Mike McMahon worked for some 30 years as a music director for parishes in the conservative Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington. For those 30 years, no one seemed to care that he was gay, as long as he was “discreet.”
As reported by the Washington Post, the 62-year-old was fired last summer from St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale — not because he’s gay, but because the pastor there found out he had gotten married to a man.
News of the firing has some in the community crying foul.
“It saddens me that certain religious denominations are unable to express and embrace love fully,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com. “Their position is anachronistic and uninformed at best, and very hurtful and damaging to many people at worst.”
By all accounts McMahon was good at his job and didn’t let his marriage interfere with his work responsibilities. Is it proper, though, for a church to fire those whose personal lives go against church teachings?
County Board Approves Projects — The Arlington County Board approved a number of projects at its Saturday meeting. Among the projects approved: Arlington’s portion of the $10.3 million Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, a new half-million-dollar tot playground at Chestnut Hills Park, and six Neighborhood Conservation Projects in Waverly Hills, Arlington Ridge and elsewhere.
Two Rescued from I-66 Storm Sewer — Two people were rescued Saturday afternoon from a storm sewer on I-66. The confined space rescue tied up traffic on westbound I-66 near Sycamore Street. The individuals were not injured. [Twitter]
Blind ‘Dad’ Mentors Blind Triplets — Born blind and raised by a single mother, the Argel triplets are now 14-years-old and have a new outlook on life thanks to a man who has become like a father to them — so much so that he’s now in the process of formally adopting them. Ollie Cantos, a blind man who lived in the boys’ Arlington neighborhood, has changed the brothers’ lives for the better by helping with their homework, teaching them how to use their canes more effectively and providing moral support during tough times. [NPR]
Advocates Decry Arlington Mill, Langston Changes — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy will unveil his proposed FY 2015 budget this week, but before he does supporters of Arlington Mill High School and the Langston High School Continuation Program are speaking out against possible changes. The advocates are concerned that Murphy may merge the two programs or may do away with APS’ policy of providing education to immigrants after the age of 22. [Sun Gazette]
Del. Sickles: ‘I Am a Proud, Gay Man’ — Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), one of the 11 Democrats vying to replace Rep. Jim Moran (D) in congress, has revealed that he is gay. That makes Sickles the second openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly. The first was state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who is also running for Moran’s seat. [Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Board to Consider $6.6 Million Homeless Shelter Contract — County staff is recommending that the Arlington County Board approve a $6.6 million contract for construction of the new year-round homeless shelter in Courthouse. The contract includes a $1.1 million construction contingency to cover overages. The contract is “within budget,” a county spokeswoman said. The new Homeless Services Center will include 50 year-round beds, 5 medical respite beds and an additional 25 beds for winter months. [Arlington County]
Hike in ART, STAR Fees Proposed — Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan has proposed a hike in fees for the county’s ART and STAR transportation systems. The base fare for ART buses would increase from $1.50 to $1.75 under Donnellan’s proposal. [Sun Gazette]
Ebbin Reflects on Va. Marriage Ruling — State Sen. Adam Ebbin, the first and only openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, had mixed emotions after last week’s ruling that the Commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. “I always thought if you were gay, you could never get married, you’d never be able to have children,” he told the Washington Post. “I didn’t know you could be gay and be happy.” [Washington Post]
Belly Dancing in Shirlington — Aladdin’s Eatery (4044 Campbell Avenue) in Shirlington will be hosting regular belly dancing shows, starting on Thursday. The shows will be performed by faculty from Saffron Dance, which is based in Virginia Square. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Noise Complaint Targets Church – Even God is not safe from noise complaints in Arlington. Police were called to the 2400 block of Shirlington Road in Nauck on Monday night for “a loud church service in the area.” No word on whether officers found an actual violation of the county’s noise ordinance.
Flickr pool photo by Robpc
Va. Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional — A federal judge has overturned Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban, in what the New York Times describes as “the strongest legal reversal yet of restrictive marriage amendments that exist throughout the South.” The judge stayed the ruling, pending an appeal, meaning that gay couples will still not be able to get married in Virginia for the time being. [New York Times, Blue Virginia]
Blue Goose Redevelopment a Year or More Away — A groundbreaking on the redevelopment of Marymount’s “Blue Goose” building in Ballston is not likely to take place until next winter at the earliest. [Sun Gazette]
Behind Arlington’s Snow Decisions — There’s a reason why Arlington County typically makes a decision on whether to open, open on a delay or close for the day at 5:00 a.m., well after some other jurisdictions. Arlington and Alexandria both usually wait until after a 3:00 a.m. Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments conference call, in which various governments and agencies discuss street conditions and their go or no-go decisions. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Such talk suggests that he’s taking a futile stand to make a point. Instead, Ebbin insists that he’s in it to win it.
Ebbin has introduced legislation for the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session to try to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment, Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 1, is a long-shot by any measure: it would require passage in 2014 and 2016 in order to repeal the gay marriage ban.
Ebbin’s bill will be the first time the Senate will hear a same-sex marriage proposal — the only challenge to the Marshall-Newman Amendment previously came in the House of Delegates and never made it out of committee, Ebbin said.
“I’ve waited to introduce this bill until we’ve come to the point where I think it is a bill that Virginians are ready to pass,” he told ARLnow.com. “I have had discussions with Republicans and Democrats, including with people who supported the Marshall-Newman Amendment. There are supportive Republicans in the General Assembly.”
Ebbin will put the bill before the Senate Privileges and Elections committee, which he said will allow him and his allies to identify who the bill’s supporters are, even if it fails this year. Ebbin, however, has no plans to see the bill fail. Despite the amendment passing by a significant margin in 2006, he believes the time is right to take decisive action.
“We’re working to win,” he said. “If we don’t win one year, we’re working towards winning. It’s not tilting at windmills, it’s making things happen, whether quickly or over a multi-year effort.”
Public opinion around the country has shifted drastically in recent years over same-sex marriage. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized gay marriage, including seven in 2013, and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June.
Ebbin is encouraged by several Republicans both in and out of the General Assembly whose opinions “have evolved” in recent years on the subject. At least as of last week, he was confident that he has secured at least one GOP vote. When asked the reasons they’ve given him for the changes in their opinions, he said, “It’s not really complicated. People say it’s the right thing to do, or they know it’s the right thing to do.”
“It wouldn’t have been seen as a winnable fight five years ago,” he said. “The Supreme Court has spoken and people across the country, and including Virginia, are supportive of marriage equality.”
First Night of Hanukkah — Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights. [Chabad]
Ebbin Introduces Repeal of Va. Gay Marriage Ban — State Sen. Adam Ebbin has introduced legislation that would repeal Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In order to repeal the amendment, which was approved by voters in 2006, Ebbin’s legislation would need to pass the General Assembly in 2014 and 2016, and be approved in a statewide referendum. [Sun Gazette]
No Tenants for New Rosslyn Skyscraper — So far, no tenants have signed on to lease office space in 1812 North Moore, the new skyscraper in Rosslyn that holds the title of the region’s tallest building (with the exception of the Washington Monument). The lack of tenants is being blamed on weakness in the local office market. The office vacancy rate inside the Beltway has risen from 10 percent in 2010 to 17.5 percent this quarter. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, released a statement on Ted Olson and David Boies’ decision to join the legal team contesting the Marshall-Newman amendment, which defines marriage in Virginia as between a man and a woman.
“Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies are among America’s finest legal minds and I am delighted that they are putting their talents to use in seeking to strike down of the Commonwealth’s draconian Marshall-Newman amendment,” Ebbin said in a statement “It is not a question of whether marriage equality will come to Virginia; it is a question of when.”
The American Foundation for Equal Rights announced today that Olson and Bostic had joined the legal challenge. The organization hopes the suit reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down California’s Proposition 8, but left the power of defining marriage to the states.
Ebbin has previously spoken out condemning state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, for his anti-gay stances.
Ebbin, the first openly-gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, responded to remarks Cuccinelli made at a debate over the weekend. Cuccinelli defended his previously-stated “sincerely held beliefs” about homosexuality — that, in the paraphrased words of moderator Judy Woodruff, “same-sex acts are against nature and harmful to society.”
“My personal beliefs about the personal challenge of homosexuality haven’t changed,” he said. “The notion that because I believe marriage ought to be protected, because I believe life begins at conception — just like hundreds of thousands of independents and Democrats — this isn’t just me, it isn’t just Republicans.”
In response, Ebbin issued the following statement today.
Ken Cuccinelli’s unapologetic and bizarre views on gay people perpetuate the worst stereotypes and make Virginia look like a hostile backwater. Labeling gay people “harmful to society” and calling homosexuality a “personal challenge” puts him out of the mainstream of Virginia thinking. It’s one thing to be prejudiced in your private life, but it’s another to use a position of public trust to promote intolerance and bigotry. As a gay person, I know how this type of rhetoric can hurt people, and I don’t think that Ken Cuccinelli understands that at all.
This debate in Virginia is especially timely since our neighbors in Maryland and DC now have marriage equality. Terry McAuliffe understands perfectly, as I do, that this places us at a competitive and economic disadvantage. That’s what this governor’s race is all about.
Cuccinelli has also been trying to overturn a federal court ruling that found Virginia’s anti-sodomy law, which outlawed oral and anal sex, unconstitutional. He says the law wasn’t intended to prosecute consenting adults, but instead served as a tool prosecutors could use in cases involving child sex predators.
Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Libertarian Robert Sarvis in the race for governor. The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5.
New Laws, Sales Tax Hike Takes Effect in Va. — Today, July 1, a number of new laws take effect in Virginia. Among them: a new law cracking down on texting and driving, the decriminalization of unmarried cohabitation, and an increase in the sales tax in Northern Virginia from 5 to 6 percent. [WTOP]
NSF Buildings to Be Sold, Redeveloped — Changes may be on the way for the two office buildings in Ballston being vacated by the National Science Foundation in 2017. One of the building is being offered for sale, while the other is being considered for a conversion to apartments or a hotel, according to the Washington Business Journal.
Challenge to Va. Gay Marriage Law Considered — The law barring same-sex marriage in Virginia may face legal challenges in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, according to several local elected officials. [Sun Gazette]
Wayne Street Apartments to be Renovated — The Wayne Street Apartments on 2nd Street S. in Penrose have been acquired by developer Penzance. The company plans to renovate the aging complex, raise rents and incorporate the complex into the Myerton community apartment across the street. [Globe St.]
Flickr pool photo by Eschweik
Freddie’s Beach Bar, at 555 23rd Street in Crystal City, is planning a “big celebration” tonight (Wednesday) to mark the Supreme Court’s repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
This afternoon a rainbow-colored sign with the words “One Step Closer” was put up outside the bar, above the door. Owner Freddie Lutz says he’s expecting a large, jubilant crowd to take those words as a rallying cry at the bar tonight.
“We’re getting calls left and right,” he said. “We’re going to get mobbed.”
The bar will hold a special happy hour from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., followed by the regularly-scheduled drag bingo night. Exact details of the celebration weren’t worked out at the time of our interview.
On a personal note Lutz, a long-time Arlington resident, said he’s pleased with the ruling but unsure when gay marriage will be allowed in the Commonwealth.
“I’m thrilled about everything,” he said. “Today was certainly a big step in the right direction. But I was thinking this morning about how unfair it was. I’m a Virginia resident, I pay taxes, I have a business in Virginia that brings money into Virginia, yet I can’t marry my partner in the state of Virginia.”
“I would like to see Virginia turn around and allow gay marriage,” he continued. “I want to get married in Virginia. I would like to see that happen before I die.”
(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) This morning, in a historic ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.
The high court also ruled on California’s Proposition 8. The ruling will have the end effect of allowing gay marriages in the state of California, barring further legal challenges.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, issued the following statement about the ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today puts the court on the right side of history. DOMA is unjust, un-American, and out of step with the values of our country. Beginning today, same-sex couples in the 12 freedom to marry states will be eligible for the federal protections and responsibilities afforded all other married couples.
Our nation has a long history of fighting to overcome discrimination to secure civil rights for all citizens. I hope this decision gives momentum to efforts across the country to enshrine marriage equality into our laws. Discrimination has no place in our country.
Republicans have wasted more than $3 million on this lawsuit over the past three years. That’s unconscionable while budgets are being slashed by sequestration and many federal workers face furloughs.
The Declaration of Independence affirms that “all men are created equal” and that every American has a right to “the pursuit of happiness.” These principles cannot be fulfilled without the ability to marry the person you love.
Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, the first openly gay elected official in Virginia, talked to ARLnow.com shortly after the rulings. An excerpt:
It’s a terrific day for the country and for fairness. It’s another important step forward for the inevitability of marriage equality.
You feel a sense of pride at the progress and the ability of people in this country to learn and grow and address the irrational fears that existed 30 years ago. It’s so wonderful that a country and a democracy can make [this progress] despite the challenges.
This does not provide what I would call marriage equality across the board for all Americans. One thing has not changed: Bob [Rosen, Jay's partner] and I cannot get married in Virginia. In Virginia, we have… a conservative General Assembly that has no interest in providing marriage equality. We’re still in the baby steps phase.
Fisette said that while he and Rosen have in the past rejected the “symbolism” of getting married in another jurisdiction, like D.C. (which allows same-sex marriage), the DOMA decision may prompt them to reconsider.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) was one of two Virginia congressmen to participate in a recent photoshoot for the NOH8 Campaign.
The gay rights campaign is described as a “photographic silent protest.” It was organized by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley in response to the 2008 passage of Proposition 8, which invalidated the recognition of same-sex marriage in California.
Moran was one of 67 members of Congress to participate in a photoshoot for the campaign, and one of only two in Virginia. (Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Fairfax County Democrat, was the second.)
In his photo, Moran, a former amateur boxer, makes a fist while wearing duct tape over his mouth. Moran said in a statement that he is proud to oppose “hateful laws” like Proposition 8.
I am proud to participate in the NOH8 project. Proposition 8 and other hateful laws like the far-reaching constitutional amendment that passed in Virginia in 2006 fly in the face of our nation’s commitment to equal treatment under the law. Discrimination has no place in the laws that govern our nation.
This week, gay marriage has come to the forefront of American politics as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments regarding California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In light of the proceedings, Rep. Jim Moran (D) is reiterating his stance as an advocate of LGBT rights, including gay marriage and full marriage benefits.
DOMA overwhelmingly passed in Congress in 1996, but Moran notes he was one of the few who voted against the law. He released the following statement on Wednesday, following oral arguments in the case of United States v. Windsor, which challenges the constitutionality of DOMA:
“DOMA is unjust and un-American, contradicting long-standing legal principles and blatantly discriminating against specific legal marriages just because they involve gay and lesbian couples. DOMA flies in the face of our nation’s commitment to civil rights. I am proud to have been one of the 67 representatives who voted against this law’s passage in 1996.
“It’s also disturbing that House Republicans have wasted over $3 million defending DOMA in court over the past three years. I find it unconscionable that while budgets are being slashed by sequestration and many federal workers face furloughs, Republicans in the House voted to pay private lawyers $525 per hour to defend this discriminatory law.
“I strongly support the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry and have full access to the benefits and obligations of marriage. While churches should continue to be able to sanction marriages consistent with their faith, discrimination has no place in the laws that govern our country.
“In addition to being the truly ‘pro-family’ position, marriage equality is an issue that tests our nation’s fidelity to our fundamental values. The Declaration of Independence affirms that ‘all men are created equal’ and that every American has a right to ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ Surely these principles cannot be fulfilled without the ability to marry the person you love.”
A staged reading of “The River and the Mountain” will take place at Artisphere’s Dome Theatre this Saturday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. The dramatic comedy revolves around the life of a gay factory manager in Uganda who encounters violent reactions from family members and colleagues when he comes out at a party. The free event includes a talk back with playwright Beau Hopkins and U.S. producer/director Sarah Imes Borden.
The play made news in August 2012 when it became the first Ugandan play to have an openly gay character. Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, as well as 36 other African nations, and punished with lengthy jail terms.
The producer of the play, David Cecil, was arrested last September for offending the Ministry of Ethics in Uganda. The charges were dropped in October due to lack of evidence that the play promoted homosexuality. Last month, however, Cecil was detained again and deported from Uganda. The next day, Uganda’s Parliament began debating a new draft of a national anti-homosexuality bill, often known around the world as the “Kill the Gays Bill.”
The original form of the bill sought the death penalty as punishment for those who are gay. Although Uganda’s Parliament has said that there’s a recommendation to drop the death penalty and instead require life imprisonment for gay individuals, the revised bill with the reported changes has not yet been made available to the public.
One of the original actors in the play when it was first staged in Uganda, Okuyo Joel Atiku Prince, was supposed to join in this weekend’s event at Artisphere, but his travel to the U.S. has been denied by the Ugandan government, according to Artisphere spokeswoman Annalisa Meyer.
Same-Sex Couples Denied Marriage Licenses — In what has become a Valentine’s Day tradition in Arlington, three same-sex couples applied for and were denied marriage licenses at the Arlington County courthouse yesterday. Arlington Circuit Court Clerk Paul Ferguson reluctantly turned down the applications and spoke outside the courthouse in support of same-sex marriage. A similar demonstration, organized by another gay rights group, took place outside the courthouse last month. [Sun Gazette]
‘Dooring’ Bill Fails in Va. House — Legislation that would outlaw the “dooring” of bicyclists has failed in the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill had passed the state Senate but failed to pass a House committee earlier this week. The bill would have made it illegal to open a car door in the immediate path of a cyclist. Virginia is one of ten states in the country that do not have such a law on the books. [Washington Post]
Questioning the ‘Female-Friendly’ Sports Bar — Is Bracket Room, the new “female-friendly” sports bar that’s coming to Clarendon, insulting to women? One Washington City Paper writer says the answer is yes. She writes of Bracket Room partner and former reality TV star Chris Bukowski: “…his 2012 appearance on Bachelor Pad, in which former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants live in a house together and compete for $250,000, suggests he may not be the most in touch with women’s preferences. Over the course of the season, the chiseled-abs, blue-eyed Bukowski became the show’s villain, hooking up with and then ditching two of the female contestants.” [Washington City Paper]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann