Connect with us

Notables

Remembering Charles “Chuck” Williams

Williams Institute, a public policy research institute based at UCLA School of Law focuses on sexual orientation & gender identities issues

Published

on

Chuck Williams, founder, the Williams Institute (Photo courtesy Brad Sears)

Editor’s note: Brad Sears, J.D., is the Founding Executive Director and David Sanders Distinguished Scholar of Law & Policy at the Williams Institute

LOS ANGELES – Hello everyone, I am writing with some very sad news. Chuck Williams, our dear friend, colleague, and founder of the Williams Institute, passed away last Wednesday night. He was at home and at peace with his partner Stu Walter by his side.

In the coming weeks and months, we will have opportunities to celebrate Chuck and remember his generosity and the incredible impact he had on our world. A memorial service is being planned for June and details will be announced in the coming weeks.

This is a difficult loss. It is also a reminder that life passes quickly, to cherish one another, and each one of us can make a real difference through generosity and service. For me, Chuck’s legacy lies in his incredible warmth towards other people, his relationships with Stu and his many friends, and his vision and philanthropy in support of the LGBTQ community and the Williams Institute. 
 
Chuck turned on his charm with the first handshake. He was genuinely curious about other people, no matter who they were. He was the consummate host, taking on the role of making sure other people felt welcome and at ease. That remained true until his final days. No matter how much illness impacted his mind or body, he kept his spirits up and had a smile for anyone who walked into his room. Even when words failed, he maintained his charm offensive with his twinkling, expressive eyes.
(Photo courtesy of Brad Sears & The Williams Institute)
Chuck and Stu met in 1967 when they skied into each other arms on Lake Nacimiento. Few today have had relationships that last 56 years. Even fewer relationships have been tested as theirs has been. 1967 was two years before Stonewall, every state except Illinois had sodomy laws, and gay men were regularly entrapped by the LAPD and sent for conversion therapy in state hospitals. Chuck and Stu risked being arrested, fired, and confined if they were out. But they maintained their relationship through those years, the AIDS epidemic, and through the challenges that eventually come with being survivors and living a long full life. I am particularly honored to have witnessed Stu’s incredible strength during the past several months. He remained Chuck’s principal caregiver until the end, rarely left his side, and kept him comfortable at home. 
Stu Walter & Chuck Williams (Photo courtesy of Brad Sears & The Williams Institute)
Chuck also nurtured so many close friendships. From croquet in the backyard to Christmas dinner for 20 with rowdy white elephant gift exchanges, from a busy schedule of worldwide travel to late-night dinners, trips to Palm Springs, and tailgating at Bruins games—Chuck and Stu created a large and close family of choice for themselves and for so many of us who knew them. Of course, Chuck will be primarily remembered for his public service and philanthropy. But the hallmark of all great people is that they don’t merely overcome their personal challenges, they take on those challenges in a universal way—for their community, their country, or the world. Chuck could have relaxed on a hill overlooking a dazzling view of the Pacific Ocean, but that is not how he lived his life. He and Stu wanted to make life better for all LGBTQ people.

In the 1970s, Chuck and Stu hosted one of the very first fundraisers for an LGBTQ political candidate. In those days, LGBTQ people were scared to go to an event like that—and they made donations in cash (not by check) so their support couldn’t be traced. Chuck and Stu devoted their time and resources to organizations like AIDS Research Alliance to fight the AIDS epidemic through long-term research investments for treatments and a cure.  And then in 2001, Chuck founded the Williams Institute, making the same type of long-term research investments in ending sodomy laws, passing non-discrimination protections, and fighting for marriage equality. Chuck got to see all of those advances in his lifetime because he spent his life working for those advances. 
Brad Sears (L) with Chuck Williams (Photo courtesy Brad Sears)
Chuck has given over $20 million to create and support the Williams Institute. Impressive on its own, but he also gave tirelessly of his time, experience, heart, and skills. He never stopped encouraging others to get involved and support our work. And animating everything he did were his bonds with Stu and his friends and their experiences. He wanted to create a world where others didn’t have to face the same obstacles. For the last 22 years, Chuck’s vision of a better world grew to include combatting poverty in the LGBTQ community, reducing overcriminalization, fighting on behalf of transgender people, and working to improve LGBTQ rights around the globe.  
 
Chuck never stopped working and never stopped expanding his vision of what full equality means. I hope that all of us are inspired to continue his work on behalf of others and to expand our visions for the future.

Thank you,
Brad

The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy, usually shortened to Williams Institute, is a public policy research institute based at the UCLA School of Law focused on sexual orientation and gender identities issues.

Chuck Williams and Stu Walter: Williams Institute Founders Award 2021:

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Notables

Jimmy Carter’s grandson believes his granddad nearing the end

“There’s a part of that faith journey that you only can live at the very end. And I think he has been there in that space”

Published

on

Former President Jimmy Carter being interviewed by CBS News in 2006. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

By Jill Nolin | ATLANTA, Ga. – The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter provided an update on his grandfather’s condition Tuesday at the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, which was the first held since the former first lady’s death.

Grandson Jason Carter said he visited his grandfather at his home in Plains a couple weeks ago to watch an Atlanta Braves baseball game.

“I said, ‘Pawpaw, people ask me how you’re doing, and I say, I don’t know.’ And he said, ‘well, I don’t know myself,’” Jason Carter said during the event at the Carter Center in Atlanta. “He’s still there.” 

Jimmy Carter, who at 99 years old is the longest lived president, has been in hospice care since early 2023. Rosalynn Carter, his wife of 77 years, died in November.

Jason Carter said he believes his grandfather is nearing the end.

“There’s a part of this faith journey that is so important to him, and there’s a part of that faith journey that you only can live at the very end. And I think he has been there in that space,” Jason Carter said. 

His grandfather’s time in hospice care has been a reminder of the work Rosalynn Carter did to advance caregiving and mental health, he said.

“The caregiving associated with mental health and mental illness is so crucial and so fundamental to the work that we all do in this room and to her legacy that it is remarkable and important, and we’ve all experienced it very first hand over the last year so we give thanks for that as well,” Jason Carter said. 

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

Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.

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

The preceding article was previously published by the Georgia Recorder and is republished with permission.

The Georgia Recorder is an independent, nonprofit news organization focused on connecting public policies to the stories of the people and communities affected by them. We bring a fresh perspective to coverage of the state’s biggest issues from our perch near the Capitol in downtown Atlanta. We view news as a vital community service and believe that government accountability and transparency are valued by all Georgians.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

Continue Reading

Notables

Astrophysicist Jane Rigby awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Rigby, a married out lesbian & mom, is the chief scientist of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s most powerful telescope

Published

on

NASA astrophysicist Jane Rigby, the senior project scientist for the space agency's James Webb Space Telescope, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden on May 3, at the White House. (Photo credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON – Sitting among a diverse and venerable group of Americans from every walk of life on the dais in the East Room of the White House on Friday was out lesbian and NASA astrophysicist Jane Rigby, awaiting her turn to be honored by President Joe Biden who would bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on her.

Rigby, an astronomer who grew up in Delaware, is the chief scientist of the world’s most powerful telescope who alongside her team operating NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, studies every phase in the history of the Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of the Solar System. 

A member of Penn State’s Class of 2000, Rigby graduated with a bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Astronomy. She also holds a master’s degree and a PhD in Astronomy from at The University of Arizona. Her work as the senior project scientist for NASA’s Webb Telescope includes studies on how galaxies evolve over cosmic time and she has published more than 140 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Rigby was named to Nature.com’s 2022 list of 10 individuals who shaped science and to the BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women in the same year. Rigby had postdoctoral fellowships at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena CA before landing her job at Goddard. In 2013 Dr Rigby was awarded the Robert H. Goddard Award for Exceptional Achievement for Science.

A founding member of the American Astronomical Society’s Working Group on LGBTQ Equality (WGLE) in January 2012, now called the Committee for Sexual-Orientation & Gender Minorities in Astronomy (SGMA), Rigby serves as its Board Liaison until her term expires this June.

The out lesbian astrophysicist in an interview for SGMA’s website spoke about her experiences including coming out:

I’ve been out since 2000. My story’s simple — I fell in love with a fellow grad student in the department. It was a close-knit department, so hiding would have been ludicrous. Nor did I want to hide the best thing in my life! So, we were out as grad students. I certainly heard people say awful homophobic things at work there. They weren’t directed at me, and they weren’t said by people with power over me. If I recall, I was much less afraid of homophobic discrimination at work, than I was afraid of the two-body problem, and the lack of support we would receive as a same-sex couple in astronomy. That fear turned out to be justified. I’ve seen numerous different-sex couples get a wide range of support in solving the two-body problem, which was never offered to us,” she told the interviewer.

She reflected on American astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, her childhood role model who had an impact on her career:

One of my biggest role models when I was young was Dr. Sally Ride. A few years ago, on her deathbed, Dr. Ride chose to write in her obituary that her life partner had been a woman. Dr. Ride was the most influential woman scientist when I was growing up — the person that made me say, “I want to do THAT when I grow up.” It was because of her that I realized that astrophysics was a profession, that physics was a subject girls could study, that NASA needed astrophysicists. So I’m so… amused, I suppose, that Sally Ride was this influence on my life’s path, at a time when I was completely unaware that it was even possible to *be gay* — and at the same time, she was gay, in love, and deeply closeted to keep her job.”

The interviewer noted that “for some women being gay is a cause for concern at the work place. Some say they were unsure about how to turn their sexual orientation into a positive aspect of their work persona.” Then asked Rigby What is your view on this?

My experience is that absolutely I am a *better* astronomer because I’m queer. For a few reasons. First, I see things different than my colleagues. On mission work, as we weigh a decision, my first thought is always the community impact: “If we do things this way, who benefits, and who gets left out in the cold?” Will this policy create inclusion, or marginalization? I think about science in terms of community-building. What team do we need to tackle a given science problem, with skills that are different from mine? Absolutely I think that way because I’m an outsider, because I’ve been marginalized. And because community-building is central to LGBTQ culture,” she said.

Editor’s note: You can read Rigby’s complete SGMA interview here: (Link)

Married to Dr. Andrea Leistra, Rigby, her wife and their young child reside in Maryland not far from her workplace at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Washington D.C. and when not studying the universe is often found on the neighboring Chesapeake Bay wind boarding, a favored pastime.

Related

Also honored in the ceremony Friday were a former U.S. Vice-President, a civil rights worker and martyr, two former cabinet secretaries- one a former U.S. Secretary of State, a speech writer for the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an Olympian and gold medalist, and one of the most powerful woman political leaders and the Speaker Emeritus of the U.S. House of Representatives, among others, and LGBTQ+ advocate Judy Shepard.

Watch:

Continue Reading

Notables

Ella Matthes, publisher of Lesbian News Magazine, dies at 81

Longtime publisher and editor of Lesbian News Magazine, Matthes successfully ran Lesbian News Magazine from 1994 until 2022

Published

on

Ella Matthes, longtime publisher and editor of Lesbian News Magazine. (Photo: Gladi Adams/the June Mazer Archives, West Hollywood)

LOS ANGELES – Ella Matthes, longtime publisher and editor of Lesbian News Magazine, passed away from a heart attack on March 16, 2024 at The Little Company of Mary hospital in Norwalk, California. She was 81 years old.

Matthes successfully ran Lesbian News Magazine from 1994 until 2022. The Lesbian News, more commonly known as the LN, had the distinction and responsibility of being North America’s longest running lesbian publication. Founded in 1975 in Southern California by Jinx Beer, LN began as the lone voice for lesbian issues and evolved throughout the years under Matthes’ leadership to become the nation’s foremost voice for lesbians of all ages. 

Some of the iconic cover stories have included names such as Melissa Etheridge, kd lang, Ellen DeGeneres, Marlee Matlin, Hillary Clinton, Toni Braxton, Lady GaGa, Katy Perry, Judith Light, and Janet McTeer. 

Her numerous contributions to the LGBTQ+ community earned her a slew of recognitions and awards. She was the recipient of the 2002 Women’s Night Gay & Lesbian Center’s “Lesbian & Bisexual Women Active in Community Empowerment Award;” the 2002 “Business Alliance of Los Angeles Community Involvement Award;” the 2003 Southern California Women for Understanding “Community Service Award;” and the 2012 Vox Femina Los Angeles “Aria Award.” 

A native of Los Angeles, California, Matthes graduated from Dorcey High School and attended UCLA for a brief period. She played the saxophone in high school and was a competition bowler for many years. 

At the young age of fifteen, she went to work at Great Western Savings in the print shop and developed a passion for printing. By the time she was in her twenties, she purchased Superior Printers and ran it for decades. However, something else kept tugging at her heartstrings. Ella felt lesbians weren’t receiving a lot of support and visibility and wanted to do something about it. So, in 1994, she purchased Lesbian News Magazine from Deborah Bergman who had acquired it from its original owner, Jinx Beers. 

Ella Matthes built a mission statement around her vision for all lesbians. “The editorial vision of the LN has always been to inform, entertain, and be of service to women who love women of all ages, economic class, and color. We hope women from all walks of life will not only find something of themselves in the LN, but also be accepting of those with differing opinions. Lesbian News is our small contribution to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender liberation movement.”

She is survived by her brother Carl Matthes and her wife Gladi Adams. Ella and Gladi had been together for 26 years and married July 13, 2013.

Donations in her name can be made to the June Mazer Archives in West Hollywood, CA.

Continue Reading

Notables

Former Connecticut U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman dies at 82

Lieberman co-introduced & championed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, expressed support for abortion rights & environmental causes

Published

on

Senior Connecticut Independent Senator Joe Lieberman being interviewed in his Hart Senate Office Building suite in February 2012. (Screenshot/YouTube)

NEW YORK – Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who had served first as a longtime Democratic Senator and then declared himself an independent winning reelection in 2006, died Wednesday, March 27, 2024, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital due to complications from a fall. He was 82 years old.

The announcement of his death was released by Lieberman’s family and noted “his beloved wife, Hadassah, and members of his family were with him as he passed. Senator Lieberman’s love of God, his family, and America endured throughout his life of service in the public interest.”

Lieberman, who nearly won the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with former Vice-President Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election and who almost became Republican John McCain’s running mate eight years later, viewed himself as a centrist Democrat, solidly in his party’s mainstream with his support of abortion rights, environmental protection, gay rights and gun control, The Washington Post reported.

The Post added that Lieberman was also unafraid to stray from Democratic orthodoxy, most notably in his consistently hawkish stands on foreign policy.

Lieberman was first elected to the United States Senate as a Democrat in 1988. He was also the first person of Jewish background or faith to run on a major party Presidential ticket.

In 2009 he supported The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was passed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 on October 22, 2009 and then was signed into law on the afternoon of October 28, by President Barack Obama.

Lieberman, who served in the Senate for more than two decades, alongside with Susan Collins (R-Maine), were the original co-sponsors of the legislation in the successful effort to repeal the Pentagon policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which barred open service by gay and lesbian servicemembers in 2011.

Lieberman said the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in Congress was one of the most satisfying and thrilling experiences he’s had as a senator.

“In our time, I think the front line of the civil rights movement is to protect people in our country from discrimination based on sexual orientation — all the more so when it comes to the United States military, whose mission is to protect our security so we can continue to enjoy the freedom and equal opportunity under law,” Lieberman said.

In an statement to the Blade Wednesday afternoon, David Stacy, the Human Rights Campaign Vice President for Government Affairs said:

“Senator Lieberman was not simply the lead Senate sponsor of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — he was its champion, working tirelessly to allow lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to serve in the military as their authentic selves. The nation’s first Jewish Vice-Presidential nominee, Lieberman had a historic career and his unwavering support for lesbian, gay, and bisexual military servicemembers is a powerful legacy. Our hearts go out to his family and friends as they grieve a tremendous loss.”

In September of 2011, during a press conference marking the repeal of the Pentagon policy, questions emerged about how to extend greater benefits to LGBT service members.

In addition to the legislation that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” reporters asked lawmakers about legislation in the Senate known as the Respect for Marriage Act which was aimed at the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited same-sex marriage. Collins and Lieberman weren’t co-sponsors of that legislation.

Collins had left the news conference at the start of the question-and-answer period. In response to a question from the Washington Blade, Lieberman offered qualified support for the Respect for Marriage Act.

The Connecticut senator said he had issues with the “full faith and credit” portion of the Respect for Marriage Act enabling federal benefits to flow to married gay couples even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

“I do support it in part — I think we’ve got to celebrate what we’ve done today — I certainly support it in regard to discrimination in federal law based on sexual orientation,” Lieberman said.

That issue became a mute point after June 26, 2015 when in a landmark decision of the Supreme Court, Obergefell v. Hodges, justices 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 of the Constitution.

Lieberman by that time however, had retired from the U.S. Senate. He announced he would not seek another term on December 12, 2012 and left the Senate the following year. He was succeeded by Democratic representative Chris Murphy.

Following his retirement from the Senate, Lieberman moved to Riverdale, the Bronx, and registered to vote in New York as a Democrat.

In 2024 Lieberman was leading the search to find a presidential candidate for the third-party group No Labels to run against former President Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden, who he had served with in the Senate.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) former President Barack Obama paid tribute to Lieberman:

“Joe Lieberman and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but he had an extraordinary career in public service, including four decades spent fighting for the people of Connecticut. He also worked hard to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and helped us pass the Affordable Care Act. In both cases the politics were difficult, but he stuck to his principles because he knew it was the right thing to do. Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to Hadassah and the Lieberman family.”

Lieberman’s funeral will be held on Friday, March 29, 2024, at Congregation Agudath Sholom in his hometown of Stamford, CT. An additional memorial service will be announced at a later date.

Continue Reading

Notables

Iconic LGBTQ & AIDS activist David Mixner dies at 77

Mixner was a formidable presence in both Democratic progressive political circles and within his beloved LGBTQ+ community

Published

on

David Mixner addresses the crowd at the National Equality March (NEM) Rally at the US Capitol West Lawn in Washington DC on Sunday afternoon, 11 October 2009 by Elvert Barnes Photography

NEW YORK – One of the most influential LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activists and political strategists in the LGBTQ movement has died. David Benjamin Mixner, 77, was a longtime formidable presence in both Democratic progressive political circles and within his beloved LGBTQ community.

In a Facebook post on his personal page late Monday a simple statement read: “It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of David’s passing today.” News of Mixner’s death quickly spread as friends, longtime political acquaintances, and people whose lives he had impacted commenced to populate his page and others with reflections on his impact.

Neil Giuliano, the first directly elected openly gay mayor of a large city in the U.S. as mayor of Tempe, Ariz., who then went on to serve as president of GLAAD and later headed the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, was a longtime friend of Mixner. He wrote:

“We said goodbye in NYC on Feb 19, knowing time was short. Today my dear friend, confidant, and father figure for the last 28 years (though only 11 years my senior) has passed on from his earthly presence with us. He will absolutely “rest in power, for the cause of peace”.

Neil Giuliano & David Mixner in Provincetown, Massachusetts, August 2021.
(Photo via Giuliano/Facebook)

David Mixner contributed to my 1994 campaign for mayor even before we met. When I asked a local gay activist why this monumental LGBT figure was interested in donating to the closeted candidate in AZ, because I hadn’t done anything for gay rights, I was told “he knows you will.”

And boy, I don’t know how, but he knew me better than I knew myself; back then, and to this day.

[…] The two and half hours we shared on Feb 19th will forever remain among the most profound and powerful of my life, we covered it all. While preparing for death, David, one final time, taught and inspired me forward in life. ❤️❤️❤️

Biographical write-ups on Mixner, including the archives of the LGBTQ history publication Outwords, show he was born and raised in the small town of Elmer, N.J.

While in high school he first became involved in social justice causes by supporting the civil rights movement and joining local protest rallies in support of racial justice.

After graduating from high school, he went to Mississippi to join civil rights protests organized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other southern civil rights activists. In 1964, he enrolled as a student at Arizona State University, where he became involved in local union organizing before leaving Arizona to enroll in the University of Maryland, according to Outwords.

In 1968, he went to Chicago to join anti-Vietnam War protesters outside the Democratic National Convention, and according to his own account, was beaten by police that led to a leg injury that required his use of a cane for many years.

“He fought to end the War in Vietnam, and eventually landed in Los Angeles, where he helped to form Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), the nation’s first gay and lesbian political action committee,” Outwords reported. “Soon after, David helped defeat California’s potentially disastrous Proposition 6, which would have made it illegal for homosexuals to teach in public schools, by getting then-Governor Ronald Reagan to come out publicly against the measure,” which voters defeated by a wide margin.

The Washington Blade reported on Mixner’s support for Bill Clinton’s election as president in 1992 in his role as a friend of Clinton during the days when the two planned protests against the Vietnam War. Mixner, who raised money for the Clinton campaign and helped line up support for the then Arkansas governor from LGBTQ organizations throughout the country, was named by the Clinton campaign to serve on the campaign’s leadership committee.

But soon after Clinton’s election, Mixner spoke out against the new president’s decision to break his promise to issue an executive order to lift the ban on gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from serving in the U.S. military. Many LGBTQ activists, while disappointed, said Clinton was forced to support the controversial compromise of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ after military leaders, including the popular Army Gen. Collin Powell, came out against lifting the ban, with both Democratic and Republican members of Congress also speaking out against a full lifting of the ban.

Mixner drew national attention when he helped organize a protest against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ outside the White House in which he was among those arrested after denouncing his onetime friend Clinton for backing the policy. News of Mixner’s public break with the president resulted in the downfall of his once thriving political consulting firm.

“David’s political consulting career was over, and by the end of the Clinton presidency, he was pawning his watches to pay rent,” Outwords reported.

But Outwords and other publications and LGBTQ advocates have said Mixner re-invented himself many times, as a champion LGBTQ rights advocate, an author, performer, and organizer of the 2009 Equality March on Washington for LGBTQ rights that drew more than 200,000 participants from across the country. 

His 2017 play, entitled 1969, was staged at a popular theater in New York City and received positive reviews. His one-man play in 2018 called ‘Who Fell into The Outhouse’ also received positive reviews and raised $175,000 for homeless LGBTQ youth, Outwords reported.

Mixner has also been praised for his longtime role as an AIDS activist who for many years helped raise funds for organizations supporting people with HIV/AIDS. In 1987, he joined one of the first HIV/AIDS protests outside the White House during the Reagan administration and was among more than 60 of the protesters arrested.

Among his many LGBTQ rights endeavors, Mixner is also credited with co-founding in 1991 the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, now called the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which became the nation’s first organization to devote all of its efforts to help elect LGBTQ people to public office.

“With support for candidates underway, his vision of a government and democracy representative of its people expanded beyond elections, and moved to ensure we were represented in political parties and presidential administrations as well,” said Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker in a statement responding to Mixner’s passing.

“Today, we lost David Mixner, a founding father of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund and our movement for equality,” Parker said. “David was a courageous, resilient, and unyielding force for social change at a time when our community faced widespread discrimination and an HIV/AIDS crisis ignored by the political class in Washington, D.C.,” Parker’s statement says.

“David gave his time, energy and money to building a new political reality in America – having the foresight and dedication to see it through in the most difficult times,” Parker states. “David embodied the spirit of activism and resistance in everything he did – and always with humor and a smile. He has changed not just America, but the world.” 

Jeremy Bernard, a prominent Democratic fundraiser and gay rights advocate who served for eight years on the Democratic National Committee and served in the Obama-Biden administration as the White House social secretary wrote in his tribute to his friend with a photo on March 4:

“My dear friend has always been there for me and so many others! Love ya David!”

“1992 …. David Mixner and me in San Francisco 34 years ago.”
(Jeremy Bernard/Facebook)

In September of 2023, Mixner traveled from his home in New York City to Rehoboth Beach, Del., to attend an event in which he was honored for lending his name to an LGBTQ student scholarship created by CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community services center.

CAMP Rehoboth officials said they wanted to honor Mixner’s legacy with the David Mixner LGBTQ+ Student Scholarship, an endowed fund that supports students as interns at CAMP Rehoboth, where they do important work for the LGBTQ community.

“David changed the world forever and equality would not be where it is today without his leadership, passion, and immense heart and humor,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “David was a beloved mentor to me and so many other LGBTQ leaders, always pushing for more for our community. He dedicated his life to our community and now we must strive to live up to his legacy.”

On Tuesday, the Ali Forney Center, a New York City-based organization that provides services and support for homeless LGBTQ youth, announced it has created the David Mixner Memorial Fund “to honor the life and legacy of this legendary fighter.”

Javi Morgado, a member of the Ali Forney Center board and a longtime friend of Mixner, said in a statement that Mixner raised more than $1 million for the organization since its founding in 2002. 

“David’s final wish was that donations be made in his honor to this fund to support and protect LGBTQ+ youth from the harms of homelessness,” Morgado said. “I can think of no better way to honor the impact of our friend David than through activism and philanthropy,” he said, adding that donations can be made at aliforneycenter.org.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on March 25 at Church of St. Paul the Apostle, 405 W. 59th St., New York.

Addition reporting from Lou Chibbaro Jr. 

Continue Reading

Notables

Cecilia Gentili’s funeral service held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Gentili was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. Her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels

Published

on

Actor, singer, & playwright Billy Porter spoke & performed at the memorial services for Cecilia Gentili, a history-making trans activist, held at New York City’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (Screenshot/YouTube Trans Equity NY)

NEW YORK – The funeral services both somber and celebratory for Cecilia Gentili, a history-making trans activist, were held at New York City’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral Thursday. It is believed that Gentili is the first out transgender person and outspoken sex worker to have their funeral services at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick’s, which has historically not been a friendly institution to the LGBTQ+ community.

Over 1400 mourners came to memorialize and honor Gentili at St. Patrick’s in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. It is the seat of the Archbishop of New York as well as a parish church.

Gentili tragically died on February 6th, just a week after her 52nd birthday. Her funeral service was both somber and celebratory of Gentili’s lasting impact on the community in New York City and across the country, with mourners chanting “Cecilia” in her honor.

Gentili was a legendary organizer, author, advocate, performer, and community icon. As the founder of Transgender Equity consulting and a beloved mother to countless queer, trans, and immigrant individuals in New York City, her legacy endures on both systemic and personal levels.

The vibrant ceremony included a performance from actor Billy Porter and speeches from chosen family, including trans activists Ceyenne Doroshow, Liaam Winslet, and Gentili’s partner, Peter Scotto. Notably, celebrities in attendance included, Sara Ramirez, Indya Moore, Peppermint, Raquel Willis, Ryan McGinley, and more.

“She was an angel,” said her partner, Peter Scotto. “Seeing all the people at the funeral services, and all the love I’ve received from people in her community all over the world, is a testament of how awesome Cecilia was. I’m so grateful for them all. She was an angel, an icon, a mother, an educator, a leader, and so much to so many people. Her children from AIPACHA, I’d hear all the stories of trans kids getting hormones for the first time. Our phone would ring all the time in the middle of the night and she’d jump into action to help people in crisis. She’d always be there and answer that call. But to me, she was my partner. We woke every day next to each other with so much laughter and love. I’m going to take that with me forever.” 

Related

Gentili came to New York as an undocumented immigrant from Argentina in 2004 and received citizenship via asylum in 2012. Her social justice efforts, which included advocacy for immigrant, HIV/AIDs, trans, and sex worker rights. Gentili changed the landscape in New York City and State and had ramifications across the country, including as the main plaintiff on a lawsuit against the Trump Adminstration’s attempt to eliminate healthcare protections for trans people. She had the ears of politicians at every level of government, as shown by the numerous elected officials’ public statements, including Governor Kathy Hochul, and a speech from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez on the house floor, in the aftermath of her death. 

“Cecilia Gentili leaves a blazing legacy of love, kinship, and an infinite fire to uplift the liberation of trans people, sex workers, immigrants, and those pushed to the margins,” read a statement from Trans Equity Consulting, the organization founded by Cecilia Gentili. “Her mission to fully decriminalize and honor sex work continues through her namesake program Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network (C.O.I.N.) Clinic, which provides free healthcare to sex workers in NYC, and the Stop Violence in The Sex Trades Act (SVSTA) in NY State –– a crucial piece of legislation that Governor Hochul could herald to truly honor Cecilia’s legacy. Cecilia, a fervent believer in action and impact over thoughts and prayers, prompts us all to carry her life’s work forward in providing material support to marginalized communities and fighting for a more just world.”

Despite recent statements of trans inclusion from Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has not historically been affirming of the LGBTQ+ Community. On December 10, 1988, ACT UP NY members alongside members of Women’s Health Action and Mobilization (WHAM!) disrupted a mass by Cardinal John O’Connor at St. Patricks Cathedral resulting in 111 arrests, 53 of whom were arrested inside the church, known as “Stop the Church”. This historic demonstration met two movements—one of which was protesting the O’Connor’s opposition of teaching safe sex practices in public schools and the general distribution of condoms, and the other being the Catholic church’s position on abortion rights. 

“Cecilia’s immaculate work and the way she touched so many hearts and lives made her worthy of sainthood. Cecilia deserved this historic honor of the monumental funeral service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and to be cemented in history as a mother of multiple movements––of sex worker, immmigration, trans, and affirming healthcare movements,” said Oscar Diaz, Director of Communications at Trans Equity Consulting, and Gentili’s daughter. “Her wit, creativity, humor, and grace will be missed by the generations she mothered.”

During a time of increased anti-trans legislation and rhetoric across the country, Gentili receiving this outpouring of grief and celebration of her life signals her impact and the diginity of trans, immigrant, and sex worker lives writ-large. Her legacy of radical inclusion and revolutionary politics live on through her organization Trans Equity Consulting, as well as her namesake program C.O.I.N. at Callen-Lorde, which provides free healthcare for sex workers, and through the sustainable funding she secured for trans and sex worker communities in New York and beyond. 

Gentili leaves behind immediate and chosen family, her partner Peter Scotto, her sister Ceyenne Doroshow, LaLa Zanell, Victoria Von Blaque, Cristina Herrera, and Tabytha Gonzalez, and her children, Rio Sofia, Cyd Nova, Maya Margarita, Katia Perea, Oscar Diaz, Qween Jean, Gia Love, Liaam Winslet, Chiquitita, Joshua Allen, Bianca Cerna, Gogo Graham, Amarilla Diosa, Mateo Belen, Krzysztof Pastuszka, and more. In remembrance of Cecilia’s work and legacy, the family has established a fund to support with funeral costs and to establish a donor advisory fund to continue her fight for trans liberation. 

Gentili changed the material realities of countless queer and trans people, sex workers, and immigrants across the world. Access to hormones, bail money, immigration lawyers, surgeons, HIV meds, HASA vouchers, gender-affirming identification, and healthcare have been tenants of Cecilia’s organizing since she started in New York City.

Gentili’s impact:

  • Gentili was instrumental in the development of two statewide bills to provide survivors of trafficking with record relief, and to end the criminalization of ‘loitering’ for the purpose of prostitution — the “Walking While Trans” Ban — a charge overwhelmingly leveled against transgender women, regardless of their involvement in the sex trade.
  • She has a healthcare clinic at Callen Lorde named after her ongoing legacy of advocating for sex workers (COIN Clinic: Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network)
  • She’s raised over $15 million in city/state funding for the trans community and defended trans healthcare in the US. Supreme Court against Trump’s administration
  • Her memoir, FALTAS, won the Stonewall Book Award and is set to be translated and published in Spanish by Editorial Caja Negra this year
  • Her one-woman show RED INK had its off-Broadway debut last year to sold-out crowds and was picked up by Killer Films (May-December, Boy’s Don’t Cry) to be produced this year
  • She spearheaded TRANSMISSION, NYC’s first trans music festival at Marsha P. Johnson State Park, and was a board member for Queer Art, Stonewall Foundation, and Alianza Trans Latinx

 

 

Continue Reading

Notables

Cecilia Gentili, trans Latina activist, advocate & actress dies at 52

“In the art she created, in the stories shared, in the community uplifted, in the people served, her talent & love will never be forgotten”

Published

on

Cecilia Gentili/Instagram

NEW YORK – A towering presence in New York’s transgender community has died. In a post to her Instagram account on February 6, it was announced that the 52-year-old Argentina-born Cecilia Gentili had passed away.

“Our beloved Cecilia Gentili passed away this morning to continue watching over us in spirit,” the tribute read. “Please be gentle with each other and love one another with ferocity. We will be sharing more updates about services and what is to come in the following days. At this time, we’re asking for privacy, time, and space to grieve.”

An undocumented immigrant and then asylum seeker from Argentina, Gentili came to the United States pursuing a safer life to live authentically as a transgender woman. She lived undocumented for 10 years, hustling doing sex work which came with drug use. After surviving arrests and an immigration detention, she accessed recovery services and won asylum.

Among Gentili’s accomplishments was her work as a co-founder of her namesake COIN Clinic (Cecilia’s Occupational Inclusion Network ) at Callen-Lorde, a New York City-based leader in LGBTQ+ healthcare. She later was the managing director of policy for the world-renowned GMHC (originally the Gay Men’s Health Crisis). 

With her background in the sex industry, she was a founding member of Decrim NY, a coalition working toward decriminalization, decarceration, and destigmatization of people in the sex trade. Gentili’s work focused on reducing coercion and promoting safety.

Decrim’s mission statement notes that decriminalization empowers sex workers to screen clients, negotiate condom use, and work collaboratively without the fear of criminalization, thereby reducing coercion and promoting safety.

She founded Trans Equity Consulting and collaborated with many major organizations on transgender and gender nonbinary rights. In addition to her advocacy and activist work, Gentili was an actress of note starring in the Netflix/FX hit series Pose as Ms. Orlando, the groundbreaking drama about the experiences of trans women of color set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York City.

GLAAD notes that Gentili’s memoir, Faltas, was published in late 2022 by Little Puss Press, Inc, and won an American Library Association’s 2023 Stonewall Book Award for nonfiction. Her one-woman show Red Ink was slated to make a comeback at the Public Theater this April. 

Gentili was also a leading voice among the hundreds of New York Times contributors speaking out against the Times’ biased and inaccurate coverage of transgender people and their essential mainstream health care.

Cecilia Gentili’s death is such a huge loss. She impacted so many, especially those in the trans community in New York City and beyond. This is the power of one person who used her identity and gifts to help more people be seen and heard. In the art she created, in the stories she shared, in the community she uplifted, in the people she served, Cecilia’s talent and love will never be forgotten,” GLAAD

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis reacted to news of Gentili’s death posting to X/Twitter:

“Cecilia Gentili’s death is such a huge loss. She impacted so many, especially those in the trans community in New York City and beyond. This is the power of one person who used her identity and gifts to help more people be seen and heard. In the art she created, in the stories she shared, in the community she uplifted, in the people she served, Cecilia’s talent and love will never be forgotten.”

Chase Strangio, the Deputy Director for Transgender Justice with the ACLU National’s LGBT & HIV Project commented:

“15 years of deep trans love and storytelling. I am forever grateful. We grieved so many losses together. It feels impossible to grieve your loss. I will carry you always. I love you.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul with Cecilia Gentili in this undated photo posted to the governor’s Instagram account.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul posted a picture of the two of them on Instagram and stated: “New York’s LGBTQ+ community has lost a champion in trans icon Cecilia Gentili. As an artist and steadfast activist in the trans rights movement, she helped countless people find love, joy, and acceptance. Our hearts are with her loved ones in this difficult time.”

Callen-Lorde released the following statement from CEO Patrick McGovern: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Cecilia Gentili. Cecilia was a fierce, fearless advocate and a leader, who spoke candidly about her own experiences as a trans woman of color. In doing so, she inspired countless others and truly paved the way for our communities — especially, sex workers and trans women of color — to access high quality and judgment free healthcare. Her legacy will live on through our work at Callen-Lorde and beyond.” 

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman issued a statement describing the work and impact Cecilia Gentili delivered: “I’m devastated to learn of the passing of Cecilia Gentili, a pathbreaking civil rights activist, healthcare advocate, author and actress. I was honored to work with Cecilia on many issues in Albany as we passed legislation enshrining the civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers into law, including the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA), ending the so-called ban on “walking while trans,” eliminating the gay and trans panic defense in our criminal statutes, making New York a safe haven for transgender youth and their parents seeking gender-affirming care, and the creation of the New York State Lorena Borjas TGNB Wellness & Equity Fund. We could not have passed the multitude of bills improving the lives of transgender New Yorkers without her help and guidance. Cecilia was a force of nature who leaves a long trailblazing legacy behind. l will miss her deeply.” 

Details of circumstances surrounding her death were unavailable and announcement of services will be shared at a later date according to the Instagram post.

Continue Reading

Notables

Retail king

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette on coming out, AIDS, retirement — and what’s next

Published

on

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette retires effective Feb. 2 after seven years as one of America’s few openly gay CEOs of a publicly traded company. (Photo by Michael Avedon; courtesy Macy’s)

NEW YORK – Jeff Gennette’s personal and professional journey is a unique one. 

Coming out in 1983 to supportive parents. Finding community as an openly gay man in ‘80s San Francisco, watching scores of friends die but ultimately surviving the AIDS plague. Embracing his sexual orientation professionally and excelling as a result. Cultivating a 33-year relationship, marrying, and having a child when adoption and surrogacy were nearly impossible for gay couples. Spending an entire career with the same company and retiring 40 years later as one of the few openly LGBTQ CEOs of a Fortune 500 company.

And not just any company making widgets, but Macy’s Inc., an iconic brand perhaps best known for bringing all of America — red and blue — together each Thanksgiving morning for 97 years at its spectacular parade kicking off the holiday season.

Now, after 40 years at Macy’s, including seven as CEO, that began with a management training program in 1983, Gennette, 62, is sitting down exclusively with the Washington Blade in a conference room in New York and reflecting on all the progress he’s seen the country make on LGBTQ rights and insisting he wants to stay involved in the fight.

“LGBTQ rights are under attack now and I want to be in that arena — and not as a leader of a public company,” he said when asked about his future plans. “Department store retail is not for the faint of heart and my husband and I have been so fortunate. We know our experience is not everyone’s experience and we’re in a position to be able to do something.”

When pressed, Gennette said he’s not yet sure what that looks like but, “I want to be in the fight,” perhaps in the philanthropic and donor space. He and husband Geoff Welch plan to take a few months to think through what’s next and how they might play a role in the LGBTQ movement. “That’s a clear passion of mine,” he said.

Gennette cites two professional accomplishments of which he’s most proud: leading Macy’s out of the retail-killing pandemic with a stronger balance sheet than before COVID; and helping to create the various DEI programs that foster an inclusive, healthy culture at the sprawling company. 

“I get a lot of energy from that and will take that into my next chapter.”

His last day at Macy’s will be Friday, Feb. 2 and it’s fitting that his final appointment on his final week is to attend the Human Rights Campaign’s Greater New York Dinner on Saturday where he will be honored with the HRC Corporate Visibility Award for his “unwavering dedication to bolstering LGBTQ+ inclusivity in business.” 

“As the LGBTQ+ community navigates a national state of emergency and faces an onslaught of targeted attacks, having the representation, leadership and support of such dedicated LGBTQ+ advocates fortifies our strength in this fight for freedom and equality,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson in a statement announcing Gennette’s award.

Despite the accolade, Gennette seems uncomfortable with the term “activist” and never would have predicted that he would become an important figure for LGBTQ visibility in corporate America.

 “I’m an introvert,” he said, “I never saw myself as a visible role model. My husband was more of an activist than I was; my head was down doing my work at Macy’s.”

Figures like Gennette have become accidental activists, helping to open minds — and board rooms — to future LGBTQ workers and executives who may never fully understand the challenges faced by previous generations. Chief among those challenges, perhaps, was AIDS. Gennette talks solemnly about those years in ‘80s San Francisco.

“When you lived in the Castro through the ‘80s, it was difficult; you had a community that was just being decimated by the scourge of AIDS and losing friends,” he recalls. “My husband lost his first two lovers to AIDS. Many people I worked with at Macy’s were lost to AIDS, you just couldn’t get away from it. It was a difficult time for all of us.”

Gennette added that living through the worst of AIDS in one of the hardest-hit cities ultimately proved cathartic because of the activism that resulted. 

“AIDS shaped my perspective on how a community can come together and influence local, state, and national lawmakers,” he said. “It ushered in a lot of political activity.” 

That activity triggered a wave of progress, from affirming state legislation, to out political leaders and celebrities, and ultimately to our first federal legal protections and eventually marriage equality. But the last two years have demonstrated the fragility of all that progress as state legislators across the country have introduced hundreds of bills aimed at rolling back our progress. Our right-wing enemies have tried everything from banning drag shows and LGBTQ-themed books to barring affirming healthcare for trans youth. There’s even a draconian “Don’t Say Gay” law now on the books in Florida that’s reminiscent of Vladimir Putin’s ban on “promoting homosexuality.” Not content with attacking only the LGBTQ community, Florida in January banned all DEI activities at state-funded colleges and universities. Welcome to 2024 America.

How does Gennette view these attacks and setbacks, especially given his own legacy of expanding DEI programs at Macy’s?

“Forward momentum always has consequences and the pendulum always swings back,” he warns. Gennette cites the overturning of Roe v. Wade as an alarming development in efforts to roll back settled law. “This idea about equality I don’t think we’re ever done with it,” he said. “What’s happening with the trans community is a testament to that. We need to stay organized and young people have to be vigilant about that.” 

His advice to young people embarking on their careers and applying for their first corporate jobs is to be out and authentic. “You’re never going to show up in your full potential if you don’t. … It’s going to take courage.”

Gennette found the courage to come out in the early 1980s when such pronouncements could mean the end of your career and estrangement from family. He was 19 years old and a sophomore in college with conservative but supportive parents. “I had a lot of anxiety about it, I said, ‘I‘m gay,’ — and my mom said, ‘You don’t mean happy.’” His parents were accepting but lamented the presumed loss of grandchildren. Years later, Gennette’s mother would assist in locating a surrogacy program that was open to gay couples, leading to the birth of daughter Judith in 2000. 

His mother passed away last October and he describes her as his hero and “most seminal figure in my life — she was a kick-ass pioneer” who carried the PFLAG banner along with Gennette’s father in the San Francisco Pride parade.

Meanwhile, back at Macy’s, Gennette came out to colleagues in his training program. One assistant buyer warned him that “people are talking” and that identifying as openly gay could be a “career killer.” But Gennette ignored the warnings and came out to his boss. 

“It was a big relief to acknowledge that to my boss,” he said. “It was like a weight lifted off my proverbial shoulders. I didn’t see senior executives that were gay, but I did see myself in the culture [of Macy’s] … It was a company that did right by disadvantaged communities even then in 1984.”

Gennette’s experience wasn’t the norm for corporate workers in the 1980s (or even today) and he acknowledges that the retail sector was more accepting. And Macy’s, in particular, proved a progressive home and played a key role in shaping the kind of executive he would later become.

“I don’t know that I would be a CEO today if not for that formative experience,” he said. “You’re on the pulse of pop culture and fashion and being gay was a part of my identity, but it wasn’t my full identity and I give Macy’s a lot of credit. I don’t know that I would be where I am if I’d been at a different company.”

Indeed different companies are responding to the recent attacks on the LGBTQ community in different ways. Bud Light faced a boycott last year after a promotional stunt with transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney caught the intolerant eye of Kid Rock. Sales plummeted and parent company AB InBev’s stock fell 20 percent. The company responded by distancing itself from Mulvaney, which led to a boycott call from the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, retailer Target faced a boycott over its wide selection of Pride month merchandise. The company responded by moving Pride merchandise from displays at the front of stores to less prominent locations in the back, which triggered criticism from LGBTQ advocates. 

Gennette said the Target incident had no impact on Macy’s, which offered its own Pride merchandise despite the boycott risk.

“It’s when you flip and succumb to pressure that you get yourself sideways,” he said, noting that, “It always comes back to your core values. We had Pride merchandise at the front of our stores and we were participants in Pride parades around the country.”

Further, Macy’s executives are always paying attention to what’s happening politically and culturally in case they need to respond. When the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked, Macy’s decided it would support any employees who had to travel out of state for abortion care. Other recent events have prompted internal discussion and response.

“George Floyd put us on notice about being vocal about our internal programs and how you use your CEO voice to be true to what you’re doing internally,” Gennette said. “With respect to Macy’s, our core values of inclusion and giving back, we’re always looking for a more inclusive future for all. We do a good job of taking the pulse of where things are — conservative and liberal voices — and anticipate what could be coming that we need to react to.”

That commitment manifests in several marquee DEI programs at Macy’s, including S.P.U.R. Pathways: Shared Purpose, Unlimited Reach, which the company describes as a “multiyear funding program to advance entrepreneurial growth, close wealth gaps, and shatter systemic barriers faced by diverse-owned and underrepresented businesses.” The program, created in partnership with Momentus Capital, has invested $30 million in underrepresented businesses and entrepreneurs, Gennette said. “We’re not taking our foot off the gas.”

The proactively progressive approach of Macy’s begs the question: Do we need more CEOs from underrepresented communities? And why aren’t there more openly LGBTQ CEOs of Fortune 500 companies?

Gennette is confident that the future will bring much more diversity to America’s board rooms and C-suites.

“We’re at the beginning of our journey still,” he said. “There will be more [out CEOs] in the coming years. I have a lot of interest in increasing LGBTQ presence in board rooms. There’s so much talent out there ready to become the next CEOs, it’s something I think about — how can I contribute in retirement to help on this question?” 

Before he jumps into a role in LGBTQ advocacy, Gennette plans to take some time off with husband Geoff. The two met at Gennette’s 30th birthday party in California.

“He showed up at the party and maybe it was the blue Speedo or the sonorous voice but we started dating from that point.” 

The two committed to each other in a 1995 ceremony, long before the advent of marriage equality. They’ve been together ever since, living in five states and nine cities. 

At the end of our conversation, Gennette agreed to a game of rapid fire.

• On the future of American malls, Gennette predicts there will be fewer of them but that they will be vibrant and offer a different mix of hospitality, eateries, and retail. “They will stand the test of time.”

• On Macy’s collaborator Martha Stewart, Gennette describes her as “a huge talent … authentically a purveyor and tastemaker on so many subjects. It comes across in all her work and programming. She’s an inspiration … Macy’s had a rocky relationship with her over the years but she has been an icon.”

• On Cher, who performed at last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Gennette said “she’s awesome, lovely, friendly, open to her fans and is authentically herself. She was aces.”

• On what keeps him up at night, Gennette cited his 24-year-old daughter’s wellbeing. “She was interning in a company and got a job offer so I’m resting easier now. She’s ready to strike out on her own, she’s on her way.” 

• And on his successor as Macy’s CEO, Tony Spring, Gennette calls him “a fantastic leader; he’s ready and has the right intelligence, experience, judgment, and temperament to take Macy’s to the next series of growth. He has the chance to do what he did for Bloomingdale’s to Macy’s.” He noted that Spring has spent 10 month transitioning into the new role and that he has “the team and strategy and support of the board.”  

The Macy’s board recently rejected a $5.8 billion takeover bid after laying off more than 2,300 employees and closing five stores. Shares of Macy’s closed last week up 4 percent after a report that private equity firm Sycamore Partners is interested in taking Macy’s private. Gennette declined to comment on those recent developments but he remains bullish on the future for Macy’s.

“Macy’s serves a big tent — red states, blue states — everyone in America has been touched by someone who’s gay and that activism is changing hearts and minds,” he said. “We serve a diverse nation and standing for that is good for profitable business.”

Continue Reading

Notables

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor dies at 93

O’Connor was a trailblazer as the first woman nominated and then confirmed to have a seat on the High Court

Published

on

Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Sandra Day O’Connor. ( Screenshot of C-SPAN 2009 Interview with O’Connor)

“Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.” ~ Sandra Day O’Connor

PHOENIX, Az. – Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sandra Day O’Connor died this morning in Phoenix, Arizona, of complications related to advanced dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, and a respiratory illness. She was 93 years old.

Justice O’Connor was appointed to the Court by President Ronald Reagan during his first term in office in 1981 and retired in 2006, after serving more than 24 years on the nation’s highest court. 

A widely respected jurist, O’Connor was also a trailblazer as the first woman nominated and then confirmed by the Senate to have a seat on the Court. Her judicial record showed progressive support on issues ranging from LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, affirmative action and campaign finance.

In a statement released by the Court Friday morning, Chief Justice John Roberts said: “A daughter of the American Southwest, Sandra Day O’Connor blazed an historic trail as our Nation’s first female Justice. She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability, and engaging candor. We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education. And we celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot.”

A lifelong Republican, O’Connor’s early judicial record mirrored conservative values on most cultural legal issues. In 1986, O’Connor joined with Justice Byron White’s five-member majority in Bowers v. Hardwick, in a case out of Georgia regarding the state’s statute that criminalized sodomy.

According to court documents, Michael Hardwick was observed by a Georgia police officer while engaging in the act of consensual homosexual sodomy with another adult in the bedroom of his home. After being charged with violating a Georgia statute that criminalized sodomy, Hardwick challenged the statute’s constitutionality in Federal District Court. Following a ruling that Hardwick failed to state a claim, the court dismissed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Georgia’s statute was unconstitutional. Georgia’s Attorney General, Michael J. Bowers, appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted certiorari.

The majority, including Chief Justice Warren Burger, Justices Lewis Powell, William Rehnquist, O’Connor with White writing the opinion, ruled that there was no particular constitutional protection against states prohibiting specific sex acts between consenting adults.

White argued that the Court has acted to protect rights not easily identifiable in the Constitution only when those rights are “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” (Palko v. Connecticut, 1937) or when they are “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition” (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). The Court held that the right to commit sodomy did not meet either of these standards. White feared that guaranteeing a right to sodomy would be the product of “judge-made constitutional law” and send the Court down the road of illegitimacy.

Seventeen years later however, O’Connor reversed her position in a later case, in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), voting with Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy who wrote for the majority overturning a Texas “Homosexual Conduct” law, which criminalized sexual intimacy by same-sex couples, reversing the Court’s ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick.

According to court documents, responding to a reported weapons disturbance in a private residence, Houston police entered John Lawrence’s apartment and saw him and another adult man, Tyron Garner, engaging in a private, consensual sexual act. Lawrence and Garner were arrested and convicted of deviate sexual intercourse in violation of a Texas statute forbidding two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct. In affirming, the State Court of Appeals held that the statute was not unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, with Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), controlling.

Justice Kennedy wrote in the 6-3 opinion, after explaining what the Court deemed the doubtful and overstated premises of Bowers, the Court reasoned that the case turned on whether Lawrence and Garner were free as adults to engage in the private conduct in the exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause.

“Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government,” wrote Justice Kennedy. “The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual,” continued Justice Kennedy. Accordingly, the Court overruled Bowers.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, with whom Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist joined, filed dissents.

Interestingly enough though, Justice O’Connor weighed in on LGBTQ+ rights in a case prior to Lawrence v. Texas, seven years earlier when she joined with Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer and Justice Kennedy, again writing for the majority, in Romer v. Evans.

Colorado voters had adopted Amendment 2 to their State Constitution precluding any judicial, legislative, or executive action designed to protect persons from discrimination based on their “homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships.”

Following a legal challenge by members of the state’s LGBTQ community and other aggrieved parties, the state trial court entered a permanent injunction enjoining Amendment 2’s enforcement. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed on appeal.

The high court was weighing in on the question of did Amendment 2 of Colorado’s State Constitution, forbidding the extension of official protections to those who suffer discrimination due to their sexual orientation, violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause?

In the ruling, the Court said Yes. In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court held that Amendment 2 of the Colorado State Constitution violated the equal protection clause. Amendment 2 singled out homosexual and bisexual persons, imposing on them a broad disability by denying them the right to seek and receive specific legal protection from discrimination.

In his opinion for the Court, Justice Kennedy noted that oftentimes a law will be sustained under the equal protection clause, even if it seems to disadvantage a specific group, so long as it can be shown to “advance a legitimate government interest.” Amendment 2, by depriving persons of equal protection under the law due to their sexual orientation failed to advance such a legitimate interest.

He concluded: “If the constitutional conception of ‘equal protection of the laws’ means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest.”

In 2006, she retired from the bench. In its 2019 eleven part profile of O’Connor, the Arizona Republic highlighted her record writing:

Sandra Day O’Connor disliked the term “swing vote” because “it suggests something that’s not thoughtful,” according to Ruth McGregor, a former Arizona Supreme Court chief justice and a longtime friend to O’Connor.

And because O’Connor saw herself as an old-school conservative, the opinions she wrote on controversial matters — such as abortion and gay rights — didn’t come out of liberal leanings, but rather out of a firm belief in the rights of individuals to decide crucial issues in their own lives, free of government interference,” the Republic noted.

On other issues such as women’s reproductive rights, in the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade, which arose during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1981, because as the Republic noted, O’Connor was a woman who had presided over the Arizona Senate when it decriminalized abortion in that state, she was suspect, even though she declared her personal abhorrence for abortion.

However during the course of that confirmation hearing, she maintained that she had respect for opinions handed down by the Supreme Court, and she believed there needed to be good reason to overturn them.

In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, then Justice O’Connor joined with fellow Justices Blackmun, Stevens, Kennedy and Souter, in upholding Roe v. Wade.

In a bitter 5-to-4 decision, the Court again reaffirmed Roe, but it upheld most of the Pennsylvania provisions. For the first time, the justices imposed a new standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The new standard asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden,” which is defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” Under this standard, the only provision to fail the undue-burden test was the husband notification requirement.

In a rare step, the opinion for the Court was crafted and authored by three justices: O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter.

Retired Justice O’Connor received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on August 12, 2009 in a White House ceremony. The nation’s highest civilian honor, the award is given to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Washington D.C. based lawyer, journalist, and LGBTQ+ rights activist Mark Joseph Stern writing in a Slate magazine article dated Oct. 30, 2013, about O’Connor’s stance on same-sex marriages noted:

“On Tuesday, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor officiated a same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court, the first gay wedding to take place in the court’s halls. (It wasn’t the first officiated by a justice, though; Ruth Bader Ginsburg beat O’Connor to that honor.) The event serves as a heartwarming confirmation that O’Connor’s shift to the left has continued through retirement—but it’s also a poignant reminder that the justice’s early retirement cut short what might have been an evolution from Reagan conservative to gay-rights luminary.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement on the passing of O’Connor Friday:

“Jennifer and I are saddened by the passing of Justice O’Connor, an American icon who left a profound mark on history as the first woman to serve on our nation’s highest court.

“Surmounting countless barriers, Justice O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School near the top of her class, rose to prominence in the Arizona statehouse as the first woman in the nation to serve as a majority leader, and served on the bench in Arizona before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Reagan – with widespread support on both sides of the aisle.

“A strong voice for judicial independence and the rule of law, Justice O’Connor was known for her discerning and fair-minded approach and served a pivotal role at the center of the Court, including key votes reaffirming the right to abortion and upholding affirmative action in higher education.

“With deep Arizona roots, Justice O’Connor was also an important voice on the Court for the entire American West, championing states’ freedom to craft solutions that meet local needs across our diverse country.
      
“Justice O’Connor opened doors for generations of women in politics and public service, and her enduring legacy is an inspiration to all of us. Our thoughts are with her family, colleagues and friends during this time of loss.”

O’Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930. She married John Jay O’Connor III in 1952. She received her B.A. and LL.B. from Stanford University. She served as Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California, from 1952 to 1953 and as a civilian attorney for Quartermaster Market Center, Frankfurt, Germany, from 1954 to 1957.

From 1958 to 1960, she practiced law in Maryvale, Arizona, before serving as Assistant Attorney General of Arizona from 1965 to 1969. She was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969 and was subsequently reelected to two two-year terms, during which she was selected as Majority Leader. In 1975 she was elected Judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court and served until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

O’Connor authored five books: Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest (2002); The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (2002); Chico (2005); Finding Susie (2009); and Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court (2013).

Following her tenure on the Supreme Court, she founded and led iCivics, the Nation’s leading civics education platform.

She is survived by her three sons, Scott (Joanie) O’Connor, Brian (Shawn) O’Connor, and Jay (Heather) O’Connor, six grandchildren: Courtney, Adam, Keely, Weston, Dylan and Luke, and her beloved brother and co-author, Alan Day, Sr. Her husband, John O’Connor, preceded her in death in 2009.

Additional research and legal records material provided by Oyez, the free law project from Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (LII), Justia, and Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Continue Reading

Notables

Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson, LGBTQ ally & pastor dies at 70

In 2004, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress declared Pearson’s teaching about hell to be heretical

Published

on

Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson/Facebook

TULSA, Okla. – Bishop Carlton D’Metrius Pearson, an influential voice in the international Christian world and a supportive LGBTQ affirming ally died Sunday night Nov. 19, in hospice care due to cancer in Tulsa at age 70.

Pearson began his career in ministry after moving to Tulsa in 1971, to become a student at Oral Roberts University, Carlton was invited by Oral Roberts himself to join the World Action Singers on his nationally-aired TV specials, eventually becoming an associate evangelist with the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association in 1975. In 1977, Pearson launched his own ministry, Higher Dimensions, Inc., traveling across the United States with a small ministry team.

In 1981, with the help of his college roommate, Gary L. McIntosh, who is now President of the Church Growth Network and Professor of Christian Ministry and Leadership at Talbot School of Theology, Pearson started Higher Dimensions Evangelistic Center, with 75 people attending its first service in Jenks, Oklahoma.

Quickly outgrowing the small, storefront location in Jenks, the Center eventually settled at 8621 South Memorial Drive in Tulsa, becoming an integrated, multi-ethnic, cross-cultural congregation of more than 5,000 members.

A national television program launched in the mid-1980s, “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right,” expanded Pearson’s outreach to a national and international audience, becoming at that time one of only two African American preachers with a nationwide television ministry. Frequent appearances on the powerful Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network elevated his stature globally.

He gave counsel to multiple U. S. Presidents, as well as a number of international presidents, kings and other leaders, who were won over by his intelligence, charm, humor and kindness.

At the height of his popularity, Pearson had a shift in his theological beliefs, and began to preach that Jesus did not just die for and save Christians, but for all mankind, and that no one goes to hell as we’ve known it.

This became known as “The Gospel of Inclusion,” a form of Christian theology known as universalism. This shift in belief caused churches, upon whose stages he once frequented, to close their doors to him, shut down his annual conference and caused his church to dwindle from thousands to only dozens.

In 2004, the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops Congress declared Pearson’s teaching about hell to be heretical. The finding came a year after Pearson defended his views at a doctrinal forum, the Associated Press reported.

“Because of our concern for the many people that could be influenced to adopt this heresy and in so doing put at risk the eternal destiny of their souls, we are compelled to declare Bishop Carlton Pearson a heretic,” wrote Bishop Clifford Leon Frazier, chairman of the joint college’s doctrinal commission, according to Religion News Service.

His theological shift was dramatized in a major motion picture, Netflix’s “Come Sunday,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Lethal Weapon), LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah, Atlanta) and Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, The West Wing).

In 2007, Pearson helped lead hundreds of clergy members from across the nation in urging Congress to pass the Equality Act to even the playing field ending job discrimination measures against LGBTQ people and also a landmark federal hate crimes bill.

Openly queer Rev. Brandan Robertson, who serves as the Pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church in Queens, New York and is also known as the “TikTok Pastor” noted:

Rev. Brandan Robertson with Rev. Carlton Pearson/Instagram

“I first met Carlton Pearson when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and was beginning to wrestle with the idea that a loving God could damn a majority of humanity to hell.

Bishop Pearson was kicked out of his denomination for declaring that God’s love would win in the end, and he sat with me in a Whole Foods in downtown Chicago, listened to my struggles, and showed me that there was a better and truer way to be Christian.

Over the last decade, I was honored to call Carlton a friend as I’ve made my journey towards a more inclusive Christianity, and his encouragement and witness was a continued source of inspiration.”

Bishop Gene Robinson, a prominent openly gay theologian from the Episcopal Church said in a statement:

“The struggle for LGBTQ rights and acceptance has many heroes and saints who have pushed the Church to love and welcome all of God’s beloved children. When our history is written, surely Bishop Pearson will be remembered and celebrated for his courageous and prophetic voice for inclusion, and I give thanks for his life and ministry.”

A family statement released by his agent Will Bogle read:

“Pearson’s message and example of unconditional love, though it gained him the moniker of “heretic” by some in the Christian church, had a whole new world opened to him as a result. Non-Christians, as well as Christians who had left the church as a result of church hurts, abuse, hypocrisy, etc., loved the new message of love, healing and restoration. He leaves a legacy of love through the multiplied thousands of lives he touched during his time on earth and the impartation of grace and mercy he preached and exhibited to everyone he encountered.”

He is survived by his mother, Lillie Ruth Pearson, his son Prince Julian Pearson and his daughter Majesté Pearson.

Continue Reading

Popular