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Catholic school administrator fired for marrying same-sex partner

A Catholic high school in a Seattle suburb is attracting national media attention after more than 400 students staged a sit-in on the school’s campus on Dec. 19 to protest the firing of a gay vice principal on grounds that he married his same-sex partner.

According to media reports, officials at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Wash., said they informed Vice Principal Mark Zmuda he had to resign from his job because his same-sex marriage violated his employment contract, which requires that he follow church teachings.

“He clearly understood, as a condition of his employment, that he would abide by church teachings and one of those teachings is they do not approve of this marriage,” the Seattle Post Intelligencer quoted school spokesperson Mike Patterson as saying.

Patterson initially told television and newspaper reporters that Zmuda resigned after being informed that he had violated his contract by marrying his husband Dana Jergens in July. Patterson said school officials didn’t learn about the marriage until mid-December.

Zmuda told one of his students in a recorded interview that he did not resign.

“To set the record straight I was terminated,” he told student Catrina Crittenden, who recorded the interview on video at Zmuda’s request and allowed Q13 Fox News to broadcast part of it.

The Post Intelligencer and other news media outlets reported that Zmuda, 38, a former teacher who also served as the school’s swim coach, is beloved by students. Within minutes of the school’s announcement of Zmuda’s departure, students began planning a protest rally and sit-in through a flurry of text messaging and Twitter postings, the Post Intelligencer reported.

Q13 Fox News, a local TV station, reported that students and supporters, including parents, have staged sit-ins at several Catholic schools in the area and held at least one protest outside the offices of the Archdiocese of Seattle to express opposition to the firing.

“The students were pretty upset about that so we all came together and rebelled against it,” Eastside Catholic High School senior Christian Leider told the Seattle Times in a Dec. 19 interview.

“We did not know he was gay before today,” the paper quoted Leider as saying. “He’s always looking out for the best in everyone and he always wants everyone to do their best.”

School spokesperson Patterson told the Seattle Times that Zmuda could no longer work for the school because of his same-sex marriage, not because he’s gay.

“He’s a great administrator,” the paper quoted Patterson as saying. “We fully support him. We’re going to give him glowing reference letters, all of that sort of thing. But Eastside Catholic doesn’t have the power to change that law,” he told the Times in referring to church doctrine.

A petition posted on Change.com by Eastside Catholic High student Bradley Strode in support of Zmuda had over 30,000 signatures as of Dec. 30. The petition calls on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to change the church’s position on same-sex marriage.

The petition states:

“We, the student body at Eastside Catholic School, have experienced an egregious injustice which was inflicted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. Our beloved vice principal, Mr. Zmuda, was terminated by the Archdiocese as a result of his marriage to another man. The student body is outraged that an incredible administrator, coach, and human being was fired solely because of his love and marriage for another human being. We are uniting in order to change the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage. It is time to revisit the policy and act as Jesus would have, loving and supporting every person regardless of their marital status. United, we want this policy changed so that the Catholic Church can achieve its mission of acting with unconditional love in every situation.”

01
Jan
2014

Florida student appears in gay porn

COCOA, Fla.—A Florida school district has allowed a student who appeared in a gay pornographic film to return to class.

Robert Marucci, 18, told an Orlando television station on Jan. 20 the Brevard County School District suspended him after appearing in a Sean Cody film. Marucci told WKMG he turned to pornography to help his mother who was struggling financially.

“I feel like I have been treated unfairly and this is unjust,” said Marucci. “This was completely legal. I didn’t break any laws, and this took place out of the school.”

Michelle Irwin, a spokesperson for the Brevard County School District, told WKMG that Marucci was to have been allowed back to class on Jan. 22.

23
Jan
2014

Former Italian parliamentarian arrested at Olympics

Queer Nation, New York City, New York, Russia, Sochi, homophobia, Winter Olympics, gay news, Washington Blade

Russian police on Sunday arrested a former Italian parliamentarian who unfurled a rainbow flag with a pro-gay slogan at the Olympics. (Photo courtesy of Queer Nation NY)

Reports indicate Russian police have arrested a transgender former Italian parliamentarian who unfurled a rainbow flag at the 2014 Winter Olympics that contained a pro-gay slogan.

Eurosport.com reported Irma Battaglia of the Gay Project, an Italian LGBT advocacy group, said Vladimir Luxuria told her during a telephone call that authorities in Sochi took her into custody while holding a flag that said “gay is ok” in Russian. Luxuria earlier on Sunday posted a picture to Twitter that showed her with a rainbow-colored fan at the games.

“I am in Sochi,” tweeted Luxuria in Italian. “Greetings with the colors of the rainbow, in the face of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

Eurosports.com reported Luxuria told Battaglia the officers who arrested her were “brutal and aggressive.” She also said none of them spoke English.

Luxuria’s reported arrest took place nine days after authorities in Moscow and St. Petersburg took 14 LGBT rights advocates into custody hours before the 2014 Winter Olympics officially opened.

Elena Kostynchenko, who is one of the 10 activists arrested near Moscow’s Red Square on Feb. 7 as they sang the Russian national anthem while holding Russian and rainbow flags, told the Washington Blade after her arrest that officers beat one activist and choked another while they were at a local police station. Kostynchenko said authorities also threatened to sexually assault her and another female advocate before they released them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last month those who protest his government’s LGBT rights record during the Olympics would not face prosecution under his country’s controversial law that bans gay propaganda to minors. The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly said it has received assurances from the Kremlin that gays and lesbians will not suffer discrimination while in Sochi for the games.

Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, highlighted the campaign in support of adding sexual orientation to the Olympic charter’s non-discrimination clause while in Sochi between Feb. 4-9.

David Pichler, a gay U.S. diver who competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics and 2000 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney, left the Black Sea resort city on Feb. 11 after spending five days at the games with two Human Rights First staffers. The group met with Anastasia Smirnova and two other Russian LGBT rights advocates in St. Petersburg on Feb. 6 – one day before authorities took Smirnova and three other advocates into custody as they tried to march with a banner that highlighted support for the Principle 6 campaign.

A spokesperson for the 2014 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee on Monday referred the Blade to an Associated Press story that said Sochi police officials denied Luxuria’s claims she was arrested.

“We’ve talked to police and they have told us there is no record whatsoever to any detention or arrest,” said Alexandra Kosterina of the Sochi organizing committee, during an Olympics press briefing as the AP reported.

Luxuria served in the lower house of the Italian Parliament from 2006-2008.

Battaglia told the Blade authorities released Luxuria late on Sunday after Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino personally intervened. The activist added the former parliamentarian plans to wear a rainbow-colored suit on Monday at the Olympic Village and at a hockey game to protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws and speak out against the arrests of Smirnova and the 13 other LGBT rights advocates before the opening ceremony.

“We are all proud of her strength and courage,” Luca Possenti of Famiglie Arcobaleno, a group that advocates on behalf of Italian LGBT parents and those who want to have children, told the Blade on Sunday. “We know that she consciously decided to protest this way against the shameful anti-gay laws and we will support her in any way.”

The Blade’s attempts to speak with Luxuria have thus far proven unsuccessful.

16
Feb
2014

Gay U.S. ambassador brings hope to Dominican advocates

James Wally Brewster, United States Department of State, Dominican Republic, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster (Photo public domain)

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Dominican LGBT rights advocates remain hopeful that gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster will continue to generate more visibility around their nascent movement in the Caribbean country.

“In reality the Dominican LGBT community is not a rather large community,” Cristian King of Trans Siempre Amigas told the Washington Blade on March 7 during a meeting with nearly a dozen Dominican LGBT rights advocates at the home of Deivis Ventura of the Amigos Siempre Amigos Network of Volunteers in the San Carlos neighborhood of the Dominican capital. “[Brewster] is a person from our community. It is a big impact.”

King spoke with the Blade alongside Amigos Siempre Amigos Executive Director Leonardo Sánchez, radio host Franklyn Sánchez, Edward Tavarez da Silva of the website Zona VIP, Lorena Espinosa of the Woman and Health Colective, Marinela Carvajal of Republika Libre, Anyi Fermin of the Metropolitan Community Church of Santo Domingo’s Women’s Ministry, Pedro Mercedes, Stephanía Hernández of Gente Activa y Participativa, Dominic Rincon of University Students for Diversity and Marta Arredondo of Amigos Siempre Amigos. Ventura is among the seven Latin American LGBT rights advocates who visited the U.S. earlier this year as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

Espinosa told the Blade that Brewster “helps us a lot.” Carvajal added the gay U.S. ambassador has brought more visibility to the Dominican LGBT rights movement.

“There is more discussion of [LGBT] issues,” said Carvajal. “There has been an opportunity to highlight our issues.”

The U.S. Senate last November confirmed Brewster as ambassador to the Caribbean nation.

Brewster, who is a former member of the Human Rights Campaign board of directors, introduced his husband, Bob Satawake, in a video to the Dominican people shortly after his confirmation. The two men met with Carvajal, King and other Dominican LGBT rights advocates last month at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.

The State Department said Brewster was unavailable to speak with the Blade in Santo Domingo. He and Satawake gave an exclusive interview to Ritmo Social, a society magazine published by Listín Diario, a conservative Dominican newspaper, in January.

“I was chosen by President Obama to represent his government and the American people as a reflection of our country, its diversity and its mission. I am committed to serving this ideal,” said Brewster. “President Obama was aware of our understanding of the Dominican Republic and knew that we were going to work diligently to advance the extraordinary relationship between our two countries and people.”

Brewster continues to face criticism from Dominican religious figures who oppose his ambassadorship because of his sexual orientation.

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo last June referred to Brewster as a “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish during a press conference. Rev. Luís Rosario of the Santo Domingo Youth Ministry last month said he feels the gay ambassador is a “bad example” for Dominican society and families.

Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Vatican’s envoy to the Dominican Republic, cited the country’s Constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman as the reason he declined to invite Satawake to a diplomatic reception with Dominican President Danilo Medina that was scheduled to take place in January. The event was cancelled after a number of ambassadors said they would not attend because Okolo did not invite Brewster’s husband.

Hernández noted to the Blade a group of Brewster’s opponents dress in black each Monday to protest “the homosexual ambassador.”

“We are defending a person who is homosexual, that is gay and has come to occupy his country’s public position in the Dominican Republic,” said Ventura. “We are defending the right that we have to occupy public positions equally as gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people. This is why we are defending Wally.”

LGBT Dominicans becoming more visible

The activists with whom the Blade spoke in Santo Domingo insist the country has slowly become more open and accepting of LGBT people.

Parque Duarte in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City remains Santo Domingo’s de facto LGBT community center. Hundreds of LGBT people gather on weekend nights in spite of López and some neighbors’ efforts to ban them from the square that is across the street from a church.

Listín Diario, which announced on Saturday that López will have a weekly column in the newspaper, in 2010 published an article with the headline “Parque Duarte is a center of promiscuity” that outlined “homosexuals, prostitutes and drug users have invaded it.” The newspaper also ran a picture of two trans women kissing.

A number of young gender non-conforming Dominican men on a recent Saturday night were dancing at Fogoo Discotec, a gay nightclub in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City that is across the street from the gay-owned Adam Suites Hotel. Middle-class Dominicans and visitors typically frequent Esedeku and other nearby gay and lesbian bars and clubs.

Listín Diario and Ritmo Social earlier this month published pictures of Brewster and Satawake at an Elton John concert they attended at Altos de Chavón near Casa de Campo on Feb. 28. King told the Blade that Dominicans are increasingly aware of their advocacy efforts because newspapers and other media outlets reach out to them for comment on LGBT-specific issues.

“We are in the press,” he said. “With any gay problem that has to do with the community, the press reaches out to us. We are the community’s spokesperson.”

Serious problems persist for LGBT Dominicans in spite of increased visibility since Brewster assumed his post.

Espinosa and other advocates with whom the Blade spoke pointed out López and others with close ties to the Catholic Church continue to discriminate against LGBT Dominicans, Haitians and other marginalized groups in the country.

“The Catholic Church constantly rebukes us,” said Hernández. “If you are gay, you’re discriminated against. If you’re trans, you’re discriminated against. If you’re poor, you’re discriminated against.”

Hernández told the Blade that trans Dominicans continue to suffer violence from the police and a lack of access to health care. She noted staff at a clinic frequently treats her as though she is a man, even though her gender identity is female and she lives as a woman.

“They call me by the man’s name that is on my documents,” said Hernández. “I make a scene. I reclaim my rights. But there are others who do not reclaim their rights. These people that need to go to a health service. What do they do? The don’t seek the service.”

LGBT advocacy groups receive the bulk of their funds from the U.S. and Europe through HIV/AIDS prevention programs and human rights initiatives.

Hernández and others noted the Catholic Church continues to block any efforts to expand access to condoms and contraception in the country. Dominican lawmakers in 2009 approved a constitutional amendment banning abortion that then-President Leonel Fernández introduced with the church’s support.

“The Dominican government does not give one peso to any LGBT group,” Ventura told the Blade.

Ventura added wealthy gay Dominicans who own businesses in Miami and other cities have also not contributed to Dominican LGBT rights organizations. One gay man with whom the Blade spoke at Esedequ said he was not familiar with their work.

“They are not going to donate a peso to the community,” said Ventura.

Parque Duarte, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, gay news, Washington Blade

Parque Duarte in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City remains a de facto community center for the Dominican LGBT community in spite of efforts from the city’s homophobic Roman Catholic bishop and others to remove them. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

18
Mar
2014

Terry McAuliffe sworn in as Virginia governor

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe was sworn in on Saturday as Virginia’s 72nd governor. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

RICHMOND, Va.—Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Saturday became Virginia’s 72nd governor amid hopes his administration will extend rights to LGBT Virginians.

“An open and welcoming state is critical to the 21st century economy, but it’s also imperative for justice and fairness,” said McAuliffe.

The former DNC chair stressed throughout his inaugural address the economy remains among his administration’s top priorities. McAuliffe also said the commonwealth needs to “ensure that someone can’t lose their job simply because they are gay.”

“As the legislature and my administration work to diversity our economy, we need to remember that our sense of urgency is driven by those Virginians who struggle each and every day just to get buy and whose dream is simply to give their children the opportunities that may never have had,” said McAuliffe. “My administration will work tirelessly to ensure opportunities are equal for all Virginia’s children no matter if you are a girl or a boy, no matter what part of the commonwealth you live in, no matter your race or your religion and no matter who you love.”

Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring were also sworn in.

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) told the Washington Blade in November after McAuliffe defeated then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the hotly contested gubernatorial race and Northam beat Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson that the election results were a “clear victory for equality” that brings “the promise of a new day for Virginia.”

McAuliffe, Northam and Herring support marriage rights for same-sex couples. The former Democratic National Committee chair later on Saturday is expected to issue an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“We couldn’t be more ecstatic,” Maggie Sacra, chair of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, told the Washington Blade earlier on Saturday during a brunch her group hosted at a downtown Richmond hotel.

Kathy Green of Henrico County said during the same event she feels former Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cuccinelli’s policies towards women’s reproductive health rights were “frightening.”

“Having Democrats in the statewide offices will really help to advance equal rights for our friends and co-workers and neighbors,” added Green.

Members of Public Advocate, an anti-LGBT group founded by Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delguadio, placed posters around the State House against the expected directive. They also handed out stickers that read “preserve traditional marriage” to passersby outside security checkpoints.

Lawmakers are expected to consider a number of LGBT-specific bills during the 2014 legislative session that began on Wednesday. These include measures that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in Virginia, extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians and prohibit “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the commonwealth.

Eight lawmakers have also introduced proposed resolutions that would seek a repeal of Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin.

A federal judge in Norfolk on Jan. 30 is scheduled to hold the first hearing in a case challenging the commonwealth’s gay marriage ban that Ted Olson and David Boies, who argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, joined last September. The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia in August filed a separate class action federal lawsuit against the state’s ban on nuptials for same-sex couples on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who were denied marriage licenses.

It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish told the Blade during a Jan. 8 interview the tone from the governor and the attorney general’s offices will be “a 180” compared to former Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cuccinelli. He said the state House of Delegates will remain a barrier to advancing pro-LGBT measures even with McAuliffe, Northam and Herring in office.

“Now that we have a friendly administration in the governor and the attorney general’s office, it will allow us to better make the narrative that the Senate and the governor and the attorney general and the Virginia public are all on the same page,” said Parrish.

Equality Virginia is among the groups that marched in the inaugural parade after McAuliffe, Northam and Herring took office. It is the first time an LGBT organization had been invited to take part in the quadrennial event.

Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade, Richmond

Equality Virginia was among the groups that marched in the Inauguration parade in Richmond, Va., on Saturday. It was the first time an LGBT group took part in the quadrennial event. (Photo courtesy of Kirsten Bokenkamp/Equality Virginia)

11
Jan
2014

Scotland same-sex marriage bill receives final approval

Scottish Parliament, Scotland, United Kingdom, gay news, Washington Blade

The Scottish Parliament (Photo by Klaus with K; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Scotland on Tuesday received final approval.

The 105-18 vote in the Scottish Parliament took place after more than three hours of debate.

Iceland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and Spain are among the 15 countries in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

Same-sex couples in England and Wales will be able to tie the knot next month. The Irish government last fall announced a referendum on whether to extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians will take place in 2015.

The Luxembourg Parliament later this year is expected to consider a same-sex marriage bill. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, said after he took office last December that he would like to see his country allow nuptials for gays and lesbians this year.

Gays and lesbians have been able to enter into civil partnerships in Scotland and across the U.K. since 2005.

04
Feb
2014

Ugandan president signs anti-gay bill into law

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday signed a bill into law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

“I have failed to understand that you can fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women and be attracted to a man,” Museveni told reporters as he signed the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill at his official residence in Entebbe, according to Agence France-Presse. “That is a really serious matter. There is something really wrong with you.”

The news agency reported Museveni described gays and lesbians are “mercenaries” who are actually “heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals.”

Museveni also said oral sex can cause worms, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The mouth is for picking food, not for sex,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. “We know the address for sex. That address (the mouth) is not for sex. The mouth is for eating not for sex. The mouth is engineered for kissing.”

Museveni signed the controversial measure less than a week after he rebuked President Obama’s criticism of him over the issue.

“Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody,” said Museveni in a Feb. 18 statement. “We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it.”

Museveni said he sought “scientific opinions” on whether people were “born homosexual.”

The Ugandan president in his statement specifically cited Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy – with whom he met last month – for sending him information from U.S. scientists who said “there could be some indications that homosexuality could be congenital.” Museveni said scientists from the Ugandan Ministry of Health and two other agencies came to a “unanimous conclusion” that “homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioral and not genetic.”

“What I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be homosexual,” added the Ugandan president in his Feb. 18 statement. “Then my task will be finished and I will sign the bill.”

Ofwondo Opondo, a spokesperson for the Ugandan government, noted on Twitter that Arizona lawmakers last week approved a bill that would allow businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs.

“What is [President] Obama saying to Arizona state law just passed to deny gays services on religious grounds,” said Opondo.

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, blasted Museveni.

“President Museveni’s scientific inquiry is a smokescreen for what is truly going on: political homophobia at its worst,” Mugisha told the Washington Blade. “Last month the President said he would not sign this fascist bill. But now, it seems he has sold us out for the votes of his party. It is politics – plain and simple – all at the expense of LGBTI Ugandans.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is among those who also criticized the Ugandan president for signing the bill.

“This law violates a host of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, freedom of association, peaceful assembly, opinion and expression and equality before the law – all of which are enshrined in Uganda’s own constitution and in the international treaties it has ratified,” said Pillay.

Uganda is among the 70 countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who met with Museveni last month during a trip to Uganda with four other American lawmakers, is among those who have urged the Ugandan president not to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law.

“I certainly disagree with the controversial legislation that Uganda may enact in the coming days,” the Oklahoma Republican told the Washington Blade last week. “As I’ve said before, it is my hope that the country will abandon this unjust and harsh legislation.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT rights group, that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting homophobic attitudes in the East African country and encouraging lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last August ruled the lawsuit can proceed.

Scott Lively, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-gay activist Scott Lively spoke at the Coalition for Family Values press conference at the National Press Club on Feb. 21. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lively described the Center for Constitutional Rights as a “Marxist law firm from New York City” during a Feb. 21 press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington where he and other anti-gay advocates announced the creation of a new organization designed to combat the global LGBT rights movement.

“The purpose of the lawsuit is to shut me up because I speak very articulately about the homosexual issue from a pro-family perspective,” said Lively in response to the Blade’s question about the lawsuit and whether his new group will encourage additional anti-LGBT violence and discrimination in Uganda and other countries.

Lively categorized the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to the Blade as “overly harsh on its face, but this is typical of African criminal law across the continent.”

“Poor countries with limited criminal justice systems tend to rely on the harshness of the letter of the law to be a deterrent to criminals,” he said on Monday. “In practice, the sentencing is usually pretty lenient. Kenya, for example, has the death penalty for burglary, but burglars are definitely not being executed there.”

Lively added he has “explained this phenomenon” to more than two dozen journalists at “top media outlets that have interviewed me over the past couple of years, but none have included this perspective in their stories.”

“I guess it would undermine their efforts to bolster the ‘gay’ cause,” he told the Blade.

The Washington Blade will have more information on this story as it becomes available.

24
Feb
2014

Volleyball player murdered in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. (Graphic by Raimond Spekking)

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico – A Puerto Rican man faces murder and other charges for allegedly stabbing a gay volleyball player to death last week.

Primera Hora reported Jesús David Hernández Otero’s family reported him missing on March 18 after he told his sister that he would return home shortly. Surfers at a nearby beach the following day found Hernández’s body with multiple stab wounds.

Authorities on March 19 arrested Neftalí Castillo Cabrera in connection with Hernández’s death.

Police officials told Primera Hora that Castillo attacked Hernández — who had been friends with his alleged killer since childhood and played on the same volleyball team with him — because he was gay. Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a local LGBT advocacy group, has urged authorities to investigate Hernández’s murder as a hate crime.

“They should not be afraid to bring an aggravating hate crime charge,” Serrano told el Nuevo Día on March 24.

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla last May signed into law a bill that bans anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. commonwealth.

26
Mar
2014

Uganda president to reportedly reject ‘fascist’ anti-gay bill

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, gay news, Washington Blade

The RFK Center on Saturday said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will ‘reject’ the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill. (Photo by the U.K. Department for International Development; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday reportedly said he will reject a “fascist” bill his country’s Parliament approved last month that would impose a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights said in a press release that Museveni made the comments during a meeting with RFK Center President Kerry Kennedy and two of her organization’s staffers — Santiago A. Canton and Wade McMullen — in Entebbe, Uganda. The group said Archbishop Desmond Tutu also took part in the meeting via telephone.

McMullen told the Washington Blade the meeting was “never contentious” even though participants “often disagreed with the president’s position and assessment of the issues.”

“He was willing to listen carefully to all our points, and was very candid in his answers,” said McMullen.

McMullen added Tutu’s participation was “very impactful.”

“I welcome President Museveni’s decision to reject this hateful bill,” said Tutu in the RFK Center press release. “It is time for our African brothers and sisters to move past the antiquated notion that someone could be a criminal for who they love.”

The RFK Center’s press release noted Museveni “promised” the organization during a meeting last March that he would not sign “any bill that discriminates against any individual.” The organization said Museveni also pledged to introduce a new measure “aimed at protecting minors from being coerced into sexual activity.”

“I am pleased that President Museveni has upheld his promise to reject any piece of discriminatory legislation,” said Kennedy. “While we are concerned with plans to move forward with a new bill, we urge the president to ensure it will not discriminate against LGBTI people nor imperil the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the country.”

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, said on Saturday he welcomes Museveni’s comments.

“We have a clear position that the president [won’t] sign the bill in its current format,” Mugisha told the Blade. “He is willing to dialogue.”

The meeting took place a day after a Ugandan newspaper reported Museveni has blocked the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill because Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga allowed a vote on the measure without the required number of lawmakers needed for quorum. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would also criminalize the promotion of homosexuality originally contained a provision that would have imposed the death penalty on anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

“A homosexual is somebody who is abnormal because the normal person was created to be attracted to the opposite sex in order to procreate and perpetuate the human race,” said Museveni in a Dec. 28 letter to Kadaga of which the Blade obtained a copy.

The Obama administration, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Havi Pillay and Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are among those who criticized the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Dec. 20. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, announced after Ugandan lawmakers approved the measure that his company would not do business in the country.

The Center for Constitutional Rights in March 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda that accuses the evangelical Christian of exploiting anti-gay attitudes in the East African country and encouraging lawmakers to approve the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. U.S. District Judge Michael A. Posner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts last August ruled the group’s lawsuit can move forward.

The meeting between Museveni, RFK Center staffers and Tutu also took place a day after the Blade reported U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and four other lawmakers — U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) — will travel to Uganda next week.

A source who is familiar with the trip said the delegation is scheduled to meet with Museveni on Jan. 23 while they are in the East African country. The source told the Blade the lawmakers have thus far rejected Ugandan LGBT rights advocates’ requests to meet with them while they are in Uganda.

Inhofe’s spokesperson, Donelle Harder, on Friday denied reports the delegation will meet with Museveni while in the country.

18
Jan
2014

Mr., Miss Gay East Baltimore to debut

drag, drag queen, Mr. Gay East Baltimore, Miss Gay East Baltimore, gay news, Washington Blade

The Mr. and Miss Gay East Baltimore contest we be held at The Quest Bar on Feb. 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The first-ever Mr. and Miss Gay East Baltimore contest will take place at The Quest Bar on Feb. 15. Categories include: East Baltimore casual wear, evening wear, and talent (seven minutes including one-minute set-up). The theme colors are red and white and can be worn in the first two categories. All interested Mr. and Miss contestants must be at least age 21.

Cover is $6 at the door, $5 in advance. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the contest begins at 9 p.m. The Quest is located at 3607 Fleet St. in Baltimore.

11
Feb
2014