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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.


Gay Pa. Republican wins Dem nomination

Mike Fleck, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon County) narrowly won the Democratic nomination to appear on the November ballot after losing the Republican primary to a write-in candidate. (Photo courtesy of Fleck)

THREE SPRINGS, Pa. — A gay state representative who is the only out Republican in the Pennsylvania Legislature and the first openly gay state lawmaker there, will appear on the November ballot as a Democrat after he narrowly lost to a primary opponent.

Huntingdon County Treasurer Richard Irvin defeated state Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon County) on May 20 after he staged a successful write-in campaign. The Patriot-News on May 27 reported that Fleck won the Democratic nomination to appear on the November ballot by a 901-886 vote margin.

“Thank you to the 15 democrats who put me over the top on the democratic write-in,” wrote Fleck on his Facebook page on May 27. “And thank you to the three thousand plus republicans who voted based on my job performance. While a lot can still happen legally, today is a new day and if we are ultimately successful in our bid to continue thru the fall, rest assured, I will give it my all.”

Fleck, who was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2006, came out in 2012 during an interview with a local newspaper.

He told the Patriot-News on May 27 he feels his opponents voted against him because of his sexual orientation.

“I think we all know what the race was about,” said Fleck. “For the most part it was a vote against me, not necessarily a vote for [Irvin.]“


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.


GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania face calls to support ENDA

John Boehner, ENDA, United States House of Representatives, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

House Speaker John Boehner won’t bring up ENDA after a court ruling in favor of marriage equality (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key).

As a contentious mid-term election for control of Congress approaches, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has emerged in Pennsylvania as a campaign issue in competitive U.S. House districts following a court decision granting the Keystone State marriage equality.

Pennsylvania is now the only state with marriage equality, but no explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the workplace. Two Democratic congressional candidates are making ENDA an issue against potentially vulnerable Republicans.

Mary Ellen Balchunis, who’s worked as a political scientist professor and is challenging Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) in the race for the state’s 7th congressional district, and Kevin Strouse, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who’s running against Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in the 8th congressional district, and both calling for action on ENDA.

In an email statement to the Blade, Balchunis said supports ENDA and pledged to turn up the pressure on Meehan over ENDA if he doesn’t declare his support for the legislation.

“I can support this bill,” Balchunis said. “I do not believe in discrimination against any group of individuals. If Congressman Meehan does not support this legislation, I will call him out on it.”

Strouse similarly said he supports ENDA and passage of the legislation is necessary in the aftermath of U.S. District Judge John Jones III’s ruling in favor of marriage equality in Pennsylvania.

“I absolutely support ENDA, and would work to bring it to a vote by any means,” Strouse said. “On Tuesday the courts rightly struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage equality, yet here in Pennsylvania, LGBT people can still be fired from their jobs because of who they love. This is wrong.”

Strouse added passage of ENDA is “also smart for business” because putting an end to discrimination will make Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district a more attractive place to work for young professionals.

“Congressman Fitzpatrick’s failure to address this issue is only the latest example that he is not a leader who works for the best interests of our district, and lets his partisan ideology get in the way of economic growth,” Strouse said. “When I am elected, I will work to pass ENDA because it’s the right thing to do, and would bring economic growth to our district.”

Neither the office Meehan nor Fitzpatrick responded to multiple requests from the Washington Blade to comment on their position on the ENDA.

But both lawmakers are considered potential supporters of ENDA. Meehan and Fitzpatrick were among the Republicans in the U.S. House who voted last year for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which contained non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

The race between these Republicans and their Democratic challengers could be close. According to a Public Policy Poll published in October 2013, Meehan would lose to a generic Democratic opponent, 40-43, and Fitzpatrick would lose to generic Democratic opponent, 44-46. However, this poll was came out immediately after the government shutdown, so the situation for these Republicans may have improved since then.

The spotlight on Meehan and Fitzpatrick becomes pronounced as LGBT advocates are working to gain Republican support for the legislation in hopes of a House vote on the bill. Currently, the bill has seven Republican co-sponsors: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Jon Runyan (N.J.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.).

But even after the Pennsylvania ruling in favor of marriage equality, House Speaker John Boehner continues to be unmoved to bring up ENDA.

Last week during a news conference, the Washington Blade asked Boehner whether Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision to allow marriage equality to come to a state without LGBT non-discrimination protections should prompt the Republican-controlled U.S. House to finish the job by passing ENDA. The speaker was succinct in his response.

“I think we’ll leave that decision to the governor of Pennsylvania,” Boehner said.

In December, Corbett in fact came out in support for non-discrimination legislation within his state, saying he mistakenly believed those protections were in already in place at the federal level. His office didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on whether he wants the House to pass on a federal version of non-discrimination protections like ENDA.

The Senate last year passed ENDA on a bipartisan basis. A vote in the House is the only thing keeping the legislation from President Obama’s desk.

It’s possible the Human Rights Campaign could step in to influence the Pennsylvania races on the basis of ENDA. During the last election cycle, the organization endorsed Democratic challengers to the both Republican incumbents in their respective races.

Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications, spoke generally about his organization’s endorsement process when asked whether support from ENDA from the two Republicans would prompt HRC to endorse the lawmakers, or stay out of their race altogether.

“We continuously evaluate races as we move through the cycle,” Sainz said. “We will announce endorsements in a manner that’s most impactful to LGBT equality.”


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.


Pa. anti-discrimination bills face uphill battle

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

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett backs efforts to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the state. He also announced last week he would not appeal a federal judge’s ruling that struck down the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban. (Photo public domain)

Two bills that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Pennsylvania continue to face an uphill battle despite the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County) has refused to allow debate on House Bill 300 in the House State Government Committee that he chairs since state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny County) introduced it last August. The measure — and an identical bill that state Sen. Patrick Browne (D-Lehigh County) introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate have more than 100 co-sponsors.

Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday he feels Gov. Tom Corbett’s announcement late last year that he supports the measure is “definitely a good thing.” Martin further stressed same-sex marriage in the commonwealth will have little impact on Metcalfe’s opposition to HB 300.

“He was always very adamant that the bill would never come out of his committee,” said Martin. “The marriage issue is not going to change that.”

Martin told the Blade he is “thrilled” the state now recognizes his California marriage. He stressed his organization’s response to the extension of marriage rights to gays and lesbians in the commonwealth has been “kind of tempered” because of the lack of statewide discrimination protections for LGBT Pennsylvanians.

“I have to remind people that you can still get fired,” said Martin. “You can face termination or eviction in most parts of the state.”

Sue Kerr, editor of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, made a similar point.

She told the Blade on Tuesday that a woman who lives in Metcalfe’s district north of Pittsburgh sent her a picture of an anti-gay marriage sign hanging outside a local church that read “just because sin is legal doesn’t mean its okay.” Kerr said she has also spoken with dozens of people since U.S. District Judge John E. Jones, III, on May 20 struck down Pennsylvania’s statutory same-sex marriage ban who don’t understand “how it all works.”

“There’s a sense of urgency to get married, even though they are risking their jobs or their housing,” she said. “I’m afraid people are going to make uninformed decisions.”

Pennsylvania is among the 19 states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can now legally marry after Corbett announced last week he will not appeal Jones’ ruling.

Neighboring Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York are among the 21 states, the nation’s capital and Puerto Rico that have banned anti-gay discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation. Delaware and New Jersey also ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley earlier this month signed a transgender rights bill into law that could face a referendum in November.

Philadelphia and 31 other Pennsylvania municipalities have enacted anti-discrimination laws that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. A poll that Susquehanna Polling and Research conducted last May found 72 percent of Pennsylvanians back the two anti-LGBT discrimination bills.

Martin told the Blade he feels the attention surrounding same-sex marriage will help Pennsylvanians “understand how we treat LGBT people” in the state “in general, which is not good.”

“Equality Pennsylvania has been fighting for non-discrimination for a long time, along with marriage equality,” he said. “We never expected to get it in this way.”

Kerr added she feels marriage rights for same-sex couples will also have a positive impact on lawmakers who would consider HB 300.

“Putting more public pressure out there is good,” she said. “Marriage equality can be helpful seeing all these nice stories out there. That’s all positive.”

Metcalfe did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.


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.


Much to celebrate this Pride season

Pride season, gay news, gay politics dc

Capital Pride (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

We have a lot to celebrate this year as Pride season arrives. The biggest reason may be the Windsor decision handed down by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. Since that time, judges across the nation have based their rulings that states from Pennsylvania to Utah must recognize same-sex marriages on this decision. June 1 marked the day that same-sex marriages could begin in Illinois. Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill banning discrimination against the transgender community in Maryland and a petition drive to put that up to a referendum in the state failed.

In Texas, Houston Mayor Annise Parker signed the Equal Rights Ordinance. That signature came after an 11-hour Council session of which the city secretary said, “it was the largest public turnout Houston had ever seen at a City Council meeting.” We have seen many changes in federal policy that give same-sex married couples more rights and no less a conservative than Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently said that though he personally doesn’t support same-sex marriage it is inevitable that it will become the law of the land.

A year ago, “Kinky Boots,” based on a film adapted by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper, won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Sunday we can look forward to out and talented Neil Patrick Harris winning this year’s Tony Award for best actor in a musical for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Larry Kramer finally saw his play, “The Normal Heart,” made into a successful film for HBO. Our community is still fighting about issues surrounding AIDS as seen by the recent debate between Kramer and columnist Andrew Sullivan about the impact of the drug Truvada.

The Pride parade Saturday will wind through the Dupont and Logan Circle neighborhoods. The parade is fun but has always been a little long. One way to shorten it would be to have all politicians and candidates participate together. Have the mayor lead off the parade with other politicians joining him/her in a line at the front. If there is still a clamor by any of them to have a separate contingent there could be a lottery and they would be interspersed throughout the parade, between the fun floats and bands, so people wouldn’t have to watch the first hour of just politicians.

Pride festivities have grown over the years and this year there are more than 30 official events listed on the Capital Pride website that span from Jewish Pride Happy Hour at MOVA to the Night Out at the Nationals. Many of the events listed cater to specific groups within the LGBT community because, like the rest of society, we are a diverse community. We are young and old, men and women, black, white, Latino and Asian and have representation in every religious denomination and all of us want to celebrate and showcase our Pride.

As we celebrate we should always take a moment to remember those who have helped to move us forward over the years. We need to think about and thank all those who both publicly and behind the scenes fought for our civil and human rights when it wasn’t easy to be out and proud. We must also remember those friends and loved ones who died of AIDS during the years when our community fought to bring attention to the disease our government was failing to respond to.

And as we celebrate our victories we need to pledge to continue to work toward full equality — to fight to ensure the rights of transgender persons and to continue the fight to pass legislation like ENDA. We also need to demand that the president live up to a promise he made to us in 2008, and which he has pointedly not kept, to sign an executive order protecting the rights of LGBT workers in federal contracting. While we may thank him for announcing a history project in front of the Stonewall Inn, I am sure nearly all of us would trade that for a signature on the executive order.


Philly gay man met killer on Grindr

Grindr, social media app, gay news, Washington Blade

Philadelphia police have issued a warning about criminals using dating apps to target potential victims.

CHESTER, Pa. — Police say a Philadelphia man was murdered by someone he met on a gay hook-up app.

WPVI reported a passerby found Dino Dizdarevic’s body in Chester on May 2.

Police told the Philadelphia television station the 25-year-old whose family fled Bosnia-Herzegovina during the country’s civil war in the 1990s suffered blunt force trauma to the head. WPVI also reported Dizdarevic likely met his killer on Grindr two days before his body was found.

Dizdarevic’s death comes less than a week after Philadelphia police issued a warning about criminals using dating apps to target potential victims.


Double delights

marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff of Winchester, Va. (Photo courtesy of the ACLU)

Mother’s Day brings double blessings for lesbian parents. But in most of the country, there’s a downside — couples in many states are fighting for the legal protections only available to some same-sex U.S. couples. We asked several couples involved in marriage equality lawsuits — three in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania — what they’ll be doing on Sunday and why the day is special to them.

NAME: Victoria L. Kidd

PARTNER’S NAME: Christy J. Berghoff


KIDS’ NAME(S) AND AGES: Lydia Berghoff-Kidd, 1

CITY/STATE: Winchester, VA

CASE INVOLVED IN: Harris Et Al. V. Rainer et al. (Formerly Harris et al. V. McDonnell et al.)


As a lesbian mom, what does Mother’s Day mean to you? Does it have any special significance as an LGBT parent? 


I suspect much of what I feel on Mother’s Day is similar to that felt by mothers in opposite-sex relationships or by single mothers. I feel the same humble gratitude for being fortunate enough to be a mother to my daughter. I feel the same sense of thankfulness that my little one is here to share my life with me and to give my life a purpose greater than any other.

The one uniqueness about being a mother involved in a same-sex relationship is that it is a life experience shared with someone you love completely, your wife. In that sense, Mother’s Day takes on a special significance, because the day marks that shared experience and allows you to demonstrate your love and commitment to another person who is equally mother to your child.


What is your Mother’s Day tradition? Do you and your partner celebrate it together?


Our family is still working to define our traditions, as our daughter is just a little over a year old. Certainly, we both endeavor to show our own mothers that we appreciate them, but as far as celebrating in our home, we more or less simply spend the day together. We share a special meal and have hours of “play time” as a family. For us, celebrating this particular day is not about what you do, it is about sharing time together. Christy and I do exchange cards filled with messages of support, because parenting is not easy. We both simply try to find the words and the ways available to say we love each other, support each other and would not want to share life or the responsibilities of motherhood with anyone else.


You’re a plaintiff in a state marriage case — in your own words, please tell us why you feel it’s important for gay families to have legal protections.


Our family is built upon love and commitment. Christy and I committed to being each other’s “forever” when we were married in 2011 in D.C., but life is delicate and uncertain. Should anything happen to either of us, we want to ensure the other is afforded the same protections and benefits granted to legally married opposite-sex couples. More importantly, we want our daughter to be fully protected. Protections extend beyond benefits allowed after death; they provide the foundation for greater everyday acceptance in our communities. When people are separated out as somehow different at an institutional level, it makes it easier for others to perceive them, and subsequently to treat them, differently. Gaining protections under law advances the idea that our families should be treated equally and without bias while going about our day-to-day lives.


Joanne Harris, Jabari, Jessica Duff, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia, same-sex marriage, marriage equality

Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff with Jabari. (Photo courtesy of the couple)

NAME: Joanne Harris

PARTNER’S NAME: Jessica Duff

OCCUPATION: Director of diversity and advocacy

KIDS’ NAME(S) AND AGES: Jabari, age 5

CITY/STATE: Staunton, VA

CASE INVOLVED IN: Harris et al vs. Janet Rainey


As a lesbian mom, what does Mother’s Day mean to you? Does it have any special significance as an LGBT parent? 


Being a mother has been the most rewarding and important experience of our lives, and being Jabari’s mothers makes every day feel like Mother’s Day. Although we celebrate this day together with our own mothers, we also take this opportunity to remind our friends and family members being acknowledged as Jabari’s legal parent is one of many reasons why marriage equality is important in Virginia.


What is your Mother’s Day tradition? Do you and your partner celebrate it together?


We celebrate Mother’s Day with our extended family. It’s a special day for us to celebrate the most influential women in our family, not just our mothers, but all of those who have supported us. 

Yes we celebrate every family tradition together.


You’re a plaintiff in a state marriage case — in your own words, please tell us why you feel it’s important for gay families to have legal protections. 


We feel it’s important for all families to be treated equally. Every devoted partner and loving parent should have the opportunity to provide all the legal intricacies of functioning as a family. This sometimes may include authorizing medical treatment, academic guidance and full financial support. These things are only a few of the things not possible without full legal marriage rights. We want the same rights as other loving couples and parents in our beautiful extended family and network of friends.

Whitewood, same-sex marriage, Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

The Whitewood family (Photo courtesy of the family)

NAME: Deb Whitewood

PARTNER’S NAME: Susan Whitewood

OCCUPATION: Full-time Mom

KIDS’ NAME(S) AND AGES: Abbey, 17; Katie, 15; Landon, 3.

CITY/STATE: Bridgeville, PA

CASE INVOLVED IN: Whitewood v. Wolfe


As a lesbian mom, what does Mother’s Day mean to you? Does it have any special significance as an LGBT parent? 


To me, Mother’s Day means the same that I think it means to any mom, to have our children, families, friends and community members recognize the mothers, or mother figures, in our lives for the hardworking and loving presence that they faithfully provide to not only their own children, but often to other children in their communities. Being a mother was once described to me as akin to having your heart walk around outside of your body. That’s what I feel, I feel like I have at least three or four or more pieces of my heart walking around the world with me.

As a lesbian couple, becoming mothers wasn’t easy for Susan and me. We had to work very hard to create our family and we had to jump through a lot of hoops, legally, emotionally and physically. But the result is that we have three wonderful kids who call us Mummy and Momma, and they know, without a shadow of a doubt, just how much they were wanted and how precious each of them is to us.


What is your Mother’s Day tradition? Do you and your partner celebrate together? 


I have to laugh, because until this Mother’s Day, Susan and I have always been together on Mother’s Day. The kids would make cards, often really, really large, creative cards, for us. We would go to church together and then head out to celebrate with our own mothers and my grandmas, often with a brunch together in downtown Pittsburgh.  Things have changed though. Susan’s mom and both of my grandmas have passed away. And in true mother form, our kids’ activities take precedence over even our Mother’s Day celebration. Our daughter, Katie, has a volleyball tournament in Columbus, Ohio on Mother’s Day. (Whomever planned that should have their head examined!) So off to Columbus we will go. My mom will be joining us later in the afternoon. So we will make our own Mother’s Day celebration wherever we end up. That’s the thing about moms; we go with the flow and do whatever is necessary to make it work out best for all members of the family.


You’re a plaintiff in a state marriage case — in your own words, please tell us why you feel it’s important for gay families to have legal protections. 


Gay and lesbian families are in communities all around us and many are raising children. We live and work alongside our straight married friends and do things almost exactly the same way. We change diapers, help with homework, clean the house, car pool, shop for prom dresses, cheer at volleyball games, visit the zoo, shop at the grocery, see the doctor and play at the park just like our straight counterparts do. In many of our communities we are viewed as equal to our straight counterparts and our families are valued and supported. But even when our families are valued and supported, there is disparity. Our families are treated like second-class families in so many ways. Children are denied health insurance because their parents are not allowed to be married and the employer won’t provide insurance for the same-sex spouse and her children. Gay and lesbian parents have to pay large legal fees to create a patchwork of legal protections to give their families some, but nowhere near all, the protections that come with marriage.  We file for second-parent adoptions and hope they will be granted. We notarize wills, powers of attorney, guardianship papers and other paperwork and pray that we will never need them, but we carry them everywhere, just in case. No married, straight friend of mine has ever had to scramble to find her power of attorney paperwork when she heard her husband had been rushed to the hospital. I have. I made sure I had it when Susan went to the hospital last year because all I could think was, “What am I going to do if they won’t let me see her?”

Our families deserve the same recognition and protection that other families have because we ARE a family. A family that loves each other, supports each other, cares for each other and will always be there for each other.

Mary Townley, Emily Townley-Schall, Carol Schall, Virginia, Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality

From left, Mary Townley, Emily Townley-Schall and Carol Schall attended the 2014 Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner on April 5. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


NAME: Carol Schall

PARTNER’S NAME: Mary Townley

OCCUPATION: Assistant professor and researcher, Virginia Commonwealth University

KIDS’ NAME(S) AND AGES: Emily, age 16

CITY/STATE: Richmond, VA

CASE INVOLVED IN: Bostic v Rainey


As a lesbian mom, what does Mother’s Day mean to you? Does it have any special significance as an LGBT parent? 


It is a celebration of our job as moms. It is a day to recognize the wonder and joy of being a mom. It is also a recognition that being a mom is not intuitive, easy or second nature. It requires mindfulness and awareness of your role to raise the next generation and even the generations to come. According to experts, we parent as our parents do. Emily will probably parent her children as we have parented her. So, Mother’s Day is a day for me to reflect on the generations past and the generations yet to come that will carry our light forward into the ages. Beyond all other endeavors, being a mom is the most important and lasting. Being a mom has been a dream of mine from the time I could first think. For Mary and I, we didn’t think this could be a reality until we set a vision to become moms. I love being Emily’s mom more than any other job I have ever had. It is my greatest joy and my greatest worry all at the same time!


What is your Mother’s Day tradition? Do you and your partner celebrate it together? 


Emily usually shops for gifts for us with a good friend of ours the week before Mother’s Day. Our morning is usually pretty easy. As a teen, she likes to sleep late, that means her moms get to sleep late too! Once we are up and moving, we usually go out to Sunday brunch. We also try to have all chores done to make it a really relaxed family day. When Emily was a baby, we would shop for each other. Now that she is older, she shops for us. I love to recognize the amazing mom that Mary is. She is warm and kind and tenderhearted when it comes to Emily. Mother’s Day is my opportunity to recognize all that she is and means to Emily.


You’re a plaintiff in a state marriage case — in your own words, please tell us why you feel it’s important for gay families to have legal protections. 


Mary gave birth to Emily, but I am the main “bread winner” in our family. Without marriage, the state of Virginia will never recognize me as Emily’s parent. Marriage matters for Emily and all of our children. Without the protections of marriage, Virginia would not recognize my estate as Emily’s should anything ever happen to me. They would not automatically notify me if anything ever happened to her. Finally, they could even prohibit me from seeing her or coming to her aid if anything were to happen to Mary. Without marriage, I am a legal stranger to my own daughter. I am in this fight for Emily. I want her to have a family that is recognized. I want to be able to legally and finally be her mom. We celebrate Mother’s Day as a family. I long for the day when we can legally celebrate Mother’s Day as a nation.