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Kerry: U.S. ‘deeply troubled’ over Gambian president’s speech

Gay News, Washington Blade, John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States is “deeply troubled” by the anti-LGBT rhetoric that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh used in a Feb. 18 speech (photo public domain).

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday said the U.S. is “deeply troubled” over the anti-LGBT rhetoric that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh used during a speech that commemorated the country’s independence from the U.K.

Jammeh described gay men as “vermin” in remarks he gave in Banjul, the West African country’s capital, on Feb. 18. The Gambian president also said during his speech the acronym LGBT “can only stand for leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence.”

“All people are created equal and should be able to live free from discrimination, and that includes discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation,” said Kerry. “We call on the government of the Gambia to protect the human rights of all Gambians, and we encourage the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature have no place in the public dialogue and are unacceptable.”

Jammeh’s comments come less than six months after he said during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly that homosexuality is among the three “biggest threats to human existence.”

Gambia, which is sandwiched between Senegal, is among the more than 70 countries in which consensual same-sex sexual acts remain criminalized.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Feb. 14 announced he will sign a controversial bill that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of same-sex sexual acts in his country. A draconian measure that bans same-sex marriages, gay “amorous relationships” and membership in an LGBT advocacy group in Nigeria became law last month.

The Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday urged Kerry to recall U.S. ambassadors to Uganda and Nigeria in response to the aforementioned issues.

“The Ugandan and Nigerian governments’ decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries.”

LGBT people in Cameroon, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other African countries also continue to face systematic violence widespread discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

“It is all our responsibility to end hate and to end violence,” said Thandeka “Tumi” Mkhuma, a lesbian South African activist who was raped in 2009, during a U.N. panel last December that commemorated the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yahya Jammeh, Gambia, gay news, Washington Blade

President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia. (Photo courtesy IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin; courtesy Creative Commons)


Maryland House committee holds hearing on transgender bill

Luke Clippinger, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, Baltimore, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md.–A Maryland House of Delegates committee on Wednesday heard testimony on a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Supporters and opponents of House Bill 1265 that state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) introduced in January testified before the Health and Government Operations Committee.

“All Marylanders deserve to be treated and protected equally under the law,” said Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown as he spoke in support of the measure on behalf of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

State Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) testified in support of HB 1265 alongside Jenna Fischetti of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, Gender Rights Maryland Board Chair Sharon Brackett, Carrie Evans and Keith Thirion of Equality Maryland, Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado, Maryland Commission on Civil Rights Acting Executive Director Cleveland Horton, Hyattsville City Councilman Patrick Paschall and others. Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) – who are running against Brown in the Democratic gubernatorial primary – also support HB 1265.

“I have not had a job in my chosen career in nearly 10 years,” said Fischetti, telling lawmakers a suburban Baltimore car dealership fired her in 2004 because of her gender identity and expression.

The Maryland Catholic Conference, Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Wilmington (Del.) that includes Maryland’s Eastern Shore are among the groups that oppose HB 1265. State Del. Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel County) asked Sister Jeannine Gramick, executive coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns, about the Vatican’s decision to sanction her because of her LGBT-specific advocacy.

“It’s opposite to the position of those bishops,” said Gramick after she testified in support of HB 1265.

Elaine McDermott of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government cited five reports of attacks and assaults committed by men in restrooms during her testimony against HB 1265. She also described Chrissy Lee Polis, a trans woman who was attacked at a Baltimore County McDonald’s in 2011, as a “prostitute.”

“This bill is unfair to me,” said McDermott. “My facilities should not become an open place, a free for all.”

The hearing took place one day after the Maryland Senate by a 32-15 vote margin approved a trans rights bill – Senate Bill 212 or the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 – that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced in January.

“I was very happy to see the bill come out of the Senate,” Clippinger told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “We’ve got great momentum to get the bill out of the House.”

Clippinger, Evans and others continue to applaud Madaleno for introducing SB 212. Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who announced her candidacy against the Montgomery County Democrat in January, has repeatedly praised state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) for his efforts to secure the measure’s passage last month in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

State Sens. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County), James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) are among the committee members who voted against a trans rights bill in 2013. They backed SB 212 last month when Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee moved to advance it to the Senate floor.

“We’re pleased to see this is becoming a common sense issue that several senators on JPR who voted against the bill last year voted for it this year,” Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign told the Blade last week. “They can see it is where we are headed as a country which is ensuring that everyone is treated fairly under the law.”

Baltimore City, Hyattsville and Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery Counties have already enacted trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinances.

Neighboring Delaware is among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New York and other states have introduced similar measures.

The Maryland House in 2011 approved a trans rights bill with 86 votes. It subsequently died in a Senate committee.

The House Health and Government Operations Committee is expected to vote on HB 1265, which has 61 co-sponsors, on March 12.


Miss Gaye Universe this weekend at Town

Academy of Washington, gay news, Washington Blade

The Academy of Washington has been cultivating a drag presence in D.C. since 1961. (Washington Blade photo by Blake Bergen)

The Academy of Washington presents “Miss Gaye Universe D.C. Pageant,” a drag pageant, at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) Saturday at 4 p.m.

The Academy of Washington has been cultivating a drag presence in D.C. since 1961. Today it continues to hold drag pageants, balls and other drag performances.

Doors open at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for Academy members and $20 for guests. For more information, visit


Colombia LGBT activist discusses challenges

Wilson Castañera, Colombia, Caribe Afirmativo, gay news, Washington Blade

Wilson Castañeda Castro of the Colombian LBGT advocacy group Caribe Afirmativo. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – An advocate from Colombia’s Caribbean coast told the Washington Blade on Friday that discrimination and violence continue to pose a serious threat to the region’s LGBT residents.

“The Caribbean is a region of a high cultural diversity,” Caribe Afirmativo Director Wilson Castañeda Castro said during the USAID-backed Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice training that he and roughly 30 other activists from across the country are attending in the Colombian capital of Bogotá. “You find a very pluralistic cultural dynamic, but it goes against the recognition of sexual diversity.”

Friends of a gay activist of Cuban descent who was murdered in Cartagena in 2007 founded Caribe Afirmativo after his death.

The organization that also works in the cities of Barranquilla, Valledupar, Urabá, Sincelejo and Montería documents the impact that violence and the armed conflict that began in Colombia in the 1960s has had on the region’s LGBT population. It also seeks to educate the public about sexual minorities, organize LGBT people and highlight homophobic and transphobic politicians.

“The governments in these areas are very homophobic governments,” Castañeda said. “This agenda seeks commitments from them with respect to the LGBT community.”

He said his group continues to confront the sexual exploitation of young gay men of Afro-Caribbean descent due to increased tourism in Cartagena and Santa Marta. Caribe Afirmativo also works with many transgender women who have been displaced because of violence and those who have been threatened because they are open about their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“It is a region full of challenges,” he said.

Castañeda further noted he feels the centralized Colombian government does not understand “this is a dynamic country made up of many regions.” He added life for LGBT people who live outside Bogotá remains difficult because of a lack of support from local officials and a lack of community engagement and visibility.

“We have not found a government that will help us address these goals,” Castañeda said.

Castañeda criticizes government for remaining silent on LGBT issues

The country’s highest court in 2011 ruled same-sex couples can legally register their relationships in two years if Colombian lawmakers don’t pass a bill that would extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage. The tribunal’s deadline is June 20, but the Colombian Senate last month overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed gays and lesbians to tie the knot.

Colombian lawmakers in 2011 passed a new anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation.

Colombia is also among the countries that helped secure passage of the United States’ first-ever resolution in support of LGBT rights in the same year.

Castañeda acknowledged to the Blade that LGBT-specific advances have taken place over the last four years. He also criticized President Juan Manuel Santos’ government for remaining silent on same-sex marriage, anti-LGBT violence and other issues.

“It is inconsistent that the government wanted to remain silent when we are talking about the vulnerability of rights,” Castañeda said.

Castañeda, who visited D.C. and two other U.S. cities in April with a group of other Colombian LGBT rights advocates on a State Department-sponsored trip, noted the strong ties between the two countries. He added he and other advocates can continue to learn from LGBT rights advocates in the United States.

“In Colombia the LGBT community remains one of the most marginalized communities,” he said. “The U.S. visit allowed us to see first-hand experiences, situations, specific examples of people and institutions and organizations. We can take some of what we experienced [there] and apply it here in Colombia.”


Colorado activists focus next on health care

Denver, Health Care, Gay News, Washington Blade

Denver Colorado skyline. (Photo via Wikimedia by Matt Wright)

DENVER — LGBT activists in Colorado have health care, workplace and gay youth issues on their list next according to an article this week in the Denver Post.

A study from the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved said LGBT residents account for about 2.6 percent of the state’s population (about 135,000 people) and are twice as likely as straights to earn less than $35,000 per year and are twice as likely to be unemployed. Gay activist group One Colorado surveyed 1,300 LGBT state residents and found that 15.8 percent were uninsured compared with 14 percent of the overall population while 27 percent of trans residents were uninsured, the Post reported.

One Colorado is working with the Colorado Medical Society and the Denver Medical Society to survey doctors on their attitudes toward treating LGBT patients, the Post reported. Later this year, the three groups will develop better training for medical professionals, which they hope will be duplicated nationwide. The national Gay and Lesbian Medical Association will hear about the plan during its annual conference in Denver in September.

A Civil Unions law extending to same-sex couples many of the same rights and obligations of opposite-se married couples went into effect in May of this year.


GW administrator reflects on HIV/AIDS epidemic

Jeffrey Akman, George Washington University Hospital, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Jeffrey Akman, dean of George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Services. (Photo courtesy of George Washington University Hospital.)

A prominent figure in the fight against HIV/AIDS in D.C. will formally become the honorary chair of administrative medicine at George Washington University next week.

Dr. Jeffrey Akman on Oct. 23 will be formally confirmed as the Bloedorn Chair of Administrative Medicine named in honor of former George Washington University School of Medicine Dean Walter Bloedorn who held the position from 1939-1957. Bloedorn also served as the George Washington University Hospital Medical Director from 1932-1957.

This appointment comes less than a year after the GW Board of Trustees appointed Akman as the vice president for health affairs and the dean of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Services.

“To me it’s the best job I could ever have,” Akman told the Washington Blade during a recent interview.

A native of Baltimore, Akman enrolled in the GW doctoral program in 1977 after he graduated from Duke University.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981 reported the first cases of what became known as AIDS — Akman graduated from GW’s M.D. program the same year. D.C. health officials observed the first known AIDS case in the city in 1983.

“We were really not prepared in terms of medical knowledge at that time,” Akman, who was a psychiatry resident at GW in 1983, recalled. “[We] really became aware of these young gay men coming into our hospital with this unknown awful illness that people were dying from very rapidly. I was just compelled to go into their rooms and sit and talk to them and find out what was going on.”

Researchers did not discover an AIDS anti-body test until 1985, but doctors in the Dupont Circle area soon began to refer their patients with the virus to GW Hospital once they diagnosed them with the virus after they came down with pneumocystis pneumonia, Kaposi’s sarcoma or what Akman described as “some awful opportunistic infection.”

Akman said a significant portion of his work at the time was talking with his patients about death and dying, AIDS-related dementia and the stigma and fear and anxiety associated with the virus. He also began to receive referrals from infectious disease experts and other D.C. doctors as the number of people with AIDS continued to grow.

Some of Akman’s friends were also living with AIDS.

“We as a medical center we were incredibly responsive,” he told the Blade, discussing stories of doctors refusing to treat people with the virus and nurses and other hospital staff leaving trays of food outside the rooms of their patients with AIDS that emerged at the time. “That really was not the case here. There was a lot of work done internally… we really felt very good and had very strong connections in the community.”

Akman: I lost ‘a lot of friends’ to AIDS

Akman began to volunteer at Whitman-Walker Clinic in the mid-1980s as the epidemic in D.C. and elsewhere continued to expand. He served as president of the organization’s board of directors for 10 years – and was in that position when Whitman-Walker opened the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center on 14th Street, N.W., in 1993.

Akman chaired some of the organization’s first AIDS Walks. He and his then-partner, Stephen Dixon who is a physician and fellow GW alum, also supported Food and Friends.

“I lost a lot of friends during the time,” Akman told the Blade. “All of us in our way kept lists of who died. We were caregivers. We were building a community response. We were fundraising.”

Fight against AIDS in D.C. is ‘moving in the right direction’

Akman, who is a member of the D.C. Mayor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS, spoke to the Blade a day after city officials released an annual report that documents the epidemic in the nation’s capital.

The report noted 15,056 D.C. residents – or 2.4 percent of Washingtonians – were living with HIV at the end of 2011. Men who have sex with men and heterosexual sexual contact were the two leading modes of transmission among newly diagnosed HIV cases, but the report found they decreased 46 percent from 2007.

The report also found the number of HIV/AIDS-related deaths in D.C. dropped from 425 in 2007 to 251 in 2011. And 80 percent of those who learned they were living with the virus in 2011 were linked to care within three months of their diagnosis.

“My sense is that we’re moving in the right direction,” Akman said. “The numbers of are definitely improving.”

Akman applauded the way he says D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has focused on getting people with HIV into treatment, expanding testing, training health care providers and ensuring there is not a waiting list in the nation’s capital for people who seek access to anti-retroviral drugs. He also praised the way former D.C. mayors responded to the epidemic within the context of the information, research and other resources that were available to them at the time.

“It feels like we’re turning the corner in the District of Columbia,” Akman said. “We’ve still got work to do, but the trends are all looking good.”

HIV/AIDS service providers with whom Akman worked applauded his recent appointment and his advocacy on behalf of people with the virus in D.C.

“Through his leadership of Whitman-Walker’s board of directors in the early 1990s, we witnessed firsthand his strong clinical leadership, his unwavering commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS in D.C. and his tremendous compassion for those most in need of high-quality health care,” Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon told the Blade. “He is a servant leader in every sense of the word.”

“Jeff is a strong consensus builder on this campus, dedicated to the GW community and is committed to defining the future of medicine here at GW,” GW Hospital CEO Barry Wolfman said in a January press release that announced Akman’s appointment as the vice president for health affairs and dean of the university’s School of Medicine and Health Services

Akman was the assistant dean for student educational policies at the GW School of Medicine and Health Services from 1991-2000. He chaired the university’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences from 2000-2010.

Akman told the Blade his new position allows him to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS he joined more than three decades ago.

“It gives me a brand new platform to deal with HIV/AIDS,” he said. “It’s a new platform for me to bring the school’s resources to bare.”


GOProud endorses Navy SEAL in Mass. Senate race

Gabriel Gomez, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez was endorsed by GOProud on Friday. (Photo by Gabriel Gomez for Senate; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A Republican former Navy SEAL seeking a U.S. Senate seat in a Massachusetts special election is set to make an appearance at Boston Pride after receiving an endorsement by a national gay conservative group.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, told the Washington Blade on Friday following news of his organization’s endorsement of Gabriel Gomez that the candidate would appear at his booth for the Boston Pride celebration. Will Ritter, a Gomez spokesperson, confirmed the candidate would be there.

“I certainly encourage all of our folks across the country to contribute to the Gomez campaign,” LaSalvia said. “I also encourage the LGBT community in Massachusetts to come out to meet Gabriel at his booth at the Boston Pride Festival tomorrow afternoon.”

Gomez 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.

According to LaSalvia, GOProud’s board decided by voice vote earlier this week to endorse the candidate. The announcement was made on Friday.

“Gabriel Gomez brings not only a rich and varied record of personal and professional accomplishment to the race, he also represents an opportunity to elect a new generation of Republican to bring real leadership to the Senate,” LaSalvia said in a statement.

Gomez, who after leaving the military became a private equity investor, said he welcomed GOProud’s support in a statement provided by the organization and said he supports same-sex marriage.

“I continue to be energized by the support I’m receiving from voters as I campaign hard throughout the Commonwealth,” Gomez said. “I don’t believe in discrimination of any kind. If two people love each other, they should be able to get married, it’s that simple. This endorsement from GOProud only amplifies the diversity of voices I plan to represent and champion in the Senate.”

In a March primary debate, Gomez articulated support for same-sex marriage while saying he supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. But on California’s Proposition 8, Gomez said marriage is a state issue and while he doesn’t agree with the measure, “you need to respect what the states decide on a state-by-state issue.”

GOProud board member and Boston resident Dennis Duquette also had praise for Gomez in the same statement while taking a jab at the Democratic candidate.

“Gabriel Gomez’s commitment to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reach common-sense, innovative solutions to the challenges we face as a nation stands in stark contrast to Ed Markey’s record of party-line voting for bad policy these last 37 years,” Duquette said.

The second-longest serving member of Congress from New England, Markey has a long record of pro-LGBT votes. 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.

Markey’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the congressman would make an appearance at Boston Pride.


Celebrate the Fringe

Fringe Festival, Haute Mess, Gay News, Washington Blade

A promo image for ‘Haute Mess,’ one of the gay-themed Fringe Festival shows. (Photo courtesy Fringe Festival)

The Capital Fringe Festival starts on Thursday and will continue through July 28. The festival features live performances and shows by local actors whose work is promoted by Capital Fringe, a local performing arts non-profit organization.

Thursday’s opening shows include “Kubrilesque,” directed by Crystal Swarovski, at the Gala Theatre at Tivoli Square (3333 14th St., N.W.) at 8 p.m. The show parodies different Stanley Kubrick films in a variety of burlesque pieces.

The Capital Fringe Festival will have other shows that feature LGBT themes including “Haute Mess,” directed by Ian Allen and starring punk drag queen, Lucrezia Blozia. It premieres at 11:30 p.m. on July 14 at Fort Fringe (612 L St., N.W.), and is a humorous critique of the fashion industry. “La Voce to Me” and “One Night in New York!” are a couple of the festival’s other shows that examine the LGBT experience.

For more information on Capital Fringe Festival events and to purchase tickets and passes, visit


More than 50,000 attend Chilean LGBT rights march

Gay News, Washington Blade, Chile

More than 50,000 people marched for LGBT rights in the Chilean capital on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of JP Catepillán/Movilh)

An LGBT rights march in the Chilean capital on Saturday drew more than 50,000 people.

Chilean folk singer Camila Moreno; presidential candidates Andrés Velasco, Tomás Jocelyn-Holt, Marco Enríquez-Ominami and Marcel Claude and Rafael Dochao, the European Union’s ambassador to Chile, took part in the Santiago event that also commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia. Former President Michelle Bachelet, who is also a candidate to succeed President Sebastián Piñera in this November’s presidential elections, endorsed the march in a letter.

The march also took place against the backdrop of the debate over Piñera’s proposed bill that would extend civil unions to same-sex couples in the South American country.

He has yet to formally introduce it.

“The government and the National Congress should take note of these massive mobilizations that demonstrate time and time again that the majority of this country supports full equality of rights for sexual minorities,” Rolando Jiménez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh,) an LGBT advocacy group that organized the march, said. “The political class always says that it has to listen to the people, but enough of this. It is time to act.”

Neighboring Argentina is among the 11 countries in which gays and lesbians can currently marry.

Uruguay’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on Aug. 1. Nuptials for gays and lesbians are legal in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and 11 of the country’s other states.

Piñera last July signed an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill into law in response to outrage over the murder of Daniel Zamudio, a gay man whom a group of self-described neo-Nazis allegedly beat to death in a Santiago park in March 2012. The trial of the four men who prosecutors maintain attacked Zamudio is expected to take begin in the coming months.

Movilh spokesperson Jaime Parada Hoyl last October became the first openly gay political candidate elected in the country when he won a seat on the municipal council in the wealthy Santiago enclave of Providencia. The Chilean Health Ministry last month also lifted a ban on gay and lesbian blood donors.

Those who took part in the Santiago march also demanded the government pass a law that would allow transgender Chileans to legally change their names and sex without a court order.


Cartoon: purple state

Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, Democratic Party, purple state, Republican Party

Virginia isn’t the only thing turning purple. (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)