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Pennsylvania couple seeks marriage rights

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

Independence Hall in Philadelphia. (Photo by Rdsmith4; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

PHILADELPHIA—A married lesbian couple from suburban Philadelphia has filed a federal lawsuit against a Pennsylvania law that prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

Isabelle Barker and Cara Palladino tied the knot in Massachusetts in 2005.

The couple moved to Pennsylvania shortly after their wedding when Barker accepted a position at Bryn Mawr College. Barker gave birth to the couple’s son in 2009.

“We took on the commitment of marriage in 2005 and have supported each other through life’s ups and down,” said Palladino. “We think it is wrong for Pennsylvania to void our marriage and treat us as though we are unmarried when we are very much a loving family.”

Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based LGBT advocacy group, initiated the lawsuit that was filed on Jan. 13 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Mary Bonauto of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders is among those who are co-counsel in the case.

“On behalf of Cara and Isabelle and other legally married same-sex families, we will take this injustice as far as is needed to affirm the nation’s 226-year-old history of recognizing marriages from sister states,” said Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin.

The American Civil Liberties Union last July filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s statutory gay marriage ban on behalf of 11 same-sex couples and a widow. State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) and Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery County) and state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) have introduced same-sex marriage bills in the Pennsylvania Legislature.


GOP remains at odds with LGBT Americans

John Boehner, Republican Party, Ohio, Republican National Convention, Florida, Tampa, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

2012 Republican National Convention. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


One year ago, the Republican National Committee released a report — commonly known as the GOP “Autopsy Report” — that suggested that Republicans should show the LGBT community “that we care about them, too.” The report also said, “We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

Their recommendations weren’t shocking, since Republicans had long seen large deficits in support among LGBT Americans. But one year later, nothing has changed. The simple fact is: the GOP has been on the wrong side of issues relating to LGBT equality for decades.

Republican rhetoric toward LGBT voters has been dismissive at best and truly offensive at worst.

For example, a candidate for a Michigan seat on the Republican National Committee said of gay Americans, Republicans “as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.”

The Republican governor of Pennsylvania made an outlandish comparison between a same-sex marriage and the relationship between a brother and sister.

And in recent days, a prominent Republican accused the LGBT community of “bullying” Americans into opposing discriminatory measures.

But it’s not just their rhetoric, it’s their agenda. As marriage equality has become law in many states across the country, including in my home state of New Hampshire, the GOP remains firmly opposed to allowing every American to marry the person they love. In fact, in Oklahoma, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin even went so far as to order the Oklahoma National Guard to stop processing requests for military benefits for all couples just to prevent any benefits from being processed for same-sex couples – an action that directly defied a Pentagon directive.

Additionally, Republicans blocked legislation that would protect LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination, saying it has “no basis or no need.” In fact, New Hampshire’s newest Senate candidate, Scott Brown, opposed the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which protects LGBT Americans from being fired just for being who they are.

It’s been a year since the Republican Party pledged to be more inclusive, but all it has done is highlight that the GOP continues to stand at odds with the values and priorities of LGBT Americans.

As Democrats, we will not stop fighting for equality for all Americans. We will fight any measure that would discriminate against people just because of who they are or who they love, and we will stand up and fight back against rhetoric that promotes discrimination and further divides Americans.

Raymond Buckley is vice chair of the DNC and chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.


Creating art that pops

Glenn Fry, gay news, Washington Blade

Visual artist Glenn Fry moved to D.C. nearly 15 years ago. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When visual artist Glenn Fry moved to D.C. nearly 15 years ago, he bartended at some of the gay community’s most popular nightlife venues and nightclub events. Quickly pegged as a recent transplant due to his failure to observe the local habit of reflexively asking customers what they do for a living, Fry remembers those exchanges from his perspective.

“People didn’t know how to process my being an artist,” Fry recalls, “although they were intrigued.” “Danger, Will Robinson,” was the comic strip thought bubble he would imagine floating over their heads while he concocted beverages.

“Ever since I was a kid I loved cartoons, loved the Pop Art movement,” Fry explains. “I would have loved to have been a part of that whole Manhattan ‘new art’ scene during the days of Andy Warhol.” “Warhol, along with fellow New York City pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, brought silkscreening to the forefront as a respected and appreciated art form.”

Fry chuckles when re-telling an art patron compliment, “if Warhol and Lichenstein had a kid, it would be you.”

The iconographic, bold, colorful, thought-provoking, graphic-inspired silkscreen prints Fry composes blend the pop art cultural influence of his youth and the marketing designs that would follow college. Printing on heavy paper, wood, glass or canvas in often oversized formats, he creates both one-of-a-kind and limited-edition images. From inspiration to composition to production, Fry fashions all aspects of his craft.

After earning a Fine Arts degree from Edinboro University in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Fry moved to Cleveland to work as a graphic designer. Specializing in corporate advertising for 10 years, he grew increasingly impatient to focus on more creative endeavors.

Now 47 and a full-time artist-entrepreneur managing Glenn Fry Art as his business enterprise, Fry is glad he gravitated to D.C. “I may not have been able to continue as an artist had I not moved here,” pointing out that economic downturns have largely not affected Washington – or interest in art. “D.C. has been good to me, my art has been well-received and I’m appreciative of that.” Besides, he notes, “New York’s bohemian culture isn’t around anymore.”

The stark simplicity of his silkscreened compositions initially belies both the complexity of their thoughtful origination and multi-layered manual execution. “I’m often inspired by situations I’ve gone through or those friends have experienced,” Fry says in describing the genesis of a piece. “I want my art to be fun, uplifting, colorful, graphic and bold, with a contemporary twist.”

While Fry designs pieces at his apartment near Logan Circle, he produces his prints at a nearby studio, organized by local artist Gary Fisher. Ten years ago, Fisher invited Fry to join him and three other artists in renting the basement level in a small commercial building at 1327 14th St., N.W., near Rhode Island Avenue. “Gary was the one who prodded me and inspired me,” Fry says, recalling his professional transition while still bartending.

Fry launched his first exhibit at Gallery Plan B, a couple of blocks north on 14th Street. “They really helped me spring to life in my profession,” says Fry. Working full-time as an artist since 2008, Fry has since garnered high-profile commissions for permanent installations at two Federal Reserve Board buildings, IBM, National Geographic Channels, and the Washington Design Center.

As his art gained exposure and grew in popularity, requests for commissioned pieces by both local businesses and individuals would follow. “Trusting me to create something they’ll enjoy, knowing my style and investing in my work” gives Fry great satisfaction.

“I’m grateful every day that I’ve found my passion,” Fry says, “I’m doing the thing that makes me happy.”

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

Glenn Fry, gay news, Washington Blade

Glenn Fry (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


Defrocked Methodist pastor returns to D.C.

Frank Schaefer, United Methodist Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa., appeared at Foundry United Methodist Church in December. (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

A Methodist minister from Pennsylvania who was defrocked as a clergyman in December for refusing to stop performing same-sex marriages is scheduled to return to D.C.’s Foundry United Methodist Church on Jan. 26.

Ex-pastor Frank Schaefer will deliver guest sermons at a service for “hope and justice” at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on the 26th, according to a statement released by Foundry. Foundry’s pastor, Rev. Dean Snyder, is a longtime ally of the LGBT community and has performed same-sex marriages.

The statement says two other United Methodist ministers who were defrocked will also participate in the services – Jimmy Creech and Beth Stroud. Church officials revoked Creech’s credentials as a Methodist minister in 1999 after he performed a holy union ceremony for a gay male couple in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Stroud was defrocked in 2001 after coming out as a lesbian while assigned as a minister for a United Methodist Church in Philadelphia.

Schaefer, Creech, Stroud and others will participate in a panel discussion at the church following the 11 a.m. worship service, the Foundry statement says.

“Foundry is on the forefront of full inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the life of the church,” the statement says, adding that Foundry continues to push for the United Methodist Church to end the “discriminatory language” related to LGBT people in its Book of Discipline or church law.


Smooth sailing on first Equality Cruise

Equality Cruise, gay news, Washington Blade

Sixty-nine passengers took part in the inaugural Equality Cruise. (Photo by Steve Charing)

A total of 69 passengers participated in Equality Maryland’s first Equality Cruise Jan. 12-19. Those participating were mostly from the Baltimore-Washington region but some came from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee. They included a diverse group of LGBT people and allies. Carnival Cruises donated a portion of the group’s proceeds to Equality Maryland.

Travel arrangements were made by Equality Maryland’s office manager, Vanessa Bowling, who also owns Vanessa Addrienne Travel. She, along with Doug Rose, communications volunteer for Equality Maryland, served as hosts for the group.

The cruise took place aboard the aptly named Carnival Pride, which departed from Baltimore. It sailed to Port Canaveral and then on to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas before returning. Both Bowling and Rose hosted a meet-and-greet as the ship departed Baltimore. They also arranged group gatherings including pre-dinner socials and organized a “red party” in the Pride’s dance club.

Tokyo Derekston of Glen Burnie, Md., enjoyed her first cruise.  “I’m having a great time,” she said during its midpoint. “As long as people stop asking me to sing.”

Bowling indicated that she intends to send out surveys about what people would like in the way of future cruises and ports of call. The Equality Cruise’s maiden voyage went well and there is optimism that the size of the group will increase next year.


Judge halts gay marriages in Philly suburb

Kathleen Kane, gay news, Washington Blade, Pennsylvania, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced she would not defend the state’s anti-gay marriage law. (Photo courtesy AG website)

A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday ordered a clerk in a suburban Philadelphia county to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying only the state legislature or a state or federal court had legal authority to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The ruling came two months after Montgomery County, Pa., Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes startled state officials by deciding on his own to begin granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Hanes, who is in charge of the county’s marriage license office, said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act on grounds that it was unconstitutional also invalidated the Pennsylvania law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

But Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ruled on Thursday that it was not up to Hanes to decide whether or not a state law is unconstitutional.

“Unless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the marriage law provisions or a court of competent jurisdiction orders that the law is not to be obeyed or enforced, the marriage law in its entirety is to be obeyed and enforced by all commonwealth public officials,” Pellegrini said in his ruling.

The Associated Press reported that Hanes said he was disappointed by Pellegrini’s ruling but would abide by the judge’s order to stop issuing marriage licenses.

Earlier this year the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of same-sex couples challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. To the delight of LGBT activists, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced she would not defend the law.

Hanes cited Kane’s position that the state law was unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling as justification for his decision to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in Montgomery County, which touches on the northwest border of Philadelphia.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on July 24 with the full backing of the county’s Democratic commissioners. As of earlier this week, 174 same-sex marriage licenses had been issued and 118 of the couples that obtained their license had completed their weddings, the Inquirer reported.

Pelligrini issued his ruling ordering Hanes to stop issuing the licenses after the administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) filed suit against Hanes in Commonwealth Court on grounds that the state was obligated to enforces all of its laws.

It could not immediately be determined whether the marriages of the same-sex couples through licenses issued by Hanes would remain valid.

Vic Walczak, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania representing gay couples challenging the state’s gay marriage ban, told AP Pellegrini’s decision would have no impact on the ACLU case.

“It is full speed ahead for the ACLU lawsuit,” AP quoted him as saying.

Similar to the action by Hanes, several counties in New Mexico have begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses. New Mexico’s Supreme Court is deliberating over a challenge by state officials to the issuance of the licenses and a ruling on the issue was expected later this year.


LGBT-friendly medical office opens in Pa.

doctor, health, gay news, Washington Blade, medical

A new LGBT-friendly medical office opened last week in Bethlehem, Pa. (Photo by Bigstock)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A new primary care office designed to be welcoming to LGBT clients opened last week in Bethlehem, Pa., the Morning Call, an Allentown, Pa.-based newspaper, reported.

Novus Adult Care Services, not restricted to LGBT clients, opened last week at 1565 Lindsen Street, the paper reported.

Even though the LGBT community has gained wider societal acceptance in recent years, health care practices that are LGBT-oriented are rare. Only about a dozen nationwide are known to the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, President Henry Ng told the Morning Call. Until now, the closest one to the Lehigh Valley was the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia.

Medical schools, Ng noted, spend little time talking about the health needs of sexual minorities. He and Allen Smith, a nurse practitioner who opened the site, said there’s a need for medical care for LGBT people that extends beyond HIV and sexually transmitted infections.


Pennsylvania lawmakers to introduce same-sex marriage bill

Brian Sims, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Pennsylvania lawmakers on Thursday will introduce a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state.

State Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) and Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery County) made the formal announcement during a press conference in Philadelphia. State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County,) who introduced his own same-sex measure in the Pennsylvania Senate in May, is among the other lawmakers who also attended.

“This legislation ensures that LGBT people, just like me, are one step closer to realizing the promise of a state and local Constitution that guarantees that our rights and our lives are equal to anyone else’s,” Sims told the Washington Blade late on Wednesday.

McCarter added he feels this issue is more than extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

“This is about ensuring all Pennsylvanians have equal benefits and protections before the law,” he said. “Marriage equality and the benefits associated with it need to be afforded to all of our citizens.”

Neighboring Maryland, Delaware and New York are among the 13 states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

The American Civil Liberties Union in July filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s statutory gay marriage ban on behalf of 11 same-sex couples and a widow.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane subsequently announced she would not defend the law in court. Governor Tom Corbett has said his administration would defend the same-sex marriage ban.

Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes in July began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman in August officiated a gay couple’s wedding at his suburban Pittsburgh home.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini last month ruled that Hanes cannot issue additional marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Hanes, who issued marriage licenses to 118 same-sex couples before Pellegrini issued his injunction, has appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

A Franklin and Marshall College poll in May found 54 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage, compared to 41 percent who oppose the issue. The same institution in August released a survey in which 76 percent of respondents said in response to a question about Harris’ decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples that it is unacceptable for state and local officials to ignore laws with which they disagree.

Gay nuptials measure has more than 30 co-sponsors

The same-sex marriage bill has bi-partisan support with 34 co-sponsors. They include state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Alleghany County) who co-chairs the LGBT Equality Caucus and state Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester County.)

State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon County,) who came out as gay last December, has yet to co-sponsor the measure.

Pennsylvania is among the 29 states without an LGBT-inclusive statewide anti-discrimination law, although lawmakers in May introduced two bills that would protect commonwealth residents in housing, employment and public accommodation based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Legislators in January also introduced an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying measure and bills that would add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law.

Sims remains optimistic lawmakers will approve the same-sex marriage measure.

“There is no question, even among the opposition, that marriage equality will become the law of the land,” he told the Blade. “The larger question of ‘when’ depends on how much pressure the governor and the Republican legislature feel during the election cycle.”


Pa. governor compares same-sex marriage to incest

Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (Photo by Jen Grover via Wikimedia Commons)

LGBT rights advocates on Friday  blasted Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett for comparing same-sex marriage to incest.

“It was an appropriate analogy,” Corbett said during a recent interview with a Harrisburg television station in response to a question about his administration’s lawyers comparing gay nuptials to children marrying in an August court filing in a case that sought to stop Montgomery County Registrar of Wills D. Bruce Hanes from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “I think a much better analogy would have been brother or sister.”

Corbett’s comments come a day after state Reps. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) and Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery County) formally introduced a bill that would extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians in the commonwealth.

“The issue of marriage equality is not a joke,” McCarter said. “The governor’s words only further demonstrate that he is out of touch with the majority of Pennsylvanians.”

Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign added that Corbett is “horribly out of touch with reality” and “does not represent the views of fair-minded Pennsylvanians.”

“Opponents of equality are becoming increasingly desperate these days,” Sainz said. “Gov. Corbett’s remarks embody that desperation, especially as equality efforts pick up speed in Pennsylvania.”

Neighboring Maryland, Delaware and New York are among the 13 states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane in July announced she would not defend the commonwealth’s statutory gay nuptials ban against a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed against it on behalf of 11 same-sex couples and a widow. Corbett subsequently said his administration would defend the same-sex marriage ban.

The governor sought to clarify his comments in a statement he issued on Friday.

“During a recent interview, I was asked to comment on the ruling by Judge [Dan] Pellegrini that the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts did not have the power to decide the constitutionality of state laws,” Corbett said, as the Associated Press reported. “My words were not intended to offend anyone. If they did, I apologize.”


Cartoon: The (mostly) gutsy Northeast

One (or two) of these states is not like the others...

One (or two) of these states is not like the others…