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More James Lecesne “Brightness” 30

Appeals Court Nixes Giuliani Adult Zoning 10


Vidal v. Buckley 32




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July 23 - August 05, 2015 | 3/25/15 3:56 PM



SCOTUS Aftershocks

Freedom to Marry: the party

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EEOC Says Gays Protected Against Employment Discrimination In reversal of half-century policy, US equal employment agency says sexual orientation bias is sex discrimination BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


n a complete turnaround, the federal agency that enforces T itle VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act has, for the first time, ruled the federal ban on employment discrimination because of sex includes discrimination against somebody because they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The July 15 holding by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reverses the position the agency has held throughout its 50-year history. Acting in its capacity as an appeals forum, the EEOC over ruled a 2013 administrative decision from the federal Department of Transportation that rejected a discrimination claim by a man denied a permanent management position by the Federal Aviation Administration. As is customary with EEOC administrative rulings, its ruling does not identify the man other than as “Complainant.”

The History of Title VII’s Sex Discrimination Ban The EEOC went into business in July 1965 when Title VII took effect. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was approved only after prolonged strug-

gle in Congress, including a lengthy Senate filibuster led by Southern Democrats opposed to racial integration of the workplace. Almost all of the attention during that debate centered on the federal ban on race discrimination. The bill originally introduced in the House of Representatives was limited to race or color, religion, and national origin as prohibited grounds of discrimination.

racial nondiscrimination legislation, introduced an amendment to add sex, which was passed by an unlikely alliance of pro-feminist liberals and Southern conservatives, that latter group hoping the amendment would doom the bill. Because “sex” was added as a floor amendment, the committee reports on the bill do not discuss it, and Smith’s amendment did not add any defi-

Late last year, the EEOC and then the Justice Department concluded that all gender identity discrimination claims could be investigated and prosecuted under Title VII. House committees did study sex discrimination issues, as well, but they concluded that the Equal Pay Act passed in 1963, which prohibited compensating men and women at different rates for the same work, was sufficient. The 1964 measure’s proponents feared that adding a general prohibition on sex discrimination would endanger the bill’s passage. When the measure was debated on the House floor, however, Representative Howard Smith of Virginia, a long-time advocate of equal rights for women but also an opponent of

nition of sex, instead merely adding the word “sex” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. After the bill passed the House, it went to the Senate under a leadership deal that bypassed the committee process, to prevent Mississippi Senator James Eastland, the Democratic Judiciary Committee chair, from keeping it bottled up there. Instead, the measure went directly to the Senate floor under a procedure that allowed little opportunity for amendments. The debate included some brief discussion about the inclusion of sex but nothing real-

ly illuminating, apart from a floor amendment attempting to reconcile the bill with the Equal Pay Act. As a result of the unusual way in which “sex” was added to the 1964 bill, the “legislative history” provides no help in figuring out what kind of discrimination Congress intended to ban when it voted to add that category to the list of prohibited grounds for employment discrimination. Since 1964, the EEOC and the courts were left to their own devices in trying to figure out what this meant. The conclusion they reached early on was that it was intended to prohibit discrimination against women because they were women or against men because they were men. Both the EEOC and the courts soon began to rule that the ban on sex discrimination did not apply to bias based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. One commonsense reason typically raised by courts in rejecting such discrimination claims was that if Congress had intended to ban such discrimination, there surely would have been some mention of that during the debates over the bill. And they point out that


EEOC, continued on p.5

OMNIBUS FEDERAL LGBT CIVIL RIGHTS MEASURE TO BE INTRODUCED JULY 23 Comprehensive civil rights legislation providing federal nondiscrimination protection to the LGBT community, originally expected to be introduced in Congress in June, will be unveiled at a noon press conference on Thursday, July 23 in Washington, Gay City News has confirmed. Word that the bill was ready to go first surfaced earlier this week in other published reports. As the new Congress elected last November prepared to take their seats in the new year, Representative David N. Cicilline, an out gay Rhode Island Democrat, and Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, began work on crafting an omnibus bill to cover discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, and access to credit –– comparable, Cicilline’s office says, to the protections provided on the basis of race, religion, and sex under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In early June, Sarah Trister, Cicilline’s legislative director, told Gay City News, “We very much hope and intend to have it introduced this month.” That deadline came and went and, as late as July 17, Richard


Luchette, a Cicilline spokesperson, responded to a request for comment about timing by writing, “Nothing new to report right now.” This week, however, BuzzFeed, the Washington Blade, and the Advocate reported that Cicilline and Merkley were circulating “Dear Colleague” letters seeking co-sponsorship on a bill they are set to introduce imminently. The new legislative proposal would replace the long-stalled effort to pass a narrower Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which in more than two decades only once won approval in each house of Congress –– in separate sessions. Late last year, the Human Rights Campaign, the leading LGBT lobbying group on Capitol Hill, yielded to longstanding pressure from a variety of other groups, including grassroots advocates, to broaden the scope of the nondiscrimination push. HRC also committed to jettison the expansive religious exemptions contained in ENDA, which critics charged constituted “a license to discriminate.”

In her comments to Gay City News early last month, Trister from Cicilline’s office, emphasized the comprehensive nature of the legislative proposal and said that religious exemption language would replicate that included in civil rights laws based on race, ethnicity, sex, and other protected categories. “Our plan is to go through statutes and existing case law so that the protections offered are exactly the same as those for other protected groups,” she said. What Trister would not say was whether the new legislation would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which is the nation’s foundational nondiscrimination statute. “There are lots of different ways to do this,” she said, a comment that suggested there were many open questions remaining, which seemed unlikely given how close to introduction the sponsors said they were. Sources who had seen drafts of the legislation told Gay City


OMNIBUS, continued on p.5

July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


EEOC, from p.4

despite repeated efforts to add protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination since the early 1970s, Congress has never done so, another indicator on the intentions on Capitol Hill.

That conventional wisdom began to change in 1989, in a Supreme Court ruling in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins that opened up a changing landscape for sexuality issues under T itle VII. Ann Hopkins, rejected for a partnership at Price Waterhouse, won a ruling from the Supreme Court that sex stereotypes held by some of the partners who voted against her –– that she was insufficiently feminine to represent the firm –– violated her rights under Title VII. Writing for a plurality of the high court, Justice William J. Brennan said that Title VII applied to discrimination because of gender, not just biological sex. Later courts seized on the Price Waterhouse ruling to justify taking a broader view of sex discrimination under Title VII. By the early 2000s, there was a growing body of federal court rulings suggesting that LGBT people might be protected to some extent under Title VII, depending on the nature of their case. If the discrimination they suffered could be described in


OMNIBUS, from p.4 | July 23 - August 05, 2015

EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum has been a prime mover behind the agency’s expanded view of sex discrimination to encompass gender identity and sexual orientation claims.

gender identity discrimination is sex discrimination.

What's New About the Latest EEOC Ruling? The new July 15 ruling by the EEOC seeks to achieve the same thing for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals confronting employment discrimination. While acknowledging the significance of the Supreme Court’s Price Waterhouse decision and sex stereotyping theory in widening the agency’s appreciation of the scope of sex discrimination, this ruling takes things a step further. “In the case before us,” wrote the Commission, “we conclude that Complainant’s claim of sexual orientation discrimination alleges that the Agency relied on sex-based considerations and took his sex into account in its employment decision regarding the permanent [manage-

Word that Cicilline and Merkley are now ready to move on their bill comes as Republicans are looking at a variety of measures to spell out religious exemptions that organizations and even individuals have in refusing to recognize same-sex marriages. A bill already introduced by Idaho Republican Representative Raul Labrador would provide a broad exemption to anyone with a religious objection to marriage by same-sex couples, a provision that could include private sector employers. Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent, who has supported LGBT rights in the past, is considering a more narrowly crafted alternative –– but one that would still allow exemptions for religiously-affiliated charities that act as public accommodations, such as adoption agencies. The possibility that a generally LGBT-friendly Republican was staking out a position supporting more expansive religious exemptions than advocates for the community can support may have prompted Cicilline and Merkley to move this week on their bill. Their measure also follows last week’s ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that job discrimination against gay and lesbian employees or applicants is banned under existing sex discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII. As New York Law School professor Arthur S. Leonard explains in the accompanying story, the EEOC finding is not binding on federal courts, but is part of the Obama administration’s aggressive effort to push that interpretation into courts around the nation. On July 17, Cicilline, in a statement emailed by his office,

ment] position. The Complainant, therefore, has stated a claim of sex discrimination. Indeed, we conclude that sexual orientation is inherently a ‘sex-based consideration,’ and an allegation of discrimination based on sexual orientation is necessarily an allegation of sex discrimination under Title VII. A complainant alleging that an agency took his or her sexual orientation into account in an employment action necessarily alleges that the agency took his or her sex into account.” The EEOC amplified its conclusion with an extended discussion, grounding its conclusion in rulings by several federal courts and pointing especially to the well-established principle that discriminating against somebody because of the race of their sexual partner has long been deemed by the Commission and the courts to be race discrimination. Logically, then, discriminating against somebody because of the sex of their sexual partners would be sex discrimination. The Commission also referenced the recent marriage equality litigation, noting the Supreme Court’s statement in Obergefell v. Hodges that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage “abridge central precepts of equality.” The EEOC also explained that recent court rulings have made clear that stereotyped thinking about proper gender roles,


EEOC, continued on p.22


News that crafting of the measure had been well along for months at that point and does adopt the approach of amending the 1964 Act, as well as other existing legislation. Prior to the original introduction of ENDA back in the early 1990s, gay and lesbian advocates had pursued a path of adding sexual orientation to the 1964 Act for nearly two decades. That approach was pioneered in Congress by two New York Democrats –– Bella Abzug and Ed Koch. The Advocate, relying on what it said was a draft of the Cicilline-Merkley bill that had circulated among a large group of advocates, also reported that the measure would amend the 1964 Act, among a number of federal statutes. Those privy to the efforts of the working group developing the legislation –– an effort led by the Human Rights Campaign with the active participation of the Center for American Progress and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights –– have been tight-lipped and unwilling to go on the record for fear of losing their access. Cicilline and Merkley have not responded to questions from multiple media sources as to whether they have lined up any Republican sponsors in a Congress, where both houses are GOP-controlled. The Advocate reported that Merkley would be joined by two Democrats, out lesbian Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and New Jersey’s Cory Booker, in introducing the measure in the Senate.


Changing Winds in the View of Sex Discrimination

terms of sex stereotypes or if they could show that they had been the victim of sexual harassment that turned in some way on their gender, they might be able to maintain a legal claim of discrimination. Within the past few years, the EEOC has taken a leading role in making these developments more concrete, particularly through its decision-making on discrimination claims brought against federal agencies, where it plays an important appellate role reviewing rulings by federal agencies on internal employment grievances. In 2012, the EEOC ruled in Macy v. Dep’t of Justice that a transgender woman who was denied a position because of her gender identity had a valid claim under Title VII. This ruling echoed many then-recent federal court decisions –– including some by courts of appeals –– finding that discrimination because of gender identity almost always involves sex stereotyping by the discriminating employer. Late last year, the EEOC and then the Justice Department concluded that all gender identity discrimination claims could be investigated and prosecuted under Title VII. Pushing that position forward, the Justice Department has filed suit on behalf of the EEOC or joined ongoing private cases in federal court seeking to move the courts beyond the stereotyping theory to a straightforward acceptance that

Rhode Island Representative David N. Cicilline, an out gay Democrat.

told Gay City News, “Yesterday’s EEOC ruling sends a clear message that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has no place in a civilized society. It’s important that Congress pass comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that protects LGBT individuals in employment, housing, credit, jury service, and other core areas of daily life. I look forward to leading this fight in the House of Representatives.”— Paul Schindler



Freedom to Marry: The Party Vice President Joe Biden joins his former intern Evan Wolfson as movement gathers in celebration BY ANDY HUMM


Vice President Joe Biden at the Freedom to Marry celebration on July 9.




he US Supreme Court’s decision opening marriage to same-sex couples in all 50 states has mostly been celebrated two-by-two as long-denied rights were granted in clerks’ offices across the South and Midwest. But the campaign of Freedom to Marry, which worked to coordinate grassroots, political, and legal efforts on the issue for the last 12 years, was celebrated by more than a thousand activists at Cipriani on Wall Street on July 9, which is the anniversary, the group’s president Evan Wolfson told the crowd, of the day in 1868 when the 14th Amendment was adopted — the equal protection amendment that Justice Anthony Kennedy used to declare laws banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Wolfson kicked off the evening by introducing his old boss, Vice President Joe Biden, 72, who gave a moving speech tracing his own history with gay and other civil rights issues, but mostly gave credit to those assembled for achieving a decision that he said will rank right up there with Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 ruling declaring “separate but equal” schools for African Americans unconstitutional. “It’s wonderful to be in a place that’s going out of business,” Biden said. He spoke of how when he was a 17-year-old kid, he and his Irish Catholic father saw two men kissing each other good-bye in public. “I turned and looked at my dad, and I’ll never forget what he said. ‘Joey, they love each other, it’s simple,’” Biden recalled. (This reporter got an opportunity to tell the vice president afterwards that I had a similar experience with my father before I came out.) The point Biden drove home in his remarks is that those who worked on the issue all these years deserve the credit, not him ––though video was shown of him coming out for same-sex marriage in May 2012 on “Meet the Press,” widely credited with getting Pres-

Freedom to Marry’s founder and executive director Evan Wolfson.

ident Barack Obama to do the same a couple of days later in the midst of his re-election campaign. That one-two punch advanced the issue mightily –– and energized the Obama-Biden base. “But I know it hasn’t been sim-

ple for a lot of you,” Biden said, “especially those of you who are older. It took personal courage — physical courage.” Biden talked about taking on Robert Bork in the Senate Judiciary Committee because that

Supreme Court nominee of Ronald Reagan’s did not believe people had any rights that weren’t explicitly stated in the Constitution. Bork was not confirmed and Reagan instead nominated a conservative jurist named Anthony Kennedy, who went on to write all four of the landmark pro-gay decisions for the court: the Romer decision striking down an anti-gay Colorado voter initiative in 1996, the 2003 Lawrence sodomy opinion, the Windsor ruling in 2013 that eliminated the most significant portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, and last month’s Obergefell decision. Biden urged the assembled to take on the next LGBT rights fight –– federal anti-discrimination legislation. “I am confident when we take the case to the American people, we will win,” he said. “The next door will be a hell of a lot easier to open.” Later in the evening, Wolfson, wearing a lei symbolic of his role in winning the first same-sex marriage case (later overturned when the state’s voters gave the legislature the authority to do so) as co-counsel with Dan Foley in Hawaii in 1996, said that “no one person, no one organization, no one state, no one case, no one method” brought us to this day. “It took a whole movement to bring us to this victory.” To illustrate the point, he asked people to raise their hands if they had done one from a list of things –– from knocking on doors to working in a group to donating to one or more of the battles. By the time he was done most every hand had gone up. Wolfson especially thanked all the legal groups –– the American Civil Liberties Union, the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, and the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. He singled out for particular mention the “25 years of leadership” on the issue from GLAD’s Mary Bonauto, who argued the case before the high


THE PARTY, continued on p.20

July 23 - August 05, 2015 |



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Caitlyn Jenner accepting the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award in Los Angeles on July 15.

In her first public speaking appearance since coming out as Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair this spring, the 1976 Olympic decathlon winner took the stage at the annual ESPY Awards in Los Angeles and pledged “to tell my story the right

way… to keep learning, to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more broadly to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences.” Jenner was on hand July 15 to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, named for the African-American tennis star who died of AIDS in 1993, presented by the sports cable network ESPN. Early in her remarks, Jenner acknowledged that “before a just a few weeks ago... few months ago I had never met anybody else who was trans, who was like me. I had never met a trans person, never.” Her own coming out and the education process it has entailed, she said, has been “eye-opening, inspiring, but also frightening” –– but she emphasized that the isolation she felt is faced by many other trans people at the outset. “All across this country, right now, all across the world, at this very moment, there are young people coming to terms with being transgender,” Jenner said. “They’re learning that they're different and they are trying to figure out how to handle that, on top of every other problem that a teenager has. They're getting bullied, they're getting beaten up, they’re getting murdered and they’re committing suicide." Jenner, who as the world’s greatest athlete four decades ago has an unimpeachable reputation for hard work, told the ESPY audience, “But this transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine. And that’s the case for so

many others besides me. For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect. And from that respect comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society, and a better world for all of us.” Jenner concluded by acknowledging the privilege that her athletic career and wealth give her, and, with sports greats in the audience like the Yankees’ Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez looked on intently, she contrasted her position from that of so many young people just coming to understand who they are. “I owe a lot to sports,” she said. “It showed me the world, it has given me an identity. If someone wanted to bully me, well, you know what? I was the MVP of the football team. That wasn’t going to be a problem. And the same thing goes tonight. If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is I can take it. But for the thousands of kids out there who are coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it. “So for the people out there wondering what this is all about — whether it’s about courage or controversy or publicity — well, I’ll tell you what it’s all about. It’s about what happens from here. It’s not just about one person, it’s about thousands of people. It’s not just about me, it’s about all of us accepting one another. We’re all different. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing and while it may not be easy to get past the things you always don’t understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible if we only do it together.”— Paul Schindler


Defense Chief Signals End to Transgender Military Ban

Six-month working group to start from presumption that open service can be implemented


giving Carson decision authority over all such cases. For transgender advocates and scholars who have studied the issues surrounding open service, Carter’s news was greeted enthusiastically. "We are elated at the announcement that soon officially the transgender military ban will be eliminated,” actively serving Army Sergeant Shane Ortega and Kristin Beck, a retired US Navy Seal, said in a joint statement on behalf of the Military Freedom Coalition. “This brings ease to selfless heroes who deserve equal dignity and respect. We look forward to continually working with the Obama administration and Pentagon officials on a clean, swift, and effective plan to close out this chapter of discrimination. Today is a great step forward for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the United States of America.”


MILITARY, continued on p.24

Army Sergeant Shane Ortega and Kristin Beck, a retired US Navy Seal, issued a joint statement on behalf of the Military Freedom Coalition praising the Pentagon action.


n a statement laying the groundwork for what seems certain to lead to open service by transgender members of the US military, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, on July 13, announced that a high-level working group would spend six months to study “the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.” Carter’s statement left no doubt that the working group’s goal is not to determine whether open transgender service is feasible, but to determine guidelines for successfully implementing a change in policy. “At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” the defense secretary said.

Carter opened his comment by squarely acknowledging the lack of sound reasons for continuing to ban transgender soldiers, nearly four years after gay and lesbian soldiers began to serve openly. “The Defense Department’s current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions,” he said. “We have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines –– real, patriotic Americans –– who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit.” Carter named Brad Carson, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, to head up the working group. In a second directive, the defense secretary essentially established a moratorium on further discharges of transgender service members while the working group completes its charge,




July 23 - August 05, 2015 |

Is PrEP for you? | July 23 - August 05, 2015



Appeals Court Tosses Out City’s Adult Business Zoning

On View May 29 – October 2, 2015

Twenty years after Giuliani launched anti-porn crusade, First Amendment proves key issue BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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ntroducing a significant new chapter into a two-decade legal saga dating back to the Giuliani administration, the Manhattan-based First Department of the New York State Appellate Division has ruled that the city’s controversial 1995 adult uses zoning ordinance, as amended in 2001, violates the US Constitution’s First Amendment free speech guarantee. In a July 21 ruling, written by Justice Barbara R. Kapnick, the 3-2 majority affirmed a 2012 ruling by the late New York County Supreme Court Justice Louis B. York and permanently enjoined the city from enforcing the amendments. The panel has tossed a political hot potato to the de Blasio administration, which must decide whether to ask the Court of Appeals, state’s highest bench, to review the ruling.

Origins of City’s Adult Zoning Regulations Prior to 1995, New York City made no distinction between sexually-oriented adult businesses and other enterprises under its zoning ordinances. Adult businesses could locate anywhere in the city, and some residents and officials thought there were too many such businesses concentrated in prime commercial and residential locations. In 1993, responding to US Supreme Court rulings that zoning restrictions on adult businesses could be imposed if local governments showed that their presence caused undesirable “secondary effects” –– such as increased crime, decreased property values, reduced commercial activities, and erosion of community character –– the city’s Department of City Planning “began a comprehensive assessment of the impact of adult establishments on the quality of urban life,” reporting a year later it had found such negative effects. The city, in 1995, amended its zoning regulations to ban “adult

uses” from all residential zones and most commercial and manufacturing districts. In areas where adult businesses were not completely banned, they were allowed no closer than 500 feet from a church, school, or day care center. That formula would have consigned adult businesses to remote areas of the city where they would be unlikely to attract enough customers to survive. Defining an “adult establishment” was the key to enforcement. In highly stilted wording aimed at avoiding sexually-charged language, the city legislation identified adults businesses as those where the live, video, or printed depiction of “specified sexual activities” or “specified anatomical areas” made up a “substantial portion” of either space and/ or inventory. Sexually-oriented businesses wishing to escape the label of “adult business” complained that the definition was so vague they were uncertain as to how to comply with the new restrictions. The city responded by adopting a “guideline” specifying that the phrase “substantial portion” meant that any business with “at least 40 percent” of its accessible floor area or stock used for “adult” purposes qualified as an adult establishment. Many businesses then redesigned their premises to reduce the portion devoted to sexually-oriented goods or activities to under 40 percent, though many others just went out of business, drastically reducing the number of adult businesses in the city and leading to the virtual disappearance of porn theaters. When the city instituted proceedings to go after adult businesses in residential and prime commercial areas, it discovered that many were successful in showing technical compliance with the 40-percent threshold. The Giuliani administration then came up with the “sham compliance” theory, arguing that whatever


ZONING, continued on p.11

July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


ZONING, from p.10

the proportion of inventory or space devoted to adult uses, many businesses were in fact deriving most of their revenue from them. In 1998, the city began bringing “nuisance” lawsuits against such businesses, attempting to get them shut down. Court challenges to the zoning regulations emerged from the time they were first enacted in 1995. After some initial losses, Les Hommes, a gay bookstore on the Upper West Side, prevailed at the Court of Appeals, which ordered that the city could not prevail on the “sham compliance theory,” but must enforce the regulations as written, regardless of how much revenue any portion of the inventory generated. “Either the stock is available or accessible, or it is not,” the court wrote. “Either the appropriate amount of square footage is dedicated to non-adult uses, or it is not.”

Second Round of Regulations in 2001 That ruling set the stage for the 2001 amendments at issue in the Appellate Division’s most recent ruling. Now, an “adult establishment” would be a place that “regularly features in any portion of such establishment” live performances with an emphasis on “specified anatomical areas” or “specified sexual activities,” and that excluded or restricted attendance by minors. For book and video stores, the amendments adopted a detailed analysis attempting to get at the “sham compliance” argument, focusing on details like whether a customer had to pass by the adult materials in order to get to the nonadult materials, whether the business included “peep booths” for viewing sexually-oriented videos, whether “adult” material was available for sale or rental while “other printed or visual material” was offered for sale only, and whether signage advertising availability of adult materials was “dispropor tionate in size relative to a sign that advertises the availability of ‘other printed or visual material'” as compared to the proportions of each kind of material in the store. There was also a catch-all provision giving the commissioner of buildings discretion to decide whether sale | July 23 - August 05, 2015

or rental of adult materials was “a substantial purpose of the business.” Some adult businesses returned to court in 2002, their main argument then being that the Department of City Planning could no longer rely on its original 1994 study of negative secondary events since the types of unregulated adult businesses around then no longer existed. Without a new study showing that businesses complying with the 40 percent limitation also had negative impact, the suit charged, the zoning regulations were nothing more than an unconstitutional infringement on free expression. In court proceedings that began in 2003, Judge York eventually held two trials involving 20 bookstores and 10 clubs. In April 2010, he ruled that the city had met its burden of showing that these businesses were “adult establishments” subject to the zoning regulations. When the businesses appealed, the Appellate Division reversed York, pointing out that “while the 2001 Amendments might be constitutional in most situations, there may be instances where the application of the ordinance might be an unconstitutional abridgement of First Amendment protections.” Both parties submitted responses to issues posed by the Appellate Division when it sent the case back to York, who personally inspected the businesses that were suing. This time, the judged ruled against the city, in August 2012.

What the New Appellate Ruling Means The new Appellate Division ruling comes in response to the city’s appeal of that decision by York. Writing for the majority, Justice Kapnick said the question at this point was whether the businesses complying with the 40 percent limitation “are so transformed in character that they no longer resemble the kinds of adult uses found… to create negative secondary effects” or whether their compliance “is merely a sham.” When the Appellate Division had overturned York’s 2010 ruling for the city, it identified factors for him to consider including the size of signs that advertised adult content, the amount of emphasis on




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n light of the Supreme Court’s June 26 marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the resolution of Madelynn Lee Taylor’s lawsuit against the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise seems obvious. Taylor is a 74-year-old veteran of the US Navy who married Jean Mixner in a religious ceremony in 1995, and then again legally in a 2008 civil ceremony in California. Mixner passed away in 2012 and was cremated. Taylor kept the ashes, intending that when the time came she would be cremated as well and they would be buried together in a military cemetery. In December 2013, Taylor went to the cemetery to make the arrangements. Six month later, she received a letter from the cemetery’s director informing her she could be buried there, but not together with her spouse, because the marriage was not recognized under Idaho law. Taylor filed suit last July, requesting an injunction to compel the cemetery to honor her request. A few months later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, in Latta v. Otter, that Idaho’s recognition ban was unconstitutional, and in October the Supreme Court denied a motion for stay pending appeal by Idaho. On October 28, the cemetery allowed interment of

Mixner’s ashes, having concluded that Idaho’s recognition ban was ended. The defendant in this case, David Brasuell, administrator of the cemetery, filed a motion to dismiss, claiming the case was moot since Mixner’s ashes had been interred and the Idaho Division of Veterans Services had granted Taylor’s request. Taylor responded with a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to issue the requested injunction, just to be sure that her request to be buried with her spouse would be honored. The cross-motions in this case remained pending before US Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush, who evidently held up on ruling until a decision was rendered in Obergefell. Bush then, on July 9, came down in favor of Taylor, issuing the requested injunction. “This Court is not persuaded that Veterans Services, via Mr. Brasuell, has borne its ‘formidable’ burden of establishing that it is ‘absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur,’” the judge wrote. “Perhaps, even without an enforceable order ensuring that Ms. Taylor and Ms. Mixner will be permanently interred together at the Idaho Veterans Cemetery, they would nonetheless be so laid


MILITARY, continued on p.29

July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


NYS Appellate Ruling Shows Dangers of Homemade Wills Ambiguity in language settled in favor of deceased gay man’s mother over his life partner BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


four -judge panel of the New York State Appellate Division has affirmed a ruling by New York County Surrogate Nora Anderson that Ronald D. Myers’ homemade will should be construed to leave his stock portfolio, apart from some IBM stock, to his mother rather than to his same-sex life partner. The July 2 ruling turned on the ambiguities of a document drafted many years ago without the assistance of a lawyer, applying standard rules of contract construction that appear to contradict Myers’ intention. In his will, Myers wrote that he left “all monies” to his mother, and “all stocks of IBM” and “all personal property” to his life partner, whom he referred to as his “close friend.” He designated his mother and his life partner to be co-executors. At the time he made his will, Myers’ sole stock ownership was IBM shares, but by the time of his death his portfolio included other significant stock holdings. He never revised his will to explicitly indicate how the rest of his stock should be distributed. The dispute between the co-executors was whether the rest of the stock portfolio would go to his mother or to his life partner, who was not named in the court’s opinion. Myers’ mother and his surviving partner are now both deceased, so the dispute is actually between successors on both sides. Attorney Tom Shanahan, representing the fiduciary for the deceased life partner, argued that the stock should come within the term “personal property” rather than “monies” and go to his client and that Surrogate Anderson, applying the traditional preference of resolving ambiguities on inheritance in favor of legal relatives, had improperly favored the mother. Farrell Fritz, attorney for the mother’s estate, pressed the general rule of construction that the specific bequest of IBM stock implies that | July 23 - August 05, 2015

Myers did not consider his other stock holdings to come within the general category of “personal property” so it should go to the mother. The Appellate Division was not sympathetic to Shanahan’s argument, writing, “The court properly interpreted the will as intending to bequeath to decedent’s mother the stock in companies other than IBM, in view of the limiting language of the bequest to his life partner and the broad language of the bequest to his mother. If decedent viewed stock as ‘personal property,’ he would not have expressly noted the bequest of the IBM stock, since it would have been included in the more general bequest to his life partner.” Since Myers did not own any stock other than IBM at the time he wrote the will, one could argue that his failure to mention other stock specifically was not evidence of such an intention, but rather the oversight of somebody unaware of the intricacies of drafting wills. Shanahan also argued that Anderson’s reference to the surviving partner as a “friend” of Myers in her opinion was dismissive of the men’s relationship, but the court held because the will itself referred to the partner as Myers’ “close friend,” the court’s “reference to decedent’s life partner as a ‘friend’ does not show that the court relied on a presumption in favor of relatives or that it marginalized or disregarded decedent’s long-term relationship with his life partner.” At the time the will was made many years ago, it might have been prudent for a gay testator to refer to his partner as a “close friend,” since a reference to somebody as a “lover” could open the door to “undue influence” arguments, which had traditionally been raised by surviving legal relatives in contesting gay people’s bequests to their surviving partners. At the time this will was drafted, New York State did not provide any legal status for samesex partners, so Myers’ partner could not have been referred to as a “spouse” or “husband.”



US Court Refuses to Dismiss Transgender Professor’s Sex Bias Suit

In Oklahoma university case, Justice Department continues effort to establish precedents nationwide BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


federal district court judge has denied a motion to dismiss a sex discrimination claim filed by the Justice Department on behalf of a transgender woman against Southeastern Oklahoma State University, a public institution, alleging that she suffered discriminatory treatment and a denial of tenure after she announced her intent to transition. Judge Robin J. Cauthron of the US Western District of Oklahoma ruled on July 10 that allowing such an employment claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is consistent with a growing body of judicial precedents, some sparked by an ongoing project by federal civil rights officials. Dr. Rachel Tudor, the faculty member who filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, intervened in the lawsuit as the co-plaintiff with the Justice Department. Tudor is represented by Brittany Novotny of Oklahoma City and Ezra I. Young and Jillian T. Weiss of the Law Office of Jillian T. Weiss PC of Tuxedo Park, New York. Judge Cauthron rejected the

university’s claim Tudor’s complaint to the EEOC was insufficient to meet the requirement of exhausting administrative remedies before going to court, finding that her claim was detailed enough to put the defendant on notice that she was asserting a hostile work environment and discrimination claim. The court also rejected the university’s argument that Tudor is not a member of a “protected group” under Title VII, which does not specifically mention gender identity. Cauthron noted 10th Circuit precedent stating that “like all other employees, [Title VII] protection extends to transsexual employees only if they are discriminated against because they are male or because they are female.” The judge wrote, “Here, it is clear that Defendants’ actions as alleged by Dr. Tudor occurred because she was female, yet Defendants regarded her as male. Thus, the actions Dr. Tudor alleges Defendants took against her were based upon their dislike of her presented gender.” The university’s reading of Tudor’s factual allegations, the court found, was unduly narrow in not accounting for her claim that “she was subjected to unwelcome

Dr. Rachel Tudor.

harassment based on the protected characteristic and that the harassment by Defendants’ employees was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter a term, condition, or privilege of her employment and thereby create an abusive work environment.” Among Tudor’s allegations is that a university official responded to news of her gender transition by urging her discharge, stating that transsexuality offended his religious beliefs. A public university administrator basing personnel decisions on religious beliefs raises serious First Amendment Establishment Clause concerns.

Tudor also charges that she suffered discrimination regarding insurance coverage for gender transition expenses, in the denial of her tenure application, and concerning restroom access. This lawsuit is one of several the Justice Department has filed in federal district courts around the country on behalf of transgender complainants seeking to vindicate sex discrimination claims under Title VII. Another such complaint was filed by the government against a Minnesota-based printing and financial services company, Deluxe Financial Services, in midJune. That case, based on a complaint filed with the EEOC by Britney Austin, a transgender woman, also focuses on restroom access, as well as name-calling by co-workers and refusals to use the correct pronoun in referring to the complainant. The Obama administration’s strategy is to establish judicial precedents in many dif ferent courts holding that discrimination against transgender individuals because of their gender identity or expression is prohibited sex discrimination, before a case presenting the issue finally percolates up to the Supreme Court.

Federal Court Applies Labor Relations Statute to Trans Job Claim

Second Circuit finds union’s statutory obligations may provide gender identity discrimination protections BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


unanimous three-judge panel of the Manhattan-based US Second Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a transgender man’s federal employment discrimination lawsuit, which was earlier dismissed by Southern District of New York Chief Judge Loretta Preska. The June 19 ruling in a suit brought by Cole Fowlkes is particularly significant in its finding that in addition to the possible relief an LGBT plaintiff might find under the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII employment protections, there is an alternative route through


the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The appellate panel held that a labor union’s discriminatory conduct against a transgender member may violate its “duty of fair representation” imposed by federal law. This may be the first published appellate ruling to impose this obligation on a union in a gender identity discrimination claim. Circuit Judge Susan Carney’s opinion describes Fowlkes as “a journeyman ironworker and a member of Local 40” of the Ironworkers Union who, though born biologically female, “now self-identifies as a man, preferring to be called ‘Cole’ and to be referred to

in the masculine.” Fowlkes, Carney writes, alleged that “beginning as early as 2005, the Local refused to refer him to jobs for which he was qualified, ‘intentionally passing over me by choosing other men to receive construction work’ that he sought.” In fact, he alleged, the union business agent received calls “specifically requesting him for particular jobs for which he had the requisite skills,” but passed him over in favor of others “with lesser skill level.” Fowlkes alleged that he suffered sex discrimination, stating that if he had “acted with a feminine character or worked with less muscle, he might not have incurred inten-

tional passing over.” He quoted a business agent as telling him that he “would get a good job if he acted like a girl.” In his amended complaint, Fowlkes also alleged the union agents specifically refused to refer him for jobs because he had previously filed a discrimination lawsuit against Local 40. In addition to the lack of referrals, Fowlkes asserted that when he did get a job, he was subjected to discriminatory comments on the job from co-workers. Fowlkes had first filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commis-


UNION, continued on p.14

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Ali Forney Begins Renovation of First Youth Residence It Owns

East Village brownstone to house 18 by mid-2016, named for group’s late benefactor Bea Arthur BY DUNCAN OSBORNE



The empty East 13th Street brownstone that the Ali Forney Center will renovate to provide housing for 18 LGBTQ homeless youth.


AFC’s Carl Siciliano addresses the July 20 press conference, with Councilmember Corey Johnson, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club president Allen Roskoff, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, and State Senator Brad Hoylman in the foreground.

sing a $3.3 million grant from the City Council, the Ali Forney Center (AFC) will renovate an East Village brownstone and open a residence for homeless queer youth there in late summer of 2016. “The last 13 years have been extraordinary,” Carl Siciliano, AFC’s founder and executive director, said at a July 20 event marking the start of the renovation of the East 13th Street facility. “Our community has woken up to the need to help our LGBTQ youth.” On June 29, AFC, which was founded in 2002, purchased the building for a dollar from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The City Council money, which was originally budgeted in 2012, will pay for the renovation. Because AFC owns the building, cash for operations from two grants the agency has with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development can go toward services as opposed to paying rent. “It’s the first building we own,

which is a real game changer,” said Alex Roque, AFC’s director of development. The 18-bed residence is named for actress Bea Arthur, who left $300,000 to AFC in her will. Arthur died in 2009. The beds will add to AFC’s existing inventory of 89 beds and another 18 that are expected to come online in the fall. The city took over the building in a tax foreclosure action in 1991. It has fallen into disrepair since then. The front of the building is closed off with a chain link fence and the interior, which is largely inaccessible and will be gutted, shows significant deterioration. While New Yorkers are known for generally supporting social services agencies as long as they are serving clients in someone else’s neighborhood, this facility was welcome. “I know the residents on this block are happy there’s going to be a beautiful new building on this block,” said Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Committee, a non-profit that develops affordable housing and other facilities. The committee partnered with AFC in developing the facility. The groundbreaking included

references to “Golden Girls,” a television series that aired from 1985 through 1992 and starred Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, and “Maude,” a television series that starred Arthur that ran from 1972 through 1978. Cheesecake, which was an ongoing bit on “Golden Girls,” was served following the groundbreaking. “This is going to be an incredible tribute to [Arthur] and her compassion,” said City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, an out lesbian who represents the East Village. Mendez was joined by City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who heads the Council’s LGBT caucus, and State Senator Brad Hoylman, who constitutes an LGBT caucus of one in that body. “This is the conscience of our community,” Hoylman said. “We need to look after the kids who are coming after us.” Johnson, who noted that Arthur’s character in “Golden Girls” was his favorite among the four leads, had a similar comment. “This is more than a building, this is more than bricks and mortar, this is a beacon of hope,” he said.


Borough President, Council Support New Bronx LGBT Initiatives

$1.4 million in capital funds to support SAGE senior housing, Callen-Lorde medical care BY PAUL SCHINDLER


apital budget allocations that Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., is due to announce in coming weeks demonstrate the increased attention that the needs of the LGBT community there are receiving from his administration as well as from out gay City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, a freshman legislator who represents a central Bronx district. Both Diaz and Torres are allocating funds for two new LGBT initiatives –– the development of an LGBT-friendly senior housing facility spearheaded by SAGE, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Seniors, and a medical facility that the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center will establish in partnership with Boom!Health, a Bronx-based agency that provides a broad


range of health, social, and legal services. Diaz, who is providing $600,000 to the SAGE project and $100,000 to the Callen-Lorde clinic, said, “These are two projects that I am very excited about,” adding they are “unique projects that provide much needed help in the LGBTQ community.” The borough president’s capital budget totals $34.45 million and will fund more than 100 projects. For his part, Torres is also contributing $600,000 to the SAGE project and $100,000 for the Callen-Lorde/ Boom!Health initiative, out of a total pot of $5 million in discretionary funds available to him. Saying he is “very pleased” with Diaz’s support for the project, Michael Adams, SAGE’s executive director, noted that while the location of the senior housing facility has not yet been

announced, it will not be in Torres’ district, which, he said, “shows just how much leadership Ritchie is showing on senior LGBT issues.” Last year, Torres led the effort to get $1.5 million in Council funding for new SAGE centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island and to expand services in the group’s Harlem site and at a Queens LGBT senior center operated separately from SAGE. Even as he voiced gratitude for the financial support from Diaz and Torres, Adams said, “We need the city to continue to show support. We’re somewhat disappointed that we did not receive an allocation from the rest of the Council.” Adams explained that much of the $30 million estimated cost of building the 80 or more


BRONX, continued on p.25

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European Court Orders Italy to Create Same-Sex Partnerships

Whether unanimous ruling establishes general precedent for continent’s other countries is unclear BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


seven-judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg has ruled that Italy’s failure to adopt a legal structure for same-sex relationships, such as a civil union or registered partnership similar to those in Austria and Germany, violates Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, a treaty to which 47 European countries are signatories. The July 21 ruling in the Case of Oliari and Others v. Italy, brought a unanimous conclusion, but the panel of judges was split 4-3 about the appropriate analysis. Italy may petition for review by a larger panel of judges, called a Grand Chamber, before this decision becomes final. The court was ruling on claims filed by three same-sex male couples –– one from Trent and the others from Milan –– who tried to get married, were turned down, and then sought relief without success in the Italian judicial system. The couples’ cases before the ECHR have been


ZONING, from p.11

the promotion of adult uses, and the exclusion of minors from the premises. In his 2012 ruling, York concluded that the reconfiguration of these businesses was not “sham” compliance, noting the reduced size of signs, the toning down of window displays, the relocation of sexually-oriented materials to the back of stores, the reduced emphasis overall on adult materials, and that many of the book and video stores allowed minors on the premises, denying them access only to those sections with adult content. He also noted testimony from one witness that “minors are excluded because they tend to come in groups and disrupt the store.” Kapnick wrote, “This evidence is not indicative of a predominant sexual focus in most of the stores, since nearly half of the stores do not restrict the admittance of minors at all.” She also observed that the evidence did not suggest that there was difficulty accessing non-adult goods in any of the stores. Turning to the clubs, Kapnick concurred with York’s conclusion that although all the clubs did


pending since 2011. Ironically, after the couples turned to the European Court for redress, Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled the nation is obligated to create a legal structure akin, even if not identical, to marriage for same-sex couples, but to date the parliament has not acted on this mandate. Several municipalities have created same-sex partner registries, but they are primarily symbolic since local governments cannot create legally enforceable rights under national law. It’s also worth noting that in Italy, as in Europe generally, cohabiting couples, whether different-sex or same-sex, have in recent years been accorded several substantial rights in the absence of a formal legal relationship. Jurisprudence under the European Convention relies heavily on analyzing broadly-worded guarantees in light of emerging trends among the member nations, and in this regard the court noted that 11 members –– Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom –– now allow samesex marriages (and both Ireland and Finland

feature live adult-oriented per formances, the reduction of floor space devoted to that activity, together with the addition of many non-adult uses, such as restaurants, pool tables, sports lounges, and non-adult musical presentations, as well as changes in signage, were sufficient to escape being labeled adult businesses, even though the clubs generally excluded minors. Justices Angela Mazzarelli and Paul Feinman joined Kapnick’s opinion. Justice Richard T. Andrias wrote a vehement dissent, joined by Justice Leland G. DeGrasse, accusing the majority of a “mechanical and mathematical approach” under which these businesses’ “predominant sexual focus” is “quantitatively outweighed by signage, policies towards minors, and layouts.” The record, he contended, “fairly supports the City’s contention that the adult establishments reviewed emphasized sexual activities or materials over non-adult materials.” The City Council’s intention in adopting the 2001 zoning amendments, the two dissenters argued, was to rid residential and prime

recently approved marriage equality which has not yet gone into effect). A total of 18 European nations provide some form of civil partnership for same-sex couples, including some that also allow for marriage. By the ECHR’s reckoning, 24 of the Convention of Europe’s 47 members offer same-sex partners some form of legal recognition. With a majority of member nations now extending legal recognition to same-sex couples, the court is in a position to decide that it has become enough of a norm for the European Convention to come into play. In interpreting the Convention, the court seeks to balance the autonomy and discretion granted to member nations against the importance of the right under consideration. And when the court rules, it is up to the member nations to respond through their own legislative and judicial mechanisms. Court rulings are more than merely advisory opinions, because they are authoritative statements of treaty obligations, but compliance remains under the purview of individual member states.

commercial areas of the city from sexually-related businesses. As long as a store is selling or renting sexually-oriented goods or services as a substantial part of its business, it should be considered an adult business barred from operating in such areas, regardless of the other factors the appeals panel’s majority considered, according to Andrias. As a practical matter, his dissent insisted, a business that presents strippers and sells pornography is an adult business. The majority, on the other hand, agreed with Justice York that businesses that had altered their physical layout and promotional efforts to downplay their sexually-related goods and services should be allowed to continue to operate in residential and commercial zones unless the city shows they generate the undesirable effects documented regarding their unregulated predecessors pre-1995. In light of the sharp split between the majority and dissent, it would not be surprising if the Court of Appeals granted a request by the city to review this decision. The New York Law Journal quoted a Law Department spokesman’s same-


INTERNATIONAL, continued on p.28

day response that the decision “is under review.” If the de Blasio administration wants to continue the anti-sex business approach of the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, an appeal would seem to be mandatory. But this might be a good time to make a quick assessment about whether those adult-oriented businesses still in operation are creating significant negative effects or if it’s time to put this long-running legal battle to rest. The City Council might also want to play a role at this point, since the handiwork of its 2001 predecessors is at the center of the litigation. The lead attorney for the businesses was Herald Price Fahringer, who passed away in February after having litigated these issues through numerous trials and appeals since 1995. Other attorneys who have been representing the businesses include Erica T. Dubno and Nicole Neckles of Fahringer’s law firm, and Edward S. Rudofsky and Martin P. Mehler. Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter will undoubtedly take a lead role in advising de Blasio about how to proceed from this point. July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


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THE PARTY, from p.6

Tim Sweeney , who helped “cook up” the idea for Freedom to Marry 15 years ago, with Patricia Evert, a Democratic activist and donor and New York City AIDS Memorial board member, and Ross Levi, who was executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda when the marriage equality law was passed here in 2011.

“I turned and looked at my dad, and I’ll never forget what he said. ‘Joey, they love each other, it’s simple,’” Biden recalled.




court. And he thanked all the big funders, especially Tim Sweeney of the Haas, Jr. Fund and later the Gill Foundation who “cooked up” the idea for the coordinated campaign with him 15 years ago. Many, many veterans of this fight were on hand. Tony Sullivan, an Australian native, legally married American Richard Adams in Boulder, Colorado in 1975, only to have an immigration official write to them that they would not recognize the marriage of “two faggots,” forcing them to leave the US and hide when they returned. He said of decision morning, “I chose to spend the day alone and with Richard. All I could say is that we never expected to see it happen so soon.” Adams, 65, died in 2012. They are the subject of the PBS documentary “Limited Partnership” that can be seen online at video/2365484752/. Cathy Marino-Thomas, a leader of the grassroots Marriage Equality group, said, “I love everybody tonight,” but added that activists like her will be “writing our own book” since many of the accounts out there now make scant mention of volunteer campaigns that kept the issue in the public eye when the big well-funded gay groups were still shying away from it. Marc Solomon, the campaign director at Freedom to Marry who wrote “Winning Marriage,” said that when the ruling came down on June 26, “I felt so ecstatic that it was like I was floating. I felt like I didn’t have anything to worry about anymore. I also thought about what an amazingly better world we’re creating for younger LGBT people.” Solomon started working on the issue in 2001 as a volunteer in Massachusetts, then took on the advocacy fulltime in 2004. Noemi Masliah, a longtime attorney on LGBT immigration issues, said when she heard the decision she felt, “I do. I do. I’m done.” Abby Rubenfeld, a Nashville lawyer who once led Lambda Legal and represented the Tennessee plaintiffs in the case that went to the high court, said implementation of the order is going “smoothly” back home. The attitude in some clerks’ offices is “we’re not

Andy Humm and the vice president share memories of dads who taught them something about basic human compassion.

happy, but it’s the law.” Ve t e r a n a c t i v i s t J o y T o m chin said when she first heard about this issue 30 years ago, she thought it was ridiculous: “Why put money into this?” But she credited Wolfson with seeing it through brilliantly. “We’re so proud of him.” (She did, however, mention being troubled by lesbians using the term “wife” for their spouse.) Reverend Debra Haffner, pres-

ident of the Religious Institute, which works on sexual health, education, and justice issues, said, “I can’t tell you how thrilling this is. It will allow me to perform [legal] marriages now for any couple that are in love.” She spoke proudly of her gay son and of having Mary Bonauto come up to her at the party. Ilene Sameth, a leader in the lesbian and Jewish communities, said, “The fact that this night

is happening the same day that South Carolina voted to take down the Confederate flag seems like a perfect confluence.” E.J. Graff, who wrote the book “What is Marriage For?” in 1999, said, “A lot of us knew it was coming, but only Evan knew it was coming so soon.” Connie Ress, active with Mar riage Equality New York since 1998 and co-founder of Marriage Equality USA with Jesús Lebron and James Loney in 2001, said, “It felt like we all did it. We knew it would happen.” Broadway producer Ted Snowdon, 69, who just married Duffy Violante, 71, with Wolfson presiding, said many of the people who came to their wedding on June 14 “had never been to a gay wedding –– including some of the gay people… It is rare in our lives to get a chance to see something completed. There was a finality to [the decision]. It only took 19 years [from the Hawaii case in 1996]! And Evan dreamed it up 32 years ago.” New York Law School professor Arthur Leonard, who has tracked every step of the legal process that led to the victory for Gay City News, admitted to some sense of “deflation” in the wake of the decision. “I’m decompressing,” he said, noting there will now be fewer big LGBT decisions to write about in the short run. Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, said his group has a program called “Talk Before You Walk,” guiding older LGBT people through the implications of marrying later in life for the benefits that they receive. Edie Windsor, who won gay married couples federal rights at the high court in 2013, has an article about that at Wolfson said the second call he got the morning of the decision, after congratulations from Biden, was from Bernie Cohen, the lawyer who argued Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that overturned laws against interracial marriage. “He told me that was the high point of his life, but he was so glad that it didn’t stop there,” said Wolfson, who added, “We must all commit that it won’t stop here. We must continue to work for a more perfect union for everyone.” July 23 - August 05, 2015 |








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EEOC, from p.5

as well as behavior, underlies much sexual orientation discrimination, thus providing a firm theoretical justification in the Supreme Court’s Price Waterhouse case.

The Impact of EEOC Rulings on the Broader Judicial Environment What is the significance of this EEOC ruling? It is likely to result in the agency initiating federal court litigation –– enlisting the Justice Department –– to push this interpretation of Title VII into the courts. Although federal courts are not bound by an administrative agency’s interpretations of their governing statutes, the Supreme Court has frequently deferred to agency interpretations when they are seen as consistent with the statutory language and overall congressional purpose and constitute a reasonable reading of the statute. But EEOC’s past rulings may result in courts according its July 15 decision less deference than they might otherwise. When an agency “changes its mind” about an issue, courts may be skeptical about whether the new ruling is more political than legalistic. So it may be premature to assume that this EEOC ruling means there is no need to enact explicit federal protection. In fact, the EEOC’s action comes at a time when LGBT political leaders have abandoned the longstalled Employment Non-Discrimination Act, finding it too narrowly focused on employment. Objections have also been raised to the extremely broad religious exemption contained in ENDA. One of the major lobbying victories last summer was persuading the admin-

istration not to include the broad ENDA-style religious exemption in President Barack Obama’s executive order banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by federal contractors. Lobbyists are now working with legislators on a broader comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill, set to be introduced July 23, that would go beyond employment to cover other areas traditionally addressed in federal law, including housing, public services, and public accommodations. In the meantime, however, it will certainly be useful for the federal government’s primary civil rights enforcement agency, the EEOC, to be on record that sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination. EEOC’s view may be influential with the agencies that enforce the Fair Housing Act and the provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and its analysis may prove persuasive to the courts, regardless of the level of the deference it receives. The vote on this decision is not indicated in the opinion (which was drafted by the Commission’s staff), but was reported in the press as a party-line vote of 3-2. Under the statute, the five-member Commission may not have more than three commissioners who are members of the same political party. The two Republicans on the Commission voted against this decision, but did not issue a written dissent. A prime mover behind the EEOC’s expanded view of sex discrimination to encompass gender identity and sexual orientation claims has been Commissioner Chai Feldblum, the first openly LGBT member of the EEOC, who was appointed by Obama and confirmed by the Senate for a second term last year.

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UNION, from p.14

sion in 2007. But during the Bush administration, the EEOC was not open to claims from transgender workers and the agency sent him a letter notifying him it would not pursue action against the union. When Fowlkes, representing himself, later filed a lawsuit against the union, he miscalculated, doing so after the time allowed had expired. He filed a second complaint in 2011, again representing himself without a lawyer, asserting that the union, for the period from 2005 until that year, violated his “civil rights (involving Employment)” by subjecting him to harassment and failing to refer him for work through the union hiring hall. Fowlkes cited no specific statutes, but at the district court Judge Preska treated his claim as arising under the 1964 Act’s Title VII and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws. Of those three statutes, only the city’s ordinance explicitly bans gender identity discrimination. The US district court would only have jurisdiction, however, if Fowlkes were able to make a plausible claim

under a federal statute, with any state and city laws being merely “supplementary.” Preska granted the union’s motion to dismiss this second case, finding that Fowlkes should have gone back to the EEOC before filing suit in federal court. When Fowlkes appealed, he was represented by an experienced attorney, Robert T. Smith of the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, assisted by the firm’s attorneys Tami Kameda Sims and Howard R. Rubin. Not only did they contest the union’s assertion that the federal court lacked jurisdiction because Fowlkes had not returned to the EEOC, but they also argued that Title VII would cover his gender identity discrimination claim as a form of sex discrimination and suggested his allegations would also support a claim under the National Labor Relations Act. Judge Carney rejected Preska’s reason for dismissing the case, first finding that since, as of 2011, the EEOC had not yet changed its view of a sex discrimination claim under Title VII by a transgender plaintiff, it would simply be a waste of time

for Fowlkes to exhaust that remedy before turning to the federal courts. “When an agency has previously ‘taken a firm stand’ against a plaintiff’s position, the plaintiff’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies may be excused on the ground that exhaustion would be futile,” wrote Carney. A claim under the National Labor Relations Act –– which Fowlkes had not originally raised and Preska did not consider –– also allows plaintiffs wider leeway regarding the exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to bringing suit, since unions, Carney noted, have “a duty of fair representation [that] is a ‘statutory obligation’ under the NLRA, requiring a union ‘to serve the interests of all members without hostility or discrimination, to exercise its discretion with complete good faith and honesty, and to avoid arbitrary conduct.’” Most previous “duty of fair representation” cases involved union racial discrimination. Carney pointed out that if the federal court had jurisdiction over this case under the NLRA, then it could also consider Fowlkes’ state

and local law claims, including New York City’s ban on gender identity discrimination. So, even if Preska, when she reconsiders the case on direction from the Second Circuit, decides Fowlkes cannot prevail in arguing against dismissal of his Title VII sex discrimination claims, the obligation imposed by the NLRA would suffice to bring the protections under New York City law into play. The Second Circuit’s “duty of fair representation” ruling is helpful only to individuals represented by labor unions facing discrimination by their union, but it is significant for LGBT workers in the industries that commonly use union hiring halls, such as construction and maritime work. Now that the EEOC has officially taken the position that both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are covered as sex discrimination under Title VII, a complainant who files a charge of such discrimination there will likely get investigative action from the agency, followed by the agency’s efforts to forge a settlement if it concludes the claim has merit.


Suze Orman


Discover more at | July 23 - August 05, 2015




Robert Gates addressing the Boy Scouts of America annual meeting in May.


MILITARY, from p.8

Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, which for the past decade has produced peer-reviewed scholarship on the integration of sexual minorities into the military, also praised Carter’s announcement.

Less than two months after Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates, the former Pentagon chief who oversaw the dismantling of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy, warned the organization that its blanket policy of excluding gay adults from leadership positions “cannot be sustained,” the BSA’s Executive Committee voted unanimously to give local units the option of abandoning that practice. Significantly, however, the July 13 resolution adopted said, “This change would also respect the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.” The outcome, then –– assuming that the resolution is ratified by the BSA National Executive Board at its July 27 meeting –– would be that gay adults will be able to work with some but likely not all scouting units across the country. Two years ago, the Scouts announced that no youth could be denied membership based on their sexual orientation. The Scouts’ position appears to be based on a legal overview that concluded that the blanket ban is far more vulnerable to court challenge than it was back in 2000, when the Supreme Court upheld the policy in a challenge brought by New Jersey

“Today’s announcement is welcome news, not just for the 15,500 transgender personnel serving currently, but for all Americans,” he said in a written statement. “The Pentagon should move quickly to replace the ban with inclusive policy, and its review process should



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gay Eagle Scout James Dale. The high court then ruled that the BSA’s First Amendment right to expressive association outweighed New Jersey’s interest in banning anti-gay discrimination. A July 8 internal scouting memorandum titled “Why the BSA Must Reconsider the Adult Leader Standards” reviewed gay rights litigation that has ensued since 2000, including last month’s marriage equality decision, and concluded that record “indicated a change in the level of state interest in prohibiting discrimination and in the balance of how that interest would be measured against private organizations in the exercise of First Amendment rights.” The memorandum also highlighted recent legal challenges to the ban on gay leaders –– in New York, Colorado, California, and Oklahoma –– and the decision by New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, to investigate BSA employment practices. The BSA has clearly concluded that the risk and costs of mounting litigation make the current policy untenable. Whether its decision to continue to give chapters a local option to discriminate will satisfy its critics or withstand legal challenges is a whole different matter.— Paul Schindler

be informed by the social science research that explains how to do so. Both the research as well as the lessons of 18 foreign militaries that have lifted their bans on transgender personnel show that lifting the ban will not be difficult.” For Belkin, however, Carter’s move couldn’t come soon enough. In April, he was in New York to meet with media outlets in an effort to educate them on the work the Palm Center has published on transgender service –– work he was confident makes the case for a change in policy. Unlike open service by gays and lesbians, which first required repeal of the statutory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the Defense Department has the authority to welcome transgender service members on its own. But, there is no guarantee that the Pentagon will report to a Democratic president for more than another 18 months. In comments to Gay City News at that time, Belkin emphasized two recent studies the Palm Center released. One was written by a nine-member commission led by a retired Army surgeon general that also included a retired brigadier general which concluded that open service “is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome.” The commission’s report pointed to the 18 nations –– including the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, and Australia –– that already allow transgender military service. The other study Belkin pointed

to was one examining the medical issues raised by having transgender soldiers in the ranks. The report, released by a commission led by former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elder that included a retired rear admiral and a retired brigadier general, concluded “there is no compelling medical rationale for banning transgender military service.” The question of the availability of needed medical treatments, such as hormone therapy, in fact is one about which Belkin was passionate in his conversation with Gay City News. The military, he explained, has developed a sophisticated system for distributing medication worldwide, yet transgender service members have been unable, for fear of outing themselves, to obtain medications easily available to cisgender personnel. In effect, the ban on transgender service effectively denies proper medical care to thousands of active duty soldiers. Belkin also addressed the question of whether opening up military service is the among the most pressing needs of the LGBT community. For transgender people, the answer, he said, is emphatically yes. Perhaps given the limited economic opportunities they face, the nation’s transgender population is twice as likely to serve in the military as the average American, and a total of 20 percent of all transgender people are veterans. He noted that of the population of transgender service members, 90 percent are trans women. July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


BRONX, from p.16

units of housing SAGE is creating –– in partnership with HELP USA, a nationwide non-profit housing advocacy and development organization that will own the building –– will financed through federal low-income tax credits. There is, however, a gap of about $5 million that needs to be financed from other sources. Since the project will be developed in phases, Adams said the financing can also be put together over time, but in order to move to the next phase –– where the project can win approval from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and be presented to the local community board –– $3 million of the total $5 million gap must be in place. The Diaz and Torres allocations only get the project 40 percent of the way. “ We r e c o g n i z e t h e b u d g e t context we’re in,” Adams said, acknowledging the many demands on the public purse. “But we’re in conversations with the Council and the de Blasio administration. This has been stated as a priority in the mayor’s affordable housing plan. We know the de Blasio administration cares a lot about this project.” SAGE hopes to break ground in 2016, with an opening the following year, but Adams said that timetable could be pushed back if the goal of lining up the $3 million portion of the funding gap this year is not met. Callen-Lorde, the health care agency that has served the LGBT community out of Chelsea for decades, was approached last year by Boom!Health asking that it provide the direct medical care portion of a new five-story multi-service facility it was planning for Third Avenue near 161st Street in the Melrose section of the Bronx. Boom!Health was created in 2013 out of the merger of Bronx AIDS Services and CitiWide Harm Reduction, and it provides a wide array of services, including HIV and hepatitis C prevention and harm reduction, out of three other Bronx facilities. John Hellman, a spokesperson for the group, explained that the new facility, recently opened as the Wellness Center, is aimed at | July 23 - August 05, 2015

ing the LGBT community as well as families and women. The Center will offer prevention services, a program for navigating PrEP, drugs used by HIV-negative people to avoid infection, overall health services, and job training and college readiness programs. With a heavy programming emphasis on the LGBT community, Hellman said, Callen-Lorde had the strongest credentials for providing the Center’s direct medical care. We n d y S t a r k , w h o r e c e n t ly returned to her former post as executive director at Callen-Lorde, said the invitation to collaborate fit perfectly with her agency’s strategic thinking. The two clinics the group currently runs on 17th and 18th Streets serve more than 15,000, about 1,200 of whom live in the Bronx. But in trying to better serve the city’s LGBT community, she said, “There is an overarching capacity problem, and the physical plant is key among them. Our best policy is partnership. Growth is going to have to happen with different strategies.” Real estate costs, particularly in Manhattan, make partnering a desirable route, but Stark emphasized that Callen-Lorde’s new relationship with Boom!Health also makes “overall programmatic sense,” given the Bronx agency’s expertise in delivering comprehensive services to the local community. Callen-Lorde’s medical unit will occupy a portion of the first floor of the building Boom!Health is currently renovating, and will have six exam rooms. Stark estimated that capacity could serve up to about 3,000 clients on an ongoing basis. She said the unit would be staffed by between 20 and 25 new Callen-Lorde staffers. The build-out of the medical space will cost Callen-Lorde about $2 million, so the grants from Diaz and Torres account for only 10 percent of the total needed. Gay philanthropist Henry van Ameringen has offered a challenge grant, matching dollar for dollar contributions of up to $500,000, and the agency is seeking additional foundation and private support for the project. “ We a r e h o n o r e d t h a t Boom!Health reached out to us for the medical piece of their new facility,” Stark said.

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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Seth J. Bookey, Anthony M.Brown, Kelly Jean Cogswell, Andres Duque, Michael Ehrhardt, Steve Erickson, Andy Humm, Eli Jacobson, David Kennerley, Gary M. Kramer, Arthur S. Leonard, Michael T. Luongo, Lawrence D. Mass, Winnie McCroy, Eileen McDermott, Mick Meenan, Tim Miller, Donna Minkowitz, Gregory Montreuil, Christopher Murray, David Noh, Sam Oglesby, Nathan Riley, David Shengold, Yoav Sivan, Gus Solomons Jr., Tim Teeman, Kathleen Warnock, Benjamin Weinthal, Dean P. Wrzeszcz





A lot has happened on the LGBT rights front in the short period since the US Supreme Court recognized that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces workplace nondiscrimination protections under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, ruled that “an allegation of discrimination based on sexual orientation is necessarily an allegation of sex discrimination.” As Gay City News goes to press on July 22, we are preparing for a Washington July 23 press conference where Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley will present a congressional bill aimed at providing the LGBT community with comprehensive civil rights protections not only in employment, but in housing, public accommodations, access to credit, and other areas, as well. Ten days ago, the Pentagon announced it is beginning a six-month study period the inevitable conclusion of which will be the opportunity for transgender service members to finally serve openly. The Boy Scouts, meanwhile, announced it is prepared to end its longstanding odious ban on gay adults working in leadership positions. And, on July 15, Caitlyn Jenner offered a bravura proclamation of her commitment to play a leadership


Women, Queers, and #BlackLivesMatter

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role on transgender rights, challenging her audience to acknowledge that even if she is strong enough to withstand negative, even ugly public reaction, the thousands of transgender teens struggling to come to terms with their identity should not be forced to endure the same. It may come off as a bit facetious, I’ll admit, to frame these developments as aftershocks of the high court marriage ruling. All of these events reflect hard work on the part of many advocates and steps along the road dating back decades, and there’s more than a bit of serendipity that they came together in such rapid-fire bursts. At the same time, it is somehow fitting they arrived clustered, since the progress reflected in the marriage equality decision was of a piece with the changing climate for LGBT rights in America that made all the other recent good news possible as well. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the marriage case was not as expansive as it might have been. The court could have weighed whether claims asserting anti-gay discrimination should be evaluated using the type of heightened scrutiny accorded to those made on the basis of sex or race. Had the court concluded they should be, not only would it have made the marriage question a slam dunk but it would immediately have made suspect any law or policy that treats LGBT Americans differently than others in society. Instead, Kennedy relied primarily on the view that, since marriage is a fundamental right, denying same-sex couples the right to join the institution infringes

on our equal protection and due process rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. But that is no small thing in and of itself. In its finding that sexual orientation discrimination inherently is sex discrimination, the EEOC noted Kennedy’s view that bans on same-sex marriage “abridge central precepts of equality.” And the Boy Scouts, in determining it won’t too much longer be able to defend its ban on gay adult leaders, wrote that the marriage ruling “will likely be interpreted by many courts as formally announcing that the balance that led to the BSA prevailing” against New Jersey gay Eagle Scout James Dale’s unsuccessful challenge in 2000 “has conclusively changed.” The BSA may or may not be right in that assumption, and the EEOC finding may or may not be persuasive to federal courts weighing anti-gay job discrimination claims. Which is why the Cicilline-Merkley bill, likely a long-term project given GOP control of Congress, is so critical in the fight for ironclad civil rights protections. Still, the Democrats’ apparent plan to insist that those protections be comprehensive and not watered down by expansive religious exemptions reflects the fundamental embrace of LGBT people’s dignity that was at the heart of Supreme Court rulings dating back 12 years –– on marriage, on DOMA, and on sodomy. Accepting the fundamental dignity of LGBT lives is particularly crucial to society’s ability to advance on issues like transgender rights, which involve a small and largely invisible minority. Capturing and conveying that truth made for the essentially beauty in Caitlyn Jenner’s ESPN debut.



remember a couple years ago when the marriage equality movement was taking off and every day the New York Times had reports of victories in one state, pushback in another. And people fell all over themselves to support the It Gets Better Campaign

encouraging queer youth not to top themselves. We were a bandwagon even the last few moderate Republicans were jumping on, or at least shrugging at. We were the It civil rights movement. A couple of idiots even described LGBT folks as the new blacks. As if black issues and black people themselves were passé,

not just that the movement had faltered. The foolishness of declaring black issues and black people obsolete was made all too obvious on July 13, 2013 when George Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering Trayvon Martin, and Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi started up #BlackLivesMatter. A couple months later,

when a cop killed yet another unarmed black man, the young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the hashtag exploded into a movement that has itself invited comparisons, usually to the African-American Civil Rights Movement of Martin Luther King. Nevertheless, the three founders are queer, are female, and it’s hard to imagine that there aren’t links to be acknowledged with the LGBT and women’s movements as well.


DYKE ABROAD, continued on p.27

July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


Fascist Springs & Jesus’ Chicken BY ED SIKOV


f you want wackos, visit scenic Colorado Springs. The Springs, located at the eastern base of the truly extraordinary Pikes Peak, is essentially a large military complex surrounding a small, cool downtown. The complex consists of Army base Fort Carson, the United States Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), some of which is located deep within Cheyenne Mountain on the front range of the Rockies in the shadow of Pikes Peak. There’s also Schriever Air Force Base out on the plains east of the city. Having spent quite a bit of time there as a visiting professor at Colorado College (a liberal liberal arts college mercifully located in the small, cool downtown), I can attest to the fact that Colorado Springs –– also the home of the violently homophobic Focus on the Family, which has its own exit on Interstate 75 –– is, in three words, a fascist wonderland. The Springs is known for its lovely weather. Because there are an average of 320 sunny days a year, many of the airmen, soldiers, and their families who served at any of the military installations in the city at some point in their careers opt to return there for retirement. This all leads to the Springs becoming a reactionary paradise. The tax incentives the city


DYKE ABROAD, from p.26

In fact, lately, I’ve been wondering why nobody ever compares the LGBT movement to the women’s movement. Like queers, women are dispersed across races and ethnicities, creating conflicting loyalties, erasing histories, and making it difficult to create a radical sense of what a woman might be. Girls born into heterosexual families are likely to experience the gender wars of society writ small in the same way young queers are forced to confront the straight world almost from birth. So why ignore the women’s movement? Because it chased dykes away and has never been particularly diverse or queer-friendly? Though most other movements of the left have historically been equally anti-gay. Or is it because the cool quotient for Susan B. Anthony with her lacy collars and puffy skirts will never come close to Nat Turner’s, not to mention Martin Luther King’s or Malcolm X’s? When Angela Davis | July 23 - August 05, 2015

offered to right-wing hate groups to move there didn’t hurt either. These happy memories were sparked by something I read in the Independent, a community newspaper for cool downtown readers. It concerns a piece of state legislation aimed at fairness for the transgender community: “The bill would allow a Colorado-born transgender person, or the parents of a transgender minor born in Colorado, to receive a new birth certificate that reflects the changed gender. The person would need to show that he or she has undergone surgical, hormonal or other gender transition treatment, or has physical traits of both genders.” The Independent went on to note that “[State] Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, was unsurprisingly opposed to the bill, saying it was dangerous because it would be impossible to know what genitals a person actually had.” Dangerous? Dude! What exactly is the danger? Klingenschmitt didn’t elaborate, at least as quoted in the Independent. But one imagines that Klingenschmitt’s life would turn into a hideous nightmare composed entirely of the tilt down shot in “The Crying Game” when Neil Jordan, the director, reveals Jaye Davidson’s penis, much to the audience’s “Psycho”-like horror. What business is it of Klingenschmitt, or anyone, to have intimate knowledge of anoth-

raised her fist with Gloria Steinem I suspect we saw her blackness, not her breasts. Or is it just because the women’s movement is full of –– women? And anybody in that category is perceived as a loser. Since winning the vote, it’s all seemed downhill. Abortion rights won, but then eroded. Title IX, and a big parade for our victorious female soccer stars who are still pressured to slap on lipstick, get a nice ‘doo. Caitlyn Jenner’s celebrated coming out was the usual leap from the frying pan of transphobia into the fire of glossy magazine covers and female stereotypes that many women have been fighting for generations. Many other dramatic changes, including the entry of women into every area of the workforce, have passed from memory, like the contributions of Simone de Beauvoir. And even though three women, three black queer women started the #BlackLivesMatter movement, they’ve been hard pressed to prove #AllBlackLivesMatter. The slaughter of black trans women are mere

er person’s genitalia? The Denver Post elaborated: Klingenschmitt “attempted to gut the legislation and make it a crime for someone to change their birth certificate without an operation. The bill, he said, could lead to cases of child abuse and fraud, saying people with female birth certificates and male body parts could use locker rooms with women and children, or that people could marry someone without knowing their spouse used to be another gender.” The American locker room rates just slightly lower than the bathroom as a preeminent site of sex panic. And what about the children? Does Klingenschmitt really believe that demented parents could alter their child’s gender on their own without any physician or social worker noticing? Klingenschmitt also made headlines this year when he declared that a horrifying case in which a pregnant woman’s fetus was cut out from her body by a maniac was God’s punishment for American abortion rights. Such tender regard for the victim. Funny that nobody ever cites God’s vengeance as the source of the tremendous number of destructive tornadoes that have struck the Red State belt from Oklahoma to Indiana. Mightn’t they be paying the price for opposing marriage equality? Last year, Klingenschmitt warned that Representative Jared Polis, an out gay Democratic member of Congress from Colorado, wanted to execute Christians.

footnotes. The assaults and deaths of other black women at the hands of cops are almost seen as incidental compared to those of black men, even though the deaths of Kindra Chapman and Sandra Bland have given rise to the tag #ifidieinpolicecustody. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent book, “Between the World and Me,” earned a blurb from Toni Morrison as “required reading,” though the full comment not printed on the front cover qualifies it as an “examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life...” Josie Duffy wrote that “...In the 152 pages Coates writes about the Black body, he barely acknowledges the unique ways that Black women’s bodies are destroyed.” Shani O. Hilton, a friend of Coates, was more forthright. “Black womanhood in real life isn’t — as it largely is in “Between the World and Me” — about beating and loving and mourning black men and protecting oneself from physical plunder. It’s about trying to live free in a black body, just


MEDIA CIRCUS, continued on p.28

like a man.” Hilton reminded us that Coates’ omission must be a acknowledged because “the black male experience is still used as a stand in for the black experience.” If that’s true, a comparison is appropriate, even urgent for the LGBT movement. In fact, as we celebrate the Supreme Court decision giving the L, the B, and the G the right to homo-marry, it’s a good idea to ask what would have happened if it had only been lesbians, dykes, women of any race demanding the legal protections of marriage, especially for our children. Would we have been treated any better than straight women, or dismissed as single moms times two? Did we only win this right because there were men involved? Particularly white ones willing to write big checks. How can we build a future from that? Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.



MEDIA CIRCUS, from p.27

As for the Colorado transgender rights bill, the Denver Post summed up its fate: “The legislation, which passed the Democratic-controlled House, was assigned to a committee in the Republican-controlled Senate where bills often go to die.” Lo: It died.

“The official chicken of Jesus” is how the Fox Radio clown Todd Starnes described the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A in a recent sermon at the Abilene Baptist Church of Augusta, Georgia. Starnes is most agitated by the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Like many in the deranged bigot community, the radio host has suddenly awakened to the rampant discrimination embedded in American society. Everything appears to have been fine until very recently. Slavery, women’s ineligibility to vote, the governmental anti-Semitism that prolonged the Holocaust, the hellish conditions under which Chinese laborers built the nation’s railroad system, official neglect of the AIDS epidemic for its first



In the recent past, the ECHR ruled that Greece violated the Convention when it established a civil union system but exclud-

decade or so –– Starnes doesn’t concern himself with these petty complaints. But now that lesbians and gay men and straight people are equal in the eyes of the law (at least in terms of the right to marry), according to Starnes the US government has declared war on Christians. “They may demand to know the content of our prayers,” Starnes railed, pulling a brand new outrage out of his ass; “they may try to shut down our bakeries, they may try to silence our voices, but we will not be silenced! We will not be intimidated!” Then he got more bizarre. “I believe that the reason that God blessed America is because we know how to smoke a pork butt,” Starnes declared, ignoring the fact that Jesus, a Jew, would have been sickened by the idea of eating pig. To the frustration of many of his persecuted followers, Starnes failed to specify which particular item on the Chick-fil-A menu Jesus craves when He finds Himself pulling into a Chick-fil-A parking lot and heading for the front door. Does He prefer the Nuggets to the Chick-n-Strips?

ed same-sex couples. But it also found that Austria had not violated the Convention by failing to open up marriage to same-sex couples, and that its adoption of a civil union law met the its require-



And is this a paid endorsement? If so, I trust He declares this income on His taxes. Here’s my question: Why is it not blasphemous to claim to know God’s will?

On a side note, will someone please explain why Christian bakers appear to be more likely to be bigoted than, say, Christian jewelers? The supposed “right” of bakers to refuse to bake cakes for lesbian and gay newlyweds gets outsized coverage. It’s all about cakes! What about the rings? The flowers? The tux rentals? The caterers! What about the caterers? And the wedding gowns! Has anyone interviewed Vera Wang?

On a snide note, Fox News covered the death of Omar Sharif with the kind of fair and balanced reporting we’ve come to expect from that channel. The screen had a “BREAKING” banner near the bottom of the screen and, below it, the statement, “Actor Omar Sharif Dead at 83.” Fox illustrated the announcement with the caption “Omar Sharif (1932-2015)” and a photo of Sean Connery.

ment of “respect for private life and family.” Referring to these recent decisions, the July 21 ruling stated, “The Court reiterates that it has already held that samesex couples are just as capable as different-sex couples of entering into stable, committed relationships, and that they are in a relevantly similar situation to a different-sex couple as regards their need for legal recognition and protection of their relationship. It follows that the Court has already acknowledged that same-sex couples are in need of legal recognition and protection of their relationship.” The willingness of Italian courts to enforce cohabitation contractual agreements made by same-sex couples was not seen as sufficient in the way that the Austri-

an civil union law was. The court rejected the Italian government’s argument that same-sex couples should be relegated to litigating about particular legal claims as they arise. “In the Court’s view,” the ruling stated, “the necessity to refer repeatedly to the domestic courts to call for equal treatment in respect of each one of the plurality of aspects which concern the rights and duties between a couple, especially in an overburdened judicial system such as the one in Italy, already amounts to a not-insignificant hindrance to the applicants’ efforts to obtain respect for their private and family life. This is further aggravated by a state of uncertainty.”


INTERNATIONAL, continued on p.29

July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


MILITARY, from p.12

in perpetuity. But notwithstanding the rulings in Latta and Obergefell, a future director at Veterans Services or the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery (or some other applicable state actor) may come to view his or her role as being responsible for deciding what is/ is not constitutional under the law on matters that may impact Ms. Taylor’s claimed right to be interred there with her same-sex spouse. It is not unusual for legal precedent –– even Supreme Court decisions –– to be tested in such ways over time to ‘settle the pond’ on novel and evolving issues. Dismissal on the grounds of mootness would be justified only if this possibility was categorically foreclosed or, said another way, if it was absolutely clear


that Ms. Taylor no longer had any need of the judicial protection that she seeks. The record now before the Court does not support such a conclusion.” In a footnote, Bush explained the particular predicament that might arise if the case were dismissed as moot and then after Taylor’s death the cemetery’s administrators might change their minds and deny burial. At that point, it would be questionable whether her executor or administer would have standing to bring an action, since only living persons have legal rights to assert. The judge concluded that Taylor was entitled to the peace of mind of obtaining injunctive relief now. Taylor was represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Boise attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham.

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The court asserted that enacting a law “to provide for the recognition and protection of same-sex unions” would “not amount to any particular burden on the Italian State be it legislative, administrative or other. ” Italy, the European court found, was not arguing that granting legal recognition to same-sex couples threatened “the original concept of the family or the morals of society.” Instead, it simply argued for more time to consider what an appropriate legal framework might be. Then pointing to both the mandate of Italy’s Constitutional Court and to the overwhelming popular support for civil unions there, the court observed, “The Italian legislature seems not to have attached particular importance to the indications set out by the national community, including the general Italian population and the highest judicial authorities in Italy.” The “margin of appreciation” the court offers in deference to member state autonomy and discretion, consequently, is not due Italy in this case, the ECHR concluded. “To find otherwise today,” the ruling stated, “the Court would have to be unwilling to take note of the changing conditions in Italy and be reluctant to apply the Convention in a way which is practical and effective.” | July 23 - August 05, 2015

As it had with Austria, however, the court said that there was not yet sufficient consensus among European nations to require Italy to adopt marriage equality. Though the ECHR ruling was unanimous, three of the seven judges adopted a narrower approach than the majority, emphasizing that the Italian government had erred in failing to carry out its obligations with regard to its own Constitutional Court. This narrower approach would leave unaddressed the question of whether other nations that signed the Convention but have not yet adopted civil union laws are obligated to do so. A close reading of the major i t y o p i n i o n , h o w e v e r, s h o w s that it too is very much grounded in developments on the ground in Italy, including the C o n s t i t u t i o na l Cour t r ul i ng, public opinion, and the registries adopted in some municipalities. Consequently, it’s not altogether clear that even the majority opinion firmly establishes a general obligation for all nations that signed the Convention to adopt civil union laws immediately. Still, the opinion strongly intimates that as the number of European countries with such laws continues to increase, the obligation of signatories to move in accord with the emerging European norm is growing.

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Where Brawn Meets Brightness James Lecesne brings his novel about a gay teen gone missing vividly to life BY DAVID KENNERLEY




ast winter, “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey,” James Lecesne’s gripping solo show recounting the tragic disappearance of a flamboyant gay teen in a small Jersey Shore town, got raves during its sold-out stint at the cozy performance space at Dixon Place. Now the production, under the expert direction of Tony Speciale, has found a larger home Off Broadway at the Westside Theatre. The captivating Lecesne, who has written and performed other solo shows like “Word of Mouth,” slips effortlessly among an assortment of oddball, deeply etched personas. “I’m excited to get back to it, be inside of it, to be sharing it,” he enthused. “I do this without any sets or props or costumes to speak of, so people get to use their imaginations. They get to be set designers and costume designers. I’m eager to be part of that collaborative experience.” Lecesne plays a gruff detective named Chuck who has a habit of quoting Shakespeare, then shifts to Ellen, the 14-year-old boy’s reluctant guardian who runs a beauty salon, then Phoebe, her smartass daughter, and also a host of oddball locals whose lives Leonard has touched in some way. Leonard, it should be noted, does not make an appearance. It’s left to us to conjure our own portrait of the unlucky teen for ourselves. Lecesne is quick to point out that the show has evolved little from its incarnation at Dixon Place. “So much of it worked, we didn’t want to mess with it, in terms of structure or content. We did minor changes to the container that it’s in — how it looks, adding a few more visual effects. We want to keep the integrity and simplicity, but, you know, be a little more Uptown.” When I first saw the show, the characters were portrayed so vividly I was convinced it was based on an actual case. It wasn’t until I tried to research it online that I realized it is pure fiction. This is no surprise to Lecesne. He’s had many people come up to him saying, “It’s a true story, right?” It’s actually based on his young adult novel “Absolute Brightness.” What inspired him to translate the work to the stage? “The book was written in 2007, before the media was all over the bullying thing, the ‘It Gets Better’ initiative,” Lecesne explained. “I felt I wasn’t finished with the story, or rather, the story wasn’t finished with me. I wanted to talk to an adult audience. There were not many opportunities to address these issues in public in a thoughtful way. That was my goal. I was aware of other cases that were not exactly the same but

had elements of Leonard Pelkey.” Lecesne, as it happens, is no stranger to teen trauma. He is co-founder of the Trevor Project, the leading national group focused on suicide prevention and awareness among LGBTQ youth. His groundbreaking short film “Trevor,” about a troubled gay teen, won an Oscar in 1995. Playing against expectations, Leonard comes across not as some kind of saint, but a kid with flaws — he’s stubborn and, as one character puts it, “a little too in your face.” “One of the things I learned through the Trevor Project is that a young person’s job is to try new things and experiment,” said Lecesne. “Their brain is constructed to take chances and their prefrontal cortex loses its ability to perceive consequences of actions. This is scientifically proven. Teenagers can really be annoying for that reason. They push the boundaries in a world we have already decided upon. Leonard is forcing people in his community to do what’s right.” Partway through the drama, the mystery of what happened to Leonard is solved, though the question of why is not fully answered. Will some theatergoers leave unsatisfied? “If they do, then I don’t know what’s wrong with them,” huffed Lecesne. “You can’t always know the ‘why’ when it comes to evil. You can look at people all you want but you’re never really sure. You find reasons, but it’s really more important how people deal with that evil. It’s not spelled out, but people get it.” Chuck is a hard-boiled detective with a soft center, and Lecesne admits he shares certain quirks with Chuck and all of his characters or he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. “I like Chuck and I know him,” Lecesne said. “I’ve known hundreds of versions of him, having grown up in New Jersey. There are plenty of men with good hearts, just doing their jobs, everywhere. But you don’t hear about them so much. You hear about the obnoxious, loudmouth ones.” One message comes through loud and clear: we often don’t recognize someone’s special qualities until they leave us. Lecesne believes it’s particularly heartbreaking when we hear news of an LGBT youth suicide. “They are living their lives and suddenly they’re gone,” said Lecesne. “Why didn’t people appreciate them when they were alive? The circumference of their absences finds a presence that was in our lives up until when they left. That’s what’s so hard to bear.” “Ultimately it’s what we leave behind,” Lecesne continued. “It’s what Leonard left behind, it’s what he did for that town. He made them question their lives. He brought love into Chuck’s life. He inspired them to make the world a bet-

James Lecesne in his one-man show “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” now at the Westside Theatre through September 26.

THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY Westside Theatre 407 W. 43rd St. Through Sep. 26 Mon.-Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $85; Or 212-239-6200 Eighty mins., no intermission

ter place. Not to be too Pollyanna about it — we must make the world a better place. It doesn’t get better on its own.” Like many worthy endeavors, the Trevor Project was founded serendipitously, stemming from the HBO film. “We wanted to put a hotline number at the end of the film, in case there was a kid who recognized themselves in the character of Trevor,” Lecesne explained. “When we did the research, we were surprised that none existed. So we had to put one together in just three months. [After] that first broadcast on HBO, we got over 1,500 telephone calls. We were shocked so many kids needed this.” These days, in addition to the 24-hour hotline, the Trevor Project has embraced new technology with TrevorSpace (a social networking site), TrevorChat instant messaging service, and TrevorText. According to the group’s website, the hotline receives 45,000 lifeline calls in a year.


BRIGHTNESS, continued on p.35

July 23 - August 05, 2015 | | July 23 - August 05, 2015



Public Intellectuals Rolling Around in the Dirt William F. Buckley, Gore Vidal’s 1968 debates led to charges of “queer,” “Nazi” BEST OF ENEMIES


William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal in one of their infamous 1968 nominating conventions debates.



he entertaining and engaging documentary “Best of Enemies” presents the 10 famous televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr., during the 1968 presidential nominating conventions. Directors Morgan Neville (“20 Feet from Stardom”) and Robert Gordon show how these compulsively watchable arguments “changed television forever.” They provide astute portraits of both men — the “great debater” Buckley, and the “great talker” Vidal — who proved evenly matched while showing how much they despised each another. The film builds to a famous heated moment where Buckley responds to Vidal’s calling him a “crypto-Nazi” by tarring him as a “queer.” It is breathtaking, even for folks who know about it or remember it happening. Gordon spoke with Gay City News via phone, and Neville participated in an email exchange to discuss their film and the two public intellectuals whose arguments make them the “Best of Enemies.” G A RY M . K R A M E R : W h a t prompted you to use the Buckley-Vidal debates as the fulcrum for exploring the current state of affairs? ROBERT GORDON: I was raised with Buckley and Vidal in my con-


sciousness. When I saw the debates in 2010, I was so struck by how contemporary they were and how they anticipated the culture wars and articulated them so well. MORGAN NEVILLE: We were transfixed by the debates and the characters of Vidal and Buckley themselves. It felt like a great drama being played by two intellectuals who understood how to play their characters. We intrinsically felt that these debates said something about news today and the role of commentary, but it wasn’t until we really got into working on the film that we realized just how deep this ran. GMK: How did you come to and prepare to tell their stories? MN: My first job after college was working as a fact-checker for Gore at The Nation magazine. I knew his work and I knew his temperament. He wasn’t easy to work for. Buckley was someone I only knew as a TV fixture, almost a caricature. Each man created a formidable amount of words throughout their lives. Part of the fun of making the film was going down the rabbit hole into their oeuvres. RG: In 2010, it didn’t occur to me that most of the public would be unfamiliar with Buckley and Vidal. Very few people under 40 are familiar with these guys. As we grasped that, we realized that the story needed a sense of history and context to place it, to explain them.

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GMK: How did you strive to make “Best of Enemies” so evenhanded, or is there a subtle favoritism? RG: We’ve had people believe it goes both ways. Look at how these guys are engaging to try to change people’s minds. The notion of a public intellectual is anathema today. They are dueling in this verbal blood sport to save the nation. The film is a eulogy to public intellectuals.

They are dueling in this verbal blood sport to save the nation. The film is a eulogy to public intellectuals.

MN: We decided from the start that we didn’t want to make a film about the arguments as much as make a film about how we argue. It’s the meta-conversation that seemed most important. What does TV do to how we deal with people in a democracy? What role does it play in what brings us together and what divides us? We also wanted to portray a relationship, not a full biography of each man. At some level, we felt we had to empathize with each of them to understand that.

GMK: How much you think Vidal’s sexuality played into his celebrity and Buckley’s hatred? RG: It wasn’t Gore being gay that unsettled Bill so much, it was the sense of someone who was his equal. There’s a hint in the film from Sam Tanenhaus, who says they each saw in the other an exaggerated version of their own anxious idea of themselves. They saw the worst of themselves in each other and felt people would see them that way. MN: There was gay-baiting in the debates by both men from the start. Vidal’s sexuality was in deep conflict with Buckley’s pre-Vatican II Catholicism. Vidal enjoyed this, though he embraced the radicalness of his moral ideas more than playing on his sexuality directly. Vidal did needle Buckley about his own sexuality. I think he did this not thinking about the politics or message of it, but rather because he thought it would rattle Buckley. And it did. Oddly, through his wife, Buckley became friendly with a large circle of gay New Yorkers. He was, by most accounts, a fairly tolerant person is his private life. [Editor's note: In 1986, however, Buckley, in a New York Times op-ed, argued that anyone who tests positive for HIV should be tattooed for the protection of others.] Vidal had a special role as his bete noire. GMK: Why do you think the two men were so good together? Was it because they brought out the worst in the other? MN: For men who made their living often debating others, they only had this specific type of vituperative relationship with each other. At some level, I think they saw a distorted personal reflection of themselves in the other that intimidated them and made them lash out. RG: There are qualities in each that are to be admired. One aspect of this is what attracted me: the high-minded on the low road. That’s what gets them. You think they’d stay out of name-calling, but that’s where they ended up. July 23 - August 05, 2015 |

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The Inimitable Soph

A world-class entertainer

finally gets her due & three other super summer movies BY DAVID NOH


Sophie Tucker with Ted Lewis in 1934.




rom birth to age 18, a girl needs good parents. From 18 to 35, she needs good looks. From 35 to 55, she needs a good personality. From 55 on, she needs good cash.” There were show biz originals, and then there was Sophie Tucker (1887-1966). Porcine-faced and decidedly stout, Tucker was, even as an older lady, one of the most enduringly popular entertainers of the last century. With her white hair teased up into outrageous proportions, sometimes approximating a huge snowy bow, draped in blinding sequins, she would shake an imposing finger at her audience and, in her stentorian baritone, crack hysterically bawdy jokes and half-sing and speak songs like “Life Begins at Forty,” “I’m Living Alone and Like It,” “Nobody Loves a Fat Girl, But Oh How a Fat Girl Can Love,” and her great signatures, “My Yiddishe Momme” and “Some of These Days,” slaying audiences everywhere. Apart from Tucker’s unmistakable impact on Bette Midler’s art dating back to the 1970s, she is largely forgotten today, except by seniors and, of course, gay men enamored of all things show. But this protean talent, incredibly shrewd business woman, and complex personality who encompassed both endless charity and monstrous ego, is finally getting her real due in the documentary “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker,” directed by William Gazecki and the brainchild of producers Susan and Lloyd Ecker. It’s a loving, wonderfully revealing tribute, laced with delightfully pungent interviews with Carol Channing, Tony Bennett, Bruce Vilanch, Kaye Ballard, Michael Feinstein, Barbara Walters, Shecky Greene, and a raft of others. I met the Eckers, who describe themselves as the world’s foremost authorities on Tucker “by default.” They are parlaying their obsession with the lady they describe as the “Forrest Gump of the first half of the 20th century” –– she knew simply everyone and mentored the likes of Mae West, Judy Garland, Frank

Sophie Tucker’s birthday celebration in 1936 with Eddie Cantor and Harry Richman.

Sinatra, and Jerry Lewis –– into a series of biographical volumes and a Broadway musical. The film opens July 24 at Cinema Village (22 East 12th Street; cinemavillage. com) for three weeks and, in appropriately Sophie-vaudeville style, the couple will be there at every screening to conduct a Q&A afterwards. (Judy Garland biographer John Fricke will join the Eckers following the 8:45 p.m. screening on July 24. The film is also screened at JCC Manhattan beginning this week and beginning July 31 at locations in Queens, Long Island, and New Jersey; Susan started things off by say-

ing they had been working on this project for nine years, but then amended it: “It actually started in 1973 when we were in Ithaca College together on our very first date. Lloyd was the big man on campus, in charge of organizing the concerts. He got a call from this promoter who had a cancellation and said, ‘This is a new singer. Do you want her?’ He said, ‘I guess so,’ although her name didn’t really register with him. There I am, sitting in the front row and he says right before concert starts, ‘I’ll be right back,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh God, what kind of date is this?’ Next thing I see he’s on stage when the lights came up saying ‘Okay, every-

body let’s give a warm welcome to Miss Bette Midler!’ And then we had dinner with her backstage after the concert, so I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll go on a second date with him. He’s not such a schlump.’ She did all this Sophie Tucker shtick and, oh, she had a piano player too with her, Barry Manilow, and we were all eating spaghetti together. “We got married, had three kids, they went off to college, and we were like, ‘Okay, what should we do?’ Lloyd sold our Internet business to a public company and came home with a check. I said, ‘First, I’m gonna put that check into my account.’ I had been living with an entrepreneur for 30 years, and I wanted some stability. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, ‘I want to have dinner with Bette Midler again. That would be fun.’” Lloyd jumped in at this point: “I said, ‘I have a better idea. Why don’t we find out who this Sophie Tucker is, then we’ll do a documentary film about her. Then we’ll write a book about her early life, and then we’ll turn that into a Broadway musical and then a Hollywood musical. When we get to older Soph, we’ll hire Bette Midler to play the part, she’ll win the Academy Award, and then we’ll have dinner with Bette Midler.” The Eckers’ film and book is largely based on the treasure trove of 400 scrapbooks of the star they found at the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts and Brandeis University. Lloyd said, ‘We read her autobiography in 2006 and it was great and fun but then we did the research. About three years later, we decided to read her autobiography again and it turns out to be 85 percent all made up and maybe 15 percent true. We found out that she started writing her book in 1935 and it didn’t get printed until 1945. The first manuscript, which we never could find, was probably the true story but was unprintable because it was probably too salacious, all the sleeping around, etc. So she then hired four ghostwriters over the next 10 years, until finally it was so whitewashed that Doubleday printed it.” Susan said, “We lived with her for eight years before we started writing the book. We channeled her and told it in first person, and


IN THE NOH, continued on p.38

July 23 - August 05, 2015 |

BRIGHTNESS, from p.30

“I don’t know if I should be happy because more people are accessing the lifeline, or worried that the need is still so great,” Lecesne said. The production of “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” will donate $5 directly to the Trevor Project for each full price ticket sold. According to Lecesne, much progress to address LGBT suicide has been made since the Trevor Project was founded, but there’s more to be done. “People will be staggered to understand how deeply young people are suffering,” he said. “It’s our job to listen to their questions. I don’t think there’s enough of that. We get calls from teens who have no parents, teacher, counselors, or any relatives. It’s a lifeline to their own life.” With cyberbullying on the rise in recent years — the heartbreaking story of Tyler Clementi is a testament to that — Lecesne clarified that addressing bullying is not a key focus at the Trevor Project, although it comes into play. “We listen to stories about bullying,” he said. “But our hearts are open to both the person being bullied and also the bully,” explaining that the bully is often suffering, too. “It’s the responsibility of adults to set the tone of no tolerance in schools, workplaces, and in their own lives,” Lecesne said. “No torture, thank you very much. Studies have shown that when adults won’t tolerate it, the kids won’t tolerate it either.” In an age where gay marriage is now a reality, support is readily available, and highly visible initiatives like the “It Gets Better” videos exist, why are gay teens still taking their own lives? Lecesne’s answer is that outside of enlightened urban bubbles like New York or San Francisco, much of the country is way behind in attitudes toward homosexuality. “A lot of kids live in areas where the church and government are calling them sinners and perverts,” he said. “And this is done more visibly than when I was a kid. Now you hear ministers saying homosexuals should all go to hell. There’s so much more hate speech. And these young people are listening.” One of the play’s central | July 23 - August 05, 2015

es — “It’s okay to dare to be different” is now a staple on Broadway these days, as evidenced by Tony winners like “Kinky Boots” and “Fun Home.” Lecesne believes these shows not only help change minds, they change hearts. “That’s what theater is so great at,” he said. “People find themselves feeling something they weren’t expecting.” Lecesne said that even if kids don’t actually see the show, just knowing it’s out there is important. He also hopes his solo show communicates an uplifting message of pure love, pointing out that at 14, Leonard had no sexual experience yet. “For him it’s not about sex. Its about love,” Lecesne said. “We can stop having sex with people, but we can’t stop who we love. His love is all over the place. It gets into everybody. The hatred that’s directed toward these young people, and to homosexuals in general, it’s almost a hatred of love.” He added, “One of the great achievements of the gay rights movement is that it’s wrested away from the patriarchy this idea that marriage is an economic contract. That model is pretty much gone. [Marriage] is a romantic contract that involves sex. We should be free to love who we love. We’ve redefined that not just for ourselves but for everybody.” When asked about the media frenzy over Caitlyn Jenner, Lecesne could not contain his excitement. “There’s a huge wave of transgender queer young people,” he said, adding, “And gender -nonspecific people. Suddenly gender expression, gender identity, sexual expression, and sexual orientation are all separate things. You can be a biological girl who likes to look like a girl but actually identify as a boy. Caitlyn Jenner in some ways is already old-fashioned. A lot of these young people don’t want to be the opposite sex, they want to be their own person, whatever that sex is. They don’t want to have to choose. That’s very confusing for those of us who live in the binary — either boy or girl, gay or straight.” Lecesne added, “Young people are fine to fly that androgyny flag. And we are gonna be like, ‘What?’ People have no idea what’s coming down the pike. It’s gonna blow their minds.”








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An Old “Favorite” Given New Life Will Crutchfield resurrects Donizetti’s “La favorite” in its original French at Caramoor BY ELI JACOBSON




r om Lully on, Italian opera composers refined, deepened, and expanded their art, composing French operas for Paris. Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell” inaugurated the grand opera form, and with Verdi’s “Don Carlos” it reached its pinnacle. Will Crutchfield has programmed both those operas in the original French as part of his “Bel Canto at Caramoor” series. So it seemed a natural progression that Caramoor should present Gaetano Donizetti’s “La favorite” on July 11 in the original French version with some restored material from the recent critical edition. Premiered at L’Académie Royale de Musique on December 2, 1840, “La favorite” was an immediate success and remained in the Paris repertoire until 1918. But it has usually been heard internationally –– including in the last Met revival in 1978 –– as “La Favorita” in a bowdlerized Italian translation by Calisto Bassi distorted by religious censorship. Both Opera Orchestra of New York concerts were in Italian (the second one in 2001 using a corrected translation from the critical edition). The original French version was heard in New York as far back as 1843 and as recently as 1994 in a concert version by the enterprising L’Opéra Francais de New York (with Yves Abel conducting and Léonor sung by that fine, underrated mezzo-soprano Robynne Redmon). The Caramoor concert version clearly showed that “La favorite” sounds better in French and that the Vaëz and Royer libretto concerning the forbidden love of a novice monk for the mistress (“favorite”) of the Castilian king still holds the stage. The forward driving dramaturgy, the abundance and variety of melodic ideas, and the elegant construction proved that “La favorite” is more than a few hit parade arias like “Spirto Gentil” and “O Mio Fernando” stuck in a rickety old vehicle rusting in the operatic junkyard. Cast as the ill-fated lovers Fer-

Clémentine Margaine and Santiago Ballerini in the Caramoor production of Gaetano Donizetti’s “La favorite.”

nand and Léonor were two young singers on the cusp of international careers both making New York area and role debuts. French mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine revealed a rich, sizeable instrument reminiscent of Rita Gorr. Margaine is already a successful Carmen (her scheduled Met debut role), and Wagner and Verdi roles are definite possibilities for the future. Her relative inexperience showed not in her vocalization, which was secure, but in dramatic projection and bel canto style. Her tone coloration needed more light and shade, the characterization and textual delivery were generalized, and the coloratura passages lacked rhythmic accentuation and élan. Despite these demerits, France has not produced a major

grand opera voice like this in decades. One longs to hear Margaine develop in other roles like Didon, Dalila, and Brangaene, guided by the best conductors and stage directors. In the final Act IV duet, Margaine performed with nuance and specificity that touched the heart. Not yet 30, the boyishly handsome Argentine tenor Santiago Ballerini overcame obvious nerves and inexperience to win over the audience. His opening aria “Un ange, une femme inconnue” was tentative and insecure but his evident youth, commitment, and fresh, slender lyric tenor prompted an ovation from a generous audience. Ballerini took courage from this and gained poise and confidence over the first two acts, sing-

ing with generosity and passion. His “Ange si pur” (“Spirto Gentil”) won huge applause and sealed a successful debut. Despite Crutchfield’s knowledge of the older French vocal school and expert stylistic coaching, however, Ballerini sang most of his high notes loudly from the chest with minimal use of the voix-mixte head voice favored by pre-World War I French tenors. Ballerini’s slightly reedy lyric tenor needs some technical polishing and greater experience in smaller houses before he hits the big-time international circuit. Crutchfield cast experienced Caramoor veterans as the lowvoiced authority figures. Stephen Powell’s rich, oaken baritone exuded an authority appropriate for King Alphonse; his arias were stirringly sung. But bel canto suavity and gallic finesse don’t come naturally to him; this was Donizetti in Verdian mode, but impressive nonetheless. The Metropolitan Opera needs to tap this local resource and stop importing second-rate baritones in the Italian repertory. The confrontation duet with Léonor and Alphonse built to an exciting climax thanks to the restoration of its cabaletta conclusion not heard since the opening night in 1840. Bass-baritone Daniel Mobbs delivered Balthazar’s stern warnings and wrath of God denunciations with cool command and elegance. Isabella Gaudí as Inès produced some wiry tone on top. Under Crutchfield’s enthusiastic baton, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s gave a buoyant reading with virtuosic instrumental solos in the Act II ballet. There were minimal cuts in the score; hearing all the cabalettas, ballet music, and choruses revealed a wider dramatic and musical palette ranging from brilliant public display to spare, somber private tragedy. The whole definitely was greater than the sum of the individual parts, and that is credit to the musical achievement of Donizetti and the informed advocacy of Crutchfield. July 23 - August 05, 2015 |



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IN THE NOH, from p.34


much for her, she set her sister up in a children’s clothing store so she could handle all of that. When the IRS sent her a letter saying she owed back taxes because they were disallowing her gowns as a writeoff, she went to their offices with one of her costumes in a valise. When she got there, she changed into the Sophie Tucker with Judy Garland in “Broadway Melody of 1938.” spangled gown in their bathroom, and asked, “Okay, where’s the accountant?” He looked at footage of her, looking gorgeous in her and she said, “I only have one African wear, exhorting her audiquestion for you. Can I wear this on ence, “Are you ready to smash the street?” He said, “No,” and she white things, burn buildings, kill if said, “Well, you’re telling me I can’t necessary?” deduct this?” “I’m sorry. It’s a misAnother terrific music bio doc take.” “Don’t ever call me again!” is Asif Kapadia’s “Amy” (in wide The Eckers wanted Midler to release), a portrait of Amy Winenarrate the film –– not to mention house, which truly makes you realappear in their musical and film ize what a huge talent was undone project –– which Lloyd ended up by personal insecurity, addiction, doing. He said, “We’ve seen her and, as it happens, bulimia. Much many times, backstage, gone to like Simone, and like generations of her charity stuff. Phil Ramone had brilliant female singers before them, seen a rough cut of our film and the wrong men contributed to bring wanted to make it into a Broadway her down, but her soulful, sensumusical. Unfortunately, he passed ous, and utterly unique music lives away, but he did spend about an on, definitely on my playlist this hour trying to convince her to get summer. There will be few onscreen involved with us, but she wasn’t moments as chilling this year as interested. We have a meeting Winehouse saying to a friend, on coming up with Harvey Weinstein the triumphant night she won all and we told Bruce Vilanch, who’s a those Grammies, “This is so boring friend of the project, ‘Let her know without drugs.” we’re moving forward with the If all that self-destruction is too movie for real.’ She got back to us much for you, “Tangerine” (currentwith the message, ‘Tell Harvey to ly at the Landmark Sunshine, 143 call me when he’s ready.’ Fingers East Houston Street, between First crossed, and wouldn’t her daugh- and Second Avenues; landmarkter [also named Sophie] be great as is a lively antidote, the young Tucker?” although it also deals with some heavy shit. Sean Baker shot it all Here are three other wonder- an iPhone 5 and it’s an impressive ful films you should definitely achievement, both technically and not miss this summer. Liz Gar- dramatically, in its authentic capbus’ “What Happened, Miss Sim- ture of the Santa Monica Boulevard one?” (currently at the IFC, 323 world of trans sex workers, with all Sixth Avenue at West Third Street; of its humor –– alternately campy is a searingly hon- and gallows –– as well as heartest documentary about the great, break. I have rarely seen a film with greatly troubled singer that real- more laugh-out-loud moments. Its ly reveals the reasons for all that sheer audacity often makes you erratic stage behavior –– the sort catch your breath. Lauryn Hill seems to be exhibiting Contact David Noh at Inthenoh@ lately. Nina Simone threw herself into the Civil Rights Movement,, follow him on Twitter @in_ maybe a bit too fiercely, as attested the_noh, and check out his blog at by some electrifying 1960s concert July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


we feel if she were alive we would be the fifth ghost writer, but with the real story. It’s in her voice, based on what we found in the scrapbooks. “ The film is a veritable cornucopia of fascinating Tucker revelations, like her friendship with not only the mobsters who ran Las Vegas — where she successfully toiled after her careers in vaudeville and movies — but with J. Edgar Hoover, as well. Included in the movie is a personal thank you letter from Hoover, with a mention of his lover: “Clyde [Tolson] joins me in sending best wishes and kind personal regards.” Tucker was one of the few major stars who were never called to testify about Communism during the red witch-hunt of the 1940s-50s. Even more surprising is the discovery of her numerous liaisons with women, predominant among them, a Chinese doctor, Margaret Chung. In the film, Carol Channing hilariously describes Chung as “looking exactly like Sophie, except she was Chinese!” Susan said, “Mom Chung, whom she met during a war benefit, was a big part of her life. During World War II, Mom had all these seamen and airmen she knew who would go to her house and hang out. After the war she couldn’t pay her mortgage and was about to lose the house, which had fallen into disrepair. Sophie contacted all of these guys and said, ‘Ma’s in trouble,’ and she collected enough money from them all to pay off the house.” Tucker knew and was ever-supportive of many gay men, both in her social circle as well as among her fans. Lloyd recounted, “We saw a lot of letters from young men who visited her, thanking her for the dress she gave them. She was friends with Lucien, the head dancer at Finocchio’s Bar in San Francisco and would give him all of her costumes, and also Christine Jorgensen both before and after her operation and would give her advice. She was so open-minded about everything, just follow your heart and do what’s right for you.” In terms of the actual material Tucker used in her act, which included singing blues songs she learned from pals Ethel Waters and Mamie Smith, as well as hilariously racy material asserting herself

as a lusty adventuress who loved sex, revolutionary for women at the time, she not only pre-dated Bette Midler, but also Mae West, who often gets the credit for initiating things Tucker had done at least a decade earlier. Susan observed, “Mae was seven years younger and Sophie was a mentor to her and taught her her act, even though Mae never mentioned her. Mae was just the right age when talkies came in, but they wanted to pigeonhole Sophie as a grandmother or mother, and the only mother she ever wanted to be was a red hot mama. Unlike Mae [who quit movies in 1943], Sophie worked continuously for 60 years, especially in Vegas. When Sophie read that Mae was coming out of retirement into her town with a new act with musclemen, she said, ‘I can’t believe that old bag is making a comeback!’” Tucker began in show biz by singing in blackface, a tradition Michael Feinstein talks about in the film. But in 1908, while touring, her makeup kit got lost and she went onstage without blacking up and told the audience, “You all can see I’m a white girl. Well, I’ll tell you something more: I’m not Southern. I’m a Jewish girl, and I just learned this Southern accent doing a blackface act for two years.” In her way, Tucker, who made charitable donations to the Negro Performer’s Fund, was a staunch champion of civil rights, as illustrated by a story Lloyd told: “Her nephew, now in his 90s, said when he was seven years old, Sophie’s sister, Annie [who maintained all those scrapbooks], got married at a classy New York hall. Sophie gave gowns to everyone who didn’t have one so they would mix easily with her fancy showbiz friends. The guest started to come through the front door, including Ted Lewis with Bill Bojangles Robinson, and Lewis was told that he could come in, but Robinson would have to go around the back through the servants’ entrance. Sophie heard about this, came out, and demanded that the front doors be closed off altogether, and everybody then entered through the back. This seven-yearold never forgot that!” Indeed, Tucker seems to have been the mandarin mistress of any situation, however difficult. When the gift-giving demands of her estimated 150 godchildren proved too



Ron L. Meyers, Esq. 515 Madison Ave. in New York (212) 644–8787, Ron L. Meyers is a leading practitioner of estate planning for LGBT clients. He was a major source for the New York Times’s October, 2009 feature, “The Higher Lifetime Costs of Being a Gay Couple.”

King’s Brass (516) 485-4717, Be introduced in style by a brass band introduction. The King’s Brass is a group of impeccably trained, talented professional musicians, directed by Michael Klein, a graduate of the Juilliard School.

Soul System Orchestras

116 Kraft Ave. Ste. 3 in Bronxville (914) 779–1050, Rumbold & Seidelman has a long history of representing the LGBT community — whether through adoption or some form of collaborative reproduction.

1650 Broadway, Suite #503 New York, (800) 466-7685 Soulsystem Orchestras bands have been on the leading edge in providing “elegantly hip” wedding entertainment for the past 15 years. Clients can choose from a 3-piece ensemble to a 20-piece swing orchestra and beyond.



Rumbold & Seidelman, LLP

Bay Ridge Subaru 1819 Cropsey Ave. in Brooklyn (718) 234–7960 Visit Bay Ridge Subaru for a new or used Subaru Forester, Outback, or Tribeca. It supports same-sex couples.


Branches throughout the Tri-State area (800) 751–9000, Being yourself is just being human. Everywhere. Every day. We’re with you. We bank human and celebrate the LGBT community. America’s Most Convenient Bank.


Catering by Fairway An extensive menu to help you serve a wedding party of any size. Check out our extraordinary selection at

Pure Sugar, Inc. West Babylon (631) 766-3309, Pure Sugar can create anything your heart sugar. Make your desserts the main focus of the event. There is no project too small or too crazy.

CEREMONY SITES The Riverside Church

Kupcakes with a K (516) 860–9288 Kupcakes with a K offers over a dozen different unique flavors for you to enjoy! Sold in certain locations and through its website for your party or event.

Lou Babs & Moogs 95A Main St. in Port Washington, (516) 883–8585, Lou, Babs & Moogs opened its doors in 2002, and sells an inspiring mix of unique and useful gifts for him, her, and them. Surf through its site to quickly discover just the right thing.


Genesis Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Multiple locations (718) 283–8600, Genesis Fertility & Reproductive Medicine is a nationally recognized center of excellence for comprehensive fertility services.

FLORISTS Fleurs Bella

55 E 11th St. in New York (646) 602–7036, Fleurs Bella creates unique, floral designs, from the smallest flower arrangement to the most lavish event decor. The team at Fleurs Bella will capture the essence of your vision.

Henry’s Florist

490 Riverside Dr. in New York (212) 870–6802 Exchange vows where Presidents and some of the most historic figures of our time have stood then finish your perfect day in one of its event halls.

8103 5th Avenue Brooklyn 718.238.3838 Fleurs Bella creates unique, floral designs, from the smallest flower arrangement to the most lavish event decor. The team at Fleurs Bella will capture the essence of your vision.

St John’s Lutheran Church


81 Christopher St. in New York, (212) 242–5737, In the heart of the West Village, St John’s Lutheran Church and Rev. Mark E. Erson, Pastor, openly accepts same-sex couples.


Amazing Bottle Dancers (800) 716-0556 It’s hard to overstate the incredible reaction The Amazing Bottle Dancers evoke when they appear at nontraditional weddings. The guests are completely charmed and blown away by our surprise appearance! They never see it coming!

Bay Ridge Skin & Cancer Dermatology

9921 Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn (718) 833–2793, Put your best face forward with the help of David Biro, who was voted one of “New York Magazine’s” best doctors. The medical office offers Botox, microdermabrasion, and laser hair removal.

Emergency Medical Care 200 Chambers St. in New York, (212) 962–6600, Emergency Medical Care is a gayfriendly healthcare practice and an efficient and compassionate urgent care concept. It is a healthcare practice dedicated to better, timely medicine. | July 23 - August 05, 2015


Sand Castle on ohe Beach 127 Smithfield, Frederiksted St. Croix, Virgin Islands 340.772.1205 Our quaint, beach side boutique hotel is designed to meet your personal vacation style. We maintain a sense of intimacy and freedom in this seaside oasis. It’s our home and we invite you to relax and unwind in this comfortable and tranquil setting.

Villa Amor Camino a Playa los Muertos, Sayulita Bahia de Banderas Nayarit, Mexico (619) 819-5407 “Sweeping ocean vistas and a sexy room concept do away with outside walls and invite you to see Sayulita through a rustling fringe of palm fronds.”Travel+Leisure.


Anna Sheffield 47 Orchard Stl, New York (212) 925-7010, Anna Sheffield Jewelry offers a timeless alternative to the traditional world of Ceremonial and Fine jewelry with an extensive collection of finely crafted baubles. Our elegant array of rings includes signature styles of mixed precious metals, inverted-set diamonds and solid gold gemstones.

Party Planners and Expos Bosco’s Wedding Planning Expo (914) 337-3826, Before you walk down the aisle, walk down ours; Bosco’s Wedding Planning Expo is the place to find your best bet wedding contacts. Visit our website for an Expo near you.


Classic Party Rentals 336 W. 37th St. in New York (212) 752–7661 At Classic Party Rentals, exceptional customer service is its hallmark. It offers a network of party specialists that can provide everything you need anywhere you need it.

REAL ESTATE SERVICES Accurate Building Inspectors

1860 Bath Ave. in Brooklyn (718) 265–8191, Accurate Building Inspectors is a full-service home and building inspection firm servicing the tri-state area since 1961.

Kikco Property Management PO Box 408, Sayville, NY (631) 597-7018, Rental properties, venues for parties and honeymoon packages.


Andaz Wall Street 75 Wall Street, New York (212) 699-1636, Sophisticated urban gay weddings have access to over 14,000 sq. ft. of unique indoor and outdoor spaces right in the heart Wall Street.

The Andrew

the townhouses of East 64th Street. For your wedding reception, the venue’s dazzling, gold-domed Arabelle restaurant provides one of the most unique settings in Manhattan with its blend of murano glass and brass chandeliers, chiffon colored walls and murals of Asian pagodas.

75 North Station Plaza, Great Neck (914) 482-2900, Leave the details in accommodating your friends and family the the professionals at The Andrew, Great Neck’s Boutique Hotel, where chic sophistication meets the timeless essence of Long Island’s Gold Coast.

Russo’s on the Bay

Brooklyn Museum

Shakespeare on the Hudson

162-45 Cross Bay Boulevard, Howard Beach, NY, (718) 843-5055 Exemplary service and exquisite cuisine combined with professional attention to detail was the best way to achieve customer satisfaction.

200 Eastern Pkwy. in Brooklyn (718) 638–5000, The Brooklyn Museum is an extraordinary venue located in the heart of Prospect Heights. It has one-of-akind backdrops for private events.

216 Route 385, Catskill, NY (518) 947-1104, This remarkable event space now features three beautifully romantic cabins ideal for both large groups and private weekends.

Carlyle Catering

Sheraton Tribeca New York Hotel

Various locations in New York (516) 501-9700, Whether you desire timeless elegance ON THE GREEN, the regal splendor OF LAWRENCE, deco glamour at The Palace, retro nostalgia at The Omni, or a personalized catering style Off The Green, Carlyle has something for everyone.

Columbia’s Faculty House 64 Morningside Dr. in New York (212) 854–1200 A smart and stylish choice for your unique New York City wedding, the prized University landmark has classic, flexible spaces with a surprising, modern twist.

The Edison Ballroom 240 West 47th Street, New York (212) 201–7650, With its award-winning executive chef and personalized service, the Edison Ballroom continues to provide the perfect environment for all occasions in an elegant private event space in the heart of Times Square, New York.

Grand Oaks Country Club 200 Huguenot Ave. in Staten Island (718) 356–2771, Formerly the South Shore Country Club, this new and improved Staten Island venue can provide the perfect. elegant backdrop for your reception with prime dates still available.

Houston Hall 222 W. Houston St. New York (212) 582 2057, A massive space on West Houston Street has plenty of room to create the event of your dream...or a rowdy Beer Hall wedding. Eternal love, beer and a complimentary minister!

Plaza Athenee 37 East 64th Street at Madison Ave, New York, , (212) 644–0202 Le Trianon, our ceremony space is elegantly appointed in natural earth tones with ten windows overlooking

370 Canal St. in New York (212) 966–3400, Let the Sheraton Tribeca help you celebrate your same-sex wedding. The sleek, modern hotel works with various New York City wedding venues in the area.

Tio Pepe 168 W. Fourth St. in New York (212) 242–9338, At Tio Pepe you have a choice of atmosphere. The skylight dining room supplies a touch of romance while the enclosed sidewalk cafe provides a room with a view of Greenwich Village.

The Vanderbilt at South Beach 300 Father Capodanno Blvd. in Staten Island, (718) 447–0800 Boasting both a luxurious banquet hall, as well as magnificent outdoor oceanfront space.

Whyte Hall 577 Fire Island Boulevard, Fire Island Pines (631) 597=6060, Sequestered but easy to reach, this dramatic is located in one of your favorite locations. Experience the magic of Fire Island at its finest.

Yacht Owners Association 101 W. 23rd St., New York (212) 736–1010, Yacht Owners Association has over two decades of experience planning events at sea, and the largest number of yachts in the tri-state area. The Yacht Owners Association can accommodate weddings anywhere from 2 to 600 guests.


Ace World Travel 8320 13th Ave. in Brooklyn (347) 915–4287, This full-service and certified romance travel agency specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons. It can also create custom-built itineraries.

Alger House

45 Downing Street, New York (212) 627–8838, Alger House is a great venue for smaller weddings and corporate events (30 to 106 guests). The very private reception hall has high ceilings, custom lighting, and nearby transportation.





Bounce Baby

God Save The Queen Diva

One diva’s journey from the underground to the main stage BY MICHAEL SHIREY



ou may know Big Freedia as the twerking queen from the South — the New Orleans native does hold the Guinness World Record for the most people twerking in a group — and as the star of her own reality series, “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce.” But you probably don’t know the long journey that transformed Freddie Ross, a self-proclaimed “big gay sissy,” to one of mainstream music’s first successful queer rappers. In her new memoir, co-written with Nicole Balin, Freedia gives readers a glimpse into her early life growing up queer in a Baptist

community in one of New Orleans’ rougher areas, her love of Gospel music, coming out to her very religious but always supportive mother, and her falling out and subsequent reunion with her father. The only thing that rivaled the Queen Diva’s love of Gospel was her love of Bounce music, a style of hip hop that originated in New Orleans. Freedia was around from the very beginning, and it wouldn’t be long before she was making her own contributions to the sound, along with fellow “sissy” musician Katey Red. Big Freedia’s ride to fame is certainly an inspiring one, made all the more impressive by the Queen Diva’s unfaltering resolve at staying true to herself. Freedia often

By Big Freedia, with Nicole Balin Gallery Books $24.99; 272 pages

seems unfazed by endless obstacles thrown her way, including the death and imprisonment of friends and family, being shot herself, battling agoraphobia, and her mother’s tragic battle with cancer. Her account of Hurricane Katrina –– coming up on its 10th anniversary this August –– was one of the more powerful chapters in the memoir. There, Freedia chronicles

her escape from her flooded house to the supposed safety of the Convention Center before her eventual departure for Arkansas. In documenting her journey, Freedia also recounts her leap into mainstream culture and the beginning of her reality series on Fuse Television –– as well as her thoughts on Miley Cyrus’ infamous twerking at MTV’s 2013 Video Music Awards. By the end of “God Save the Queen Diva,” Big Freedia may well feel more like a long lost friend than a television personality. And, of course, the book would not be complete without a visual guide on how to twerk like a pro.

MALE EXPOSURE: CAPTURING BROADWAY’S SEXY SIDE There are no shortage of attractive male models in New York City, and surely more than enough photographers who are very willing to shoot them. Roberto Araujo is one such photographer — but you would be mistaken not to view him a step ahead of much of his competition. Looking at his work, it’s clear that Araujo has an eye for narration lacking in many of his contemporaries. In his latest exhibit, a 22-piece series on display at G Lounge and Gallery in Chelsea (225 West 19th Street;, Araujo presents “Male Exposure — B Side.” Don’t be fooled by the name though — for in this collection, B Side stands for Broadway Side, focusing on intimate portraits of some of New


York’s finest actors and dancers. And what a sexy side of Broadway it is, including portraits of Alan Cumming (“Cabaret”), Callan Bergmann (“Pippin”), Alec Varcas (above, “50 Shades! The Musical”), and Emanuel Abruzzo (left, “Heat Wave: The Jack Cole Project”), to name a few. A working actor himself, the photographer is captured himself in this exhibit in the love of theater he and his subjects share. “Male Exposure — B Side” is on display through August 8. Roberto Araujo is based in New York, and his photography work includes head shots, artistic portraits, as well as fashion photography. For more of his work, visit — Michael Shirey July 23 - August 05, 2015 | | July 23 - August 05, 2015


Peggy Lee. The Celebrity Theater at Time Scare, 669 Eighth Ave. at W. 43rd St. Through Aug. 23; Fri.Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. Tickets began at $39 at 212-586-7829 or

The Corporeal Is Spiritual



In his one-man show “Everything Is Spiritual,” Rob Bell, a New York Times bestselling author whom Time magazine named one of the 100 most influential people in the world, does what he does best, making surprising connections between the universe you’re living in and the life you’re living, showing how science and spirituality are long lost dance partners. The Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St. Jul. 24, 8 p.m. Tickets are $30$35 at


FILM Streaming From LA Drawing from the recent Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival, DIRECTTV presents free online screening of official festival selections. Among the films streaming will be “The Heroes of Evil,” “Tomgirl,” “Gideon’s Cross,” “Maybe Next Season,” “The First Date,” “Caged,” “Gay Over,” “The BrocKINGton,” “No Boundaries,” “Tomorrow,” “Noah and Anya,” “Calavera,” and “Elise.” A full line-up of films will be available at, through the end of the year.

PERFORMANCE Whitton in Time Scare Residency With a new single, “Black and White to Color,” just released, Whitton, whose style blends Billie Holiday, Norah Jones, and Regina Spektor, returns to New York for a residency, with a show that includes her own songs as well as classics from Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, and


Since 2006, Jay Brannan –– a native Texan turned New Yorker who appeared in John Cameron Mitchell’s indie film “Shortbus,” where he sang “Soda Shop” –– has been writing and performing his own sweet and sad folk songs always tempered by a dose of humor. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Jul. 25, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 at

Joey Arias, whose eclectic style has recently included interpretations of classic rock from like the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cream, and more, is joined by Australian cabaret, stage, TV, and film star Paul Capsis, known to New York audiences for his star vocalist role in Spiegelworld’s “Absinthe.” Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., btwn. E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Jul. 26, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 at

TUE.JUL.28 CABARET Big Edie from Winnetka

GALLERY Play and Learn With Tom of Finland Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland (1920-1991) is considered to be the most iconic gay artist of the 20th century. “Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play” –– which includes more than 140 drawings, rarely seen gouaches from the 1940s, over 600 pages of collages, as well as his early childhood drawings –– is the first exhibition to examine, analyze, and present the historic role that his art plays in addressing and transgressing stereotypes of gender, sexuality, race, class, and power relations. Artists Space Exhibitions, 38 Greene St., btwn. Grand & Broome Sts., third fl. Through Aug. 23; Wed.-Sun., noon-6 p.m. For more information, visit

#QueerArtInterface “Interface: Queer Artist Forming Community Through Social Media” is an eclectic mix of queer, New York-based artists, working in a wide variety of styles and mediums, who use social media to create a community to exhibit their work. Just as early ‘80s artists would display their work on rotting piers, abandoned furniture, tenement bathroom walls, and subway billboards, the current generation circulates its creativity among a potentially infinite virtual audience that can instantly connect with the work, repost images, and blog about it. Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, 26 Wooster St., btwn. Canal & Grand Sts. Through Aug. 2; Tue.-Sun., noon-6 p.m., with an 8 p.m. closing on Thu.


When well-known Syrian blogger Amina Arraf –– purportedly kidnapped by local authorities during the Arab Spring –– was revealed to be an elaborate hoax persona, international human rights advocates realized they’d been had. But the betrayal cut deepest for Canadian activist Sandra Bagaria, who had been involved in an online relationship with Amina. Playing out like a detective story, “A Gay Girl in Damascus: The Amina Profile” reconstructs this tale from the perspective of Sandra, who prepares for a face-to-face confrontation with Amina’s true creator. Opens Jul. 24, IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. Screening times at


The Arab Spring Lesbian Heroine Who Wasn’t

Marriage Equality USA, the leading grassroots group that worked on the battle for same-sex couples to enjoy the right to marry, celebrates the June 26 Supreme Court victory with a Sea Tea party aboard the Hornblower, which will travel down the Hudson from the West Village into New York Harbor and the East River, with spectacular views of the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The evening includes a bar, dinner, dessert, an appearance by the Imperial Court of New York, and DJing by Lady Bunny. Pier 40, Hudson River at Houston St. Boarding, dinner begin at 6 p.m., with the boat sailing at 7:30 sharp and returning at 10. Tickets are $32.04; $52.74 for two at event/1848972. A limited number of $35 tickets (cash) available at the dock. You must be at least 21.

Joey Arias & Paul Capsis

Film and TV star Taye Diggs, who made his Broadway debut in 1994 in the Tony-winning revival of “Carousel,” steps into an iconic role as the lead in John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” for 12 weeks. Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St. Tue. -Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m. through Oct. 11. Tickets are $47-$142 at telecharge. com or 212-239-6200.


Celebrating SCOTUS at Sea


Sweet Folk from Jay Brannan

Diggin’ the New Hedwig



Two-time Tony Award-winner Christine Ebersole (“42nd Street,” “Grey Gardens”) returns to 54 Below for three performances of her show “Big Noise From Winnetka,” a musical journey –– sprinkled with Broadway, pop, and jazz –– from her childhood home in suburban Chicago to her career in New York and Hollywood and her current home in Maplewood, New Jersey. Bette Sussman is Ebersole’s musical director. 254 W. 54th St. Jul. 28, 30 & 31, 7 p.m. Tickets are $75-$140 at, and there’s a $25 food & drink minimum. Add $5 to the cover for purchase at the door.

WED.JUL.29 PERFORMANCE Margo Channing Does Judy Garland In “For the Love of Judy,” MargOH! Channing tells the story of a gay boy with a dysfunctional upbringing


WED.JUL.29, continued on p.43

July 23 - August 05, 2015 |


WED.JUL.29, from p.42

who stumbled his way to big dreams with the music of Judy Garland, sequins, and a lot of lipstick. “For the Love of Judy” is written by BT Shea and directed by Thom Fogarty, with special material by Fogarty and Jeff Catlow. Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey Sts. Jul. 29-30, 7:30 p.m.; Jul. 31, 10 p.m. Tickets are $18; $12 for students & seniors at

Monet X Change as some of your favorite legendary divas, both real and fictional –– Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Selena, JLo, Karen Walker, Nene Leakes –– with a twisted twist. Laurie Beechman Theater, inside West Bank Café, 407 W. 42nd St. Jul. 31, Aug. 14 & 28, 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 at spincyclenyc. com or 212-352-3101.

–– cello, ukulele, glockenspiel, melodica –– but the Skivvies literally strip down to their underwear to perform. Their guests include Randy Harrison, Michael Cerveris, John Cariani, Matt Doyle, Ellyn Marsh, and Christopher Hanke. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. between E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Aug. 1, 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 at

THU.JUL.30 PERFORMANCE Shamblin Queering the Stage JOESPUB.COM

Jack Shamblin’s “Queering The Stage: A Road Map To GLBT History & Heroes Through Play & Monologues” is an art opera bringing together music, visual art, and a powerful ensemble of artists. Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey Sts. Jul. 30, 10 p.m. Tickets are $12; $10 for students & seniors at

WED.AUG.5 PERFORMANCE Queer Futurity Inspired by the theme of queer futurity, Tim Cusack’s “Queer Today ____ Tomorrow” is a collaboration between the youth of the TAYPE program and Theatre Askew. Drawing from the worlds of science fiction, social activism, and identity politics, the piece resists the apocalyptic zeitgeist and dares to imagine a future free from gender, racism, and economic injustice. In that future, nonbinary space aliens will marry silicon androids, and the simple act of walking down the street while black and queer will not be a capital offense. Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey St. Aug. 5, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12; $10 at; $15 at the door.

THU.AUG.6 CABARET Donna McKechnie Returns to the ‘70s

Queer Storytelling

PERFORMANCE Divas Distorted & Demented Dallas DuBois and JAWdrop present “Distorted Divas,” the seventh installment of the “Distorted” Vegas-style revue drag series. This new late night pop culture extravaganza features demented drag stars Bootsie LeFaris, Pixie Aventura, Brenda Dharling, and newcomer | July 23 - August 05, 2015

SAT.AUG.1 CABARET Chris Garneau’s Frostbitten Memories “Winter Games” is the new album Chris Garneau began working on two years ago but has been trying to make since he was a lonesome kid competing in Parisian piano competitions on a last name basis with Beethoven, Debussy, and Brahms. Finding his voice as a songwriter and expanding his record collection well past the familiar environs of classical and jazz, Garneau looked to the otherworldly pop songs of Tori Amos and the alien harmonies of the Cocteau Twins to the devastating confessionals of Cat Power, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith. Among his biggest influences, however, was Nina Simone, whose music he fondly remembers gliding along to in his socks around the family living room. Joe’s Pub, inside the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. between E. Fourth St. & Astor Pl. Aug. 1, 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 at

Musical Mash-ups All Stripped Down The Skivvies are Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley, New York actors and musicians doing stripped-down versions of eclectic covers and comedic, genre-hopping mash-ups. Not only are the arrangements stripped down

NIGHTLIFE A New Offering in Newark Shaheer Williams and Angelo Ellerbee launch the Fever Bar & Lounge, an LGBT nightspot designed to fill a void in the Newark club scene. From showcases for singers, comedy nights, karaoke, birthday and private parties, to theme and tailored events, Fever will feature celebrated DJs like Tony Humphries, Naeem Johnson, Louie Vega, and Williams. 415 Central Ave. at Second St. More information at





Writer, actor, director, storyteller, dancer, and nightlife emcee Drae Campbell, who won the 2011 Miss LEZ title, hosts “Tell,” an evening of storytelling from the mouths and minds of New York queers. Campbell’s guests include Jamila Hammami, a first-generation Tunisian-American hard high femme homo who founded the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project; Mizz June, the first out black trans woman to appear on a daytime soap opera (“All My Children”); Mariel Reyes, a writer and producer in New York’s experimental theater spaces who appeared in the 2014 film “Appropriate Behavior”; and Larry Darnell Penn Whitfield, an actor, writer, singer, and creator of “Confessions of a Plussizetwink,” a one-man cabaret series. Bureau of General Services –– Queer Division at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., rm. 210. Jul. 30, 7:30-10 p.m.

Tony-winner Donna McKechnie, best known for creating the role of Cassie in “A Chorus Line” and also hailed for her Broadway appearances in “State Fair,” “On the Town,” “Company,” “Promises, Promises,” and “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” presents “Same Place: Another Time,” a musical déjà vu celebrating the scintillating 1970s in New York City –– with music ranging from Jim Croce to Peter Allen and Marvin Hamlisch. 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St. Aug. 6 & 9, 7 p.m. Tickets are $50-$95 at, and there’s a $25 food & drink minimum.

CONCERT The Pops in Forest Hills

MON.AUG.3 PERFORMANCE Reno’s Ignorance Is Our Gain Being alive comes with all kinds of unsolicited responsibilities, but downtown legend Reno still hasn’t come to terms with that. She’s an opinionated, radical feminist alternative voice who creates heavily improvised stream-of-consciousness topical monologues with incredible wit, political consciousness, and common sense. Tonight, in “Ignorance Is No Excuse,” Reno appears free at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St., btwn. Rivington & Delancey St. Aug. 3, 7:30 p.m. More information at

The New York Pops launches the inaugural program of concerts at it at its new summer home, Forest Hills Stadium, in Queens (at the West Side Tennis Club, entrance at Burns St. off Continental Ave.). On Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m., music director and conductor Steven Reineke presents an evening with Broadway’s Sutton Foster singing standards from the Great White Way along with some of her personal favorites. On Aug. 7, 7:30 p.m., the Pops welcomes Pink Martini, the “little orchestra” founded to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for fundraisers for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education, and parks. Tickets for each show are $10 to $129 at


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July 23 - August 05, 2015 |

GAY CITY NEWS, JULY 23, 2015  


GAY CITY NEWS, JULY 23, 2015