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Coming to Washington

Showdown at the Supreme Court draws supporters, opponents from all over the U.S.

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Amy Crampton, Tonya Agnew, Supreme Court, gay marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
Amy Crampton, Tonya Agnew, Supreme Court, gay marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Amy Crampton and Tonya Agnew of Lafayette, Ind., plan to marry outside the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26. (Photo courtesy of Tonya Agnew)

Lafayette, Ind., residents Tonya Agnew and Amy Crampton plan to travel to Washington this weekend ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments in the two cases that challenge the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The couple’s 9-year-old son Leo is what Agnew describes as a “history buff.” But she and her partner of nearly 15 years have another thing on their agenda while in the nation’s capital.

“We thought it would be an amazing experience for him and for us to be part of history and see what’s happening and just be part of the vibe in town,” Agnew says. “Our next thought was kind of like, ‘Oh well we should totally get married while we’re there.’”

Agnew and Crampton plan to exchange vows at the Supreme Court on Tuesday against the backdrop of a rally in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples that is expected to draw thousands. Opponents of nuptials for gays and lesbians on the same day are scheduled to march to the court as the justices begin to hold oral arguments on the Prop 8 case.

Same-sex marriage supporters are expected to once again gather outside the court on Wednesday before oral arguments in the case that challenges DOMA.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Agnew says. “[I’m] really just mostly excited to be there and the fact that they’re even hearing them to begin with is just incredible.”

Marriage Equality USA Board President Cathy Marino-Thomas plans to travel from New York to D.C. on Monday with her wife Sheila, their 13-year-old daughter Jackie and other same-sex marriage advocates.

She was among those who spearheaded the years-long campaign for nuptials for gays and lesbians in New York that culminated in 2011 with Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing the same-sex marriage bill the state Senate narrowly approved into law.

Marino-Thomas says from her Manhattan office she has a “really, really positive feeling about this.”

“In the beginning it was just a small group of LGBT people who believed in the right to marry,” she says. “We graduated and more of our community believed in it. Then as time went on we started to gather straight supporters and then we started to gather politicians — Democrats, and the next step was we started to get some Republican support. Now we’re reading about the conservative argument for marriage equality and somebody like Ted Olson is leading the charge on one of the marriage cases. People are coming out for marriage left and right.”

Caleb-Michael Files, a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, was in D.C. when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case that challenged President Obama’s health care reform law. He was also here last June when the justices issued their 5-4 ruling that narrowly upheld it.

The Knob Noster, Mo., native, who says his family did not accept him growing up because of his sexual orientation, plans to return to D.C. in time for the oral arguments in the Prop 8 case.

“These are important milestones that we have to be present for and understand what’s going on,” Files says.

Rallies, vigils planned across the country

The two rallies outside the Supreme Court are among the more than 170 events scheduled to take place across the country to coincide with the oral arguments.

The School Without Walls GSA in D.C. will hold a candlelight vigil and rally in front of the Supreme Court on Monday. Retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson is among those scheduled to attend an inter-faith service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Other gatherings are scheduled to take place in Cumberland, Md.; Richmond, Va.; and Keyser, W.Va.

Up to 30 people are expected to attend a candlelight vigil on the beach in Gulfport, Miss., on Tuesday.

Leiana Wortel, who tried to apply for a marriage license with her partner and four other same-sex couples in Hattiesburg, Miss., in January as part of the Campaign for Southern Equality’s efforts to highlight the lack of marriage rights for gays and lesbians in the South, decided to organize the event after she learned about other gatherings around the upcoming oral arguments in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases.

“We just thought it would be nice to do something on the coast to get more of the local LGBT community involved and start some conversation here,” Wortel says.

An estimated 500 people are expected to attend a rally in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago on Monday.

Local LGBT rights advocate Richard Streetman expects the gathering could draw even more people if the Illinois House of Representatives this week approves a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in the state.

“Throughout the history of LGBT Americans, we have gathered in Washington, D.C., to petition our government,” he says. “There are times where that’s necessary. There are times when people should be working in their home communities.”

Advocates remain cautiously optimistic

Nine states and D.C. currently allow same-sex marriage.

A Rhode Island Senate committee on Thursday will hold a hearing on a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to marry in the Ocean State. Lawmakers in Delaware, Minnesota and New Jersey in the coming weeks and months are expected to consider measures that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign a same-sex marriage bill into law, but Streetman pointed out DOMA will remain on the books even if gays and lesbians can marry in the state.

“People in Illinois are excited,” he says about the outcome of the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. “Some people have unrealistic expectations of states giving us our state rights. It is almost symbolic until you deal with DOMA.”

Mississippi and Missouri are among the 31 states that have constitutionally banned same-sex marriage.

Wortel says a lot of people with whom she speaks “are optimistic” the justices will find Prop 8 and DOMA unconstitutional. She remains less hopeful about the prospect of nuptials for gays and lesbians in the Magnolia State.

“People are not as optimistic of what the outcome will necessarily be in Mississippi,” Wortel says.

Files notes questions over the future of Missouri’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage if the justices strike down DOMA persist — Republicans control both chambers of the state Legislature, but a civil unions bill could be introduced once the Supreme Court rules on Prop 8 and DOMA.

“After the Affordable Health Care ruling, I think people are optimistic that there’s been a turning tide with the Supreme Court,” Files says. “These kinds of social and health care issues are issues we’re moving a little bit to the left on.”

Indiana lawmakers last month postponed a debate on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage until the outcome of the DOMA and Prop 8 cases is clear.

Agnew said she hopes they “really squash the current efforts underway” to amend the state constitution.

“That was exciting for us,” she says of the delayed debate in Indianapolis. “We’re hoping that it will be a positive outcome and will really trickle down to everyone — all of us out here in the Midwest and elsewhere.”

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Autos

Pride rides

Two models offer strong, confident, inspiring styling

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BMW X5 xDrive 45e

As usual, June is bustin’ out all over, with Vice President Kamala Harris making history by joining in the festivities. But the fun doesn’t have to end there. Two fine crossover SUVs show how easy it is to keep the party going indefinitely. I call them Pride rides—strong, confident and inspiring. 

BMW X5 XDRIVE 45E

$66,000

Mpg: 20 mpg (gas only), 50 mpg (electric and gas)

0 to 60 mph: 4.7 seconds

In 2015, back when Gus Kenworthy and Caitlin Jenner came charging out of the closet, BMW was making its own hoopla with the X5 xDrive 40e. This was the automaker’s first plug-in hybrid, an engineering marvel that could shift seamlessly between EV and gas-engine mode. Ride and handling were as good as any traditional SUV. And despite a hefty curb weight, acceleration to 60 mph was a decent 6.2 seconds. 

Fast forward to the X5 xDrive 45e, the next-gen model rolling into showrooms this year. Thanks to the pandemic, this debut has been more subtle. But the enhancements are quite substantial. The new engine—stronger and quieter than the previous model—helps this midsize SUV blast to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. Despite being over 400 pounds heavier, the updated X5 is actually nimbler. And the electric-only range is 31 miles, or twice as far as the old model. That’s a good thing, because overall fuel economy is now 20 mpg versus 24 mpg. Luckily, most motorists drive only about 30 miles each day anyway. (Or at least they did prior to the pandemic.) 

Inside, the cockpit design is minimalist chic, but with lots of standard features: faux-leather seats, panoramic roof, two 12.3-inch digital screens, and smartphone integration for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. All-wheel drive also is standard, even in electric-only mode. Along with all the latest safety gear, there’s active cruise control with a stop-and-go function that can be used at speeds up to 130 mph (yo, for autobahn drivers, not those of us stateside). And during a much-needed weekend getaway with some freeway backups, the traffic-jam-assist feature worked its magic: I was able take my hands off the wheel and relieve a lot of driver fatigue and frustration as the vehicle drove itself. This also was a blessing for my partner, who didn’t have to listen to me swear like a New York City taxi driver. 

MERCEDES GLS 450

$76,000

Mpg: 20 city/24 highway

0 to 60 mph: 5.8 seconds

For a few more bells and whistles, there’s the Mercedes GLS 450. This full-size SUV has acres of cargo room and can easily seat seven passengers. For a sportier vibe, you can swap out the second-row bench seat for two captain’s chairs. 

A robust six-cylinder engine comes standard and provides plenty of punch. The entry-level GLS handles just as effortlessly as the higher-end V8 model, which adds another $23,000 to the price tag. Both vehicles are smooth operators, with all-wheel drive and a sophisticated suspension that raises and lowers the chassis. There’s even a clever pothole-sensing system to neutralize nasty bumps and enhance the feeling that this hulking SUV is floating on air. As with many BMWs and Mercedes, the GLS now comes with two huge 12.3-inch screens: one for the digital gauges and the other for the infotainment system. 

Various pricey options abound, including five-zone climate control, a tablet to operate the infotainment system, and front and rear massaging seats that can be programmed to apply soothing relief to your back, tush or both. As if such amenities weren’t enough, you can toss in heated and cooled cupholders, as well as a cabin fragrance system with choice of four aromas. Both Mercedes and BMW offer vibrant ambient lighting, with thin strips of interior lights illuminating the foot wells, door panels, dashboard trim, climate control vents, cupholders, speaker rims, center console and more. To tap into your inner rainbow, the GLS has a digital color wheel where you can choose from 64 lustrous hues. You can customize the lighting even further, selecting different colors to illuminate various parts of the interior at the same time. For me, calling up some funky mood lighting and a few rockin’ Pride songs on the stereo is the perfect way to get the party started. 

Mercedes GLS 450
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Real Estate

Can you buy a home with Bitcoin?

Buyer, seller must agree to terms before using cryptocurrency

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Bitcoin. Most of us have heard of it. Increasingly, many are looking to invest in it. For many, cryptocurrency has now gone beyond being somewhat of an exclusive province for the more adventurous and risk inclined investors and is becoming far more mainstream, as more than 100,000 vendors worldwide accept it as a valid currency. All of this leads to an important question – can you purchase a home with Bitcoin?

For those hoping to do so, the good news is that it is a possibility. In fact, it is a possibility that may not be as distinct or far-fetched as many might have expected. First and foremost, both buyer and seller must agree on the exchange of Bitcoin for the property. As opposed to situations where more traditional forms of payment are utilized, a Bitcoin transaction requires the agreement of all parties up front.

Although you can buy a home with Bitcoin, this doesn’t mean that most buyers are in a place yet where they actually do. Certainly, using virtual currency to purchase real estate is still a very new and novel idea, so of course, there is still some hesitation in certain sectors of the market. Often, these concerns center around a lack of regulation and understanding of cryptocurrency. Others have concerns about how Bitcoin transactions will be taxed. All of these questions and concerns are understandable, and it is expected that as cryptocurrency continues to become more mainstream these concerns will lessen, and purchasing a home in this manner may be an option for an increasing number of buyers.

There are also definite pros and cons to a bitcoin home sale. One of the advantages, for many, is that the transaction can be completed very quickly. Often, after everything is signed, the transaction can be completed in as little as 10 minutes, depending on network congestion. On the other side of the coin, however, it’s important to be sure that you trust the other party if you’re making a real estate purchase. Bitcoin transactions are often not reversible, so it’s important to be certain about your choices ahead of time.

Ultimately, while there are many ways to finance the purchase of a home, there’s only one way to ensure that you have a smooth and successful real estate experience – and that’s by getting connected with the Realtor who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in.

As an LGBTQ home buyer or seller, you want someone who values you for who you are, who understands your needs and real estate goals, and who will be committed to helping you achieve them. At GayRealEstate.com, that’s where we come in. It is our passion and our purpose to connect LGBTQ homebuyers and sellers, with agents across the country who have the talent, experience, and dedication necessary to make your real estate experience the best it can be. You deserve nothing less. We would be honored to help you get started on your next real estate journey today. Contact us anytime.

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

The trendiest paint colors of 2021

Ultimate Gray, Illuminating, Urbane Bronze among year’s hues.

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Pantone’s two colors of the year are Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. (Image courtesy of Pantone)

Last year, I decided to forego writing about the paint colors of the year, since many people in our vibrant community were out of work. Buying Farrow and Ball paint for $125 a gallon, it would seem, was not the first thing on their to-do lists.

So here we are in 2021 where the Pantone color of the year is…wait for it…Ultimate Gray. 

Aren’t we tired of gray yet? Sure, Pantone pairs it with an outrageously bright yellow called Illuminating, which I would have guessed was a blue-toned white had I not seen it online. The combination of gray and yellow has been used in linens and fabrics for several years, albeit in softer hues, so while the stronger hues have been updated for 2021, I don’t find them fresh or exciting anymore.

There is an array of colors in the lineup this year that are reminiscent of dirt. Dulux has Brave Ground, a neutral earth tone that “creates a feeling of stability, growth and potential, and provides a firm foundation for change and creativity.” That sounds like a color I need to have in my paint collection just to write articles, negotiate real estate contracts, and watch the news.

Sherwin Williams brings us Urbane Bronze, which they describe as “sophisticated” and “rooted in nature.” Harvard naturalist Dr. Edward Wilson would have likened it to biophilia, a term he coined for humankind’s desire to search for “a connection to nature and other forms of life.” I think it would accent cicadas nicely.

Contemplative, the 2021 choice from Pratt and Lambert paints, is a color to think about. It’s a deep moss like that found in the rainforest or on the front of my house. I guess it’s time for a power-wash. 

Teal has been around for decades, but it became so over-used that 20 years ago, Crayola removed Teal Blue from its crayon collection. Now it’s back in Benjamin Moore’s Aegean Teal, a deep, muted blue-green-gray combination, the ocean’s equivalent of mossy Contemplative.

Southwestern dirt is represented by Behr’s Canyon Dusk, which looks a little like a New Mexico landscape on a hot, dry day, without the cacti interspersed or the mountains on the horizon. Or try it on the exterior of your organic adobe home.

Glidden suggests using its 2021 choice, Aqua Fiesta, a softer, muted turquoise-aqua blend that won’t overpower your bedroom, bathroom and kitchen walls, and will promote a feeling of calm where used.

Dutch Boy has selected Earth’s Harmony for 2021. While the name implies a brown tone, this color is actually a cheerful blue that takes you to the moon and back. (Well, to the sky anyway.) Check out how it looks on kitchen cabinets on Dutch Boy’s website. Forget the gray-on-the-bottom and white-on-the-top cabinet theme and liven up your kitchen with this vibrant color.

Now, if you’re not already on overload, Valspar gives us 12 new colors to select from. Many are neutral and all are muted. 

The brown and tan tones include Maple Leaf (think Vermont maple syrup candy), Unforgettable (a perfectly forgettable beige), Arizona Dust (refer to Behr’s Canyon Dusk above), and Gallery Gray (gray is possibly a misnomer – it looks tan to me). 

The blues and greens are Lucy Blue (teal by another name), Blissful Blue (a mid-toned blue gray), Granite Dust (a very light blend of green and gray), Garden Flower (a happy green with only a touch of gray), and Academy Gray (more akin to teal than gray and the darkest of their 2021 choices).

In addition, Valspar gives us Soft Candlelight (a not-too-bright yellow), Cherry Taupe (a neutral with slightly pink tones), and my favorite, Dusty Lavender (true to its name, although anything called Dusty makes me want to go and take a shower).

Clark and Kensington paint combines its colors into three collections of six colors each: Understated Impact, Mindful Living, and Creative Escape, which sound like things to ruminate about while doing goat yoga. 

Each collection features hues that are like the blues, greens, tans, and grays created by every other paint company. The one exception is Red Tulip, found in the Understated Impact collection. It’s more of a ruby or garnet than a true red, but it’s nice to see someone paint outside the box. 

This month, I hope to see more decorating in gem colors: Garnet, Amber, Citrine, Emerald, Sapphire, and Amethyst, with accents of Smoky Quartz and Tiger Eye, and a smattering of Sky-Blue Topaz, Rose Quartz, and Pearls. 

Now, wouldn’t that make a nice flag?  Stay colorful, my friends.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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