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LGBT Wedding Expo in Frederick

wedding expo, wedding rings, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by iStock)

On March 16, Studio C Photography of Frederick presents “Over the Rainbow,” Frederick’s first LGBT Wedding and Fashion Expo. The show will feature more than 30 gay and gay-friendly wedding vendors in all categories. There will be a fashion show with same-sex couples in wedding attire to include M. Stein Tuxedo, private designer dresses, gowns, and suits, and “Under A Hundred” budget-conscious ensembles.

The Expo will be held in the Atrium at the FSK Holiday Inn, 5400 Holiday Dr. in Frederick from 1-4 p.m. There is ample free parking, and the Expo is conveniently right off I-270, I-70, and Rt. 15.

“To date, LGBT wedding shows have been made up of vendors who are there to sell their services, which of course is the point; but not all of them are truly gay friendly,” Susan Centineo, owner of Studio C Photography, told the Blade.  “This show promises vendors who have been screened and who are truly committed to providing red-carpet service for same-sex weddings, and we have added a same-sex fashion show to boot.”

Admission is free, and there will be drawings, raffles, and discounts for same-day bookings with vendors. You may RSVP in advance to qualify for a cash drawing. Email Susan at or call/text 240-446-6085. A few vendor openings are still available.


Louganis: Russian Open Games marred by disruptions

Gay News, Washington Blade, Greg Louganis

Retired Olympian Greg Louganis last December took part in a Russia briefing on Capitol Hill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Retired Olympic diver Greg Louganis is among those who participated in the Russian Open Games that ended in Moscow on Sunday.

Louganis, who competed in a table tennis tournament during the five-day event that drew more than 300 LGBT athletes from Russia and other countries that include the U.S. and Sweden, arrived in the Russian capital early last week after he received a last-minute visa.

He left Moscow on Feb. 28.

The gay retired Olympian who won two gold medals during the 1998 Summer Olympics in Seoul and in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles participated in a Feb. 27 press conference at a Moscow gay nightclub that opened the Russian Open Games. A bomb threat forced him and organizers to speak with reporters outside in the building’s parking lot.

The Washington Post reported the U.S. Embassy hosted a basketball game between participants and diplomats on Sunday after a smoke bomb disrupted a tournament two days earlier.

Louganis, who learned he was living with HIV six months before competing in Seoul, told the Blade police escorted him and more than 30 other Russian Open Games participants out of an ice rink on Feb. 27 after someone reported a group of “strange people” had arrived. He said they had simply gone to the rink for what he described as a “group workshop” about “teaching us some skating skills.”

“They made it clear we were not welcome,” said Louganis. “Just the looks of disdain as we were escorted off the premises was just really concerning.”

Louganis told the Blade he was sending e-mails from a coffee shop across the street from the building where the Russian LGBT Network was holding a panel after the ice rink incident when Konstantin Yablotskiy of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, which organized the Russian Open Games, said the event had been interrupted. He said Yablotskiy told him somebody suddenly turned off the lights and told them the venue would have to close if they didn’t leave.

Louganis said Yablotskiy and Elvina Yuvakaeva of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation told only one person about venues they had secured for various competitions – and this person escorted participants to them after they met at a Metro station. Louganis told the Blade that Yablotskiy told him to take precautions that included not saying anything specific during telephone conversations because he was sure “others were listening.”

“It was a very interesting environment,” said Louganis, noting he had last been to Moscow more than a decade before the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. “It kind of reminded me of that; that everything was watched, was observed, scrutinized.”

The Russian Open Games took place a few days after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi ended.

The Kremlin’s LGBT rights record that includes a 2013 law banning gay propaganda to minors overshadowed the Sochi games. Organizers of the Russian Open Games did not allow anyone under 18 to participate – they also included a disclaimer on its website that read “the information on this site is intended only for the use of those aged 18 and over.”

St. Petersburg Legislative Assemblyman Vitaly Milonov, who spearheaded his city’s gay propaganda ban that inspired the law Russian President Vladimir Putin signed last June, denounced the Russian Open Games. The lawmaker also urged Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin to cancel the event.

Yuvakaeva last week said four venues that had initially agreed to host the games abruptly cancelled their agreements. The hotel where the Russian LGBT Network had planned to hold its forum also cancelled the scheduled event.

Louganis told the Blade he had not heard about the 10 LGBT rights advocates who were arrested near Moscow’s Red Square on Feb. 7 as they tried to sing the Russian national anthem while holding rainbow flags before the Sochi opening ceremony. He said a gay couple he met in the Russian capital told him about the arrests – and the officers who reportedly beat and threatened to sexually assault the activists while inside a local police station.

St. Petersburg police on Feb. 7 arrested Anastasia Smirnova and three other LGBT rights advocates as they tried to march with a banner in support of the campaign to add sexual orientation to the Olympic charter’s non-discrimination clause.

“I really wanted to be a participant [in the Russian Open Games] just to get an objective view rather than the propagandized vision of what it was in Sochi,” Louganis told the Blade, discussing Russia’s LGBT rights record. “Sochi I heard was wonderful and everybody was bragging and the media was over-reacting and all of this. You don’t know until you’re there.”

Louganis was also in Moscow as Russian troops prepared to take control of Ukraine’s Crimea region amid outrage from the U.S. and Europe.

The Kremlin on Monday reportedly issued an ultimatum that demanded the surrender of the crews of two Ukrainian warships on the predominantly Russian-speaking peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday as tension between Washington and Moscow continues to escalate after the country’s Kremlin-backed president went into hiding following the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters in Kiev.

“We were aware of what was going on with the borders being enforced,” said Louganis. “There was talk of invasion. There was this thing going on, but we were just focused on the event… with every turn we had to adjust and adjust and adjust. We were constantly trying to adjust to the immediate present and trying to make the Open Games as successful as we possibly could.”

Louganis added he was repeatedly impressed with the games’ organizers’ resilience against efforts to disrupt events.

“It was very impressive,” he told the Blade. “It was also very eye-opening for me from my personal experience.”


Protest at Nigerian embassy

Nigeria, Nigerian embassy, protest, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

A group of activists gathered outside of the Nigerian embassy on Friday to protest anti-gay laws in the African country and to condemn the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Babakekere, a gay Nigerian man attending the protest, fled to the U.S. in December of 2012 from Africa. Fearing for his safety, Babakekere uses a pseudonym to protect his identity.

“I moved here because of the discrimination towards LGBT citizens,” said Babakekere, “and I am trying now to claim asylum.”

Sentamu Kiremerwa, originally from Uganda but now a U.S. resident of 14 years, led the group in chants, and spoke out against the leadership of Nigeria and Uganda in a personal speech. “Homophobia is not what African culture is about,” said Kiremerwa, “African culture is about love, acceptance, and family.”

Nigeria, Nigerian embassy, protest, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)


Same-sex marriage opponent elected chair of Va. Dems

Richmond, Virginia, Dwight Jones, Fredericksburg, Democratic Party, Jason Graham, gay news, Washington Blade

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones (on left) with Fredericksburg Democratic Committee Chair Jason Graham on Saturday before Jones became chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Read)

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones on Saturday was elected chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia in spite of his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The majority of the 300 members of the DPVA’s State Central Committee backed Jones in a voice vote during their meeting at a suburban Richmond hotel. Jason Graham, chair of the Fredericksburg Democratic Committee, is among those who opposed the Richmond mayor’s nomination.

The LGBT Democrats of Virginia initially opposed Jones’ nomination after Gov. Terry McAuliffe earlier this month announced he had tapped the Baptist minister who served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1994-2008 to chair the state party. Joel McDonald, a member of the Virginia Beach School Board who is the vice chair of technology and communication for the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, told the Washington Blade on Monday his group dropped its opposition after Jones said during a March 10 meeting he is “not out there railing against” same-sex marriage.

“He’s just not in a place where he feels he can support it,” said McDonald, who spoke during the DPVA meeting before Jones’ election. “As chair, [he said] I want to help you achieve your goals.”

State Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria), who sponsored a proposed resolution earlier this year that sought to repeal the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban that voters approved in 2006, is among those who also opposed Jones’ nomination.

The Alexandria Democrat earlier this month noted in a statement that Jones has “a strong and impressive record of support on civil rights” and “a wide range of issues of benefit to the LGBT community” that includes his 2011 executive order banning anti-gay discrimination. Krupicka said Jones’ opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples “casts a shadow over these efforts.”

“Disregard or dismissal of the importance of marriage equality to the overall fight for LGBT equality calls into question the commitment our party has to the goal of equality,” said Krupicka.

Jones did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment. He referenced the meeting he had with LGBT Democrats of Virginia during his speech after members of the DPVA State Central Committee formally elected him to succeed state Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria).

“There is so much work that needs to be done and yes you have read and heard about my discussions with the LGBT community,” said Jones. “I think that’s why I’m a Democrat because those kinds of open discussions are the kinds of discussions that make us strong and allow us to evolve.”

Jones added he believes in the “principles of the Democratic Party.”

“We are the party that fights for social justice,” he said. “We are the party that fights for equal treatment under the law. We are the party that stands up for economic fairness.”

Krupicka on Monday referred the Blade to his previous statement about Jones’ nomination when asked to comment on the Richmond mayor’s election to chair the DPVA. Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) congratulated Jones, even though he said he would have “preferred that the new state Democratic chair be an outspoken champion of marriage equality.”

“I will work with him to elect more equality-minded Democratic officials,” Ebbin told the Blade. “Mayor Jones’ statement that his views are ‘evolving’ gives me hope that he will eventually join our state’s five top officials in supporting marriage equality. I intend to continue pushing him to do just that.”

Jones’ election to chair the DPVA comes amid the ongoing debate over marriage rights for same-sex couples in the commonwealth.

McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring all support nuptials for gays and lesbians. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May is scheduled to hold oral arguments in two cases that challenge the constitutionality of the state’s marriage amendment – U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen last month struck down Virginia’s gay nuptials ban.

The DPVA in 2012 approved a resolution in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. It also backed the issue’s inclusion in the Democratic National Committee’s 2012 platform.

“Your stand for equality and for the core values of the party will make us a stronger party,” LGBT Democrats of Virginia Chair Maggie Sacra told members of the DPVA State Steering Committee before it approved Jones’ nomination. “The LGBT Democrats of Virginia are forever dedicated to being a strong voice for full equality and a stronger supporter for pro-equality candidates.”


Marriage equality (briefly) comes to Michigan

wedding expo, wedding rings, gay news, Washington Blade

Clerks for at least four counties opened their doors over the weekend to accommodate couples seeking to wed as the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals announced it wouldn’t immediately make a decision on a stay request from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Following a ruling from a district judge striking down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, gay couples waited in line and exchanged vows Saturday on the state’s first day of marriage equality.

Clerks for at least four counties — Ingham, Washtenaw, Muskegon and Oakland — opened their doors over the weekend to accommodate couples seeking to wed.

[UPDATE: After the clerks' offices closed Saturday, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay on same-sex weddings in Michigan until Wednesday. The deadline for plaintiffs to file a response to the stay request is Tuesday. The stay was requested by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.]

The Washington Blade compiled social media postings on the historic first marriages in the state:

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum married shortly after 8 a.m. Glenna DeJong and Marsha Caspar of Lansing, Mich., who have been together for 26 years and seem to be the first same-sex couple to wed in the state:


At the end of the day, Byrum said a total of 57 marriage license were distributed and she personally conducted 30 ceremonies.


After the clerk’s office in Washtenaw County, which comprises Ann Arbor, opened up at 9 a.m., University of Michigan law student Kyle Luebke photographed the first same-sex couples to wed in that county.

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy, a lesbian confirmed this month by the U.S. Senate for a seat on the federal bench in Michigan, made marrying a same-sex couple the first official act of her judgeship.


The Detroit Free Press’ Katrease Stafford tweeted that Washtenaw County handed out 74 marriage licenses closing its doors that afternoon.


Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, who aided plaintiffs in their lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, said she handed out 142 licenses before the end of the day.


East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett said he personally officiated at three same-sex weddings and noted the historic nature of the marriages.


And yours truly, who was born and raised in Lansing and went to college at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, recognized the occasion from his home in D.C.


Maryland transgender rights bill receives final approval

Rich Madaleno, Maryland, Democratic Party, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland state. Sen. Rich Madaleno introduced Senate Bill 212 (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A bill that would ban discrimination against transgender Marylanders on Thursday received final approval in the Maryland House of Delegates.

The 82-57 vote on Senate Bill 212 – the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 – took place after lawmakers debated the measure that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced in January for more than two hours.

“What we are about to do today is important,” said state Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) as she referenced the exclusion of trans Marylanders in a 2001 anti-discrimination bill that only included sexual orientation. “This is an important group of people today who frankly we left out 11 years ago. They’re beat up. They’re ridiculed. They are suffering and they need to hold their head up high just like I do.”

State Del. Michael McDermott (R-Wicomico and Worcester Counties) described trans Marylanders as “confused” as he spoke against SB 212.

“We are a confused state, voting for a confused bill,” said the Eastern Shore Republican.

State Del. Anthony O’Donnell (R-St. Mary’s and Calvert Counties) introduced a proposed amendment to SB 212 that sought to ban anyone from asserting their gender identity and expression to “enter a place of public accommodation for the purpose of committing an illegal activity.” House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore and Harford Counties) put forth a proposal that would have exempted bathrooms from the measure.

“Please protect women,” she said. “Please protect little girls.”

Lawmakers defeated both proposed amendments.

State Del. Gail Bates (R-Howard County) and McDermott introduced proposed amendments that sought to exclude “distinctly private and personal” places and “private facilities” from SB 212′s public accommodation provision.

Lawmakers rejected both proposals and others that sought to provide the public accommodation provision from the measure.

State Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) and O’Donnell on Wednesday unsuccessfully sought to delay the second reading on SB 212 by a day. Szeliga sought to remove the measure’s public accommodations provisions, but she withdrew her two proposed amendments.

State Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Frederick County) recently said in a letter to her constituents that HB 1265 would “normalize abnormal behavior.” Parrott referred to the measure as the “bathroom bill” in a post to the website he runs under the banner “Do you want men going into the ladies room?” with a graphic that shows a man appearing to look at a woman in a restroom stall.

“What we could see could be a naked man in a girls locker room at a public pool,” said Afzali. “This is a bad bill. This does not protect women. This does not protect children.”

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) noted she has “never been more disappointed” during her eight years in the House as she said she has been listening to the debate over SB 212.

“We are talking about people who are suffering real harm in this state,” said the Montgomery County Democrat who is running against Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown in this June’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. “We are talking about our brothers and sisters.”

The vote caps off an eight year effort to add gender identity and expression to Maryland’s anti-discrimination act.

The House in 2011 approved an anti-trans discrimination bill that did not contain protections in public accommodations. The Maryland Senate earlier this month passed a measure approved SB 212.

The House Health and Government Operations Committee on Tuesday approved a nearly identical bill to SB 212 that state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) introduced.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to accomplish another big victory for fairness and equality in the state of Maryland,” Madaleno told reporters after the vote. “It’s remarkable how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.”

“It took eight years, and a great deal of tenacity, perseverance, patience and skill, but today the Maryland transgender community can celebrate its equality, and feel like full partners in the LGBT community,” added Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer. “Maryland joins with seventeen states, D.C. and Puerto Rico in providing comprehensive LGBT equality.”

Brown is among those who also applauded SB 212′s passage.

“Nobody should ever be forced to endure this kind of discrimination or harassment, and that’s why we’re taking this important step to protect all Marylanders,” he said.

Gansler, who submitted testimony in support of the measure, also praised lawmakers who supported it.

“Today 82 delegates voted against gender identity discrimination and for what is just and fair,” he said. “With their votes, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act can now become law, and our state can move much closer to ensuring equal protection for all. I congratulate all the legislators who worked so hard, led by Sen. Madaleno in the Senate and Del. Clippinger in the House, for the passage of this milestone legislation.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to sign SB 212 into law in the coming weeks.

Observers expect Parrott and others who oppose the bill will try to prompt a referendum on it once the governor signs it.


Georgian prime minister seeks marriage amendment

Irakli Vacharadze, Georgia, gay news, Washington Blade

Georgian LGBT rights advocate Irakli Vacharadze. (Photo courtesy of Irakli Vacharadze)

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili last week proposed a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman in the former Soviet republic.

Identoba, a Georgian LGBT advocacy group, noted Garibashvili announced “the homophobic intention of his government” to amend the country’s constitution as he spoke about an anti-discrimination measure his administration sent to the Georgian Parliament. The organization added the proposed amendment “can only be seen as a homophobic move” because Georgian law already bans same-sex marriage.

“If the amendment is successfully initiated, it will directly violate universal equality of single parents, LGBT community and many others who do not live in nuclear families,” said Identoba. “Alarmingly, this homophobic and cynical move ultimately kills the very spirit of equality protection of the incoming Anti-Discrimination Law.”

Identoba Executive Director Irakli Vacharadze told the Washington Blade he feels Garibashvili introduced the proposed marriage amendment as a way to mobilize “hater-voters” ahead of local elections that are slated to take place in June.

“They are [the] majority,” said Vacharadze. “Even if it doesn’t go to Parliament, the damage is already done: The ‘attack them’ message is out. Everyone in the coalition said they’d vote in favor of the change.”

Georgia, which continues to seek closer ties with the European Union and NATO, has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1999.

Croatian voters last December approved a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Hungary, Latvia and other E.U. countries also prohibit gay nuptials.

Same-sex couples can currently marry in Iceland, England, Wales, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal. Irish voters next year are scheduled to vote on whether gays and lesbians can exchange vows in their country.

Georgia’s hate crimes law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. The former Soviet republic’s anti-employment discrimination statute also includes gay-specific protections.

“Constitutional bans are highly symbolic measures to enshrine discrimination in law and to prevent debates on recognition for same-sex couples,” said ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradise in response to Garibashvili’s proposed marriage amendment. “These bans are largely tools used by those who oppose equality for LGBTI people to institutionalize discrimination against LGBTI people.”

Anti-LGBT violence remains a serious concern for Georgian advocates.

Thousands of people attacked a few dozen LGBT rights advocates who tried to stage a rally in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, last May as they tried to commemorate the annual International Day Against Homophobia.

Vacharadze told the Blade that Georgian authorities have yet to arrest anyone connected with the aforementioned violence. He also noted lawmakers in neighboring Russia on Wednesday announced they plan to amend the Russian constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

“One should really [not] try to look worse than Russia in this regard,” said Vacharadze. “Georgia has managed to do it.”


Bowser or Catania?

David Catania, Muriel Bowser, mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

The race between David Catania and Muriel Bowser for mayor is dividing the LGBT community. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

D.C.’s overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning LGBT community will likely be navigating unchartered waters this summer and fall as an LGBT-supportive Democrat, Council member Muriel Bowser, runs against a prominent openly gay Council colleague, independent David Catania, in a hotly contested race for mayor.

“I have no idea how it will come out,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the non-partisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“Many people are talking about supporting Catania,” Rosendall said. “At the same time, some people are circling the wagons as Democrats.”

Rosendall is among many activists who see a potential dilemma for LGBT voters in a city in which virtually all elected officials and nearly all credible candidates for public office are supportive on LGBT rights. Many have longstanding records of support on issues that were once considered highly controversial, such as the city’s same-sex marriage law.

Bowser’s decisive victory over D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary appears to have come with the support of large numbers of LGBT voters, even though the city’s most prominent LGBT leaders backed Gray.

A Washington Blade analysis of 18 voter precincts believed to have large concentrations of LGBT residents shows that Bowser won 14 of them, with Gray and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, a Council member from Ward 6, each winning two of the “LGBT” precincts.

Several of the precincts won by Bowser are located in areas long known as “gay” neighborhoods, including Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Adams Morgan and Shaw. Other precincts she won are in areas considered up and coming neighborhoods into which many LGBT people are moving, such as the 14th and U Street, N.W. corridor, Bloomingdale, and Ledroit Park.

Everett Hamilton, owner of a local public relations firm and longtime gay Democratic activist, is serving as a volunteer communications strategist for the Bowser campaign. He said he believes Bowser captured the majority of LGBT votes for the same reason that she won the overall citywide vote.

“At the end of the day, LGBT people, like all city residents, are going to vote for the person who can best run the city and who they believe is best for the city,” he said.

With a gay brother and a gay campaign manager, Hamilton said no one can dispute the fact that Bowser and her campaign have strong ties to the LGBT community, Hamilton said.

Other political observers, however, point out that Gray was ahead of Bowser and the other mayoral candidates until U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen took the extraordinary step of implicating Gray in an illegal scheme to raise more than $600,000 for Gray’s 2010 mayoral election campaign less than a month before the primary.

Gray has long denied having any knowledge in the scheme that led to the indictment of businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme in exchange for being promised a more lenient jail sentence. It was Thompson who has told prosecutors Gray knew about the illegal activity and approved it.

The revelations by Machen resulted in an immediate rise in support for Bowser that many observers believe led to her victory at the polls.

Catania’s LGBT supporters, meanwhile, have said that Catania’s reputation as a reform politician with a strong legislative record on issues such as healthcare, education, and LGBT rights will have none of the negative baggage that Gray had as the general election campaign for mayor moves forward.

Longtime gay Democratic activist Paul Kuntzler, one of the founders of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, surprised many in the LGBT community last week when he announced his support for Catania over Bowser. Ben Young, Catania’s campaign manager, said “many more” prominent LGBT Democrats would soon announce their support for Catania.

Veteran gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, a Blade columnist, has emerged as one of Catania’s leading critics, saying Catania’s status as a former Republican whose philosophy isn’t as progressive as people think will work against Catania in a city with an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.

Angela Peoples, president of the Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, said the club’s bylaws prevent it from endorsing a non-Democratic candidate when a Democrat is running in a particular race.

Even if the club could endorse a non-Democrat, Peoples said she expects the club to back Bowser, although its members have yet to set a date to vote on an endorsement.

“As always, I will certainly yield to the will of the membership,” she said. “This election poses an interesting situation for many folks and for LGBT folks in the District as there is an LGBT candidate on the ballot,” Peoples said.

“However, I think what I’ve seen thus far coming out of the primary is Democrats are uniting around Councilwoman Bowser. And I think that’s great to see,” she told the Blade.

Peoples said the club would likely adopt a plan for an endorsement vote at its April meeting scheduled for next Monday night.

The city’s most prominent transgender activists, who were solidly behind Gray in the primary, also have yet to say whether they will back Bowser now that she defeated a mayor that many in the trans community considered a champion for their rights.

Although Bowser has voted for all transgender equality measures that have come before the Council, Catania has been the author of several of those measures, including a landmark bill removing longstanding obstacles to the ability of trans people to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their transition to a new gender.


New campaign aims to strike anti-gay language from GOP platform

Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, gay news, Washington Blade

Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry has launched a campaign to eliminate anti-gay language in the GOP platform.

A coalition of young conservatives has launched a new $1 million initiative in an attempt to keep anti-gay marriage language out the 2016 Republican Party platform.

On Wednesday, Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry announced the campaign to reform the party platform in a way that would remove the anti-gay language found in five sections of the 2012 document and replace it with language that embraces differing views within the party on same-sex marriage.

Tyler Deaton, campaign manager for the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, said in a statement the new language is an attempt to “modernize the party.”

“Our aim is to make the national platform less divisive toward gay people and their families — and more focused on unifying all conservatives around our core beliefs of freedom, family and limited government,” Deaton said. “The future of the party is clear on the marriage issue — a seismic shift is already underway in support of the freedom to marry.”

Instead of an endorsement of a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country — which is included in the 2012 platform — the proposed language acknowledges “diverse and sincerely held views” on marriage, emphasizes its importance and endorses thoughtful consideration of the issue.

The campaign begins after members of the Republican Party in states around the country have expressed opposition to attacking same-sex marriage. Just last week, the Nevada Republican Party rejected a proposal at its convention that would have included an anti-gay marriage plank as part of the state platform. Earlier this year in Indiana, Republican lawmakers modified language in a proposed state constitutional amendment, ensuring it wouldn’t appear before voters on the 2014 ballot.

Moreover, the campaign emerges after a Pew poll earlier this year found 61 percent of Republicans under the age of 30 support marriage equality. Two Republican U.S. House members — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) and Richard Hanna (N.Y.) — and three sitting Republican U.S. senators — Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkoski (Alaska) — also support marriage equality.

The campaign, known as “Reform the Platform,” is set to begin touring the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina this spring and summer.

Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is a project of Freedom to Marry. Angela Darra, a Freedom to Marry spokesperson, said Freedom to Marry is responsible for the $1 million financial allocation of the project.

Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, said the campaign will build off the successful effort leading to the Democratic Party’s first-ever endorsement of marriage equality in its 2012 platform.

“Similar to our successful 2012 effort to modify the DNC platform in favor of the freedom to marry, the GOP platform needs reform, though of a different kind: removing the harsh, anti-gay language,” Solomon said. “We will continue to make significant investments like these to change hearts and minds.”

But not all LGBT advocacy groups are fully behind the proposed campaign — even as most say they generally support the concept of eliminating anti-gay language in the 2016 platform.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said his organization supports the concept, but doesn’t think the proposed language will make it in the final document.

“We support striking opposition to marriage equality from the Republican Party platform in 2016,” Angelo said. “Replacing it with this proposed language seems overly ambitious and very unlikely.”

Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the American Unity Fund, said his organization is “delighted” that Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry is starting the conversation on the change.

“We think it’s timely, and we think that it makes sense for Republicans who want to grow the party to find a way to communicate about these issues that reflect the generational shift that is happening not only among Americans generally, but among Republicans more specifically, and that also is welcoming of all people who have sincerely held beliefs on both sides,” Cook-McCormac said.

Matthew Bechstein, co-director of GOProud, said he thinks the only people behind the effort is Freedom to Marry and its Republican supporters like Margaret Hoover and Meghan McCain, but nonetheless said he hopes the campaign succeeds.

“I can say that we here at GOProud have always supported the idea of changing the GOP’s platform language to be more inclusive, and to promote freedom and individuality,” Bechstein said. “I can’t speak for LCR, but I know organizations with parallel causes, like GOProud, would serve their community well by joining forces and embracing this concept. We commend Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry and we look forward to seeing them succeed, hopefully with our help and the help of similar organizations.”

The Human Rights Campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it supports the proposed plank for the Republican platform. A spokesperson said a response should come shortly.

Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, said her organization welcomes Republicans who support marriage equality, but is skeptical the party will embrace the idea.

“We know that some conservatives get it about marriage equality, for example: U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,” Nipper said. “We only have to look ‘across the pond’ to one of our closest allies — the United Kingdom — to see the way that this issue has been embraced by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. That said, it is extremely hard to imagine today’s Republican Party ever being in favor of freedom and justice for LGBTQ people and our families.”

The proposed language follows:

We believe that marriage matters both as a religious institution and as a fundamental, personal freedom. Because marriage—rooted in love and lifelong commitment—is one of the foundations of civil society, as marriage thrives, so our nation thrives.

We believe that the health of marriage nationwide directly affects the social and economic well-being of individuals and families, and that undermining families leads to more government costs and more government control over the lives of its citizens. Therefore, we believe in encouraging the strength and stability of all families.

We recognize that there are diverse and sincerely held views on civil marriage within the Party, and that support for allowing same-sex couples the freedom to marry has grown substantially in our own Party. Given this journey that so many Americans, including Republicans, are on, we encourage and welcome a thoughtful conversation among Republicans about the meaning and importance of marriage, and commit our Party to respect for all families and fairness and freedom for all Americans.


Transgender health disparities studied

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A new study compared methods of collecting and analyzing data to assess health disparities in a clinical sample of transgender individuals. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Transgender individuals are medically underserved and their health care needs incompletely understood in part because they represent a subpopulation whose health is rarely monitored by U.S. national surveillance systems, Health Canal reports.

To address these issues, a new study compared methods of collecting and analyzing data to assess health disparities in a clinical sample of transgender individuals, as reported in an article published in LGBT Health, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the LGBT Health website. 

Sari Reisner and coauthors at the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, and Fenway Health in Boston, compared transgender and non-transgender patients on health measures such as substance abuse, HIV infection, lifetime suicide attempts and social stressors including violence and discrimination. They report their findings in the article “Transgender Health Disparities: Comparing Full Cohort and Nested Matched Pair Study Designs in a Community Health Center.”

“Clinic-based samples and patient-related data are under-utilized sources of information about transgender health, particularly in community-based, urban health centers that typically serve large numbers of transgender patients,” says Dr. William Byne of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.