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Joseph F. Vivalo, Jr. dies at 53

Joe Vivalo, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

Joseph F. “Joe” Vivalo, Jr. in 1987.

Joseph F. “Joe” Vivalo, Jr., 53, a former resident of Washington and Arlington who was active in political and AIDS charity fundraising and events management, died in Key West, Fla., on Feb. 5.

His death was from suicide, according to Terry Michael, with whom Vivalo shared an apartment on Capitol Hill in 1986-87 and again in 1992-93. Vivalo, who was gay, worked as a waiter at Mr. Henry’s restaurant, Michael said, after moving to the District from Portland, Ore., in July 1986. Living in New York from 1988-92, he returned to Washington in November 1992, where he resided again on Capitol Hill and later in the Logan Circle area, before settling in Arlington. At the time of his death, Vivalo had been living and working at a guesthouse in Key West.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Vivalo was a director of the Pallotta TeamWorks AIDS Ride in Washington in the late 1990s and was director of the Whitman-Walker Health AIDS Walk in 2000, when he also produced a fundraising concert for Whitman-Walker at the Kennedy Center, featuring singer Patti LaBelle. He worked in several AIDS walks in Manhattan in the late 1980s.

Specializing in arts and entertainment fundraising, Vivalo was fundraising director for former U.S. Rep. and 1984 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, in her unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate in New York in 1992. He had served in the Mondale-Ferraro presidential campaign in Portland, Ore., in 1984, as a young field worker. He worked on the Clinton-Gore Inaugural Committee in Washington in 1992. And he was on the facilities management staff of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. in 2012. For a time, he ran a bike restoration business in Arlington.

Born Dec. 30, 1960 in Youngstown, Vivalo was a son of the late Joseph Vivalo and Marie Ann “Dolly” Vivalo, who survives, along with siblings Debbie, Jeff, John, Katie, Jacqueline, Michael and Kimberly. He is also survived by friends in the Washington area, including Walter Quetsch of Capitol Hill, at whose Fire Island cottage Vivalo was a frequent guest during the past two decades, and Washington attorney Jim Prunty, whom Vivalo met during his years in Portland.

Vivalo attended Ohio University, where he earned a degree in political communication. He was an active swimmer in high school and college. He had a passion for dance music and was a friend of the late San Francisco disco icon Sylvester James, “who visited Joe at our apartment on Capitol Hill in late 1987,” Michael said, noting that “Sylvester’s ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ and ‘You Are My Friend’ tracks became Joe’s signature songs.”

A memorial service for Vivalo was held in Youngstown Feb. 8.


Oregon GOP backs marriage referendum

Oregon, Mt. Hood, Mirror Lake, referendum, gay news, Washington Blade

Mount Hood in Oregon. (Photo public domain)

SEASIDE, Ore. — Republicans who attended an annual GOP conference on March 8 voted to endorse a proposed referendum on whether marriage should be extended to same-sex couples in the state.

The Oregonian reported those who attended the annual Dorchester Conference voted 233-162 in favor of the referendum.

“We’re not a threat to the institution [of marriage], believe me,” gay Portland attorney Jerry Keene told the newspaper. “If we’re allowed access to the institution, we’ll take care of it.”

Oregon United for Marriage maintains it has enough signatures to place the issue on the November ballot. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum last month announced she will not defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban that voters approved in 2004.


Gay couples wanting babies flock to Portland

Portland, Gay News, Washington Blade

Portland (photo by Fcb981 via Wikimedia Commons)

PORTLAND — Lesbian and gay couples who want babies are going to Portland from as far away as France, Israel and more to try to conceive using donor eggs, sperm and surrogates not allowed in their own countries, USA Today reported last weekend.

A non-profit support network called Men Having Babies says at least 40 percent of the 1,000 couples in the group are European.

The article said the solid reputation of Oregon Reproductive Medicine (known for its high success rates on egg and sperm donation), Portland’s overall gay friendly vibe and the slightly more reasonable rates for such services (about $90,000 vs. up to $170,000 in larger cities like New York and Los Angeles) contribute to its destination status.


Out and embracing it

Kirk Walker, Oregon State University, softball, gay news, Washington Blade

Kirk Walker left Oregon State University as the ‘all-time winningest’ softball coach in the school’s history. (Photo courtesy of Kirk Walker)

When Kirk Walker and his partner Randy Baltimore decided to adopt a child in 2005, the process required the couple to fill out public records, which led to Walker making the important decision to do what no other head coach in Division I NCAA had ever done — come out to his team and the world. (Since his announcement, Sherri Murrell, head women’s basketball coach at Portland State, has also come out.)

“For probably five or six years before I came out, I was definitely in a place where I would not hide it and I wouldn’t lie about it, but I wasn’t necessarily sharing it and it wasn’t a point of conversation,” he says. “It certainly wasn’t something I shared with my team. In fact, my team was a very big turning point for me in terms of being more vocal.”

Walker was in his 11th season as head softball coach with Oregon State University at the time and it was important to him that his players learn he was gay from him, rather than through the news reports that were certain to follow.


Kirk Walker, Oregon State University, softball, gay news, Washington Blade

Kirk Walker on the field at the University of California at Los Angeles, his current coaching post and alma mater. (Photo courtesy of Kirk Walker)

“I brought up the topic and I shared it with them,” he says. “For the next year or so, I was a little reluctant to do a lot of articles and interviews, because I didn’t want that to be the first thing listed on my resume, that I was the ‘gay coach,’ and that was partly my ego. I wanted my record to stand from my coaching world for who I was.”

Eventually, Walker decided that he was being selfish and that his attitude was diminishing the impact he could have, and proudly wore the label as “the coach who came out.”

Last season, Walker was offered an assistant coaching position for UCLA’s softball program and decided to make the move. He was an alumnus of the school and had previously served as a coach for the Bruins from 1984-1994, helping his alma mater to six NCAA National Championships.

Walker left OSU as the Beavers’ all-time winningest softball coach, with a 594-491 record, and led the team to 10 postseason appearances, including the College World Series in 2006 and the NCAA regionals in 2012.

Somewhat surprisingly, Walker believes he is making a bigger impact with LGBT students in his new role.

“As the role of a head coach, I know I was an example for people and they were respectful and appreciative, but a head coach is someone who is hard to seek out and share personal issues,” he says. “Now, being an assistant, I am in a different role and I certainly see more accessibility to me as a resource.”

In April, Walker, in conjunction with UCLA Athletics and UCLA Recreation, held an event for Athlete Ally, an organization that educates athletes, coaches and fans on issues regarding sexual orientation and sports. UCLA released a “You Can Play” video, which encourages acceptance and tolerance for gay athletes in all levels of athletics, and UCLA head football coach Jim Mora became the first current major college football coach to encourage gay athletes to play for his team.

“Coach Mora is fantastic and has been since I was hired,” Walker says. “I didn’t doubt for one minute that he wouldn’t be on board with the video we were producing and I certainly was very pleased he was so honest about how he felt, and I believe that was very powerful.”

Athletes from throughout the UCLA program — male and female — were on-board and Walker was impressed with the younger generation’s acceptance and support for teammates and individuals who might be LGBT.

Walker was happy that NBA player Jason Collins felt secure enough to come out and doesn’t believe that moments like this are as big a deal as many others do, calling it a safer climate today.

“I think anytime a high-profile person identifies as LGBT, especially in the sports world, it’s important, but I often said that there are many people in the media and the LGBT community who believe the first pro athlete or first football player or first basketball player that came out would be an earth-shattering moment, but I never really ascribed to that,” he says. “I think it’s fantastic, I think it’s great, but I don’t think an event like that means everything has changed.”

So, when contemplating why more athletes aren’t following Collins’ lead, Walker admits part of it is the perception of the public and part the perception of teammates. Still, he thinks the external struggle is the greatest challenge.

“For high-profile athletes, they worry, “Will I still be one of the guys? Will they still value me as a teammate and want me to be part of their family?’ and I think that’s a big roadblock,” Walker says. “I think the dialogue and having more conversations about LGBT athletes, coaches and individuals has created an opportunity in the locker room where there are some vocal people who will stand up and be supportive.”

As the new UCLA softball season is set to get underway, Walker is looking forward to more excitement and success from the team in his role as assistant to coach Kelly Inouye-Perez.

“I have relished the opportunity to be back in that role as an assistant and it’s been great. I have no regrets about making the move at this point in my career,” he says. “My passion in coaching is about changing lives and building individuals into the best person they can be moving into the real world.”


Bakery that refused lesbian patrons closes

Cupcakes, gay news, Washington Blade

The Oregon bakery that turned away a lesbian couple in January is closing its shop and moving operations into the owners’ home. (Washington Blade Photo by Michael Key)

GRESHAM, Ore. — Though Sweet Cakes by Melissa says they are not going out of business completely, the Oregon bakery that turned away a lesbian couple in January is closing its shop and moving operations into the owners’ home.

After citing religious reasons to turn away Rachel Cryer and her fiancé Laurel Bowman of Portland — allegedly calling the couple an abomination, according to — owner Melissa Klein and her husband Aaron say that their business began to suffer, and the shop attracted protests, legal complaints, and media attention that the owners were not prepared for.

Aaron Klein told the Oregonian that the couple would sell other cakes to any customer regardless of sexual orientation, but that the business would not bake cakes to be used in same-sex marriages. The action, however, may violate state law, which bars discrimination in public accommodation, based on sexual orientation. The state is currently reviewing Cryer and Bowman’s complaint.

Meanwhile, Cryer and Bowman accepted a free cake from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes star chef Duff Goldman for their wedding, after their story made national news.


Nike gives to Ore. marriage campaign

Nike, gay news, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Washington Blade

Nike announced it will contribute to efforts in support of same-sex marriage in Oregon.

PORTLAND, Ore.— Nike on Nov. 19 announced it will contribute $280,000 to efforts in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in Oregon.

“Nike has just stood up for marriage equality in an unprecedented way, with a monumental financial contribution to support the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative,” Mike Marshall, campaign manager for Oregon United for Marriage, said.

Nike, which is based in Oregon, began offering benefits to same-sex partners nearly two decades ago.

The company supported efforts to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and allow gays and lesbians to enter into domestic partnerships in the state.

Oregon United for Marriage continues to collect signatures in support of a November 2014 referendum in support of same-sex marriage.


Travel: Gay summer getaways

Wonderland Weekend, gay travel, gay news, Washington Blade

A recent Wonderland Weekend pool party. (Photo courtesy Wonderland Weekend)

This summer, trade shoveling snow for bead tossing in New Orleans, swap Beltway traffic for roping a sexy cowboy in New Mexico or trade the humdrum neighborhood bar for the opening of the world’s largest gay nightclub in Vegas. Here are a few scintillating ideas to flirt with before packing your bags for your summer vacation.

Bear Town Weekend


June 6-9, Portland hosts the 18th annual Bear Town Weekend, where an average of 400 bears and bear lovers come out to celebrate at events such as the Pirate’s Booty UnderBear Dance, Taste of Portland, the “Shed the Shirt” T-Shirt Exchange, Bingo with the Sisters and the Mr. Oregon Bear Breakfast. The registration for all events is $125. Some other events to check out that weekend include the Rose Festival and Portland’s Fleet Week.

Where to stay: The Jupiter Hotel is the host hotel for Bear Town weekend

Queer Walking Tours


Looking to do something active this summer? The Toronto Queer Walking Tours company was created to highlight how the gay community has evolved over time to inhabit different parts of Toronto. You will have the opportunity to walk neighborhoods such as Allan Gardens and Gay Village, with tour stops at the Glad Day Bookstore, Village gay bars and the Canadian Gay Lesbian Archives. The mission of the company is “through knowledge and education we can better understand what makes up a queer community and how the past has changed the way we see ourselves and others.” The tours run year long and range from $10-$20, or hire a private tour guide, which starts at $50.

Where to stay: The Delta Chelsea Hotel Downtown is located near the Village

Out at Universal Studios

Los Angeles

Out at Universal, gay travel, gay news, Washington Blade

A recent Out at Universal event in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy Universal)

Party promoter Tom Whitman is throwing the ninth annual Out at Universal/Wonderland party, which takes place at Universal Studios Theme Park on June 8. Explore your wild side by trying some of the Universal Studios attractions, such as Transformers 3D The Ride, the Simpsons Ride and Jurassic Park The Ride, all of which will be open to guests. The main dance party takes place from 10 p.m.-4 a.m., which is hosted by Club Papi, Masterbeat and Tom Whitman Presents. The presale price for the Out at Universal/ Wonderland party pass is $85. Other events during Wonderland Weekend include an exclusive Beverly Hills estate pool party, Saturday afterhours and a Sunday tea dance.

Where to stay: The SLS Hotel in West Hollywood is located near the gay nightlife

Krave Massive

Las Vegas 

If you are thinking of visiting Vegas this summer, it would be wise to do so on June 15, where the world’s largest gay nightclub will be unveiled. Located in downtown Las Vegas, Krave Massive will be an astonishing 80,000 square foot venue, which will feature five individually themed dance rooms, a state-of-the-art sound system, huge video walls, along with high-tech special effects. What separates this gay nightclub from the rest is that it is not only a dance space, but it will also be home to a gay comedy club, a retail store, a multi-purpose room, a lesbians-only dance lounge, as well as the country’s only LGBT movie theater.

Where to stay: The Wynn Las Vegas has its own dedicated LGBT concierge

Olivia Travel

Olivia Travel, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Tina Silano; courtesy Olivia Travel)

San Francisco-based Olivia Travel bills itself as the world’s “premier provider of lesbian cruise, resort and adventure vacations.” It has several lavish summer trips planned including a cruise to Ireland and the Scotland British Isles (July 18-25), a Provence-to-Burgundy Riverboat Cruise (July 30-Aug. 6), several exotic fall adventures and a wide array of 2014 trips planned as well.

Visit for full details. Or call 800-631-6277 or 415-962-5700. Monthly payment plans are available.

Gay Rodeo

Sante Fe, N.M.

During the weekend of Aug. 9-11, the New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association presents its 22nd annual Zia Regional rodeo, which consists of events like bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback bronco riding and calf-roping. Witness some of the light-hearted camp events, including wild drag steer-riding, steer decorating and a comical display of putting underwear on goats. The weekend comes to a close with a dance at a local bar or host hotel. Tickets are around $25 for the two-day event.

Where to stay: Host hotel TBD

Northalsted Market Days


On Aug. 10-11, visitors to Chicago will be able to experience the largest two-day street fair in the Midwest. The Northalsted Market Days event spans six city blocks and features about 40 musicians, including Olivia Newton-John, The Pointer Sisters and Karmin. This live music festival is free, with a suggested donation of $8. The event draws a lively, upscale crowd featuring more than 400 food and arts and crafts vendors.

Where to stay: The Amalfi Hotel is located 4 miles from Northalsted

Tropical Heat and Womenfest

Key West, Fla.

Key West, Tropical Heat, gay travel, gay news, Washington Blade

A Tropical Heat pool party in Key West. (Photo courtesy Key West Business Guild)

In a city where the chief of police is gay and rainbow flags wave proudly throughout the island, it only makes sense for Key West to be the host of two hot week-long summer parties: one for the girls and one for the boys. Tropical Heat takes place Aug. 15-18, and became known for its clothing-optional pool parties and snorkeling trips. Events taking place this year include toga parties, a wild drag show, “not your grandmother’s bingo”, a dungeon fetish party and the “Name Our Cock” fundraiser, which benefits Key West wildlife.

The 31st annual Womenfest takes place Sept. 3-8, where an estimated 5,000 women participate in weeklong arts and music events. Womenfest has become a popular spot for women’s groups, such as Sister Funk and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls. Each night, lesbian bands play at four or five nightclubs, which are free. There are sunset dinner cruises, clothing-optional snorkeling and kayaking, a comedy show at the Cuban-owned San Carlos Institute and mechanical bull-riding at Cowboy Bills Honky Tonk Saloon.

Where to stay: Alexander’s Guesthouse is a gay and lesbian resort


Oregon bans anti-trans health care discrimination

Gay News, Washington Blade, Mara Keisling, Transgender

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender advocates have applauded new regulations that ban private health insurance companies in Oregon from discriminating against trans policy holders.

The guidelines the Oregon Insurance Division of the state Department of Consumer and Business Services announced on Dec. 19 specifically prohibit health care providers from discriminating against a policy holder based on their actual or perceived gender identity and expression. Under the guidelines, providers cannot deny coverage of hormone therapy, hysterectomies, mastectomies and other medically-necessary treatments for gender dysphoria and sex-reassignment surgery that are covered for non-trans policy holders.

The agency also prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage of a particular treatment simply because the policy holder is trans. The guidelines also expand Oregon’s statewide mandate for mental health services to include trans Oregonians.

Basic Rights Oregon, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, had been working with the agency to expand these protections to trans policy holders since 2009.

Lawmakers in 2007 approved a law that explicitly banned discrimination based on sexual orientation — they defined it to include gender identity and expression, but Basic Rights Oregon had sought clarification from the agency after it received complaints from trans policy holders.

“What this means is that trans Oregonians will have access to basic medically necessary care,” Tash Shatz, trans justice program manager at Basic Rights Oregon, told the Washington Blade on Monday. “It’s a huge victory for the transgender community in Oregon. It really represents a sea change in terms of this issue.”

Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, agreed.

“Oregon has correctly recognized that the well-established medical consensus is that transgender-related health care is medically necessary care,” he said. “This care is designed to treat a recognized medical condition. Transgender individuals pay the same premiums as everyone else and simply want the same benefits.”

The agency released its new guidelines two days after Oregon Health and Science University announced it would cover trans-specific health care. Intel, which is headquartered in Hillsboro, Ore., is among the 25 percent of Fortune 100 companies that currently offer trans-inclusive health care policies to their employees.

The cities of Portland, Seattle and San Francisco and Multnomah County, Ore., also cover trans-specific treatments in their health care plans. The California Department of Insurance has also enacted regulations similar to those in Oregon.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the Internal Revenue Service have said trans-specific treatments are medically-necessary care. The American Psychiatric Association on Dec. 2 announced it would remove Gender Identity Disorder from its list of mental disorders and replace it with Gender Dysphoria.

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling told the Blade that colleges and universities, professional agencies and labor unions are among those that continue to advance efforts to ensure health insurance providers cover trans-specific treatments and procedures. She noted the SEIU, which covers full transitionary care for its staff, passed a resolution in May that asked local affiliates to advocate for these benefits in contract negotiations.

“There’s a lot of really, really great advocacy going on in this area right now,” Keisling said. “[What’s] really going on here is just updating these policies now that we have better understanding of medical science, of who trans people are, now we have lots of trans people in the workplace, so we’re going to see more and more of this. This will not be the last state to do that.”


Bullied gay Oregon teen dies

Jadin Bell, LGBT youth, teen suicide, gay news, Washington Blade

Jadin Bell

PORTLAND — Jadin Bell, 15, who was taken off life support last week, died from injuries sustained when he hung himself from a play structure at La Grande Central Elementary School.

Bell’s story made headlines after the high school sophomore attempted suicide after complaining of bullying to a school counselor. Friends expressed shock at the suicide, however, saying that aside from the bullying, Bell — a star student and member of the cheer squad — seemed otherwise happy and well adjusted.

Bell walked into a room “and filled it with fresh air,” longtime family friend Bud Hill told the Oregonian. “He had so much life, and he loved sharing it. He had the knack to say the right thing to pick up your spirits.”

However, sources tell news blog Raw Story that Jadin was unhappy at school and had repeatedly asked his parents to allow him to be home schooled.


Trans residents find more health coverage in Ore., Calif.

transgender, health, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image public domain)

SALEM, Ore. — Regulators in Oregon and California have quietly directed some health insurance companies to stop denying coverage for transgender patients, the Associated Press reported.

The states aren’t requiring coverage of specific medical treatments but some private insurance companies have been told they must pay for a trans person’s hormone therapy, breast reduction, cancer screening or any other procedure deemed medically necessary if it’s covered for non-trans patients, the AP report said.

The changes apply to companies insuring about a third of Oregon residents and about 7 percent of California residents but not to those on Medicare and Medicaid or the majority of California residents insured through a health management organization, the report said.