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Mozilla / Firefox hires anti-gay “Prop 8″ supporter as new CEO

Brendan Eich donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign that successfully repealed gay marriage in California.

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26
Mar
2014

Mozillagate grows

Firefox parent-company Mozilla has hired a new CEO who donated $1,000 to the anti-gay Prop 8 in California.

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27
Mar
2014

Daughter of lawyer who defended anti-gay Prop 8 comes out, getting married

Lawyer Charles Cooper is helping his gay daughter plan her wedding, says his views on marriage are now "evolving."

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17
Apr
2014

The Defense of the History of (Gay) Marriage

A new book has the "definitive account" of the gay marriage battle over the last 5 years. And gets it all wrong.

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21
Apr
2014

Gay conservatives clamor to defend fallen- Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich

They say most Americans agreed with Eich in 2008. And that same majority supports gay marriage today. Does Eich?

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23
Apr
2014

Mozilla announces Cliven Bundy as new CEO

"While Bundy supports slavery, he has given no indication of any intent to enslave Mozilla's Negroes."

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24
Apr
2014

Finishing the job of the LGBT movement

mass wedding, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, Supreme Court, Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, Prop 8, DOMA, gay news, LGBT, Washington Blade, marriage equality

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The nature of LGBT activism is changing fast in this post-DOMA/Prop 8/DADT world. As LGBT acceptance grows and anti-gay laws continue to fall, it’s easy to forget where we came from, how we got here and what’s left to accomplish.

Pride week seems a good time to reflect on some of that.

One recent story illustrates just how dramatically different the world is today: Michael Sam’s NFL draft and kiss with his boyfriend broadcast live on ESPN. The “ick” factor remains a potent enemy of LGBT equality, from straight men tweeting their horror at the kiss, to opponents of Maryland’s recently approved trans rights law trying to scare voters into thinking men dressed as women will flock to bathrooms and locker rooms. That’s why spontaneous displays of affection like Sam’s are important — such visibility will slowly ease the discomfort some feel at the sight of two men or two women together.

Although Sam’s coming out is a courageous step, some won’t recognize his process as particularly pioneering. When Martina Navratilova came out in the early 1980s, she lost untold millions in endorsement deals and endured the homophobic and misogynistic barbs of commentators and tennis fans the world over. Contrast that with Sam’s carefully choreographed announcement, Visa endorsement deal and the NFL’s aggressive moves to shield him from criticism.

Indeed, much has changed. From the days when activism meant taking to the streets, as chronicled in HBO’s “Normal Heart,” which debuted last month, to our modern view of activists as lawyers and lobbyists.

As things get better, it’s important to remember that not everyone is benefitting from all the positive change. The Blade in January embarked on a special yearlong series focusing on poverty in the LGBT community. We’ve told many stories of those in our community struggling with chronic unemployment, discrimination and health care dilemmas. There’s much more to come this year in the series.

Poverty isn’t the only problem facing the LGBT community. From transgender people who face disproportionately high rates of violence and discrimination to prison inmates coping with discriminatory laws behind bars to LGBT youth living on the streets to the stubbornly high rates of HIV infection among MSM, there is much work ahead.

And as we remember those less fortunate at home, let’s also look abroad to those LGBT people struggling to overcome hate in countries around the world like Russia, Uganda and elsewhere where being LGBT can mean imprisonment and even death.

The Blade is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year and our Pride float will reflect the changes in both the LGBT community as well as at the paper itself — from our early days as a black-and-white one-sheet newsletter featuring stories about police harassment to our modern incarnation complete with social media platforms and mobile app.

If there’s one common thread in all the thousands of stories the Blade has published over the years it’s our focus on telling the stories of LGBT people. Some readers still occasionally question why we disclose the sexual orientation of sources in our stories. The reason speaks to our core mission of chronicling our own history and overcoming hate and bias through visibility. Encouraging visibility is also why Pride celebrations remain important. Not everyone lives in LGBT-friendly places like D.C. They come from rural Virginia, Pennsylvania, Western Maryland and other locales that seem close by but for some can feel a world away from a city like Washington with its pro-LGBT politicians, an openly gay candidate running for mayor, marriage equality law and progressive laws protecting transgender residents.

So as we celebrate Pride this weekend in D.C., let’s be mindful that marriage equality isn’t the only goal of the movement and that when the weekend’s revelry ends we need to recommit ourselves to finishing the job.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

05
Jun
2014


Behind the ‘8’ ball

joyous documentary, gay news, Washington Blade

The Prop 8 couples at the Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy HBO)

Happily, HBO’s joyous documentary “The Case Against 8” is already out of date. A title near the end of the movie mentions the number of states with marriage equality, but the count doesn’t include Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. Will the producers keep updating the title or will they leave it in place as a historic marker?

“The Cast Against 8” is finishing a local run that ends Thursday (June 19) at Washington’s West End Cinema after a June 9 D.C. premiere, but it debuts Monday night on HBO to mark the one-year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. 

At its core, “The Case Against 8” is the story of three amazing pairs: the two couples who were selected to actually file the lawsuit against Proposition 8 and the two lawyers who argued the case. Proposition 8 was the controversial ballot referendum and amendment to the California state constitution that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry, overturning an earlier court decision that allowed gay marriages. With equal appeals to the emotion and intellect, the documentary masterfully captures the five-year legal battle with incredible behind-the scenes footage of the plaintiffs and their legal team at work.

The case starts with a casual conversation over a Hollywood lunch. Chad Griffin is meeting with fellow board members from the American Foundation for Equal Rights to discuss their response to Prop 8. Someone mentions that Ted Olson, the very high-profile very conservative right-wing lawyer, is a supporter of same-sex marriage. A shocked Griffin quickly sets up a meeting with Olson. Griffin is delighted when Olson signs on, but surprised by Olson’s choice of co-counsel: David Boies, his opponent in the historic 2000 Bush v. Gore battle. The two had become close friends despite their bitter rivalry and agree to join forces to overturn the discriminatory amendment.

The legal team then faces its most important and difficult decision: choosing the couples who will become plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8. Two couples survive the intense vetting process: Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley and Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami of Burbank. With the principal players in place, the battles begin, both in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion.

Documentary filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White had extraordinary access to the proceedings and skillfully capture the human and legal drama of the unfolding court cases. It’s fascinating to watch Olson and Boies lead a squadron of lawyers in developing their case. Cotner and White tell the complicated story with admirable clarity, but more importantly, they capture the intellectual passion of two brilliant minds at work.

But, like Olson and Boies, Cotner and White realize that the plaintiffs are the heart of the story. As Olson tells the foursome, “You are the case. Everything else is just evidence.” The two couples turn out to be their own best advocates. They simply and eloquently explain why the right to marry is so important to them. Perry and Stier had their 2004 marriage declared invalid; Zarrillo and Katami are waiting to have children until their relationship has full legal and social recognition. In their testimony and in their interviews with the filmmakers, these brave pioneers share the intimate details of their lives, including the threatening messages left by the haters. By the time the film closes with their respective ceremonies (each couple madly rushing to their nearest city hall with a filmmaker and lawyer in tow), there will not be a dry eye in the house.

Unfortunately, Cotner and White did not have access to the defenders of Proposition 8, but they still create interesting thumbnail sketches of the opposition. They are also denied footage from the Supreme Court hearings in San Francisco and D.C. since television cameras are banned in both chambers, but they use a surprisingly effective method to work around this obstacle. The participants simply read their testimony from printed transcripts. This is a powerful and moving technique, especially when Sandy Stier puts on her reading glasses to relive the moment. They also effectively create drama by showing the preparation for the trial, including Olson being grilled by his colleagues as he readies for his Supreme Court appearance.

 

18
Jun
2014

MLB’s support is a real game changer

MLB, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

By RYAN WAGNER

Picture this.

You’re in a ballpark. Your team is losing. Big. It’s the kind of game that would have made you leave in the fifth inning – if you were one of those fans who doesn’t believe your team will pull it out until the very last out is recorded. If you were one of those people who gives up.

All of a sudden your team gets a hit. And then another. Nothing special. A ground ball with eyes here, a dying quail there. But the buzz has started. You know the one I’m talking about. When 50,000 people all seem to begin to whisper simultaneously? The buzz.

Another hit, and this one scores a run or two. Now the buzz is a low rumble. Your team is still down, but there’s a glimmer of hope. This one ain’t over yet.

Now comes the big hit. The one that makes the sportswriters who have already written 90 percent of their game recaps stop, sigh and hit the delete button. The low rumble is now a roar. The game hasn’t been won, but the opponent is already defeated, and they’re not sure how it happened. The stars realigned, and that flighty temptress momentum changed her uniform.

In short, the narrative changed.

The fight for LGBT equality has undergone a similar change in narrative recently. For a long time, those battling in the trenches felt as though we were fighting a losing battle — always meeting with a loud, outspoken opposition that either didn’t care or simply didn’t understand. We weren’t exactly losing, but we certainly weren’t winning.

And then, all of a sudden, we got a couple of hits. Nothing big. A ground ball with eyes here, a dying quail there. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage. Connecticut would follow, with Iowa and Vermont not far behind. The buzz started. You know the one I mean. When 100 million people all begin to whisper simultaneously? The buzz.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, Prop 8 and DOMA were all struck down. The buzz became a low rumble.

The fight began to spill over into other areas of society, including the world of sports. Jason Collins came out. In light of inflammatory anti-LGBT policies in Russia, President Obama skipped the 2014 Sochi Olympics, opting instead to appoint tennis legend and gay rights champion Billie Jean King to lead the American contingent at the Opening Ceremonies. Michael Sam announced he’s gay prior to the NFL draft and in doing so, became the first openly gay man to sign a contract with an NFL team.

The low rumble became a roar, and the narrative had changed.

As a professional stage actor who also decided to pursue a career in the world of professional sports, I’m somewhat of an anomaly.

The relationships I forged with my friends in the theater world led me to assume that the fight for LGBT equality was on the forefront of the American social agenda. I assumed this because, for those of us traveling North America with a musical, it was simply a part of the vernacular.

In 2011, I was on the road with that musical when I learned I had been hired by Major League Baseball. I would be leaving the bubble that theater had created, and would be making the long, fascinating walk to the other side of the spectrum. In a span of three days, I went from a cocoon where my most important issue was the same as everyone else’s to a world where that issue was never even discussed. It wasn’t that LGBT equality was on the back burner for Major League Baseball. It had yet to make it onto the stove. Professional sports, particularly those considered the “Big 4,” are in many ways the last great bastion of masculinity and demonstrative heterosexuality. Anything that can be deemed a weakness is a liability. Any distraction is removed as quickly and quietly as possible. Which is why the three years that have passed since I first began my career in baseball have been so remarkable.

In a span of just a few years, I have had a front row seat for one of the most astounding, and most important, ideological shifts in social history. Thanks to the immediacy of information and (seriously) the power of social media, LGBT equality has gone from an issue on the periphery of the American agenda to one that finds itself front and center. And the catalyst for that tectonic shift has been sports. When the issue of homosexuality began showing up on the football field and the basketball court, the everyday, blue-collar American sports fan was forced to deal with it. As I watched Jason Collins and Michael Sam announce their homosexuality, my immediate thought was, “When will this tidal wave reach Major League Baseball?”

Baseball is America’s pastime. As James Earl Jones once remarked in “Field of Dreams,” “Baseball…has marked the times.” It has gotten us through some of the most tumultuous times in our nation’s history: World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, 9-11. It stands to reason that baseball would take the lead in this time of great struggle. But when was that going to happen? When was baseball going to realize the opportunity it had to make a statement to not only the rest of the sports landscape, but to the country and the world as a whole?

A few weeks ago, I got my answer. On July 15, Major League Baseball officially announced its partnership with Athlete Ally, an organization dedicated to fostering an environment of acceptance and inclusion for all LGBT athletes, coaches, and fans across all sports, professional and amateur.

When MLB announced that partnership — even Commissioner Bud Selig signed a pledge to become an Athlete Ally himself — it trumpeted a major victory for the entire LGBT community and their allies. Major League Baseball is not just a professional sports league. It is an organization that is American as American gets. It represents all that we hold dear in our most patriotic of hearts, and if something that American can say that being gay is not only OK, but is something worth fighting for, who would dare say otherwise?

There may be nothing more difficult than the growing pains of a transitioning social issue. Most people who have strongly held beliefs derive those beliefs from years and years of indoctrination. Change only comes when those screaming for change outnumber those who are plugging their ears and waiting for the din to quiet. With Major League Baseball now adding its voice to the roaring winds of change, the din may finally be too much to overcome.

In short, the narrative has changed. And now, at long last, maybe, just maybe, that flighty temptress momentum has changed her uniform.

Ryan Wagner is the PA announcer for the Baltimore Orioles.

21
Aug
2014