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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

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

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

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