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Baltimore LGBT Wedding Expo set

wedding expo, wedding rings, gay news, Washington Blade

Couples, singles, advocates and allies are all invited to connect and celebrate equal marriage rights.

The third annual “Same Love, Same Rights” LGBT Wedding Expo will take place on Jan. 26 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Grand Historic Venue, 225 North Charles St., in Baltimore.

The Expo will include dozens of LGBT-friendly wedding professionals. There will also be ceremony planning tips, free samples, raffles, keynote speakers and music

Couples, singles, advocates and allies are all invited, to connect and celebrate equal marriage rights. The event is free but a $5 donation is requested. For more information, visit samelovesamerights.com.

07
Jan
2014

N.C. insurer drops gay, lesbian couples

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s biggest health insurer, has canceled family insurance policies it sold last month to gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina under the Affordable Care Act, the Charlotte News Observer reports.

Blue Cross, Blue Shield, health, gay news, Washington Blade, North Carolina

Blue Cross and Blue Shield canceled family insurance policies it sold last month to gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina.

The insurer canceled policies of 20 couples — some who were legally married in states that recognize gay marriage — and encouraged them to reapply for separate insurance policies as unmarried individuals. The couples received calls from Blue Cross in mid-January, several weeks after they purchased their family health insurance, and were told their family coverage was invalid, the article said.

Blue Cross’ strategy has stung same-sex couples and gay-rights advocates because the nonprofit insurer offers domestic partner benefits to its own employees. Blue Cross insurance plans offered by large companies in North Carolina also include health benefits for employees and their same-sex partner, the News Observer said.

The problem is traced to terminology in Blue Cross policies that define “spouse” as “opposite sex.” North Carolina insurance law does not prohibit selling coverage to gay couples, but Blue Cross was legally bound by the restrictive contract language in its individual plans, said Kerry Hall, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Insurance.

Blue Cross has vowed to update the language in 2015.

29
Jan
2014

Gay marriage opponent working for Shallal campaign

Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets, District of Columbia, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Democratic mayoral candidate Andy Shallal’s campaign has paid $4,000 to an official who ran for D.C. mayor in 2010 on a platform supporting a voter referendum to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law. (Photo by Laela25; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A candidate who ran for D.C. mayor in 2010 on a platform supporting a voter referendum to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law was paid $4,000 in December as a consultant to Democratic mayoral candidate Andy Shallal, according to campaign finance records.

Records filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance on Jan. 31 identify the consultant as 2010 mayoral candidate and former TV news anchor Leo Alexander.

In his run for mayor, Alexander’s campaign received at least $1,950 from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and was backed by Bishop Harry Jackson, the Maryland minister who led the unsuccessful campaign to repeal the city’s marriage equality law.

Alexander received less than 1 percent of the vote in the September 2010 Democratic primary, far behind then City Council Chair Vincent Gray, who won the primary and then Mayor Adrian Fenty, came in second place behind Gray.

Shallal has expressed strong support for LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage. As owner of the local Busboys and Poets restaurant chain, Shallal has hosted LGBT events at his restaurants.

Shallal campaign spokesperson Dwight Kirk told the Washington City Paper that Alexander met with Shallal before joining the campaign and promised that he changed his mind and that his positions “evolved” on the same-sex marriage issue since his 2010 campaign.

But City Paper columnist Will Sommer, who was the first to report Alexander’s connection with the Shallal campaign, said in a posting on Thursday that Alexander wouldn’t tell him whether his positions on gay marriage changed.

News of Alexander’s involvement in the Shallal campaign comes two weeks after news surfaced that an advocate for a voter referendum on the D.C. marriage equality law in 2010 was working as a paid consultant in January for Gray’s re-election campaign.

Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bob King, who was paid by the anti-gay NOM in 2010, is currently being paid to help the Gray campaign arrange logistics to drive senior citizens to the polls for the April 1 primary. Gray campaign chair Chuck Thies said King has no role in policy making issues and now accepts the marriage equality statute as the “law of the land.”

Alexander and Kirk couldn’t immediately be reached for comment by the Blade.

21
Feb
2014

Appeals court halts Michigan same-sex marriages

Regnerus, gay juror, National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

The Sixth Circuit has stayed same-sex marriages in Michigan pending appeal (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals announced late Tuesday it has placed a hold on same-sex marriages in Michigan pending appeal — dashing the hopes of those who wanted the weddings to continue as litigation moved forward.

In a 2-1 decision, the majority ruled it must place a stay on ruling from U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman striking down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage in case of DeBoer v. Snyder to conform to an earlier stay decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There is no apparent basis to distinguish this case or to balance the equities any differently than the Supreme Court did in Kitchen,” the majority writes. “Furthermore, several district courts that have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriage similar to the Michigan amendment at issue here have also granted requests for stays made by state defendants.”

The U.S. Supreme Court had issued a stay on same-sex marriages in Utah pending the outcome of litigation, Kitchen v. Herbert, after a district judge struck down the state’s marriage ban and the Utah Gov. Gary Herbert sought to halt the weddings by filing a stay request.

The two judges in the majority for the stay decision were U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell, sitting by designation on the appeals court, and U.S. Circuit Judge John Rogers. U.S. Circuit Judge Helene White was sole dissent in the stay decision. Each of the judges were appointed and confirmed by former President George W. Bush during his administration.

In her dissent, White writes the stay in the Utah case isn’t controlling for the Michigan marriages and says the state didn’t make a sufficient argument that it would succeed in the case on appeal.

“Michigan has not made the requisite showing,” White writes. “Although the Supreme Court stayed the permanent injunction issued by the Utah District Court in Kitchen v. Herbert pending final disposition by the Tenth Circuit, it did so without a statement of reasons, and therefore the order provides little guidance. I would therefore apply the traditional four-factor test, which leads me to conclude that a stay is not warranted.”

Although Friedman didn’t include a stay as part of his ruling, the Sixth Circuit instituted a temporary stay on the weddings after an estimated 315 marriage licenses were distributed to same-sex couples in Ingham, Washtenaw, Muskegon and Oakland counties.

Legal experts who spoke with the Washington Blade over the weekend say they didn’t think the Sixth Circuit needed to place a stay on Michigan same-sex marriages because the Supreme Court’s stay on same-sex marriages in Utah wasn’t controlling and numerous courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality since the stay decision in that case.

In a filing before the Sixth Circuit on Tuesday, attorneys for the plaintiff same-sex couples in the case, April DeBoer and Jane Rowse, made similar arguments to make the case that the court should allow the same-sex weddings to continue pending the outcome of the litigation.

“Permitting loving same-sex couples to marry pending the outcome of this appeal will not harm the state in any way; permitting the children of loving same-sex couples to have two legally recognized parents will not harm the state in any way; permitting the children of loving same-sex couples to have two legally recognized parents will better protect these children and will keep the state from continuing to ‘impair the rights of’ these children,’” the attorneys write.

Attorneys for Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, who assisted as a defendant in litigation against Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, argued in a separate filing the court should reject a stay because it would harm same-sex couples living in the state.

“Couples and their families who want the legal protection and recognition of marriage will experience real harm if a stay is granted by this Court,” the attorneys write. “Defendant Brown will be forced to discriminate against couples and their families if a stay is granted. The State risks losing residents who can no longer live in a State that treats them and their families like second class citizens. They can no longer stay in a State that leaves them and their children legally vulnerable.”

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who’s been defending Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, argued before the Sixth Circuit that the court must followed precedent by the Supreme Court, noting other federal judges instituted stays when striking down bans on same-sex marriage.

“As to the merits of the stay itself, none of the plaintiffs’ arguments overcome a simple fact: the Supreme Court has already addressed precisely this situation — a federal district court striking down a state marriage amendment — and concluded that a stay pending appeal was necessary,” Schuette writes.

In the event that the Sixth Circuit denied the stay pending appeal, Schuette requested a two-day temporary stay from the court so it could seek a stay from Supreme Court without same-sex marriages taking place in Michigan.

Plaintiffs in the case charged the state never formally asked for a stay from the district court, saying that was appropriate venue to ask for a stay. But in its filing, the state asserts it orally requested a stay during arguments.

Now that the Sixth Circuit has issued a stay, plaintiffs could appeal the stay decision the Supreme Court, but observers say a different outcome is unlikely.

Dana Nessel, one the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the lawsuit, said plaintiffs “have no plans to appeal” the stay decision at this time.

One lingering question is whether the state and the federal government will recognized the same-sex marriages already performed in Michigan over the weekend. In Utah, the results were split: the state elected not to recognize its marriage, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would recognize the unions.

Neither Michigan nor the federal government has definitively weighed on in the issue. The Associated Press quoted a spokesperson for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder as saying the state won’t yet recognize the marriages until a decision was made on the stay pending appeal, and the Justice Department told the Blade situation remains under review.

Via Twitter, Brown called on the Snyder to recognize the same-sex marriages performed in the state, suggesting if he refused to do so, voters should elect the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the 2014 election.

“When will Gov Snyder act like a leader and recognize the hundreds of MI citizens who married on Sat?” Brown tweeted. “MI needs true leadership.”

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article incorrectly reported Judge White was a Clinton appointee. She was initially named by Clinton, but wasn’t confirmed by the Senate under his administration. George W. Bush renamed her and the Senate confirmed her under his watch. The Blade regrets the error.

26
Mar
2014

Southern LGBT groups file brief in Va. marriage case

Heather Mack, Ashely Broadway-Mack, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, gay news, Washington Blade

Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack and Ashley Broadway-Mack live in Fort Bragg, N.C. (Photo courtesy of Equality North Carolina)

Two Southern LGBT advocacy groups on Friday filed an amicus brief in a federal lawsuit challenging Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Equality North Carolina and the South Carolina Equality Coalition repeatedly reference the impact their respective states’ same-sex marriage bans have had on the families of gay and lesbian servicemembers in the 27-page brief they filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Tracy Johnson legally married Donna Johnson, a staff sergeant with the North Carolina National Guard, in D.C. in February 2012.

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed Donna Johnson eight months. Tracy Johnson has yet to receive death benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs because North Carolina does not recognize her D.C. marriage.

The brief also cites Ashley Broadway-Mack and Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack who live in Fort Bragg, N.C.

The women – who have been together for more than 15 years and are raising two children – exchanged vows in the nation’s capital in November 2012. Broadway-Mack is unable to make medical and other decisions on behalf of her children in North Carolina because the state does not recognize their marriage and prohibits second-parent adoption for gays and lesbians.

“Broadway-Mack lacks the rights and privileges granted to all other parents,” writes Mark Kleinschmidt, who is gay and the mayor of Chapel Hill, N.C., in the brief. “Once she steps off the military base and into Cumberland County, N.C., Broadway-Mack can no longer direct the education of her children or make decisions regarding their care.”

Kleinschmidt notes in the brief that Broadway-Mack could also lose custody of her children if something were to happen to Mack while on deployment.

“This situation leaves the family vulnerable,” he says. “Because of North Carolina’s discriminatory laws, Lt. Col. Mack and Broadway-Mack’s children lose the stability of having two legal parents. This harm is aggravated in the context of a military family when a parent’s life is put at risk in service to her country.”

Broadway-Mack discussed the brief with reporters during a conference call earlier on Friday.

“I question what legal problems I would have if something were to happen to Heather,” she said, noting her wife is currently in Afghanistan. “That is something that weighs on my very heavily.”

Fort Bragg is the largest U.S. Army installation in the country. Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point are also located in the Tar Heel State.

Parris Island and Fort Jackson are among the military installations in South Carolina.

“We believe individuals coming to the state for training purposes should receive the same protections as the state they came from,” said South Carolina Equality Coalition Executive Director Ryan Wilson.

North Carolina voters in 2012 approved a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and recognition of any other gay and lesbian relationships. South Carolinians in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina last week filed a lawsuit on behalf of three married same-sex couples who are seeking legal recognition of their unions in the Tar Heel State.

The ACLU in 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s second-parent adoption ban. The group last year amended the case to directly challenge North Carolina’s marriage amendment.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in February struck down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

The 4th Circuit next month is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit against it that Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield filed last year. The federal appeals court in March allowed the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal – who filed a separate lawsuit against the commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban last August on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley – to join the case.

North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia fall under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

“Our gay and lesbian service members put their lives on the line everyday for North Carolina, and it’s shameful that they and their families are treated as second-class by our present state of inequality,” said Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro. “As these brave men and women courageously perform their duties with dignity and honor, at Equality NC we think its our duty to stand up for the freedom to marry for those who fight for the freedom for all.”

A.E. Dick Howard and Daniel R. Ortiz of the University of Virginia School of Law and Carl W. Tobias of the Richmond School of Law on Friday also filed an amicus brief with the 4th Circuit in the Bostic case. PFLAG, the Family Equality Council, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Cato Institute are among the groups that filed briefs with the federal appeals court.

18
Apr
2014

Colombia president backs same-sex marriage

Colombia, Senate, gay news, Washington Blade

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last week publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples. His position comes more than a year after the Colombian Senate rejected a gay nuptials bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last week publicly indicated his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Marriage between homosexuals to me is perfectly acceptable and what’s more I am defending unions that exist between two people of the same sex with the rights and all of the same privileges that this union should receive,” said Santos during a Google hangout the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo hosted on May 20. “If these unions are called marriage or not is secondary to me. For me it is important that they have their rights.”

Santos’ comments came during the final days of the campaign ahead of the first round of the South American country’s presidential election that took place on Sunday. They are also consistent with the Colombian Constitutional Court’s 2011 ruling that said same-sex couples could legally register their relationships in two years if lawmakers did not pass a bill that would extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.

“This government — and is also my personal conviction — supports the decisions of the Constitutional Court in terms of inheritance rights and recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” said Santos in a candidate questionnaire that Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group, published on May 15. “We are and will be respectful of the judicial rulings and the independence of the branches of public power.”

“In this sense, we will work towards respecting the Constitutional Court’s rulings,” added the Colombian president. “It is important that these rulings are known and apply to all agents of the states and citizens so that they are respected without prejudices.”

Two of Santos’ challengers — Clara López of the Alternative Democratic Pole party and Enrique Peñalosa of the Green Alliance — had previously backed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Santos will face former Finance Minister Óscar Iván Zuluaga — who opposes nuptials for gays and lesbians — in a June 15 runoff.

“I respect the sexual inclination of people and their privacy, but I do not agree with marriage between partners of the same sex, nor adoption,” said Zuluaga in the Colombia Diversa questionnaire. “I agree that you should have a legal framework that respects inheritance rights, civil rights and social security for same-sex partners.”

Advocates criticize Santos during marriage debate

The Colombian Senate in April 2013 overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed gays and lesbians to the knot.

A handful of same-sex couples in Bogotá, the Colombian capital, and other cities have exchanged vows since the Constitutional Court’s deadline passed last June. Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado has challenged the rulings that allowed them to marry.

The Impact Litigation Project at American University Washington College of Law and the New York City Bar Association last month filed briefs with the Constitutional Court in a case brought by two gay couples challenging Ordóñez’s efforts to nullify their marriages.

Colombia Diversa and other Colombian LGBT advocacy groups and activists have been critical of Santos’ administration for what they maintain is its silence during the same-sex marriage debate.

Dr. Zayuri Tibaduiza, an advisor to Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón, told the Washington Blade last May during an interview in Bogotá the government respects both the Constitutional Court’s ruling and the Senate’s vote against the same-sex marriage bill.

Neighboring Brazil is among the countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Uruguayan President José Mujica in 2010 and 2013 respectively signed their countries’ same-sex marriage bills into law. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet last year publicly backed nuptials for gays and lesbians during her election campaign.

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, has also publicly supported the issue.

27
May
2014

Court overturns Kentucky ban on same-sex marriage

gavel, gay news, Washington Blade, justice

A federal judge has struck down Kentucky’s down on same-sex marriage (Photo by Bigstock).

A federal judge in Kentucky on Tuesday overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, building off an earlier ruling in which he required Kentucky to recognize out-of-state gay nuptials.

In a 19-page decision, U.S. District Judge Judge John Heyburn II ruled that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“[T]his Court bases its ruling primarily upon their utter lack of logical relation between the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriages and any conceivable legitimate state interest,” Heyburn writes.

Heyburn stays his decision pending action by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, so no same-sex marriages will take place in the Keystone State at this time.

Notably, Heyburn rejects the notion that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against the Defense of Marriage Act has any bearing on the fundamental right to marry. That viewpoint differs from other judges who’ve drawn on the decision as a means to strike down state ban on same-sex marriage.

Instead, he rules against state law by determining that laws based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny, or a greater assumption they’re unconstitutional.

In February, Heyburn had ruled that Kentucky must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages in the case of Bourke v. Beshear. Following the ruling, two same-sex couples intervened in the case at the district court level and sought to overturn Kentucky’s ban on marriage equality outright. The case was renamed Love v. Beshear.

Heyburn was appointed by President George H.W. Bush and recommended by now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Following Heyburn’s initial ruling in February, Tea Party activist emphasized McConnell’s recommendation of the judge in their attempt to unseat him for his U.S. Senate seat.

In the latest ruling, Heyburn addresses the concern that his earlier ruling invoked among some within his state, saying he opponents of same-sex marriage will come to realize the decision won’t affect their freedom.

“Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree,” Heyburn said. “Thus, same-sex couples right to marry seems to be uniquely ‘free’ constitutional right. Hopefully, even those opposed to or uncertain about same-sex marriage will see it that way in the future.”

Although Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has refused to defend his state’s ban on sam-sex marriage in court, Gov. Steve Beshear has continued to defend the law. Kentucky voters approved the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2004 by a vote of 75 percent.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is already hearing cases related to marriage equality with each of the state within the jurisdiction: Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. Oral arguments are set for August 6.

01
Jul
2014

Gray says D.C. should recognize Utah marriages

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a meeting of the Stein Club that the city should recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah before the Supreme Court issued a stay and halted the weddings. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Monday night that he believes the city should recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah.

Gray said he would consult with D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan on the matter. But he said he sees no reason why the city shouldn’t recognize the Utah marriages performed prior to a Supreme Court decision putting same-sex nuptials on hold in the state until the courts resolve the issue.

“I’ll talk to Irv Nathan about it,” Gray said. “But my position would be unequivocally that we ought to do that.”

Gray’s statement on the Utah marriage issue came in response to a question by Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance President Rick Rosendall.

Gray’s response came three days after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Jan. 10 that the federal government would recognize the Utah same-sex marriages. On that same day, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler told the Blade that Maryland would also recognize the Utah same-sex marriages.

A spokesperson for Nathan told the Blade on Monday that Nathan and his legal team were reviewing the Utah marriage question and would likely develop a position for the District to take on the matter shortly.

A U.S. District Court Judge in Utah startled the state’s conservative political establishment on Dec. 20 when he ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution and refused to put a stay on his ruling while state officials appealed his decision. The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals also refused to place a stay on the right of gay and lesbian couples to obtain marriage licenses in the state.

During the period between the District Court judge’s Dec. 20 ruling and the Supreme Court’s decision to issue the stay on Jan. 6, more than 1,300 gay and lesbian couples married in Utah. Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, responded to the Supreme Court stay order by declaring the same-sex marriages invalid.

Gay rights attorneys quickly disputed Herbert’s assertion, saying the marriages were performed at a time when the District Court ruled they were legal under the federal Constitution.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club invited Gray to speak before its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Monday night as part of a series of appearances the club has arranged for mayoral and City Council candidates competing in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

She said other mayoral candidates, including City Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 1), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) have already appeared before the club.

Others who spoke at the Stein Club meeting on Monday were Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who’s running for re-election; Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who is also up for re-election; and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who is running for mayor.  Also speaking was shadow U.S. House member Nate Bennett-Fleming, who is one of four candidates running against Bonds, and Shadow U.S. Senator Paul Strauss, who is running for re-election.

Gray, who spoke for about 20 minutes before answering questions from club members, acknowledged that several of the eight candidates challenging him in the primary have strong records of support on LGBT issues.

“But the fact of the matter is I’m the only one who’s actually been in the seat where you really implement and have the ability to influence policy as the mayor,” he said. “And as a result, while I think they have done some good things, I don’t think they have come near matching what I have done and I don’t think they will.”

Gray said his support for the LGBT community dates back to his days as a student at D.C.’s Dunbar High School when he observed firsthand how his class valedictorian, who was gay and later realized he was transgender, was subjected to hostility.

“It was painful to me watching what he had to go through, what he had to endure as a human being,” Gray said. “And I said to myself if I ever had the chance I’m going to do something to be able to ensure equality for people who should have the opportunity to be themselves.”

Years later, when he was chair of the D.C. Council at the time the city’s same-sex marriage law came up for a vote in 2009, Gray said he experienced hostility and rejection from same-sex marriage opponents in response to his support for marriage equality.

“Frankly, what I went through as chairman nobody hopefully will ever have to go through,” he told Stein Club members. “I had people screaming at me. There were some ministers that supported me for Ward 7 Council member and then for Chair. And they don’t speak to me anymore,” he said.

“And I said fine. If that’s the way you want to row, that’s all right with me. I know who I am. I know what I stand for and I am not flinching. I am not blinking. This is the right thing to do and we’re going to continue to do the right thing in the District of Columbia. And you all let me know when you get on board, OK?”

The latter comment drew applause from club members, many of whom are supporting Gray’s re-election.

The Stein Club’s former president and current vice president for political affairs, Martin Garcia, announced at the meeting that the club will hold a joint candidate forum and endorsement meeting for City Council candidates on Feb. 26 and a combined mayoral candidate forum and endorsement meeting on March 5.

Garcia said the club has yet to decide whether to make endorsements in other races, including  the congressional delegate seat current held by Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton; the races for “shadow” U.S. senator and U.S. representative; and Advisory Neighborhood Commission races.

14
Jan
2014

Pro-LGBT banner set on fire at D.C. church

St. Luke's United Methodist Church Mission Center, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. police are investigating the Feb. 5 burning of a banner outside St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Mission Center. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in D.C. that includes St. Luke’s Mission Center Church at Wisconsin and Calvert streets, N.W.)

D.C. police are investigating the burning of a banner last week outside St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Mission Center at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Calvert Street, N.W., as a possible anti-LGBT hate crime.

Rev. Charles Parker, senior pastor of three LGBT supportive United Methodist churches in D.C., including St. Luke’s, said in a Feb. 6 statement posted on the church website that the incident appeared to be related to the heated debate within the Methodist church over same-sex marriage.

Church spokesperson Jeff Clouser told the Blade on Monday, Feb. 10, that St. Luke’s employees discovered last Tuesday, Feb. 4, that the banner had been burned but weren’t sure exactly when it happened.

“I visited our St. Luke’s campus yesterday to find that someone had burned – yes, burned – our ‘Stop the Trials’ banner calling for a stop to church trials of clergy officiating at same-gender weddings,” Parker wrote in his statement.

He was referring to a banner currently being displayed by LGBT supportive Methodist churches in D.C. and other cities that consists of a rainbow flag bearing the words, “Stop the Trials.” The message refers to a decision by church leaders to put on trial and defrock pastors who defy Methodist Church rules that prohibit its pastors from performing same-sex marriages.

“I am clear in my own wrestling with scripture, tradition, reason, and experience that the current position of our church is wrong,” Parker said in his statement. “I am also clear that other colleagues of good will and integrity have likewise wrestled with the issue and come to a different conclusion,” he said.

“What I would like to ask is, ‘can we respect each other enough to allow each of us to act in accordance with our conscience?’”

Foundry United Methodist Church, another LGBT supportive church on 16th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle, has twice welcomed as a guest speaker Frank Schaefer, a former Methodist minister from Pennsylvania who was defrocked for performing his son’s same-sex wedding.

Foundry is among the D.C.-area Methodist churches that are displaying the “Stop the Trials” banner.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said the incident occurred on Feb. 4 and was reported to police on Feb. 5. She said police have classified it as a “destruction of property-hate bias incident.”

10
Feb
2014

Author of disputed study takes stand in Mich.

Regnerus, gay juror, National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

DETROIT — The author of a controversial study of adult children often cited by opponents of gay marriage defended his work in court this week but also said it was too early for social scientists to make far-reaching conclusions about families headed by same-sex couples, the Associated Press reports in a story carried by the Washington Post.

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan, which is defending a ban on gay marriage. The constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2004, is being challenged by two Detroit-area nurses in a rare trial.

Regnerus was the leader of a study that screened thousands of people, ages 18-39, and found roughly 250 who said they grew up in a house where a mom or dad eventually had a same-sex relationship, the AP reports.

He found they were more likely to have problems — welfare dependence, less education, marijuana use — than young adults from stable, straight-led families. But he later acknowledged that his study didn’t include children raised by same-sex couples in stable relationships.

The results ignited a blast of criticism when they were published in an academic journal in 2012, the AP reports.

05
Mar
2014