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Mary Tuckey Requa dies at 65

Mary Tuckey Requa, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

Mary Tuckey Requa, 65.

Mary Tuckey Requa died Dec. 16, 2013 at her home, according to her cousin, Susan McMillan. She succumbed to rectal cancer at the age of 65 and had been a Phelps, Wis., resident.

Originally of Lake Forest, Ill., Requa (who always went by “Tuckey,” her middle name) attended Marjorie Webster Junior College in Washington and continued to reside in Maryland for 34 years. In the 1970s, she worked for VIVA (Voices in Vital America) and for the Close-Up Foundation, which brings high school students to D.C. to learn about democracy.

For 20 years, Requa worked in theater administration, for Harlequin Dinner Theatre and NETworks, a theatrical production company that produces national tours of Broadway shows. She specialized in box office management as well as becoming an IT specialist. Requa, a lesbian, regularly sang and played guitar in Friday night cabarets at the theaters.

Requa was proficient in Spanish and in American Sign Language. She performed as a “voice actor” in musical theater productions at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf at Gallaudet University in Washington, serving as the singing voice for deaf actors who performed the roles using ASL. She was a great slow pitch softball player and played for the Montgomery County Gold Diggers women’s team from 1982-‘90.

She also enjoyed singing and playing guitar. She was an original member of the D.C. Area Feminist Chorus. One of her proudest moments was the chorus’s performance with Margie Adam at the “On the Road for Women’s Rights” concert in 1980. Tuckey performed both as a soloist and with friends at D.C.-area restaurants and clubs and at events, including at the Other Side, D.C. Pride, and at D.C. landmark club Mr. Henry’s. She also performed at fundraisers for several organizations, including a women’s shelter, My Sister’s Place. Requa performed on Judy Reagan’s 1982 album “Old Friends.” She sang with the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington and the Not What You Think a cappella ensemble for many years, and also played with the band, the Tom Boys. She loved nothing more than singing harmonies with friends. Requa loved her many guitars and treasured one originally owned by Steve Goodman whom she had opened for in Chicago in the ‘70s.

In 2005, Requa left D.C. to return to the Northwoods where her family had spent summers for more than a century. Requa moved to Phelps, Wis., and became the computer technician for the Phelps School District. She designed websites for local businesses through her Nakapaglaja Web Design. From 2005-2011, she co-hosted a local afternoon music show on public radio called “Your Favorites,” with her father Charley. She was the vice-chair of the WXPR board of directors. She was devoted to the town and volunteered countless hours for the Long Lake of Phelps Lake Association and the Phelps Chamber of Commerce. Requa was also an avid darts and horseshoe competitor.

She is survived by a large extended family and many friends.

Memorials can be sent to Patrick Requa (22486 West Illinois Route 173, Antioch, IL 60002). Initially, to be used to establish an osprey nest on Long Lake, a second memorial with the Phelps School District will also be created. A service and celebration of a great life will be held on July 27 at Hazen’s Inn, Phelps, Wis.

20
Feb
2014

Court strikes down Wisconsin same-sex marriage ban

gavel, gay news, Washington Blade, justice

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

A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down on Friday the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, making for the latest in a string of victories in the courts for marriage-equality supporters.

In the case of Wolf v. Walker, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that Wisconsin’s 2004 constitutional ban on gay nuptials violates the rights of plaintiff same-sex couples on the basis of established precedent following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Because my review of that law convinces me that plaintiffs are entitled to the same treatment as as any heterosexual couple, I conclude that Wisconsin laws banning marriage between same-sex couples are unconstitutional,” Crabb writes.

In her 88-page ruling, Crabb, a Carter appointee, makes significant use of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against DOMA as part of her reasoning leading to her determination that the marriage is unconstitutional.

“In light of Windsor and the many decisions that have invalidated restrictions on same-sex marriage since Windsor, it appears that courts are moving toward a consensus that it is time to embrace full legal equality for gay and lesbian citizens,” Crabb said. “Perhaps it is no coincidence that these decisions are coming at a time when public opinion is moving quickly in the direction of support for same-sex marriage.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether same-sex couples could marry immediately in Wisconsin. On one hand, the court ruled the law is unconstitutional. On the other, Crabb indicates more action is necessary because she invites plaintiffs to submit a proposed injunction as a result of the ruling and says she’ll address a stay request already submitted by the state at a later time.

The judge gives plaintiffs until June 16 to submit a proposal. Then, state officials have one week after the proposed injunction is filed to respond to that request. If a state response is filed, plaintiffs have one week to reply, the judge ruled.

As far as a stay, Crabb says she’ll consider the motion after the parties have had an opportunity to submit proposed injunctions. She also gives them until June 16 to submit additional material in light of the court ruling against Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.

According to the Associated Press, Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki said he was keeping his office open while an attorney reviewed the decision in case he could begin accepting marriage licenses Friday evening.

In a statement, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen pledged to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

“As Attorney General, I have an obligation to uphold Wisconsin law and our Constitution,” Van Hollen said. “While today’s decision is a setback, we will continue to defend the constitutionality of our traditional marriage laws and the constitutional amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters. I will appeal.”

Moreover, Hollen said his interpretation of the ruling is that no county clerks are able to marry same-sex couples for the time being.

“Importantly, current law remains in force,” Van Hollen said. “I am encouraged by the District Court’s refusal to issue an immediate injunction. We have seen the disruption to couples and families throughout the United States when courts have first allowed same-sex marriage only to have those marriages subsequently called into question by another court. I anticipate the United States Supreme Court will give finality to this issue in their next term.”

The position of Wisconsin attorney general is up grabs during Election 2014. Van Hollen said he hopes whoever succeeds him will continuing defending the same-sex marriage ban in court.

“I will continue defend our Constitution and law in whatever forum is appropriate and I would hope my successor will fulfill this same oath and obligation,” Van Hollen said.

Gov. Scott Walker said through a spokesperson he’s behind the attorney general in his efforts, but didn’t offer full-throated support of the ban in the moderate state as he seeks re-election.

“It is correct for the Attorney General, on this or any other issue, to defend the constitution of the state of Wisconsin, especially in a case where the people voted to amend it,” said Laurel Patrick, a Walker spokesperson.

The lawsuit was filed in February was filed on behalf of eight same-sex couples seeking marriage rights in Wisconsin by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and Mayer Brown LLP. Some of the couples were seeking the right to marry; others were seeking to have Wisconsin recognize a marriage that was performed elsewhere.

John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Project, said the ruling against Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage has implications far beyond the state itself.

“Wisconsin’s constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples is a striking example of intentional discrimination towards lesbians and gay men in Wisconsin,” Knight said. “The marriage ban has sent a powerful message that same-sex couples are undeserving of the dignity and important legal protections associated with marriage. Judge Crabb’s decision that same-sex couples are equal under the law sends an entirely different message — one inviting and encouraging fair treatment and respect for these couples.”

Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay Family Research Council, said Crabb’s ruling is the latest in a string of decisions from her that are affront to religious liberty in the country.

“Judge Crabb is well known for her attempts to banish God from the public square, and inferring that the Constitution demands a hostile treatment of religious expression in public life,” Perkins said. “Once again, she has neglected to consult the Constitution that she was sworn to uphold. This is why it’s not surprising that she would display similar contempt for the right of Wisconsin voters to preserve marriage as it has always been defined.”

In her ruling, Crabb acknowledges the differing views on marriage expressed by each of the parties in the case, but ultimately determines the Wisconsin law violates same-sex couples due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“This case is not about whether marriages between same-sex couples are consistent or inconsistent with the teachings of a particular religion, whether such marriages are moral or immoral or whether they are something that should be encouraged or discouraged,” Crabb writes. “It is not even about whether the plaintiffs in this case are as capable as opposite-sex couples of maintaining a committed and loving relationship or raising a family together. Quite simply, this case is about liberty and equality, the two cornerstones of the rights protected by the United States Constitution.”

06
Jun
2014

Judge won’t halt first same-sex marriages in Wisconsin

gavel, law, court, gay news, Washington Blade

A federal court has refused to stay same-sex marriage taking place in Wisconsin (Photo by Bigstock).

Same-sex marriages continued for the first-time ever in Wisconsin as the federal court brought marriage equality to the state refused on Monday to halt the weddings.

In a four-page order, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb announced after a telephone conference on Monday afternoon she has denied the emergency stay request filed by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Up to 15 counties — including the populous Dane and Milwaukee counties — were marrying same-sex couples as of Monday. Immediately after the ruling on Friday, Dane and Milwaukee county clerk offices stayed open late and issued 283 licenses to same-sex couples on Friday and Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Following the announcement from Crabb, Van Hollen reiterated his opinion that county clerks shouldn’t marry same-sex couples in Wisconsin because Crabb never enjoined enforcement of the marriage law.

“Wisconsin’s marriage law is in full force and effect, and all state and local officials are under a continuing duty to follow Wisconsin’s marriage law unless and until the court enjoins that law,” Van Hollen said.

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said his organization believes it’s up to the county clerks to determine whether they are legally able to distribute marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“The ACLU believes the ban has been struck down, but individual county clerks whether it’s Milwaukee, Dane county, other counties around Wisconsin they’re going to have to make up their own mind using independent legal advice as to whether or not they’re going to start issuing licenses,” Ahmuty said.

In her denial of the stay request, Crabb writes the issue of whether the state believes clerks’ distribution of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is in violation of state law is “outside the scope of this case.”

In addition to filing the stay request with Crabb, Van Hollen filed another stay request on Monday with the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Wisconsin. That request remains pending before the appellate court.

“The U.S Supreme Court will almost certainly decide this important issue once and for all during its next term,” Hollen said in a statement. “There is absolutely no reason to allow Wisconsin’s county clerks to decide for themselves, on a county-by-county basis, who may and may not lawfully get married in this state. Nor is there any reason to subject any citizen to the stress and legal uncertainty that will result, as it has in other jurisdictions, if they are permitted to immediately contract marriages pursuant to a district court decision that may soon be reversed on appeal.”

Simultaneous with his stay requests, Hollen appealed the decision against Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage to the Seventh Circuit. That means six appellate courts now have marriage-equality cases before them amid expectations the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a nationwide ruling on the issue by mid-2015.

On Friday, Crabb struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin, which was approved by voters as an amendment to the state constitution in 2006. Although she declared the law unconstitutional, she included neither a stay nor an injunction as part of her ruling, saying she’d resolve those issues at a later time. County clerks nonetheless decided it was within their legal authority to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Matt Schreck, 37, and Jose Fernando Gutierrez, 35, were the first same-sex couple to wed in Milwaukee County. The two, who have been together seven years, reportedly wed at 5:25 on Friday.

In Dane County, which comprises Madison, the first same-sex couple to wed was Renee Currie and Shari Roll. They married on the steps of the courthouse at 5:30 p.m.

After the ruling, the two openly gay members of Wisconsin’s delegation to Congress — Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) — issued statements regarding the decision.

Pocan criticized Van Hollen for appealing the ruling in favor of marriage equality. Other Republican state officials — including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett — declined to appeal to higher courts decisions bringing gay nuptials to their states.

“The Attorney General’s decision to appeal the ruling that struck down Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage is a regressive and blatantly political attempt to revive a hateful and discriminatory law which violates the ideals of liberty and equality in our Constitution,” Pocan said. “Society has changed, barriers to equality continue to be broken down; it’s too bad our Attorney General is still living in a more hateful day.”

Pocan himself is in a same-sex marriage with Philip Frank, the co-owner of his printing shop business whom he married in Toronto in 2006. State recognition of their union in Wisconsin hinges on the outcome of the litigation.

Immediately after the ruling, Baldwin commended the decision, saying discrimination against someone for whom they love or the nature of their family is “just plain wrong.”

“This federal court decision reaffirms our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law,” Baldwin said. “It’s about fairness – about whether gay and lesbian Americans deserve to be treated just like their family members, their friends, and their neighbors. It’s about opportunity – about whether every American gets to dream the same dreams, chase the same ambitions, and have the same shot at success. And it’s about freedom – the freedom to love, the freedom to commit, the freedom to build a family.”

But Baldwin also had harsh words for the administration of Gov. Scott Walker and its continued defense of the ban on same-sex marriage, saying she’s “disappointed that Gov. Walker supports defending discrimination in court and standing in the way of freedom, fairness and equality for all Wisconsinites.”

“We believe that history only moves in one direction: Forward,” Baldwin concluded. “It’s our state motto and this is a huge step forward for Wisconsin being a place where every family’s love and commitment can be recognized and respected under the law.”

09
Jun
2014

7th Circuit judges skewer attorneys defending marriage bans

Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

The Everett Dirksen Courthouse in Chicago (Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

CHICAGO — A three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday skewered state attorneys defending bans on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin and Indiana.

The judges who heard the lawsuits — one seeking to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin, the other in Indiana — consisted of Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee; Ann Claire Williams, a Clinton appointee; and David Hamilton, an Obama appointee.

Based on the skepticism these judges expressed regarding marriage bans in these states, the panel seems headed toward deciding 3-0 in favor of marriage equality.

Posner was most aggressive in the questioning of attorneys defending bans on same-sex marriage. The judge asked Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher repeatedly why the state would want children with same-sex parents to be worse off than children with opposite-sex parents, then grew frustrated when the attorney could not provide a satisfactory answer.

When the attorney mentioned that opposite-sex marriage enables procreation because a “fleeting moment of passion leads to the creation of children,” Posner asked why sterile opposite-sex couples should be allowed to wed.

Posner was similarly frustrated with Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson when the lawyer couldn’t answer why allowing same-sex couples to wed might have a negative impact other than by observing the institution of no-fault divorce led to an increase in the dissolution of marriages.

When Samuelson said he wasn’t prepared for the question and could respond later in a brief, Posner retorted, “How can you brief it, if you don’t know anything about it?”

Twice during the arguments, Posner cited a friend-of-the-court brief from the LGBT group known as the Family Equality Council, pointing out the harms faced by children with same-sex parents because their parents don’t have access to marriage.

The judge brought up a statistic that between 200,000 and 250,000 children are without guardians and eligible for adoption. Speaking later of same-sex marriage during the arguments, Posner said, “We think, or at least I think, it’s good for the kids.”

During one of the exchanges between Posner and Fisher, Williams jumped in, saying the attorney didn’t seem like he was going to answer the questions. She suggested her own views that banning same-sex marriage is problematic for children.

Williams dismissed the notion children would be worse off with same-sex parents because those couples “are people who want to have children,” unlike opposite-sex couples who may bear children without intending to do so.

The judge on the panel with the most even-handed approach to the questioning was Hamilton, although he too indicated he was gravitating toward ruling against marriage bans.

“It seems to me that we’re in the realm of heightened scrutiny based on sex discrimination,” Hamilton said.

Countering arguments made by Wisconsin that banning same-sex marriage enables the birth of children into stable families, Hamilton brought up statistics showing that the number of unwed births in the state hasn’t improved after same-sex couples were constitutionally barred from marriage in 2006.

If the the goal of the ban is increase the number of children born into wedlock, Williams said the law is “unsuccessful policy.”

The lawsuit seeking marriage equality in Wisconsin, Wolf v. Walker, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit seeking marriage equality in Indiana is the consolidated case of Baskin et al v. Bogan. The cases that were combined into that lawsuit were filed by private attorneys, the ACLU, ACLU of Indiana and the LGBT group Lambda Legal.

In each of these cases, judges at the district court level found that the respective bans on same-sex marriage they were challenging are unconstitutional, but the state elected to appeal those decisions.

Representing the views of Indiana, Fisher said he had three main points in defending the state’s ban on same-sex marriage: the 1972 case of Baker v. Nelson still controls on marriage lawsuits; plaintiffs admit to having no limiting principle in their arguments against the law; and there’s no grounds for inferring animus in the passage marriage bans.

When Posner asked if children benefit by having married parents — whether opposite-sex or same-sex — Fisher replied “undoubtedly,” but added linking marriage rights to parental rights would open the door to “plural marriages.”

“The legislature has an understanding of marriage that it has decided to preserve,” Fisher said.

Samuelson said Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban is constitutional because it has the effect of putting on the pause button to determine the effect of same-sex marriage before allowing it in the state.

“It’s our position that with rapidly transitioning social norms, the reasonable, prudent path” is to act cautiously, Samuelson said.

Same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, James Esseks, Camilla Taylor, James Bennett, Chicago, gay news, Washington Blade

Lawyers James Esseks, Camilla Taylor and James Bennett prepare for arguments before the Seventh Circuit. (Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

A common theme among attorneys representing plaintiff same-sex couples in lawsuits was that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against the Defense of Marriage Act compelled the court to strike down bans on same-sex marriage.

The attorney arguing against the marriage ban in Wisconsin was James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT project, who drew a comparison between the pending case and the DOMA decision.

“Both measures are intended to exclude same-sex couples from the institution of marriage or the recognition of their marriage,” Esseks said.

Representing plaintiff couples in the Indiana case were Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s marriage project director, and Kenneth Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana.

Taylor made a similar argument that the DOMA decision compels the court to strike down the ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana, saying it guarantees the ability to “act autonomously.”

“By denying the right to marry, the state has done exactly what was denied in Windsor,” Taylor said.

Asked to respond to the state’s claim that plaintiffs are seeking relief without limitations, Taylor responded that only the thing they’re seeking is the “elimination of the gender-entry barrier” to marriage.

Falk sought to dispute concerns expressed by the state that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy, saying a marriage with three or four people isn’t going to look like the modern understanding of marriage. But he insisted on the similarities of unions between same-sex couples and different-sex couples.

“A same-sex marriage and an opposite-sex marriage are the same thing,” Falk said.

Now that oral arguments in the cases have taken place, justices are expected to render their ruling within one or two months. In the likely event those decisions are appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Wisconsin and Indiana cases could be the ones justices elect to take up to make a nationwide ruling on the issue of marriage equality by the middle of next year.

In the anticipation of that ruling, Falk maintained lower courts should recognize developing case law following the Baker decision decades ago, saying that path leads to a determination that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

“I don’t think any of us have any illusion about the fact that the Supreme Court is eventually going to hear and decide a marriage case,” Falk said. “In the meantime, as every single court that has faced the question has held, I think it’s incumbent on lower courts to recognize the arc of legal history, if not actual history, has long passed Baker by.”

26
Aug
2014

Pocan adjusting to life as a member of Congress

Mark Pocan, United States House of Representatives, Wisconsin, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) speaks to eighth graders visiting Capitol Hill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capitol Hill office of gay freshman Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) is noticeably bare as one might expect from a lawmaker who began his first term in office just a few months ago.

But on the teal walls, one item stands out: a framed picture of a 1924 campaign flier for Robert LaFollette along with a license plate advertising his bid for U.S. Senate. LaFollette, a Republican, who served in the early 20th century, formed the Wisconsin Progressive Party and is considered a leading voice of the progressive movement.

That flier and license plate are just two pieces of LaFollette memorabilia owned by Pocan, who’s an avid collector of all things related to the Wisconsin senator’s political career.

“I have over half of his known political buttons,” Pocan says. “I also have a little slide movie projector from 1924. You put it in and you have LaFollette reeler and there’s pictures. And their slogan was ‘Fearless and Incorruptible,’ which is kind of a great slogan.”

Speaking with the Washington Blade in his office, Pocan says he and his spouse of six years — Phillip Frank, with whom he operates a small printing company business in Madison — have pledged to donate their LaFollette collection to the Wisconsin Historic Society.

Any why is the Wisconsin congressman so interested in LaFollette? Pocan says the 1920s public figure resonates with him because of his work starting the progressive movement and advancing progressive causes in the state.

“In Wisconsin, we started things like unemployment compensation, so many of these national programs started in the progressive area,” Pocan says. “And he was a strong fighter. At the time, the railroads were a big monopoly, and he fought that. And he just kind of embodies what the progressive movement is about. Even here, he was recognized as a national leader for the work he did.”

In many ways, Pocan is in line with the spirit of LaFollette as a progressive leader. Representing Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district, one of the more progressive areas in the country, Pocan serves the same constituents that lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) represented for 14 years before she won election to the upper chamber of Congress.

And as one of the seven openly lesbian, gay and bisexual members of Congress, Pocan personifies — and pursues — one of the most prominent causes that progressive groups have embraced in recent years: the advancement of LGBT equality.

But on this day, other issues are crowding the Wisconsin lawmaker’s schedule. His schedule includes his morning staff meeting, an audience with eighth grade students, a meeting with a legislative representative from the Area Health Education Centers in Wisconsin and lunch with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Capping it off is a “Make It in America” news confernece with other members of Congress.

Pocan is able to find time to talk to the Blade about his experience serving in Congress for just more than 100 days. As a chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Pocan already has priorities for what he wants to see on LGBT issues for the 113th Congress.

While passage of any such legislation would be challenging as long as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is the presiding officer of the U.S. House, Pocan says he sees opportunities in working across the aisle. In particular, he wants to build support for legislation known as the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, which would provide federal workers with health and pension benefits for their same-sex partners.

A federal employee himself, Pocan found that he was unable to obtain federal benefits for his spouse, even though they were legally married in Canada, when he began his tenure in Congress — as was the person who was informing him he’d be ineligible.

“The person who was briefing me on my benefits, she and her partner don’t have benefits,” Pocan said. “So even the benefit designee, the person who’s a professional, she can’t get benefits for her partner. So, it’s a pervasive problem for federal employees. That’s an important bill, and we’ve got bipartisan support and we’re working on that so we can introduce it with strong support from day one.”

A member of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, which would have jurisdiction over the legislation, Pocan says he expects introduction of the legislation next month. Although a Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, may make the legislation unnecessary, Pocan says plans for legislation are underway because there’s no telling how the court will rule.

In the meantime, Pocan is working within the system in Congress for greater equality for he and his spouse. The couple say they’re seeking from the House Sergeant at Arms an administrative change with the help of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). While his spouse was given a congressional pin that identifies him as spouse, Frank’s ID gives him the lesser distinction of designee.

“So he’s not treated equally, even though we’re legally married six-and-a-half years,” Pocan says. “So we’ve been working on that issue, trying to get that to change. For the last three months, we’ve been pushing to try to make them realize that we are legally married. What is their measure to say he’s a designee?”

Another LGBT issue that concerns Pocan is LGBT youth homelessness. That issue hits close to home; Pocan says an LGBT constituency group in Wisconsin informed him that about 400 people in Milwaukee who are homeless are LGBT youth.

Pocan says he intends to highlight an upcoming report from the Department of Housing & Urban Development to bring greater awareness to the issue of LGBT youth homelessness and has brought up the issue with the LGBT Equality Caucus.

“We realized the HUD report is coming this year, so now we’re partnering with some national groups on this, and we’re actually going to have something where we invite other national groups to Congress to talk about that,” Pocan says. “So, we’re just kind of getting that structure together to realize how we can have that magnified voice.”

The Wisconsin lawmaker comes to Congress after having served for 14 years as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, and, for a time, as the State Assembly Budget Committee chair, which under his jurisdiction passed a domestic partnership laws for gay couples in the state and allowed state universities to provide benefits for employees with same-sex partners. It was the first state to do so even with a draconian state constitutional amendment on the books barring same-sex marriage and marriage-like unions.

For Pocan, the most glaring difference between serving as a state lawmaker and a member of Congress is the partisanship that pervades Congress. Pocan was particularly disappointed that during freshmen training for new members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans were separated with the exception of one dinner and one reception.

“They kind of taught you bad behavior from day one,” Pocan said, “I’ve always worked on a finance committee for six of my years. I was co-chair there for two years, where I spent eight hours a day, three days a week for three or four months every other year putting a budget together with the other party and actually working on stuff.”

But Pocan has taken it upon himself to get acquainted with fellow lawmakers on the other side. One surprising person with whom he’s formed a friendship: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an anti-gay lawmaker who was among the chief voices calling for congressional action against the marriage equality law in D.C.

Part of their friendship is the result of Jordan attending University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he wrestled, and having kids who also attend that school.

“I signed on to his bill to keep wrestling in the Olympics because he cares about wrestling,” Pocan says. “I’m trying to build those relationships because we’ve talked about not only getting together while he’s in Madison, but he also wants to get on this one conservative radio show. I said I can get you on there, she hates me.”

Pocan can’t stay in his office speaking with the Blade long before he’s headed to his next engagement: speaking to eighth-graders from the Eagle School for Gifted Students who are on a field trip visiting Capitol Hill.

For 30 minutes, Pocan talks to the students about his job as a member of Congress and fields questions about the legislative process. Among the questions are continued funding for the U.S. Post Office and environmental issues, but he also receives a question from a student on what he can do to bring marriage equality to Wisconsin.

Pocan responds by saying the effort will be difficult because Wisconsin “put hate” in the constitution by amending it to ban same-sex marriage, but notes the progress made when domestic partnerships were enacted into law.

“It’s not full equality, but at least we were able to do something in Wisconsin,” Pocan says. “So we’ve got some minor protections in place, but I think the big thing we’re all watching is the Supreme Court case that was just heard a couple weeks ago to see what decision they make.”

The Wisconsin lawmaker urged the student to take heart because the country is moving ahead of leaders and pointed to recent polls showing a majority of the American public — and 80 percent of America’s youth — back marriage rights for gay couples.

“This is really I think a civil rights issue of our generation, and I’m hoping we’ll have good resolution with the courts, but more importantly, the public is there, we just have to get our leaders to actually lead,” Pocan said.

17
Apr
2013

Canadian lawmaker country’s first gay provincial premier

Kathleen Wynne, gay news, Washington Blade

Kathleen Wynne (Photo by Blane McPhail)

An Ontario legislator on Saturday became the first gay person elected provincial premier in Canada.

Kathleen Wynne defeated Sandra Pupatello to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty after three rounds of voting at the Ontario Liberal Party’s convention that took place at a Toronto arena. She will formally take office before the provincial legislature reconvenes on Feb. 19.

“This weekend, Ontario Liberals came together to support the vision of a stronger, healthier, and fairer province,” Wynne, who is also the first woman elected to lead the Ontarian government, said in a statement after her election. “I’m excited to take these ideas and put them into action, for all of us.”

Wynne, a former Ontario education and aboriginal affairs minister whom voters first elected to the provincial legislature in 2003, will be among the handful of lesbians around the world who have achieved prominent political office. These include Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo in 2011 became the European Union’s first openly gay head of state.

“I believe that it sends out a tremendous signal of hope and empowerment to those young lesbians and gay men across Ontario and beyond, especially those living in small rural communities who feel isolated and alone,” former Canadian Parliamentarian Svend Robinson, who came out during a 1988 press conference, wrote in an op-ed the Globe and Mail newspaper published. “Now, they can be anything they want to be, including premier. Given the devastatingly high levels of suicide and attempted suicide among LGBT youth, this is important. It will save lives and build self-esteem.”

Helen Kennedy, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Egale Canada, also welcomed Wynne’s election.

“We’re very proud of her,” she told the Washington Blade during an interview from Toronto on Monday. “We’re very proud of her accomplishment. We’re also very proud of the fact she’s progressive, which I think is equally as significant as being a lesbian and a woman, so we’re very pleased and we’re looking forward to working with her over the course of the next few months and into her tenure as premier of the Parliament.”

While gays and lesbians have been able to legally marry across Canada since 2005, Kennedy said she expects Wynne will have an impact on other LGBT-specific issues once she officially takes office. These include reducing homophobia and transphobia within the country’s education system, tackling homelessness among LGBT youth in Toronto and other cities, improving access to health care for trans Canadians and adding gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

“In addition to the issues of the economy and transportation and everything else, she has a lot of other priorities that she will have to be aware of and I know that she is,” Kennedy said. “That’s one of the things that’s really great to have an out lesbian as our premier because she comes into the position with a fundamental understanding of some of those issues.”

Wynne, who has three children from her previous marriage to Phil Cowperthwaite, lives in North Toronto with her partner of 25 years, Jane Rounthwaite.

29
Jan
2013

Year in review: Baldwin elected first openly gay senator

Tammy Baldwin, gay news, Wisconsin, Washington Blade

Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin made history on Election Day when she became the first openly gay person to win election to the U.S. Senate.

In a closely watched contest in Wisconsin, Baldwin, a Democrat, won election to the Senate in a race against Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson. She won the election after serving nine terms in the U.S. House and being the first non-incumbent openly gay person to win a congressional race.

Following the announcement of her victory, Baldwin said she’s “well aware” that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate, but said she “didn’t run to make history.”

“I ran to make a difference — a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security,” Baldwin said.

Attacks on Baldwin’s sexual orientation were virtually absent from the Wisconsin race, though Brian Nemoir, a Thompson campaign official, circulated a video of her dancing at a gay Pride festival and told media outlets, “Clearly, there’s no one better positioned to talk ‘heartland values’ than Tammy.” The incident resulted in negative press for Thompson, who apologized for his aide’s action.

26
Dec
2012

Year in review: Record number of gay candidates win House seats

LGBT caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

(clockwise from top left) Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.). (Photos of Polis, Cicilline, Maloney and Pocan by Michael Key for the Washington Blade. Photos of Sinema and Takano courtesy of the respective campaigns).

A record number of lesbian, gay and bisexual candidates were elected to the U.S. House this year, nearly doubling the number of out representatives serving in the lower chamber of Congress.

Gay Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) won re-election, and on the same night, out candidates Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Mark Takano of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin won their races. The new additions — minus Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who are leaving the U.S. House — means LGB representation in the chamber will jump from four lawmakers to seven.

Maloney, who will be the first openly gay U.S. House member from New York, said upon the announcement that he won his bid to unseat Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) that voters in the state’s 18th congressional district voted for change.

“Across four counties on two sides of the Hudson River, in hundreds of schools, firehouses, community centers, in the Democratic vote of a quarter million of our neighbors, the people have settled this debate,” Maloney said. “They have closed this campaign.”

Sinema will become the first openly bisexual member of Congress and Takano will become the first openly gay person of color to have a House seat. Pocan’s election means Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district will maintain gay representation as Baldwin heads to the U.S. Senate.

26
Dec
2012