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Hearing in Va. same-sex marriage lawsuit postponed

Carol Schall, Mary Townley, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia

Carol Schall (left) with Mary Townley and their daughter Emily. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND, Va.—Oral arguments in a federal lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban that was scheduled to take place tomorrow has been postponed because of inclement weather.

Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk, Va., is expected to hear the case sometime next month.

Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond last year filed a lawsuit against a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Attorney General Mark Herring last week announced he would not defend the marriage amendment—he was to have attended the Jan. 30 before a snowstorm that blanketed the Hampton Roads area with nearly a foot of snow prompted the court to postpone it.

The Alliance Defending Freedom last October filed an amicus brief on behalf of professors from Brigham Young University, the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University in D.C. and the Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Va., who support the marriage amendment. The Family Foundation of Virginia has also filed an amicus brief in the case.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is also defending Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg, who is a defendant in the Bostic case.

29
Jan
2014

Gay man running for Arlington school board

Greg Greeley, Arlington school board, gay news, Washington Blade

Greg Greeley is a single father of two adopted boys and has been active in school-related activities in Arlington for more than 10 years. (Photo courtesy of the Greeley campaign)

Gay former Air Force Capt. Greg Greeley is running for a seat on the Arlington County School Board that’s being vacated by retiring incumbent Sally Baird.

Baird, who has endorsed Greeley, became Virginia’s first out lesbian elected official when she first won election to the school board post in 2006.

Greeley is a single father of two adopted boys and has been active in school-related activities in Arlington for more than 10 years, according to his campaign website. Among other things, he has served as treasurer of the Randolph Elementary School PTA, served as vice chair for a Northern Virginia education advisory council and is a former president and board member of SMYAL.

Since being honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1991, Greeley has worked in senior management positions in the private sector in the areas of finance, healthcare, and information technologies, his website says. He currently works as a federal government contractor and project manager with a specialty in facilities management.

Greeley is competing with two other candidates – Barbara Kanninen and Nancy Van Doren – for the Arlington Democratic Committee’s endorsement for the school board seat. Endorsement caucuses in which registered Democrats can vote are scheduled for Thursday, May 15, from 7-9 p.m., at Drew Middle School; and Saturday, May 17, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School.

Under Virginia law, school board seats are nonpartisan positions, but the law allows political parties to endorse school board candidates. Greeley told the Blade that traditionally the Democratic candidates who don’t receive their party endorsement drop out of the race, even though they are not required to do so under the election law.

17
Apr
2014

Marriage and more

The momentous events of 2013 hit close to home, as marriage equality arrived in Maryland and Delaware. But last year wasn’t all about marriage. It was a big year for Democrats in Virginia and a lesbian lawmaker announced a bid for Maryland governor.

Here’s a look at the top 10 local news stories of 2013 as chosen by Blade editorial staffers.

 

#1 Marriage equality comes to Md., Del.

 

Clayton Zook, Tracy Staples, Wayne MacKenzie, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Tilghman Island

Marriage equality expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic in 2013 with Maryland and Delaware joining D.C. in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie tied the knot on New Year’s Day on Tilghman Island. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland and Delaware were among the states in which same-sex couples began to legally marry in 2013.

Seven same-sex couples married at Baltimore City Hall on Jan. 1 shortly after Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect in a ceremony that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated. They include long-time mayoral aide James Scales and his partner, William Tasker.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” said Rawlings-Blake.

More than half a dozen same-sex couples exchanged vows at the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on Jan. 1. These include innkeepers Tracy Staples and Bob Zuber who tied the knot almost immediately after the law took effect at midnight.

“I’m very proud of Maryland,” Michelle Miller of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County told the Washington Blade on Jan. 1 after she married Nora Clouse at the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on May 7 signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) came out as a lesbian on the floor of the state Senate while she and her colleagues debated the measure. The New Castle County Democrat and her partner of more than 20 years, Vikki Bandy, on July 1 became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple when the couple converted their civil union into a marriage during a ceremony that New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden officiated.

“It’s exciting, both historically and personally,” Peterson told reporters after she and Bandy exchanged vows inside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington. “I never thought in our lifetimes we would be getting married.”

Boulden later on July 1 also officiated Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cote’s wedding in Wilmington that Attorney General Beau Biden, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon and other local and state officials attended.

“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” said Biden.

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis and Rev. Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington are among those who testified against the same-sex marriage bill. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church on July 1 protested the law outside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington and at other locations throughout the state.

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) is the only Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored the measure. John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, on March 15 came out during an exclusive interview with the Blade at an Equality Delaware fundraiser in Wilmington.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” said Fluharty. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

 

#2 McAuliffe elected Va. governor

 

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe is Virginia’s next governor after a campaign that prominently featured gay issues. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Nov. 6 defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.

McAuliffe has repeatedly said his first executive order as governor will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. The former DNC chair in February also endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily defeated Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson in the state’s lieutenant gubernatorial race. The State Board of Elections on Nov. 25 officially certified state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) as the winner of the race to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general, but state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) requested a recount because he lost to his Democratic rival by only 165 votes.

Cuccinelli highlighted his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples during two debates against McAuliffe that took place in Hot Springs and McLean in July and September respectively. LGBT rights advocates also blasted the outgoing attorney general for appealing a federal appellate court’s March ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Jackson faced persistent criticism during the campaign over his previous comments that equated gay men to pedophiles and “very sick people.”

“Without exception, the Democratic candidates for statewide office offered unflinching support for marriage equality, a welcoming business climate and respect for a woman’s right to choose,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) after the election. “The people of Virginia aligned themselves with McAuliffe’s and Northam’s vision of an inclusive, forward moving commonwealth.”

 

 

#3 Va. lawmakers confirm gay judge

 

Virginia lawmakers on Jan. 15 confirmed gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked the former prosecutor’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s.

Thorne-Begland in 1992 publicly discussed his sexual orientation during an interview on ABC’s “Nightline.” He unsuccessfully challenged his discharge from the U.S. Navy under the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

Thorne-Begland is also a former Equality Virginia board member.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after lawmakers approved Thorne-Begland’s judgeship. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

Thorne-Begland is Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

 

 #4 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay: report

 

gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Gallup says that 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A report released in February by the Gallup polling organization showed that the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of self-identified LGBT residents in the nation in comparison to the 50 states.

Ten percent of 493 D.C. residents who responded to Gallup’s daily tracking polls between June 1 and Dec. 30, 2012 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the report. By comparison, 3.3 percent of a sample of 4,195 Maryland residents and 2.9 percent of a sample of 6,323 Virginians identified themselves as LGBT.

The report did not compare D.C. to other cities. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which studies LGBT related demographics, told the Blade the Gallop statistics appeared to be a more accurate snapshot of the country’s LGBT population than previous studies.

 

#5 Mizeur runs for governor in Md.

 

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Heather Mizeur is seeking to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on July 16 officially entered the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m running for governor because I love this state and I see limitless possibilities on what we can accomplish together,” the Montgomery County Democrat told the Washington Blade before she announced her candidacy. “There are great challenges facing us and also incredible opportunities.”

Mizeur last month raised eyebrows when she tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton as her running mate. The Prince George’s County pastor in 2012 emerged as one of the most prominent supporters of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved in a referendum.

“I have stood up for justice,” said Coates at a Nov. 14 campaign event during which Mizeur officially introduced him as her running mate. “I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”

Mizeur will face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed Martin O’Malley.

“Diversity is enormously important,” Mizeur told the Blade in July. “Not simply to have a gay governor, but to have a governor who can represent the voices of people in communities that have not always had a voice in the process.”

 

#6 Rash of violent incidents in June

 

Miles DeNiro, Manny & Olga's, hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

Drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria in June. (Screen capture)

Four transgender women, a gay man dressed in drag, and a lesbian were victims of separate violent attacks, including a murder, during the last two weeks of June, prompting LGBT activists to call a “community response” meeting to address the incidents.

Lesbian Malika Stover, 35, of Southeast D.C., was shot to death on June 22 following what police said was an argument with a neighbor that did not appear to be linked to her sexual orientation.

But transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized the meeting, said Stover’s slaying stunned people in the LGBT community who knew her.

“This is really putting all of us on edge,” she said. “You’re seeing all of these incidents happening in such a short period of time.”

Police arrested a 23-year-old male suspect for allegedly stabbing transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, multiple times on June 21 in an abandoned house in Southeast D.C. Police said the incident stemmed from a dispute and did not appear to be a hate crime. In another incident on June 23, gay male drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria near 14th and U streets, N.W. in an incident that was captured on video and posted on the Internet. The two women were arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge simple assault.

 

#7 Trans birth certificate bill hailed  

 

Vincent Gray, JaParker Deoni Jones, David Grosso, Ruby Corado, Rick Rosendall, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill in August enabling trans people to change their birth certificates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bill signed into law by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in August that removes obstacles to the process of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their new gender has been hailed as a groundbreaking measure.

Among other things, the new law repealed a provision in an existing law that required transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery as a condition for obtaining a new birth certificate. Transgender advocates said the surgery was too expensive for many people and medically hazardous to others.

The new law is named the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 in honor of a transgender woman murdered near her home in 2012.

Another key provision in the law requires the D.C. Registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition.”

 

 

#8 T.H.E. declares bankruptcy

 

Earline Budd, gay news, Washington Blade

Earline Budd called on the city to investigate T.H.E.’s management practices. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender Health Empowerment, D.C.’s leading transgender services and advocacy organization for nearly 10 years, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7. A short time later it discontinued all of its transgender-related programs.

The bankruptcy filing came after the D.C. Department of Health abruptly cut off its funding for T.H.E. when it learned that the IRS placed liens on the organization for its failure to pay more than $260,000 in employee withholding taxes over a period of at least three years. The bankruptcy filing shows that T.H.E.’s total debt comes to more than $560,000.

During a bankruptcy trustee’s hearing in August, T.H.E. executive director Anthony Hall said the group’s only source of income at the time of the hearing was a city grant calling for the organization to operate a non-LGBT related temporary housing facility for crime victims.

Longtime transgender activist Earline Budd, a former T.H.E. employee and one of its founders, has called on the city to investigate the group’s management practices to determine the cause of its financial problems.

 

 

#9 Mautner merges with Whitman-Walker

 

Don Blanchon, Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization based in Washington, D.C. since its founding in 1990, became an arm of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health in 2013 in what leaders of both groups called an “historic collaboration.”

In a joint statement released in June, the two organizations said the arrangement would bring the Mautner Project’s programs and staff under the “umbrella” of Whitman-Walker, an LGBT community health care provider founded in 1978.

Leslie Calman, Mautner Project’s executive director at the time the merger was announced, said the joining of the two groups would allow Mautner to “offer more critical services to a greater number of women who need those services throughout the region. It’s a natural fit.”

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. He said the Mautner Project’s “programs and reach within their community will help us fulfill that mission.”

Calman said that in addition to continuing its services for lesbians with serious illnesses such as cancer, the Mautner programs at Whitman-Walker would also continue various illness prevention programs such as cancer screening, smoking cessation and obesity reduction.

 

 

#10 Carson steps down as Hopkins speaker

 

Ben Carson, Values Voter Summit, Washington Blade, gay news

Ben Carson compared LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman).

A rising star in the Republican Party stirred controversy by comparing LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia, leading him to give up his role as commencement speaker at John Hopkins University.

The former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity when expressing his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition” of marriage, Carson said.

Carson’s remarks invoked the ire of students at John Hopkins University, where he was selected to speak as commencement speaker. The organization Media Matters asserted a majority of the graduating class, or around 700 students, called for his ouster. Although sources initially said Carson wouldn’t relinquish his speaking role at commencement, Carson eventually indicated he would acquiesce to students’ desires and step down as speaker.

But Carson went on to other public appearances, including one later in the year at a venue closer in tune with his views. Carson was among the speakers the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, where he articulated his opposition to marriage equality.

“We need to recognize that God created the family structure for a reason and marriage is a sacred institution from God himself, and there is no reason that man needs to change the definition of marriage,” Carson said.

02
Jan
2014

Va. legislator, U.S. House candidate comes out

Mark Sickles, Fairfax, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) is the second out gay member of the Virginia General Assembly. (Photo by Cliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A member of the Virginia House of Delegates who is one of 11 Democrats running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) disclosed he is gay on Friday in a guest column in the Washington Post.

In making the disclosure, Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax) became the second out gay member of the Virginia General Assembly.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who became Virginia’s first out state legislator in 2003, is also running for the 8th District congressional seat, which includes parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

Sickles’ coming out in the Post came three days after gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine announced his candidacy for the 8th District congressional seat, opening the way for an unprecedented development – three prominent openly gay candidates running against each other in a Virginia election.

Sickles, Ebbin and Levine along with the other eight Democrats are running in the hotly contested race in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Most political observers say the winner in the June 10 Democratic primary will be the odds-on favorite to win the general election in November.

In his column in the Post, Sickles, 57, said he long ago came out to family members, friends and political allies. He said he was prompted to come out publicly at this time by two developments. One, he said, was a decision this month by a federal judge declaring Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The other, according to Sickles, was remarks by at least two of his colleagues on the floor of the House of Delegates earlier this month describing LGBT people in a derogatory and inaccurate way. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William County), Sickles noted, referred to the “LGBT lifestyle” as a series of “life shortening and health compromising behaviors.”

Another delegate, whom he didn’t identify, claimed there was “overwhelming science demonstrating that children have better outcomes when they are [raised] by a mother and father,” suggesting that LGBT people were not fit to raise children, Sickles said.

“Hearing such caustic remarks yet again on the House floor, coupled with the overturning of our same-sex marriage ban, has motivated me to state publicly here what many close friends  and family have known for decades: I am a proud, gay man,” he wrote in his column.

“I have always lived openly with my neighbors, friends and family, lived a full life and never regretted the way I was born,” he said. “But the current moment in Virginia has convinced me that it could be helpful to share this aspect of my life with all of my constituents.”

Levine, a resident of Alexandria since 2001, served as legislative counsel to former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) from 2001 to 2003 and has provided legal counsel to LGBT rights related causes since the late 1990s, including marriage equality litigation. He said he has been a talk show host or commentator on radio and television, including CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, as an advocate for progressive causes for the past decade.

His campaign’s Facebook page describes him as an “aggressive progressive.”

Ebbin and Sickles have a long record of advocating for progressive legislation, including LGBT rights legislation, during their tenure as state legislators.

It couldn’t immediately be determined how LGBT rights organizations that endorse political candidates will respond to the possibility of having to choose between three gay candidates.

23
Feb
2014

Beyer defeats Ebbin, Levine in Va. congressional race

Adam Ebbin, Mark Levine, gay news, Washington Blade

Adam Ebbin and Mark Levine on Tuesday lost to former Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Don Beyer in the Democratic primary to succeed outgoing Congressman Jim Moran (Photos courtesy of the Ebbin and Levine campaigns)

Former Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Don Beyer on Tuesday easily won the Democratic primary for the commonwealth’s 8th Congressional District to succeed outgoing Congressman Jim Moran.

Beyer defeated state Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) by a 46-18 percent margin. Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) came in third with slightly less than 14 percent of the vote.

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille received slightly more than eight percent of the vote. Mark Levine, a gay talk show host who served as former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank’s legislative counsel, came in fifth with slightly less than seven percent of the vote.

Ebbin told the Blade after speaking to his supporters at Los Tios Grill in Alexandria that he offered to work with Beyer ahead of the general election in November.

“I’m disappointed for my supporters, but I think we made a great effort,” said Ebbin. “I’m proud of the people who helped me and proud to have been associated with the people who supported me.”

Levine also congratulated Beyer.

 

All of the Democratic candidates who sought to succeed Moran in Congress back marriage rights for same-sex couples and other LGBT-specific issues.

Ebbin, who is the first openly gay person elected to the Virginia General Assembly, earlier this year introduced a bill alongside state Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees. Hope in January introduced a measure that sought to prohibit so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the commonwealth.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund in February endorsed Ebbin’s campaign to succeed Moran, but the Alexandria Democrat told the Blade he feels the organization could have done more to support his bid.

“They had indicated this would be a priroity for them,” said Ebbin, noting he raised more than $300,000 during his congressional bid. “It was challenging to get off the ground the way we needed with more active support from them.”

Beyer’s win coincides with Dave Brat defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District in a stunning upset that has sent shockwaves throughout Capitol Hill and the Republican establishment.

Beyer will face Republican Micah Edmond in the general election to succeed Moran who currently represents Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The good news is Don Beyer will not have to serve in Congress with Eric Cantor,” said Ebbin.

The Washington Blade will have more details as they become available.

11
Jun
2014

Mark Herring to challenge Virginia same-sex marriage ban

Mark Herring, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (Photo courtesy of Herring for Attorney General)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Thursday will announce he will not defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The Washington Post reported Herring will announce the state constitutional amendment that prohibits gay nuptials is unconstitutional. The newspaper also cited an official who said Herring will join a federal lawsuit challenging the ban that two same-sex couples from Norfolk and Richmond — Timothy Bostic and Tony London and Carol Schall and Mary Townley — filed last year.

Herring discussed his decision during an interview with NPR News.

“There have been times in some key landmark cases where Virginia was on the wrong side; was on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the law,” Herring told Steve Inskeep of “Morning Edition.” “And as attorney general I’m going to make sure that the person presenting the state’s legal position on behalf of the people of Virginia are on the right side of history and the right side of the law.”

State Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) welcomed Herring’s announcement.

“Elections have consequences and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Windsor decision makes clear that we must give full faith and credit to non-Virginia gay marriages,” the Fairfax County Democrat told the Washington Blade after the Post published its story. “Attorney General Herring is simply enforcing the law of the land as reflected [and] interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court six months ago.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish described Herring’s decision as “truly commendable.”

“This is a new day for loving gay and lesbian couples who want to marry the person they love in the state they call home,” Parrish told the Blade. “Thanks to Mark Herring, today we are one step closer to equality and fairness for LGBT Virginians.”

The expected announcement comes less than two weeks after Herring took office alongside Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam.

Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who ran against McAuliffe, vehemently opposed marriage rights for same-sex couples in the commonwealth. The former GOP gubernatorial candidate wrote in a non-binding opinion to state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) one day before leaving office that a governor may not require any state government agency to allow gays and lesbians to receive “joint marital status” for state income tax returns.

Herring in 2006 voted against marriage rights for same-sex couples while in the state Senate. Virginia voters the same year approved a state constitutional amendment banning gay nuptials by a 57-43 percent margin.

State Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), chair of the Virginia House of Delegates Privileges and Elections Committee, earlier this month announced it will not consider any proposed resolutions that sought to repeal the marriage amendment during the 2014 legislative session.

The House Civil Law Subcommittee on Monday narrowly struck down Surovell’s bill that would have repealed the commonwealth’s statutory same-sex marriage ban.

State Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) earlier this month introduced a proposed resolution that sought to amend the state constitution to allow same-sex marriage in Virginia. The Alexandria Democrat’s proposal would have also allowed the commonwealth to recognize gay nuptials legally performed in neighboring D.C. and Maryland and other jurisdictions.

Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk is scheduled to hold a hearing in the Bostic case on Jan. 30. The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia in August filed a class action federal lawsuit on behalf of two lesbian couples who are seeking marriage rights in the state.

The Blade will provide further updates as they become available.

23
Jan
2014

Beyer a longtime LGBT rights supporter

Don Beyer, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Don Beyer (Photo public domain)

The following was submitted as a letter to the editor in response to “Beyer changed position on same-sex marriage” (news, March 19).

 

I was surprised to see the Blade single out Don Beyer as someone who has changed his position on gay marriage since 1997. Let’s be honest – a vast number of Americans have changed their position on gay marriage since 1997, and that is something that should be applauded, not criticized.

The truth is, like many of our friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, Don has evolved on this issue. In fact, Don evolved long before many of our current Democratic leaders. In 2003, Don endorsed Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in a primary in which Dean and no other candidate was in favor of gay marriage.

In 2006, when several Virginia Democrats joined Republicans in their crusade to ban gay marriage in the Commonwealth, Don personally contributed significantly to the effort opposing the Defense of Marriage Act referendum in Virginia. In doing so, he bucked many in his own party and even the majority of Virginia voters.  Don came to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do well before many others, including many in the Democratic Party.

When my partner and I decided to start our own family in 2002, Don and his wife were among the first of our friends, gay or straight, to offer to help us. They have been unwavering advocates in the community for our family, which now includes two children, and we believe Don’s experience and perspective will be critical to addressing the unique issues we face going forward.

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and nearly every Democratic elected official in Virginia has progressed on this issue, and ultimately, that’s what matters.

From prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and elsewhere, to supporting the inclusion of sexual orientation-based crimes in hate crime statutes, Don has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights. To try to paint him as anything otherwise is disingenuous and misleading; it also does a disservice to the people of Virginia.

I realize that in a crowded Democratic primary field we look for points of differentiation among the candidates. This isn’t one of them. —Mark C. Lowham

26
Mar
2014

Adam Ebbin enters race for Congress

Adam Ebbin

Adam Ebbin (Photo courtesy Adam Ebbin)

Gay Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) officially tossed his hat in the ring on Thursday as a candidate for the Northern Virginia U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Congressman Jim Moran.

Ebbin joins seven other declared candidates running in the June 10 Democratic primary for a seat representing the strongly Democratic-leaning 8th Congressional District. The district includes parts of Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax County.

Other Democrats are expected to enter the race in a contest where the winner of the primary is considered the odds-on favorite to win the general election in November. All of the declared and potential candidates that have surfaced so far are supporters of LGBT rights.

“Today, I am excited to announce that I will be running to succeed Congressman Moran,” Ebbin said in a statement. “For over a decade in Richmond, I’ve been a strong voice for progressive values who’s gotten results. I’ve fought to end human trafficking, to strengthen protections for seniors and the disabled, to ensure LGBT equality and to expand Medicaid in Virginia,” he said.

On the same day Ebbin announced his candidacy Alexandria Mayor William Euille declared his candidacy for the congressional seat.

Earlier this week gay public relations executive Bob Witeck of Arlington said he was considering running for the seat, raising the possibility that two openly gay candidates might be among the contenders for Moran’s seat.

Last week, Jay Fisette, chair of the Arlington County Board, who’s gay and who many considered a possible candidate for the congressional seat, announced he would not be running.

Others who have formally declared their candidacies include Don Beyer, the former Virginia lieutenant governor; and state Dels. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) and Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington). Also running is businessman Bruce Shuttleworth, who lost to Moran in the 2012 Democratic primary.

On the day of his announcement, Ebbin launched a campaign website, www.ebbin.com, and sent out a fundraising email to potential voters that includes a video of Ebbin discussing the issues he would work for if elected.

“In Congress, I will work with President Obama to protect the Affordable Care Act and ensure access to quality health care,” he said. “I will protect federal workers from mean-spirited attacks. I will work alongside representatives from every state and political party to raise the minimum wage, fight climate change, and ensure that we never abandon the promise of Social Security and Medicare,” he said.

30
Jan
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

‘It’s a new day’ in Virginia politics

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe takes office three days after the 2014 legislative session begins. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Efforts to ban anti-LGBT discrimination and repeal a state constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex marriage are among the priorities for Virginia LGBT rights advocates during the 2014 legislative session that begins on Wednesday.

State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) has once again introduced a bill that would ban discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The state Senate last January approved the measure by a 24-16 vote margin, but a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee subsequently killed it. Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has repeatedly said the first executive order he will issue once he takes office on Saturday is a ban on anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.

“We definitely want to continue that momentum,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish.

McEachin, state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) and state Dels. Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico County), Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County), Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria), Ken Plum (D-Fairfax County) and Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) have sponsored proposed resolutions that would seek a repeal of the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin. Howell and state Del. Joseph Yost (D-Giles County) are expected to introduce bills in their respective chambers that would extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Parrish told the Blade that more than 50 families have already said they want to testify in support of the measure.

“We expect that to be a big bill in the House and in the Senate,” he said.

State Del.-elect Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) has pre-filed a bill that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. State Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) has introduced an identical measure.

Simon has also proposed a measure that seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

State Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County) next week is expected to introduce a bill that would ban so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the commonwealth.

The Alliance for Progressive Values has worked with the Arlington County Democrat to write the bill that Ebbin is expected to introduce in the Senate.

Hope told the Blade on Tuesday similar bills that California Gov. Jerry Brown and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law last year “certainly inspired me that this is the right time to bring this to Virginia.”

Parrish said Equality Virginia would support the proposal, but Hope conceded it will likely face resistance.

“This is an uphill battle,” he said. “This is Virginia that we’re talking about, so I expect some stiff opposition and some hurdles.”

Christopher Doyle, director of the Maryland-based International Healing Foundation, singled out the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations that oppose “ex-gay” therapy for encouraging Hope and other state lawmakers to introduce measures that seek to ban the controversial practice.

“No one has ever tried to ban a specific therapeutic modality for any mental health issues,” Doyle told the Blade. “The foundations of the bill are incorrect and politicians are being misinformed and deceived.”

Krupicka and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Fairfax County) have introduced bills that would allow the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to issue license plates to Equality Virginia supporters that contain the slogan “Equality for All.”

Parrish said his group will also oppose a measure state Del. Bob Marshall (D-Prince William County) introduced that would require married same-sex couples to file their Virginia income tax returns as single individuals because the commonwealth does not recognize their unions. This measure seeks to codify the policy outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell announced in November.

“We have been reaching out to the new administration though about what we can possibly do about that very punitive tax opinion that came out of the [outgoing Gov. Bob] McDonnell administration,” said Parrish.

The 2014 legislative session will begin three days before McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and Attorney General-elect Mark Herring take office.

All three men publicly support marriage rights for same-sex couples. It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend Virginia’s gay marriage ban in two federal lawsuits that challenge it.

“It’s a new day,” Ebbin told the Blade as he discussed McAuliffe, Northam and Herring. “We’ll be dealing with people who are looking to help us instead of looking to harm and stymie us.”

Parrish said the tone from the governor and the attorney general’s offices will be “a 180” compared to McDonnell and outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He added the House will continue to remain a barrier to advancing LGBT-specific legislation during this legislative session.

“Now that we have a friendly administration in the governor and the attorney general’s office, it will allow us to better make the narrative that the Senate and the governor and the attorney general and the Virginia public are all on the same page,” said Parrish. “And it’s the House of Delegates that’s blocked any forward movement for the LGBT community.”

08
Jan
2014