Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Jetliner at Sunset (Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder)

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

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State Sen. Adam EbbinTwo of the attorneys that launched a successful legal battle to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban are joining the suit against Virginia’s marriage amendment.

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.

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Del. Adam Ebbin (D) speaks at GMU Law anti-discrimination rallyState Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) is blasting Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) for his anti-gay views.

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.

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Morning Notes

The Ellipse fountain in Ballston (Flickr pool photo by Eschweik

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

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Freddie's Beach Bar in Crystal City Freddie's Beach Bar in Crystal City

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.”

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Rainbow flag(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.

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Rep. Jim Moran's NOH8 Campaign photoRep. 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.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as early as Tuesday.

Courtesy photo

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Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)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.”

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Flier for "The River and the Mountain"A play that sent shockwaves throughout Uganda with the utterance of the phrase “I’m gay” is making its way to Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) this weekend.

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.

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Morning Notes

Coast Guard vessel on the Potomac, near Arlington National Cemetery

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

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Dozens of demonstrators seeking same sex marriage rights packed the square in front of the Arlington County Courthouse this morning, before marching into the District.

Members of the Campaign for Southern Equality work to bring attention to the desire for same sex couples to get married in Southern states. The group’s website states: “The actions on January 17 are intended to highlight the lives and stories of LGBT people from across the South; the powerful reality that in our nation’s capital LGBT people have the right to marry; and the injustice that legal marriages between same-sex couples are not recognized in the South.”

Participants gathered in the square to request marriage licenses from Paul Ferguson, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.

“I commend each of you that is coming forward today for your courage. I think you do realize that by law, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow me to issue those marriage licenses to you,” Ferguson said. “I hope that if laws do change in the future, that you will choose to return one day to Arlington County to receive a marriage license.”

More than a dozen couples stepped forward to request marriage licenses from Ferguson. In turn, each was rejected.

“Unfortunately, I am not able to grant that license by law,” Ferguson repeated to each couple.

Each of the couples acknowledged the rejection, some vowing to return for licenses should the laws change.

“You’re just doing your job. We’ve been together 25 years. It hurts to be rejected,” one tearful applicant said to Ferguson. “We know hearts and minds do change, and we hope Virginia will too.”

Following the request for licenses, the applicants and dozens of others in attendance marched to the Jefferson Memorial. There, the group honored a North Carolina same sex couple’s legal marriage under D.C. law.

“We understand the laws aren’t going to change tomorrow. But if you live in the South, this is the distance you must travel before you’re equal under the law,” said Campaign for Southern Equality Executive Director Jasmine Beach-Ferrara. “You must go all the way to Washington, D.C. to be treated equally under the law.”

Arlington County Police officers were in attendance to ensure everyone’s safety both at the demonstration and during the march from Arlington into the District. Police reported that no public roadways were obstructed, and that as of 12:30 p.m., the group had officially crossed into D.C. on the way to the Jefferson Memorial.

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