Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 8, April 20, 2018

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A P R I L 2 0 2 0 1 8 • V O LU M E 0 2 • I S S U E 0 8 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M

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Gay DREAMer stuck in Mexico after green card application denied Marco Villada case underscores uncertainly around DACA future By MICHAEL K. LAVERS Lawyers from the National Immigration Law Center representing a Los Angeles-based gay married DREAMer have filed a federal lawsuit trying to bring Marco Villada Garibay back to the U.S. He is stranded in Mexico because he was trying to follow procedure. “Mr. Villada Garibay has spent virtually his entire life in the United States,” reads the lawsuit, filed on April 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Villada Garibay was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 6 years old. He and his family made a life in Southern California, with Villada graduating from Morningside High School in Inglewood and later enrolling at El Camino Community College and Harbor College in Los Angeles. Villada signed up for the extensive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and became a recipient in 2013. DACA allows young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain legal work permits. In 2014, Villada married Israel Serrato after the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and overturned California’s Proposition 8. The couple lives in Los Angeles County where Villada has worked as a legal assistant at a law firm for the past four years and “contributed financially to his joint household with Mr. Serrano.” The couple filed “the necessary petition and obtained a provisional waiver” from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that would allow Villada to obtain his green card “by virtue of his marriage to a U.S. citizen,” the lawsuit says. Believing DACA protected him from deportation until 2019, Villada and Serrano traveled to Mexico on Jan. 14 in order “to take the next step in (Villada)’s process to obtain U.S. residency,” which was his appointment at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez. But, the lawsuit says, his DACA “status was automatically terminated” once he left the country. The lawsuit notes Villada traveled to Mexico “only because” USCIS approved the provisional waiver that allowed him to apply for a green card through the State Department in his country of origin and

Israel Serrato holds a picture of him and his husband, Marco Villada Garibay. The two have filed a federal lawsuit after Villada was prevented from returning to the U.S. from Mexico after he traveled to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez to apply for a green card. Photo courtesy of National Immigration Law Center

promptly return to the U.S. with Serrato. But on Jan. 17, the U.S. consulate denied Villada’s green card application and banned him from returning to the U.S. “because it found that he was permanently inadmissible.” The consulate said that Villada left the U.S. more than a year after he entered the country without documents and returned to the U.S. “without admission after more than one year of unlawful presence.” In fact, Villada was 17 years old in 2000 when he went to Mexico for “a few weeks” after his grandfather died. He was allowed back into the U.S. after he showed his high school ID card to an immigration officer at the San Ysidro border crossing south of San Diego. Villada disclosed during his green card interview at the consulate that he had traveled to Mexico in 2000. The consulate has confirmed its decision to deny Villada’s application. “Mr. Villada Garibay and Mr. Serrato continue to be separated because Mr. Villada Garibay is unable to return to the United States,” reads the lawsuit. “As a result, they are suffering emotionally and financially, and are experiencing great anxiety because

Mr. Villada Garibay is unable to return to the United States for at least 10 years. The threat of prolonged separation impairs Mr. Villada Garibay’s and Mr. Serrato’s ability to live together as a married couple, form a family and plan for the future.” During an April 10 conference call with reporters arranged by the National Immigration Law Center, Villada said he and Serrato “did everything by the books.” “Right now, all I can think about is going back home,” said Villada. “I miss my husband, my home, family.” “I loved my husband before he had DACA,” said Serrato. “I love my husband as a documented person. I’m going to fight for my husband and I to be together.” The lawsuit names Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan, the USCIS, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna, USCIS National Benefits Center Director Robert Cowan and U.S. Consul General for Ciudad Juárez Daria L. Darnell as defendants in their official capacities. The State Department declined to comment on the lawsuit. Stacy Tolchin, an attorney representing

Villada and Serrato, noted that there were cases of immigrants during the Obama administration who were denied green cards, even though they had received provisional waivers from USCIS that allowed them to leave the U.S. in order to apply for them in their countries of origin. But Crissel Rodríguez of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance underscored that Villada’s case “is an example of how the Trump administration’s policy continues to tear families apart.” The lawsuit was filed against the backdrop of mounting criticism of the Trump administration’s immigration policy from building a border wall to Trump’s announcement last September ending the DACA program. The Trump administration’s announcement in January that fleeing Salvadorans will no longer receive protected immigration status in the U.S. through the Temporary Protected Status program sparked further outrage. Shortly after he took office in January 2017, Trump signed an executive order that spurs construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in order to curtail the number of undocumented immigrants who enter the country. Last December, NPR reported that the number of arrests at border crossings had hit a 45-year low. Another executive order that Trump signed on Jan. 25, 2017, paves the way for cutting federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect them. Los Angeles is not only a “sanctuary city,” as of Oct. 5, 2017, California is a “sanctuary state.” Trump earlier this month said he would send up to 4,000 National Guard troops to the border to fight undocumented immigrants and drug traffickers from entering the country from Mexico. After a week of silence, Gov. Jerry Brown said he would send 400 troops but only to fight criminal gangs and drug and firearm smugglers, not assist ICE. Trump tweeted thanks. But as of April 16, the federal government has not responded to Brown’s required Memorandum of Agreement stating his conditions. “Immigrant rights are an LGBTQ issue,” Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said on the conference call. HRC estimates there are roughly 75,000 LGBT DREAMers in the U.S. Andrea Ayala, executive director of Espacio

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California to apologize for anti-LGBT discrimination Historic Low resolution headed to Senate By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com California lawmakers continue to press for progressive values, defiant of the Trump administration’s conscious disruption of democracy and rollback of common decency. And now LGBT legislators are leaping ahead of the traditional trajectory of civil rights movements and presenting a resolution in which the state of California formally apologizes for past discrimination and discriminatory laws that oppressed and persecuted the LGBT community. On April 5, the Assembly passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 172 authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, and co-authored by all members of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus. “We just passed this Apology Resolution on the Assembly Floor and it’s the first of its kind in the nation,” Low told the Los Angeles Blade. “This is a recognition of the discrimination that has occurred against the LGBT community so we can recognize the wrongs of the past and make sure we continue to move forward addressing many of the discriminatory practices that currently exist and lead with love.” The Apology Resolution is supported by Equality California, the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. But Low said he is talking to other communities for support, as well, such as the Japanese, Chinese and African American communities that have previously received apologies for governmental discrimination. “We did an apology for the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Alien Land Law. We did apologies for the transgressions toward women and the African American community. We will continue to do so. The next step is the State Senate—date to be determined.” Apologies are a good start—a recognition that legalized discrimination has lasting traumatic consequences. In 2008, Congress apologized to the African American community for slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow laws—but no reparations were given and institutionalized racism persists. In fact, many argued with CBS News’ decision

Assemblymember Evan Low Los Angeles Blade Photo by Karen Ocamb

to broadcast images of lynching on the April 8 “60 Minutes” where Oprah Winfrey toured “The National Memorial for Peace and Justice” in Montgomery, Alabama, the state where 361 documented lynchings occurred. The Equal Justice Initiative found evidence of more than 4,000 lynchings in states throughout the country in the 70 years following the South’s surrender ending the Civil War. “[T]he murderous acts were a way for whites to maintain political control over African Americans, who were supposed to get the right to vote after the Civil War,” attorney and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson said in a CBS News press release. “Lynching was especially effective

because it would allow the whole community to know that we did this to this person … a message that if you try to vote, if you try to advocate for your rights … anything that complicates white supremacy… and political power, we will kill you,” Stevenson said. In 1988, after a decade of pressure from the Japanese-American community, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act that not only issued an apology to the more than 100,000 Japanese incarcerated in internment camps during World War II but paid $20,000 in compensation to survivors. But as out gay internment survivor George Takei reminds people, an apology and compensation do not revoke the painful memories.

“I was 7 years old when we were transferred to another camp for ‘disloyals.’ My mother and father’s only crime was refusing, out of principle, to sign a loyalty pledge promulgated by the government. The authorities had already taken my parents’ home on Garnet Street in Los Angeles, their once thriving dry cleaning business, and finally their liberty. Now they wanted them to grovel; this was an indignity too far,” Takei wrote in a New York Times oped comparing the Japanese internment to Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. Criminal and other laws against LGBT people seemed sanction by society, with the psychological and religious communities calling homosexuality a “perversion” and “evil. And while the LGBT community has won many civil rights victories, murders of trans women of color continue unabated, the trauma of stigma still prevents LGBT people from coming out and getting tested for HIV and there are still efforts to legalize discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Perhaps an historic apology from the California will raise awareness that the state’s representatives recognize the harm done in in the state’s name. Examples of California’s anti-LGBT laws include: Throughout California’s early history, local indecency statutes permitted police to harass and sometimes arrest people who were considered deviant or gender-bending. In 1909, state law allowed for the sterilization of convicted and imprisoned sex offenders for being “moral or sexual perverts” including those offenders committed for sodomy and oral sex acts. In 1939, California enacted a “sexual psychopath” law, which was used to commit numerous LGBT people for involuntary psychiatric incarceration and gruesome medical treatments. In 1947, California enacted a statewide registration for sex offenders, exposing LGBT people convicted of sex offenses to public shaming and harassment. In 1977, California law defined marriage as “between one man and one woman.” In March of 2000, Proposition 22 was enacted by California voters to prevent marriage between same-sex couples. Although Prop. 22 was struck down by the California Supreme Court in 2008, the ruling was superseded when Prop. 8 reinstated the ban that same year. Same-sex marriages became legal in 2013.



GLAAD did it again at 2018 Media Awards Britney and Parsons honored, black women shine By REBEKAH SAGER The 29th annual GLAAD Media Awards pulled off a stunning duality April 12 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, showcasing the height of mainstream LGBT acceptance while also delighting in diverse subversiveness. GLAAD honored singing icon Britney Spears with its Vanguard Award, presented by singer/actor Ricky Martin. “To be accepted unconditionally and to be able to express yourself as an individual through art is such a blessing. Events like this show the world that we are not alone. We can all join hands together and know that we are all beautiful,” Spears said. GLAAD also honored actor Jim Parsons with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award, presented to the LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting LGBTQ acceptance. Parson’s award was presented by hit-making writer/producer/ director Ryan Murphy, who is re-booting Mart Crowley’s “Boys In The Band” for Broadway, with Parsons and cast mates, Matt Bomer, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, among others, who joined Parsons onstage. Parsons acknowledged Kolzak, the late casting director who died of AIDS in 1990. “I, as an adolescent, was being shown an image of homosexuality on the TV that painted being gay as a death sentence. Stephen was hard at work trying to counter that image, and a large part of that protest was showing his face…claiming both his homosexuality and his HIV positive status,” Parsons said. The event had a “post-gay” whiff to it. GLAAD board chair Pamela Stewart told the Los Angeles Blade she’s most excited this year about the many accurate portrayals of the LGBTQ community. “Before it was a niche, and now it’s truly mainstream,” Stewart said. But “there’s always a Jim and a John, and a Jane on the other side of the television or computer waiting to say ‘it’s ok to be me,’ and I want us to be apart of that narrative. The mainstreaming was apparent for those who remember the shock of seeing Madonna kiss Britney Spears at the MTV awards in 2003 to the fun applauding Olympian Adam Rippon lip-smacking fellow Olympian Gus Kenworthy onstage at this

Lena Waithe, Wanda Sykes, Halle Berry Photo by J. Merritt/Getty Images for GLAAD

year’s GLAAD show. The subversive thrill came in seeing the strong presence of powerful black women. Comedian Wanda Sykes, who hosted the show, is the head writer on ABC’s “Rosanne,” re-booted by lesbian Sara Gilbert and progressive Whitney Cummings. Halle Berry, who in 2002 was the first black actress to win an Oscar, joked about the importance of Cat Woman before presenting Netflix’s Emmy-winning writer and Vanity

Fair cover star Lena Waithe with the award for the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None. “The more visible we are, the less they can act like we’re invisible,” said Waithe. At the intersection of mainstream and subversive is newcomer Nafessa Williams, who is breaking new ground playing the first black, lesbian superhero in the role of ‘Thunder’ on the CW show “Black Lightning.” “It’s been such an honor to lend my voice to this character. My goal is to inspire all young

lesbians to be themselves and proudly embrace who they are and walk boldly in that,” Williams told The Blade. “It means representation is being showcased. It means that we’ve come to a place where the playing field is level. It means young lesbians have someone to look up to and feel empowered by.” Actor JJ Totah, who stars on Mindy Kalin’s show, “Champions,” talked about being multi-racial and LGBTQ in Hollywood. Although Totah is of Palestinian, Irish, Italian, and Lebanese ancestry in real life, on the show he plays an Indian LGBT character. “A double whammy,” he said. When it comes to Hollywood, whether you identify LGBTQ or mixed-race, “everyone experiences their hardships, no matter what your minority identification is.” “Star Trek” star and longtime LGBT activist Wilson Cruz told The Blade that he’s particularly excited about “the explosion of diversity,” He’s excited about shows like “One Day at a Time,” and “On My Block” on Netflix, and “Pose,” with the largest trans cast we’ve ever had.” One of the most dramatic changes in media in the last few years has been the bourgeoning inclusion of transgender characters and on reality TV. Zeke Smith, a “Survivor” contestant who was famously outed as transgender, told The Blade that GLAAD “serves as a resource for studios and shows like ‘Survivor’ that find themselves in a tricky situation, and need help navigating the waters… The story of outing the trans person has something we’ve seen in the media for a long time, and it’s always been permitted. My case was the first time people said, ‘no, we don’t do this. It’s not okay.’ I think it set a new standard,” Smith said. But Jazz Jennings, the 17-year old author, Reality TV star (“I Am Jazz”) and LGBT rights activist who has spent much of her young life growing up trans in the public eye, told The Blade that there are drawbacks in being such a public transgender figure. Jennings said she struggles with her privacy and gets hate-filled comments on social media—but it “motivates her to share her story even more.” “As a transgender person I’m out there being visible so I can inspire other young people to be their authentic selves, as well,” Jennings said. — Karen Ocamb contributed to this report.



Gay DREAMer stranded in Mexico Continued from page 4 de Mujeres Lesbianas por la Diversidad, an LGBT advocacy group in El Salvador known by the acronym ESMULES, told the Blade last September in San Salvador that young undocumented immigrants from the Central American country account for the third highest percentage of DACA recipients. Ayala highlighted the case of a gay couple who she said the U.S. deported to El Salvador, even though they are both DACA recipients and one of them was brought to the U.S. when he was 6-months-old. Ayala said the couple was legally married in Virginia and

raising a young child in the state. Now the couple cannot work or study in El Salvador because they do not speak Spanish. She also described the Trump administration’s overall immigration policy as “dehumanizing.” El Salvador, along with neighboring Honduras, is among the world’s most violent countries. Violence associated with MS-13— which Salvadoran immigrants who fled their homeland’s civil war formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s—and with other gangs and drug trafficking continues to wreak havoc in many parts of the country. Activists in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala with whom the Blade has spoken since Trump took office have said

the gangs and the police routinely target people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They also stress this violence—combined with discrimination that makes access to education, employment and health care difficult in their countries— have prompted LGBT people to flee. “We have a forced migration,” a transgender activist in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula told the Blade in February 2017 during an interview at their office. “They don’t do it because they want to. They are doing it because the situation in which we are living in our country is very difficult.” As for LA-raised Villada—he is currently living in Mexico’s Jalisco state in which the

cities of Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, a popular destination for LGBT tourists from the U.S., are located. Many LGBT migrants from Central America initially travel to Mexico City, which has a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and a number of advocacy groups. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity nevertheless remains commonplace throughout Mexico. Villada told the Blade that as an openly gay man, he is “in constant fear of even going down the street for a soda.” “I’m still living in fear, even right now,” he said. “It is not a place that is safe, even in my eyes.”

QUOTES Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian drag queen who captured the hearts of millions after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, announced on Instagram April 16 that she has been “HIV positive for many years.” Wurst, aka Tom Neuwirth, says she’s been taking HIV medication for many years, her viral load is undetectable, and thus there is no risk for transmitting the virus to sexual partners. “This is actually irrelevant to the public, but an exboyfriend is threatening to go public with this private information, and I will not give anyone the right to frighten me or affect my life,” Wurst wrote. Wurst’s televised win in 2014 reportedly annoyed Russian President Vladimir Putin and was widely construed as a middle finger to the country’s anti-gay “homosexual propaganda” law. Wurst then proved a glam superstar walking the Red Carpet for the 72nd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills in 2015 as a guest of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. STAFF REPORTS

“I firmly believe that we cannot tolerate discrimination against any individuals or groups in our country. Such treatment always brings with it pain and perpetuates hate and intolerance.” – First Lady Barbara Bush in a 1989 letter responding to PFLAG president Paulette Goodman, via makinggayhistory.com.

“The events were reported to have taken place in October of 1992 in West Hollywood involving a male adult.” - Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Nicole Nishida to the LA Times on filing a criminal sexual assault case with the district attorney April 5 against actor Kevin Spacey.

“The [LDS] church has been under siege. Since Prop. 8, really.”

– Longtime Mormon Church critic Fred Karger to FOX 13 after Salt Lake City premier of his “South Park”-style animated cartoon video slamming the Church’s business practices and promoting his MormonTips.com website.

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Federal judge extends injunction on trans military ban Will Pence be called at trial? By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com The timing of U.S. District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman’s ruling on the ban against open transgender military service could not have been more poignant. As the order circulated late April 13 among lawyers and plaintiffs in the OutServe-SLDN and Lambda Legal lawsuit against the Trump administration, President Trump ordered “precision strikes” in Syria in response to chemical attacks in Damascus that killed at least 40 people. The juxtaposition of air strikes versus trans service members suing to serve makes the ban even more absurd. Pechman, ruling from her federal seat in Seattle, Washington, delivered some precision strikes of her own. She ordered that her earlier preliminary injunction against the ban remain in effect. In that Dec. 11, 2017 ruling, she wrote “The Court finds that the policy prohibiting openly transgender individuals from serving in the military is likely unconstitutional.” In her April 13, 2018 decision, Pechman rejected the Justice Department’s argument that the “new” trans ban implementation policy derived from Sec. of Defense Mattis’ recommendations in late March was not a new policy at all since it violated the same constitutional protections. She said the OutServe-SLDN and Lambda Legal case could proceed to trial with Trump still a defendant. And stunningly, Pechman wrote: “The Court also rules that, because transgender people have long been subjected to systemic oppression and forced to live in silence, they are a protected class. Therefore, any attempt to exclude them from military service will be looked at with the highest level of care, and will be subject to the Court’s ‘strict scrutiny.’ This means that before Defendants can implement the Ban, they must show that it was sincerely motivated by compelling interests, rather than by prejudice or stereotype, and that it is narrowly tailored to achieve those interests.” “The entire decision, which is 31 pages, is chock full of great discussions that really indicate that this judge just gets it,” Peter E. Perkowski, legal director for OutServeSLDN, told the Blade. “She understands the issues. She’s not falling for the government’s

Vice President Mike Pence’s connection to the trans ban is something ‘the legal teams will look at in the discovery process.’ Photo by Gage Skidmore; Courtesy Wikimedia

kind of shell game…keep changing the policy to try to get out of court. But she’s not falling for that. She’s definitely interested in reaching the merits of this case.” The judge did not grant all the LGBT legal groups’ requests. She denied permanent injunction and the request for a ruling on the merits without a trial. “She said she’s not willing to do that now because she wants to hear specifically how the 2018 recommendations from Sec. Mattis and the panel of experts, as it’s been called— how much deference she needs to give to those results of that proceeding,” Perkowski says, “And whether she gives any deference at all or some or a lot – whether the ban, as it exists now, still has to meet constitutional revue, as she set forth in her decision.” Going to trial means the legal groups would have a discovery process, which could finally reveal how, exactly, the ban on transgender service members wound up as a Trump Tweet last year. Using very reliable sources, the LA Blade reported on Aug. 9, 2017 that the origin story lead from the Air Force Academy

to religious Republican conservatives in the House — led by Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Rep. Vicki Hartzler from Missouri — to evangelical lobbyist Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, along with his colleagues Ken Blackwell and Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (ret), to Vice President Mike Pence, who agreed to help. Since then, others have reported similar accounts, including Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern and Think Progress’ Zack Ford. Meanwhile, Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade, reported on April 12 that Army Secretary Mark Esper has had no problems with unit cohesion, which goes against a trans ban talking point. Would the legal teams use the trial discovery process to get to the truth of how, who and why the ban was created? Perkowski said he would not disclose trial strategy but added: “Yes, we are looking into all avenues to prove that this policy is not motivated by legitimate government objective but rather is motivated by bias— and that would include developing evidence

that people like people in the [anti-LGBT] religious community had input into how this policy was made and how it was announced. That would be very critical evidence or at least powerful evidence about what deference the court would owe to the ban, for example and whether it survives constitutional review.” Perkowski won’t comment on publicly unconfirmed stories about behind the scene machinations. “To the extent that we can develop that evidence as part of this trial, that would be very powerful evidence indicating that the government simply cannot meet its burden in justifying this policy under the constitutional standards. I think it would be useful to try to develop that evidence, as well. It would be great to find out who had their hands in the cookie jar, so to speak.” When asked if that included deposing Pence, he says, “I’m not going to confirm any discovery effort we’re going to make.” But, he adds, it’s fair to suggest that Pence’s connection to the trans ban is something the legal teams will look at in the discovery process.



EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Doug Jones talks LGBT issues Says gay son inspired him to embrace equality issues during campaign By CHRIS JOHNSON Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) reaffirmed his support for LGBT rights last week during a conversation with Senate staffers in which he acknowledged that having a gay son has influenced his views. Jones, who late last year scored a surprise win in a special election to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate, said he wanted to make candid support for LGBT rights a component of his campaign, which helped him win the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions upon his appointment as U.S. attorney general. “Being from Alabama, we really made a point of stepping out there this past year on equality issues,” Jones said. “It was easy to do for me.” Jones made the remarks before Gays, Lesbians & Allies Senate Staff, or GLASS, during an event hosted by the organization in the Russell Senate Office Building. Jones answered questions from members of the LGBT affinity group for Senate staffers during the 40-minute talk before posing with them for photos. The Blade was the exclusive media outlet invited to the event. In contrast to Jones, his opponent in the special election, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, holds draconian views on LGBT rights. After saying in 2005 he thinks homosexuality itself should be illegal, Moore as a former Alabama Supreme Court Justice, urged probate judges in Alabama to ignore court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage. As a candidate for U.S. Senate, Moore called for the impeachment of the judge who ruled against Trump’s transgender military ban. “I also knew that ultimately we were going to be running against someone in Alabama who was as far from equality as you could possibly get,” Jones said. “I wanted to make that front and center in the primary campaign and for that to be an issue in the general election. We made clear where the Doug Jones campaign was on all issues involving equality.” Over the course of his campaign, Jones was seen on video expressing support for transgender rights, declaring his opposition to the Trump administration revoking Obama-era guidance ensuring transgender

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) said he made a point of addressing ‘equality issues’ during his campaign against Roy Moore. Blade Photo by Michael Key

kids have access to school restrooms consistent with their gender identity and Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the U.S. military. The video was posted to YouTube by someone who thought those views would harm Jones’ campaign and gave it the title, “Doug Jones commits political suicide in Alabama Senate Race!” The prediction of the individual who posted the video proved incorrect. “We had the campaign trolls, or whatever it is, get me on camera, video,” Jones said. “Some people got a little bit concerned about how it’s used, and I said, ‘Why? I answered the question about transgender people in the military honestly, the way I think, and so, what the hell? We shouldn’t be worried about that.’ And so, we never pulled back, we never backed off.” Jones said his commitment to LGBT rights continues. “It speaks a lot when a voice from the Deep South can talk about equality issues, especially given the history of Birmingham, Ala., and racial discrimination that was practiced so much in the South, and still, to some extent, around the country today,” Jones said. The Alabama senator and former U.S. attorney was quick-witted throughout the GLASS event. When he was introduced as its distinguished guest, Jones replied, “Who is that?” Many of the questions posed by staffers were non-LGBT related: What has

surprised him the most as a senator? “My damned schedule.” What’s his goal for staff representation? “Finding the best people, seeking diversity and having Alabama connections.” As a former Senate staffer, what advice would he give current staffers? “Do everything possible to make your boss look absolutely the best.” Questions on LGBT issues also came up. Asked what he thinks will be the next big thing for LGBT rights, Jones said it would be instituting non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he called “very, very important.” “That will be a challenge,” Jones said. “If that will happen, it will rank right up there with the Obergefell decision. I’m a cosponsor of that. I’d like to see it happen this Congress. I doubt it will.” Jones said he co-sponsors the Equality Act, legislation introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in the U.S. Senate that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights laws. The website for the Library of Congress indicates Jones became the 46th co-sponsor for the bill on Tuesday. One way in which Jones said he seeks to advance LGBT rights is through data collection on hate crimes. Although the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act allows the Justice Department to collect data on anti-LGBT hate crimes, Jones said many state and local

governments still resist the practice out of “fear of social backlash, political backlash.” “It’s an issue that I think needs to be addressed, and hopefully it’s being addressed more, I think, as issues of equality are becoming more acceptable to the South,” Jones said. Key to the senator’s views on LGBT rights were his son, Carson Jones, a gay student at Colorado State University who has gained a following from his Instagram account. The senator joked he’s “often times more widely known as the father of Carson Jones,” whom he said is “rapidly becoming a legend in his own mind.” When the senator was asked about having an openly gay son — including his Instagram account, which prompted Jones to quip, “We’ve all seen it” — he said “it would be misleading” if he said that didn’t affect his views because “at the end of the day, a lot of this is so personal.” “Has it affected me? Absolutely,” Jones said. “Did my representation...of a probate judge in Jefferson County whom we defended when Roy Moore tried to shut him down giving marriage licenses? That affected me, too.” Jones said witnessing the first same-sex marriages in Alabama was “just phenomenal” and after seeing “the love, the happiness” wondered “what in the hell were people thinking” who opposed same-sex unions. “Everything affects you, but obviously a child affects you more than anything else,” Jones said. “I’m happy to do that, I’m happy to be there to defend him — when he can be defended, as we always say, when he can be defended.” Asked by the Blade after the event about the experience of his son coming out to him, Jones said the experience was powerful. “That’s a little bit harder to answer,” Jones said. “Only that he knew and we expressed unconditional love and wanted to make sure he knew that and that was the case at that point, and it was just pretty much that simple.” Jones was candidly pessimistic on some points. Asked whether he’s seen a shift in Alabama in favor of LGBT rights, Jones replied succinctly, “Nope.” In fact, Jones added, “There’s been some things that are just the opposite.” As evidence, Jones pointed to legislation that advanced in the state legislature, but never became law, in the aftermath of marriage equality that sought to remove Alabama from the business of marriage altogether. CONTINUES AT LOSANGELESBLADE.COM



AIDS foundations seek to end epidemic in South The Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and the Aileen Getty Foundation have announced they are joining forces to award an expanded series of grants aimed at “ending the AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.” In an April 9 statement, officials with the three foundations said they would be awarding grants for $625,000 each to 12 organizations that would seek to end, among other things, the disproportionate impact of AIDS in the South on young people and communities of color. “We’re thrilled to have the Aileen Getty Foundation join our existing partners at The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, making this one of the largest philanthropic partnerships addressing AIDS in the Southern United States,” said Elton John AIDS Foundation Chair David Furnish. “By bringing particular focus on the needs and aspirations of young people and communities of color, and by delivering support to community-rooted organizations that have been engaging the epidemic for years, this partnership has incredible potential to reduce transmissions, improve quality of life, and speed the South’s progress toward an AIDS-free generation,” Furnish said. Among the projects the grants will support, according to a statement released by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, are a “welcoming, affirming, and safe center for LGBTQ youth” in Birmingham, Ala.; “comprehensive and LGBTQ-inclusive youth wellness services” in Corpus Christie, Texas; “HIV-specific services, including pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis education” in Memphis, Tenn.; and “expanded mobilization and advocacy programs for LGBTQ youth of color” in Atlanta, Ga. “Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation is once again extremely honored and humbled to be on the forefront of a transformative HIV response in the U.S. south in concert with Elizabeth Taylor’s dear friend, Elton John, and family member, Aileen Getty,” said Joel Goldman, managing director of the Taylor Foundation. LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Pompeo grilled over anti-LGBT statements during hearing Mike Pompeo last week during his confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of state faced questions about his previous anti-LGBT statements. Pompeo reaffirmed his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples when U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked about a 2015 speech in which he cited a prayer from an antigay preacher that described homosexuality as a “perversion” and an “alternative lifestyle.” Pompeo also did not directly answer Booker’s question about whether he thinks “being gay is a perversion.” “My respect for every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, is the same,” Pompeo told Booker and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. President Trump last month nominated Pompeo — who is the current CIA director — to succeed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after he fired him. Pompeo represented Kansas’ 4th Congressional District from 2011-2017. Pompeo opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He also co-sponsored a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have allowed states to refuse to recognize the marriages of gays and lesbians. Pompeo also has longstanding ties to the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group. The Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal are among the dozens of LGBT and civil rights organizations that have come out against Pompeo’s nomination because of his previous statements against homosexuality, marriage rights for same-sex couples, Muslims and other issues. “We had a terrible fellow in Kansas named Fred Phelps,” Pompeo told Booker in response to a question about his previous statements against Muslims. “I called him out.” Pompeo told Booker that he treated married gay couples at the CIA “with the exact same set of rights.” Pompeo also said to U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen that he has “honored and valued every CIA officer, regardless” of their sexual orientation, race, religion, etc. “I treat each and everyone of our officers with respect,” Pompeo told Shaheen. “I promise I will do that as secretary of state.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS

David Buckel Photo Courtesy of Lambda Legal

Former Lambda Legal attorney dies after setting self on fire LGBT rights advocates are mourning the sudden death of the former director of Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project. The New York Times reported David Buckel, 60, set himself on fire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., early Saturday morning. Media accounts indicate Buckel, who had become an environmental activist after he left Lambda Legal in 2008, left a suicide note near the area in which his remains were found. Buckel also emailed a copy of it to the New York Times and other media outlets. “Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” wrote Buckel in his email the New York Times said it received from him. “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.” Buckel was the lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that paved the way for same-sex marriage in New Jersey. He also championed the filing of a similar lawsuit in Iowa in 2005. Lambda Legal in a press release notes Buckel helped the organization “create” its focus on LGBT youth, which included its work to secure a landmark federal court ruling that said school administrators have an obligation to stop anti-gay bullying. Buckel also represented the mother of Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Nebraska in 1993. The Nebraska Supreme Court in 2001 ruled a county sheriff did not do enough to protect Teena after he testified against the men who raped him before his death. Buckel also represented James Dale, who challenged the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of banning openly gay scouts and troop leaders. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dale, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 overturned the decision. The Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board in 2015 voted to end its organization’s ban on openly gay leaders. The organization two years earlier began to admit openly gay scouts. “David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate, and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many,” said Lambda Legal Director of Constitutional Litigation Camilla Taylor, who is also the organization’s acting legal director, in a statement. “He will be remembered for his kindness, devotion and vision for justice.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS



‘Conversion therapy’ and the culture wars The religious manipulation of science

Christopher M. Babits was recently named a 2018 LGBTQ Research Fellow at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California.

The culture wars have come roaring back to life. For many, including historian Andrew Hartman, author of “A War for the Soul of America,” the utility of the term “culture wars” had exhausted itself by the mid-2010s. One election can change everything, though, including how we examine the recent past. I read Hartman’s excellent book after the 2016 election. Things have changed in President Donald Trump’s America -- the historical and contemporary importance of the culture wars have returned to prominence. This is especially the case for the topic of my dissertation -- the history of “conversion therapy” from the 1920s to today. Indeed, if anything, the battle over these controversial (and many say, extraordinarily dangerous) therapeutic and counseling practices remains one of the most contentious in the nation. Over the past thirty years, conversion therapy’s position in the culture wars has centered on the question of what constitutes the scientific study of sexuality. In the early 1990s, two studies changed the way many Americans thought about the science of homosexuality. Simon LeVay’s research on hypothalamic structure launched a new wave of biological research on male sexuality. LeVay found that parts of the hypothalamus, the section of the

brain responsible for attachment behavior, were nearly twice as large in the heterosexual men than the homosexual men in his sample. In 1993, a team at the National Institutes of Health led by Dean Hamer discovered a stronger linkage between male homosexuality and biology. After conducting a family pedigree study on 114 families of gay men, Hamer theorized that male homosexuality might be a sex-linked trait. His study of forty pairs of homosexual brothers found a linkage on Xq28, a region on the “long arm” of the chromosome the men inherited from their mothers. Over the next few decades, these two studies, along with subsequent ones, transformed Americans’ understandings of homosexuality. In short, genetics research became a critical flashpoint for both sides in the culture wars as many gay and lesbian rights activists tried to convince the public that they were “born this way.” Conversion therapists, including neoFreudian psychoanalysts, reparative therapists, and ex-gay ministers, challenged these studies. After LeVay’s research was published, Focus on the Family claimed that “homosexual activists” were using “poor science to ‘prove’ that their sexual preference is biological destiny.” Hamer’s study, which could be seen as corroborating evidence for LeVay’s, was an especially serious threat to the psychosexual theories that supported conversion therapy. Responding to Hamer’s study two weeks after its publication, R. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, accused Hamer and his team of conducting “ideologically-driven science.” Although scientists had “replaced the black-robed clergy as the nation’s high priests,” Mohler wrote, Americans must recognize that “science is not value-neutral in all respects, and is often forced into the service of a political, commercial, or ideological agenda.” The issue with this, however, is that conversion therapists’ own ideologies, namely their religious beliefs and

conservative family values worldview, inform their therapeutic and counseling practices. Instead of recognizing this (atleast in public), some religious and social conservatives, like the founders of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which included Joseph Nicolosi, Charles Socarides, and Benjamin Kaufman, placed blame elsewhere. In 1991, Joseph Nicolosi wrote how the “combined effects of the sexual revolution and ‘rights’ movements -- civil rights, minority rights, feminist rights -- have resulted in an intimidating effect on psychology,” a climate that, in his estimation, halted psychiatric studies on homosexuality. Kaufman agreed. He believed that a politically charged environment stifled the scientific study of same-sex desires. Kaufman once wrote that a form of circular logic had taken root in professional medical organizations, like the American Psychiatric Association, that issued warnings about the dangers of reparative and conversion therapy. He thought that these statements indicated political cooperation with gay rights groups, which activists then used as proof that the intersecting worlds of medicine and science were on their side. Although more than twenty-five years old at this point, the battle is still being waged -- in legislatures and courts and on social media. California has taken the lead in efforts to ban conversion therapy, recently debating a bill that calls these practices consumer fraud. Conversion therapists, for their part, have evolved in their efforts to win the culture wars. They are currently arguing that these bans violate the “religious liberty” of both themselves and their patients and that “talk therapy” is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. The clash between LGBTQ+ rights groups and religious conservatives remains alive and well. If the history of conversion therapy in the culture wars offers any lessons, though, it’s this: the struggle will continue, as there’s no clear end in sight.

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Getting strict about anti-transgender discrimination What ‘strict scrutiny’ means in the latest ruling

Jon W. Davidson has been a leading LGBT legal rights advocate and constitutional scholar for more than 30 years. He recently stepped down as the national legal director of Lambda Legal.

Excuse me while I get a little “nerdy,” but the lawyer in me is ecstatic about a ruling issued April 13 by Federal District Court Judge Marsha Pechman in Karnoski v. Trump, one of the pending challenges to President Trump’s shameful efforts to ban transgender Americans from joining or serving openly in the military. Judge Pechman rejected the federal government’s efforts to have the case dismissed and held it should proceed to trial. She also kept in place the injunction she previously issued ordering that, pending trial, transgender individuals be allowed to join, serve openly in, and receive needed medical care while serving in the military. This is great news, and I’m particularly happy because I previously worked on this case with a wonderful team of lawyers at

Lambda Legal, OutServe-SLDN, Kirkland & Ellis and Newman DuWors on behalf of an amazing group of brave clients. But that’s not what got my nerd juices flowing. Instead, I could barely contain myself when I read that the judge also ruled that government discrimination against transgender individuals must meet “strict scrutiny”! What? Let me explain. The U.S. Constitution guarantees all people “equal protection of the laws.” That means that when the government treats one group of people differently from others, it must at least have a legitimate reason for doing so. Ordinarily, the government is presumed to have one, and the burden is on those challenging government action to prove that no valid justification for the differential treatment can even be hypothesized. That’s hard to do. While courts normally assume that problematic government action will be corrected by the political branches, there are times when the judiciary rightly is concerned that such an assumption is unwarranted. When there’s reason to suspect that bias rather than reasonable policy concerns may have motivated the action and that the normal political process may not readily fix it, courts correctly have concluded that they have the duty to look more closely and apply what’s called “heightened scrutiny” of what other parts of the government have done. The considerations the Supreme Court has said are important to determining whether heightened scrutiny should apply

are well described in Judge Pechman’s recent decision. First, if there is a history of discrimination against the group, the government’s action may involve reflexive reliance on past inequality rather than having been dispassionately thought through. Second, if the unequal treatment is based on a trait that is not related to ability to perform or contribute in society, it again is more likely to be grounded in prejudice rather than any fair reason. Third, if the people treated unequally share obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics, not only does it make it easier for them to be targeted unfairly, but the political process may not operate well to address that unfairness, because those people may be seen as a “them” that need not be the subject of much concern, rather than one of “us.” Finally, if the group suffering the discrimination is a minority or relatively political powerless, reliance on the majority to correct the problem can hardly be adequate. The most exacting form of judicial review of government action is “strict scrutiny.” To date, this extremely close examination has only been applied to discrimination based on race, national origin, and alienage. Other forms of discrimination that have been held entitled to heightened—but not necessarily strict—federal judicial scrutiny, include discrimination based on sex, illegitimacy, and, according to a few courts, sexual orientation. Several previous cases have held that discrimination based on gender identity

should receive heightened scrutiny, but I believe Judge Pechman’s decision is the nation’s very first to say that scrutiny must be “strict.” Her opinion forcefully demonstrates why judicial examination of anti-transgender discrimination deserves this most acute level of searching review: “The history of discrimination and systemic oppression of transgender people is long and well recognized” and that discrimination “clearly is unrelated to their ability to perform and contribute to society.” In addition, the Ninth Circuit previously recognized that gender identity, which clearly is a distinguishing characteristic, is immutable. Furthermore, “transgender people as a group lack the relative political power to protect themselves from wrongful discrimination.” For challenged government action to survive strict scrutiny, the government bears the burden of establishing, with facts, that its discriminatory acts are necessary to meet a compelling government interest and that the lines drawn to further that interest are so narrowly tailored that there is limited or no possibility the government’s motive involved illegitimate prejudice or stereotype. That is so hard a test to satisfy that there’s a common lawyer quip that “strict scrutiny is strict in theory, but fatal in practice.” Permanent reversal of the transgender military ban, and other anti-trans policies, accordingly seems more likely than ever. And that’s something not just law nerds can celebrate.

Cannabis stores are booming in LA. Here are our faves Getting stoned was never so easy By REBEKAH SAGER

Whether you’re a seasoned dispensary customer, or a recreational newbie, since weed became legal in California, finding the right store can be tricky. Just as any brick-and-mortar store, there are some that are more appealing and efficient than others. The success or failure of one store or another can depend on a few variables – location, variety of merchandise, and of course, the quality and care of its employees. When it comes down to it, cannabis is still medicine for a lot of people. And dispensary workers or bud-tenders should be knowledgeable enough to help you navigate varietals and assist you in finding the right items at the correct potency — whether you smoke, vape or enjoy edibles or oils. In alphabetical order, here’s our list of some of Los Angeles’ best dispensaries, keeping in mind quality, offerings and the conscientiousness of employees.

he got into the cannabis business because he believes it can “change people’s lives.” The dispensary is said to cater to patient referrals from physicians working at CedarsSinai Medical. Without the usual high-tech security, Exhale has a more inviting feel. “It’s about building trust and relationships,” he said.

Buddha Collective 440 1/2 N La Cienega West Hollywood, CA 90048 310-657-4202 http://www.buddhabarcollective.com

Hollywood High Grade 051 B Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90038 323-536-9133 http://hollywoodhighgrade.com

Membership has its privileges at Buddha Collective. This shop offers its members who are able to grow cannabis, a channel to share their bounty with other members. Members with a desire to learn the grow business can access the expertise of Buddha Collective.

Featuring a rotating display of work by L.A. artists, Hollywood High Grade looks industrial from the street, but takes on another look once inside. Offering a range from high-end strains such as Cypress Hill OG and High Grade OG Kush to middle of the road brands such as, OG Kush and Chem Dawg.

Exhale Med Center Serving Los Angeles and the Surrounding Area 424-279-9497 http://www.exhalemedcenter.com

Exhale Med Center is owned by Dmtry Muzychuk, a USC law student when he first launched the shop. He told LA Weekly that






Downtown Patient Group 1320 Mateo St. Los Angeles, CA 90021 213-747-3386 http://dtpgla.com

One of the largest pharmacies in LA, DTPG has a plethora of merchandise — there’s even a foosball table. DTPG is known for outstanding flowers, such as Masters Mistress, King Louie and DT’s Finest. “We have specific products aimed at serious ailments. We’re really into CBD (cannabidiol) and Rick Simpson oil. It has guided patients out of cancer,” a manager told LA Weekly.

King Kush Collective 5919 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90003 323-208-9397 http://www.kingkushcollective.com

Crowned the #1 shop in SoCal two times in 2015 and four times in 2016, according to

A M E R I C A’ S




“The List” of best collectives in SoCal. With a menu of over 70 strains of flower (medical cannabis) the store carries a variety of types of concentrates — Crumble, Shatter (Nug-Run & Trim), Moon Rooks and more. Offering a huge selection of edibles by Kushy Punch, Cheeba Chews, Kiva, Sexy Ed’s, Korova, Bhang Chocolate, Veravo, Ganjalato Ice Cream, they specialize in finding hard-tocome-by strains and cannabis. This store keeps Dracula hours, staying open until 1 a.m. during the week and 1:30 a.m. on the weekends. Freebies: First-time patients get a surprise gift bag and the store will text you regarding deals. Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group 7213 Santa Monica Blvd West Hollywood, CA 90046 323-882-6033 https://www.lamedicalmarijuana.com

This 14-year-old, activist-founded, nonprofit collective, has spent years nurturing relationships with SoCal’s best cultivators and building its own genetic stock. According to Green State, “LAPCG’s line of flowers, the house collection features great representations of classic old-school strains.” Green State highlights: OG Kush, NorCal Purps and Classic Trainwreck as, “arguably the best commercial version of the strain and is definitely not for those with anxiety or a low tolerance.” Managing director of LAPCG, Michelle (no last name), told Marley Natural, “We definitely try to be a liaison for the medical side and we pride ourselves on being a friendly and knowledgeable dispensary. That may not necessarily be the vibe at every other dispensary that you visit, but we definitely come from a place of being a member of the community and uplifting and supporting the community by promoting wellness and





MedMen’s Santa Monica Boulevard store in West Hollywood is one of the glitziest of the dispensaries. Photo Courtesy MedMen

wellbeing around us. We try to live it and kind of give it to everyone in hopes that that will perpetuate outward.” MedMen Serving West Hollywood and the Surrounding Area 323-848-7981 https://medmen.com

Since its opening, MedMen has experienced lines down the block and its fans are true believers in the almost Apple Store experience of boutique weed products of every kind. President and Co-founder Andrew Modlin and MedMen co-founder and CEO, Adam Bierman are now ramping up to take their slick store national. Modlin studied Fine Art at UCLA and says he fell into the cannabis business by accident, but the unique design aesthetic of the stores has put it on the map. MedMen’s goal has been to re-envision the dispensary experience for patients, combining a clean, bright and innovative storefront that welcomes existing and new clients. “A career as a cannabis entrepreneur was definitely not something in my plans,” Modlin told the Los Angeles Blade.






“I met Bierman at my first job and we hit it off immediately. We decided to combine our skill set and run our own marketing company in Los Angeles. We had a meeting with a local medical marijuana dispensary operator who wanted to hire us and that was our introduction to this industry. We immediately saw the business potential and jumped into the cannabis industry headfirst,” Modlin says. And MedMen has grown at lightning speed. In a little over two years, MedMen went from 15 to more than 700 employees. Modlin says he’s an old-school head, and prefers to smoke flower. “I also love working out and Habit’s CBD-infused water is great for sore muscles,” he adds. Modlin and his business partner Adam Bierman were featured in the April 20, 2015 issue of Time magazine. The article written by Eliza Gray, titled “Dope Dreams,” covered the MedMen’s journey from yogurt to marijuana and the success they’ve had.


MMD Serving Hollywood and the Surrounding Area 877-420-5874 http://hollywoodmmd.com


A M E R I C A’ S



MMD Cannabis Dispensary is the first Hollywood location to get its license from the city of Los Angeles and the state of California for adult use sales of marijuana. “It’s significant for us because we’ll be able to serve the tourist community and continue to serve our patients that we have done in the past,” Steve Ashbel, director of MMD told ABC 7 News in February of this year. The dispensary has been selling medical marijuana for more than a decade, and representatives say they’re excited to expand their clientele in a responsible way. First time patients receive a rewards card with free gifts, a 5G 1/8th, and free half gram of hash. Zen Healing 8464 Santa Monica Blvd West Hollywood, CA 90069 323-656-6666 http://zenweho.com

Noted as the home of the original medical marijuana machines, (a vending machine for selling or dispensing cannabis), Zen Healing has been open for over 15 years, and some say it has one of the highest-grade selections of any store in Los Angeles. Its edibles and medicinal choices are outstanding.






queery JONATHAN WEEDMAN How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? 22, my father, who was completely unfazed.

By TROY MASTERS tmasters@losangelesblade.com

Photo Courtesy Weedman

I’d heard his name, of course, and we’d even met for brief introductions. But when Jonathan Weedman took to the stage at a recent Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles concert at Alex Theater in Glendale, I was captivated. His words were like a big hug, fitting the emotional context provided by a just completed passionate choral performance, replete with members’ stories about the AIDS crisis, their joys and struggles, soaring solo performances and a lively display of gaydom. All I really knew of Jonathan was that many people were surprised when he became GMCLA’s executive director. Few knew him as a classically trained pianist, for starters, or that he longed to have music center his life. Jonathan has been a powerful force in West Hollywood and Los Angeles’ LGBT community for longer than he would want us to tell you. Suffice it to say, he’s been around. But he wears it well, especially when escorting glamorous stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era such as his friend Anne Jeffreys. Jonathan—who has never been in the closet in his professional life—is an award-winning business leader and philanthropist who has worked with a vast array of Southern California community non-profits from arts groups to enrichment programs. For nearly two decades, he managed and directed annual charitable contributions— exceeding $25 million—as the Senior VP at Wells Fargo Foundation. And while the scope of his work has been wide, Jonathan’s devotion to LGBTQ life in Los Angeles has been game changing for many organizations. He is revered by many leaders. John Duran, West Hollywood’s new-again mayor said, “Jonathan and I are both native Angelenos born 30 days apart. This means we have both been 45 years old for more than a decade. Jonathan has a great story humbly rising from being a bank teller at the bank to the center of power in Los Angeles government and cultural institutions. He has ably directed hundreds of thousands of dollars into LGBT organizations across the state of California. Before he joined the Gay Men’s Chorus of LA, he was like a gay Santa Claus bringing gifts and resources to community organizations large and small.” On his final point, everyone is in agreement. Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, now the world’s largest such facility, says there is a direct line between Jonathan and the community’s strength. “For decades,” she told the Los Angeles Blade, “Jonathan has been a central figure in the Los Angeles charitable world, including the LGBT community. Thanks in significant part to his professional leadership, Wells Fargo became the #1 corporate giver to worthy charities in Southern California and indisputably the top corporate donor to LGBT charities. His courageous personal leadership as an openly gay man (and in later years appearing at major public events with his loving husband, Raymundo), from a time when few corporate executives were out, has inspired countless others. Then he retired from the bank and decided to dedicate himself to working full time in our movement. For all that he has done for our community and charities in LA, Jonathan has my respect and admiration and affection.” Abbe Land, former West Hollywood City Council member and mayor says, “Jonathan is so effective because he is an eternal optimist. He always sees the glass half full, actually more than half full. He loves music and believes that the arts can bring people together, can transcend differences and inspire people to be the best that they can be. With the belief system like that, It is no surprise that he is as effective as he is.” Weedman has also served as a Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs; Founding Chairman of the Board of LA County Grand Park Foundation; Vice Chairman of the Board of Project Angel Food; and Adviser for the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, as well as currently serves on the Boards of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Colburn School and Inner City Youth Orchestra. This past year, he acted as Co-Chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic 2016 Hollywood Bowl Opening to raise funds for music education, and Co-Chair of the Huntington Library 2016 “Evening Among the Roses” fundraising event. Meet Jonathan.

you do? OMG stay Gay! I can’t imagine being any other way.

Who’s your LGBT hero? In awe of our LGBT elders.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? The departed are always with us. Always.

What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present? Scandia Restaurant on Sunset. Gone, and I miss it.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders? The fight for equality will continue. Don’t ever get comfortable.

Describe your dream wedding. Historic California Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento where my parents were married.

What would you walk across hot coals for? My husband Raymundo Baltazar.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about? Arts education. What historical outcome would you change? The Holocaust. What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime? Shaking hands with Frank Sinatra, and hearing him perform his final concert. On what do you insist? No kids near me in a restaurant. Torture. What was your last Facebook post or Tweet? The orange tree in our backyard.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most? The ones who are ALWAYS upset about everything, but do nothing to create change. And I’m bored with all the beards… doesn’t anyone own a razor anymore? What’s your favorite LGBT movie? “Sunset Boulevard,” of course. What’s the most overrated social custom? I love social customs. It’s what civilizes us. What trophy or prize do you most covet? My Steinway piano. A dream come true for me.

If your life were a book, what would the title be? “Giving Back Is Everything.”

What do you wish you’d known at 18? The real estate market in Los Angeles would skyrocket.

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would

Why Los Angeles? Because everywhere else just isn’t.

Sunny With a Chance of Puppies. Follow @WeHoCity for alerts on local freebies from pet care to bike share.

City of West Hollywood

Two New Dog Parks Now Open at West Hollywood Park!

California 1984



‘Disobedience’ pits orthodox faith against unorthodox love Tradition meets evolving progressive values By JOHN PAUL KING

‘Disobedience,’ directed by Sebastián Lelio; starring Rachel Weisz, and Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola opens April 27 in select Los Angeles theaters. Photo courtesy Braven Films

The recent Oscar win of “A Fantastic Woman” as last year’s Best Foreign Language Picture may have been at least partly in response to the impressive performance of its trans star, Daniela Vega; but since any film is ultimately only as excellent as the vision behind it, the bulk of the credit must be laid at the feet of Chilean director Sebastián Lelio. Fresh on the heels of that groundbreaking triumph, Lelio returns with a new film – this one in English – that once again addresses the suppression of non-conforming identities. “Disobedience” follows Ronit (Rachel Weisz), a successful photographer who comes home to the Orthodox Jewish community in which she was raised for the funeral of her estranged father. Though her return is met with some initial tension, she is invited to stay with her cousin Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) – a rabbi now married to her childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams), with whom she had once shared a “forbidden” relationship. When the attraction between the two women reignites, Esti finds herself questioning her commitment to the role of obedient wife – as well as to the faith that has forced it upon her. Adapted from a novel by Naomi Alderman, the screenplay by Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz takes pains to keep the roots of the story firmly planted in the insular world it depicts. Lelio reinforces these efforts with his sure-handed direction, capturing the characters’ environment with an almost sensory completeness while keeping their inner experiences at the forefront of our attention. From its opening scene, in which Ronit’s rabbi father collapses while addressing his congregation on the subject of “choice,” the movie wraps itself (and the audience) in the deeply solemn, contemplative atmosphere of the church. Its characters’ conversations never veer far from the traditions and tenets of their faith; even when discussing the mundane matters of day-to-day life, it’s clear their thoughts are still tethered tightly to the beliefs that inform every aspect of their existence. Despite the specificity of its setting, and although the nature of its central relationship is particularly resonant for LGBT audiences, the conflict that drives “Disobedience” is universal. Its leading characters serve as stand-ins for anyone whose inner life is at odds with the expectations of their cultural backgrounds, and their ways of dealing with that disparity reflect choices made by real-life individuals trapped in such a dilemma. Ronit has severed ties with her past and built a secular life for herself, while Esti has sacrificed her personal happiness to maintain the connection to her faith – yet each is haunted by guilt and by longing, unable to completely let go of what they have lost or to fully embrace the life they have chosen. In bringing these women to life, Weisz and McAdams are each superb (though it’s McAdams who gets the greater opportunity to shine, thanks to her character’s more visible journey); they share a rare and palpable chemistry that makes their onscreen love for each other burn brightly and believably. Though these two rightfully dominate the film, however, it’s male co-star Nivola who may have the more difficult task. As the third point of the film’s precarious romantic triangle, Dovid brings an even wider scope to the story; a pillar of the community’s religious life, he must confront the inadequacy of his own knowledge in a situation that is irreconcilable with the

customs of which he is a guardian. A lesser film might have presented him as a mere antagonist, an avatar for patriarchal heteronormative society. Here, though he may indeed serve those functions, Nivola brings enough depth and gentleness to the character that he is not only prevented from being unsympathetic, but even made genuinely likable. Ironically, it’s this fair-minded treatment that somewhat weakens an otherwise powerful film. “Disobedience” walks a delicate line in terms of representation. It places its spotlight on LGBT characters – and because they are female, it also addresses feminist factors such as equality and empowerment. At the same time, it explores these issues within a subculture that has itself long been the victim of marginalization, taking care to avoid disparaging the traditions or demonizing the representatives of the Orthodox Jewish community. It’s an admirable stance, but it results in an awkward structural imbalance that the film does not altogether resolve. The first two-thirds of the movie, which centers on the build of tension as the passion between the two women slowly reawakens, is riveting cinema. Full of potent verbal and visual subtext, it proceeds at a pace just restrained enough to stoke anticipation without seeming slow or labored, culminating in a physical reconnection that feels as well-earned as it does inevitable. After this explosive coming-together, however, “Disobedience” seems to drag as it dwells on the fallout and repercussions of the newly-rekindled affair. The focus shifts to Dovid, giving him equal time in his double role as betrayed husband and community leader; though this adds a crucial facet to the film’s perspective, it feels like an extra chapter in a story that has already been told – providing necessary information, but diluting the effect of what has come before it. More unfortunate, perhaps, is that this later portion of the movie carries with it a sense that “permission” is somehow necessary for the women to fully express their identities and fulfill their needs. Within the context of the plot, of course, and in terms of the characters’ emotional arcs – particularly Esti’s – this is an important step towards resolution; the piece is titled “Disobedience,” after all. It also conveys empathy and respect for those trying to reconcile their religious beliefs with evolving attitudes and changing times. For those viewing the story from the perspective of LGBT or feminist concerns, though, it could be easily interpreted as a validation of sorts for an attitude which continues to be used as justification for the oppression of non-conforming individuals in a society still dominated by straight male privilege. Despite this potentially divisive challenge to some audiences’ “woke” sensibilities, Lelio’s film is still a powerful statement. Not only does it offer an all-too-rare narrative about same-sex love between women (particularly welcome in the wake of so many successful male-centric queer stories like “Moonlight,” “Call Me By Your Name,” and “Love, Simon”), it presents a message of reconciliation between the values of deeply entrenched tradition and the attitudes of evolving, progressive culture. Though some might feel it pulls its punches, “Disobedience” nevertheless makes a strong enough impact to call it a worthy and important new entry to the ever-expanding catalog of cinema dedicated to expressing the voice of “otherness” in our popular culture.


‘Significant Other’ examines millennial love An entertaining and emotionally satisfying production By JOHN PAUL KING

‘Significant Other,’ written by Joshua Harmon and Directed by Stephen Brackett is playing at the Geffen Playhouse, Gil Cates Theatre through May 6. Photo courtesy Geffen Playhouse


Considering its title is “Significant Other,” one walks into the theater expecting a play about romance – and you wouldn’t be wrong. As this bittersweet comedy introduces its quartet of main characters, however, it becomes clear that playwright Joshua Harmon is more interested in a different connotation of its titular phrase, which could easily be used as a description of friendships forged during those heady years between youth and adulthood, the kind you share with people who feel like extensions of yourself. It’s the kind of connection shared by Kiki, Vanessa, Laura, and Jordan – four former college chums who have made the transition into adult life as young professionals in New York City. The play begins with them gathered to celebrate Kiki’s upcoming marriage, the first to occur within their tight circle. Jordan – gay, approaching 30, perennially single, and with no romantic prospects on the horizon – is hard hit by this development. Despite an ebullient exterior, he has a tendency toward insecurity and obsession, and he worries that his friends will find love and leave him behind. Inevitably, of course, the other girls are soon heading toward the altar themselves, and Jordan, believing that his fears are coming true, spirals into an existential crisis. Watching these friends navigate the rough waters of love and friendship, most audience members will doubtless recognize their own young adult selves. All the camaraderie and high spirits of youth are on display here, alongside the same hopes and fears that plague anyone who spends more than a few seconds considering their future lives. As the focus narrows towards Jordan and his panic, it’s also easy to see reflections of the inner darkness that threatens to overwhelm most of us as we confront those hopes and fears – the negative self-talk, the self-pity and resentment, the catastrophizing, and the compulsive choices fueled by desperation. These latter aspects of Jordan’s journey are both hilarious and uncomfortable to watch. An upper-middle-class Manhattanite with Jewish heritage and an array of neuroses behind every self-deprecating one-liner, he is like a Woody Allen character transplanted into an era in which cell phones, emails and social media have turned the always-complicated process of finding love into a confusing maze of unclear boundaries and dead-end pathways. “Significant Other” is not the first play to explore this treacherous ground through the eyes of the millennials who must navigate it; but by giving us this richly drawn character as a guide, Harmon goes a long way toward making it one of the most insightful – and funniest – so far. Another reason it works is its balanced perspective. Though its young characters are understandably caught up in the world as they know it, they are also tethered to the traditions of the past. The difficulty of staying within those old lines in an era that has completely redrawn them is a source of understandable stress – a fact which the play addresses through a series of scenes between Jordan and his widowed grandmother, which not only offer a comparison between the old generation and the new, but ultimately serve to provide the comfort that can be found in the wisdom of experience. The angle that places the play most definitively in the rough transition between past and future, though, is the sexuality of its central character. Jordan essentially represents the nowcommon cultural trope known as the “GBF” (Gay Best Friend, for those unfamiliar with millennial text-speak), a status which would normally relegate him to a supporting role; here, though, Harmon turns things inside out, and tells the story through his eyes. Ostensibly, putting an out gay man front and center might

seem to proclaim the arrival of an era some are calling “Post-Gay.” Such an assumption, though, like that classification of our times, would be premature. Throughout the play we see subtle hints that highlight how Jordan’s queerness affects every aspect of his social experience. His girlfriends are certainly not homophobic, yet they struggle with finding a role for him within the rigidly gender-defined customs of their weddings. Even worse, he is crippled by his own internalized homophobia, instilled by a culture that favors heteronormative couplings, and has tremendous difficulty making romantic connections of his own. If being gay isn’t supposed to matter anymore, why does it still matter so much? With his performance as Jordan, Will Van Vogt illuminates these observations brilliantly; at the same time, his deft comic skill and gay-nebbish charms keep them from turning what is meant to be a light-hearted romp into yet another tragic portrait of gay despair. Even more impressive is the way he carries the show; required to make rapid shifts of mood at an almost manic rate, he succeeds at every turn. As Laura, his platonic soul mate, Melanie Field matches his energy – and his sincerity – to provide the heart connection that gives the play its emotional core. Keilly McQuail and Vella Lovell (as Kiki and Vanessa, respectively) are more directly comedic; they both score high on the laugh meter, while still providing the authenticity needed to make the central foursome a believable gang of friends. John Garet Stoker and Preston Martin may have the most difficult acting duties of the production; tackling an assortment of roles, both exhibit tremendous versatility and each garners some show-stopping laughs – with some help from the deliciously satirical costume and hair designs by Bobby Frederick Tilley. Concetta Tomei, as Grandma Helene, brings a welcome dose of grounding maturity with a performance that is tender yet refreshingly unsentimental. The whole package is tied up beautifully by director Stephen Brackett, who avoids indulgences that might skew the balance between comedy and drama. The characters’ foibles are lampooned without a sense of cruelty, and the tender moments pull at our heartstrings without seeming precious; the result is both entertaining and emotionally satisfying. “Significant Other” is not the kind of epic theater normally associated with seismic shifts in society. It’s smaller than that, with echoes of influence from decades of movie rom-coms. It’s also less likely to strike deep chords for older audiences, who might tend to see its characters and situations as humorous commentary on today’s youthful “snowflakes” while observing their trials with the bemusement that comes with the distance of age – but then, it wasn’t really written for them. For younger viewers, especially those within the social bracket directly depicted in Harmon’s setting, there is much here with which they can connect. This is a play about looking at an uncertain future through the eyes of those who are going to live in it. It’s for a generation whose lives are beginning in the here and now, and it speaks directly to them. I hope they will come to see it. They won’t be disappointed. “Significant Other” stars Melanie Field, Vella Lovell, Preston Martin, Keilly McQuail, John Garet Stoker, Concetta Tomei, and Will Von Vogt. Now playing at Geffen Playhouse, Gil Cates Theatre,10886 Le Conte Ave, Los Angeles, through May 6. Tickets available at www.geffenplayhouse.com



72 Hours in Arizona Recommendations for a luxe journey through the Arizona desert By SUSAN HORNIK

Sometimes it’s fun to get the f** out of Los Angeles for a long weekend, and go for a road trip. if you happen to find out Pride is taking place in another city, all the better. Los Angeles Blade’s Susan Hornik got into a sleek Valerian Volkswagen and drove six hours to Phoenix, Scottsdale and Sedona, to experience Arizona’s beauty and fun these cities provide. It’s one of the great American drives and if you haven’t done it, it’s time. You’ll pass through some of the most iconic desertscape in America with the most tremendous views in the world. The colors you will see are just jaw dropping and will put an end to your sense of isolation, even if you go alone through one of the most remote places around. There’s something about endless opens skies, the kaleidoscope of color, even rainbows on the day that I traveled, that reboot your brain. And, if you are like me, you have dogs in tow, your hand waving in the wind as you speed along, singing to the car stereo. It’s all about the journey, but “spoil yourself” is my advice. Here’s how I did.


Turning a corner in my drive to Sedona and there it is, that moment during a road trip when you know your brain is clear. Los Angeles Blade Photo by Susan Hornik

Waking up at 10:00 AM in the Found Re Phoenix hotel with my pups, you almost didn’t feel like you were in a hotel; the custom furnishings and spacious room felt more like an apartment. A very cozy experience, and the dogs loved hanging out on the terrace. In the lobby, you realize it’s not an apartment, it’s a museum! Taking a stroll through this adorable boutique hotel, you can’t help but marvel at the exquisite art on the walls, created by local Phoenix artists. Match, a delicious restaurant in the lobby, has delicious food; magically, it morphs into a bar at night. Packed during Pride weekend—which takes place only a few miles away—it’s a great place to people watch.! Loved the terrific Pride drink the bar made for guests. The hotel has a year-round outdoor pool and exceptional staff. I never wanted to leave... 1100 N Central Ave., Phoenix AZ 85254 1:00 PM Lunch at PNPK

PNPK, a full-service restaurant and wine bar featuring craft sliders and shareable flights of elevated comfort food as well as local and regional beers and cocktails, recently opened. The 2,600-square-foot venue – which boasts a dog-friendly patio – will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will offer happy hour from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. 23335 N. Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 7:00 PM Meet a Celebrity Chef

Mowry & Cotton at the achingly beautiful Phoenician Hotel is a lovely new laid-back hangout, featuring an incredible menu of bold, flame-cured, modern American dishes by celebrity chef, Tandy Peterson. (You might have seen her on a recent episode of Food Network’s “Chopped.”) If you are a

foodie, this place is a must visit. Chef Tandy oversees all aspects of the restaurant’s offerings, injecting her own signature style and knowledge of international flame-cured cooking techniques into the eatery’s revolving lineup of regionally inspired American fare. A gorgeous, spirited bar and spacious porch add to the contemporary aesthetic, accented with sleek, rustic touches. You must order the fresh bread and potatoes—other worldly! Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner; weekend brunch served on Saturday. The Phoenician is completing their elaborate hotel renovations this year, so check their luxurious changes out when you get into town. 6000 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251


11:30 AM Soros Wine Room

You’re on vacation, so you might as well try out Soros Wine Room’s fantastic assortment of wines and tasty gourmet food. Loved the burrata... Cosmopolitan vibe. The staff is very knowledgeable— check out their stunning wine wall and try their wine dispenser! 15323 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 6:00 PM: Vintage Hotel’s Incredible Food

ZuZu is a beautiful restaurant at the Hotel Valley Ho. It has a Palm Springs, classic Hollywood feel... and yet it personifies what is lovely about Arizona. One feels the rich sense of history, warm hospitality and all its gentle reminders that we should never take ourselves too seriously. Executive Chef Russell LaCasce serves up seasonal American fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring organic ingredients from local purveyors. Dine inside or on the shaded courtyard patio, with a wall of floor-toceiling glass that opens to let the outside in. The lounge is open until midnight or later daily, the perfect spot for a very happy happy hour, shared plates, craft cocktails and classic martinis.realky lovely waitstaff too. 6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 85251

SUNDAY 11:30 Boozy Brunch

Hearth ‘61 is located in the stunning Mountain Shadows Hotel. Incredible food and lovely waitstaff. I enjoyed seasonal fare from Chef Charles Wiley, and there were lots of craft cocktails, local brews and an extensive wine selection in the open restaurant with a lovely exhibition kitchen. The bar features morning coffee and evening cocktails, while the sunken space in The Living Room is ideal for casual gatherings. The restaurant also features a spacious patio with stunning views of the pool and Camelback Mountain. Check out the spa, Sanctuary, which is nearby. 5445 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley, 85253 Continues at losangelesblade.com

Pride Recovery LA is an LGBTQ focused program that is located in West Hollywood, CA. We offer quality care for our clients, ages 18 – 60, to help them lead healthy lifestyles and commit to lifelong positive change. Each facility is staffed with highly trained clinicians and educators who utilize a full array of treatment methodologies to help adults carve out a meaningful place in the community.

Our clients have the opportunity to live in a sober home while attending treatment and maintaining their sobriety. Each residence provides bedroom amenities, fully stocked kitchens, food for all meals, utilities, washer and dryers, and access to Wi-Fi, smart TVs, and computers. Sober homes also provide transportation to 12-step meetings, planned outdoor activities, beach days, and volunteer opportunities. For More Info Please Contact:

Pride Recovery LA IOP & OP

8300 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90069 admissions@priderecoveryla.com




Power players BMW X3, Dodge Durango are brash crossovers with panache By JOE PHILLIPS

As in American politics, there’s a lot of yin and yang on dealership car lots these days. On one hand, many buyers insist on high-tech, fuel-sipping green vehicles, some of which were profiled last month. Yet other drivers have an unquenchable thirst for high-test power and panache. Here are two of the best of today’s revved-up rides. BMW X3 M40I $55,000 MPG: 20 CITY/27 HIGHWAY ZERO-60 MPH: 4.6 SECONDS

Introduced in 2004, the BMW X3 has held a sweet spot for enthusiasts who didn’t want to sacrifice excitement for the practicality of a crossover. Fully redesigned for 2018, this third-generation Bimmer is bigger and roomier, with noticeably more rear-seat legroom. Gone are the hard interior plastics, replaced by a sophisticated cabin with premium materials found in the top-of-the-line 7 Series. The base-model X3 is fully capable and a diesel model will arrive soon to satisfy the eco-chic crowd. But it’s the M40i version — the first X3 with sporty M Performance power and trim — that is oh-so spectacular. Switch on the ignition, and the 355-hp, six-cylinder turbo roars to life. With such a throaty exhaust growl, there’s no need for a jolt of Starbucks to wake you up in the morning. Ditto the thrill when stomping on the accelerator and rocketing from zero-60 seconds in just 4.6 seconds. Yet the smooth, sure handling is calming and provides some of the best cornering ever in a crossover. Of course, such fun comes at a price: the M40i costs about $10,000 more than a base-model X3. Toss in some must-have goodies such as the blind-spot monitor, heated steering wheel, backup camera, automatic parking, and the sticker jumps to $66,000. Still, this is one BMW that lives up to the “ultimate driving machine” tagline. DODGE DURANGO SRT $63,000 MPG: 13 CITY/19 HIGHWAY ZERO-60 MPH: 4.6 SECONDS

If American muscle is more your style, then Dodge has really beefed up its Durango crossover with a new high-performance SRT model this year. The potent Hemi V8 churns out a whopping 475 horsepower to help this 5,502-pound beast scoot just as fast as the BMW X3 M40i, which is 30 percent lighter. Despite the differences in weight, the Durango handles just as well as the BMW and actually performs better when braking from 60 mph to zero. And while the BMW has a very impressive exhaust rumble, the Durango SRT raises the decibel level so you actually feel the earth move under your feet. In other words, subtle is not a word to describe this badass Durango. Same for styling, with the wide front fascia, large air-intake vent on the hood and a lower, slightly menacing profile. As if that weren’t enough, optional in-your-face racing stripes run the length of the vehicle. Inside are front-row sport seats, second-row captain’s chairs and a third row to seat two more passengers. An 8.4-inch touchscreen isn’t as large as what some competitors offer, but it’s very user-friendly. And the 506-watt, BeatsAudio sound system comes with nine speakers and a thumpin’ subwoofer. The driver can choose from seven customized settings such as performance, snow and eco, and the 8,700-pound towing capacity is the best in its class. The biggest downside: fuel economy, which is way near the bottom for similar rides. Suddenly, the decision between this Durango and more fuelefficient crossovers becomes harder. Yet only the Durango SRT comes with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a free, day-long class at the SRT High Performance Driving School founded by renowned race-car driver Bob Bondurant.



Liza puts all that jazz on display at Paley Center A legend’s treasures can be yours By SUSAN HORNIK

The best thing to hit Beverly Hills in years, Liza’s entire iconic image is on full display as a preview to June’s Calabasas based Profiles in History Auction of items of her personal and professional life. Photo Courtesy Paley Center for Media

I wish we could use Google to recall childhood memories. Like right now, when I would like to look up what my mother and I used to talk about the much loved gay icon, actress/singer, Judy Garland and her beautiful daughter, Liza Minnelli. From the moment I saw Judy’s innocent face in “The Wizard of Oz,” I was fascinated by the film. My mother was an expert storyteller, but even she couldn’t make me understand how this beautiful, exuberant child could grow up into a substance abusing adult, who died tragically at the age of 47. It was no wonder why we were equally fascinated by Judy’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. Seeing Liza’s Academy Award-winning performance, “Cabaret” was electrifying. With her sexy pixie cut and stellar voice, Liza lit up every scene she was in. Fast forward to 2018: so few things these days remind me of my mother, which is why I was thrilled to hear about “Love Liza: The Exhibit” at the Paley Center For Media in Beverly Hills. The wondrous exhibit is quite simply, a love letter to any fan. In a statement offered to press, Liza said: “Throughout my long career, I have collected wonderful possessions and memorabilia and now I’ve reached a point in my life where I want to simplify and share with my fans who have always been there for me. “Without their unending love and support, none of this would have been possible. I hope my fans will be thrilled to not only have a chance to own a piece of my history but also that of my mother and father — Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli.” Rene Reyes, Executive in Charge of Production at The Paley, talked exclusively to the Blade about Liza’s decision to create the unique exhibit. “Liza has had all these treasures, incredible artifacts from her career in show business, preserved in multiple warehouses across the country,” said Reyes. “She recently moved to Los Angeles and felt the time was right to have them on display for the audiences who’ve sustained her throughout her amazing career to see.” (Yes, you read that right— Liza resides in LA!) “Knowing that her forthcoming auction will help support the incredible work that Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Foundation does in terms of celebrating the legacy of the great composers, lyricists and performers of the songbook era was too good an opportunity to pass up,” Rene said. Having the collection at the Paley also give attendees the unique opportunity to display items related to Liza’s iconic performances on television, Rene said. “There are costumes from her Emmy-winning TV and concert specials, many designed by Halston. She had a truly unique relationship with him. In many ways, like the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb helped create her musical persona, Halston created her fashion persona,” Rene explained Liza’s auction begins in June. “The chance to display Halston’s glittering red sequined jumpsuit and jacket from her Tonywinning performance in ‘The Act,’ which she also wore on The Tony Awards broadcast in 1978, is especially thrilling. It’s pure magic, pure Liza,” enthused Rene. “It almost vibrates with energy. You can see the costume up close, and then watch the performance in our archive.” While Rene adores many of the treasured items, she has a favorite. “I love the stunning black-and red sequined costume Bob Mackie designed for the amazing ‘Goldie (Hawn) & Liza Together’ TV special in 1980. Arguably better than any other designer, Bob knew intrinsically how to create a costume that can enhance movement within a dance number.” In this special, the two divas perform a great version of “All that Jazz” from Chicago. “Bob’s incredible costume truly enhanced each performers’ brand of magic,” noted Rene. “Since at one point, Liza and Goldie were rumored to be starring in the film version of that musical, it’s fun to have the costume on display and the special itself preserved here in our archive.” The exhibit includes some of the incredible mementos of Liza’s legendary parents. “It’s particularly touching to see Garland’s handwritten notes to Mr. Minnelli, one event embossed with her lipstick print. There’s also a beautiful painting of Liza as a child that her parents had commissioned. It hung in their family home.” The various items are a treasure trove for lovers of Hollywood history, noted Rene. “You can also see Mr. Minnelli’s personal shooting script for ‘An American in Paris.’” (Liza’s dad directed the much celebrated film). Here’s hoping Liza will make an appearance for Pride. Love Liza: The Exhibit” at the Paley Center for Media, 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sun., 12-5 p.m., through April 29; free. (310) 786-1000, paleycenter.org.



E-mail calendar items to tmasters@losangelesblade.com two weeks prior to your event. Space is limited so priority is given to LGBTspecific events or those with LGBT participants. Recurring events must be re-submitted each time.

White Party 2018 takes over Palm Springs as festival seats takes everything by storm. Photo Courtesy Jeffrey Sanker Presents


Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2018, Fri to Sun Apr 20 to 22, @ 24 hours at Empire Polo Club (81-800 Avenue 51, Indio, CA.) Ok, can you bounce like Beyoncé? Well, if we think you can and you will find her and so many others to rock your world at Coachella, the annual two-weekend, three-day music and arts festival that’s making the Salton Sea cool again. For tickets and lineup information visit coachella.com.


California Women’s Law Center Distinguished Speaker Series, Sat. Apri 21 @ 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM at West Hollywood City Council Chambers (625 N. San Vicente). Congressman Adam Schiff, 28th Congressional District will update his constituents on a number of things (not all Trump related) that are happening in Washington. Security, economy, education, taxation and a million other vital matters that impact LGBT and women’s lives will be his focus. Donation at door of $25.


WxW: For Women. By Women, Sun Apr 22 @ 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM at Barnsdall Art Park (4800 Hollywood Boulevard). Visibility and community matter now more than ever. Join WxW for a day of fun, interactive LBTQ-centric activities and events at

Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. FREE admission. Complimentary food and hosted bar will be provided by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Ménage à Trois Wines.


Dining Out For Life Coachella Valley 2018, THU Apr 26 at various restaurants throughout the Coachella Valley. Make plans to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of more than 60 restaurants participating in this year’s Dining Out for Life event. On April 27, each participating restaurant will donate 33% or more of whatever is spent at their location that day supporting Desert AIDS Project’s mission to enhance and promote the health and well-being of our community. Last year the event raised more than $230,000. For a list of restaurants and more info, visit desertaidsproject.org.


White Party 2018, Fri Apr 27 through Apr 29 @ 24 hours at Renaissance Palm Springs (888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, CA). The White Party Palm Springs is perhaps the largest gay dance music festival in the nation, maybe the world. It has evolved throughout the years to become an international cultural and social juggernaut, attracting more than 30,000 attendees from throughout the universe. Did we mention it gets really hot? Not to worry; there are a million pools and lots of reasons to change clothes or take

them off to the beat of the world’s most popular DJs. Swing into Pride, Fri. Apr 27 @ 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Village at Ed Gould Plaza (1125 N McCadden Pl). Celebrating the fab swing rhythm of the 1940s and sock-hopping, nifty 50s! From Jazz to Jitterbug, good ol’ Rock ‘n Roll to soul, the Center invites you to dress up in your snazziest costume and break out into joyous dance. It’s free event that includes light snacks and soft drinks with a $5 suggested donation. Ride-share services urged.


2nd Annual East Coachella Valley Pride Festival, Sat. Apr 28 @ 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM at Veterans Park (1500 4th Street, Coachella, CA). Celebrate the decidedly alternative LGBTQ community in the East Coachella Valley. Get away from the White Party madness and feel the love of family, Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, LatinX Drag Performances, Ballet Folklorico, Danza Azteca and others for one of the best new events in the desert. Visit facebook.com/ecvpride/ for more details.


Dirty Blond, Sun April 29 @ 1:00 PM at Laguna Playhouse (606 Laguna Canyon Road Laguna Beach). Come up and see Mae West come back to life and flirt with all the boys. Explore one of America’s most enduring and dirtiest pop culture icons, in this romantic comedy with music about a

guy, a gal, and their mutual admiration for one voluptuous blonde. If you are a fan, you will love the songs and zingers of Mae West’s saucy life and even saucier career. The New York Timesdescribed it as “Hands down the best new American play of the season...” and said it allowed “…Mae West to shock and delight once again.” More details at lagunaplayhouse.com.


Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles’ 7th Annual Voice Awards, Sat. May 5 @ 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM at Ray Dolby Theater (6801 Hollywood Boulevard). With the Voice Awards, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles honors LGBT champions and allies who have advanced our lives and repudiated oppression to give us hope. This year’s special honorees are political strategist/commentator Ana Navarro and Zach Johnson, a Crescenta Valley High School Student and Activist. The chorus will also host recording artist Shoshanna Bean. For more details visit gmcla.org. Cinco De Mayo Celebration, Sat May 5 @ 9:00 AM to 2: AM at The Abbey Food and Bar (692 North Robertson). Looking for a festive Cinco De Mayo celebration in West Hollywood where the starting point will surely be your final destination. Enjoy a Corona, Modelo, Hornitos Tequila and a hefty Mexican foods with special Cinco De Mayo cocktails. Hot boys and live Drag performances will not outshine the amazing sounds of the world’s first LGBTQ Mariachi band, Arcoiris de Los Angeles.


“I would let them both die.” — Kathy Griffin answers Howard Stern’s question, “If you had to save Anderson Cooper’s life, or Andy Cohen’s life, who do you choose at this point?” When pressed to choose one, she saved the Silver Fox. PHEW. Of Cohen, she said, “I hate him. I loathe him. I think he is a talentless piece of shit.” That pretty much says it all. In some cities, nude photos of a political candidate would be career suicide. But some cities ain’t West Hollywood. A candidate for WeHo City Council confirmed that the photos of him in flagrante delicto and performing various sexual acts are real, in order to - wait for it - “run an absolutely transparent campaign.” I’m all for transparency, but this is ridiculous! The candidate in question is Eric Jon Schmidt and doesn’t that sound like the name of somebody you’d wanna see naked? He has a profile on DudesNude which includes 23 photos, described by one outlet as “some solo and some featuring Schmidt with other men.” And in case that wasn’t enough (and when is it ever?), the profile also includes six videos of Schmidt having sex. I dunno about you, but I think a good sex video could really swing the election — in West Hollywood. But don’t give Schmidt all the credit - he didn’t release the photos purposely. A “reporter” (and these days, we use that term awfully loosely) contacted him and said, “I know about the DudesNude profile and I’m gonna run a story about it.” Schmidt’s response? “I’m not ashamed of it, so I wasn’t going to lie about it.” All so civilized. I think everyone will say it’s no big deal, but let’s see what happens on Election Day. I should mention that Schmidt happens to have a special skill - he can “self suck.” I would think that could sway some WeHo voters! For the rest of you, check him out on BillyMasters.com. Last week, the Point Foundation held a gala in NYC. In case you don’t know, this organization provides scholarships to members of the LGBTQ community - often after they have been ostracized by their families. This gala not only celebrated Point scholars and alumni, but also recognized leaders in the LGBTQ community. The person who got the most attention was Ronan Farrow, who apparently came out. Did I miss something? Hasn’t he been out for years? We may not know who his real father is, but we surely know he sucks dick! As far as I’m concerned, this was a non-story. But, eh, people who don’t read BillyMasters.com probably thought it was news. My dear friend Jenifer Lewis is continuing her tour of the country in order to promote her book, “The Mother of Black Hollywood.” While I was in NYC, she was in Baltimore. And since she was in the neighborhood, she zipped to our nation’s capital to catch Patti LaBelle in concert. Of course, Patti had to bring Jenifer onstage, who had to be coaxed into joining LaBelle for “Lady Marmalade.” You can catch the video on BillyMasters.com. Then Jenifer and I rendezvoused in Fort Lauderdale, where I joined her at several of her events. In addition to meeting with hundreds of fans who came out to see her, buy a book, and take a photo, she put a day aside to meet with the students from Parkland and Liberty City to discuss what they had been through. More than anything else, Lewis listened as they shared their stories of survival. It was an emotional and cathartic meeting. The week before, Gus Kenworthy was in the area as the Honorary Grand Marshal for South Beach Pride. And he wasn’t alone - he was joined by beau Matthew Wilkas. We’re told that some of the revelers were a bit “handsie” with the snowboarder, but I don’t think he minded. “Stoked to check ‘Crowd Surf’ off my bucket list, today!” I’m seriously thinking of organizing a boycott of “Dancing With the Stars.” I suppose I really can’t boycott it - nothing is going to stop me from watching Tonya Harding chugging across a dance floor. But, I really am pissed off. I know I keep harping on it, but Greg Louganis - one of the most decorated and awe-inspiring athletes of all time - has been begging to be on the show for years. Crickets. Is it ageism? Homophobia? Who knows? But when this “Dancing With the Stars: Athletes” edition was announced, it seemed a perfect fit. Who is a more accomplished athlete in history than Greg Louganis? But once again, he was not even considered. Dustin Lance Black is facing a case against him for shoplifting. My God, he wasn’t content being Roman Polanski, he now has to become Bess Myerson! Allegedly, DLB was shopping at Woolworths in Australia - let that little tidbit sink in. A gay man. An Oscar winner. Shopping in a Woolworths. Now THAT’S a crime! While he was browsing, he was being shadowed by store security. “OMG! Was just stopped and accused of shoplifting @woolworths in the Gold Coast! Then out of countless folks with bags a search was demanded of mine. Thanks for the warm welcome to #AUSTRALIA @woolworths! Respect customers’ privacy much? Shame.” Well, until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.


Kathy Griffin gets candid, Ronan Farrow comes out and more All the latest from LA to Miami, New York to down under By BILLY MASTERS

Gus Kenworthy was Honorary Grand Marshal at South Beach Pride in Miami and gave the crowd quite a treat as he body surfed thousands of randy admirers. Photo Courtesy of Instagram

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