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Gay juror removed from AIDS drug trial

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

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco court ruled last week that a case against an AIDS drug company will get a new trial after it was determined that the company improperly excluded a gay man from the jury, Bloomberg reports.

In 2011, an Oakland jury ordered Abbott Laboratories to pay GlaxoSmithKline $3.5 million for breaching a drug agreement, though Abbott was cleared of charges that it sought to stifle competition over HIV drugs when it quadrupled the price of the drug Norvir in 2003, the article said.

The judge overseeing the trial permitted the exclusion during jury selection when Abbott exercised its right to keep certain individuals off the jury. When questioned, the man said he had a male partner and had lost friends to AIDS, Bloomberg reports.

“Permitting a strike based on sexual orientation could send the false message that gays and lesbians could not be trusted to reason fairly on issues of great import to the community or the nation,” a three-judge appellate panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals wrote last week.

30
Jan
2014

Washington businesses told to extend benefits

Washington, benefits, gay news, Washington Blade

Washington voters approved same-sex marriage in the fall of 2012, and the law took effect that year. (Photo by François de Dijon; courtesy Creative Commons)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state officials penned a joint letter last week to insurers and companies in the state saying that health benefits must be provided to same-sex spouses if they are provided to heterosexual spouses, the Associated Press reports.

The joint letter, written by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Human Rights Commission Executive Director Sharon Ortiz, said they are concerned about “legally married Washington residents who are negatively affected” when same-sex spouses aren’t provided with equal health coverage, the article, which ran in the Seattle Times, said.

“This practice violates Washington State law,” the letter reads.

“Most health insurers doing business in our state understand they cannot discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation,” Kreidler said in a written statement. “But we’re taking this extra step today to ensure they understand their responsibility to do due diligence when selling insurance policies in Washington.”

Kreidler said later in a conference call that the letter was sent to 48 insurance companies. Ferguson said that other outreach was being used to notify the state’s business community, the AP report says.

Officials said they released the letter to provide clarity on state laws following a recent investigation by Ferguson’s office of O’Reilly Automotive Inc., that resulted in the company’s agreement to extend health benefits to same-sex spouses as of April 1.

“The purpose of this letter is to do everything we can to make sure businesses are aware of changes in state law,” Ferguson was quoted as having said by the AP.

Washington voters approved same-sex marriage in the fall of 2012, and the law took effect that year. Protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation were codified by the Legislature in 2006.

11
Jun
2014

Idaho LGBT advocates arrested

Idaho Capitol Building, gay news, Washington Blade

Idaho State Capitol Building (Photo public domain)

BOISE, Idaho—40 LGBT rights advocates who prevented lawmakers from entering the Idaho Senate on Feb. 3 were arrested.

The Spokesman-Review reported the protesters stood silently with their hands over their mouths. The newspaper said the advocates also wore black T-shirts with the slogan “add the 4 words Idaho,” referring to the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The protesters received misdemeanor trespassing citations.

“We’ve got to do something,” Hilary Rayhill told the Spokesman-Review after authorities arrested her and her fellow advocates.

The newspaper said state Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise) and state Rep. Grant Burgoyne (D-Boise), who introduced a bill that would add LGBT-specific protections to the state’s anti-discrimination law, said lawmakers would not consider their measure this year.

05
Feb
2014

N.Y. to consider ban on ‘conversion’ therapy

New York, Albany, capitol, gay news, Washington Blade, therapy

New York State Capitol Building. (Photo by Canucklynn; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s Democratic-led Assembly is set to consider a bill on Wednesday that would ban “conversion” therapy for minors, the Associated Press reports. Bans on the practice have already gone into effect in New Jersey and California. A proposed ban was voted down in Illinois in April.

The American Psychological Association says there is no evidence that the so-called gay conversion therapy can change someone’s sexual orientation. A task force set up by the group found that it can cause distress and anxiety.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the measure and is the only openly gay member of the Senate, said he heard from a man who had electrodes attached to his genitalia to curb his homosexual desires, the AP article said.

“On one level it’s pretty nutty stuff,” Holyman was quoted as having said by the AP, “but it’s happening in New York by licensed therapists.”

The Democrat said that the bill would extend to New York state licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health practitioners and physicians. Clergy would not be included in the ban.

Opponents of the ban say that it may infringe on a person’s freedom of speech, although a federal judge in New Jersey upheld that state’s ban in November saying that the law does not violate free speech, the AP reports.

11
Jun
2014

Why I support Jack Evans for mayor

Jack Evans, Washington Blade, gay news

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

By DENNIS BASS

Twenty-five years ago, elected officials weren’t talking about gay rights. But Jack Evans was.  He led the fight for domestic partnerships, civil unions and gay marriage, and helped repeal laws that discriminated against gays and lesbians.

Long before it was popular, Jack championed equality regardless of sexual orientation. He didn’t do it because it was politically correct. He did it because it was right. He was there at the start of the gay rights movement in D.C. and he has been an ally of our community and its most skillful advocate over the last two decades.

When he first ran for Council in 1991, there were some who said Jack would not have the same commitment to gay issues as an LGBT candidate. Council member Evans has certainly proven those people wrong. Today, Jack has undisputedly the strongest record of any candidate on the issues that matter not only to our community, but also to the entire District.

When Jack was first elected, gay people were routinely harassed and arrested for committing sodomy. In his first year on the Council, Jack led the fight to abolish the repressive anti-sodomy law, after years of failed attempts.

In 1998, Jack became the first elected D.C. official to publicly support same-sex marriage, and year after year Jack has sponsored successful legislation to guarantee LGBT people the rights of straight married couples in areas such as adoption, health care, inheritance, and domestic partnership, until the Council finally adopted full marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

But Jack’s efforts didn’t stop with marriage equality. He has relentlessly waged battles to enact medical marijuana, condom availability, needle exchange programs, reporting of bias-related hate crimes, and LGBT sensitivity training for Metropolitan police, fire, and EMT personnel –overcoming the often-hostile objections of some fellow Council members and opposition in Congress.

In recognition of all he has done for the LGBT community, Jack Evans was awarded the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance Distinguished Service Award.

When you combine Jack’s record on LGBT issues with his other achievements in fiscal management by balancing the District’s budget; bringing to D.C. the convention center, baseball stadium and Verizon Center, along with other job-creating projects; and supporting education reform that is beginning to show benefits in D.C.’s schools, I can’t see how the choice could be any clearer.

Yes, “the District is doing pretty darn good,” as one of Mayor Gray’s supporters said, but much of the credit for what’s happening now goes to Jack Evans’ efforts, who, as the long-time chair of the Council’s Finance and Revenue committee, laid the groundwork for much of the prosperity and progress that we’re seeing today.

What kind of an LGBT advocate will he be as mayor? Jack says that, even in a city like Washington where much has been accomplished, the fight for LGBT rights is far from over.  As mayor, Jack Evans will continue his advocacy on LGBT issues by increasing funding for health initiatives focused on LGBT people and youth, increasing workplace protections for transgender people, ensuring that same-sex married partners are treated equally under Medicaid, initiating LGBT sensitivity training for all District government employees, and including gender-orientation curriculum in the sex-education programs of the D.C. public schools.

For these reasons, Jack Evans is the right choice for mayor.

Dennis Bass was deputy executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest from 1981 until he retired in 2012. He served on the Dupont Circle ANC from 1986 until 1995 and volunteered on every Jack Evans campaign since he first ran for Council in 1991.

11
Feb
2014


Mississippi city approves LGBT resolution

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade, Mississippi city

Hattiesburg, Miss. (Photo by Dudemanfellabra; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

HATTIESBURG, Miss.—The Hattiesburg City Council on Feb. 18 unanimously approved a resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its diversity statement.

“The Hattiesburg City Council took a brave and important step that is aligned with the direction our country is headed in – the recognition that LGBT people are and should be treated equally under the law,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “Equality cannot come fast enough for LGBT people in Mississippi.”

Hattiesburg is the second Mississippi city to add LGBT-specific language to its diversity statement. The Starkville Board of Alderman last month approved the Magnolia State’s first pro-LGBT municipal resolution.

19
Feb
2014

Mississippi city passes LGBT ordinance

Oxford, Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade

Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Kathy Jean; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

OXFORD, Miss.–A third Mississippi city has passed a resolution in support of adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to its diversity statement.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen on March 4 unanimously approved the resolution.

“Tolerance and acceptance creates the strongest bonds between neighbors,” said Alderman Jay Hughes in a Human Rights Campaign press release. “I am proud to be on the right side of history in reaffirming Oxford’s long-standing commitment to that most fundamental principle.”

Hattiesburg last month added LGBT-specific language to its diversity statement. The Starkville Board of Alderman in January approved the state’s first pro-LGBT municipal resolution.

05
Mar
2014

Is Shepard Smith finally coming out?

Shepard Smith, Fox News, gay news, Washington Blade

Shepard Smith (Photo public domain)

Closeted Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is listed as a “special guest” scheduled to attend an annual fundraiser for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association next week.

I outed Smith in 2005 after he hit on me in a New York piano bar. He has never publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation.

Smith’s attendance could be good news: Maybe he’s finally going to come out. Not sure why NLGJA would have him there if that weren’t the case. There are plenty of out journalists these days to celebrate that we don’t need closet cases as our “special guests.”

11
Mar
2014

Importance of openly gay elected officials

Jim Graham, Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade, gay elected

Gay D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Like so many others, I have gone through many stages as a gay man. Knowing who I am, and being comfortable with all that, has taken time. I have gone from denying my sexuality and marrying a woman (who I loved then and still do to this day), to divorce. What followed were awkward personal times working in the U.S. Senate where there was then zero tolerance for being gay.

But when I became the volunteer President of Whitman-Walker Clinic on April 1, 1981, I came out of the closet with a roar — for a time everyone (whether they liked it or not) had to be told by me that I was gay. Those were my “Billboard Years.” More change followed after 16 years as head of the Clinic. I became more “right sized.” Being gay was a key part but only one part of my make-up. When I ran for D.C. Council in 1998, I ran on that basis and got elected, and re-elected ever since.

With all that in mind, I was struck by a recent suggestion by a Blade columnist that it wouldn’t matter if the D.C. Council went from its current two gay members to none at all.

It’s amazing that a gay columnist for a gay newspaper would suggest that not having gay elected leaders is of no significance! Harvey Milk must be turning over in his grave.

I have never campaigned just as a “gay man.” Had I done so, I would never have won. When I was first elected in 1998, Ward One was 71 percent minority population — 46 percent black and 25 percent Latino. I ran against an incumbent, African-American male, well known for his leadership in D.C. and in the national Civil Rights Movement.  In 1998, one out of every four Ward 1 residents were living in poverty. My record at Whitman-Walker demonstrated a commitment to all people as well as poor people –especially those living with HIV and AIDS, from the earliest days of the pandemic.

Why do people vote a particular way? The reasons are limitless, and surely sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, are all part of it. “Identity politics” is hardly dead. It matters — sometimes positive, sometimes negative — that a candidate is gay. It can make a big difference.

My sexual orientation informs what I do and say. But being gay is only part of who I am. I work every day to integrate all aspects of my life.

Yet to suggest as the columnist did “that LGBT residents are fully integrated into the fabric of local life” — and that “sexual orientation of elected officials is inconsequential” is just plain wrong. LGBT candidates bring a unique experience to government.

For example, I was just honored by the DC Center for my work on a recently passed bill establishing an LGBTQ homeless services program with 10 beds for these kids only.

Would that have passed without the energetic support of a gay Council member? Maybe, maybe not. But the DC Center surely thought it made a positive difference.

And why else does the Victory Fund endorse openly gay and lesbian candidates?  It’s not because — as the columnist suggested — “that the gay community is fully integrated into our different communities.” It’s because that having one of our own at the table counts.

But that is just the start. I, along with hundreds of other out LGBT elected officials, cannot win without earning the trust of our communities to stand with them and fight for everyone.

14
Mar
2014