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Sklarz takes development role at TLDEF

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Comings & Goings, gay news, Washington Blade
Comings & Goings, gay news, Washington Blade

The ‘Comings & Goings’ column chronicles important life changes of Blade readers.

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].

Congratulations to Melissa Sklarz who has been appointed director of development at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. TLDEF is committed to ending discrimination based on gender identity and expression and to achieving equality for transgender people through public education, test-case litigation, direct legal services and public policy efforts.

Sklarz is a respected political stalwart in New York who brings decades of transgender advocacy to the post. Her own personal story as an out and celebrated transgender activist in the state adds to the significance of the hire.

TLDEF Executive Director Jillian Weiss said, “We are thrilled and honored to welcome Melissa Sklarz as our new director of development. Melissa is a powerful voice in our community with a long and exemplary track record of fighting tirelessly for the rights of transgender New Yorkers.”

Sklarz became the first transgender person elected to office in New York in 1999 when she was elected Judicial Delegate from the 66th Assembly District. She was also the first transgender person from New York to be a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, after being appointed to the Credentials Committee in 2004 and 2012, and the Rules Committee in 2008.

Sklarz is a past board co-chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and stood by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s side when he announced transgender legal and civil rights protections in New York in 2015.

“I am extremely grateful to take on this new role as TLDEF’s chief fundraiser,” Sklarz said. “I’ve spent a large part of my life standing up for my trans community so it seems fitting for me to take that advocacy to the next level by working with TLDEF, an organization I’ve long respected, supported and admired. I am looking forward to working closely with Jillian, the board of directors and my fellow staff members. … I am thrilled to be a trans person, raising funds for a trans-run organization, helping trans communities.”

Sklarz sat on the NYPD Commissioner’s LGBT Advisory Committee, assisted the Hetrick-Martin Institute with its new transgender program for young adults, and was on the SAGE Advisory Committee for LGBT seniors.

Melissa Sklarz, gay news, Washington Blade

Melissa Sklarz  (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Congratulations also to Paul Thaler who was appointed director of external affairs for the National LGBT Bar Association. In this role, Paul will foster relationships between the LGBT Bar and its members, leadership and outside constituencies, including law schools, law firms and corporations. He will also develop programming that the LGBT Bar puts on for the benefit of its members and the LGBT and ally legal community.

Thaler received his bachelor’s in History and Media & Communication from Muhlenberg College, and a J.D. from the University of Baltimore, School of Law. After law school, he worked as an attorney for two litigation firms in the Baltimore area. Most recently, he was the Assistant Director of the Law Career Development Office at the University of Baltimore, School of Law. Paul is an active member of the Maryland State Bar Association, where he is vice chair and secretary of the Legal Education & Admission to the Bar section. He is a 2016-2017 Fellow of the Maryland State Bar Association’s Leadership Academy.

Paul Thaler

Paul Thaler

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Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing

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census, gay news, Washington Blade
(Bigstock photo)

A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

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Virginia

Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’

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A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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