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Obama rejects attacks on Clement’s DOMA defense

Carney says president supports right of Congress to defend anti-gay law



White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Obama shares the view expressed earlier this week by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that attacks on the private attorney who volunteered to litigate on behalf of the Defense of Marriage Act are “misplaced,” according to the White House.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during an off-camera press gaggle Wednesday that statements from Holder, who earlier this week rebuffed those who would vilify former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement for taking up defense of DOMA, reflected Obama’s position.

“We do share Eric Holder’s views on this,” Carney said. “We think — as we said from the beginning when we talked about — when I did from this podium — about the decision no longer from the administration to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, that we would support efforts by Congress if they so chose to defend it. And so I have nothing to add to the attorney general’s comments.”

Following a party-line vote by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group in March, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) directed House General Counsel Kerry Kercher to take up defense of DOMA in court. President Obama had earlier announced that he determined the 1996 anti-gay statute prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and that his administration would no longer defend it in court.

On April 14, Kircher executed a contract with Clement, who was then affiliated with the firm King & Spalding, for assistance with defense of DOMA at a blended rate of $520 an hour and initial total sum cap that could reach $500,000.

Following intense criticism from the LGBT community, King & Spalding announced that it would no longer participate in defense of the anti-gay law because of an inadequate vetting process in taking up the case. Clement resigned from his position at the firm and took up a partnership at Bancroft LLC while pledging to continue to defend DOMA.

According to Politico, Holder earlier this week rejected attacks on Clement from the LGBT community during a roundtable with reporters and came to the defense of the private attorney for sticking with the case.

“Paul Clement is a great lawyer and has done a lot of really great things for this nation. In taking on the representation — representing Congress in connection with DOMA, I think he is doing that which lawyers do when we’re at our best,” Holder reportedly said. “That criticism, I think, was very misplaced.”

Holder also reportedly compared attacks on Clement to attacks on Justice Department lawyers for their past work for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

“It was something we dealt with here in the Department of Justice,” Holder was quoted as saying. “The people who criticized our people here at the Justice Department were wrong then, as are people who criticized Paul Clement for the representation that he’s going to continue.”

Among the groups that joined in the outcry after the contract was executed with Clement to defend DOMA in court was the Human Rights Campaign, which pledged to launch a campaign to inform King & Spalding’s clients and potential recruits about the decision to defend DOMA. The firm announced it would drop defense of the anti-gay following HRC’s announcement.

Last week, HRC President Joe Solmonese criticized both King & Spalding and Clement for litigating on behalf of the 1996 law.

“DOMA inflicts a great cost on same-sex couples but now its defense is burdening taxpayers to the tune of $520 per hour,” Solmonese said. “The firm of King & Spalding and their attorney Paul Clement should be ashamed at every penny earned in trying to justify discrimination against American families.”

Although Solmonese identified both King & Spalding and Clement in his statement, Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications, asserted that Holder’s comments defending Clement are inaccurate because the LGBT rights group went after the firm and not the private attorney.

“We have a great deal of respect for Attorney General Holder,” Sainz said. “His comments on the particulars of our involvement are inaccurate. We never criticized Paul Clement. Our issue has been with King & Spalding, the firm that employed him. K&S espouses LGBT inclusion on their website. This engagement is completely antithetical to those values and thus our central claim has been hypocrisy. You simply can’t square espousing LGBT inclusion and defending discrimination.”

Sainz continued that Carney rightly observed that the House is fully within its rights to defend the law — now that the Obama administration has chosen to drop defense of the statute — and said HRC doesn’t disagree with the White House press secretary.

“We wish [the House] hadn’t, we don’t believe there is a necessity given the pain and suffering that it inflicts on gay and lesbian families, but we don’t disagree that they have the legal right to defend the statute given that they passed it,” Sainz said.

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, said he’s unsure that Holder’s remarks should be interpreted as criticism of LGBT rights groups for attacking Clement and also maintained the House is within its rights to defend DOMA in court.

“I think that he is a lawyer of a certain political viewpoint, and he’s now at a firm that takes these cases that are highly politically charged,” Socarides said. “The case is now probably in an appropriate place. I don’t have any problems with what Holder said in so far as he’s simply stating the fact that Boehner has a right to pursue this course. No one is suggesting he doesn’t have a right to do this, and if he wants to hire Paul Clement to do it, and Paul Clement wants to represent him, that’s totally fine.”

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  1. StanJames

    April 27, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Boehner – who kisses the ass of the church run by the Godfather of pedophila, RATZI

    • SkeeterVT

      April 30, 2011 at 9:28 am

      God knows that I’m no fan of the Roman Catholic Church — I’m an ex-Catholic-turned-Wiccan — But I cannot allow StanJames’ remark go unanswered. there are better ways to criticize House
      Speaker John Boehner — or, for that matter, Pope Benedict XVI — without resorting to the kind of hateful language that so many on the far right use against LGBT people.

  2. Tim

    April 27, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Did the congressional office follow proper and legal contracting procedures? Did they enter into a sole source contract on a noncompetitive basis? Did they follow the established procedures when entering into this agreement with the supplier (Clements) noncompetitively?

  3. Barrack Hussein Osama Obama

    April 28, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Dems were in power for 2 years – controlling House, Senate, Presidency. Why is it that gas is now $4 per gallon and will soon be $5 per gallon? Because the demos PRIORITY was to 1. Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
    2. Repeal DOMA
    3. Pass OBAMA Care
    4. Increase the deficit by Trillions by the “federal stimulus” program that has yet to produce USA jobs. But China factories get paid because that is the OBAMA way.

    • Matt Rider

      May 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      Careful, your ignorance is showing. Neither the president nor congress has the ability to set gas prices. That is the sole domain of the oil companies, who incidentally are strongly allied to the Rebulican Party.

  4. Mr Chris

    April 29, 2011 at 2:24 am

    This headline is very mis-leading as it on other LGBT sites. But then again you can always vote for someone else in 2012 like Trump….LOL

  5. Little Man

    April 29, 2011 at 4:58 am


  6. Little Man

    April 29, 2011 at 5:06 am

    By now, Paul Clement has gotten a taste of the kind of tactics he will be facing in the defense of The Defense of Marriage Act, paid by the House of Reps. By now, King & Spalding have gotten a taste of the kind of people that want to give their law firm a “good rating” – those who oppose DOMA, a law fair and square – plus they lose 1/2 million in income.

    With that kind of money, and the free advertisement the defense of The Defense of Marriage Act has now gotten, Clement can easily set up his own law firm, and hire assistants. Certainly at least 1/2 of the population of voters of the USA are on his side, and we are aggravated.

    Thanks for the publicity LGBT and Equality Matters – you have just shown us what you mean by “equality”.

  7. Scott

    April 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Unfortunately, both President Obama and Attorney General Holder miss the point on criticizing King & Spaulding’s / Clement’s legal representation of DOMA. This is not a matter of an individual person or organization being accused of violating the law and being prosecuted by the state. DOMA denies constitutionally protected equal access against an entire class of citizens. DOMA is a cultural war and those who defend it must be punished as war criminals.

  8. Rick Mangus

    April 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm


  9. Christine

    April 29, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    King and Spaulding signed a retainer that said none of their employees (even those not on the case) could participate in anti-DOMA advocacy (such as lobbying, personal political speech, and non-work related activism). Employees at the firm rebelled, the public objected, and the firm backed out of the contract.

  10. Peter the saint

    April 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Re: this, and Kagan praising Clement in WaPo: I believe that King & Spalding did what many, many groups and corporations do: they put up a webpage and a policy (easy! done!) that advocates for fairness and equality for LGBT folks. And the managers had NO IDEA that “Oh my gosh! They really CARE about this issue! Deeply! Wow – this really IS a civil rights issue! What were we thinking?!” And you know what: yes, we had to HOLD IT UP RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEIR FACES, AND STOP THEM, HOLD THEM STILL AND SAY “LOOK! LOOK AT IT! SEE? HEAR US? DO YOU GET IT??” And lo and behold, then and ONLY then, after being made to look harder, and farther, were they able to have a “eurkea!” moment, only after THAT did they get it! Now they understand! “It’s about fairness! It’s about equality!” Everything they said they knew – but did NOT yet know, nor understand. I hope they thank us for showing them! :D

    So take THAT, Mr. Obama and Ms. Kagan :-\ Clement took an issue that he himself is biased about (obviously) and will follow till its end: because he does NOT believe in fairness and equality for LGBT folks. We all remember WELL the Bush efforts to align ALL religions, and their leaders and their followers, from around the entire WORLD no less, to take up “cultural arms” and help him and his admins DEFEAT “the gay agenda” (barf/puke). It’s a huge shame. Not only because it is shameful, and is teaching multiple millions to hate LGBT folks and treat them badly. But also a shame because the energy of all those millions of otherwise caring people could be helping to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shoe the shoeless, and house the poor. THAT is what Jesus would do. Oh well, thanks Bush. Thanks Clement, thanks Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, maybe next century, huh? :(

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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



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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Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday



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.

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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



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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