Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 18, May 3, 2019

Page 1

Examining the evolution and role of the alt press, PAGES 6-9








A M E R I C A’ S







Lawsuit alleges sexual assault by former Calif. Dem Party chair Bauman’s attorney denies claims, awaits vindication From STAFF REPORTS A staff member of the California Democratic Party (CDP) filed a lawsuit April 24 in Los Angeles Superior Court against former CDP Chair Eric Bauman alleging sexual misconduct. Bauman, the first out LGBT CDP chair, resigned his post last November after 10 staff members and political activists alleged sexual harassment and misconduct in an Los Angeles Times story. They claimed Bauman “made crude sexual comments and engaged in unwanted touching or physical intimidation in professional settings.” In the new lawsuit, William Floyd, 28, who had served as Bauman’s assistant from March 2016 until Nov. 2018, claimed Bauman performed oral sex on him without his consent on at least three occasions, according to The Times. The filing also named the CDP and the LA County Democratic Party, alleging

Eric Bauman, the first out LGBT CDP chair, resigned his post last November.

both failed to prevent Bauman’s harassing behavior in “conscious disregard of the rights and well-being of others.” Floyd also alleges that Bauman threatened him saying, “If you cross me, I will break you.” Floyd’s attorney, Scott Ames, told The Times that CDP officials “looked the other way, and failed to confront Bauman” because of his success helping Democratic candidates. CDP officials “stonewalled” his client and haven’t “done anything to rectify

the situation.” “We have not yet been formally served with this lawsuit and have only learned about the filing of it through media inquiries this evening,” Bauman’s lawyer Neal Zaslavsky said in a statement to the Sacramento Bee. “Mr. Bauman denies the allegations in the complaint and looks forward to complete vindication once the facts come out.” The CDP investigator who was looking into the allegations against Bauman did

meet with Floyd. However, the suit stated that less than a week later state party officials told Floyd that they were closing the organization’s Los Angeles office and that he would be terminated unless he agreed to work at Sacramento headquarters. Floyd agreed to move to Sacramento in January 2019 to keep his job. He is still employed by the party but plans to move back to LA for graduate school. “The allegations that are made in this lawsuit are very serious and deserve a hearing,” Acting CDP Chair Alexandra Gallardo Rooker told The Bee. “The most appropriate venue for us all to learn the truth, whatever it may be, is ultimately in the courtroom.” A spokesperson for the CDO declined to comment to the Los Angeles Blade. But L.A. County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez told the Times that the LACDP was “reviewing the allegations of the complaint” and had no further comment. The lawsuit is seeking damages for lost income, emotional distress and pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Trump makes seeking asylum harder Efforts to #FreeAlejandra continue By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com President Donald Trump is doubling down on his anti-immigrant “America First” message, claiming “Our country is full.” Not true. In fact, the shrinking labor force has become an existential crisis in cities and towns across the nation. “I believe our biggest threat is our declining labor force,” Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said in his annual budget address, according to the New York Times. “It’s the root of every problem we face.” And yet, on April 29, Trump issued a new

memo ordering major changes to U.S. asylum policies in 90 days, including charging application fees to those seeking humanitarian refuge and prohibiting work permits to anyone who crosses the border illegally. Additionally, Trump ordered a 180-day limit for immigration courts to adjudicate the claims of asylum seekers, despite a backlog of over 850,000 immigration cases that are being handled by roughly 400 judges. The changes seem intent on essentially punishing asylum seekers, those fleeing violence with little money for the fees, or to hire lawyers, or gather evidence to support their claims, or find work as their claims are adjudicated. Recently, Attorney General Barr announced that asylum seekers would no longer be granted bond to get out of

ICE detention while their claim is being processed. Lost in the political grand-standing are individual asylum seekers such as Alejandra Barrera, a transgender activist who has been held in ICE detention in Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico since 2017 and faces deportation back to El Salvador where she faces certain death. “Alejandra has survived repeated extortion, threats and sexual assault in El Salvador, only to be denied her freedom while seeking safety in the United States. All Alejandra has done is exercise her fundamental rights to seek asylum. Her deportation must be stopped immediately and she must be released to be with friends and family awaiting her liberation. But faced with imminent deportation, Alejandra’s

life is at great risk if she is deported to El Salvador,” said Rebekah Wolf, Alejandra’s lawyer, in a recent Amnesty International USA press release. Bamby Salcedo and the TransLatin@ Coalition, Amnesty International and the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center have been working hard to draw attention to Alejandra’s plight, including a petition of support from nearly 100 organizations and the revelation that ICE falsified some documents, thus denying her of a fair hearing. “ICE is now delaying Alejandra’s deportation and we have a chance to really bring attention to her case and get her free,” Salcedo said. “We have captured the attention of several Congress members but we need to continue this momentum.”



Marianne Williamson wants to be the people’s president The spiritual guru wants to lead a vanguard of love against corruption By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Once upon a time in America, gay men were dying faster than water squeezed through a clenched fist. Gay men and the lesbians and allies helping them were fighting against the creeping devastation of AIDS for which there was no cure, no recourse, no escape. But into that dark cavern a few good people shown a light of love and hope to gently lead heartbroken souls to the possibility of another day. Marianne Williamson was one of those good people. Today, Williamson is running for the Democratic nomination to vie with Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States. Like him, she has no previous elective experience. But unlike him, she has morals, scruples, and sincerely believes she is once again stepping up with love to represent people whose voices have been drowned out by moneyed interests and corrupt power. “I’m saying things that I’m not hearing said elsewhere and that I believe need to be said. And I’m presenting to the American people an option for a path forward that I don’t see articulated anywhere else,” Williamson told the Los Angeles Blade by phone during a stop in LA recently. She is so dedicated to her long shot campaign, she has moved to Iowa to press to reach more people more often. “In order to transform our society, we need to recognize the depth of corruption that has set into our governmental and economic functioning,” Williamson says. “We have essentially moved from a democratic to an aristocratic situation where our government works more to advocate for short term profits for multi-national corporations than it does to advocate for the well-being our people and our planet. Our government works more to make it easier for those who already have a lot of money to make more of it and harder for those who not have any money to even get by.”

Marianne Williamson campaigning in Iowa Photo courtesy Williamson’s campaign

While her corruption message sounds akin to that of democratic socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both of whom are at the top of most polls, Williamson adds the spine of morality to her position. “This corruption, which has progressed over the last 40 years, has created an amoral economic system where economic values are placed before humanitarian values,” she says. “And our democracy itself can no longer be accurately described as a government of the people, and by the people and for the people. It’s only when we recognize the depth of the corruption that has set in here that we can move into a path of genuine transformation. Because until then, all we’re doing is addressing the symptoms and no one is naming the cause. All we’re doing is making incremental changes seeking to diminish the pain that people are experiencing because of all this, but not challenging the underlying forces that make all of that pain inevitable.” The first thing she would do if elected president is propose to Congress the establishment of public funding of federal campaigns to get money out of politics and overturn Citizens United. She would also repeal Trump’s massive tax cut, immediately fund Medicare for All, and remove burdens to college.

So far, she has not yet qualified to make the Democratic National Committee’s debate stage to articulate her positions but FiveThirtyEight has qualified her as a “major” candidate. Williamson is calling for “radical truthtelling” and taking “a serious moral inventory” to transform the country the way an individual transforms their own life, aligning capitalism with moral values. She is also keenly aware of the “mistakes we have made” in relaxing and taking our social justice gains for granted. The rolling back of rights “is an awakening for all of us,” but it also represents “a maturing of the political mind that freedom and democracy can never be taken for granted.” Any effort to undermine the equal “is an effort to undermine America.” Williamson, who recently held an LGBTspecific town hall in Las Vegas, feels she is tied into the LGBT community. “Discrimination in housing and employment is a terrible problem for the LGBTQ+ community. And I recognize that and I also recognize the efforts throughout the country to actually regress rather than to progress on efforts to provide greater equality for LGBTQ+ people,” she says. “My relationship with the gay community in the United States is deep and goes back for decades. It’s a natural one. It’s one that is

already part of my emotional blood stream,” she says, noting that prominent grief counselor David Kessler, with whom she cofounded Project Angel Food, is the godfather to her daughter. “I feel that my recognition of discrimination against gay people has ben well honed over the decades and also my recognition of the profound gift of the gay community has been well honed,” Williamson says. “I hope that there’s the feeling that I’ve proven my kinship and my friendship as that community has certainly proven its friendship and kinship to me.” Williamson again hones in on morality and Trump’s lack of it. “No one would doubt, given the last two years in the United States, that the consciousness of the President of the United States effects the ethos,” she says. “And this president has moral equivocation when it comes to his support of minorities and oppressed peoples. I have no such moral equivocation. And with my actions, with my words, and with my behavior, my absolute, unequivocal support for every single American – and particularly those who are victims of discrimination – would be unquestionable.” For more information, go to marianne2020.com.


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Why do we need LGBTQ media? Examining the role of our alternative press By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com It was the last day of Passover, a calm and tranquil Sunday in West Hollywood. And then the news started bubbling up about an attack on the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in San Diego County by a 19-year-old with a semiautomatic weapon. One woman was dead and three others, including the rabbi, were wounded. The shooting came one day after President Trump’s speech before the National Rifle Association and major news coverage of former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign announcement video using the Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville where white supremacists carrying tiki torches chanted “Jews will not replace us!” The teenager arrested for shooting up the Poway synagogue apparently left an anti-Semitic screed on the Internet. Authorities said they would investigate the attack as a hate crime. I read these news reports through rainbow-colored glasses. White supremacy isn’t limited to anti-Semitism or racism. But hatred for LGBT people is such a given, we often don’t even get a mention in their screeds. That’s what I look for or extrapolate as an LGBT reporter. LGBT people live intersectional lives and feel an empathetic gut-punch when any bias-based attack hits the news. But LGBT African Americans are not included or cross-indexed in an overview of racist hate crimes. And there is a whole separate category for the epidemic of murders of trans women of color. The Consumer Health Foundation, taking in access to healthcare, housing, jobs and violence, for instance, said in 2018 that the life expectancy for a trans woman of color is 31. Bamby Salcedo, founder and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition, puts it closer to 22. This horrifying statistic is ignored, as are other facts and assessments. The Williams Institute and the Center for American Progress have reported that those most at risk for poverty are African-American lesbian couples with children in the South. How can you put food on the table if you can’t get a job because of your real or perceived

LAPD Chief Willie Williams at his first news conference Photo by Karen Ocamb

sexual orientation or gender identity? But where is discussion of the Equality Act in the mainstream media? LGBT people are officially second-class citizens, no matter how much money we do or don’t have; or how much we contribute to politicians or non-profits; no matter how many voters we turn out; no matter if the media is taken with one of us credibly running for president of the United States. To be sure, the mainstream cares when there’s a big newsworthy event or a phenomenon like the epidemic of gay teen suicides that led to the It Gets Better movement. Remember that? Well, LGBT kids are still killing themselves. But for the most part, we are ignored or erased from the narrative. For example: on Feb. 22, 2019, Thomas T. Cullen, US Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “The Grave Threats of White Supremacy and FarRight Extremism,” which is posted on the Justice Department’s website. In it, Cullen writes: “In 2009, Congress took an important step in arming federal

investigators to deal with hate crimes by passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This law makes it possible to prosecute as hate crimes violent acts committed against victims because of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity or disability. The law provides stringent maximum penalties, including life imprisonment, if someone is killed during a hate crime.” Matthew Shepard was gay but Cullen curiously omits sexual orientation when talking about the hate crime bill. The LGBT press offers an alternative to that void, to that willful and benign ignorance. And we have since at least 1947 when Lisa Ben typed Vice Versa onto several carbon copies to distribute the “magazine” to other lesbians she met covertly. Homosexuality was criminal in many states until 2003 when the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law criminalizing consenting adult gay sex in Lawrence v Texas. But ironically, it was the Supreme Court that enabled gay people to find one another

through the distribution of ONE Magazine. ONE Inc, which had broken off from the Silver Lake-based Mattachine Society, founded in 1950 by Harry Hay, started publishing ONE Magazine in 1952. But in 1954, the Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen refused to mail the publication, describing the Oct. 1954 issue as “obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy.” But ONE fought back and while it took until 1958, it prevailed in the landmark First Amendment case. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner credited the victory in One, Inc. v. Olesen with enabling him to distribute Playboy magazine through the mail, thus jump-starting the sexual revolution of the 1960s. ONE reported in the next issue: “For the first time in American publishing history, a decision binding on every court now stands. ... affirming in effect that it is in no way proper to describe a love affair between two homosexuals as constitut(ing) obscenity,” according to a report about the case in the LA Times. That perception, however, didn’t hold with the general public and the LGBT



Luis Sandoval and his partner Renato Perez Photo courtesy Sandoval

community is still fighting harmful beliefs that we need to change or die. Nonetheless, LGBT people have persisted throughout our history: Jim Kepner, a writer for ONE Magazine, collected many of the publications aimed at informing and bolstering LGBT people, all of which he turned into an archive that now resides with ONE Institute at USC. That includes The Ladder, published by Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, co-founders of the Daughters of Bilitis, from 1956-1972 and The Lesbian Tide, published by Jeanne Cordova, who ensured that ONE had a lesbian section curated by Yolanda Retter. ONE also houses Alan Bell’s BLK Magazine and other publications such as The LA Advocate, first published before the Stonewall Riots to let gay people know about protests against LAPD bar raids. Perhaps most importantly, the LGBT press recorded the devastation of the AIDS crisis—and not without financial risk and consternation. When Frontiers publisher Bob Craig reprinted Larry Kramer’s explosive essay, “AIDS 1,112 and counting…,”— first published in the New

York Native, Issue 59, March 14-27,1983—bar owners threw the magazine out lest it scare off patrons who didn’t want to even think about the mysterious new disease killing gay men. As the alternative to the mainstream media, it often falls to us to ask the questions other reporters may not even think about. That’s what happened in April 1992, after the LA Riots finally forced longtime anti-LGBT LAPD Chief Daryl Gates to resign. Mayor Tom Bradley and the LA Police Commission introduced new Chief Willie Williams at a news conference broadcast live to the city. I sat up front. LGBT civilians had major problems with the LAPD—the Christopher Commission Report indicated that cops often dubbed gays “NHI” – meaning “No Human Involved.” But gay and lesbian officers also felt harassed on the job—as evidenced by Sgt. Mitch Grobeson’s lawsuit that included testimony that he did not receive backup in a dangerous situation. When I asked Williams about how he would treat gay officers and how he would enforce non-discrimination policies, the

whole room went silent. Officials blanched with consternation since they clearly had not prepared him for the question. Seconds later, the clicks from photographers’ cameras deafened the air as Williams answered that he had a track record in Philadelphia of working with the city’s gay community and would do so here. One of his first stops after being sworn in was at the LA Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center. It was all major news, but mostly to us. Today, we have Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon as broadcast stars and the general public seems more inclined to like us. But on the ground, it’s still hard to come out, LGBT teen suicide is still prevalent, trans murders are still an epidemic and Trump and some states are still trying to roll back or stop LGBT rights. And yet we continue to prevail— and the LGBT press continues, as well. Take Luis Sandoval, who recently came out on Univision. It’s had a big impact on him and his audience. “I finally was honest and transparent with the audience and by doing so, I was opening a little door to start the

conversation about important issues that have been part of my own experience: such as bullying, suicidal thoughts, lack of rights, depression and many more issues that affect our LGBTQ community,” Sandoval told the Los Angeles Blade. “Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, most of the gay males I would see on TV were dying of AIDS. It was terrifying to think I was also gay,” he said. “There were no role models to look up to. Now that I am on the other side of the screen, I feel it is my responsibility to make a difference, even if it is only one person at a time. If I can save one life, or make someone’s life a little easier, it will be worth my while.” And this is why reporting on LGBT people not as a “social issue” but as human beings fighting for civil rights is central to the mission of the LGBT press. The Los Angeles LGBT Center and NLGJA are hosting a free Big Queer Convo with LGBT journalists Bettina Boxall, LZ Granderson, Luis Sandoval and me on Wednesday, May 8 at The Village. Visit lalgbtcenter.org/bqc for more info.



Lisa Ben (aka Edythe D. Eyde) published the first lesbian hand-typed magazine Vive Versa in 1947, with Rev. Flo Fleischman

San Francisco political activist Jose Sarria (aka the Widow Norton) with Hal Call, conservative Mattachine Society journalist and gay bookstore owner at Jim Kepner’s memorial in 1998.

Photo by Karen Ocamb

Photo by Karen Ocamb

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, co-founders of the Daughters of Bilitis and publishers/editors of The Ladder (1956-1972) with Rikki Striecher, owner of Maud’s lesbian bar, and Karen Kiss and Paris Poirie, directors of “Last Call at Maud’s,” a favorite film at Outfest.

Barbara Gittings (left), editor of The Ladder (1963-66), and partner photographer Kay Lahusen at Stonewall 25in NYC Photo by Karen Ocamb

Jim Kepner, editor/contributor of ONE Magazine in the 1950s, and Jeanne Cordova, author, columnist, publisher of The Lesbian Tide, Community Yellow Pages, and Square Peg Magazine at a fundraiser for ONE Archives.

John Burnside, Mattachine Society and Radical Faeries co-founder Harry Hay, ANGLE co-founder David Mixner, “In The Life” creator/producer John Scagliotti and unidentified man.

Photo by Karen Ocamb

Photo by Karen Ocamb



LIFE Lobby Executive Director Laurie McBride and Frontiers News Magazine publisher Bob Craig

BLK Magazine publisher Alan Bell, Catch One’s Jewel Thais-Williams, Black AIDS Institute Founder Phill Wilson at ONE Institute April 13, 2019

Photo by Karen Ocamb

Photo by Karen Ocamb

The Advocate’s Editor-in-chief Richard Rouilard, writer Jackie Collins, producer/manager Barry Krost at an NLGJA party in the early 1990s.

Sydney Brinkley, founder, editor and reporter for the San Francisco-based Blacklight, interviews Rev. Deborah Johnson, founder of the Inner Light Ministries, after a Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum in Los Angeles in the 1990s.

Photo by Karen Ocamb

Photo by Karen Ocamb

Michael Goff and Sarah Pettit, founders of OUT Magazine in the early 1990s, with newly elected California Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl.

Judy Wieder, who became the then-30-year old Advocate’s first woman editor in chief in 1996, with Roy Aaron, the longtime journalist who founded the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in 1990.

Photo by Karen Ocamb

Photo by Karen Ocamb



Biden wins early LGBT support amid lingering questions Some concerned over treatment of Anita Hill By MICHAEL K. LAVERS Former Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement that he is running for president has sparked a mixed reaction among activists and LGBT Democrats. “From his support for inclusive hate crimes protections in the U.S. Senate to his leadership on marriage equality as vice president, Joe Biden has been a vocal champion of equality,” Sarah McBride, a transgender woman from Delaware who is a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. McBride, who in 2016 became the first openly trans person to speak at a major U.S. party convention when she spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, noted Biden “placed LGBTQ equality at the center” of the Biden Foundation that he and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, created after he left office. McBride also said Biden was “consistently using his unique platform to speak out on international LGBTQ rights, family acceptance and transgender equality.” “Biden joins a field of trailblazers and proequality champions seeking the Democratic nomination who are exciting LGBTQ voters around the country,” McBride told the Blade. Biden in 2012 publicly endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples before thenPresident Obama. Biden on June 16, 2016, traveled to Orlando, Fla., with Obama after the Pulse nightclub massacre and met with victims’ families. Biden less than four months later described LGBT rights as “the civil rights issue of our time” during a speech at the U.N. in New York. “Discrimination against anyone for their sexual orientation and gender is anathema to most basic values,” said Biden. Biden in 2017 condemned the anti-LGBT crackdown in Chechnya. The Biden Foundation, which suspended its operations after Biden officially entered

Former Vice President Joe Biden won many LGBT fans for his embrace of same-sex marriage. Blade file photo by Michael Key

the race on April 25, in August 2018 launched a campaign that sought to promote acceptance of LGBT youth among their families and communities. The Bidens a few weeks later spoke at HRC’s annual national dinner in D.C. “I’ll always be thankful that Vice President Biden forced Obama’s hand on supporting marriage equality before the 2012 election,” said Ryan Davis, a marketing executive who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Without Biden and Obama’s support, it’s unlikely we’d have won all four of the states that had marriage equality on the ballot in 2012.” Former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake, have also said they will support Biden. “The vice president had my back personally and I have sat beside him with other leaders around the world,” wrote Brewster on his Facebook page after Biden declared his candidacy. “I have watched him defend those who don’t have a voice. I have also seen him be tough when needed.” Biden has declined numerous interview requests the Blade has made in the past. He also did not specifically refer to LGBT rights in his campaign announcement. Biden evoked the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left Heather

Heyer dead and prompted President Trump to “condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” Biden at the HRC dinner said he “could not remain silent” over the issue. “We are in a fight for America’s soul and we have leaders ... who at the time when that occurred, when these guys were accompanied by white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan and those who objected, making a comparison, saying, ‘There are good people in both groups,’” he said. “What has become of us? Our children are listening and our silence is complicity.” Biden entered the race amid questions over his previous interactions with women. The former vice president in 1991 was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when it held a hearing on Anita Hill’s allegations that now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas subjected her to sexual harassment. Biden on Monday told ABC’s Robin Roberts that Hill was “not treated well.” The New York Times reported Hill felt “deeply unsatisfied” after she spoke with Biden before he declared his candidacy. “I still haven’t forgotten or forgiven Joe Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill,” Monica Roberts, a trans activist of color and blogger in Houston, told the Blade on Wednesday.

“It will affect his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination.” Roberts, who said she likes U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), added she wants “a younger Democrat in that chair.” “We have plenty to choose from in this presidential election cycle,” Roberts told the Blade. Rev. Merrick Moise, a trans man of color and activist in Baltimore, said Biden “reminds me of the working-class men in my life as a kid in Queens.” “Yes, they could be bawdy or crude, but they really have hearts of gold,” Moise told the Blade. “He needs to tell sexual and gender minorities what he will not only do for us, but how he will partner with us to move progressive policy forward and encourage the country to recognize our rights to live as free and equal citizens,” he added.

Biden a ‘formidable candidate’ Polls indicate Biden became the frontrunner against Harris, South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the other Democratic presidential candidates. “Truthfully, he might be the strongest candidate to beat the current occupant of the White House,” Moise told the Blade. “Time will tell.” Earl Fowlkes, chair of the DNC’s LGBT Caucus and a former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, agreed. “Joe Biden is a formidable candidate for the Democratic nomination for president,” he told the Blade on Wednesday. “His commitment to LGBTQ rights is without question and he has a long record of supporting issues that are important to women and communities of color.” “His entry into the nomination process will make the Democratic primary even more interesting than it already is,” added Fowlkes. The Blade has reached out to Biden’s campaign for comment for this story.





Buttigieg meets Sharpton in NYC

The Senate confirmed R. Clarke Cooper to a senior State Department position. Blade file photo by Michael Key

Senate confirms former Log Cabin chief to State Dept. post With little opposition, the U.S. Senate confirmed on Tuesday a former head of Log Cabin Republicans instrumental in finding Republican votes to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to a highranking State Department position. R. Clarke Cooper, who’s gay, was confirmed as assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs by a vote of 90-8 nearly a full year after President Trump nominated him in June 2018. The position of assistant of secretary of state for political-military affairs is charged with linking the Defense Department with the State Department in areas such as international security, military operations and defense strategy. According to Inside Defense, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) placed a hold on Cooper’s nomination in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over objections to the Trump administration allowing organizations to post blueprints for 3D-printed guns online. It wasn’t immediately clear why Markey lifted his hold on the nomination to allow a vote. The senators who voted against Cooper were Markey as well as Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Not voting were Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). Many of the senators are either 2020 presidential hopefuls or have a history of voting against Trump nominees based on general objections to the president, who has built a long anti-LGBT record in the White House, and his administration. Under Cooper’s tenure at Log Cabin between 2010 and 2012, the organization oversaw a lawsuit challenging “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and assisted with legislative efforts to convince Republicans to vote to repeal the military’s gay ban. Under Cooper’s leadership, Log Cabin also endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012 after he met with Cooper and gay former Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe at a Virginia farmhouse. Cooper most recently served as director of intelligence planning for Joint Special Operations Command’s Joint Inter-Agency Task Force in the National Capital Region. A combat veteran and member of the U.S. Army Reserve, Cooper’s active duty assignments included tours with United States Africa Command, Special Operations Command Africa, Joint Special Operations Task Force Trans-Sahara, and Special Operations Command Central, according to his bio. Cooper is now one of a handful of openly gay officials in the Trump administration. The highest ranking is U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who recently announced an initiative to decriminalize homosexuality in the more than 70 countries where it’s illegal. CHRIS JOHNSON

Pete Buttigieg on Monday met with Rev. Al Sharpton at a restaurant in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood. A press release Sharpton’s organization, the National Action Network, released before the meeting said the two men “will discuss the need to confront homophobia in the faith community as well as the mayor’s policy agenda for the black community in Indiana and around the country.” Buttigieg, who is the mayor of South Bend, Ind., is one of more than a dozen Democrats who are running for president. Buttigieg, who married his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, in 2018, would be the first openly gay man elected president if he were to win. His meeting with Sharpton took place less than a week after Rev. Franklin Graham said Buttigieg should repent because he is gay. Buttigieg has also faced questions over the impact his administration’s policies have had on South Bend’s black residents. In related news, a poll has found 70 percent of voters would be open to voting for a gay man as U.S. president. However, that same poll reveals a majority of voters — 52 percent — believe the United States isn’t ready to elected a gay man to the White House. The Quinnipiac poll, published Tuesday, found 70 percent of voters — including a plurality of Republicans — are willing to vote for a gay president, although 23 percent said they would not and 7 percent said they didn’t know. For Democrats, 85 percent said they’d be willing to support for gay presidential candidate, although 11 percent said they would not and 4 percent said they didn’t know. For Republicans, 46 percent said they’d vote for a gay president compared to the 45 percent who said they would not and 9 percent said they didn’t know. But the situation changes when voters are asked whether they think the United States is ready for a president. Only 36 percent say that’s the case, compared 53 who say no and 12 percent who say they don’t. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Dems refuse to speak at anti-LGBT group’s summit Six Democratic presidential candidates have declined an invitation to speak at an anti-LGBT group’s summit in Iowa. NBC News on Monday reported U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg have all declined invitations to speak at the Family Leader’s summit that is scheduled to take place on July 12. “I welcome any opportunity to talk about how faith guides me, but I cannot — in good conscience — attend an event put on by an organization that preaches bigotry and sows hate against the LGBTQ community,” wrote Booker on Twitter. “That’s why I am declining an invitation to the Family Leader’s July 12 summit.” Buttigieg press secretary Chris Meagher told NBC News the campaign “will be declining this invitation.” The Family Leader on its website says it also invited former Vice President Biden and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to the summit. Media reports indicate Sanders and Warren have also declined the invitation. “The Family Leadership Summit traditionally extends invitations to national leaders from the church, culture and government to speak to Iowa’s faith voters,” reads a press release on the organization’s website. “In the past, those invitations have included prominent figures from both political parties.” Bob Vander Plaats, the group’s CEO, is among the country’s most prominent social conservatives. The Family Leader asked presidential candidates to sign a pledge ahead of the 2012 Iowa caucuses that included a statement against marriage rights for same-sex couples. Vander Plaats has also made controversial comments about homosexuality. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

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INTERNATIONAL HRC hosts global summit of LGBT activists More than two-dozen LGBT activists from around the world participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit that took place last week in D.C. Activists from Barbados, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Ukraine, Pakistan, Malawi and other countries took part in workshops and attended events that included a Tuesday reception at Spanish Ambassador to the U.S. Santiago Cabanas Ansorena’s official residence in Northwest D.C. Wanuri Kahiu, director of “Rafiki,” a Kenyan film about two women who fell in love with each other, spoke with the activists on Wednesday. “At a time when so many LGBTQ people’s lives are at risk around the globe, the ability of advocates to collaborate on innovative tools advancing basic human rights and LGBTQ equality is crucially important,” said HRC Director of Global Leadership Jay Gilliam in a blog post. “We are thrilled to welcome these advocates whose

Spanish Ambassador to the U.S. Santiago Cabanas Ansorena speaks at a reception at his official residence in Northwest D.C. on April 23, 2019. The reception coincided with the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Global Innovative Advocacy Summit. Blade photo by Michael Key

commitment to advancing LGBTQ equality in some of the world’s most challenging places is truly remarkable.” The summit began a day after Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a Ukrainian television comedian, overwhelmingly won the second round of his country’s presidential election.

Ruslana Panukhnyk, director of KyivPride, which organizes the annual Pride celebrations in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, told the Blade on Wednesday that she and other LGBTI activists in her country “don’t know what to expect from” Zelenskiy because he “doesn’t have any platform or

strategy.” Panukhnyk nevertheless said the summit has left her feeling “inspired … and motivated to work.” Damián Cabrera, founder of the Puerto Rico LGBTQ Health Services Directory, agreed. “What has been the best part of this experience is to learn about everyone’s experience,” he told the Blade on Wednesday. “This helps put me in the perspective of watching how we can advance in Puerto Rico as a country.” Cabrera said the Puerto Rico LGBTQ Health Services Directory “was born from the need” for health care providers “who know how to care for the LGBTI community.” He also acknowledged to the Blade that Hurricanes Maria and Irma that struck Puerto Rico in 2017 made LGBTI Puerto Ricans’ vulnerability to violence, discrimination and poverty “even more visible.” “It is a very slow process,” said Cabrera, referring to post-Maria recovery efforts. “A disaster like this doesn’t affect everyone the same.” The summit took place against the


backdrop of continued outrage over the Trump administration’s record on LGBTspecific issues from HRC and other advocacy groups. The White House’s overall foreign policy has also sparked widespread criticism. The Trump administration in February announced gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell will lead an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on March 19 reiterated his opposition to LGBT rights when he spoke alongside President Trump during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden. Grenell and the State Department have both criticized the provision of Brunei’s new penal code that calls for the death penalty for anyone convicted of consensual same-sex sexual relations. Panukhnyk told the Blade that Trump “is a big concern for the global LGBT community.” “We have a lot of questions,” she said. “We still have a lot of questions and they are not answered yet.” Cabrera echoed San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and others who have sharply criticized the Trump administration’s response to Maria. “This is one more example of a colonial violence,” Cabrera told the Blade, referring to Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. commonwealth. “We are truly good citizens to be exploited and to give to the U.S., but when we are seen as different when we are in need during a situation like this.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS

OAS chief: Countries in Americas should expand LGBT rights Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro on Wednesday said countries in the Americas have an obligation to extend rights to their LGBT citizens. “We expect that the violence in the whole continent against LGBTIQ people, the discrimination that they suffer is resolved,” he told the Blade at New York University Washington’s Abramson Family Auditorium in downtown Washington. “We want every country to resolve this discrimination that LGBTIQ people suffer. We want every country to investigate and to resolve any matter of LGBTI peoples and communities … We want every country to provide solutions

for how the basic principles of human rights can be made operative in order to resolve these issues.” Almagro, a former Uruguayan diplomat, spoke about LGBTI rights in the Americas during a discussion that Geovanny Vicente Romero, a political analyst who has contributed to the Blade, moderated. The Blade asked Almagro about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who continues to face criticism from activists over his rhetoric against LGBTI Brazilians and other minority groups. The Blade also asked Almagro about the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a Costa Rica-based court the OAS created in 1979 to enforce provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. The court in 2018 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere. The decision is legally binding in the 20 countries — Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay — in the Americas that currently recognize the American Convention on Human Rights. Ecuador’s highest court last month heard oral arguments in a case that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the country. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in January signed a law that allows trans people over 14 to legally change their name and gender without surgery. The Chilean Supreme Court late last year ruled marriage for same-sex couples is a human right. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean advocacy group, has said Piñera’s government has “reneged” in a 2016 agreement it reached with Chile in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of three samesex couples who want to get married in the country. “We want every country to resolve the discrimination that LGBTQ people suffer,” Almagro told the Blade. Almagro said the OAS has a Department of Social Inclusion and has installed genderneutral bathrooms in its D.C. headquarters. He told the Blade he marched in Vancouver’s 2018 Pride parade and plans to participate in this year’s Capital Pride Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, the ongoing unrest in Nicaragua, Cuba’s human rights record and Haiti are among the other issues that Almagro discussed. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

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‘Why do we need the LGBT media?’ An offensive question rooted in homophobia

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade, a sister publication of the Los Angeles Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

As we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, panel discussions are breaking out all over the country about the LGBT movement, its history and future. One of the topics getting some attention is the role of the LGBT media in the movement. The Los Angeles LGBT Center is hosting a panel discussion on May 8 titled “Breaking News, Breaking Barriers,” a conversation with LGBT journalists about the coverage and representation of LGBT people in the media from the late 1960s through today. The Los Angeles Blade’s tireless news editor/reporter Karen Ocamb will serve on the panel, along with LZ Granderson and Bettina Boxall of the LA Times and Luis Sandoval of Despierta America. No doubt, they will be asked to address the question of why we need the LGBT media in 2019. It’s a question I encountered countless times during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Hillary Clinton was assured victory and would cement all the progress toward equality of the Obama years. Clinton may have neglected the Rust Belt during her

campaign, but she remembered her LGBT base and granted the Blade an interview late in the campaign. We get the rather insulting question about why we need our own niche press a lot in social media comments, usually after identifying a source as LGBT. “Who cares if Pete Buttigieg is gay?!? Why does it matter?!?” Cable news pundits have wondered the same. The reason it matters is that it’s never happened before at this level. And imagine the inspiration Buttigieg is providing to the confused, closeted kid in Indiana right now. Insulting the LGBT media and questioning the need for our existence is a particular form of disrespect and homophobia. That disrespect has come from all sides. Prominent Washington Post opinion writers for years relied on the Blade’s coverage to inform their commentary without citing us, a professional faux pas bordering on unethical. The Democratic National Committee’s former director of communications, Karen Finney, once wrote in an email that she used the Blade to line her birdcage during a tumultuous period when the DNC was being sued by its former LGBT liaison and we were running critical stories. The birdcage line is a lame insult, but if she’d directed it at the AfricanAmerican press or Jewish press, she would have been fired. The need for our work is clearer now that we’re back to a hostile administration in the White House. Mainstream reporters rarely ask questions in the White House and State Department briefing rooms about LGBT topics. As Barney Frank used to say, “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” Underrepresented communities need to tell their stories through their own lens. Take a look at the New York Times or Washington Post straight-washed obituaries

of prominent LGBT people over the last 30 years and compare them to obits in the LGBT press and you’ll see that importance. More recently, the Blade has focused on Latin America and immigration, embedding with LGBT migrants at the border since their plight is unique and largely ignored by mainstream outlets. LGBT media outlets also speak the language of our community — and in a way that’s not patronizing. Take the recent trolling in the New York Post of a supposedly closeted bisexual presidential candidate jealous of Buttigieg’s surging poll numbers. We know they’re talking about Sen. Cory Booker, even as the Post hides behind dated, cheeky innuendo in raising the longstanding but unconfirmed rumors. LGBT media are also unafraid of writing about the sexual orientation of public officials when they are attacking their own or working for an administration undermining our equality. Most heterosexual, mainstream reporters and readers would be shocked to learn that President Trump has possibly appointed a gay Cabinet secretary in the EPA’s Andrew Wheeler. That as-yet-unconfirmed rumor has swirled since his days as counsel for the notorious homophobe Sen. Jim Inhofe. We’ve never had an openly gay Cabinet secretary, so Wheeler has a chance to make history if it’s true. And he’s not the only senior Trump official who may be hiding a gay secret (stay tuned). LGBT outlets were ahead of mainstream outlets on everyone from Sen. Larry Craig to Fox News’s Shepard Smith. As the Washington Blade prepares to celebrate its own 50th this year, all of us are working hard to fulfill that longstanding mission of telling LGBT stories and writing the first draft of our own history.

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Journalist or activist? Getting at the truth is not either/or

Ann Northrop, a former CBS News producer and current cohost of ‘Gay USA,’ is helping organize NYC’s alternative Queer Liberation March for Stonewall 50 on June 30.

When I was in high school and college, I was watching TV news and reading newspapers and magazines during a Golden Age of journalism — the civil rights movement in the South, the Vietnam War, student uprisings. I was intoxicated. I wanted to be a reporter, where the action was, dealing with “big issues.” Correspondents were voices of authority and I wanted that. My first job out of college was at the National Journal in Washington, D.C. I was writing about 50 “back of the book” items each week about every federal department and agency, every congressional committee, the courts and the White House. How lucky was I? I’d go to a White House briefing and President Nixon would stroll in. I attended the Supreme Court hearing on the Pentagon Papers. I soaked up every ounce of detail

and I lean on that memory bank to this day. But I really wanted to be in New York City and in TV, so I grabbed a job offer as an associate producer on a local women’s talk show at WCBS. More great training. Over the next 17 years, I worked in more technical TV jobs, wrote for Ms. Magazine and the Ladies Home Journal. Finally, I became a writer/ producer for “Good Morning America” and then “CBS Morning News.” The networks. Heaven, right? Wrong. By the mid-‘80s, the Golden Age was over. Now I was producing segments for network morning TV on how to choose the right puppy. Even when the subject was more serious, I was allotted only 5-6 minutes. One of my lowest moments was when I was asked to call the families of Marines blown up in the Lebanon barracks in 1983 and get them to travel for 24 hours on buses and planes to be in our studio for five minutes of on-air crying. When the Morning News went to San Francisco in 1986 for a week of shows at the Democratic National Convention and I realized we weren’t going to do anything gay (!), I volunteered to book some gay and lesbian people for an eight-minute discussion. Begrudgingly, they agreed. After it went really well, the executive producer said: “Leave it to you, Northrop, to book gay people who don’t look gay.” Yes, I’d been out at all those jobs. But it’s not like that was seen as an asset or a resource. In 1987, I quit. No plans. But I ended up at the Hetrick-Martin Institute for Lesbian & Gay Youth. My job was to go around to

NYC-area schools to do HIV/AIDS education to students, teachers, administrators, and parents. And pretty quickly, education on homosexuality, too, (Hi, I’m your local lesbian), because you can’t educate about HIV without addressing homophobia. Turns out it was much more fascinating to talk to 8th graders than Henry Kissinger. Here’s what I discovered: journalists don’t have a clue. I’d been following HIV/AIDS news at the networks since the first CDC announcement in 1981—but I had no idea. By late 1987, I still didn’t understand the virus, the people, the political, social and personal issues. Nothing. I got educated fast and it was amazing. Turns out the AIDS epidemic was just like the Vietnam War — people in power sending others off to die, not caring and not lifting a finger to help. There were—and are—issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. What an eye-opener! I quickly joined the activist group ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). That led to hundreds of demonstrations, about 20 arrests, and the trial for the St. Patrick’s Cathedral “Stop the Church” action, televised by Court TV with my old CBS News colleague Fred Graham as the primary correspondent. But here’s the punchline: I started training activists on how to deal with the news media. I’d been on both sides and I could tell them exactly how to understand the system. I taught them that journalists think they know everything but actually

know very little. I taught them to be kind to reporters; to interview the reporter before the reporter interviews them; and to find out what a reporter knows and doesn’t know and gently fill in the background and details. I taught activists to make themselves indispensable to reporters, because it’s not the sound bite you have to worry about— it’s the 90 percent of the story the reporter tells around your quote. Make sure they’re educated enough to tell the story correctly. That’s what I’ve learned in almost 50 years as a journalist and an activist. The two worlds couldn’t be more different. And that’s a real shame. I don’t think most (repeat: most, not all) journalists have the slightest idea what real life is like. They don’t understand and don’t try to understand real people and real issues. They’re too busy “defending” themselves from “special interests” trying to “manipulate” them. They don’t think that maybe they have something to learn. It’s tragic. I’m now a strange hybrid of journalist and activist, which are not mutually exclusive. I am the co-host (for 23 years) of a weekly TV news program, “Gay USA” (gayusatv. org), with co-host Andy Humm. We have a very informal way of reporting the news, explaining and discussing it as we go along. When our viewers send us stories or correct mistakes we make, we talk about it on air. And we talk about the ways we’re still involved as activists. Our goal is not to create artificial boundaries. Our goal is to get to the “truth,” as best we understand it, and to be utterly transparent along the way. I wish the news business was more like that.

An image from the ‘Where Love is Illegal’ exhibit. Photo by Robin Hammond, courtesy Witness Change Project 2

Expressions of Pride Arts festival runs May 22-June 30 with readings, poetry, music, theater and more By JOHN PAUL KING

Pride is still a month away, but it’s never too early to start planning ahead, especially when the City of West Hollywood has “40 days of LGBTQ arts” to offer, long before the first day of June. Each year the City of West Hollywood celebrates pride with its One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, which runs from between Harvey Milk Day (May 22) through the end of Pride month (June 30). The theme for 2019 is “Love is Love,” celebrating the universal bond that unites us, especially during this 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall riots. This year features an impressive and diverse line-up of events and attractions, planned throughout the month to satisfy the rainbow of LGBTQ taste in Los Angeles. The festivities kick off on the 22nd with a reception and a staged reading of “Dear Harvey” at WeHo’s City Council Chambers. The play is produced and directed by Michael Shepperd of Celebration Theatre, L.A.’s oldest






LGBTQ theater, founded in 1982. Extensively researched, this documentary-style ensemble production recounts the life and lasting impact of activist and politician Harvey Milk, as told by the people who knew him best. Participating will be a cast of professional actors, elected/appointed officials, and community members, including West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico, Bruce Vilanch, “Drag Race” star and trans activist Gia Gunn and West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Charles Flowers. On the weekend of May 25-26, there is the New Stages LGBTQ Seniors Theatre Project presentation of “I Do,” An evening of stories and music with LGBTQ seniors celebrating gay marriage and relationships. This musical is developed through a workshop process and incorporates the real-life stories of the participants under the guidance of teaching artists Mark Salyer, Kay Cole, Bruce Bierman, Debbie Lawrence and Christopher Taylor.

A M E R I C A’ S




It’s presented at the Renberg Theatre at L.A. LGBT Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza. On Tuesday, May 28, inaugural West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Steven Reigns and the Lambda Literary Book Club at the West Hollywood Library will hold a discussion of “Into?” by North Morgan. On Wednesday, May 29, Lambda Literary is back for more with WeHo Reads: Lambda Literary Award Finalists Reading. Attendees will hear Lambda Literary and the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division for readings from the Southern California finalists in the 31st Annual Lammy Awards. Readers include Kazim Ali, Genevieve Hudson, Steve MacIsaac, Tommy Pico and Mark Russell. The readings will take place at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers. There are also some pop-up events that will be taking place throughout the festival, beginning in May. Two will make their first appearance at the May 22, opening night





VOX Femina will perform a concert entitled ‘Hearts of Courage’ on June 2. Photo by Frances Chee Photography

kickoff. Everyone Deserves (A) Love (Poem). On this 50th anniversary of Stonewall, West Hollywood will transform into a literary salon of love, with a diverse group of queer poets on typewriters helping residents convert their love stories into poetry. Anyone may commission and take home a love poem from this interactive art project organized by Brian Sonia-Wallace aka RENT Poet. Let Love Flourish: Queer Poetry Popup is a spoken-word celebration of historic LGTBQ poets. Performance artist Jason Jenn brings their passionate words to spirited life for the public to enjoy in the streets of West Hollywood in special appearances throughout the festival. The presentations employ elaborately styled costumes and various theatrical techniques, while illuminating audiences about the authors’ lives and their historical conditions. Queer love has emerged in writing in various ways, from veiled allusions







during oppressive eras to all-out profusions of sensuous splendor in contemporary times. It’s created and performed by Jason Jenn with art direction by Vojislav Radovanovic. These two opening night events will begin at 6:30 p.m., with the performance of “Dear Harvey” to follow at 7:30. The third pop-up is Where Love is Illegal, an art exhibit on view at the West Hollywood Library starting May 24. Same-sex sex is still illegal in 70 countries and those discovered face discrimination, persecution and violence around the world. Award-winning photographer Robin Hammond’s “Where Love is Illegal” project has documented the stories and images of many individuals from these countries. Hammond has dedicated his career to documenting human rights and development issues through long-term photographic projects. He has won numerous awards for his work, including four Amnesty International Awards.


A M E R I C A’ S



These events are just the start of an arts festival that promises to be a great cultural supplement for Pride. The city has a lengthy list of events that will continue throughout June, including such highlights as the Metropolitan Master Chorale presenting Craig Hella Johnson’s historic oratorio “Considering Matthew Shepard,” Vox Femina and Trans Chorus L.A. in a concert performance titled “Hearts of Courage,” readings from Readings from L.A. theater icon Michael Kearns’ troupe QueerWise, and film screenings of “LA: A Queer History,” a documentary about L.A.’s contributions to the LGBTQ rights movement, and “¡GAYTINO! Made in America,” a story about being gay and Chicano. One City One Pride is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division. Full event listings are available at weho.org/pride or @WeHoArts.






Marriage conundrum 2017 play tackles thorny issue of gay couple with different views on marriage By JOHN PAUL KING

Bill Brochtrup, Jenny O’Hara and Tim Cummings in ‘Daniel’s Husband.’ Photo by Paul DiMalanta; courtesy Fountain Theatre

There was a not-too-distant past in which a play with the name “Daniel’s Husband” might have seemed provocative. Today, thanks to the reality of marriage equality, it barely raises an eyebrow. Without knowing anything about it, it sounds comparatively tame. It might be a cute romantic comedy, perhaps, or possibly a more mature marital drama. Lead actors Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings say “Daniel’s Husband,” which opens for its West Coast premiere at the Fountain Theatre on May 4, is more complicated than that. The show continues through June 23 (tickets at fountaintheatre.com). Michael McKeever’s play, which debuted in New York in 2017, is about two men who have been together for seven years. Daniel (Brochtrup) is a successful architect, Mitchell (Cummings) is a successful novelist; loving and committed, they seem the perfect poster couple for gay relationships until one night, at a dinner party with friends, Mitchell declares his opposition to gay marriage. “They find themselves in … some tricky situations … that would be able to resolve themselves if they had been married,” Cummings says. Avoiding spoilers prevents a detailed discussion of their characters, but both actors say it’s a journey. “I think of it more as the story of a relationship,” Brochtrup says. “One of them believes in marriage, the other one doesn’t, and then there are consequences for the philosophical choices that are made. It’s certainly about these bigger choices that we make and the consequences that come from them … and yet at the same time it’s a story about how love, at the end of the day, transcends all those things.” Cummings agrees the play is ultimately about love, but says the importance of the debate at its center, which springs from a position his character has taken, reflects many gay men of an older generation who see marriage as heteronormative. “It’s a bit of an identity thing,” he says. “A lot of people in the community don’t want to assimilate into heteronormative culture, they think, ‘Why are we fighting so hard to be a part of this institution that has done nothing but oppress us for centuries?’ I wonder if the play is a cautionary tale, for people like that about what happens when we don’t have marriage.” Brochtrup touches on a less obvious issue being addressed by “Daniel’s Husband” when he discusses the opportunity the play has afforded him and Cummings — who are both out and in committed relationships with partners of 13 and 28 years, respectively — to play gay characters of so much richness and complexity. “I think as actors,” he says, “we want to find roles where we feel like we have a point of view, something to say about the topic. Not every gay character suits me, just like not every straight character suits every straight actor, but there are certain roles that, when I read them, I think, ‘Oh I know about this, I have something to say about this.’ Those are the roles I am interested in doing.” He muses about how things have changed over the years. He came out during a stint working on the TV show “NYPD Blue” in the ‘90s. “I think there was a feeling then that coming out would ruin your career, and there’d be no parts to play,” he says. “Maybe that’s less so now, or maybe it still exists, but I have never regretted that choice, ever, it was really the best thing I could have done for myself. And I’ve played many gay roles, mostly gay roles in my career. I’ve been happy also about the way the world has continued to move in this direction since that time, it’s very encouraging and it just shows that coming out is the right thing to do.” Brochtrup and Cummings were first paired at the Fountain Theatre for a much-lauded revival of “The Normal Heart,” directed by Simon Levy in 2013, and when rights were secured to produce “Daniel’s Husband,” the first thought was to reunite the two men with their director as the perfect dream team to bring it to life. The actors were thrilled. Cummings says it was “really cool” of the theater to think of them and Brochtrup is just happy to be paired with such “a fantastic partner.” “The Fountain is really instrumental in L.A. theater with their mission of social justice,” Cummings says. “They are so good at representing all the different communities in the city. From play to play to play, they are always advocating for civil rights. That’s the point of a play like this, and as an actor, when you feel like you’re doing a service, it makes it easier to work on because you really want to. It matters.” Brochtrup sees “Daniel’s Husband” as the next entry in a canon of gay plays that includes “The Boys in the Band” and “The Normal Heart,” joining with these now iconic plays to mark, as he puts it, a “trajectory from self-hatred in a pre-Stonewall time, to awakening activism of the AIDS crisis, and now to a story about gay marriage.” “Who would have thought that we would even be here, at this point,” he says. “And when you look at the trajectory of gay history and that we are here and we are doing a play about gay marriage, it says a lot about where we’ve come from and where we are going. I’m happy to have a role in doing this play for that reason.”



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P!nk’s new album disappoints Mellower, less distinctive record features only momentary flashes of greatness By THOM MURPHY

P!nk has always been a breath of fresh air in pop music. Sadly her new record lacks the punch and buzz of her earlier records. Photo courtesy RCA

Punk, independent, rebellious — these are just a few of the adjectives that P!nk brings to mind. From “Just Like A Pill” to “U+Ur Hand” and “So What,” her music has been synonymous with a defiant, feminist attitude that is refreshing in the predictable romantic intrigues of most pop songs. But with her 2017 album “Beautiful Trauma,” P!nk’s music has taken a softer turn. Her newly released “Hurts 2B Human” continues in this direction, making this her least rambunctious album so far. Of course, it’s normal for artist to go through major changes over the course of their careers, and P!nk has already had several distinct stylistic periods. The earliest album “Can’t Take Me Home” (2000) has strong R&B influences, as does “Missundaztood” (2001), though it begins to turn toward pop/rock. By the release of “I’m Not Dead” (2003), especially on albums “I’m Not Dead” (2006) and “Funhouse” (2008), her music had taken a seeming definitive turn toward rock. With the “Beautiful Trauma” in 2017, however, her music becomes decidedly more self-reflective, a change that was well received by fans — the album landed at the Billboard no. 1 spot. But charts are not, of course, correlated to quality, and P!nk seems to be losing much of what makes her music distinct. The new album opens with “Hustle,” an uptempo pop track that has some of the attitude of the older P!nk albums. Her vocals are still topnotch, but the music is without its usual edge. “(Hey Why) I Miss You Sometime” is a mediocre dance-pop track with banal lyrics, almost to the point of absurdity: “Big time Johnny Cash kind of love/McDonald’s type of love/Can’t find my clothes kind of love/We dominate this love.” It’s a mostly meaningless wash of pop culture references. The lead single “Walk Me Home” is standard pop fare, but works well nonetheless. It’s incredibly catchy and destined for significant radio play. And it’s certainly one of the better tracks on the album. The same could be said for “Hurts 2B Human,” another inoffensive pop cut. “Can We Pretend,” one of the more danceable tracks on the album, is unlikely to earn her any political points. It espouses a kind of escapism at the opposite pole from Barbra Streisand’s music activism, and equally clunky: “Can we pretend that we both like the president?/Can we pretend that I really like your shoes? Hell yeah/Can we pretend? ‘Cause honestly, reality, it bores me.” The unfortunate part about P!nk’s new album is its commonality. Most of the songs could be sung be absolutely anyone. And this has never been the case with P!nk. A rendition of “U+Ur Hand” by any other artist is unimaginable. The album is not bad so much as disappointing in its mediocrity. One of the most distinct voices in pop music is starting to sound like every other. “Courage,” another of the inoffensive yet predictable tracks on the album, repeats a vocal hook quite similar to the one in Katy Perry’s “Chained To The Rhythm,” and indeed, it sounds like a pop song that is already two years old. The album has a few happy exceptions, mostly in the way of semiacoustic tracks. It makes one think a mostly acoustic album would have worked much better. “My Attic” is among the happy few. Her vocals are excellent throughout and musically, it’s one of the more harmonically complex songs on the album. The best song is without a doubt her duet with country singer Chris Stapleton. It’s a surprisingly good country song, one that may well find its way to country radio. It’s a bold choice and a testament to P!nk’s versatility as an artist. And the song is beautiful, even if she goes a little carried away with the country accent. Likewise, the song “Circle Game,” which talks about motherhood and her relationship with her daughter, is a touching, well-crafted track. But if the album takes a turn for the better around the last four songs, it’s too little too late. The path to mediocrity is well trodden. Nonetheless, it is a shame to see such a singular voice head in that direction.












For Dr. Ruth, it’s all about respect Nonagenarian sex therapist is subject of new Hulu doc By BRIAN T. CARNEY

Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Director Ryan White. Photo by Austin Hargrave; courtesy Hulu

Dr. Ruth’s sex advice boils down to one bedrock principle: “respect is not debatable.” And although she’s been a longtime champion of LGBT rights, her most basic sex advice could apply to anyone. “There is not such thing as normal,” she says during a phone interview. “Anything two consenting adults do is all right. I hoped that by saying that publicly a lot of people would listen to it. Young people must know there is support for them.” At age 90, revolutionary sex and relationship therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer is still going strong. The diminutive doctor with the thick German accent, the distinctive voice and the trademark cackle is still teaching college classes, lecturing around the world and working on a new edition of “Sex For Dummies.” She’s also promoting “Ask Dr. Ruth,” the excellent new Hulu documentary about her amazing life. The movie, which opened at the Sundance Film Festival, drops on Hulu on June 1. Dr. Ruth Westheimer was born Karola Ruth Siegel on June 4, 1928 near Frankfurt Germany. In November 1938, on the morning after Kristallnacht, her beloved father was arrested by Nazis. Shortly thereafter she was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland as part of the Kindertransport. Both her parents were killed in the Holocaust. In the movie, Westheimer makes a poignant visit to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, to commemorate their lives and to come to terms with her own status as a Holocaust survivor. After the war, she moved to Israel where she served a s a sniper and was badly injured in 1948 during the Palestine War. She moved to Paris with her first husband in 1950 and emigrated to America with her second husband in 1956. She married her third husband, Fred Westheimer in 1961; the two lived together for over 30 years until his death in 1997. Following years of education and specialized training in human sexuality, as well as a stint working for Planned Parenthood in Harlem, Dr. Ruth stumbled into broadcasting. Her first show, “Sexually Speaking,” debuted on WYNY-FM in 1980. Although it only ran for 15 minutes every Sunday at midnight, it quickly became a media sensation. By 1982 it was the highest-rated radio show in the New York market and by 1983 the show was syndicated nationally. Soon, Dr, Ruth was hosting television shows, making appearances on late night television, writing bestselling books and holding court as a frequent guest on “The Hollywood Squares.” But, in the middle of this media frenzy, there was serious work to be done. Dr. Ruth was a pioneer in openly discussing female sexuality (she famously made talk show host Arsenio Hall say the word “vagina” on air) and in supporting gays. She was also one of the first public figures to publicly discuss the HIV/AIDS crisis. “I had a couple of friends that died of that mysterious disease that nobody really had a name for,” she says.“I remember I went to visit one friend. I brought him a teddy bear and the next day he was dead. Gay people were a despised minority. As a German Jewish refugee, I took it very seriously. I had a lot of friends that died.” Even with the advent of PrEP, Dr. Ruth is still anxious about the transmission of AIDS and other STIs. “I’m worried about young people,” she says. “They say, ‘We have a medication so there’s no big deal.’ That’s a terrible mistake.” The media-savvy therapist, who says that she will never retire, thinks that this year’s Pride celebrations are a great opportunity to reinforce the message about safer sex. “You have an obligation to talk to younger people. Use the anniversary of Stonewall to talk about sex.” “Ask Dr. Ruth” is directed by Ryan White, award-winning director of the documentary “The Case Against 8” and the Netflix docuseries “The Keepers.” Westheimer and White were introduced by producer Rafael Marmor. Dr. Ruth was reluctant to have a movie made about her, but she agreed after she saw “No Place on Earth,” a 2012 documentary that Marmor produced. “You should mention that film,” she says. “It’s about 31 Jews who survived World War II in an underground cave in Poland. I watched the film and I was very impressed. I was also very taken by the title because that was my story. After World War II where would I have gone? They had to create Palestine so every Jew had a place to go.” Beyond her advice on good sex and great orgasms, Dr. Ruth is strictly non-partisan and avoids discussing topics where she feels she has not done the necessary research, saying, “I have made it an absolute rule of my life not to talk about things that are not my expertise.” But there are some issues Westheimer does feel compelled to discuss. “I don’t do politics except to stand up when I see children being separated from their families. That’s my story. And abortion must remain legal and I am very worried about funding for Planned Parenthood.” Dr. Ruth is also very worried about the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States, but overall, she remains hopeful. “I’m a big optimist,” she says. “I love this country. For me, America is a very wonderful place. It will survive. These are difficult times, but we will survive.” And, as the wonderful documentary “Ask Dr. Ruth” clearly illustrates, Westheimer is definitely a survivor.



Aaron resurfaces, Jussie in limbo Schock gets handsy, Robyn finally speaking out on Whitney and more By BILLY MASTERS

Aaron Schock (center) couldn’t keep his hands to himself at Coachella. This photo and others have caused a Twitter backlash for the disgraced former GOP Illinois congressman. Photo via Twitter

“Jussie Smollett. Two months ago, the ‘Empire’ actor was attacked by two Trump supporters who turned out to be Nigerian weightlifters. But then, Jussie was arrested for working with them to fake a hate crime. But then, the charges were dropped for no reason. And then, Jussie said the brothers really did attack him, but they were in whiteface. And now, the story’s starting to get weird. … I don’t know who’s writing ‘The Jussie Smollett Story’, but they deserve a raise.” — Trevor Noah Last week, I told you all about disgraced former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock’s same-sex lip-lock at Coachella (video can be found on billymasters.com). Along with the clip of him rummaging around in his dance partner’s shorts, there was also a photo of him with a group of hot shirtless men. We told you that two of the guys were a notable West Hollywood personal trainer and his boyfriend. All I knew about the other couple was that they were wearing fanny packs. They’ve now identified themselves as Will Rossi and Rob Massi, who use hashtags #gayboyfriends and #fitcouple. Well, they’re shocked that they’ve been dragged into this scandal. “Will and I wanted to take a photo with our friends at Coachella, to celebrate our last day there,” they said later. “Being polite, we allowed Aaron, who was basically a stranger to us and someone we just met, to include himself in our photo.” Of course, this isn’t some gigantic group photo. It’s a photo of five hot shirtless guys. And Schock, “basically a stranger,” is in the center. When I take photos with a small gathering of friends, I rarely invite strangers to get in the center. Well, there was that one time in Chicago, and he didn’t stay a stranger for long. “We would not have allowed Aaron to join the photo, nor would we have associated with him if we had more knowledge of his beliefs and past actions. For our own political ignorance, we are deeply sorry.” From this part, it sounds like they barely knew the hot shirtless guy’s name at the time. Not that I’m blaming them — it seems perfectly reasonable to moi. They sum up by saying, “We hope Aaron does decide to come out publicly and live the gay life he so freely enjoyed at Coachella.” Sounds like they may know more than they’re saying. I was wondering how long we’d have to wait for a gay angle on the Wendy Williams divorce story. And now, one guy, R&B singer Aveon Falstar, says he was Mr. Wendy Williams’ boy toy. In an interview (which you can watch on our website), Falstar claims that he had sex with Kevin Hunter on several occasions while signed to Hunter’s management company. He claims that it started when he was staying at Hunter’s New Jersey townhouse. He was on the bed asleep and naked. Hunter came in and without provocation performed oral sex on him. And apparently this was not an isolated encounter. According to Aveon, they were naked in a sauna making out and performing oral sex on each other. And then, according to Aveon, “We did each other in the butt.” I should mention that Falstar is now married to a woman. Of course, at the

time of the incident, so was Hunter. By the by, Aveon was also born intersex, but we can only handle one story at a time. Elsewhere in Jersey, Whitney Houston’s longtime “friend” Robyn Crawford is writing a tell-all. Up until now, Robyn has said precious little about her relationship with Nippy. “A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston” sure sounds like it could change that. The press release says, “With warmth, candor and an impressive recall of detail, Robyn gives readers insight into Whitney’s life and career. From countless sold-out world tours to her epic rendition of the U.S. national anthem to the set of ‘The Bodyguard,’ her tempestuous marriage, and the birth of her only child, Robyn was there.” That’s a good place to start, but will she deliver? The book drops in November. On to Jussie Smollett. Since I know you’re not watching “Empire” anymore, I can tell you that his character got married last week. For these last two episodes of the season, he’ll be on his honeymoon. While no official decision has been made about whether the show or Jussie will be back next season, his co-stars have banded together and issued a statement asking that Smollett be rehired. “We understand the past months have been difficult to process — sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal.” The letter continues: “Throughout ‘Empire’s’ five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, we have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character. He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity.” I dunno about all THAT! The letter also says, “He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped. We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.” We started this column with a Noah, and now our “Ask Billy” question is about another. Gary in Florida says, “What do you know about Noah Centineo? I hear he’s got some nude videos out there. Please find them.” First I had to figure out who Noah Centineo is. Apparently he was on the last three seasons of “The Fosters.” He’s also modeled for Calvin Klein undies and is currently in the Netflix release “The Perfect Date,” which was originally developed as a Zac Efron project about 10 years ago. As to the racy video, turns out there are two different clips of Noah pleasuring himself, which seems to me to be some of his best work, but I’m no expert. It’s certainly an extensive piece of work, as you’ll see on billymasters.com. If you’ve got a question, drop a note to me at billy@billymasters.com and I promise to get back to you before I find any other videos to schock you. To my fellow Albanians, “Krishti u ngjall.” To the Greeks, “Christos anesti.” And to everyone else, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.




of West Texas to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. General admission includes the book and is $32. Call 310-659-3110 or visit booksoup.com for tickets.

Obama Blvd. Naming Ceremony & Street Festival is today at noon at the intersection of Rodeo Rd. and King Blvd. (5001 Rodeo Rd). The City of Los Angeles officially unveils Obama Boulevard in honor of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. A celebration will be held where the new Obama Boulevard intersects with Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, now one of the most significant AfricanAmerican points of interest in the country. Obama Boulevard joins Washington Boulevard, Adams Boulevard and Jefferson Boulevard in Presidential Row, the first such expansion since the city’s grid was named. Celebrity musical guests will include Doug E. Fresh, YoYo, BJ The Chicago Kid, Battlecat, Kurupt, Alex Isley, Gavlyn, T-Lyons, Baby S, DJ Tee, Verbs, Dj Qwesscoast and more. Loads of community vendors and food trucks will be on hand. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Los Angeles Urban League President Michael Lawson, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congresswoman Karen Bass and other state and federal officials will appear for the 5 p.m. unveiling. For all ages. Free.


“Big Queer Convo: Breaking News, Breaking Barriers” is tonight at 7 p.m. at Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theater at The Villages at Ed Gould Plaza (1125 N. McCadden Place). As part of a special series celebrating 50 Years of Queer, a conversation with seasoned LGBT journalists about changes in coverage and representation of LGBT people in the news media from the late 1960s through today. It will include a discussion of the relevance of the LGBT press in an era when mainstream outlets often cover the community dispassionately. Karen Ocamb, news editor of the Los Angeles Blade, Bettina Boxall and LZ Granderson, reporters for Los Angeles Times, and Luis Sandoval, reporter for Univision will be on stage to make their cases. Free admission. Tickets available at lalgbtcenter.org/bqc.



Men’s Health Foundation Fabulous FUN RUN: Bunny Hop, is today from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at The Abbey Food & Bar (692 North Robertson). A crazy one-mile costume fun run benefiting youth services at Men’s Health Foundation’s SoCal Club in South Los Angeles. Get your best bunny or just bedazzle a set of rabbit ears “or strip down to your bunny-tail undies” and you’ll fit right in at this spring fling costume contest and fun run. Hop along Santa Monica Boulevard from The Abbey Food & Bar to Shake Shack. Those participating are expected to raise or donate $100. Learn more at secure.qgiv.com/event/bunnyhopla. Rear Opening: A Tribute to the Gutter Art of Stephen Varble, is today from 3:30-5 p.m. at One Archives Gallery and Museum (626 North Robertson). One Archives brings together a cadre of performing artists who promise the appropriately inappropriate in tribute to the genderqueer provocateur Stephen Varble and his legacy of disruption for the sake of art is highlighted by multimedia artist Jason Jenn, aka the Troubadour Trixter, conjuring up a spirited homage. Yozmit, the internationally celebrated visual artist, avant-garde party-artist, and singer/songwriter will enthrall with her latest original songs. Enrique Jesus Hernandez, the latinx, performance rock artist and domestic abuse activist will deliver an expressive musical tribute.

Havana Nights | Kol Ami’s annual gala is tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Congregation Kol Ami (1200 N. La Brea). Richard Wortman will receive the famed LGBT Synagogues Shomer Tzedek “Guardian of Justice” award for outstanding devotion and service to the congregation and for his community leadership in the wider Los Angeles and Tel Aviv Jewish community. Debbie Futrowsky will receive the Spirit of Kol Ami award for her service as chair of the Women of Kol Ami and her support of Kol Ami’s families with children. For all ages. Tickets are available at kol-ami.org. West Hollywood Brunch: Hamburger Mary’s Special Edition is tonight at 7 p.m. at Hamburger Mary’s (8288 Santa Monica Boulevard). Showcasing some of Los Angeles’s well-known stand-up queer comedians in a night hosted by Danny Franzese (Mean Girls). Slated to appear are Jusin Sayre, AB Cassiody, Pete Zias, Jared Goldstein, Arisce Wanzer or Nicky Paris. Must be 21. Cost is $5 plus a one-drink minimum.


An Evening with Filmmaker Dustin Lance Black is tonight at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles (540 South Commonwealth Ave.). Book Soup features Oscar winner (for “Milk”) Dustin Lance Black and his new memoir, “Mama’s Boy: A Story from Our Americas,” in conversation with Jeffrey Masters, senior editor of special projects at The Advocate and host of LGBTQ&A. Attendees will learn how the celebrated filmmaker/activist and his conservative Mormon mother are building bridges. Black chronicles the tough journey of his mom who initially derided his sexuality as a “sinful choice” and the struggles of remaining a family, a journey that stretched from the wood sheds

‘The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s,’ an exhibit of photographs by Greg Day, is on view through May 17 at ONE Gallery. Photo by Greg Day, courtesy ONE Gallery

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



Marijuana reform group assails Biden The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws last week criticized former Vice President Joe Biden upon the announcement that he is joining the 2020 race for president. “Joe Biden has an abysmal record when it comes to marijuana law reform, ending our failed war on drugs, and addressing mass incarceration,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “Biden’s views are far out of step with the American public and he holds the worst record on cannabis related policy of any individual currently running for the Democratic or Republican nomination. “He needs to address his history as one of the architects of many of our nation’s draconic drug policies, apologize for these mistakes, and present a plan to right the wrongs that criminalization has wrought upon millions of people, principally those in minority and poor communities, if he wants to even be considered by anyone who prioritizes real criminal justice reform,” concluded Altieri. Sixty-eight percent of registered voters “support the legalization of marijuana,” according to 2018 national polling data compiled by the Center for American Progress. NORML described Joe Biden’s record on marijuana law reform as ‘abysmal.’ Blade file photo by Michael Key

Marijuana use grounds for denying citizenship Those applying for U.S. citizenship may be denied if they have personally used marijuana, or if they have been employed in the cannabis industry — including in jurisdictions where such activities are legally authorized, according to a newly released guidance memo by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. The memo opines that any involvement with marijuana is indicative of a lack of “moral character.” Moral character is a prerequisite for people seeking citizenship. “[The] violation of federal controlled substance law, including for marijuana, established by a conviction or admission, is generally a bar to establishing GMC (good moral character) for naturalization even where the conduct would not be a violation of state law,” the updated language states. “This guidance ... is controlling and supersedes any prior guidance on the topic.” The USCIS is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security.

thousands of low-level marijuana convictions in the coming months. Cook County, which includes Chicago, is the second-most populous county in the United States. Foxx’s office is negotiating with the same nonprofit group, Code for America, that assisted the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office with automatically reviewing and vacating over 8,000 past marijuanarelated convictions earlier this year. Foxx also indicated that her office is reviewing policies regarding whether to suspend criminal prosecutions in cases involving marijuana sales. Under existing policy, the office typically does not prosecute low-level drug possession offenses, but does move forward with other drug-related violations. Under state law, the possession of more than ten grams of cannabis but less than 30 grams is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Possessing more than 30 grams is classified as a felony offense, punishable by up to six years in jail. In recent months, prosecutors in a number of major cities — including Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and St. Louis — have moved to limit low-level marijuana prosecutions, while officials in a number of other cities and counties, like Brooklyn, Denver, Sacramento, San Diego, and Seattle have moved to vacate former cannabis convictions.

N.J. court backs employees who use medicinal pot

Illinois official to expunge thousands of cannabis convictions

TRENTON, N.J. — Employers may not discriminate against medical cannabis patients who consume marijuana while away from the job, according to a state Appellate Court decision. The Appellate Court’s decision reverses a lower court opinion. While the Court opined that employers are not required to accommodate the use of medical cannabis by patients “in any workplace,” the justices also acknowledged that the plaintiff’s marijuana use, in this case, took place solely during off-work hours. “[T]he Compassionate Use Act’s refusal to require an employment accommodation for a user does not mean that the Compassionate Use Act has immunized employers from obligations already imposed elsewhere,” the Court determined, explicitly citing New Jersey’s laws against discrimination. The case is Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings LLC. Courts in a number of other medical cannabis access states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, have recently issued similar rulings affording workplace protections for qualified patients.

CHICAGO — Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has pledged that her office will begin expunging

Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.

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