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An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders and His Supporters

July 9, 2015

Dear Bernie and your passionate supporters: First let me say thank you for joining the discussion to raise some very important issues as we begin the campaign to see who will be our next President.

These issues, including income inequality and the unequal playing field between Main Street and Wall Street, are relevant to everyday Americans. Climate change and tax policy are things that need to concern all of us. We must not allow Republicans to implement their policies of trickle-down economics with tax policies and regulations benefitting only the rich. I applaud you for talking about big banks and how we must regulate them more. Your standing up for our veterans is impressive and we do need to guarantee them adequate healthcare, which we as a nation owe them for their service.

I am a progressive myself. My political career includes helping to start a young reform Democratic club in upper Manhattan to defeat the regular Democrat and elect Congressman William Fitz Ryan (D-NY). When he passed away I began supporting and worked on the staff of Bella S. Abzug (D-NY). So your passion for equality is something I share. I taught school in Harlem N.Y. after graduating college and my first job in Washington, D.C. was as Executive Director of the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals/Implementation Unit fighting for the rights of those with different abilities and helping to even the playing field for them.

In an effort to be transparent, you need to know I am an unabashed and long-time supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton. My passionate support for Hillary Clinton is based on my belief she is far and away the best prepared person to run for President in decades; she has a distinguished and long record of fighting for progressive causes including the rights of children and civil and human rights for all; and add to this her election as the first woman President of the United States of America will make a dramatic difference to future generations here and around the world.

I have tried to look for areas in which you and she have real disagreements and they are hard to find. It seems like you both support or oppose many of the same things. There are a few areas in which you differ. For example, in 1993 you voted for a National Rifle Association supported bill to stop lawsuits against gun companies and against the Brady Bill. Hillary was a vociferous supporter of the Brady Bill and still is.

Immigration is another area where you and Hillary have some difference. While she has made it a priority on the campaign trail and throughout her career, you haven't been as vocal on the issue. Unlike Hillary, you oppose guest worker programs, which are essential to our legal immigration system.

Of course, you are a self-described Socialist, who has never been elected as a Democrat and has been highly critical of the Democratic Party. It was reported in the Rutland Herald that you said it would be "hypocritical" for you to run as a Democrat given your criticism of the party.

Despite that, you and Hillary have a lot in common, especially when compared to the Republican presidential contenders.

You both support the Affordable Care Act. You both want a better education for all our children. You both want to reduce the cost of college and the cost of college loans. You both want a more peaceful world. You both want to level the playing field for hardworking Americans.

So what I hope you and your supporters do through the rest of the primary season is continue to focus on and speak out on the issues you care about. Direct your verbal attacks towards the 'clown car' of potential Republican candidates looking for their Party's nomination.

I am sure we agree a Democrat in the White House is crucial if we are to continue the momentum of economic progress; the fight for civil and human rights for all Americans; the fight for a path to citizenship for immigrants; the fight to guarantee everyone's right to vote; and maybe as important as anything else ensure the next Supreme Court Justices will be ones who believe in the principles of the Democratic Party we all stand for.

If every Democratic candidate and their supporters remember that goal we will come through these primaries a stronger Party with a great candidate who will go on to defeat a Republican Party that is currently controlled by those who would like to take us back to the 18th Century.


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Foundry Celebrates 20 Years As Reconciling Ministry

June 3, 2015

On Sunday, June 7, Foundry United Methodist Church will celebrate its 20th year as a reconciling ministry. As the larger community joins in celebrating this milestone, the church recognizes the process of opening its doors to all has been, “The journey of a growing corps of deeply committed individuals working day after day, year after year, to transform their church community into an ever-better reflection of God’s love, justice and grace. Begun by early lesbian and gay members, the inclusion movement at Foundry grew over time to include straight allies, friends and families. It is now truly a whole-church enterprise.”

In a brochure, Foundry says of its early LGBT members, “Foundry was oblivious to their spiritual needs, no more a place of safety for them than society in general.” The same brochure celebrates that “On January 22, 1977, Foundry’s Senior Minister Edward W. Bauman, preached what is now considered a prophetic sermon entitled “The Gay Life,” in which he called for greater sensitivity to the humanity and feelings of gay and lesbian people. The sermon caused a whirlwind of controversy at Foundry… but the climate of biblical grace and inclusion that pervaded his ministry began to touch Washington’s gay and lesbian community.”

A small group of people heard that sermon and began the process of moving Foundry into the light. They were going against the grain of their Institutional Church and still are. At its 1972 General Conference, the United Methodist Church (UMC) formally added discriminatory language to its Book of Discipline regarding LGBT persons. Over the years, Foundry led the charge to change that but its latest effort in 2012 again failed.

In 1979, Foundry members joined Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian and Gay Concerns. By the mid-1980s, gay and lesbian members of Foundry began to identify themselves openly within the congregation and assume leadership positions. The first gay couple was included in Foundry’s pictorial directory in 1984.

Church leaders say the devastation caused by the AIDS crisis moved the issue of gay and lesbian inclusion to the forefront. Members had friends, family members, co-workers, or were themselves living with and dying from AIDS. Throughout the 1990s, the AIDS mission group was one of the most active Foundry missions. Quilt panels were displayed at Foundry and the Concerts for Life raised more than $1 million for AIDS-related organizations.

In 1990, Foundry’s Council on Ministries began discussing becoming a Reconciling Congregation but there was still significant tension regarding joining the reconciling movement. On April 23, 1991, Foundry’s administrative board created a task force under the chairmanship of Dr. Arthur Flemming, a Foundry leader who had served as president of the National Council of Churches. The final report of the task force was delivered in August 1995. On Oct. 3, 1995, the vote, five years in the making was 52 to 45 and Foundry joined other United Methodist congregations “to work for change in the church affirming the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be in ministry with all people of all races, sexual orientations, ages and physical conditions.” Philip Wogaman, a nationally known progressive theologian, became senior pastor and encouraged Foundry members to become involved in the denomination beyond the work of the local church.

In 2002, Dean Snyder became senior pastor of Foundry and took Foundry’s commitment to the broader community. As the marriage equality fight heated up in the District he offered meeting space and became an integral part of that fight. He put his ministry on the line by agreeing to marry gay couples at Foundry. My friend Paul Hazen, an openly gay active member of Foundry, kept me informed of what the church was doing and I attended some Sunday services with him. As a gay man and a Jew I always felt welcome when Pastor Snyder spoke. In 2012, Foundry publicly affirmed, “God’s creation includes individuals who choose to live in a gender that differs from that which they were assigned at birth.”

In 2013, the entire community stood with Foundry in support of Frank Schaefer, who was defrocked as a UMC minister for performing the marriage of his gay son. The day after Schaefer was defrocked, Dean Snyder invited him to preach and I was proud to be there the following Sunday when Schaefer preached and his family became Foundry members in an emotional service.

Today, the community joins in celebrating with Foundry whose members include “LGBTQ individuals and couples, LGBTQ families and children; all celebrated, all recognized as part of God’s creation and Foundry’s family.”

This article first appeared in Washington Blade.


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Michael Kahn, Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director, Marries

May 18, 2015

The wedding cake and the couple’s first dance (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) The wedding cake and the couple’s first dance

Another well-known bachelor, a fixture at DC society dinner parties and icon in the world’s theater community, is off the market. In a beautiful ceremony on Sunday afternoon May 17th Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company married his partner, Charles Mitchem, an interior design architect.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated.

 Some Java House friends; Phil, Mike, Molly, Nathan and Lauren (Photo by: peter) Some Java House friends; Phil, Mike, Molly, Nathan and Lauren

Justice Ginsburg is a longtime friend of Kahn and an avid theater goer. She recently participated, as she has for years, in the Mock Trial at Harman Hall. Michael and Charles have known each other for seven and a half years and have homes in D.C. and New York.

The wedding took place at the Anderson House on Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in the ballroom and the reception for 150 guests was held in the beautiful garden and catered by Occasions.

Good friends from the theater Board, friends of the grooms, Charles parents and sister, were among the guests who included a contingent from Kahn’s morning coffee group at the Java House in Dupont.  Kahn’s best friend John Hill, CFO for the city of Detroit and former Executive Director of the D.C. Control Board and Federal City Council, gave a beautiful toast and Charles’s sister sang to the grooms.


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