Connect with us

Opinions

Registering as ‘independent’ a copout

D.C. should retain its closed primary system

Published

on

voting, rhetoric, District of Columbia, independent voters, gay news, Washington Blade
voting, District of Columbia, independent voters, gay news, Washington Blade

When my party chooses a candidate in its primary not to my liking I am still free to support another party’s candidate in the general election.

There has been debate recently about changing the primary system in the District of Columbia and nearly all of it from those outside the Democratic Party who feel disenfranchised. There is a simple solution and that is for them to register as Democrats. But clearly that doesn’t satisfy them.

I would make one change to the current closed primary system and that is to hold a run-off election when no candidate reaches a pre-determined percentage of the vote. But that actually ends up uniting the party around one candidate and some who want open primaries in D.C. may not like that as it will make it even more unlikely than now to elect anyone other than a Democrat. The District is a Democratic town because the majority of the people living here believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and are willing to stand up for them.

In today’s political world there seems to be some cache in telling people you are an independent. I haven’t quite figured out why not having your political views public and associating with the party that represents them makes you cool but some think it does. There are two main political parties in the nation, Republican and Democratic. When registering to vote in D.C. you have the option of registering in those two or the Green Party, Statehood Party, register no party (independent) or list some other party.

In D.C., which is overwhelmingly Democratic, provisions have been made in our home rule charter for two at-large Council seats to go to a candidate other than a Democrat. So over the years we have had members of the Statehood Party, Republican Party and independents holding those seats. Council member David Catania first got elected as a Republican. When he decided to leave the Republican Party he chose to become an independent so he could keep his seat. Nothing stopped him from registering as a Democrat other than either he didn’t believe in the principles of the party or it was politically expedient that he didn’t have to give up his seat (one allocated for someone other than a Democrat).

I am a proud Democrat and have been since first registering to vote in New York City. An activist in politics from a very young age, there is pride in the party I have chosen and an unwillingness to see all the work so many party activists have accomplished potentially be undone by those not in the party choosing its candidates. Democrats have fought for years for the principles of the party we support and have battled to ensure that our party supports and stands for the human and civil rights of all people and progressive policies. Today there is not much similarity between the two major parties. They represent very differing views of the world. So that makes me question this desire of some unwilling to stand up for one of them and rather declare themselves independent, which doesn’t indicate at all what they believe or what principles they are willing to fight for. It rather seems a copout.

An independent who wants to vote in a Democratic or Republican Party primary chooses to let others fight for the principles of the party and then after the debate is all over say, “Here I am and I now want to choose who will be the standard bearer for what you have fought for and believe”.

When my party chooses a candidate in its primary not to my liking I am still free to support another party’s candidate in the general election. It hasn’t happened often but in 1994 I supported and volunteered countless hours for Carol Schwartz, when she ran as the Republican candidate for mayor.

Recently we have seen a candidate in Ward 1 drop out of the Democratic primary and change his party affiliation to independent. He declared he wanted to give the people of the Ward more choice in the election. If he couldn’t connect with the voters in the Democratic primary, what makes him think he will connect with them later?

This debate will continue but I hope that for the foreseeable future we maintain a closed primary system in D.C.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Bruce Majors, Libertarian for Mayor

    February 12, 2014 at 7:08 am

    I suppose one could admire Mr. Rosenstein for his decades long promotion of his local Democratic Party, no matter what they do. He may have served more terms than even our many Democratic incumbents, now in their late 60s and 70s, who have been in office since 1990, after nullifying the popular 1994 term limits initiative 66% of DC voters passed. Like Mr. Rosenstein, they too turned a blind eye to the systemic corruption and malfeasance throughout the DC government of their Democratic colleagues in our one party state, and only independent citizens – who weren’t Democrats – like Tim Day – brought it to light. In that context people choosing to register as No Party and be independents, as one fifth of DC voters do, is a healthier and more rational and more informed political choice than just registering Democrat so you can participate in the closed Democratic primary, the only reason many, including me in the past, deigned to do it. So as usual, Peter Rosenstein’s column is just a player piano grinding out decades old talking points.

  2. Peter Rosenstein

    February 12, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    I appreciate Mr. Major’s comments but often wonder what he can site as his accomplishments for the citizens of the District over his years as either a Democrat in the past or a Libertarian now.

    I have not been in office which Mr. Majors seems not to know- and should he bother to do some research he would find that I was opposed to the Council overturning the term limit referendum. That wasn’t a Democratic Party issue rather a decision by individual members of the Council at the time. I am opposed to term limits but felt that after the referendum they should have gone into effect and was very public about that.

    Mr. Majors likes to lump all Democrats together but the reality is that is why there is a primary and in some cases Democrats will vote other than their Party which I indicated I did in the 1994 Mayoral race. I have also publicly supported and voted for Mr. Catania in a number of his races for Council when he ran as a Independent because I thought he was an effective Councilmember.

    Since Mr. Majors gets personal in his reply to my column I would be happy to put my record of public volunteer service up against his at anytime whether it is working for school reform, marriage-equality, community input into government, women’s rights and voting rights among other issues. Mr. Majors is running for office so he has a vested interest so I do understand his interest in this issue. But I think if he is too succeed in his race he needs a record of service to run on and I don’t think he has one.

  3. Bruce Majors, Libertarian for Mayor

    February 13, 2014 at 7:06 am

    That’s an amusing response. I’m sorry it was hard for you to understand my humor. My reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s “terms in office” was to his years if not decades writing essentially the same columns over and over uncritically flaking for Democrats. As to the Democrats and their opposition to term limits and their overlooking their own corrupt colleagues, I doubt you can find one, especially running for office this year, who has supported term limits (Jack Evans led the city council to nullify them back in the 90s after 66% of the voters voted for them) or who did anything to expose corruption before their fellows were indicted. Of course they are not alone, no journalist or columnists paid any attention to our city council members who were embezzling funds from charities etc etc. independent citizens like Tim Day did it. Finally, I am unaware of Peter Rosenstein’s contributions to the gay community or school reform as he is unaware of mine. Other than this column where he defends the one party DC power structure I must plead ignorance as to what he does. When I gave $20,000 to the Democrats in 2000, through their gay and lesbian interest section, and went to their nominating convention (after working 70 hours a week that year to make that money) I didn’t notice him there. When I gave $25,000 a year later, to the Human Rights Campaign, I didn’t see Mr. Rosenstein there. (As for “comparing” – I’d compare my donations to gay causes to Mr. Rosenstein or to those of any candidate running in DC this year,) When I attended GLAAD events or Gays and Lesbians Organizing Against Violence in the 80s and 90s when I had no money I didn’t see Mr. Rosenstein there. When I went to rallies defending school choice and education vouchers I saw Marion Barry and parents and students but not Peter Rosenstein. When I went to Gertrude Stein Democrat or Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund or Human Rights Campaign Federal Club events in the 2000s I didn’t see Mr. Rosenstein there. When I went to a rally for gay marriage last year at the Arlington, Virginia courthouse or to the march at the Supreme Court for marriage equality last spring, I didn’t see Mr. Rosenstein there. Now maybe he went to some of these things. Or maybe he went to other gay rights events, because we are blessed to have many. But Mr. Rosenstein’s lack of information about what other people do to support the gay community, and his parochial blinders that lead him to believe that he and Mayor Gray and a corrupt party and his incumbents are the people doing all the work furthering individual rights for gays, is just the same limited and uninformed perspective we find in his partisan and uninteresting columns.

  4. Bruce Majors

    February 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    That's an amusing response. I'm sorry it was hard for you to understand my humor. My reference to Mr. Rosenstein's "terms in office" was to his years if not decades writing essentially the same columns over and over uncritically flaking for Democrats. As to the Democrats and their opposition to term limits and their overlooking their own corrupt colleagues, I doubt you can find one, especially running for office this year, who has supported term limits (Jack Evans led the city council to nullify them back in the 90s after 66% of the voters voted for them) or who did anything to expose corruption before their fellows were indicted. Of course they are not alone, no journalist or columnists paid any attention to our city council members who were embezzling funds from charities etc etc. independent citizens like Tim Day did it. Finally, I am unaware of Peter Rosenstein's contributions to the gay community or school reform as he is unaware of mine. Other than this column where he defends the one party DC power structure I must plead ignorance as to what he does. When I gave $20,000 to the Democrats in 2000, through their gay and lesbian interest section, and went to their nominating convention (after working 70 hours a week that year to make that money) I didn't notice him there. When I gave $25,000 a year later, to the Human Rights Campaign, I didn't see Mr. Rosenstein there. (As for "comparing" – I'd compare my donations to gay causes to Mr. Rosenstein or to those of any candidate running in DC this year,) When I attended GLAAD events or Gays and Lesbians Organizing Against Violence in the 80s and 90s when I had no money I didn't see Mr. Rosenstein there. When I went to rallies defending school choice and education vouchers I saw Marion Barry and parents and students but not Peter Rosenstein. When I went to Gertrude Stein Democrat or Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund or Human Rights Campaign Federal Club events in the 2000s I didn't see Mr. Rosenstein there. When I went to a rally for gay marriage last year at the Arlington, Virginia courthouse or to the march at the Supreme Court for marriage equality last spring, I didn't see Mr. Rosenstein there. Now maybe he went to some of these things. Or maybe he went to other gay rights events, because we are blessed to have many. But Mr. Rosenstein's lack of information about what other people do to support the gay community, and his parochial blinders that lead him to believe that he and Mayor Gray and a corrupt party and his incumbents are the people doing all the work furthering individual rights for gays, is just the same limited and uninformed perspective we find in his partisan and uninteresting columns.

  5. Peter Rosenstein

    February 13, 2014 at 9:21 am

    “Finally, I am unaware of Peter Rosenstein’s contributions to the gay community or school reform as he is unaware of mine. Other than this column where he defends the one party DC power structure I must plead ignorance as to what he does”.

    Well I must admit I was unaware of what Mr. Majors has contributed especially his money which is great and I hope he continues to contribute it. So I accept that he is unaware of what I do. But of course when Mr. Majors again starts to attack me about my having parochial blinders I question which Party he thinks has moved our country forward in the past years. Clearly it is the Democratic Party. I don’t think anyone in the LGBT community or for that matter any minority. woman or progressive would question that.

    I think if he has a differrent view it may be he who has the blinders on but then again I accept that as he is running for office he needs to make a case for his candidacy if he wants people to reject the incumbent he is running against. I don’t think it is productive to get into personal debates online so my part of this discussion strand will end here. However I again thank Mr. Majors for all the things he has done that I didn’t know about. Maybe he will have the courtesy to accept all that I have done.

    I wish him luck in his election and that is something only the voters of the District can decide and it has nothing to do with the primary as he will be running against only one representative of the Democratic Party by the time his election is decided.

  6. James S.

    February 13, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    After reading the op-ed, I have determined that the person who wrote it doesn’t quite understand the reasons why people (especially young people) are choosing to be independents. It’s because we can think for ourselves. We don’t believe in sticking to just a political party, and we feel that those that are elected should answer to the people and not the party bosses.

    We don’t see things are red vs. blue (Democrat vs. Republican). We see good ideas from both parties, and we see horrible ideas from both parties. We also tend to see what politicians that adhere to political ideology miss… usually the common sense answers. We have come to see the two parties as the same side of a coin. We also see how the Democratic and Republican parties have worked together to keep their stranglehold on the system by making it harder for independent candidates and third party candidates off ballots.

    I am a proud registered independent voter in my state, and if I get the job I want, then I will be on in DC as well. Most independents (which includes myself) are smart enough to think for themselves without the party having to “tell” them what to think. I can even do my own research and am not afraid to call out any elected person on their BS regardless of their party.

    I have a saying. If I’m not good enough to vote for you in a primary, then you aren’t good enough to get my vote in a general election. I can find someone else to vote for… and so can every other independent voter.

  7. Peter Rosenstein

    February 18, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    To James S. : I find the following statement you made very interesting ” I have determined that the person who wrote it doesn’t quite understand the reasons why people (especially young people) are choosing to be independents. It’s because we can think for ourselves. We don’t believe in sticking to just a political party, and we feel that those that are elected should answer to the people and not the party bosses.”

    I agree with you that people who are elected need to answer to the people. And in every election they do. And then no one says you aren’t good enough to vote for someone in a primary, you are perfectly free to if you are in the Party that is holding the primary. If you aren’t you then have the choice to vote for whatever candidate you like in the election from whatever Party they are from. That is why we have elections. But you seem to be saying if a Party doesn’t allow you to vote in their primary you automatically won’t vote for their candidate. I would rather hear you say that you won’t automatically vote for their candidate but will compare all the candidates on the ballot and pick the one that most closely matches the positions you have on issues. I think anyone who follows politics closely realizes that no one candidate will match all of what they stand for and often we are forced to choose among those who come closest.

    But letting you vote in a Party primary in which you aren’t registered doesn’t seem to make much difference to you if your chosen candidate in that primary doesn’t win what will you do then? Will you automatically vote against the winner who you didn’t choose. I would hope you would still match that person against the others in the general election and find the best one.

    Many young people I know still understand that Party does make a difference in many ways. In Congress at this time many Republican moderates are still voting to elect Boehner as the Speaker of the House and he is now doing things like preventing ENDA from coming to a vote. Where as even not perfect Democrats would vote or Pelosi and ENDA would be brought up to a vote. Just a small example of why Party does make a difference.

    I respect your right to register as an Independent. But when you do so in DC just be aware of the rules of the game and don’t then complain later. I also respect your right to think for yourself and not have a Party tell you how to think. I agree with that which is I why among other things I am an activist in the Democratic Party to tell them what I think they should stand for and who I want to support for office from the Party.

  8. Kurt

    February 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Contrary to James’ assertion, I am a Democrat and it has not stopped me an iota from thinking for myself. Further I’ve never met once in DC a “party boss” who elected officials think they need to answer. If anything, the party apparatus is rather weak to even do its positive duties.

    I don’t think DC ballot access law unfairly restrict any independent who wishes to run for office. As a general principle, I find those who register as independents in DC are not brave, free-thinking, creative types brimming with new ideas, but folks rather disengaged from civic life. On the other hand, I find many people who are far from even what little orthodoxy exists in the Democratic Party who take advantage of the fact that anyone is free to register as a Democrat without any ideological test or need to learn the secret handshake.

    I would suggest this change in law — that voters be allowed to change their party registration at the polling place on primary election day. This way an independent could decide to vote in the Democratic primary on the spur of the moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinions

McAuliffe YES, Trump NO, for governor of Va.

Youngkin is a stand-in for disgraced former president

Published

on

Terry McAuliffe, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Vote Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia because he will be a great governor. Reality is the alternative is Donald Trump who may be calling himself Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, but don’t be fooled, Youngkin is only a stand-in for Trump.

Virginians know and respect McAuliffe. He was a successful governor in his first term and is a decent and honorable man. Had Virginia law allowed him to run for a second consecutive term he would have won easily. He has a stellar record of moving the state forward on equal justice and equal opportunity, civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. 

The first executive order McAuliffe issued upon taking office in 2014 banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination against state employees. He vetoed religious freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board, and became the first Virginia governor to declare June as Pride month. He was the first governor of a southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding.

He recently said, “As governor, I will fight my heart out to make Virginia the most open, welcoming and inclusive state in the nation, and break down the disparities that LGBTQ communities, and particularly communities of color, face in education, health care, the economy and more. Together, we’ll move Virginia forward into a better, brighter future for all.”

When it comes to women’s rights McAuliffe staved off attacks by extreme Republicans who controlled the Virginia Legislature during his tenure. He fought for women’s health care rights and fought to keep open every women’s health clinic in the state. He vetoed legislation that would have harmed women, including a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood in Virginia. 

On civil rights he said one of his proudest accomplishments was being able to reverse a racist Jim Crow law disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Virginians. McAuliffe restored the right to vote to more than 200,000 Virginians with felony convictions allowing them to fully participate in democracy after serving their time.

He was good for business and during his term as governor had a record of bringing more than 200,000 good paying jobs to the state and oversaw a lowered unemployment rate and an increase in personal income of over 13 percent. McAuliffe understands early investments in the state’s infrastructure helps the state to be a national leader in clean energy. 

These and so many other positive reasons are why Virginians should vote for Terry McAuliffe. 

But there are also many reasons to vote against Trump stand-in, Glenn ‘Trump’ Youngkin. The first is Trump saying, “he has my complete and total endorsement!” 

Youngkin continues to spread the Trump lie by still fighting the 2020 election and calling for an audit of Virginia election machines. He regularly speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He got caught on tape behind closed doors telling donors he won’t “go squishy” on banning abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood. He added, “As a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.” Then he is still casting doubts on the COVID vaccine. He claims he is telling people to get vaccinated against COVID and then is recorded telling others it is their choice. He is against mandating vaccines for teachers and healthcare workers. His ads feature a teacher, who is a Trumper, endorsing his education program (a disaster) but who is opposed to mandating vaccines for teachers. They feature healthcare workers endorsing him who are against a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.  Youngkin is trying to buy the Virginia election saying he would raise $75 million but most from his own vast fortune, actually trying to buy it for Trump. 

Virginia Democrats and right-thinking independents and Republicans must come out in large numbers to repudiate Donald Trump once-and-for-all by casting their votes for Terry McAuliffe. 

Let’s hope Trump voters in Virginia stay home this year. But McAuliffe can’t count on that to win. It will take Democrats in huge numbers to give McAuliffe the same big win Joe Biden had over Trump in Virginia in 2020. If that happens Democrats will also keep the House of Delegates and win the other statewide races. 

Remember, when you vote for McAuliffe you vote for the man named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine in his last term. Virginians should give him a well-deserved second term.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Blogging my first overseas vacation since COVID

Chronicling life aboard Celebrity APEX

Published

on

I will be blogging a number of times during my two-week transatlantic cruise and sharing my thoughts and experiences. 

The first thing I found is boarding during a pandemic is a little different. People were given specific boarding times yet most arrived at the port when it was convenient for them as many had early check-out times from their hotel or Airbnb in Barcelona. Celebrity didn’t turn anyone away. There was no Wi-fi at the entrance to the terminal so things got a little complicated as many had the information needed on their iPhone Celebrity app. It worked out and when you got inside to the counter they shared a Wi-fi connection. 

I knew in advance from a Facebook connection, some childhood friends whom I hadn’t seen in 21 years were going to be onboard. We ended up arriving at the terminal at the same time and caught up for the next hour and a half as we progressed through the boarding process. We all had to take a Covid test and only those with negative results could board. Of the approximately 1,300 people boarding, less than half the possible number for a full ship, I didn’t hear of anyone getting a positive result. 

When my negative result came back I was allowed to board and went to find my stateroom on deck 11. The key was at the door with all my information on it. Celebrity was doing everything to limit crew-to-passenger contact. We were asked to keep masks on in all indoor spaces except when eating or drinking, which on a cruise is often, and the crew are all wearing masks. Luggage was delivered to the door. 

Shortly after entering my beautiful stateroom there was a knock at the door and my stateroom attendant, Lenie, had come to introduce herself. She didn’t come in but explained how I could reach her anytime and for safety she would only come into the room when I was out. We chatted for a few minutes and I found out she was from the Philippines, had three children, and had worked for Celebrity for 20 years. She was both charming and efficient. 

I then took a walk around the ship and was duly impressed. It is beautiful. I walked through the huge buffet where people were happily eating lunch and saw instead of serving yourself there were servers behind each station filling people’s plates. All passengers had on their masks when getting food, as did the crew serving them. It made for a very safe feeling. 

Instead of a group muster each passenger was asked to go to their assigned muster station where you were met by staff who explained emergency procedures. You also had to look at a video on the Celebrity app and were then logged in and confirmed you had done so. All efficiently and safely done. 

Then I headed to the sail-away party my travel agent, and friends, Scott Moster and his husband Dustin, were hosting in the Iconic suite. The suite has everything from a peloton cycle to a hot tub for eight. It is incredible. I had the chance to catch up with old friends I had sailed with before the pandemic. Then it was a quick tour of the spa and gym open twenty-four hours a day. A way to assuage guilt over all the food and drink. Then back to the stateroom to finish unpacking and change for dinner with good friends in one of the specialty restaurants, EDEN. That meant long pants and a shirt with a collar. That’s as formal as required on this cruise. 

The food was superb and we got to meet the chef, Nicholas. An interesting guy who I will interview during the cruise. The menu was a combination of fresh fish, lobster, to filet mignon, all interestingly prepared. 

After dinner it was a stop at the Martini bar where a large group of LGBTQ friends had gathered along with some who would become friends. I was surprised when a guy came over and gave me a hug. I didn’t recognize him with his mask on but turned out he was another friend from my past I hadn’t seen in years. It is clearly a small world and the gay world seems even smaller. 

Finally headed to my stateroom around midnight, where turndown service had been done, to get some sleep and prepare for day two, and our first stop, Alicante.  

Day two and three on the Celebrity APEX

Time flies when on a cruise; maybe it’s the endless food and drink. All passengers received a letter in their room telling us we would need to report for a Covid test on day 5 the first at-sea day before we get to the Canary Islands. I pre-scheduled mine just before what I planned as my first hour at the gym. I expect to go to the gym on all sea days and there will be eight of those.

Each morning I have had coffee, a bagel and orange juice delivered to the stateroom.  I always miss that knock on the door each morning when I am home but then I would miss my daily coffee at Java House so I guess it’s OK. 

On day two we stopped at our first port, Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. I was truly surprised at how beautiful the city is. I joined friends for what turned out to be a three and a half hour walk as we were allowed off the ship on our own without booking a tour. We visited churches and the main market in town. We strolled along the beach and the harbor with great walking and bicycle paths. Alicante is a wonderful mix of old-world charm and modern amenities. One friend ventured up to the castle, Castillo de Santa Barbara, but since the elevator (the easy way up) wasn’t working and it’s a very long, steep climb up the mountain I passed. We arrived back at the ship around 1 p.m. and headed to the Mast bar on deck 14 for burgers and fries. Then some time back in the stateroom before heading to the martini bar for a drink and then to the beautiful APEX theater to see the Shamrock Tenors, four Irish performers who are not only talented but cute to boot. 

We decided to try one of the regular restaurants, those not needing reservations and chose Normandy. The food was good and I had shrimp cocktail, rigatoni, and cherries jubilee for dessert. 

After dinner it was up to the Rooftop Garden for ‘Silent Disco’. That is where you get a set of headphones with a few channels of disco music, and you dance to the music only you can hear. It’s really fun but by 11:30 my knees gave out and it was off to bed. 

Day three dawned nice and sunny and we were docked in Cartagena, located in the autonomous of the region of Murcia. I had an 8:45 excursion and again had breakfast delivered to the room. We were instructed to head to the theater to meet the tour group and sign in for our ‘Journey to Murcia’. Murcia is a city in south-eastern Spain, the capital and most populous city of the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia, and the seventh largest city in the country, with a population of 447,182. It is about a forty-minute drive from the port. It is a fascinating city with an incredible history from the Romans to and Moorish influence. There is a beautiful cathedral, isn’t there one in every Spanish city? This being a national holiday in Spain most of the shops were closed saving some on the tour a lot of money. We strolled around the city with our guide giving us a running commentary on its history for about an hour and a half. She was a little hard to understand because not only did she have a heavy accent but she spoke really fast. But it was still fun and we did learn a lot. We made a second stop outside the city at another church where a wedding was being officiated. The bride was beautiful. Then we headed back to the ship for an early departure. Our tour was the last onboard and we sailed not more than thirty minutes after we got there. 

Then it was off to the captain’s reception. I had the chance to chat a few moments with the Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis, who is as charming as are most Greek men. We also met the rest of the senior crew who run the ship. Many said they would be more than happy to sit and get a cup of coffee with me during our at-sea days so I can interview and write about them.

Then it was back to my stateroom again to prepare for another tough night of food and drinking. We went to see Andrew Derbyshire in the theater for the 7:30 show and then to dinner at Cyprus.   After dinner Celebrity hosted the first LGBTQ+ event of the cruise at the EDEN bar. A large crowd showed up, not all gay but they all knew where the fun people would be. The entertainers all showed up there as including the Shamrock Tenors, four talented Irish guys and Andrew Derbyshire, a British actor and singer. We chatted and I will meet him for coffee to do a column on him. 

Then about midnight it was back to the stateroom for what some of my friends on board called an early night. Morning would have us docking in Cadiz and we had a private tour planned for over 20 of the people who had booked the trip with Scott Moster, travel agent extraordinaire, taking us to the city of Seville.  

Days four and five on the Celebrity APEX

Day four dawned warm and partially sunny as we docked in the port of Cadiz. This was the day we had our private tour of Sevilla planned. The itinerary had been set by two of my friends, Rob Robertson and his husband Carlos Taylor. Carlos lived for a time in Sevilla as a child and has a big family still here. Celebrity, by agreement with our travel agent Scott Moster, made the planned itinerary a formally sponsored tour. 

At 8:45 our group of mostly gay and lesbian travelers left the ship for the hour and forty-five-minute bus ride to Sevilla. Our guide described the city and gave us its history as we traveled to our destination. Scott also had the foresight  to bring along a few bottles of champagne and orange juice and we were treated to mimosas along the way. 

Once in Sevilla were met by a second guide and given electronic devices and earphones so we could follow along as we took a two hour walk to see the sights which included the incredible Plaza de España in the Parque de María Luisa. It was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. It is a landmark example of Regionalism Architecture, mixing elements of the Baroque Revival, Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival styles of Spanish architecture. Plaza de España has been used as a backdrop in a number of films including Starwars. It is very impressive. 

From there we headed to the Royal Palace and its beautiful gardens and then it was off to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as, Seville Cathedral. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a world heritage site along with the adjoining Alcazar complex. It is the fourth largest church in the world as well as the largest Gothic church and is particularly ornate with over forty-five individual chapels and two huge organs. Christopher Columbus and his son Diego are buried in the cathedral. 

Because we spent so much time at these sites we were very late for lunch at the restaurant Carlos had chosen; one owned by friends of his family. They welcomed us with charcuterie and cheese plates, wine, beer and sangria. However, the rest of lunch ended up as takeout as we were really late and our ship was scheduled to leave port at 4:45 and we had been told to be on board no later than 4:30. We double-timed it back to our bus and headed for the port. All went well until we hit a traffic jam and sat for about fifteen minutes. It was increasingly clear we wouldn’t be on-time. Our guide was getting nervous and he called the ship and someone erroneously told him they would sail without us. 

Meanwhile our trusty travel agent Scott was on the phone with his Celebrity contact who confirmed as this was an official tour they couldn’t leave without us. Once again we were the last people up the gangway and about five minutes after the last person was onboard the engines started up. The Captain had made an announcement to all the reason they may be leaving late was us. After that excitement it was a great evening with dinner at Cyprus and then a show. The hard life onboard ship continued.

Day five was our first sea-day. No tours and no rushing. For me it was early morning writing and coffee delivered to the room. Then my required covid test and off to the gym. The half hour on the Lifecyle was easy because I was looking out at the sea. The gym isn’t large and because of covid you could only use every other machine. But with only half the number of passengers on board that worked. The gym is open twenty-four hours a day. After my workout I met friends at the buffet for a lite lunch because of course it was crucial to gain back the few calories I may have lost working out. Then it was a lazy day, the kind I love when cruising. I had arranged coffee with Andrew Derbyshire, one of the talented entertainers onboard, to interview him for a column I will write. He is a really nice guy who will be getting off the ship in the Canary Islands; not being an American citizen, he wouldn’t be allowed into the US even though fully vaccinated until November 8th and we dock on October 24th. 

Evening began with a Celebrity scheduled  LGBTQ+ happy hour and then a nice dinner at the Rooftop Garden, another of the specialty restaurants. Then on to The Club, one of the entertainment venues, to hear Andrew sing. He had the whole room up and dancing, even me.  All-in-all another great day onboard Celebrity APEX.

Day Six begins my sea-days on the Celebrity APEX

I woke on day six to a hazy sky and our ship heading to dock in Tenerife. I had been there before and was sad that we were not going to be allowed to head out on our own. There were a number of tours scheduled but I decided to stay on the ship. It was a wonderful lazy day of writing, the gym, and just finding a nice place to sit and read. First though I would have a long lunch with Cheryl and Jeff in the Café, which is the buffet. They are my childhood friends who are onboard. We exchanged old pictures from our iPhones and talked about people we grew up with.  

The EDGE series of Celebrity ships, which includes the EDGE, the APEX which I am on, and the upcoming BEYOND scheduled to make its inaugural sail next April, have what is called the Magic Carpet. It is a lounge that can be moved up and down on the side of the ship. On day six it was on deck 14 and it was the perfect place to sit and read. This would be my life for the next seven days at sea. It is the part of the cruise I like the best.

Scott and Dustin invited us all to a sail-away party in their suite at 4:30 and we watched as our ship sailed out of Tenerife for the seven-day crossing to Ft. Lauderdale. Lazy days and fun nights ahead for all of us. On this day Celebrity had scheduled two LGBTQ+ events, one a meet and greet at 6 pm and a second LGBTQ+ PRIDE event at 10:30. Between the two there was a show in the Theater, UPTOWN, three talented young men dancing and singing to Motown and other music from groups who had sung in the famous New York,  Apollo theater. Then dinner at the Steak House, another specialty restaurant. 

At the evening LGBTQ+ event we met some of the new cast members of the shows replacing those who had to leave the ship in Tenerife.  I ran into another person on the ship I first met years ago in DC, Tareq Salahi, known at the time as part of the couple who crashed a White House dinner. His first wife was on the very short-lived series ‘The Housewives of Washington, DC. 

On day seven I woke up to a hazy day at sea, calm waters which we can only hope will be replicated for our whole Atlantic crossing. I started my day going to a talk given by Melinda Bates, who had written a book on the Clinton Administration where she served eight years in the visitor’s office of the White House. I had met her on a previous cruise and had lunch with her so really went just to say hello.  Then it was going to be what I looked forward to; gym, writing, reading, eating and drinking, and just being lazy in luxurious surroundings with fun people. What more can anyone ask for.

Seven Sea-days on Celebrity APEX

The sea-days on Celebrity APEX have been as wonderful as I anticipated. The knock on the door every morning at 7:30 a.m. with my coffee delivered by a smiling, at least his eyes are as he is wearing a mask, room service waiter. Then a couple of hours doing the second edit of the book I am writing. Somehow being at sea has given me the head space I needed to get back to it. Then off to the gym.

Despite the apparent incompetence of the Celebrity PR agency, I did get the chance to meet the Captain on the second day of my cruise and he agreed to sit down for a short interview. He is a charming and totally open guy willing to talk about his life. I will be doing a column on the interview shortly after I am off the ship. 

He even agreed to set up a tour of the bridge for me and friends Rob and Carlos. It was arranged by Icaro, the concierge, a charming Brazilian. We were met outside the bridge by security and wanded down. The bridge is larger than I thought it would be and the very nice 2nd mate Alex, took time to give us a detailed explanation of how they steer this beautiful ship. In some ways it looks like a little more complicated video game. But then those playing video games aren’t responsible for the lives of a crew of 1,250 and nearly 3000 passengers when the ship is full.

The days at sea pass quickly, which is sometimes surprising when you are really doing nothing but being lazy and figuring out what beautiful venue to go to for your next meal or a drink. The Martini Bar or Café Al Bacio are some of the great places to drink and relax on the ship. 

Our ever-attentive travel agent Scott and his husband Dustin hosted another party in their suite, the Iconic Suite, and I met some people I hadn’t yet seen in the past days onboard. Some of them signing up with Scott to go on next year’s October 29th APEX transatlantic cruise out of Rome. I am one of them and have even given a deposit for the October 30th 2023 transatlantic cruise on The BEYOND, Celebrity’s newest ship which will set sail on its first cruise in April of 2022. It is amazing how addictive cruising can be but I guess if you need to have an addiction this isn’t a bad one to have.

The Iconic suite is located in what is called the ‘Retreat’ on the ship. It is the more expensive suites and villas with their own restaurant, sun deck, bar and pool. While I can’t afford to book a stateroom in the Retreat I am lucky some of my friends can. They have invited me to join them there occasionally for a drink and dinner. 

Reality is the rest of the ship is just as beautiful and on this cruise, which sailed with less than 50% capacity, it is especially nice. The five specialty restaurants are fun to go to and the regular dining rooms are great. In all of them you can have filet mignon or lobster, among a wide variety of choices. One  restaurant a little different is The Petit Chef. There you have a show play out on your table and plate from cameras above showing the preparation of each course on your empty plate. Immediately after the show for each course your food is presented looking exactly like the filmed version. It is a fun two-hour dinner with everyone in the restaurant eating the same food at the same time.

The talent in the APEX theater, The CLUB and other venues including EDEN has been incredible and the entertainers are happy to mingle with the guests, which has been fun. We have seen shows with talent like Michael Derbyshire, The Shamrock Tenors, UPTOWN, Three DIVAS, and the performers in Caravan, among others. I will be writing a column on Michael Derbyshire after the cruise. All-in-all one couldn’t ask for more. 

On board you often feel you have escaped the world and the daily news cycle. Occasionally it does raise its head as they have BBC, MSNBC and Fox News on shipboard TV. Every once in a while, someone starts talking politics to me as they know I write about it in the Washington Blade. One of our group told me about lying on a lounge in the sun next to two women talking about how they hate Biden who isn’t the real president. So even here you can’t totally get away from stupid. Then we heard every Senate Republican voted against allowing debate on the Voting Rights Act. Depressing to say the least, disgusting in fact. 

But since we can’t do anything about it at the moment it’s back to enjoying yourself; eating and drinking without guilt. I know the people I am traveling with will go home after our two-week respite and continue to fight for equality and our Democracy. I am truly fortunate to be traveling with such a great group of people. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of my time on the ship and I will be doing some additional columns once I am back on dry land which will be in two days. Even great times have to end. I wholeheartedly recommend a cruise on the Celebrity APEX to anyone who enjoys travel.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

Continue Reading

Opinions

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ clouds Powell’s legacy

A final act of redemption

Published

on

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (Photo by Susan Montgomery via Bigstock)

The legacy of General Colin Powell is complicated for those in the LGBTQ community. On the one hand, we celebrate that Powell was the first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. On the other, he is also the person who disobeyed the strategic choice of his Commander in Chief, Bill Clinton, on gays in the military. 

Powell stood on the steps of the Pentagon reporting how many calls had been received opposing lifting the ban. He testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the service of openly gay troops would harm unit cohesion. He argued that race was a “benign characteristic” and being gay was not. Congress codified into statute what had been a regulatory ban on gays in the military, making the law that much harder to change. Almost 14,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual service members were dismissed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a rate of two-four service members every day. Some were subjects of witch hunts. Others faced criminal charges. Many endured harassment, assault and threats. Private First Class Barry Winchell was murdered.

Michelle Benecke and I knew when we founded Servicemembers Legal Defense Network that for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to be repealed, we would have to either win the support or neutralize the opposition of Powell, one of the previously undisclosed strategies described in my new book, “Mission Possible.” Michelle and I first met him at the Arlington, Va., headquarters of America’s Promise. We offered to brief him on the ban’s implementation as he was being asked on the Sunday shows about the law’s efficacy. He agreed to see us.

The question was whether we could find common ground on which to build a new consensus. My theory was that Powell genuinely believed that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a better policy than the one before it. After all, he had testified before the Senate, “We will not ask, we will not witch-hunt, we will not seek to learn orientation.” 

“General Powell,” I said, “we have received nearly a thousand calls from service members who have been impacted by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We have documented that most are being asked point blank about their sexual orientation in contravention of ‘Don’t Ask.’” 

“That’s not supposed to happen,” he said.

That was our first conversation. We might have been able to better enforce some of the meager gains under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if we had been able to prevail upon Powell to help us, but he wasn’t ready. 

In 2003, he told Teen Ink magazine that while discrimination is wrong, “I think it’s a different matter with respect to the military, because you’re essentially told who you’re going to live with, who you’re going to sleep next to.”

Four years later, he called me, prompted by an opinion essay in The New York Times that I had sent him. “Second Thoughts on Gays in the Military”—written by retired Army General John Shalikashvili, Powell’s successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs—called for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Powell and I spoke for 45 minutes. “I agree with General Shalikashvili that America has changed and is ready for gays to serve openly,” he said. My heart leapt. “I am not convinced, however, that military commanders are ready for that change.” My heart sunk.

It was clear to me, though, that he was moving in the right direction.  I put it on the line. “Sir, you will be a critical voice on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ when it comes up for debate again. I need you to support repeal if we are going to win. Do you know that?”

“Yes,” he said.

Finally, on Feb. 5, 2010, 10 months before final repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and days after Admiral Mike Mullen had testified before the Senate that he supported repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Powell released a statement. “If the chiefs and commanders are comfortable with moving to change the policy, then I support it. Attitudes and circumstances have changed. Society is reflected in the military. It’s where we get our soldiers from.” The stage was set for final repeal.

We too often look for heroes and villains when the record can be complicated. Powell deserves opprobrium for defying Clinton, rallying opposition, and allowing 60,000 troops under his command to suffer the indignity of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He deserves credit, though, for changing his mind. I admired his willingness to speak with me over nearly two decades. I find that the best leaders engage in a lifelong process of learning and challenging assumptions. Powell will receive deserved accolades for his service to our nation, but for us, his legacy includes a profound betrayal with a final act of redemption.

C. Dixon Osburn is author of ‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’’

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular