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LGBT Catholics reflect on first year of Francis papacy

Despite moderation, church remains ‘natural enemy of LGBT movements’



Pope Francis, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis (Photo by Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

LGBT Catholics continue to welcome Pope Francis’ more moderate approach to gays in the church since his election as pontiff last March.

Dignity USA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke noted to the Washington Blade last week that Francis uses the word “gay” as opposed to “homosexual or same-sex attraction disorder or any of the sort of distancing and clinical kind of terms” his predecessors – Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II – used. She added the pontiff also raises LGBT-specific people “in conversation and in daily life.”

“There’s a tone of comfort and sort of acceptance of reality,” said Duddy-Burke. “It’s a small place, obviously, but it is a marked difference.”

Dignity Washington Treasurer Bob Miailovich told the Blade that Francis continues to focus more on the marginalized, even though official church doctrine has not changed.

“That’s kind of like we’re going to be more gentle,” said Miailovich. “The point is to remember we’re all included in God’s love, not walking around trying to find out what’s wrong with people.”

Francis last summer said during an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit magazine that the church has grown “obsessed” with same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception. The Argentine-born pontiff less than two months earlier told reporters who asked him about the reported homosexuality of the man whom he appointed to oversee the Vatican bank during a flight back to Rome after attending World Youth Day in Brazil that gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized.

Francis has yet to meet with LGBT Catholic organizations since his election, but Duddy-Burke pointed out the pontiff reached out to a young gay man who wrote to him.

The pope, who is the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, in 2001 visited a hospice to kiss and wash the feet of 12 people with AIDS. Francis told La Civiltà Cattolica he used to receive letters from gay people who said they were “socially wounded” because they felt as though the church “has always condemned them.”

“The pope has really taken a giant step toward greater acceptance of LGBT people in the Catholic Church,” Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md., told the Blade. “His non-judgmental example, his humble demeanor, his seeming willingness to listen – all these things have had a great influence on Catholic culture and sensibility.”

The College of Cardinals last March elected Francis to succeed Benedict who abruptly resigned in February 2013.

The LGBT Catholics with whom the Blade spoke all noted church teaching on homosexuality, marriage and other issues has not changed in spite of Francis’ more conciliatory tone.

Francis last July criticized what he described as the “gay lobby” during his press conference with reporters while returning to Rome from World Youth Day.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Feb. 19 wrote to U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage to indicate its support of his proposal that would amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay nuptials. The Vatican later this year is scheduled to hold what Duddy-Burke described as “this extraordinary synod” on strengthening the family.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child last month sharply criticized the Vatican over its opposition to homosexuality and other declarations that “contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against” LGBT adolescents and children raised by same-sex couples.” LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón in a March 13 statement that marked Francis’ first anniversary as pope noted he described the South American country’s same-sex marriage bill as a “demonic plan.”

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who signed the measure into law in 2010, sharply criticized then-Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio’s rhetoric that included calls for a “holy war” against it.

“A year after assuming the papacy, Bergoglio has demonstrated that, aside from the gestures and simulations, he continues maintaining a line of contempt and denial of rights toward lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people,” said Paulón. “He has not moved a single step of his conception, as clearly expressed during the debate over Argentina’s same-sex marriage law.”

Paulón further criticized Francis over the Vatican’s “complicit silence” over laws in more than 70 countries that criminalize homosexuality with prison time or even death – Duddy-Burke expressed a similar opinion to the Blade. Paulón also blasted the pontiff over what he described as the Vatican’s continued cover-up of priests accused of pedophilia.

“The Vatican has demonstrated that in reality, nothing has changed in spite of some ‘friendly’ and ‘conciliatory’ declarations,” he said.

LGBT rights advocates with whom the Blade spoke earlier this month in the Dominican Republic largely echoed Paulón.

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo last June referred to now-U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster as a “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish during a press conference. Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Vatican’s envoy to the Caribbean country, earlier this year declined to invite Brewster’s husband to a diplomatic reception with Dominican President Danilo Medina because the country’s Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The event was cancelled after a number of ambassadors said they would not attend because Okolo did not invite Brewster’s husband.

“It is unfortunately a personal posture,” Stephanía Hernández, a trans woman who is a member of Gente Activa y Participativa, a Dominican LGBT advocacy group, told the Blade as she discussed López. “The declarations of Francis, the pope, have been very diplomatic and very sensible.”

“The church has a political agenda,” added Deivis Ventura of the Amigos Siempre Amigos Network of Volunteers. “The church is the natural enemy of LGBT movements around the world and here. Francis saying that he treats gays with compassion is not going to change this posture.”

Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, a gay Cuban blogger who writes under the pen name Paquito el de Cuba, told the Blade that advocates in the Communist country have also closely followed Francis during the first year of his papacy.

Rodríguez said he personally feels there have not been “substantial changes” in the church’s position on LGBT-specific issues since the Argentine-born pontiff’s election. He added the Catholic hierarchy’s “evolution” towards “the understanding of diversity” could have a positive impact on LGBT Cubans and efforts to extend additional rights to them in the Caribbean country.



Miami hotel liquor license may be revoked over a drag show

State’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco targets business



Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Miami. (Photo by dennizn/Bigstock)

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is in the process of revoking the Hyatt Regency Miami’s alcohol license after the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation determined that the hotel’s affiliated James L. Knight Center had hosted “A Drag Queen Christmas” performed Dec. 27 with minors present in the audience.

The Knight Center is a major South Florida venue and has previously hosted the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The venue’s main room can seat 4,600 people.

This is the third time the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, which operates under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has targeted a business that hosted a drag show.

A popular restaurant and pub in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is also under threat of losing its liquor license. The R House identifies itself on its Facebook page as “the proud home of South Florida’s most popular weekend drag brunches.”

The July 2022 complaint filed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation asks for a final order that the R House restaurant is a declared a public nuisance and has its liquor license revoked. 

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the complaint was issued after a video of a recent performance at the bar’s drag brunch went viral. A topless drag queen wearing lingerie stuffed with money can be seen in the video attempting to dance with a young girl, who the DPBR estimates is “between three and five years old.” Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” originally found the footage on Tik Tok, posted by a user who wrote, “Children belong at drag shows!!!! Children deserve to see fun and expression & freedom.”

In late December “A Drag Queen Christmas” was hosted by the Orlando non-profit Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation on Dec. 28, filing a complaint alleging that children under age 18 were allowed to attend.

The complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic alleged the foundation violated Florida law in allowing for a person to “commit lewd or lascivious exhibition” in the presence of an individual who is less than 16 years old.

In this latest targeting of the show, which is a holiday-themed drag show that tours in 36 different cities and features stars from the reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Insider webzine journalist Kimberly Leonard reported that the DeSantis administration officials accused the Knight Center of several violations, including a prohibition of “lascivious exhibition” before people younger than 16, mirroring the December complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic.

The department’s complaint said performers engaged in “acts of simulated sexual activity, and lewd, vulgar, and indecent displays” that included:

  • Performers forcibly penetrating or rubbing exposed prosthetic female breasts against faces of audience members
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ prosthetic female breasts and genitalia to the audience
  • Intentionally exposing performers’ buttocks to the audience
  • Simulating masturbation through performers’ digitally penetrating prosthetic female genital
  • Graphic depictions of childbirth and/or abortion

Hyatt Regency Miami is allowed to keep selling alcohol until the department makes a final decision. The business has 21 days to request a hearing, Beth Pannell, spokeswoman for the department, told Insider.

Regulators had warned the facility to change how it marketed the show before it went live, according to a copy of the letter included in the complaint. The letter accused the marketers of putting on a performance that constitutes “public nuisances, lewd activity, and disorderly conduct” when minors are present.

News of this latest action was first reported by far-right conservative internet based outlet Florida’s Voice.

As more and more Republican states target drag shows, in just the past few weeks, Tennessee became the first to ban adult performances, including drag, from public spaces such as parks and schools. 

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

New VA mission statement recognizes commitment to all veterans

‘To fulfill [Lincoln’s] promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military & for their families, caregivers, & survivors’



VA Secretary Denis McDonough. (Screenshot/YouTube)

In a speech delivered Thursday at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial (WIMSA), located at the main entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in suburban Virginia, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued an updated version of its 1959 mission statement.

The new mission statement is: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

As the VA secretary commenced his remarks, he honored several notable women in the audience including Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, the assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs.

Fulton, is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which was the Academy’s first class to admit women. She is an out lesbian and served as a founding board member of Knights Out, the organization of LGBTQ West Point graduates, and later worked with OutServe, the association of actively-serving LGBTQ military members and SPARTA, an LGBTQ military group advocating for transgender military service.

“Whenever any veteran, family member, caregiver, or survivor walks by a VA facility, we want them to see themselves in the mission statement on the outside of the building,” said Secretary McDonough. “We are here to serve all veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors — and now, our mission statement reflects exactly that.”

In crafting the new mission statement, VA surveyed roughly 30,000 Veterans. Among veterans surveyed, the new version of VA’s mission statement was chosen over the current version by every age group; by men and by women; by LGBTQ+ veterans; and by white, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans.

In addition to two rounds of surveys, VA conducted dozens of small-group engagements with veterans to understand what was most important to them in a VA mission statement, then incorporated that feedback into quantitative research. The new mission statement reflects that VA serves all of the heroes who have served our country, regardless of their race, gender, background, sexual orientation, religion, zip code or identity.

The previous mission statement was: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.” The previous mission statement is posted in roughly 50 percent of VA’s facilities. Over the coming months, VA’s new mission statement will replace the previous version.

VA announces new mission statement, recognizing sacred commitment to serve all who served:

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Mich. governor signs statewide LGBTQ rights law

‘Bigotry is bad for business’



Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 16, 2023, signed an LGBTQ rights bill into law. (Photo courtesy of Whitmer's office)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act on Thursday, which expands basic protections for the LGBTQ community.

The measure, Senate Bill 4, was sponsored by openly gay state Sen. Jeremy Moss who less than a year previously had been shot down by the Republican majority as he attempted to have a non-binding resolution to recognize “Pride Month” adopted by the Senate.

In her signing remarks, Whitmer noted: “In the words of Detroit native Lizzo, it’s about damn time! Bigotry is bad for business. Come to Michigan, you will be respected and protected under the law.”

“As Equality Michigan celebrates this historic step forward, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Generations of activists have inspired us to fight for justice and equality for all LGBTQ+ Michiganders, and our community has been working to update our state’s civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in every single legislative session since Elliott-Larsen was first adopted,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott said in a statement. “We applaud Gov. Whitmer for signing this bill into law, and are humbled by this pro-equality legislature that made amending ELCRA a top priority. Senator Jeremy Moss and Rep. Jason Hoskins introduced this legislation and championed it all the way through to the finish line.” 

“The victory we have today in Michigan is a great one, but it’s also one we don’t take lightly at this moment. Let it not be lost on us that this privilege, however hard-earned, is a unique one that exists amid a nationwide political assault on LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary youth, and their families,” added Knott. “There are over 400 anti-trans bills moving across state legislatures in the US, twice the amount introduced last year.”

“This bill being signed into law is a beacon of hope and sends a powerful message of acceptance to LGBTQ people across the nation. At the Trevor Project, we work every day to protect the lives of LGBTQ youth, and days like today prove that in generations to come, both their legal and lived equality will no longer be fodder for political debate,” said Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns for the Trevor Project. “Our research shows that having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40 percent. We applaud the elected leaders, advocates and Gov. Whitmer for making this a reality, and affirming the dignity and rights of LGBTQ Michiganders by codifying these protections into law.”

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