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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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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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1 Comment

  1. Suzanne Keller

    August 26, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    In solidarity with all people who fight for justice….as John Lewis said on Saturday: "Hang in there, I'm not tired, I'm not weary….."

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National

NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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Transgender rights group’s Los Angeles office receives bomb threat

[email protected] Coalition evacuated

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(Public domain photo)

A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Boulevard Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Los Angeles Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 p.m., while delivering the threat said; “You’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the LAPD responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 a.m. PT.

“Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI Latino immigrants who live in the U.S.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County.

The [email protected] Coalition’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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Jim Obergefell announces bid for seat in Ohio state legislature

Marriage plaintiff moves on to new endeavor

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Jim Obergefell has announced he'd seek a seat in the Ohio state legislature.

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

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