Panel of journalists, activists tackles outing, Russia, ENDA

Panel of journalists, activists tackles outing, Russia, ENDA

Post-discussion panel photo
Panelists included (left to right) Kevin Naff, Thom Senzee, Mandy Carter, Sarah Blazucki, Rob Smith, Adam Moore and Will Walters. (Photo courtesy of Thom Senzee)

Washington Blade coverage of the February 25, 2014 engagement of the LGBTs In The News panel series at the National Press Club

Panel of journalists, activists tackles outing, Russia, ENDA

Last week’s engagement at the National Press Club of the “LGBTs In The News” panel series, currently on a nationwide tour, revealed differences in opinion about the ethics of outing.

Comprised of leaders from the fields of journalism, entertainment and activism, the panel also shed light on the need for greater opportunities for LGBT actors and broadcast personalities and for better coverage of people of color at the front lines of the LGBT-equality movement.

Citing a landmark report his organization released last year, which was researched and compiled by the Williams Institute at UCLA, SAG-AFTRA’s national director of EEO and diversity, Adam Moore noted that the entertainment industry in the U.S. is the “most visible workplace on Earth,” and that as LGBT actors and media professionals gain parity in job opportunities, the entertainment industry and news business can lead by example as models of equal opportunity.

“We’ve already come a long way in our industries,” said Moore. “But you might be surprised how far we still have to go. This is an industry that is still run by a lot of very traditional, very conservative and highly risk-averse people at the top.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the controversy surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi vis-à-vis Russia’s anti-gay-propaganda law was, for all intents and purposes, only modestly grazed as a point of discussion during the panel.

However, passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was a hot topic among the panelists.

“What I believe, and as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer learned recently, corporations that have already instituted non-discrimination policies for LGBT workers are inclined to put pressure on congress to pass ENDA,” said panelist Will Walters, whose civil rights education organization, FreeWillUSA is a major sponsor of the panel series. “Ironically, big business may force ENDA to a ‘yes’ vote in the long run.”

The discussion, which was also sponsored by the Washington Blade and SAG-AFTRA (formerly the Screen Actors Guild) and held in the National Press Club’s Edward R. Murrow Room, soon turned to the enduring question of whether it is ethical for, or even incumbent upon, reporters to disclose secretly gay public figures’ sexual orientation.

“If you’re a private citizen with no public persona, that’s one thing,” Blade editor, Kevin Naff said. “However, there’s an entirely different set of rules that are specific to people in the public eye. They’ve chosen a path in the limelight and they are fair game—especially when they’re hurting other gay people and being hypocritical at the same time.”

According to Naff, ultimately it matters not whether a closeted public figure is hostile to the cause of LGBT equality.

“If they’re a public figure, reporting their sexual orientation is fair game,” he said. “If you’re in the public eye, this is part of what you signed up for.”

But author-activist and Iraq war veteran, Rob Smith disagreed.

“It’s not up to me to tell someone, even if they are against us publicly, ‘you’re going to be outed whether you like it or not,’” he said. “I’m sorry, but that’s not right; and it hurts us all in the long run.”

At least one other panelist, civil rights leader Mandy Carter, agreed with Smith.

“It can cause all kinds of damage in a person’s life to be outed, including loss of career and even suicide,” said Carter, who is co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition. “I’m not going to be the one to decide for you whether or not you should come out of the closet.”

Working with other individuals and organizations, not least among them, Walter Naegle, surviving partner of the late Bayard Rustin, Carter has been a key figure in helping increase awareness about Rustin’s role alongside civil rights activist, A. Philip Randolph as chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

There was consensus among all of the panelists about the importance of educating the world about Bayard Rustin, who was openly gay in the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s and beyond, but who—despite being among Dr. King’s closest advisers—was kept out of the public eye as much as possible for fear that the Civil Rights movement might be “tarnished” by Rustin’s homosexuality.

All of the panelists agreed that passing ENDA was probably the most important goal the LGBT community has on its plate at the moment. Yet, each agreed that passage of ENDA in 2014 is all but impossible.

“I think 2015 looks a little more plausible,” said National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association vice president of print and online media, Sarah Blazucki.

The next “LGBTs In The News” panel will be in late spring in New York City and will feature the theme: “LGBTs and Our Allies: We couldn’t do it without you.”

“New York promises to be a decidedly star-studded panel, as we expect to have some of the music industry’s most illustrious LGBT allies and community members on the panel,” said series founder and panel moderator, Thom Senzee, a freelance journalist.

“Stay tuned for a major announcement about our confirmed panelists for the New York engagement of LGBTs In The News.”

State Dept.’s Human Rights Report to Congress Mentions LGBTs Six Times


State Dept. Press Release:


Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release                                                                                         February 27, 2014


2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

On February 27, 2014, Secretary Kerry submitted the 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (commonly known as the Human Rights Reports) to the United States Congress.  The reports, now in their 38th year, are available on and  Mandated by Congress, the Human Rights Reports help inform U.S. government policy and foreign assistance.  They are also a reference for other governments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, legal professionals, scholars, interested citizens, and journalists.

Key Human Rights Developments around the World

The following were among the most noteworthy human rights developments in 2013:

Increased Crackdown on Civil Society and the Freedoms of Association and Assembly

Governments in every region of the world continued to stifle civil society and restrict citizens’ universal right to freedoms of assembly and association.  Authorities increasingly used legislation to silence political dissidence and used excessive force to crack down on civil society and protest.

Restrictions on Freedom of Speech and Press Freedom

Governments around the world also continued to restrict freedom of expression and press freedom as a means of tightly controlling or eliminating political criticism and opposition.  This included hampering the ability of journalists to report on issues deemed politically sensitive by placing onerous restrictions on members of the press, such as requiring government approval prior to meeting with international organizations or representatives, and limiting visas for foreign journalists.  Governments also used harassment and physical intimidation of journalists to create a climate of fear and self-censorship, both online and offline.  Authorities further censored the media by closing independent newspaper outlets and television stations.  Officials detained or arrested activists and journalists on false charges in order to limit criticism of the government and impede peaceful protest, and some have even been killed for simply voicing dissent. 


Accountability Deficits for Security Forces Abuses

In too many places, government security forces abused human rights with impunity and failed to protect their citizens.  Military and security forces in numerous countries engaged in unlawful arrests and extrajudicial killings, gender-based violence, rape, torture, and abductions throughout 2013. Weak or nonexistent justice institutions did not hold security forces accountable for human rights abuses and often failed to uphold the rights to due process and a fair trial.

Lack of Effective Labor Rights Protections


People continued to work in conditions that were hazardous to their health and safety, some – often migrant workers – against their will.  Workers’ attempts to organize and bargain collectively for improved labor rights protections were frequently impeded by governments’ inability or unwillingness to enforce labor protections, as well as government interference in their activities and violence and threats against labor leaders.  However, 2013 did see the entry-into-force of International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189, which set forth protections for fundamental rights at work, and several countries took steps to enact legislation to protect the rights of domestic workers.

The Continued Marginalization of Vulnerable Groups

2013 saw the continued marginalization of religious and ethnic minorities, women and children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations.  Governments subjected these groups to repressive policies, societal intolerance, discriminatory laws, and disenfranchisement, and authorities failed to hold those who committed crimes against them accountable. Faith organizations and religious and ethnic minorities suffered growing intolerance and violence, as well as faced threats to and restrictions on their religious belief and practice.  Women and girls in all regions suffered endemic societal discrimination, and there was a surge in gender-based violence.  The rights of LGBT persons were increasingly threatened, as limitations on freedoms of association and assembly for the LGBT community and new laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations unleashed increased violence and intimidation against LGBT persons.  Finally, persons with disabilities continued to experience a lack of access to quality inclusive education, inaccessible infrastructure, and weak non-discrimination protections.

For further information, please contact Aaron Jensen, Press Officer, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at or (202) 647-0516.

# # # offers quick, powerful location-driven rights information.


LGBTs In The News panelist and NLGJA vice president of print and online media, Sarah Blazucki has an amazing, simple and important tool for comprehensive, at-a-glance understanding of your location’s (state, etc.) rights (or lack thereof) for LGBT people. I’m spending my last night in the D.C. region in Herndon, VA…was kind of mortified to see almost all “X’s” and in “nada” for this location. It would have been a totally different result if I would have looked at my current location from D.C. while I was there! Indicative of the realities of a patchwork of freedom and oppression for LGBT people the U.S. is at the moment. Check out

LGBTs In The News panel at National Press Club

Washington D.C. engagement of LGBTs In The News at the National Press Club Feb. 25, 2014 discussion panelists (L-R): Kevin Naff, Thom Senzee (moderator), Mandy Carter, Sarah Blazucki, Rob Smith, Adam Moore and Will Walters

LGBTs In The News comes to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25

Join LGBTs In The News, with an exciting panel discussing the latest news, issues and events impacting LGBT individuals and families–as well as our allies in the fight for equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            February 20, 2014


Media Contact:

Thom Senzee

(323) 620-6778



SAG-AFTRA Nat’l. EEO & Diversity Director joins Washington Blade Editor, four other leaders at LGBTs In The News Panel

at National Press Club Feb. 25

 “LGBT Activists and Journalists: The Little Team that Could”


Leading LGBT journalists, advocates and activists will address the politics of the Sochi Olympics in light of Russia’s anti-gay laws; plus what’s needed to achieve marriage equality in all 50 states; as well as possibilities for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)


WASHINGTON—A panel of activists, journalists and equality advocates will discuss all of the above as well as other topics germane to the ongoing LGBT civil rights movement during what is sure to be a lively discussion in the nation’s capital at the National Press Club, Tuesday, Feb. 25 9-11 a.m.

Confirmed panelists for the event are: Washington Blade editor, Kevin Naff, SAG-AFTRA national director of EEO and diversity, Adam Moore, North Carolina black lesbian LGBT-equality advocate and National Black Justice Coalition co-founder, Mandy Carter, former Philadelphia Gay News editor and National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA) vice president of print and online media, Sarah Blazucki, as well as author-activist and Iraq War veteran, Rob Smith and activist Will Walters, founder of FreeWillUSA.

“We’re seeing progress at a breakneck pace,” said Blade editor Kevin Naff. “But there remains much work ahead. I look forward to exploring the status of the LGBT movement with the panelists.”

Media experts on the panel will discuss how news and human-interest stories in both the mainstream and LGBT mediaspheres help or hinder the work of lesbian, gay, bi and transgender activists. Additionally, the gallant work of LGBTs In The News sponsor, SAG-AFTRA to create a media industry in which LGBT actors and talent have equal employment opportunities.

“We find ourselves living in a pivotal time where our global society is insisting on greater levels of inclusiveness and understanding,” said Adam Moore, SAG-AFTRA’s national director of EEO and diversity.  “According to the first-of-its-kind report we produced with UCLA’s Williams Institute—’Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Diversity in Entertainment: Experiences and Perspectives of SAG-AFTRA Members’—we see that our membership can lead the way as they are overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT actors and that many LGBT actors found benefits in being ‘out.’ The findings also suggest, however, there are still significant challenges to overcome:

Almost half of lesbian and gay respondents strongly believe that producers and studio executives think lesbian and gay performers are less marketable; nearly one in five LGBT respondents had experienced discrimination; and over a third of them had witnessed disrespectful treatment, which has also been noticed by non-LGBT performers. Forums such as this one are part of the plan of action we are implementing to ensure that anyone who wants to work in entertainment and news media can do so honestly and without fear.”

Audience questions will be taken during the event, which will be held in the Edward R. Murrow Room at the National Press Club, Tuesday, Feb. 25 9-11 a.m. EST. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. at which time coffee and pastries will be available courtesy of sponsors.


In addition to media professionals, three diverse and passionate LGBT activists will inform the panel’s discussion, especially with regard to ENDA, marriage equality and the importance of shedding more light on the growing oppression and violence against Russia’s LGBT population. LGBTs In The News comes to Washington the day after closing ceremonies at Sochi.


“I’m looking forward to joining the Washington engagement of LGBTs In The News and helping bring home the message that LGBT rights are civil rights,” said Carter. “As America’s leading national black LGBT civil rights organization, the National Black Justice Coalition is focused on federal public policy.”

Carter is helping to lead a national campaign to win approval for a postage stamp honoring the late civil rights leader, Bayard Rustin, who was the openly gay chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Dozens of Washington D.C.’s top reporters, editors, producers and bloggers are expected to attend the panel discussion; and questions will be taken during the last half hour. C-SPAN has been invited to record or broadcast LGBTs In The News live from the National Press Club. Other video-platform outlets may do likewise on a first-come-first-serve basis, space permitting. Advanced notification is appreciated (see media contact above).

“I’m grateful to all of our esteemed panelists for agreeing to join us in making the Washington D.C. engagement of LGBTs In The News our best conversation yet,” said journalist and LGBTs In The News founder, Thom Senzee. “We’re honored that National Press Club executive director, Bill McCarren was kind enough to ask if someone from the press club’s leadership might open our discussion with some remarks in support of our mission to inform America’s political and social discourse with constructive, equality-affirming input from the LGBTA community.”

# # #

 About the panelists:

Sarah Blazucki is National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association Vice President of Print & Online. She  is the former editor of Philadelphia Gay News, the oldest LGBT newsweekly in the country. Under her direction, the staff won more than 35 awards for news writing, arts and entertainment, columns, photos and advertising. She currently works as writer-editor for the communications office of a federal agency in Washington, D.C. She is also treasurer of UNITY: Journalists for Diversity.


Mandy Carter is a Durham, North Carolina African-American lesbian social justice activist with a 45-year movement history of social, racial and LGBT justice organizing since 1968. She helped cofound two groundbreaking organizations. National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and Southerners On New Ground (SONG), which integrates work against homophobia into freedom struggles in the South. Ms. Carter served as SONG’S Durham, North Carolina-based Executive Director from 2003-2005. She was National Coordinator of NBJC’s Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemoration Project.

Kevin Naff is editor and co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest “…and most acclaimed LGBT news publication,” founded in 1969.

Naff is an award-winning journalist, honored seven consecutive years by the Society of Professional Journalists for his editorial writing.

Prior to joining the Blade in 2002, he worked in business development for the Verizon Wireless data group; launched the Baltimore Sun’s website in 1996; and worked as an editor and business reporter for Reuters in New York.

He has served on the board of directors for several organizations, including the D.C. Chapter of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Maryland Corporate Council and the Pennsylvania State University LGBT Alumni group.

Naff earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s certificate in public policy from the Legislative Studies Institute, a joint program of Columbia University and Georgetown. He lives in Baltimore and Rehoboth Beach, Del., with his partner of 16 years.

Adam Moore is National Director of EEO & Diversity for SAG-AFTRA. Since joining Screen Actors Guild in 2005 as Associate National Director of Affirmative Action and Diversity, he has been responsible for developing and implementing a national diversity plan of action to achieve accurate representation of those groups historically excluded from the entertainment and news media. Such efforts include the creation of educational programs, conferences, and workshops; development of public relations strategies; and the enforcement of diversity initiatives as outlined in the Union’s collective bargaining agreements. In addition to facilitation and moderation of dozens of panel discussions and guest lecturing at colleges and high schools throughout the US, Adam serves as liaison to the New York City Task Force on Diversity in Film, Television and Commercial Production and is proud to have served on President Obama’s Disability Policy Committee during the 2008 Presidential Election. Born in Ames, Iowa, and raised in California’s Bay Area, Adam has spent the past twelve years in New York and currently lives with his wife and son in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Rob Smith is an openly gay Iraq war veteran, journalist, lecturer, and LGBT Activist. His work has been published at, Metro Weekly, The Advocate,, and The Huffington Post among many others.

Rob is a sought after lecturer on LGBT and diversity issues on college campuses and events across the country. He has lectured at Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt University, Hofstra University, Illinois College, and Buena Vista University among many others.

In August of 2012, he made his literary debut in the anthology book For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Was Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home, which won the 2012 American Library Association Stonewall Book Award and was recently nominated for the 2012 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT anthology.

On January 10th, 2014 Rob released his first book Closets, Combat, and Coming Out: Coming of Age as a Gay Man in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Army.

Will Walters was thrust into the media spotlight in 2011 after San Diego LGBT Pride festival organizers had him arrested because they said his clothing was too revealing. Yet, his leather outfit was more modest than most two-piece women’s swimsuits. News outlets around the globe picked up the story, which had little to do with clothing and more to do with discriminatory enforcement of nudity laws. An ongoing legal battle, continued media coverage and what Walters describes as a “driving desire” to ensure that others are spared the humiliation of anti-LGBT discrimination have combined to turn him from a private citizen to a civil rights activist. Walters frequently speaks about the subjects of equal justice for LGBT Americans.

Turning a negative into a positive Walters created an educational organization called FreeWillUSA, which works to educate Americans about the civil rights and the U.S. Constitution.

About the moderator:

Thom Senzee is founder and moderator of the “LGBTs in the News” panel series and an award-winning journalist. A Huffington Post signature blogger and author of the “All Out Politics” syndicated column, Thom is an18-year veteran of print, online and broadcast media. He has served as editor of LGBT Weekly, as law reporter for the Los Angeles Business Journal (Valley Edition), and as managing editor of Los Angeles’ largest community news bi-weekly (North Valley Community News). He has also been a contributor to the Los Angeles Daily News, the Arizona Capital Times, U-TTV San Diego (Union-Tribune Television) and KPBS television and radio, as well as various other newspapers, magazines and news programs. Thom Senzee is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, The San Diego Press Club and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.