Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 30, July 26, 2019

Page 1

Many in Calif. embracing Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, PAGE 06








A M E R I C A’ S







Memorial for Rose Greene set for Aug. 4 An instrumental leader in success of LA LGBT Center By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Rose Greene was a feisty leader. She served twice on the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Board of Directors from 1989-1995 and 2006-2011, critical times in the LA LGBT movement’s history. A certified financial planner, Greene died of bone cancer on July 11. She was 72. There will be memorial service on Sunday, Aug. 4 at the Renberg Theatre at The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 McCadden Place in Hollywood. The service, officiated by Rabbi Denise Eger, will begin at 1 p.m. Greene, a native Angelino, came out in the 1960s, Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center told the Los Angeles Times. In the 1970s, she dove into the Women’s Liberation movement, where she first met Torie Osborn. When Osborn became executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center

Rose Greene died from bone cancer on July 11. Photo courtesy Los Angeles LGBT Center

in 1988, she recruited Greene for a lesbian event, then for the board. “She carried the hopes and dreams of the lesbian-feminist world into the Center with power, passion and purpose. She was a key figure at a key time in Center history,” Osborn told the Los Angeles Blade. In 1992, as Board co-chair, Greene recruited attorney Lorri Jean, then a regional

FEMA director, to become the new Center director. “Her passion was infectious. Her commitment impressive,” says Jean. In November 1992, Greene helped dedicate the old IRS building in Hollywood, transformed it into the Center’s new headquarters. She subsequently mounted a capital campaign to purchase a $6.7-million Hollywood complex at 1125 N. McCadden Place, which became The

Village at Ed Gould Plaza. Greene also helped develop and rode in the first California AIDS Ride in 1994, a 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for HIV/AIDSrelated services at the Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, still going today as the AIDS/LifeCycle. “If Rose Green had not been there, I’m not sure [the California AIDS Ride] ever would have happened, at least not at that moment or for that organization. She understood the importance of taking a risk, and the rest of the board took comfort in her confidence,” Center event consultant Dan Pallotta wrote in an email to friends about how Greene and Board co-chair Ed Gould “helped to shepherd it through board approval to get the $50,000 in risk capital we needed to launch it.” “The Center is what it is today, thanks in part to Rose’s leadership and vision,” says Jean. The Center “lauds this tireless champion of the oppressed, this extraordinary, amazing, powerful, hilarious, and loving woman. May she rest in peace.”

PrEP Access and Coverage Expansion Act introduced in Congress Bill seeks to provide prevention meds to uninsured FROM STAFF REPORTS A bill expanding access and coverage to fund uninsured patients’ access to PreExposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), the proven HIV prevention medication, was introduced in both bodies of Congress on July 17. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) introduced the PrEP Access and Coverage Act in the House while the Senate version was introduced by California Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris.

The legislation would create a grant program to fund uninsured patients’ access to this critical medication, and would cover services related to treatment. “For too many in our country, lack of insurance coverage and steep costs have put PrEP out of reach. That needs to change,” Harris said in a statement. “Nearly four decades since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis that took so many lives and caused countless others to live in fear, we can and will stop the spread of this disease.” “No American should contract and suffer from HIV simply because they cannot afford preventative medicine. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to expand access to PrEP. We have the medical resources to end the HIV epidemic – now we must ensure that

every American, regardless of their income or identity, can access them.” The bill would require all public and private health insurance plans to cover PrEP, as well as all required tests and follow-up visits, without a copay, just as the Affordable Care Act requires insurance to cover contraception and other preventive services. It would also fund a grant program to assist states, territories, and tribal communities in facilitating access to PrEP for people who lack insurance. Additionally, the bill would prohibit companies selling life insurance, disability insurance, and longterm care insurance from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to people who take PrEP and fund a public education fund. “The PrEP Access and Coverage Act is a

bold step towards ending the HIV epidemic once and for all. It will help to ensure that PrEP – a crucial tool in fighting HIV and AIDS – can be accessed by the communities that need it most. Because of lack of awareness, inability to access culturally competent health care and associated costs, very few people take PrEP, particularly those at highest risk of infection: gay/bi men of color, trans women, youth and women of color,”said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “This Act would go a long way towards ending these disparities. It’s good for the public health and it makes enormous financial sense. It’s a lot cheaper to prevent the spread of HIV than it is to treat people with HIV. We applaud Congressman Schiff for his foresighted leadership.”














Rabbi Denise Eger is pro-neighborhood, not anti-pot Ugly insults spewed in controversy over new cannabis café By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Concerns over a new high-end West Hollywood eatery have prompted an increasingly uncivil controversy. On July 16, the West Hollywood Business Commission unanimously granted Lowell Herb Co. a license for a full-service, outdoor cannabis consumption and smoking restaurant, the first of its kind in the nation. Lowell Herb Co. co-founders Sean Black and David Elias say the eatery will comply with all stipulations required by the city, including a proper air ventilation system so the pot smoke does not bother neighbors. But Lowell Café will be situated about 300 feet from the Jewish synagogue Congregation Kol Ami on North La Brea Avenue and Rabbi Denise Eger, a progressive leader in the LA LGBT and Jewish Reform communities since 1988, has concerns. “I don’tknowwhy my congregation members and participants have to walk through clouds of marijuana to get to synagogue,” Eger emailed the commission prior to their vote. “It will limit the use of our outdoor space, as well, because of the contact high from the smoke that will waft in the area. We have no objections to people buying marijuana for their private use in their domains. We know that many people, including our congregants, use and enjoy cannabis. Some for health and some for recreation.” Eger’s opposition to what is being applauded as a potentially lucrative addition to the Creative City framed as a controversy pitting a conservative religious temple leader against a positive advancement in making cannabis as “normal” as alcohol. But that’s not why she objected, Eger tells the Los Angeles Blade. She was upset that neither the City of West Hollywood nor the business did any community outreach to hear neighborhood concerns in advance of the commission meeting. Kol Ami has worked closely with the city on a number

‘The temple has no objection to cannabis,’ said Rabbi Denise Eger. ‘We were opposed based on neighborhood issues.’ Photo courtesy Kol Ami

of east side projects, she says, including the redevelopment of the La Brea Corridor. In fact, the temple was built across from one of the early medical marijuana spaces, which was raided by the DEA. “The temple has no objection to cannabis,” Eger says. “We were opposed based on neighborhood issues. Our congregation is a safe community space. We serve our members and a much larger circle of West Hollywood— HIV groups, the LGBT community, and a large 12-Step community whose members could get a triggering contact high. We also have programs for families with children.” Plus impaired drivers could cause more accidents at the corner of Lexington and La Brea. Now Eger is being ridiculed. “I’ve received nasty and harassing emails, Facebook messages, words that I would never, ever use, claiming that I’m anti-marijuana, that we’re in the dark ages,” Eger says. “It’s ridiculous, it’s insulting and it’s hurtful. “Raising questions about neighborhood issues is not a cause for demonizing people. It is not helpful to creating a community that is vibrant and kind to one another and respectful of one another. That’s what we should be working towards,” Eger says. Safety, mutual respect and neighborhood

cooperation are no small issues. “We’re a synagogue,” says Eger. “We understand very well about fear; we live with it every day here at Kol Ami. The rise of antiSemitism in this country is unprecedented in these last two and a half years since Trump became president. I live with that reality. Every time I lead a worship service I worry for the safety of my congregants, that someone will walk in off the street and pull a gun and start shooting. We’ve had to take incredible measures. “Words matter. I don’t really know why we have to view people with suspicion and scorn when people raise questions or have a different view,” Eger says. “That is what this has been about for me. We deserve frank conversation, dialogue, and answer. I think that becomes the most important part of how we treat one another.” Eger talked with one of the owners after the hearing. “And I’m waiting to hear from them,” she says. “They say they’re committed to education, but we’ll see whether they really are or not. Time will tell.” Eger says she still hasn’t heard from the city about their regulation and monitoring plans, other than to call the Department of Public Works if there’s an odor issue. “This

is all new territory, so it deserves being thought through and talked through with one another in a respectful and decent manner,” she says. In response to phone and email requests to discuss Eger’s concerns, the city sent a list of requirements with which the owners must comply, attributed to John Leonard, City of West Hollywood’s Community and Legislative Affairs Manager. Nowhere on the list is there a requirement to meet with neighbors about their concerns. The owners of Lowell Café also issued a statement to the media, while still taking no action. “We understand the concerns from Congregation Kol Ami and want to put them and anyone else at ease,” the restaurant’s general manager Kevin Brady said in a statement, explaining their specialty air filtration system. “We understand the end of cannabis prohibition and the new kinds of businesses that are created from it ending can be scary. We intend to show that an establishment which allows for cannabis consumption can be as great a neighbor as any other business. We welcome the concerns and support of the neighborhood as we know all of this is uncharted.”



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Splitting the LGBTQ vote Many in California embracing Biden, Buttigieg, Harris By KAREN OCAMB kocamb@losangelesblade.com Many who read Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s devastating 448-page investigation into Russian intervention in the 2016 elections and Donald Trump’s criminal complicity found the report so compelling that calls for impeachment intensified and threatened Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s edict to focus on domestic issues, not Trump, for the 2020 elections. After Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on July 24, there’s been an uptick in calls for impeachment, a constitutional recourse to deal with a rogue, lawless president as was described in the hearings. But at day’s end, after an apparently robust private discussion among Democratic Caucus members, Pelosi still held firm. “Whatever decision we make in that regard [to initiating impeachment proceedings] would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts,” Pelosi told reporters. That means the next focus of intense political attention will be July 30 and July 31 as the Democrats hold two more presidential debates and the country takes stock of the 20 candidates in light of the pressure for impeachment and the candidates’ need to highlight other complicated issues of concern to voters throughout the country. With the California primary moved up to Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020, some LGBTQ voters are already starting to settle on a candidate, while others are bundling and maxing out for multiple candidates. CalMatters reporter Ben Christopher has compiled data indicating that voters are contributing more to Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg than former Vice President Joe Biden, who is in the third spot. That candidate pack comports with informal conversations with LGBTQ voters, some who mention Sen. Elizabeth “I have a plan for that” Warren as their second choice. Meanwhile, Equality California is looking at voter interest, as well, sending out surveys to their 800,000 members and active email subscribers around the country, most

Financial donations complied by Ben Christopher, courtesy CalMatters

residents of California. (To sign up for email alerts go to eqca.org.) “As part of our endorsement process, we have been sending surveys to our members to gauge their interest in and enthusiasm for each of the top tier proequality candidates. In the coming months, we’ll be asking each candidate to fill out a thorough questionnaire and participate in an interview with our PAC committee,” Equality California Communications Director Samuel Garrett-Pate told the Los Angeles Blade. But the debates will be the first dedicated opportunity for voters to watch the Democratic candidates explain their reaction to the Mueller report and hearings, which apparently is not the end of the story about what happened in 2016 and what Mueller suggested may happen again in 2020. Mueller appeared old and halting during the Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday morning, July 24. But he became more animated before the Intelligence Committee after Chair Adam Schiff framed Trump’s campaign as an unpatriotic crass financial pursuit to benefit Trump, his family, his

organization and his campaign staff in collusion with a foreign adversary. Looking like he was barely capping a volcano, Schiff stopped just short of denouncing Trump as a traitor. “Disloyalty to country. Those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it, or turn it away, but which instead invited it, encouraged it, and made full use of it?” asked Schiff, a former federal prosecutor and a longtime LGBT ally representing West Hollywood and Silver Lake. Schiff sat next to Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes, a rising Trump-Republican star who helped with the cover up when he was Chair of the Intelligence Committee, exposed by his “midnight ride” to the White House to concoct a plot about the investigation as a Russia hoax. It was no hoax, no witchhunt, Mueller said. Nonetheless, Politico reported that Trump wants the Tulare, Calif., native to replace Dan Coates as Director of National

Intelligence. Schiff to Mueller: “I gather that you believe that knowingly accepting foreign assistance during a presidential election is an unethical things to do.” Mueller: “And a crime, given certain circumstances…. Schiff: “We can agree that it is also unpatriotic.” Mueller: “True.” Mueller let slip that the FBI is still investigating “different aspects” of counterintelligence attempts to interfere with and compromise vulnerabilities in the 2020 elections by Russia and other countries. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” Mueller told Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd. “They’re doing it as we sit here.” Mueller’s report ends “with a scheme to cover up, obstruct and deceive every bit as systematic and pervasive as the Russian disinformation campaign itself, but far more pernicious since this rot came from within,” Schiff said. “This is what is at stake. Our next election, and the one after that, for generations to come. Our democracy.” “I hope this is not the new normal,”


Trump donations, compiled by Ben Christopher, courtesy CalMatters

Mueller told Vermont Democrat Rep. Peter Welch at the end of the day. “But I fear it is.” Given Trump’s penchant for distraction one wonders what will next shift the national narrative. But questions about Mueller’s testimony and what some see as the constitutional remedy of impeachment will surely impact the debates, which are

being held in Detroit, Mich., a Trump-won battleground state where the government still hasn’t fixed Flint’s dirty drinking water. For the LGBTQ community, the stakes couldn’t be higher with the House-passed Equality Act stalled by GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and continuous rollbacks of LGBT rights, established policies

and rules and just flagrant insults to please Trump’s evangelical base, such as the State Department’s new Commission on Unalienable Rights, led by an anti-gay law professor. Stonewall Democratic Club is hosting two debate watch parties, one in Studio City and the other in West Hollywood. (Check their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/


StonewallDemocraticClub/.) Kamala Nation is hosting a watch party at Beaches in West Hollywood on the second night. https://www. facebook.com/groups/279853286019176/ Some Harris supporters are anxious to see if back-bencher Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war vet from Hawaii, will go after Harris as unfit to be commander-in-chief. On July 23, The Hill’s Reid Wilson tweeted a prediction that Gabbard “is going to endorse Trump in the end.” The Center for American Progress’ Neera Tanden retweeted Reid, adding her own prediction: “Tulsi runs as third party Green candidate to help Trump win. I will take bets on this.” On Tuesday, July 30, most politicos will be watching for fireworks between friends Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vermont), who’s been losing steam, and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), who has been stealing his thunder. Sanders identifies as an independent Democratic Socialist and while Warren goes after big banks and big corporations, she identifies as a capitalist who cares about the little guy. Also in this lineup are one-time Texas phenomenon Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former Minnesota prosecutor who speaks knowingly about the opioid crisis. No matter how smart the rest might be, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan, John Delaney, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock appear as indistinguishable straight white guys. LGBTQ voters will be keeping an eye on selfhelp guru Marianne Williamson for her latest explanation of how love can cure politics. But most of the attention will rest upon erudite out South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who, along with his loving husband Chasten, have become moral role models for millions, LGBTQ and straight alike. “That flag that was attached to my shoulder,” on his military uniform, the Afghanistan vet told a packed crowd of 1,100 in Seattle, Washington July 23, the Olympian reported— “I’m pretty sure it stood for the idea that you can criticize your leaders without anybody telling you to go back to where you came from.” Keep an eye out for questions to Buttigieg about support from the African American community, which all candidates need to win the Democratic nomination. Buttigieg had issues with the Black community in Continues on page 8



Biden, Buttigieg, Harris splitting queer vote Continued from page 7 South Bend, which he was honest about. Dr. Jason Johnson, Political Editor at The Root and frequent MSNBC commentator gave Buttigieg no hope at all. But then the mayor rolled out his 18page “Douglas Plan”—named for black icon Fredrick Douglas— to “dismantle racist structures and systems” in the United States. “We have lived in the shadow of systemic racism for too long,” Buttigieg said in a statement, citing white nationalism, the widening economic gap between black and white workers, and bad disparities in health outcomes, according to the Washington Post. Those disparities, “should make us all wonder how the richest country on Earth can allow this to happen under our noses.” Buttigieg compared his Douglass Plan to “the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.” “I’m very impressed and I’m surprised,” Johnson told Joy Reid on July 21. But Warren, who has been well-received by African American women, talked about her plan on Juneteenth, “the annual and oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. But Juneteenth isn’t just about celebration. It’s a necessary reminder that 154 years later, Black Americans still feel the weight of government-sponsored racism and discrimination on their shoulders, Warren wrote on Medium. “Our country needs big, structural change to confront the tools of oppression Black Americans still face today…. Today on Juneteenth, and every day, we can — and must — do better. Black lives matter, Black citizens matter, Black families matter.” Interestingly, the radical lesbian origin of Black Lives Matter seems to have been lost. The movement was founded in 2013 by three radical Black organizers—LA-based lesbian Patrisse Cullors, Oakland-based lesbian Alicia Garza, and LA-based ally Opal Tometi—in reaction to the acquittal of Trevon Martin’s killer. “As a network, we have always recognized the need to center the leadership of women and queer and trans people,” they wrote. So far, Buttigieg and Harris appear to be the only two candidates who consistently mention the Equality Act, the LGBTQ civil rights bill that would grant LGBTQ

Biden photo by palinchak/Courtesy Bigstock; Buttigieg photo by Sheila_F/Courtesy Bigstock; Harris photo by Gage Skidmore/Courtesy wikimedia

Americans first-class citizenship. Biden mentions marriage equality, his support of which forced the hand of President Obama apparently before he was willing to publicly announce his support. Biden and Harris will be the stars on the second debate night, July 31, with many expecting a re-match between the two from the first DNC debate. Harris’ very personal attack on Biden over race jettisoned the former California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney to the top tier and left Biden looking weak, shaken, hardly the man to take on bully Donald Trump. It gave his tepid supporters permission to voice their quiet disappointment in how long it took him to apologize to Professor Anita Hill for his treatment of her as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas. The re-match this time will be over their respective plans for criminal justice reform. Expect New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker to get in some shots here, too. Former HUD Sec. Julián Castro may earn the spotlight challenging Trump’s cruel immigration and asylum policies; New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand may make waves talking about Trump and his sex offender

friend Jeffrey Epstein; Gov. Jay Inslee hopefully will get to talk about climate change but they are down the scale when it comes to fundraising to get to the next debates in September. Sen. Michael Bennet, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and affable entrepreneur Andrew Yang need a moment to stand out. CalMatters reporter Ben Christopher notes that “Californians have thrown more than $26 million at the two dozen candidates hoping to win the Democratic nomination and take on President Donald Trump,” with Harris and Buttigieg accruing the most donations. Harris, Buttigieg, Biden, Sanders, and Warren “have taken home more than 71% of California’s itemized donations in 2019.” Christopher also created an interactive graph and map showing how much money was raised where by which candidate. “Harris and Buttigieg both saw big infusions from the tonier neighborhoods of Los Angeles and the Bay Area, with Harris, the former district attorney of San Francisco, doing particularly well in her former city’s mansion-festooned Pacific and Presidio Heights. Buttigieg had a strong showing in West Hollywood, which is high-income and also has a large LGBTQ community that might have particular

enthusiasm for the first major Democratic candidate who is gay,” he wrote. “The ten zip codes shown above account for nearly 18% of all of California’s itemized donations this year so far.” Of particular interest in Christopher’s analysis is his look at Trump funders in California. “This may come as surprise to the president, the national media and more than a few Californians, but there are plenty of Trump supporters in the ‘Resistance State,’ too. And since the beginning of the year, they’ve been spending a lot of money to keep the president in the White House. New campaign finance statistics show that President Donald Trump raised $3.2 million—more money from the California donor class than all of his Democratic challengers, but two,” he writes, Harris with over $7.5 million since January 1 and Buttigieg with over $4.8 million—though money does not automatically translate to votes. An important hitch: the Trump campaign “collected more from itemized small donors—those who gave in increments of less than $100 at a time—than anyone else in the field,” Christopher writes, meaning he can keep coming back for more money and more voter engagement. “In total, Trump raised about 11% of all presidential campaign dollars in California this year,” with a Quinnipiac University poll giving him a 35% job approval rating from California voters. Trump, Christopher notes, “seems to have raised the most money in the conservative swaths of the state: the Central Valley, the suburban segments of southern California, the Inland Empire and the rural north.” Some of those districts are the red districts that Democrats flipped blue in 2018, the districts whose freshman representatives Pelosi wants to protect from taking an impeachment vote. Reps. Katie Porter and Mike Levin have already come out for impeachment. But state GOP activists are going after Katie Hill, Harley Rouda and Gil Cisneros, who blue wave energized LGBTQ voters. Expect there to be a ripple effect from the CNN debates since Congress leaves for its long August recess a days later and those representatives will be asked about impeachment, which candidate and what issues they like when they hold their own town hall meetings. Summer will be sweltering this year.


Bill LaVallee, Lisa Vanderpump, Richard Ayoub Photo courtesy Project Angel Food

Bill LaVallee, a hero to many in the Los Angeles 12 Step recovery community, opened the door of his one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles LGBT Centerrun Triangle Square Apartment complex on July 18 to find reality TV executive producer/star and philanthropist Lisa Vanderpump standing there with his dinner, the 12 millionth meal made and delivered by Project Angel Food since its inception in 1989. He had voted for her on “Dancing with the Stars.” The moment was incredibly special. Both Vanderpump and LaValle had volunteered for Project Angel Food during the height of the AIDS crisis in 1989 when both were struggling actors. “Today, Angel Food generously delivers to the ill, the crippled and the aged like me at 82,” LaVallee, who

has psoriatic arthritis, wrote on his Facebook page. In fact Vanderpump had flown back from London after burying her mother Jean (one year after the suicide of her brother Mark) specifically because she made a commitment to Project Angel Food Executive Director Richard Ayoub. “I first became involved with Project Angel Food in late 1989, so when Richard called and asked me to deliver the 12-millionth meal, I was so honored and humbled, really,” she said, tearing up. “There is nowhere I would rather be than here. It is important that we do what we can to give back to the community.” Project Angel Food serves as a lifeline with 97% of their clients living at or below the poverty level while combatting their medical conditions. – Karen Ocamb and Austin Mendoza

QUOTES “Law enforcement agencies have still not done anything to find the creators of this ‘game’ and bring them to justice.”

- Russian LGBTQ activist Yelena Grigoryeva posted on her Facebook page July 18 after finding her name on a website advocating the hunting of LGBTQ activists. She was murdered in St. Petersburg three days later.

“Ricky Martin is such a male chauvinist that he f---- men because women don’t measure up. Pure patriarchy.”

- Christian Sobrino Vega, Puerto Rico’s chief fiscal officer, about the popular gay singer in nearly 900 pages of leaked text messages between Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and top aides that prompted massive protests calling for Rosselló’s resignation.

“Texas governor Greg Abbott signs bill banning discrimination against homophobes” – British outlet Pink News headline about Abbot signing the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill July 18 that prohibits government from taking “any adverse action” in a contract dispute over “religious freedom.”





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Marianne Williamson: ‘I honor gay love because it’s love’ 2020 hopeful reflects on early AIDS activism, strong support of LGBT rights By CHRIS JOHNSON One underdog Democratic presidential candidate with firsthand experience of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s wants to wield love — including gay love — as her weapon of choice to take on President Trump in 2020. Marianne Williamson, an author whose vision for a “Politics of Love” is the subject of her latest book and drew attention at the first Democratic debate, said in an interview Thursday with the Washington Blade her vision applies to LGBT people. “I don’t think that there’s gender to love, I don’t think there’s sexuality to love,” Williamson said. “I think that sexuality and gender are the containers and the ways we express our love, but I think love is love. I honor gay love because it’s love. I honor love.” Williamson, 67, said her work during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s is “well-documented.” At the time, she founded the Los Angeles and Manhattan Centers for Living, which sought to provide free non-medical care to people with HIV, and Project Angel Food, which delivers food to homebound people with AIDS. “I’ve worked with thousands of people during that time, during the AIDS crisis, spiritual support groups, food, etcetera,” Williamson said. “So actually, my activism on behalf of that community has been ongoing and began during the AIDS crisis, so my connection to that community has been strong and has been going on for a very long time.” In the aftermath of racist tweets from President Trump and presiding over a rally in which supporters chanted “send her back” in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Williamson likened the current administration to Nazi Germany before World War II. Asked what aspect of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBT record bothers her the most, Williamson identified the transgender military ban, saying Trump “in many ways, leads the pack” in cultural attitudes against transgender people. When the Blade asked Williamson why she thinks Vice President Mike Pence seems so

Marianne Williamson says love can defeat President Trump. Photo by Marcn via Facebook

uncomfortable with the idea of gay rights, she laughed and referenced rumors that Pence is himself gay without explicitly saying so. “Well, there are all kinds of theories about that, aren’t there?” Williamson said. “Everyone can have their own — can have their own. I have no idea, but I have a sense that other people do.” Remembering Los Angeles as being hard hit by AIDS in the 1980s because it affected many people in the entertainment industry and LGBT people, Williamson became emotional and unable to speak when she reflected on the ravages of the disease. “Those of us who did experience it, it imprints them,” Williamson said. “You’re imprinted with something. I can’t even talk about it now and not —“ David Kessler, a gay longtime friend of Williamson, said the candidate is “brilliant and articulate and she has always been someone who thinks a little out of the box,” marveling at her work during the height of the AIDS epidemic. The two met, Kessler said, as a result of an AIDS support group she held in his living room every Monday night when he was in another section of town doing a support group. Recalling the days when medical practitioners would decline to treat people with AIDS, Kessler said Williamson would visit gay men as they were dying in hospitals

and came up with the idea for the Los Angeles Center for Living. “Even back then, I said, ‘Well, do you have a business plan?” Kessler said. “And she goes, ‘No. I don’t have a business plan. I’m just trying to make this happen. And I’m like, ‘Well, you’re going to need a business plan for an organization.’ And she goes, ‘I’m going to just make this happen.’ And she started calling people, and started saying we have to this place for people to come, and the next thing I know, she started this amazing LA Center for Living.” Kessler said Williamson started Project Angel Food when she realized gay men with AIDS had stopped coming to the center because they were too sick to leave their homes. “They were getting sicker and they couldn’t come in for lunch,” Kessler said. “And she said, ‘Well, we have to bring them lunch,’ and that turned into Project Angel Food, which still exists today, and just the other day served its 12 millionth meal.” Williamson has taken flak for once calling vaccine mandates “Orwellian” and “draconian” — a statement for which she has since issued an apology — and bristled when asked whether she would support a hypothetical HIV vaccine. “I think my quote unquote, concern over vaccines has been vastly misrepresented,” Williamson said. “I am pro-vaccine. I am also pro-independent scientific research. And I am aware of how often in our country today because of the influence of Big Pharma, independent research through such sources as the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health so forth, is diminished. I also am never happy with the suppression of independent consultation In the United States.” Regarding the AIDS vaccine, Williamson said she “knows that it exists.” Just last week, the National Institutes for Health announced the start of trials in the United States and abroad for a potential HIV vaccine. Kessler defended Williamson as a supporter of medicine, saying “there’s been things said that she’s against medicine, which is completely utterly wrong.” “I remember Marianne giving men money and taking them to UCLA for the AZT study and giving them money for prescriptions,” Kessler said. “There’s no part of Marianne that was anti-medicine.” Despite Williamson’s record of working

for LGBT people, many LGBT voters have been drawn to other candidates, including gay South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (whose success to date Williamson called “wonderful.”) One gay Democratic advocate with familiarity of LGBT donors in Los Angeles, who spoke on condition of anonymity for greater candor, said eyes have been on other candidates who appear better poised to win in the general election. “I know that there are a number of folks here who look very kindly on all of the work that she did in the community in the past — but most are now focused on more serious candidates who stand a real chance at beating our current threat: Donald Trump,” the advocate said. The interview follows: Washington Blade: Let me just get right into it. The Washington Blade is the nation’s oldest LGBT newspaper. We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary, in fact, this year. And so to start off with, I want to ask you, because you’re running in a field of Democratic candidates with records in support of LGBT rights, what makes you think your candidacy and vision for a “politics of love” is the best choice for the LGBT community? Marianne Williamson: Well, I actually have a very long record of activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community. Starting in 1983, starting in the 80s, with the AIDS crisis, my activism is well documented, having founded the Los Angeles Centers for Living, and the Manhattans Center for Living, both which gave non-profit, gave free non-medical services to people living with AIDS and other life-challenging illnesses. And one of the programs of the Centers for Living was Project Angel Food. This was a “Meals on Wheels” program I founded in the late 80s, to feed homebound people with AIDS. Today, the organization still exists and has served over 11 million meals. I did numerous — I’ve worked with thousands of people during that time, during the AIDS crisis, spiritual support groups, food, etc. So actually, my activism on behalf of that community has been ongoing and began during the AIDS crisis. So, my connection to that community has been strong and has been going on for a very long time. Continues at losangelesblade.com

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Ortiz Jones to challenge Texas congressman again SAN ANTONIO — A former Air Force captain who is once again running against a Texas congressman whose sprawling district borders the U.S.-Mexico border on July 18 described the Trump administration’s immigration policy as “a moral crisis.” “It’s shortsighted at best,” Gina Ortiz Jones told the Washington Blade during an interview at a Mexican restaurant near her home in San Antonio. “It’s cruel at worst.” Jones in 2018 lost to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) by 926 votes. She announced in May that she will challenge him again. Hurd represents Texas’s 23rd congressional district, which includes 40 percent of the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. Border Patrol Station in Clint, Texas, where hundreds of migrant children have been kept in crowded, Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force captain who unsanitary conditions, and the border cities of is an out lesbian, is once again challenging U.S. Eagle Pass and Del Rio are located within the Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) district. Photo by Ana Isabel Photography Jones said Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano, who is gay, recently told her his city loses $40,000 a day in revenue because of vehicles have stopped traveling to Del Rio because of long wait times to drive over the Del Rio International Bridge that separates it from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Jones also said Del Rio officials have tapped into their budget to help migrants who are in their city. “It’s an economic crisis,” said Jones, referring to the Trump administration’s immigration policy. “It’s certainly a moral crisis when you think about what’s happening in some of these detention centers and Texas 23 is on the frontline of this, I mean literally and figuratively.” Jones, 38, is a first-generation Filipina American whose single mother immigrated from the Philippines. Jones and her sister grew up on San Antonio’s West Side. Jones graduated from John Jay High School. She was an intelligence officer in the Air Force during the Iraq war. Jones served under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She would be the first openly LGBT person to represent Texas in Congress if she were to beat Hurd in November. The LGBTQ Victory Fund is among the organizations that have endorsed Jones. “We obviously challenged a lot of assumptions about what it takes to win in Texas,” she said. “926 votes is all that I came up short the last time.” Jones added her sexual orientation is “not something obviously that I have hidden or shied away from discussing, everything from my coming out story to how that experience allows me to identify with, empathize with communities that have been left behind.” “That’s everything from our Dreamers to people who live in a rural area that feel like no one’s paying attention to them, no one’s looking out for them,” she said. Jones last month attended Del Rio’s first Pride event. She was the grand marshal of the Eagle Pass Pride Parade that took place in October 2018. Jones told the Blade that Hurd’s stance on LGBT issues is among the reasons that prompted her to challenge him again. Jones pointed out Hurd, who is seen as a moderate Republican, has voted against the expansion of Social Security and Medicare and opposed an increase in the federal minimum wage. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Lawmakers ‘deeply concerned’ over State Dept. human rights commission Fifty members of the U.S. House of Representatives last week said they are “deeply concerned” over the State Department’s new human rights advisory commission. The lawmakers — including U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) — in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his “plan to establish a Commission on Unalienable Rights is an attempt to make an end run around career experts, statutorily established State Department structures and widely accepted interpretations of human rights law to push a narrow, discriminatory agenda that decides whose rights are worth protecting and whose rights the administration will ignore.” Advocates have criticized the commission, in part, because it will stress “natural law and natural rights.” Pompeo on July 8 announced Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor who is known for her vocal opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, will chair it. The letter notes “a group of career, non-partisan human rights experts has been doing this work (of promoting human rights) for decades” through the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and its Office of the Legal Adviser. The lawmakers also ask Pompeo why the State Department “is proposing this seemingly redundant, unaccountable body.” “The answer to us is clear: To push aside the modern human rights norm that the United States helped establish in favor of narrower protections for women, including reproductive rights; for members of the LGBTQI community and for other minorities,” reads their letter. “While centuries ago, the concepts of ‘unalienable rights’ and ‘natural law’ were used by Enlightenment thinkers, today their use sits outside the rich body of international human rights norms and law,” it adds. “These terms imply ‘Godgiven’ or religiously-based rights, affecting issues including gender, sexuality and reproductive rights. Establishing a commission to advance these concepts represents a sharp departure from long-standing American foreign policy and legal traditions and threatens critical gains toward gender equality, LGBTQI human rights and other fundamental rights.” The lawmakers have requested the State Department to provide “any and all records, sent, received, created or edited by officials” related to the commission by July 25. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

LuPone slammed for telling Lindsey Graham to come out Broadway star Patti Lupone came under fire after she told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to “come out” on Twitter. Graham supported Donald Trump after the president made comments telling four congresswomen of color to “go home.” Trump also stood in silence while a crowd of supporters at his rally chanted “send her back,” referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). LuPone tweeted that Graham is a “disgrace” and should just “come out.” “Lindsey Graham you are a disgrace,” she wrote. “On a personal note, why don’t you just bite the bullet and come out. You might just come to your senses.” Comedian Chelsea Handler also accused Graham of being in the closet with a tweet back in October. She was also slammed by some who thought the joke was homophobic. “If you’re wondering why Republicans took a sick day today, it’s probably because it’s #NationalComingOutDay,” Handler tweeted. “Looking at you @LindseyGrahamSC.” The tweet was considered to be homophobic by some users while others defended the comment. Graham responded to Handler’s joke by telling TMZ, “Number one, she knows zero about me. To the extent that it matters, I’m not gay.” MARIAH COOPER

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Blade writer from Cuba appears before immigration judge

About 6,000 people from around the world attended the International AIDS Society’s Conference on HIV Science that took place in Mexico City this week. Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers

Thousands attend HIV/AIDS conference in Mexico City MEXICO CITY — Upwards of 6,000 people from around the world attended the International AIDS Society’s Conference on HIV Science that took place in Mexico City this week. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases at the National Institutes of Health is among those from the U.S. who participated in the conference. AIDS Institute Deputy Executive Director Carl Schmid, who co-chairs the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, and A. Cornelius Baker are among the U.S.-based HIV/AIDS activists who also attended. The conference showcased numerous HIV/AIDS studies from around the world that received support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development. These include studies on how the use of crystal methamphetamine and group sex among men who have sex with men with HIV contributes to a Hepatitis C epidemic in Bangkok and the effectiveness of STI screenings among MSM in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam. HIV/AIDS service providers from Mexico, Venezuela and more than 100 other countries took part in the conference, alongside AIDS Healthcare Foundations. Gilead and Roche are among the pharmaceutical companies that also participated. The conference primarily focused on scientific advances and research designed to curb the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Other participants sought to highlight how the lack of access to PrEP and basic health care, discrimination and violence puts LGBTI people at increased risk for HIV. Maria Amelia de Sousa Mascena Veras of the Santa Casa de São Paulo School of Medical Sciences on Monday noted during a panel on the prevention of HIV/AIDS among transgender people that Brazil is “one of the most unequal countries in the world in terms of income and economic opportunities,” even though universal health care is enshrined in the Brazilian constitution. Veras also pointed out Brazil has one of the highest rates of violence based on gender identity in the world. “Stigma creates a complex environment in which the factors that could contribute to resilience, such as housing, education and social support, are also limited,” she said. “In Brazil, stigma towards transgender people is a barrier to not only access to PrEP but to health care in general.” Erin Wilson of the San Francisco Department of Public Health noted her city provides access to sexreassignment surgery and other health care treatments for trans women. Wilson nevertheless added a lack of access to housing and poverty are among the factors to contribute to high rates of HIV among this population. “We see these huge structural barriers in a city with a lot of access to HIV services,” she said. Reshmie Ramautarsing of the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center noted a study found 15 percent of health care providers in Thailand thought a person with HIV should “be ashamed.” Ramautarsing also noted PEPFAR and USAID are among the funders of a trans-led health clinic in Bangkok. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

A Washington Blade contributor from Cuba who has asked for asylum in the U.S. appeared before an immigration judge in Louisiana on Tuesday. Yariel Valdés González went in front of Judge Grady A. Crooks from the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility in Plain Dealing, La., where he remains in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Crooks scheduled a second hearing for Sept. 6 in order to consider additional evidence that supports Valdés’ case. “I’m happy,” Valdés told the Blade during a telephone interview after the hearing. Valdés, 28, entered the U.S. on March 27 through the Calexico West Port of Entry between Calexico, Calif., and Mexicali, Mexico. Valdés has asked for asylum based on the persecution he said he suffered in Cuba because he is a journalist. Cuban authorities routinely harass and detain journalists who work for independent media outlets. Authorities in October 2016 arrestedMaykel González Vivero, publisher of Tremenda Nota, the Blade’s media partner for which Valdés has contributed, when he was in the city of Baracoa in eastern Cuba to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. González and his partner, Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez, who is Tremenda Nota’s editor, were taken into custody in September 2017 when they tried to interview a Cuban Communist Party official in Villa Clara province about Hurricane Irma preparations. Ricardo Fernández, a reporter for 14ymedio, a website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a journalist who is a vocal critic of the Cuban government, was arrested earlier this month in Havana. Authorities on Sunday released Fernández in Camagüey province after nine days in custody. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Russian LGBT activist stabbed to death A prominent Russian LGBT activist was found dead in St. Petersburg on Sunday, according to activists and local media. The woman, Yelena Gregoryeva, 41, was an outspoken and prominent activist in the city. Authorities on Sunday said they found the body of a woman who had been stabbed. She was later identified as Gregoryeva by activists and family, the Russian outlet Fontankareported. Police have detained a 40-year-old man in connection with the killing. Gregoryeva campaigned with the Alliance of Heterosexual and LGBT for Equality. Svetlana Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian LGBT Network, told the Blade she also worked with other civil society groups. Zakharova said not enough details about what exactly happened have been released yet. However, she said that Gregoryeva had been targeted recently on a website that drew inspiration from the horror movie franchise “Saw” and targeted LGBT people. “What we know is that her name was on the so-called Saw website,” Zakharova said. The website, “collected and published personal information on LGBT activists like names, photos and addresses.” The site, which called for people to hunt those listed on it, was taken down by Russian authorities last week. It had appeared in 2018. The fact it took so much time for the police to respond to the website, Zakaharova said, shows anti-LGBTI attitudes among the authorities. ALEX COOPER



Since we can now call Trump racist, let’s add homophobic Individual dignity is universal

Gabriel S. Hudson, Ph.D., teaches at George Mason University’s Graduate School of Education and The Schar School of Policy and Government. He is the author of ‘Christodemocracy and the Alternative Democratic Theory of America’s Christian Right.’ (Photo by Oliver Lawrence)

“At least Trump isn’t antigay.” Well, that’s what I’m told. Whenever I’m in a conversation about Donald Trump’s latest racist tweets or thwarting of democratic norms, someone points out the silver lining that the president of the United States doesn’t traffic in homophobic bigotry like he does racism. Sure, he is no champion of LGBTQ rights; he merely pays lip service to the anti-gay tendencies of his base. But his heart — or hate — isn’t fully committed. I’m told Ivanka quells her father’s antipathy or that I should interpret the absence of homophobia as some affirmation of LGBTQ clout. The gays are so powerful now, even Trump won’t go after them. Somehow, I’m not comforted. President Trump is vocally and aggressively opposed to rights for LGBTQ Americans. It’s just, we don’t recognize the homophobia in the eliminationist thinking behind “go back where you came from,” or the threat to LGBTQ rights that inhumane detention centers for immigrants pose. Since the Cold War, Americans associate democracy with prosperity and strength. Those who write about democracy, however, who study its history and permutations, know that liberal democracy is delicate. Seemingly robust democracies easily slip

into something less open. In writing the Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt documented the cultural changes in Germany that preceded the rise of the Third Reich. The Jews were a historically convenient scapegoat, but through a fear and loathing of a targeted other, The Weimar Republic was dismantled for everyone. All that’s required is the exclusion of one group to unravel a system of precedents and principles that protect all groups. Umberto Eco produced perhaps the best understanding of fascism by describing it as a functioning democracy that catches nationalism like a virus. Left untreated, the condition worsens and kills its host. In his list of universal characteristics of fascism, he includes two salient ingredients: (1) Fear of difference: “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.” And, (2) appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.” Once a fear of the not-us among us is firmly established and the economically frustrated are whipped into a sufficient panic, the dismantling of liberal democracy hastens. The liberal in this context is not a counterpoint to conservative. It doesn’t refer to the Democratic Party but to the type of democracy that prioritizes individual rights over the will of the majority. In liberal democracy, the dignity of the individual is universal even when individuals are different, scary, or unwanted. One’s liberty of conscience includes a right to disagree with religious authorities. The majority’s faith is not a rational basis for unequal treatment under the law. Self-determination includes a right to embrace a trait another abhors. In short, the protection of individualism is what gives democratic participation its meaning. As Justice Kennedy wrote in the Majority Opinion in Lawrence v Texas, the Supreme

Court case that found sodomy laws to be unconstitutional: At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. These are core democratic principles that come from The Enlightenment and inform every democratic institution. Since Stonewall, gay rights have steadily advanced based on an appeal to these core, democratic principles. Antigay discrimination isn’t merely wrong or cruel; it violates the very principles that undergird our system of government. Elections and representation have little value if the people voting aren’t fully free to be who they are. President Trump’s rhetoric infrequently targets LGBTQ people specifically. But, it quite frequently negates the dignity of the individual necessary to justify equality under the law. This is not some intersectional abstraction of shared struggles. It speaks quite practically to how state power gets interpreted and applied. A convenient scapegoat - in this instance, immigrants coming across the southern border - is easily used to justify legal discrimination. Once that principle is circumvented, the path is used to target others. We should care because fellow humans are suffering. Once we recognize that suffering as our own, the credit Trump gets for not being antigay becomes immaterial. Who cares? He’s anti-personhood. The heart of the matter - the undermining of individual dignity - is why so many conservative Evangelicals are in love with Trump even though he represents the opposite of everything they champion. He’s getting them something they’ve wanted for decades: an erosion of liberal democratic protections for individuals. The Christian Right has long sought to use the instrument of state power to oppress and silence LGBTQ Americans. Even if Trump isn’t blowing that particular dog whistle at the moment, he’s supplying a whole artillery of discrimination destined to outlive his tenure in office.

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Companies must end support of worst anti-gay politicians ‘Zero for Zeros’ campaign highlights PAC contributions By LANE HUDSON The first time I saw large contingencies of employees proudly marching under their employers’ banners in a Pride parade, I felt a sense of awe that these large corporations supported their LGBT employees in such a public way. It was reassuring that corporate America had our back. However, when we took a look at their corporate PAC contributions, we realized that isn’t always the case. That’s why the Zero for Zeros campaign was created, so we could call attention to corporate PAC contributions to the worst of the worst Members of Congress from our best corporate allies. We hold strong that our allies should stop giving to the politicians who work every day to turn back the progress we have worked together to achieve. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation manages and makes public both their Corporate Equality Index and Congressional Scorecard. This is where our research began, with all of the politicians who scored a 0%.

Then we applied an extra filter for other aggressive and anti-LGBT actions outside of the HRC Scorecard to find the worst of the worst, producing a list that includes 10 House members and 19 senators. Then we researched publicly available campaign contribution data. We looked to see who among the almost 600 companies with a 100% on the HRC CEI contributed to the 29 worst of the worst politicians. We found 49 companies whose corporate PACs support these anti-LGBT politicians who lead the charge against equality. We understand that LGBT equality isn’t the only issue important to corporate America. However, these companies have made it absolutely clear that diversity and inclusion are a core part of their identities. They invest heavily in their LGBT employees having a safe and productive work space, they support their employees’ LGBT employee resource groups, they sponsor and march in Pride all over America and abroad, they don’t support anti-LGBT organizations, they market to the LGBT community and they have signed onto court briefs to overturn Prop 8 and DOMA, to support marriage equality and recently to support inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity

under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. They do all this good while propping up those who stand directly in the way of full equality. It’s misleading, counterproductive to progress and violates their corporate values. We are not asking for the moon. We are simply asking our best corporate allies to end their PAC contributions to a small group of politicians that work against us at every turn. After an internal review of past giving, these companies will find this is indeed not a heavy lift. Our target group is less than 5% of Congress, leaving plenty of room for companies to spread their PAC money to people who don’t actively undermine our work on equality. These companies have excellent track records on LGBT equality and should rightfully be proud of that. HRC should be incredibly proud of their role in guiding corporate America along a pathway to being staunch allies to our community. The Zero for Zeros campaign is appreciative of all this and thankful for the work done that makes this new effort timely and reasonable. And yet we believe more can and should be done. Last week, the campaign began by mailing letters to the CEOs of the first wave of

companies we are looking to work with. It’s important that they know we are seeking productive conversations with them. We are also launching an online advertising campaign to generate support in targeted areas. So far, we have gotten favorable press coverage from Buzzfeed, NY Daily News, Mic, and Gay City News, among others. The Zero for Zeros campaign is well researched and narrowly focused. We are running this campaign professionally and treating folks with respect. Our ask is reasonable and we expect our corporate allies to work with us in good faith. Our core values are an aligned vision. We share a common vision of a future that is inclusive and diverse that will make us stronger. Our campaign aims to send a message that it is unacceptable to work against the basic rights of the LGBT community. This is simple and an easy lift for our best corporate allies.

Lane Hudson is a longtime LGBT rights activist based in D.C.

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

The furry soul of the Los Angeles Blade Meet our pets and take our advice for local park outings By TROY MASTERS

Dee J and Pepper.

Lilly Pearl, left, pictured here with her new partner in crime, Cody. It’s all about Lilly now.

Photo by Karen Ocamb

Photo by Troy Masters

LA residents tend to want to go everywhere with their dogs. Even some cat people take their kitties to the beach or out on a leash for a stroll or even a road-trip. We love our pets. We love them of all breeds, species, shapes and sizes and we love LA for loving them back. So what’s better than a guide to the best local places to bring our four-legged friends? Nothing, really. It just so happens that the staff of Los Angeles Blade and its contributors are almost all pet parents, and so we decided it would be a great idea to feature a few of their creatures and give our readers advice on the best doggy outings LA has to offer.


Los Angeles Blade News Editor

We are a rescue family. I rescued Dee J and Pepper from difficult situations years ago and they rescue me everyday. When my PTSD AIDS grief gets triggered, Pepper lays her whole body over my chest while Dee J, typical boy, jumps on her or looks for a chew toy to distract me. They are so proud and happy walking, Pepper prancing like a Cairn Terrier version of







a Clydesdale show horse while Dee J dashes to investigate lord-knows-what. And they love each other. During one doggie day care visit, Dee J was frightened by an obnoxious bigger dog. He scurried to a corner and was quickly joined by butch mamma Pepper. When the big dog approached again, Pepper, who was clearly frightened, too, slowly crawled in front of Dee J to provide protection. It was one of the bravest and sweetest acts I’ve ever witnessed. I’m so grateful to have them in my life.

RUNYON CANYON 2000 North Fuller Avenue

It goes without saying, if you want to go for a hike in LA with your besties and your fur baby, Runyon Canyon is the place to go. It’s required of every self-respecting Angeleno that you post a well-post selfie with the Hollywood and LA skyline in the background and showing off the city’s rugged nature. Paw-friendly trails and plenty of new friends to meet, it’s got it all.


Los Angeles Blade Publisher


A M E R I C A’ S


My partner Arutro and I have been blessed for the past 17 years to be owned by Lilly. She really has owned us. From the time she was a baby she was curious about every move we made and eerily understood our words, both in Spanish and English. She sat the first time we said Siéntate and she has given hugs at request (both front paws on our shoulders and nudging her face against ours) since she was a puppy. She keeps us centered and preserves order, even as her daily routine has grown more complex with the anxiety of blindness and diabetes. She’s a beautiful creature. When her partner in crime died suddenly, she mourned Max with us and helped lift us out of it. And when we were finally ready to introduce Cody into our family, she was excited to take charge of that too. She wasn’t having it when Cody became famous after a grooming incident resulted in a WeHo grooming regulation change called Cody’s Law. We’ve been blessed.






It’s perhaps the place in Los Angeles where you are most likely to find a husband or a wife or just another dog lover. Just pick up some poo and strike up a conversation about how cute Fido (“what’s his name?”) is and you are

enjoying some good old fashioned outdoor zoomie time with your best fluffy friend. The park even has agility courses for more active dogs.

Borat King-Caruso is a handsome male tricolor cat who enjoys sunbeam-bathing, bossing around his people, and galloping through the house at full speed for no apparent reason in the middle of the night. At

Abby, the water averse Shepherd.

Speed, Spaz and Spot travel everywhere together.

Borat is a feline in charge.

Photo by Beverly Sparks

Photo by Susan Hornik

Photo by John Paul King-Caruso

more than halfway there. Some of WeHo’s top super model people go here as do many of the Beverly Hills A-list stars. It’s a no pretense place with lots of licks and love.

BEVERLY SPARKS Los Angeles Blade Business Development Manager

Abby is a two-year-old Australian Shepherd Mix that I rescued a year ago. Her absolute favorite thing to do is take a romp in the grass. The higher the grass, the better. She hates water and peanut butter but she loves car rides. Her favorite place in the house is in the doorway with her head outside and the rest of her body inside. She is never happy when it’s time to come completely inside.


Part of the vast Sepulveda Basin is the offleash dog park that’s constantly packed with some of the valley’s cutest pups. This is an excellent spot for canine meetups, and just







Los Angeles Blade Arts Contributor

Speedy, Spaz and Spot are my heart and soul, three beautiful creatures who brought me back from the living dead, as I grieved the sudden loss of my parents, who died while we were on vacation together in Cancun, when a car hit us. To have three is a special number; my parents and I were a family of three too; we went everywhere together. The joy they have brought me is immeasurable. It’s no wonder god spelled backwards is dog...they are my healers, my inspiration and my magic.


5000 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach

Long Beach has many hidden treasures, but for the dog owners of Los Angeles, Rosie’s Dog Beach is really the best fine-free, petfriendly beach. It’s easy to get to once you fight your way to Long Beach


12, he’s starting to get up there in years, but like his human housemates he stays youthful and fit with plenty of exercise, a healthy diet and a kittenish attitude. He’s enjoyed a lifelong career of providing companionship, comfort, and ALMOST unconditional love to his humans, John and Mike, and they have no idea what they would do without him. He likes to help John write movie reviews, but his taste is a little fishy.


Silver Lake is a hybrid of a West Coast New York hybrid of East Village and San Francisco and for Angelenos it offers up one of the best places in LA to unleash your doggies inner beast. There are even a few people with their kitties here. You’ll know them. But seriously, if you are an LGBT community activist of a certain age or a new trans influencer or just a tatted wanna be, you will be right at home here with your bestie and you are likely going to know just about everyone.

Los Angeles Blade Arts Contributor

A M E R I C A’ S










Outfest continues with second weekend of LGBT films Trans vampires, bittersweet love stories and much more By JOHN PAUL KING

Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock in ‘Before You Know It.’ Photo courtesy Outfest

The 38th annual edition of Outfest, LA’s own LGBT film festival, may have delivered an unprecedented treasure trove of exciting new queer titles during its opening weekend – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have more to offer. The festival, which has grown to become a world-class regional film festival since it was founded by a group of UCLA students in 1982, kicked off last Thursday night with an opening night Gala held downtown at the historic Orpheum Theatre. In front of a packed audience gathered for a screening of the new Netflix documentary, “Circus of Books,” Outfest Board co-Presidents Terry Franklin and Marissa Roman Griffith and outgoing Executive Director Christopher Racster set an inspirational tone with their inaugural comments, capped by a stirring speech by incoming Executive Director Damien Navarro, who said, “We are not just a regional film festival … we are a festival of life.” “Circus,” the unexpectedly hilarious and surprisingly heartwarming documentary about the iconic LA gay porn palace and queer cultural hub, was only the first on a weekend’s slate of movies and shorts. Hollywood’s legendary Chinese Theatre, along with other venues, played host to other documentaries like the comprehensive and culture-bridging “Queer Japan,” the buzzy “Scream, Queen: My Nightmare On Elm Street,” and “Queering the Script,” a status report on queer female inclusion in the film and television industry. There were also great narrative features, like the whimsical leather-themed fantasy “Cubby,” the romantic ensemble comedy “Sell By,” the queer YA literary adaptation “Adam,” and the campy, boundary pushing “Holy Trinity,” about a lesbian dominatrix who speaks to the dead. Fans of short form narratives were given plentiful choices, with screenings of Outfest’s popular short film showcases and episodic programming like the fourth season of “Eastsiders,” and the festival’s commitment to LGBT history was highlighted by the inclusion of both the newly restored queer classic “The Queen,” featuring late ballroom legend Crystal LaBeija, and “Pier Kids,” a new documentary that unites her by geography with the queer and trans young people of color living today at the Christopher Street pier which has long served as a hub for that community. There are still more riches to come. As Outfest heads into its second weekend, here’s a list of highlights to help you as you plan your viewing schedule. “Good Kisser.” The third feature film by Outfest alum Wendy Jo Carlton finds lesbian couple Kate and Jenna meeting up with single Mia for a fun and sexy threesome. After some alcohol, palm reading, and heavy foreplay, the evening looks to be proceeding nicely – until it becomes clear that everyone came with completely different expectations. Now, when it all hits the fan, no one will be going home with the partner they originally planned. “Bit.” As soon as she graduates from her small-town high school, trans teen Laurel (Nicole Maines, “Supergirl”) heads for Los Angeles, where she meets a group of girl vampires who try to recruit her into their glamorous, alluring world. But as Laurel becomes entrenched in their ways, she begins to doubt whether she’s ready to become one of them. A pulsing soundtrack, impossibly cool style, sharp wit, and a little camp breathe life into writer/director Brad Michael Elmore’s fresh take on blood-thirsty ladies of the night. “Gay Chorus Deep South.” In the wake of the 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus responded with a bus tour through the southern red states. Their mission: Carry a message of visibility, acceptance and hope to the LGBTQ communities affected by these discriminatory laws. Joined by the Oakland

Interfaith Gospel Choir, the chorus harnesses the power of music to unify rather than divide. The documentary won the 2019 Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, and this screening will be followed by a live performance by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. “Fireflies (Luciérnagas).” Stranded by accident in the tropical port town of Veracruz, Mexico, thirtysomething Iranian refugee Ramin longs for fate or fortune to grant him passage across the ocean to return to his boyfriend in Turkey. Meanwhile, he waits in exile, exploring life in freer circumstances and seeking connection with a fellow construction worker. Creating a rich atmosphere of sound and image, Iranian director Bani Khoshnoudi expertly captures the dislocation and reinvigoration of starting life anew. “From Zero To I Love You.” Peter, a serial dater of unavailable men, is under pressure from his formidably gruff father to get his life in order and settle down. Unfortunately, the latest man to capture Peter’s attention is Jack – a successful, charming businessman with a devoted wife and two children. Outfest alum Doug Spearman (“Hot Guys with Guns”) directs Darryl Stephens in this funny, bittersweet romance that grapples with the hang-ups and pressures gay men contend with when it comes to identity and love. “Transfinite.” In Neelu Bhuman’s wholly original omnibus film – composed of several stand-alone magical realistic short stories written by a collective of trans and gender-nonconforming people of color — supernatural trans and queer people from various cultures use their powers to protect, love, teach, fight, and thrive. Featuring cherished members of the Outfest family like Harmony Santana (“Gun Hill Road”) and D’Lo (“Looking,” “Sense8”), each of these enchanting narratives harnesses the power of a trans community in peak creative form. “Sid and Judy.” When Judy Garland met Sid Luft, she was at a career crossroads, having just left MGM after decades under contract. Professionally, he steered her to the Palladium, to their acclaimed remake of “A Star Is Born,” and to her legendary CBS variety show. Offstage, their tempestuous romance changed them both forever. With fascinating archival material and rousing footage of stellar Garland vocal performances, acclaimed documentarian Stephen Kijak captures the ups and downs of Sid and Judy’s singular story. “Before You Know It.” This Sundance favorite, presented as Outfest’s Closing Night Gala offering, is a quirky comedy from director Hannah Pearl Utt (who also co-wrote and stars) infusing tenderness and complex emotion into the absurd misadventures of two sisters living a dysfunctional life in New York City. Between taking care her extended family and the small theater they run in Greenwich Village and constantly monitoring actress sister/hot mess Jackie, Rachel doesn’t even have time to take a woman out on a second date. But things really go off the rails when a tragedy puts their home and theater at risk, and the sisters learn the mother they thought was dead is not only alive, but also the veteran star of a popular soap opera. Grounded by an incredible cast, including Jen Tullock, Alec Baldwin, Tim Daly, and Mike Colter, and featuring memorable turns from Judith Light and Mandy Patinkin, this worthy entry in the pantheon of NYC comedies charms as it tackles extreme codependence, madcap hijinks, and familial dynamics with hilarity and poignancy. The above list, of course, barely scratches the surface of Outfest’s calendar for its remaining dates. You can peruse the entire selection of film offerings, as well as find information about ticketing, schedule and venues, at Outfest.org.



Queer artists to perform at REDCAT festival of new works ‘Amplifying the voices of women, queerness, artists of color’ By JOHN PAUL KING

Paul Outlaw (Aug. 1-3) explores internalized homophobia in ‘BBC (Big Black Cockroach).’ Image courtesy Outlaw

Summer is the time for festivals, and the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), CalArts’ downtown center for contemporary arts, is gearing up to present one of the most prestigious of them. The 16th annual New Original Works (NOW) Festival, set to begin on July 25, is a three-week celebration of Los Angeles’ vibrant artistic community, premiering new contemporary dance, theater, music and multimedia performance by visionary artists who invent hybrid disciplines, re-imagine traditions and confront urgent issues. True to the spirit of CalArts, REDCAT’s parent institution, the NOW Festival has served over its 16year history as a catalyst for creativity and new ideas, premiering over 120 works by an impressive list of artists, and this year’s installment will continue that tradition by launching nine new boundary-redefining works by emerging and mid-career LA artists. REDCAT Associate Director Edgar Miramontes, who oversees the annual festival, calls it “a vital initiative for experimentation.” “The Festival creates opportunities for the artists that are all too rare,” he says. “There is a great need for infrastructure to develop new performances, so NOW tries to address that need each summer.” For this year’s festival, Miramontes promises, “The work presented at this year’s NOW Festival is a mix of diverse ideas and artistic forms — amplifying the voices of women, queerness, artists of color and of aesthetic diversity in Los Angeles that are re-defining the boundaries of contemporary performance, inventing hybrid artistic disciplines, re-imagining traditions and confronting urgent issues.” Three of this year’s participating artists will represent expressions of a queer viewpoint. Andrew Ondrejcak, whose work will be presented during the first weekend (July 25 – 27), is a visual artist who focuses on “the divine feminine and the nonbinary.” For the NOW festival, he collaborates with choreographer Katherine Helen Fisher on “The Muses,” a performance that conjures a communal space in celebration of the divine feminine. Nine femme and non-binary dancers/performers render a suite of lush and riotous dances, pulsating to the imagistic nature of Helado Negro’s cosmic synth-folk sounds, accompanied by visuals and costumes from Ondrejcak which link historical art objects with contemporary iconography, providing a queer perspective on classical forms. Paul Outlaw (Aug. 1-3) explores internalized homophobia in “BBC (Big Black Cockroach).” Inspired by Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” in which a black man claims to be a white, cis, heterosexual, American woman who has awakened to find herself transformed into what she considers to be a monstrous vermin – an African-American man – now held prisoner by her own husband. Through the absurd, Kafkaesque lens of his apparent scenario, Outlaw explores the husband’s relationship to women, other men, black people and even his own sexuality. Directed by Sara Lyons, “BBC” is an evocative live-action horror movie and a farce

about black virility, white fragility, xenophobia/racism, gender confusion, internalized homophobia and misogyny – which Outlaw believes is the true essence of homophobia. Austyn Rich (Aug. 8–10) will offer “Bl**dy Spaghetti,” a fervent and virtuosic new performance work inspired by images of queer men of color in the military and honoring black/brown troops. Dance artist Rich invites the viewer into a highly charged (sexual? sensual?) room where two sailors, sensing an end is near, refuse to communicate with each other and instead engage in a dance celebrating companionship, death and unspoken love. Remembering and honoring black and brown troops who were front-lined, “Bl**dy Spaghetti” celebrates companionship, self-worth, death and unspoken love as something worth feasting over. Each of these three pieces, like the other works slated for inclusion in the NOW Festival, are rich with themes that resonate with today’s social and cultural environment. Miramontes points out, “The 2019 edition is concerned with our current political climate; adding perspectives that allude and move us to engage in systematic change inclusive of queerness, race, and political action.” “In my point of view,” he continues, “artists are the answer. Artists have long been at the forefront of being disseminators of new ideas and creative solutions, being mediators of change. The works manifest in various ways that, through their artistry, have a heightened impact.” The artists participating in the NOW Festival have been in residence at REDCAT since late May. All artistic teams receive free rehearsal space, technical support, and artist fees. In addition to the artists listed above, NOW Festival will feature works by: Sola Bamis (“The Tutorial Part II: The White Tears Tea Steam”) zach dorn and Danielle Dahl (“Sponge Hollow”) Kate Watson-Wallace, Hprizm and Verónica Casado Hernandez (“kim”) Alexandro Segade and Amy Ruhl (“Popular Revolt”) Source Material (“A Thousand Tongues”) Jesse Bonnell (“Paradise Island”) Each of the three weekends features a triple bill of three premieres in a shared evening. Each program is premiered on Thursday evening and repeated Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:30 p.m. Miramontes – who says he sees his job as “being at the service of artists” – is excited to unveil the work of all these talented visionaries as the NOW Festival kicks off this weekend. “REDCAT’s NOW is a place,” he says, “where artists not only experiment with their artistic from, but are encouraged to take risks, be bold in their ideas and in the end, whether you like or dislike an artistic work, it certainly leaves you with something — whatever that may be.” It’s always fun to experience the results. REDCAT’s NOW Festival runs July 25–Aug. 10. For more information on schedule, venues and tickets, visit redcat.org.



‘Lion King’ remake epic but uneven Unconvincing lip movements mar classic Disney tale By BRIAN T. CARNEY

CGI Baby Simba in ‘The Lion King’ remake. Photo courtesy Walt Disney Studios

The new photo-realistic computer-generated remake of Disney’s “The Lion King” is both a delight and a disappointment. It’s a delight because it’s impossible to resist the lure of the powerful archetypal story and the splendid score. The opening number is still stunning. As all of the animals of the Pride Land gather to celebrate the birth of Simba, off-screen singers sing the lovely New Age hymn, “The Circle of Life.” The animation is dazzling, filled with vibrant colors and life-like details. The effect is magical. Then the characters start speaking and the magic crumbles. Close-up, the animation does not work so well. The faces are flat and expressionless and the lip-synching looks terrible. RuPaul would send them all packing. For anyone who needs a reminder, “The Lion King” debuted in 1994 and quickly became an acclaimed and beloved classic. The basic plot draws on rich timeless stories retold in the spirit of Shakespearean histories and tragedies (specifically “Hamlet” and “King Henry IV”). King Mufasa (voiced again by James Earl Jones) is wise and noble and a playful yet stern father to his son and presumptive heir Simba (voiced by JD McCrary as a cub and Donald Glover as a lion). Mufasa’s brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is evil and jealous. He kills Mufasa but convinces the credulous Simba that he is responsible for his father’s death. Simba runs away and meets up with Timon (a meerkat voiced by Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (a warthog voiced by Seth Rogen), two happy queer outcasts living a carefree existence on the edges of the Pride Land. Meanwhile, Scar takes over the kingdom and rules with the help of a vicious herd of ravenous hyenas. Simba’s fiancé Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Beyoncé) tracks down the missing prince who returns to Pride Rock and restores order to the kingdom. The story ends with a reprise of “The Circle of Life” and the birth of Simba and Nala’s first cub. The new film is directed by Jon Favreau (who helmed the CGI remake of “The Jungle Book”) from an awkward new script by Jeff Nathanson. Favreau’s work is strongest when the characters are silent. The shots of Mufasa surveying his kingdom against a variety of African backdrops, backed by the magnificent Hans Zimmer score, are splendid; young Simba’s dangerous trek across the desert is somehow both visually stimulating and emotionally devastating. The musical numbers, however, are a mess. Given the current state of computer-generated animation, the animals don’t sing and dance very well. In “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” for example, Favreau and company do everything they can to hide the mouths of Simba, Nala and Zazu (voiced by John Oliver). A lot of the

action is shown from behind or in silhouette; this drains much of the life from the number. Interestingly, one of the more successful numbers in the movie is the brief excerpt from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Timon’s a better lip-syncher than his colleagues and his jaunty walk through the jungle with his friends looks good and feels right. The new screenplay sticks very closely to the outline of the cartoon, but Nathanson makes some rather odd changes to the dialogue. He unfortunately removes a lot of humor from the story; Rafiki and the hyenas become much more somber, less interesting characters. When Simba and Nala first encounter the hyenas, they are told that hyenas and lions have always been at war. The rather Orwellian language is unsettling, especially since the script was completed after the 2016 election. The script also refers to the lionesses as lions, an odd move in a story where gender is so important. Luckily, Favreau and Nathanson leave the queer utopia established by Timon and Pumbaa largely intact and give Eichner and Rogen plenty of room for their anarchic improvisation. Once again, the meerkat and the warthog are presented as a loving couple, even if their relationship is not explicitly defined. Following the precept “Hakuna Matata,” they live communally and peacefully with their fellow outcasts outside the Pride Lands They’re just trying to stay alive and have a little bit of fun. It’s a nice contrast to the world of lions and hyenas. The voice cast is strong, even if some of the actors don’t really get a chance to strut their stuff. Eichner and Rogen have an engaging rapport and their ad-libbing is very funny, Oliver, Jones, Glover, McCrary and Joseph all bring their characters vividly to life. Even in Scar’s madness and downfall, Ejiofor is all silky menace and Florence Kasumba oozes danger as Shenzi, the leader of the hyenas. Unfortunately, John Kani (Rafiki) and Alfre Woodard (Simba’s mother Sarabi) are wasted in their underwritten and one-note roles, as is Beyoncé. With a relentless stream of sequels and remakes, Walt Disney Studios seems to be in a slump, content with draining every possible penny from its classic movies. But for all its shortcomings, the new version of “The Lion King” is well worth seeing on the biggest screen you can find so you can fully experience the richness of the panoramic animation and the lushness of the score. One note, since the hyper-realism heightens the impact of the violence, it’s not a great movie for younger kids.


Celebrating its 50th year, (just like Stonewall!) San Diego Comic-Con is working hard to be inclusive, showing support for the LGBTQ community with its numerous industry panels, plethora of gender fluid cosplay and showcasing queer characters in new television series and movies. There was big LGBTQ news out of the four-day confab — at the Marvel panel, it was announced that Tessa Thompson will be the first openly gay superhero, Valkyrie, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “First of all, as new king, she needs to find her queen. So that will be her first order of business. She has some ideas. Keep you posted.” Thompson can also be seen in HBO’s “Westworld.” In the trailer, it looks like she and Evan Michael Wood’s characters are headed to a bisexual romance. Both actresses have strongly advocated for queer visibility in pop culture. While Ruby Rose was not at Comic-Con due to a tight production shooting schedule, a panel about her new CW series, “Batwoman,” (premieres Oct. 6), in which she plays a lesbian super hero, was. In an Instagram post, Rose expressed immense disappointment about not attending. “I’m not going to be there, which stinks, a lot,” Rose acknowledged. “But just know that we tried everything that we could humanly to be there,” Rose said. “It wasn’t until really now that we realized there wasn’t any other way to finish this episode, this ambitious episode that we’re doing, and create this amazing show that really is special.” The gender fluid model, who became an instant celebrity after her short film “Break Free,” premiered, added: “We want you to love it and be proud of it, and be entertained and to laugh and to cry and to be empowered. And that means that in this particular instance, I got to work and bring Kate Kane, Batwoman to the screen.” During the panel, the executive producers Sarah Schechter and Caroline Dries talked about their excitement for the new series. “Representation is everything and diversity is our strength,” said Schechter. “We love this character and we love her sexuality and we love her beyond her sexuality… We’re really proud of being able to have an out lesbian woman front and center of these shows.” Also, Nafessa Williams, who plays television’s first black lesbian superhero on the CW’s “Black Lightning,” will be deepening her role this fall too. There were many LGBTQ-themed panels that attracted attendees, like “Black and Queer in Popular Media,” “Queer Fear” and “LGBTQ, Mental Health and Comics.” Bisexual illustrator Alice Meichi Li was a panelist on “Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender, and the Comic Book Medium.” She appreciated Comic-Con’s increased commitment to diversity and inclusion. “San Diego Comic Con has continued its support of the LGBTQ community, with its 32nd year of ‘Out in Comics: Tearing Down a Stonewall,’ the longest-running convention panel in the comic world,” Meichi said. “The significance carries additional weight this year for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, but this panel derives some of its longevity to the fact that San Diego and its Hillcrest neighborhood especially, has long been a safe haven for queer people.” Only about a month after the release of “Good Omens” on Amazon Prime depicted Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s love story between an angel and a demon, SDCC was graced with gender-fluid cosplays of the protagonists who are male-presenting on the show, noted Li. “The fact that Gaiman (writer/showrunner), Douglas Mackinnon (director), Michael Sheen and David Tennant (actors) have all co-signed on the queer romance aspect of this story as well as fans’ identification with their queerness is seminal for a fantasy series of this scale.” The news that Valkyrie will be Marvel’s first openly LGBTQ superhero, excited Li as well. “This is a welcome, albeit overdue, announcement. The fact that they already cut a scene that revealed her romantic relationship with a woman from ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ makes me cautiously optimistic as to how they will handle Valkyrie’s love life in ‘Thor: Love and Thunder.’” She continued: “Valkyrie’s actress, Tessa Thompson, has long spoken about her character’s bisexuality, but I wonder if Valkyrie’s new search for ‘her Queen’ will end up contributing to the bi-erasure that’s pervasive in media today. Here’s hoping that there are people of all genders in the running to become Valkyrie’s new Queen.” If ever you are in San Diego for the weekend, check out gay-friendly places like the beautiful Kona Kai Resort and Spa (the food and view are amazing!), and the incredible new restaurant, Serea, in the Hotel Del Coronado.


The queering of San Diego Comic-Con Lesbian heroes, gender fluid cosplay and more at annual confab By SUSAN HORNIK

San Diego Comic-Con featured a diverse array of panels, characters and cosplay. Blade photo by Susan Hornik



Backlash after LuPone outs Lindsey Graham And Kevin Spacey gets lucky as case is dropped By BILLY MASTERS

Patti LuPone was criticized after outing Sen. Lindsey Graham in a Tweet. Blade file photo by Michael Key

“I have had sex...and Jesus still loves me. And with how you feel, me fucking in a windmill, you probably want to leave. I didn’t just go to the Fantasy Suite. I fucked in a windmill. And guess what? We did it a second time.” — Bachelorette Hannah Brown tells Crazy (but Hot) Luke about her date the previous day with Peter in Greece. As a public service announcement, let me caution you about sex in windmills. You could get a nasty splinter in your Acropolis! Who would have predicted Patti LuPone would be in the middle of a political controversy? LuPone directed her ire at Trump apologist, Sen. Lindsey Graham on Twitter, saying, “Lindsey Graham you are a disgrace. On a personal note, why don’t you just bite the bullet and come out? You might just come to your senses.” This led to numerous responses that by outing Mr. Graham, Patti was being homophobic — a rationale I don’t quite understand. What I have no problem understanding is those charges against Kevin Spacey in Nantucket being dropped. As I predicted, the district attorney dropped the charges in light of the accuser, Will Little, pleading the Fifth Amendment. Little was also unable to provide the cell phone he used on the night in question. No evidence, no witness, no case. Nobody is saying Spacey is innocent of...well, of anything. But, in terms of this particular crime, it couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Netflix is prepared to bring the organizers of Boston’s Straight Pride Parade to court. The heterosexuals built a website to promote their event and included Netflix’s logo under the list of “prospective sponsors.” The media conglomerate threatened legal action, and Straight Pride posted the following: “Sadly, we have learned that Netflix is a heterophobic company steeped in hatred and bigotry.” Is that what we’ve learned? Emmy nominations were just announced, and the heterophobic Netflix nabbed a record 117 nominations — well, a record for them. By the way, perennial Emmy leader HBO once again led the pack with 137 nods. There was quite a bit of queer love at the Emmys. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” snagged 14 nominations, which is not only a record for the show, but also the most nominations ever for any show on VH1. I wouldn’t be Billy Masters if I didn’t point out that series was initially developed for Logo, the all-but-defunct gay network. Billy Porter’s nomination as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “Pose” was also historic. Apparently this is the first time that an openly gay black man was nominated in this category - a narrow distinction, but a distinction nonetheless. As they say, it’s an honor just to be

nominated. But here’s something that could be a good omen - the Emmys take place on Sept. 22, and Porter turns 50 the day before. I can guess what his wish will be as he blows out that candle, or whatever he’s blowing on All Emmys Eve. Ever since Baz Luhrmann announced his next project would be a big-screen biopic about Elvis Presley, people have been wondering who would be cast in the lead. Well, wait no more - the role has been filled by Austin Butler. He’s appeared on TV in “The Shannara Chronicles,” “Arrow,” and “The Carrie Diaries.” More legitimately, he’s held his own on Broadway in “The Iceman Cometh” alongside Denzel Washington. I must admit, none of these credits helped me place him. Because I live to serve, I discovered that Austin is one of those tight young blonds who are so appealing and yet so interchangeable. Then I saw some photos of him alongside his girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens, and something caught my eye. How do I say this politely? Let’s just say something in that photo stuck out. I can’t put my finger on it - but I’d like to. It looks like I might need to use my whole hand. I’ll use the other hand to post the pics to BillyMasters.com. What’s better than Superman? Would you believe two Supermen? In the past, both Brandon Routh and Tyler Hoechlin have played the Man of Steel (Routh on the big screen in “Superman Returns” and Hoechlin on the small screen in “Supergirl”). Plans are afoot for both men to once again don Spandex and play Superman at different points of his life on The CW’s next “Arrowverse” crossover. Could it be that a certain sexy stud has fallen off the wagon? So say several insignificant others who tell me the patriotic pup’s longcherished sobriety came to a crashing halt just before his latest venture - one that comes with numerous temptations on a nightly basis. While he’s still singing a sweet song professionally, his off-stage behavior has become downright reckless. I’m told that should you be fortunate enough to encounter him at a vulnerable moment, your encounter is bound to include just about anything. And I do mean “anything” (and, potentially, “bound”). And I’m told it’s usually more than just the tip. When I’m giving a blind item away, it’s definitely the end of yet another column. That story about Straight Pride got me thinking. While reminding you to check out www.BillyMasters.com, would it be OK if I said the site has Kevin Spacey as a prospective member? I mean, isn’t he? Then again, isn’t everyone? Speaking of questions, I’m always happy to answer yours. Just send them along to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before anybody accuses me of being heterophobic (as if I turn down straight guys). So, until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.

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DEA: Fewer marijuana seizures but more arrests Federal agents seized fewer total marijuana plants in 2018, but made more arrests for cannabis-related offenses, according to annual data compiled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. According to figures published in the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the agency and its law enforcement partners confiscated an estimated 2.82 million marijuana plants nationwide in 2018. This total represents a 17 percent decline from the agency’s 2017 totals and a 66 percent decline since 2016. Driving much of the year-over-year decline was a nearly 40 percent reduction in the seizure of outdoor plants in California, which fell from 2.24 million in 2017 to 1.4 million in 2018. Adult-use retail sales of cannabis began in California in 2018. Separate data published recently in the journal Ecological Economics identifies an association between the passage of adult-use marijuana regulatory laws and the reduction in the number of grow operations in national forests. However, while the total number of DEA-seized plants fell in 2018, seizures of indoor cannabis plants nearly doubled – rising from 304,000 plants in 2017 to just under 600,000 in 2018. The agency also reported 5,632 marijuana-related arrests in 2018, a 20 percent increase over 2017 figures. The agency reported over $52 million in confiscated assets in 2018, more than twice what the agency reported in 2017. Jurisdictions reporting the greatest number of total plant seizures in 2018 were California (1.8 million marijuana plants seized), Kentucky (418,000), Washington (112,000), Mississippi (70,000), and West Virginia (68,000).

Senate banking committee takes up cannabis reform Members of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs were scheduled to hear testimony this week regarding the need to provide greater access to financial services for state-licensed marijuana-related businesses. The Senate hearing, titled “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives,” marks the first time that members of the Senate have officially considered the need for marijuanarelated banking reform. Federal law and regulations currently discourage banks and other financial institutions from working directly with state-licensed cannabis businesses. According to recently published data from the

Treasury Department, fewer than 500 financial institutions nationwide currently provide services to cannabis-specific establishments. Members of the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Consumer Protections and Financial Institutions previously heard testimony on the issue in February. Legislation (HR 1595 | S 1200 – The SAFE Banking Act) is pending in both chambers to create new federal protections for financial operators who work with state-compliant marijuana businesses. The House version of the Act, which was passed out of Committee earlier this year, has more than 200 congressional co-sponsors while the Senate version has 31 cosponsors.

Wisc. sees dramatic racial disparity in marijuana arrests MADISON, Wisc. — African Americans in Wisconsin are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, according to an analysis of 2018 arrest data by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The finding is consistent with those of prior analyses. According to a nationwide study by the American Civil Liberties Union, “[O]n average, a Black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates.” The Center’s analysis also reported a slight increase in total marijuana possession arrests in Wisconsin in 2018 to just under 15,000. The counties with the highest percentages of possession arrests per 1,000 people are Green Lake (6.4), Walworth (5.4), Dunn (5.3), Monroe (5.1), and Marinette (5.0). Under state law, low-level marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Commenting on the state-specific study, University of Wisconsin-Madison sociology professor Pamela Oliver said: “The only possibility for these statistics to happen is for police to be stopping blacks more than whites. ... We know the usage patterns are not different, so if you’re generating a difference in arrests, it has to be differential policing.” Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed eliminating both criminal and civil penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses, stating, “[W]e are spending too much money prosecuting and incarcerating people – and often persons of color – for non-violent crimes related to possessing small amounts of marijuana.” Cannabis Culture news in the Blade is provided in partnership with NORML. For more information, visit norml.org.

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