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National News in Brief: September 23

A Maggie Gallagher at the premier of ‘8’ surprised many



Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, surprised attendees of the premiere of ‘8’ when she was spotted in the audience. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gallagher attends ‘Milk’ screenwriter’s Prop 8 play

The star-studded premiere of Dustin Lance Black’s play ‘8’ based on the Proposition 8 trial had an unexpected audience member last week — National Organization for Marriage’s board chair, Maggie Gallagher.

The marriage equality opponent, Gallagher, is portrayed in the play by Tony-nominated actress Jayne Houdyshell. According to Andy Towle of, who captured several photographs of the anti-marriage leader, Gallagher engaged in debate with marriage advocates outside of the play, but beyond crinkling a loud bag of snacks she brought in throughout the show, was otherwise not disruptive during the performance.

The show features Ellen Barkin, Bob Balaban, Matt Bomer, Campbell Brown, Anthony Edwards, Morgan Freeman, Cheyenne Jackson, Larry Kramer, Christine Lahti, John Lithgow, Rory O’Malley, Rob Reiner, Yeardley Smith and Bradley Whitford. The script is based on the transcripts of the historic ‘Perry v. Schwarzenegger’ trial, currently being appealed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge: Prop 8 trial video will be released

SAN FRANCISCO — A Federal District Court judge has ordered the tapes released from the 2010 Proposition 8 trial, despite pleas from gay rights opponents to keep the tapes secret.

“Foremost among the aspects of the federal judicial system that foster public confidence in the fairness and integrity of the process are public access to trials and public access to the record of judicial proceedings,” Chief Justice James Ware wrote in his ruling, which is stayed until Sept. 30. “Consequently, once an item is placed in the record of judicial proceedings, there must be compelling reasons for keeping that item secret.”

In 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Prop 8, the California constitutional amendment barring marriage between citizens of the same sex. The Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial was allowed to be recorded, and the sponsors of the case, American Foundation for Equal Rights have called for the release of the tapes as a matter of transparency.

Michigan House approves ban on DP benefits

LANSING, Mich. — Despite vocal opposition during debate, last week the Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation, stripping the state’s public universities of their right to offer domestic partnership benefits to same-sex partners of employees.

Citing the 2004 Michigan Constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 2, Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville) pushed HB 4770 and 4771 to prohibit the benefits, according to the Michigan Messenger.

The fate of the bill now rests in the state Senate, also Republican controlled. Whether or not Gov. Rick Snyder would sign the measure is unclear, as one of the governor’s legal counsels, Michael Gadola wrote to the majority leaders in both houses calling into question the constitutionality of both bills.

Australia implements trans-friendly passport policy

CANBERRA, Australia — In a move that may lead to changes around the world, Australia has announced that it will allow transgender or intersex citizens to choose against identifying with either “M” or “F” on passports.

According to the blog ThinkProgress, citing challenges that trans and intersex residents face in security while traveling, Australia will allow residents to apply for passports with the gender designator “X.” Australia also will no longer restrict gender marker changes to trans people who have already undergone gender reassignment surgery, and allow the changes after an applicant receives a doctor’s note.

Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus launches

WASHINGTON — Reps. Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott and Trent Franks are launching the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, which will take a leading role in the House of Representatives in advocating for stronger HIV/AIDS policies both at home and abroad.

“American leadership in the global fight against HIV/AIDS began a decade ago when Republican and Democratic leaders stood together and refused to allow a deadly disease to claim a generation of African teachers, nurses, doctors, parents and children,” said senior adviser Michael Gerson in a press release from the caucus. “The HIV/AIDS caucus announced today will remind Congress of a great bipartisan achievement – and of a continuing responsibility to save lives.”

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Victory Fund honors gay Guatemalan congressman at D.C. conference

Aldo Dávila a vocal critic of country’s government



Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila speaks at the 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference after he received the Global Trailblazer Award. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Victory Fund on Friday honored an openly gay Guatemalan congressman who has faced death threats because of his efforts to fight corruption in his country.

Dávila — a member of the Winaq movement, a leftist party founded by Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner — in 2019 became the first openly gay man elected to Guatemala’s congress. Dávila, who also lives with HIV, had previously been the executive director of Asociación Gente Positiva, a Guatemala City-based HIV/AIDS service organization.

Supporters of President Alejandro Giammattei have lodged several formal complaints against Dávila after he publicly criticized the government over corruption, its response to the pandemic and other issues.

Three men on April 19 approached Dávila’s vehicle near Guatemala’s National Library and tried to rob him. One of Dávila’s bodyguards shot one of the men, but the two other assailants fled the scene before police officers and passersby arrived.

Dávila told the Washington Blade in September during an interview at a Guatemala City hotel that he and his partner installed cameras in their apartment after someone killed their dog.

Two female police officers who arrived at the hotel with Dávila sat in the lobby while he spoke with the Blade. The government a few weeks later reduced his security detail.

“Guatemala is living through the worst democratic crisis in the last 40 years,” said Dávila after he accepted the Victory Fund’s Global Trailblazer Award at its 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference that is taking place in-person at the JW Marriott in downtown D.C. “Guatemala right now is being paralyzed by corruption and impunity and my voice is uncomfortable because of this.”

Dávila became emotional at the end of his remarks.

“I will keep fighting for our rights,” he said.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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