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Prominent Washington-Area Rabbi Comes Out In E-mail to Congregation, 'I Am a Gay Man'

SteinlaufGil Steinlauf, the prominent rabbi at of one of Washington, D.C.’s most distinguished synagogues, has come out as gay in an e-mail widely circulated throughout his congregation and republished in the Washington Post.

Steinlauf came to the Adas Israel Congregation in 2008 and is widely recognized as having been influential in the organization’s efforts to court members of both the progressive and traditional Jewish communities. In 2012 Steinlauf officiated Adas Israel’s first same sex marriage, an experience that he recounted in an article for The Jewish Journal entitled “The Queerness of Love: A Jewish Case for Same-Sex Marriage.”

“Today, I am unfazed by the apparent biblical injunction against homosexuality as an ‘abomination,’”  he wrote. “It is, in fact, the Jews’ queerness in the world that captures our particular Divine message to all humanity. Love is queer, and in recognizing this, we find its holiness, its Godliness.”

In the e-mail Steinlauf described his lifelong struggle with accepting his homosexuality and spoke of the strength he found in his marriage to Batya Steinlauf, his wife and a fellow rabbi herself. The pair met as students at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and together they had three daughters. While their intentions to divorce are firm, they’ve decided to continue to live together for the time being.

“What we’ve had for 20 years is very real, and the last thing I’d want is for us to live a lie,” he said of his family.

Reactions to Steinlauf’s coming out have been supportive. Arnie Podgorsky, president of the synagogue, reached out to the congregation encouraging them to understand the couple’s decision.

“I have great respect for their ability to face changing circumstances in their lives with honesty and integrity,” he said in a letter. “We can all learn from their example.”


D.C.'s Catholic University Freaks Out Over Screening of Harvey Milk Biopic 'Milk'

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A chapter of the College Democrats at Catholic University was told to postpone a screening of the Gus van Sant film 'Milk' about gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk after it saw that fliers advertising the event tied it to LGBT Awareness Month, the Washington Post reports:

“For university administrators, it called into question whether the event had changed in nature from one of education to one of advocacy,” Nakas said in a statement. “Given the confusion caused by the advertising, the Office of the Dean of Students contacted the College Democrats to postpone the event.”

Nakas added: “The Director of Campus Activities is working with the College Democrats to review the program request to ensure that the program is presented as an educational event, as originally planned. It is our expectation that it will be rescheduled for later in October.”

The group is expected to rebill the program as an educational event and reschedule it for later in October.


Pro-LGBT Republican Donors To Meet At Secret Washington Conference Today

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Pro-LGBT Republican advocates are today to host the confidential and off-the-record American Unity Conference of high-dollar donors seeking to make the party more LGBT-inclusive, reports the Washington Blade.

The same advocates are behind the American Unity Fund and the American Unity PAC, related groups that seek to elect pro-LGBT Republican candidates and encourage party support for LGBT rights. Both organizations are funded by philanthropist and billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who backs LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)Singer - whose sone Andrew is gay - is also scheduled to deliver remarks this morning to kick off the event.

GriffinAccording to sources, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), is due to speak at the event although his role will be limited to an introduction of Theodore Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general who was lead counsel in the federal lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8 and pending litigation challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. 

Singer and Griffin have worked together on LGBT advocacy issues in the past. In January, HRC under Griffin organized two events on international LGBT rights with Singer at the World Economic Forum.  Americans for Workplace Opportunity, which was set up by Griffin as a collaborative project with other pro-LGBT groups to pass ENDA, also reportedly received a donation of $375,000 from Singer to encourage House members to vote for the bill.

Other scheduled speakers include Ken Mehlman, the former chair of the Republican National Committee who later came out as gay and has since worked to advance marriage equality; Rep. Charlie Dent, one of four House Republicans advocating for same-sex marriage and a House Republican co-sponsor of ENDA; and Dan Innis, a gay former dean of business at the University of New Hampshire who recently lost his bid to represent the state’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. House.


'Will & Grace' At The Smithsonian: VIDEO

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Last month, we told you that the Smithsonian Institute was expanding its collection of artifacts pertaining to LGBT history. Included in that expansion were props and memorabilia from the seminal sitcom, Will & Grace. Said Katherine Ott, Curator at The National Museum of American History, "We thought [Will & Grace] would be a great show to collect from. The topics that came up in the shows and the characters were far more complicated and really grounded in the culture of that time."

Speaking as to why it's important to preserve these artifacts, Franklin Robinson Jr., Archives Specialist at The National Museum of American History, remarked, "

Years ago nobody would have bothered with this material. But that was just a reflection of society. So 50 years from now when LGBT civil rights will be something that we don't even think about, people will ask, 'well, what was the big deal?' And you can say, 'here it is.' This is the primary materials from which history will be written. And if you don't save it now then it's gone. 

Take a tour of the LGBT artifacts at the Smithsonian, via MSNBC, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "'Will & Grace' At The Smithsonian: VIDEO" »


LGBT Immigrants Hold Reform Rally in Front of White House: VIDEO

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A group of LGBT immigrants rallied in D.C. Tuesday to protest the federal government's immigration policies in light of news that President Obama will not make a move on immigration reform until after Election Day, The Washington Blade reports.

Protestors wore red shirts that read "Immigration is an LGBTQ Issue," encouraging people to consider the intersections between these two political issues. 

A 28-year-old gay man, "Oliver" (pseudonym), shared his story of fleeing Nigeria to escape homophobia. In light of recent laws in Nigeria, he cannot return to his country, so "Oliver" spoke on the importance of maintaining America's asylum system.

Two pseudonymous speakers shared horror stories of being placed in America's detention centers, a man "Jose" and a transwoman "Fernanda."

"Jose" originally fled El Salvador for being sexually abused an harassed based on his sexuality. Of the detention center, he said:

I felt scared...One of the detainees openly said that he was gay, and he was literally insulated from everyone. No one wanted to talk to him; no one wanted to be with him. That made me feel threatened. That made me feel scared of saying something. Day by day, being in that horrible place, in that detention center, I was living my nightmare again.

"Fernanda" is 36, and fled violence she faced in her home country of Honduras. At the protest, she described her experience in a detention center, where she was placed with mentally ill people.

It is time for this country to turn our attention to understand the stories of trans woman in detention who are mistreated psychologically, verbally, who are repeatedly assaulted and attacked for being who they are.

Check out video of the rally, AFTER THE JUMP...

(Photo via Twitter)

Continue reading "LGBT Immigrants Hold Reform Rally in Front of White House: VIDEO" »


Barack Obama Must Raise LGBT Discrimination At U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: READ

Human and gay rights activists are urging Barack Obama to discuss anti-gay discrimination at next week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit with 50 African leaders, reports ABC News.

2_obamaThe Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights First issued a statement saying that the summit, with the theme “Investing in the Next Generation,” is a "once-in-a-generation moment" to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Africans.

According to the two advocacy groups, 37 African countries have laws criminalizing LGBT relationships. Leaders of 32 of those countries - including Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, who signed harsh anti-gay laws earlier this year - have been invited to the summit.

In response to anti-gay laws, the U.S.government last month announced sanctions against Uganda including loss of funding and a ban on Ugandan citizens involved in human rights abuses entering the United States.

Shawn Gaylord, Human Rights First's advocacy counsel for LGBT rights said:

"We believe the U.S. can do more in both Nigeria and Uganda to ensure that U.S. funding is not being given to any institution or group that is abusing human rights, including actively discriminating against the LGBT community. We recognize that this is a difficult process with competing interests, made more difficult by the rhetoric espoused by some leaders that the movement for the rights of LGBT people is something invented in the West and being imposed upon African societies. "

Indicating that gay rights will be raised at the summit, Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said:

"The Obama Administration has long spoken out — including with our African partners — in support of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. We expect the summit will provide an opportunity to continue these conversations."

Read Human Rights Campaign's report The State Of Human Rights For LGBT People In Africa, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Barack Obama Must Raise LGBT Discrimination At U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: READ" »


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