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Posts for January, 2013

National Cathedral Will Host Same-Sex Weddings

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2013

Imagine your wedding here.

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

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

January 18th, 2011

capitolFor 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

Timothy Kincaid

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:

Massachusetts
Connecticut
Iowa
Vermont
New Hampshire
District of Columbia

Civil Unions
– a rights except the name – 7.1% of US Population:

New Jersey
Illinois

Domestic Partnerships will all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population

California
Oregon
Washington
Nevada

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Jim Burroway

April 30th, 2010

And it looks fabulous!

The Blade Is Back!

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2010

The venerable Washington Blade, which abruptly closed last November following the bankruptcy of it’s parent company Windows Media, will return to newsstands in the Washington, DC area this Friday.

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

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2010
DC Sit-in (Omar Clarke, GetEqual.org, via Pam's House Blend)

DC Sit-in (Omar Clarke, GetEqual.org, via Pam's House Blend)

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.

Lt. Daniel Choi Arrested In DADT Protest At White House

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2010

Iraq war veteran Lt. Daniel Choi, whose discharge from the US Army under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” handcuffed himself to the White House fence this afternoon along with Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, who was discharged in 2004. Here is CNN’s coverage of that protest:

YouTube Preview Image

Choi and Pietrangelo had earlier attended a rally at Freedom Plaza organized by the Human Rights Campaign which featured comedienne Kathy Griffin. Griffin invited Choi, who had not been invited to speak, up to the stage to say a few words. Choi took the opportunity to invite participants at the rally to march with him and Pietrangelo to the White House.

Once they reached the White House shortly before 1:00 pm, Choi and Pietrangelo handcuffed themselves to the fence. They were quickly met by police and Secret Service. After a standoff of about an hour, police cut they two from the fence and placed them under arrest. A third advocate, Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL was also arrested.

Latest word is that Choi and Pietrangelo will be held in DC jail overnight and appear tomorrow in DC Superior Court. Observers say that it is highly unusual for a person to be arrested with “failure to obey a lawful order” and be held overnight. Typically such an individual makes bail and is released the same day. Why the delay?


In the best tradition of protests, that is where this story would end for the day, as unsatisfying an ending as it is right now. But wouldn’t you know it, whenever it comes to the gays, it seems there always has to be some squabbling going on somewhere. This one is playing out as an anti-HRC/pro-HRC tussle. Blogger John Avarosis describes the events at the HRC’s rally this way:

I was there, chronicled Dan from this morning’s preparation to his unexpected speech at the HRC rally (Joe Solmonese told him he couldn’t speak, Dan got Kathy Griffin to invite him on stage), to his march to the White House fence where he and Capt. James Pietrangelo (who was kicked out in 2004 for being gay) handcuffed themselves to the White House gate with hundreds of supporters chanting. It was an amazing scene. Griffin told Choi she’d march with him the White House, then she refused to go when he found her after rally. Solmonese reportedly gave Choi the thumbs up when Choi asked him if he’d march to the White House – Solmonese too was nowhere to be scene, and refused to go when Choi approached him after the HRC rally.

The HRC responded:

There’s been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi’s role in the rally.  As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn’t his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans.  After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks.

Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese along with Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play.

As for Kathy Griffin, we have this tweet:

It was my honor 2 share th podium w Lt Dan Choi today. I understand he’s been arrested in front of the White House. I dig that dude! Balls!

NOM funds DC Candidate with questionable ethics

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2010

motleyRev. Anthony J. Motley is a protege of Marion Barry running for City Council against gay Council Member at Large David Catania.

In February, the CityPaper looked into some of Motley’s business practices with the city and found them to be curious. It seems that Barry was lining Motley’s pockets with city money and that Motley was responding by providing personal favors to Barry including the loan of a Mercedes.

He “personally received at least $54,000 from [fiscal 2009] earmark grant recipients”—earmarks all requested by Barry.

Under the terms of a settlement agreement with federal prosecutors in his long-running federal tax-fraud case, Barry has to fully report his income and spending to authorities on a monthly basis in order to determine how much of his income is seized in order to pay back taxes. If Barry were to include payments on a luxury vehicle, they could demand an adjustment to Barry’s repayment schedule.

The article continues with several other instances in which Motley’s behavior either crossed or skirted the line of legality. In fact, an investigation into improprieties in Barry’s earmarks found that Motley had forged documents and engaged in self-dealing in addition to using educational funds set up for poor children to pay for political “councils” which in turn paid him. All of which suggests that not only is Anthony Motley a political ally of Marion Barry, but he appears to share both Barry’s personal taste for power and privilege and his questionable ethics.

gallagherNone of which matters to the National Organization for Marriage. There is no scoundrel too shady or wactivist too hateful to be endorsed, supported, and funded by NOM. All that matters is that Motley shares NOM’s opposition to marriage equality.

As of last June, Motley was not yet on board with NOM’s agenda. At that time he was singing a different song. (WaPo)

Motley said in an interview that there are divisions in the city that he wants to eliminate: geography and race but also one between ministers and the gay and lesbian community.

Motley said he pulled together a meeting between the two groups to talk about the legalization of gay marriage. Motley, who said he has supported domestic partnerships and other gay issues in the past, said he has not decided whether he supports legalizing same-sex nuptials. “I’m evolving on that,” he said. “I have not gotten to the point that I can say definitively.”

But since NOM has a check-book (and no accountability), Motley has now evolved a position and decided that he really likes divisions after all.

So it is no surprise that NOM is funding Motley. (MetroWeekly)

Motley has accepted two campaign contributions from NOM, and another from the Committee to Elect Delano Hunter. Hunter is running for a seat to represent Ward 5. He has also been supported by NOM.

”Obviously we’re interested in electing candidates that will support traditional marriage and allowing voters of D.C. the right to have their say on the issue,” Brian Brown, executive director of NOM, says. ”Rev. Motley does.”

Sadly, is is also no surprise that NOM seems to have broken the law to do so.

According to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance (OCF), candidates seeking election for a City Council At-Large seat may accept no more than $1,000 from one organization or individual. But Motley’s campaign contribution listings on OCF’s official web site, shows that it accepted $950 from ”The National Organization for Marriage, PPC,” on January 29, and another $950 from ”The National Organization for Marriage, Inc.” on February 1.

Brown says the two contributions were a mistake and that only one should have been made.

Perhaps it was just a reporting error. Perhaps it was a mistake and NOM accidentally gave more than they intended. Perhaps it’s all innocent.

But why is it that every time National Organization for Marriage becomes involved in a campaign, there are questionable practices or laws ignored or broken?

Fact Checking the Family “Research” Council Straw Man Argument

Jason Cianciotto

March 13th, 2010

In response to a Washington Post article about the economic benefits of same-sex marriage in DC, the Family Research Council (FRC) provides a classic example of how right-wing organizations manipulate data and statistics to suit their anti-LGBT positions.

Here’s the quote:

When same-sex weddings kicked off in D.C. yesterday, the city wasn’t seeing anything but dollar signs. In an absurd article in today’s Washington Post, reporters tried to argue that counterfeit marriage could be the economic salvation of the city’s economy. In a region with 12% unemployment, local officials claim that redefining marriage “will create 700 jobs and contribute $52.2 million over three years to the local economy.”

Not so fast, says FRC. The last census counted 3,678 same-sex partner homes in D.C. Assuming that number has stayed roughly the same, then the 150 who applied for marriage licenses yesterday would amount to a whopping four percent of the local homosexual population–hardly the stuff of economic recovery. For the Post’s $52.2 million projection to come true, all 3,678 of those D.C. couples would have to get married and spend over $14,000 per wedding. (I don’t know about you, but my wife and I spent a LOT less!) These “marriages” (which have yet to meet financial expectations in other states) may make a fast buck in the short term, but they will do nothing but drain the economy down the road. Consider the massive health care expenses incurred by taxpayers every year to cope with the diseases spread by homosexual behavior. According to the Kaiser Foundation, federal funding grew to more than $18 billion in 2004 to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over half of all U.S. infections are in men having sex with men! That means taxpayers spend roughly $10 billion a year treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex “marriage.” So much for economic development!

Not so fast FRC.

Yes, according to the Washington, DC Census Snapshot published by the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 3,678 same-sex couple households in the district, and the Associate Press did report that 150 same-sex couples applied for licenses on the first day same-sex marriage became legal there. This is about all that is factually correct in FRC’s statement.

FRC’s claim that the 150 couples represent “four percent of the local homosexual population” is a classic manipulation used by the religious right and discredited “researchers” like Paul Cameron. They take an estimate of one portion of a minority population and pretend that it is generalizeable to the population as a whole. In this case, the number of same-sex couple households willing to self-identify in the Census is not equivalent to the total population of lesbian, gay, or bisexual DC residents, which according to the Williams Institute is approximately 33,000.

Even more importantly, it is laughable for FRC to base its argument on the number of couples who applied for licenses on the first day. The Washington Post article references another Williams Institute report, which estimates that 2,000 same-sex couple in DC would marry over the next three years. In addition, another 12,500 couples are expected to come from out of state to get married. This is a more complete picture of the estimates used to create the projection of 700 new jobs and $52.2 million in revenue, but FRC simply ignores this information.

Where to begin with FRC’s last argument about same-sex marriage being a long-term drain on the economy because of “diseases spread by homosexual behavior?”

We could cite CDC data on transmission rates caused by “heterosexual behavior.” We could also estimate federal funding spent on prevention efforts that address the damage caused by social, and familial environments created by FRC. As they say, so much for economic development!

However, it would be a waste of time to feed into FRC’s “straw man” arguments.

They have no interest in examining real facts. Nor do they see the folly in their position against allowing same-sex couples access to an institution that fosters monogamy as well as mutual caring and support. As so many articles and special reports on Box Turtle Bulletin have illustrated, there is no place for scientifically supported facts in the anti-gay playbook.

Catholic Charities and Discrimination

Jason Cianciotto

March 6th, 2010

[I'm proud to have Jason Cianciotto as a friend and now, perhaps, an occasional contributor to BTB. Jason was previously the Director of the Policy Institute at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and later the Executive Director of the Wingspan Community Center in Tucson. He is now free as a bird, traveling around the country with his husband, Courter. -- Jim B.]

Now that marriage equality has reached Washington, DC, faith-based social service providers that receive city funding are no longer able to discriminate against married gay and lesbian clients and employees. As a result, in mid-February DC Catholic charities transferred its foster-care and adoption program to the National Center for Children and Families in order to avoid having to offer services to married same-sex couples. On March 1st the organization also announced that it would stop offering health insurance to the spouses of all new employees, gay or straight, a move enabling them to “remain faithful to the church’s teachings” by not having to provide insurance to the same-sex spouses of employees.

DC Catholic charities would rather you not see this as an issue of discrimination. Instead they cast themselves as “victims,” losing freedom of religion every time a same-sex couple slips on a pair of wedding rings. Additionally, coverage in the Washington Post characterized these changes as “fallout,” as if same-sex marriage was akin to a nuclear explosion. However, this is a distraction from the real issue at hand: While faith-based organizations should be able to provide services consistent with their beliefs and traditions, when those services are funded by tax dollars, discrimination based on any characteristic should not be allowed. Period.

This scenario already played out in Massachusetts. In 2006 the Archdiocese there also suspended foster care and adoption support services provided through Catholic charities rather than comply with that state’s anti-discrimination laws. As was the case in DC, these services were picked up by other secular agencies. This is a positive outcome for children in need of care based on scientifically supported best practices, rather than on any particular religious tradition.

The distribution of tax dollars to organizations that act in the best interest of children who need a good home, regardless of the sexual orientation of prospective parents, is scientifically supported. For example, in January the Journal of Marriage and Family published a comprehensive analysis of 81 studies of one- and two-parent families, including gay and lesbian couples and individuals. On established measures of self-esteem, social adjustment, and other key indicators, children raised by same-sex parents were indistinguishable from those raised by married men and women. This further strengthens the position of every major medical and mental health professional association in support of the estimated 65,500 adopted children in the U.S. living with a gay or lesbian parent.

As more states legalize same-sex marriage, Catholic charities and other faith-based social service providers will be forced to change discriminatory policies or lose public funding. As was the case in Massachusetts and DC, it is likely that a shift in service provision to secular agencies will continue. This is a positive outcome for all children and families in need, who should not be caught in the cross-fire of the religious rights’ culture war against equality for all Americans.

Nearly half of all Americans live where there is some recognition of same-sex couples

Timothy Kincaid

March 3rd, 2010

US Map

About 5.1% of Americans (15.5 million) live in areas in which same-sex marriages are legal and equal to opposite-sex marriages: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia.

Another 58.4 million (19.2%) live in states which have either civil unions or domestic partnerships that offer all the rights and protections of marriage without the name: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington. To that we can add two more states (New York and Maryland) in which the local state government will honor marriage occurring elsewhere and we have a total of 32.6% of Americans living with the rights and responsibilities of marriage available to their family.

There are also five states which recognize same-sex couples and offer them limited itemized rights. They are Hawaii, Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, and Rhode Island and they add an additional 14.2 million Americans (4.7%).

But recognition does not stop there. There are dozens more counties and cities who provide what local recognition and benefits as they can, adding another 14.2 million local residents (4.7% of Americans) who can appreciate that their city officials see them as a couple. Local municipalities include the populations of Salt Lake City, UT; Phoeniz AZ; Tuscon AZ; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; Lawrence, KS; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Lewis, MO; Ann Arbor, MI; Cook County, IL (Chicago); Urbana, IL; Cleveland, OH; Cleveland Heights, OH; Toledo, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Harrisburg, PA; El Paso, TX; Travis County, TX (Austin); Eureka Springs, AK; New Orleans, LA; Carrboro, NC; Chapel Hill, NC; Clarke County, GA (Athens); Fulton County, GA (Atlanta); Broward County, FL (Fort Lauderdale); Key West, FL; Miami-Dade County, FL; and West Palm Beach, FL.

In total about 140 million Americans – about 46% of the nation’s population – live where there is some form of official notice of same-sex couples. So NOM can proclaim “victory” when they have an election in California or Maine, but this ball is rolling and the momentum is in the direction of recognition.

Congratulations to our Nation’s Capital

Timothy Kincaid

March 3rd, 2010

capitol

Today the residents of the District of Columbia are free to pick up a marriage license to marry the person whom they love without regard to that person’s gender. The first marriage may occur as early as next Tuesday (after the waiting period).

Congratulations to Washingtonians on your newly acquired freedom.

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