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A Day in the Life of Ben Panico, the Only Openly Transgender Staffer on Capitol Hill: VIDEO


22-year-old Ben Panico is living his dream working with Rep. Jared Polis and the LGBT Equality Caucus in Washington D.C. But as Fusion points out, Panico also happens to be the only openly trans staffer currently working on Capitol Hill - a reality not lost on him. 

Said Panico:

I think it's very important for trans people to be represented on The Hill so that people can represent their community and can really provide an extra voice, add something to the discussion. I have had unique experiences that no one on The Hill can speak for. 

Check out his incredible story, including how he deals with some of the more vocal anti-LGBT foes on Capitol Hill,  AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Men's Chorus Poster Vandalized In Capitol Hill Office Building


A Gay Men's Chorus of Washington poster was vandalized this week in the Longworth House Office Building Cafeteria on Capitol Hill - the first incident of its kind in recent memory according to Executive Director Chase Maggiano.

The poster, which advertises the group's upcoming Holiday Concert, was vandalized with the word "Fag's" in marker. Someone attempted to cross it out, but the slur is still visible. 

In an email to Towleroad, GMCW Director of Marketing Craig Cipollini wrote:

"We’re not sure, but it looks like it happened Tuesday evening or late Tuesday afternoon. A friend of a chorus member saw it Wednesday morning when he got to work and notified us then. The poster is still up, and we will be getting a replacement poster over there later this week. Police were not contacted, but a Chorus member who works on the Hill notified the CAO [Chief Administrative Office]"

Said Maggiano:

"Sometimes we hear stories of bullying and vandalism at the area high schools we visit, but it's pretty surprising to see this happen on Capitol Hill. This tells us that we still have equality work to do right in our own backyard."

Previously, "HRC Compiles 'Hall of Shame' List, Outs 19 Least LGBT-Friendly Members of Congress" [tlrd]

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'


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


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


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...

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