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Mayor Gray has earned our support

Lane Hudson, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

Lane Hudson at Mayor Gray’s re-election campaign kick-off event on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

It was nearly four years ago that a man with an impeccable reputation decided to challenge the incumbent mayor. Up to that point, Vince Gray had a lifelong career in non-profit management dedicated to improving the lives of others. He served for two years on the D.C. Council before being elected as its chair. By all accounts, his tenure was seen as a time of civility and productivity.

Once he put his hat in the ring to challenge Adrian Fenty, what followed was terrible to watch. The Fenty campaign worked vigorously to cast Gray as the new Marion Barry and the Washington Post editorial board was happy to play the accomplice. The largely white half of the city was mostly willing to go along with it.

While it could not be further from the truth, the betrayal of a few people furthered the notion that Vince Gray was just as the Fenty campaign had sought to portray him.  Those people are in jail or rightfully headed there soon. In the meantime, Mayor Gray has focused on doing his job.

Last week, he addressed the 2010 campaign in a wide-ranging interview with WUSA reporter Bruce Johnson and also during his re-election kickoff rally. He expressed remorse for the embarrassment that the misdeeds of his former staff had brought to the District. More importantly, he asked us to forgive him for it.

That’s exactly what we should do. He has said repeatedly that he had no knowledge of the misdeeds of the 2010 campaign and three years of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney has given us no reason to think otherwise.

On the issues, Mayor Gray is superior to every other candidate. He is the most LGBT friendly mayor in the country and is incredibly proud of it. He has always been a supporter of marriage equality in spite of coming from Ward 7, where support for marriage equality is among the lowest in the District. Under his leadership, D.C. developed a job training program for transgender residents and began the very first, and only, transgender awareness publicity campaign run by a local government. D.C. public schools have taken a much more proactive stance against bullying LGBT students and some high schools are actually sponsoring LGBT student pride days.

At this week’s Stein Club meeting, Mayor Gray said he absolutely supported D.C. recognizing the marriages performed in Utah before the Supreme Court stayed the lower court’s ruling pending appeal. Responding to a question from transgender Stein Club Officer Bobbie Strang, he also expressed support for outlawing transgender exclusions in insurance plans that are regulated by D.C. government. This would make a huge difference for the transgender community. These are positions that no one else in the race has taken.

In addition to his record, Vince is unmatched in strength of character. He was born and raised in the District and chose to stay here to build a life, a career and a family. His entire professional career, other than a brief stint running the D.C. Department of Health, was managing non-profits that provided services for people with mental disabilities and homeless teens. This is a man whose entire life has been about serving the neediest among us. That is exactly the kind of person I want leading our city.

Also, in a stark change from the previous mayoral administration, Mayor Gray and his staff have been readily accessible and very responsive to the LGBT community. He doesn’t only make himself and his staff available to our community and our advocacy organizations, he has also been very generous with his time, attending more LGBT events than any previous mayor.

Needless to say, the District is doing pretty darn good too: Cranes in the air, $1.5 billion in the bank, more than 1,000 new residents each month, rapidly improving test scores in public schools, nearly $200 million for affordable housing projects, lower unemployment numbers, burgeoning development east of the river, a growing technology sector and many more good things happening here. We are starting to appear on lists for good reasons instead of bad ones.

To sum it up, we’ve got a good thing going with Mayor Vince Gray. Let’s keep things headed in the right direction. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Lane Hudson is a D.C.-based Democratic activist and writer.

14
Jan
2014

Ignoring minimum wage warning hurts working poor

money, minimum wage, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Bigstock)

Last week the nonpartisan number crunchers at the Congressional Budget Office reported that significant job losses would result from raising the minimum wage too high too fast.

Implementing the White House call to hike the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will eliminate an estimated 500,000 jobs, the CBO announced, and perhaps as many as the one million projected by other analysts. Elevating the federal minimum for hourly paid workers from the current $7.25 to $9 an hour, however, would have a nearly negligible impact on employment.

Demonization of the business community by the president and leftists within his party, however, has persisted unabated. Voguish jabbering about economic disparities is more cynical political ploy than constructive policy prescription. Sloganeering won’t help workers who lose their jobs or create them for those looking for work.

The constant claiming that the “consensus view of economists” incontrovertibly supports the notion that raising the minimum wage is without negative implication at the proposed rate is simply not true. Rather, the purported preponderance consists primarily of studies both dated and evaluating a more modest increase. More than common sense suggests there are demonstrable downsides – otherwise, why not triple the rate, as some at the political extreme have argued.

The affected businesses – predominantly in the fast food, retail and health care industries – employing low-skill workers paid the minimum wage on an hourly basis have long lamented, “instead of 15 employees, I’ll have to make due with only 13.” Others anticipate retaining the same number of employees for maximum staffing flexibility while reducing the number of hours for at least some workers. Few project increasing staffing under the resulting financial pressure.

Suddenly accelerated labor costs also encourage operational transition to workplace automation, including self-service technologies, as emphasized by Bill Gates in warning against too steep an increase. When low-margin businesses are confronted with higher mandated labor costs, survival requires reducing payrolls. McDonald’s, for example, has replaced employees with 7,000 touch-screen ordering and payment kiosks at European locations.

Overlooked is that nearly a third of minimum wage workers are teenagers and, as the CBO notes, “just 19 percent of the increased earnings for low-wage workers would accrue to families with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold.” Studies examining past minimum wage increases indicate that workers living in poor households received less benefit than myth mistakes, due to their already earning hourly wages greater than the adjusted minimum. Instead, the increase mostly benefited second or third earners living in households well above the poverty line.

While some workers retaining their jobs and current hours will earn more pay, the CBO points out that the increase would be partially offset by heightened household expenses resulting from higher consumer prices. In the aggregate, raising the minimum wage by the proposed 39 percent produces a net income benefit for families earning below the poverty level less than their actual percentage change in income, averaging only three percent of current earnings.

Minimum wage adjustments are a highly inefficient method of improving economic conditions for the working poor. Reducing low-income tax rates, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and expanding EITC eligibility, eliminating the tax penalty for similarly compensated dual-low-income married couples, implementing a maximum marginal tax rate for low-income families, and other strategic policies would better serve to benefit low-wage earners. All without the negative consequences of less effectively targeted minimum wage increases.

It’s easier to stir up indignation over income inequality, pillory the business community, and play politics with the jobs, incomes, opportunities and lives of low-skill workers.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

26
Feb
2014

Ebbin has earned our support in Va. House race

Adam Ebbin, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Adam Ebbin is running in a crowded field to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran in Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

Residents of the 8th Congressional District are in the midst of a unique Democratic primary to replace our retiring Congressman Jim Moran. At this point we have 12 candidates vying to show that they are more progressive than the others — regardless of when they adopted their progressive platforms.

After reading in the Blade about three out gay Republicans running for Congress in other states I realized that our nation has turned a major political corner.  With every candidate in this race fully supporting LGBT rights, marriage, non-discrimination, etc., we no longer have to focus on LGBT candidates in the same way.  In fact, I am strongly supporting Adam Ebbin for many different reasons.

Yes, many of us know that Adam, who 11 years ago became the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, was also the man who persuaded two governors to sign the first executive orders protecting LGBT Virginians from discrimination in state employment and the legislator who expanded life insurance benefits to domestic partners long before the current wave of marriage victories. But we have moved past the time when it was essential to support the out candidate because they were out.

Why then am I strongly supporting Adam in this race? The answer is simple: He is by far the most successful legislator in the race. Adam is that rare individual who upholds our progressive values while partnering with the other party to get good legislation passed. Democrats have been in the minority in the Virginia General Assembly until the recent switch in the Senate. Adam has never let that stop him from reaching out to Republicans and finding ways to get progressive legislation passed.

Adam has written good legislation and, most importantly, passed many bills. Thanks to Adam, pregnant immigrant mothers now have access to Medicare; hybrid car owners no longer pay a tax penalty; and every homeowner can install solar panels. In other areas, Adam passed legislation establishing mental health pilot programs in community colleges, led our Commonwealth in fighting human trafficking and won approval of legislation to enable lower interest rates on deferred property taxes for seniors.

I encourage you to compare Adam’s record and consider who can most effectively champion our progressive values in the highly partisan House of Representatives.

Please join me, the Victory Fund, Sens. Chap Peterson and Mark Sickles, retired Sen. Patsy Ticer and many others, straight and gay alike, in supporting Adam’s campaign. America needs his unique ability to bring together legislators with very differing viewpoints to pass progressive legislation.

Seth Morrison is a resident of Arlington, Va.

08
Apr
2014

Mizeur finding momentum in Maryland

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, momentum

Del. Heather Mizeurwith running mate Delman Coates. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There’s something very exciting taking hold in my home state of Maryland. State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery) has tapped into the same progressive energy that propelled Bill de Blasio to the mayor’s office in New York City and Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate.

Six months ago, Heather invited me to join her on probably the hottest August afternoon of the summer. She was speaking at a house party in Baltimore City. With the oppressive heat, I was expecting to meet a dozen or so interested voters. When we arrived we were greeted by over a hundred progressive activists eager to hear Heather’s vision for our state.

For nearly two hours Heather tackled tough issues – from marijuana decriminalization, to fighting for a fracking moratorium, slashing middle class taxes and campaigning against an unnecessary juvenile detention center in Baltimore City.

Heather has the momentum and her vision is resonating with voters. In a recent survey polling likely Baltimore City voters, Heather and her running mate, Pastor Delman Coates, scored a huge upset coming in second and only three percentage points behind frontrunner Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and his running mate, County Executive Ken Ulman (32 to 29 percent).

Maryland, despite being a progressive powerhouse, has never elected a female chief executive and no state in the nation has ever elected an openly LGBT governor. With the opportunity to shatter both of those barriers, national organizations are quickly coming to the aid of the Mizeur/Coates campaign.

In the last month alone, Heather earned the support of EMILY’s List, the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority and was recently announced as one of the top “Women to Watch in 2014” by MSNBC.

Five months is an eternity in electoral politics and if Heather continues to tap into the same progressive energy that propelled de Blasio, Warren, Baldwin and others, we are going to witness a tremendous victory for our community in June.

Kevin Walling is a candidate for Maryland House of Delegates from Montgomery County.

28
Jan
2014

Bipartisan organizations will shape our movement

LGBT Republicans, LGBT politics, gay news, Washington Blade

The Victory Fund supports the election of openly LGBT candidates, both Democrats and Republicans as well as independents, who have demonstrated leadership in advancing freedom and equal rights for all LGBT Americans.

By CHRISTIAN BERLE & MARISA UCHIN

 

As a Democrat from San Francisco and a Republican from New England, we have put our heads together on why the work the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund does is critically important to achieving LGBT equality.

From Arizona to Mississippi to Kansas, recent attempts to pass anti-LGBT legislation remind us of the adage “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” These examples illustrate why it is so important that we elect openly LGBT candidates to office: to ensure that our voice is heard, and that basic freedom and human rights are guaranteed for everyone, regardless of whom they are or who they love. That goal has remained the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s central credo ever since its founding in 1991.

Last week, the Victory Fund was proud to announce the endorsement of two openly gay congressional candidates: Dan Innis, running in New Hampshire, and Richard Tisei, running in Massachusetts. These two candidates were key players in their states’ push for marriage equality. They also happen to be Republicans. We understand the frustration that many individuals in our community are having with Victory’s endorsements of Republicans, particularly in races against strong Democratic allies. Victory’s endorsements do not take place without considerable amounts of forethought and planning.

This debate brings our community to a critical juncture. Without openly LGBT members of Congress from both parties, how will we continue to move full speed ahead toward the equality we deserve?  The answer does not lie in concentrating on short-term partisan gains, but by continuing to endorse openly LGBT viable candidates across the political spectrum who have a demonstrated leadership record in support of LGBT equality.

We believe it is important to acknowledge our appreciation for the significant contributions of our allies and what they have been able to accomplish at all levels of government, but it is Victory’s firm belief that to sustainably move the needle forward we must help create change in both cloakrooms. As we have seen with marriage equality in state legislatures, out LGBT legislators have to be at the table to help their colleagues understand how these votes affect them as people. Put another way, does anyone think Arizona Republicans would have had such an easy time passing anti-LGBT discrimination if an LGBT colleague sat alongside them in those caucus meetings?

If elected, Dan Innis and Richard Tisei will have the ability to speak to their colleagues about why DOMA needs to be fully repealed. As married men with same-sex spouses, they deserve to have the same privileges as their peers. They will be credible voices, spoken from personal experiences as openly gay Americans — about the need for progress on laws, such as ENDA to protect LGBT workers. We know this because their commitment to equality is not new; they both have considerable track records on LGBT issues.

Many in the LGBT community rightfully call on the Republican Party to drop its outdated opposition to LGBT rights. But to do so will require change to the GOP from the inside as well as the outside, and at all levels of government. That is why Victory supports the election of openly LGBT candidates, both Democrats and Republicans as well as independents, who have demonstrated leadership in advancing freedom and equal rights for all LGBT Americans. The election of openly LGBT candidates in recent years has helped bring that goal within reach — but we cannot expect to achieve all we deserve without having out LGBT Republicans at all levels of public office, especially in Congress.

11
Mar
2014

Black voters on support for white mayoral hopefuls

Tommy Wells, Jack Evans, District of Columbia, white, gay news, Washington Blade

The city’s two white Democratic mayoral candidates, Tommy Wells and Jack Evans, are drawing diverse support. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

D.C. political races are often divided by race. Even when all of the viable candidates are African American, support for a particular candidate still is usually easily discernable by race and geography. This year, we will probably have the closest Democratic mayoral primary since home rule. It is also the first year that we have white mayoral candidates who have a reasonable chance to be elected mayor.

Based on history, conventional wisdom suggests that most African Americans will support one of the African-American candidates. However, there are some black District residents who are strongly supporting white mayoral candidates in the Democratic primary. It may surprise some folks that the African Americans who are unabashedly supporting Tommy Wells or Jack Evans, the two white Democratic candidates, are quite diverse in background. Once you start discussing Wells’ and Evans’ campaigns with their African-American supporters, you realize that they are a hard group to generalize.

Dominic Sanders, 23, is a senior social work major at Millersville University and he defies every stereotype of a Tommy Wells supporter. He is an African American, native Washingtonian from humble beginnings, who grew up in several Ward 6 neighborhoods in Southeast and Southwest Washington. This May, he will become the first person in his family to graduate from college.

Sanders met Wells through late D.C. activist Jan Eichhorn when he was six. He kept asking Eichhorn, who organized a local mentoring and tutoring program, for a mentor and eventually she introduced him to Wells and they have been friends ever since.

“Tommy exposed me to a lot,” Sanders said. “He took me on an airplane for the first time at 12. It was my first time out of D.C. He took me to a cabin in Minnesota with his family. He also sent me to basketball and baseball camps out of my community. He showed me that there is stuff bigger than where I live.”

While Sanders’ support of Wells has a lot to do with the bond they developed over the years while Wells mentored him, he clearly believes that Wells is the right choice politically. When discussing Wells’ politics, he mentioned Wells’ minimum wage challenge this past December, where Wells purchased groceries and traveled on a minimum wage salary of $8.25 per hour for one week to show how difficult it is to live in D.C. on minimum wage.

“I don’t think there’s another candidate who will go as far as him to prove his point,” Sanders said. “He’s always willing to push the envelope and do things the average person wouldn’t do. He’s the first white guy I saw who would come to pick me up in the hood, wait 20 or 30 minutes in a car, and not think about it.”

“I look at his whole track record. When I first met him he was an ANC commissioner, then he got on the school board, then the City Council, and now he’s running for mayor. That’s my motivation that you can always do more than what you do.  You watch the stuff he does for people. I know I’m not the only person he helped out and mentored. He took me to play basketball with the kids in the youth detention center in Northeast and there were no cameras around, we would just go. He’s that down to earth and that grounded.”

Jacques Point Du Jour, 27, is also an African-American native Washingtonian. He lives in Ward 6, works as an assistant at a legal consulting firm and supports Jack Evans for mayor. He was introduced to Evans by one of his friends and he believes that Evans’ “history has been nothing but amazing. He played a vital part in revitalizing 14th Street. I remember 14th Street 20 years ago and I see what it is now.”

Point Du Jour said he did not consider race when deciding to back Evans. “It’s 2014 and it shouldn’t be about race,” he said. “Race tends to get in the way of the greater role.”  He hasn’t experienced any backlash from his friends for supporting a white mayoral candidate. Many of his friends aren’t even paying attention to the election. “People in their mid or late 20s don’t think supporting a mayoral candidate is relevant,” he said, “but I think it’s extremely important.”

Point Du Jour, who described his political leanings as “Democratic toward the liberal end of the spectrum,” said Evans’ pro-business reputation does not bother him at all. “If you don’t have business connections, how would you create jobs and bring in more prosperity.”

He thinks that Evans can serve the entire city. “I heard him talk about meeting with communities in Ward 8 and how it’s important for them to take part in the prosperity.”

Maceo Thomas, 42, a property manager from Ward 7, is a Wells supporter. Thomas said he supports Wells because “there is a real issue around integrity in our government. It’s not confined to D.C., but we have a big problem in D.C. I watched Tommy from afar and watched him get punished in the Council for doing what’s right.”

“People are rushing to get into Ward 6, into the Capitol Hill area, because of the schools and the amenities,” Thomas said. “Tommy was in a leadership position to help the community get those things. Those are the same things we want in ward 7 and east of the river.”

When asked about any resistance that he has faced in supporting a white mayoral candidate, Thomas acknowledged that when he “went door knocking with Tommy near the Minnesota Avenue Metro, some folks responded that [Wells] is white.” However, Thomas said that after people started “talking to Tommy for a little bit, they were shaking their head and following along in the conversation.”

Thomas said he did not consider race when he decided to support Wells. “Black people are much smarter than people give us credit for,” he said. He added that people are wrong “if they think we wouldn’t vote for Tommy Wells because he’s white.” Thomas attributes Wells’ limited support outside of Ward 6 to there not being “a lot of media around Council members, so people don’t know who he is. As more people examine who he is, I think they will give him a chance.”

While I personally have limited my mayoral choices to three candidates — one of the candidates featured here, along with two of the leading African-American candidates — I would be disingenuous if I did not acknowledge that race, or more so the ability to appeal to all races, is at least part of my consideration. I would never vote for anyone who I don’t believe is qualified to run the city well, but it is also important to me that all Washingtonians feel that they are a valued part of the city. Candidates of any race can do that, but it is imperative for the next mayor to have that quality.

Lateefah Williams’ biweekly column, ‘Life in the Intersection,’ focuses on the intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation. She is a D.C.-based political and LGBT activist. Reach her at lateefah_williams@msn.com or follow her on Twitter @lateefahwms.

12
Feb
2014

Let’s end corruption, stagnation in D.C. politics

Pete Ross, gay news, Washington Blade

Pete Ross attended the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s candidate forum on Mar. 6. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

By PETE ROSS

My candidacy for the office of U.S. senator — and my pledge of a new way forward in the struggle for D.C. statehood and full representation — received a tremendous boost from the March 6 candidate forum hosted by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. I personally want to thank Club members, and particularly those who helped my candidacy win the straw poll that evening.

Now I need all members of the LGBT community to vote for me between now and Election Day on April 1, and to urge your friends and neighbors, through social media and personal contact, to cast their ballots for my candidacy. This contest will be at the bottom of a crowded ballot, and D.C. voters have been overlooking its importance because of the inaction and lack of respect for the office displayed by the incumbent during his 18-year tenure.

I have been a member of the Stein Club for many years, and have personally supported its activities financially. As the father of an openly gay son, I understand and appreciate the important role that a strong, organized and diverse GLBTQ community can fulfill in supporting both parents and children in these moments. I will always seek the advice and counsel of leaders and members of this community as we move forward in a more energetic, inclusive and activist campaign to achieve our goal of national equality and justice for the 640,000 residents of D.C.

If elected as the District’s Shadow U.S. senator, my main mission will be to advance D.C. statehood, budget autonomy and full voting rights in Congress. I want to re-examine all of the paths taken during the past 40 years, including the possibility of reviving the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment to the Constitution, as we renew and reinvigorate this struggle, not only among the residents of the nation’s capital, but also among the citizenry of all 50 states.

I will reach out to our youth, our seniors and our returning citizens for the vision and valuable contributions they can make to our struggle. Unlike the incumbent, I promise to work with all supporters of statehood and D.C. voting rights, and to shun lone-wolf, election year stunts such as hastily flying off to Hollywood to secure one statement of support from one actor, as the incumbent did in the midst of this campaign.

I will be a full-time, year-round advocate on Capitol Hill, and won’t use the office to further my business interests. And I vow that I will never flash my U.S. Senate ID to try to get out of parking tickets and a drunk-driving arrest. I will not use the office to shirk my civic responsibilities.

These antics by the incumbent have demoralized and depleted the momentum for statehood and full representation. It is time to change.

In addition to my mission outlined above, I will work hand-in-hand with the District’s congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, to protect the interests of the LGBT community and of all D.C. residents, including fighting discrimination against LGBT federal workers, funding of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS law, protecting undocumented gay residents and advocating for justice and equality for the District of Columbia.

This election is about ending stagnation and corruption in DC politics, from the highest to the lowest office on the ballot.

Vote for change, action and integrity. Vote for Pete Ross for Shadow U.S. senator.

26
Mar
2014

I’m coming out: as living near poverty level

LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Texas, Democratic Party, White House, gay news, Washington Blade

50 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson in his State of the Union message declared “an unconditional war on poverty.” (White House Press Office photo by Arnold Newman)

I’m coming out. Not as queer — everyone knows I’m lesbian. I’m disclosing something even more personal: my income is low. I’m one of many in the LGBT community who live in or near poverty. Why am I telling you this? Because 50 years ago, Lyndon Johnson in his State of the Union message declared “an unconditional war on poverty.”

“We shall not rest until that war is won,” Johnson told Congress on Jan. 8, 1964. “The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

Decades later, the “war on poverty” is still ongoing. This struggle is particularly intense within the LGBT community. Yet, you rarely see people like us in movies or on TV. Our faces seldom appear – our voices aren’t often heard in the media. Say “gay,” and many will think of Cameron and Mitchell of “Modern Family” planning their wedding; the upper-middle class lesbian couple raising their kids in “The Kids Are All Right” or wealthy gay men and power lesbians spearheading queer fundraising galas.

I’m a fan of “Modern” and of “Kids,” and I don’t mean to disparage LGBT fundraising. But, if you looked beneath the glossy media surface into our community, you’d find people from eight to 80 – your relatives, parents, children and friends  – struggling with poverty and income inequality.

I write this not to seek pity but to encourage us to care about what many of us would rather not have on our radar screens. Poverty isn’t sexy. It doesn’t walk down the red carpet like a star at an awards show. Yet millions of us in the LGBT community and our families feel its impact.

Many Americans, especially people of color and other marginalized groups, have been hurt by unemployment, lack of health insurance, discrimination, lack of affordable housing and education. Take women. Nearly 42 million women live with economic hardship, according to a new report on the status of women, co-authored by Maria Shriver of NBC and the Center for American Progress.

“These are not women…  wondering if they can ‘have it all,’” Shriver writes in the study, released on Jan. 12, “… they and their families can’t prosper and that’s weighing the U.S. economy down.”

The LGBT community, historically and now, has been among the groups hit the hardest by poverty.

“As poverty rates for nearly all population increased during the recession, lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans remained more likely to be poor than heterosexual people. Gender, race, education and geography all influence poverty rates among LGBT population, and children of same-sex couples are particularly vulnerable to poverty,” according to a June 2013 report from the Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.

Among the study’s findings:

• African-American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than twice the rate of heterosexual black Americans.

• Almost one in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2 percent of children of a female same-sex couple are in poverty, compared to 12.1 percent of children living with married straight couples.

• And 14.1 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared to 6.5 percent of married heterosexual couples.

Transgender people are among those most impacted by poverty. According to the National Transgender Survey, 90 percent reported having been harassed or discriminated against in the workplace; and nearly one in five had been homeless during periods in their lives.

There are myriad reasons why poverty in the LGBT community is so extensive. Despite the great progress that’s been made in winning our equality, many of us still experience employment and other forms of homophobia-based discrimination. A number of us encounter hardship because of age or disability, racism or transphobia.

The war on poverty won’t be easily won.  But let’s keep fighting the battle.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

15
Jan
2014

The Olympics are over, now what?

Russia, Vladimir Putin, Sochi, Winter Olympics, Dupont Circle, gay news, LGBT, Washington Blade, Olympics are over

Several gay rights advocates gathered at Dupont Circle on Feb. 22 to bring attention to the treatment of LGBT people in Russia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Olympics are over and maybe those of us who deplore the situation of the LGBT community in Russia can again all sound like we are on the same side. What the games seemed to bring out in the LGBT community, and much of it poured out on Facebook, was a lot of bitchiness to each other depending on what positions we took on everything from a boycott to what the people who went to Sochi should have done.

Some people took to attacking our athletes for not being activists and I even read one person attack all their parents for not bringing them up right if they didn’t take to the streets in Sochi. There was debate on how vocal or active Billie Jean King or Brian Boitano should have been. Should they have joined Pussy Riot in the streets? Should Johnny Weir have done more than lug along what must have been a couple of steamer trunks full of sequins and be filmed going fishing with Billy Bush of Entertainment Tonight?

I would have hoped that our official government delegation to the games had spoken out a little more forcefully than they did and that NBC, which had the rights to broadcast the games, had done the same. I appreciated when Bob Costas during one primetime broadcast did speak out and say, “While in many significant ways, Russians have better lives than Soviet citizens of a generation ago, there is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria, and that’s just a partial list.” He added that these Olympics are essentially “Vladimir Putin’s games,” and if they’re successful it will help bolster his image. Costas concluded, “No amount of Olympic glory can mask those realities, any more than a biathlon gold medal, hard-earned and deeply satisfying as it is, can put out the fires in Kiev.”

The Olympics should never have been held in Sochi but that was the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee not our athletes. And despite everything, it is good to see the athletes from nations that don’t generally talk to each other hugging and displaying the kind of camaraderie that we would hope all people could share every day.

But now the Olympics are over and the issue of the health and safety of the LGBT community in Russia remains. We are seeing these issues not only there but coming to the forefront in Africa including Uganda and Nigeria as well as other places around the globe. Last year when the members of the reconciling United Methodist Churches in the United States tried to change church policy to allow for the church to marry gay couples it was the African Churches that stopped them cold.

We need to ask ourselves what we can do to help the LGBT community around the world. That is a crucial question we must ask of our government and decide what we demand of them. This is clearly part of the general discussion on how much the desire to eliminate human and civil rights abuses in other nations should impact our foreign policy.

While this is not a new question the fact that the LGBT community now has the strength to make our voices heard in this fight is somewhat new to us. In this area the broader community is still finding its voice and we should be able to do it without it tearing us apart.

As those trying to defend people’s human and civil rights around the world for years have found there is no easy answer. Our country knew about the millions of Jews being taken to concentration camps and killed by the Nazis before we ever did anything. We have watched genocide in Rwanda and other places and taken too long to react. We are seeing people slaughtered in Syria and are taking much too long to determine the right policy to deal with that.  Americans are tired of war. Many, if not the majority, now look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as wars we shouldn’t have fought. Americans’ willingness to intervene in other nations seems limited to sanctions and economic fights rather than any boots on the ground. Too many see interference in the human rights issues of other nations as none of our business.

That must change and we must recognize that as a global community no longer is anyone able to be isolationist in either political, economic or human rights issues.

26
Feb
2014

Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory?

gracious, Mozilla-Firefox, Brendan Eich, gay news, Washington Blade

Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution? (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

Based on the over-hyped pseudo controversy of the past week, it appears that pitchforks and lit torches have suddenly become fashion accessories among some gays and lesbians and even a few straight supporters.

It’s an ugly trend.

If you’re out of the loop on this, be grateful. It’s almost too painful to recount. The gay community has, once again, been embarrassed by the impulsive impatience and frenzied frustration of activist-extremists. It is likely we’ve also lost the confidence of more than a small number of more conscientious allies along the way.

A troubling display of bloodlust tends to do that.

Most reputable LGBT organizations didn’t take the bait when last week’s controversy regarding open-source technology company Mozilla and its selection of Javascript and Firefox developer Brendan Eich as CEO exploded online like projectile vomiting. The political fringe began calling for his head on a platter, or at least the loss of his employment. He would resign in the wake of the ensuing brouhaha over a long-ago political donation.

No matter that had the situation, or politics, been reversed, the outcry would have been righteously and inversely indignant. Why quibble over principle when a retributive beheading is possible?

His offense? As was long-ago known and publicly debated, Eich had made a small personal contribution to support California’s Proposition 8 campaign opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage. He did so eight years ago, when quite a few others, including prominent public figures and national politicians of many stripes, were not yet willing to support marriage equality – along with the voters of the state.

Never mind that he was universally regarded as a fair administrator, had no history of discriminating against anyone, and pledged to continue and expand corporate diversity policies and programs encouraging acceptance and accommodation. A sort of hapless techno-nerd unskilled in public relations would not be accorded the same courtesy or rights his detractors would expect if roles were reversed.

The transparently ill-considered and contradictory rationalizations for demanding his firing were both simultaneously disheartening and hilarious. Cultural cleansing and purification of opinion were deemed to be superior considerations.

Too many in the chattering class and so-called “progressive” activists gleefully rushed to make an example of an iconic heretic. Consternation by others, notably writer and political commentator Andrew Sullivan, only fueled the ire of what was rapidly devolving into a seething, albeit small, online mob. Soon the crazy only got crazier. Leftist anger bred right-wing outrage and vice-versa, generating the inevitable cycle of viciousness and cartoonish characterizations.

It wasn’t long until liberal Bill Maher dismissively belittled this boorish behavior on his political-comedic TV show, telling viewers amid a backdrop of chortling guest panelists and cackling audience members, “I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them you do get whacked.”

A well-reasoned op-ed by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni last weekend concluded, “Sullivan is right to raise concerns about the public flogging of someone like Eich. Such vilification won’t accelerate the timetable of victory, which is certain. And it doesn’t reflect well on the victors.”

It is astonishing that in the midst of winning hearts and minds on the most essential elements of equality, some would gamble the goodwill of the many for the pleasure of revenge on the few. Punishing those reluctant or unwilling to yet concur only yields suspicion that those who countenance divergent political views might be next.

Call it a moral issue exception if you want, but concocting an illegitimate justification offers no comfort to those caused to wonder exactly who might suffer a good old-fashioned public shaming. If this type of inappropriate and unacceptable reaction is allowed on one instance, what citizen-suspects on what other public issues will also be rounded up for punishment?

Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory? Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution?

If so, that’s sad.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

09
Apr
2014