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Gays just wanted to have fun at HRC ball

LGBT advocates, buoyed by inaugural speech, celebrate 2nd term



Tammy Baldwin, United States Senate, Wisconsin, Democratic Party, Human Rights Campaign, inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade
Tammy Baldwin, United States Senate, Wisconsin, Democratic Party, Human Rights Campaign, inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) speaks at HRC’s inaugural celebration (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The official start of President Obama’s second term was cause for excitement on Monday at the Human Rights Campaign’s “Out for Equality” inaugural ball.

A jubilant crowd of about 1,500 donned tuxedos and designer duds after Obama was sworn into office by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts and the inaugural parade. They braved the cold night to gather at D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel, which sported a rainbow flag above its front entrance.

Audra McDonald, gay news Washington Blade

Audra McDonald (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Entertainment included Audra McDonald, a five-time Tony Award winner, and Will Swenson, a Tony nominated actor known for his roles in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” and “Hair.” Ending the celebration was gay icon Cyndi Lauper, a longtime HRC supporter, who closed the night with a rendition of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” also made an appearance.

A number of high-profile pro-LGBT figures made appearances. At one point the stage featured Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.,) the leader on anti-bullying legislation in the Senate; New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, whose recent election assured the preservation of marriage equality in her state; and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising Democratic star considering a bid to represent New Jersey in the U.S. Senate.

But the political star who received the most attention during the ball was lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who called for a toast to Obama in response to LGBT references in his inaugural address after Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin introduced her on stage.

“I was so struck in the passage about going from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall — all of us working so hard to advance true equality, but all woven into the small fabric of our American story,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin declined to take questions from the Washington Blade after her remarks.

As he shook hands with supporters, Booker took a question from the Blade about the prospects of legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey. The Democratic legislature last year passed marriage legislation, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it.

“It’s still not a matter of not if, but when,” Booker said. “But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be pushing and working for it every single day. So, hopefully we can still override the governor’s veto, or frankly, in the next election in November, bring in a governor who shares the values of the majority of the state of New Jersey that will stand up for marriage equality.”

But the buzz during the party was the inaugural speech Obama delivered a few hours earlier in which he twice included the LGBT community by including the 1969 Stonewall riots in his speech.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” he also said.

It was the first time a U.S. president had ever addressed the LGBT community in an inaugural address.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the newly seated gay U.S. House member, was among those who praised Obama’s speech and said he “became emotional” listening to the president deliver his remarks on LGBT rights.

Sean Patrick Maloney, New York, United States Congress, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I’ve never been more proud of an American president,” Maloney said. “I thought about my kids and I brought my kids who are African American to watch the president because I wanted them to understand that anyone can do anything in this country, but I never imagined that they would also get a lesson on how we’re all equal regardless not just of race, but sexual orientation and to receive that lesson from the president was beautiful and remarkable.”

Gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf also had high praise for Obama’s decision to include LGBT references in his inaugural address, calling it “historic.”

“It was surprising, I guess,” Elmendorf said. “We know where he is, but at an inaugural event, nobody has ever said ‘gay’ at an inaugural. Nobody has ever done such a good job of making the case about how the gay rights movement, sort of follows from the women’s rights movement and civil rights movement and put it all together. There were not a lot of dry eyes among the gays watching that speech.”

Corey Johnson, a gay New York City Council candidate, echoed that sentiment.

“I was pleased when Stonewall was put in the same sentence as Seneca Falls and Selma and I thought that could have been enough, but then to go on and explicitly talk about equal rights for LGBT Americans for the first time ever in an inaugural address I thought was unexpected, yet incredibly welcomed, so I was very moved actually,” Johnson said.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this article.

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  1. Lee

    January 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    In the text: “Will Sweson” should be “Will Swenson”; “who’s” should be “whose”. In the tags: “Corey Booker” should be “Cory Booker”.

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Federal Government

Veterans can now identify as transgender, nonbinary on their VA medical records

About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity



Graphic via U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Wednesday that his department added the options of transgender male, transgender female, nonbinary and other, when veterans select their gender, in medical records and healthcare documentation.

“All veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender-diverse veterans helps us better serve them.”

The statement also noted that the change allows health-care providers to better understand and meet the medical needs of their patients. The information also could help providers identify any stigma or discrimination that a veteran has faced that might be affecting their health.

McDonough speaking at a Pride Month event last June at the Orlando VA Healthcare System, emphasized his support for Trans and LGBQ+ vets.

McDonough said that he pledged to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination and take steps to expand access to care for transgender veterans.

With this commitment McDonough said he seeks to allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he added.

In a survey of transgender veterans and transgender active-duty service members, transgender veterans reported several mental health diagnoses, including depression (65%), anxiety (41%), PTSD (31%), and substance abuse (16%).  In a study examining VHA patient records from 2000 to 2011 (before the 2011 VHA directive), the rate of suicide-related events among veterans with a gender identity disorder (GID) diagnoses was found to be 20 times higher than that of the general VHA patient population.

McDonough acknowledged the VA research pointing out that in addition to psychological distress, trans veterans also may experience prejudice and stigma. About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.

“At VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing,” he added.

All VA facilities have had a local LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator responsible for helping those veterans connect to available services since 2016.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives,” McDonough said. He added that the VA would also change the name of the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBT health program to the LGBTQ+ Health Program to reflect greater inclusiveness.

Much of the push for better access to healthcare and for recognition of the trans community is a result of the polices of President Joe Biden, who reversed the ban on Trans military enacted under former President Trump, expanding protections for transgender students and revived anti-bias safeguards in health care for transgender Americans.

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Prominent LGBTQ+ activist found dead in Florida landfill

Diaz-Johnston was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz & he led the fight for marriage equality



Photo courtesy of Don Diaz Johnston

Police in Florida’s capital city confirmed that the body of Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, who had been reported missing was found in a Jackson County landfill Saturday morning.

Diaz-Johnston was last seen alive Jan. 3 in Tallahassee, more than an hour from where his body was found, according to a missing person notice released by police. Detectives are investigating his death as a homicide, a police spokesperson said.

Diaz-Johnston, was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz. As an LGBTQ advocate he led the fight for marriage equality, he and his husband were plaintiffs in an historic 2014 lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Miami-Dade County.

ABC News reported at the time that a South Florida circuit court judge sided with Diaz-Johnston and five couples suing the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Florida dropped its ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

His husband wrote in a poignant Facebook post; “There are just no words for the loss of my beloved husband Jorge Isaias Diaz-Johnston. I can’t stop crying as I try and write this. But he meant so much to all of you as he did to me. So I am fighting through the tears to share with you our loss of him.”

“We are heartbroken to learn of the death of Jorge. He and his husband Don were two of the brave plaintiffs who took on Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban and helped win marriage equality for all Floridians,” Equality Florida said adding, “Our deepest condolences to Don and Jorge’s extended family.”

Detectives urge anyone who may have information to call 850-891-4200, or make an anonymous tip to Big Bend Crime Stoppers at 850-574-TIPS.

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Bill prohibiting ‘gay panic defense’ clears New Hampshire House

New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of ‘gay panic’ as a defense



New Hampshire State House (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Legislation prohibiting defendants accused of manslaughter from using the victim’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense, which had died in committee during the 2021 regular session of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, was reintroduced this session and passed with a 223-118 vote last week.

House Bill 238, stirred up controversary from opponents who claimed that state statues already covered murder and manslaughter. During a Criminal Justice committee hearing last Spring, Rep. Dick Marston, a Manchester Republican, voiced opposition, saying that the laws already cover murder and manslaughter and that “there’s no way in heck that you’re going to be able to say ‘Well because he or she was some deviant sexuality that I’m not–‘”

Marston was cut off by committee chairman Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican, who gaveled him down and rebuked him for the derogatory language the Concord-Monitor reported

Later, the committee Republicans blocked an effort to move the bill out of committee alleging it needed more work and was not necessary because a jury could already strike down a similar attempted defense. The bill was then stalled in the committee, effectively killing it from being pushed further in last year’s session.

As the measure now heads to the state Senate, New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of the ‘gay panic’ as a defense.

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