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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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Real Estate

Totally radical home buying

We should celebrate advancement of homeownership rights

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The phrase “totally radical” came of age in the 1980s and was defined as cool, wonderful, or awesome. Its synonym, wicked, can be found in nearly all Ben Affleck movies and a cry of “Excellent!” will bring back memories of an adventure had by Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) in 1989.

Although some people are not ready for cocooning yet, homeownership is still a cornerstone of financial strength and wealth building. For LGBTQ individuals, owning a home can provide a sense of economic security and a sanctuary where they can express their personalities freely and without fear of discrimination or harassment. 

Whether house, condominium, or cooperative apartment, owning a place to chill allows you to build a legacy and provide for future generations. It offers the stability needed to plan for the future, whether that involves raising a family, supporting aging parents, or ensuring a spouse’s or partner’s financial security.

Homeowners are also more likely to invest in their communities, fostering strong, inclusive, bitchin’ neighborhoods. For many LGBTQ people, a home is “In the District,” which prides itself on diversity. Homeownership allows individuals to create personal spaces that reflect their identities and values, contribute to the city’s rich cultural tapestry, support local businesses, and participate in community events and governance.

The journey toward homeownership for gay individuals has evolved over the years, reflecting broader societal changes and the struggle for LGBTQ rights. The stark contrast between the ’80s and now highlights the progress made, the challenges that still exist, and future uncertainties brought forth by the space cadets in our political system. 

In the 1980s, homeownership for gay people was bogus. The decade was marked by lame, pervasive discrimination and limited legal protections. The HIV/AIDS epidemic further stigmatized the gay community, intensifying societal prejudices. This climate of fear and hostility permeated various aspects of life, including the housing market.

Gay individuals faced overt discrimination from landlords, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders, even in the rental market. It was not uncommon for same-sex couples to be denied housing simply because of their sexual orientation. Even in the late ’90s I had clients looking for homes in Prince William County, Va., who had to hightail it out of an open house when told to take a hike. I kid you not!

Financial institutions were often unwilling to grant mortgages to same-sex couples or openly gay individuals. When they did, the terms were often less favorable than those offered to heterosexual couples. This made the dream of homeownership significantly harder to achieve, even though DINKs (dual income, no kids) tended to have more household income than so-called “traditional” families.

Additionally, the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships posed harsh challenges. Without the ability to marry, same-sex couples faced difficulties in co-owning property and ensuring that their partner had legal rights to the home. Estate planning was complicated, as inheritance laws did not recognize same-sex partners, potentially leading to the loss of a home upon a partner’s death.

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, was a fantabulous moment. This ruling provided same-sex couples with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including the ability to jointly own property and inherit without complication.

Anti-discrimination laws have also evolved. The definition of sex under the Federal Fair Housing Act has been expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as have protected classes in Maryland and Virginia. The District has taken that a step further; our protected classes also include gender expression and personal appearance. 

Organizations like the DC Center for the LGBT Community and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) offer resources and advocacy for LGBTQ+ homebuyers. These organizations provide educational workshops, networking opportunities, and support to navigate the housing market.

The advancement of homeownership rights for gay people is a testament to the righteous resilience and determination of the LGBTQ+ community. As society continues to strive for equality, it is essential to address the remaining challenges to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can achieve the goal of homeownership.

In 2024, the only limitations on owning a home are finding one and being able to afford it. Pride weekend is a great time to go to open houses. You’ll probably be walking right by several. 

But if you’re not ready yet and just feel like getting your ’80s jams on, grab your disco balls and check out the Totally Tubular Festival at The Anthem at The Wharf on July 14.I’ll be Desperately Seeking Susan and will, as they used to say in the ’70s, catch you on the flip flop.

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Real Estate

Decorating tips for Pride in D.C.

Perfect time to add a dash of creativity to your living space

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Hang your Pride flag and other LGBTQ-themed décor this Pride month. (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

As the vibrant LGBTQ community in Washington, D.C., gears up for the much-anticipated Pride celebrations on June 8 and June 9, it’s the perfect time to add a splash of color and a dash of creativity to your living space. Normally, I know you’re used to reading more educational and serious articles in this space. In the spirit of D.C. Pride this year, I thought a bit of levity would be welcomed.

Whether you’re in a cozy condo, a spacious home, or a rental apartment, here are some fabulous ways to zhuzh up your indoors and outdoors with Pride-themed décor. 

Indoors: Celebrate with Style

1. Colorful Accents Everywhere

Transform your living area into a festive space by incorporating the colors of the rainbow. Here’s how:

• Throw Pillows and Blankets: Swap out your regular throw pillows and blankets for those in bright, rainbow colors. This simple change can make your space instantly feel more festive.

• Pride Flags: Hang LGBTQ Pride flags on your walls or in your windows. The traditional rainbow flag is a staple, but also consider including other flags like the bisexual, transgender, or pansexual flags to celebrate the diversity of our community.

• Art and Posters: Display Pride-themed art or inspirational quotes from LGBTQ+ icons. Local artists often have prints and posters that reflect the spirit of Pride.

2. Light It Up. Lighting can set the mood for any celebration:

• Fairy Lights: Drape rainbow-colored fairy lights around your living room or bedroom for a magical touch.

• LED Candles: Use multi-colored LED candles to safely add a warm glow to your space.

3. Tabletop Décor. Celebrate at every meal with:

• Tablecloths and Runners: A vibrant rainbow tablecloth or runner can turn every dining experience into a celebration.

• Centerpieces: Create centerpieces with flowers in hues of the rainbow, or use colorful glass bottles as vases.

4. DIY Pride Crafts. Get creative with DIY decorations:

• Rainbow Paper Chains: Make paper chains in rainbow colors and hang them across your rooms.

• Pride Mason Jars: Paint mason jars in rainbow stripes and use them to hold utensils or flowers.

Outdoors: A Festive Façade

1. Balcony or Patio Pride. If you have outdoor space, make it a part of the celebration:

• Rainbow Banners and Streamers: Decorate your balcony or patio railings with rainbow banners and streamers.

• Outdoor Flags: Fly a large Pride flag from your balcony or in your garden.

2. Welcoming Door Décor. Your front door can be a bold statement of support:

• Pride Wreath: Create or buy a wreath featuring rainbow colors or themed around different LGBTQ+ flags.

• Welcome Mats: Greet visitors with Pride-themed welcome mats.

3. Garden and Window Dressings. Let your garden or exterior windows echo your Pride:

• Window Decals: Use removable rainbow decals to decorate windows facing the street.

• Garden Flags: Place small rainbow or other LGBTQ+ flags throughout your garden or in plant pots on your porch.

4. Lighting the Night. Make your outdoor space shine:

• Solar Rainbow Lights: Use solar-powered lights in Pride colors to illuminate pathways or garden borders.

• Projection Lights: Project rainbow patterns or Pride flags onto your home’s exterior.

Community Engagement

1. Share the Spirit. Decorate your shared spaces if you’re in an apartment building:

• Bulletin Boards: Put up colorful notices or flyers announcing local Pride events.

• Community Areas: If possible, decorate communal areas with small flags or posters.

2. Local Pride. Support local LGBTQ businesses by buying decorations or craft supplies from them. This not only helps the community but also promotes local artists and crafters.

Safety and Considerations

• Check with your landlord or HOA: Before hanging decorations outside or in shared areas, make sure to check if there are any restrictions.

• Be Mindful of Neighbors: While celebrating Pride, ensure your decorations are respectful and mindful of your neighbors.

By decorating your home for Pride in Washington, D.C., you’re not just brightening up your living space; you’re showing your support and solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Let your Pride shine brightly, and make this year’s celebrations unforgettable!

Scott Bloom is owner and senior property manager, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.

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Real Estate

Looking for vacation homes during Memorial Day weekend

A busy, strategic time in the housing market

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As summer arrives, more tourists begin thinking of buying in resort towns like Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor the sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, also marks the unofficial start of summer. Beyond its significance as a day of remembrance, it has become a prime period for the real estate market. The long weekend provides a unique opportunity for home buyers and sellers, making it one of the busiest and most strategic times in the housing market.

Memorial Day weekend is often a time when people head to the beach, the country, or the mountains for relaxation and to join in the local festivities. This long weekend offers a break from routine, a chance to honor those who have served, and an opportunity to enjoy the beginning of warmer weather. 

For real estate agents, however, Memorial Day weekend can be a blend of work and leisure, especially in resort communities where the real estate market is particularly active during this time. 

The influx of visitors to these destinations often includes prospective buyers who are considering purchasing vacation homes or investment properties. As a result, real estate agents in these areas might find themselves balancing work commitments with personal downtime.

We are keenly aware that the long weekend brings a surge in potential clients. Agents joke among themselves about business being slow until they make plans to go out of town. Open houses and community home tours are often scheduled to coincide with the holiday, taking advantage of the increased foot traffic.

Due to constantly improving technology, real estate agents can effectively manage their time and resources even during busy holiday weekends. Virtual tours, online listings, and digital marketing campaigns enable agents to reach a broad audience without always being physically present. Technology also allows agents to stay connected with clients and respond to inquiries promptly, ensuring that the clients do not miss out on potential sales opportunities. 

Often, agents licensed in the DMV are expanding their territories by becoming licensed in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Writing offers while on vacation has become the norm. Social media accounts can highlight special listings and open house events, and agents can also post pictures and descriptions of amenities in the towns they are visiting, attracting interested buyers who are in the area for the weekend.

The vibrant atmosphere of vacation getaway towns during Memorial Day weekend also provides a unique opportunity for networking and relationship-building. Agents can meet potential clients in a casual setting, forging connections that might lead to new business opportunities. They can also form relationships with other agents and create partnerships to help current and future clients find leisure homes.

The appeal of owning a place by the water, for example, is often strongest during the summer months, when the weather is inviting and the potential for rental income is high. Real estate agents who serve beach towns such as Ocean City, Md., Virginia Beach, Va., or Rehoboth Beach, Del., often mix business with pleasure as they seek out new clients.

Alternatively, if the relaxed life in the country is more to your liking, places such as The Amish area of Lancaster County, Pa. may be for you. Charles Town, W.Va., and Ashland, Va. have a robust military history and may be what you’re looking to enjoy. If mountains and lakes are more your style, the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, the Appalachians of West Virginia, or Deep Creek Lake, Md., may fit the bill, so let’s look at a few properties on the market today.

In Ocean City, you can find an oceanfront, one-bedroom condominium with beach and sunset views in a short-term rental building for $439,900. As you can imagine, it already has four weeks booked for the summer.

The historic district of Charles Town, W.Va., offers a 3,000-square-foot Victorian home built in 1890. It has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, 10’ high ceilings, original pocket doors, inlaid floors, and central air conditioning for $159,900. What’s the catch? It requires a complete renovation, but what a wonderful project it could be for weekend warriors.

Stretch your budget a bit more and you can own a 4,000-square-foot chalet with mountain views on both sides in Front Royal, Va. For less than $700,000, you will get four bedrooms and three baths, nearly two acres of land, and low-maintenance siding.

While many people flock to nearby vacation spots purely for relaxation, real estate agents often find themselves working diligently to learn about different areas and capitalize on the increased interest in local properties. By doing so, they can help clients find their dream homes, whether for retirement, short getaways, or investment potential.

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

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