Good news from DC
February 3rd, 2016
Over the past several years, the city government of Washington, DC, has dedicated itself to a comprehensive and concerted effort to reduce the number of new infections of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It appears that the effort is working. (Blade)
A preliminary version of the city’s annual HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report shows that newly reported HIV cases in D.C. during 2014 declined for the seventh consecutive year.
The report, which the D.C. Department of Health released on Tuesday, shows there were 396 new HIV cases in 2014, a 29 percent decrease from the 553 new cases reported in 2013.
Whitman-Walker Executive Director Don Blanchon said the declining number of new HIV infections in D.C. reflects the value of community wide testing, treatment on demand and prevention efforts that include pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, which involves providing a daily “prevention pill” to people who are HIV negative.
“Simply put, it is saving peoples’ lives and reducing new infections,” he said. “Today’s update reaffirms that we are on the right path to getting to zero new infections in a given year.”
We appear to now be in possession of the tools that we need to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Combining testing with TasP (Treatment as Prevention) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and treating the virus as a public health matter instead of a behavioral matter are the steps that are working in the nation’s capital. As the social acceptance of PrEP increases (as it has tremendously in Los Angeles over the past year), we should expect to see even more improvement in the upcoming year.
National Cathedral Will Host Same-Sex Weddings
January 9th, 2013
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington, D.C.’s. National Cathedral, has announced that the nation’s church will be available for same-sex weddings effective immediately. According to a press release at the National Cathedral web site:
“Washington National Cathedral has a long history of advancing equality for people of all faiths and perspectives,” said Hall. “The Cathedral is called to serve as a gathering place for the nation in times of significance, but it is also rooted in its role as the most visible faith community within the Episcopal Church. For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of same-sex couples. It is now only fitting that the National Cathedral follow suit. We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God—and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.”
Consistent with the canons of the Episcopal Church, the Cathedral will begin celebrating same-sex marriage ceremonies using a rite adapted from an existing blessing ceremony approved in August 2012 by the Church at its General Convention. That approval allowed for the bishops who oversee each diocese within the Church to decide whether or not to allow the rite’s use or to allow celebration of same-sex marriage. In light of the legality of civil marriage for same-sex couples in the District of Columbia and Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde (whose Episcopal Diocese of Washington includes D.C. and four counties in Maryland), decided in December 2012 to allow this expansion of the sacrament. Hall, as dean of the National Cathedral, ultimately led the Cathedral’s decision and adaptation of the same-sex rite.
“In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served,” Hall noted. “I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality—and I am pleased that this step follows the results made clear in this past November’s election, when three states voted to allow same-sex marriage,” he added.
The National Cathedral’s official name is The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and it serves as the seat of both the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Bishop of the Diocese of Washington. The cathedral was chartered by Congress to serve as the “national house of prayer,” although funding for the Cathedral has come entirely from private sources. The cornerstone was laid in 1907 with President Theodore Roosevelt and the Bishop of London in attendance. The first service was held in the unfinished Cathedral’s Bethlehem chapel in 1912, and construction finally ended in 1990 with the completion of the west towers. It is now the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the U.S.
DC Gay Man’s Death Ruled A Homicide
September 21st, 2011
Earlier reports that a Gaurav Gopalan, a Washington, D.C., man who was found dead September 10 while dressed in drag, died of natural causes appears to be wrong. The district’s Medical Examiner has ruled his death a homicide with the cause of death being blunt force trauma to the head.
Washington has seen a rash of shootings and attacks against transgender people, with four people shot since July and more than a dozen attacks against transgender women in the district this year. One woman died from the shootings. While Gopalan wasn’t transgender, his attack certainly fits the bill for an attack against gender variance.
Autopsy Shows DC Man Died of Natural Causes
September 16th, 2011
Earlier this week, D.C. police held a news conference to discuss an alarming trend of shootings and other attacks against transgender people in the district, where there have been at least four reported shootings since July and more than a dozen attacks in the past year. During the press conference, police discussed the case of another individual who had been found dead on September 10 who they believed to be a transwoman, but who transgender advocates thought might have been a gay man in drag.
The individual has since been identified as Gaurav Gopalan, a Nepal native who worked as an aerospace engineer. He also worked in the theater community and lived with his partner, Bob Shaeffer. Today, it has been reported that Shaeffer has received an autopsy report which concluded that Gopalan suffered a massive hemorrhaging in the brain, probably the result of an embolism. Shaeffer says that police are keeping the file open and the investigation is continuing.
Shaeffer recalled when he first met Gopalan:
The two met at a theatre, during intermission, five years ago. “We were having a smoke break. It was love at first sight.” The first time he came to my house for dinner, I served fifteen kinds of cheese,” Shaeffer recalled. “As he tried each one, he said ‘I love this one – it’s my favorite.’ He had the heart of a little boy.” They moved in together a few months later.
DC Police Register Alarm Over Transgender Shootings
September 13th, 2011
A transgender woman was shot in the neck around 2:00 a.m. Monday in the Southeast section of Washington, D.C., making the incident the fourth reported shooting of a transgender person in D.C. since July. The woman, whose name is not available, suffered a non-fatal wound and walked into a district police station to report the attack. She is reportedly in stable condition at a local hospital. A suspect has been identified in that shooting and D.C. police expect to make an arrest soon.
The latest incident prompted the D.C. police to call a news conference yesterday to discuss the attacks. Transgender advocates Earline Budd and Ruby Corado, who also spoke at the media event, said the latest shooting was among more than a dozen attacks against transgender women in the district this year.
The latest rash of shootings began on July 20 when another transgender woman, 23-year-old Lashai Mclean, was shot to death at about 5:00 a.m. in Northeast Washington. Another transgender woman who was with Mclean told police that two men approached Mclean to ask a question, and shot her with a semiautomatic handgun before she could answer. Police do not yet have a suspect.
On July 31, an unidentified male shot at a transgender woman just a block away from where Mclean was shot. The woman was uninjured, but police say the shooting may point to a “potential emerging pattern.”
On August 26, an off-duty Police officer shot his service revolver at three transgender women and two male friends. Two of the women and one male were injured. Officer Kenneth Furr had reportedly proposition one of the transwmen for sex earlier that morning. Furr is being held without bail and has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.
One August 31, two transgender women were threatened by a man in Northeast Washington, who told them they had five minutes to leave before would come back and shoot them.
On Sept 10, three other transgender women were threatened by a man with a gun in D.C.’s Chinatown. Police have arrested a suspect and are preparing to charge him with assault with a dangerous weapon with hate crime enhancements. The suspect’s name has not been released.
During the conference, police discussed the death, also on September 10, of an unidentified person who may be a transgender woman, although transgender advocates say that the person may be a man dressed in drag rather than someone identifying as female. The person was found dead in the Columbia Heights neighborhood at about 5:20 a.m. on September 10. Police are awaiting toxicology tests before determining the cause of death. There were no signs of trauma or external injuries. The deceased was found with money and jewelry, which rules out robbery as a motive for the possible crime.
Boehner responds to Obama’s refusal to defend DOMA
March 4th, 2011
House Speaker John Boehner has announced the direction that he will go in response to Attorney General Holder’s declaration that he and President Obama would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. And it appears, to me, to be a measured and non-hysterical response. (WaPo)
Boehner said he will convene a meeting of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a first step toward taking action in the House to defend the law.
“It is regrettable that the Obama administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy,” Boehner said in a statement. “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts – not by the president unilaterally – and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”
On the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group are the top three House Republicans – Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) – and the top two House Democrats – Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.).
The group has the authority to instruct the House general counsel to take legal action on behalf of the House. It typically gets involved in situations where leaders believe there are institutional or separation-of-powers concerns.
This is, in other words, the appropriate group to consider whether there is any issue of the President acting in a manner that violates the rights of the Congress.
Boehner is walking softly on this issue, and this “all by the book” response is far more measured that I would have predicted. I wasn’t expecting him to appoint the Pacific Justice Institute to represent the House, but I also wasn’t expecting him to treat the matter as though the President’s position should be given any thought before responding or to invite the Democratic leadership to participate in the response.
And the language he has selected – language that does not insist that DOMA is constitutional and makes no appeal to “protecting the family” or “the will of the people” or even a reference to a “homosexual agenda” – speaks of disapproval of process or timing rather than homophobic posturing.
It is far too little and far too soon to read too much into this (and I am aware of my inclination to look for the silver lining), but somehow it feels as though there has been a shift. It feels to me as though the Republican leadership may be moving away from knee-jerk dismissal of the claims of gay citizens. It’s hard to put my finger on it exactly, but it feels different, as though they aren’t agreeing or supporting, but finally they’ve started listening.
Conservative Republicans in Congress may try to overturn DC marriage law
January 25th, 2011
From The Hill
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), told The Hill that he will push for a vote on the controversial issue in the 112th Congress. The RSC has 175 members.
“I think RSC will push for it, and I’m certainly strongly for it. I don’t know if we’ve made a decision if I’ll do it or let another member do it, but I’m 100 percent for it,” Jordan said.
Considering that the Senate is in the control of Democrats and that many Republicans are ideologically resistant to congressional micromanagement of the District, I don’t think this is going anywhere. However it could, in this economy, make the Republican Party look as though it has its priorities seriously screwed up.
DC marriage appeal rejected by SCOTUS
January 18th, 2011
For a case to be heard by the US Supreme Court, four of the nine justices must have an interest in discussing the constitutionality of the case. The challenge to the District of Columbia’s denial of a referendum on marriage equality did not reach that standard. (AP)
The court did not comment Tuesday in turning away a challenge from a Maryland pastor and others who are trying to get a measure on the ballot to allow Washingtonians to vote on a measure that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Bishop Harry Jackson led a lawsuit against the district’s Board of Elections and Ethics after it refused to put that initiative on the ballot. The board ruled that the ballot question would in effect authorize discrimination.
The facts are interesting.
After the DC Council voted to enact marriage equality, Bishop Harry Jackson (a Maryland preacher) got signatures to put a referendum on the ballot. But the District has a provision which disallows referenda on civil rights issues and the Board of Elections and Ethics deemed an anti-gay marriage vote to be just such a vote.
When the courts did not overturn this decision, Jackson appealed to the Supreme Court and asked for a stay. In March, Justice Roberts declined the stay. Now the case is settled.
We cannot extrapolate too much from this decision. However, the following seems to be true:
- There are not four anti-gay activist justices on the Supreme Court who are willing to take whatever steps are necessary to oppose equality.
- The idea that gay marriage is, indeed, a civil rights issue – or can legitimately be seen as such by an Elections Board – is acceptable to at least six of the nine justices.
Couple recognition, state by state
December 1st, 2010
Upon the governor’s signature, Illinois will become the second state that is currently offering civil unions to same-sex couples. The status of the various recognition mechanisms is as follows:
Marriage on the same terms as heterosexual marriage – 5.1% of US Population:
District of Columbia
Civil Unions – a rights except the name – 7.1% of US Population:
Domestic Partnerships will all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population
Limited recognition of same-sex couples – 6.2% of US Population
Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits
Colorado – Reciprocal Benefits
Wisconsin – Domestic Partnerships
Maine – Domestic Partnerships
Maryland – Domestic Partnerships
In addition, the states of Maryland and New York (6.4% of US Population) will give full recognition to same-sex marriages conducted where legal. Rhode Island may possibly do so also (it’s a bit uncertain) and offers unregistered Domestic Partnerships with a scant handful of rights.
Also, there are dozens of cities offer some form of recognition and protection for same-sex couples.
NOM’s DC candidates lose big
September 15th, 2010
Remember the political mailer sent out by the National Organization for Marriage to support a District of Columbia counsel candidate?
Radical, gay marriage activists are flooding Ward 5 with money to defeat Delano Hunter, not because they don’t like his plan to improve our community, but only because the supports the Biblical definition of marriage.
Of course there was no flooding of outside money, other than that which NOM was raining on their favorite anti-gay candidate. But it turns out that their money was wasted. (TBD)
NOM’S CANDIDATES ALL LOSE: And bad. Council candidate Delano Hunter, endorsed by the National Organization for Marriage, lost to incumbent Harry Thomas Jr. in the Ward 5 race. Delano secured 20 percent of the vote to Thomas’ 62. At-large council member Phil Mendelson, a champion of marriage equality, was re-elected. And in the Mayoral election, NOM’s favorite anti-gay-marriage candidate, Leo Alexander, secured a pathetic .62 percent of the vote in the mayoral contest. That’s gotta sting.
Thomas is giving NOM credit for helping him beat the candidate they supported. (Metro Weekly)
Thomas, a Democrat who voted for the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, is confident that his vote was not just right, but also good politics, saying, ”[I]f I had been on the other side of this issue as a councilmember, I wouldn’t have been as successful [in my re-election campaign].”
What’s more, Thomas said NOM’s actions ”solidified [his] position” on his vote for the marriage bill.
”I think that what you see is voters were not singularly focused [on marriage], and there was a small group of individual who I believed focused on – frankly – a lot of misinformation,” he said. ”[NOM] tried to deceptively cast their campaign around people being denied the right to vote – without explaining the human-rights issue.”
NOM’s Tour of Mostly-Empty City Plaza rolls to a stop
August 15th, 2010
Today the National Organization for Marriage held the final rally of their Summer for Marriage Tour, a 19 state, 23 city tour to rally opposition to marriage equality that can best be summed up as disastrous. Only a few cities drew crowds over 100, and in several stops less than two dozen locals turned up to support NOM’s efforts.
But for their big finale, NOM chose Washington D.C., a locality that only this year enacted marriage equality. In a divergence from the usual, all of the speakers at today’s rally – other than Brian Brown – were African-Americans. And as one speaker, Bishop Neaville Coles of the local Church of God in Christ, brought his congregation, the audience had a sizable African-American presence as well. Although polls and public presumption assume that blacks and Hispanics are strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, until today NOM’s rallies have been mostly absent of anyone other than mostly-elderly Caucasians.
NOM also drew a larger crowd than usual for their final stop. Although neither NOM nor the Trial Tracker provide a complete estimate, there were at least 60 and maybe up to 100 supporters [ed: reader Karen says more, maybe 200]. About 50 protesters stayed across the street while another 250 met at a pro-marriage equality rally a few blocks away.
From all accounts NOM’s rally did not present any original thought. Mostly cliches and astonishingly lacking in historical perspective – though there did seem to be a fair amount of unintended irony.
The old standby of “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” drew applause. (Some day I’m going to show up with a sign that says “Adam and Yves”).
Bishop Coles thundered, “What God has joined let no man put asunder!” Ummm, Bishop? You may want to think through the logical conclusion of that one before you try to reverse the marriages of the United Church of Christ.
Dr. Fauntroy seemed both defeatist and delusional. I’m not sure why the fellow thinks it may cost him his friends and his life, but like a true NOMartyr, he lamented:
I am determined to go all the way through. If it costs my life, I am determined, because I’ve got heaven in my view. If it means I have got to stand alone, if it means my friends be few, I am not worried about what people say. I’ve got heaven on my mind.
But, then again, he also said that our founding fathers promised healthcare so I’ll just give the elder statesman the privilege of age and its encumbrances.
But no one seemed to be less aware of his own words than Bishop Harry Jackson who spent his time railing against minority rights.
What is happening is a minority — just like we’re hearing now — is attempting to impose its will on the majority… I believe where we are today is the same situation [as the African-American civil rights struggle]. A minority is imposing its will.
Now I’ve heard language like that before, and it too was in context of racial tensions. But those screaming about “minorities imposing their will” were not on the side of civil rights or equality. But come to think of it, neither is Bishop Jackson.
Anti-gays in DC lose appeal
July 15th, 2010
From the Christian Science Monitor
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals effectively upheld gay marriage in the nation’s capital by legitimizing the city’s decision to block a popular vote on the issue.
In a 5-4 decision published Thursday, the court agreed that Washington’s Board of Elections and Ethics had the right to deny an initiative measure on the city’s recently passed law legalizing same-sex marriage.
Opponents of the law, led by area pastors, were confident that the majority of Washingtonians would have voted against gay marriage if given the chance.
The past week hasn’t been good for anti-marriage activists.
The Blade Is Back, Part 2
April 30th, 2010
And it looks fabulous!
The Blade Is Back!
April 28th, 2010
After the newspaper’s closing, a new paper dubbed DC Agenda appeared on the scene operated by a new company founded by Blade Publisher Lynne Brown, Editor Kevin Naff, sales executive Brian Pitts and other former Blade employees. That new company, Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia, Inc., this week announced that they successfully purchased all of the Blade’s assets from a federal bankruptcy court in Atlanta. The purchase included the Blade name, all trademarks and copyrights and the entire 40-year archive.
The Blade began more than 40 years ago as a single page mimeographed newsletter, and over the years grew to become one of the most powerful voices for LGBT issues in the nation. The Blade is particularly credited for having broken many important stories while covering the political beat in the nation’s capital. Protecting that legacy is one of the most exciting prospects of this announcement. Blade Publisher Kevin Naff says that new company is working to restore online access to the paper’s electronic archive as soon as possible.
Update: Southern Voice, the Atlanta-based paper that also closed with Windows Media’s demise, is also attempting a resurrection. It’s return however has been a bit more troublesome. Only one issue has hit the streets and already they are looking for their third news editor.
ENDA Sit-ins Result in Arrests in DC and San Francisco
March 19th, 2010
In Washington, DC, eight activists arrived for a meeting with the staff of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, demanding that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) be brought to a vote. They then barred the doors and staged a classic, old-fashioned sit-in augmented with modern-day Tweets. After about four hours, police were able to get into the offices and arrest four lesbians for unlawful entry. They were taken to DC Central Cellblock — the same location where Daniel Choi and Jim Pietrangelo were taken following his arrest at the White House — and released without bail. Their court date is April 6. Choi and Pietrangelo were held overnight.
While the protest in Pelosi’s DC office was taking place, another seven or eight protesters occupied her district office in San Francisco. Arrests also took place there. Both events were coordinated by GetEqual.org.