Connect with us


Holder calls on LGBT attorneys to advance cause of equality

Att’y gen’l addresses annual gay lawyer convention



U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on LGBT lawyers Thursday night to draw on their “considerable passion and expertise” to build on the progress the Obama administration has already made on advancing LGBT rights.

During his keynote speech at the LGBT Bar Association’s annual Lavender Law Conference, Holder said those in attendance are or will be “uniquely situated to use the power of the law” to create a more equal society.

“And you have not only the power, but – I believe – the solemn responsibility, to do precisely that: to safeguard the rights and freedoms of everyone in this country, and to carry on the critical but unfinished work that lies ahead,” Holder said.

Holder added as he looked around the room that he “can’t help but feel optimistic” about where the efforts of attendees will take the country in the months and years ahead.

The attorney general delivered the remarks before an estimated 1,000 people at the dinner, which took place during the three-day conference at the Washington Hilton in D.C. Attendees discussed the conference as they dined on steak and salmon dinners prepared by the hotel’s kitchen.

During his speech, the attorney general ticked off numerous accomplishments of the Obama administration on LGBT issues, including repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the discontinuation of defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court and working with school districts to investigate and address bullying. Additionally, Holder said the Justice Department continues to “fight for” passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination and an updated Violence Against Women Act with LGBT protections.

Holder cited a Connecticut district court’s recent ruling against Section 3 of DOMA as part of the fallout of the Justice Department’s decision to no longer defend the anti-gay law — noting the judge shared the Obama administration’s belief that laws related to sexual orientation should be subjected to heightened scrutiny, or the assumption they’re unconstitutional.

“Since then, we’ve seen an encouraging – and increasing – number of courts hold this provision to be unconstitutional, including a federal district court in Connecticut that found that Section 3 fails to survive heightened constitutional scrutiny just last month,” Holder said.

Holder was well received by the audience, which gave him a standing ovation both upon his entrance to the stage and his exit.

Jonah Richmond, a gay 25-year-old student at Vermont Law School, said seeing Holder’s speech was the “opportunity of a lifetime” because of the historic nature of the times on LGBT rights.

Richmond added he was stricken by Holder’s commitment to not defend DOMA and the attorney general’s willingness to cite his LGBT attorneys in the Justice Department to show “he’s very comfortable working with them.”

Steve Ralls, a spokesperson for Immigration Equality, was in attendance during the speech and expressed a similar satisfaction with the attorney’s general remarks.

“I thought the attorney general’s speech was fantastic,” Ralls said. “He did a great job of highlighting the work the administration has done on behalf of the community and highlighting that there’s work left to be done.”

After if anything was absent from the speech that he wished he heard, Ralls replied, “Immigration Equality has a number of outstanding asks to the attorney general and other Cabinet agencies. We remain optimistic that the record of this administration will continue in the direction of progress. We hope by the this time next year, we’ll hear about all the great couples that are getting green cards.”

Among the outstanding requests Immigration Equality has for the administration is placing the marriage-based green card applications for bi-national same-sex couples in abeyance so they can remain together in the United States without fear of deportation.

The attorney general’s full prepared remarks follow:


Thank you, D’Arcy, for those kind words – and thank you all for such a warm welcome.  It’s a pleasure to be here tonight, and a privilege to join with each of you – and with so many members of the National LGBT Bar Association – in celebrating and renewing our shared commitment to advancing the cause of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

I’d particularly like to recognize the Association’s staff and entire leadership team, and to thank them for all they’ve done to bring us together for this year’s Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair. For more than two decades, this important annual event has brought together hundreds of legal practitioners and law students from across the country. This conference provides an opportunity to highlight the extraordinary work that this organization’s members are leading and participating in every day.  And it offers a chance to reflect on the progress that, especially over the past few years, each of you has helped make possible – and to reaffirm our determination to carry this essential work into the future.

Because of your dedicated efforts, you have made this year’s gathering the largest minority recruiting event in the country, and the most successful Lavender Law Conference yet – with over 260 employers in attendance, including multiple representatives from the United States Department of Justice. In fact, I’m pleased to report that tonight we’re joined by a number of senior Deparment leaders, as well as five United States Attorneys who are strong LGBT allies: Melinda Haag, from the Northern District of California; David Hickton, from the Western District of Pennsylvania; Amanda Marshall, from the District of Oregon; Stephen Wigginton, from the Southern District of Illinois; and Robert Pitman, from the Western District of Texas.

Through workshop sessions, career counseling, and panel discussions, this conference is providing a unique platform for mentoring and engagement among some of the best attorneys in America on cutting-edge legal issues. You’re helping to call attention to the obstacles and biases – in forms both overt and subtle – that continue to affect far too many LGBT Americans every day. And you’re encouraging collaboration, cooperation, and more effective advocacy as we seek to design and implement innovative strategies for confronting the most persistent challenges that far too many Americans face.

As Attorney General, I consider it a privilege to be part of this annual gathering, and to join such a diverse group of partners, colleagues, and friends in working to strengthen our nation’s legal community, and legal system. And as an American, I am deeply proud to stand with you in celebrating the remarkable, once-unimaginable progress that – particularly over the past three and a half years – your leadership and coordinated efforts have helped to bring about.

We’ve come together at an exciting moment. Thanks to the work of tireless advocates, activists, and attorneys in – and far beyond – this room, our nation has made great strides on the road to LGBT equality and the unfinished struggle to secure and protect the civil rights of all< Americans. For President Obama, for me, and for our colleagues at every level of the Obama Administration, this work has long been a top priority – and I’m pleased to note that it has resulted in meaningful, measurable, and enduring change. We can all be proud that, today – for the first time in history – those who courageously serve their country in uniform need no longer hide their sexual orientation.  As we approach the one-year anniversary of the end of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," it’s worth celebrating the fact that so many brave servicemen and women can now serve their country proudly, honestly, openly, and without fear of discharge.  We can take pride in the fact that, early last year, President Obama and I directed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Since then, we’ve seen an encouraging – and increasing – number of courts hold this provision to be unconstitutional, including a federal district court in Connecticut that found that Section 3 fails to survive heightened constitutional scrutiny just last month. And we can be encouraged by the robust efforts that our nation’s Department of Justice is leading to ensure the vigorous enforcement of civil rights protections in order to safeguard LGBT individuals and others from the most brutal forms of bias-motivated violence. Thanks to the outstanding leadership of my good friend, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez – and the dedication of skilled investigators, attorneys, law enforcement officials, and support staffers within the Department’s Civil Rights Division and throughout its partner agencies – today, this work is stronger than ever before. And our resolve to meet evolving threats with renewed vigilance has never been more clear. This past April, the Department issued its first-ever indictment for a hate crime based on sexual orientation under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act – a landmark measure signed into law by President Obama in 2009, which many of the people in this room helped to move forward – in relation to an alleged anti-gay crime in Kentucky. Since then, we’ve continued to review reported incidents that may fall under this legislation. Under this law, we’re working to strengthen our ability to achieve justice on behalf of those who are victimized simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And we stand ready to vigorously pursue allegations of federal hate crimes wherever they arise; to bring charges whenever they are warranted; and to support the efforts of our state and local law enforcement partners to enforce their own hate crimes laws. The Civil Rights Division is also taking the lead in bolstering our ability to educate and train federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials on sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination, in order to ensure that those who serve on the front lines are well-equipped to prevent, identify, and stop it wherever it occurs. Just last month, the Department filed an historic consent decree with the City of New Orleans to address allegations of discrimination and harassment by local police, including against LGBT individuals. In this agreement, and in our broader efforts to combat such actions, we have demonstrated the importance – and the effectiveness – of working closely with elected and appointed authorities to identify troubling practices, to correct patterns of repeated violations, and to craft policies and procedures that ensure the rights and freedoms of the citizens that our law enforcement officers are sworn to serve and protect.  In recent years, we’ve taken significant steps to raise awareness about the role that community leaders, public officials, and educators can play in protecting a variety of vulnerable populations – particularly the youngest members of our society.  And we’ve worked to expand and extend these protections to make certain that our children can feel safe in their homes, on our streets – and especially in our schoolyards and classrooms. As many of you know all too well, every school year, bullying touches the lives of countless young people. As we’ve seen all too clearly, it can have a devastating – and potentially lifelong – impact.  In response, the Department has been collaborating with educators, administrators, and students in school districts nationwide to investigate and address this troubling behavior. We’re working with our partners – including federal allies like the Department of Education, under the leadership of Secretary Arne Duncan – to explore ways to stop harassment and bullying before it starts.  In places like Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District – where an investigation found that some students faced threats, physical violence, derogatory language, and other forms of harassment on a daily basis – we’ve successfully engaged with school districts and advocates to resolve harassment allegations and lay out detailed blueprints for sustainable reform. As we move forward, we will continue to promote safe and healthy learning environments; to support a Student Non-Discrimination Act that would allow us to better address harassment and bullying based on an individual’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity; to provide assistance to bullying victims; and to work closely with local leaders, parents, educators, and young people themselves to make certain that all of our students can feel safe – and free to be themselves – in school. Beyond these efforts, the Justice Department continues to support – and to fight for – legislative and policy reforms like an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend protections to LGBT individuals in all workplaces, and an updated Violence Against Women Act that would ensure that the law’s non-discrimination provisions cover sexual orientation and gender identity. Even in the face of extraordinary budget challenges, we remain determined to use every available resource to build the necessary institutional and legal frameworks to end harassment, violence, and discrimination – and to provide the safeguards that, for LGBT Americans, my fellow citizens, are long overdue. But my colleagues and I aren’t merely content to advocate, and speak out, for these changes and reforms. We understand the importance of leading by example. And that’s why the Justice Department – and a wide range of agencies throughout the Administration – have taken decisive action to help create a more inclusive work environment for our own employees. To strengthen our mission of serving all Americans by recruiting – and retaining – highly-qualified individuals, like you, who reflect our nation’s rich diversity. And to make a sustained and concerted effort to provide the opportunities, support, and respect that every aspiring public servant needs to develop, to grow, and to thrive both personally and professionally. No one understands the importance of creating such an environment – or has advocated more passionately on behalf of the LGBT community – than President Obama. Thanks to his leadership, this Administration has made historic strides in adopting inclusive policies and sending a clear message that the federal government is “open for everyone,” and that it is an employer that accepts and respects every potential employee. For instance, within the Justice Department, I launched a new Diversity Management Initiative in 2010 in order to expand and strengthen strategies and programs for promoting fairness, equality, and opportunity for every member of the DOJ family – which today includes an increasing number of openly gay or lesbian U.S. Attorneys – including my good friend, Robert Pitman – as well as senior Department leaders, U.S. Marshals, the keynote speaker at your Transgender Law Institute and three of the attorneys recently named to the National LGBT Bar Association’s “Best Lawyers Under 40,” and an extremely dedicated, and ever-expanding, membership of a wonderful organization known as “DOJ Pride.” Earlier this summer, we held a Department-wide training workshop for managers across the country – which was conducted by a nationally-recognized expert on diversity and workplace inclusion, Dr. Richard Friend – who discussed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion as an imperative for effectively recruiting new talent and fully engaging all individuals in the workplace. In addition, the Bureau of Prisons has announced that every federal prison will appoint an LGBT representative to their Affirmative Employment Program, to help start a dialogue about issues facing staff members who serve in more than 120 facilities nationwide. Now, I believe these new actions and policies constitute promising steps in the right direction.  But, like everyone here tonight, I also recognize that our journey – as a nation, and as a legal profession – is far from over. I know the progress we seek won’t always come as quickly as we might hope, or as easily as we would like. And that’s why, tonight, I’m not just here to thank you for all you’ve done to help bring us to this point; to highlight the Administration’s efforts in service of the same cause; or to celebrate everything that we’ve achieved together. I’m also here to ask for your continued help, to draw on your considerable passion and expertise, and to reiterate the Department’s commitment – and my own – to building on the momentum we’ve established, and ensuring that the recent successes we’ve seen are just the beginning. As current – and aspiring – leaders of the bench and bar, everyone here tonight understands what’s at stake. You realize how important every hard-fought legal victory – large and small – really is.  You are – or soon will be – uniquely situated to use the power of the law, as well as your own gifts and knowledge, to help build a more fair, more equal, and more just society. And you have not only the power, but – I believe – the solemn responsibility, to do precisely that: to safeguard the rights and freedoms of everyone in this country, and to carry on the critical but unfinished work that lies ahead. Of course, this never has been – and never will be – easy.  But as I look around this room, I can’t help but feel optimistic about where your efforts will lead us – and how far our collective commitment will take us – in the months and years ahead.  With the benefit of your partnership and the strength of your passion, I know that we can – and I’m confident that we will – continue the work that has become both our shared priority and common cause.  And I look forward to all that we will surely accomplish together. Thank you.

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. lawyers in columbia mo

    August 27, 2012 at 12:48 am

    Great article. Thanks a lot. I especially liked it when you said And you have not only the power, but – I believe – the solemn responsibility, to do precisely that: to safeguard the rights and freedoms of everyone in this country, and to carry on the critical but unfinished work that lies ahead. I could not agree more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


N.C. lieutenant governor compares gays to cow feces, maggots

“If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said



North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (Blade file photo)

WINSTON-SALEM – Speaking to parishioners at the Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem last Sunday, November 14, North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson attacked the LGBTQ+ community in remarks caught on the church’s livestreaming video on YouTube.

Robinson said in his sermon that he questioned the “purpose” of being gay; said heterosexual couples are “superior” to gay couples; and that he didn’t want to explain to his grandchildren why two men are kissing if they see that on television the Charlotte Observer reported.

The state’s Republican Lt. Governor then went on to compare being gay to “what the cows leave behind” as well as maggots and flies, who he said all serve a purpose in God’s creation. “If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said.

Democratic lawmakers expressed their outrage on Twitter:

According to the Observer, “The video was distributed Friday by a pastor at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance. A protest rally was held Friday in front of Robinson’s office, but organizers also read the names of transgender people who have been killed.

This man’s theology and religious practices are not only flawed and a perversion of the Christian tenets; he places countless people at risk of violent attacks and even murder every time he opens his mouth,” said Vance Haywood, senior pastor at St. John’s, in a statement.

Robinson is expected to run for the governor’s chair in 2024. In another video of the sermon captured the Lt. Governor ranting in transphobic terms his opinion of the Trans community:

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (Twitter Video)

Video of remarks made by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson courtesy of the Charlotte Observer.

Continue Reading


LGBTQ elder care facilities open nationwide, but discrimination persists

Advocates say seniors face challenges despite groundbreaking advances



The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing facility opened this week in Los Angeles. (Blade file photo)

Marsha Wetzel, an out lesbian, shared her life with her partner of 30 years, Judith Kahn, at the couple’s home in Illinois until Kahn died in 2013 of colon cancer.

As is the case with some same-sex couples who never married, Kahn’s family took legal possession of the couple’s home several years later, forcing Wetzel, who suffered from severe arthritis, to move into the Glen St. Andrew Living Community, a retirement and assisted living facility in Niles, Ill.

According to a lawsuit filed on her behalf in 2016 by the LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal, when word got out that Wetzel was a lesbian after she disclosed her sexual orientation to a fellow resident, she was called homophobic slurs, spat on, and assaulted on several occasions by other residents of the facility. The lawsuit, which later resulted in a court ruling in Wetzel’s favor, charged that officials at the Glen St. Andrew facility illegally failed to take action to prevent Wetzel from being subjected to abuse and threats by fellow residents and retaliated against her when she complained.

Lambda Legal announced one year ago, on Nov. 20, 2020, that Wetzel passed away at the age of 73 of natural causes after a landmark 2018 appeals court ruling in her favor affirmed that residential facilities such as the one in which she lived are legally responsible for the safety of tenant residents.

“Marsha spent the rest of her days in a senior living community where she was out and affirmed,” said Lambda Legal attorney Karen Loewy, who represented Wetzel in the lawsuit.

Advocates for LGBTQ seniors were hopeful that the 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruling in the Wetzel case would speed up the gradual but steady advances in the rights of LGBTQ elders in long-term care facilities and in society in general.

A short time later, the New York City-based national LGBTQ elder advocacy group SAGE expanded its programs providing cultural competency training for the nation’s long-term care residential facilities. And in some cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, LGBTQ specific retirement and long-term care facilities began to open to provide LGBTQ elders with a wide range of “wrap around” services in addition to a safe place to live.

But LGBTQ elder advocates were taken aback in October of this year when news surfaced that transgender U.S. Army veteran Lisa Oakley, 68, was denied placement in more than two-dozen long-term care facilities in Colorado in 2020 and earlier this year.

“When they found out I was transgender, a lot of the facilities didn’t want me,” Oakley told USA Today. “A lot of transgender people, I’m sure, face the same thing,” she said. “We’re humans, just like everybody else.” 

Oakley told other media outlets her ordeal in trying to gain admission to a residential care facility began in October 2020, when she became unable to care for herself due to complications from diabetes. Her first choice was a facility in her hometown in rural Craig, Colo., where she had lived for the previous 25 years. She believes that facility turned her down because of her gender identity.

A social worker who assisted in Oakley’s applications for long-term care facilities said the facility in Craig said Oakley would have to be placed in a private room, which was at the time unavailable, “because she still has her ‘boy parts’ and cannot be placed with a woman” in a shared room. 

Many other Colorado facilities to which Oakley applied for admission, according to social worker Cori Martin-Crawford, cited the COVID pandemic as the reason for not accepting new residents. But as COVID related restrictions began to subside, other facilities continued to deny Oakley admission.

With Martin-Crawford’s help, Oakley finally found a facility that is LGBTQ supportive in Grand Junction, Colo., which is nearly three hours away from her hometown of Craig, where she had hoped to remain.

LGBTQ activists expressed concern that the discrimination that Oakley faced took place in the state of Colorado, which has a state law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Experts familiar with long-term care facilities for older adults have said many private elder care facilities can get around state LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws by claiming other reasons for turning down an LGBTQ person.

Michael Adams, the CEO of SAGE, told the Blade that the wide range of programs and initiatives put in place by SAGE and other groups advocating for LGBTQ elders in recent years have resulted in significant changes in support of LGBTQ seniors.

“It is the case now that in almost all states there are one or more elder care facilities that have been trained through our SAGECare program,” Adams said. “But it’s nowhere near what it needs to be,” he said. “It needs to be that there are welcoming elder care facilities in every single community in this country” for LGBTQ elders.

Adams was referring to the SAGE program started recently called SAGECare that arranges for employees and other officials at elder care facilities throughout the country to receive LGBTQ competency training. The facilities that participate in the program are designated “SAGECare credentialed,” and are included in SAGE database lists available to LGBTQ elders looking for a safe facility in which to reside.

SAGE spokesperson Christina Da Costa provided the Blade with data showing there have been 136,975 professionals trained at a total of 617 SAGECare credentialed organizations nationwide. Out of 617 organizations, 172 are residential communities. Also, out of the total of 617 are 167 Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Senior Centers, and senior Ombudsman offices.

Da Costa said 278 of the credentialed entities that have received the SAGECare training throughout the country are “other aging focused nonprofit and for-profit businesses.”

According to SAGE, there are 12 SAGECare credentialed elder care facilities or service providers operating in the D.C. metropolitan area, with two located in D.C. One of the D.C. facilities is Ingleside at Rock Creek, located in Northwest D.C., which is a residential facility. The other is Options for Senior America, a company that provides in-home care services for seniors, including seniors living in D.C.

A SAGE list of the D.C.-area SAGECare credentialed facilities shows that three are in Rockville, Md.; two are in Gaithersburg, Md.; and one each are in Bethesda, Md.; Arlington, Va.; and Alexandria, Va. The list shows that one of them that provides services to elders in the D.C. area is based in North Carolina.

SAGE has a separate list of the 15 elder care residential facilities in the U.S. created specifically to serve LGBTQ residents. 

None are in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. However, SAGE says it has been working in cooperation with Mary’s House for Older Adults, a D.C.-based LGBTQ organization that advocates for LGBTQ seniors and is in the process of opening LGBTQ elder residential facilities in D.C. and others in the surrounding suburbs.

Mary’s House founder and CEO Dr. Imani Woody couldn’t immediately be reached to determine when the organization expects to open its first residential facility. 

While a residential LGBTQ elder facility has yet to open in the D.C. area, activists note that in addition to Mary’s House, services and amenities for LGBTQ elders in the area are currently being provided by the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive health center, which also has a legal services branch.

Adams of SAGE said the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center opened the nation’s first LGBTQ elder residential facility over eight years ago called Triangle Square. He said the L.A. Center opened a second LGBTQ elder residential facility a short time later. And this week, the L.A. Center announced it has opened a third LGBTQ elder residential facility in Hollywood that is part of a larger “intergenerational campus” that will bring together LGBTQ seniors and LGBTQ youth. 

SAGE, meanwhile, operates two LGBTQ elder long-term care residential facilities in New York City, one in Brooklyn called the Stonewall House and one in the Bronx called Pride House. 

The other U.S. cities with LGBTQ elder residential facilities include: Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco (which has two such facilities), San Diego, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, and Islip, N.Y.

Adams said the LGBTQ elder residential facilities range in size, with the largest – New York’s Stonewall House – having 143 apartments that can accommodate 200 residents. He said others vary from 40 or 50 residential units to 120.

Advocates for LGBTQ elders point to what they consider another important breakthrough for LGBTQ elders this year in the release of a joint SAGE-Human Rights Campaign Long-Term Care Equality Index report for 2021. Adams said the report is the first of what could become an annual report and rating and scorecard for long-term care elder residential facilities and other elder facilities. 

The 2021 report includes a self-reporting assessment of elder care facilities that the facilities themselves completed through a questionnaire in which many disclosed they have LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies for elders around admission to the facility and for practices by staff for those residing in their facilities.

The report includes a chart showing that 158 elder care facilities in 31 states responded positively to the outreach to them by organizers of the Long-Term Care Equality Index.

“We are thrilled to be working with SAGE and to be working with the Human Rights Campaign who are developing the Long-Term Care Equality Index,” said Nii-Quartelai Quartey, who serves as senior adviser and LGBTQ liaison for the American Association of Retired Persons or AARP.

“There is a great deal of work that we’re doing in the area of LGBTQ older adults nationwide,” Quartey told the Blade. “And AARP has been engaged with the LGBTQ community nationwide for many years now,” he said.

“In recent years, we’ve turned up the volume in working more closely with organizations like SAGE and Lambda Legal and the Victory Fund Institute, the Center for Black Equity, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and the Hispanic Federation.”

According to Quartey, a recent AARP study of LGBTQ elders called Maintaining Dignity shows that longstanding concerns of discrimination remain despite the many advances in support for LGBTQ seniors in recent years.

He said a survey that was part of the study found that 67 percent of the LGBTQ elders who responded, “were concerned about neglect in a long-term care setting.” Over 60 percent feared verbal or physical harassment in a long-term care setting and over half “felt forced to hide or deny their identity” as an LGBTQ person, Quartey said.

Another recent survey of LGBTQ elders conducted by SAGE asking them how they feel about the use of the word “queer” in descriptions of LGBTQ people yielded findings that came as a surprise to some, according to Adams. A large majority of those surveyed from across the country said they are “comfortable at this point using that word and reclaiming that word, which is different from what we had heard historically,” Adams said.

He said in response to those findings SAGE will now as an organization gradually shift to using the term LGBTQ instead of its past practice of using LGBT.

Although Congress has yet to pass the Equality Act, last year under the Trump Administration, Congress acted in a rare bipartisan way to approve the required five-year reauthorization of the U.S. Older Americans Act with new language supportive of LGBTQ older adults. President Trump signed the legislation.

The language includes a mandate for outreach to and reporting about services provided to LGBTQ older adults in federally funded programs. It also opens the way for LGBTQ older adults to be designated in a category of “greatest social need.” Under that category, older adults receive a higher priority in the allocation of resources by the federal government.

“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to get over the finish line,” said the AARP’s Quartey. “And aside from passing legislation federally and on the state and local level, we absolutely need to continue the hard work of changing hearts and minds,” he said.

Longtime gay activist and writer Brian McNaught, whose latest book, “On Being Gay and Gray – Our Stories, Gifts, and the Meaning of Our Lives,” was just released, says his own very informal survey of LGBTQ elders found there is a need for intimacy that may be too controversial for the establishment LGBTQ elder groups.

“I’m a SAGE volunteer and the 81-year-old man with whom I was working after his husband of 47 years died, said after his grieving process, ‘I want to be hugged and kissed. Does that make me a bad person?’”

McNaught told the Blade he assured the man those feelings do not make him a bad person. McNaught said the man’s comment prompted him to conduct further research, in which he found that some gay male elders in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area who often need assisted living support would like to patronize gay bathhouses or seek the services of an escort agency. He said he determined that any LGBTQ elder group providing such services would trigger “a huge uproar of protests” and most likely a loss of funding.

“We don’t want to talk about sexuality and aging,” McNaught said.

Continue Reading


Former VOA director nominated to head U.S. Agency for Global Media

Previous CEO’s actions threatened LGBTQ internet freedom



(Public domain photo)

President Biden on Monday nominated Amanda Bennett, the former head of Voice of America and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, investigative journalist and editor, to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

“I am honored by this nomination,” Bennett told Voice of America. “If confirmed, I will be so proud to work with all the dedicated journalists at USAGM who are doing the critical and difficult work around the world of upholding and demonstrating the value of a free press.”

The agency operates independently from the U.S. government and oversees five different entities that include Voice of America, broadcasting platforms and the Open Technology Fund. The fund is an independent non-profit organization that focuses on advancing global internet freedom by providing internet access, digital privacy tutorials, privacy enhancement and security tools like encryption.

These tools have been integral in preserving internet freedom for LGBTQ people abroad, especially in places where it’s unsafe or illegal to be LGBTQ.

Bennett, 69, was named VOA director in 2016 and resigned from her post in June 2020 after conservative documentary filmmaker Michael Pack was confirmed as the agency’s CEO during the Trump administration.

Under Pack’s tenure, several technology freedom experts said the former CEO thwarted the Open Technology Fund’s efforts abroad by freezing funds. Pack also ignored a House subpoena for an oversight hearing that was meant for him to address mass firings, withholding congressionally approved funds and other questionable activities.

Pack stepped down at Biden’s request in January, and the president named Kelu Chao, a VOA veteran journalist, as Pack’s replacement and interim CEO.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts