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Anti-gay rule to keep de Blasio from biggest NYC St. Pat’s parade

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will not be marching in the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade, deciding to skip one of his city’s signature celebrations because the event organizers refuse to let participants carry pro-gay signs.

De Blasio will become the first New York City mayor in decades to sit out the traditional march along Fifth Avenue.

“I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city,” said de Blasio on Tuesday during an unrelated press conference at City Hall. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade.”

The parade, a tradition that predates the city itself, draws more than 1 million people each March 17 to line one of Manhattan’s most famous thoroughfares to watch about 200,000 participants. It has long been a mandatory stop on the city’s political trail, and will include marching bands, traditional Irish dancers and thousands of uniformed city workers.

Since the 1990s, the event’s ban on pro-gay signs and banners has spurred protests and litigation and led to the creation of an alternative, gay-friendly St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens. In recent years, several elected officials – including de Blasio when he was public advocate – attended the inclusive parade and boycotted the traditional parade.

Though de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage rights, he still marched in the Fifth Avenue parade all 12 years he was in office. Rudolph Giuliani also participated every year he was mayor.

The parade dates from 1762, more than a century before the five boroughs linked to form modern New York City. It is run by a private organization, and judges have said the organizers have a First Amendment right to choose participants in their event. Groups, such as colleges or firefighter groups that march, can identify themselves but LGBT groups cannot.

A request for comment from the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee was not immediately returned. Organizers have previously said that the event is simply a celebration of the city’s strong Irish heritage and that gays are welcome to march in the parade as long as they do not carry identifying signs or banners.

The president of the city’s Catholic League said that to his knowledge this was the first time a sitting mayor had boycotted the parade.

“Personally, I am delighted,” said Bill Donohue. “I lead the Catholic League contingent every year, and I do not want to march with a public official who does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics.”

De Blasio was raised Catholic but has said he does not belong to any church.

The mayor, a Democrat, also said Tuesday that he won’t heed activists’ call to ban city workers from marching while wearing their uniforms.

Several elected officials, including Public Advocate Letitia James, signed a petition released Tuesday that suggested that because members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community could not sport anything to identify themselves, the city workers should also not wear anything to proclaim who they are.

“I believe uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right,” de Blasio said.

Thousands of uniformed workers – from the police, fire, corrections and sanitation departments – march in the parade every year. The parade’s grand marshal this year is Jack Ahearn, the head of a local operating engineers union.

Lesbian lawmaker running for Maryland governor

A Maryland lawmaker hopes to be elected the nation’s first openly gay governor.

Delegate Heather Mizeur is running in the 2014 election.

The Democrat has been exploring a run for months and also would become Maryland’s first female governor if elected.

“It’s a sign of how far we’ve come as a state that an openly gay person can be a serious candidate for governor,” Mizeur said. “But the fact that we’re still talking about it is a sign that we still have a ways to go.”

Maryland legalized same-sex marriage earlier this year, after voters approved legislation in November allowing it.

An openly gay candidate has never been elected governor in any state.

Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned in 2004 after announcing he was gay and had had an affair with a male staffer.

Mizeur, who has been a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates since 2007, has focused on health issues while in office. She also has been an outspoken advocate for caution in allowing drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale in western Maryland. Mizeur has called for a thorough study of health, environmental and economic impacts before allowing hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique commonly known as fracking.

Mizeur said she planned to roll out over the course of the campaign ideas for boosting job creation and improving schools. She also announced a series of public service events across the state.

Some have questioned how well the 40-year-old delegate from Takoma Park, in Montgomery County near the nation’s capital, will be able to compete against statewide officeholders who have been planning a gubernatorial race for years. But Mizeur placed second in an April straw poll in western Maryland, and she said she is confident her campaign is building enthusiasm.

“We’re building a grassroots campaign that will absolutely have the resources to compete for every vote,” Mizeur said Tuesday in an interview.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown also is seeking the Democratic nomination. Democratic Attorney General Doug Gansler, who has held two forums about future policy plans, is expected to announce his bid in September. Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County is considering running.

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley is serving his second term, the maximum allowed under state law.

Kenosha’s Pride March is July 6

United Alliance is planning Kenosha’s first LGBT Pride March, set to take place at noon on July 6.

United Alliance, according to a news release, is a group of people of looking to create a safe and supportive community for members of the LGBT Community.

The march takes place just outside of LGBT Pride Month because, according to the release, United Alliance wants to remind people that community should be fostered all year long.

Pride in Kenosha begins a sign-making party at the starting point, Bain Park at 63rd Street and 11th Avenue, beginning at 11 a.m. Participants may create and bring either own signs or join the festivities early to make a sign. The theme for the event is “Unity In Diversity.”

The march will leave the park, moving east to Sheridan Road, then north on Sheridan to Civic Center Park at 56th Street and Sheridan Road, east on 56th Street to Sixth Avenue, north on Sixth Avenue through Seventh Avenue and ending at Union Park at 45th Street and Seventh Avenue.

Participants are encouraged to walk the entire route, however, two checkpoints will be created for those who would like to walk part of the route. The first checkpoint to allow people to enter or exit the march will be at Civic Center Park. The second checkpoint will be on the lot just north of the Boathouse Pub and Eatery on Seventh Avenue.

Following the march, there will be a block party hosted by United Alliance and Trolley Dogs on the lot just north of Trolley Dogs Restaurant, 5501 Sixth Ave., Kenosha.

Lawyers from LGBT group to join Supreme Court bar

An organization of gay and lesbian lawyers says 30 of its members will be sworn into the U.S. Supreme Court bar in a courtroom ceremony next week.

The National LGBT Bar Association says it’s the first time it will take part in the mass swearing-in that occurs on most days the court is in session.

Association executive director D’Arcy Kemnitz said many members already will be in Washington for President Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 21. They’ll be sworn in on Jan. 22.

By custom, a Supreme Court lawyer vouches for prospective members, and Chief Justice John Roberts welcomes them before they swear to support the Constitution.

Openly gay lawyers already practice before the Supreme Court, but Tuesday will mark the first time lawyers will be identified at the ceremony as LGBT Bar members.

Out lesbian wins approval for Mass. high court

State appeals court judge Barbara Lenk was confirmed May 4 to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, allowing her to become the first openly gay judge to join the court that in 2003 issued the landmark ruling that made the state the first to permit same-sex marriage.

Lenk was confirmed on a 5-3 vote by the Governor’s Council after a nomination process that brought renewed scrutiny to the elected body that reviews all judicial appointments and prompted one of its members to question whether the council’s frequent infighting and occasional lack of civility might lead to its eventual abolition.

Lenk, a native of Queens, N.Y., was a Superior Court judge before being named to the appellate court in 1995.

She married her longtime partner, Debra Krupp, after the SJC decision that legalized gay marriage.

A number of social conservatives urged the council to reject the nomination during an eight-hour confirmation hearing last week, with some contending that Lenk would bring a pro-gay rights political agenda to the court.

Lenk’s confirmation means that Gov. Deval Patrick has now appointed a majority of the justices on the seven-member high court. Patrick also elevated Roderick Ireland to chief justice last year.

“I thank the members of the council who concluded, as I did, that Justice Lenk’s sharp intellect, vast experience, and deep sense of humanity will make her an outstanding associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court,” Patrick said in a statement.

Several members of the council had criticized Patrick for mentioning Lenk’s sexual orientation in response to a reporter’s question at a news conference announcing the nomination last month. The governor, who also nominated the first Asian-American justice, Fernande “Nan” Duffly, and made Ireland the first black chief justice, has stated that he likes “firsts.”

Patrick’s absence from the May 4 meeting, chaired by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, was a sign that Lenk’s confirmation by the eight-member council was not in jeopardy. Murray can serve as a tie-breaking vote if needed, but would normally yield the chair to Patrick if he intended to vote.

Councilors Charles Cipollini, a vocal critic of Lenk, said he did not want to “place another liberal-minded judge on the SJC,” who might “legislate from the bench” on issues such as whether parents have the right to take their children out of sex-education classes.

Cipollini also criticized Lenk for a 2000 appeals court ruling that interpreted the state’s law against incest as applying only to cases of sexual intercourse and not other kinds of sexual contact, including between two family members of the same sex.

Lenk, who was questioned about the ruling at last week’s hearing, said the court had no choice but to rule as it did because of how the law, which was later changed by the Legislature, was written.

Councilors Mary-Ellen Manning and Jennie Caissie also voted against Lenk, citing concerns that she would be a judicial activist.

“I am left to conclude that (Lenk) is a Trojan horse who will reveal her legal mind inside the walls of the Supreme Judicial Court far from the public’s grasp,” Manning said in a statement.

Moments after the vote, Merrigan took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the council for its recent behavior during the Lenk nomination and other recent matters.

“The bickering, the acrimony, the rancor that occurs between us in public and behind the scenes, and some of the demeanor about and toward nominees … serves no purpose whatsoever,” Merrigan said.

Merrigan, who issued his own apology for a recent incident involving Devaney, said the frequent name calling is encouragement to critics who seek to abolish the council – which traces its origins back to colonial government – and give the state Senate judicial review power.

Lenk’s confirmation as the first openly gay justice on the high court was applauded by gay rights supporters.

“We’re very pleased that so many councilors rose above the prejudice and vitriolic anti-gay comments they have heard recently to vote for a nominee who is clearly very well qualified,” said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus.