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LGBT March on Washington participants celebrate King legacy

Those who took part said civil rights leader would have backed gay rights

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Vince Gray, Vincent Gray, District of Columbia, D.C. Statehood, National March on Washington, gay news, Washington Blade
Jose Gutierrez, Latino GLBT History Project, National March on Washington, civil rights, gay news, Washington Blade

José Gutierrez, founder of the Latino GLBT History Project, at the National March on Washington (Washington Blade photo by Jon Wooten)

Liz Abzug, daughter of the late-former New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug who introduced the first federal gay rights bill in 1975, was 11-years-old when she and her mother attended the March on Washington in 1963.

She told the Washington Blade on Saturday her mother would have certainly returned to the Lincoln Memorial five decades later.

“She’d be up there speaking in the front,” Liz Abzug said as she stood with members of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBT synagogue in New York City, on the National Mall. “She’d be screaming and speaking and charging up and thrilled, but saying we have unfinished business.”

Liz Abzug is among the LGBT rights advocates who joined the tens of thousands of people who commemorated the 1963 march during which Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Rev. MacArthur Flournoy of the Human Rights Campaign; Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and Adrian Shanker, president of Equality Pennsylvania, are among those who joined Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and others at the Lincoln Memorial. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Equality Maryland, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, the Latino GLBT History Project and other LGBT groups also took part.

“I’m here with my brothers and sisters, not only in the union movement, but with LGBT people, with African Americans from the civil rights movement,” Suzanne Keller of Richmond, Va., told the Blade as she stood along the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial with her girlfriend who was 13-years-old when she watched the 1963 March on Washington on television. “I know I’m here with my people.”

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Participants in the National March on Washington (Washington Blade photo by Jon Wooten)

Lance Chen-Hayes of Princeton, N.J., held a sign in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and affordable health care as he stood on the Mall with his husband, Stuart Chen-Hayes, and their son Kalani. Stuart Chen-Hayes cited a list of people whom he considers heroes that include Bayard Rustin, who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and former U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning whom a military judge on Wednesday sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks.

“If we don’t stand up, speak up and be in the streets, who will,” Stuart Chen-Hayes told the Blade. “It’s especially important for us who are lesbian, gay, transgender and parents because there’s all sorts of folks who fought for us 50 years ago and long before that. It’s just continuing the struggle for civil rights and human rights.”

Anders Minter, a gay man who is a member of the United Auto Workers, traveled to the nation’s capital from Amherst, Mass. to attend the march.

He told the Blade he felt “incredible power and solidarity” while marching, but noted what he described as a “great tension.”

“It’s been 50 years since we’ve come together as a country with a focus on economic justice and social justice,” Minter said, noting the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington took place against the backdrop of June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a crucial portion of the Voting Rights Act and last month’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. “It’s been a long journey, but there’s a long journey ahead.”

D.C. officials used the march to highlight the issue of statehood for the nation’s capital.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray noted during a pro-statehood rally at the D.C. War Memorial near the Mall that people of “different sexual orientations and genders” were among those who attended the 1963 March on Washington.

“We’re demanding justice because justice is exactly what we are here to accomplish,” he said.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large,) D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2,) Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4,) Marion Barry (D-Ward 8,) Vincent Orange (D-At-Large,) Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) and David Grosso (I-At-Large) and D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier are among those who also attended the pro-statehood rally.

Roland Martin, a former CNN commentator whom the network suspended in 2012 over homophobic tweets he sent during that year’s Super Bowl, also spoke.

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D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton speaks at a pro-D.C. statehood rally at the D.C. War Memorial on Aug. 24, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

“This morning we serve notice as the March on Washington 2013 begins that we, who have fewer rights than almost any who will march today, can no longer allow the deliberate disempowerment and denial of our rights to go unnoticed, unnoted, unmentioned and ignored,” D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, said. “No more marches and ignoring D.C.”

King understood rights are ‘not divisible’

Many of the march participants with whom the Blade spoke said they feel King would have supported LGBT rights if he were still alive.

“His message of equality, his message of inclusion of all people was loud and clear in everything that he wrote and every speech that he gave,” Grosso said.

“We’re humans and everybody deserves the same rights,” Daniel Trejo of Columbia Heights told the Blade as he prepared to march to the Lincoln Memorial with the D.C. Office on Latino Affairs.

Minter referenced King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as he discussed how he feels the slain civil rights leader would have backed LGBT rights.

“Martin Luther King was an incredible listener, as much as he was an incredible orator,” Minter said. “Part of acceptance and love is listening and understanding and I think he would have added this to his work.”

Both Liz Abzug and Keller noted to the Blade the slain civil rights leader’s widow, Coretta Scott King, backed marriage rights for same-sex couples before she passed away in 2006.

“Dr. King had a key understanding that rights are not divisible,” Keller said. “If we don’t have human rights for everybody, we don’t have human rights for anybody.”

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor, transgender spouse indicted for passing information to Russia

Jamie Lee Henry first active-duty Army officer to come out as trans

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Jamie Lee Henry and their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Photos from social media)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in a press release stated Anna Gabrielian, 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, 39, both of Rockville, Md., both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

Court documents indicate Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian Embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on Aug. 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the U.S. military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Henry identifies as a “transgender military physician” on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as trans.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving trans U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Washington Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1 in Baltimore.  

Henry, a major in the U.S. Army who held a secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the U.S. Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

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The unvaccinated are 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox: health officials

Guidance updated to allow shots in places other than forearm

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U.S. health officials are celebrating data finding the monkeypox contraction is lower among people who are vaccinated.

U.S. health officials are celebrating preliminary data on the vaccine used in the monkeypox outbreak, which has led them to conclude eligible persons who didn’t get a shot were 14 times more likely to become infected than those who are vaccinated.

The new data, as described by health officials on the White House monkeypox task force during a call with reporters on Wednesday, comes as the overall number of new cases of monkeypox is in sharp decline, although considerable racial disparities persist in the remaining cases as Black and Latino people are overrepresented in the numbers.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, said during the conference call the preliminary data — collected from 32 states between July 2022 and September 2022 — provides an early shapshot of the effectiveness of the vaccine and cause for optimism on the path forward.

“These new data provide us with a level of cautious optimism that the vaccine is working as intended,” Walkensky said. “These early findings and similar results from studies and other countries suggest even one dose of the monkeypox vaccine offers at least some initial protection against infection.”

Walensky during the conference call admitted the data is incomplete in numerous ways. For example, the data is based on information on individuals who have obtained only the first shot as opposed to both shots in the two-shot vaccination process. (The data showing positive results from individuals who have only one shot contradicts previous warnings from the same U.S. health officials that one shot of the monkeypox vaccine was insufficient.)

The data also makes no distinction between individuals who have obtained a shot through subcutaneous injection, a more traditional approach to vaccine administration, as opposed to intradermal injection, which is a newer approach adopted in the U.S. guidance amid the early vaccine shortage. Skeptics of the new approach have said data is limited to support the idea the intradermal injection is effective, particularly among immunocompromised people with HIV who have been at higher risk of contracting monkeypox.

Not enumerated as part of the data were underlying numbers leading health officials to conclude the unvaccinated were 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox as opposed to those with a shot, as well as any limiting principle on the definition of eligible persons. Also unclear from the data is whether individual practices in sexual behavior had any role in the results.

Despite the positive data on the monkeypox vaccine based on one shot, U.S. health officials warned during the conference call the two-shot approach to vaccine administration is consistent with their guidance and more effective.

Demetre Daskalakis, the Biden administration’s face of LGBTQ outreach for monkeypox and deputy coordinator for the White House monkeypox task force, made the case that for individuals at risk obtaining a second dose is “really important.”

“So we see some response after the first [shot] in the laboratory, but the really high responses that we want to really get — that you know, level 10 forcefield as opposed to the level five forcefield — doesn’t happen until the second dose,” Daskalakis said. “So the important message is this just tells us to keep on trucking forward because we need that second dose at arms that people haven’t gotten the first should start their series of two vaccines.”

Also during the call, health officials said they would be expanding opportunities for vaccines as pre exposure prophylaxis, as opposed to practices in certain regions granting vaccines in their limited supply to individuals who meet certain criteria or have had risk of exposure.

The Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, officials said, is also updating its guidance to allow injection of the vaccines in places other than a patient’s arm.

Daskalakis said fear of stigma about getting a noticeable shot in the forearm after obtaining a monkeypox vaccine was a key part of the decision to issue the new guidance on implementation.

“Many jurisdictions and advocates have told us that some people declined vaccine to monkeypox because of the stigma associated with the visible but temporary mark often left on their forearm,” Daskalakis said. “New guidance from CDC allows people who don’t want to risk a visible mark on their forearm to offer a vaccine on their skin by their shoulder or their upper back. Those are areas more frequently covered by clothes.”

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