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4 | Supreme showdown: Much at stake in marriage equality cases 6 | From the Supreme Court to Ga.: What the rulings could mean here 8 | Rush Center to unveil ‘community center’ expansion plan 13 | Audits reveal problems in Georgia’s state HIV unit 15 | BRIEFS: Chick-fil-A, sequester hurts AIDS patients, gay candidates and more


16 | Editorial: For LGBT rights, what a difference three years makes



23 | MUSIC



Print editions of GA Voice since our first print issue debuted March 10, 2010

Cumulative reads on our website

Photos posted on our website

Total views of our Top 10 videos
Photo by Yasin Hussein/CC 3.0)

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Articles posted to since our web debut March 5, 2010


“As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is … incompatible with our Constitution.”
— Former President Bill Clinton, in a column against the Defense of Marriage Act, which he signed in 1996. The law, which the Supreme Court will take up on March 27, denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore same-sex marriages from other states. (Washington Post, March 7)

Ralph Alwang/Clinton Foundation



19 | Why we love Rachel Maddow (not just because she’s coming here!) 20 | FILM: Local documentary ‘Breaking Through,’ more LGBT fare at Atlanta Film Fest 23 | MUSIC: Black gay conductor heads to Atlanta Symphony 25 | TV: Gay former governor’s ‘Fall to Grace’ 26 | THEATER: ‘Equus’ explores faith, sexuality at Actor’s Express 29 | FOOD PORN: Sex panic on Cheshire Bridge Road 31 | BRIEFS: In Brief: Anderson Cooper, Elton John, Indigo Girls and more 22 | CALENDAR


37 | THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: Melissa Carter learns from ‘Angry Fags’ 27 | DOMESTICALLY DISTURBED: Topher says it’s time to clear the air


Hits on our most-read article: ‘The road to country music’s first openly gay star’ featuring Chely Wright.

“I am a heterosexual guy in a tough macho sport, which is exactly the reason I feel a duty to say I support gay marriage and gay rights.”
— UFC light-heavyweight fighter “Suga” Rashad Evans, explaining why he joined NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe in a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn laws against same-sex marriage. (, March 8)

“I want them to have a baby, too!”
— Sign in Hebrew and English held by comedian Joan Rivers to support an Israeli gay couple, Yuval and Liran, whose video about wanting to have a baby via a surrogate went viral in Israel. Israeli law limits surrogacy to heterosexual couples. is helping raise awareness of the issue. (Jerusalem Post, March 11)

“Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?”
— One of several scenarios included in a Boy Scouts of America survey sent to members and their parents as the BSA considers whether to relax its ban on gay Scouts, volunteers and leaders. The BSA board may consider the policy in May. (Dallas Voice, March 11)

Data as of March 11, 2013

Supreme showdown
What’s at stake as the U.S. Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage
By LAURA DOUGLAS-BROWN The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in two cases this month that could decide the course of the fight for marriage equality for a generation. The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Proposition 8, the ballot measure that ended same-sex marriage in California, on March 26. “This case is about the fundamental constitutional right of every American to marry the person they love,” said Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which represents two gay couples challenging the law. Both a federal district court and a threejudge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have already found the measure unconstitutional. “A growing majority of people across the nation see that Proposition 8 and laws like it are unfair, unlawful, and contrary to basic American values. It is time for the Supreme Court to recognize our Constitution’s promise of marriage equality for all,” Umhoefer said when AFER filed its brief with the Supreme Court. “And when that day comes, we will be more American.” The next day, the nation’s highest court will hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that denies federal marriage rights to same-sex couples. Edith Windsor, now 83 years old, married her partner of more than four decades, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was hit with an inheritance tax bill of more than $360,000, which she would not have owed if the government recognized her marriage. Windsor sued with help from American Civil Liberties Union. “The four decades that Edie Windsor spent with her late spouse are a testament to the words ‘in sickness and in health, till death do us part,’” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT Project, when the Supreme Court agreed to take the case. “After building their lives together and getting married, it is unfair for the federal government to treat them as though they were legal strangers.” The Proposition 8 case has the biggest potential impact. AFER argues that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection, so a total win could pave the way for same-sex marriage around the country.




(but not necessarily friends of ours)

The two gay marriage cases pending before the Supreme Court have drawn dozens of amicus curiae or “friend-of-thecourt” briefs from organizations, state governments, companies and even individuals anxious to weigh in on what could be a defining moment for lesbian and gay rights. Here are few of the “friends” (some not-so-friendly to our community) who have either submitted their own briefs or signed briefs submitted by multiple sources., CC 3.0

President Barack Obama NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe Lambda Legal Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders Anti-Defamation League NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund American Bar Association American Sociological Association American Medical Association American Academy of Pediatrics Georgia Equality Atlanta Bar Association Stonewall Bar Association Georgia Benefits Council Campaign for Southern Equality 172 members of the U.S. House and 40 U.S. senators (includes Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson from Georgia) States: Massachusetts. Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, plus the District of Columbia Companies: Abercrombie & Fitch, Aetna, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Cisco Systems, eBay, Estee Lauder, Facebook, Google, HewlettPackard, Intel, Levi-Strauss, Morgan Stanley, Nike, Office Depot, Oracle, Panasonic, Tiffany & Co. and more.

For possible rulings and what they could mean for Georgia, see Pages 6-7.
Big losses in either case, meanwhile, could make it much more difficult to win marriage equality — especially at the federal level — until the U.S. Congress repeals DOMA or passes pro-active marriage legislation, or until the make-up of the Supreme Court has changed enough that a new case might yield a different decision. In short, a loss could create “a generation of delay,” said Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, which has filed briefs supporting marriage equality in both cases. But the possible outcomes are much more complicated than simply if LGBT advocates win, gay marriage will be legal around the country, and if they don’t, it won’t. In addition to what the court decides in these cases, how it reaches the decision could also prove key to gay rights cases in the future. “One of the most important issues the court might decide, which is possible with many outcomes in both cases, is what level of judicial scrutiny should be applied to laws based on sexual orientation,” Davidson said. Those arguing in favor of same-sex couples, as well as the Obama administration, have said the court should apply “heightened scrutiny” instead of simply “rational basis.”



‘Testify for Love: Light the Way to Justice’ Monday, March 25, 7:30 - 9:30 p.m. • Georgia State Capital, Pep rally in advance of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality hearings Marriage Equality Town Hall Meeting 6:30 – 8 p.m. Philip Rush Center, • Georgia Equality and Lambda Legal team up for a town hall meeting to discuss the day’s Supreme Court hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act, with lawyers present to analyze the case. United For Marriage Watch Wednesday, March 26, 6-10 p.m. 10th & Piedmont, • Watch recaps of the Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and Prop 8. Mention that you are there for the event and 10 percent of your dinner bill will be donated to Georgia Equality.

Eagle Forum Family Research Council Liberty Counsel United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays Concerned Women for America Westboro Baptist Church Southern Baptist Convention Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations 10 U.S. senators including U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) States: Indiana, Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin

“Rational basis” would presume that laws based on sexual orientation are constitutional, and places the burden on the party challenging the law to show it does not rationally further any legitimate government interest. “Heightened scrutiny,” however, would presume such laws are unconstitutional and the burden would be on the government to show that they substantially further an important government objective. “That’s a harder test to meet,” Davidson said, and could have implications for other laws dealing with sexual orientation, such as those related to employment discrimination, adoption, and other issues.

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From the Supreme Court to Ga.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears two landmark cases this month that deal with the question of marriage for same-sex couples. No one can know how the court will rule, but legal experts have outlined several possible scenarios. Here are some of the most likely and what they would mean both nationally and here in Georgia.





Gay couples gained marriage rights in California in 2008 thanks to a ruling by the California Supreme Court. But in November 2008, the state’s voters approved Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to only recognize marriage between and a woman. A district court judge ruled the measure violated federal guarantees of Due Process and Equal Protection. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling on the narrower grounds that California, having granted samesex couples all of the legal rights of marriage, could not provide a legitimate reason for revoking an existing right. The case was brought by two gay couples represented by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Prop 8 is being defended by supporters of the measure after the California governor and attorney general refused to argue in favor of it.
California gay couples Kris Perry and Sandy Stier (left) and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo sued to overturn Prop 8, the ballot measure that ended same-sex marriage in the state. (Photos via AFER)



While it would be wonderful for Californians to be able to marry, this would not create immediate change in Georgia. Still, California is the nation’s most populous state, so it would increase visibility for gay married couples.

“Eight state” solution: You can’t give all the rights of marriage but just not call it marriage.
California offers domestic partner benefits with all state rights of marriage; similar structures exist in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island.


It is unconstitutional for California to give gay couples the right to marry, then take that right away, while still affording all of the state benefits of marriage, just under a different name.
This is the argument used by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the district court ruling overturning the law. Prop 8 essentially created an exception to the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution, which the high court could hold is a violation of the federal Equal Protection Clause.


Supporters of Proposition 8 don’t have standing to appeal the lower court’s decision and bring the case to the Supreme Court.
Therefore, the lower court ruling striking down Prop 8 would stand. This would allow California same-sex couples to marry, or, a few analysts say, could be so narrow as to only allow the two plaintiff couples to marry. Lambda Legal’s Jon Davidson finds the latter scenario unlikely, believing a ruling on standing would ultimately allow same-sex couples to resume marrying in California.

Georgia does not offer any benefits of marriage, and in fact explicitly denies them, so this would not create any new rights here. But it would mean a lot more states would have to allow gay couples to marry. Some experts are concerned that a ruling like this could make it harder to make incremental change for samesex couples, as some states might be willing to approve civil unions but not marriage, which this type of ruling could prohibit.

A ruling in favor of Prop 8 could empower voters in other states to try similar measures. Georgia already has a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, but this would mean a federal challenge to Georgia’s amendment would be off the table. We would have to wait for the amendment to be repealed or wait for the members of the Supreme Court to change before bringing another case. As Lambda’s Jon Davidson says, it could create “a generation of delay.”

Same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
This ruling could be framed either that we share in the right to marry the court has already said exists in the Constitution, or the court could hold that there is no adequate reason to treat gay people differently than heterosexuals under the Equal Protection Clause.


Prop 8 is legal.
This would mean that a federal constitutional claim for the ability to marry could not be brought, but it would not revoke the marriages of same-sex couples who are already married in states where it is legal and it would not prevent other states from legalizing same-sex marriage.

Since same-sex couples have never had the right to marry in Georgia, this would not have an immediate effect here. This would not immediately create marriage rights in any state besides California, but it could help deter similar voter referenda trying to revoke same-sex marriage where it is already legal.


That would mean gay couples would be able to marry in Georgia starting sometime after June, although it might take a lawsuit to force the state to comply.




What the rulings might mean here
This case targets Section 3 of DOMA, which holds that the federal government will not recognize marriage except between one man and one woman. It was brought by New York resident Edith Windsor, who married her wife, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. After Spyer died in 2009, Windsor owed federal inheritance tax of more than $360,000; had they been heterosexual spouses, the inheritance would not have been taxed. Represented by the ACLU, Windsor won at the district court level; although she had already petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case, she also won in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. DOMA is defended by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a committee led by Republicans from the U.S. House of Representatives, after President Obama’s Justice Department refused to defend it.



Rulings are expected by late June 2013, just in time for LGBT Pride Month!
Edith Windsor, now 83, sued after she was ordered to pay more than $360,000 in inheritance tax after the death of her , wife — tax she would not have owed if they were heterosexual spouses. (Photo courtesy ACLU)
Official photo

The Supreme Court could rule that either the Department of Justic or Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group did not have standing to appeal the case after the district court victory.
The Department of Justice petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case even though their position won in the lower court. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, a committee of Congress members, stepped in to defend DOMA when the Department of Justice refused to argue in favor of the law. The Supreme Court could rule that either the DOJ or BLAG did not have standing to appeal the case after the district court victory. This would mean that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York’s ruling that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional stands, but it would apply only to Windsor or only in the Southern District of New York.

ferent parts of the law, it could mean that gay couples outside of that district could marry there to get at least a few rights. Lambda’s Jon Davidson lists the possibility that a Georgia resident who is part of a bi-national couple, where the other partner is not a US citizen, might be able to marry there for immigration purposes.

The federal government can’t discriminate against legally married couples just because they are of the same sex.

Experts don’t see any “medium-size” rulings as likely possibilities in this case.

This means married, same-sex partners would recieve federal benefits in states where marriage is already legal and in states where it may eventually become legal.


DOMA Section 3 is constitutional
The federal government can continue to deny same-sex married couples the 1,000+ federal benefits that come with marriage.



Georgia is not part of the Southern District of New York, so section 3 of DOMA would remain intact here. This could be an incentive for same-sex couples who have the financial means to relocate to that area of New York. Since the requirements for the federal benefits of marriage are worded differently in dif-

This would keep the status quo — no samesex couples currently get federal marriage benefits — but would be a serious setback because it could take years to overcome, either through federal legislation repealing section 3 of DOMA, which doesn’t seem likely any time soon, or through another Supreme Court case after the make-up of the court changes.

Same-sex couples who live in states where marriage is legal could marry there and get federal benefits, but it becomes more complicated for couples who live in states like Georgia that don’t recognize their marriages. Some federal laws refer to your state of residence, some refer to whether the marriage was legal in the state where you entered it, and some just say “marriage” without specifying, and all of that would need to be figured out. This could create an incentive for Georgia couples to move to states where they could legally marry, or to marry outside Georgia with the hope of gleaning a few benefits here.

“Section 3 of DOMA violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples.”
— brief filed by President Obama’s adminstration in the Windsor case For coverage of the March 26-27 Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage, visit

— By Laura Douglas-Brown






2012 PALS Spokespet

– Arrow

Georgia Equality’s Jeff Graham (left) and the Health Initiative’s Linda Ellis manage the Phillip Rush Center. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)

Phillip Rush Center to unveil expansion plan
And, yes, now it’s OK to call it a community center
By DYANA BAGBY Since the Phillip Rush Center’s inception, organizers have shied away from using the term “community center” to describe the Candler Park LGBT facility where dozens of groups meet and numerous town hall forums have been held. Several attempts at an LGBT community center in Atlanta had failed and Linda Ellis, executive director of the Health Initiative, and Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, administrators of the Rush Center, wanted to avoid any kind of “curse” the title may have. But now Ellis and Graham, after conducting a strategic planning process, are embracing the term because, well, that’s what the Rush Center has become. “Over the last 18 months, more than 100 groups and organizations have used the Rush Center for events and programs. It was actually a little overwhelming to see that number initially, but there’s no doubt — the community is using the center,” Ellis said. In March 2011, Graham and Ellis announced the Rush Center received a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta to conduct a broad needs assessment for the state to determine how to best serve LGBT residents. At that time, Graham was not ready to refer to the Rush Center as a community center. “We are deliberate about calling this a shared office space and not a community center,” he said at the time. But now Graham is comfortable with the term after hearing from the public. A reception is planned for March 30 to reveal the results of the strategic planning process and announce plans for an expansion. “As we’ve engaged in the strategic planning process over the past year, we’ve realized that many people in the community already see us as a community center,” Graham said in a recent interview. “We’ve begun to use that language in an effort to clarify what we are currently doing and where we plan on going in the future.”


MAY 19, 2013 ★ 2–5 PM ★ PETS WELCOME (LEASHED)
CO-HOSTS MARA DAVIS & TYLER CALKINS Admission to Benefit PALS ★ $25 At the Door or $20 In Advance Admission includes complimentary drinks and hors d’oveuvres Silent Auction & Music by DJ Pat Scott Join us for the After-Party Hosted by 10th & Piedmont To enter your pet or purchase advance tickets:




Due to State Regulations, no pet will be allowed in the facility without proof of current vaccinations.

The Rush Center, founded in 2009, is 4,100 square feet and includes an event space, a conference room, a room for support groups to meet and an outdoor patio. It serves as the headquarters of Georgia Equality, the Health Initiative, the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Atlanta Pride, and is also the regular meeting place for such groups as Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (TILTT) and SAGE, a group for older LGBT people. Regular meetings from Weight Watchers to In the Life Atlanta have been held in the space, along with many political, social and community events. The center is named for the late philanthropist and activist Phillip Rush, who died in April 2009. The Rush Center received initial funding from the Lloyd Russell Foundation, the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Fund and several individual donors. Now it is time to plan for the next stage of the Rush Center’s future as the increase in demand for the space continues to grow.

Please see CENTER continued on Page 11


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Growing group for LGBT elders part of Rush Center
CENTER, continued from Page 8
“The funding from the Community Foundation was to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of the LGBT community in Georgia and develop a strategic plan,” Graham explained. “The Rush Center’s long-term sustainability will come from expanding the number of organizations who are able to rent offices on an ongoing basis and the number of groups that are able to rent on a periodic or one time basis. “We are currently providing approximately $2,000 a month worth of free and reduced rental to nonprofit groups that serve the LGBT community, so we must also develop a base of ongoing donors who will help us raise the funds we need to continue to meet the community need for a central space to gather and provide services,” Graham added. “Because of the increased demand we are looking to either expand in our current location or relocate to a space that will accommodate future growth,” he said. Ellis said Rush himself envisioned a space where there was always room for more people and groups to benefit from the shared space. “One of Phillip’s priorities for us when we first began the conversations of shared space was that we structured it in such a way that there was always room and ways for other people and organizations to make use of the space,” Ellis said. “It is the ability to supplement the rental expenses that makes that happen. Jeff is right — to sustain that, we need to develop and increase ways for individuals to support the ongoing operations of the Rush Center. It’s time to do that, now,” she said. Slow growth has allowed the Rush Center remain viable in serving those it does. But, Ellis said, it is time for the community to step up and understand there is the need for more space and the funds to help make that happen. “We’re definitely feeling the need for more space, both for offices and for meeting space, so the idea of expansion is very appealing,” she said. “At the same, we’ve been successful thus far because we’ve taken it slowly and not grown beyond our means to support ourselves. If we’re to take the next step, it will be because we’ve clearly built that community support behind the effort,” she said. aging service providers, Ellis explained. “We’ll be listed as a resource, but also that we’ll be able to connect LGBT seniors to those services,” she said. Ellis will serve on the state’s LGBT Elder Leadership Team “which is charged with developing the system through which we can insure that those 25,000 providers are LGBT inclusive,” she said. Lorraine Fontana, a longtime LGBT Atlanta activist, is working with SAGE on its “Senior Voices” program with “the long range goal ... to help familiarize senior service providers and other community organizations with SAGE, older LGBT folks, and our particular needs and concerns,” she said. In addition, SAGE members will travel to Macon to help present a workshop on “Aging with Pride: Exploring LGBT Issues” as part of the 2013 Georgia Gerontological Society Spring Symposium, set for March 22 at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. SAGE, which holds weekly meetings at the Rush Center on Thursdays, is also expanding its programming to include some weekend events. On the second Sundays of the month, new programming is underway that has included “HIV/AIDS and Aging.” Also, on Saturday, March 30, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., attorneys will be on hand at the Rush Center to help SAGE members understand the importance of Advance Directives and other legal documents important for same-sex couples as well as single LGBT people. For more information, visit


SAGE, a group founded to serve LGBT seniors and an initiative especially dear to Phillip Rush’s heart, continues to expand its services beyond providing a social space for people to meet. The Health Initiative and SAGE plan to soon launch a partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Area Agency on Aging “that is truly historic,” Ellis said. That means SAGE will be included as a full partner in the ARC’s Aging and Disability Resource Center — a center that manages 25,000






State audit: Ga. HIV unit had history of policy violations
New procedures speed up funds for community organizations
By DYANA BAGBY Two investigations into the state’s Department of Community Health — now named the Department of Public Health — found a history of violated policies within the HIV unit when it came to contracting grants to community-based organizations serving those with HIV/AIDS. The department’s internal Inspector General conducted and concluded a report in 2011. In January 2013, the state’s Department of Audits & Accounts reported its findings of an audit of the HIV unit requested by the Inspector General. Both reports specifically cite former HIV Prevention Program Director Leisha McKinleyBeach for circumventing policies. The Inspector General in 2011 recommended McKinley-Beach be fired. She resigned instead in 2011. In an interview last week with GA Voice, McKinley-Beach defended her actions, saying the unit was one of total dysfunction when she came on board and the state is using her as a “scapegoat.” She resigned after only 16 months on the job in the midst of the internal investigation prompted by an anonymous complaint. Before she joined the HIV Unit, the position was open for two years. Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald was appointed commissioner of the Georgia Department Public Health by Gov. Nathan Deal in February 2011 and oversees the HIV/AIDS unit. A spokesperson for Fitzgerald said the department has carefully addressed all concerns raised in the investigation, specifically the timely distribution of much-needed federal funds to agencies contracted to provide HIV prevention and other AIDS services such as case management. “DPH discovered early on substantially uneven reimbursement rates around the state. With those and similar concerns in mind, DPH re-examined our relationships with community-based organizations (CBOs) and the contracts CBOs had been awarded in the past and during the audit period,” said spokesperson Ryan Deal. “DPH formulated a more standardized reimbursement system. Essential to any reform in this area was DPH’s ability to award contracts more rapidly. And there is success in that area as well. In 2011, DPH substantially expedited the system to award and transmit funding to CBOs, changing it from a grant Equality and a longtime HIV/AIDS activist, said that was one issue he did not see addressed in the state audit of the unit. “The one thing I though that was not clearly addressed is what would have happened if we had lost federal funds?” he said. “That’s what I took from the report — shortcuts were made because deadlines were to be met. I don’t know what happened internally within the department, but it seems to be a greater breakdown in leadership. I’m more concerned these sorts of things don’t happen again,” Graham added.
Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Department of Public Health, says new policies related to grants mean HIV organizations will receive federal funds in a timely manner. (Courtesy photo)


process-driven system to a contract awards process,” Deal added. Larry Lehman, executive director of the Ric Crawford Clinic/AID Gwinnett, said his organization has had no issues in the past two years with receiving funding from the DPH in a timely manner for HIV prevention programs as well as federal Ryan White funding. But some activists say the department must continue to deal with a history of losing federal funding because it was not being spent by deadlines set by agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia

Several examples of McKinley-Beach circumventing the correct bidding process were cited in the state audit, which noted that under her leadership, more funds were given out through direct awards than competitive bids: • The chance to purchase more advertising from the Kaiser Foundation for the “Greater Than AIDS” campaign: McKinley-Beach explained she could not spend more than $4,999 without having to conduct a competitive bid process. The transaction ended up being split between two vendors for $4,999 each. • In February 2011, McKinley-Beach sought to implement the “Sistas Organizing to Survive” initiative that she and others founded

Please see HIV UNIT continued on Page 14




State HIV unit no longer leaving CDC funds unspent
HIV UNIT, continued from Page 13
first in Florida to conduct HIV testing on black women, a demographic hard hit by new HIV infections. McKinley-Beach played a role in stating how the Georgia logo should be designed and noted to vendors she would not have to bid the process out if the bid comes in under $4,000. McKinley-Beach told the GA Voice the Sistas Organizing to Survive was a national initiative to test black women and said she felt there was no reason to reinvent the wheel with a new logo but rather give it a “facelift” to make it unique to Georgia. “In a program that had $12 million, I’m looking at a correct practice that was under $4,000 … the department should be more focused on why there is 80 percent of HIV cases in black women,” she said. “You have to wonder was if it was one person as portrayed as the problem or a failed system from top leadership down.”


The state audit noted it appeared the leadership “fostered a culture that was focused on expediting the acquisition and distribution of federal funds with limited oversight” as a way to eliminate bureaucracy. The audit states much money went to inexperienced and under-qualified organizations which did not meet grant requirements. “Furthermore, a common theme expressed from the HIV Prevention Program staff was that the main objective was to ‘spend down’

the federal funds,” the audit states. The inspector general noted a similar issue: “When [McKinley-Beach] was hired by DPH she knew Georgia had a reputation for not meeting deadlines and giving money back. ...Her main objective was to get the money out and not have to send it back [to the CDC].” McKinley-Beach said she sees Georgia as the “perfect storm” of an area heavily hit by new HIV infection rates, especially among gay men, while surrounded by institutions such as the CDC as well as numerous leading activists and researchers in HIV/AIDS. But she believes there continues to be a history of neglect when it comes to addressing HIV/AIDS in the state. “The department has had a history of delayed contracts, not executed on time. And regardless of name changes [for the department], the system still continues,” McKinleyBeach said. “I think that [the audit] is unfair. Again, the report is very focused on one individual that is part of a broken system. It’s not like I went out intentionally to deceptive.” She also maintained she had approval from her supervisors. However, DPH spokesperson Ryan Deal said many improvements have been made since the Inspector General’s report was completed in March 2011. “I feel it important to underscore that, during our challenging economic times, DPH is scrutinizing each dollar we spend while we constantly look for additional funding. One critical area of examination and change, as noted in the audit, centers on contracts and the awards process, and your question on ensuring ‘contracts are awarded in the proper and ethical manner,’” he said. “In conjunction with the new award process, the agency promulgated and implemented policies for the agency’s purchasing, procurement, and contracts processes which effectively addressed any previously existing deficiencies while ensuring strict adherence to the highest ethical standards. A structured, mandatory training program for staff was also implemented,” Deal added. Last year, the Office of HIV/AIDS instituted an evidence-based mathematical formula for fair and equitable distribution of HIV prevention funding in all but two of Georgia’s counties — DeKalb and Fulton counties are funded directly by the CDC as of January 2012, he explained. “And this April, patient care funding will also be distributed via an evidence-based mathematical formula. To date, and as a result of our improved efficiencies, no funding has been returned to the CDC,” Deal said. But McKinley-Beach still stings from the audit. “Do I feel the Department of Community Health used me as a scapegoat for a broken system? Yes. Do I forgive them? Absolutely. Will I ever help the department? I’ve never stopped. And I won’t until the epidemic is over,” she said.





Chick-fil-A out of Emory, federal sequester bumps hundreds off ADAP
The Chick-fil-A restaurant on Emory University’s Atlanta campus, the target of protests due to the company’s anti-gay stands, will be removed this summer, the college newspaper reported March 8. According to the Emory Wheel, the change is due to a new layout for campus dining facility Cox Hall. Despite complaints from Emory’s Student Government Association, LGBT campus groups and LGBT alumni, Emory’s administration had declined to remove Chick-fil-A over the company’s stand against gay marriage and donations to anti-gay organizations. In a December statement, administrators left open the possibility the restaurant chain could be removed for other reasons. More @

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Posters like this were distributed on the Emory campus last fall to protest Chick-fil-A.


It’s hardly surprising given the solid Republican majority in the Georgia General Assembly, but none of the pro-gay bills introduced this • Miss. gay candidate’s murder session reached votes before the draws FBI. The FBI has stepped in crucial “Cross Over Day,” Day 30 of LGBT NEWS to offer assistance in the investigathe annual 40-day legislative sesEVERY DAY tion into the murder of Marco Mcsion and the deadline by which a Millian, an openly gay man runbill must pass one chamber to be ning for mayor of Clarksdale, Miss. considered by the other this year. McMillian’s body was found Feb. Bills now stalled include Rep. Karla 27, a day after Lawrence Reed, who Drenner’s Fair Employment Pracis charged with murder, crashed tices Act, HB 427, which would ban McMillian’s car. McMillian’s famjob discrimination against state ily said he was beaten and his body employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity; as well as Rep. Simone was dragged from his vehicle. Reed claims he Bell’s education-related Anti-Discrimination Act, killed McMillian in self-defense after Reed alHB 456, which would keep private schools fund- legedly made a sexual advance. ed by taxpayer money through Student Scholarship Organizations from discriminating based SEQUESTER KICKS 500 GEORGIANS on sexuality and other factors. OFF AIDS MED PROGRAM Thanks to the 5.3 percent across-the-board cut to most non-defense discretionary federal POLITICAL TICKER • Gay man wins seat on Chattanooga City programs known as the “sequester,” as many Council. Chris Anderson beat a two-term in- as 15,000 Americans will lose access to the cumbent March 4 to win the District 7 City AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), accordCouncil seat in Chattanooga, Tenn. Anderson, ing to a recent report released by amFAR, the who was endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victo- Foundation for AIDS Research. Georgia will see ry Fund, becomes only the second openly LGBT more than 500 low-income individuals who rely on ADAP funding to receive life-saving politician in the state. Via treatments lose their access to care, one of • Lesbian candidate announces NYC may- eight states that will see such a large loss in oral bid. The nation’s largest city could have coverage. More @

an openly gay mayor. Christine Quinn, the city’s out lesbian City Council Speaker, officially announced her mayoral bid March 10. She would also be New York City’s first female mayor. Quinn was the frontrunner among Democrats in a recent poll. The election is in November. Via

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PO Box 77401 | Atlanta, GA 30357 404-815-6941 | Editor: Laura Douglas-Brown Deputy Editor: Dyana Bagby Web Manager: Ryan Watkins Art Director: Bo Shell




What a difference three years makes
As GA Voice launches fourth year, a look back at dramatic changes for LGBT equality
By LAURA DOUGLAS-BROWN It’s now been three full years since the first issue of GA Voice hit the streets, and our anniversary comes as gay and lesbian people here in Georgia and around the nation eagerly away the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on two cases related to same-sex marriage. With oral arguments looming March 26-27 and decisions expected in June, National LGBT Pride Month, it’s impossible to ignore that we are living in a defining moment for LGBT equality. The milestone marriage cases bring equal parts excitement and trepidation. A big win could allow gay couples to marry around the country, while a big loss could delay federal marriage rights for years. But however the court decides, and there are many possibilities (see story, pages 4-7), one thing is clear: In the battle over LGBT equality, we’re winning. Victories may come soon, or they may be delayed, but we are on the right side of history and the right side of public opinion, which is quickly turning toward equality and fairness regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. While there have certainly been setbacks and there is much left to accomplish, the pace of change is hard to believe. Some of the highlights in just the three short years that GA Voice has been publishing: • Repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on openly gay service members; • President Obama announced his support for marriage equality; won re-election, and included support for the issue in his second inaugural address; • Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin became the first openly gay U.S. senator; • Six more states legalized same-sex marriage: Connecticut (2010), Maine (2012) Maryland (approved in 2012, effective 2013), New Hampshire (technically, Jan. 1, 2010, so three months before our launch), New York (2011) and Washington (2012), as well as the District of Columbia (2010); • Maine and Maryland became the first — although the total was briefly four after Rep. Rashad Taylor came out in office (he was later defeated when GOP redistricting forced him to run against another Democratic incumbent); • Alex Wan became the first openly gay man to serve on the Atlanta City Council; • Joan Garner became the first openly gay member of the Fulton County Commission; • Jane Morrison became one of the few openly gay judges in Georgia, winning a seat on Fulton County State Court; • Pine Lake City Council member Kathie deNobriega, who is openly lesbian, became mayor of the tiny Atlanta suburb; • Georgia got two LGBT mayor pro tems — Kecia Cunningham in Decatur and Melanie Hammet in Pine Lake; • The city of Atlanta settled lawsuits stemming from the unconstitutional 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar; • The Atlanta Police Department expanded from one to two LGBT liaisons; • The city of Savannah approved domestic partner benefits for city employees; • Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed backed marriage equality. When I look back on my more than 15 years as a journalist covering LGBT Atlanta, the progress is even more striking. Back in 1997, when I started working as a reporter for the gay press, no states allowed any equivalent legal status for same-sex couples. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act were fresh losses. No openly gay candidate had ever won office in Georgia. People were much more afraid to come out and lead openly LGBT lives, and the Supreme Court ruling in the Georgia case of Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld sodomy laws used to discriminate against gay people, still held. Since then, we’ve seen Vermont become the first state to offer civil unions, Massachusetts become the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, and now a total of nine states plus the District of Columbia enact marriage equality. Ten years ago this summer, the Supreme Court reversed Bowers v. Hardwick, striking down consensual sodomy laws in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. While we hope for a similarly historic ruling in the two marriage cases now pending before the Supreme Court, we can rest assured that our time is coming. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It’s inspiring to see that arc growing shorter for LGBT people.

Cliff Bostock, Melissa Carter, Jim Farmer, Shannon Hames, Topher Payne, Matt Schafer, Steve Warren, Ryan Lee Publisher: Christina Cash Associate Publisher: Tim Boyd Sales Executive: Marshall Graham National Advertising: Rivendell Media, 908-232-2021 Richard Eldredge, Sandy Malcolm, Lynn Pasqualetti, Robert Pullen



GA Voice’s first issue included coverage of the Atlanta Police Departments illegal raid on the Atlanta Eagle.


All material in the Georgia Voice is protected by federal copyright law and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Georgia Voice. The sexual orientation of advertisers, photographers, writers and cartoonists published herein is neither inferred nor implied. The appearance of names or pictorial representation does not necessarily indicate the sexual orientation of that person or persons. We also do not accept responsibility for claims made by advertisers. Unsolicited editorial material is accepted by the Georgia Voice, but we do not take responsibility for its return. The editors reserve the right to accept, reject or edit any submission. Guidelines for freelance contributors are available upon request. A single copy of the Georgia Voice is available from authorized distribution points. Multiple copies are available from the Georgia Voice office only. Call for rates. If you are unable to reach a convenient free distribution point, you may receive a 26-issue mailed subscription for $60 per year. Checks or credit card orders can be sent to Tim Boyd, Postmaster: Send address changes to the Georgia Voice, PO Box 77401, Atlanta, GA 30357. The Georgia Voice is published every other Friday by The Georgia Voice, LLC. Individual subscriptions are $60 per year for 26 issues. Postage paid at Atlanta, GA, and additional mailing offices. The editorial positions of the Georgia Voice are expressed in editorials and in editor’s notes. Other opinions are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Georgia Voice and its staff. To submit a letter or commentary: Letters should be fewer than 400 words and commentary, for web or print, should be fewer than 750 words. Submissions may be edited for content and length, and must include a name, address and phone number for verification. Email submissions to or mail to the address above.


It’s impossible to ignore that we are living in a defining moment for LGBT equality.
states where citizens voted proactively to allow gay couples to marry; • Minnesota became the very first state where voters defeated an amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage; • Many celebrities have come out including CNN anchors Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper, Latin pop idol Ricky Martin, country singer Chely Wright, hip-hop star Frank Ocean, and more. Progress for LGBT rights has not been as stark in Georgia, but here are just a few of the local victories since the beginning of 2010: • Vandy Beth Glenn successfully sued the Georgia General Assembly after she was fired from her job as a legislative editor for being transgender; • The first Pride festivals were held in Augusta, Marietta and the “East Side” suburbs of Atlanta; • The number of openly gay members of the Georgia General Assembly grew from two to three with the election of Rep. Keisha Waites

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Age: Turns 40 on April 1 Relationship status: In a relationship with artist Susan Mikula since 1999 Job: Host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” in the 9 p.m. weeknight slot on MSNBC; author Hobbies: Fancy cocktails, collecting and wearing chunky glasses and colorful sneakers, being wicked smart Education: PhD in political science from Oxford. Yes, that Oxford. Early career: Radio host for the show “Unfiltered” on Air America, a liberal answer to conservative talk radio that went belly up in 2010 Coming out story: In 1990 as a freshman at Stanford, she came out to the school paper as gay but made the newspaper promise not to print the story until after the weekend so she could tell her parents. But the paper (damned journalists!) didn’t wait and an anonymous person mailed the story to her mom and dad. Hard-core Catholics, her parents were at first pretty disturbed and upset with having a gay daughter. Now they’re cool — their kid is one of the most famous lesbians in the world, after all.




achel Maddow, who makes lesbians across the nation swoon, is coming to Atlanta to promote and read from her book “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power,” now out in paperback. Praise the goddess of wonky worship. The political pundit who has her own show on MSNBC — the first openly gay person to have a prime-time news program — has reached in and put a string of lights around our hearts. (Good lesbians who have seen “Desert Hearts” should know this reference.) Who else can explain the ins and outs of the sequester in a way that makes us cock our heads to one side and lean forward to listen (and perhaps stare at that sexy mole on her neck)? But before Maddow, who begrudgingly wears makeup on the air, became a renowned TV personality known for her brains and goofy grin, she was a radio host for Air America. And before that she was a Rhodes Scholar who was actually just making her way through life doing odd jobs (including yard work) before trying out for a radio gig in Holyoke, Mass.— and winning. The rest, they say, is history in the making.

• She dedicates her book “Drift” to former Vice President Dick Cheney. “Oh, please let me interview you,” she writes in the dedication. • She was described as a “radical lesbian activist” in a Stanford news release announcing she had won the Rhodes scholarship when she graduated from Stanford in 1994. • She wrote a song with folk singer Erin McKeown titled “Baghdad to the Bayou” via text message.


Photo by Bill Phelps

Rachel Maddow on tour with ‘Drift’ Saturday, March 23, 8 p.m. Atlanta Symphony Hall Tickets can be purchased at the Symphony Hall box office, A Cappella Books and online at www.

• She conducted an”Ask Me Anything!” on Reddit on March 8. Many users got pissy because they said she only answered light-hearted ones. And some of them called her the left-wing’s answer to Sean Hannity. Maddow is not a douche like Hannity. • Her March 10 South by Southwest reading was dubbed “Maddowpalooza” by the Austin Chronicle, which also cooed about how large her hands are. Ahem.

• As a renowned mixologist, she’s often asked about booze and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things alcohol. Here’s the recipe for one of her favorite drinks: AN OLD FASHIONED OLD FASHION Put a smallish sugar cube in a glass with Add 3 dashes of Angostura bitters to soak the sugar cube Add a LITTLE BIT of club soda (about 1 teaspoon) and much together Mush this together with a fancy pounder implement Then pour into the glass 2 ounces of bonded rye (bonded means 100 proof!) Add a little bit of ice And then a lemon peel, sliced really thin and small Squeeze the juice from the peel into the drink and then take the peel and rub it around the rim of the glass and drop the peel into the drink. Cheers!



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Tickets available at the Woodruff Arts Center box office and all Ticketmaster outlets • TICKETMASTER.COM (404) 733-4848
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Concerts take place rain or shine. Artists and schedules are subject to change. All sales final. No exchanges or refunds.

Delta Classic Chastain Concerts promoted by ASO Presents support the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.




The making of a maestro
Starting from ‘outside,’ Michael Morgan thrives in symphony
Michael Morgan does little to settle the eternal debate of whether prodigies are made or born. He largely attributes his success as an orchestra conductor to the nurturing he got from public school teachers, his parents and iconic conductor Leonard Bernstein. Yet, from his earliest years, there were parts of Morgan’s nature that make it seem as if he were innately suited to be a maestro. “[Conducting] is a part of the personality of whomever is doing it,” says Morgan, who is guest conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s “Russian Stalwarts” concert March 28-30. “It takes having some gift for physical expression,” Morgan adds. “We’ve all known conductors who were extremely musically knowledgeable, who knew everything you needed to know to conduct and orchestra, but who didn’t have the gift of physical communication. You have to have that ability to turn your ideas about a sound into a gesture.” Morgan has had that gift since his debut concert, conducting the student orchestra at MacFarland Middle School in Washington D.C. “I’ve been doing this since I was 12, and the physical part was pretty natural,” he says. “Sometimes that actually is a hindrance, because when you’re very, very young and things come too easily to you, you don’t work as hard as you might.” Morgan’s natural gifts and hard work, along with the “nebulous” opportunities that build the career of any successful conductor, took him from the junior high school stage to leading symphonies in Chicago, Oakland and New York, where he conducted as part of an opening set for his musical mentor Bernstein, who was gay. Morgan is also gay, and his sexual orientation might be considered another characteristic that makes his career seem predestined. “Being a classical musician, being a conductor, being black, being gay — all of these things put you on the outside, and each one puts you a little further out than the last one,” he says. “So you get accustomed to constructing your own world because there are not a lot of clear paths to follow and not a lot of people that are just like you. “Part of the reason there are so many more gay people in the performing arts than a lot of other places is because the need to be imaginative and to create your own universe, the arts are very conducive to that and other fields might not be as much so.” The classical music industry itself often feels like a world apart from the real one, as



‘Russian Stalwarts’ Conducted by Michael Morgan March 28-30, 9 p.m. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

‘Being a classical musician, being a conductor, being black, being gay – all of these things put you on the outside, and each one puts you a little further out than the last one. So you get accustomed to constructing your own world because there are not a lot of clear paths to follow and not a lot of people that are just like you.’ — Michael Morgan (Photo by Eric Politzer)

Morgan remembers from his time studying under Bernstein. “The straight conductors, they were more likely to keep their straightness a little quiet, so it was rather opposite the real world,” he jokes. “As a classical musician, you almost grow up in a bubble because there are always gay people around, at every level, everywhere: amongst your colleagues, and also in your audience, and amongst your patrons and donors. We’re always in the mix, which is why you don’t see any classical musicians having any big coming out because we’ve never been ‘in.’” The larger society may be catching up with the symphony’s attitudes toward sexual orientation, but prejudices endure. Whenever Morgan has been solicited as a candidate to lead a city’s orchestra, he researches the politics of the area to see if hostile attitudes might prohibit him from fulfilling his calling. “An orchestra being a non-profit has to raise money, and there’s just some places where it does not need – as the face that represents it – to be black or gay,” Morgan says. “Even though large parts of the arts community would be very accepting, large parts of the general community might not be as accepting, and you just can’t do anything that suppresses the organization’s ability to raise money.” Morgan admires folks who are willing to take on such fights, but doesn’t consider himself much of a trailblazer, despite his unique success.

“I know enough about the history of both black and gay conductors that I don’t really think about myself as a pioneer,” Morgan says, citing as inspirations black maestros Dean Dixon and the recently deceased James DePriest and gay conductors Bernstein and Thomas Schippers. Morgan’s achievements undoubtedly have a similar impact on budding musicians, and he is a vocal advocate of music education in public schools. He teaches in numerous capacities, and regularly speaks to students in cities where he is guest conductor, including Atlanta. And although Morgan can have an evangelical passion about bringing new audiences to the orchestra, there is no panic within him to save his industry. “I’ve been in the field now for 40-plus years and classical music has been dying the whole time, according to some people,” he says. “People have been talking about the graying audience for 40 years, but the graying audience keeps replicating itself. “You always want to look around and see who’s not in the room, and ask how do you get them there,” Morgan adds. “There are some cities where the arts are almost relegated to just a certain class of people, and then there are other cities where they are used deliberately to bring different people together.”




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Major funding for this organization is provided by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners under the guidance of the Fulton County Arts Council. This program is supported in part by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly. GCA is a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. This program is supported in part by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs.

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Jim McGreevey’s ‘Fall to Grace’
HBO airs documentary on gay former N.J. governor

Jim McGreevey once envisioned a political career even greater than what he had already achieved as the 52nd governor of New Jersey. But that dream came crashing to a halt in August 2004, when he not only announced that he was gay but that he had been having an affair with a man whom he had appointed as the New Jersey homeland security adviser. McGreevey, who was married to a woman at the time, became the nation’s first openly gay governor, but announced his resignation at the same time. He claimed he was being blackmailed by the man, an Israeli citizen named Golan Cipel, who instead said McGreevey had sexually harassed him. How McGreevey, now happily in a relationship with a different man, is tackling the second act of his life is the basis of the new HBO documentary “Fall to Grace.” The film is directed by Alexandra Pelosi, a veteran filmmaker who has been crafting documentaries for HBO for more than a decade, including 2009’s “The Trials of Ted Haggard.” Pelosi had never met McGreevey but was intrigued when she saw a newspaper story about him a few years back. “I called him up, introduced myself and told him I wanted to meet him,” she recalls. “We had coffee and I told him I wanted to make a film about him. [His partner] Mark O’Donnell said, ‘No, we want no part of this; we have a life now.’” But she persisted and asked if she could tag along. McGreevey agreed. She was invited into the couple’s home and to holiday parties and almost always carried her hand-held camera. Pelosi was not allowed to contact McGreevey’s daughter. The filmmaker respected that, given what she calls “the messy divorce” the family had been through. Two years passed and she accumulated a lot of footage. But after the material was edited and McGreevey was asked about signing a release, he seemed taken aback that she had indeed been making a film. “I don’t think he made the connection,” she laughs, adding that McGreevey eventually signed, but his partner O’Donnell was “pissed.”

After coming out as gay and resigning as governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey found redemption in faith, counseling former inmates, and building a new life with his partner, Mark O’Donnell. (Publicity photo)


‘Fall to Grace’ Debuts March 28, 8 p.m., on HBO

women relate to McGreevey and he to them. “No man has given these women respect,” she says. “He lets them know that you can’t let your mistakes define you. They all know what he has been through.” McGreevey also attended the General Theological Seminary in New York to get a master of divinity degree, hoping to become an Episcopal priest. Pelosi’s project has earned the veteran documentarian her first acceptance into the Sundance Film Festival, which she attended with McGreevey.



These days, McGreevey’s life is very different from when he was a high-powered politician. He spends a lot of time counseling former female prisoners with Exodus Transitional Community. According to Pelosi, the

As the daughter of former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, she has been around politicians almost all her life. “You see people in power – President Obama, Biden,” she says. “I have no interest in people who have it all. I want people with an interesting story to tell. It’s interesting when you self-destruct and have to come back.” She laughs that many of her documentary subjects have been about broken men, but Pelosi believes people genuinely want to see people like McGreevey succeed. And she doesn’t think that McGreevey’s own fall from grace was about him being gay. “The scandal was about much more than that,” she says. “I don’t think that people would care about the gay thing. I don’t know that that matters anymore.”





Dark, deep ‘Equus’
Famed play explores faith, sexuality through young man’s equine attraction

On Stage
“The Baltimore Waltz” Through March 16 at The Fern Theatre at 7 Stages One of lesbian Paula Vogel’s first plays, and a very personal one, about a (gay) brother and sister who tour Europe after one is diagnosed with a fatal disease. “Angry Fags” Through March 17 at 7 Stages GA Voice columnist Topher Payne’s world premiere play about two gay men who turn violent when a friend is assaulted is undeniably relevant and hardhitting. Features GA Voice columnist Melissa Carter in her theater debut as a lesbian state senator. “The Drowsy Chaperone” Through April 14 at Aurora Theatre This Tony-winning musical follows a lonely, sexually ambiguous musical theater junkie who puts on the cast album of his favorite show and sees it pop to life around him. “Zorro” April 3 – May 5 at The Alliance Theatre The American premiere of this swashbuckling musical, directed by openly gay Christopher Renshaw, who worked with Boy George on “Taboo.” “Designing Women Live 7” April 11 – 14 at Onstage Atlanta Two new episodes of the TV classic are being staged – “Suzanne Goes Looking for a Friend” and “The Emperor’s New Nose/How Long Has This Been Going On?” – and done as fundraisers for Process Theatre and Onstage Atlanta’s new home.
Among the shows he has appeared in are the gay-themed “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “The Mystery of Irma Vep.” As a director, he is best known perhaps for his work on the company’s 2002 gay-themed “Beautiful Thing.” Crowe moved away from the area in 2006 and studied directing at the University of Washington but returned in 2009. He got back into theater slowly and now tries to do at least two shows a year. His first project back at the Express was directing “The Judas Kiss,” which dealt with Oscar Wilde and his relationship with his male lover. Though he’s worked at companies all over the city, Actor’s Express is special to him. “Actor’s Express has been a home to me,” Crowe says. “I went there right after college and learned so much there. At the time Actor’s Express was the place you went to for classic stagings. (Former artistic director) Chris Coleman could take any dusty play and make something great of it. Now Freddie is around and has such a good balance of classics and new work.”

Kyle Brumley (right) plays Alan Strang, seen here opposite ‘Nugget’ played by Jason-Jamal Ligon in Actor’s Express’s production ‘Equus,’ the classic, dark tale of a young man who’s blinded a half dozen horses. (Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus)

After a long history with Actor’s Express, it’s only fitting that openly gay David Crowe is back with the company, this time directing the classic “Equus.” Opening March 21, “Equus” – written in 1973 by Peter Shaffer — is the dark tale of Alan Strang (Kyle Brumley), a young man who has blinded a half dozen horses. Psychiatrist Richard Dysart (Chris Kayser) is left to figure out why and treat Strang. Considered a masterpiece, “Equus” is still staged regularly around the world but got a big modern-day boost when Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, performed the lead role of Alan in London in 2007 and again on Broadway in 2009 — bringing masses to see the play and to gawk at his full frontal nudity. Freddie Ashley of Actor’s Express approached Crowe for the project. Crowe loved the idea. “It deals with language, and that which is less realistic, which are things that I am passionate about,” says Crowe. “It’s a beautifully written play, so well put together. It’s a fantasy, almost supernatural.” He has never actually seen a production but a lot of that has to do with timing. “By the time I was around, ‘Equus’ had had


“Equus” March 21 – April 21 at Actor’s Express

its day,” says the director. During the course of the play, Dysart begins to question his own life and has to make some big decisions. “He is middle-aged and in a longtime marriage,” says Crowe. “He realizes he has had no real life experiences, no amazing stories. He wonders if it’s better to be safe and conform or live a passionate existence. Does he try and deliver the boy into a safe place?” Crowe thinks gay and lesbian audiences will respond to the idea of non-conformity vs. playing it safe. The cast includes veteran performers such as Kayser, Kathleen Wattis and Joanna Daniel with newer ones such as Brumley. Additionally, many of the current Actor’s Express interns play horses. Crowe has been working with the company both as a director and an actor for more than 20 years, directing a half dozen shows and acting in more than 15. He interned at the company in 1990 and has been a company member since the following year.







Sex Panic antidote
“No more tits! No more dicks!” Members of the Clean-up Cheshire Bridge Brigade (CCBB) were marching in a circle in front of a strip joint, chanting and waving signs on the road many call Atlanta’s red-light district. Their tiny protest circle was in support of gay City Councilman Alex Wan’s effort to deeroticize Cheshire Bridge. His proposed ordinances to do so have been delayed introduction until May. Robert watched the spectacle with Lee on the other side of the street. They were dunking gingerbread men from nearby Rhodes Bakery in cups of coffee. Lee had rented a vacant lot and was overseeing erection of a circus-style tent for the performance space he called the House of Gay Human Oddities. It was canary yellow and painted with portraits of performers like Shawtina, a transdwarf, who joined them now. He was wearing bright-red stiletto high-heels, but otherwise in his usual jeans and florid western shirt. “Why in the world are you wearing those in the middle of the day?” Lee asked. “I’ll tell you later. I’m taking a walk,” Shawtina replied. With that, he strode across the street directly toward the protest group, which had stopped for a break. After a moment Robert followed, fearful that Shawtina might get hurt. He was already upbraiding the protestors. “What do you jack-asses care if someone operates a strip club here? Didn’t you know that when you moved into the area? Look at you. Why don’t you get some KKK robes….” “Are you gay?” a man blurted, looking at Shawtina’s shoes. “Of course, I’m gay…or trans…or whatever. Are you gay?” Shawtina replied. “Yes, I am,” the man said, “and you are an offense to our sexual orientation, as are these blatantly sexual businesses that make giving directions to our home embarrassing. We do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. All of the businesses are disgusting and…” “Oh, great,” Shawtina snapped. “You’re at home having anal sex that was illegal until a few years ago and you want to shut down titty bars. Dumb asses.” With that Shawtina turned his back and headed up the street, hobbling slightly on the stiletto heels. Robert followed. “Where are you going?” he asked. “Up the road to the video booths,” Shawtina explained. “I’m too short for the glory holes without these heels on. See you later.” That evening, Robert invited Lee to dinner at Lunacy Black Market in downtown Atlanta.
Photo via

Showdown on Cheshire Bridge




Rhodes Family Bakery 1783 Cheshire Bridge Rd., Atlanta, GA 30324 404-876-3783 | The cheese straws are the best in the city, but I prefer the gingerbread men. Lunacy Black Market 231 Mitchell St., Atlanta, GA 30303 404-736-6164. | Paul Luna’s “uninspired cuisine” is among the city’s best. Make a reservation. You’ll be dining on a prix fixe menu of endless small plates with startling global flavors.

“It’s been a crazy day,” he said. “I think we should go someplace where lunacy is pleasant rather than a good argument to bring back Sex Panic.” Lee laughed. “That’s my job,” he said. Sex Panic was the short-lived but revolutionary group of the late ‘90s that formed to oppose the gay anti-promiscuity movement. “Paul Luna is running for mayor,” Robert explained. “As his website warns, he sometimes gets naked while cooking. So, if anyone would dismiss Alex Wan’s effort to purify Cheshire Bridge, it’s him.” Lee and Robert clinked their wine glasses. “Here’s to outlaw sex and all things off the beaten path,” Lee said. The procession of small plates began. Among them were succulent ribs, spicy chicken legs and an exotic slaw, just to name a few. It seemed that Robert may well have found the boyfriend he promised himself to meet before he turned 50. Friends thought it was weird that this professor who taught queer theory would connect with a man who operated a gay freak show. But then Robert had himself created the freaky Food Porn Supper Club where they met. Robert looked forward to the opening performance of Lee’s show later that week.

Food Porn is a fictional series by longtime Atlanta food critic Cliff Bostock. Set in real Atlanta restaurants, it chronicles the adventures of Robert, a gay man in search of a husband — or at least a good meal. Read the whole series online at

Directory Listings


Greg Louganis, Anderson Cooper, Indigo Girls, Sir Elton, and more
If you’re anti-gay, don’t “Call Me Maybe”: Pop darling Carly Rae Jepsen announced last week via Twitter that “as an artist who believes in equality” she won’t perform at the Boy Scouts of America’s National Jamboree, set for July in West Virginia. Jepsen and Train had been announced as headliners of the event; Train had already dropped out. Derek Nance, a gay Eagle Scout, posted petitions asking Jepsen and Train not to perform at the Jamboree due to the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members, leaders and volunteers.







Openly gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis plays a former circuit boy tying the knot in two recent episodes of the web series “Old Dogs New Tricks.” The episodes were posted March 6 and March 13 and can be viewed online now ( The dramedy series aims to address the question,“Does (sex) life end for gay men as they approach 50?” None other than Madonna will present gay CNN anchor Anderson Cooper with the Vito Russo Award on March 16 at the GLAAD Awards in New York City. Pretty impressive — or something — for a guy who just came out in July by allowing Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast to publish an email, although in fairness, Cooper has been reporting on LGBT issues for years.


ham (March 15) and Montgomery (March 22) in Alabama; Memphis (March 16), Chattanooga (March 23) and Nashville (April 5) in Tennessee; plus Baton Rouge, La. (March 29); Biloxi, Miss. (March 30); and Winston-Salem, N.C. (April 6). “Sing for Your Life” — the live-singing competition created by Barry Brandon, JL Rodriquez and Michael Robinson — is nearing the end of 12 weeks of amazing tunes. The competition continues Thursdays, with the winner crowned March 28 at Jungle Atlanta. www.




Photo by Dyana Bagby

Photos via CNN,

Start planning your summer shows: The Live Nation Concert Series at Chastain has announced performers for its Series A, with concerts running from April to July. Of particular interest to LGBT music fans, the series includes a June 14 joint concert of folk legend Joan Baez and beloved lesbian folk-rock duo Indigo Girls. Tickets for individual shows go on sale March 16. Looking for a road trip? At press time, tickets remained for gay pop music icon Elton John’s March 20 show in Macon, GA. With no Atlanta or New Orleans date, Sir Elton seems to be hitting smaller Southern cities with this leg of his tour, which also includes Birming-


Dig out your dancing shoes. After a winter hiatus, DJ Vicki Powell is set to resume her Sunday Service sets, starting April 14 from 7-11 p.m. at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium, aka Church. “How to Survive a Plague,” the Oscarnominated documentary about the worst days of the HIV epidemic, has been optioned by ABC as a mini-series, according to Entertainment Weekly. The show will be a scripted drama focused on the years 1987-1996. No timeline has been announced for airing, but documentary director David France, who will serve as an executive producer, said it is “in full swing.”

Experience the remarkable lives of Mexico’s most famous painters, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera—more than 120 works together for the first time in the U.S. Only in Atlanta!
This exhibition is co-organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City, in association with The Vergel Foundation, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art, and Galería Arvil.





Forward Arts Foundation

Sara Giles Moore Foundation

Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Friends of Frida & Diego An indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities Spanish Language Programming is made possible by the MetLife Foundation.
Image: Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907–1954), Self-Portrait with Monkeys (Autorretrato con monos), 1943, oil on canvas, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art. © 2013 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D. F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.



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Photo by Bo Shell

Team Friendly presents “Drop the Soap! Wash Away the Stigma!” with Sister Ursula Polari hosting an evening about reducing the stigma of HIV. Features a live auction to wash down onstage local personalities including activist Chandler Bearden, DJ Diablo Rojo, porn star Charlie Harding and more. 6 p.m., Jungle Atlanta,

The Atlanta Film Festival runs for two weeks featuring multiple films, opening tonight with “This is Atlanta” short films, “Mud,” “Breakdown Reward” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The festival includes its annual LGBT-themed “Pink Peach” offerings, featuring local director Cindy Abel’s “Breaking Through” (March 20). Multiple venues; please see story on Pages 20-21.


Atlanta Poly Weekend starts its third annual event with a full slate of activities and guests. Holiday Inn Perimeter, The Decatur Women’s League launches its spring softball season, with games at various times on Friday nights at Kelley C. Cofer Park, The THATcamp Feminisms South is a two day feminism “unconference” for anyone working at the intersection of feminism, the humanities, and technology. 5 p.m. at the Emory University Library Research Commons, The art work of Tony Jackson, combining an American abstract expressive and Japanese narrative aesthetic, is on display from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Mister Center, Third Friday Film Series presents the documentary “The Thick Dark Fog,” with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the feature beginning at 7:30 p.m. at First Existentialist Congregation, After entertainer Destiny Brooks crowns Mr. Gay Cobb County 2013 at 9 p.m., stick around for “Uncensored,” a variety show filmed each week before a live audience with Brooks herself. Arrive at 10 p.m. to be part of the TV audience; the show starts at 11 p.m. at LeBuzz,


Plan your road trip as gay rock god Elton John plays at 8 p.m. at the Macon Centreplex Coliseum,

Publicity photo

Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories perform with special guests Electra and Saul Kaye. 8:30 p.m. at the Variety Playhouse,

Bookmark to get your daily dose of local LGBT events.
Angelica D’Paige hosts the Fab Five revue at 11 p.m. on Friday’s at Burkhart’s, Hosted by Knomie Moore and Ally Yankadic, the Armorettes Follies benefits the AIDS Vaccine 200/ Emory Vaccine Center from 8 -10 p.m. at the Heretic, Grab your green for a St. Patty’s Glow Party, with lesbian speed dating on the newly finished patio, at 8 p.m. at My Sister’s Room, DJ Escape returns to spin at 10 p.m. at the Heretic, Enjoy green drinks and great song mash-ups for the St. Patrick’s Day edition of Mash Attacks! 10 p.m. at the Atlanta Eagle, A St. Patty’s Day Party featuring a Best Ginger Hair Contest and the Divas Cabaret, from 10 p.m. – 3 a.m. at Le Buzz,



The Hotlanta Softball spring season, which launches March 17, gets partying early with the fourth annual “Patty 0 Party” Atlanta Talons beer bust. Expect beer, jello shots and a raffle. Amanda Topp and Millicent Pete headline with DJ Joey S on the turntable. 2 p.m., F.R.O.G.S. Cantina, Get ready for great alterna-grass as the women of Roxie Watson return to Eddie’s Attic. 7 p.m., Fiddler’s Green Coffeehouse presents the Irish Brothers and Kevin Spears at 8 p.m. at Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta, 3155 East Ponce de Leon Ave. near Decatur.

Is it a dance party or performance art? Actually, it’s both. Bedlam Presents stages CirqueDeCabaret, a night featuring acts from aerialist Melissa Re, activist Chandler Bearden and many more, 10:30 p.m. – 3 a.m. at Jungle,

Hotlanta Rubber Gear Group hosts its monthly meeting, this month honoring the late Jason Lynch, Mr. International Rubber 2013, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Atlanta Eagle, Edie Cheezburger presents The Other Show on Fridays. Doors open at 8:30 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m. at Jungle,

Photo by Ernst Vikne/CC3.0





Want to help raise money for civil rights and the Human Rights Campaign? HRC Athletes for Equality join in the Publix Georgia Marathon, beginning in Centennial Olympic Park, First City Network, Savannah’s oldest LGBT organization, hosts its 25th annual Oyster Roast. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Lake Mayer Park, Get your pancakes on as Occupy Our Home Atlanta hosts a brunch to support their housing justice movement. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 404 Glen Iris, Atlanta, GA, 30308, Amsterdam Atlanta hosts its own all-day St. Patrick’s Day celebration, 11:30 a.m. – midnight, Join the Health Initiative and SAGE Atlanta, a group for LGBT seniors, for Chair Yoga every Monday through May 6. 10 a.m. at the Phillip Rush Center. Wanna be the next big drag thing? Diva Drag University continues with a diva mentoring a new queen every week and preparing her for the upcoming Atlanta Rising Diva 2013 Pageant. 10:30 p.m. at LeBuzz,

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Publicity photo

Drag royalty in the house! Join “Rupaul’s Drag Race” Season 2 finalist Jujubee at 9 p.m. both nights at Burkhart’s,

Don your best gravity-defying wig as the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus hosts its fifth annual Big Wig fundraiser, featuring DJ David Knapp. This year’s theme is “Follow the Yellow Big Wig,” so dress as your favorite Oz character for the wig contest. 7 p.m. at the former Fox Sports Grill at Atlantic Station.


Tuesdays, unwind with a sing-along with pianist David Reeb at 8 p.m. at Mixx, Every Tuesday, sing out at Mary-oke starting at 9 p.m. at Mary’s,

Join the fun at Bobby’s Big Top Bottom Circus Birthday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at BJ Roosters,



Join the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce for Fourth Friday networking at 5:30 p.m. Location TBA, The Sweet and Sleazy Dessert Speakeasy, featuring chocolate and other decadent offerings, is a benefit for the Atlanta Harm Reduction Center. 7:30 p.m. to midnight at the home of Amanda Plumb,

Rachel Maddow brings her wit and intelligence to the ATL for a national tour on behalf of her paperback edition of “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power,” sponsored by A Capella Books and the Decatur Book Festival. 8 p.m. at the Atlanta Symphony, Kick off the beginning of spring with Emerald Isles, a concert by the Atlanta Freedom Bands, 8 – 9:30 p.m. at the Druid Hills United Methodist Church

Attorney Jessica Young discusses the importance of wills for gay couples and singles at a Georgia Benefits Counsel presentation. 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church,


Legendary drag performer Charlie Brown hosts Charlie’s Angels. 11 p.m. Fridays at Blake’s on the Park,


SAGE Atlanta hosts its weekly meeting, with different events and guests each week , 11 a.m. at the Phillip Rush Center, For the gals: Aunt Judy’s Social Circle hosts its Third Thursday event from 6 p.m. to midnight at Bad Dog Taqueria, 1597 North Decatur Road, Decatur, GA 30307 Bring plenty of business cards to the gay Atlanta Executive Network’s Mix and Mingle, sponsored by Bill Kaelin Marketing from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Spice Market of the Atlanta W Midtown, The HRC Pre-Dinner Reception will whet your appetite for the big event on May 4. 7 – 9 p.m. at the Margaret Mitchell House, www. The GoodLife Awards ATL honors those in different communities who have committed to striving for excellence. 7 p.m. at the Georgian Terrace, http://


Claudia Moss hosts an evening of motivational speakers, mini makeovers and food as part of Lift Up Atlanta’s Sisters of Motivational Empowerment Workshop from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Phillip Rush Center, Get ready for the Final Four as Atlanta Menace Softball presents their NCAA March Madness kickoff beer bust from 2 – 6 p.m. at Mellow Mushroom Midtown, Some camp, and much glam, highlights Dixie Does Drag, helping lead up to Dixie Invitational Bowling tournament. 7 – 9 p.m. at Jungle, New work from three choreographers is featured at Atlanta Ballet’s NiteOUT at the Ballet: New Choreographic Voices. 8 – 10 p.m. at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre,

Augusta’s Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer, part of the LGBT-founded MCC denomination, celebrates its 25th anniversary. Saturday events include a noon potluck, followed by a workshop at 1 p.m. with Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of MCC worldwide, both at the church. Saturday evening features a 6 p.m. dinner at the Partridge Inn. Wilson then preaches for the Sunday service at 11 a.m. at MCC of Our Redeemer.

You’ll still be partying for Saturday night, but it will technically be Sunday morning as Carioca brings DJ Sin Morera to Xion, beginning at 3 a.m.


The Emory Hope Clinic and The Center for Black Equity collaborate for a community night of networking and education, with host Funky Dineva. 6 – 9 p.m. at 595 North Event Center, Enjoy Sing Along Sundays with Atlanta’s favorite camp drage fundraising troupe, the Armorettes. 6 p.m. at Burkhart’s, Singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer performs at 7:30 p.m. at Eddie Owen Presents at the Red Clay Theatre in Duluth.

Chefs Maggie and Brooke, authors of the Love of Cooking series, visit lesbian social networking group Fourth Tuesday from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Viking Cooking School,


Photo via Facebook

Atlanta Pride hosts sports players and teams for an LGBT sports meeting to discuss possible collaborative efforts. 7 p.m. at the Phillip Rush Center,

File photo








Lesbian singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier brings her introspective tunes and signature voice to Eddie Owen Presents at the Red Clay Theatre,

Enjoy three songwriters in the round: Amy Andrews, Kyshona Armstrong and The Skipperdees at 8 p.m. at the Red Clay Theatre,


In the Life Atlanta, which sponsors the annual Labor Day Black Pride weekend, hosts Network after Work from 6:30 – 10:30 p.m. at Fins Atlanta,

Michelle Malone performs two shows at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at Eddie’s Attic, Hannah Thomas, Steff Mahan and Emily Kate Boyd team up at 8 p.m. at Steve’s Live Music,


Party with Impact: 20 years of Positive Impact is a night honoring the two decades of work done by the HIV agency. 7 – 10 p.m., The Wimbish House,

Bring plenty of spirit to “Testify for Love: Light the Way to Justice,” a pep rally in advance of the Supreme Court’s hearing over marriage equality. 7:30 - 9:30 p.m. at the Georgia State Capitol,


Watch recaps of the Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and Prop 8 at United For Marriage Watch. Mention that you are there for the event and 10 percent of your dinner bill will be donated to Georgia Equality. 6-10 p.m. at 10th & Piedmont. Be ready to laugh at the ABear Comedy Show, hosted by Ian Aber — ABear comedian. Features LGBT and straight comics to benefit Lost-N-Found Youth, which helps LGBT homeless youth. 8 p.m. at Jungle,



Angelique Burke presents the second part of her radical relationship series “Me, Myself and I: Experiencing a Love Affair with Myself” from 7:30 – 9 p.m. at Charis Books,

The gay-inclusive Dixie Invitational Bowling tournament kicks off tonight with local and visiting leagues hoping for strikes through March 31. Brunswick Zone Norcross, The new incarnation of the Faiths and Feminisms book group, now called Exploring Feminist and Womanist Spirituality and Ethics, meets tonight from 7:30 – 9 p.m. at Charis Books, Phoenix of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” hosts Dancefloor Divas at 11:30 p.m. at Burkharts,


Georgia Equality and Lambda Legal team up for a town hall meeting to discuss the day’s Supreme Court hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act, with lawyers present to analyze the case. 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Phillip Rush Center,



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Lessons from ‘Angry Fags’
What I learned in my first acting role
I have only a few performances left before the curtain falls on Topher Payne’s world premiere of “Angry Fags,” in which I played a lesbian state senator — my first acting role. The knowledge I have gained these past several weeks has been invaluable. I have been scared, nervous, humbled, excited, proud and relieved. But I wouldn’t trade anything for what I have learned and so many of these lessons apply to all of our lives. First, be comfortable with your body. One element of theatre that was not explained to me beforehand is that you all change in front of each other in a tiny space. There isn’t time to run to a private bathroom every time you have to switch into the next outfit. I was never the girl who would walk around the dorm in my underwear, so this communal momentary near-nakedness with new friends was new for me. But concentrating on insecurities during a performance would interfere with the role and serves no purpose. So don’t worry about what you can’t change. Just wear good underwear. Second, don’t just learn your own lines. My biggest fear was, “How can I possibly learn so many lines?” The advice I was given was to concentrate on learning the story and the lines would come. The repetition of rehearsal after rehearsal takes care of teaching you the lines. But if you only learn your lines, you have done your fellow cast members a disservice. There is a trust among actors that only comes when they know they are acting with someone who has their back and can help gloss it over if someone misses a line or a cue. Just like in life, the people you want to spend your time with are the ones who you know will support you, the ones who are there for you and love you after every performance, not just the good ones. Third, there is always tomorrow night.
Melissa Carter is also a writer for Huffington Post. She broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in Atlanta and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter


“Angry Fags” Through March 17 at 7 Stages

When completed, “Angry Fags” will have been performed 18 times in front of an audience. In that duration actors have been sick, hurt, tired, menstrual and hung over. Some nights were better than others but when someone stumbled, we reminded each other that there was always tomorrow night to take another swing. I learned that it is not so much about being perfect as it is keeping that desire to always be better. By constantly wanting to give a better performance, it creates anticipation and motivation for everyone around you. Fourth, the funniest moments happen backstage. Casts and crews bond fast by being together in the theatrical trenches night after night. You have spent time together auditioning, doing table reads, blocking, rehearsing lines, and training for fight scenes. By the time the production starts, you are like a little family. Once the rhythm of the production becomes instinctual, the time spent backstage between scenes becomes the stress reliever. I grew to love being backstage as much as being on stage. Just like in life, the time spent in the spotlight isn’t the most important part. It’s the relationships you build backstage that truly make you who you are. Several people have asked me if I would ever act again. Topher all but dragged me into this role and but for my trust and admiration of him, I don’t know if I ever would have taken the risk. But this experience has reminded me of how much we miss every day when we let fear and insecurity make our decisions for us. So next time you get the chance to do something that scares you, ask yourself, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Then say yes.




There is no excuse for smoking in bars
Part of my trip planning whenever I go out of town for more than a few days includes a stop at the discount tobacco store for a carton of American Spirit Perique Rich Robust — they’re the ones that come in the black pack, which inarguably makes them classier. When I get ‘em by the carton it works out to around $5.50 a pack. I smoke roughly a pack a day. Yes, I’m fully aware I’m spending two grand a year on cigarettes, I can do math. So let’s just bring those eyebrows back to a neutral place, thanks. Those same cigarettes are $9 to $12 in other cities, so I plan ahead. Last time I was in Manhattan, whenever someone asked me for a cigarette, I’d offer them two for a dollar. And they went for it! They paid! I was totally prepared to start a new life for myself selling cigarettes to needy hipsters, until I found out what I was doing was a felony. About half of the career paths I think I’d be really good at turn out to be illegal. It’s hard to make a living, y’all. Smoking has already made its departure from bars and restaurants in every city I visit. I don’t even ask anymore: I just accept bar smoking as being a unique comfort of home that I shouldn’t expect elsewhere, like having my dog around. It’s better for a smoker to limit his travel plans to temperate climates, because there is just nothing sadder than seeing a group of urbanites huddled together outside of a bar in freezing temperatures, puffing away at cigarettes they paid too much for and can’t properly enjoy. When I go out in other cities, I smoke less. It’s not worth bundling up and scuffling outside more than two or three times in the course of a night. And yet, I still have a lovely evening. Despite my pathetic and crippling addiction, I do not sit there seething, cursing the Nanny State for denying me the opportunity to light up. However, because of the aforementioned pathetic and crippling addiction, if you give me the chance to light up in your place of

Clearing the air
Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a SemiFabulous Life.” Find out more at

business, I will take full advantage of that invitation. Why have three delicious American Spirit Perique Rich Robusts when I can have 16? Yaaay, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I’ve never met anyone who has made their peace with their eventual agonizing death from emphysema. All smokers know we should get around to quitting at some point. I tried to once, like five years ago, but I abandoned the attempt fairly quickly because it I wasn’t enjoying it. I’ll try again, at some point, and I’ll have to stick with it because I don’t want to die from smoking. If you’re curious, the way I want to die is after I say the last line of my acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award. Just drop and flatline, right there on stage. Because I like situational irony. Do you know who keeps smoking in 2013? Selfish, self-destructive people. People who lack a basic respect for themselves, and the people who love them. If you’re still smoking, you have an issue that’s much greater than tobacco, and you need to deal with whatever that is. And since I put it out there, yes, I know my issue. I don’t like myself as much as I should, so I don’t place proper importance on treating my body well. I am working on that. Boom. Truth bomb. Smoking is disgusting, it makes you smell bad, and it is killing you. Every single cigarette makes it a little more likely that you’re going to die from making that choice. And I’m telling you that as someone who has smoked for 18 years, and has paused for three smoke breaks since I started writing this column. It is our right to continue. I don’t think cigarettes should be outlawed for the same reason I don’t think alcohol, pot, or giant sodas should be outlawed: Our bodies, our choices. But there is simply no defensible reason for smoking to continue in Atlanta bars. Nothing — absolutely nothing, not one goddamn thing — is gained from allowing it. It’s gross. Nonsmoking patrons don’t like it, and smoking patrons do just fine without it. Atlanta, it’s time we clear the air.

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