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Federal employees face problems when it comes to spousal benefits

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The following was submitted as a letter to the editor.

Re: “Will Obama name LGBT appointees in Cabinet shakeup?” (news, Nov. 14)

In December 2012, I retired from the federal government after 22 years. I was not only able to utilize my professional and educational expertise but also comfortable with peers and colleagues about being a proud out lesbian in a relationship than spanned more than 28 years and the constant changing of presidential appointees.

Those personnel changes often affected the potential opportunity for or against the inclusion of programmatic efforts to gather the data, qualitative and quantitative, in identifying health disparities associated with LGBT populations and different segments comprising the diversity of the disparate but linked communities. The bureaucratic changes necessitated the advocacy groups to re-cast their message often duplicating previous efforts while making the proper name and date changes.

Readers are probably wondering: “What does this commentary have to do with President Obama’s selection of LGBT individuals as possible Cabinet leaders, etc.?”

Federal government employees, regardless of the length of our same-sex relationships or even the façade of “marriage” in those states where that right was available, albeit it temporary, have few civil rights relative to our married colleagues, wherever the setting of that marriage.

I personally do not want John Berry to leave his current position as director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), whose mission is recruiting, retaining and honoring a world-class force to serve the American people. If you look at OPM’s web site (opm.gov), you prominently see Same-Sex Domestic Partner Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). On June 8, 2010, my partner and I signed the “federal” form entitled “Declaration of Domestic Partnership.” Each federal agency supposedly offered all employees the opportunity to complete this form, which would be placed in the respective employees’ personnel file. But you know something isn’t exactly right when the form has no bureaucratic number assigned.

Three months after I retired, on March 3, 2012, my life partner, Ruth Boynton, an almost 24-year veteran of the United States Postal Service (USPS) died at age 54 of aortic dissection, Type III. Luckily, a few of the government benefits, most notably the Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) and the Thrift Savings Plan, acknowledged me as the beneficiary. Not surprisingly, the USPS did not have a process for declaring domestic partnership and also claimed to have never received forms from my partner identifying me as her beneficiary, a fact that few who know us find plausible.

And, of course, the pièce de résistance was the $70,000+ county inheritance tax that was sent to me, as the estate administrator, less than six months after her death. Even the conservative members of my family were appalled and used that knowledge to vote for Question 6 in Maryland and help win the approval of “same-sex couples to wed” and have the other rights associated with straight couples.

So, I want Berry to stay and finish the job that he has started and accomplish the mission of OPM in having the best and brightest workforce regardless of any demography. —DR. NANCY J. KENNEDY

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Clarifying the record on Mexican homophobia case

Court judgment challenged as accusations of discrimination disputed

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(This is a response to a story published Jan. 18 by contributor Armando Ocampo Zambrano)

I brought to the attention of the Washington Blade that no court decision exists in the terms set out by Armando Ocampo Zambrano in the interview published in the Blade on Jan. 18, 2019. 

Ocampo untruthfully stated that “he became the first Mexican to win a lawsuit due to homophobia against one of the most powerful law firms in the country”; such statement as the result of a judgment issued on Sept. 5, 2018 by the High Chamber of the Federal Court of Administrative Justice, which Ocampo falsely brags as a judgement against Chevez Ruiz Zamarripa y Cía., S.C. (“Chevez”) condemning it for acts of discrimination.

The firm represents the interests of Chevez in the lawsuit that resulted from the complaint/legal action filed by Ocampo with the National Council to Prevent Discrimination alleging several facts that Ocampo claims happened on November 2015, in which he and partners of Chevez participated; Ocampo considered them to be discriminatory and therefore filed the complaint.

Council, by decision issued on Jan. 26, 2017, concluded that Chevez was not liable for discriminatory acts affecting Ocampo.   

Ocampo filed legal action for the annulment of Council’s decision of Jan. 26, 2017 with the Federal Court of Administrative Justice; this Court annulled Council’s decision ordering it to re-issue same considering certain evidence provided by the parties. 

Chevez and Ocampo, both, contested the judgment through Amparo lawsuits, to be decided by the Seventh Collegiate Tribunal for Administrative Matters of the First Circuit, which will decide on the validity and legality of the Judgment, which obviously as of today is not final and conclusive. 

The above statement by Ocampo in the interview is totally and absolutely false because of the following two reasons:

1. There is no court decision issued by any Mexican court/authority that concludes that Chevez was found guilty of acts of discrimination against Ocampo. 

2. The judgement has been challenged by Ocampo precisely because Chevez was not found liable for acts of discrimination against Ocampo.

Chevez also challenged the judgment considering that Council´s decision issued on Jan. 26, 2017 is correct and impeccable, not being legally correct that the High Chamber of the Federal Court of Administrative Justice annuls Council´s decision. 

Luis Alfonso Cervantes Muñiz is an attorney licensed in Mexico by the Escuela Libre de Derecho, and founding partner of Cervantes Sainz, S.C.

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Letters to the editor

Chase Brexton criticized; CAMP Rehoboth wins praise

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Speak Fire, gay news, Washington Blade

Speak Fire, AIDS Walk, gay news, Washington Blade

Chase Brexton Health Care (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Chase Brexton not an exemplary provider

Re: “Where is Chase Brexton growing?” (Op-ed by Nate Sweeney, Oct. 28)

I read Nate Sweeney’s op-ed with a mixture of anger and incredulity. Sweeney’s desperate appeal in defense of Chase Brexton conveniently glosses over a recent, well-documented pattern of irresponsible, unethical, and potentially illegal behavior at the beleaguered Baltimore institution that was once a beacon for the LGBTQ community.

“An exemplary LGBTQ provider and resource for our communities” does not fire five beloved staff members with outstanding service records (four of them openly gay, like Sweeney), as Chase Brexton did in August in a blatant attempt to retaliate against staff involved in organizing a labor union.

An exemplary LGBTQ provider does not deprive the community of hardworking, dedicated professionals who specialized in HIV/AIDS and LGBT care and were integral to the programs and services Sweeney boasts about.

An exemplary LGBTQ provider does not censor online commentary and ignore patient and community feedback, as Chase Brexton did when it took great pains to literally block out patients protesting outside the recent Charm Ball Fundraiser.

An exemplary LGBT organization doesn’t stifle employee voices, inform healthcare professionals they are only worth the number of patients they see, and disrespect its staff by hiring union busters to attempt to intimidate them into submission. Tell me Mr. Sweeney, what does your employee survey say now, after the despicable events of August of this year?

An exemplary LGBTQ organization isn’t captained by an arrogant, irresponsible board of directors that validates the status quo despite staff issuing a clear vote of no-confidence in the current CEO — a board that by all accounts demonstrates an astounding lack of basic LGBT literacy and has zero representation from transgender individuals.

No, Mr. Sweeney, these days Chase Brexton Health Care is far from an exemplary LGBTQ organization. Your words fall flat and can’t change the sad reality that an organization with deep roots in the gay community has been commandeered by myopic, vindictive “leadership” that values profit over patient care and has shown a callous indifference towards LGBTQ people, their health, and their history.  Marion Goldstein, Baltimore

Support CAMP Rehoboth

CAMP Rehoboth, gay news, Washington Blade

CAMP Rehoboth (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

I retired recently to Rehoboth Beach from Vermont and my transition was smooth, in large part, due to CAMP Rehoboth. Our Coastal Community is blessed with the good works, services, resources and multiple community programs provided by CAMP Rehoboth. For more than 25 years now CAMP Rehoboth has genuinely ‘Created A More Positive’ Rehoboth, with room for all. Please join me in showing our appreciation as a community in the coming winter months by attending one of the CAMP Rehoboth Chorus events. The CAMP Chorus truly is an asset in which Rehoboth, Sussex County and all of Delaware can take great pride.

Please mark your calendars: “Yule Love It,” Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m. Epworth UMC $20. “Come Fly with Me!” Epworth UMC, $25 Friday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.; Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.; Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. And DelTech C.C. Georgetown $25, April 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets on sale in December at  HYPERLINK “http://www.camprehoboth.com” www.camprehoboth.com. —Herb Russell, Rehoboth Beach

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Beyer a longtime LGBT rights supporter

His ‘evolution’ consistent with many leading politicians

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Don Beyer, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Don Beyer, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Don Beyer (Photo public domain)

The following was submitted as a letter to the editor in response to “Beyer changed position on same-sex marriage” (news, March 19).

 

I was surprised to see the Blade single out Don Beyer as someone who has changed his position on gay marriage since 1997. Let’s be honest – a vast number of Americans have changed their position on gay marriage since 1997, and that is something that should be applauded, not criticized.

The truth is, like many of our friends and family, coworkers and neighbors, Don has evolved on this issue. In fact, Don evolved long before many of our current Democratic leaders. In 2003, Don endorsed Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in a primary in which Dean and no other candidate was in favor of gay marriage.

In 2006, when several Virginia Democrats joined Republicans in their crusade to ban gay marriage in the Commonwealth, Don personally contributed significantly to the effort opposing the Defense of Marriage Act referendum in Virginia. In doing so, he bucked many in his own party and even the majority of Virginia voters.  Don came to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do well before many others, including many in the Democratic Party.

When my partner and I decided to start our own family in 2002, Don and his wife were among the first of our friends, gay or straight, to offer to help us. They have been unwavering advocates in the community for our family, which now includes two children, and we believe Don’s experience and perspective will be critical to addressing the unique issues we face going forward.

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and nearly every Democratic elected official in Virginia has progressed on this issue, and ultimately, that’s what matters.

From prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and elsewhere, to supporting the inclusion of sexual orientation-based crimes in hate crime statutes, Don has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights. To try to paint him as anything otherwise is disingenuous and misleading; it also does a disservice to the people of Virginia.

I realize that in a crowded Democratic primary field we look for points of differentiation among the candidates. This isn’t one of them. —Mark C. Lowham

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