Page 1

Grindr Dodges Liability in Revenge Impersonation 13

Suspect Arrested in 2005 Rashawn Brazell Slaying 25

THE SCHOOLYARD’S NEWEST BULLY Pages 04-07

© GAY CITY NEWS 2017 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

FREE | VOLUME SIXTEEN, ISSUE FIVE | MARCH 02 - 15, 2017


SNIDE LINES Time on the clock of the world says “Fascism� 17 MEDIA CIRCUS Flaming Milo goes down in flames 18 THEATER Reckless abandonment in “Significant Other� 29

FILM What’s next for a lapsed vegan? 32 BOOKS Brad Gooch’s search for Rumi 34 OPERA “Before Night Fall� takes Miami 37

Iranian boys in love 30

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR The cynicism in Trump picking on trans kids 16

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March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


HEALTH

Trump’s Budget Outline Alarms LGBTQ Health Experts Big defense push, tax cut promises threaten decimation of significant social services funding BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

W

hile only the broadest outlines of Donald Trump’s first federal budget are known, some AIDS groups are reacting with alarm at the possibility that his proposals could lead to large cuts in federal programs that fund care for people with HIV and services that prevent new HIV infections. “Last night President Trump made a congressional address, pledging to cut domestic program budgets across the board to support his unneeded increases to the defense budget,” Kelsey Louie, the chief executive at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, said in a March 1 statement. “These shocking cuts would gut vital federal programs that help house and treat those living with HIV/ AIDS and that prevent thousands of new infections every year. These irresponsible cuts would come just as we are finally poised to make real progress in containing the HIV/ AIDS epidemic.” In press reports in the run-up to Trump’s February 28 address to a joint session of Con-

gress, the White House was going to increase the Pentagon budget for the 2018 federal fiscal year, which begins on October 1, by $54 billion and pay for that increase, in part, by requiring other federal agencies to cut their budgets by 10 percent. The $54 billion would be on top of the $549 billion already requested for defense. In his address, which was his usual mix of grandiose claims and falsehoods, Trump called for other programs and tax cuts that would either substantially increase federal debt, require even greater cuts to discretionary spending, or both. He never explained how he would pay for his proposals. In addition to the increase in defense spending, Trump proposed “a big, big cut” in the corporate tax rate, and “At the same time we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.” He wants to repair America’s bridges, highways, airports, and other infrastructure with “a $1 trillion investment,” Trump said. And he wants to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known

as Obamacare, with some still undefined plan that will likely require federal subsidies, as the ACA does, so that Americans can buy their own health insurance. The ACA subsidies cost an estimated $27 billion in the 2016 calendar year. “The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we’re going to do,” Trump said. Trump has said that he will not cut Social Security, which provides limited income to people over 65 and some disabled Americans, and Medicare, the federal government-run health insurance program for people over 65. These programs are paid for with dedicated taxes collected from current workers. Trump has been less specific about Medicaid, the health insurance for poor Americans that is jointly funded by the federal government and the states. Some congressional Republicans have more radical plans that would fundamentally trans-

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TRUMP BUDGET, continued on p.25

AIDS Advocates Press Cuomo on City Health Clinic Cuts Reimbursement change could eliminate $11 million a year, with little recourse to federal offset BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

R

oughly a dozen AIDS services and advocacy groups protested outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown Manhattan office demanding that he reverse a change in the state’s proposed budget that would reduce funding for the New York City health clinics that are a core part of the city’s effort to substantially cut new HIV infections by 2020. “If the Article 6 for mula is changed, our ability to end the epidemic will be severely impeded,” said Dr. Margaret Reneau, a senior program analyst at the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, an advocacy group, at the February 23 protest. About 50 people representing the AIDS groups, including Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, BOOM!Health, and the Latino Commission on AIDS, marched GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

GAY CITY NEWS

Guillermo Chacón, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, speaks as Housing Works’ Jaron Benjamin looks on.

in front of Cuomo’s office on Third Avenue and heard brief speeches from a half dozen speakers. At issue are dollars from Article 6, a portion of state law that reimburses some health spending by cities and towns. New York City’s health department estimated

that the proposed change to how the reimbursement is calculated could cost it $32.5 million. Of that amount, AIDS groups have identified $11 million in cuts per year for the next two state fiscal years to programs that contribute to the Plan to End AIDS.

The Plan to End AIDS aims to reduce new HIV infections in the state to 750 by 2020 from estimated new infections in 2014 that could have been as low as 2,100 or as high as 2,800. The great majority of new HIV infections in the state are in New York City. The city hopes to reduce new HIV infections to as low as 600 in 2020. Cuomo endorsed the plan in 2014, but has consistently balked at funding it. The Cuomo administration has also pushed some costs for major plan components onto the city’s budget, much to the frustration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who also endorsed the plan in 2014. The plan uses pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), anti-HIV drugs taken by HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected. Both drug regimens are highly effective when used correctly. The plan also treats

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CUOMO BUDGET, continued on p.27

3


THE SCHOOLYARD’S NEWEST BULLY

Attack on Trans Youth Sparks Huge Stonewall Protest

New president’s first direct hit on LGBTQ community followed Sessions’ special pleading

T

BY ANDY HUMM

he T rump administration’s bashing of transgender students — r escinding Pr esident Barack Obama’s federal guidance that allowed them access to bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity — sparked a massive militant protest on the evening of February 23 at the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ movement, Stonewall Place. More than 1,500 community activists and allies — many new to street protests in the wake of the Trump assaults on the rights of women, immigrants, and LGBTQ people — filled the site of the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969. While that rebellion turned violent against police raiding the Stonewall Inn, the anger last week was focused on Trump, his bigoted attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and what we now know is his spineless education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who bowed to Sessions’ determination to roll back transgender rights. Joann Prinzivalli, a transgender woman, lawyer, and activist, said, “This is a temporary setback. Justice will prevail.” She and others are hoping the Gavin Grimm case set to go before the Supreme Court on March 28 will establish that discrimination against transgender people is sex discrimination under Title IX of federal education statute so that Grimm can finally use the boys’ restroom at his Virginia high school and transgender people everywhere will be protected from discrimination by any federal law barring sex discrimination (see pages 5 and 7). New York City has explicitly prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and expression since 2002. And Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted such protections statewide by executive order that took effect in early 2016. But Prinzivalli and others are demanding that the State Senate — still in Republican hands despite their minority status because of Democrats defecting in the leadership vote — stop blocking GENDA, the

4

ANDY HUMM

Brooklynite Erin Joenk, 28.

Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which has repeatedly been passed by the Democraticled Assembly. Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan assemblymember and a longtime sponsor of the bill, said that during the annual debate on the measure, “all Republicans talk about is where people will go to the bathroom.” Mel Wymore, a transgender man who leads the new political action organization TransPAC, one of the many groups who pulled together the protest, is also working with the recently-launched United Through Action group that is focused on taking back progressive power in New York State by going after Democratic Senate defectors in the so-called Independent Democrat Confer ence (IDC) who take perks from the Republican minority they empower. The group also aims to win some

Long Island districts in 2018 now represented by Republicans. “This is a call to action,” Wymore told the crowd. “We must stand up, come out, and we really need to organize and focus on electoral politics and elect officials who will stand up for every child.” Jillian Weiss, leader of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and herself transgender, said she was there “for our trans kids” and noted that while city law and state policy protect their rights, “trans youth often have to sleep on the streets, can’t find jobs, and are hungry,” so there is much work to be done right in New York. “We must never take things lying down,” Congressmember Jerry Nadler, a West Side Democrat, told the crowd. “We must fight — and it won’t last long if we do — to resist the assault on transgender youth.”

He added, “Title IX will prevail!” Bryan John Ellicott of Staten Island, who described himself as “one of the first trans men to work in the New York City Council” for out gay Brooklyn Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (who also spoke), said, “We are here to tell the federal government that we New Yorkers are fighters!” Also speaking were Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Chelsea Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, out Councilmember Jimmy Vacca of the Bronx, and out West Village Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who said, “First they go after transgender youth, then all LGBT youth.” For mer State Senator T om Duane, with Glick one of the earliest out LGBTQ elected officials, said simply, “Trump is a goddamned liar,” having tried during the campaign to sound as if he was okay with transgender people accessing appropriate bathrooms (except when he wasn’t). Sasha Washington, a trans woman with Community Kinship Life, castigated “all these non-profits that use us to get their numbers and won’t even get us the housing and jobs and living we need.” Lorenzo Van Ness, a trans man and human rights specialist at the City Commission on Human Rights, said, “I am saddened our civil rights are left to the states,” but emphasized that New York City has one of the strongest and broadest human rights laws in the country. Queer activist Andy Velez, a veteran of ACT UP, said, “I’m here because we do not have to send for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for us.” Progressive activist Daniel Roskoff, a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community, said, “We will not be silenced by Trump-Pence bashing and bigotry. We all have to resist.” Chris Cooper, a longtime gay activist who is African-American, said that letting the states decide how to treat transgender students as the Trump administration says “sounds reasonable” to some until

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PROTEST, continued on p.15

March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


THE SCHOOLYARD’S NEWEST BULLY

Ripping Trump, Advocates Cite Progress Elsewhere Courts, schools nationwide show emerging support for trans youth BY PAUL SCHINDLER

L

GBTQ rights advocates responded with outrage to the Trump administration’s reversal of an Obama era guidance that guaranteed transgender school students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity — but they also emphasized that the shift does not necessarily impact a pending Supreme Court case on that issue nor does it affect dramatic progress in the lower federal courts or in school districts all over the nation. “This is outrageous,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a press call one day before the administration formally unveiled its new policy on February 22. Responding to comments made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer on February 21, Keisling said it is “simply and dangerously wrong and incorrect” for the president to characterize the controversy over bathroom access in the schools as a “states’ rights” issue. Title IX of the federal government’s 1972 education legislation, under which sex discrimination is prohibited, she said, is not subject to local opt-out. The Obama administration and a growing number of federal courts have interpreted that sex discrimination language to protect students based on their gender identity. Then, alluding to comments Trump made on January 30 when the White House announced it would not roll back an Obama executive order protecting employees of federal contractors from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, Keisling said the new administration’s action “contradicts” the president’s claim that he “respects and will protect LGBT people.” The Trump administration’s new policy was announced after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came to an agreement on a statement backing away from a policy jointly announced last June by the Departments of Justice and Education. Press reports said that

GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

ACLU.ORG

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio.

DeVos initially resisted Sessions’ insistence on reversing the Obama policy, but that Trump ordered her to stand down. During the February 21 press call, Keisling and Sara Warbelow, the legal director at the Human Rights Campaign, pointed to widespread adoption around the nation of policies consistent with the Obama guidance and the swell of federal court decisions that have interpreted sexual discrimination language in Title IX and other legislation to protect people on the basis of gender identity (and, in some rulings, sexual orientation, as well). Fifteen states now have for mal policies ensuring transgender students of equal treatment in schools, including access to bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity, and protecting them from harassment and bullying. In tandem with policies established on the local level, an estimated 40 percent of school students are covered by transgender-inclusive practices. Keisling noted that the Obama administration developed its policy on transgender students on the urging of local school officials who were looking for clarity on how to proceed. The Trump reversal, she said, “is terrifying parents and kids, who have to face bullies every day.” The new policy, she added, “is going to confuse schools, they are not going to know what to do, and they will face liability.” Pointing to the string of victories on gender identity litigation, Keisling said, “Nobody wants to be on the business end of

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ADVOCATES, continued on p.6

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ADVOCATES, from p.5

a transgender lawsuit.â&#x20AC;? Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said she found it â&#x20AC;&#x153;obsceneâ&#x20AC;? that Spicer characterized the â&#x20AC;&#x153;well-beingâ&#x20AC;? of transgender students as a statesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; rights issue, and pointed to numerous studies that demonstrate that policies in which the rights and dignity of transgender students are respected lead to outcomes where trans students have â&#x20AC;&#x153;exactly the same psychological profileâ&#x20AC;? as other teenagers, while trans students educated in environments where they are not protected have a high risk for social problems, including suicide attempts. Batting down the notion that giving transgender students access to appropriate bathrooms somehow threatens non-trans students using such facilities, Byard pointed to a 2015 survey of schools educating 600,000 students, where there were â&#x20AC;&#x153;zero problemsâ&#x20AC;? voiced by young people. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is a fight cr eated by adults,â&#x20AC;? she charged, adding that the Obama policy was one that saves lives â&#x20AC;&#x153;and has hurt exactly nobody.â&#x20AC;? Two days after the advocates spoke to the press, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union held a media call to discuss how the new Trump administration policy impacts â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and does not impact â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a case involving transgender student bathroom access due to be argued at the Supreme Court on March 28. In Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., Gavin Grimm, a 17-year -old transgender high school senior, is suing his school district in Virginia, which stepped in with a policy denying him use of the boysâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; bathroom, even though the school had earlier allowed him to use it without incident. Last year, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found in Grimmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s favor, ruling that federal courts should defer to the Obama administrationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interpretation of Title IX. Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney in the ACLUâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s LGBT & HIV Project, acknowledged that the new Trump policy renders that specific issue moot, but pointed to the other question the Supreme Court asked the two sides to address:

NATIONAL CENTER FOR TRANSGENDER EQUALITY

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

What is the correct interpretation of Title IX as it relates to transgender students? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The confusion caused by the [T rump] administration only underscores the need for clarityâ&#x20AC;? in how local school officials should proceed, Block said. Noting that the Obama policy emerged after years of development, he contrasted the quality of its legal underpinnings with he clearly sees as a slapdash analysis in the Trump administration announcement. Chase Strangio, an ACLU colleague of Block who is transgender, said the Grimm case â&#x20AC;&#x153;is about so much more than restrooms. Can Gavin and similar kids participate in public life?â&#x20AC;? The Trump announcement, he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;is a very cruel message â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that transgender youth are somehow deserving of the horrible treatment they face.â&#x20AC;? Then, perhaps mocking the president for his boast â&#x20AC;&#x201D; later abandoned â&#x20AC;&#x201D; that he would challenge a federal courtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stay on his immigration and refugee order, Strangio said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have repeatedly told the Trump administration we will see them in court.â&#x20AC;? The ACLU press call also included John Austin, the former chair of the State Board of Education in Michigan, DeVosâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; home state, who described the success there in creating policies ensuring a â&#x20AC;&#x153;supportive environmentâ&#x20AC;? for 150,000 LGBTQ students.â&#x20AC;&#x153;With a supportive environment,â&#x20AC;? he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;transgender kids have no issues that other teenagers donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have.â&#x20AC;? The Trump move on transgender students has reverberated nation-

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ADVOCATES, continued on p.7

March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


THE SCHOOLYARD’S NEWEST BULLY

Trump Action on Trans Students Carries Contradictions

Bathroom access goes to Supreme Court March 28; administration retreat's impact unclear, perhaps irrelevant BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

T

he Trump administration, in line with statements that candidate Donald Trump made opining that the issue of restroom and locker room access by transgender students should be left up to state and local officials, issued a letter to all the nation’s school districts on February 22 withdrawing two letters issued by the Obama administration over the last several years that had put the federal government’s weight behind the rights and dignity of trans youth. The two Obama administration communications that the new Trump regime retreated from were one on January 7, 2015 from the Department of Education regarding Virginia high school student Gavin Grimm’s transgender rights litigation and a May 16, 2016 “Dear Colleague” letter sent jointly by the DOE and the Department of Justice to the nation’s school districts. The Obama administration letters conveyed its position that educational institutions receiving federal money must allow transgender students and staff to use facilities consistent with their gender identity. That position was based on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a statute banning sex discrimination by educational institutions that receive federal money, as well as a DOE regulation issued under Title IX governing sex-segregated facilities in those educational institutions. That regulation says that educational facilities may have sex-segregated facilities, so long as they are “equal.” The new letter from the Trump administration states that the DOJ and the DOE “have decided to withdraw and rescind the above-referenced guidance documents in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved. The Departments thus will not rely on the views expressed within them.” The Trump letter goes further to state that “in this context, there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing educational policy.” The new administration was at pains, however, to argue that its position was not a rejection of any concern about the well-being of trans-

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ADVOCATES, from p.6

wide, drawing a massive crowd to a West Village protest outside the Stonewall Inn on the evening of February 23 (see page 4). New York Gover nor Andrew Cuomo, in a press release the same day, termed the Trump administration’s action “misguided,” and said, “Today, I am urging the State EduGayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

gender students. The letter stated, “All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment,” and insisted that the withdrawal of the Obama guidance documents “does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment.” The Office of Civil Rights within the DOE, the letter stated, “will continue its duty under law to hear all claims of discrimination and will explore every opportunity to protect all students and to encourage civility in our classrooms.” In what could lead to significant confusion regarding the Trump administration’s view of how Title IX should be interpreted, the letter asserted that the two departments “are committed to the application of Title IX and other federal laws to ensure such protection.” On the same day that the letter was released, however, press secretary Sean Spicer said the administration is analyzing its overall position on Title IX, which could result in a parting of ways from the Obama administration’s view that Title IX prohibits gender identity discrimination in schools. Thus, an internal contradiction seems to be at play. The letter at least implies that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination do violate Title IX, but that the question whether transgender students should be allowed access to sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity needs further study. The Trump administration might choose to address the issue in a new regulation accompanied by detailed analysis and subjected to the terms of the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which requires the publication of proposed rules, public comment and hearing, and final publication in the Federal Register. That process would allow Congress several months during which it could intervene to block a new regulation the Republican majorities there oppose. Also on February 22, the Solicitor General’s Office, which represents the government in Supreme Court cases, informed the high court that the Obama administration guidance documents had been withdrawn, that the views expressed in them would no longer be relied upon by the DOJ and DOE, and that, instead,

cation Department to issue a directive to all school districts making it clear that — regardless of Washington’s action — the rights and protections that had been extended to all students in New York remain unchanged under state law.” Republican Congressmember Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who has a transgender son, issued a scorching response saying, “This

ACLU.ORG

Gavin Grimm’s effort to access a bathroom consistent with his gender identity is scheduled to go before the Supreme Court on March 28.

the administration would “consider further and more completely the legal issues involved.” This letter comes just six weeks before the Supreme Court argument scheduled for March 28 in Gloucester County School District v. G.G., the Gavin Grimm case, and just before the due date for the solicitor general to file an amicus brief presenting the government’s position on the issues before the high court. Grimm filed suit against the school district where he is now a senior in response to his school’s imposition of a policy under which he is not allowed to access the boys’ bathroom. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Grimm, finding that the federal courts should defer to the position established by the Executive Branch. The Supreme Court could react to these developments in a variety of ways. Since the government is not a party in the case, it might just ignore the solicitor general’s letter and go ahead with the argument. Or it might consider that this development renders moot one or both of the questions on which it granted review, which could lead to a reshaping of the case to focus solely on the appropriate interpretation of Title IX and its underlying regulation regarding sex-segregated facilities. It might even decide that the entire case should be sent back to the Fourth Circuit for reconsideration in light of these developments. The new “Dear Colleague” letter, sent over

lamentable decision can lead to hostile treatment of transgender students and studies have shown that bullying and harassment can be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of teenagers.” With Colorado Representative Jared Polis, an out gay Democrat, Ros-Lehtinen plans to reintroduce the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide protec-

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RETREAT, continued on p.14

tions based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Jackie Evancho, the 16-year-old singer who performed the National Anthem at the Trump Inauguration and has an older sister, Juliet, who is transgender, tweeted, “@realDonaldTrump u gave me the honor 2 sing at your inauguration. Pls give me & my sis the honor 2 meet with u 2 talk #transgender rights.”

7


PRIVACY

Grindr May Not Be Liable for Revenge Profile

Court denies immediate relief to gay man tormented by ex’s impersonations, privacy intrusions BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

A

federal judge in Manhattan has denied a gay man’s request to extend a temporary restraining order that a state trial court earlier issued against Grindr, the gay dating app, requiring the company to “disable” any “impersonating profile” created by a “former love interest” of the man. In a lawsuit brought by Matthew Herrick, District Judge Valerie Caproni found that Herrick was unlikely to prevail in his case against Grindr because the company is apparently sheltered under the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) as a “neutral” interactive computer service displaying content provided by a third party — in this case an ex of Herrick’s identified as JC. Herrick claims that JC created fake profiles of Herrick, including his home and work address and indicating his interest in “fetishistic sex, bondage, role playing, and rape fantasies and encourage[ing] potential suitors to go to his home or workplace for sex.” Herrick alleges that “dozens of men” responded to the profiles, “some of whom have physically assaulted or threatened Plaintiff and his friends and co-workers,” though Caproni’s ruling indicates that at times Herrick has put the number of men responding at “approximately 400.” Grindr acknowledges receiving complaints from Herrick, who said he has sent more than 50, but the company has taken no action. In his state court

complaint, Herrick makes claims against Grindr for negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and its misrepresentations regarding the safety of its user community. On January 27, before Grindr succeeded in having the case removed to federal court — based on its interstate membership — a state trial court ordered the company to “immediately disable” the impersonating profiles. On February 21, Herrick asked the federal court to extend the temporary restraining order, which was due to expire, but Caproni turned him down the following day. Herrick’s problem is that despite his ability to show the harm he is suffering, federal courts, including the New York-based Second Circuit Court of Appeals, have ruled that companies like Grindr generally can’t be held liable for harm caused by content posted by its users unless it plays an active editorial role in the substance of that content. Grindr would only lose its immunity under the CDA “if it assists in the ‘development of what [makes] the content unlawful,’” Caproni found. The “neutral assistance” Grindr’s technology provides is not enough to make it liable. “The fact that these offerings have been weaponized by a particular Grindr user does not make Grindr the creator of the allegedly tortious content,” she asserted. “Moreover, to the extent Grindr has ‘contributed’ to the harassment by providing functionality such as geo-location

assistance, that is not what makes the false profiles tortious.” Caproni specifically rejected any analogy to the 2008 roommates.com case, where a federal appeals court in California concluded that app lost its CDA immunity because it elicited personal information about potential roommates that assisted those posting listings to violate local housing discrimination laws. “Critically, Grindr has not contributed anything to the objectionable profiles; the profiles are objectionable solely because of the false information supplied by Plaintiff’s tormenter,” Caproni wrote. The fact that Herrick joined Grindr in 2011 because he believed it to be a “safe space” and four years later met JC and had a one-year relationship with him is too “attenuated,” the judge found, to make it likely he would prevail on state consumer protection claims, either. “The only connection between Plaintiff’s present day injury and Grindr’s alleged misrepresentations approximately five years ago is the fact that Plaintiff would not have otherwise joined Grindr in 2011 and would not have otherwise met JC,” Caproni wrote. “This is an exceedingly remote connection.” Caproni will consider Herrick’s potential motion to send the case back to state court and Grindr’s “anticipated motion to dismiss” following a conference on the case scheduled for March 10.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Court Finds Equal Protection Grounds for Bathroom Access

Pittsburg federal court sidesteps Title IX, adopting constitutional approach instead BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

I

n granting a preliminary injunction to three transgender high school students represented by Lambda Legal who are challenging a school board policy barring them from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identities, a federal judge, on February 27, broke new ground in relying on the US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. To date, the bathroom access issue has revolved around the interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars discrimination based on sex GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

in schools receiving federal money. Given the Trump administration’s action last week withdrawing two letters from the Obama administration that held that gender identity discrimination claims were covered by the sex discrimination protections and the Supreme Court’s consideration next month of a Title IX claim by Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student in Virginia, Judge Mark R. Hornak of the Western District of Pennsylvania said he “could not conclude” that the three plaintiffs had “a reasonable likelihood of success” on their Title IX claims, but could prevail on equal protection grounds.

Hornak noted that the students — Juliet Evancho, Elissa Ridenour, and A.S. — had been allowed to use the appropriate bathrooms at PineRichland High School in the Pittsburgh area as early as the 2013-14 school year and were widely accepted by their classmates and teachers, but faced problems only after one student’s parents learned of the situation and complained. After a series of boisterous public meetings, the school board imposed its restrictive policy last September. In reviewing the privacy protections afforded by the design of Pine-Richland’s bathrooms, Horack quickly concluded that students’

privacy provided no justification for the policy, as the school board had argued. In evaluating whether the trans students’ equal protection rights were violated by the school board action, Hornak first had to determine what standard of judicial review applies to government policies discriminating based on gender identity, since neither the Supreme Court nor the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit Court of Appeals has answered that question. He concluded that the “intermediate standard” used in sex discrimination

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RETREAT, from p.7

the signatures of Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Sandra Battle from the Education Department and Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights T.E. Wheeler, II in the Justice Department, shows evidence of compromise, reflecting what has been reported as a battle between Betsy DeVos, the recently-confirmed secretary of education, and Jeff Sessions, the new attorney general. Several media sources reported that DeVos did not want to withdraw the Obama administration guidance, but that Sessions was determined to do so. In light of his record on LGBTQ issues as a US senator and former attorney general of Alabama, Sessions appears bent on reversing the numerous Obama administration regulations and policy statements extending protections to LGBTQ people under existing laws. It was probably a big disappointment to him that the president decided not to rescind, out and out, Obama’s executive order imposing sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination obligations on federal contractors, though we may not have heard the last on that issue. DeVos, by contrast, reportedly has some sympathy on LGBTQ issues, despite the political views of her family, who are major donors to anti-LGBTQ organizations. According to press accounts, for example, in Michigan, where she was a longtime state Republican Party chair, she intervened on behalf of a gay party official whose position was endangered when he married his partner. Several newspapers and websites have reported that Sessions brought his dispute with DeVos to the president, who resolved it in favor of the attorney general, leaving it to them to work out the details. Trump was undoubtedly responding to the complaints of many Republicans — and religious conservative leaders to whom the president pledged fidelity during the campaign — that the Obama administration had “overreached” in its executive orders and less formal policy statements, going beyond the bounds of existing legislation to “make new law” in areas where Congress had refused to act and, in the process, overriding state and local officials on a sensitive issue. Republicans in both houses of Congress have bottled up the Equality Act, a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity as explicitly forbidden grounds for discrimination in a broad range of federal statutes, including Title IX. Even though the February 22 letter withdraws the Obama guidance documents, it does not articulate a firm position on how Title IX should be interpreted, either generally in terms of gender identity discrimination or specifically regarding access to sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms. It does, however, criticize the previous guidance for failing to “contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX.” The letter also points out that the Obama

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guidance did not “undergo any formal public process,” a reference to the cumbersome and time-consuming Administrative Procedure Act steps that are necessary to issue formal regulations that have the force of law — and on which the Trump administration might rely going forward. Though the policy the Obama administration developed did not have the force of law, it communicated to schools the view that Title IX bars gender identity discrimination and requires access to facilities consistent with a person’s gender identity, which meant that the DOE or the DOJ might initiate litigation or seek suspension of federal funding against districts that failed to comply. In the end, it would be up to the courts to decide whether to follow that interpretation. It is important to note that federal courts have found an “implied right of action” by individuals to bring suit to enforce their rights under Title IX. That is not changed by the Trump administration actions this week. When the Fourth Circuit ruled in the Grimm cast last May, it found that District Judge Robert Doumar should not have dismissed the high school student’s Title IX complaint but rather deferred to the interpretation from the DOE, which last January informed Doumar of its position. The Title IX regulation on sex-segregated facilities was ambiguous on the question of transgender access and the DOE’s interpretation — relying on federal appeals court and administrative agency decisions under other sex discrimination statutes finding that gender identity discrimination was a form of sex discrimination — was “reasonable,” the Fourth Circuit concluded. The appeals panel did not come to a conclusion as to whether it was the “correct” interpretation. The Gloucester County School District petitioned the Supreme Court to review that ruling. The Supreme Court agreed to consider both whether deference to an informal letter from the DOE was appropriate and whether the DOE’s interpretation of Title IX and the sex-segregated facility regulation was correct. With the letter having been withdrawn, the deference question may be moot, though the Trump administration letter does implicitly raise a new question — whether the courts should defer to it instead. The underlying question of how Title IX and the sex-segregated facility regulation adopted under it should be interpreted is very much alive, with several courts around the country considering the question in cases filed by individual transgender students, states, and the Obama administration in its challenge to North Carolina’s HB2. In separate suits filed in federal court, two groups of states are challenging last May’s “Dear Colleague” letter to the nation’s school districts. In one of those lawsuits, with Texas as the lead plaintiff, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas last August ruled that the state plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their challenge and issued a nationwide preliminary injunction forbidding the federal government

from enforcing its Title IX interpretation in any new investigation or case. The Trump administration had earlier withdrawn the Obama DOJ’s appeal of that injunction, but with the bathroom access guidance now also withdrawn, Reed would likely grant a motion to dismiss the case based on it being moot. O’Connor’s order, however, never had any effect on the ability of non-governmental plaintiffs, such as Gavin Grimm, to file suit under Title IX. In North Carolina, the Obama administration, former Governor Pat McCrory, Republican state legislative leaders, a group representing parents and students opposed to transgender restroom access, and transgender people represented by public interest lawyers had all filed lawsuits challenging or defending HB2. That statute barred localities from providing nondiscrimination protections that are broader than those established under state law, which does not cover the LGBTQ community, and specifically singled out the transgender community, limiting access to public bathrooms based on the gender designation on an individual’s birth certificate. The Trump administration’s February 22 actions may signal that the federal government will either abandon or cut down on the scope of its lawsuit challenging the North Carolina law. Since North Carolina is in the Fourth Circuit, all of the HB2 cases are likely to be affected by any reconsideration of the transgender facilities access issue by that circuit in light of these new developments out of Washington. Elsewhere around the nation, several pending lawsuits have been put “on hold” by federal district judges as well, while awaiting Supreme Court action on the Grimm case. If the Supreme Court were to reject the argument that “sex discrimination” in a statute can be broadly construed to encompass gender identity, these cases, arising under either Title IX or the equal employment provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, may be dismissed. Since the confirmation hearing for 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, nominated by Trump for the Supreme Court vacancy, is scheduled to take place on March 20 and Democratic opposition may stretch out the confirmation process, it seems likely that there will be only eight members on the Supreme Court to consider the Grimm case. In that event, it was widely predicted that the result would be either a tie, affirming the Fourth Circuit without any opinion or establishment of a national precedent, or a 5-3 vote with an opinion most likely from Justice Anthony Kennedy, joining with the more liberal justices to adopt the more expansive reading of Title IX. However, this will be the first time the Supreme Court has directly tackled a gender identity question under sex discrimination laws, so predicting how any justice may vote is completely speculative. What is clear, however, is that the Trump administration’s action last week does not necessarily impact how the Grimm case will play out at the high court. March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


LGBT FINANCIAL, BUSINESS & LEGAL PLANNING IN THE TRUMP ERA DONNA ACETO

Tanya Walker of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group.

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PROTEST, from p.4

they remember that America used to “let the states decide what water fountain to drink out of” in the days of legal segregation. Erin Joenk, 28, of Brooklyn, held a sign reflecting that sentiment, and said she was there because she “heard that our government was attacking children. I have friends who are trans. I don’t know why people are so upset about bathrooms. It makes zero sense.” I was pulled aside by the Henners — Gail and Howard, married 55 years and Village residents — who wanted me to know why they had joined the protest. “Everything this man [Trump] is doing is a re-enactment of Hitler,” said Gail Henner, who was very heartened by the energy of the rally. Adam Younger, 24, an NYU graduate student, said, “I came out as gay a year ago” after ending a r elationship with a woman. He has now thrown

himself into the LGBTQ movement through the new Rise & Resist and other groups, learning about ACT UP from veterans such as Alexis Danzig. He was conscious of the leadership role transgender people played at Stonewall 48 years ago. Thomas Krever, the CEO of the Hetrick-Martin Institute for LGBTQ youth, posted on Facebook after the rally that it had been “an emotional day… so deeply sad to see how an administration can focus its energy on bias and bigotry; on fear and ignorance… on preying on our most vulnerable of our country… children… But tonight I stood with thousands in solidarity for our transgender and gender liberated youth. Tonight I was heartened to see my community — and those who are allies — rise above, and come together, in support and solidarity. This is the America I was taught to believe in… this is the America I will stand for.”

With the election of Donald Trump as President, many new policies are being proposed that may affect your business, taxes, investment strategies and estate planning. The LGBT community may be uniquely impacted. Come learn from our panelists how to develop the best business and personal plans in a rapidly changing environment. Enjoy networking with Manhattan Chamber members and the panelists following the discussion. Panelists Alexander J. Fruchtman, Financial Advisor The Fruchtman Group Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Dylan T. McKeon, Enrolled Agent Singer, Weisberger & Assoc., Inc.

Yolanda Kanes, Esq. Partner, Chair of Trusts & Estates Group Tannenbaum Helpern Syracuse & Hirschtritt LLP

Pablo G. Velez, Esq.

Velez & Cipriano, PLLC

Moderated by Paul Schindler

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The massive crowd outside the Stonewall Inn on February 23.

GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

jgoodstein@cnglocal.com FOUNDING EDITOR IN-CHIEF & ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER PAUL SCHINDLER

editor@gaycitynews.com

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

ASSOCIATE EDITOR

With the Trump administration’s reversal last week on the federal government posture toward schools allowing transgender youth to access bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity, the new president has taken aim at the most vulnerable portion of the LGBTQ community — in fact, one of the most marginalized segments of American society. Without acceptance and social support, transgender youth face some of the gravest social risks confronting any young people in the US, including a rate of attempted suicide that is a multiple of that among gay and lesbian youth not to mention youth overall. More than 40 percent of transgender adults report having attempted suicide, nine-tenths of them before the age of 25. But as a wide range of advocates for trans youth noted last week in a press call responding to the Trump action, transgender youth who enjoy acceptance in their homes and are able to participate in educational and social activities with dignity and on an equal footing perform on par with their cisgender peers. According to Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, numerous studies have shown that policies in which the rights and dignity of transgender students are respected lead to outcomes where they have “exactly the same psychological profile” as other teenagers. John Austin, a former chair of the State Board of Education in Michigan, the home state of T rump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, described the board’s success in implementing policies ensuring a “supportive environment” for 150,000 LGBTQ students. “With a supportive environment,” he said, “transgender kids have no issues that other teenagers don’t have.” We’re talking about kids here —

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16

The Cynicism in Trump Picking on Trans Kids

FOUNDING MEMBER

and creating a suitable environment for them to pursue a full life with all the opportunities their talents ought to afford them. That’s why this bathroom debate is so important; as Chase Strangio — a transgender attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union working on high school senior Gavin Grimm’s challenge to his Virginia school’s bar on him using the boys’ room — the Grimm case “is about so much more than restrooms. Can Gavin and similar kids participate in public life?” Trump, in the first month of his presidency, has elected to trade away that chance at dignity and positive outcomes for the nation’s transgender youth in exchange for the appeasement of the hard right base that made his improbable journey to the White House successful. Multiple news sources report that DeVos was not prepared to back off of the student bathroom access policy developed late in Barack Obama’s second term — some are characterizing her as having some sympathies for LGBTQ rights — but that the president was swayed by his attorney general, the troglodyte former Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions, who is a fierce opponent of the queer community. Sessions’ victory on the transgender rights issue came less than a month after a sure disappointment over the White House announcing the president would not back off of Obama’s 2014 executive order requiring contractors doing business with the federal government to offer their LGBTQ employees nondiscrimination protections. Trump’s reluctance to buck the LGBTQ community at that moment fed into a spurious mainstream media narrative that he is somehow “better” on queer rights than past Republican presidents or those GOP opponents he faced in last year’s primary. The new president’s enlightenment on this score is supposedly informed by his years as a Manhattanite as well as the positive influence of his daughter Ivanka and sonin-law, Jared Kushner, now a senior White House advisor. The most reductive element in this narrative — repeated habitually by the New York

Times — is Trump’s statement during the campaign that Caitlyn Jenner was welcome to use any bathroom she wished at Trump Tower. In fact, public accommodations law in New York City requires Trump Tower to maintain that policy, but Times reporters apparently don’t wish to go that far into the policy weeds. The White House excuse for stabbing trans kids in the back is that the question is a states’ rights issue — despite federal law that requires nondiscrimination by schools receiving federal dollars. It’s pretty clear now that the big deal made about Trump not rescinding the contractor policy — after several days of suspiciously convenient reporting that it was about to do so — was aimed at feeding the mainstream media’s credulous stories about the president’s evolved views. Then, in a bone thrown to the bigots who are Sessions’ natural constituency, the menace of young kids going to the bathroom according to the gender identity fundamental to their personhood was extinguished. In my book, Trump was unwilling to take on the LGBTQ community in the full frontal assault that nixing the contractor order would have required, but was content placating his homophobic, transphobic enthusiasts by peeling off a small portion of our community and targeting them. That is ugly and it is cowardly. But coming from Donald Trump, it is, unfortunately, not really surprising. But don’t think that Jeff Sessions or Trump’s equally LGBTQ-hostile vice president, Mike Pence, will stop there. The right is expecting at least one more big payoff regarding our community — the institutionalization of religious opt-outs from those nondiscrimination protections our community currently enjoys. That could come in some type of modification of the contractor executive order, in the noxious First Amendment Defense Act currently before Congress, or in some other form. The key thing to remember is that in recognizing a federal right to a “conscience” exemption, the Trump administration and Congress could big-foot not only existing federal protections, but state and local guarantees as well. We need to be vigilant against this danger, even as we acknowledge that the first casualties in the emerging battle are our transgender youth. March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


PERSPECTIVE: Snide Lines

Time On The Clock Of The World: How We Handle Trump BY SUSIE DAY

D

onald Trump: Rounding up immigrants, pissing on transgender bathroom rights, barring press from press briefings… The only good thing he’s done is to galvanize millions of people into political outrage. For months now we’ve gone to dozens of marches and rallies. Of course, this isn’t enough, but what more to do? Then I happened on a Facebook post by Amin Husain: “I wish I could share what’s wrong and what’s missing in how we’re handling the Trump era without many of my dear friends thinking that I am just being a downer on the ‘resistance.’” I had to hear more. Husain is a Palestinian artist and political organizer, who has helped form Occupy Wall Street, Decolonize This Place, a project for indigenous movements, and MTL, a collective joining art with politics. His film about Palestine, “On This Land,” is scheduled for release this July. Here is a condensed version of my conversation with Husain:

SUSIE DAY: So what’s wrong in how we’re handling Trump, politically? AMIN HUSAIN: Everyone’s looking for momentum. Where is it easiest to mobilize? How can one issue or targeted group unite everybody? But I think that type of politics is expedient. If the enemy is Trump, why are we separated into single issues, when we know these issues are connected? Trump is a coup, a corporate coup. The days in which a US president needs to look political and not like a businessperson are over. The veneer is gone. We have opportunities to build some kind of frame or infrastructure — beyond just Trump. Because Trump could go, he could get impeached tomorrow, a million things can happen: but the time on the clock of the world says “Fascism.” GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

ARTISTACTIVISM.ORG

Amin Husain.

SD: So you’re looking past Trump? AH: We know from history that at radical moments any number of coalitions can happen, like protesting the Vietnam War. Power corrects a little, but then the most oppressed are left behind. History is important because we still haven’t figured out how to both resist and build. How to get away from false binaries like violence-versus-nonviolence and do multiple things at the same time. When I wrote that Facebook post, I was thinking how there’s not much organizing happening. This moment is similar to Occupy in that new groups are forming. The moral legitimacy of our institutions is in question, which means the entire population is available. These questions are big. If you don’t think about them and what you’re doing, you’re missing opportunities. SD: Such as? AH: We have to open up. Here’s a rudimentary example. When something happens like the Yeminis running bodegas go on strike, the question for us all is, “What does solidarity look like?” The answer is different for everyone. If you have a store and you’re in support, you shut it, too. If you’re a worker who can’t get out of work, fine. If you want to march, and that’s the only thing you can do, that’s fine, too. SD: But there’s more activism now than almost ever before.

AH: Activists are like NGOs [nonprofit, non-governmental organizations] — they’re part of the problem. First, let’s distinguish an activist from an organizer. A good organizer should be accountable to a community, facilitating what people want, giving it shape. An activist is rarely accountable to a community. They’re individuals who just take action. Look at the Yes Men. Let’s say they do an intervention against the war — who are they accountable to? “Activist” segregates you from the population. Everyone should be fucking active, right? But “activist” reduces your role and shifts responsibility other people should also have. “I’m an activist — I did this!” “Oh, you’re the activist; I’m the ordinary person.” The organizer works with a community. They get support from an informal network. Like families against police brutality; organizing around ICE; around sanctuaries. Also, community actions can be more radical. Like the shutdown of the George Washington Bridge last October by undocumented people. It looked like activists, but it was actually organizers. SD: Do you see certain alienation in the folks you’re addressing on Facebook? AH: People march when they have time. And most of these marchers have jobs. They also have debt. Housing debt, consumer,

healthcare, education debt, right? Are you free, when you have debt? What’s everyone doing right now? Exploiting themselves. You’re working two or three jobs to pay for a therapist, for someone to listen to you. You’re also giving your money to the pharmaceuticals. I sense that people want to do stuff but don’t know how. They don’t realize their issues can fit into a broader structure, where your issue informs my issue, and that’s a positive thing. Like maybe 22 percent percent of students are in default on their student loans. Those people could be on strike. What does that demand? A declaration. But the moment you declare a strike, its ramifications are different from “activism,” in terms of consciousness, people power, possibility. It’s easy to come up with 9,000 people joining your Facebook group. Is a Facebook page power? Is a rally power? Marching doesn’t build power, but it can be a kind of barometer. When there were few people in Tahrir Square, the government was legitimate; when there were a million people, the government was illegitimate. Numbers matter that way. So we march because it feels good. We want to be bodies in the street together. Fine, I’ll march, too. Just the act of saying “No” alleviates alienation. Other people saying “No” with you is huge. But we also need spaces. To organize, to meet each other, to support each other, to offer mutual aid. Like, imagine the churches. They’re losing people, that’s why they’re selling to condominiums. Those churches could be spaces of resistance and building. SD: So you’re describing forms of power that reside in so-called ordinary people? AH: Yeah. Without typing people, without judging them. Immigrants came to this country to eat, but they’re also settlers on stolen land. There’s an essay, “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor,” that says each one of us is the oppressor as well as the oppressed. We’re all complicit in exploiting workers, in gentrifying — let’s just get over that. We’re also dealing with race and gender and patriarchy. But knowing that allows for responsibility and agency, without resorting to a correct line.

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PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus

Flaming Milo Goes Down in Flames BY ED SIKOV

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n a delightful bit of well-deserved comeuppance, the Internet troll and all-around asshole Milo Yiannopoulos had a very bad week. Simon & Schuster cancelled his $250,000 book contract; he was summar ily disinvited from giving a keynote address at CPAC (the Congress of People Absent a Conscience); he resigned in shame from his position as tech editor at Brietbart.com; and he was generally subjected to the kind of treatment usually associated with sewage — an appropriate response. And from what source did all these consequences flow? A 16-year -old Canadian girl unearthed a podcast of the flamboyantly gay Milo signaling approval of the appeal an underage boy might find in sex with a man over the age of consent. The ensuing stampede away from Yiannopoulos couldn’t have happened to a more deserving jerk. Yiannopoulos, of course, was the subject of a fawning profile in Out Magazine last year. Out apparently didn’t have a problem with Milo’s orchestrated assault on the actress and comedienne Leslie Jones, who received such vile treatment from Milo and his jackbooted followers that — well, let’s let a conservative writer, Reason.com’s Shikha Dalmia, describe the incident: “Yiannopoulos was later banned from Twitter over his attacks last summer on Leslie Jones, a black woman starring in the new ‘Ghostbusters.’ Yiannopoulos instigated and mobilized his massive alt-right Twitter brigade — already worked up about the movie’s all-female cast — against Jones. They called her an ‘ape’ and other terrible things. Then they created a fake Twitter account in her name and sent a series of tweets with anti-Semitic, homophobic slurs. When a distraught and bewildered Jones protested, Yiannopoulos simply berated her for playing the victim.” Despite his repellent history, Simon & Schuster was all too happy to bring him onboard to the tune of a $250,000 advance and the opportunity to bring his Homo the

18

Clown message of bejeweled hate to people who, unlike Milo’s army of trolls, can actually read more than 140 characters at a time. But there are things one just doesn’t say in public, chief among them that in certain circumstances underage boys can actually derive love and affection from guys who are over the legal limit. It’s a position with which I happen to agree, though that doesn’t mean I’m not overjoyed by Milo’s fall from both grace and loss of a lucrative book contract. Although Yiannopoulos has walked back his original comments on the podcast, in which he stated that a hypothetical 13-year-old boy might get something positive from the love of an equally hypothetical older guy, that was precisely what he said. In Milo’s defense, is it really unthinkable to imagine a 20-year-old providing a 13-year-old with more affection than the boy’s hostile parents, and that such affection might be beneficial even if it was sexual in nature? That was the scenario Yiannopoulos was setting out in the podcast (and doing so in the context of discussing his own purported experiences at that age), and it doesn’t seem all that outrageous to me. Where Yiannopoulos went wrong was to refer to such a relationship as pedophilia, a word that conjures up dark images of old stubbly men in filthy raincoats hanging around elementary school bus stops snatching pre-sexual boys and raping them in dank basements. The gay rights movement used to be about sexual liberation, but nowadays hardly anyone — in the LGBTQ community or among any other adults — is willing to acknowledge that many 13-year-old boys are sexually active, if only with themselves; that it is at least theoretically possible for such an ado-

lescent to crave affection from an older — if still young — guy; and to act on it to the satisfaction of both. In the early 1980s, when I was 24 or 25, I went one evening to the St. Marks Baths, where I met a goodlooking guy with exceptionally hairy legs with whom I quickly got it on. Afterward, during the conversation portion of the encounter, he told me that he was 17 years old. “Gee,” I thought to myself, “I’ve just committed statutory rape.” (I was wrong — he was, in fact, legal at 17, though wouldn’t have been at 16 — but my confusion at the time only underscores the arbitrary nature of all of this.) We then began to discuss his college applications and his interest in going to the school from which I had recently graduated. I spent the rest of my time with him giving him a rah-rah college admissions pitch for Haverford. I fail to see what’s wrong with a relationship of this sort, except of course for the dorky way it ended. Simon & Schuster, CPAC, and Breitbart disagreed. For Milo, a man each of these organizations promoted for exactly this kind of outrageous statement on every subject but sex, it must have been quite a shock to have the whole thing blow up in his face. Dalmia continues: “That it took these pedophilia comments for conservatives to finally turn on Yiannopoulos speaks volumes about how low their movement has fallen. Yiannopoulos was a hate-peddling provocateur long before this. By inviting him to speak at universities around the country, many college Republicans apparently thought they were taking a brave stance against the forces of political correctness, and scoring one for free speech. In fact, they were discrediting their own movement by allying themselves with a vicious troll —

demonstrating that they hate their enemies more than they love their alleged principles... For starters, he writes — or wrote — for Breitbart, a go-to site for the alt-right movement, a loose conglomeration of long-standing nativist outfits such as VDare and FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), and white supremacists. [Note: VDare is named for Virginia Dare, the first white baby born to equally white settlers in the New World — the Jamestown Colony, specifically.] They all hate the left’s political correctness and multiculturalism not because it offends America’s commitment to individual rights and universalistic notions of justice, but because it comes in the way of their ethno-nationalistic project — which the site aids by peddling a constant stream of the vilest xenophobia... Milo Yiannopoulos is like the Joker in ‘Batman.’ He has turned chaos and nihilism into a business model for notoriety and wealth. Conservatives won’t defeat their liberal enemies by making a deal with this devil. Rather, they will validate the liberal critique of the right as a front for bigotry and prejudice, discrediting everything they claim to defend and declaring their own moral bankruptcy.” Bear in mind that Dalmia is a card-carrying conservative. She may be the only semi-sane one left on the planet. This is not the world where I imagined I’d be living in my dotage, folks. Calling Leslie Jones an ape is perfectly acceptable; talking about sex between a teenager and a young adult is not. It must have blown Milo’s, um, mind to learn the hard way that there are still very strict limits to what one may utter in public. It’s certainly blown mine to realize that his point about sex between various stages of youth is one with which I agree. Follow @EdSikov on Twitter and Facebook.

Despite his repellent history, Simon & Schuster was all too happy to bring him onboard to the tune of a $250,000 advance and the opportunity to bring his Homo the Clown message of bejeweled hate to people who, unlike Milo’s army of trolls, can actually read more than 140 characters at a time. March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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SNIDE LINES, from p.17

We need loose organizations, like autonomous groups embedded in communities, that work together. Look at just one block: thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a barbershop and a salon and a bodega and a landlord and tenants. Those are our sites to build power: How do we stop ICE from coming in? How do we support each other? You have groups like Take Back the Bronx, or groups about Section 8 housing. We have to know there could be violence. We have to push hard to break laws and rules. Because thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a strategic use for the government becoming unable to control people. But how will that happen? Not just by riots. By building a base, ultimately, in our communities. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re talking about selfdetermination, about democracy. SD: When did you become politically active? AH: My awareness got formed during the first Palestinian uprising in 1987 when I was 13. My dad tried to stop me from going on demonstrations. He told me if I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get killed, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d go to prison. I got jailed twice and

shot once. Friends of mine went to jail and many friends got killed. I come from a background where colonialism makes Trump clearer, because the power is more brute, more present. You can understand it better and see your choices. I was brought up with the sense that you throw a rock, and you may die â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s worth it. Not that anyone wants to die; we love life. But believing in justice requires us to be willing to sacrifice. So our struggles are more connected than people understand. The gap between us and the wealthy is ever expanding. To paraphrase Robin D.G. Kelley: â&#x20AC;&#x153;When colonialism comes home, it looks like fascism.â&#x20AC;? But weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re used to thinking that single issues, single demands, are more effective. Power, in fact, better understands upfront belligerence: Fuck you and your power. You canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do that without being organized. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not slogans and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not glamorous, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s real work. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no solution, other than to engage. When I went to the Yemini strike, one of their chants was â&#x20AC;&#x153;America is great.â&#x20AC;? Now, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think America is great but I joined in because I

understand why they wanted to say that. That space of generosity is important, right? Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re separate but together. And block-by-block, our relationships shift. Because if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re trying to upend an entire system of oppression, why wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t you recognize all the people being oppressed? SD: How does Occupy Wall Street fit into this? AH: Deciding to name it Occupy was expedient; the land was already occupied. Five years later, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve learned. When we organized Decolonize This Place, the first banner we put up was â&#x20AC;&#x153;De-Occupy.â&#x20AC;? That said, I purposely didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t push the Palestinian issue front and center because I knew what I was doing in Wall Street was helping Palestine. That was my engagement. And when my father was dying, he couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go to an Israeli hospital. He couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get a permit, since heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Palestinian. Good doctors are hard to find in Palestine, and he didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have insurance. They told him he had pancreatitis. In fact, he had pancreatic cancer. It took me months to get him to New York. I cashed out my 401K

NITASHA DHILLON/ MTL

Amin Husain and his father, shortly before the older manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s death, in Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street presence there.

and took a tax hit to get him here, and then he lasted about four months. But before he died, he came to Zuccotti Park. My dad finished fourth grade, not an educated person. When he got to the park, we were feeding the pigeons. I have a beautiful picture of that moment. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like, â&#x20AC;&#x153;This makes sense.â&#x20AC;? Because this is power. This is what makes things happen. Susie Day is the author of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Snidelines: Talking Trash to Power,â&#x20AC;? published by Abingdon Square Publishing.

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C>B=!23A9A/D/7:/0:3 =44713A>/137<1:C23A C^b]!2SaYaeWbV1VOW`a 4WZS1OPW\Sba AVO`SR@SQS^bW]\/`SO AVO`SR1]\TS`S\QS@]][ AVO`SR:c\QV@]][eWbV@ST`WUS`Ob]` >O`YW\U5O`OUSc\RS`\SObVbVSPcWZRW\U AcPeOgab]^]cbaWRS]TbVS]TÂżQS &RSaYaW\OaS^O`ObSO`SOOdOWZOPZS GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

1OZZ1ZWTTOb'%' ''# 19


CIVIL RIGHTS

Florist Can’t Discriminate, State High Court Says

As with photographer, baker, farm wedding venue, religious freedom claim rejected BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

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ontinuing an unbroken string of appellate rulings finding that businesses cannot refuse to supply goods or services for same-sex marriages in jurisdictions that ban sexual orientation discrimination, the nine members of the Washington State Supreme Court have unanimously ruled that a flower shop acted illegally in denying a gay couple floral arrangements for their wedding. The February 16 ruling in Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed’s suit against the florist found that Barronelle Stutzman, proprietor of Arlene’s Flowers, Inc., violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and the state’s Consumer Protection Act, and that Stutzman had no constitutional right to do so on the basis of her religious beliefs. This ruling follows a series of losses by businesses that sought to rely on religious objections to refuse wedding-related services — in cases involving a photographer in New Mexico, a baker in Colorado, and a farm venue for weddings in upstate New York. So far, no final court decision has ruled in favor of a business claiming a right to discriminate, either under the federal or a state constitution or under a state’s religious freedom statute. Washington State does not have the sort of religious freedom law adopted in many states in recent years, so Stutzman’s case came down to two questions: whether her refusal of services violated the public accommodations and consumer protection statutes and whether she was privileged to withhold her services by the US Constitution’s First Amendment or the equivalent provision of the Washington State Constitution. Ingersoll and Freed, partners in “a committed, romantic relationship” for several years, according to Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud’s opinion, had been regular customers of Arlene’s Flowers, spending by their estimate as much as $1,000 in total at the shop. After same-sex marriage became legal in Washing-

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ACLU OF WASHINGTON

Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed prevailed in their suit against Barronelle Stutzman, proprietor of Arlene’s Flowers, Inc., at the Washington State Supreme Court.

ton in 2012, Freed and Ingersoll planned a September 2013 wedding, “complete with a dinner or reception, a photographer, a caterer, a wedding cake, and flowers.” Ingersoll naturally went to Arlene’s Flowers to make arrangements, anticipating no problems because Stutzman knew him and Freed, knew they were gay, and had dealt with them many times. They couple considered Arlene’s Flowers to be “their florist.” So it was a big surprise when Stutzman told Ingersoll that she could not do the flowers for their wedding because of “her relationship to Jesus Christ.” The story quickly got media play, inspir ing Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to initiate litigation against the Stutzman and her business, and Ingersoll and Freed filed their own complaint. The cases were combined in Benton County Superior Court, where the trial judge granted summary judgment against Stutzman. The analysis by the court will be familiar to anybody who has been following this issue as it has unfolded in parallel with the advance of marriage equality. Courts have generally rejected the argument made by companies refusing to do business with same-sex couples in connection with their marriage that their actions are not sexual orientation discrimination because their

refusal has to do with “conduct” (a wedding) rather than “status” (sexual orientation). The Washington court did likewise, in response to argument from lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom, an antiLGBT legal group that has been involved in other similar cases and is petitioning the Supreme Court to review the Colorado baker case. As a result, the major focus of the case was not on whether Stutzman violated the state’s laws, but rather on whether she enjoyed constitutional protection in doing so as a result of her freedom of religion, speech, or association. Most civil rights laws include provisions exempting religious institutions and their clergy from complying to the extent their doctrines would be violated, but the exemptions usually do not extend to private, for-profit businesses. The Washington high court rejected Stutzman’s argument that her floral arrangements were the kind of artistic creations entitled to free speech protection, or that requiring her to design and supply floral arrangements would burden her freedom of association. The court conceded that it would burden her free exercise of religion, but found that the state’s compelling interest in protecting all its residents from discrimination in places of public accommodation clearly outweighed the incidental burden on religion.

“As applied in this case,” wrote Justice Gordon McCloud, “the WLAD does not compel speech or association. And assuming that it substantially burdens Stutzman’s religious free exercise, the WLAD does not violate her right to religious exercise under either the First Amendment or [the Washington Constitution] because it is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.” Stutzman argued that her refusal to do the flowers for the couple’s wedding was not a serious problem because she supplied Ingersoll with the names of other florists who would readily do so, and in fact after this case got publicity several florists contacted the couple and volunteered to provide flowers for their wedding. The court said that was not really the issue. It wasn’t just about access to flowers. Instead, it was about the violation of civil rights stemming from a denial of services because the customers were a gay couple. Indeed, in her deposition, Stutzman conceded she would happily supply flowers for a Muslim wedding or a wedding for atheists, making clear that her objections here focused on the fact that it was for a “gay wedding,” not on “her relationship to Jesus Christ.” It was not relevant that she claimed she was not homophobic and happily sold flowers to Ingersoll and Freed when it was not for their wedding. The timing of this decision is particularly interesting, because the Supreme Court was scheduled to discuss whether to grant review of the Colorado baker case on February 17, having listed it at two of the its prior conferences and having just recently sent for and received the full record from the state courts. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington represented Ingersoll and Freed in this case. A spokesperson for Alliance Defending Freedom announced that the group would petition the Supreme Court to review this case as well as the Colorado baker case. March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


CRIME

Suspect in Brooklyn Gay Man’s 2005 Murder Arrested Break in woman’s 2004 killing opened up long-cold inquiry into Rashawn Brazell slaying BY DUNCAN OSBORNE

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welve years after parts of the dismembered body of Rashawn Brazell were found in a Brooklyn subway tunnel, police announced that his alleged killer had been arrested and indicted in the death of the 19-year-old gay man. “For 12 long years, the family and friends of Rashawn Brazell have been searching for answers after this beloved young man was killed and discarded in such a horrific fashion,” Eric Gonzalez, the acting Brooklyn district attorney, said in a February 22 statement, “Today, I am pleased to say that we have solved this cold case, hopefully allowing a small measure of closure for Mr. Brazell’s loved ones.” Police arrested Kwauhuru Govan, 38, who was already in custody and charged in the murder of 17-yearold Sharabia Thomas, who was found dead near her Brooklyn home in 2004. Police used DNA evidence to link Govan to Thomas and then

realized that Govan lived across the street from Brazell in 2005, a law enforcement source told Gay City News. Police found that a bag that belonged to Govan and that had Brazell’s blood on it was recovered in the subway station where Brazell’s body parts were discovered. There is other evidence in the case that the source would not disclose. In 2005, police had explored the possibility that Brazell had been killed by a lover or a casual partner he met on a telephone chat line, but the case quickly grew cold. In 2006, when the New York Post reported that police were trying to find a former neighbor of Brazell’s, police knocked that story down saying that they were not. That Post story said the neighbor was in his 30s, but Govan would have been in his mid-20s, and Desire Brazell, Rashawn’s mother, knew that neighbor and, if she had concerns about him, certainly would have discussed them with police in 2005. As often happens with cold cases,

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WHITEHOUSE.GOV

President Donald Trump offered a very skeletal, though scary view of his first budget over the past week.

GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

friends and family grew increasingly angry with what was a failed investigation at the time. “They are denying that they ever said that. I think they threw this out there because of the march,” Desire told Gay City News in 2006, referring to the police quotes in the Post story. “The detective on the case asked me if I talked to anyone.” The Post story came in March, less than a month before a planned event that was going to protest the lack of progress in the investigation a year after the murder. The Brazell case was often compared to other notorious homicides that were quickly solved by law enforcement, with advocates saying the differing responses were attributable to Rashawn’s race and sexual orientation. Following Govan’s arrest, Desire appeared at a press conference with police and thanked them for their work on the case. Govan may be linked to two other homicides in New York City

TRUMP BUDGET, from p.3

form these programs, which account for roughly 60 percent of the federal budget along with some smaller mandatory spending programs. An estimated 42 percent of people with HIV received health services paid for by Medicaid in 2014, according to a policy brief by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Some AIDS groups, including Housing Works and Harlem United, receive a portion of their annual budgets from Medicaid-reimbursed services. Federal agency cash also funds many state and local governments that then distribute that money as contracts for the non-profit agencies that form the heart and soul of services for people with HIV. “I think that is what everyone is afraid of, that a decrease in a lot of agencies that will ripple down to city and state agencies,” said Jeremy Saunders, co-director at VOCAL-NY, an advocacy group. “This [budget] cycle will be a death by a thousand cuts. The larger thing to come is going to be through ACA and Medicaid.” New York City’s health department got 94 percent of its $194 million for HIV prevention and treatment services from federal agencies in

COURTESY: BRAZELL FAMILY

Rashawn Brazell was 19 at the time of his 2005 murder.

and a third in California, according to published reports. At his February 22 court appearance, he had to be carried into the courtroom after refusing to cooperate with court officers. He loudly insisted he was innocent.

the city’s 2016 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. In the current fiscal year, 19.2 percent of the city health department’s entire $1.57 billion budget is funded with federal dollars. The 44 member organizations that belong to AIDS United, a coalition group in the nation’s capital, had their quarterly meeting this week and the federal budget was discussed. “It was the primary topic of conversation,” said Jason Cianciotto, Harlem United’s head of policy, advocacy, and communications. “We had special guests come in to further inform us.” Advocates are not expecting any good news in any federal budget, but they hope to at least blunt the impact of any cuts on people with HIV and others. “It’s all about what could be done to protect the people who are most vulnerable and to try and push back to protect the programs we rely on,” said Eric Sawyer, GMHC’s head of public affairs and policy. Trump’s proposals, which are little more than concepts at this point, are not the final word on federal spending. Members of Congress will have their own views on budget priorities. The states and many healthcare and service providers across the country will have their own ideas about federal dollars — and cutting those dollars, in particular.

25


CIVIL RIGHTS

Arkansas Supreme Court Nixes Fayetteville LGBTQ Rights

Sexual orientation, gender identity, though mentioned in state law, cannot be protected anti-bias categories BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD

F

ayetteville has been a welcome hotbed of LGBT rights advocacy in recent years, but on February 23 the Arkansas Supreme Court, reversing a ruling by Washington County Circuit Court Judge Doug Martin, found that the city and its voters violated state law by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to their antidiscrimination ordinance. Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote the opinion for the unanimous court. Responding to earlier attempts to enact LGBT rights protections in Fayetteville, the Arkansas Legislature, in 2015, passed the Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, intended “to improve intrastate commerce by ensuring that businesses, organizations, and employers doing business in the state are subject to uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations, regardless of the counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions in which the businesses, organizations, and employers are located or engage in business or commercial activities.” The measure bars local governments from enacting “an ordinance, resolution, rule, or pol-

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EQUAL PROTECTION, from p.13

cases should apply, rejecting the school board’s argument that the least demanding standard — that it simply show some rational basis for its policy — be used. In line with Supreme Court criteria for establishing an intermediate standard for review, Hornak found that transgender people have historically been subjected to discrimination and have little political power, that they are characterized by an immutable defining characteristic, and that the characteristic bears no relationship to their ability to contribute to society. Based on Hornak’s conclusion, the school board has the burden of justifying its discriminatory policy, and the judge concluded it was likely to fall short because the facts do not demonstrate an “exceedingly persuasive justification” related to “an important governmental interest.” The policy, wrote Hornak, was not shown to be “necessary to quell any actual or incipient threat, disturbance or other disruption of school activity” nor did it address any privacy concern “that is not already well addressed by the physical layout of

26

icy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law,” except on the question of their own municipal employment policies. Like the rest of the American South, Arkansas does not forbid sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in its state antidiscrimination statute. The clear intent of Arkansas legislators two years ago was to preempt local governments from adding those two characteristics to their local laws. Or at least that’s what the state’s high court held in this decision. Local LGBT rights advocates and city officials took a different view, however, seizing on the literal meaning of “not contained in state law” and finding that some Arkansas laws did mention sexual orientation or gender identity. An antibullying law protects public school students and employees from bullying because of gender identity or sexual orientation, among a list of 13 characteristics. There is also a provision in the state’s domestic violence law requiring shelters to adopt nondiscrimination policies that include “sexual preference.” And the state’s vital statistics act provides a mechanism for an individual to get a new birth certificate after sex reassignment surgery.

the bathrooms.” In response to the usual hypothetical but overheated fears voiced, he pointed out that school policy and state law already deal with “unlawful malicious ‘peeping Tom’ activity by anyone pretending to be transgender.” The school board argued that some parents threatened to withdraw their students from school if the trans students were not kept out of the restrooms, but the court did not accept that justification. The 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, Hornak wrote, “is neither applied nor construed by popular vote.” The court also rejected the school board’s argument that single-user restrooms “sprinkled around” the school provided a sufficient “safety valve” for the plaintiffs, making an injunction unnecessary. Hornak found that it is “no answer under the Equal Protection Clause that those impermissibly singled out for different treatment can, and therefore must, themselves ‘solve the problem’ by further separating themselves from their peers.” The judge concluded that such differential treatment inflicted irreparable harm on the plaintiffs and

Taken together, the advocates argued that “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are classifications that exist in Arkansas law, so their inclusion in Fayetteville’s anti-discrimination ordinance would not be prohibited by the 2015 state law. Just months after the Legislature approved that, the Fayetteville City Council adopted a new ordinance adding those categories to its local nondiscrimination ordinance, subject to voter approval. In September 2015, voters confirmed the Council action by a 53-47 percent margin. Opponents of the measure, organized as Protect Fayetteville, first tried to forestall that referendum, but failed, and so became plaintiffs in the lawsuit that prevailed last week. At the trial court, Justice Martin accepted the argument that since that “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are categories mentioned in state law they could be added to the local nondiscrimination ordinance. The Supreme Court’s reversal was premised on legislative intent. “In this case,” wrote Justice Hart, “the General Assembly expressly stated the intent” — namely

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LAMBDALEGAL.ORG

Juliet Evancho, one of three transgender plaintiffs from the Pittsburgh area who prevailed this week in federal court.

that ordering the school to allow them to use gender-appropriate restrooms would “cause relatively little ‘harm’… if any harm at all” to the interests of the school and its students, based in good part on the record of the three youths having used the appropriate restrooms for several years without incident. Hornak hedged his bets against an appeals court second-guessing him by also ruling that the school board policy would probably also not survive the least demanding level of judicial scrutiny — rationality review — since it advanced none of the

FAYETTEVILLE, continued on p.38

goals the school board outlined. Hornak’s ruling would provide relief to any student at a public educational institution, but would not apply to non-governmental institutions even if they were receiving federal support through research grants or student loan financing. That second group of institutions, however, would fall under Title IX requirements, should the Supreme Court conclude, in the Gavin Grimm case, that the federal education law’s sex discrimination prohibition protects transgender students. Given the lack of a Third Circuit appellate precedent on the question of the appropriate standard of review, it would not be surprising if the school board seeks a stay of Hornak’s injunction pending appeal. It’s possible, of course, that the Supreme Court’s action in the Grimm case could outpace the progress in this litigation. Lambda Legal’s attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Christopher Clark, and Kara Ingelhart, who are joined by local counsel in Pennsylvania, Tracie Palmer and David C. Williams of Kline & Specter, P.C. March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GAY CITY NEWS

Dr. Margaret Reneau of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS addresses the crowd, with longtime ACT UP member Andy Velez to the left.

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CUOMO BUDGET, from p.3

HIV-positive people with anti-HIV drugs, which keep them healthy and uninfectious. The plan relies as well on services, such as housing and nutrition, for HIV-positive people because such services help them stay on their medication. While about 80 AIDS advocacy and services groups signed a February 1 letter to Cuomo asking him to reverse the formula change, relatively few principals from those groups turned out for the protest. Notable exceptions were Guillermo Chacón, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, and Howard Josepher, founder and president of Exponents. Charles King the chief executive at Housing Works, is credited, along with Mark Harrington, who heads the Treatment Action Group, with conceiving of the Plan to End AIDS. King, who has a long history of aggressive advocacy, is the plan’s leading proponent, but because it relies on the cooperation of the governor and the mayor, he has been unwilling to criticize them publicly. Andrew Greene, a senior vice president at Housing Works, spoke at the protest, which King did not attend, saying, “We’re here today to protect existing funding.” When Gay City News asked for a copy of his comments, he handed over a one-page document titled “Talking points for tomorrow” that was written by the Housing Works press office. It read, in part, “Charles underscored that he wants our statement to frame the issue in very measured terms, praising/ thanking the Gov & Mayor for their commitment and urging that the state not inadvertently undermine [the Plan to End GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

AIDS] with this cut.” The proposed cuts come when any federal funding for HIV prevention or care for HIV-positive people is in the hands of Republicans in Congress — who have already announced plans to alter Medicaid and Medicare, two federal programs that many HIV-positive people rely on — and Donald Trump, the current occupant of the White House and perhaps the most erratic and undisciplined president America has ever had. Trump is surrounded by many agency heads and White House aides who are anti-LGBTQ. It is unlikely that the federal government will replace any state cuts to city funding. “We are in a moment of uncertainty in terms of federal funding,” Julia DeWalt, the advocacy manager at BOOM!Health, said at the protest. “To assume New York City can access other sources is wrong.” According to an analysis by Scott Stringer, the city’s comptroller, federal funds accounted for nine percent, or $7 billion, of the city’s $78 billion budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which ended on June 30 of last year. Some city programs rely entirely or almost entirely on federal dollars. In the city health department, 94 percent of the $194 million HIV prevention and treatment program was paid for with federal cash in the 2016 fiscal year. That program plays a central role in the Plan to End AIDS. In the current fiscal year, 19.2 percent of the city health department’s $1.57 billion budget is funded with federal dollars. With a possible battle over funding with Congress and the Trump administration before them, the Article 6 dispute has advocates fighting the state to maintain funding.

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THEATER

Lost and Found

A Kander and Pierce tuner about a wayward closeted teen charting his own course BY DAVID KENNERLEY

T

he illustrious John Kander has never been one to shy away from outré material. For “The Scottsboro Boys,” the final musical score he composed with the late Fred Ebb, he infused minstrelsy into a harrowing story of racial discrimination in the Deep South. Although the bold musical was well received at its 2010 premiere at the Vineyard Theatre, its Broadway tur n flopped. Tourists stayed away in droves. “Kid Victory,” his latest effort also at the Vineyard, written and scored with current writing partner Greg Pierce, takes on another prickly topic unlikely for a musical: child abduction. And while the team should be lauded for bringing such a daring subject to life onstage, the execution falls short. Liesl Tommy (“Eclipsed”) directs.

The book, focusing on the re-entry of 17-year old Luke (his online screen name is Kid Victory) after several months’ disappearance, is awkwardly integrated with the score. Likewise, the bizarre notes of joviality don’t mesh with the serious drama. Characters suddenly burst into song, but since we don’t know who they are, we don’t care. A chorus of nosy members of a Baptist church fellowship loiters onstage, singing out at odd moments, which does little to amplify the drama. What’s more, the book is full of holes, requiring broad suspension of disbelief. In today’s digital age, how is it possible that Luke could go undetected for months? There’s a provocative song, “Not Quite True,” which finds the detective grilling Luke about inconsistencies in his story, but there’s no follow-up. Perhaps the scene is a fantasy, though it’s not clear.

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KID VICTORY, continued on p.39

CAROL ROSEGG

Brandon Flynn and Jeffry Denman in John Kander and Greg Pierce’s “Kid Victory,” directed by Liesl Tommy, at the Vineyard Theatre through March 19.

Life — Writ Large and Small A huge musical and an intimate one-man show both go straight for the heart BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

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here really is only word to describe the revival of “Sunset Boulevard” now on Broadway: glorious. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sprawling musical adaptation of the Billy Wilder movie has always been larger than life, as befits the legendary Hollywood it attempts to portray. Yet under Lonny Price’s brilliant direction, the musical both maintains its epic scope and becomes a heartbreaking, human-scaled story of longing and loss, a mound of ashes beneath a heavy dusting of glitter. In telling the tale of faded, silent film star Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis, the jaded, failing writer who becomes her lover, Price draws so much depth and dimension out of the characters that one can’t help rooting for them, even as they spiral toward inevitable destruction. The original production was overwhelming and bordered on Grand Guignol. Norma was a macabre curiosity, a grotesque, and Joe was callous and

28

SUNSET BOULEVARD Palace Theater 1564 Broadway at W. 47th St. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $65-$199; ticketmaster.com Or 800-745-3000 Two hrs., 45 mins., with intermission

JOAN MARCUS

Glenn Close and Michael Xavier in the Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard.”

opportunistic. In this production, the two are tragic heroes, done in by desperation, denial, and the ache to fit into a world that doesn’t want or care about them. In many respects, this is a “Sunset Boulevard” for our celebrity-besotted time, where the faces of the

famous change almost as quickly as the covers of the magazines and even among ordinary people notoriety in social media and incessant validation are obsessively pursued. On another level, it’s also a chilling reminder that time can be cruel for those who live in denial. We relate

to Norma because we can identify with her feelings of loss, disorientation, and bafflement at life. When presented with operatic drama, all of this is thrillingly cathartic. From the opening moments, one is swept into the production. The on-stage, 40-piece orchestra recalls some of the grandest movie music of all time. Lloyd Webber’s now classic score has never sounded better, nor has it ever made more sense as homage to the scores of movie greats like Max Steiner. And then there’s the cast. Glenn

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LARGE AND SMALL, continued on p.38

March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


THEATER

Reckless Abandonment

He’s lovelorn, he’s gay, and his pals are moving on, leaving him in the dust BY DAVID KENNERLEY

J

oshua Harmon’s “Significant Other” was warmly received when it premiered Off-Broadway at the Roundabout’s intimate Laura Pels Theatre nearly two years ago, and for good reason. The heartfelt portrait of Jordan Berman, a socially inept, 29-year-old gay man yearning for love while his gal pals marry off one by one, was as tartly funny as it was touching. Sure, some characters were not fully fleshed out, the narrative had potholes and tired wedding clichés, and the play felt a little like a television sitcom. Overall it was a clever, absorbing diversion. Yet when I heard it was transferring to Broadway, I was dumbfounded. There was little chance, I thought, the modest effort, with no bankable stars, could hold its own in a large venue or satisfy fussy audiences paying $150 a ticket. I may have been too hasty. Under the razor-sharp guidance of director extraordinaire Trip Cullman (“The Substance of Fire,” “Some Men”), “Significant Other” has intensified in both drama and feeling, comfortably commanding the stage at the Booth Theatre. The scene transitions are tighter and Mark Wendland’s ingenious set, combining Jordan’s New York apartment, workplace, nightclubs, wedding venues, and his Grandma’s home, looks better than ever, thanks in part to Japhy Weideman’s expert lighting design. The performances are more polished and nuanced than I recall from the previous run. Gideon Glick brings a mournful strain of vulnerability to the neurotic dweeb Jordan. Although it’s annoyingly curious he has no gay male friends and there’s zero mention of his venturing out to a gay bar or toying with hookup apps like Scruff, he has an endearing quality that earns our empathy. Jordan’s besties are engagingly portrayed by Sas Goldberg, Lindsay Mendez, and Rebecca Naomi Jones (the only newcomer to the cast). Luke Smith and John Behlmann do an admirable job juggling the various roles of coworkers, boyfriends, husbands, and other significant others. And theater veteran Barbara Barrie puts a doleful spin on the typical kindly Grandma role. The occasional clichés (godawful bridesmaid dresses, a straight girl vowing to have a turkey-baster baby with her gay best bud if she doesn’t find Mr. Right) take a back seat to the poignant, overarching theme of the play: the soul-crushing fear of living and dying alone. “All the things you got from our friendship, GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

JOAN MARCUS

Sas Goldberg, Gideon Glick, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Luke Smith in Joshua Harmon’s “Significant Other,” directed by Trip Cullman, which has arrived on Broadway at the Booth Theatre, after an Off-Broadway run in 2015.

SIGNIFICANT OTHER Booth Theatre 222 W. 45th St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2:30 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $99-$147; SignficantOtherBroadway.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission JOAN MARCUS

John Behlmann and Gideon Glick in “Significant Other.”

you get from Tony now. Which is great,” Jordan says though tears. “But all the things I got, things I really need — I’m not getting them from anyone.” What’s more, the play’s darker undercurrents are more intense. The casual mentions of suicide feel more threateningly real. Jordan’s obsession with Will, the hot guy at the office (played with butch aloofness by Behlmann) isn’t just played for laughs; he’s got some serious self-esteem issues. When he quips that his therapist wants to up the dose of his anti-depressants, it’s not meant to be funny. The comedy has deepened as well. The scene where Jordan is hunched over his laptop, debating on whether to hit the “send” button after writing a mushy email to Will is no longer simply amusing, it’s laugh-out-loud funny and had the entire house in stitches. Glick’s comic

timing is impeccable. Sad to say, the unflinching honesty found onstage does not extend to the marketing campaign. The fancy website touts the work as an “entirely delightful” story about how “people and relationships change,” but completely omits a key fact about Jordan — that he’s gay. A case could be made that his plight is universal and that his sexuality is immaterial, but I’m not buying it. Being gay is a central part of Jordan’s identity and the action onstage. He spends several minutes describing the water glistening off Will’s muscular torso and sneaks into a locker room and sniffs his T-shirt. Later, one rare date ends with a full-on kiss with another man. Perhaps the producers feared that “Significant Other” would be labeled a “gay play” and cut into potential profits. And that’s a shame.

29


THEATER

Iranian Boys in Love Jay Paul Deratany’s play tackles gay oppression in the Islamic Republic BY DAVID NOH

ed myself, life was better and I’ve never looked back. We are a minority and it is easier to be part of the majority and to be straight. So, although everyone likes to say it is much easier for kids now, we have to appreciate that it is not easy and we still have a long way to go. Besides, in today’s climate, with this new government, we are seeing LGBT rights being rolled back, so we still have to fight for our rights.

I

n this most fraught time in America — especially where immigrants are concerned — hearing as many disparate, seriously concerned voices as possible is critical. One such voice is playwright Jay Paul Deratany, whose “Haram! Iran!,” opening this Friday at TADA!, is based on a disturbing story out of Iran about two teenaged boys who went to trial in Mashhad in 2005 on charges of homosexual conduct and were executed. The cast includes Roberto Tolentino and Rahul Rai, as the boys, with Naama Potok, Sahar Bibiyan, Kal Mansoor, Colin Mulligan, Russell Jordan and Thamer Jendoubi, under the direction of Rick Leidenfrost-Wilson. DAVID NOH: What inspired you to write this play? JAY PAUL DERATANY: I’ve been involved in human rights issues for a long time, whether it’s providing pro bono legal services to HIV/ AIDS patients early in the AIDS crisis or working at an LGBT homeless youth center. I’ve just felt it always my duty to help others where I can. I also read a lot about issues, and one day I was just perusing the Internet on one of the sites and I saw this article about these two boys. They were about 15 and were being prosecuted for being gay. I saw this photo of these two boys crying, with nooses around their neck. I just started to cry, and thought what can any of us do about this? That’s when I started researching this and writing the story. By writing “Haram! Iran!,” I wanted to reach out to a community that has had less experience with gay people as a normal part of society. DN: How has it been received by audiences and where has it played so far? JPD: The audiences have seemed to really appreciate the work. When I’m in the audience, afterwards, people come up and

30

Marc Cart wright/ HARAMIRAN.ORG

HARAMIRAN.ORG

Rahul Rai plays Mahmoud, one of two Iranian teenagers executed in Mashhad, Iran, in 2005.

Robert Tolentino plays Ayaz, the other teen executed.

thank me for writing the story. It opened in Chicago, and because an audience member there was on the board of Celebration Theater in LA, they asked if I would allow them to play it. It went to LA and then I thought, “Well, I guess that’s it.” Then about a year or two passed, and I got a call from a London playhouse and they wanted to do it. DN: Have you gotten any kind of backlash from the Muslim community? JPD: Not at all. I want to be very specific and say that this is not a play that is all anti-Muslim. In fact, hopefully when you attend, you will see that there are many references to the Quran. The Quran, like many books, is subject to interpretation, and there are many passages that celebrate love and do not condemn anyone. So really there is no reason for any backlash. In fact, I had one gentleman come to me afterward and tell me that he was a strict Muslim and appreciated the way I had included passages of the Quran in the play. The play is critical of the hardline governments of Iran and other countries that misinterpret the Quran for their own purposes. The Quran does not condone the killing of gay youth. There is a lot of love

HARAM! IRAN! TADA! Theater 15 W. 28th St. Mar. 3, 10 & 17 at 9 p.m. Mar. 4, 11 & 18 at 7 p.m. Mar. 5, 8, 12 & 19 at 2 p.m. $20 at HaramIran.org

and compassion in the Quran. DN: I come from a conservative Korean background in Hawaii and know something about having to be closeted and other compromises. What was your own coming out story like, with regard to family and friends? When did you first know you were gay? JPD: I was born in the US, and my father is of Syrian background. It was hard growing up, and that is why the story of Ayaz and Mahmoud could be a story of any kids, including those in the US. I didn’t come out until I was in my late 20s, and in fact I hid it for a while, claiming to be straight and was even engaged to be married. I wanted to fit in so badly. I remember I used to pray to God to “take away this sin” but now I thank God I am who I am. Once I accept-

DN: What was your education? You are a real hyphenate, being both an active lawyer and playwright. JPD: When I was a kid, I wanted only to be an actor and writer, but then life happens, and when I was going to college everyone either went for the MBA or law degree, and I chose law. I continue to practice law and work frequently on human rights cases, but my passion is writing. I am married to a wonderful man named Curt Smith, and we live in Chicago and also part time in LA. DN: I recently interviewed playwright Paula Vogel, the first out lesbian to win the Pulitzer, and she said that now, more than ever, we all need to be proud, bold, and outspoken about our love. How do you feel about that, and what is your perspective on being Muslim and Syrian in America? JPD: I’m not Muslim. I was baptized Syrian Orthodox. It might surprise many readers, but it is very hard to put the Arab people in a box. First, there are over 10 religions that are part of the Arab community. There are Arab Christians, two major sects of the Muslim faith, there are even Arab Jews, so we are not all Muslim. But, as part of the Arab culture growing up in America, I can say that it was really taboo to be gay. It went against the Church and against the rather machismo image that a lot of Arab men have of what a man should be.

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March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

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FILM

What’s Next for a Lapsed Vegan? Julia Ducournau’s coming-of-age horror show pushes viewers to identify BY GARY M. KRAMER

R

aw” is a vivid, visceral coming-of-age film. Writer and director Julia Ducournau has created an hypnotic — though for many what could be a very unpleasant — drama about Justine (Garance Marillier), a firstyear student struggling through rush week at a veterinary medical school in France. Justine is a vegetarian. Early in the film, she is upset when she discovers a slice of meat in her mashed potatoes — a sign of bad things to come. After she eats a raw rabbit kidney as part of her rush week hazing, Justine develops a nasty rash. Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella), the gay man she rooms with, and her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), both of whom also attend the vet school, have less difficulty with eating the raw rabbit kidney. But

FOCUS WORLD

Garance Marillier and Rabah Nait Oufella in Julia Ducournau’s “Raw.”

Adrien and Alexia each has greater self-confidence than Justine. In graphic detail, “Raw” shows Justine’s body rebelling against her. In addition to developing a rash, she vomits up a stringy mess of hair and develops troubles with bleeding. (In a nod to Brian de Palma’s “Carrie,” the

new students are covered in blood in one scene.) Though Justine seems to be slowly — if warily — adapting to a new, cutthroat environment, she opts for going to sleep rather than attending all-night parties that are as intense as the classes where the students must prepare horses

for medical procedures and perform autopsies on chimps. Ducournau shrewdly maximizes the viewer’s identification with the discomforts Justine endures — whether the claustrophobic, sweaty

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Searching for a Reliable Signal Kristen Stewart, in world of instant connection, desperate to reach her brother, her past

CAROLE BETHUEL/ IFC FILMS

Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper.”

BY STEVE ERICKSON

F 32

rench director Olivier Assayas has made a few films that could be loosely described as thrillers: “demonlover” and “Boarding Gate.” However, their

thrills are always in quotes, filtered through David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome” (in the case of “demonlover”), Hong Kong director Johnnie To’s action movies (in “Boarding Gate”), and, throughout, radical French philosopher Guy Debord’s ideas about the media overtaking reality. The Internet was still relatively new when Assayas made “demonlover” in 2000, and its sexual possibilities seemed to frighten the director. Its narrative suggested that it served up kinky sex at best and rape-porn at worst. The ending, in which a teenage boy watches one of the film’s protagonists serving in slavery in an online dungeon, actually felt like something out of a ‘60s educational movie about the dangers of sex, had the Internet existed back then. It’s now 2017, and every 12-year-old owns an iPhone. Assayas’ new film “Personal Shopper” recognizes the damage people can do to each other online but seems remarkably chill about technology; its heroine Maureen (Kristen Stewart) also uses her cell phone to look at paintings and watch movies. This is a thriller without quotes, a ghost story to rank with greats like Jack Clayton’s 1961 “The Innocents” and Robert Wise’s “The Haunting,” from 1963. While I think it’s better than any

film M. Night Shyamalan has made since “Signs,” I can picture Shyamalan fans appreciating it, as long as they’re willing to put up with the fact that a third of “Personal Shopper” is subtitled. An American, Maureen lives in Paris and works as a personal shopper for model Kyra. In practice, this means that she goes around to clothing and jewelry shops picking out items — and often trying them on — to buy for her boss. She was very close to her late brother Lewis, who has recently died of a congenital heart defect from which she also suffers. She roams around the house he lived in, begging him to show signs of his presence. A few loud taps and shrieks emerge, but the most conclusive proof seems to be the double-exposure ghostly presence she occasionally sees. On a trip to London, she’s stalked by weird texts on her phone. Despite their mysterious, even menacing tone, she continues responding to them. Are they from a human? A ghost? Maureen goes through an extremely difficult period in her life — relating all her problems would require spoilers — with a sense of dignity and her head usually held high. If I received the kind of texts she does, I would quickly stop writ-

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March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


FILM

Creating Change

WONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T YOU JOIN US?

Eddie Rosenstein profiles key actors who brought marriage equality over the finish line BY GARY M. KRAMER

T

he fight for gay marriage was a long and hard-won battle (one, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hoped, wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to be engaged again under this new administration). Even though the outcome was almost taken for a given by the time it was achieved, how marriage equality came to be, step-by-step, is a story not widely known. Filmmaker and queer ally Eddie Rosenstein has brought the 30-to-40-year ground game to the screen in his forceful and moving new documentary, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Freedom to Marry.â&#x20AC;? In the film, Rosenstein profiles Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry, as well as his FTM colleague Marc Solomon, and Mary Bonauto, one of the three attorneys who argued the case in front of the Supreme Court. In a phone interview, Rosenstein said he contacted Wolfson about making the documentary when the Supreme Court, in January 2015, said it would take the marriage equality case. Rosenstein and Wolfsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s families were close friends, so he had access to the subject as well as his trust. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We never signed an agreement,â&#x20AC;? the filmmaker recalled. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He gave me permission to do what I wanted.â&#x20AC;? Rosenstein explained he wanted to tell the story of a man who changed the world. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It takes a lot of effort and perseverance, but regular people make great changes,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Evan knew in law school [in the early 1980s] this case could be won in court. That seems doable, but how do you get the court to take the case and prove that people are equal?â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Freedom to Marryâ&#x20AC;? is an entertaining mix of interviews with the subjects, who offer insightful anecdotes, along with fly-onthe-wall observations of meetings at Wolfsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s offices. Particularly compelling are scenes featuring grassroots advocates talking about marriage equality with friends in an effort to help sway public opinion, an important component of the GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

>`SaS\bSRPg

This yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s honorees include: EYEPOP PRODUCTIONS AND ARGOT PICTURES

Evan Wolfson and Mary Bonauto on the steps of the US Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, the day the nationwide marriage equality ruling was handed down.

Governor David Paterson

Anthony Nicodemo

Ana MarĂ­a Archila & Andrea Batista Schlesinger

Eunic Ortiz Leo Preziosi, Jr.

Lisa Cannistraci

Charles Rice-Gonzalez

Staceyann Chin

FREEDOM TO MARRY Directed by Eddie Rosenstein Eyepop Productions and Argot Pictures Opens Mar. 3 Village East Cinema 189 Second Ave. at E. 12th St. villageeastcinema.com

campaign over its long haul. The film covers 40 years of history â&#x20AC;&#x201D; dating back to early efforts to raise the marriage issue in the 1970s â&#x20AC;&#x201D; in 90 minutes, but what makes it resonate are the personal stories Rosenstein tells, which carry considerable emotion and drama. One of the most heartwarming stories in the film comes from April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a Michigan couple who brought one of the four cases, â&#x20AC;&#x153;DeBoer v. Snyder,â&#x20AC;? argued as a group in front of the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs were seeking marriage equality to protect their adopted, specialneeds children. â&#x20AC;&#x153;They had a particularly beautiful story with very clear stakes,â&#x20AC;? Rosenstein explained about why he chose them as subjects. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Their childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s emotional and physical safety was at stake. April and Jayne needed to protect their kids. The

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CREATING, continued on p.40

Elisa Padilla

Christopher Bram

Manny Rivera

JD Davids

Doug Robinson

AndrĂŠs Duque

Therese Rodriguez

Bryan John Ellicott

Allen Roskoff

Ashley Ford

Robyn Streisand

Suzanne Goldberg Oriol R. Gutierrez

Christopher Tepper & Paul Kelterborn

Bishop Zachary Glenn Jones

Jennifer Flynn Walker

Howie Katz

Jillian Weiss

Terrance Knox

Edie Windsor

Donna Lieberman

Mel Wymore

Carmen Neely

Emanuel Xavier >`SaS\bSRPg(

List in formation

A^]\a]`SRPg( â&#x201E;˘

Post your congratulations message in the special keepsake issue proďŹ ling the honorees on March 30, 2017

â&#x201E;˘

Contact Amanda Tarley For More Information: 718-260-8340 | amanda@gaycitynews.com

gaycitynews.nyc 33


BOOKS

Brad Gooch’s Search for Rumi Sufi mystic’s homosocial bond with his spiritual teacher in 13th century resonates today BY MICHAEL LUONGO

N

ew York Times best-selling author Brad Gooch has written many literary biopics, including on Frank O’Hara and Flannery O’Connor. A professional model decades ago, he transformed himself into a literary darling, earning a Ph.D. at Columbia University, and who now teaches at William Paterson University in New Jersey. His most recent book is “Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love,” which details the life of the 13th century Sufi Islam mystic Rumi and his relationship with the scholar Shams of Tabriz, whom some have called his lover. In a Q&A with Gay City News, Gooch talks about Rumi, his own travels in the mystic’s footprints through areas of conflict then and now, and what Rumi’s story means for us today. MICHAEL LUONGO: What made you interested in the story of Rumi? BRAD GOOCH: I was first drawn to Rumi by his seductive, if sometimes mystifying lyric poetry. When I was working on my book “Godtalk” [Knopf, 2002] around 2000, I wrote a chapter on “Muslims in New York City” and joined a Sufi group led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba House. Rumi was his main inspiration, but rather than poems, he read from Rumi’s talks written down by his disciples, the emphasis on Rumi as spiritual leader. From others in the group, mostly young Muslim Americans, I learned more of the culture and geography around Rumi, and of his life story, including his mid-life transformation triggered by his electric meeting with Shams of Tabriz. The writer in me recognized a great story there, to put a face and context to the floating name of Rumi. ML: How long have you been working on the book, and what has been the process? BG: I worked on the book for eight years. I first needed to learn Persian, or Farsi, the language of Iran, which I did with my tutor Maryam Mortaz, whose role grew eventually to co-translator of the poetry and prose. I studied in two immersion programs at the University of Texas, Austin, and University of Wisconsin, Madison, living in a dorm to speak Farsi 24/ 7 with fellow students, who tend to be 19 years old. I traveled the 2,500-mile map of Rumi’s life, including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, involving me in more contemporary geopolitics than in my other writing projects. ML: Tell me more about those places, especially as a gay man. BG: Well, I certainly found a lot of flirting going

34

HARPER COLLINS

on in the Middle East, though not necessarily more or less than anywhere else in the world. Obviously, though, any kind of overt gay scene was underground, coded to cover it. A poster of Oscar Wilde on a wall was such code. When my partner Paul and I were walking through the bazaar in Aleppo, Syria, two evidently gay guys shouted “Brokeback Mountain!” to us as another such wink-wink. ML: How safe are some of the people you met in Syria? BG: I was in Aleppo, researching Rumi’s days in madrasa, or college, on the Friday in 2011 when the civil war broke out. It was still possible to get a sense of the city Rumi knew: the bazaar, mosque, 10th century minaret were intact. Much of Aleppo is now in rubble and the past irrecoverable. I write in my prologue of meeting a young man who was a big Rumi fan, running his family’s carpet shop. I have tried since to find him but have not been able to. I communicated via Facebook with a cousin of his who is now in Southeast Asia. I often think of our driver and guide, and wonder if they are alive. ML: Was Rumi gay as we would think of gay? What of his relationship with Shams? BG: When I had my first lunch with my publisher after signing to write this book, I asked him what he thought of the notion Rumi was

DOMINIQUE NABOKOV

Author Brad Gooch.

gay, as raised by The Advocate. “Depends what you mean gay,” he said, a wise comment. Rumi and Shams of Tabriz obviously loved each other, though there is no evidence of an erotic component, which leaves the question open. Persian Sufi culture at the time had plenty of evidence of erotic relations between older men and younger men or boys. Persian poetry was often written by men about young men, cast as wine stewards or soldiers. The disturbance created by the relationship of Rumi and Shams of Tabriz in their lifetime was its challenging of such a Socrates-Plato tradition in the culture. Even they were personally challenged. Shams complained once he needed to know whether they were teacher and student, or friend and companion. Rumi recorded someone complaining you could not tell who was the lover and who the beloved. This love between two mature men, a reciprocal ethic of love, seemed to be the most confusing aspect to the wife and family, schools, and disciples already around Rumi. ML: You talk in the book about how Rumi is still respected, even by conservative Islamists. BG: In our time, as in Rumi’s, a tension existed between a fundamentalist, or conservative, interpretation of Islam and a more mystical Sufi emphasis. Sufis had been executed for making

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March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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WONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T YOU JOIN US?

SECRET, from p.34

edgy remarks such as â&#x20AC;&#x153;I am the Truth!â&#x20AC;? or â&#x20AC;&#x153;Glory be to Me!,â&#x20AC;? challenging the border between human and divine. A fatwa was brought against Rumi at least once for using music and dance in his spiritual practice, and against Shams for supposedly drinking wine. But then, as now, Rumi had a charm that somehow protected him, and the poetry, then as now, touched hearts with its message of love expressed in the idiom of Islam and the Quran that allowed him freedom. ML: There was a lot of turmoil in these regions at the time Rumi was writing poetry and traveling â&#x20AC;&#x201D; essentially he was a refugee of sorts. Can you reflect on this, and about refugees in the region today? BG: Rumi is always being reinvented. The Orientalists could be romantic about him, treating him a bit like Omar Khayyam. In the 1990s in America, he was taken up by the New Age movement of spirituality, with poems being recorded by Deepak Chopra and Madonna. My book was published three days before the inauguration of Donald J. Trump and most striking about him now: one of Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s favorite poets â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Rumi â&#x20AC;&#x201D; was a refugee and spent part of his life as a migrant, his family displaced from their homeland in Central Asia by the onslaught of Genghis Khan and the Mongols. He lived in a time of tremendous chaos and flux, including the fall of Baghdad and the killing of the caliph, who was both emperor and pope within Islam â&#x20AC;&#x201D; of the caliphate ISIS wishes to see restored. Yet this time of darkness in poli-

RUMIâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S SECRET: THE LIFE OF THE SUFI POET OF LOVE By Brad Gooch Harper Collins $28.99; 400 pages

tics and history was a remarkably luminous moment in poetry and spirituality. Rumiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s poetry may be speaking to us because he was keeping the faith in times at least as disturbing as ours. ML: Where does Rumi fit with your other books on literary figures? BG: The wonderful writer Fernanda Eberstadt helped me answer that question in a blurb she wrote for the book jacket: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Brad Gooch is the foremost biographer of flamingly original artists who preach the gospel of love, whether fleshly or divine.â&#x20AC;? I actually thought that if you put Frank Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Hara together with Flannery Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Connor you would get Rumi. Like Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Hara, Rumi was a largerthan-life figure, writing spontaneous poetry that owed much to his passionate friendships. Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Connor is a rare world-class writer who put religion and theology at the center of her work and yet never slipped into pamphleteering or easy moralizing, as much overtly religious writing can do. Likewise Rumiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s witty, heartfelt, intense poems, simultaneously about human and divine love, bear comparison to such estimable poets as Walt Whitman and John Donne.

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GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

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gaycitynews.nyc 35


Long Lines OPERA

Bellini and Handel at Lincoln Center

MARTY SOHL/ METROPOLITAN OPERA

Diana Damrau in Bellini’s “I Puritani” at the Metropolitan Opera.

BY DAVID SHENGOLD

A

t 16, I saw the Met’s current production of “I puritani”, which the company revived with mixed success February 10. The staging (Sandro Sequi), sets (Ming Cho Lee), and costumes (Peter J. Hall) were in a deliberated antiquated style — scrims, drops, stand-and-sing chorus — beloved of the “muscle” behind the project, Joan Sutherland and her husband Richard Bonynge, who conducted that long-ago performance. Embalmed in 1976, four decades down the pike the whole thing has acquired no more animation. Maurizio Benini’s prosaic conducting didn’t help. What made the evening worthwhile — beyond the enduring quality of Bellini’s music, especially in elegiac moments — was one performance, the Arturo of Mexican bel canto tenor Javier Camarena. Among many ballyhooed recent vocal artists, Camarena is the real deal: a singer remarkable not due to his “charisma” or his “backstory” but due to the beauty of his voice and the artistry and evident pleasure with which he deploys it. The tone is warm and flowing, and he loved to dimenuendo it — almost but not quite to a fault. The music’s difficult phrasing seems uncannily natural. Every Camarena intervention in the evening stirred excitement and content. The final ensemble before the last-minute happy ending, the famous “Credeasi misera,” takes Arturo to a written high F in the second stanza. In Bellini’s day this would have been sung in falsetto; for modern tenors it’s nearly impossible to produce in live performance, though New York has heard it taken well by Gregory Kunde and Lawrence Brownlee, the excellent Arturo of the Met’s 2014 revival. Camarena probably

36

could produce the note in a recording studio, but sensibly substituted a high D, as most tenors (including Pavarotti) have done. A woman in the high boxes who had regularly been screaming out (hardly justified) “Bravissima” after every fixed, pressured high note sung by Diana Damrau followed up the huge ovation that greeted Camarena’s thrilling performance of this (even without the F) nearly impossible passage by savagely bellowing, “No F!”. This introduced an ugly if authentic note of old school dementia (in Ethan Mordden’s sense) to this antiquated-whenbirthed revival. What’s next, patrons berating Edgardos for not taking the as-written high E flat in the Act One “Lucia” duet? Damrau had been ill and in fact had yielded the dress rehearsal to Eglise Gutierrez. Perhaps Gutierrez should have sung this “prima” as well, since — despite lavish ovations — Damrau’s Elvira was just not very well sung by her own standards. As at the start of her recent Juliette, the middle voice sounded stringy and the top often chancy, with tremolo and reduced breath control compromising the long Bellinian lines. At times, and at lower dynamics, she produced some truly beautiful tone. Any artist can be indisposed, and Damrau’s Elvira overall was not “bad” by any stretch — but neither was it adequate toward what a Met Elvira should sound like. Unfortunately, the elaborate ornamentation she chose in fact showcased her limitations and not her virtues. In her favor, Damrau motivated every line of dialogue, in a way only Beverly Sills among the Elviras I have seen has bothered to do; on the other hand, as with her Juliette, this slim and attractive stage figure way overdid the manic caperings-about meant to suggest youthfulness. Twirling has become a “thing” on the opera stage: Damrau is its High Priestess. Alexey Markov brought his virile Verdian sound to Riccardo Forth but — hard though he tried — not enough stylistic acumen or dynamic precision to make a real success of it beyond a solid opening aria. In the now discredited 1970s style, he dropped out of the cabaletta’s music several measures before the end to bellow a sustained high G. Dramatically, Markov essentially played the same “heavy” he presents as Di Luna in “Trovatore”; Riccardo is in fact a more nuanced and sensitive character. Markov is always good to hear; one often feels he could be a much better artist than he allows himself to be. To my schoolboy ear, James Morris’ Giorgio did the best singing in the original outings of this production. Luca Pisaroni, though one of the Met’s — and indeed the world’s — best bass-

baritones, simply sounded miscast, without the needed resonance on the bottom (Markov, in fact, outdid him in this respect, playing havoc with the needed balance) or the ease on top for the kind uncle’s music. Native Italian and sound musicianship were welcome, but not enough to rescue Pisaroni’s performance. Virginie Verrez, recently out of Juilliard, made a good showing as a dark-hued, agile-voiced Enrichetta.

The next night found Tully Hall joyously showcasing Juilliard415, the school’s wonderful baroque music initiative, in Handel’s early masterpiece “Agrippina.” The 1709 comedy — showing the characters from the later part of “I, Claudius” scheming for sex and power — holds the stage wonderfully, as Glimmerglass (2001), NYCO (2007), and Boston Lyric (2011) productions demonstrated. Let’s hope rumors that it’ll be the Met’s next Handel project materialize. Here, specialist conductor Laurence Cummings had the playing consistently crisp and articulate, with solo instruments quite dazzling virtually throughout. As a longtime Handelian, I minded only that we heard so very many of the numbers — even some of the most fantastic arias — in only their initial “A” form, without either the contrast or varied repeat that the full sequence provides. Some trimming is needed; the audience would surely have happily heard more da capo sections. The young cast was dramatically alert and engaged. The vocal standouts were Samantha Hankey, powerful and accurate in the title role and a fabulous vocal actress; the excellently agile and sonorous Handel bass Cody Quattlebaum (Claudio), and the rich-voiced mezzo Avery Amereau (Narciso), a voice in a million. Nicolette Mavroleon’s unconventionally produced but compelling voice lent color to Nerone. Onadek Winan (Poppea) looked sensational and sang with pleasant brightness; Louisa Proske, the director, had her consistently overdo the semi-parlando recits, a shtick approach funny only the first time. Jakub Jozef Orlinski as Ottone stood out for projecting feeling and luminous tone. Clearly the industry wants this gifted, very handsome young man to be a star; he’s excellent in many ways but I’d be happier with more consistent adherence to pitch and a less covered approach to articulating words. Celeste Montemarano’s supertitles proved unusually pithy and distinguished. In all, a joyous evening. David Shengold (shengold@yahoo.com) writes about opera for many venues. March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


OPERA

“Before Night Falls” Takes Miami Florida Grand Opera reaches out to that city’s bustling LGBTQ and Cuban communities BY DAVID SHENGOLD

O

ut Cuban-American composer Jorge Mar tín’s opera “Before Night Falls” — based on the vivid, sometimes steamy posthumous memoirs of charismatic poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) — stands as one of this century’s most exciting and musically enjoyable new operas. Martín obtained the rights before Julian Schnabel made his popular 2000 film starring Javier Bardem and — working with Arenas’ astute translator, the late Dolores M. Koch — fashioned a multi-decade saga encompassing beach seductions, Arenas’ increasing conflict with Fidel Castro’s actively homophobic regime, the refugee experience, and depredations of the AIDS epidemic, as well as reflective poetic passages. In 2005, when American Opera Projects workshopped the piece in New York, I asked Martín in these pages where he fantasized it being staged. His reply: ”Of course, the first two cities that come to mind are Miami and New York, the places that were central to Reinaldo’s exile, and large Cuban centers.” Now his Floridian dreams comes true; perhaps NYCO will follow suit, since the opera — beyond its high basic quality — seems multiply made for the expansion of audience diversity that the art form needs. “Before Night Falls” got its bang-up world premiere at the Fort Worth Opera in 2010, part of a body of contemporary — often political, sometimes queerthemed — work that seems to have been a major factor in the company’s having fired its visionary leader Darren Keith Woods in February: an early cultural loss of the Trump era. Martín values the support of FGO’s general director Susan Danis in creating wellattended outreach events at both LGBT and Cuban community centers at which company young artists have previewed his music and speakers have discussed Arenas

GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

FLORIDA GRAND OPERA

"Before Night Falls" composer Jorge Martín.

in historical-political context. “For many, this is part of their living history,” Martín noted. “Reinaldo was and is very well known here in Miami. It’s ironic that so many fled authoritarianism and Big Lie propaganda only to have it now unloosed here. The search for freedom is infinite. “The production [comes from] Fort Worth, but tweaked by the creative team. The second time around, you get to execute your second thoughts! I myself tweaked the score a bit too; cutting a measure here, adding a beat there. Rescored, but without having to alter the parts’ layout.” Playing Arenas will be Elliot Madore, the handsome Canadian baritone often cast as Don Giovanni who recently swaggered through Mercutio in the Met’s “Romeo et Juliette.” Superb Met soprano Elizabeth Caballero sings the beautiful music of the Mother and the Moon Muse; poignantly, Caballero came from Cuba as a child on the same Mariel boatlift that brought Arenas and that the opera evokes. Mezzo Laura León, the Sun Muse, is a recent Cuban immigrant. The one holdover from Fort Worth’s original cast is incisive character tenor Javier Abreu, playing (among oth-

FLORIDA GRAND OPERA

Elliot Madore plays Reinaldo Arenas.

BEFORE NIGHT FALLS Florida Grand Opera Miami Mar. 18-25 $12-$175; fgo.org Or 800-741-1010

ers) Arenas’ early lover and later betrayer. “The original cast was terrific!,” Martín acknowledged. “But to hear how the piece works with different colors is actually an incredible luxury for a composer. Plus, the company is so focused on getting things authentically right. This is a story of universal appeal — but with special resonance in Miami.”

FLORIDA GRAND OPERA

Javier Abreu plays an Arenas lover and betrayer.

37


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LARGE AND SMALL, from p.28

Close gives the performance of a lifetime as Norma. She won a Tony for her original portrayal of Norma, and it’s a safe bet she could walk away with the award again. Yet 24 years after I first saw her in the role in Los Angeles, Close inhabits the role in a very different way. Her Norma now is more complex and clearly conflicted, manic almost. At times girlish and at others more of a gorgon, there is an inner fragility now that makes her sympathetic. When she returns to the studio thinking she’s about to resume her career, the conflicting emotions she’s feeling are palpable. At that moment of excitement and vulnerability, she sings, “As If We Never Said Goodbye.” It stops the show because Close is so brilliant at taking us with her on this emotional journey. Michael Xavier gives a similarly nuanced performance as Joe Gillis, bitter yet hopeful and driven. Xavier has a wonderful voice and is every bit a match for Close. Fred Johanson as Max, Norma’s first husband and now her companion servant, is spectacular. He has an impeccable bass voice, and he beautifully underplays Max’s devotion to Norma. Siobhan Dillon is excellent as Betty Shaeffer, a writer who almost saves Joe. At the end of the show, as Norma descends into madness, she reverts to the kewpie doll performance that she would have given mugging for the screen three decades earlier in her early 20s. It is creepy wonderful and, like everything in this production, wonderfully detailed and rendered. It is awe-inspiring to be in the presence of so much, as Norma calls it, “magic in the making.”

Heaven knows, many of us have much too much of it. Packed in boxes, hidden away, gathering dust and fading from memory, the detritus of a lifetime accumulates around us. Why do we keep what we keep? What is its meaning? And what does it mean to unearth things we’ve kept for decades? These questions and more about the stuff in our lives are likely to flood through the audience at “The Object Lesson,” a beautiful and poignant meditation on the power of things in our life. Created by actor and illusionist Geoff Sobelle, the piece takes us through the life of a kind of an everyman who unearths things from his past, some forgotten, some prompting memories. Sobelle is an accomplished performer who leads us through his discoveries and ultimately, in a bravura finale, tells the entire story of a life through objects pulled from a single box that appears to contain it all. The emotional impact is as profound as the illusion is spellbinding. As impressive as Sobelle is, the power of the piece is amplified by the scenic designs and installation by Steven Dufala. The audience is invited in early, to wander around, pick through the boxes, and discover things from old letters to discarded sports trophies to an old toothbrush among Christmas ornaments and socks. It is at once familiar (who doesn’t have boxes of random junk?) and alien (it isn’t your junk). In time, you find a box labeled “seat,” and the show begins as Sobelle wanders through the stacks of clutter and the show follows him around the cavernous, over-stuffed space. And of course, one can’t help

WE WON’T GIVE IT TO YOU STRAIGHT TV’S LONGEST RUNNING LGBT NEWS PROGRAM Thursdays at 11 PM on Spectrum 34 &1995 HD, RCN 82, FiOS 33 Video & Podcast online at www.gayusatv.org

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THE OBJECT LESSON

Are we defined by our stuff?

JOAN MARCUS

Geoff Sobelle in his one-man show, “The Object Lesson,” at New York Theatre Workshop through March 19.

wondering what a stranger would think going through your stuff, speculating as to why you might have kept something or what something else was. Our things

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FAYETTEVILLE, from p.26

to have nondiscrimination laws uniform through the state. The Fayetteville ordinance, she noted, stated that “its purpose is to ‘extend’ discrimination to include ‘sexual orientation and gender identity… In essence, Ordinance 5781 is a municipal decision to expand the provisions of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act to include persons of a particular sexual orientation and gender identity.” That’s an incorrect interpretation, of course, since sexual orientation and gender identity protections cover straight and cisgender people just as much as they do gay, lesbian, and transgender people. Still, she asserted, “This violates the plain wording of Act 137 by extending discrimination laws in the City of Fayetteville to include two classifications not previously included under state law. This necessarily creates a nonuniform nondiscrimination law and obligation in the City of Fayetteville that does not exist under state law.” The result, the high court found, is “a direct inconsistency between state and municipal law and… the Ordinance is an obstacle to the objectives and purposes set forth in the General Assembly’s Act and therefore it cannot stand.” She noted that the state laws that the city and Judge Martin pointed to to justify adding these categories were not antidiscrimination statutes, and so could not

New York Theatre Workshop 79 E. Fourth St. Btwn. Bowery & Second Ave. Through Mar. 19 Tue.-Wed. at 7 p.m. Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $69; nytw.org Or 212-460-5475 One hr., 40 mins., with no intermission may not define us, but they are part of us, and what we save is a record of our lives, perhaps only known to us, but that may be all that matters.

be relied upon as a basis for adding them to the Fayetteville antidiscrimination ordinance. The State of Arkansas intervened in this case to protect the constitutionality of its 2015 law, which had been questioned by the city, but that issue was not addressed by the circuit court, so the Supreme Court found it had not been preserved for appellate review. Now that the case is returning to the circuit court level, the city can pursue that issue there. Despite it euphemistic language, the 2015 Arkansas law is strikingly similar to Colorado’s Amendment 2, which was declared unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment by the US Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans in 1996. Amendment 2 barred the state or any political subdivision from prohibiting discrimination because of sexual orientation, and the Supreme Court condemned it as intended to make gay people unequal in exercising their political rights to everybody else, based on the voters’ moral disapproval. Colorado advanced a desire for uniformity of state laws as one of many justifications for Amendment 2. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Supreme Court, did not specifically reject any of the state’s justifications, but stated that none was sufficient to sustain the law. Even at the lowest level of judicial scrutiny — that it have some rational basis — Amendment 2 could not survive, the nation’s high court found. March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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KID VICTORY, from p.28

Oh, and did I mention that this is a musical where the titular lead, who is onstage the entire 105 minutes, does not sing a single note? Not that the show is a complete disaster. The most engaging number, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the Point?,â&#x20AC;? is a jazzy, distinctly Kander-esque ode to spontaneity. The song finds a very nervous Luke on a late-night online hookup with an exuberant young guy who tries to tap dance his way into Lukeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heart (or, at least his pants). â&#x20AC;&#x153;Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the point of living,â&#x20AC;? the frisky guy sings, â&#x20AC;&#x153;if your hand is always steady, if you always think youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re ready. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the point?â&#x20AC;? To the showâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s credit, this is no ordinary abduction tale, adding fresh twists typically absent from media coverage of such tragic events. The story jumps back and forth between the present â&#x20AC;&#x201D; at post-traumatic Lukeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s modest home in a tiny Kansas town and the lawn store where he now works as an assistant â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and the past, the basement where he was imprisoned by Michael, his psychotic abductor. Lukeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only friend seems to be his new boss, Emily (Dee Roscioli), a brash, straight-talking free spirit. Harsh truths are confronted, if not fully explained. Was Luke a willing victim? And if he was, was it Stockholm syndrome or was he in love with his captor? The talented cast does its best to bring coherence to this muddle of a musical. As the sullen, taciturn Luke, Brandon Flynn deftly articulates the complexities of the conflict between staying with his doting, God-fearing

KID VICTORY Vineyard Theatre 108 E. 15th St. Through Mar. 19 Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 3 p.m. $85-$100; VineyardTheatre.org 105 mins., with no intermission

parents and his need to strike out on his own. And his confusion about his burgeoning sexuality is deeply affecting. Kar en Ziembaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portrait of Lukeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s kindhearted but niggling mother has an arresting, piquant honesty. For all her smothering and Bible-thumping, we still feel empathy toward her. Also praiseworthy is Jeffry Denmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portrayal of Lukeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s abductor, which sidesteps stereotype by injecting a dose of humanity. His Michael is whip-smart and desperately lonely, exuding a brutal, sexy magnetism thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exceedingly creepy. Clint Ramos designed the sinister set of a dingy, cluttered basement with one tiny window, a bare mattress, and shackles hanging from a cement column. Even during scenes at his home or work, the basement looms in the background, suggesting Luke has yet to shake the trauma of his ordeal. Or that his home is a kind of prison as well. The exceedingly dour â&#x20AC;&#x153;Kid Victoryâ&#x20AC;? isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t sure whether it wants to be a gripping detective drama, a cautionary coming out tale, or an entertaining musical satire. In this confused, overeager production, it is none of the above.

MANTA SPA

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39


c

RAW, from p.32

feeling she has working her way through a crowd of people or walking through a darkened laboratory and seeing bottled medical specimens revealed by flashes of light. These scenes are rattling and may put off some viewers, but Ducournau is unapologetic in forcing empathy for Justine as she tries to process the chaos around her. The few moments of tenderness in the film involve Adrien, when he is kissing another man, getting a blowjob, or having his ear fondled by a truck driver who approaches him and Justine in a parking lot. In contrast, for Justine, a virgin, sexuality is more fraught. When she and another student start kissing — they are both completely doused in paint at the time — she bites his lip, in a hungry, not sexy way. Justine, we learn, is testing out her taste for human flesh. In what

c

may be the film’s most disturbing scene, she sucks on a severed finger after a mishap while her sister is giving her a Brazilian wax. This gory moment, at the midpoint of “Raw,” may be the catalyst for Justine’s transformation, as she tries to adjust to her new cravings for blood and sex. Ducournau is ambiguous about the meaning of the cannibalism metaphor. It could be a symbol for peer pressure — Justine admits she wasn’t coerced to eat the rabbit kidney — or perhaps it is a sign of her sexual development. Justine and Adrien, stoned and horny one night, unexpectedly engage in animalistic sex, during which she draws blood biting into her own flesh. Justine and Alexis both become sexually fixated on Adrien, despite his being gay, and Justine becomes jealous that her sister has his cell number and plays video games with him. A sequence in which Justine ogles her shirt-

SEARCHING, from p.32

ing back. She seems fascinated by the crossroads at which she finds herself. Having lost her brother, she’s desperate for signs of his presence, even if they’re as trivial as a small flood of water or a knock on the wall. Although Stewart is a major star in the US, Assayas has now cast her twice as a char acter in a relatively subservient role in the French entertainment industry. Maureen seems to be searching for a life of her own, and her job isn’t helping her free herself. As much as she loves Lewis, her attachment to the possibility of his lingering isn’t really doing her any good either. Assayas has always been a skillful visual stylist, particularly as a director of his cinematographers’

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CREATING, from p.33

crux of the opposition’s argument that was same-sex parents are not good for kids. April and Jayne were taking in foster children left in the hospital to die by opposite-sex parents. To say they are less worthy is such a difficult pill to swallow.” “The Freedom to Marry” also gives screen time to Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay group. Rosenstein explained why he chose to include the “other side of the story” in a film that presents the case for marriage equality. “It wasn’t hard to get him to talk,”

40

less roommate as he plays soccer is as ominous as it is pleasurable. Their relationship grows increasingly unsettling. When Justine’s fellow students shun her, Adrien shows her video that explains why she has become a pariah. It sets off a chain of events that lead to the film’s disturbing climax. “Raw” benefits from Marillier’s ferocious performance. She is equally compelling as the fragile new student and the aggressor who is literally out for blood. The actress’ body language conveys Justine’s confusion and internal pain; she is truly uncomfortable in her own skin. The audience, meanwhile, may have trouble not simply screaming “Stop!” as she scratches the rash on her body. Ducournau films Justine in close-ups — under the sheets, and in confined spaces like bathrooms — that emphasize her vulnerability. The considerable screen time she spends covered in

use of Steadicam tracking shots. In “Personal Shopper,” sound often seems to take precedence over image. The paranormal has no speaking voice. Maureen becomes fascinated by the history of mediums and séances, even watching a stiff madefor-TV movie on her phone about Victor Hugo’s interest in séances. But she doesn’t participate in any; she’s attempting to contact Lewis all on her own. Assayas leaves it up to both the character and the spectator to interpret the sounds she hears. Is knocking on the wall a sign of supernatural presence or just the building settling? Although he’s made one film set in the 19th century and three among the ‘70s counterculture in which he participated as a teenager, Assayas has a reputation as a hyper-modern director. “Personal Shopper” suggests we’re using technology to hurtle backwards past

the director said. “I wasn’t conning him. As a documentary filmmaker, if you can listen and understand where they are coming from, you can show their journey with a clear heart. I wasn’t looking at right or wrong, but letting him express what he wanted to express and let the audience hear it and let them decide.” Viewers will feel empowered by Rosenstein’s film, which provokes a wide range of emotions as the story unfolds. Despite the endpoint being known, “The Freedom to Marry” manages to create suspense right up to the final moments when the landmark ruling is issued. Rosenstein believed in the power of the

RAW Directed by Julia Ducournau Focus World In French, with English subtitles Opens Mar. 10 Angelika Film Center 18 W. Houston St. at Mercer St. angelikafilmcenter.com

blood, paint, or other substances make viewers feel the ickiness she feels. The impact is incredibly palpable. Both Rumpf and Oufella lend fine support as Alexis and Adrien, fleshing out compelling storylines that help deliver the film’s satisfying payoff. “Raw,” which won the International Federation of Film Critics Prize at Cannes last year, will be a difficult movie for many viewers. For those who can stomach it, however, it is rewarding — and certainly unforgettable.

PERSONAL SHOPPER Directed by Olivier Assayas Sundance Selects In English and French with English subtitles Opens Mar. 10 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com

rationality. (The links between avant-garde art and séances are brought up several times.) And I don’t know if Assayas thinks this is a bad idea. This is a beautiful film about Western culture’s unsettled fear of death, which no amount of computers and cell phones can take away.

story as he made the film, explaining that character development and the obstacles faced by the advocacy and legal team would engage viewers. “Films should inspire and enlighten and triumph even if they are documentaries,” he said. “I wanted to tell the historical story. The trick was providing a road map that felt fresh, yet concise. We don’t have the Massachusetts battle, or Prop 8, or Edie Windsor, or Vermont. Every one of those things is its own film. This is the story of a movement, and it’s heartbreaking to leave those elements on the floor; there are so many wonderful stories. But it’s the essence of the fight that’s important,

and that was the journey.” Rosenstein succeeded admirably. “The Freedom to Marry” shows how courageous men and women shaped and changed public opinion on why same-sex marriage matters. “This story is not over,” the filmmaker argued. “I don’t want this to be taken for granted. I want folks to know where this change came from. I hope my film starts or continues conversations in an honest way, not just about gay marriage, but about changing the world. Social change, and what it takes, is making things very personal. People need to express themselves. It was a messaging campaign, not a legal issue.” March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


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phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

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GayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

Eating

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March 02 - 15, 2017 | GayCityNews.nyc


IN THE NOH

Lisa Kron of “Fun Home” Fame Honored

With lyricist Daniel Zaitchik, lesbian librettist awarded annual Kleban Prize BY DAVID NOH

O

n February 6, I attended one of my favorite events, the 27th annual Kleban Prize for Musical Theatre presented at ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Named after the late Ed Kleban, the quite wonderful lyricist for “A Chorus Line,” the prize is given to two honorees annually — to recognize the most promising lyricist and most promising librettist in this most difficult of theatrical forms to pull off successfully. Kleban, who created the honor in his will, realized that, unlike the composer, who usually has piano or other musical skills to support themself as a rehearsal accompanist or otherwise while pursuing their art, the lyricist and librettist are purely creatures of the pen (or laptop), and therefore much less likely to have related marketable abilities to keep from starving. The $100,000 annual prize allays that threat, and this year’s recipients were Lisa Kron (librettist for “Fun Home”) and Daniel Zaitchik (lyricist for “Picnic at Hanging Rock”). Among this event’s allures is the chance to rub shoulders with veteran musical talents such as Sheldon Harnick, Maury Yeston, Richard Maltby, Jr., and John Weidman, all of whom were present. The amazing 92-year-old, fit-asa-fiddle Harnick told me that he had just come from Texas, where he worked on a short musi-

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HARAM!, from p.30

As to love, we just have to be who we are. I don’t think we have to scream out, “I’m gay,” but by holding our partner’s hand and walking down a street, perhaps in a neighborhood where that is not typical, we are making a strong statement. We walk down that street holding hands quietly, and people look. They might at first be shocked, but then they might say to themselves, “They look normal. I guess they should be allowed to love who they want.” That is my definition of being bold. Everyone has their own. DN: What are common misperceptions of your culture that you’ve encountered? JPD: That’s an easy one: Arabs or Arab Americans are all terrorists. Or that we are angry men. Not true at all. Arab people are very lovGayCityNews.nyc | March 02 - 15, 2017

cal about Lady Bird Johnson. Judy Kuhn and Emily Skeggs touchingly performed the song “Days and Days” in their mother -daughter guises from “Fun Home.” The delightful Skeggs also enthusiastically described working on “When We Rise,” the ABC mini-series about the beginnings of the LGBTQ rights movement. We could not need a show like this more than right now, and Skeggs plays Roma Guy, the beyond-committed lesbian feminist activist, as a young girl (who eventually grows up to be Mary Louise Parker). Skeggs had no less than Gus Van Sant as director for her segment of the production and said he was wonderful to work with — smart, easy, and approachable. Kron, who has been married to playwright Madeleine George since 2015, wore some killercute sensible heels and raved about what a thrill it was to be even standing in the same room as Harnick. She recounted a story of a young man driving her in a hired car, with whom she starting chatting about music. It turned out the lad had moved to New York to pursue his artistic dreams but was feeling discouraged and seriously considering moving back home. Kron decided to put on her inspirational persona and told him that she was a composer who’d also had rough times, but was glad she had hung on for those 30 years to see a show of hers finally running on Broadway. The young driver cried out, “You mean I gotta wait 30 years?!”

ing. If you walk by their home, they will say, “Come in and have dinner.” They open their homes and their hearts to people. It is really just a very few extremists that have these radical views. DN: Talk about your director and cast. How did you find your actors? JPD: I wish I could take credit for the director but it was our terrific producer, Adam Weinstock, who found Rick [Leidenfrost-Wilson]. But I will say that at a reading of the play several months ago, Rick had approached me and said immediately that he would love to direct this. I did then talk to Adam, who at the time was casting a wide net, and suggested that Rick’s enthusiasm should carry a lot of weight. Adam agreed, and now we have this fantastic director. As far as casting, it was all Rick and Adam. I will just be

COURTESY: THE KLEBAN PRIZE FOR MUSICAL THEATRE

The 2017 Kleban Prize winners Lisa Kron and Daniel Zaitchik.

meeting them when I see the play! We have, however, been emailing and they have asked all sorts of questions so I’m excited to meet them all. DN: Was it hard getting this produced for any reason? JPD: Not really. I think the subject matter is timely and there is a real thirst in white Americans to learn about Arab culture and viceversa. It is time that we see the love in each other rather than the us versus them mentality that is so destructive. DN: This is not your first play, is it? JPD: I’ve written a few plays and screenplays, and one that I am particularly proud of is a musical I wrote called “The Transcivility of Albert Cashier,” which will open in Chicago in the fall of this year. It is a true story about a woman —

maybe transgender — who dresses as a man and fights in the American Civil War, and lives as a man his whole life. Albert Cashier was an extraordinary human being, and I can’t wait for the world to hear his story. DN: Finally, what do you hope your audience takes away from your play? JPD: Love, I hope. Love endures, and that no matter what the world throws at us or what government — theirs or ours — that denigrates us, we have the right to love who we want to love. The GLAAD nomination we received in LA was a thrill and working with the folks at Celebration was truly wonderful. I can’t compare it to New York City because both are beautiful in different ways. Adam and Rick have been wonderful to me, and I am so thankful that this production is in their good hands.

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