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Gay, bi boys more likely to use steroids

steroids, gay news, Washington Blade

About 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys said they had abused steroids at some time in their lives.

NEW YORK — Gay and bisexual boys are almost six times as likely as their heterosexual peers to misuse steroids, according to a new study Reuters Health reports.

“What was most surprising to us was the magnitude of the disparities that emerged between sexual minority and heterosexual boys,” Aaron J. Blashill from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston told Reuters Health in an email.

More than 5 percent of adolescent boys use anabolic-androgenic steroids to enhance strength, athletic performance, and muscle size, but nobody had studied the association between sexual orientation and steroid abuse before, Blashill and his colleague Steven A. Safren told Reuters.

Long-term misuse of steroids can lead to heart problems, hormone-related changes and psychiatric disorders.

The researchers were concerned that gay and bisexual boys might be more likely to misuse steroids because of other factors that have been tied to steroid and other substance abuse. Those include depression, victimization, suicidal thoughts and intent and poor body image, the article said.

To see if that was the case, Blashill and Safren used data from the 2005 and 2007 U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of 17,250 teenage boys, including 635 who were gay or bisexual.

About 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys said they had abused steroids at some time in their lives, compared with only 4 percent of heterosexual boys, Reuters reports.

Gay and bisexual boys were also nearly six times as likely as heterosexual boys to report moderate use of steroids (at least 10 times) or severe use (at least 40 times), according to the report in the journal Pediatrics.

In an effort to understand why, the researchers looked at other factors thought to be important contributors to steroid use. They found drug and alcohol use, depression or suicidal tendencies and feelings of victimization played a role in steroid misuse.


How To Be a Trans* Ally


I want to preface this by saying that I am not an expert and this list should not be considered definitive.  I had the good fortune to collaborate on this article with trans activist and writer Alexa Diaz,  who is by far more knowledgeable on this subject than I could ever dream to be as a cisgender woman.

The transgender community is one I have personally felt solidarity with since a very young age.  I grew up around transgender people, but I think my first real awareness of the collective transgender movement was when I saw the film Paris Is Burning for the first time.  Most people celebrate this documentary as the story of the ’80s drag ball scene in New York, which, of course it is.  However, the first time I watched the film, I cried for the life, talent, sweetness and dreams lost in Venus Xtravaganza.

There is a scene in the film where she talks about her hopes and dreams.  She wants to get married in a white dress.  She says she left her family home at 13 because she started doing drag, and they didn’t approve.  Like so many trans kids who have been kicked out or shunned by their families, she was left to fend for herself on the streets of New York.  She occasionally turned tricks to get by and in the film recalls a time when a john put his hands between her legs, and she jumped out the window to get away.  In 1988, Venus Xtravaganza was found strangled to death under a hotel bed, presumably by a john.

Her story is tragic in and of itself, but the horrifying part is that it is not unique in any way to the trans* community.  Of course being a transgender kid today is not the same as being one in the 1980s, but tragedies like these have plagued the transgender community for decades.  Historically locked away in asylums, outcast from their families and murdered simply for being their genuine selves, the transgender people have collectively suffered unspeakable violence and exclusion.

Today, the trans community continues to face discrimination and lack of access to fair employment, education, healthcare and public acceptance. These problems have led to a disproportionate rate of suicide among transgender youth. The struggle is far from over.  Allies are all the more critical now, because as I’ve pointed out before, when making progress to end discrimination, hate is pushed into the “black market,” if you will, making it more covert and subtle.

You can be a trans ally in a lot of different ways; there is no one, fool-proof guide.  I spent some time researching and putting my own experiences as an ally down into a list of “bare minimum” criteria.  These are simple things that may not occur to the average joe, but they are important nonetheless.  Please feel free to add to this list in the comments:

  1. Always call people by their preferred name and personal pronouns.  If you’re not sure, there are polite ways to ask.
  2. Never out anybody.  For one, this can put their personal safety at risk, but more importantly their gender identity is theirs to publicize at their discretion, not yours.
  3. Don’t ask a trans person about their body.  This kind of curiosity is pretty invasive and at the end of the day, it’s not really any of your business.
  4. Avoid out-dated and offensive terms.  See a list here if you’re not sure what I mean.
  5. Don’t tell a transgender person they look like a “real” man or woman, or that they “pass,” and don’t give advice on how to look “more like a man/woman.”  A person’s gender expression is not a binary, and passing judgment in this way is delegitimizing.
  6. React to situations where you see transphobia in action.  Call it out.  Tell the offending person that their behaviors and attitudes are unacceptable.

Being a good ally is not limited to these criteria, but they are important to internalize and keep in mind.  A deeper ally is someone who can be a “safe person” for their trans friends and the wider community.  Listen without judgement and offer support without conditions.  Make it known that you can be spoken to in confidence and be trusted to keep personal information private.  This is respect and compassion in motion.  Diaz says the first step to being an ally is to examine your own biases, which you can begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • Why is it important to be an ally?
  • What biases or heteronormative beliefs about gender do I carry?
  • Where does my fear or discomfort with trans* issues stem from?
  • Have I failed to stand up for LGBT people in the past?  Why?
  • Have I ever created an unsafe space for LGBT people by passively allowing bullying?

According to Diaz, “once we acknowledge our own biases we can move towards becoming an ally who has put in the work,” which includes thinking critically about our existing attitudes about gender and opening our minds to the realities of other people.  An ally then will recognize discrimination where a non-ally sees nothing out of the ordinary.  Diaz says that for many dedicated, lifelong allies, “the experiences they witness become very personal — they work their way into their psyche,” by which they internalize and adapt to the transgender struggle.

It is so easy for cisgender people (myself included) to make assumptions about trans people, but the truth is: everyone is an individual.  I think this is why listening is so important.  I can’t possibly have the answers.  I come from a place of cis privilege.  I can only imagine in the smallest modicum what it might feel like to experience my gender differently from what is societally ascribed to my biology.  We must listen, honor and respect trans people to be compassionate allies.

If you’re interested to learn more about the transgender movement and how to better be an ally, there is a teleconference seminar series hosted by Alexa Diaz that will cover these and many future topics.  The first session is called Sharing the Struggle: Allies in Focus, and “will be about how allies are invaluable to [the work of the transgender movement]; without the diligence and hard work put in by compassionate allies… we would not be in the place we are today.”  The teleconference series will be hosted on Tuesdays at 8pm EST/ 7pm CST.  To participate, simply dial in with the following credentials:

Transgender Advocacy Teleconference

Phone: (567) 314-7975

Passcode: 5544#

To learn more about the teleconference and to sign up as a participant, contact Alexa on Twitter at @MsAlexaDiaz.




D.C. must have representation in Congress

State of the Union, 2014, Barack Obama, United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

We must have our votes in Congress. But as we all work to that goal, our local government has more power than many realize. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

I serve on one of the most powerful elected legislative bodies in the nation. I am a member of the D.C. Council.

Whoa, hold on, I hear you say, how can that be when every law passed by the Council must go to, and may be changed by, Congress at will? And by a Congress where D.C. lacks any voting representation.

To be sure, D.C. statehood is one of the last remaining great human rights violations in the USA. Our city is entitled to full voting representation in the House and Senate and for that there can be no substitute.

Yet, in direct consequence of the congressional role, there is a widely held view that the D.C. government has little power.

On closer examination, that is far from the case.

D.C. may be the most unique political jurisdiction in the U.S. And since Home Rule was established on Dec. 24, 1973 — a 40th anniversary that went largely unnoticed — the D.C. government incorporates city, county and state functions. Thus, for example, motor vehicles, transportation and public works — functions that usually are not within the power of city/county government — are under our government.

Moreover, except for Nebraska, D.C. is the only unicameral state legislature in the U.S. And Nebraska’s single house has 49 members in contrast to D.C.’s 13. In our unicameral legislature, a law can be passed with the support of only seven votes and the signature of the mayor.

But what about this congressional review, where a D.C. law must lay over for 30 legislative days?

True enough. But how often do D.C. laws simply lay over in Congress without action or interference by them?

Almost always is the answer. Even though the heavy boot of a Congress where we have no vote is constantly hanging over the heads of District residents, Congress has used this authority only on rare occasions over the last 40 years — indeed only three times over the last 40 years — and not since 1991. In recent times, Congress has taken no action to disturb what in earlier times would have been viewed as enticing political targets — smoke-free workplaces and marriage equality come immediately to mind.

And D.C.’s congressional review is nothing like what many cities and counties must go through in order to take certain actions. In Virginia or New York, operating under what is known as the “Dillon Rule,” local government may only pass certain laws as expressly allowed by the state legislature. For example, in order for Mayor Bloomberg in New York City to gain control over the NYC public schools laws had to be introduced and passed in Albany in both houses and then signed by the governor. Mayor Fenty needed but seven Council members in D.C. to do about the same thing.

Congress also has the authority to impose restrictions on the District’s ability to raise funds, such as the congressional prohibition of a commuter tax, and override initiatives approved by District residents through referendum. But here again, the authority is increasingly not used. For example, prohibition on needle exchange and medical marijuana funding — both imposed in FY1998 — were lifted in recent years. Only the restriction on spending on abortions remains.

So too, Congress may use the District as a “laboratory” for its own initiatives that they think would be “popular back home.” Federal funding for opportunity scholarships for private schools and various actions related to charter schools are examples.

Forty years into the history of this relatively young government and we have accomplished a lot. The District’s legislature — among the most progressive in social policy in the country — also oversees one of the strongest economies in the country today. We must have our votes in Congress. But as we all work to that goal, our local government has more power than many realize.


Ignoring minimum wage warning hurts working poor

money, minimum wage, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Bigstock)

Last week the nonpartisan number crunchers at the Congressional Budget Office reported that significant job losses would result from raising the minimum wage too high too fast.

Implementing the White House call to hike the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will eliminate an estimated 500,000 jobs, the CBO announced, and perhaps as many as the one million projected by other analysts. Elevating the federal minimum for hourly paid workers from the current $7.25 to $9 an hour, however, would have a nearly negligible impact on employment.

Demonization of the business community by the president and leftists within his party, however, has persisted unabated. Voguish jabbering about economic disparities is more cynical political ploy than constructive policy prescription. Sloganeering won’t help workers who lose their jobs or create them for those looking for work.

The constant claiming that the “consensus view of economists” incontrovertibly supports the notion that raising the minimum wage is without negative implication at the proposed rate is simply not true. Rather, the purported preponderance consists primarily of studies both dated and evaluating a more modest increase. More than common sense suggests there are demonstrable downsides – otherwise, why not triple the rate, as some at the political extreme have argued.

The affected businesses – predominantly in the fast food, retail and health care industries – employing low-skill workers paid the minimum wage on an hourly basis have long lamented, “instead of 15 employees, I’ll have to make due with only 13.” Others anticipate retaining the same number of employees for maximum staffing flexibility while reducing the number of hours for at least some workers. Few project increasing staffing under the resulting financial pressure.

Suddenly accelerated labor costs also encourage operational transition to workplace automation, including self-service technologies, as emphasized by Bill Gates in warning against too steep an increase. When low-margin businesses are confronted with higher mandated labor costs, survival requires reducing payrolls. McDonald’s, for example, has replaced employees with 7,000 touch-screen ordering and payment kiosks at European locations.

Overlooked is that nearly a third of minimum wage workers are teenagers and, as the CBO notes, “just 19 percent of the increased earnings for low-wage workers would accrue to families with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold.” Studies examining past minimum wage increases indicate that workers living in poor households received less benefit than myth mistakes, due to their already earning hourly wages greater than the adjusted minimum. Instead, the increase mostly benefited second or third earners living in households well above the poverty line.

While some workers retaining their jobs and current hours will earn more pay, the CBO points out that the increase would be partially offset by heightened household expenses resulting from higher consumer prices. In the aggregate, raising the minimum wage by the proposed 39 percent produces a net income benefit for families earning below the poverty level less than their actual percentage change in income, averaging only three percent of current earnings.

Minimum wage adjustments are a highly inefficient method of improving economic conditions for the working poor. Reducing low-income tax rates, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and expanding EITC eligibility, eliminating the tax penalty for similarly compensated dual-low-income married couples, implementing a maximum marginal tax rate for low-income families, and other strategic policies would better serve to benefit low-wage earners. All without the negative consequences of less effectively targeted minimum wage increases.

It’s easier to stir up indignation over income inequality, pillory the business community, and play politics with the jobs, incomes, opportunities and lives of low-skill workers.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at


Maryland Senate approves transgender rights bill

Rich Madaleno, Maryland, Democratic Party, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland state. Sen. Rich Madaleno introduced Senate Bill 212 (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

ANNAPOLIS, Md.–The Maryland Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in the state.

The measure passed by a 32-15 vote margin after senators debated on its third reading for less than 20 minutes.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) voted for Senate Bill 212 – the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 – alongside state Sens. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s County), James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City), Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s County), Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery County), Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County), Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County), Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City), Verna Jones-Rodwell (D-Baltimore City), Edward Kasemeyer (D-Baltimore and Howard Counties), Delores Kelly (D-Baltimore County), Nancy King (D-Montgomery County), Allan Kittleman (R-Howard County), Katherine Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County), Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County), Nathaniel McFadden (D-Baltimore City), Thomas Middleton (D-Charles County), Karen Montgomery (D-Montgomery County), C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County), Douglas Peters (D-Prince George’s County), Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County), Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore City), Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George’s County), Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), James Robey (D-Howard County), James Rosapepe (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties), Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), Ronald Young (D-Frederick and Washington Counties) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County).

Kittleman, who is the only Republican who voted for the measure, said he hopes “people realize this is a fairness issue.”

“It is not our job to discriminate,” added Kelly before the vote. “The bill is carefully crafted. The definitions are clear”

State Sens. John Astle (D-Anne Arundel County), David Brinkley (R-Carroll and Frederick Counties), Richard Colburn (R-Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico Counties), James DeGrange, Sr., (D-Anne Arundel County), Roy Dyson (D-Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties), George Edwards (R-Alleghany, Garrett and Washington Counties), Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties), Barry Glassman (R-Harford County), Stephen Hershey, Jr. (R-Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties), Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties), J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore and Harford Counties), James Mathias, Jr., (D-Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties), Edward Reilly (R-Anne Arundel County), Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel County) voted against SB 212.

Simonaire before the vote questioned the measure’s definitions of public accommodations and gender identity. The Anne Arundel County Republican also sought additional religious protections in SB 212 that Raskin maintained already exist.

“The intent of this bill is discrimination,” said Simonaire. “There is an absence of religion.”

“Huge day for transgender rights in Maryland”

Madaleno, who introduced SB 212, applauded its passage.

“Today marks a historic milestone in the continued fight to advance equal rights for all Marylanders,” he said in a statement. “The Senate’s passage of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act sends a reaffirming message throughout our state that regardless of whom you are, prejudice and discrimination will no longer be tolerated or exempted from law. With these new anti-discrimination protections for transgender persons one step closer to full passage.”

“Today is a huge day for transgender rights in Maryland,” added Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans. “With their vote, 32 Senators stood up to say no one should be denied the opportunity to work for a living, secure housing or eat lunch at a restaurant just because of their gender identity.”

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who announced her candidacy against Madaleno in January, specifically applauded her opponent in a statement after senators approved the measure. She also praised Frosh, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, former Equality Maryland Executive Director Dan Furmansky and “the trans community who came every year to Annapolis to lobby and tell their stories.”

“After eight years of struggle, and with the active support of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., and the legislative magic of Sen. Jamie Raskin, a comprehensive gender identity anti-discrimination bill has passed in the Senate,” said Beyer.

Frosh described Madaleno as “the best leader for gender equality and LGBT rights in the country” as he discussed the measure’s passage with the Washington Blade after the vote.

“It was the forceful but quiet leadership of Jamie and Rich,” said Frosh. “The fact it came up and got almost no debate was remarkable. The fact it got 32 votes was astonishing.”

Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow, Vann Michael of Black Transmen, Inc., and Free State Legal Project Executive Director Aaron Merki are among those who also applauded SB 212′s passage.

“As a transgender woman, I know that this is one huge step forward for transgender people who only want to fully participate in public life, without fear of discrimination based on gender identity,” said Jenna Fischetti of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality. “Today the Maryland Senate said loud and clear that every Marylander deserves equal rights.”

SB 212 last month cleared a major hurdle when the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved the measure by a 8-3 vote margin.

Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard Counties currently include gender identity and expression in their non-discrimination laws. Hyattsville in December became the first jurisdiction in Prince George’s County to pass a trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance.

Neighboring Delaware is among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New York and other states have introduced similar measures.

The Maryland House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to hold a hearing on a trans rights bill that state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) introduced. The chamber approved a similar measure in 2011.

All three Democratic gubernatorial candidates – Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) – support SB 212.

“Today 32 Senators voted against gender discrimination and for what is just and fair,” Gansler told the Blade in a statement. “I congratulate all who worked so hard, led by Senator Madaleno, for the passage of this milestone legislation.”

“Today, the Senate took a huge step forward in our path to equality under the law for all Marylanders,” added Mizeur, who testified in support of SB 212 last month before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “No one in our state should face discrimination, period. Now let’s get it done in the House.”

Brown on Wednesday is expected to testify in support of Clippinger’s bill on behalf of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

“He sees this legislation as a critical step forward towards making sure that every Marylander no matter who they are, where they are, what their background is is treated fairly,” Brown’s spokesperson, Matt Verghese, told the Blade.


PFLAG to present ‘Bridegroom’

Bridegroom, gay news, Washington Blade

Shane and Tom, the central figures in the film ‘Bridegroom,’ which will be screened on March 11. (Still courtesy Mozark Productions)

The Howard County chapter of PFLAG will present the documentary film “Bridegroom” on March 11. The film, produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, tells the true story of two young small-town men, Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom, who fall deeply in love and remained together for six years until Tom’s fatal accident at the age of 29 in 2011.

Using interviews and footage from Shane’s video diary, “Bridegroom” describes the intense love between the two men and the reactions from family members as their relationship blossoms. Tom’s parents were not accepting.

Following the accident, the hospital staff initially would not permit Shane to visit him as he was not “family” under hospital rules. After he died, Tom’s parents cut Shane off from making funeral arrangements and being a part of the services. His life and relationship with Tom was completely eradicated as if it never occurred. Of course, if marriage equality had been legal (they were living in Prop 8 California at the time), the couple would have been married according to their stated plans, and Shane would have had the right to make the funeral arrangements.

The meeting, which is free, confidential and open to the public, begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia. For more information, visit


Why New Polling Shows Both the GOP <i>and</i> LGBT Groups Are Out of Touch

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that a record majority of Americans supports marriage equality, with 59 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed, and that half of Americans believe marriage for gays and lesbians is a constitutional right.

Ten years ago it was the complete inverse, with 59 percent opposed. It shows how rapidly opinions have changed on the issue among Americans. Even majorities of people in the 33 states with bans on gay marriage support marriage equality. And in the wake of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto last week of an anti-gay "religious liberties" bill, nearly 70 percent of Americans in the poll say businesses should not be allowed, based on religious beliefs, to turn away gay people.

But among Republicans, not much has changed. Only 40 percent of GOPers support marriage equality, while a majority is opposed. Six in 10 evangelical Protestants, who make up a large part of the base of the GOP, are opposed to marriage equality. Bills to allow businesses to discriminate in the states based on "religious liberties" have been driven by GOP politicians trying to give some red meat to the religious right in an election year. While Arizona's governor vetoed that state's bill, and other states pulled back, in Arizona and Mississippi and elsewhere anti-gay forces are determined to fine-tune and narrow these bills and get them passed.

In the Washington Post over the weekend, several anti-gay leaders, including Peter Sprigg from the Family Research Council (FRC), who has said in the past that homosexuality should be criminalized again and that he'd like to "export homosexuals," said he and his group and others are not giving up. The GOP leadership continues to pander to homophobes like FRC -- at its own peril, as it's clear how isolated the GOP is becoming from the general public on this issue.

And yet in this one area, many LGBT groups, like the Human Rights Campaign, in their zeal to get any form of federal protections passed, have isolated themselves from the American public as well, according the new poll, pandering to the GOP and conservative Democrats in the way that the GOP panders to the religious right.

As I wrote several months ago, the religious exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which finally passed in the Senate late last year, is a throwback to the 1990s, when ENDA was first introduced; the bill wasn't updated to the times we live in. While ENDA would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it exempts businesses owned by religious groups, like a hospital owned by the Catholic Church, allowing such businesses, which serve the general public, to fire or not hire LGBT people.

However, many of the same LGBT groups that promoted ENDA with a religious exemption somewhat belatedly demanded a veto by Gov. Brewer of the "religious freedom" law in Arizona, and that looked hypocritical. Why allow employers not to hire people based on their religious beliefs but tell businesses it's wrong to turn people away based on their religious beliefs?

Not only does a vast majority of Americans support a law banning discrimination against LGBT people in employment, but the new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that a vast majority would also support a law banning discrimination in public accommodations -- without a religious exemption. That's pretty amazing. LGBT people have no federal protections -- no protections in employment, housing, credit, education or public accommodations -- and all we're pushing for is a narrow employment bill with religious exemptions, while the vast majority of Americans support full civil rights?

Sure, LGBT groups are operating within a political environment in which a small band of extremists have a lock on the GOP. But better to get nothing passed right now and continue to embarrass the GOP and watch it implode than to compromise our rights and pander to those extremists. Worse yet, passing ENDA with religious exemptions sets a dangerous precedent, as groups like the ACLU and Lambda Legal have pointed out, by allowing the very discrimination that we so powerfully beat back in Arizona with the help of big business and people across America.

It's time to push for full equality at the federal level, with no religious exemptions, in employment, in housing, in credit and in public accommodations. It's what the American people support. And it's what we should demand no matter how long it takes.

A Dying Gay Man’s Wedding Could Have A Big Impact On Marriage Law

John Arthur may be dying, but the legacy he is leaving behind with his husband Jim Obergefell will be felt in the law for years.

Arthur, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, married Obergefell, his partner of 20 years, in a ceremony on a runway in Maryland, where they had traveled on a medical flight. Upon return, the couple sought to have their marriage recognized in Ohio so that it would be included on John’s death certificate. In a strongly worded opinion,Federal Judge Timothy Black issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the state from not recognizing the marriage.

Now Black has extended that restraining order until the end of the year, protecting Jim and John’s marriage in the interim. He also scheduled arguments for the case for December 18. The case has the potential to be a major blow to the state’s ban on marriage equality. In his original ruling, Black signaled that the law “likely violates the U.S. Constitution” and noted that Ohio doesn’t have a problem recognizing any other type of marriage performed elsewhere in the country.

14 hours 2 min ago

Interpreting this week’s election results

Chris Christie, election, Republican National Convention, Republican Party, New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie speaking at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (Blade file photo by Michael Key).

In politics, it’s always hard to read the tea leaves and determine what off-year elections mean. This year was especially difficult as we were coming off the government shutdown and the fiasco of the Obamacare website rollout. With many people around the nation thinking a pox on all your houses, there were still those who believed that some races could hold messages for both next year’s mid-term elections and even the 2016 presidential election. Looking at the results I am not sure they did.

On Tuesday, Democrats in Virginia had a good day. For the first time since 1974, Virginians elected a governor, Terry McAuliffe, from the same party as the president and it looks like they will sweep the top three offices including lieutenant governor and attorney general. The attorney general race is still up in the air and at the time I write this the Democrat is leading by about 500 votes but it appears there will be a mandated recount.

The GOP losses are a big defeat for the Tea Party. But many moderate Republicans had jumped ship in advance of the election and Ken Cuccinelli campaigned with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ken.), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and local right-wing Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to no avail. It appears from exit polling that the health reform rollout kept the loss from being bigger.

New Jersey Republicans had a more moderate (though still pro-life, anti-union, and anti-gay marriage) candidate in Gov. Chris Christie. He soundly defeated the Democrat by more than 20 percent in a lopsided victory. According to the bloviators on CNN (Alex Castellanos, Andrew Sullivan and Newt Gingrich) Christie will use this big win to catapult him into contention for the Republican nomination in 2016. But many observers agree that Christie will have a hard time taking his brand of in-your-face bullying politics to Iowa and the South. Southerners tend to be more genteel even if they are trying to stab you in the back. While it appears to have been good for Christie’s re-election campaign in New Jersey to be seen with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy and on the stage with Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global initiative, that may not go over well with the ultra-conservative voters who still predominate in most of the Republican primaries.

Then there was the Republican primary race in Alabama. The day before the primary, Sean Sullivan wrote in a column for the Washington Post, “The long-running battle for the heart and soul of the national Republican Party will play out here on Tuesday in the form of a nasty little House special-election primary, pitting business-oriented establishment Republicans against angry and energized tea party insurgents who have become a dominant voice in the GOP.” This statement was made about the primary contest between the candidate of choice for the business community and more moderate Republicans, Bradley Byrne; and the Tea Party choice Dean Young. Byrne won and this may bode well as Sullivan suggested when he wrote, “A Byrne victory would lend momentum to an effort by the Republican establishment to wrest control of the GOP from the tea party faction, which has dominated the debate over the past three years. The battle is already on for other seats in 2014, including two in Michigan held by Reps. Justin Amash and Kerry Bentivolio, tea party favorites who have drawn primary challengers.”

Clearly this is a mixed bag for Republicans, with the Tea Party faithful saying that their candidates need to hold the line. Meanwhile, the Republican business community is setting the bar low for getting their support and endorsing candidates who simply say they are opposed to closing government and are willing to raise the debt ceiling.

It is always difficult to read much into off-year elections. McAuliffe was lucky that the government closing gave him momentum and that the Republicans put up the three most right-wing candidates ever nominated by the party in Virginia. Christie may be just a New Jersey phenomenon and a bully. Exit polling showed that even many of those who voted for him suggested they wouldn’t vote for him for president.

We will have to wait and see whether the issues of the government shutdown and the fiasco of the health care website rollout fade or continue to impact voters. That will depend on what Congress does in January with the budget and if the administration can fix the website and demonstrate that Obamacare really is as good as they claim.


Same-sex marriage supporters rally in Freedom Plaza

Freedom Plaza, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade, Vince Gray

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray at Freedom Plaza. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 200 same-sex marriage supporters gathered at Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. on Wednesday to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

“DOMA and Prop 8 are dead in the U.S. of A,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said during a rally the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club hosted. “The deep injustices that they perpetrated on loving, committed couples and their families have gone and gone for good.”

The D.C. rally was one of nearly 150 events that took place across the country in celebration of the landmark Supreme Court rulings.

Edith Windsor, who challenged DOMA after she paid $363,000 in federal estate taxes upon the 2009 death of her partner of more than 40 years, Thea Spyer, whom she married in Canada in 2007, spoke at a rally outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Same-sex marriage advocates also celebrated the decisions in Boston; Seattle; San Francisco; Chicago; Miami Beach, Fla.; West Hollywood, Calif., and other cities.

Washington National Cathedral in Northwest D.C. hosted a prayer service for LGBT families.

“We are ringing our bells at the cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants,” Washington National Cathedral Dean Gary Hall said in a statement after the justices announced their rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. “Our prayers for committed happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere.”

Back at Freedom Plaza, an emotional National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said the rulings go far beyond same-sex couples and their families.

“It was a victory for the United States of America,” she said.

“Today millions of people who have been in the shadows have gotten the rights and recognition and respect that we should have had years and years and centuries and centuries ago,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten added.

D.C. Councilwoman Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) described the decisions to the Washington Blade as “wonderful.”

Christopher Schaffer, vice chair of LGBT Democrats of Virginia, agreed.

“The rulings today on DOMA and Prop 8 are a major step forward for equality in the United States,” he said. “DOMA has been nothing more than the federal government condoning discrimination against LGBT people. And it is our hope that wiping discriminatory laws from our books will set an example for all to follow.”

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Even though same-sex marriage supporters celebrated the Supreme Court rulings, they acknowledged many LGBT Americans still lack even the most basic of legal protections in the states in which they live.

Schaffer said gay and lesbian Virginians’ relationships “will continue to be relegated to second class status” in the commonwealth because of the state’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Carey reiterated her support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; while she, Weingarten and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling blasted the Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday that struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“We do not have equality until every single person in these blessed United States has full equality,” Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said.

Ikeita Cantu of McLean, Va., who married Carmen Guzmán in Canada in 2009, echoed this message.

“Today is about equality for all people and so as a woman, as a person of color, as an LGBT American, we’re used to freedom being a very long struggle in this country,” Cantu told the Blade at the end of the rally. “Today is not just about LGBT Americans; it’s about all Americans and we all became that much freer today.”