In looking toward the Supreme Court‚Äôs marriage decisions, Adam Liptak wrote in the New York Times, ‚ÄúGay men and lesbians have yet to achieve formal legal equality. They are not protected against job discrimination in much of the nation, may not marry their same-sex partners in most of it and do not have their marriages recognized by the federal government in any of it.‚ÄĚ
Walter Dellinger, former acting Solicitor General in the Clinton administration wrote in Slate, ‚Äúit is hard to overstate the importance of the Supreme Court‚Äôs forthcoming decision in United States v. Windsor. At issue is the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines ‚Äėspouse,‚Äô and ‚Äėmarriage,‚Äô for all federal purposes, to exclude same-sex couples. According to the solicitor general, there are 1,138 federal laws and programs affected by this definition. As a result of DOMA, same-sex couples legally married under their own state‚Äôs laws are nonetheless denied benefits otherwise afforded to married couples under federal employment laws, Social Security laws, tax laws, immigration laws and myriad other programs. It is a simple as this: As long as DOMA is in effect, no gay couple anywhere in this country is truly married. If a gay couple is deemed not to be married for more than 1,000 purposes governed by federal law, it‚Äôs hard to say that anything approaching marriage equality exists anywhere in the country, no matter how many states allow same-sex couples to marry.‚ÄĚ
With its decision on DOMA, the Supreme Court made clear that some members of the LGBT community are for the first time truly married. By ruling 5-4 that DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment, the court said that the federal government can‚Äôt discriminate against and deny federal benefits to couples that are legally married in a state.
The decision means that the 1,138 benefits, including those that Dellinger mentioned, will now have to be looked at by the Obama administration and they will have to determine how they are applicable for gay and lesbian married couples.
The Obama administration has known for a long time that this case could be decided in favor of overturning Section 3 of DOMA. It is hoped that the administration has been looking at these rights agency by agency and is prepared to make decisions on how the government will deal with them. The president must be prepared to sign any executive orders that are needed to move forward on granting those rights. We have seen that the president has not been willing to sign the executive order barring job bias in federal contracting but it has to be the expectation of the LGBT community that we will not be forced to wait too long for the decisions on all these issues.
Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said, ‚ÄúThe Constitution‚Äôs guarantee of equality must at the very least mean that a bare congressional de¬≠sire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot justify disparate treatment of that group.‚ÄĚ
In the Proposition 8 case, the court denied standing and said the decision of the Ninth Circuit is vacated and remanded. Following the scenario in an amicus brief submitted by Dellinger, which was referenced by the justices during oral arguments, they limited that ruling to allowing gay marriage in California. They did not make a statement that gay marriage must be considered legal in all states. The result is that for the time being the LGBT community and our allies will have to continue fighting for our equal rights state by state. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said, ‚ÄúWe have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.‚ÄĚ So within 30 days, same-sex couples will again be able to marry in California.
Today we have taken a huge step forward for equality and we continue the fight for our full civil and human rights knowing that we will win because we are on the right side of history.
Frank Bruni will speak about the recent shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage in America. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Frank Bruni, New York Times‚Äô first openly gay op-ed columnist, will speak about the recent shift in public sentiment on gay marriage in America.¬† The event takes place on Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. at Goucher College Kraushaar Auditorium, 1021 Dulaney Valley Rd. in Towson.
Bruni, Goucher‚Äôs fall 2013 Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Visiting Professor, has been an op-ed columnist for The New York Times since June 2011. He joined the paper in 1995, first working for the metropolitan desk. He and three colleagues won the George Polk Award that year for coverage of the child-abuse death of Elisa Izquierdo.
He later moved to the Washington bureau, covering Congress and George W. Bush‚Äôs presidential campaign and first year in office. He left Washington to serve as the Rome bureau chief from 2002 to 2004 and then became the Times‚Äô chief restaurant critic from 2004 to 2009.
Bruni has consistently contributed to the Times‚Äô Sunday magazine, and during two periods‚ÄĒmost recently from 2009 to 2011‚ÄĒhe was one of its staff writers. From 2010 to 2011, he additionally wrote a column on bars and drinking, called ‚ÄúThe Tipsy Diaries.‚ÄĚ
He has also written two New York Times best sellers: a memoir, ‚ÄúBorn Round‚ÄĚ (2009), and ‚ÄúAmbling Into History‚ÄĚ (2003), a chronicle of George W. Bush‚Äôs campaign for the presidency, and he was the co-author of ‚ÄúA Gospel of Shame: Children, Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church‚ÄĚ (1993).
The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Visiting Professorship was created to bring distinguished scholars, teachers, and practitioners to Goucher‚Äôs campus to advance local and national dialogues on pressing issues of our time. Tickets are $10 general admission. Visit here for tickets or call 410-337-6333.
Dr. John Corvino of Wayne State University in Detroit was to have spoken at the event. (Photo courtesy of johncorvino.com)
PROVIDENCE, R.I.‚ÄĒA Catholic college in Rhode Island has cancelled a lecture that a prominent same-sex marriage supporter had been scheduled to give on Thursday.
Hugh Lena, provost and senior vice president of Providence College, cited a 2004 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in an e-mail the New York Times reported he sent on Sept. 21 that announced the cancellation of the event at which Dr. John Corvino of Wayne State University in Detroit was to have spoken.
‚ÄúThe Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,‚ÄĚ the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops‚Äô statement that Lena referenced reads. ‚ÄúThey should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.‚ÄĚ
Rhode Island is among the 13 states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.
‚ÄúPope Francis, the Catholic Church‚Äôs new leader, has been justly celebrated for his welcoming tone towards gays and lesbians,‚ÄĚ Corvino wrote on his website. ‚ÄúNotwithstanding my abrupt dis-invitation, I remain hope that Providence College may soon reflect that tone.‚ÄĚ
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo public domain)
Vladimir Putin has found some unlikely U.S. allies in his efforts at smearing lipstick on the pig that is his oppressive government.
MSNBC‚Äôs Thomas Roberts, who‚Äôs gay, released a self-important announcement last week that he plans to co-host the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, crowing that ‚Äúcourage is contagious.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI am not going to boycott,‚ÄĚ Thomas writes.¬†‚ÄúBoycotting and vilifying from the outside is too easy. Rather, I choose to offer my support of the LGBT community in Russia by going to Moscow and hosting this event as a journalist, an anchor and a man who happens to be gay. Let people see I am no different than anyone else.‚ÄĚ
Let‚Äôs unpack this fantastical statement. First, those who have assailed Putin‚Äôs anti-gay laws aren‚Äôt ‚Äúvilifying‚ÄĚ Putin or Russia. They are rightly condemning harsh laws that have led to violent attacks on Russian gays. That chorus has included figures from President Obama to Bravo‚Äôs Andy Cohen (who turned down the Miss Universe hosting job) to newly out actor Wentworth Miller. They have condemned Russia‚Äôs push to criminalize pro-gay ‚Äúpropaganda‚ÄĚ and efforts to ban couples from countries where same-sex marriage is legal from adopting children.
Second, touting your journalistic credentials while accepting a cheesy gig from none other than Donald Trump, who owns the pageant, is downright laughable. Trump has been outspoken in his staunch opposition to marriage equality. Rather than take questions from actual journalists, Roberts interviewed Trump on his own show to discuss the controversy last week. The two talked a big game of taking on Putin‚Äôs anti-gay laws.
‚ÄúThe gay groups in Moscow are loving the fact that we are going over there,‚ÄĚ Trump said. ‚Äú ‚Ä¶ So I think that you‚Äôre going to do something about it, and I think that I‚Äôm going to do something about it.‚ÄĚ
They didn‚Äôt elaborate on what exactly they plan to do about it, nor did they name any Russian gay groups that are allegedly celebrating this tawdry pandering.
Finally, Roberts thinks that allowing viewers to see that he‚Äôs ‚Äúno different from anyone else‚ÄĚ will somehow improve life for Russian gays. The reality is that viewers won‚Äôt see anything that Russian censors don‚Äôt want to be shown. Viewers will see the photogenic Roberts dutifully reading his teleprompter, towing the line for his homophobic boss Trump.
Roberts‚Äô ego knows no bounds as he compares his ‚Äúcourage‚ÄĚ to that of Harvey Milk, writing, ‚ÄúI go to prove there‚Äôs hope.‚ÄĚ Roberts‚Äô actions ‚ÄĒ accepting a big fat paycheck from a homophobic Tea Party birther like Trump to host a beauty pageant ‚ÄĒ bare no resemblance to activism or journalism. Roberts is shilling for Trump‚Äôs corporate interests and, in the process, giving cover to an oppressive government. He should reconsider and drop out of this train wreck if he hopes to preserve whatever is left of his credibility.
And Roberts isn‚Äôt alone in giving cover and comfort to Putin. The Washington Post and New York Times continue to publish supplements, thinly disguised as ‚Äúadvertorials,‚ÄĚ paid for by the Russian government. The special sections are inserted into the print editions of the newspapers and amount to nothing more than pro-Putin propaganda.
Publishers make decisions all the time about what kinds of advertising to accept and reject, including ads for alcohol, cigarettes and sexually oriented businesses, among others. The Post and Times cover Putin‚Äôs anti-gay efforts on their editorial pages but then, as readers turn the page, they are subjected to unchecked pro-Putin propaganda. Surely Jeff Bezos, the Post‚Äôs new owner and $21 billion man, doesn‚Äôt need Putin‚Äôs money. He‚Äôs talked of reinventing newspapers for the digital age. Let‚Äôs hope the industry‚Äôs future doesn‚Äôt lie in trading credibility for a quick buck from dictators, despots and killers like Putin.
Growing up, I never dreamed that openly LGBT people could be politicians, athletes or celebs, let alone thrive as teachers, cops, doctors or clergy. It was shocking news when the late Rock Hudson was outed by AIDS; tennis icon Billie Jean King revealed she is a lesbian; and former Rep. Barney Frank came out. Yet, as I write this, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) who‚Äôs running for governor, has just come out as gay, and the sky hasn‚Äôt fallen.
‚ÄúMy #gaydar missed it, but happy to welcome @RepMikeMIchaud to team lgbt,‚ÄĚ Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who is gay, tweeted. Many in the media agree with Michaud, who wrote in an op-ed column in the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News, ‚ÄúWhy should [being gay] matter?‚ÄĚ
Media mavens had the same reaction recently when Gawker, the news and gossip site, seemingly confirmed what many have long suspected: Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is likely gay. Smith was in a New York bar with ‚Äúa muscular 6-foot-2-30-something white male.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúAt a time when gay people can marry and fly helicopters in the Marines, is it time to consign outing to history, alongside other 90′s crazes like Zima and square-toed shoes?‚ÄĚ Alex Williams wrote in the New York Times about Gawker‚Äôs Smith reveal.
At the risk of sounding so 1999, I beg to differ. We can marry now in 14 states plus Washington, D.C.; a celeb comes out every nano-sec; and ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt Ask, Don‚Äôt Tell‚ÄĚ has been repealed. Coming out often no longer involves the drama, tears, fears and angst of yesteryear.¬† When I was young, I felt like I was in an ‚ÄúAfter School‚ÄĚ special when I told my family I was queer. Last summer, when I saw relatives for the first time in years, we chatted about same-sex weddings we‚Äôd attended. Jim Parsons of the ‚ÄúBig Bang Theory‚ÄĚ came out seamlessly by briefly mentioning his partner in a New York Times interview.
‚ÄúThat may seem like a big announcement to some people. For me, it‚Äôs just a part of who I am, as much as being a third-generation millworker or a lifelong Mainer,‚ÄĚ Michaud wrote in the op-ed saying that he‚Äôs gay, ‚ÄúOne thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine.‚ÄĚ
Michaud‚Äôs being gay has nothing to do with how effective a governor he would make.¬† Yet, fair or not, his being gay and coming out do matter. Michaud isn‚Äôt a right-wing, anti-gay hypocrite. Yet, he didn‚Äôt come out voluntarily. He disclosed his sexual orientation after his opponents insinuated that he‚Äôs queer. ‚ÄúI wasn‚Äôt surprised to learn about the whisper campaigns … some of the people opposed to my candidacy have been using to raise questions about my personal life,‚ÄĚ Michaud wrote in his op-ed. ‚ÄúThey want people to question whether I am gay.¬† Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer. Yes I am.‚ÄĚ
Some may not care who Shepard Smith dates or which celebrities and politicians are closeted. Yet many of us still struggle with homophobia. In this country, you can be fired in the workplace for being gay in 29 states, and 33 states have no protection for employment discrimination based on gender identity. While ENDA is likely to pass the U.S. Senate, it‚Äôs unlikely to be passed by the House of Representatives.
My friend Penny recently talked to her pal. ‚ÄúHer 19-year-old nephew just came out,‚ÄĚ she said, ‚Äú His father said to him, ‚Äėbeing gay is a sin! How can you still go to church?‚Äô‚ÄĚ
This young man‚Äôs story is far from unique. In a world where despite much progress, homophobia remains a part of our daily life, coming out still matters.
I am not prepared to write off former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense for comments he made years ago about former Ambassador James Hormel or issues related to the LGBT community. I am willing to accept his apology, which Ambassador Hormel has now accepted even if reluctantly, because Hagel will work for President Obama and I don‚Äôt believe the president would nominate anyone to this sensitive position who will not be supportive of our community.
I believe that the president understands that were Hagel to not promote or do anything to thwart the continued integration of gays and lesbians into the military there would be huge demonstrations not at the Pentagon but in front of the White House. It would be the president that the LGBT community would and should hold accountable.
I recently had to stymie a chuckle when reading the full-page ads that Log Cabin Republicans placed in a number of newspapers including the New York Times and the Washington Post opposing Hagel‚Äôs nomination. An organization that in 2012 endorsed the Romney/Ryan ticket for president is now claiming to be so upset about things Hagel said years ago is blatant hypocrisy. I have to wonder who paid for those ads and whether the donor was really trying to stop Hagel‚Äôs nomination for other reasons and only using Log Cabin as a vehicle to do so. It is interesting to see some in the LGBT community aligned with neocons and other Republican conservatives on this issue. I had a real belly laugh when reading right-wing columnist Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post say, ‚ÄúIf Republicans had nervy firebrands like the late Senator Ted Kennedy, someone would rise up and declare, ‚ÄėChuck Hagel‚Äôs America is a land in which gays would be forced back in the closet.‚Äô‚ÄĚ These, of course, would be the same Republicans who in 2012 adopted and supported a party platform that basically would have accomplished just that.
Hagel is part of a dying breed of moderate Republicans. In 2002, he accused the Bush administration of a ‚Äúcavalier approach‚ÄĚ to the rest of the world. In a recent National Journal article on Hagel it stated he voted for the Iraq war resolution but insisted, ‚ÄúActions in Iraq must come in context of an American-led, multilateral approach to disarmament not as a first case for a new American doctrine involving the preemptive use of force.‚ÄĚ Hagel has said he is for talking to and trying to negotiate with the Iranians rather than having either the U.S. or Israel use military force to deal with them before all other options are exhausted. He voted for more than $40 billion of aid to Israel during his time in Congress but isn‚Äôt willing to give Israel a blank check or approve new settlements and aggression when they aren‚Äôt necessary.
He clearly shares many of the foreign policy positions of the administration. He shares the president‚Äôs view that we must realign our military and prepare for the kind of warfare we could face in the future, which is anathema to many of the neocons who have led us into war in the past.
One very interesting fact about Chuck Hagel is that he would be the first Secretary of Defense who actually volunteered for military service when he enlisted to fight in Vietnam ‚ÄĒ something that should stand him in good stead with our all-volunteer military. I know there will be a fight over this nomination and it is a fight the president has chosen to make. I support his right to choose the person he wants to lead the Pentagon and unless something new and disturbing is unearthed during the confirmation hearings agree with organizations like J Street and a large bipartisan group of individuals, including former Sens. Boren (Okla.), Hart (Colo.) and Kassebaum-Baker (Kan.), and others such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas Carlucci, Brent Scowcroft and Paul Volcker, who agree that Hagel should be confirmed.
Brown University (Photo by Dale182 via Wikimedia Commons)
NEW YORK ‚ÄĒ When Brown University in Providence, R.I., announced last week it would extend health care coverage to transgender students to provide for their gender reassignment surgery, it became the 36th college to do so, the New York Times reported. Just six years ago, no U.S. colleges offered the benefit.
Another 25 colleges don‚Äôt cover surgery but have student plans that cover hormone therapy. Another 20 universities have plans that cover some or all sex-change treatments for their employees, the Times reported citing information from the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.
Those lists include many of the top American universities ‚ÄĒ Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Penn, Emory, Northwestern, the University of California system, Yale, Princeton, M.I.T., Washington University and others, the Times reported. Colleges are not required to provide health coverage for their students, many of whom are still covered by their parents‚Äô plans, but they generally do, the article said. These are typically schools that, five or 10 years ago, took smaller first steps to accommodate trans students such as allowing trans women to have female roommates and use the women‚Äôs restroom, the Times reported.
A scene from David France‚Äôs harrowing documentary ‚ÄėHow to Survive a Plague.‚Äô The film has its Oscar rendezvous Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood where its up for Best Documentary. (Photo courtesy Sundance Selects)
It sounds so straightforward ‚ÄĒ the New York Public Library had a collection of videotapes AIDS activists made decades ago with vintage camcorders back when they were heavy behemoths you had to rest on your shoulder with full-size VHS or Beta tapes inside. Filmmaker/journalist David France combed painstakingly through the clips to compose his powerful 2012 documentary ‚ÄúHow to Survive a Plague.‚ÄĚ
But how this was achieved ‚ÄĒ what format was the footage stored in? What condition was it in? Could anyone go in and check these out with a library card? How did France pull this off?
In some ways, it‚Äôs the least interesting part of the film‚Äôs story, which is told via a sobering chronology of video footage shot by angry protesters ‚ÄĒ the kind the Religious Right calls ‚Äúmilitant homosexual activists.‚ÄĚ
For ‚ÄúPlauge,‚ÄĚ France took footage ‚ÄĒ some of which was housed at the New York Public Library ‚ÄĒ shot by 31 videographers and paces it chronologically to the story of the formation of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a group that formed in March 1987 in a spirit of extreme frustration during a speech activist (and ‚ÄúNormal Heart‚ÄĚ playwright) Larry Kramer gave at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York.
France, during a lengthy phone interview last weekend before he was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Tuesday, gladly shares the logistics behind ‚ÄúPlague‚Äôs‚ÄĚ formation.
A veteran investigative journalist, author and GLAAD Media Award winner (for a GQ piece on gays in Iraq) who‚Äôs had his work published in everything from the New Yorker to Ladies‚Äô Home Journal, France says he was a graduate student during the time AIDS hit in the early 1980s and having written about it extensively over the years, he knew activists had brought cameras to their protests. And yes, the process of crafting ‚ÄúPlague‚ÄĚ was a lot more involved than simply checking tapes out of the library.
‚ÄúThe tapes from the library are actually just a small portion of the footage you see in the film,‚ÄĚ France, who‚Äôs gay, says. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs really the first door I went through, this archive of AIDS activism video that‚Äôs housed in the Manuscript Division of the New York Library, where you go if you want to read Lincoln‚Äôs letters. It‚Äôs an exclusive corner of the library that‚Äôs not accessible to the general public and everybody‚Äôs going around wearing white gloves and handling antiquities. In one corner, they have a television and a VCR and you watch the AIDS footage recorded in those early days. It‚Äôs just raw footage, not really ever intended for public view. Some of it you‚Äôll be watching and all of a sudden it will go to a gay porn video, which just happened to be on the same tape they recorded on.‚ÄĚ
France says the library kept all the tapes ‚ÄĒ recorded in every home video format on the market in those years as one might imagine ‚ÄĒ but had transferred them all to the Betacam SP format, a higher resolution tape on larger cassettes that for years was the broadcast standard and is still in use today. France convinced the library to let him take select footage to a nearby production lab and have it digitized. He ended up with about 100 hours and says the process became difficult as the project moved along.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre really not accustomed to working on a film production schedule, so trying to get them to hurry got more and more difficult as we went along,‚ÄĚ he says.
And that was just the starting point ‚ÄĒ in the library footage, France saw other people holding video cameras. He started tracking them down one by one and eventually found a group of people, many long-time AIDS survivors themselves, who had videotape footage they had never revisited. Again, formats remained a challenge.
‚ÄúWe had all this stuff in so many different formats from private collections,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúWe were constantly scouring Craigslist and eBay for decks that would play these old tapes. We ended up with about 800 hours and that really became the building blocks of the film.‚ÄĚ
And yes, France says it did take some persuasion to get these individuals to hand over their footage.
France says, ‚ÄúA lot of these people had moved on but I think now have started to see the real value in this footage. I think they gradually started to realize, that yes, enough time has passed and now is the time to really use it and this is the project.‚ÄĚ
France said his project is timely and important because many of the other landmark AIDS pieces, from Kramer‚Äôs play to Randy Shilts‚Äô ‚ÄúAnd the Band Played On‚ÄĚ were written before the era of anti-retroviral therapy when HIV morphed into a more manageable condition.
He says the film is important for anyone interested in the AIDS fight to see.
‚ÄúThere were even people in ACT UP who didn‚Äôt know the outcomes of many of these things,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúIf you think you know the story of AIDS, this film will surprise you and that goes for just about everybody.‚ÄĚ
WASHINGTON BLADE: Will this be your first time at the Academy Awards?
DAVID FRANCE: Yes. I‚Äôve never gotten any closer before than my television screen.
BLADE: Have you watched very often over the years?
FRANCE: Oh yeah. My boyfriend and I always have an Oscar party. With ballots and everything. I‚Äôve never won.
BLADE: What‚Äôs your favorite Oscar memory?
FRANCE: Tom Hanks‚Äô acceptance speech when he won for ‚ÄúPhiladelphia.‚ÄĚ That‚Äôs really seared in my memory.
BLADE: What did you think of Michael Moore‚Äôs controversial speech when he won the category you‚Äôre up for? Ballsy or inappropriate for the occasion?
FRANCE: I think if you‚Äôve got an audience of a billion people and you‚Äôve got something to say, you need to say it. That‚Äôs not to say I‚Äôm intending any surprises should I have that opportunity.
BLADE: Have you seen the competition?
FRANCE: Of course. They‚Äôre all brilliant films.
BLADE: If you win, where will you put Oscar?
FRANCE? I‚Äôm not sure. I keep the other awards we‚Äôve won in the production office so everyone on the crew can enjoy them and hopefully see their own contribution but if we get this little gold thing, I‚Äôm not sure. I have no idea.
BLADE: Do you feel AIDS, as horrible as it was and is, put gay issues on the national radar and that ended up being a silver lining to the cloud or is that an absurd oversimplification?
FRANCE? No, it‚Äôs absolutely true. Before that, gay people were entirely disenfranchised and we were not seen as being contributing members to the culture at all. We had no role whatsoever in civic life ‚Ä¶ From those ashes (of AIDS), now we have a president who acknowledges us as human beings and Stonewall is mentioned in the same breath as Seneca Falls.
BLADE: How did you feel when Dustin Lance Black won for ‚ÄúMilk‚ÄĚ?
FRANCE: I felt it was incredible. He gave a great speech and I thought it was a very, very good movie.
BLADE: Did you plan all along to submit it for a nomination? What‚Äôs the process like?
FRANCE: There are all kinds of rules about it playing in New York and L.A. and being reviewed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and that‚Äôs just the first threshold. I was lucky I had a distributor who saw the potential for the film early on and made sure we did everything we needed to do for both the Oscars and the Independent Spirit Awards. ‚Ä¶ Anytime you make a film, sure, you fantasize about getting an Oscar nomination and it‚Äôs really just because you want more people to see it. An Oscar bump is a tremendous thing.
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) is calling on President Obama to participate in the Prop 8 case (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
A freshman openly gay member of Congress from California is calling on President Obama to participate in litigation challenging Proposition 8 before the Supreme Court as the administration has done in the DOMA case.
“I strongly and respectfully ask that the United States provide an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in¬†Perry¬†to explain how heightened scrutiny, the standard that the United States urges be applied to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, applies to Proposition 8,” Takano writes. “A brief by the United States will assist the Supreme Court to see that Proposition 8 fails heightened scrutiny and does not further any proper governmental objectives.”
Takano explains in his letter that Prop 8, a ballot initiative that was approved by California voters in 2008, affects couples in his state and district who are unable to marry because of the amendment.
“My district includes thousands of loving gay and lesbian couples, who are not able to marry due to Proposition 8,” Takano writes. “They are our families, our friends and neighbors. They are doctors, veterans, teachers, gardeners, firefighters and police officers. They are Americans. Every day that they cannot enjoy the same rights and obligations enjoyed by other Americans, they and their families suffer.”
The White House has repeatedly declined comment on whether it’ll participate in the Prop 8 lawsuit before the Supreme Court, although President Obama has said Solicitor Donald Verrilli is “looking” at filing a brief. In response to the Takano letter, a White House spokesperson deferred comment to the Justice Department, which didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.
Other LGBT advocates have been calling on President Obama to participate in the Prop 8 case, known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, by filing a friend-of-the-court brief.¬†The deadline for them to file a friend-of-the-court brief is Thursday.
Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, announced on Monday that his organization shares the desire for Obama to participate in the Prop 8 case.
“President Obama has already weighed in on DOMA, but as he himself said in his inaugural address: ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,’” Graddick said. “With less than four days left to act, it is time for the administration to make its views known directly to the U.S. Supreme Court by filing a friend of the court brief in the¬†Proposition¬†8¬†case as well.”
Takano’s letter comes on the same day as The New York Times reported that more than 75 prominent Republicans have signed their own friend-of-court brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8.
Among the signers of that brief is Ken Mehlman, the gay former chair of the Republican National Committee, who is credited with organizing the brief. Another signature is from Hewlett-Packard CEO and former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who campaigned in support of Prop 8.
Two Republican members of Congress who have sponsored legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act ‚ÄĒ Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) ‚ÄĒ are also among the signers. They are the only two Republicans currently holding federal office who signed the brief.
Other signers are former Utah governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who publicly came out in favor of marriage equality last week, as well as GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, who helped with John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and came out in support of marriage equality in a 2009 interview with the Washington Blade.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said the brief as reported by the New York Times reflects the growing support for marriage equality ‚ÄĒ even within the Republican Party.
“A who’s who of the Republican Party has come before the Supreme Court to affirm that support for the freedom to marry is a mainstream position that reflects American values of freedom, family, and fairness, as well as conservative values of limited government and personal responsibility,” Wolfson said. “As opposition to the freedom to marry becomes increasingly isolated and the exclusion from marriage increasingly indefensible, Americans all across the political spectrum are saying it’s time to end marriage discrimination, do right by families, and get our country on the right side of history.”
Edward Gero and Nancy Opel in Ford Theatre‚Äôs upcoming production of ‚ÄėHello Dolly.‚Äô (Photo by Scott Suchman; courtesy Ford‚Äôs)
For local LGBT theatergoers, the spring season promises a wide selection of both fresh and familiar offerings, some light and others more compelling.
AtArena Stage, Robert O‚ÄôHara is directing “The Mountaintop‚ÄĚ (March 29-May12), playwright Katori Hall‚Äôs ‚Äúbold reimagining of the last night of the historic life of Dr. Martin Luther King.‚ÄĚ Talented, multifaceted and gay, O‚ÄôHara is currently playwright in residence at Woolly Mammoth Theatre.
Arena (arenastage.org) is also mounting gay playwright Jon Robin Baitz‚Äôs newest play ‚ÄúOther Desert Cities‚ÄĚ (April 26-May 26). While spending Christmas at the beige Palm Springs home of her aging Reaganite power couple parents, fragile adult daughter Brooke drops a bomb ‚ÄĒ she‚Äôs writing a tell-all memoir. Complications ensue. The New York Times‚Äô Ben Brantley compared ‚ÄúOther Desert Cities‚ÄĚ to sophisticated plays from the past. It‚Äôs like those ‚Äúliterate, thoughtful, well-tailored topical dramas in which people spoke with a fluency, wittiness and sense of timing we only wished we could command in real life.‚ÄĚ
This spring will age MaryBeth Wise far beyond her years. She‚Äôs cast to play Mary in Round House Theatre‚Äôs (roundhousetheatre.org) production of ‚ÄúHow to Write a New Book for the Bible‚ÄĚ (April 10-May 5), playwright Bill Cain‚Äôs autobiographical work about a man who returns home to care for his dying mother. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs kind of a memory play,‚ÄĚ says Wise, who is gay. ‚ÄúMy part requires going from age 40 to 80, and back and forth.‚ÄĚ She predicts a ‚Äúfunny and intense journey.‚ÄĚ Ryan Rilette is directing.
Triple threat Bobby Smith will be spending a lot of time at Arlington‚Äôs Signature Theatre (signature-theatre.org) in the coming months. First, Smith (who is gay) plays Peter, a possibly gay man living happily with ex-wife Susan in Eric Schaeffer‚Äôs production of Stephen Sondheim‚Äôs ‚ÄúCompany‚ÄĚ (May 21-June 30), the award-winning musical about a marriage-phobic bachelor‚Äôs search for meaning. The show‚Äôs spectacular score includes ‚ÄúBeing Alive,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúSide By Side,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúLittle Things You Do Together,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúAnother Hundred People‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúLadies Who Lunch.‚ÄĚ
And this summer, Smith is evil Richard Riddle in Signature‚Äôs ‚ÄúSpin,‚ÄĚ a world premiere musical based on a Korean cult classic titled ‚ÄúSpeedy Scandal.‚ÄĚ Smith describes his character as a sort of Rex Reed-style gossip columnist villain.
At MetroStage (metrostage.org) in Alexandria, John Vreeke is directing ‚ÄúGhost Writer‚ÄĚ (April 25-June 2). When a famed novelist drops dead mid-sentence, his typist, Myra (Susan Lynskey), continues writing his unfinished book as if taking dictation from the great beyond. MetroStage‚Äôs artistic director Carolyn Griffin says Vreeke, who is gay, is brilliant at finding ‚Äúthe perfect tone and balance for gemlike plays with delicate scripts in which very special relationships are portrayed.‚ÄĚ
At Folger Theatre on Capitol Hill (folger.edu), prolific gay set designer Tony Cisek is again collaborating with British director Robert Richmond ‚ÄĒ this time on Shakespeare‚Äôs gender bending comedy ‚ÄúTwelfth Night‚ÄĚ (April 30-June 9). The cast features local favorites including Joshua Morgan (also gay) as Valentine, the gentleman attendant to Duke Orsino.
In Tysons Corner, 1st Stage (1ststagespringhill.org) is presenting gay playwright John Logan‚Äôs ‚ÄúNever the Sinner‚ÄĚ (March 22-April 14), an erotically fraught telling of the real life Leopold and Loeb case in which a pair of affluent Chicago teenagers attempt to commit the perfect murder. The talented Jeremy Skidmore directs.
As part of the Kennedy Center‚Äôs Nordic Cool 2013 (a month-long celebration of Scandinavian culture), Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre is presenting the U.S. premiere of ‚ÄúFanny and Alexander‚ÄĚ (March 7-9), its much ballyhooed stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s beautiful Oscar-winning feature film.
Also coming to the Kennedy Center: ‚ÄúThe Guardsman‚ÄĚ (May 25-June 23), a revival of the 1920s Broadway comedy hit that starred the famed married acting team Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne as game-playing newlywed actors. Known for years as the first family of the American theater, Lunt and Fontanne, both gay, were married primarily for reasons of business and friendship. (kennedy-center.org)
On the Ides of March, Ford‚Äôs Theatre (in co-production with Signature) is rolling out that musical comedy chestnut ‚ÄúHello Dolly!‚ÄĚ (March 15-May 18) (fordstheatre.org). Based on gay playwright Thornton Wilder‚Äôs comedy ‚ÄúThe Matchmaker,‚ÄĚ the 1964 fun musical boasts a memorable score by gay composer Jerry Herman that includes enduring tunes like ‚ÄúBefore the Parade Passes By,‚ÄĚ and, of course, ‚ÄúHello, Dolly!‚ÄĚ The title role ‚ÄĒ most notably performed by Carol Channing in New York and on tour for what seems several centuries, and Barbra Streisand on the silver screen ‚ÄĒ will be played by Broadway veteran Nancy Opel. Terrific local actor Edward Gero is cast as Dolly‚Äôs grumpy romantic quarry Horace Vandergelder. Signature‚Äôs gay artistic director Eric Schaeffer is directing.
Philip Fletcher is taking on the lead role of the wronged Prospero in Synetic Theater‚Äôs (synetictheater.org) ‚ÄúThe Tempest‚ÄĚ (through March 24), the ninth installment of the fabulously innovative movement based company‚Äôs ‚ÄúSilent Shakespeare‚ÄĚ series. Fletcher, who‚Äôs gay, won a Helen Hayes Award for his outstanding supporting actor effort as one of three witches in Synetic‚Äôs ‚ÄúMacbeth.‚ÄĚ
Olney Theatre Center (olneytheatre.org) is mounting Jeff Talbott‚Äôs racially charged comedy ‚ÄúThe Submission‚ÄĚ (May 9-June 9). Here‚Äôs the premise: Using the pen name Shaleeha G’ntamobi, a nascent gay white playwright writes a about a black family dealing with ghetto life. When his play is selected to be produced by a prestigious theater festival, the playwright hires a black actress to stand in for him. Guess what? Things don‚Äôt go smoothly.