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Houston mayor marries longtime partner

Annise Parker, Houston, gay news, Victory Fund, Democratic Party, Washington Blade

Houston Mayor Annise Parker married longtime partner Kathy Hubbard last week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—Houston Mayor Annise Parker and her partner of more than two decades, Kathy Hubbard, married on Jan. 16.

A press release the city of Houston released said Parker and Hubbard, who celebrated their 23rd anniversary on their wedding day, exchanged vows at a Palm Springs home.

Rev. Paul Fromberg of San Francisco officiated the wedding that Parker’s mother, Hubbard’s sister and a small group of family and friends attended. Harris County Civil Judicial District Court Judge Steve Kirkland and Mark Parthie were witnesses.

“This is a very happy day for us,” said Parker. “[Hubbard] is the love of my life and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life married to her.”

Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill, who is suing Parker and Houston over the extension of benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees, criticized the wedding.

“This is about a bigger political agenda for her,” said Woodfill as Lone Star Q reported.

Houston voters first elected Parker as mayor in 2009. She won re-election for a third term last November.

23
Jan
2014

Federal judge strikes down Texas gay marriage ban

Politically and strategically, the Supreme Court's ruling in Windsor is appearing more brilliant by the day.

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26
Feb
2014

Arrest made in murder of lesbian couple

James Cosby Jr., murder, gay news, Washington Blade

James Cosby, Jr. (Photo courtesy of the Galviston County Sheriff’s Office)

PORT BOLIVAR, Texas – Texas officials have arrested a Houston man in connection with the murder of his daughter and her girlfriend.

The Houston Chronicle reported James Larry Cosby, Jr., was arrested on March 13 and charged with two counts of tampering with evidence.

A deliveryman on March 7 found the bodies of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson in a dumpster outside a Port Bolivar store. Lone Star Q reported the two women had left the Houston house in which they lived with Britney Cosby’s father and great-grandmother two days earlier to drive to nearby Galveston for the city’s annual Mardi Gras celebration.

The Houston Chronicle said officers with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office “found evidence of a bloodbath” in James Cosby’s bedroom. They also found his fingerprint outside the convenience store where the women’s bodies were found.

Cosby’s mother, Loranda Remer, told the newspaper that Cosby did not accept his daughter’s relationship with Jackson. Other relatives offered conflicting accounts.

20
Mar
2014

2 memoirs show power of parenthood

parenthood, Pregnant Butch, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy of Soft Skull Press)

Two new, very different memoirs continue to expand our sense of what an LGBT family looks like. One is the story of a lesbian mom struggling against her son’s anti-gay Catholic school while grappling with her relationship to the church and to her own mother. The other is about a butch lesbian and her experience being pregnant—the print version of a graphic novel first serialized online.

Michelle Theall’s “Teaching the Cat to Sit” (Gallery Books) is a beautifully crafted tale about the power—and pitfalls—of faith, family and love. Theall, the editor-in-chief of Alaska Magazine and an award-winning adventure and fitness writer, weaves the story of attempting to raise her son Catholic with the story of her own childhood and coming out. She deftly intertwines anecdotes that take us back to her childhood in Bible Belt Texas and forward to her life as a parent in Colorado, moving us through her Catholic upbringing, sexual abuse by a neighbor, coming out during college in the 1980s, meeting her now-partner Jill, and adopting their son.

The narrative begins in Colorado in 2009, when she and Jill are first sensing a reluctance from their priest to baptize their son. The boy also attends the Catholic school run by the same church, and the family has been welcomed by the school community. The priest, however, eventually warns them that he is reconsidering whether they can stay, since being gay goes against Catholic teaching.

Despite the insult, Theall hesitates to withdraw their son, knowing that it would hurt her strongly Catholic mother, who also suffers from depression. Theall has struggled her whole life for her mother’s acceptance, and their relationship nearly ended when Theall came out to her.

Through her story, she shows us the harm—to individuals as well as entire families—of a view of the world in which lesbian and gay people exist only as sinners and deviants. While she pulls no punches about the church’s hypocrisy and failings, her book is far from a condemnation of religion.

A. K. Summers’ “Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag” (Soft Skull Press) has an entirely different style and tone—irreverent and often caustic, with bold images that both capture the details of everyday life and exaggerate its incongruities. This is not a children’s comic. The tale, first serialized starting in 2011 at the Web comic collective site Act-i-vate, is semi-autobiographical, with the protagonist Teek standing in for Summers.

Summers grew up in California and Georgia, went to college in Ohio and Illinois, and now lives in Rhode Island. Trained as a printmaker, she is the creator of the comic zine Negativa: Chicago’s Astute Lezbo Fantasy Mag, as well as several short animated films.

She was adopted herself, which gave her “an emotional longing to experience a biological relationship to somebody,” she told me in an interview in 2011. Getting pregnant—often seen as the ultimate womanly act—took on different overtones when she did so as a butch woman, however. “Pregnant Butch,” she said, “is about my attempts to hold on to my butch self and also to allow myself to be transformed by the process [of pregnancy], and where that could occur and be positive.”

Summers explores what it means to be butch, the lack of positive role models, and how she and her partner negotiated their relationship and roles as they headed toward parenthood. She charts her changing interactions with friends and neighbors as they encountered the dissonance of her masculine gender expression and her pregnant belly.

Summers writes in her introduction that she thinks there has been a shift in the 10 years since she was pregnant. Young queers are now less likely to use the term “butch.” Nevertheless, Summers felt it was important to capture her experience, both to ”make the unseen visible” and to document a point in time before the enormous positive shift in public attitudes toward gay people in the last few years.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian, an award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.

21
Mar
2014

The circus has come to town!

Taylor Albin, Taylor the Tailor, Built to Amaze!, Ringling Brothers, gay news, Washington Blade

Taylor Albin as Taylor the Tailor (third from left in back row) in ‘Built to Amaze!’ It runs through Sunday at the Patriot Center. (Photo courtesy Ringling Bros.)

‘Built to Amaze!’

Ringling Bros., Barnum  & Bailey

Patriot Center

Through Sunday

$15-30

800-745-3000

ticketmaster.com

Growing up in Mineral Wells, Texas, Taylor Albin shunned the Friday night lights of the high school football games and dreamt of having different lights shining down on him — those from the “greatest show on earth.”

“I went to the circus every single year with my family and fell in love with it. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a clown; it just looked like so much fun,” Albin says. “Whenever they came out, they made people laugh and that’s definitely something I wanted to do and saw myself doing.”

One of his favorite pastimes was watching the Ringling Bros. video “How to be a Clown”; he aspired to be one of the greats like Tom and Tammy Parish, Chris and Gina Allison, Michael Frum, Jeff Schott and Todd Zimmerman.

Of course, wanting to be a clown and actually doing it for a living are two different things. Like most people, Albin had absolutely no idea how to go about it. It was in 2009, while in college, that he read that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey was holding open auditions in New York, so he flew to the Big Apple and auditioned.

“It was a year later when they called and told me I was just what they were looking for,” he says. “I was still in college, but a year later I was with them and doing what I consider to be the best job in the world. My dream had come true.”

Albin says that being gay has never been an issue with anyone at the circus and that the atmosphere among his fellow clowns and other performers has been very supportive.

“The circus is such an open community and an environment that accepts all people — I mean not only do we have people from different lifestyles but we also have people from all parts of the globe,” he says. “The circus is a place anyone can feel comfortable in and I feel fortunate to work in an environment that people accept you for who you are.”

In his clown persona, Albin is Taylor the Tailor and he dons a large black wig that sticks up, wears funny glasses and has loud and colorful striped pants.

“The best part is I designed my look and who I wanted to be,” he says. “One of the best things is that we get the freedom of creating who we are and what we want to look like.”

You can check Albin out locally now as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents “Built To Amaze!” at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. It opened last week and runs through Sunday. It’s a show that promises plenty of high energy, high jinx and hilarity.

“What I enjoy most about being a part of Ringling Bros. is that I have the honor and privilege to see kids so happy and vibrant, and for their parents to be right in the moment with them,” he says. “There’s something magical about seeing a family forgetting their worries and just having fun! Your heart is filled with so much happiness and joy.”

For those children (and adults!) who are afraid of clowns, Albin says that everyone is very sensitive to their feelings and they work hard to make sure everyone is comfortable and having a fun time.

“We have people who come to the shows from all sorts of life and when we see people startled, we don’t approach them and we let them approach us,” he says. “Parents have their kids come to see us and we’ll bend down and talk to them on their level so we are not an ominous figure. We always take caution when we talk to children.”

Albin has been with the circus for five years and currently serves as the Boss Clown, meaning he is the liaison between show management and all the clowns on tour.

“I make sure everyone stays on top of their tasks and are prompt and at the end of the day that we all have fun,” he says. “When you wake up excited to do what you do, nothing can stop you. If there is a challenge, I would say it’s not seeing my family as often, but I am going to Texas soon so will see them then. At the end of the day, I love what I do.”

In addition to the fun of the clowns, the circus will include nine-time international award-winning comedic animal presenting duo Alex and Irina Emelin of Russia; the Tower Tumblers, a troupe of competitive aerial athletes from the Ukraine who launch themselves from trampolines to scale, repel and pass through a three-story high translucent tower; and a spirited and fiery competition of basketball with the next generation of whirling unicyclists, the legendary King Charles Troupe hailing from New York City.

17
Apr
2014

Will Republicans keep the government open?

government, Ted Cruz, Texas, Republican Party, United States Senate, Values Voters Summit, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

After 16 days, the government reopened last Thursday and hundreds of thousands of people are back to work. The threat of default is off until Feb. 7, 2014. The question we need to ask is: Will Republicans realize they lost and that shutdowns don’t help anyone?

What changes can Washington make that will be seen by the American people in a positive way? How do we move toward balancing the budget and bringing a sense of sanity back to our political system?

The time has come for moderates in both parties to rise again. There will always be a far right of the Republican Party and a far left of the Democratic Party. But we have seen that when those groups are ascendant in either party that party usually loses. They create havoc, but in the long run they aren’t the ones that can get people together to move the nation ahead.

Today’s far-right hero is Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and he is scary. Listening to him last Sunday in an interview he did with Dana Bash of CNN, you had to acknowledge how smart he is even if his thought process seems deranged. He finds the words to make what he nearly did to the nation make some kind of sense and to justify his efforts to close the government and nearly drive the nation into bankruptcy. This when we know that what he actually did is cause interest rates to rise upping the cost of mortgages and student loans; send workers’ 401k retirement plans down; cause veterans and seniors a delay in receiving the benefits they are entitled to; and hurt small businesses across the nation by taking billions of dollars out of the economy. Yet he had the empathy so when he talked about doing all this to help others, he actually sounded plausible to some. Again the man is smart but very scary.

People like Cruz and his acolytes in the House of Representatives have actually been referred to as anarchists and that label may be appropriate. The Republican Party’s internal civil war was highlighted on NBC’s Nightly News, when anchor Brian Williams asked John McCain (R-Ariz.) a question about relations in the Senate and then cited a comment Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) made in which he accused McCain of supporting al-Qaida. McCain responded “Sometimes comments like that are made out of malice, but if someone has no intelligence I don’t view it as being a malicious statement.”

Unfortunately today even those with no intelligence both in and out of Congress manage to get their voices heard. They have their own media outlet and it’s called Fox News. There are Americans listening only to Fox and the likes of Rush Limbaugh who get only part of the news. They don’t hear the other side so it’s hard to blame them for not understanding what is going on. They hear from those like former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) who now runs the once respected Heritage Foundation and turned it into an organization to prop up the likes of Cruz and the Tea Party. In doing so he makes once respected conservative Republicans seem like the moderates of the party.

Thankfully, Americans have a knack for eventually seeing through charlatans. They eventually abandoned Joe McCarthy when they realized the snake oil he was selling and they will eventually abandon Cruz. But until those in that alternate universe where they exist, some call it the Tea Party, others call it Texas, wake up, their actions will continue to cause untold suffering.

The nation is facing many difficult issues. We are still coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. We are facing numerous foreign policy issues including ending the war in Afghanistan; dismantling and destroying chemical weapons in Syria; working to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon; and trying to restart the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks to name just a few. The world is a complicated place and we are the only remaining super power. Our position in the world will only remain strong if we can work out our domestic problems and come to some agreement so that we can once again be governed in a sane way.

We’re left to hope that Republicans like McCain, McConnell and Boehner who say they won’t shut the government down again will stand strong. The time has come for sane people to resume control of the government.

24
Oct
2013

Miami Beach mayoral candidate among LGBT hopefuls

Michael Gongora, Miami Beach, Victory Fund, gay news, Washington Blade

Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Gongora is one of several Victory Fund-endorsed LGBT candidates hoping for a win on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Gongora is considered to have a shot at becoming that city’s first openly gay mayor on Tuesday despite the fact that former President Bill Clinton has endorsed one of his three opponents.

Gongora, Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, who’s running for re-election; and Washington State Sen. Ed Murray, who’s leading in the polls in his race for mayor of Seattle, are among a record 54 openly LGBT candidates running nationwide in an off-year election.

Each of the candidates has been endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national LGBT advocacy group that raises money and provides logistical campaign assistance to openly LGBT candidates for public office.

Like Gongora, Murray would be the first openly gay mayor of Seattle if he beats incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn. Murray finished ahead of McGinn in a multi-candidate open primary in August, prompting political observers to predict Murray would emerge as the winner in the general election on Tuesday.

Most political observers in Houston consider Parker the frontrunner in a nine-candidate race. But they say it’s possible that her lead rival, millionaire attorney and philanthropist Ben Hall, could win enough votes to force Parker into a runoff election in December.

Most of the remaining 54 LGBT candidates backed by the Victory Fund are running in county and municipal races, including seven openly gay or lesbian candidates running for re-election or election to the New York City Council. Each of seven candidates, all Democrats, is expected to win their races in heavily Democratic districts.

In the Miami Beach race, Gongora, an attorney and environmentalist, received the endorsement of the Miami Herald and several of his fellow city commissioners. He’s running in a hotly contested race against a millionaire real estate developer, Philip Levine, whom Clinton endorses; and former comedian and entertainer Steve Berke. A fourth opponent, Raphael Herman, is considered by observers as a fringe candidate who isn’t expected to be a significant player in the race.

According to the Miami Herald, Levine has contributed more than $1.5 million into his campaign and is believed to be behind a series of negative ads attacking Gongora. Some of the ads point to Gongora’s 2002 drunken driving arrest that was lowered to a reckless driving charge.

“I made a mistake, and it’s not a mistake that will impact in any way, shape or form my ability to lead the city as mayor,” the Herald quoted Gongora as saying.

Gongora has fired back at Levine, pointing out in his own campaign ads that Levine gave money to the 2010 campaign of Tea Party Republican Marco Rubio when Rubio ran in the GOP primary against then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist for an open U.S. Senate seat, which Rubio won.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Miami Beach by a wide margin and Levine’s support for Rubio in 2010 could hurt him, even though he’s a Democrat.

Victory Fund spokesperson Jeff Spitko said another candidate — along with Parker, Murray and Gongora — running in what the group considers this year’s 10 “groundbreaking” races for LGBT candidates is lesbian Celia Israel of Austin, Texas. Israel is running in a special election for an open seat in the Texas House of Representatives in a four-candidate race.

She would become the second openly LGBT member of the Texas Legislature if she wins her race on Tuesday.

Israel, a progressive Democrat, worked as an aide to former Texas Gov. Ann Richards before starting a public policy consulting business in Austin, where she and her partner of 18 years live. She’s running against two other liberal Democrats, Rico Reyes and Jade Chang Sheppard, and Republican Mike VanDeWalle in a majority Democratic district. She received the endorsement of the Austin Chronicle.

Spitko said the Victory Fund has dispatched staff and board members along with volunteers to work on the get-out-the-vote effort for Israel, Parker and Murray. Victory Fund Executive Director Chuck Wolfe will be in Seattle helping with the Murray campaign; the group’s political director, Lucinda Guinn, will be in Houston helping on Parker’s campaign; and Deputy Political Director Mike McCall will be in Austin helping Israel, Spitko said.

“And a large part of our office [in Washington] will be here late into the evening following the election results and we’ll be posting the results on our blog, gaypolitics.com,” said Spitko, where activists throughout the country can keep track of the outcome of the races where LGBT candidates are running.

A total of 85 openly LGBT candidates backed by the Victory Fund emerged in races throughout the country earlier this year. Out of that total, 18 have won primaries and advanced to the general election on Nov. 5; 14 have won in general elections already held; and one emerged as a winner in a run-off election. Nine candidates backed by the Victory Fund lost their races in primaries earlier in the year.

31
Oct
2013

50 years later, Kennedy killing a vivid memory

John F. Kennedy, JFK, President of the United States of America, gay news, Washington Blade

President John F. Kennedy (Photo public domain)

By PAUL KUNTZLER

The weather was surprisingly warm on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. I left my Capitol Hill apartment that morning in a blue dress shirt, slacks and Bass Weejan loafers. At 21, I worked for Structural Clay Products Institute at 1520 18th St., N.W.

At 1:30 p.m., I went to lunch at the Dupont Pharmacy. While walking back through Dupont Circle, two young men were scurrying about me. I crossed over to P Street and turned left onto 18th Street.

It was 2:36 p.m. when I entered my office. I noticed immediately that no one was at the receptionist’s desk. Then I saw that the staff was in the boardroom.  I asked the secretary to Executive Director Richard Alderson, “What’s happening?” She said, “The president has been shot!” Walter Cronkite was on television.

Within a minute, Cronkite took off his horn-rimmed eyeglasses, “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”

I started crying.  I said to myself, “I’ve got to get out of here!”  I ran into Mrs. Ballad. She was stunned at the news.

My partner, Stephen Miller, was in the Capitol Building on House Appropriations Committee staff. After seeing the United Press wire, he went into Kenneth Sprankle’s office. ”Mr. Sprankle, the president has been shot!” Sprankle, chief of staff and a conservative Republican, looked up from his desk, “Well, he’ll surely be re-elected now!”

The Washington telephone system ceased functioning at 1:30 p.m. At home, I turned on television. Stephen told me what Sprankle had said.

For the next four days, television programming and commercials were canceled. It was reported that Kennedy was hit in his throat just below the Adam’s apple and that a German Mauser rifle was found in the Texas School Book Depository Building.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested as a suspect in the killing of Patrolman Jefferson Davis Tippit. On the first of his many trips through the third-floor corridors of the Dallas Police Department, Oswald said, “I didn’t shoot anybody, sir. I haven’t been told what I am here for.”

At 6:05 p.m., Air Force One landed at Andrews Air Force Base. JFK’s casket was unloaded with Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy into a Navy ambulance.

What I did not know then was that Kennedy’s casket was empty, according to multiple reports, including the 1988 British series “The Men Who Killed Kennedy, The Cover-Up.” Before Air Force One had left Dallas Love Field, Mrs. Kennedy came forward for President Johnson’s taking the oath of office. During this period, the Secret Service removed Kennedy’s body from his casket.

At Andrews, JFK’s body was taken off on the other side of Air Force One and flown by helicopter to Walter Reed Army Hospital. Mortician John Melvin Liggett using his mortician wax altered the wounds and removed two bullets. Then his body was flown to Bethesda Navy Hospital for the autopsy.

Stephen and I went to dinner at Mike Palm’s wearing our Kennedy buttons.

Later Oswald said, “I do request that someone to come forward to give me legal assistance.” By then, Oswald had been charged with the Tippit killing. At 1:30 a.m., Oswald was arraigned on the charge of murdering JFK.

In American law, every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent unless and until he is found  guilty in a court of law. But District Attorney Henry Wade said, “I would say without any doubt that he is the killer. The law says beyond a reasonable doubt to a moral certainty that he is the killer of President Kennedy.”

Late Saturday morning, we went down to the front of the White House where Kennedy’s body was lying in state. Diplomats were arriving to pay their respects.

That evening Oswald said, “I emphatically deny these charges!” And finally, “I’m just a patsy!”

On Sunday afternoon, Stephen and I were on the Capitol grounds when Jacqueline Kennedy arrived with Caroline and John Jr. in their blue suits. Kennedy’s casket was carried up the Capitol steps. We watched John Jr. salute his father. It was then that I learned that Jack Ruby had shot Oswald.

At 10 p.m., we got into line on East Capitol Street with tens of thousands. Walking east with the enormous crowds to Lincoln Park and back again, we finally passed through the Rotunda of the Capitol at 7 a.m.

Offices were closed that Monday for Kennedy’s funeral at St. Matthew’s Cathedral and for his burial in Arlington Cemetery.

John Kennedy was the first important person to die in my young life. I regarded his passing as if I had lost a family member.

For an entire year, I remained in mourning.

Paul Kuntzler is a longtime LGBT rights advocate based in Washington.

12
Nov
2013

Texas National Guard now openly-discriminating against gay troops

Snubbing Hagel, Obama, and the US Supreme Court, Texas is refusing to give federal benefits to married gay troops.

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18
Nov
2013

Did Rick Perry cave on gay National Guard benefits? No one seems to know for sure.

Initially it looked as though Texas refused to process benefits, now it appears they may have caved.

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27
Nov
2013