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Utah couples ‘humble and proud’ after day in court

Att’y gen’l apologizes for putting them ‘through this pain’



Derek Kitchen, Utah, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, Denver, Colorado, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
Derek Kitchen, Utah, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, Denver, Colorado, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Plaintiff same-sex couples in the Utah marriage equality case (Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

After more than an hour of legal arguments on the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage, the scene at the Byron White Court House took on a hopeful tone as plaintiff couples spoke to the media about their involvement in litigation seeking marriage equality in Utah.

Derek Kitchen, the namesake of the case, known as Kitchen v. Herbert, said he stands before the court “humble and proud” that the court has given so much weight to the arguments in the case, then embraced his partner, Moudi Sbeity, and gave him a kiss.

Kody Partridge, who’s also seeking the ability to marry her partner, Laurie Wood, expressed a similar sentiment when addressing reporters.

“We are hopeful that we will see a wonderful decision coming out of this court,” Partridge said.

The two were among the six same-sex plaintiff couples who were present in the courtroom as oral arguments were heard before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judges appeared split over whether they wanted to uphold the ban, known as Amendment 3, or overturn it as a result of the appeal.

Mark Lawrence, director of the Salt Lake City-based Restore Our Humanity, was also present outside the courthouse and was optimistic the court would rule favorably on the lawsuit he helped initiate.

“I think there’s going to be a 2-1 decision,” Lawrence told the Blade. “I think that was made pretty obvious when we heard the state, and my general impression of the whole thing is I think the state is trying very, very hard to take the humanity out of this case, or trying to make it a thing instead of a case about people, and I just don’t think they can do that.”

Speaking before reporters, Kitchen was reluctant to answer questions about the legal arguments presented during the case, nor would he venture to predict which way the judges would rule, saying, “That’s not my job.”

But he did talk more about the impact of anti-gay marriage laws on couples like him and his partner.

“We are loving and committed individuals who have committed to each other,” Kitchen said.

During the news conference, a reporter said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes was seen talking to the plaintiffs in the aftermath of the hearing and telling them, “Sorry for putting you through this pain.”

Addressing reporters to emphasize the state’s position that the marriage issue should be resolved not through the courts, but the “democratic process,” Reyes acknowledged he spoke with plaintiffs and said something along those lines.

“I offered them my best wishes,” Reyes said. “I did express to them that I was sorry that there was feeling pain. Again, this is not an easy thing to do when you know that the people you really care about on both sides of the issue will be affected very significantly and very personally. I wanted them to know that it wasn’t personal; I wanted them to appreciate that I recognize their families are as important to them as my family is to me.”

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is assisting in the case, said in a statement after the arguments she was heartened by what she heard.

“As a Utah native, today was a proud moment as Utah residents poignantly brought their families’ stories to a federal appeals court and made a basic request for equal treatment under our nation’s Constitution,” Kendell said. “We are optimistic the court will agree that excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry causes harm and allowing couples to marry strengthens families and hurts no one. “

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Victory Fund honors gay Guatemalan congressman at D.C. conference

Aldo Dávila a vocal critic of country’s government



Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila speaks at the 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference after he received the Global Trailblazer Award. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Victory Fund on Friday honored an openly gay Guatemalan congressman who has faced death threats because of his efforts to fight corruption in his country.

Dávila — a member of the Winaq movement, a leftist party founded by Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner — in 2019 became the first openly gay man elected to Guatemala’s congress. Dávila, who also lives with HIV, had previously been the executive director of Asociación Gente Positiva, a Guatemala City-based HIV/AIDS service organization.

Supporters of President Alejandro Giammattei have lodged several formal complaints against Dávila after he publicly criticized the government over corruption, its response to the pandemic and other issues.

Three men on April 19 approached Dávila’s vehicle near Guatemala’s National Library and tried to rob him. One of Dávila’s bodyguards shot one of the men, but the two other assailants fled the scene before police officers and passersby arrived.

Dávila told the Washington Blade in September during an interview at a Guatemala City hotel that he and his partner installed cameras in their apartment after someone killed their dog.

Two female police officers who arrived at the hotel with Dávila sat in the lobby while he spoke with the Blade. The government a few weeks later reduced his security detail.

“Guatemala is living through the worst democratic crisis in the last 40 years,” said Dávila after he accepted the Victory Fund’s Global Trailblazer Award at its 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference that is taking place in-person at the JW Marriott in downtown D.C. “Guatemala right now is being paralyzed by corruption and impunity and my voice is uncomfortable because of this.”

Dávila became emotional at the end of his remarks.

“I will keep fighting for our rights,” he said.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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