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Rare peek behind closed doors of secret gay donor confab

Md. governor, looking for donations, offends high-profile contributors

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Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told a group of 200 LGBT donors that he supports civil unions over marriage rights for same-sex couples. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's office)

A controversial appearance by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley prompted participants in a closed-door conference of wealthy LGBT political donors, held May 15-16 in Chicago, to breach a strict a confidentiality policy after he told the gathering he favors civil unions over same-sex marriage.

O’Malley was one of at least four U.S. governors invited to address the annual Political OutGiving conference, a highly confidential event for a network of more than 200 big-stakes LGBT contributors to political campaigns.

The network is operated by the Denver-based Gill Action Fund, which was founded in 2006 by gay entrepreneur and multimillionaire Tim Gill

Members of the network are warned that violating the confidentiality policy could result in their expulsion.

But several participants, speaking on condition that they not be identified, ignored the warnings and informed the Washington Blade about an exchange between O’Malley and Julie Goodridge, the lesbian plaintiff in the Massachusetts lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in that state.

Goodridge reportedly interrupted O’Malley and told him that he appeared to be talking about civil unions the way people did in the early 2000s, multiple sources attending the event said.

“It’s 2010,” the sources quoted Goodridge as saying. It’s totally unacceptable to be pushing civil unions in a state like Maryland at this time when full marriage equality is gaining momentum among voters, sources paraphrased Goodridge as saying.

At least three people present during the exchange said the audience applauded Goodridge for her comments to O’Malley.

They said O’Malley, who expressed support for LGBT rights, replied that voters in his state aren’t ready for gay marriage. A recent Washington Post poll found for the first time that more Marylanders now support same-sex marriage than oppose it.

Joanne Kron, a spokesperson for Gill Action Fund, said in an e-mail that the group would not comment on the Goodridge-O’Malley exchange because “we don’t discuss the Political OutGiving conference, which is a private event.”

“Political OutGiving is a focused, bipartisan state-based strategy that concentrates on delivering resources from dedicated and generous donors to select campaigns in a limited number of states,” Kron said in her e-mail.

“Political OutGiving started in 2006 when hundreds of donors contributed around $3 million to targeted campaigns aimed at protecting or increasing the number of pro-LGBT supporters in state legislatures,” she said. “Political OutGiving similarly engaged in elections in 2008 and will be involved in campaigns in 2010.”

Goodridge did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment on her interaction with O’Malley.

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesperson for O’Malley’s re-election campaign, said O’Malley flew to Chicago to attend the OutGiving conference on May 15, after presenting the winning trophy at Baltimore’s annual Preakness horse racing event.

“The governor’s position has been clear on this issue and consistent — that he does support civil unions and that he felt we could have reached a consensus within the Maryland General Assembly to move the issue of civil unions forward,” Abbruzzese said.

“He has not supported gay marriage in the past,” he said, adding that while O’Malley doesn’t believe enough support exists to pass a same-sex marriage bill, he feels the legislature “could move and pass legislation on civil unions.”

But O’Malley once favored same-sex marriage. He privately told LGBT supporters in 2006 and 2007 in e-mails and during meetings that he supported civil marriage rights for gay couples, before the state’s high court ruled against such rights. He once told a Baltimore TV station that he backed civil marriage rights for gays.

Sources familiar with the OutGiving conference, which was held in Chicago’s upscale Peninsula Hotel, said O’Malley was joined at the event by Democratic governors Chet Culver of Iowa, John Lynch of New Hampshire, and Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania.

Also attending were Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish of New Mexico, who is running for governor, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.).

Attendees said a session in which O’Malley, Denish and other panelists participated was moderated by gay journalist Jonathan Capehart, who is an editorial writer for the Washington Post. Capehart could not immediately be reached for comment. Sources familiar with the event said Capehart, like most other participants in the event, agreed to keep his role and the meeting itself off the record.

Due to OutGiving’s confidentiality policy it could not be determined whether the Gill Action Fund, which operates the donor network, would give its support to O’Malley, who is being challenged this year by Republican former Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

O’Malley defeated Ehrlich in 2006, and political insiders are predicting a close race between the two rivals this year.

Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, a non-partisan statewide LGBT group, said that while the group is disappointed in O’Malley’s support for civil unions over same-sex marriage, she noted that he has repeatedly pledged to sign a same-sex marriage bill should it reach his desk.

By contrast, Meneses-Sheets points to Ehrlich’s decision to veto during his tenure as Maryland governor a limited domestic partnership bill that called for giving hospital visitation right to same-sex partners and medical decision-making authority for an incapacitated partner. She noted that Ehrlich has expressed opposition to same-sex marriage and, unlike O’Malley, could be expected to veto a marriage bill passed by the legislature.

Meneses-Sheets said that although pushing a same-sex marriage equality bill through the legislature next year will be a “challenge,” she and her Equality Maryland colleagues are hopeful that the remaining members of the State Senate who have blocked advancement of a marriage equality bill will be defeated in the November election.

“We have a plan in place and we’re working on all of the pieces it will take to get a win,” she said. “This is not a pie in the sky.”

Other LGBT activists in the state have expressed concern that O’Malley’s pledge to sign a marriage bill rings hollow because he refuses to use his political influence to push wavering lawmakers to back a marriage measure. Some activists say they doubt the November election, in which all members of the legislature come up before the voters, will result in enough new supporters to pass a marriage bill.

‘Moneyed gay people making things happen’

Although Gill Action’s Political OutGiving has been the subject of media coverage, including coverage in the LGBT press, the exchange between Goodridge and O’Malley appears to have triggered for the first time discussion and questions among members of the donor network about the need for the secrecy imposed by Gill Action’s leaders.

In response to the Blade’s inquiries about the Chicago conference, Gill Action Fund’s executive director, Patrick Guerriero, and its deputy executive director, Bill Smith, sent a joint e-mail to network donors on Tuesday urging them not to speak with the media.

“Doing really important work often attracts the media and we’ve been informed that a reporter is buzzing about the 2010 Political OutGiving conference,” the two said in their e-mail.

“As you know, the event is private and participant attendance is confidential,” Guerriero and Smith said.

Smith, who heads the Gill Action Fund’s Washington office, is a former aide to Bush administration official Karl Rove. Smith told the Advocate in a 2008 interview that pragmatic and sometimes hard-hitting tactics employed by Rove can be used by Gill Action for the advancement of LGBT equality.

“We’re not afraid to learn from anyone across the political spectrum who’s doing really smart work, be it EMILY’s List or GOPAC,” Smith told the Advocate.

EMILY’s List is a Democratic, liberal leaning group pushing for women’s rights that’s credited with helping elect Democrats to Congress. GOPAC is a Republican political action committee said to be responsible for helping Republicans win control of Congress during the 1990s.

Guerriero is a former Republican state legislator from Massachusetts and former president of the national gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans.

Guerriero and Smith have said in the past that Gill Action Fund assesses candidates running for public office to determine whether they should be supported or opposed. It then sends its recommendations to its “top secret” donor list, according to one source familiar with the group.

The donors then make individual contributions to the recommended candidates. The system makes it difficult to measure which candidates are benefiting from the gay network.

Although the names of contributors must be reported to the Federal Election Commission, which makes its reports available for public inspection, reviewing FEC records would be useless for identifying OutGiving donors because Gill Action Fund never releases their names.

“The fact that it’s being kept out of the public eye — that’s bad news,” said New York gay rights attorney and activist Bill Dobbs. “It’s too much wheeling and dealing behind closed doors.”

One of the OutGiving donors who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity disagreed with the strict confidentiality policy.

“I think part of it is they don’t want to run the risk that there would be stories that these rich gay people get together and push their agenda and it’s the moneyed gay people that are making things happen,” the donor said.

But the donor said the donations were helping the LGBT rights movement in the long run by sending more supportive lawmakers to Congress and the state legislatures.

Sources who attended the Political OutGiving conference said that in addition to the donors, a number of prominent officials with other LGBT rights groups attended the event. Among them were Evan Wolfson, executive director of the same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry; Steve Elmendorf, a gay former congressional staffer and Washington political consultant; Mary Breslauer, a Boston-based consultant for the Human Rights Campaign; Chuck Wolfe and Robin Brand, director and deputy director of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund; and Matt Foreman, former National Gay & Lesbian Task Force director and a current official with the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, which awards grants to LGBT organizations and causes.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Shannon Avery

    May 28, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Perfection is always the enemy of good. Martin O’Malley is good. He’s not perfect when it comes to the singular issue of gay marriage, but c’mon …. He said he would sign a marriage bill. (If GLBT advocates are so convinced that Maryland is “there” on gay marriage, then it shouldn’t be long before the bill arrives!) His administration quietly, but EFFECTIVELY, implemented domestic partner benefits for State employees. And the Department of Budget and Management provided the most clear and unequivocal advice to GLBT State employees regarding state benefits for partners as well as out-of-state married spouses. The O’Malley-Brown administration cares and wants to do the right thing. Do I wish they had a better “message” on marriage? Yes. But I’m not going to shoot myself in the head over it. Bob Erlich hates us. He’s AGAINST any equal benefits for GLBT people. He’s AGAINST gay marriage. He’s AGAINST glbt partner hospital visitation rights. He’s AGAINST fairness in transfer tax rules. He’s AGAINST us!!

    Please let’s try to work with the people who, in good faith, are there for us. Martin O’Malley has been there for us since he voted for the first domestic partnership bill in Maryland, back in 1994! He took a stand for us when others turned their backs.

    As a community we need to work strategically with our friends, and play nice with each other. :)

  2. Janice Bledsoe, Esq.

    May 28, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Is it really about the right to marry or the rights associated with marriage? What if Maryland and the federal government granted the same rights and protections to all committed couples not just married couples? Would our community scream and yell about not being able to “get married”? Just let me file joint taxes, share in the same tax benefits, have the same social security benefits, enjoy the same real property rights when I own property with my partner,have the same hospital visitation rights and death rights, and have the same insurance rights. Governor O’Malley has supported the granting of those rights. He signed legislation exempting same sex couples from recordation fees and transfer taxes on real property; he ordered the State Department of Budget and Management to make the Employee and Retiree Health and Welfare Benefits Program inclusive of same-sex couples who have valid marriages that were performed in other states;he signed anti-bullying legislation to protect students who were being bullied based on sexual orientation;he signed domestic partner health care legislation giving domestic partners access to each other for hospital visitation, access to a domestic partner’s medical records and after death rights. Governor O’Malley supports our rights. What rights did our community receive while Robert Erhlich was governor? Governor O’Malley has earned our support.

  3. Peter the saint

    May 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    “Bash the gays”! .. .softly… and it STILL scores mega political points. Yeah, “separate but equal” unions… bigotry of convenience – or is it of opportunity… “let ’em eat cake/civil unions”… uh, with NO federal rights! Only makes the rest of the world think that we now have everything they have – EQUALITY – which is untrue, but the world then believes it anyway. But then, all those “blueball-dog democrats” will see that O’Malley is still resisting TheGayAgenda! Go Gov!! Thereby “saving” civilized society from destruction… at least for one more year. Ugh, makes me wanna puke.

    And just look at how BlueDem Jim Webb voted against us on DADT. Such a He-Man, that guy, protecting the sanctity of marriage, and heterosexuality because only the straights can shoot a gun. Hmm, reminds me, I wonder if he ever succeeded in sneaking a gun into the Capitol Bldg, after his first attempt was caught by security. What a guy. He’ll show that Pelosi a thing or two, yes sirree, tough, man, tough. Ugh again.

  4. Donny

    May 28, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    The author of this article should get their facts straight. Martin O’Malley, at the Chicago meeting, said that he is following the will of the voters in that they favor civil marriage over gay marriage. The article states that a recent poll shows that most Marylanders now support gay marriage. What the article did not say was that the poll came out after his comments were made – meaning they are out of context. If the voters now support gay marriage, the Governor probably does, too.

  5. Just The Facts, Ma'am

    May 29, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Just want to clarify some facts regarding the O’Malley appearance at OutGiving, and point out some concerns for the O’Malley camp as election season warms up.
    1. The Wash Post poll was published on May 10th, O’Malley spoke to the OutGiving meeting on May 15th. That should have been plenty of time to get his facts straight about Maryland public opinion on marriage. Who is staffing this guy on glbt issues ? They should be fired ! Or maybe — someone should be hired ? Did anyone check with Equality Maryland to get some strategy before he went out to Chicago ?
    2. Even though Ehrlich may be no friend to our community, that does nothing to energize glbt voters to get out and vote for O’Malley. Politics 101 — campaign support and voter energy only coalesce around anger (see Tea Party), and hope (see BHO). Right now — O’Malley has neither as a motivating force for glbt voters and supporters. Hating the alternative worked in the last election, but would be a hard sell this time since Ehrlich has been out of the public sphere for 4 years. As far as putting our hopes in O’Malley — how can we be hopeful about a guy whose official position is that we deserve less rights than he has. That’s not a messaging problem, that is THE problem.

  6. Stan James

    May 30, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Unfortunately with the sick bigots in this state – MD, including the church hierarchy now known as Molesters R US, I think it will be real difficult if not impossible to get gay civil marriage, or MD will become wha t- perhaps the 32nd state to to end up with a constitutional amendment against gays.

    I also note that Washington States “all but the word marriage” domestic partnership law was not overturned in their referendum. While ME and CA were.

    And I’ve talked to a lot of decent people on this issue who simply can’t quite stomach the word “marriage”, even though they believe that gays should have equal rights.

    So it is half a loaf, or nothing in my opinion. And civil unions will help pave the way for marriage. As more people get comfortable with the idea in general.

    The only way that you will get civil marriage for gays in MD is via the courts. Gay people lost last time a couple years ago, with a decision that looked like it was written by the church of MOlesters R US themselves. I think a number of the Judges on the state top court have changed, but I don’t know how that might alter the balance.

    And I don’t have a way to throw all the bigots into the hellfires of the earth, where they belong.

    Sorry, thats my opinion.

    And even more important then gay marriage is gay people coming out of the closet all over the place. Which is what ending DADT is about BTW. Just thik – all those good christian boys from the south will discover that some of their friends and comrades are gay. And another demographic group will see through the gross lies of the madmen of the family research council, and other bigot groups.

    Polls have shown that while about 50% of the populace supports gays if they don’t know any, the number grows to about 75% if they do know gay people.

    Its kinda hard to hate someone you know and respect. And in the end, those 75%, when they are a big majority of the population, all things are possible and the evil churches will receive their due

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age

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Mark Glaze's death by suicide is bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men.

The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reflective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age.

Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life.

Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life.

“You’re talking about a gay-identified man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suffer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.”

Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly fleeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism.

Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reflective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.”

“My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they find themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.”

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide.

The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.”

“Gay men’s health has often been defined by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says.

The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment.

In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks.

In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting.

Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.”

“We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.”

Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting.

Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities start fading when men enter middle age.

Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him.

“If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the comments are about how Mark was so good looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superficial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.”

One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community.

Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises.

Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere.

“If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are specifically trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.”

Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaffirm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth.

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process.

“What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.”

Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that figure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater.

Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years.

With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether sufficient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available.

Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are sufficient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.”

“It’s definitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the difficult thing is to find the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.”

Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.”

Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant.

“There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”

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