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Gay firefighter, first responder to Pentagon on 9/11, dies

Phillip McKee suffered injuries, illness after terrorist attack

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Phillip McKee, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade
Phillip Curtis McKee, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

Phillip Curtis McKee III was a first responder to the first at the Pentagon on 9/11. (courtesy photo)

Phillip Curtis McKee III, a businessman, stained glass artist and firefighter who was among the first to respond to the fire at the Pentagon caused by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, died May 31 at a hospital in Fairfax City, Va. He was 41.

Family members attribute McKee’s death to complications from injuries and illness linked to three days of fighting the Pentagon fire following the 9/11 attack, including inhalation of toxic dust, a severe leg injury that resulted in him being wheel chair bound, and a prolonged bout of post-traumatic stress disorder.

McKee’s husband and partner of 15 years, Nopadon McKee, said the injuries forced Phillip McKee to retire from his job as a firefighter due to disability. Although he displayed “tremendous courage” in persevering as an artist, businessman, and author over the next 12 years, the injuries and his struggle with PTSD took its toll, Nopadon McKee said.

“He succumbed to his injuries,” a statement released by the family says.

Phillip McKee was born in Portsmouth, Va., and lived in his early years in Corpus Christi, Kingsville and San Antonio, Texas. He did undergraduate studies at Yale University and graduate studies at Harvard University in Medieval history as well as economic and diplomatic history, and held a fellowship at Princeton University, a biographical statement prepared by family members says.

At the time of his university studies he became interested in the medium of stained glass and eventually became a stained glass artist and owner of a small business selling stained glass artwork, including his own.

Sandra Martinez, McKee’s aunt, said McKee entered a Catholic seminary for a short period of time after completing his university studies before moving to Washington, D.C. to work in the field of computer and internet security with the National Fraud Information Center.

While working in this position he founded Capitol Web Services in 1998 as a part-time web-based business.

According to Martinez, McKee, who had been serving as a volunteer fireman in the Maryland suburbs, informed his family in early 2001 that he decided to change his career and become a firefighter with the Arlington County, Va., Fire Department about six months prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“[A]after all of that education, I chose to become a firefighter,” McKee wrote in a message appearing on his business website McKeestaindedglass.com.

“Needless to say, this was not greeted with much enthusiasm by my family,” he wrote. “However, a firefighter’s work schedule gave me the free time I needed and I was able to pursue my other passion – glass art!” he wrote.

“Since 9-11, stained glass has become an even greater part of my life as I went through rehabilitation for injuries suffered at the Pentagon,” he said in his website message. “Glass has provided me with a creative outlet that I have sorely needed during this most difficult time in my life and in the life of our country.”

He went on to publish two books on stained glass art, including the acclaimed “Make It or Break It: Stained Glass For Beginners.”

A biographical statement prepared by Nopadon McKee and Martinez says Phillip and Nopadon have been a couple since 1998 and were joined in a religious wedding ceremony in 2006 at Little River United Church of Christ in Annandale, Va.

Nopadon McKee said the two proudly proclaimed their marriage to friends, family members and co-workers even though it is not legally recognized by the government.

In 2009, in spite of his disability and ailments, Phillip and Nopadon began mentoring a teenager they met that year and later adopted. Nate McKee is currently a college student, the biographical statement says.

“Phillip touched many lives throughout his forty years and will be remembered for many great accomplishments, but the most outstanding was his unselfish and brave act on 9-11,” the statement says.

Nopadon McKee, a Metro transit police officer who legally changed his name to McKee after he and Phillip McKee married, said he and Phillip have long been out as gay men at their jobs. He said Phillip McKee was out while working for the Arlington County Fire Department.

The Fire Department and some of its members are expected to participate in a funeral tribute for Phillip McKee scheduled for June 11 that will begin at the fire station in the Cherrydale section of Arlington to which McKee had been assigned at the time of the 9-11 attack at the Pentagon, Martinez said. The service itself is scheduled to take place at Little River United Church of Christ in Annandale at 11 a.m.

A wake and viewing is scheduled to be held Sunday, June 9, at the same church from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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State Department expresses concern over anti-LGBTQ bill in Uganda

Measure would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts

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A State Department spokesperson on Wednesday expressed concern over the passage of a bill in Uganda that would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts.

Ugandan lawmakers on Monday passed the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019, which contains a provision, known as Clause 11, that would explicitly ban “penetration of another person’s anus with that other person’s sexual organ or with any object” and “sexual acts between persons of the same gender.”

“We’re certainly concerned about the legislation in Uganda,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter in response to the Washington Blade’s question about the bill during a briefing with reporters.

Consensual same-sex sexual acts are already criminalized in Uganda.

President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a statement said the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019 criminalization provision “will enhance the already homophobic environment in Uganda and consequently lead the way for further violation of the rights of sexual and gender minorities, including violations such as ‘corrective rape’ and other acts of violence.” The Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy group has also called for Museveni to veto the measure over the clause.

“Sexual Minorities Uganda calls on the president of the Republic of Uganda to consider not assenting to the bill because of the problematic Clause 11 that now classifies sexual and gender minorities as sexual offenders,” said SMUG in its statement. “Rather, we call on the president to reminisce on the effects the now repealed Anti-Homosexuality Act had on the human rights discourse for sexual and gender minorities.”

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern also condemned the bill.

“Same-sex relations are already criminalized in Uganda’s Penal Code,” said Stern in a press release. “The inclusion of same-sex relations in this bill paints LGBTQ people as sexual offenders, and can only serve one purpose — to fuel already rampant LGBTQ-phobia, discrimination and violence. It is deplorable. The colonial legacy of criminalizing same-sex relations must end.”

The Biden administration in February issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

“The United States certainly stands up and defends the human rights of our LGBTQI+ persons all around the world and we also stand firmly in opposing violence and discrimination against all LGBTQI persons and will also urge governments to criminalize their status or conduct,” said Porter during Wednesday’s briefing.

“We will continue to condemn any violence or discrimination of vulnerable populations including our LGBTQI+ people, whether they’re in Uganda or anywhere in the world,” added Porter.

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