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D.C. activists seek to ‘build on victories’ in 2014

Vince Gray, activists, Vincent Gray, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade, Capital Pride Parade

Mayor Vincent Gray announced late last year that he would seek re-election. The primary is slated for April 1. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT activists in D.C. acknowledge that they live in a city that has had one of the nation’s strongest anti-discrimination laws protecting their community for more than 20 years, the city passed a same-sex marriage law in 2009, and virtually all elected officials strongly support LGBT equality.

With that as a backdrop, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance last week released its 2014 Election Year Agenda for LGBT Equality in Washington, D.C., which, among other things, calls for more than a dozen policy initiatives and for the approval of five LGBT-related bills currently pending before the City Council.

In an announcement last week, GLAA said the 16-page policy document was used to formulate a questionnaire on LGBT issues that the group has sent to all candidates running in the April 1 D.C. primary for mayor and seats on the City Council, just as it has done in every city election since the early 1970s.

“We have won most of the policy reforms for LGBT equality, which is reflected in the title of this year’s policy brief, ‘Building on Victory,’” said GLAA President Rick Rosendall.

“What remains mostly falls into two broad categories – translating our model policies and laws into reality, especially for at-risk populations including LGBT youth and transgender persons, and remaining vigilant,” Rosendall said.

The issues covered in the five pending bills include:

• The Surrogacy Parenting Agreement Act, which calls for updating the city’s surrogate parenting law that gay rights attorneys have called archaic to add provisions to better enable same-sex couples to enter into surrogacy agreements.

• The Domestic Partnership Termination Recognition Amendment Act, which calls for changing D.C.’s existing domestic partnership law to enable couples that don’t live in D.C. to terminate their partnerships in a way that is recognized by courts in other states.

• The LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Amendment Act calls for, among other things, city funds to pay for beds reserved for LGBT youth in homeless shelters and other homeless facilities that activists say traditionally have not met the needs of LGBT or “questioning” youth.

• The Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Act calls for prohibiting licensed therapists in the city from seeking to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of people under the age of 18 through so-called “conversion” therapy. Advocates for the legislation point out that virtually all professional mental health organizations have said the therapy is harmful to the mental health of those participating in such therapy, especially young people.

• The Marriage License Issuance Act calls for amending the city’s marriage law to eliminate the current mandatory, three-day waiting period for obtaining a marriage license. Marriage reform activists, both gay and straight, have called the waiting period requirement an unnecessary relic of the past.

The GLAA policy brief also calls for a requirement by city regulators and the mayor’s office that health insurance plans offered to D.C. government employees and the city’s Health Link insurance exchange program under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act include full coverage for sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatment for transgender people.

GLAA’s candidate questionnaires ask all candidates running for mayor and for the City Council to state whether they would support such a proposal.

“This is a huge priority in our community,” said Nico Quintana, senior organizer for the D.C. Trans Coalition.

 

Voters to choose among friends in election

 

Many LGBT activists have said that since nearly all of the candidates running this year for mayor and seats on the City Council have strong records of support on LGBT issues, LGBT voters will likely choose among them based on non-LGBT issues.

Mayor Vincent Gray, who some activists say has the strongest record on LGBT issues of any mayor in D.C. history, is being challenged by four members of the City Council, all of whom have expressed strong support for the LGBT community.

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) each have longtime records as strong supporters of LGBT equality. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who opposed same-sex marriage when he ran for mayor in 2006, has said he changed his mind and has become a committed supporter of the city’s same-sex marriage law while continuing his support on all other LGBT-related issues.

Former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis and, Busboys and Poets Restaurant owner and businessman Andy Shallal have also expressed strong support for LGBT rights. The positions of lesser-known mayoral candidates Carlos Allen, a music promoter, Christian Carter, a businessman and civic activist, couldn’t immediately be determined.

Political observers say the LGBT vote, which surveys show will likely comprise at least 10 percent of the vote in the April 1 Democratic primary, could be a key factor in the outcome of the election.

But based on interviews with LGBT activists following the campaigns of the mayoral candidates, the LGBT vote will likely be divided among Gray and his City Council rivals, although many activists believe Gray remains highly popular in the LGBT community.

David Catania, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) has said he will enter the mayor’s race as an independent if Vincent Gray wins the primary and becomes the Democratic Party nominee. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In looking beyond the primary to the November general election, gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) is being viewed as the wildcard of the 2014 mayoral race. Catania last fall formed an exploratory committee to consider whether to enter the mayoral race, knowing that as an independent he doesn’t have to file papers as a candidate until June, long after the winner of the Democratic primary is known.

In a development that startled some political observers, Catania told the Washington Post that he has already decided he will enter the race if Gray wins the primary and becomes the Democratic Party nominee.

In every mayoral election since the city obtained its home rule government in 1974, the Democratic Party nominee has won his or her race as mayor in the November general election. Catania, however, is telling potential supporters that this year is different and that the electorate is “tired” of politics of the past.

LGBT voters, who have long supported Catania in large numbers, could be faced with a dilemma if forced to choose between Gray and Catania, according to some LGBT advocates.

Next week: A preview of City Council races and the prospects for gay longtime Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).

08
Jan
2014

Catania, Gray in dead heat for mayor: poll

David Catania, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

Council member David Catania (left) predicts a ‘competitive’ race should he decide to run for mayor against Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

A poll released by the Washington Post on Tuesday shows that gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) is in a statistical tie with Mayor Vincent Gray if the two were to run against each other for mayor.

The poll, which consisted of a sample of 1,003 city residents contacted by phone Jan. 9-12, found that among registered voters, 43 percent support Gray and 40 percent support Catania. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, the Post said.

Catania has said he’s seriously considering entering the mayoral contest in the November general election. The close polling numbers indicate that if Gray wins the Democratic nomination in the April 1 primary he could face a competitive race against Catania in November.

“Today’s Post poll results are encouraging,” Catania said in a statement released on Tuesday. “They indicate that should I choose to run for mayor this year the race will be very competitive.”

The poll showed that Gray had a substantial lead over his challengers in the primary. Among registered voters, 24 percent said they support Gray, 12 percent support Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), 11 percent said they support both Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), 9 percent said they back Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), 5 percent said they support businessman and Busboys and Poets Restaurant owner Andy Shallal.

The remaining candidates, including Reta Lewis and Christian Carter, had 1 percent or less support, the poll shows.

Among likely voters, the poll showed Gray would receive 27 percent support, with Evans coming in second with 13 percent. Bowser and Wells each had 12 percent among likely voters. Orange had 7 percent, Shallal had 5 percent, Lewis had 2 percent and Carter had 1 percent.

15
Jan
2014

Suicide bomber may already be at Olympics, US tourists staying away

With the security situation deteriorating by the hour, the Sochi Olympics are starting to sound like Westworld.

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21
Jan
2014

Virginia Senate committee kills second-parent adoption bill

James Parrish, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish on Jan. 24 criticized lawmakers who voted against a second-parent adoption bill (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia lawmakers on Friday killed a bill that would have extended second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Members of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee by a 6-6 vote margin struck down the measure that state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) introduced on Jan. 7.

State Sens. Linda “Toddy” Puller (D-Fairfax County), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), George Barker (D-Alexandria), Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), John Miller (D-Newport News) and Kenneth Alexander (D-Norfolk) voted for Senate Bill 336. State Sens. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta County), Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover County), Richard Black (R-Loudoun County), Bryce Reeves (R-Fredericksburg) and Walter Stosch (R-Henrico County) opposed the measure.

State Sen. Thomas Norment (R-Williamsburg) did not vote.

There are also two vacancies on the committee that have yet to be filled since Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring — both of whom were state senators before their election last November — took office on Jan. 11.

“By denying passage of the second-parent adoption bill, Senators Wagner, Hanger, McDougle, Black, Reeves and Stosch are simply denying children across Virginia who are being raised by loving lesbian or gay parents the protection and security that having two legal parents would offer,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish. “Today’s Senate committee vote against second-parent adoption is just another example of how completely out of touch these senators are with their constituents and the majority of Virginians. They are standing on the wrong side of history.”

Virginia law currently allows only heterosexual couples and single gays and lesbians to adopt children.

A 2012 law allows private adoption and foster care agencies to reject prospective parents based on religious or moral beliefs. Parrish and other LGBT rights advocates maintain this so-called “conscience clause” could subject gays and lesbians to additional discrimination in the commonwealth.

The House Civil Law Subcommittee on Monday is scheduled to debate a second-parent adoption bill that state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) introduced earlier this month.

State Dels. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson), Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church), Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke), Tom Rust (R-Fairfax County) and Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) have co-sponsored House Bill 1113.

25
Jan
2014

Schatz introduces bill for discharged gay veterans

Brian Schatz, Democratic Party, Hawaii, United States Senate, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) has introduced a bill to aid discharged gay veterans. (Photo public domain)

A Hawaii Democrat introduced on Thursday new legislation in the U.S. Senate that would ensure gay veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation have the designation of “honorable” discharge on their records.

The bill, known as the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, would apply to gay veterans who were in service prior to the lifting of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, when the U.S. military expelled troops for being openly gay.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the chief sponsor, said “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal was “a watershed moment,” but his bill would address remaining issues for the estimated 114,000 service members expelled because of their sexual orientation since World War II.

“Yet thousands of former service members still bear the scars of that discrimination, with their military records tarnished with discharges other than honorable and marks on their records that compromise their right to privacy,” Schatz said. “Many of these brave men and women that served our country are currently barred from benefits that they earned and are entitled to, and in the most egregious cases they are prevented from legally calling themselves a veteran. This needs to be corrected now.”

Although many service members were given an “honorable” discharge from the military if they were expelled because of their sexual orientation, others were given “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable” discharge.

As a consequence, these former troops may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits, such as GI bill tuition assistance and veterans’ health care, and may not be able to claim veteran status. In some cases, they may be prevented from voting or have difficulty acquiring civilian employment.

Even troops who received “honorable” discharges may have difficulties in the aftermath of their service because their sexual orientation may be identified as the reason for the discharge.

Although an administrative process already exists for service members to change their records, the proposed legislation would streamline the process to ensure these designations don’t impair former members of the armed forces.

Joining Schatz in introducing the legislation is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who said allowing service members to change their discharges if they were expelled because of their sexual orientation demands immediate attention.

“A clean, honorable record is long overdue for veterans who were discharged solely because of who they love,” Gillibrand said. “Our veterans served our country courageously and with dignity and we must act to give them the appropriate recognition they deserve.”

The legislation has 17 co-sponsors — all Democrats. They are Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Gillibrand, Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Denny Meyer, national public affairs officer for the LGBT group known as American Veterans for Equal Rights, said her organization supports the bill.

“LGBT veterans who served and sacrificed in silence during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as those who served before and during ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, deserve to see their service recognized and honored at long last,” Meyer said. “We endorse and support the efforts by Senators Schatz and Gillibrand and Congressmen Pocan and Rangel to move forward the Restoring Honor to Our Service Members Act, which will accelerate discharge upgrades.”

In joint statement, gay Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who are taking the lead on the legislation in the House, commended the senators for introducing the Senate companion.

“This bill would close the book on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and provide tens of thousands of gay veterans, who selflessly risked their lives for our nation,” Pocan and Rangel said. “Our bill already has the support of more than 140 House members, and we look forward to working with Senators Schatz and Gillibrand to ensure it can pass Congress and get to the President’s desk.”

Upon the introduction of the bill in July 2013, Rangel said during a conference call with Pocan he wants the White House and the Pentagon to support the legislation.

“We’re hoping we get this involved in the Department of Defense,” Rangel said at the time. “We hope, too — we haven’t talked about it, Mark — but there’s no question we’re looking to get White House support as well.”

Seven months later at the time of Senate introduction, the White House still hasn’t spoken out. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the bill.

30
Jan
2014

Latin American LGBT advocates visit U.S.

Michael K. Lavers, Alberto Moscoso Flor, Esteban Paulon, Diane Rodriguez, gay news, Washington Blade

A group of Latin American LGBT rights advocates toured the Washington Blade offices on Jan. 31 (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

The State Department has invited a group of Latin American LGBT rights advocates to the U.S. to meet with their American counterparts.

LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón; Alberto Moscoso Flor, executive director of the Civil Association for Social Development and Cultural Promotion of GLBT Freedom in Bolivia; Juan Fuentealba Álvarez of the Chilean It Gets Better Foundation; Paulina Torres Mora of “Beso Diverso” in Costa Rica; Deivis Ventura of the “Amigos Siempre Amigos” Network of Volunteers in the Dominican Republic; Diane Marie Rodríguez Zambrano, president of the Silueta X Association in Ecuador and Clauvo Velásquez of the Homosexual Community of Hope for the Loreto Region of Perú arrived in D.C. on Jan. 25 as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

The group met with former Human Rights Campaign President Elizabeth Birch, members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer while in the nation’s capital. The advocates also toured the Washington Blade office on Jan. 31 where they met with this reporter and publisher Lynne Brown.

The group met with gay New York State Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell; Hetrick-Martin Institute CEO Thomas Krever; Adam Frankel of Human Rights Watch; staffers of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and All Out and gay blogger Andrés Duque while in New York.

The activists are scheduled to visit Texas and California before leaving the U.S. later this month.

“Our work is focused on showing other realities to LGBT kids and youth so they can have hope for the future and celebrate diversity,” Fuentealba told the Blade. “We believe that all players involved in the construction of our society play an important role in this goal. And newspapers, TV stations and the film industry, among others, are key elements on making a change.”

Rodríguez, a transgender woman who unsuccessfully sought a seat in the Ecuadorian Congress last year, filed a complaint against her South American country’s government with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights while in D.C.

She was able to receive an amended identity card without her birth name after she won a lawsuit in 2009, but it did not list her gender as female. Rodríguez told the Blade she was kidnapped for four hours in 2012 because of her advocacy efforts.

“I hope that the court will analyze my case and the case of transgender people who are coming behind me,” she said.

U.S. LGBT rights advocates who met with their Latin American counterparts welcomed the opportunity to do so.

“Human rights activism offers precious few opportunities to sit back, even just for an hour, and share information about the struggles and strategies of our peers,” IGLHRC Latin America and Caribbean Coordinator María Mercedes Gómez exclusively told the Blade, noting she and her colleagues discussed anti-LGBT violence in the region, bullying, access to health care and gender-appropriate identity cards during their meeting with the group on Wednesday. “We talked about the fact that those who are the most vulnerable to abuse are those who transcend and challenge prevailing gender roles — in other words, our struggle is not only about sexual orientation or gender identity, it is about the freedom of everyone to be who they are.”

“The State Department invited a remarkable group of young activists from across Latin America and the Caribbean, each a leader in his or her community,” added Beyer, who announced her candidacy against Maryland state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) late last month. “Their insights about common problems, derived from their own national experiences, were often diverse, and prompted some fascinating conversations.”

O’Donnell said in a press release his office released after his Feb. 3 meeting with the advocates that they discussed marriage rights for same-sex couples, anti-LGBT violence and efforts to curb bullying.

The New York lawmaker also talked about the important role he feels openly gay legislators can play in debates over the aforementioned issues. He highlighted his own experience with his fellow lawmakers during the 2011 debate on the Empire State’s same-sex marriage bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law.

“That way someone is always around when legislation is being debated, not an outside person or group, but one of their own, a colleague,” said O’Donnell.

The State Department has previously invited Latin American LGBT rights advocates to the U.S.

Six Colombian activists visited D.C., Iowa and California last April. A group of LGBT rights advocates from Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Panamá, Costa Rica and México visited the U.S. in 2012.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and two Colombian advocacy groups – Colombia Diversa and Caribe Afirmativo – have organized two trainings over the last year designed to encourage LGBT people to become more involved in the South American country’s political process. These gatherings are part of the USAID-backed LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next three years to activist organizations in Ecuador and other developing countries.

Two Cuban LGBT rights advocates – Ignacio Estrada Cepero and Wendy Iriepa Díaz – met with Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and others last year while in the U.S.

A number of Russian LGBT rights advocates have visited D.C. and other U.S. cities in recent months ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics that begin on Thursday in Sochi, Russia.

Latvian LGBT rights advocate Kaspars Zailitis is also in the U.S. on another State Department-sponsored trip.

06
Feb
2014

Major grant awarded to black gay HIV study

HIV, resistant, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, gay news, Washington Blade, black gay

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding (in green) from cultured lymphocyte. (Public domain image by the CDC/C. Goldsmith, P. Feorino, E.L. Palmer and W.R. McManus)

PITTSBURGH — The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health announced this week that it was awarded a $3.2 million grant to study the reasons why black gay men are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS, Pittsburgh City Paper reports.

“Where could all this virus be coming from, if black gay men are in fact more conservative in terms of sex and less likely to shoot drugs?” Ron Stall, director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at Pitt and principal investigator on the project, told City Paper. “If you can’t answer that basic question you can’t do HIV prevention among black gay men.”

According to the CDC, young African American gay and bisexual men accounted for the highest number of new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men in 2010. Black gay and bisexual men ages 13-24 also accounted for twice as many new infections as their white or Latino/Hispanic peers in that year, the Pittsburgh City Paper article said.

The project, a collaboration with the Center for Black Equity, will survey 6,000 black men who have sex with men — the largest sample of this subgroup ever studied — to try and figure out why they are less likely to get tested for HIV, or seek medical treatment even if their HIV status is known. Participants will give their feedback anonymously and will be recruited at black gay pride events across the country. They’ll also be asked to answer questions about their mental health, substance use and violence victimization and other health issues to understand negative health outcomes associated with the subgroup, but also possible areas of resilience, the City Paper reports.

12
Feb
2014

Study looks at HIV risk among black gay men

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, World AIDS Day, gay news, Washington Blade, black gay

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The D.C.-based LGBT advocacy group Center for Black Equity and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health are joining forces on a new research project to determine the reasons for the higher risk of HIV infection among black men who have sex with men.

The project is being funded by a $3.2 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research.

According to a joint statement released Feb. 10 by the Center for Black Equity and the University of Pittsburgh, the project plans to enroll nearly 6,000 African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) who attend Black Gay Pride events throughout the country, including in D.C., to participate in the project.

“It has become clear in recent years that the major reason that African-American MSM have such high rates of HIV infection is not that these men have high rates of risk-taking behavior for infection,” said Ron Stall, director of Center for LGBT Health Research at University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. “Rather, the reason for elevated infection has far more to do with lack of access to HIV testing and medical care,” he said in the statement.

The men to be recruited at Black Gay Pride events in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. will be asked questions as part of an anonymous survey “that will help researchers understand the barriers and facilitators to HIV testing and care,” the statement says.

20
Feb
2014

Police chief to release hate crimes report

Cathy Lanier, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is expected to release a report on how the department investigates and reports hate crimes. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was expected to release this week a report prepared by an independent task force that assessed how the department investigates and reports hate crimes, including anti-LGBT hate crimes.

A statement on Tuesday by a police spokesperson that Lanier planned to release the report this week came less than a week after the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) sent the chief an open letter asking about the status of the report, which was commissioned in June 2012.

“It has now been several months since the research phase of this study was completed, and we would like to inquire on the status of the final report findings,” said GLOV co-chairs Hassan Naveed and Matthew Corso, who signed the letter along with representatives of five other local LGBT groups.

Lanier announced at a June 2012 news conference that she had enlisted the Anti-Defamation League, a national group that fights prejudice and discrimination, to create the task force to conduct an impartial study of police practices and procedures for responding to hate crimes.

She said the effort was aimed at helping the department strengthen its efforts to combat hate crimes.

At the time, ADL Director David Friedman announced he had recruited representatives of the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and two university professors considered experts on hate violence to join the ADA as members of the task force.

Since its launching, the task force has interviewed more than two-dozen representatives of the LGBT community to obtain their views on how police have responded to anti-LGBT hate crimes in D.C, activists familiar with the task force have said.

“If the report has been completed, we request that it be released as soon as possible,” GLOV said in its Feb. 19 open letter. “We look forward to reviewing the report findings and discussing them with you.”

26
Feb
2014

Author of disputed study takes stand in Mich.

Regnerus, gay juror, National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

DETROIT — The author of a controversial study of adult children often cited by opponents of gay marriage defended his work in court this week but also said it was too early for social scientists to make far-reaching conclusions about families headed by same-sex couples, the Associated Press reports in a story carried by the Washington Post.

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan, which is defending a ban on gay marriage. The constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2004, is being challenged by two Detroit-area nurses in a rare trial.

Regnerus was the leader of a study that screened thousands of people, ages 18-39, and found roughly 250 who said they grew up in a house where a mom or dad eventually had a same-sex relationship, the AP reports.

He found they were more likely to have problems — welfare dependence, less education, marijuana use — than young adults from stable, straight-led families. But he later acknowledged that his study didn’t include children raised by same-sex couples in stable relationships.

The results ignited a blast of criticism when they were published in an academic journal in 2012, the AP reports.

05
Mar
2014