National – Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights http://www.washingtonblade.com America's Leading LGBT News Source Sun, 21 Oct 2018 20:43:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Anti-LGBT lawsuits already headed Justice Kavanaugh’s way http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/17/anti-lgbt-lawsuits-already-headed-on-their-way-to-justice-kavanaugh/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/17/anti-lgbt-lawsuits-already-headed-on-their-way-to-justice-kavanaugh/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 16:08:45 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=49685869 Litigation challenges protections under EEOC, Austin ordinance

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Anti-LGBT lawsuits are already headed to U.S. Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Precisely on cue with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-LGBT groups have filed lawsuits challenging LGBT rights that may in the near future serve to test the new justice on his position on the issue.

The complaints — two filed in federal court, one filed in state court — were filed in Texas and seek to challenge the City of Austin’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. agency charged with federal employment civil rights law, over its interpretation of Title VII to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in the workforce.

But Austin’s LGBT-inclusive ordinance has been on the books for some time and the EEOC has taken charge of anti-LGBT discrimination for years under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (The EEOC determined in the 2012 decision of Macy v. Holder that federal law bars anti-trans discrimination in employment and in the 2015 decision of Baldwin c. Foxx federal law bars anti-gay discrimination.)

Conspicuously, the two federal lawsuits were filed on Oct. 6, the exact date Kavanaugh was confirmed as a U.S. associate justice to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh won’t have a chance to act on the newly filed lawsuits anytime soon, but they will likely percolate through the courts, giving anti-LGBT groups the opportunity to file petitions for review.

The newly confirmed justice, chosen by President Trump from a list of potential nominees backed by the Federalist Society and the anti-LGBT Heritage Foundation, could be the fifth and deciding vote on whether to preserve LGBT rights if the petitions in the federal cases come before the Supreme Court. (The lawsuit in state court raising state claims will be left to Texas state court. Kavanaugh or the Supreme Court wouldn’t be asked to review the decisions.)

The federal lawsuit against EEOC asserts the LGBT protections violate the religious freedom of churches under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing them to hire employee who are LGBT despite religious objections of the employer. (Current law doesn’t require churches to hire pastors who are LGBT contrary to religious beliefs, but does prohibit religiously affiliated organizations from engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination for non-ministerial positions.)

Similarly, the federal lawsuit against Austin’s ordinance asserts a violation of the Free Exercise Clause under the First Amendment in addition to making religious freedom claims under the Texas Constitution and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

A shared plaintiff in the two federal lawsuits is the U.S. Pastor Council, a Houston-based community of Christian conservatives that also unsuccessfully pushed for the anti-transgender bathroom legislation in Texas. In the case against EEOC, the Houston-based Hotze Health & Wellness Center, a Christian-owned business in Houston that seeks to refuse to hire LGBT employees is a plaintiff. In the state lawsuit, Texas Values, a social conservative non-profit in Austin, is the sole plaintiff.

The religious freedom claims in the lawsuits may be seeking to capitalize on Kavanaugh’s remarks during his confirmation hearing, when Kavanaugh said in response to questions from conservative senators like Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that religious freedom should be protected in the “public square.”

“The Framers understood the importance of protecting conscience,” Kavanaugh said. “It’s akin to the free speech protection in many ways. No matter what God you worship, or if you worship no God at all, you are equally American…If you have religious beliefs, religious people, religious speech, you have just as much right to be in the public square and to participate in public programs as others do. You can’t be denied just because of religious status.”

In response to these lawsuits, pro-LGBT groups may have to seek relief soon from either the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. The lawsuit against the EEOC was assigned to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee with a reputation for being hostile to LGBT rights. (O’Connor issued a nationwide injunction against Obama-era guidance instructing schools Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom of their choice.) The other federal case against Austin’s LGBT-inclusive ordinance is pending before U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman, an Obama appointee.

Jonathan Mitchell, an Austin-based attorney whose law firm Mitchell Law PLLC filed each of the lawsuits, declined to comment on whether the timing of the lawsuits was intended to coincide with the confirmation of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing a practice of not commenting on pending litigation.

LGBT legal experts were hesitant to ascribe the filing of the new litigation with the addition of the new conservative to the high court, but predicted they were the kind of lawsuits they would expect anti-LGBT groups to file in greater capacity in the aftermath of the confirmation.

Jon Davidson, legal director for Freedom for All Americans, said he isn’t sure whether the lawsuits were timed to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but foresees “more aggressive litigation moves in federal courts by anti-LGBTQ forces due to the increasing number of appointments of federal judges with histories of opposition to LGBTQ rights and Justice Kennedy’s retirement.”

“I believe these lawsuits are a continuation of efforts by anti-LGBTQ organizations and politicians’ efforts to weaken, if not invalidate, local nondiscrimination protections in Texas and elsewhere, notwithstanding the history of local government regulation in this area,” Davidson said. “I further believe the lawsuits are a continuation of efforts to distort the concept of religious freedom from the right to believe a license to use religion to act in violation of others’ rights. All of us care about religious freedom — that’s why it’s part of the Constitution’s promise to all Americans. That will never be up for debate. But religious freedom should be used as a shield, not as a weapon, and its reach should not be distorted in order to harm LGBTQ people or anyone else.”

James Esseks, director of the LGBT and HIV project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said Kavanaugh’s test “may come sooner” given cases on LGBT rights were already waiting for the new justice before the Supreme Court prior to his confirmation.

Among them is a petition from Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan challenging a ruling from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals asserting it violated Title VII by terminating the employment of Aimee Stephens for transitioning. Two other petitions seeking clarification on whether Title VII applies to anti-gay discrimination are also pending before the Supreme Court.

“A growing chorus of appeals courts — and a solid majority of the American people — agree that firing someone because they are LGBTQ is against the law,” Esseks said. “The high court may weigh in on whether laws prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace apply to discrimination towards LGBTQ people this term.”

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Don Lemon blasts Kanye West’s Oval Office visit as a ‘minstrel show’ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/12/don-lemon-blasts-kanye-wests-oval-office-visit-as-a-minstrel-show/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/12/don-lemon-blasts-kanye-wests-oval-office-visit-as-a-minstrel-show/#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 18:01:38 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=49453581 The rapper brought up issues such as crime and the 13th amendment

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Don Lemon (Screenshot via YouTube)

Don Lemon slammed Kanye West’s visit to the Oval Office on Thursday in multiple segments on CNN.

West donned a “Make America Great Again” hat during his visit with President Donald Trump where the rapper touched on a number of topics including crime in Chicago and the 13th Amendment.

Lemon said he found West’s behavior “embarrassing” and called it a “minstrel show.”

“I have no animosity for Kanye West. I’m just going to be honest and I may get in a lot of trouble for it. I actually feel bad for him. What I saw was a minstrel show today. Him in front of all these white people, mostly white people, embarrassing himself and embarrassing Americans, but mostly African-Americans, because every one of them is sitting either at home or with their phones, watching this, cringing,” Lemon commented during a panel discussion.

“Kanye needs help, this has nothing to do with being liberal or a conservative. We have to stop pretending… like this is normal,” he added.

Later, CNN pro-Trump commentator Steve Cortes slammed Lemon’s criticism as “condescending.”

“And for you and a lot of guests to dismiss him as a ‘token negro’ and question his mental stability when you’re not doctors, you haven’t examined him, I think is really unfortunate. And it’s an example unfortunately that is all too common on the left which is liberal- when a minority doesn’t tow the party line, they are vilified and dismissed….You said earlier today this was a minstrel show…I mean, could you be any more condescending to this man?” Cortes told Lemon.

Lemon replied: “I’m just telling the truth. I’m not being condescending to him, I’m telling the truth. And if you ask African Americans around the country, they will tell you the exact same thing. That’s what it looked like today, sadly. And I’m saying this… not out of animus for Kanye West but because I feel sorry for him. And I think he needs to take care of himself.”

Watch below.

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OutServe-SLDN leader Matthew Thorn steps down after 4 years http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/11/outserve-sldn-announces-changes-in-leadership/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/11/outserve-sldn-announces-changes-in-leadership/#respond Thu, 11 Oct 2018 22:17:50 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=49260543 Matthew Thorn ends four-year tenure at LGBT military group

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Andy Blevins (left) will replace Matthew Thorn at OutServe-SLDN (Photo of Blevins via Facebook; Washington Blade photo of Thorn by Michael Key)

The LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN is undergoing a transition in leadership as Matthew Thorn steps down as president after four years and his former deputy Andy Blevins replaces him.

Thorn said in a statement this week he “made the decision that now is the right time to step down” after a tenure marked by achievements in the Obama administration and challenges in the Trump administration.

“I could not be prouder of where the organization is today,” Thorn added. “We have dramatically increased our programmatic efforts while simultaneously suing the Trump administration over their bigoted and unwise decisions to ban transgender service members and their ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policies which adversely affect service members living with HIV. I believe I have completed what I was asked to do in first joining the organization nearly four years ago.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) commended Thorn for his work in a statement and expressed continued support for LGBT people in the military.

“Matt Thorn has been an extraordinary leader and strong voice for OutServe-SLDN and the courageous LGBT service members they advocate for on a daily basis,” Pelosi said. “I thank him for his service and look forward to working with Andy Blevins as he assumes this leadership role during a pivotal time for our LGBT service members and their families.”

According to OutServe-SLDN, the organization under Thorn’s tenure strengthened ties with 40 other groups and expanded relationships with pro-bono legal partners, resulting in access to legal services for more than 2,000 people. The value of the legal services over the past four years is estimated to be more than $4 million. The organization also expanded the board of directors from seven to 15 members, claiming expanded diversity and experience for the board beyond the military

During the Obama administration, OutServe-SLDN under Thorn’s tenure claimed success in helping work to confirm Eric Fanning as the first openly gay Army secretary. In the Trump administration, OutServe-SLDN was among the LGBT groups that sued President Trump over his transgender military ban and obtained one of four preliminary injunctions barring the policy from going into effect. The case is currently pending before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Blevins commended Thorn in a statement for his achievements and said he’s “humbled and honored that the board has selected me as his successor.”

“Over the last several years, an increasing percentage of our all-volunteer military force has publicly identified as a member of the LGBTQ community,” Blevins said. “These individuals are selflessly devoted to this nation and should be afforded the right to carry out that service under open and authentic conditions, without fear of reprisal. As OutServe-SLDN’s executive director, I look forward to standing alongside my siblings-in-arms and demanding that our military forces be a conduit of change for society, precipitating the guarantee of equal treatment and just protections for all members of the LGBTQ community.”

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Activists warn of hidden provision in insurance plans for HIV drugs http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/10/activists-warn-health-insurance-plan/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/10/activists-warn-health-insurance-plan/#respond Wed, 10 Oct 2018 21:00:55 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=49320720 Caution urged in selecting best plan during open enrollment

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Carl Schmid, Ryan White, AIDS Institute, gay news, Washington Blade, health insurance plan

Carl Schmid, the AIDS Institute’s deputy executive director, said the co-pay accumulator adjustment is surfacing more in plans offered by health insurance companies. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Officials with organizations representing people with HIV and other chronic illnesses are urging patients who rely on drug manufacturers’ co-pay assistance contributions to help lower the cost of their prescription medication to be extra careful if they decide to select a new health insurance plan.

In a press conference on Wednesday, officials with the AIDS Institute, the Arthritis Foundation, and the National Organization for Rare Disorders warned that a growing number of insurers are refusing to allow co-payment assistance coupons provided by drug manufacturers from counting toward patients’ annual deductibles.

The officials noted that insurers have quietly added in fine print to insurance policy contracts a practice they call a “copay accumulator adjustment” that can cost the patient thousands of dollars more each year in out-of-pocket costs for their often life-saving drugs.

Carl Schmid, the AIDS Institute’s deputy executive director, said the co-pay accumulator adjustment is surfacing “more and more” in plans offered by health insurance companies. He said many of the companies are associated with state and D.C. insurance exchanges operated under the Affordable Care Act, which is better known as Obamacare.

He said the practice is also being adopted by insurers retained by private employers that provide employee health insurance benefits.

In May of this year, the AIDS Institute was part of a coalition of 60 HIV organizations from throughout the country that called on insurance commissioners and attorneys general in all 50 states and D.C. to investigate the co-pay accumulator adjustment practice as a possible violation of consumer protection laws.

Among other things, the coalition members pointed out insurers were not making it clear to consumers that the “accumulator” policy was being added to their insurance plan because it was “buried” in hard-to-understand language.

Schmid and fellow coalition partners pointed out in their May letter that co-pay assistance from drug manufacturers through payment coupons or payment cards enables HIV patients and HIV-negative people on the HIV prevention drug regimen known as PrEP to save thousands of dollars a year on their share of the costs of the drugs through their insurance plans. They noted that the sudden decision earlier this year by many insurers to no longer allow co-pay assistance to go toward the insurance deductible could force those on PrEP to pay $4,000 or more a year for the PrEP drug Truvada.

Such a steep increase would likely prompt some to discontinue participation in the PrEP regimen, which could increase their chances of contracting HIV, the coalition members said.

An official with the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking has said the department was looking into the concerns raised by the coalition. But a spokesperson for the department told the Washington Blade last week that the department had not received any complaints from consumers about the “accumulator” practice and there were no immediate plans to take any action on the practice.

“The issue now is we just want people to be aware of this,” said Schmid. “That is the purpose of the press conference,” he said, adding that his and the other two organizations participating in the Wednesday press conference want patients to carefully study the fine print and provisions of any new insurance plan they consider signing on to.

The Obamacare open enrollment period for seeking a new insurance plans begins on Oct. 15.

“You look at the premiums,” said Schmid in noting the criteria for selecting a plan. “You look at the formularies to see if your drugs are on it. You look at the co-pays and the co-insurance and the deductible,” he said. “And now this is something else you have to look at,” he said, pointing to the copay accumulator adjustment.

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CNN’s Kaitlan Collins apologizes for homophobic tweets http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/08/cnns-kaitlan-collins-apologizes-for-homophobic-tweets/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/08/cnns-kaitlan-collins-apologizes-for-homophobic-tweets/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 16:29:51 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=49215081 Log Cabin Republicans reposted the messages from 2011

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Kaitlan Collins (Screenshot via YouTube)

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins apologized on Sunday for anti-gay tweets that resurfaced from her college days.

Collins, 26, posted the tweets in 2011. In one tweet, Collins calls her friend a “fag.” In another tweet, she says she doesn’t know if she wants to room with a lesbian. The tweets were screenshot and shared by Log Cabin Republicans.

Collins immediately issued an apology also via Twitter.

“When I was in college, I used ignorant language in a few tweets to my friends. It was immature but it doesn’t represent the way I feel at all. I regret it and apologize,” Collins tweeted.

Log Cabin Republicans tagged Matt Dornic, CNN’s vice president of digital partnerships, in the post. Dornic responded that he accepts Collins’ apology.

“I’m a proud gay man. And I am a proud friend of @kaitlancollins. Tho I’m disappointed that she ever used the word (even as an immature college kid), I can say with certainty it doesn’t reflect her feelings toward the LGBTQ community. She’s apologized and I accept that,” Dornic writes.

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Lambda Legal announces N.Y. activist Richard Burns as interim CEO http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/04/lambda-legal-announces-n-y-activist-as-interim-ceo/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/04/lambda-legal-announces-n-y-activist-as-interim-ceo/#respond Thu, 04 Oct 2018 20:00:36 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=49010941 Served as head of NYC LGBT center for 22 years

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Richard Burns was named interim CEO of Lambda Legal.

Lambda Legal has appointed a longtime N.Y. activist to take the helm as interim leader, following the recent departure of its CEO ahead of the mid-term elections, the Washington Blade has learned.

Richard Burns, who served as executive director of the NYC LGBT Community Center for 22 years, is set to take over as interim CEO as the search continues for a replacement for Rachel Tiven, who resigned in August.

“I have a long history with Lambda Legal and a deep commitment to its work,” Burns said in a statement. “I’m delighted to join this team during such an important time in Lambda’s and our country’s history. Our democracy is in danger from those who don’t believe in the fundamental rights of LGBT people and people living with HIV and Lambda Legal has a coordinated national strategy with a diverse set of voices to fight the Trump agenda.“

Burns, who’s set to begin as interim CEO on Tuesday, is a former board member of Lambda and has longstanding ties to the LGBT group.

According to his bio, Lambda in the late 1970s sued on behalf of Gay Community News, where Burns served as managing editor, to challenge a federal prison policy banning LGBT publications. In 1980, Burns joined Lambda Legal’s first national board of directors.

A non-profit management consultant, Burns served as interim executive director of the Johnson Family Foundation, the North Star Fund, PENCIL, the Funding Exchange, Funders for LGBTQ Issues and the Stonewall Community Foundation. Burns was also the chief operating officer of the Arcus Foundation. Burns was executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City from 1986 to 2009.

Anne Krook, chair of Lambda’s board of directors, hailed the choice of Burns to head the organization based on his experience in non-profits and LGBT work.

“We are extremely pleased to have a member of the Lambda Legal family, Richard Burns, stepping into this role as the interim CEO while we search for the next permanent CEO,” Krook said. “Richard comes with a wealth of experience, having been director at the Center for 22 years and interim for several nonprofits, but he also is deeply connected to the history of this organization. We are glad to have someone who knows Lambda Legal’s mission well and can jump right into the job to help us through this transition.”

Burns comes aboard as interim head of Lambda after Tiven resigned in August with the stated purpose of working on the mid-term elections with the Leadership Now Project, a progressive non-profit of business professionals.

But Tiven’s resignation came amid discontent from staffers, who complained about attrition, an edict-based management approach and cuts to benefits. Last year, the organization voted overwhelmingly to form a union with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild.

A Lambda spokesperson said the search for the next CEO “begins immediately,” but didn’t have a timeframe for when that decision will be made.

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Former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam criticizes new diplomatic visa policy http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/03/former-u-s-ambassador-to-vietnam-criticizes-new-diplomatic-visa-policy/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/03/former-u-s-ambassador-to-vietnam-criticizes-new-diplomatic-visa-policy/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:50:59 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48953947 Former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam married to Clayton Bond

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Ted Osius, Vietnam, gay news, Washington Blade

Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, right, takes part in Viet Pride in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Aug. 21, 2016, with his son Tabu and then-Dutch Ambassador to Vietnam Nienke Trooster. Osius has joined the chorus of criticism over a new U.S. policy that requires partners of foreign mission personnel and employees of international organizations to be married in order to qualify for a diplomatic visa. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam)

Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius on Wednesday joined the chorus of criticism over a new State Department policy that requires partners of foreign mission personnel and employees of international organizations to be married in order to qualify for a diplomatic visa.

Osius, who is raising two young children with his husband, Clayton Bond, told the Washington Blade he agrees with former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power’s description of the new policy as “needlessly cruel and bigoted.”

“To date, only 12 percent of U.N. member states have embraced marriage equality,” said Osius. “Denying visas to the partners of diplomats who represent 88 percent of the world’s nations will divide families and harm diplomats whose only intention is to serve their countries.”

“Most countries send their very best diplomats to the United Nations,” he added. “But some will now choose another path because the United States no longer lives up to its values of fairness and inclusion.”

Osius spoke with the Blade two days after the new policy took effect.

A State Department letter the Blade obtained in August states “all currently accredited same-sex domestic partners of officers and employees of international organizations serving in the United States who wish to maintain their derivative G-4 nonimmigrant visa status and acceptance of accreditation” should ask their organization “to submit appropriate documentation” to the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions no later than Dec. 31 that indicates “the couple has legally married.”

“After December 31, 2018, unless such individuals are able to obtain separate authorization to remain in the United States through a change of nonimmigrant status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, they will generally be expected to depart the country within 30 days,” reads the letter. “However, on or after October 1, 2018, partners of officers and employees of international organizations applying for a visa renewal in the United States must be married in order to qualify for a derivative G-4 visa.”

The letter notes the new policy applies to same-sex and opposite-sex partners. Senior administration officials who spoke with reporters on a conference call on Tuesday said it is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in the Obergefell case that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country.

“It is not meant to be punitive,” a senior administration official told the Blade in response to a question about criticism of the policy from the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTI advocacy groups.

Vietnam, Indonesia granted visas to Osius’ husband

Osius, a career U.S. Foreign Service officer, co-founded GLIFAA, a group that represents LGBTI Foreign Service members, in 1992. He is one of eight openly gay men who were ambassadors during the Obama administration.

Osius resigned last year over the Trump administration’s plan to deport more than 8,000 Vietnamese refugees from the U.S.

The Obama administration in 2009 implemented a policy that asked countries to accredit same-sex partners of Foreign Service personnel on a “reciprocal basis” in order to receive diplomatic visas.

Osius said the Vietnamese government gave Bond a visa because it considered him a “family member.” Osius, who was deputy director of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia from 2009-2012, told the Blade the Indonesian government gave Bond a visa because it considered him a “member of household.”

“We didn’t care too much about the euphemisms,” said Osius. “We just wanted the visas.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster on Tuesday told the Blade it was “difficult” to get diplomatic accreditation for his husband, Bob Satawake, because the country does not recognize same-sex marriages. Brewster described the argument the new visa policy treats same-sex and opposite-sex couples the same as “either a smokescreen or another example of how this administration is blind to the facts.”

Current U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, has not responded to the Blade’s request for comment on the new policy.

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Log Cabin president to step down after 6 years http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/03/gregory-angelo-announces-exit-from-log-cabin-at-annual-dinner/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/03/gregory-angelo-announces-exit-from-log-cabin-at-annual-dinner/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 11:54:53 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48924900 Angelo announces exit at annual dinner that also featured Mass. guv

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Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo announced his departure at the 2018 Spirit of Lincoln National Dinner at the Mayflower Hotel on Oct. 2. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The list of Republicans announcing their exits from leadership roles in Washington prior to Election Day expanded into LGBT circles Tuesday night when Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, announced plans to step down after six years heading the organization.

Angelo announced “this will be my final Spirit of Lincoln dinner serving as your president” before the estimated 250 attendees at the annual event in D.C., which this year was held at the Mayflower Hotel.

“Now is the time to pass that baton to someone who will continue our stride toward a more equal America,” Angelo said.

Angelo cited as major milestones the commemoration of Log Cabin’s 40th anniversary, participation in the Conservative Political Action Conference, and recognition of the organization by the Republican National Committee. Angelo also cited “for the first time in history, formal recognition of Log Cabin Republicans from a sitting Republican president,” thanking President Trump for the honor.

Although many Republicans are heading for the exits ahead of the congressional mid-term elections, Angelo told the Blade his departure was planned for around this time when he first came on board six years ago.

“When I started at Log Cabin Republicans, I had stated to myself that what this organization needed more than anything was stability in its executive leadership — something Log Cabin Republicans had lacked for probably the better part of a decade,” Angelo said. “Having said that, I made a vow to head this organization for at least four, but no more than six years, and this is the sixth year. It’s time to grow.”

Angelo said Log Cabin’s board of directors has had a search process for a new president in place “for the better part of the year” and he’d stick around until new leadership is ready, “potentially” past Election Day. Angelo, however, kept his cards close to the vest on the timing for the announcement of the new president and his own plans post-Log Cabin.

Delivering the keynote address at the dinner was Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who polls as the most popular governor in the United States and told attendees personal stories about people he knew who came out as gay, asserting the disclosure of their sexual orientation made no difference to him.

At the top of the list for Baker was his brother, whom Baker said came out in 1982 by asking him, “What would you say if I told you your brother was gay?”

“I’d say, ‘That’s OK,'” Baker said he responded, eliciting applause from the audience.

The response from his brother, Baker said, was “That’s actually great because I want you to tell Mom and Dad.”

In the aftermath of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage in 2003, Baker recalled attending his brother’s wedding ceremony.

“I remember being at the wedding,” Baker said. “The thing I thought about the most, in addition to how happy our parents were, was how many opportunities have been missed, how many chances, friendships, partnerships, relationships were missed in that 20 years between the time my brother first [came out] to me…and got married.”

Baker also made the case for LGBT inclusion by insisting sexual orientation shouldn’t be a factor in decisions for businesses and organizations.

“We talk all the time about how important it is for us to always find the best people when you put together an organization or team or whatever it is,” Baker said. “Find the best people. How the hell are you going to find the best people if you don’t let everybody play?”

Baker said being willing to take on the best talent isn’t limited to disregarding sexual orientation in hiring practices, noting he picked Stephanie Pollack as Massachusetts transportation secretary even though he said she sued him “like 10 times” as an attorney.

Although Baker was introduced at the dinner as the governor who signed the update to Massachusetts civil rights law expanding protections for transgender people to public accommodations, neither he nor anyone on stage mentioned that law will come up as a referendum before state voters on Election Day.

(UPDATE: A Log Cabin spokesperson told the Blade after the publication of this article Baker as well as and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan spoke about the transgender public accommodation referendum during remarks at a separate cocktail reception where Ros-Lehtinen was presented with a lifetime achievement award.)

During the dinner, Angelo took the opportunity to hail LGBT victories he counted in the past year for Republicans, such as the U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Trump administration. (Grenell attended the dinner, but declined to speak to the Blade, asserting he was there “socializing.”)

Angelo also hailed as a victory the lessening of anti-gay language in the 2018 Texas Republican Party platform. Log Cabin’s Houston delegation to the Texas Republican convention was brought on stage and presented with an award for the achievement.

“Treating gay individuals as peers rather than combatants is a necessary step in the road to equality,” Angelo said. “And if you can do it in Texas, then you can do it anywhere.”

(Although the document no longer contains language asserting God condemns homosexuality, the platform still endorses widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy and anti-transgender bathroom legislation and condemns the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.)

At a time of continual anti-LGBT policy decisions from the Trump administration, including the implementation that day of a State Department policy cancelling visas for the unmarried same-sex parents of foreign diplomats, Angelo cited pro-LGBT developments in the Republican Party to the Blade when asked why LGBT people should back Republicans on Election Day.

“What did you see in this room tonight?” Angelo said. “What you saw at the Spirit of Lincoln dinner was LGBT Republicans who are energized to support allies, and we have a lot of them in the current Congress.”

Angelo pointed out more Republicans now co-sponsor the Fair & Equal Housing Act than the number of Republicans who voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2013 and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in 2010.

Recognized at the dinner for attending the pre-reception, but not the dinner itself, were Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as well as U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.). Retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), New Hampshire State Sen. Dan Innis D.C. Republican Party Chair Jose Cunningham and former Rep. Jim Kolbe attended the reception and stayed for the duration of the dinner.

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New State Department diplomatic visa policy takes effect http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/02/new-state-department-diplomatic-visa-policy-takes-effect/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/02/new-state-department-diplomatic-visa-policy-takes-effect/#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 13:58:24 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48895702 Partners of foreign mission personnel must be married

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A new State Department policy that requires partners of foreign mission personnel and employees of international organizations to be married in order to qualify for a diplomatic visa took effect on Oct. 1, 2018.

A new State Department policy that requires partners of foreign mission personnel and employees of international organizations to be married in order to qualify for a diplomatic visa took effect on Monday.

A State Department letter the Washington Blade obtained last month states, “consistent with internal Department of State policy changes, partners accompanying officers and employees of international organizations or seeking to join the same must be married in order to be eligible for a derivative G-4 nonimmigrant visa or to seek a change into such status beginning October 1, 2018.” The letter also says the State Department as of Monday “will only accept the accreditation of spouses of newly arrived officers and employees of international organizations, both same-sex and opposite-sex, as members of the family of the respective international organization.”

The State Department letter that was distributed on July 20 also says, “all currently accredited same-sex domestic partners of officers and employees of international organizations serving in the United States who wish to maintain their derivative G-4 nonimmigrant visa status and acceptance of accreditation” should ask their organization “to submit appropriate documentation” to the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions no later than Dec. 31 that indicates “the couple has legally married.”

“After December 31, 2018, unless such individuals are able to obtain separate authorization to remain in the United States through a change of nonimmigrant status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, they will generally be expected to depart the country within 30 days,” reads the letter. “However, on or after October 1, 2018, partners of officers and employees of international organizations applying for a visa renewal in the United States must be married in order to qualify for a derivative G-4 visa.”

Senior administration officials who spoke with reporters on a conference call on Tuesday said the new policy is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in the Obergefell case that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country. They also said the new policy would impact 105 families, with 55 of them working with international organizations.

The State Department letter notes the new policy applies to same-sex and opposite-sex partners.

“Is to promote the equal treatment of all family members and couples,” said a senior administration official on Tuesday.

Alfonso Nam, president of UN-GLOBE, a group that advocates on behalf of the U.N.’s LGBTI employees, told the Blade last month that most countries have yet to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Nam on Tuesday reiterated this point when he discussed the new policy.

“It doesn’t (take into account) the fact to be a same-sex couple in today’s world is to face a number of hurdles,” he told the Blade.

Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy in a statement described the new policy as “an unconscionable, needless attack on some LGBTQ diplomats from around the world, and it reflects the hostility of the Trump-Pence administration toward LGBTQ people.”

“It is unnecessary, mean-spirited, and unacceptable,” he said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster on Tuesday told the Blade he “saw how difficult it was to get accreditation for my husband (Bob Satawake) as a diplomat to a country where same-sex marriage was not recognized.”

“It will limit quality leaders from around the globe from working here in international organizations,” added Brewster, referring to the new visa policy. “The argument of treating it the same as opposite sex relationships is either a smokescreen or another example of how this administration is blind to the facts. Either way the physical and legal damage many would face in their countries where it illegal to be married is real.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power in a tweet described it as “needlessly cruel and bigoted.”

The Obama administration in 2009 implemented a policy that asked countries to accredit same-sex partners of U.S. Foreign Service personnel on a “reciprocal basis” in order to receive diplomatic visas. A State Department official with whom the Blade spoke last month said U.S. Foreign Service personnel as of Monday “must be married to enjoy the rights and benefits of spouses.”

“Parallel to that, and based on the principle of reciprocity, under which our current policy is based, the department will likewise require that, as a general matter, officials from other governments be married to enjoy the rights and benefits of spouses for purposes of visa issuance and privileges and immunities,” said the official.
 


“We will continue to rely on modified principles of reciprocity to advocate for equality in countries which will not permit same sex marriage or accept our same sex spouses as persons forming part of the family of the US officer, with appropriate privileges and immunities,” added the official.

A senior administration administration official on Tuesday told the Blade the new policy is “not meant to be punitive” against LGBTI diplomats and their families.

“This is certainly not an attack,” said the official.

Wally Brewster, Dominican Republic, gay news, Washington Blade

Then-U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster, left, and his husband, Bob Satawake, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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Judge rules HB2 deal doesn’t impair bathroom access for trans people http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/01/judge-rules-hb2-deal-doesnt-impair-bathroom-access-for-transgender-people/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/10/01/judge-rules-hb2-deal-doesnt-impair-bathroom-access-for-transgender-people/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 23:53:59 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48865828 Court partially allows lawsuit against HB142 to move forward

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper took actions aimed at alleviating anti-LGBT discrimination in North Carolina. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A federal judge has allowed a lawsuit against the compromise over North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2 to continue, but found the new law doesn’t inhibit bathroom access to transgender people in the state.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled Sunday night the challenge to House Bill 142 can proceed in so far it pertains Section 3 of the law, which prohibits municipalities from enacting ordinances regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations until December 1, 2020.

“While HB142 presents the same barrier to anyone else seeking a protective ordinance as it does to transgender individuals, plaintiffs observe that transgender individuals have a greater need for protective ordinances than other groups,” Schroeder writes. “This is because protective statutes and ordinances that preexist HB142 — such as Charlotte’s ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex — continue to be valid. Thus, plaintiffs plausibly allege they lack the protections that individuals in other vulnerable groups enjoy.”

But Schroeder doesn’t allow the lawsuit to proceed regarding Section 2 of the law, which bars state agencies and colleges from “regulation of access” to restrooms and locker rooms.

“While plaintiffs are correct that Section 2 prevents state entities like UNC from regulating access to restrooms, the court is unpersuaded that the mere provision of separate male and female facilities is regulation of restroom access, in the relevant sense,” Schroeder writes.

As a result, Schroeder finds plaintiffs in the case “fail to state a claim based on Section 2, but succeed in stating a claim based on Section 3.”

HB142 was signed into law last year by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper as a result of a compromise with Republican lawmakers seeking to ease the burden of economic boycott on the state over HB2, which barred transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and cities from enacting pro-LGBT ordinances. Former Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2 into law, then was voted out of office that year.

The new law prohibits municipalities from enacting ordinances regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodations until December 1, 2020 and bars state agencies and colleges from “regulation of access” to restrooms and locker rooms.

Although major economic boycotts were curtailed with HB142 in place, LGBT rights supporters continued to object on the basis the law continued to undermine LGBT rights and stigmatize transgender people.

The lawsuit against the statue, Carcaño v. Cooper, was initially filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the LGBT legal group Lambda Legal when HB2 was on the books and was later modified to challenge against HB142 when the compromise was reached.

Attorneys for these groups hailed the decision as a victory even the judge ruled against allowing their claims against the portion of the law pertaining to bathrooms to proceed.

Chris Brook, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said in a statement the decision “lessens some of the harm that has been caused by these laws’ disgraceful and indefensible attacks on LGBT North Carolinians.”

“The court’s decision does not account for the very real injuries LGBT people have faced under both HB2 and HB142, but we will continue fighting for the rights of all LGBT people in North Carolina as this case proceeds,” Brook said. “The bottom line is that LGBT North Carolinians deserve to feel secure in knowing that when they go about their daily lives and interact with businesses open to the public, any discrimination they encounter is unacceptable.”

Tara Borelli, counsel for Lambda Legal, said in a statement the decision assures transgender people have access to the restrooms in North Carolina.

“In light of this ruling, there should no longer be any excuse for discrimination in government facilities against transgender students and employees, who are simply trying to get through daily life like everyone else,” Borelli said. “HB 142 and HB 2 no longer provide a fig leaf for denying transgender people equal dignity and access to public facilities on the same terms that all other North Carolinians can take for granted.”

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