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Grenell questions timing of Obama’s marriage announcement

But former Romney spokesman says Obama deserves credit for endorsement

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The gay Republican briefly affiliated with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign said President Obama’s support for marriage equality places him “on the right side of history,” but cautioned politicians against “playing politics” with civil rights.

Richard Grenell, who was Romney’s foreign policy spokesperson for a week before resigning, said Obama could have endorsed marriage equality while Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress or before the vote on the same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina in an email to the Washington Blade.

“President Obama’s decision to personally support gay marriage means he will be on the right side of history,” Grenell said. “He deserves credit for finally taking a stand in favor of equality. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep politicians from playing politics with a group’s civil rights. Democrats and Republicans continue to calculate the political implications of their positions, and the timing of the president’s announcement suggests his position is a political move too. While the president could have evolved when the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate or even yesterday before the swing state of North Carolina voted on the issue, Republicans should also remember that young people and many Christians believe in civil equality.”

Grenell, who’s gay, became in April the first openly gay spokesperson for a Republican presidential candidate, leading some observers to speculate Romney had hired him to seem more moderate as the presidential campaign heads toward the general election. But he resigned a week later when anti-gay conservatives railed against the decision and liberals took him on for Twitter messages criticizing women and Democratic leaders.

Grenell has previously weighed in on Obama’s lack of support for marriage equality. In an op-ed to the Washington Blade published on April 20 titled, “Gay Dems excuse Obama’s failings for party invitations,” Grenell criticized Obama supporters for praising him and attending State Dinners while the president continues to “evolve” on same-sex marriage.

On the same day that Obama came out for same-sex marriage, Romney restated his own opposition to marriage equality. In an interview with a Fox News affiliate in Denver, Romney expressed opposition to both same-sex marriage and civil unions, saying “I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”

Grenell’s remarks echo those made by Log Cabin Republicans following Obama’s announcement. R.Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s executive director, said the president’s decision to come out for marriage equality after North Carolina voted on the issue is “offensive and callous.”

“That the president has chosen today, when LGBT Americans are mourning the passage of Amendment One, to finally speak up for marriage equality is offensive and callous,” Cooper said. “Log Cabin Republicans appreciate that President Obama has finally come in line with leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney on this issue, but LGBT Americans are right to be angry that this calculated announcement comes too late to be of any use to the people of North Carolina, or any of the other states that have addressed this issue on his watch. This administration has manipulated LGBT families for political gain as much as anybody, and after his campaign’s ridiculous contortions to deny support for marriage equality this week he does not deserve praise for an announcement that comes a day late and a dollar short.”

The criticism from gay Republicans invoked the ire of Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, who maintained the president’s announcement was significant.

“These groups are truly shameless in their desperate attempt to provide cover for the atrociously regressive positions held by the GOP and Mitt Romney,” Davis said. “Just today, Mitt Romney came out singing the party line expressing his complete opposition to marriage equality and civil unions.”

Davis took particular offense to Republicans invoking Cheney as a leader in LGBT rights — even though he has endorsed marriage equality and called for reconsideration of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before it was repealed.

“Cheney was, by most accounts, the most powerful vice president in history,” Davis said. “He had the power to order torture, wire-tapping, and got us into two wars – yet he did absolutely nothing to advance LGBT equality with that power in the entire eight years he was in office. When George Bush and Ken Mehlman — himself a closeted gay man at the time — concocted their scheme to advance a federal marriage amendment for political gain, Cheney sat idly by and did nothing to stop it.”

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. I'm Just Sayin'

    May 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    The position espoused by LCR on a day that Gay Americans have been waiting for since Stonewall (and are right to take comfort in) calls into question whether Cooper has a shred of strategic sense or cultural savvy. LCR clearly missed the historical significance. Or maybe they didn’t and that makes what LCR published about Obama and their overtures to Romney even sadder. Desperation is never pretty.

    Perhaps LCR should have paid more attention to the example set by a man who they deemed a conservative hero, Ted Olsen. He was gracious, uplifting and inclusive in his comments when he tweeted: “Today is a proud day for all Americans….Obama’s words remind us that marriage and equality are universal values.”

    For LCR to dismiss Romney’s opposition to marriage equality as “unfortunate” is mind boggling. “Unfortunate” is when hair gel won’t do it’s job. Romney’s views on gay marriage and civil unions are patently offensive to any gay person who has a modicum of self-esteem and measures the quality of their citizenship by more than the size of their wallet.

    Plus, for LCR to also suggest that the solution for republicans is to keep their anti-gay views hidden, demonstrates that they are ignoring the realities of what a Romney presidency means for equality. Espousing that Republican leaders and candidates keep their bigoted views “in the closet” is not a viable strategy for a gay advocacy organization that aspires to be relevant.

    LCR demonstrated two things yesterday, a lack of class, and another in what has become a long line of failed attempts at defending the indefensible. The goodwill they earned from the DADT victory is being consumed at monumental speed. Another callous episode of this nature will deplete it for sure.

    • chris

      May 11, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Thank you very much…fanned!

  2. Newt's Fourth Wife

    May 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    “‘That the president has chosen today, when LGBT Americans are mourning the passage of Amendment One, to finally speak up for marriage equality is offensive and callous,’ Cooper said.”

    Uhhhhhhhhhhh….

    So that would mean that remaining un-evolved would have been, uhhhhh…., fine and dandy?

    So, Coop, are you also pissed off that Obama didn’t wait until after the 2012 elections to take out Bin Laden?

  3. Pro-equality

    May 12, 2012 at 8:11 am

    It seems to me that gay republicans have too much to criticize for being on the wrong team. After all they live and breathe with the enemy. They support the enemy financially, socially, politically and morally. So they need to be sure of how and what they say before they say it.

  4. Fausto Fernandez

    May 15, 2012 at 8:58 am

    It seems to me that gay Republicans are heavily into S&M. Well, into M really: masochism

  5. Corey Martin

    May 16, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I’m Just Sayin’
    The position espoused by LCR on a day that Gay Americans have been waiting for since Stonewall (and are right to take comfort in) calls into question whether Cooper has a shred of strategic sense or cultural savvy. LCR clearly missed the historical significance. Or maybe they didn’t and that makes what LCR published about Obama and their overtures to Romney even sadder. Desperation is never pretty.
    Perhaps LCR should have paid more attention to the example set by a man who they deemed a conservative hero, Ted Olsen. He was gracious, uplifting and inclusive in his comments when he tweeted: “Today is a proud day for all Americans….Obama’s words remind us that marriage and equality are universal values.”
    For LCR to dismiss Romney’s opposition to marriage equality as “unfortunate” is mind boggling. “Unfortunate” is when hair gel won’t do it’s job. Romney’s views on gay marriage and civil unions are patently offensive to any gay person who has a modicum of self-esteem and measures the quality of their citizenship by more than the size of their wallet.
    Plus, for LCR to also suggest that the solution for republicans is to keep their anti-gay views hidden, demonstrates that they are ignoring the realities of what a Romney presidency means for equality. Espousing that Republican leaders and candidates keep their bigoted views “in the closet” is not a viable strategy for a gay advocacy organization that aspires to be relevant.
    LCR demonstrated two things yesterday, a lack of class, and another in what has become a long line of failed attempts at defending the indefensible. The goodwill they earned from the DADT victory is being consumed at monumental speed. Another callous episode of this nature will deplete it for sure.

    [Translate]

    I truly think he is evolving as a person and President. I would rather have someone in office who would speak out on the issue eventually, than never! This article has the most useless meaning. ANYONE, in politics uses calculated moves (who the hell don’t know that?). I personally believe that after a devastating blow like NC’s vote against gays, that his timing couldn’t have been better. Everyone who receives bad news likes to also receive good news, and I am sure that was his angle (worked for me). My wish is that you would stop twisting his positives into negatives and to stop siding with the un-sideable (Romney). He doesn’t even believe that you have the right to love your partner in the same sense of which he loves his wife. He is an elitist, who thinks the worse of our kind, looks down on our thoughts and views. Thank you Mr. President for standing on my side of the fence the view is so much better from here!

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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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National

‘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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