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Married gay Md. pastor celebrates Court rulings

Endures death threats, hate mail to preach inclusive message

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United Church of Christ, Robert Apgar-Taylor, DOMA, Gay Marriage, Maryland, Gay News, Washington Blade
Rob Apgar-Taylor, Maryland, DOMA, Supreme Court, Marriage, Gay News, Washington Blade

Rev. Apgar-Taylor married his partner, Rob Apgar in Massachusetts in 2004 and praised last week’s supreme court rulings. (Photo by Corey Clarke)

Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor of Grace United Church of Christ in Frederick, Md., was an unlikely same-sex marriage advocate to some who gathered alongside him at the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26.

The gay pastor who married his husband in Massachusetts in June 2004 received a number of questions from LGBT rights activists, journalists and passersby about whether he was “for us or against us” as they waited for the justices to issue their decisions in the two cases that challenged a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Apgar-Taylor told the Washington Blade he hoped their rulings would be “bold.”

“I hope that they’re willing to take a stand in this issue,” he said.

His wish came true less than an hour later when the justices announced their decisions that found DOMA unconstitutional and struck down Prop 8.

“They did the right thing,” Apgar-Taylor told the Blade in a follow-up interview. “They were able to work on the side of justice and on the side of compassion for families who need it the most.”

Born and raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, Apgar-Taylor said he wanted to become a pastor for as long as he could remember.

“I was three years old and when all the other little kids wanted to be policemen and firemen and cowboys and Indians, I wanted to be a minister,” he said. “It’s just always been there.”

Apgar-Taylor became a pastor in Pennsylvania after he received his master’s of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C. and his doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

He and his now ex-wife to whom he was married for 20 years had five children.

They divorced after Apgar-Taylor came out to her in the early 2000s, but they remain “good friends.”

Apgar-Taylor met his future spouse, Rob Apgar, at a Harrisburg, Pa., karaoke bar shortly after his divorce.

“We started talking to each other and we were singing karaoke,” he recalled. “By the end of the evening about four hours afterwards we exchanged phone numbers. And the next day we got together for dinner and had our first date.”

The couple tied the knot in Cambridge, Mass., on June 13, 2004 — a month after Massachusetts’ same-sex marriage law took effect after the state’s Supreme Judicial Court’s landmark 2003 decision that struck down the commonwealth’s ban on gay nuptials took effect — while Apgar-Taylor took a summer course at the Episcopal Divinity School.

“There’s something sacred in the nature of marriage,” he said. “It’s about covenant; it’s about choosing to be in someone’s corner whether it feels good or not. It’s about loving someone whether or not you feel loving or whether they even act loving.”

Apgar-Taylor, who is also a pastor at Veritas United Church of Christ in Hagerstown, Md., in February became the first openly gay minister of a mainline Protestant church in western Maryland when Grace United Church of Christ installed him.

The Frederick congregation in the spring of 2012 became the first mainline church in the area to host a same-sex wedding when a gay couple that married in D.C. renewed their vows during a ceremony that Apgar-Taylor officiated. Grace United Church of Christ also served as the headquarters for the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ’s efforts in support of the referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved last November.

Apgar-Taylor said he has received what he described as hate mail from the Army of God, a group that advocates for violence against abortion providers and gays. A same-sex marriage opponent outside the Supreme Court described him as “a disgrace” and said he “was going to hell” before the justices issued their DOMA and Prop 8 rulings.

“That’s what you’re going to get when you’re in my line of work,” Apgar-Taylor said, while noting the majority of people whom he meets are what he described as supportive. “You’re going to have enemies on the conservative Christian side.”

As he discussed the Supreme Court decisions with the Blade, Apgar-Taylor referenced a person he knows whom he said was unable to make end of life decisions for his partner and receive “all the rights we should have as married couples.”

“It’s degrading and dehumanizing to tell somebody you could spend 16, 18, 20 years loving someone and sharing your life with them, but at the moment at your life at your life when you’re the most devastated [say] sorry you were just a friend,” he said. “It’s humiliating to devalue someone’s relationship that way.”

Apgar-Taylor described the Supreme Court rulings as “incredibly important” for him and his husband on a both a legal and a financial level. He told the Blade he went to bed after the justices issued their decisions knowing that they were protected “for the first time in my marriage.”

“There’s nothing anyone can do to come in and tell me that I can’t make end of life decisions for him and make sure his wishes are known,” Apgar-Taylor said. “There’s nothing anybody can do to come in and take away stuff that we have earned and gotten together. There’s nothing anybody can do to come in and tell him that I was not his husband, that we were legal strangers. That’s incredibly important.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. dr. bob brogna

    July 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Married to my partner, Phil, 2004 Mass. we can only hope to become “legal” in Florida. Too many of us, and our children are suffering under Unconstitutional Discrimination, which needs to end right away. Congrats to the pastor and his mate for carrying the banner forward.

  2. Steve Jones

    July 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    NO surprise to me here….the United Church of Christ (UCC) happens to be many miles ahead of other denominations! The first to ordain openly gay clergy in 1972, and the first to go on record as a Marriage Equality Church….the UCC continues a very long list of "firsts"…..which actually goes back to the 1600's. I applaud the United Church of Christ for their stand on social issues, and I applaud this pastor for telling his story! If you are looking to "come home" to a church, you will find none better than the United Church of Christ….now with over 1,100 Open and Affirming congregations across the United States.

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Autos

A car fit for a queen

New $342,000 Rolls-Royce SUV will leave you speechless

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Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Last month, I was invited to test drive the ultimate SUV: a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. My partner Robert and I—nerdy fans of all things BritBox—decided to take this swanky ride on a two-day outing to Charlottesville. After all, meandering along Virginia’s bucolic backroads was the closest we were going to get to an English countryside. While we were trying to summon forth our inner Mr. Darcy, we discovered quite a few fun surprises in this regal SUV along the way.  

Rolls-Royce Cullinan
$342,000
Mpg: 12 city/20 highway
0 to 60 mph: 4.5 seconds

The Cullinan has a noble pedigree, named after the largest diamond ever found—a hefty 1.33-pound gem that is now part of the British Crown Jewels. There are other royal connections to Rolls-Royce, of course. Queen Elizabeth—who was trained as a World War II mechanic and, at age 95, still drives herself sometimes—has a vast car collection with many a Rolls. And both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle arrived at their weddings in a 1950 Phantom IV, made specially for the queen back when she was a mere princess. Yet despite its 114-year lineage, the luxury automaker has worked hard to keep pace with modern tastes and technology. 

Hence the Cullinan, the first-ever SUV in the Rolls-Royce stable. This tony horseless carriage has a $342,000 base price that quickly skyrockets with natty options. My test vehicle, for example, was $450,000—including $20,000 for a trendy detailing package. Other notable extras: lambswool floormats, contrast seat piping, black stained ash wood trim, and an embossed “RR” monogram on the doors and headrests. You also can opt for a cooling bin large enough for two Champagne flutes and a whiskey decanter. The best add-on, though, was the starlight headliner. To create the faux nighttime sky, it takes two craftspeople up to 17 hours to perforate 1,900 holes. Then fiberoptic lights are inset at various angles so that each “star” actually twinkles. And—crikey!—there’s even a shooting star feature. 

Exterior niceties are just as impressive, such as the anti-spin device to ensure the “RR” logo remains upright on each wheel cap at all times. Depending on customization, those fancy wheels can easily cost $4,000—each. The famous Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament is available in silver, gold-plated or illuminated polycarbonate. To prevent theft, the statuette automatically disappears beneath the hood when the engine is off. But perhaps the most impressive feature is also the least obvious, at least until you slip behind the wheel and fire up this high-class colossus. That’s when the finely tuned, twin-turbo V-12 engine roars to life and effortlessly glides you down the road. 

Driving such a sophisticated land yacht—which weighs almost three tons—feels like riding on a cloud. Surprisingly, there’s little body roll when cornering and no shuddering during quick stops. Think sleek Cutty Sark versus lumbering cruise ship. There were several major storms during our time in this vehicle, causing other drivers to pull off the road or frantically try and outrun the rain. But the Cullinan stayed steady, holding the road as we battered our way through heavy winds and torrential downpours. Another nice touch: Hidden in each of the rear coach doors was a full-size umbrella, which popped out at the push of a button. When we put the wet umbrellas back into their secret compartments, air vents quickly dried them out. Mary Poppins should have been so lucky.

The skies cleared the final day of my test ride, so I sped around the Beltway for one last hurrah. Perhaps because a Rolls-Royce is more refined and understated than any in-your-face Ferrari or Lamborghini, no one tried to race me down the road. Instead, there were lots of approving smiles and a big thumbs up or two. No, I didn’t respond with a royal wave. But I doubt anyone would have blamed me if I did. After all, driving a Cullinan makes you feel like queen for a day. 

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Real Estate

A real estate language primer

A few terms to know before you buy a home

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Before you start the home buying process, there are a few key terms to know.

When working with first-time buyers, I often hear them say, “I have a stupid question.” I automatically respond that there’s no such thing. 

What they think may be a stupid question almost invariably has been asked before by many other people in the same situation. The answer to a stupid question almost always makes you smarter, so what they really have may be a “smart question.”

Several questions that were recently asked of me have prompted me to take another look at what I discuss in my initial buyer consultations, so let’s start there. 

A Buyer Consultation is an initial meeting with a buyer, whether face-to-face, by telephone, or by Zoom or similar interactive means, where we exchange information about the buyer’s needs and the services I provide and determine whether we shall work together exclusively and for how long.

If we decide to go forward, we sign an Exclusive Buyer Representation Agreement, which allows an agent to be the buyer’s advocate by solely representing the buyer’s interests in a real estate transaction, protecting the buyer’s confidentiality, and providing essential services reserved for a client-based relationship. In the DMV, absent such an agreement, agents must legally represent and owe allegiance to a seller they have never met of a property they have never seen.

In D.C., our real estate contracts consist of 33 paragraphs of boilerplate language vetted by a committee of agents, brokers, and attorneys, updated as needed to comply with legislative changes and regulatory requirements. In other words, they contain a lot of “legalese.” In addition, there are a plethora of addenda that may apply to a real estate transaction.

It is important, therefore, for clients to understand what they are reading before signing and, rather than simply having buyers sign an offer electronically, I believe in providing them with a sample contract package and reviewing both the documents and the process with them to explain terms, market norms, and potential consequences of making certain choices.

The terms below seldom change in any meaningful way and learning them can be a good way to begin to understand the contract process.

Time is of the Essence, which is found at the top of our purchase contract, means that deadlines are fixed. There is no “wait just a minute more” unless both parties agree to an extension of time in writing.

An Earnest Money Deposit, generally an amount in excess of 3% of the offered price, accompanies or follows an offer and is held by a real estate brokerage or settlement firm until needed at closing. 

The terms Settlement and Closing are interchangeable and denote the signing and recording of documents transferring the property from seller to buyer.

A Contingency is a condition that must be met for the contract to proceed to settlement. An example might involve a satisfactory home inspection or appraisal, sale of a prior home, or receipt of financing. Compare it to a situation unrelated to real estate, such as “if you wear a mask, then you may enter the grocery store and shop.”

Home Inspections are typically conducted after a contract is Ratified, meaning all parties have agreed to the price and terms. They may allow for repairs to be negotiated with the sellers or for simple acceptance or rejection of the property based on the findings. Some buyers opt for a Walk-and-Talk inspection, which is conducted prior to submitting an offer. The cost is less, since buyers take their own notes and no report is issued. The offer the buyers make will be well-received by the sellers without the delay of a contingency. 

An Appraisal is ordered by the lender to determine the value of the property and whether that value supports the amount of the loan being made to the buyers. Don’t confuse this with an Assessment conducted by city assessors to determine value for property tax purposes. 

A Title Search is conducted to determine that there is nothing in the chain of ownership that would prevent the sale of the home. Title Insurance insulates the lender from issues such as fraud, forgery, liens, and other items that may not have been discovered in the initial search. The buyers may also purchase title insurance to similarly protect themselves.

In closing, a word about Closing Costs, the amounts paid to lenders, attorneys, brokers, and municipal offices at settlement for expenses incurred in completing the property transfer. The earnest money you have on deposit will be credited to you for these one-time costs or for the remainder of your downpayment. As J. G. Wentworth says, “It’s your money. Use it when you need it.”

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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Dining

Seven new restaurants to try this fall

D.C. restaurant scene thriving again after rough year

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Le Diplomate, dining, food, French cuisine, gay news, Washington Blade
If you like Le Diplomate, you’ll love new concept Bread Alley in Union Market offering, you guessed it, Le Dip’s famous breads. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The fall dining scene is as hot as ever. Here are some of the top tickets to look out for:

RAMMYs: Sept. 19 marks the annual D.C.-area restaurant industry awards, the RAMMYs. Many of the categories this year are unique to the challenges restaurants faced in 2020. Held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the awards “created timely categories that speak to all the ways the region’s uniquely met those challenges,” according to the RAMMYs. Such categories include “most innovative to-go packaging”, “outstanding COVID-safe redesign,” and “most impressive pivot to provision or market.” 

Jane Jane (1705 14th St. NW): 

Highly anticipated retro-chic cocktail bar Jane Jane quietly opened after more than two years in the making. Co-owned by gay men Drew Porterfield, his partner Ralph Brabham, and friend JP Sabatier, Jane Jane’s mid-century-style throwback offers classic cocktails and upgraded bar snacks. It’s located in the new Liz development on 14th Street.

Thirsty Crow (3400 11th St. NW):

Part sports bar, part cocktail bar, Thirsty Crow opened just last week in Columbia Heights. It sits in the subterranean level of Michelin Bib Gourmand-winning Makan, serving cocktails and bites inspired by Malaysian flavors, like its sister restaurant on the ground level. Chef James Wozniuk of Makan is overseeing the menu of snacks like shrimp chips and larger plates like spicy fried chicken with sambal.

No Goodbyes (1770 Euclid St. NW):

The Line Hotel previously played host to a suite of restaurants: A Rake’s Progress, Brothers and Sisters, and Spoke English. When these restaurants left this Adams Morgan hotel, the spaces sat mostly vacant until No Goodbyes slid into the ground floor. An all-day dining place that “taps the farmers, fishers, and small-time ranchers in DC’s own backyard,” according to its website, the menu sits squarely on a Chesapeake Bay foundation. Mid-Atlantic dishes, from fish to fowl, play large on the menu.

Bread Alley (1250 5th St NE):

The intoxicating tower of carbs that greets diners when they walk into buzzy Le Diplomate is getting its very own dedicated space, aptly named Bread Alley. A tiny location in the Union Market area, the shop just launched selling only the three types of bread that arrive complimentary at the start of any Le Dip meal: thick-crusted classic baguette, multigrain boules, and cranberry-walnut boules. It will eventually also sell pastries, jams, butter, honey, and other accouterments. Bakers begin their craft at 3:30 a.m. and offer their wares starting at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. or sold out, whichever arrives earlier.

Bistro Du Jour (99 District Square SW) 

Bistro Du Jour will be gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design’s third waterfront venue at the Wharf. A café in the Parisian style, it will lean heavily on croissants and cappuccinos during the day, moving to Champagne and larger savory dishes by night. The bistro will sell current partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery’s fresh baked goods and pastries, and will showcase traditional fare like coq au vin, French onion soup, steak frites, and foie gras for lunch and dinner. The bistro will display an extensive bubbly section, as well as a chic espresso bar and an outdoor patio. Brunch is in the works.

SUCCOTASH Prime (915 F St., NW)

After a yearlong hiatus, SUCCOTASH Prime recently reopened at the end of August. SUCCOTASH Prime, also run by gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, is an updated version of the restaurant, still with Chef Edward Lee at the helm. The refreshed SUCCOTASH opened as a southern steakhouse with an Asian twist, featuring smoked steaks, fried oysters, collard greens, ham, and kimchi side dish. Live music is also planned.

Via Roma (4531 Telfair Blvd #110, Camp Springs, Md.)

Via Roma is a restaurant where you can enjoy the pies, you just can’t call it “pizza.” Just opened a few weeks ago, the restaurant serves pinsas, a pizza-like dish using dough made from a heady mixture of wheat, soy, and rice flours, and then proofed for more than a day. The spot calls itself the first Pinsa-certified restaurant in Maryland, and aims to reflect the laid-back, Mediterranean atmosphere of Naples (the owner also runs an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified restaurant in Maryland). Beyond Pinsa, it also serves Maryland crab tater tots, panini, pasta, salad, and Aperol spritzes.

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