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Supreme celebrations after court tosses DOMA, Prop 8

Hundreds gathered outside Supreme Court to wait for rulings

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David Boies, Proposition 8, gay news, Washington Blade
Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Act, gay news, Washington Blade, gay news

Activists on Monday held signs and a flag in front of the Supreme Court in hopes of a decision on the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Marriage equality supporters who gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday erupted into cheers as they learned the justices had found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“I’m thrilled,” D.C. resident Justyn Hintze, who is originally from Florida, told the Washington Blade outside the court. “I think that it’s about time and that sexual freedom and same-sex marriage is a human right.”

D.C. resident Amanda Klinger and her fiancée, Caroline Hunt, held a sign that read “our wedding just got 1138 times more equal” as they anticipated the Supreme Court ruling on cases that challenged the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA that defined marriage as between a man and a woman in federal law and California’s Proposition 8. Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor of Grace United Church of Christ and Veritas United Church of Christ in Hagerstown and Frederick, Md., who married his husband in Massachusetts in 2004, told the Blade before the justices issued their DOMA ruling that he hoped they would be “bold” in their ruling.

“God is about justice, compassion and love,” he said.

Larry Blanchard of Palm Springs, Calif., who married his husband in October 2008, recalled a person could lose their certification in the security complex in which he worked for simply knowing a gay person.

He told the Blade he feels “times have really changed in all those years.”

“This is wonderful,” Blanchard said. “People are finally treated equally.”

Charles Butler of GetEQUAL and former board chair of Equality Maryland, had been waiting outside the court since 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m just here to see history,” he said. “Even just as a spectator to be a part of it, it’s a really big time.”

Dani Dennenberg of Portland, Ore., held a sign that read, “two moms make a right” as she and two others waited to enter the Supreme Court. “We decided to come down and to be part of this historic moment. [We are] really hoping our country moves in the right direction.”

LGBT rights advocates around the country also applauded the DOMA decision.

“Since 2006, Virginia has had a constitutional amendment that prohibits the legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted. “While we continue working to lift the ban on marriage here at home, we can celebrate today’s decision from the Supreme Court, affirming that all loving and committed couples deserve equal respect and treatment.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who last month signed his state’s same-sex marriage law that takes effect on Monday, described the DOMA decision and ruling that struck down California’s Proposition 8 based on standing as “a victory for civil rights and another landmark moment in our country’s never-ending quest to be a more perfect union.”

“The decisions affirm that we can only live up to the values of freedom and justice for all when everyone is treated equally under our laws. I’m proud that we have celebrated this principle in our state with the passage of marriage equality.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Supreme Court reaffirmed “equal justice under law.”

“Today, the Supreme Court bent the arc of history once again toward justice,” she said. “The court placed itself on the right side of history by discarding Section 3 of the defenseless Defense of Marriage Act and by allowing marriage equality for all families in California.”

Same-sex marriage opponents were quick to criticize the DOMA and Prop 8 rulings.

“In a miscarriage of justice the US Supreme Court has refused to consider the decision of a single federal court judge to overturn the perfectly legal action of over 7 million California voters who passed Proposition 8 defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown. “The Supreme Court’s holding that proponents of an initiative had no legal right to appeal ignores California law and rewards corrupt politicians for abandoning their duty to defend traditional marriage laws.”

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court has lost its legitimacy as an arbiter of the Constitution and the rule of law,” Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver added. “Today is the death of the Court’s legacy, because the decision in the Federal Defense of Marriage Act case defies logic and is a pure invention of a handful of Justices.”

Even as same-sex marriage advocates continue to celebrate the Supreme Court’s landmark rulings on DOMA and Prop 8, GetEQUAL Co-Director Heather Cronk said in a statement she feels there is still work to be done to achieve what she described as full equality for LGBT Americans.

“Our work is far from over — not simply in our struggle for marriage equality in all 50 states, but also in employment, immigration, housing, credit, public accommodations, and so many other ways,” she said. “Today we celebrate, but we are getting right back to work.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Skeeter Sanders

    June 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me that the National Organization for Marriage and other opponents of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples — despite the Supreme Court’s decisions against DOMA and Prop. 8 — continue to cling to the false notion that voters can openly defy the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and deny to gay and lesbian Americans the rights and privileges guaranteed to — and enjoyed by — all other Americans under the SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, which is precisely what the Constitution of the United States is.

    No one — not the president, not the members of Congress, not the justices of the Supreme Court, and certainly not the seven million Californians who voted in favor of Prop. 8 — are above the Constitution of the United States. That is a fact of law that opponents of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples are going to have to live with, whether they like it or not.

  2. Sally Edelstein

    June 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    The Supreme Court ruling is indeed a milestone, but for some it would prove too late. Like my vivacious and gay Great Uncle Harry. A “confirmed bachelor”, my Uncle Harry was, next to a waiter passing the champagne, the most sought after man at a mid-century wedding. The single gals buzzed around him like bees to honey. The thing of it was, Harry’s come hither eyes weren’t directed to the bevy of beauties, they were more directed at the Best Man. Friends thought him picky, an odd man out in a world geared to the married set. Harry was born too early to witness a wedding cake topped by 2 grooms or a time when his come hither eyes would be able to gaze more openly to the possibilities that were denied him. For more visit http://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2012/06/25/the-gay-bachelor-and-the-bride/

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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