asked Carney if he had spoken to the President about the incident. Carney says he has not yet spoken to Obama about the issue but offered his own views.

Under previous questioning from the Chicago Tribune, Carney pointed to comments he made in the previous day’s briefing on the executive order, reiterating that the White House prefers a legislative path to addressing LGBT workplace discrimination.

Carney’s remarks come a day after lesbian activist Ellen Sturtz, who is affiliated with GetEQUAL, shouted out to Michelle Obama, during a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at a private residence in Washington D.C. for an update on the president’s action to combat LGBT workplace discrimination.

Please return to the Washington Blade for more updates.


LGBT groups court Latinos to build ENDA, marriage support

A new truth has emerged about American politics in the aftermath of the election results last year and as Congress works to find a way to pass immigration reform: support from the Latino community is in high demand.

During a three-day conference of the National Council of La Raza in New Orleans, advocates for a range of causes — LGBT and otherwise — made their cases to the community, which is now the most populous minority group in the United States.

First lady Michelle Obama took the opportunity to sell her husband’s signature achievement — health care reform legislation — in addition to building grassroots support for it during the keynote address that she delivered on Tuesday.

“But let’s be clear, simply passing the Affordable Care Act was not the goal,” Michelle Obama said. “The goal is to get folks to sign up for the insurance so they have the care they need to stay healthy. And as leaders in our communities, we are going to need your help to make this happen.”

The opportunity to build support for LGBT issues in the Latino community was not lost on advocates. A closed-door LGBT session on Sunday was one of several sessions held at the conference where an estimated 2,000 attendees interested in Latino activism were present.

Representatives of LGBT groups — Freedom to Work, Lambda Legal and Freedom to Marry — met with local affiliates of the Latino organizations during the session to discuss ways to cooperate and build grassroots support for LGBT initiatives.

Jennifer Ng’andu, the National Council of La Raza’s director of health and civil rights policy projects, coordinated the session and later told the Washington Blade that about 60 organizations were there from affiliate organizations.

“What I think is important is that affiliates from all across the country, including many different states from Louisiana to Delaware, from folks in Michigan to California came to convening,” Ng’andu said.

Ng’andu said the LGBT work this year follows up on the first-ever session on LGBT issues that was held at the NCLR conference last year. Although participants said no formal agreements were made, the general sense was that Latino activists voiced interest in advancing LGBT issues.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said support from the Latino community will be crucial as efforts continue to lobby undecided senators on ENDA ahead of the Senate vote expected this fall.

“Since the ‘cafecito’ LGBT discussion, several NCLR affiliates in key states have already reached out to Freedom to Work to offer their help and advocacy in convincing holdout ENDA senators to vote ‘yes,’” Almeida said. “We may work on letters to the editor, constituent emails and phone calls, lobby visits in the senators’ home states, and outreach to local Spanish-language media. It would be great if Sen. Bill Nelson read in Florida’s Spanish-language newspapers that Latino voters are calling him ‘poco claro y quizas indeciso’ around his upcoming ENDA vote.”

Several states with significant Latino populations — Arizona, Nevada, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — are represented by senators who haven’t declared support for ENDA, but are seen as potential “yes” votes on the bill this fall.

Latino groups have been some of the most vocal advocates of workplace protections for LGBT people. In April 2012, the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund was the first non-LGBT civil rights group to call for an executive order from President Obama barring workplace discrimination against LGBT workers. After the White House announced the order won’t happen at this time, NCLR was the first non-LGBT group to call on the administration to “revisit” the idea.

According to a 2011 study from the Movement Advancement Project, 80 percent of Latinos believe gay people often face discrimination, 83 percent support housing and employment non-discrimination protections and 74 percent support marriage or marriage-like legal recognition for gay couples.

Omar Narvaez, community educator in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office, said he spoke briefly about the wins on marriage equality at the Supreme Court, but also his organization’s pending marriage equality cases in Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois as well as plans for another case in Virginia.

“The mood of the room was very positive as the affiliate leaders in the room were mostly not LGBT folk and/or LGBT orgs, but strictly Latino orgs that were/are working to bring inclusive policies and work to their affiliates across the country,” Narvaez said. ”The responses were very positive and many left wanting more information on specific issues facing their communities like workplace discrimination, police accountability, youth in schools, bullying and foster/adoption.”

Angela Dallara, a spokesperson for Freedom to Marry, acknowledged that her group participated in the closed-door session, but deferred to NCLR for more information.


Jason Collins ‘ready’ for NBA team to sign him

Jason Collins Washington Wizards screenshot via YouTube

Jason Collins (Screenshot via YouTube)

NEW YORK—Former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins told the Washington Blade on Tuesday that his sexual orientation is not a factor in the fact he remains unsigned more than six months after coming out.

“There’s a lot of speculation as to why I haven’t signed,” Collins said during an interview that took place as he attended a Manhattan fundraiser for the LGBT advocacy group United for Equality in Sports and Entertainment. “I choose to focus on what I can control and that’s how hard I work out.”

Collins on April 29 became the first male athlete who actively played in a major American professional sports league to come out as gay when Sports Illustrated published his op-ed on its website. The former Wizards center’s interview with the Blade is the first time he has spoken to an LGBT media outlet since he publicly declared his sexual orientation.

CBS News over the summer reported the Detroit Pistons and the Brooklyn Nets passed on signing Collins. The deadline for teams to send their playoff rosters to the NBA is March 1.

“That’s the ultimate deadline,” Collins told the Blade. “But up until that date I’m going to continue to work out, continue to train. I consider myself a free agent and I’m ready when and if an NBA team calls my name.”

Collins has become an increasingly visible LGBT rights advocate since coming out.

He has attended events for the Human Rights Campaign; GLAAD; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; the Trevor Project and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. He also marched in Boston’s annual Pride parade in June with Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy, III, with whom he lived while they attended Stanford University.

Collins in May headlined a Manhattan fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council with First Lady Michelle Obama. He introduced Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the MTV Video Music Awards in August before they performed their song “Same Love” that advocates for marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Collins spoke with the Blade during the United for Equality in Sports and Entertainment fundraiser that took place hours after he joined retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, South African activist Thandeka “Tumi” Mkhuma, intersex advocate Huda Viloria, Anastasia Smirnova of the Russian LGBT Network and U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic on a United Nations panel that gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts moderated.

The former Wizards center described Navratilova, who came out as a lesbian in 1981, as “one of my heroes.”

Collins said Navratilova e-mailed him after he came out. The two met face-to-face for the first time on Tuesday before the U.N. panel.

“Growing up she was so dominant, such a great role model and an example of someone who lived her life on and off the court,” he said. “[She] exemplified everything as far as being a winner and then also empowers others by just being vocal. I can’t say enough good things about her.”

President Obama, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Oprah Winfrey and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray are among those who applauded Collins for coming out. Several of the former Wizards center’s then-D.C. teammates also praised his decision to publicly disclose his sexual orientation.

“I wasn’t expecting a call from the president when I made my announcement,” Collins said. “I was extremely humbled to get a call from him and so many other celebrities, in addition to friends and former teammates, coaches, fans. It’s been really overwhelming the response to my announcement.”


Cartoon: Sochi Olympics

Sochi, Russia, Olympic Games, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Who is going to Sochi? (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)