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Brittney Griner back in U.S.

WNBA star released in exchange for Russian arms dealer

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Brittney Griner before she left Moscow on Dec. 8, 2022. (Screen capture via Russian State Media)

SAN ANTONIO — WNBA star Brittney Griner returned to the U.S. on Friday after Russia released her in exchange for a convicted arms dealer.

Griner landed at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio at around 2:30 a.m. PT. 

Media reports indicate Griner then went to the U.S. Army’s Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. They also said she will undergo a medical examination at the Brooke Army Medical Center.

“So happy to have Brittney back on U.S. soil,” tweeted “Welcome home BG.”

Griner had been serving a nine-year prison sentence in a penal colony after a Russian court convicted her on the importation of illegal drugs after Russian customs officials in February found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

President Biden on Thursday announced Russia had released Griner in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S.

Russian media broadcast a video of the exchange that took place at an airport in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. 

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, was with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken when they spoke with Griner from the Oval Office before she left for the U.S.

“She is safe,” said Biden. “She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”

Advocacy groups are among those who welcomed Brittney Griner’s release. Cherelle Griner and the Biden administration have said they remain committed to securing the release of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for spying.

Notables

In Memoriam: LGBTQ+ people & allies gone in 2022

Remembering those acclaimed LGBTQ+ people, pioneering artists, designers, actors, and more who passed away in 2022

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Urvashi Vaid (third from left), seen here with Lorri Jean, Rea Carey, and Matt Foreman, died May 14. (Photo courtesy of the Task Force)

Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, died on Jan. 8. He and his husband were plaintiffs in a lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Miami-Dade County, the Blade reported.

Andre Leon Talley, 73, the groundbreaking fashion editor, curator, and television personality died on Jan. 18 at a White Plains, N.Y., hospital. 

Andre Leon Talley being interviewed in the 1990’s (Screenshot via YouTube)

Arnie Kantrowitz, 81, a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (now known as GLAAD), died on Jan. 21 at a New York City rehabilitation center from complications of COVID-19.

Spiritual fitness leader Patricia Moreno, 57, died on Jan. 22 at her home in Los Angeles from cervical cancer.

Alan A. Stone, 92, died on Jan. 23 at his Cambridge, Mass., home from laryngeal cancer. When he was president of the American Psychiatric Association, homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders.

Genre-busting French designer Thierry Mugler, 73, died on Jan. 23 in his Vincennes home outside Paris.

James Bidgood, 88, an acclaimed gay photographer and filmmaker who anonymously directed the 1971 cult classic “Pink Narcissus,” died on Jan. 31 in Manhattan from complications of COVID-19.

Isabel Torres, 52, the actress best known for her portrayal of Cristina Ortiz Rodriguez, the transgender singer on the series  “Veneno” on HBO Max, died on Feb. 11. 

Joe Tom Easley, 81, an LGBTQ advocate who played a key role in the effort to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ died on Feb. 13 at a hospital near his Miami Beach home from complications of lung disease.

Joe Tom Easley (Photo Credit: The Washington Blade)

Leo Bersani, 90, a scholar of French literature whose work at the height of the AIDS crisis influenced debates about queer identity, died on Feb. 20 at a Peoria, Ariz., assisted-living facility. 

Rusty Mae Moore, 80, a transgender educator and activist died on Feb. 23 at her home in Pine Hill, N.Y. from cardiovascular complications.

Richard Lipez, 83, who under the pen name Richard Stevenson wrote a groundbreaking series of novels featuring the out gay detective Donald Strachey, died on March 16 of pancreatic cancer at his home in Becket, Mass.  

Ashton Hawkins, 84, executive vice president and counsel to the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, died on March 27 at a White Plains, N.Y., assisted living facility from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Richard Howard, 92, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, died on March 31 in Manhattan from complications of dementia.

Eric Little, owner of the iconic 17th Street bar JR.’s and the closed gay bar Cobalt died on May 1 in his sleep at his Hollywood, Md., home of unknown causes.

Margot Heuman, 94, a rare Holocaust survivor who spoke of her same-sex relationship in the concentration camps, died on May 11 at a hospital in Green Valley, Ariz.

Urvashi Vaid, 63, leader of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the AIDS crisis who founded a super PAC to promote LGBTQ women in politics, died on May 14 from cancer at a hospital in Manhattan.

Kristine Gebbie, 78, the first U.S. AIDS czar, died from cancer in Adelaide, Australia on May 17.

Former President Bill Clinton at the ceremony announcing Kristine Gebbie as the first Federal AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) Coordinator held in the Rose Garden on  25 June 1993.
(Photo Credit: William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum)

Jeffrey Escoffier, 79, a renowned scholar who wrote about gay identity and as a New York City public health official directed campaigns on HIV and other issues, died on May 20 from complications from a fall.

Paul Gunther, 65, a champion of art and architecture in New York nonprofit preservation organizations, died on May 29 in a Manhattan hospital from injuries, which authorities said were sustained due to an attempted suicide, The New York Times reported.

Ronni Solbert, 96, a children’s illustrator most known for her illustrations for “The Pushcart War” written by her partner Jean Merrill, died on June 9 at her Randolph, Vt., home.

Gloria Allen, 76, a transgender activist whose work with at-risk transgender Chicago youth inspired the documentary “Mama Gloria” and the play “Charm,” died on June 13 at her home from respiratory failure.

Chicago’s Black transgender icon Gloria Allen (Screenshot/YouTube film trailer)

Clela Rorex, 78, who, in 1975, as a groundbreaking Boulder County, Colo., clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple, died on June 19 from complications of an infection at a Longmont, Colo. hospice.

David Pichette, an ordained Roman Catholic priest who for many years was involved with the LGBTQ Catholic organizations Dignity Washington and Dignity Northern Virginia, died on June 27 from complications of pancreatic cancer at a Boynton Beach, Fla. hospice.

Poet and writer of opera librettos and musicals Kenward Elmslie, 93, died on June 29 at his New York City home.

Gay journalist Chuck Colbert, 67, who covered the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal died on June 30.

National LGBTQ Task Force Communications Director Cathy Renna (L) with journalist Chuck Colbert
(Photo courtesy of Cathy Renna)

Noah Vincent, lesbian, journalist and author of the well-regarded book “Self-Made Man” about passing as a man died on July 6 at a clinic in Switzerland. Her death was medically assisted (a voluntarily assisted death).

Computer programmer and art collector John Camp, 77, died on July 12 at an Arlington, Va. hospital from complications of prostate cancer.

Pat Carroll, 95, the game show and sit-com star who reinvented herself in a one-woman show on Gertrude Stein, died on July 31 at her Cape Cod, Mass. home from pneumonia.

Author, poet and activist Elana Dykewomon, 72, died on Aug. 7 at her Oakland, Calif. home from esophageal cancer.

Author and activist Elana Dykewomon. Photo: Cathy Cade

Queer ally, pop singer and “Grease” star Olivia Newton-John, 73, died on Aug. 8 at her Southern California ranch. No cause of death was given. She had lived with breast cancer since 1992.

Actress Anne Heche, 53, died on Aug. 14 from injuries sustained in a car accident.

Stephen Peter Gorman, 69, who once served as chair of the D. C. Mayor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities, died on Aug. 19 in Washington, D.C.

Founder of the Chelsea Theater Center Robert Kalfin, 89, died on Sept. 20 at a Southampton, N.Y. hospice from myeloid leukemia.

D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate and events promoter Jacob Pring, 47, died on Sept. 26 at his Springfield, Va. home.

Celebrated D.C. LGBTQ activist Kathleen Joan DeBold, 66, died suddenly on Oct. 9 in Ocean City, Md.

Queer icon and legendary star of stage, screen, and TV Angela Lansbury, 96, died on Oct. 10.

Dame Angela Lansbury on stage singing her signature song from Disney’s Beauty & the Beast (Screenshot/YouTube)

Max Woodward, 76, who retired in 2016 as Kennedy Center vice president of theater programming, died on Oct. 14 at a Washington, D.C. care facility from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Leslie Jordan, 67, an actor known for his work on “Will & Grace” whose pandemic Instagram postings went viral, died on Oct. 24 in Los Angeles after a car accident.

Leslie Jordan attends the Night Out at the Nationals on June 15, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay country music pioneer Patrick Haggerty, 78, died on Oct. 31 at his home in Bremerton, Wash. He had suffered a stroke on a flight after a show on Sept. 30. 

Harry Bates, 95, an acclaimed architect who designed houses on Fire Island and the Hamptons, died on Nov. 1 at a hospital in Fernandina Beach, Fla.

Doris Grumbach, 104, acclaimed  author who wrote about the plight of women, died on Nov. 4 at a retirement community in Kennett Square, Pa.

Kevin Conroy, 66, the voice of Batman for three decades, died on Nov. 10 from intestinal cancer.

Kevin Conroy (Screenshot/YouTube)

Frederick Swann, 91, a renowned master of the pipe organ died from cancer at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. on Nov. 13

Barbara Love, 85, a feminist and gay rights activist, died on Nov. 13 in the Bronx, N.Y. from complications of leukemia and Parkinson’s disease.

Don Luce, 88, an activist who helped to end the Vietnam War, died on Nov. 17 at a Niagara Falls, N.Y. hospital after suffering a sudden cardiac ischemia.

Ned Rorem, 99, renowned composer of music and diary writer, died on Nov. 18 at his home in Manhattan.

Marijane Meaker, 95, the lesbian author whose 1952 novel “Spring Fire” brought lesbian pulp fiction into the mainstream, died on Nov. 21 at her East Hampton, N.Y. home from cardiopulmonary arrest.

Irene Cara, 63, queer icon, singer and star of “Fame” and “Flashdance,” died on Nov. 26 at her Largo, Fla. home.

Former Republican Congressman James (Jim) Kolbe, 80, who represented Southern Arizona in Congress for 22 years, died on Dec. 3 from a stroke. He was the first openly gay Republican member of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) speaks at a press conference on Feb. 28, 2013 for the filing of an amicus brief supporting the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)
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Brittney Griner’s Christmas post asks for support for Paul Whelan

Griner asks that people write to Whelan, an American businessman & former U.S. Marine, sentenced to 16 yrs on suspicion of spying on Russia

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Cherelle Griner hugging her wife Brittney at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, as the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury superstar was freed from a Russian penal colony on December 8, 2022 and returned to the U.S. (U.S. Army South photo by Miguel Negron)

PHOENIX – In a heartfelt post this past week on her Instagram account, Out WNBA star Brittney Griner, who returned to the U.S. earlier this month after a prisoner swap having spent nearly 300 days in Russian custody, penned a request to her supporters to write to another American prisoner still being held in the Russian penal system.

Griner, after being convicted of drug smuggling by a Russian court and sent to a notorious penal colony to serve a 9 year sentence, was freed in a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout after intense negotiations by the U.S. State Department at the behest of President Joe Biden.

In her letter to supporters posted to her Insta, Griner asks that people write to Paul Whelan, an American businessman and former U.S. Marine, who had previously been sentenced in 2018 to 16 years of hard labour in Russian penal camp on suspicion of spying on Russia. In both cases, the White House strongly has condemned Russia’s actions

Griner wrote on Insta; “Thanks to the efforts of many, including you, I am home after nearly 10 months. You took time to show me you cared and I want to personally take the time to write to you and say that your effort mattered,” Griner wrote on Instagram. “Your letters helped me to not lose hope during a time where I was full of regret and vulnerable in ways I could have never imagined. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Because of you I never lost hope.”

“Your letters were also bigger than uplifting me. They showed me the power of collective hands. Together, we can do hard things. I’m living proof of that. My family’s whole and now, thanks to you, we are fortunate to get to spend the holidays together. However, there remain too many families with loved ones wrongfully detained,” she wrote.

“Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the We Are BG Campaign to bring me home and it’s our turn to support them. I hope you’ll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families.”

Griner ended her post writing:

“Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. I hope our holiday season is full of joy and love.”

The WNBA superstar also published an address where her supporters and others can send Whelan letters of support:

Paul N. Whelan

c/o American Citizen

Services Unit Consular Section, 5430 Moscow Place, U.S. Department of State

Washington, D.C. 20521-5430

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Trans activist Henry Berg-Brousseau dies by suicide, hate a factor

Berg-Brousseau was a prominent transgender activist and the deputy press secretary for politics at the Human Rights Campaign

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Henry Berg-Brousseau (Photo courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign)

LOUISVILLE – Dr. Karen Berg, a serving state senator in the Kentucky State Legislature announced that her son Henry Berg-Brousseau, 24, a prominent transgender activist and the deputy press secretary for politics at the Human Rights Campaign had died by suicide last Friday in his home in Arlington, Virginia.

In a statement released Tuesday confirming his death, the Kentucky Democrat who was recently reelected to represent District 26 in the statehouse said of her son that he was a “beloved son, brother, nephew, dog parent and friend.” She added: “The depth of his loss is yet to be absorbed.”

Berg also noted, “Henry spent his life working to extend grace, compassion and understanding to everyone, but especially to the vulnerable and marginalized. This grace, compassion and understanding was not always returned to him.”

The Senator also pointed out that the escalating hate against trans-Americans coupled with his job at the Human Rights Campaign was a factor she felt in his death.

“This hate building across the country weighed on him. In one of our last conversations, he wondered if he was safe walking down the street,” she wrote.

“The vitriol against trans people is not happening in a vacuum,” she added. “It has real-world implications for how transgender people view their place in the world and how they are treated as they just try to live their lives.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson issued the following statement, remembering Berg-Brousseau:

“Losing Henry is an unfathomable loss to the Human Rights Campaign family. Henry was a light – deeply passionate, deeply engaged, and deeply caring. His colleagues will always remember his hunger for justice, his eagerness to pitch in, his bright presence and his indelible sense of humor. He could always be counted on to volunteer for a project, hit send on a press release from wherever in the world he was, or share a kind word in the elevator up to his office.

“Henry was first and foremost a fighter and an advocate. He was fighting for transgender rights as a teenager in Kentucky, far earlier than he should have had to. As part of his job at HRC, he faced down anti-transgender vitriol every single day, and no one was more aware of the harm that anti-transgender rhetoric, messaging, and legislation could have on his community. He was brave. But, as Henry’s mother stated, ‘[t]he vitriol against trans people is not happening in a vacuum …It has real-world implications for how transgender people view their place in the world and how they are treated as they just try to live their lives.’ It sadly impacted how Henry saw his own place in the world.

“In honor of Henry’s life, we must come together and speak out against injustice. We must fight for our transgender family. We must celebrate his light, and honor him by continuing to fight for full equality for all. Our thoughts are with his parents, his sister, his entire family, and our whole community.”

Born in Louisville, Ky., the young activist began his short, yet impactful advocacy career as a student at Louisville Collegiate School, where he organized a protest against so-called LGBTQ “conversion therapy,” spoke to the Kentucky Senate Education Committee, and participated in other “local and national causes,” according to his obituary.

The funeral will be at 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, December 21st, at Herman Meyer & Son, Inc., 1338 Ellison Ave, Louisville, KY 40204. Visitation will begin at 11:30 a.m. Burial to follow in The Temple Cemetery.

Memorial Contributions in honor of Henry Berg-Brousseau may go to The Fairness Campaign, 2263 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206, or The Trevor Project-Development, PO Box 69232, West Hollywood, CA 90069.

If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people.

The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgment-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386

If you or anyone you love is experiencing mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. You can call or text the number 988, which will direct you to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It is free and available 24 hours a day.

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Elliot Page: “I hope this can help someone feel less alone”

“So, I’ve written a book about my story. It’s out next June, and I’m so excited to share its cover with you now”

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Elliot Page (Screenshot/YouTube Late Night with Seth Meyers)

LOS ANGELES – At age 35 Elliot Page is already an accomplished actor with an Academy Award nomination, two BAFTA Awards, Primetime Emmy Award nominations, and a Satellite Award. Now the Canadian transplant is adding the title of author to his repertoire of skills.

 The actor’s highly-anticipated memoir Pageboy, which is set to be released on 6 June 2023, had the Umbrella Academy star posting on his Instagram:

Photo by Catherine Opie

“Writing a book has come up a few times over the years, but it never felt right and quite frankly, it didn’t feel possible. I could barely sit still, let alone focus long enough to complete such a task. At last, I can be with myself, in this body. So, I’ve written a book about my story. It’s out next June, and I’m so excited to share its cover with you now.

At many points in my life, it felt unbearable to be in front of a camera, but making this cover with acclaimed photographer Catherine Opie (@csopie) was a joyful experience that I will never forget.

Trans people are facing increasing attacks, from physical violence to the banning of healthcare, and our humanity is regularly “debated” in the media. The act of writing, reading, and sharing the multitude of our experiences is an important step in standing up to those who wish to silence and harm us. Books have helped me, saved me even, so I hope this can help someone feel less alone, feel seen, no matter who they are or what path they are on.”

Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan founded in 2014 in New York City is publishing Page’s book saying:

“The Oscar-nominated star who cap­ti­vated the world with his meteoric rise after the premiere of Juno finally shares his truth. Full of behind the scenes details and intimate interro­gations on sex, love, trauma, and Holly­wood, Pageboy is the story of a life pushed to the brink. But at its core, this beautifully written, winding journey of what it means to untangle ourselves from the ex­pect­ations of others is an ode to stepping into who we truly are with defiance, strength, and joy.”

Appearing this past June on ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers,’ Page talked about starring in the action-packed show The Umbrella Academy, incorporating his journey with transitioning into his character on the show and how embracing joy has made him a better actor.

Elliot Page Opens Up About His Transition and Incorporating It into The Umbrella Academy:

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Graham Norton Show: George Takei reveals the origin of ‘Oh My’

George Takei explained to an amused Norton and fellow guests the origins of Takei’s now signature catch-phrase

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George Takei (Screenshot/YouTube The Graham Norton Show)

LONDON – Beloved film, Broadway, television actor, activist, author and social media icon George Takei stopped by to visit the famous red sofa on the Graham Norton Show this week to chat with host Graham Norton.

Recalling his first encounter with New York shock jock Howard Stern as a guest on Stern’s SiriusXM radio show, Takei explained to an amused Norton and fellow guests the origins of Takei’s now signature catch-phrase; “Oh My.”

Takei, 85, is in London rehearsing for the British premiere of the Broadway musical ‘Allegiance,’ which is based on the actor’s childhood experiences during World War II, when he and his family were imprisoned along with tens of thousands of other Japanese Americans behind the barbed-wire enclosures of the United States’ internment Camp Rohwer in the swampland of Arkansas and at Camp Tule Lake in northern California.

‘Allegiance’ will premiere at London’s Charing Cross Theatre for 13 weeks from Saturday 7 January to Saturday 8 April, 2023.

George Takei Reveals The Origin Of ‘Oh My’ | The Graham Norton Show:

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First openly gay GOP former member of U.S. House dies at 80

“Today, because of Jim Kolbe, being a member of the LGBT community and serving in elected office has become irrelevant”

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Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) speaks at a press conference on Feb. 28, 2013 for the filing of an amicus brief supporting the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

TUCSON – Former Republican Congressman James (Jim) Thomas Kolbe, who represented Southern Arizona in Congress for 22 years, died Saturday, Dec. 3 of a stroke at the age of 80 his husband Hector Alfonso confirmed to Arizona media outlets.

“He belongs to so many people,” his husband said through tears on Saturday. “He gave his life for this city. He loved Tucson, he loved Arizona.”

Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey ordered flags at all state buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset Sunday in honor of the former congressman. In a series of tweets the Arizona Governor lauded Kolbe’s record of public service:

Kolbe was the first openly serving gay Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives having served from 1985 to 2007.  During his 22-year tenure he served as chair of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs of the House Appropriations Committee.

Former congressman Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In 1996, Kolbe held a press conference and outed himself after his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act, this according to political journalist Jake Tapper was owed to the fact that Kolbe was under the impression he was about to be outed by a gay publication.

Addressing a gathering of Log Cabin Republicans and other gay Republicans in 1997, he said he didn’t want to be a poster child for the gay movement.

“Being gay was not — and is not today — my defining persona,” Kolbe said during his first speech as an openly gay GOP lawmaker. He also sat on the national advisory board of the Log Cabin Republicans.

In 2013 however, Kolbe was a signatory to an amicus brief in support of overturning California’s Proposition 8.

In a private ceremony in 2013 after being together for eight years, Kolbe and Alfonso were married.

Alfonso, a Panamanian native who came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue studies in special education had been a teacher for two decades. The couple’s nuptials were held at a private event at the Cosmos Club on Massachusetts Ave. in Washington D.C.

“Two decades ago, I could not have imagined such an event as this would be possible,” Kolbe told the Blade in an interview in May of 2013. “A decade ago I could not imagine that I would find someone I could be so compatible with that I would want to spend the rest of my life with that person. So, this is a very joyous day for both of us.”

The couple had to endure a year-long separation when Alfonso returned to Panama while immigration issues were being sorted out, although he was granted U.S, Residency also knoen as a green card.

Kolbe also battled his friend and fellow Republican, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain who opposed the repeal of the Clinton-era Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy, which barred military service by gay and lesbian Americans. He repeatedly co-sponsored a bill to scrap the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy at odds with others in his party over the issue.

After he left Congress he continued to be active in Republican politics in 2012 endorsing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in his race for the presidency against then incumbent Barack Obama.

In an interview with the Washington Blade at the time, Kolbe responded to the anti-gay language in the draft version of the Republican Party platform. In addition to endorsing a Federal Marriage Amendment, the platform criticized the Obama administration for dropping defense of DOMA in court and judges for “re-defining marriage” in favor of gay couples.

Kolbe predicted the 2012 Republican platform will be the last one to include such language.

“That’ll be the last time that will be in the Republican Party platform,” Kolbe said. “It won’t be there four years from now. It’s got its last gasp. I don’t believe it’ll be there four years from now; I wish it weren’t there now, but I don’t believe it will be four years from now.”

The issue over the rights of same-sex couples to marry ended with Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644, the landmark civil rights case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Just this week prior to his death, the Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate by a vote of 61-36.

That legislation requires the federal government to recognize a marriage between two individuals if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed and guarantee that valid marriages between two individuals are given full faith and credit, regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin. It is expected to pass the House again this week after which it heads to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Early in his career Kolbe, in 1976 ran for a seat in the Arizona Senate in the Tucson-Pima County district and defeated a one-term Democrat.  In mid-1982, he resigned from the state Senate to run in the newly created Arizona 5th U.S. congressional district, but lost to Democrat Jim McNulty.

He ran again in 1984 winning the seat that he went to hold for over two decades.

According to his biography Kolbe was born in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, but when he was five, his family moved to a ranch in rural Santa Cruz County, Arizona. It was there he attended Patagonia Elementary School and Patagonia Union High School, but graduated from the United States Capitol Page School in 1960 after serving for three years as a United States Senate Page for Arizona Republican U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater.

He matriculated first at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and then at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California earning a master’s degree in economics. During the Vietnam era from 1965 to 1969, he served in the United States Navy, including a tour in Vietnam as a member of the Navy’s “Swift Boat” force. 

After military service Kolbe served as a special assistant to Illinois Republican Governor Richard B. Ogilvie. He then moved back to Arizona settling in Tucson where he worked in business.

Accolades for the former Congressman included many from Arizona political and business fields of endeavor.

“Pima County and southern Arizona could always count on Jim Kolbe,” Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson said in a statement.

Matt Gress, who was recently elected to the Arizona Legislature, called Kolbe a political pioneer.

“Today, because of Jim Kolbe, being a member of the LGBT community and serving in elected office has become irrelevant,” he said in a statement.

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The death of Irene Cara and the broken promise

Her final professional projects were gifts to other women musicians of color- but her voice inspired my gay generation

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Irene Cara (Photo Credit: Judith A. Moose, CEO JM Media, publicists)

HOLLYWOOD – As I walked down the dark alley towards the glowing light, the opening bridge of the song called to me. “Baby, look at me and tell me what you see, You ain’t seen the best of me yet, Give me time, I’ll make you forget all the rest, I got more in me…” 

The movie Fame had just come out and its anthem theme song was HOT. The glowing light that night was a gay disco, tucked away from heterosexual view, while gay bashers circled in trucks a few blocks away. That safe haven in the dark alley allowed me, a 20-year old youth, a path out of the closet in which I emotionally and sexually had residence. To me, the words of the song Fame, and its overwhelming delivery, was my inner drive and conviction that I could be me, and my own personal superstar.

The young woman delivering the song was barely an adult herself. Irene Cara had been a child performer and was now breaking into the fame she was singing about. She was “instantly” famous thanks to Fame. Amongst other accolades, she was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy. The song itself won the Oscar that year.

The Grammy nomination put a public trapping on what we all knew: She was a star, and had all the makings to become a superstar, an icon.

For LGBTQ people, her work that year spoke to our souls and our optimism. As “Randy 503” shared on the Joe.My.God site,  “I was a deeply closeted and lonely kid in my early 20s. Not lonely because I didn’t have friends (had tons of them), but lonely because I refused to admit I was gay and kept away from all that. I saw the movie and was transfixed. Bought the album and played it all the time, especially her songs. Her voice was so strong, and so expressive, it really touched me.” 

Cara’s second song in the movie also resonated with the gay audience. While Fame spoke to the sassy optimism of embracing our outstanding selves and taking the world by storm, Out Here On My Own spoke to the dark loneliness of the closet. “Sometimes I wonder where I’ve been, who I am, do I fit in… when I’m down and feeling blue, I close my eyes so I can be strong and be with you…I dry the tears I’ve never shown, Out here on my own.”

Randy points out,  “Out here on my own always left me in tears. It hit so close to home, and I could feel sadness on it. It’s a great song sung by one of the best.”

After the success of Fame, Cara ventured into a sitcom pilot and a freshman album, “Anyone Can See.” Neither caught the world on fire, as apparently only some of us could actually “see” her real worth.

It was not long after however, where Cara’s apparent life mission to deliver culture changing anthems, came calling again. She was recruited to help out with the new Flashdance movie, and to work with iconic gay producer Giorgio Moroder for its theme song. Cara was reportedly reluctant. She had already been criticized as a second tier Donna Summer with Fame, and was hesitant to get into that musical lane. Later she would work with John Farrar whom she credited as being responsible for ALL of Olivia Newton John’s hits. It seems that her superstar aspirations were more to be Pop Princess than another Queen of Disco.

She did sign on board with Moroder and Flashdance, and made history. Her song Flashdance… What a Feeling went to #1 for six straight weeks. It affected American culture in style, attitude and substance. On Academy Awards night, Cara made history again. (She had already made history in a minor way a few years before as the first person to ever perform two nominated songs in one evening.) This time, she became the second African American woman to win an Oscar – the first being Gone With the Wind’s Hattie McDaniels. 

Cara was the first African American woman to ever win a non-acting Oscar ever.

The anthem Flashdance…What a Feeling spoke to LGBTQ audiences of the 80s, in a way that Fame had. “First when there’s nothing but a slow glowing dream that your fear seems to hide deep inside your mind. All alone, I have cried silent tears full of pride in a world made of steel, made of stone, Well, I hear the music, close my eyes, feel the rhythm wrap around, take hold of my heart. What a feeling, being is believing I can have it all..”

Online, Joe.My.God reader BearlvrFl shared, “LUV the song “Out Here On My Own” I call “Flashdance: What A Feeling” my coming out song, popular on the dance floor very close to the time I finally came out at the age of 22. I could relate to “Take your passion/And make it happen.” Super simple lyric, but it’s timing was everything for me, having been closeted for so long.”

This time, AIDS had brought a very dark cloud over the community, however. Its ravage was starting to take widespread hold. It made the line in the song “now I’m dancing for my life” even more poignant and relevant.

The darkness that was falling over the LGBT world was on a parallel track in Cara’s own life. As she picked up Oscars and Grammys, there was a sadness in her eyes above the smile on her face. She shared later that the public glory was matched with a behind-the-scenes horror story. Her record company was keeping her from garnering any success from her accomplishments. Columnist Liz Smith stated in a 1993 piece that Cara earned only $183 in royalties.

Cara inspired women of her generation. Patti Piatt shared on Twitter, “I am from a generation of women who thought anything was possible because of Irene Cara. She gave us so much joy. We all danced to her songs, didn’t matter if we could dance, we danced because she made us want to dance.” 

In spite of singing THE anthem of women empowerment, Cara became an example of a woman destroyed by the male dominated music industry. As she fought back for earnings due her, she became black-listed, and her trek to superstardom halted. They made her all but disappear. A decade later, she won, but by that time, the damage had been done. 

Her final solo album subconsciously called out her professional demise with songs titled “Now That It’s Over”, “Get a Grip” and the ultimate defeatist title “Say Goodnight Irene.”

“I know well enough this is going nowhere… Might as well say goodnight, Say Goodnight, Irene.”

In the end, she seemed to find peace. Her final professional projects were gifts to other women musicians of color. She comfortably settled into what she called “semi-retirement” and her Florida home with a steady stream of funds from her hard-earned residuals.

The promise of becoming a superstar eluded her, but she busted the ceiling so it might not elude others. Painfully for fans, the promise from the song Fame, “I’m gonna live forever” also did not come true. 

Let’s instead, think of her making “it to heaven” and lighting “up the sky like a flame.”

For those trying to find final meaning from her life, and the un-fulfilled promise of what could have been for her and for us, may do so in the words from her lesser-known anthem. Here we swap out a promise instead for The Dream

“We can all be free, we hold the key, if we can see what we want to be. Life is never easy, you get no guarantees, why not give your all and see what you can find?”

And, yes.

Irene Cara, we will always remember your name.

The Dream

*************************

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Leaving beauty & truth behind, Doug Probst aka ‘a porn prince’ dies

He dared to tell the true story behind the scenes of “The Golden Age” of porn. He blew the door on the past wide open and let everyone in

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Doug Probst/Facebook "Shawn Mayotte"/Doug Probst - Facebook

WEST HOLLYWOOD – He may have been the last truth-teller about the “golden age” of 80’s porn. Doug Probst, known better by his porn name, Shawn Mayotte, passed away in his sleep. He had been battling throat cancer. He was 57, and is survived by his wife Marie, son Josh and his beloved dog Archie.

 I was introduced to Doug through his publicist who felt he would be a great candidate for my podcast Rated LGBT Radio. Doug had just finished his memoir Mayotte: The Musings of a Narcissist: A Survivor’s Story.

The only complaint I had with the book when I finished reading it was the title.  Doug Probst was anything but a narcissist. He was a man of heart. And his book was not a sharing of “musings” it was a sharp steel blade that went right for the emotional jugular. 

He shared a story of horror and sexual abuse, a descent into drugs and the inspiration of recovery. He pulled the covers off a salacious lust-inducing industry that built up mini-gods only to cavalierly toss them onto the pyre of the AIDS crisis and stood by to watch them all burn one by one.

Few who participated in the industry of the time survived, but Doug and his alter-ego Shawn Mayotte did. He owned his own sexual power while refusing to allow the power brokers to entice him into self-destruction.

He ultimately grabbed two lifelines: his music and his son Josh. With his music, he exposed his true soul and most beautiful gift. With the birth of his son Josh, he found his true deep capacity to love and the emotional earthquake that forced a dramatic shift of priorities. He got clean and sober, and discovered his best life, one free from danger and demanding a constant need to fight.

He and I talked about it here and I wrote about it here.

There is a promise within a popular program of recovery, that thanks to the healing nature of sobriety, the healthy will not “regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”

That was a truth that Doug lived by. He blew the door on the past wide open and let everyone in. He wrote of his life, and proudly showed off his beautiful nudity. On social media, he wrote profound tributes to his many friends and lovers, porn gods, each of whom who had been worshipped, lusted after, and died either from drugs or AIDS. He did not write of their superficial qualities or their tragedies. He wrote about their hearts, their dreams and the lives they had intended to lead. He took them from the footnotes of gay history and memorabilia and re-introduced their true depths and humanity.

Of Doug, his wife Marie wrote; “You were a warrior, a force to be reckoned with. A man who would put his life on the line for me and the people he loved without thinking twice. Your life was not an easy one, yet you saw the good in so many things/people and always fought for the underdogs. You had overcome so much in life.  We were so close to the finish line; just 5 more days of radiation. We started making new plans, new adventures, new memories. You were so happy yesterday, I could see the changes, I could feel it myself, only for you to be taken away in the middle of the night. I am not ready to say goodbye.”

Doug maintained a powerful social media presence. He did not have “friends”, he had “best friends”. He made each one feel like they were the special one.

For me and him, we had plans.  We were going to write. Possibly a play based on his life, possibly a musical. We had ideas.

With Doug, it was easy to get caught up in his passion to create, to be grateful and to love.

His message to the world on his last day was a simple one.  It was “Simply grateful for today.”

His message from the day before was possibly more profound. “Stop carrying old feelings into new experiences,” he shared. It is a sentiment I pray he continues to hold now, in his re-birth.

His life had been hard. There were plenty of deep dark and angry feelings that he had to swim through. Now they are released, discarded, disintegrated.

The beautiful, music-filled prince of porn is free at last.

*************************

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Democratic icon Roz Wyman dies at 92, brought Dodgers to LA

Wyman the 2nd-ever woman to serve on the Council & 1st Jewish Councilmember in decades went on to transform LA through her dynamic leadership

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Tommy Lasorda (R) with Roz Wyman (Photo credit: Los Angeles Dodgers)

LOS ANGELES – Rosalind Wyman was a force of nature and politically astute according to those who knew her best. Early on in her career she made her mark on the political landscape of the City of Los Angeles as the youngest person ever elected to the City Council at the age of 22 in 1953.

Known as Roz, the longtime Democratic Party leader influenced California’s politics infusing her unique brand of progressive public service. She passed away at her home in Bel-Air late Wednesday at the age of 92, her family said in a statement.

Writer Sue Cameron chronicled the early years of Wyman’s career and life wrtiting; In 1953 she married the brilliant attorney and Democratic Party operative named Eugene Wyman. Gene and Roz were one of the most powerful Democratic couples in the country. It was Roz Wyman who Bobby Kennedy called in 1960 to ask how to get Hollywood to notice and support his brother’s candidacy for president. “I’ll throw a fundraiser,” said Roz, thereby being the certified inventor of the Hollywood Celebrity Fundraiser. She called Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh; the Kennedys showed up in Los Angeles; the rest is history.

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) the proud son of immigrant parents from Mexico, who earned his political credentials starting with the 1994, campaign fight over California’s Proposition 187, which sought to deny public benefits to immigrants, and later in 1999, at the age of 26, elected to the Los Angeles City Council found himself following Wyman’s footprints and often her sage advice.

In 2001, just two years later, he was elected by his colleagues to serve as President of the City Council—the youngest person in city history and the first Latino in over 100 years to hold the position echoing Wyman’s election 48 years previously. 

Today, Senator Padilla released the following statement remembering his friend:

I’m deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend Roz Wyman. From her days on the Los Angeles City Council leading efforts to bring the Dodgers to Los Angeles to serving as chair of the 1984 Democratic National Convention and supporting decades of Democratic leaders, she was truly a trailblazing public servant.

“The daughter of an immigrant from Russia, Roz didn’t just embody the spirit of the American Dream, she carved out a path for future generations to achieve it, too. And because of her, young people, women, the children of immigrants, and countless Californians with hopes of making a difference in our country saw engaging with our government more accessible. Because of Roz Wyman’s example, achieving change became more within reach.

“Over the course of her career, Roz forged close friendships with political titans like Senator Dianne Feinstein and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and left an indelible mark on the ethos of California. We’ll be forever grateful for her dedication to fighting for progress in California and across the nation.”

Wyman over the course of the nearly sixty-nine years of politics and public service would influence future leaders such as current U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In a November 2002 article, Variety columnist Army Archerd reported on Pelosi as she took over leadership of the Democratic caucus in Congress that year.

Archerd, writing about a gala attended by Pelosi and her husband Paul, where they were at a table with Jean Picker Firstenberg, the then-President and CEO of the American Film Institute (1980-2007) and her best friend Wyman, noted:

Roz Wyman’s association with Pelosi dates back to the Demo Convention in SanFran in 1984. “She (Pelosi) has many friends in the industry,” Wyman told me. They include the Kirk Douglases, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening and Sherry Lansing, who co-hosted one of the Hollywood welcoming parties for Pelosi earlier this year … And, of course, Jack Valenti has known Pelosi throughout her career and reminds, “She makes sure that our highest priority is protection of copyrights.”

Wyman alongside Firstenberg attended many political and Hollywood functions, but Wyman’s love for baseball and especially the L.A. Dodgers was legendary.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Wyman was best known for keeping an unusual campaign promise – vowing to bring Major League Baseball to L.A. It took months of negotiations with Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley before he finally agreed to relocate the team for the 1958 season.

“Roz paved the way for the Dodgers to come to Los Angeles, and her impact was not just on our organization, but the entire city. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to her family,” the Dodgers posted on Twitter.

Wyman and Firstenberg, also a massive baseball fan, spent many an hour at Dodger stadium oft times with just family, but frequently with friends and political notables.

Front: John A. Pérez,  68th Speaker of the California State Assembly, Rosalind Wyman and Jean Picker Firstenberg Back: Michael Barrett & Mitchell Draizin at the Dodgers/Yankee Game 06-27-2010
Photo Credit: Pérez/Facebook

On his Facebook page Thursday, Out former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez commented, “My heart aches today as I’ve lost an amazing friend and Los Angeles has lost a groundbreaking leader.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom remembered Wyman;

Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Roz Wyman, a trailblazing icon who inspired generations of women in politics to pursue their dreams.

Elected to the Los Angeles City Council at just 22 years old, Wyman was the city’s youngest Councilmember in history. Surmounting countless barriers, Wyman – as the second-ever woman to serve on the Council and the first Jewish Councilmember in decades – went on to transform Los Angeles through her dynamic leadership. She was a champion for the arts and for sports, playing an instrumental role in bringing the Dodgers, the Lakers and the Giants to the Golden State.

Wyman continued her tireless political work and activism after leaving office, going on to chair the 1984 Democratic convention and helping to elect dozens of women to powerful positions – including as Senator Feinstein’s Senate campaign Co-Chair and close advisor for decades.

Roz Wyman’s passion, perseverance and leadership live on as an inspiring example to people everywhere, and the countless ways she enriched California will never be forgotten. Our thoughts are with her family and many friends as they morn this great loss.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement honoring and remembering her friend;

Roz was a force of nature: breaking down barriers for women in California politics, while forging new ways to bring people together through politics, the arts, and baseball.  She made history as the youngest person elected to the LA City Council – and just the second woman to ever hold that office.  Her leadership helped draw her beloved Dodgers to Los Angeles – and my Giants to San Francisco – so that California families could experience the thrill of America’s pastime.  Through the arts, parks and the Coliseum Commission, she ensured millions of families could enjoy our State’s many cultural wonders and make lifelong memories.

Personally, it was a blessing to share a warm friendship with Roz for decades: bonding over our devotion to family, passion for politics and love of sports.  We all took pride, joy and love in that. 

Roz, then-mayor Dianne Feinstein and I had the privilege of leading the 1984 Democratic National Convention in my hometown of San Francisco as our party nominated the first woman ever for Vice President of the United States.  

Generations of activists and elected officials respected Roz as a godmother of the the Democratic Party because she nurtured young people, mentored candidates and helped elect dozens of women to office.  She took special pride in electing her dear friend, Dianne Feinstein, to the Senate.  Roz had words of advice and wise counsel for everyone, from presidents to precinct workers.  She cared deeply about our Democracy, about women’s equality, and about opening parks, arts and public service  to everyone.

Roz’s extraordinary life and legacy is immortalized with a beautiful plaque in the Coliseum’s Memorial Court of Honor.  Now, young girls for generations to come will see her likeness there among a pantheon of Los Angeles legends and know that, for them, the sky is the limit.  

“Roz was devoted to her family: her beloved late husband Gene, her children Betty Lynn, Robert and Brad, her grandchildren Samantha, Eugene and Oliver whom she loved dearly.  May it be a comfort to the entire Wyman family that so many in California and across the country mourn their loss during this sad time.”

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Former Defense Sec. Ash Carter, LGBTQ+ ally, has died

“To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military,” Carter said

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President Barack Obama stands with Ashton Carter in the Oval Office before the President announces Carter's nomination for Secretary of Defense, Dec. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

BOSTON – Former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who served under President Barack Obama during the implementation of the repeal of the anti-gay ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” policy and who cleared the way for transgender military service has died.

Carter passed away Monday evening from a ‘sudden cardiac event’ his wife, Stephanie, and his children, Ava and Will announced in a statement: “It is with deep and profound sadness that the family of former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter shares that Secretary Carter passed away Monday evening in Boston after a sudden cardiac event at the age of 68.” 

Carter, in a statement made on Sept. 20, 2016, marking the fifth anniversary of the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that barred gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military, noted:

“I am proud to report that five years after the implementation of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” our military, drawn from a cross-section of America, is stronger than ever and continues to exemplify the very best that our great nation has to offer,” the secretary said. “The American people can take pride in how the Department of Defense and the men and women of the United States military have implemented this change with the dignity, respect, and excellence expected of the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

He then added:

“As the memory of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fades further into the past, and we move forward together to face new challenges,” he said, “we recognize that openness to diversity and reaching out in a spirit of renewed inclusiveness will strengthen our military and enhance our nation’s security.”

In the final years of Obama’s second term, Carter worked to lift the ban on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military. That decision was one of the last remaining barriers to LGBT participation in the U.S. armed forces.

In July of 2017 after President Trump tweeted he was banning transgender people from serving openly in the U.S. military, Carter reacted noting that transgender people already serve capably and honorably.

“To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military,” Carter said.

Upon hearing the news of his death, former President Obama in a statement praised Carter saying his advice and role made the military “stronger, smarter, more humane, and more effective.” Then Obama added; “Ash’s greatest legacy, however, may be the generations of younger leaders he taught, mentored, and inspired to protect our nation and wield power wisely.” 

Carter’s predecessor as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Carter’s “insights and perspectives will be difficult to replace and his humor and regard for the troops deeply missed.”

The White House Tuesday released a statement from President Joe Biden who summed up his view of the former SecDef up with the word ‘integrity.’

Integrity. – When I think of Ash Carter, I think of a man of extraordinary integrity. Honest. Principled.  Guided by a strong, steady moral compass and a vision of using his life for public purpose.
 
Ash Carter was born a patriot.  A physicist and national security leader across decades, he served with immense distinction at every level of civilian leadership at the Department of Defense, including as our nation’s 25th Secretary of Defense.
 
I was Vice President at the time, and President Obama and I relied on Ash’s fierce intellect and wise counsel to ensure our military’s readiness, technological edge, and obligation to the women and men of the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.
 
Ash was a leader on all the major national security issues of our times – from nuclear deterrence to proliferation prevention to missile defense to emerging technology challenges to the fight against Al Qaida and ISIS. He opened every field of military service to women and protected the rights of transgender service members.
 
His public contributions were amplified by his many years at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where he inspired and mentored the next generation of national security leaders. As President, I continued to rely on his expertise through his presence on my Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
 
Above all, Ash understood the sacred obligation we have to our servicemembers, veterans, and their families. He was relentless in his pursuit of technology solutions for our warfighters, rapidly accelerating delivery of mine resistant vehicles to our troops to protect them from improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His work saved countless lives and limbs. On many weekends Ash and his beloved wife Stephanie would quietly visit wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  He did so out of the spotlight, demonstrating the personal integrity and sense of duty that distinguished him throughout his life
 
Jill and I grieve with the entire Carter family, including Stephanie, Will, and Ava, and countless friends and colleagues across the world who are mourning this sudden loss of a great American
 
Ash Carter was a great American of the utmost integrity.”

Carter led the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and his children, Ava and Will.

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