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Senate confirms State Dept. nominee

Tom Malinowski, State Department, gay news Washington Blade

Tom Malinowski (Photo courtesy of State Department)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate on April 2 confirmed Tom Malinowski as assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

“There are many places around the world where human rights, democracy, and labor rights are under assault – think China, Venezuela, and Bangladesh for starters,” said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “To monitor and confront these abuses, U.S. leadership is essential and the confirmation of Tom Malinowski to promote American values is vital and long overdue. He is the right person for this job to counter attacks on civil society, press freedom, and democratic aspirations.”

Human Rights First President Elisa Massimino also applauded Malinowski’s confirmation to head the office that oversees LGBT-specific policies and initiatives.

“We look forward to working with Tom to advance American policies that uphold human rights and the rule of law,” she said.

Malinowski, who was born in Poland, is the former Washington director for Human Rights Watch.

Uzra Zeya had served as acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor before Malinowski’s confirmation.

09
Apr
2014

Trans people sue N.J. police departments

Jersey City Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade, New Jersey

(Image public domain)

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. — Two New Jersey police departments face allegations their officers harassed transgender people and discriminated against them.

The Jersey Journal on April 26 reported North Bergen Police Officer Alberto Berovides pulled over Amira Gray last September as she drove on a local road. The 26-year-old from Maryland alleges Berovides said her license was suspended — although he later learned it was valid.

Gray said she told a second officer who responded to the scene that Berovides “has a problem with the way I live.”

In a second lawsuit, a trans man alleges officers with the Jersey City Police Department discriminated against him in 2012 while in custody.

The Jersey Journal reported Shakeem Malik Holmes, 31, had begun to transition from female to male when he was detained at the Jersey City Police Department’s Bureau of Criminal Identification.

He alleges an officer questioned whether he was actually a woman. Holmes said a police sergeant threatened to “put my fist down your throat like a fucking man” while in a cell.

Both police departments denied the allegations.

30
Apr
2014

Texas GOP backs ‘reparative therapy’

Republican Party of Texas, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican Party of Texas logo.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas Republican Party’s new platform that backs so-called “reparative therapy” on June 7 received final approval.

The Associated Press reported the roughly 7,000 delegates who attended the party’s annual convention never debated the proposed plank before they ratified the platform at the Forth Worth Convention Hall. The Texas Eagle Forum, a Tea Party organization that supports what its website describes as “traditional values,” spearheaded efforts to add support of “reparative therapy” to the platform.

“The Republican Party of Texas should not allow its platform to be used to promote psychological quackery,” said Steve Rudner, chair of the Equality Texas Foundation board of directors.

Rudy Oeftering, vice president of Metroplex Republicans Dallas, a gay conservative group, is among those who also criticized the “reparative therapy” plank.

California and New Jersey currently ban “reparative therapy” to minors. Lawmakers in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other states have proposed similar prohibitions on the controversial practice the American Psychological Association and other groups have condemned.

11
Jun
2014

N.Y. to consider ban on ‘conversion’ therapy

New York, Albany, capitol, gay news, Washington Blade, therapy

New York State Capitol Building. (Photo by Canucklynn; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s Democratic-led Assembly is set to consider a bill on Wednesday that would ban “conversion” therapy for minors, the Associated Press reports. Bans on the practice have already gone into effect in New Jersey and California. A proposed ban was voted down in Illinois in April.

The American Psychological Association says there is no evidence that the so-called gay conversion therapy can change someone’s sexual orientation. A task force set up by the group found that it can cause distress and anxiety.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the measure and is the only openly gay member of the Senate, said he heard from a man who had electrodes attached to his genitalia to curb his homosexual desires, the AP article said.

“On one level it’s pretty nutty stuff,” Holyman was quoted as having said by the AP, “but it’s happening in New York by licensed therapists.”

The Democrat said that the bill would extend to New York state licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health practitioners and physicians. Clergy would not be included in the ban.

Opponents of the ban say that it may infringe on a person’s freedom of speech, although a federal judge in New Jersey upheld that state’s ban in November saying that the law does not violate free speech, the AP reports.

11
Jun
2014

Supreme Court rejects ‘conversion therapy’ case

Yvette Alexander, gay news, Washington Blade, conversion therapy

D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander said a measure to ban ‘ex-gay’ therapy is expected to pass before the end of the year. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider a case challenging a California law that bans licensed mental health practitioners from performing so-called conversion therapy to change the sexual orientation of minors from gay to straight.

The court’s refusal to take the case effectively upholds a federal appeals court ruling last August that the law approved by the California Legislature banning the controversial form of therapy did not violate free-speech rights of therapists or people under the age of 18 who may wish to obtain the treatment.

The law has been placed on hold by the courts since Gov. Jerry Brown signed it in September 2012 after the Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian litigation group, first filed a legal challenge to the law. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, whose decision upholding the law was left in place by the Supreme Court on Monday, was expected to lift a stay it placed on the law pending action by the Supreme Court in the next few days.

“This life-saving law has cleared the final hurdle and will now protect California youth from harmful practices that have been rejected by all leading medical and mental health organizations,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “This important legislation will permanently improve the health and well-being of California’s most vulnerable LGBT young people,” Minter said.

Matt Staver, founder and chair of the Liberty Counsel, said the upholding of the law by the courts would have a harmful impact on young people who seek out the discredited treatment for unwanted same-sex attractions.

“I am deeply saddened for the families we represent and for the thousands of children that our professional clients counsel, many of whom developed these unwanted attractions because of abuse of a pedophile,” he said in a statement released on Monday.

Staver said he was hopeful that a separate court case in which his group is challenging a nearly identical law banning conversion therapy approved by the New Jersey Legislature will come before the Supreme Court with a different outcome.

California and New Jersey are the only two states that have approved such laws. Similar laws have been introduced in the legislatures of at least seven other states, including Maryland and Virginia.

The measure introduced in Virginia died in the General Assembly this year, but supporters say they will seek to bring it up against next year. In Maryland, the sponsor of a similar bill withdrew it earlier this year after Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler issued an opinion saying the state has administrative authority to put in place a ban on conversion therapy for minors without legislation.

The Supreme Court’s action on Monday came three days after opponents and supporters of conversation therapy testified before a D.C. City Council hearing on a proposed law that, similar to the California and New Jersey laws, would ban conversion therapy in the District for people under the age of 18.

Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), who chairs the committee with jurisdiction over the proposed legislation, said the measure enjoys strong support from nearly the entire 13-member Council and is expected to pass before the end of the year.

01
Jul
2014

2013: The year in quotes

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

Edith Windsor (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“The gay community is my ‘person of the year’ and I look forward to continuing to fight for equal rights and educate the public about our lives alongside my gay brothers and sisters and our allies … Thea would be thrilled, proud and so happy to see what we have all accomplished together.” Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, reacting to be named one of the Top 3 individuals for “Person of the Year.” (Joe.My.God, Dec. 11)

 

“There is no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life. My confessor, ski buddy, consigliere, most-beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard. “

Jodie Foster during her Jan. 13 acceptance speech for the Cecil B. Demille Award during the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards (ABC News, Jan. 14)

 

Cory Booker, United States Senate, New Jersey, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that the root of my hatred did not lie with gays but with myself. It was my problem. A problem I dealt with by ceasing to tolerate gays and instead seeking to embrace them.”

Newark, N.J., Mayor Corey Booker in a 1992 op-ed where he wrote about coming to terms with his negative feelings toward homosexuals. (Stanford Daily, Jan. 9)

 

“Just letting you know… that using ‘your gay’ as a way to put someone down ain’t ok! #notcool delete that out ur vocab”

NBA star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, responding via Twitter to someone using “you’re gay” as an insult. In 2011, Bryant was fined $100,000 for calling an NBA official a fag. (CBS Sports, Feb. 11)

 

“I don’t think it’s very controversial to suggest that a candidate who favors gay marriage and free contraception might have more appeal to a younger demographic. Does anyone want to argue … that there are more gay rights organizations on college campuses than in VFW halls?

— Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s lead presidential campaign strategist, in an op-ed about what caused Romney to lose to President Obama. (Washington Post, Feb. 24)

 

President Bill Clinton (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Bill Clinton (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is … incompatible with our Constitution.”

Former President Bill Clinton, in a column against the Defense of Marriage Act, which he signed in 1996. The law, which the Supreme Court will take up on March 27, denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore same-sex marriages from other states. (Washington Post, March 7)

 

“Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?”

One of several scenarios included in a Boy Scouts of America survey sent to members and their parents as the BSA considers whether to relax its ban on gay Scouts, volunteers and leaders. The BSA board may consider the policy in May. (Dallas Voice, March 11)

 

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, responding at the company’s annual shareholder meeting to a stock owner who questioned whether the coffee chain was being hurt by its support for same-sex marriage. (NPR.org, March 20)

 

“Life is life and love is love, and I’m just trying to be a better me, you know what I’m saying?”

Rapper Snoop Lion, asked by paparazzi his stand on gay marriage. “I don’t have a problem with gay people. I got some gay homies,” he also said. (TMZ.com, April 7)

 

“I think this is going to be good for a lot of black young people who want to come out. E.J. is going to be that symbol — a symbol of hope that they can now come and tell their parents, tell their friends.”

Basketball legend Magic Johnson, who came out as HIV-positive in 1992, on his support for his son, Ervin “E.J.” Johnson III, coming out as gay after being photographed by TMZ holding hands with his boyfriend. (Denver Post, April 7)

 

Jason Collins, Washington Wizards, NBA, gay news, Washington Blade, Sports Illustrated

Jason Collins (Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay. … If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

NBA veteran Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards, coming out in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated. Collins becomes the first gay athlete in major U.S. men’s professional sports to come out during his career. (Sports Illustrated, released online April 29)

 

“In making the film, the socio-political aspect of it was not really in my mind but I was focused on … trying to make this relationship as believable and realistic as we could. When this issue comes up, of equal rights for gays, I am hoping 50 years from now we will look back on this and wonder why this was even a debate and why it took so long.”

Director Steven Soderbergh discussing his latest film, Liberace biopic “Behind the Candlebra,” which made its Cannes debut May 21 (Reuters, May 21)

 

Robbie Rogers, soccer, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

Robbie Rogers (Photo by Noah Salzman via Wikimedia Commons)

“I’ve been on this huge journey to figure out my life, and now I am back here I think where I am supposed to be.”

Professional soccer player Robbie Rogers in a May 26 post-game press conference after his debut with the LA Galaxy made him the first openly gay athlete to compete in U.S. men’s professional team sports. Rogers, a former national team player, came out in April and announced his retirement. (YouTube, May 27)

 

“Our community has been targets of bigotry, bias, profiling and violence. We have experienced the heart-breaking despair of young people targeted for who they are, who they are presumed to be, or who they love … Every person, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, must be able to walk the streets without fear for their safety.”

Open letter from national LGBT organizations supporting a federal investigation into Trayvon Martin’s death after his accused killer was found not guilty. (Press release, July 15)

 

“We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins. Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, announcing new code of conduct that will be distributed individually to professional baseball players at every level of the game. (New York Attorney General’s Office press release, July 16)

 

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, telling reporters that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation. The former pope, Benedict XVI, had said gay men should not be priests. (New York Times, July 29)

 

“If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads.”

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, stating at a rally that homosexuality “seeks to destroy our lineage” and Zimbabwe will not “accept the homosexuality practice” even if it costs the country U.S. aid. (News Day, July 25)

 

“As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.”

White House press release announcing that Bayard Rustin, who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut in space, will also receive the Medal of Freedom; she became known publicly as gay when her obituary listed her longtime partner. (Aug. 8)

 

“I was excited to hear today that more states legalized gay marriage. I, however, am not currently getting married, but it is great to know I can now, should I wish to.”

Actress Raven-Symone, who gained fame as a child on “The Cosby Show,” coming out in a statement after tweeting, “I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you.” (Washington Times, Aug. 4)

 

“Dude, lesbians love me. I’m tall, I have a deep voice, I’m like, ‘Hello, catnip!’ Now that this show’s out I’m curious what happens from here because whenever I go out lesbians try to, y’know, turn me.”

Actress Laura Prepon, discussing playing lesbian drug dealer Alex Vaus on “Orange is the New Black.” (Canada.com, Aug. 1)

Vladimir Putin, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo public domain)

“Putin, end your war on Russian gays!” a shout by an unidentified man at the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.” Gay activists protested the opera to bring awareness to Russia’s law banning “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships” that President Vladimir Putin signed into law in June. (Sept. 23, The New York Times)

 

“I am usually a very strong and confident person, but I have my moments too. Although there was positive feedback, there was a lot of negative too, and the negative affected me more than it ever has before. I recorded this because I didn’t know how else to vent, I didn’t want to talk to anybody.” – Cassidy Lynn Campbell, a transgender teen who was named Huntington Beach high school homecoming queen, in a YouTube post where she was visibly upset by negative reactions. (Sept. 23, Los Angeles Times)

 

“Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.” Mary Cheney responding on Facebook on Nov. 17 to her sister’s response on “Fox New Sunday” saying she opposed same-sex marriage and that was an area where she and her sister disagreed. Liz Cheney is running for U.S. Senate in Wyoming.

Compiled by Georgia Voice

 

01
Jan
2014

‘Conversion’ therapy case dismissed in N.J.

Chris Christie, conversion therapy, gay news, Washington Blade

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law last year banning conversion therapy in New Jersey. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

TRENTON, N.J. — For the second time in nine months, a federal judge in New Jersey has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on gay conversion therapy, the Associated Press reported last week.

The ruling filed July 31 by U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson rejected the claims of a New Jersey couple who said their constitutional rights were being violated because the law prevents them from seeking treatment for their 15-year-old son.

Last November, Wolfson dismissed another challenge to the law filed by a group of plaintiffs that included two licensed therapists who practice what are called “sexual orientation change efforts,” referred to in court filings as SOCE, the AP article said.

Gov. Chris Christie signed a law last year banning the therapy in New Jersey, saying at the time that the potential health risks trumped concerns over the government setting limits on parental choice. New Jersey was the second state to pass such a law; California passed a similar law in 2012, and the U.S. Supreme Court turned aside a challenge to that law in June.

The unidentified New Jersey couple claimed in their suit that the state’s law violated their rights to free speech and freedom of religion, as well as their 14th Amendment right to equal protection, by “denying minors the opportunity to pursue a particular course of action that can help them address the conflicts between their religious and moral values and same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity,” the AP reports.

In her opinion, Wolfson wrote that the law doesn’t impinge on free speech because it covers conduct — the therapy, specifically — and not speech.

07
Aug
2014

Christie vetoes birth certificate bill

Chris Christie, New Jersey, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is embroiled in scandal but took time out to veto a trans rights bill. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

TRENTON, N.J.— Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Jan. 13 vetoed a bill that would have allowed his state’s transgender residents to change their gender on their birth certificates.

“It appears that this veto is arbitrary, capricious and designed to harm transgender people who are the most vulnerable among LGBT New Jerseyans,” said Barbra Casbar Siperstein, political director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ).

Garden State Equality Executive Director Tony Stevenson described Christie’s veto as “a vindictive move to punish the LGBT community after a year of tremendous progress.”

“This was a simple bureaucratic change, which would have offered tremendous support to the transgender community, and have zero effect on anyone else,” said Stevenson.

Christie vetoed the measure nearly a month after the New Jersey Senate approved it by a 21-11 vote margin. The bill passed in the state Assembly last June by a 43-27 vote margin with one abstention.

Christie is embroiled in a scandal involving aides who allegedly created massive traffic jams in Fort Lee because the mayor there wouldn’t endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year.

15
Jan
2014

Bipartisanship a lost cause in today’s politics

Joint Session of Congress, gay news, Washington Blade, Barack Obama, bipartisanship

So many seats in the House have been gerrymandered to ensure one or the other party will win them that there is less need to compromise. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Wikipedia says “Bipartisanship is a political situation, usually in the context of a two-party system, in which opposing political parties find common ground through compromise.” There are many politicians that speak of trying to be bipartisan and to govern in that way. But two distinct visions of what that really means came to the forefront last week with the inauguration of Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia and Gov. Chris Christie’s troubles in New Jersey. They have both spoken about working across the aisle to solve problems, but it seems what they actually do is quite different.

Democrat McAuliffe ran a campaign on the promise that he would try to work across party lines to find common ground with the Republican members of the legislature. He touted his past efforts with former Gov. Bob McDonnell on a transportation bill and how he worked behind the scenes to get that passed.

During his campaign and at his inauguration he spoke passionately about his own beliefs and was clear in saying that working across party lines would in no way cause him to abandon his principles. He is a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose and to have control over her own healthcare decisions; and of civil and human rights for the LGBT community. Those principles will clearly put him at odds with many members of the legislature. But he has stated many times that these differences won’t preclude him from working with those who have different ideologies to accomplish needed reforms on a host of other issues. He believes that if people respect their differences they can work together. His cabinet appointments have been inclusive of both parties and diverse in whom is represented. There can be many attacks on McAuliffe for different things but he has a history or working with people of different political persuasions and beliefs. McAuliffe is the type of politician who doesn’t hold grudges and is a businessman who understands the need for accommodation.

Then there is New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie. He also speaks of working across the aisle in a bipartisan way and stood tall with President Obama when trying to get all the federal aid he could for New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. But clearly Christie’s brand of politics is much more confrontational than that of McAuliffe. Christie is an in-your-face politician who believes that waving his finger in the face of, and demeaning constituents who disagree with him, is acceptable behavior. He believes fighting with a former Democratic governor and then taking retribution by taking away his security detail when he doesn’t get what he wants is a way to work across party lines in a bipartisan way. To Christie’s credit it does appear that earning his ire and retribution is occasionally a non-partisan event.

The entire George Washington Bridge traffic fiasco, which some are calling “Bridgegate,” appears to follow a pattern of bullying to get his way and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has suggested that rather than it being a grudge against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee it was retribution against a Democratic legislator who was trying to hold up his judicial nominations. That idea actually makes more sense but it also shows how Christie works against his own statements of wanting to work across the aisle and move toward governing in a bipartisan way.

True bipartisanship requires some respect for your opposition. It requires that you are willing to disagree but to do it agreeably. It requires the kind of relationship that President Ronald Reagan had with Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. They didn’t always solve the issues but they had the ability to debate an issue, look for possible compromise and then move on respectfully to the next issue.

Bipartisanship seems to be a lost cause in today’s political climate especially at the federal level. There is a bigger reason for it to work on the state level as state governments need to balance their budgets while the federal government doesn’t. Another reason may be that today so many seats in the House of Representatives have been gerrymandered to ensure one or the other party will win them that there is less need to compromise.

That is a sad state of affairs for the nation.

15
Jan
2014

Jewish counselors oppose reparative therapy ban

orthodox, jewish, torah, gay news, Washington Blade

For Orthodox groups, homosexual behavior remains a violation of biblical prohibition.

NEW YORK — A group of Orthodox Jewish mental health professionals has joined forces to oppose a New Jersey law that prohibits “ex-gay” conversion therapy with minors, the Jewish Daily Forward reports.

A group called Nefesh has joined with the Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel of America to challenge the law. Rabbi Mordechai Biser, Agudath Israel’s general counsel, said his organization swung into action after receiving requests from Orthodox therapists who “pleaded with us to take whatever steps we could to prevent this legislation from being enacted,” the Forward reports.

Nefesh and the Agudah supported an appeal challenging the New Jersey state ban in an amicus brief they filed Jan. 22 with the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, the Forward article said.

In their briefs against the New Jersey law, Nefesh and the Agudah argued that the ban “impermissibly infringed” on the right of free speech.

For Orthodox groups, though, homosexual behavior remains a violation of biblical prohibition. Nevertheless, the Rabbinical Council of America, the country’s largest association of Modern Orthodox rabbis, acknowledged in a 2012 statement “the lack of scientifically rigorous studies that support the effectiveness of therapies to change sexual orientation,” the Forward reports.

26
Feb
2014