Connect with us


Standing guard and protecting equality

Catholic Univ. flap illustrates need for openly LGBT Council members



Catholic University, gay news, Washington Blade

Catholic University (Photo by Gryffindor; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)


For the better part of 20 years, the District of Columbia’s LGBT community has had advocates and defenders on the D.C. Council. Come January that reality may all change when Jim Graham and David Catania are no longer on our city’s Council. The recent controversy that has ensued over a film screening of the Harvey Milk story at Catholic University should serve as a reminder to everyone who believes in fairness and inclusion that we need strong LGBT leaders to stand up and represent these views on the Council.

You’ve read about this story time and again. The forces against equality are never silent for long, whether it is Fred Phelps and his army of hate, or people committing hate crimes against innocents like Matthew Shepard or James Byrd or a religious institution of higher education excluding students from discussing the struggle for LGBT rights in America. Given the amazing progress we have made to ensure that D.C.’s vibrant LGBT community is respected and valued here it is easy to think we have moved past such eruptions of intolerance in the District.

However, Catholic University sent a clear reminder that we have not. Bayard Rustin, Barbara Jordan, Harvey Milk and Frank Kamney all made amazing contributions to helping this country live up to what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the true meaning of its creed” — equal rights for all — gay and straight, black and white, Jew and Gentile.

Now the leadership at Catholic University, which receives taxpayer funds, is fighting the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014. This legislation would simply require all colleges and universities in the District to treat student groups equally. Seems fair to me. Yet, the administrators at Catholic have chosen discrimination over equality and freedom, to move backward instead of forward, together — all because some students on its campus wish to explore the life’s work of an LGBT elected official and activist, Harvey Milk.

Over the course of my professional life, I have learned an important lesson — if you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu. Well, come January, the LGBT community may find itself being served up, with no one, who personally has been impacted by its struggle in the most personal way, there to prevent it.

The District is changing in many ways, mostly for the better, but this incident is a reminder that we must have a Council that is representative of all citizens. Having native Washingtonians on the Council matters because so many of us feel as if we are being left behind. Having parents on the D.C. Council matters because the laws passed by this body have a direct impact on our children and their ability to thrive. And, yes, having an openly gay member of the Council matters because without one we are in jeopardy of not having a fighter standing guard when discrimination rears its ugly head. I am proud to be all three.

Catholic University has been a pillar of the District and educated many of our citizens. I expect it will play a strong role in our future, but it must be a source of pride, not embarrassment in an era of inclusivity. The District has fought for too long to be inclusive of all of our citizens to let any of our institutions backslide now. Our city has already made its choice when it comes to equal treatment for all. It is now up to Catholic University to choose fairness and equality over fear and discrimination.

Courtney R. Snowden is a principal at The Raben Group and a candidate for D.C. Council At-Large.

Continue Reading


  1. Ernest Hopkins

    October 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    A seat at the table for the LGBT community is essential. We cannot undermine the significant progress that has been made towards a totally inclusive, progressive policy framework for the nation's capital.

  2. Steve Karper

    October 7, 2014 at 2:49 am

    wy in the F are we using taxpayer money to support any religious instittuion?

    at least when catholic churches refused to allow gays to adopt in several states they got a well deserved kick in their butts with no more $$ for their adoption agencies

    Want to discriminate – use your own dirty money

  3. Steven Lowe

    October 7, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Why would any gay person still be Catholic?

    • brians ions

      October 8, 2014 at 11:08 pm

      Steven, I very much appreciate your perspective. But others have their own beliefs and lives — often separate and apart from their sexual orientation.
      I think the answer to your question is as varied as the lives of Catholics you question (or members of any other religion with predominantly homophobic leadership). Much depends on how they choose to balance their lives with their religious beliefs, practices and usage — maybe even how they view their life missions.
      Moreover, to me anyway, it appears too much like blaming the victim to suggest CUA’s Catholic LGBTs personally abandon Catholicism because CUA’s current leadership is encouraging prejudice and anti-LGBT bigotry against them.
      From some aggrieved students’ perspectives, it is the leadership of CUA who are the frauds. The tools of CUA’s latter day, Jim Crow harassment range from administrative harassment (like abruptly canceling a LGBT-related film) to theological gibberish to mask their very un-Christian hate.
      Irrespective of students or faculty members’ religious beliefs — or non-beliefs, *ALL* LGBT students and faculty of a DC licensed education facility deserve to be treated fairly — without demonization and hate-mongering.
      CUA must fully comply with DC civil rights law, or it deserves no more civic respect than a whites-only/ WASP-only institution would merit in the District of Columbia.
      But hey, even non-believing students at CUA may believe they can save soles from trotting off to Mass every day.
      Glad to see you here, btw.

  4. brians ions

    October 7, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Many thanks to the Blade for its drill-down coverage of Catholic University’s ongoing quiet harassments against its LGBT students and its assault on DC’s LGBT civil rights protections…
    Thanks to Courtney Snowden’s commentary herein, for also highlighting Catholic University’s stealthy assaults on LGBT people and LGBT civil rights, both on and off CUA’s NE DC campus. (Better than thanking her, let’s vote Courtney on to the City Council.)
    Many thanks as well to Rick Rosendall and Bob Summersgill for their testimony before Council last week, and to GLAA Forum…
    …for exposing CUA’s outrageous attempt to keep as part of the DC Code — apparently for more CUA assaults on LGBT people and their rights — the Jim Crow-like “Armstrong Amendment” — which was forced upon DC (through a ‘do-it-or-shut-down’ appropriation maneuver) 25 years ago by bigots in Congress.
    As Bob Summersgill noted in his testimony on September 29th,
    “The Armstrong Amendment is not a legitimate protection of religious practice. It was forced on the D.C. Council, and serves no purpose but to belittle gay and lesbian people.”
    Finally, let’s applaud and support CUA students, faculty and alums themselves who are, directly and indirectly, shining a bright light on Catholic University’s persistent assaults on the free speech and free expression of LGBT people and LGBT civil rights, both on and off CUA’s NE DC campus.
    CUA College Democrats, CUAllies and LIFT CUA are organizations fighting for the free speech/ free expression of all CUA students and faculty. They deserve our support and gratitude.

Leave a Reply

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


Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’



National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

Continue Reading


Thanksgiving is a time to share

Take a moment to think about what you can do to help others



This Thanksgiving, many of us will once again celebrate with family and friends around the dinner table. Sadly at too many tables friends and family members will be missing. They will be one of the over 766,000 Americans who lost their lives to coronavirus. May the shared grief over lost loved ones cause us to try to bridge our differences and lift each other. As those of us with plenty sit down for dinner let us not forget the many in the world not so fortunate and think of what we can do to make their lives better.

In the midst of the pandemic we defeated a president who through his words and actions tore our country apart — a president who managed to poison relationships among family and friends. We elected a president who we felt would try to unite the nation. But we know that has yet to happen and the recent reaction to the not-guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial shows us that. The use of race-baiting in the recent Virginia governor’s election shows us that. We still suffer from the implicit permission the former president gave to some Americans to once again give public voice to their sexism, homophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. That didn’t suddenly end with his loss. While we cannot pretend those feelings weren’t always there it seemed we had reached a point in American society where people understood you couldn’t voice them in public without rebuke. While it will take many years to put that genie back in the bottle we need to try if we are to move forward again. Around our Thanksgiving table is a place to begin. I am an optimist and believe we can do that even while recognizing it won’t be easy.

Thanksgiving should be a time to look within ourselves and determine who we are as individuals and what we can do to make life better for ourselves, our families, and others here in the United States and around the world.

Around our Thanksgiving table we should take a moment to think about what we can do to help feed the hungry, house the homeless, and give equal opportunity to everyone who wants to work hard. Maybe even give some thought as to how we change policies causing institutional racism to ones giving everyone a chance to succeed. It is a moment to think about how we can open up the eyes of the world to understand how racism, homophobia, and sexism hurt everyone, not just those who are discriminated against.

We must renew our efforts to heal the rifts in our own families and make an effort to try to see each other in a more positive light. If we start to do that with those closest to us we might have a fighting chance to do it with others.

I recognize my life is privileged having just returned from a 14-day transatlantic cruise. My Thanksgiving weekend will be spent with friends in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and we will remember our experiences over the past year. For many it also begins the Christmas season and the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend each year Rehoboth Beach lights its community Christmas tree. So surely we will talk about what that season means to each of us.

For me each year it means thinking about which charities I can support as the requests for end-of-year gifts arrive. It is a time to think about volunteering some precious time for a cause you care about.
Wherever you live, there are many chances to volunteer and do your part to make a difference for others. The rewards of doing so will come back to you in abundance. As anyone who has helped someone else will tell you the feeling you get for having done so is wonderful.

So wishing all my friends and those of you who I may be lucky enough to call friends in the future, a very happy Thanksgiving. May this holiday find you happy, healthy and sharing peaceful times with those you love.

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

Continue Reading


Fighting for equality for decades, trans elders still face endless hardships

Lisa Oakley rejected by 60 long-term care facilities in Colo.



transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

November 20 will mark the 22nd International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international event honoring and commemorating the many transgender people murdered in transphobic hate crimes every year.

Since 2013, at least 200 transgender people have been murdered in the United States alone, 80 percent being Black and Latinx women. This number is undoubtedly an underestimate, as many murders go unreported and trans victims often are misgendered by law enforcement.

These murders are not isolated crime statistics. They grow out of a culture of violence against transgender and non-binary (TGNB) people that encompasses stigma, exclusion, discrimination, poverty, and lack of access to essential resources, including health care, employment and housing. 

These challenges result in early death. In Latin America, for example, it has been reported that the average life expectancy of a transgender person is only 35 years.

This climate of stigma and transphobia is particularly challenging for TGNB older people, who face extraordinary hardships due both to the cumulative impact of lifetimes of discrimination and regular mistreatment in their elder years. Due to isolation from family and greater medical and financial needs, trans older people are more likely to require professionalized elder services and care. 

Unfortunately, these services and the facilities that provide them are often either unavailable to TGNB elders, or hostile to them. A national survey of LGBTQ+ older people by AARP found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed were concerned about how they would be treated in a long-term care setting. This includes the fear of being refused or receiving limited care, in danger of neglect or abuse, facing verbal or physical harassment, or being forced to hide or deny their identity once again. 

This is a sobering reality. In October, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders filed a claim against Sunrise Assisted Living in Maine, which openly denied admission to an older transgender woman because of her gender identity. 

In Colorado, Lisa Oakley was, astonishingly, rejected by 60 long-term care facilities, which her caseworker ascribes to Lisa’s gender identity. One facility that agreed to admit Lisa would only house her with a male roommate. 

After waiting far too long for welcoming care, Lisa eventually got help from SAGE and other community supporters and found a home in Eagle Ridge of Grand Valley. Fortunately, Eagle Ridge has participated in specialized training to be LGBTQ+-welcoming. While Lisa feels welcomed at Eagle Ridge and has made friends, she has been forced to live far from a community she loves. 

These cases in Maine and Colorado are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the discrimination faced by TGNB elders. That’s why it’s so important that Congress pass the Equality Act, which would once and for all prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in key areas like employment, housing, and care and services.

And while legal progress is important, it’s not enough. TGNB elders need more equity in their day to day lives. Older transgender people are more likely to experience financial barriers than non-transgender elders, regardless of age, income and education.

They’re also at a higher risk of disability, general poor mental and physical health, and loneliness, compared to their cisgender counterparts.

These experiences have been part of everyday life for trans elders for far too long. We continue to see them struggle with the long-term effects of transphobia and violence every day. That’s why organizations like SAGE are stepping up our support for TGNB elders by investing $1 million to support TGNB-focused services and advocacy both in New York and nationwide.

And we are continually amazed by the resilience of TGNB elders, creating communities built on their strength and courage. 

Their resilience is nothing new. It dates back generations and was evident during the Stonewall Uprising. Over the years, trans luminaries like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Victoria Cruz—leaders of the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement—and countless others have repeatedly proved that they will not be invisible.  

We see this determination in so many programs and activities led by trans elders at SAGE. 

For example, the TransGenerational Theater Project brings together transgender people of all ages to create theater from their experiences and perspectives. These types of elder-driven programs serve as powerful reminders that transgender older people are leading their lives with resilience, creativity, and perseverance, despite the dangers they face. 

Transgender and non-binary elders have survived and fought for equality for decades. They are brave. They are strong. They are leaders. Here at SAGE, we will continue to walk side-by-side with them as we continue the fight to ensure TGNB elders get the respect, change, and acceptance they deserve.

Michael Adams is the CEO of SAGE, the world’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ elders.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts