Opinions – Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights http://www.washingtonblade.com America's Leading LGBT News Source Mon, 24 Sep 2018 21:15:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Stakes high as Mass. voters consider overturning trans law http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/21/opinion-stakes-massachusetts-trans-law/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/21/opinion-stakes-massachusetts-trans-law/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 13:15:28 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48294486 Outcome could lead to a rollback of rights elsewhere

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Massachusetts voters will decide whether to repeal the state’s transgender non-discrimination law. (Photo by Estrogin via Creative Commons)

The Nov. 6 election will be monumentally consequential for LGBTQ people. Voters not only will decide who will control the House of Representatives and the Senate and who will hold numerous state and local government offices; they also will decide whether Massachusetts will continue to have a state law that protects transgender people against discrimination in public places, such as restaurants, stores, and doctors’ offices.

This is the first time a law prohibiting gender identity discrimination is being put to a statewide vote. It should be the last time as well. For that to happen, however, LGBTQ people need to do all we can to support the Yes on 3 campaign.

There are many reasons we should care about this ballot measure. One is that what happens in Massachusetts this November could lead to significant rollbacks in the rights of LGBTQ people nationwide.

Massachusetts has long been a leader in LGBTQ rights. It was the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry. It was the second (after Wisconsin) to bar sexual orientation discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. If our opposition can persuade voters to overturn a nondiscrimination statute protecting transgender people in a place like Massachusetts, it will be a perilous harbinger for similar laws in other states. Anti-LGBTQ forces will be emboldened to go after gender identity and sexual orientation protections elsewhere, and there’s no reason why California won’t be target number two.

Indeed, the head of the Massachusetts Family Institute explicitly told Politico that November’s Massachusetts vote is a bellwether that will determine where they seek to repeal LGBTQ protections next. On the other hand, if Massachusetts voters uphold these protections, it will help pave the way to enacting explicit sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination protections nationwide, including at the federal level.

What has happened in Massachusetts has had repercussions before. In 1992, Massachusetts’ then-governor, Republican William Weld, appointed a Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. That commission recommended that schools protect students by, among other things, including gay content in school curricula and libraries. Anti-LGBTQ forces unsuccessfully sued to challenge that. One couple who joined the suit objected that their son was read a story at school about two princes who fell in love with one another. When California voters were considering Proposition 8, which sought to overturn marriage equality, Prop. 8 proponents brought that couple to California for a statewide bus tour to “prove” that allowing same-sex couples to marry would lead to same-sex marriage being taught in California’s schools (even though that unsuccessful lawsuit long predated Massachusetts allowing same-sex couples to marry). We’ve thus seen it already: What happens in Massachusetts doesn’t stay there.

Our community needs to remember Prop. 8’s subsequent passage just 10 years ago and what it felt like to have the state’s voters take back a right we had just won. The message of rejection by a majority of the electorate was heartbreaking. We can’t let a setback like that happen again, even on the other side of the country.

It was transgender people who led the Stonewall rebellion. LGB people and T people also share the same opponents. Those opponents misunderstand, fear, and dislike lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and transgender people for very similar reasons—because we don’t conform to their gender stereotypes. Whether they think men should only be with women, women should only be with men, or people should forever identify as they were identified at birth, it is a very narrow definition of what kind of men and women are acceptable that is the base of all anti-LGBTQ bias.

Indeed, laws like the one now under attack in Massachusetts don’t only protect transgender people; they protect all people discriminated against because they are perceived as gender non-conforming.

A study released last week by the UCLA-affiliated Williams Institute think tank proved that Massachusetts localities that enacted gender identity nondiscrimination protections prior to the state nondiscrimination law actually had fewer privacy and safety criminal incidents in restrooms and changing rooms than similar localities in the state that did not have such protections. There’s little doubt that anti-LGBTQ forces nonetheless will continue to use scare tactics, falsely asserting that legally protecting transgender people in public places endangers women and children in restrooms and locker rooms — just like they falsely asserted that letting same-sex couples marry would lead to the destruction of marriage.

If lies and scapegoating of members of our community can prevail in one state, those tactics will spread. We can’t afford a flashback to the Prop. 8 election.  Go to freedommassachusetts.org to learn how to help.


Jon Davidson is chief counsel for Freedom for All Americans.

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In Trump era, we need a robust Human Rights Campaign http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/20/in-trump-era-we-need-a-robust-human-rights-campaign/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/20/in-trump-era-we-need-a-robust-human-rights-campaign/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 10:54:36 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48234866 LGBTQ group embarks on largest expansion in its history

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HRC National Dinner, gay news, Washington Blade

Joe Biden speaks at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner on Sept. 15 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign seems to always top its previous national dinners with both entertainment and a keynote speaker. But last Saturday evening they had a nearly impossible task in matching the reception Hillary Rodham Clinton got last year. In this craziness we are living one cannot help but think of what could have been had Hillary been president including the raft of administration officials who would have been at this year’s dinner.

This year’s keynote speaker was Joe Biden. Dr. Jill Biden spoke first about their foundation and she is quite a person in her own right. Then it was ‘Uncle Joe’ as so many call him who stepped to the podium and got a standing ovation with some shouts of 2020. This was reminiscent of the reception he got when he spoke at the dinner in 2015. He said all the right things and as always with passion. The speech meandered without direction and you couldn’t help but feel ‘I love this man’ and thank him for all he has done; but many in the room said they hoped like in 2015 he would eventually announce he has decided not to run. Reality sets in and he would be nearly 80 when he took office and like with so many of us Baby Boomers, age begins to show.

The second major speaker of the evening, former Attorney General Eric Holder, has also made some noise about wanting to run in 2020. He gave a good speech and spoke of the important work he is doing with former President Obama on the issue of redistricting. He is right we need to stop the gerrymandering of congressional districts.

The program also featured trailblazing Virginia Del. Danica Roem and candidate for Nevada Secretary of State, Nelson Araujo. Unfortunately those at the dinner didn’t get to hear Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia who earlier in the day had addressed HRC leaders and members from across the country. But Andrew Gillum, hopefully the next governor of Florida, was in the room.

HRC’s President Chad Griffin spoke eloquently addressing the sell-out crowd of more than 3,600 people at the Walter Washington Convention Center. His words were similar to those he spoke last year when he said “It’s not enough to resist the hateful policies and attacks coming from the Trump-Pence regime — we’ve got to accelerate the pace of progress toward full equality and secure protections for LGBTQ people in states and communities across the country. That’s why we’re going on offense with the largest grassroots expansion in HRC’s 37-year history. Our grassroots army of over 3 million has proven that, even in the face of unprecedented challenges, we can make incredible progress and defeat the hateful politicians who’ve been emboldened by Donald Trump when we organize and mobilize.”

He said because of our work and that of our allies we can be proud record numbers of LGBTQ+ candidates are on the ballot in November running for school board to state legislature, from governors to members of Congress. He reminded the crowd “we have 51 days of work before we can claim victory for all those candidates and that will only happen if we VOTE.”

Actress Anne Hathaway received HRC’s National Equality Award. One of the biggest ovations of the evening came for Adam Rippon, Olympic figure skating champion who has used his voice to speak out for the LGBTQ+ community in a way that has reached millions. Adam introduced Shea Diamond, a transgender woman of color, who sang and wowed the audience both with her voice and the words of her song. Comedian Dana Goldberg hosted the live auction which raised nearly $300,000 for the organization.

There is much people find to criticize about HRC. The dinner as always was attended overwhelmingly by white people of privilege. It is stunning how much money is in the room. This year, two people competed with the winning bid being $100,000 for a cruise to Antarctica. I have criticized the organization many times over many issues. But reality is the people at the national dinner and those at similar dinners across the nation (and many of their members who can’t afford to attend the dinners but donate) understand organizations like HRC need money to exist and to do their work. Make no mistake the work they do is important.

In today’s world we need HRC and Griffin is doing a good job leading the organization. We can argue with one or the other of the decisions the organization makes but I for one am glad they exist and continue to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community here and around the globe.


Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Blue wave builds as red regime unravels http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/19/opinion-blue-wave-builds-red-regime-unravels/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/19/opinion-blue-wave-builds-red-regime-unravels/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 21:29:48 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48205044 As the political tide turns, our besieged constitutional system shows resilience

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Brett Kavanaugh faces the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Our politics are like a major storm watch. Most of us think we are not in the flood zone, that others bear the risk. But our civic foundations are eroding, and much of what our forebears won for us could be swept away. Yet hopes are rising as the Trumpist storm feeds on itself. Paul Manafort has flipped. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is tightening the noose.

As Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas, Donald Trump disputed the official death toll from last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, a debacle for which (as always) he gave himself an A+. Meanwhile, the purported Deep State turned out to be led by the president’s own staff. Trump’s shrillness increases against his predecessor, his defeated rival, his critics, reporters, and athletes. As he unravels, he resembles Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. He is both dangerous and ridiculous. He is an improbable leader, which is why few took his candidacy seriously.

Demagoguery is not defeated by pretending it doesn’t work. The most strident professed patriots are those attacking American institutions and saying “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.” Defeating them requires persuading voters, not calling them stupid. Democratic candidates are learning this lesson. They are listening to voters and addressing their needs while conservatives cackle past the graveyard mocking “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

Smartphone warriors on platforms like Reddit love wielding over-the-top verbal missiles like “Ben Shapiro ABSOLUTELY DEMOLISHES Libtard Feminazi Charlie Kirk.” This recalls the plague victim in Monty Python’s “Bring out your dead” scene who cries, “I’m not dead!” Trump’s true believers hurl schoolyard taunts at Bob Woodward’s detailed reportage, yet it remains very much alive. Appealing to reason instead of passion is harder, but success in that effort is more enduring.

In sorting out candidates, we do well to consider what people’s best roles are. Everyone who excels at what they do doesn’t merit a promotion. Here are two examples: Sen. Elizabeth Warren is sharp-witted and effective at grilling witnesses. Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti is bold, scrappy, and well suited to taking on Trump’s nihilist right. Neither should be president. The Democratic standard bearer needs to connect with independents as well as party stalwarts.

Avenatti, age 47, at least passes the entry-level test of whether presidential candidates are closer to 48 than 78. Most Democratic presidential aspirants meet basic criteria of smartness, diligence, sanity, and non-treasonousness. Several, however, are over 70. It is time for the Democratic team to freshen its bench.

It bodes well for 2020 that the midterms have brought so many new faces, including a record number of women. There are signs of a turning tide. Ohio billionaire and Republican donor Les Wexner has renounced the party and praised President Obama. Boston billionaire Seth Klarman, previously New England’s biggest Republican donor, is giving millions this year to Democrats. The Pew Research Center reports a surge in turnout for this year’s U.S. House primaries, especially among Democrats. Many Centrist Democrats have adopted popular progressive policies. Our besieged constitutional system shows resilience.

Restoring our republic requires adding votes, not subtracting them through ideological purification. As Joe Biden likes to quote his father, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.”

News broke on September 16 that Christine Blasey Ford has come forward with her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than thirty years ago in high school. She told The Washington Post about it before Kavanaugh’s nomination, and passed a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent.

Stephanie Mencimer notes in Mother Jones that the alleged witness in the case, Mark Judge, who attended Georgetown Prep with Kavanaugh, has written about rampant drunken partying there. That might explain his inability to remember the incident.

Senate Republicans have used a process complaint about the lateness of the charge to distract from its credible substance, inadvertently demonstrating why victims of such assaults hesitate to speak up. Power trumps all for the Republicans, who are in a hurry to install a wildly unrepresentative right wing majority on the court while they can.

The battle over what kind of country we will be goes on.


Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Renewed hope in India http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/16/opinion-india-section-377/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/16/opinion-india-section-377/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 00:15:17 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48029011 I now have more explicit legal protections there than here

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Supreme Court of India, gay news, Washington Blade, section 377

India’s Supreme Court on Sept. 6, 2018, struck down the country’s colonial-era sodomy law. (Photo by Legaleagle86; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

When I came out to my dad, one of the first things he said was: “I wonder how many people in our family were gay but couldn’t say anything.”

I once looked through the family tree he has kept for 25 years, scanning seven generations of direct ancestors and distant relatives, wondering whose truth died with them.

During one visit to India, my grandmother took me to visit an old friend of hers. He was smartly dressed and well spoken, the sole occupant of an apartment littered with books and art. As my grandmother explained, he was a “confirmed bachelor” who had never married.

I think of him often. I’ll never know for sure if he was gay or not, but I do know there were generations of gay men in India who only had two options: a marriage based on a lie or a quiet life alone in the closet. And I wonder how different my life would have been if my family had stayed in India instead of immigrating to America when I was three years old. Which option would I have picked?

Thankfully, I had other options. I grew up and came out in an America just beginning to awaken to the cause of LGBTQ equality. I followed Ellen DeGeneres out of the closet and Edie Windsor to the altar. Later, I followed my dreams all the way to Barack Obama’s White House.

For these reasons, among others, I will always be extraordinarily proud to be an American. In no other country is my story – immigrating, coming out, marrying the person I love and starting a family, serving the highest office in the land – even possible.

And yet, that pride has always come with a corresponding set of complicated emotions about India, a deep personal connection tempered by sadness, guilt, and resignation.

Recently, my husband and I have talked about living abroad for a year or two when our daughter is older. In many ways, living in India would be a powerful way to teach her about a country that may not be a part of her genetic makeup but is nonetheless a very real part of who she is, who her appa is, and the values we hope to instill in her.

But every time we talk about it, I rule it out. How could we live as a family – even temporarily, and even with the privilege of American citizenship – in a place where our very relationship is criminal?

All of that changed on Sept. 6, when India’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down Section 377, the provision of the penal code criminalizing homosexuality, and further ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this ruling. Not only did Section 377 codify discrimination, it was used for years as a tool by government and police to raid, arrest, and stigmatize queer Indians. In their judgements, the Justices spoke to this long history of oppression, calling Section 377 “irrational, indefensible, and manifestly arbitrary,” speaking to the inherent dignity and equality owed LGBTQ individuals, and calling for full and equal protection under the law – a goal we have yet to attain here in America.

It’s not lost on me that, as a consequence of this historic ruling, I now have more explicit legal protection in the land of my birth than in the land that I love.

That said, this is just the first step. Much like Lawrence paved the way for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the freedom to marry, India too will have to grapple with the meaning and implementation of full equality for its LGBTQ citizens.

But for now, it signals the beginning of an end to loveless marriages and closeted confirmed bachelors. Even more importantly, it shows the way to a future of endless possibilities and unlimited options for future generations of Indians – and Indian Americans.

In January, my husband, daughter, and I will travel to India for a family reunion. In many ways, we will be returning to exactly the same country we’ve visited before. But in one very important way, we will be visiting a new land, with renewed hope for the future.


Gautam Raghavan served as President Obama’s liaison to the LGBTQ and AAPI communities from 2011 to 2014, currently advises the Indian American Impact Project and Biden Foundation, and is the editor of the forthcoming ‘West Wingers: Stories from the Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House’ to be published by Penguin Books on Sept. 25.

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Dating in D.C. Part I: the apps http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/16/dating-in-d-c-part-i-the-apps/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/16/dating-in-d-c-part-i-the-apps/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 04:53:53 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47976419 At age 40, it’s time to ramp up my efforts at finding a man

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(Photo by bigtunaonline via Bigstockphoto)

I haven’t had a real romantic relationship in about 12 years. I know, I know. What’s my problem, right? To be honest, I just really haven’t felt the need to have a boyfriend. Well, up until about now. Maybe it’s time. I’ve turned 40 recently, and I’m getting the impression that I might have been the grasshopper that sang all summer, if you know your Aesop. Essentially winter is coming and it’s just me. Not to be a sad sap, but the closest thing I have to a long-term relationship at the moment is the Meiwah delivery guy. He gets me, though.

Recently I’ve stuck my toe back in the D.C. dating water, murky as it may be. Usually, this is enough to have me running back to the safe confines of singledom, with all its awesome, seemingly endless perks — a house regulated to the temperature I want, no judgment on my fairly awful music choices, not really having to compromise on anything. But I’m resolved to throw my hat back in the dating ring after all these years. Plus, I’m convinced that while dating in D.C. is difficult, it’s got to be easier in your 40s. It has to be. That, and I have no other options. So.

Be it resolved here, I will be trying in Part I of this three-part series, to find a boyfriend. Part I — trying three newish dating apps. Part II — trying three new bars I wouldn’t typically go to on a given weekend. And then, if need be, Part III — non-bar things, volunteering and charity functions. God, I hope it doesn’t come to that.

For part one, I’ll be trying these three apps — Tinder, Hinge, and Mr. X, simultaneously. First up is Tinder. I’ve been playing with this app, on and off, for a while now. I’ve even met up with a few guys. Nothing really came of anything. I’m sure most are familiar with the app, but basically it’s a swipe-right-swipe-left sort of thing based on attraction. I’m guessing a lot of guys out there just use this for a quick ego boost, “oh. . .let’s see who finds me cute” sort of thing. I’ll give it a try, nonetheless.

Also I’m trying Hinge, which I have to say is probably the best and sleekest of the apps here. Instead of swiping past someone based just on their pic, Hinge allows you to ‘discover’ them, which sounds awfully pre-colonial but it seems to work. You get to discover things about a guy other than their picture, browsing their funny responses to silly questions and such, and the whole process makes you feel less like a shallow jerk.

Then there’s Mr. X, which was entirely new to me until last Sunday. My friend Paul, slightly older than I am, turned me on to it and he’s been in a good and steady relationship for a few months now, all thanks to Mr. X. Here you can be a ‘Daddy’ a ‘Hunter’ or a ‘Mister.’ I’m a ‘Mister,’ I was told. Too old for ‘Hunter,’ too young for ‘Daddy,’ this sort of sums up my whole dating conundrum at the moment. Mr. X is the clunkiest of the apps here, but like the others I’m willing to give it a try. Mr. X’s tag line is “Dirty, Sexy, Social” so I’m not really sure if I signed up for a dating app, a sex app, or both. But one of the best married couples I know met on Grindr, so you never know.

So, I’m officially on the market. And I will be providing follow up in the next few columns. So stay tuned and wish me luck!


Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.

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Reeder now one-on-one with controversial incumbent http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/14/opinion-dionne-reeder-vs-elissa-silverman/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/14/opinion-dionne-reeder-vs-elissa-silverman/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 19:27:31 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47894720 Election board creates path for lesbian D.C. Council At-Large challenger

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Dionne Reeder, gay news, Washington Blade

Dionne Reader is now lead challenger in an at-large Council race after A. Kathryn Allen was disqualified. (Photo via Reeder Campaign Twitter)

The composition of the only competitive marquee race in the Nov. 6 D.C. general election suddenly changed this week. The development creates a clear path for an underdog citywide victory by lesbian D.C. Council At-Large candidate Dionne Reeder in her uphill but promising challenge against controversial first-term incumbent Elissa Silverman.

Near the stroke of midnight on Monday evening the D.C. Board of Elections complied with its announced deadline to render a decision regarding ballot qualification by additional candidate S. Kathryn Allen. The local election board bumped Allen off the ballot, ruling that she had come up short by slightly more than 500 signatures of the 3,000 required for the seat.

Signature collection is a tedious and tiresome task, resulting in adequately funded first-time candidates not enjoying incumbent campaign infrastructure advantage commonly outsourcing the activity. Allen saw a large number of her valid signatures thrown out due to at least one non-resident collector not having registered with the election board, falsified collector names on petition sheets, and outright forged signatures provided by collectors. In the end, Allen’s nearly 6,100 signatures were whittled down to just under 2,500 accepted ones.

Silverman had contested Allen’s ballot petition after it was discovered, following the withdrawal of another candidate due to similar contractor-collected falsified voter signatures, that Allen may have been victim of the same problem. Ballot petitions are not audited or validated unless required as a result of a challenge by a registered voter – oftentimes a partisan associated with a competitor campaign.

It is unusual for an incumbent to personally challenge an opponent’s submitted signatures, as in this case by Silverman. Her directly doing so has prompted local political observers to note that it signifies Silverman recognizes she is vulnerable to being defeated for re-election.

Silverman won election to the seat in 2014, after a prior failed attempt, among a crowded field while garnering only 15 percent of the votes cast in the race. Under the city’s complicated set-aside of two-of-four At-Large Council seats for a “non-majority-party” candidate, voters are allowed to cast two votes each rotating four-year biennial election cycle – with the Democratic nominee joined by a usually Democrat-masked-as-an-independent winning the alternate seat.

Silverman may regret “clearing the field” to a single leading opponent, creating an opening for Reeder to consolidate community opposition to the oft-derided sole “socialist” elected official in the District. In addition to incumbent Democrat Anita Bonds, expected to easily win another term, voters have the opportunity to cast a second vote for “non-Democrats” Silverman or Reeder, or alternately for the long-shot candidacies of Republican Ralph Chittams, Libertarian Denise Hicks, Statehood-Green David Schwartzman, or independent Rustin Lewis.

Most observers anticipate that respected former Mayor Anthony Williams and former gay At-Large Council member David Catania, both co-chairs of Allen’s effort, will support Reeder. Mayor Muriel Bowser, gliding to re-election as one of the most popular executives in the nation, is said to support an alternative to Silverman.

Silverman, criticized as a short-tempered and hard-edged ideologue disinterested in a consensus-building approach to legislation or governance, has become known as an extremist policy outlier among most of her colleagues. Leftist political groups, however, are expected to push hard for her re-election, disappointed that all “further-left” challengers in the Democratic primary were easily defeated by more circumspect, centrist and business-friendly incumbents.

The local enterprise community had been backing either Allen or Reeder, with small-business operators largely lining up behind Reeder while moderate-sized and larger business sectors had favored Allen. Reeder is expected to coalesce the support of both the entire entrepreneurial community and residents hoping for a fresh approach with less of a heavy-handed, combative style.

The LGBT community could also play a role in determining the winner and may relish the chance to again have a gay person, woman of color, and the city’s first lesbian serving on the D.C. Council.

Now that the candidates have been finalized, let the rumble begin!


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

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Village Voice’s muckraking, bad-ass spirit will live forever http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/13/opinion-village-voice-closes/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/13/opinion-village-voice-closes/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 10:30:00 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47774577 Thank you to an institution that always covered LGBT lives

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Village Voice, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons)

Saying goodbye when someone you love dies is heartbreaking. Bidding farewell to a beloved cultural institution is almost as wrenching. Recently, like many of its aficionados, I was gobsmacked to learn that the Village Voice, the Pulitzer Prize-winning alternative weekly founded in Greenwich Village in 1955, had closed.

I shouldn’t have been so shocked that the Voice, a pioneer in its coverage of LGBTQ issues and its pop culture criticism, folded on Aug. 31. A year ago, the Voice became digital only after it stopped publishing in print. Like so many news outlets, it’s had financial problems and staff layoffs. Still, it’s sad.

Why am I sad? Because, as it was for many of its readers, I felt a personal connection to the Voice. When I was a kid in Southern N.J., a family friend, when he visited from New York, would bring my parents that week’s Voice. I didn’t understand much of what was in the Voice then. But I could tell from the adults’ animated talk of “films” and “art” that the paper was manna from heaven for my folks in the cultural desert of our small town.

When I was in graduate school, I turned to the Voice as I was coming out. Later when I worked in New York, everyone I knew felt an affinity for the Voice. The paper championed the work of my friend Al Carmines, the Obie-winning composer. My friend Martha turned to the Voice to learn what was happening on the music scene. We laughed in neurotic recognition at Jules Feiffer’s cartoons and scarfed up its investigative journalism – from Wayne Barrett’s reporting on Donald J. Trump to its Pulitzer Prize-winning series on AIDS in Africa.

The Village Voice was founded by Dan Wolf, Edwin Fancher and Norman Mailer. Richard Goldstein was the arts editor and then the executive editor of the Village Voice until 2004. “It was 1966. I was 22 with hair down to my navel, fresh out of journalism school,” Goldstein, who is gay, told the Blade in a phone interview. “I walked into Dan Wolf’s office and said I want to be a rock critic. They said ‘what is that?’  They said, ‘Try it.’ No one else would consider it. I tried it. It became my column ‘Pop Eye.’’”

The Voice Village was a left-leaning paper. Pop culture from the media to jazz to indie films fell under the Voice’s critical eye. “We were the first to cover off-Broadway. The Voice was the first do advertising criticism – the first to do media criticism,” Goldstein said.”

Its pop culture criticism grew out of its left-leaning political convictions, he added. “It came from the left wing idea that art is the art of the people. Record companies didn’t know who we were,” he said.    

The Voice hired openly gay writers as far back as the McCarthy era, Goldstein said. “It was unheard of then for a publication to hire an out gay writer, you could be fired if you were gay!”

“Lesbian Nation” author Jill Johnston wrote for the Voice as a dance critic. “But, she evolved. She came out and became the first openly lesbian writer to cover lesbian issues,” he said.

That’s the way it was at the Voice. Writers could evolve and develop their own style. “Jill didn’t use punctuation,” Goldstein said. “She thought it was too masculine. She stared down editors who insisted otherwise.”

The Voice was on the scene during Stonewall. “The Voice office was above the [Stonewall Inn] bar,” he said. “When the riots started, two reporters ran down to the bar. Two stories about Stonewall ran on the front page.”

The Voice led the way in covering not only queer culture, but LGBT rights politics. In 1979, the paper began publishing an annual issue on queer life. In 1984, the Voice ran one of the very few interviews that James Baldwin gave about being gay.

Things weren’t perfect at the Voice. It wasn’t always sweetness and light. “Not every writer was pro-gay,” Goldstein said, “there were fights. You could sometimes hate the people you work with.”

Thank you, Village Voice for kick-starting our lives! Though you’ve closed, your muckraking, bad-ass spirit will live forever!


Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Media misreading Democratic voters http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/12/media-misreading-democratic-voters/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/12/media-misreading-democratic-voters/#respond Wed, 12 Sep 2018 17:25:45 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47686200 Electorate looking for diverse representation, not socialism

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Democratic voters, gay news, Washington Blade

The fight isn’t about progressive vs. far left for the Democratic Party; it is simply to get everyone to the ballot box.

I am a staunch supporter of a free press and don’t believe in ‘alternative facts.’ Today it seems too many journalists are writing their stories with a view of getting noticed and being asked to be commentators on TV. Headline writers are dreaming up clickbait headlines to attract readers. Journalism is suffering because of this.

There are still those like Bob Woodward who research their work exhaustively and can document what they write. But more and more columns are written without this exhaustive research, many because their editors are competing to be first with a scoop and stories end up just being part of what appears to be a pack mentality.

We see this in the glorification of someone like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez whom the press deemed a super-hero of the left by apparently purposely misreading her victory in a New York congressional primary. A closer look at the District easily explains her win in a majority-minority district against an opponent who was too arrogant to mount a real campaign. The positions she took were not all that different from the votes of her opponent but she ran a good campaign. The same can be said for Ayanna Pressley in her win in a Boston district. It wasn’t the positions she took, but rather a good campaign in a district that had changed and was now younger and more diverse and those constituents rightly wanted representation that looked more like them. In Delaware, where Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic Socialists tried to install their own candidate in a Senate primary, they found the voting base hadn’t changed as much and their candidate lost to Sen. Tom Carper in a landslide.

What is happening in the Democratic Party is not a version of the Tea Party that took over the Republican Party as Paul Kane in his Washington Post column posits. The change occurring in the Democratic Party is more about age, gender and diversity than it is about policy. There was an outcry when David Hogg, a Parkland survivor, called Nancy Pelosi old. Well from his perspective she is. She could be his great-grandmother and who can honestly say they don’t consider their great-grandmother old.

The change coming to the Democratic Party and supported by many is knowing if we are to be the party of the future we need to have more women, more people of color, more representatives of the LGBTQ+ community and younger people representing the diversity of the country in leadership positions. That is what is happening in Democratic elections. These elections aren’t about being Democrats or Democratic Socialists. The huge bloc of Democratic voters, and all voters, are not Democratic Socialists and will never be. The media, which are trying to make this a fight between progressives and the far-left of the party, are getting it wrong. The party is not far left and will never be.

The goal for the Democratic Party must be to convince millennials and younger voters that voting matters. As President Obama said, “It is not enough to complain, hashtag, attend a protest rally or send out a message on FB or twitter.” All that is worthless if you don’t take the time to actually VOTE.

Democrats must also educate voters to understand what Obama meant when he said “vote for better not for perfect” and that there are only two choices when it comes to taking over the Congress: Democrat or Republican. Voting for a third-party candidate as a protest begets Donald Trump and Trump begets Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. The fight isn’t about progressive vs. far left for the Democratic Party; it is simply to get everyone to the ballot box.


Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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D.C. clergy, judges call on city to strip Trump Hotel’s liquor license http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/11/d-c-clergy-judges-call-on-city-to-strip-trump-hotels-liquor-license/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/11/d-c-clergy-judges-call-on-city-to-strip-trump-hotels-liquor-license/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 14:34:20 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47614418 President lacks good character required of owners of licensed establishments

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Trump Hotel, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a complaint filed with the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a group of local clergy and former judges – of which we are members – alleges that Donald Trump lacks the good character required of all owners of licensed liquor establishments in the city. We made the complaint, which we have supplemented with additional evidence on multiple occasions, because we believe that among the hundreds of hotel, bar, and restaurant owners in the District of Columbia, Donald Trump is uniquely unfit. Good character, which the liquor laws require of all owners of establishments holding a liquor license, is, and should be, an easy requirement to meet. It merely requires the basic honesty and integrity to which all business owners can readily attest.

But as our complaint and its supplements have stressed, the one owner of a hotel holding a District of Columbia liquor license who lies with impunity, who has demonstrated his lack of integrity by defrauding individuals in his private business affairs and who has, according to his own lawyer, paid “hush money” to women with whom he allegedly had sexual relations in order to influence an election, is Donald Trump. And this is only a small sample of conduct inconsistent with good character set forth in our filings. As clergy devoted to helping others live moral lives and as former judges devoted to upholding the rule of law, we saw it as our duty to serve notice to the Board in this unusual and rare case that its most fundamental licensing requirement had been violated.

We recognize that the subject of our complaint is the president of the United States. Given our deep respect for the democratic process by which he was elected, we have assiduously avoided including in our complaint any of President Trump’s political or policy decisions with which we may disagree. Instead, because we are members of the clergy and former judges, we have focused on specific conduct by Trump that led us to the conclusion that he lacks a moral compass, which has conspicuously taken a backseat to his pursuit of pleasure and power. Indeed, we were struck by the fact that an anonymous senior member of President Trump’s own administration recently recognized that he was amoral. In our collective judgment, and as has been demonstrated in our filings with the Board, there can be no reasonable debate that Trump violates the basic good character requirement of the District of Columbia liquor licensing laws.

The District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has recommended a show cause hearing in circumstances where a liquor establishment owner engaged in misconduct less egregious than that of Trump. It now has the opportunity not only to uphold once again the good character requirement of the liquor laws, but also to demonstrate that no person, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. Good character is a requirement of the liquor licensing law. Unfortunately, our president lacks it. Thus, it is time for the Board to act.


This letter was signed by: Rev. Timothy Tee Boddie, Baptist Denominational Executive, Washington, D.C.; Rev. Jennifer Butler; Joan Goldfrank, Retired Magistrate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., retired U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia; Rev. William H. Lamar IV, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church; Rabbi Jack Moline; and Rabbi Aaron Potek.

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What’s at stake for LGBTQ rights in Massachusetts http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/08/opinion-massachusetts-lgbtq-nondiscrimination-law/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/08/opinion-massachusetts-lgbtq-nondiscrimination-law/#respond Sat, 08 Sep 2018 18:43:22 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47469271 Facing down major threat to equality in November

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(Photo by Estrogin via Creative Commons)

On Nov. 6, the LGBTQ movement will face one of the single biggest threats to equality in recent memory. Anti-transgender activists in Massachusetts have secured the country’s first statewide popular vote on an LGBTQ nondiscrimination law. The legislation passed with a bipartisan supermajority in 2016 and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, providing protections for transgender people from discrimination in public places like restaurants, stores and hospitals. The activists seeking repeal of this law have publicly stated that, if successful, they will seek to roll back nondiscrimination protections for the entire LGBTQ community in states nationwide. The outcome of this vote could fuel our opponents’ attacks for years to come, and the national stakes for our community could not be higher.

Yes, it’s “blue” Massachusetts. Yes, 2018 may bring a “blue wave.” But two recent polls show this is a 50/50 fight – and that’s before repeal proponents have begun airing their ugly, misleading advertisements. We know voters across the political spectrum are vulnerable to our opponents’ scare tactics. We can take nothing for granted, and we have to work to earn every vote. That’s why Freedom for All Americans has been on the ground with Freedom for All Massachusetts – now the Yes on 3 campaign – since early 2017 going door-to-door talking with voters about what it means to be transgender and what nondiscrimination laws do and don’t do. Massachusetts led the country on marriage equality and it must serve as a firewall to stop the spread of discrimination.

This is not a challenge our movement asked for, but we can seize it as an opportunity. There’s no clearer way to demonstrate growth in public support for nondiscrimination protections than to win a statewide popular vote. The Yes On 3 campaign to uphold Massachusetts’ transgender protections is laser-focused on leveraging lessons learned from previous campaigns, introducing voters to transgender people, addressing concerns about safety and restrooms head on, and connecting the aspirations of our transgender friends and neighbors to the values we all share – freedom, liberty, kindness, and making sure everyone has a fair shot at success.

The truth is, anti-LGBTQ activists are in a race against the clock to capitalize on the fact that too few Americans yet personally know a transgender person. A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that nearly nine in ten (87%) U.S. adults know someone who is gay or lesbian — one of the most important factors that determines whether a person supports marriage equality. In the same survey, only 3 in 10 (30%) said they know someone who is transgender. Opponents of rights for the LGBTQ community know that transgender equality is a relatively new issue for many people. They use protections for transgender people as a wedge issue to rollback existing protections for the entire LGBTQ community and to prevent passage of new protections. Winning this fight in Massachusetts opens the door to winning the full equality we seek for all LGBTQ Americans.

Just as we saw with efforts to win marriage equality, everyday Americans from all political backgrounds are moved to support transgender nondiscrimination measures by opportunities to become more familiar with transgender people. Massachusetts Republican Rep. Sheila Harrington summed this up best when she shared her personal journey from opposing to supporting transgender protections in a speech during the 2016 legislative vote stating: “I have had the opportunity to listen again and for many hours, to transgender people and their loved ones who have eloquently and courageously shared their stories and experiences. I have been well aware of the arguments made against transgender rights, because I once made them myself. But I also know now that they are wrong.”

In the current landscape of myths and lies about who transgender people are, our wins can not be taken for granted. And what we have learned from people like Rep. Harrington in states across the country is that logic and reason aren’t always enough to change minds on this issue. It’s when Americans realize that transgender people are their friends, family members and neighbors, working alongside them and sharing similar dreams to build a good life for themselves and their families, that minds are changed and hearts are won.

With hard work and a smart strategy, I know that when Massachusetts voters are asked whether to continue treating their friends, family members, and and neighbors with dignity and respect, they will vote Yes on 3. And when they do, our movement will be one step closer to demonstrating that America is ready for nondiscrimination protections nationwide. Volunteers are walking door-to-door to talk to Massachusetts voters about an America we all believe in – a place where all people have the opportunity to achieve their American dream, and to do so without fear of discrimination. We know that voters simply need the opportunity to get to know their transgender neighbors, and that’s why we need all hands on deck.

If you haven’t yet joined Yes on 3 in seizing this historic opportunity, now is the time. Go to www.FreedomMA.org to learn how you can phone bank from any zip code, take a “volunteer vacation” to Massachusetts to join our door-to-door canvassing efforts, and contribute financially.


Kasey Suffredini is the president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans and co-chair of the Yes on 3 campaign.

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