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Gay advocate a leading voice on gun control

Glaze serves as director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns

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Mark Glaze, Rabin Group, gay news, Washington Blade
Mark Glaze, Rabin Group, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Glaze is leading the charge on gun control as director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Following a wave of horrific gun violence across the country, the nation is engaged in intense debate over gun control as President Obama on Wednesday issued a series of proposals to address the issue. One advocate who’s no stranger to working on behalf of the LGBT community is among those leading the call for action on gun control.

Mark Glaze, 42, has a variety of issues in his portfolio as a principal of the D.C.-based political affairs firm the Raben Group, including campaign finance reform, government ethics as well as LGBT issues — but also serves as director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the largest gun violence prevention group in the country.

In an interview with the Washington Blade, Glaze, who’s gay, said the country is “at a tipping point” in the wake of shootings like the one last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six school officials were killed, and is ready to embrace the kinds of protections that “we get the chance to pass once in a generation.”

“The mass shootings are happening more and more rapidly, and they’re becoming more and more deadly,” Glaze said. “The Newtown shooting was the second biggest mass shooting in U.S. history after Virginia Tech in 2007. And, you know, the kids who were shot and murdered were my son’s age, and it was right before Christmas. So, I think that combination of things has just got the public and the president ready to say, ‘Enough is enough, let’s finally get this right.'”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been in the spotlight in recent weeks amid intense media interest in gun control. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg serves as co-chair of the group along with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. More than 800 mayors are members of the coalition, and this week, the organization passed one million grassroots supporters.

As for Glaze himself, he’s been widely featured in the mainstream media lately, including in the New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press and Politico. He’s also set for appearances on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” the PBS Newshour and an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan.

Glaze, who in 2010 was hired by the Human Rights Campaign to push for Senate legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” enters the gun control debate after robust work on LGBT issues — an area of focus that he said he still continues to pursue. Glaze has assisted in work for Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, an organization co-chaired by Bloomberg.

Glaze also has personal experience with guns and hunted when he was young. Growing up in the ranching town of Parlin, Colo., Glaze’s father was a gun dealer and he was raised in a house that was attached to a general store selling guns.

“My dad is like most gun dealers,” Glaze said. “He thinks that law-abiding people should have to take background checks, so everybody should have to take background checks. And gun dealers don’t like that guns get a terrible reputation because unlicensed sellers are handing guns out to people with criminal records. It gives the entire industry a bad name.”

Obama unveils gun control proposals

On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled in the South Court Auditorium of the White House a package of proposals developed by Vice President Joseph Biden’s task force to reduce gun violence, including an assault weapons ban, a measure to ban high-capacity magazine clips, and an effort to close loopholes in the country’s background check system.

“And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,” Obama said. “Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”

Joining Obama as he unveiled the proposal were Biden as well as children from around the country who wrote him letters in the wake of the Newtown tragedy expressing their concerns about gun violence and school safety, along with their parents. Afterward, Obama signed 23 executive orders to address gun violence.

Glaze said he and other members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns met twice with administration officials — including one meeting that was attended by Biden himself — to lay out the case for gun control.

For Glaze, passing legislation that will close the loophole that currently allows individuals to buy guns without background checks from unlicensed private sellers will be a priority among other initiatives Obama enumerated as part of his proposals.

“Only licensed gun dealers have to give background checks, but almost 50 percent of gun sales in any given year are conducted by unlicensed private sellers,” Glaze said. “They do it online, at gun shows or out of the trunk of a car — and federal law doesn’t require those sellers to give background checks. So, it’s like creating two lines at the airport: one for people who want to go through security and get a background check, the other for people who feel they don’t need to pass a background check.”

In the Newtown tragedy, Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster XM-15 to shoot his victims. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has said she will introduce legislation to ban the sale and possession of assault weapons, while Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is planning a less sweeping proposal to ban the sale of magazine clips.

While Mayors Against Illegal Guns supports such proposals, Glaze said those weapons account for a small percentage of gun violence despite media attention to these shootings.

“Basically the assault weapons ban is important, but only two to 10 percent of firearms fatalities in any given year are connected to assault rifles,” Glaze said. “Thirty-three people are murdered with guns in the United States every day, and the majority of those murders were committed with handguns.”

Glaze also emphasized the potential for President Obama to take executive action to allow for greater enforcement of gun control laws already on the books. One such action — which was not taken among the 23 executive orders signed by Obama on Wednesday — would be for Obama to instruct the Justice Department to increase prosecution of dangerous people who are declined when they try to buy a gun at a licensed dealer.

“In 2009, 71,000 people who were prohibited gun purchasers — because they were felons, they were seriously mentally ill, they were domestic abusers — tried to buy guns by licensed dealers and were blocked,” Glaze said. “That’s a felony, trying to buy a gun when you’re a prohibited purchaser. But only 44 of those people were prosecuted. … Many of those people go on to buy guns somewhere else from an unlicensed dealer, where they don’t have to get a background check, and then they go on to commit crimes.”

Glaze also called on President Obama to make a recess appointment if Congress won’t take action to confirm a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — a position that has been vacant for six years. President Obama on Wednesday tapped B. Todd Jones to head the bureau. He’s been acting director since August 2011 while maintaining his position as U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota.

“It’s hard to imagine the Department of Homeland Security, or a Fortune 500 company, not have a CEO for six years,” Glaze said. “And the agency suffers as a result. The president should get it done himself if the Senate can’t do it.”

NRA scoffs at proposals

Resistance to Obama’s proposals has already emerged from the powerful National Rifle Association.

After the remarks in which Obama unveiled his proposals, the NRA issued a statement criticizing the approach the administration was taking on gun violence.

“We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children,” the organization said. “Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation.  Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”

But Glaze dismissed the impact of the NRA, saying despite its money the group doesn’t have as much influence over lawmakers as some might think, noting the dismal performance of congressional candidates the organization backed on Election Day.

“The idea that the NRA can take away a congressman’s seat just because they support background checks is just a myth,” Glaze said. “It’s a very popular myth around Washington, but it’s a myth. If you look at how well the NRA has performed in the last five or six election cycles, the number of races where their participation made a dispositive impact can be counted on one hand.”

Glaze said the NRA had a “horrible year” in 2012 because it spent more money than ever before in a presidential election to defeat a president “who they say is trying to destroy the Second Amendment” and invested more than $100,000 in seven Senate races, while six of their candidates lost.

Despite his past work on LGBT issues and own identity as gay man, Glaze said he doesn’t think LGBT people are more inclined to support gun control efforts because concern is spread over a variety of demographics.

“Basically, every demographic — men, women, African-American, Hispanics, LGBT people — are all in basically the same place on gun issues,” Glaze said. “Basically, despite the politics that you hear in the media and see in Washington, there’s a broad consensus among real people on this issue for the first time in a generation.”

Glaze said he has no idea whether other LGBT organizations will get involved, although he noted that the Bohnett Foundation has been contributing funds to the effort, and gay Rep. David Cicilline has introduced his own legislation that would close the firesale loophole — in addition to being one of the founding members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns while still mayor of Providence, R.I.

Robert Raben, who’s also gay and head of the Raben Group, said Glaze’s role as principal at the organization gives him “the flexibility to spend all of his time on this signature and crucial effort” and to draw on its resources “as the campaign itself changes from messaging to organizing to legislative advocacy.”

“We are unbelievably proud of Mark’s leadership; he has enormous responsibility and meets it well, with vision and delivery,” Raben said. “That he is an openly gay man helping lead such an important effort is a tribute to his professionalism, and how the country and its understanding of our talent has changed.”

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National

Trans experiences with the internet range from ‘harrowing’ to ‘powerful’

New survey provides insights into the stakes of web use for LGBTQ adults

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(Image courtesy of LGBT Tech)

Alex, 29, would not have met their friends without the internet. While living in a small city surrounded by farmland, finding community was not always easy.

Alex tried out one of those apps for adults seeking to make friends. It turned out to be a remarkable success. “I’ve made my friend group as a direct result of using the internet,” they said, explaining that even though all the friends are trans, due to their diverse interests, “we would have been hard-pressed to have ever really run into each other by happenstance.”

Making friends online is also safer for Alex. Before they pursued HRT and surgery and looked more “visibly queer,” they were in scary situations. “I’ve had pickup trucks chase me while driving, people call out slurs while driving by me, and I’ve been shot at,” they said. 

Having the internet available for appointments, work, and social activities is fundamental to their life.

But the web was not always such a friendly place for Alex. “There’s so much hate and falsehoods out there about trans people,” they said. “It’s why it takes so long for some of us to learn about who we are.”

This dissonance is widespread within the LGBTQ community. A recent report—”ctrl+alt+lgbt: Digital Access, Usage, and Experiences of the LGBTQ+ Community”—by LGBT Tech and Data for Progress provides insight into that phenomenon. 

Shae Gardner, director of policy at LGBT Tech, explained that most of the research about the LGBTQ community’s internet use historically has focused on youth. The project aimed to fill the gap. From surveys with 1,300 people across the country, the report found that while the internet is a foundational space for LGBTQ community building and self-expression, it also comes with a high risk for bullying and harassment.  

These findings intensify when looking specifically at the data for underrepresented groups within the LGBTQ population like the transgender community, who are by far the group that faces the most harassment online, per the Anti-Defamation League. Gardner explained that the survey was over-sampled for transgender individuals intentionally. “We really wanted to understand that specific experience,” Gardner said.

The Blade interviewed five trans people about their experiences to gain insight into how different community members felt while navigating the web and specifically identified sources who do not have public platforms and therefore do not face heightened public scrutiny. Due to concern for backlash, all sources for this story spoke on condition of anonymity with gender-ambiguous names and they/them pronouns.

Four out of five of the people interviewed emphasized that the internet is a vital resource for accessing healthcare. 

Riley, 24, explained, “I have such immense dread about transitioning because I don’t want to have to interact with doctors around my identity. I feel like I don’t have access to providers who are able to understand me.”

The internet, for many, provides a safe location to access health information and care without the judgment of doctors. Kai, 23, and Cameron, 27, both shared that the internet was an important place for them to learn specifics around trans healthcare and seek out trans-friendly providers. Alex agreed and added that they have made it so all of their doctors’ appointments through tele-health.

These experiences are consistent with the larger trans community. LGBT Tech’s survey found that 70% of transgender adults use the internet to find LGBTQ-friendly healthcare. By comparison, only 41% of cisgender LGBTQ adults use the internet to find the same friendly care.

All the sources interviewed said they sought LGBTQ community online with varying degrees of success. 

Jordan, 24, said that not only is social media a good way to stay connected with people they know, but it also helps them find a broader community. “It’s nice to follow other trans and queer people whose experiences can inspire me or make me feel seen.”

Cameron emphasized that the internet provides connections to activities and communities around town. “Social media has facilitated my in-person queer and trans community,” they explained. “I learn a lot about what queer events are happening around town via social media. I have a wonderful community playing queer sports that I wouldn’t have found without the internet.”

Kai shared that it hasn’t been a successful pursuit for them: “I wish it did more than it does.” 

Per Trans Tech’s survey, transgender adults “often” use social media to connect with existing LGBTQ friends and family 41% of the time (as opposed to “sometimes” “rarely” or “never”). This is 21% more than the LGBTQ community at large. The survey also reveals that transgender adults are 20% more likely to “often” use social media to connect with new LGBTQ community than the LGBTQ community at large.

Everyone but Cameron has experienced some form of direct bullying or harassment for being transgender, either online or in person. The survey found that 83% of transgender adults have faced bullying online. By comparison, 59% of the cisgender LGBTQ community faced bullying online. 

“Technology is only as good as its application. And this is the other side of the dual-edged sword,” said Gardner. 

Gardner explained that the online and in-person harassment was mirrored. “The experiences of anti-LGBTQ bullying were very high, both for LGBTQ+ individuals and especially for trans individuals, but those numbers were nearly equitable to the experiences that that they have in the real world with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying,” she said. The survey found that 82% of transgender adults faced bullying in person.

The survey found despite the comparable levels of harassment and high levels of misinformation (93% of transgender adults saw anti-LGBTQ misinformation online), respondents overwhelmingly felt safe online—67% of trans adults and 76% of cisgender LGBTQ adults. 

When she compared this phenomenon to her life, Gardner wasn’t surprised. “The harassment that I have faced online has certainly felt less immediately threatening than what I’ve faced in person. The mental toll it takes is significant, but I would argue individuals probably have an easier time getting away from it.”

That doesn’t stop Gardner from noting, “We need to be fighting [harassment] in both places.” 

She explained that, “when we are staring down the barrel of record-setting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation yet again, it is so integral to keep fighting for digital spaces to be as safe as possible.”

Regardless of its safety, it is a space that is a constant for many. “I use the internet constantly,” said Alex. “I use the internet a lot at work since I have a desk job,” said Jordan.

When reflecting on the internet, Riley summed up the tensions they experience. “It can be harrowing often but simultaneously it’s where I feel a sense of community and access.”

(This story is part of the Digital Equity Local Voices Fellowship lab through News is Out. The lab initiative is made possible with support from Comcast NBCUniversal.)

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Pennsylvania

Pa. House passes bill to repeal state’s same-sex marriage ban

Measure now goes to Republican-controlled state Senate

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Pennsylvania Capitol Building (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 2 passed a bill that would repeal the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The marriage bill passed by a 133-68 vote margin, with all but one Democrat voting for it. Thirty-two Republicans backed the measure.

The bill’s next hurdle is to pass in the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), a gay man who is running for state auditor, noted to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the bill would eliminate a clause in Pennsylvania’s marriage law that defines marriage as “between one man and one woman.” The measure would also change the legal definition of marriage in the state to “a civil contract between two individuals.”

Kenyatta did not return the Washington Blade’s requests for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country. 

Justice Clarence Thomas in the 2022 decision that struck down Roe v. Wade said the Supreme Court should reconsider the Obergefell decision and the Lawrence v. Texas ruling that said laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations are unconstitutional. President Joe Biden at the end of that year signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires the federal government and all U.S. states and territories to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages.

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year signed a bill that codified marriage rights for same-sex couples in state law. Pennsylvania lawmakers say the marriage codification bill is necessary in case the Supreme Court overturns marriage rights for same-sex couples in their state and across the country.

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Pennsylvania

Western Pa. transgender girl killed, dismembered

Pauly Likens, 14, brutally murdered last month

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(Photo courtesy of the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley)

Editor’s note: The Philadelphia Gay News originally published this story.

BY TIM CWIEK | Prosecutors are pledging justice for Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old transgender girl from Sharon, Pa., who was brutally killed last month. Her remains were scattered in and around a park lake in western Pennsylvania.

“The bottom line is that we have a 14-year-old, brutally murdered and dismembered,” said Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker in an email. “Pauly Likens deserves justice, her family deserves justice, and we seek to deliver that justice.”

On June 23, DaShawn Watkins allegedly met Likens in the vicinity of Budd Street Public Park and Canoe Launch in Sharon, Pa., and killed her. Watkins subsequently dismembered Likens’s corpse with a saw and scattered her remains in and around Shenango River Lake in Clark Borough.

On July 2, Watkins was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He’s being held without bail in the Mercer County jail.

The coroner’s office said the cause of death was sharp force trauma to the head and ruled the manner of death as homicide.

Cell phone records, social media and surveillance video link Watkins to the crime. Additionally, traces of Likens’s blood were found in and around Watkins’s apartment in Sharon, Pa., authorities say.

A candlelight vigil is being held Saturday, July 13, in remembrance of Likens. It’s being hosted by LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley. The vigil begins at 7 p.m. at 87 Stambaugh Ave. in Sharon, Pa.

Pamela Ladner, president of the Alliance, mourned Likens’s death. 

“Pauly’s aunt described her as a sweet soul, inside and out,” Ladner said in an email. “She was a selfless child who loved nature and wanted to be a park ranger like her aunt.”

Acker, the prosecutor, said Likens’s death is one of the worst crimes he’s seen in 46 years as an attorney. But he cautioned against calling it a hate crime. “PSP [Pennsylvania State Police] does not believe it in fact is one [hate crime] because the defendant admitted to being a homosexual and the victim was reportedly a trans girl,” Acker asserted.

Acker praised the criminal justice agencies who worked on the case, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Hermitage Police Department, the Sharon Police Department, park rangers from the Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County Coroner John Libonati, and cadaver dog search units.

“The amount of hours dedicated to the identification of the victim and the filing of charges against the defendant is a huge number,” Acker added. “We take the murder of any individual very seriously, expressly when they are young and brutally killed and dismembered.”

Acker also noted that all criminal defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

This is a developing story.

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