by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
So much has happened in 2014 that it would be impossible to compile a list that accurately describes, down to the second, each important or memorable news item that took place in Seattle this past year. However, this is one editor's attempt to roundup some of the stories that I wrote about or a colleague wrote about during the 365 days we called 2014. Some are good stories, some will make you sad or mad, and while others might give you hope. The point is, each will make you feel something and that means that we've done our job. Thank you Seattle Gay News readers for sticking with us all these years. We've got you covered!
ED MURRAY SWORN IN AS MAYOR OF SEATTLE
Ed Murray was sworn in as Mayor of Seattle in front of a raucous capacity crowd in the lobby of City Hall on January 6. Former governor and U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke, and Murray's husband Michael Shiosaki administered the oath of office.
For the oath, Murray used a 19th century Irish Bible and a rosary inherited from his grandmother, recalling his Irish Catholic roots.
Then, in a speech quoting both Franklin D. Roosevelt and his childhood hero Jack Kennedy, Murray promised to make City government work.
'We live in a moment in history where government and its ability to function have been called into question,' Murray said.
'I reject that cynicism. Government can function again, and Seattle can lead the way.
'We can be a national model for a renewed respect for public service and a new appreciation for the role of government as a positive force for change in our lives.
'I see government not as the problem, but government as a partner in solving the problems we face.'
ARSON AT NEIGHBOURS; SUSPECT SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON
On January 1, 2014, just minutes after the New Year's Eve countdown inside Neighbours Nightclub (1509 Broadway) Musab Masmari snuck into the club from an adjacent business and started a fire inside the club. Masmari was caught on camera at about 15 minutes after midnight, pouring gasoline in a stairway to Neighbours' upstairs mezzanine balcony and lit the pool of fuel. The fire was quickly doused with a fire extinguisher; there were about 750 people in the club at the time. No one was hurt or worse.
After Neighbours nightclub officials leaked video footage of Masmari to the media, viewers called the East Precinct to report and identify Musab Masmari, who was then arrested days later on his way to Sea-Tac Airport after buying a one-way ticket to Turkey.
Masmari tried to explain he'd consumed a bottle of cheap whiskey in the hours before he set the fire. He claims not to remember setting it, though he recognized himself on a surveillance video.
Prosecutors offered another motive for the arson - homophobia. An FBI informant said Masmari told him, after he'd set the fire, that he had done it because he wanted to 'exterminate homosexuals' and was saying he wanted to buy a gun and go back and 'finish the job.'
Masmari was initially charged in state court. The case was passed to federal prosecutors during negotiations on a plea agreement, which Masmari accepted in May through a guilty plea to a single arson count. He was to only receive five years in federal prison for his crime.
Many members of the Seattle LGBTQ community, including the employees of Neighbours Nightclub, were outraged that Masmari would not be charged with a hate crime or attempted murder; however, given the opportunity to speak at his federal court appearance, I argued the reasons why Musab Masmari should receive more years in prison because of the severity of his crime, the fact that he is a danger to society, and that he had threatened to return to the club to 'finish the job.'
Although prosecutors and the defense agreed to request a five-year prison term for Masmari, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez doubled the term to 10 years during the sentencing hearing at the Seattle federal courthouse.
REVEALING QUEER - MOHAI'S GROUNDBREAKING LGBTQ HISTORY EXHIBIT OPENS FEBRUARY 2014
The Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) began its second year at its new Lake Union location by presenting 'Revealing Queer,' a landmark exhibit on the history of the Puget Sound's LGBTQ community.
The exhibit was one of the first of its kind in a mainstream history museum, and was on display from February 14 through July 6.
'Revealing Queer' explored how the Puget Sound LGBTQ community has grown, changed, became increasingly visible, and worked toward equality.
Informed throughout by the lived experiences of the Puget Sound region's very diverse population, 'Revealing Queer' traced LGBTQ history from an emerging underground community in the years before the Stonewall Riots of 1969, to the large and politically active community that helped make marriage equality law in Washington state in 2012.
MAN BURNED IN KOMO CHOPPER CRASH A MEMBER OF THE LOCAL GAY COMMUNITY
Richard Newman, 38, was driving along Broad Street in Seattle March 18, 2014 when a KOMO news helicopter crashed onto his car, engulfing his red car in flames and killing chopper pilot Gary Pfitzner and photographer Bill Strothman. The King County Medical Examiner's office announced that Pfitzner, 59, died of blunt force trauma to the head, torso and extremities, and Strothman, 62, died of blunt force injuries to the head, neck, torso and extremities.
The crash was ruled an accident.
Newman, an openly Gay man and member of the Emerald City Softball Association (ECSA), nearly died as well. He spent an unbearable 90 seconds trapped inside his burning car before he was able to get out on his own. As he ran from the car, according to witnesses, Newman was still on fire. A Fisher Plaza security guard ran to Newman's aid.
Newman suffered second- and third-degree burns on his back and arms and was treated for a head wound and a broken rib. The KOMO helicopter came crashing down nearly right on top of him. Some witnesses say it is a miracle he survived.
SUPPORTERS OF OUSTED OPENLY GAY TROOP LEADER SPEAK OUT AT SEATTLE RALLY
Openly Gay Seattle area Boy Scouts of America troop leader, Geoff McGrath, was notified in February 2014 that he was being ousted from his leadership position because leadership says he made an issue out of his sexual orientation. On a rainy February afternoon, supporters of Geoff McGrath, including his brother and state Senator Jamie Pedersen (D-43), rallied to demand no more discrimination under any guise.
The national organization told Geoff McGrath in a letter that it 'has no choice' but to revoke his registration after he said he was Gay while being profiled by NBC News. The issue harkens back to the days of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' when U.S. service members could serve as long as they remained silent about their sexual orientation. Unlike the U.S. military, The Boy Scouts of America do not have an official policy barring Gay leadership from speaking out about their sexual orientation - they downright say you cannot be a homosexual or Lesbian and remain a part of the organization - period.
'Your statement is in direct violation of the BSA's leadership qualification,' said the letter from the Boy Scouts' Office of General Counsel in Irving, Texas.
And, in a particularly pointed statement, BSA leadership noted that there would not be a review of the decision if McGrath talked about this.
'I'm stunned,' McGrath, 49, said. 'Our hope is that they'll rethink their decision.'
McGrath earned the rank of Eagle Scout and has been leading Seattle Troop 98 since its formation was approved last fall; he's taken the troop to camp in a snow cave at Mount Rainier National Park, and they've worked on knots and lashing skills just like any other troop. Nothing, in fact, is out of the norm, save the fact that the scouts are now missing their leader due to a discriminatory and archaic policy.
McGrath was asked by the pastor of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, the chartering organization, to lead the troop. He obliged and submitted an application that was approved by the Chief Seattle Council and national headquarters.
'We were transparent,' he said. 'If they didn't want us to be a troop, they shouldn't have accepted our application. To hear claims that this is surprising to them is confusing. We've been transparent from day one.'
JUDGE MARY YU APPOINTMENT TO THE WASHINGTON STATE SUPREME COURT
King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu was appointed to the Washington state Supreme Court in May 2014, becoming the first openly Gay justice, as well as the first Asian American, to serve on the state's high court.
Yu was one of 19 applicants for the seat vacated by Justice James Johnson and was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee.
Johnson, considered the court's most conservative member, announced his retirement in April, citing health issues.
Yu was appointed to the King County Superior Court by former Governor Gary Locke in 2000 and earlier served as deputy chief of staff to the late King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng. She is Inslee's first appointment to the Supreme Court. To keep the seat, she will have to run for election in November to serve the rest of Johnson's term, which was to expire in January 2017.
GSBA AWARDED $330,000 TO LGBTQ AND ALLIED SCHOLARS; A RECORD-BREAKING AMOUNT OF SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED BY LOCAL BUSINESSES
Over 400 business leaders in attendance at the GSBA Scholarship Fund Dinner in May 2014 demonstrated their commitment to invest in the next generation of leaders by awarding over $330,000 in scholarships to LGBTQ and allied students in Washington state.
The GSBA Scholarship Fund awards educational scholarships to undergraduate LGBTQ and allied students, who exhibit leadership potential, demonstrate strong academic abilities and are actively involved in school and community organizations.
Scholars reflect a diverse group of students, from rural and urban areas, pursuing a wide range of professions, who have plans to positively impact their community. GSBA is committed to positioning today's students to become tomorrow's leaders. GSBA's Scholarship Fund supports the community through providing financial support, role-modeling and hope to outstanding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and allied students, many of whom have no traditional means of support.
SEATTLE DYKE MARCH CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY
The Seattle Dyke March, the oldest continuous Pride event on Capitol Hill, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014. The event kicked off with live music and speakers, Saturday, June 28 at Broadway and E. Pine St., followed by the march. New this year was an after party in Cal Anderson Park featuring a performance by The Redwood Plan.
Seattle Dyke March began in 1994, just one year after the inaugural Dyke Marches in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, as a way to create visibility for a community whose long involvement in Gay pride activism was often sidelined or diminished.
'I think it's critically important to our community that we create and maintain this space that is reserved for celebrating the activism and adventures of the Dykes of Seattle,' said Whitney Fraser, who has been an organizer since 2000. 'We also bring a political voice to Pride as opposed to the more commercial endeavors.'
40 YEARS OF SEATTLE PRIDE
Seattle celebrated its first Gay Pride Week June 24-30, 1974, with a variety of activities at private and public venues around the city.
Mayor Uhlman gave the event an official endorsement in 1977, declaring June 25 to July 1 to be Gay Pride Week in the City of Seattle.
Keith Luttenbacher, in his July 5, 1977 letter, was one of many who wrote thanking Mayor Uhlman for his support, 'especially after the negative press due to Ms. [Anita] Bryant.' Local opponents of Gay rights were incensed by the mayor's proclamation, and reactions ranged from letter-writing campaigns to published threats of recall to picketing outside City Hall.
Ultimately, Mayor Uhlman's endorsement of Gay Pride Week gave added significance to the city's first Gay Pride March, held in 1977.
ALI MUHAMMAD BROWN, CHARGED WITH MURDER IN DOUBLE HOMICIDE CASE
The suspect in a double homicide in June 2014, Ali Muhammad Brown, 30, targeted the Gay men he killed by meeting them through the personal meet-up mobile app Grindr, according to court documents released in June 2014.
Brown was charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder - a crime that could come with the death penalty, if convicted.
Ahmed Said, 27, and Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, were killed early on the morning of June 1 near 29th Ave. S. and S. King St., and according to Senior Deputy Prosecutor Wyman Yip, 'It is evident that the murders were premeditated and unprovoked and part of a common scheme or plan.'
Both victims were shot in the head and there was no evidence of a struggle that preceded the killings.
Yip wrote in charging documents, 'The evidence from the crime scene, Said's vehicle, and the autopsies suggest that the victims were essentially executed.'
Yip said there was no evidence that the killings were motivated by a robbery, drugs or another crime.
The victims had been with friends at R Place located at Boylston Ave. & E. Pine St. Said told the group he was meeting a 'friend' outside the club when they left. One of Said's friends had the feeling that Said hadn't met the 'friend' before, because while Said was at R Place, he was constantly on his phone and appeared to be texting on Grindr.
The group left the bar at closing time and crossed Boylston Ave., to meet with Said's friend; but the man looked unfriendly and out of place.
One of the friends in the group later told police he was 'creeped out' by the man who was later identified as Brown.
According to two witnesses, they saw Brown leave with the victims in Said's car. The shooting deaths occurred about 2:20 a.m.
After the victims were killed, Said's gold 2001 Mitsubishi Gallant they had been riding in was found in south Seattle. There was an exorbitant amount of blood in the passenger seat. Brown's palm print was found on the interior rear driver's side window. Spent 9 mm shell casings that matched the casings found at the Leschi crime scene were also found in the abandoned car.
Brown's mother told police shortly after the shooting she had purchases a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol and that it was missing.
Neither Said nor Anderson-Young had a criminal history and were not armed.
Brown was eventually caught in July and charged with the murder of two other people. He confessed to murdering the two Seattle men. He is awaiting federal trial.
THE GRILL ON BROADWAY CREDIT CARD THIEVES CAUGHT AFTER YEARS-LONG INVESTIGATION
Early July 2014 federal agents reported they brought down the leader of an international computer hacking ring that targeted several businesses in Seattle and across the country.
The now-closed The Grill on Broadway had scores of customers turning up complaining their credit card numbers had been stolen. Now, the major breakthrough in the case explains what happened. Federal agents have arrested a suspected Russian cyber-thief who they accuse of illegally accessing computer systems across the United States. Between 2009 and 2011, Roman Seleznev hacked into retailers' computer systems and inserted malware to collect customer credit card data.
Hackers will look for the most vulnerable parts of a system, and often that will be the point of sale, places where they swipe the credit cards.
Seleznev is accused of then selling those card numbers to other identity thieves to earn millions of dollars. Prosecutors said Seleznev stole data from several Mad Pizza locations, from the Grand Central Baking Company in Pioneer Square and from other businesses across the country.
TRANSGENDER PUBLIC EMPLOYEES TO GET EQUAL HEALTHCARE COVERAGE HEALTHCARE COVERAGE
The Washington Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB) voted unanimously on July 31, 2014 to offer Transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage to all public employees in the state.
Beginning on January 1, 2015, hormones, mental health, and other non-surgical healthcare services will be provided for the treatment of gender dysphoria. Surgery will also be covered beginning on July 1, 2015.
The PEBB is a state agency that 'purchases and coordinates health insurance benefits for eligible public employees and retirees,' according to its web page.
Gender dysphoria is a well-documented medical condition in which an individual's gender does not conform to the gender they were assigned at birth. Treatment of gender dysphoria is considered medically necessary by the American Medical Association.
ACLU ATTORNEY, SHER KUNG, KILLED IN BIKE ACCIDENT
On August 29, 2014, tragedy struck when Sher Kung was riding her bike at Second Avenue and University Street and was struck by a large box truck. She died at the scene.
By that evening, friends, colleagues and strangers had set up a memorial near the crash site to pay tribute to Kung.
In a statement, the Washington ACLU said, 'The staff of the ACLU is deeply saddened by the news of her death. She was very committed to civil rights and social justice, and was a lively person and was fun to work with.'
The tragic accident calls for changes to the bike lanes in the area.
'This has been a bad corner for bicyclists for a long time. Probably like once a month we've seen someone get hit and knocked off their bikes, injured. This is the first time I've seen someone fatally hurt,' said one man who works across the street from where the accident happened.
About 60 bicycle-involved collisions have occurred on Second Avenue in the past four years, according to SDOT. Half of those included vehicles turning left at the crosswalk, the agency says.
Consequently, SDOT added designated left turn signals for vehicles and restricted right turns on red to reduce turning collisions.
At the time of the accident, the city was a few weeks away from implementing the much-demanded safety changes for bicyclists on Second Avenue, which include the new signaling.
THE PINK DOOR UNVEILS A PUBLIC MURAL IN PIKE PLACE MARKET FEATURING WAXIE MOON
Anna-Lisa Notter and The Pink Door announced the unveiling of a brand new outdoor mural in the Pike Place Market in September.
'This permanent display of public art features celebrated Seattle burlesque personality Waxie Moon and stands on the 1,000 square foot wall on the north side of the Stewart Building, directly above the 'original' Starbucks on historic Pike Place,' said Notter in a media release.
Laid over a starry midnight sky, Waxie dangles from a swinging chandelier and pours bubbles and stars from a champagne flute out toward Elliott Bay. From his lofty vantage point, he looks down over the bustling, tourist-filled street below and can be spied by onlookers from the west sidewalk.
According to the media release, those seeking a better view will find one in Post Alley near Kell's front door, although the best, closest and clearest view can be had from The Pink Door's outdoor patio which sits directly across the rooftop from the mural itself.
SCS CELEBRATES 45 YEARS; PFLAG CO-FOUNDER ARLEEN NELSON HONORED AT ANNUAL SCS GALA
Founded in 1969, Seattle Counseling Service is the oldest LGBTQ-focused community mental health agency in the world. Starting as part of the Dorian Society in Seattle in 1969, SCS later expanded to become an independent organization. SCS began in a rented house with one telephone and several volunteers who hung out, ready to answer the phone, talk with people who dropped by, and offer counsel and support.
SCS has been licensed as a mental health center since 1974. Among the programs pioneered by SCS, the Domestic Violence Program (started in 1982) was one of the first in the nation to offer help to those in same-sex relationships.
In 1985, SCS received status as a United Way agency. SCS was the first Gay-specific agency to receive that status in King County.
SCS began offering services for people with HIV/AIDS concerns in 1985 by providing HIV Test counseling at the Seattle Gay Clinic. Long-term AIDS therapy and an AIDS drop-in group began in 1986, and the AIDS Crisis Intervention Program was initiated in 1989. In 1996, SCS placed a therapist on site at Bailey-Boushay House.
In 1990, SCS became a sponsoring agency of Lambert House, an LGBT youth drop-in center.
In 2003, SCS and King County Public Health created a collaboration to house Project NEON, a harm reduction program for users of crystal methamphetamine. 2003 also brought the advent of SCS Chemical Dependency Services, assuming the role previously filled by Stonewall Recovery Services in King County.
In addition to its role providing direct services to sexual minority community members, SCS plays a significant regional role as a psychology and social work professional training site. SCS serves as the practice-training site for an average of four universities each year. Since 1992, SCS has also provided training to mental health providers statewide to increase their capacity to appropriately serve sexual minorities in their home communities.
Collaboration is important to the staff and board of SCS. SCS works with other King County Mental Health Providers to advocate on behalf of clients in the mental health system. SCS belongs to the Cross Cultural Alliance, the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.
Over the years SCS has garnered numerous awards for services provided to the community and they continue to add new programs and services to meet the changing needs of the LGBTQ communities.
'Tonight I'm honored to be with all of you as we take a moment to look back to the early days of our LGBTQ history in Seattle and remember where this organization came from,' SCS Executive Director Ann McGettigan told attendees. 'I am grateful to Dr. Robert Deisher for his early vision about the work we need to do and to his early colleagues who joined with him to start SCS in 1969. I'm also grateful to all of the community members who had the courage to reach out for help and support and found a safe haven in SCS.'
Ann McGettigan has over 35 years of professional experience working with social change non-profits in various positions from crisis line worker to executive director. She has coordinated rape prevention programs, worked in battered women's shelters, provided community education on sexual and domestic violence and administered programs that support reproductive rights for women and girls.
Ann has been the Executive Director at Seattle Counseling Service since 1998. She chose to work with SCS because she wants to work directly with and for the LGBTQ community with which she identifies. With the essential support of a dedicated and hard-working staff and Board of Directors Ann has led the organization onto a strong financial footing and solid program expansion.
'I've often described SCS as 'The Little Ship That Could' because we have managed to survive some big waves of change over the past 45 years,' she continued. 'Through all of that change we have continued to stay dedicated to the behavioral health and social well-being of our community.'
This year marks the first annual Dr. Deisher Founder's Award. Dr. Robert Deisher was dedicated to helping troubled teens. He sought support for social services for Gay youth at a time when those actions were unheard of. He opened Seattle Counseling Service - the first counseling center for sexual minorities in the world - and began the Pioneer Square Youth Clinic among other incredible accomplishments.
'Dr. Deisher affected the lives of so many throughout his life and his legacy is one we are proud to continue,' said McGettigan.
On Sunday, October 26, at their 45th Anniversary Gala, Seattle Counseling Service gave the first-ever Dr. Deisher Founder's Award to Arleen Nelson, MSW, LICSW.
'Arleen came to SCS in 1979 to introduce herself as a possible referral source for parents and family members of Gay and Lesbian individuals,' said SCS officials. 'She walked out with the task of developing and leading a four-day training for the agency's telephone counselors. Little did she know that she was embarking on a lifetime career supporting the LGBTQ community.'
'For the past 35 years Arleen has brought her wisdom, compassion and fierce advocacy to her work at SCS,' said McGettigan. 'Arleen is a founding member of both the local and national chapters of PFLAG. In the early years of the AIDS crisis she helped to develop and supervise an HIV Program. She then spent a large portion of the '90s as a couples and family counselor at SCS while also overseeing the long-term AIDS therapy program. Since retiring in 2000, Arleen has continued supervising SCS interns and providing invaluable consultation.'
SASG TREE LOT FUNDRAISER RAISES $214,501.50
It has been an amazing 30th year serving the Seattle LGBTQ community at Seattle Area Support Groups (formerly Seattle AIDS Support Group). This year also marked the 25th annual SASG Holiday Tree & Greenery Sale fundraiser.
'Thanks to the dedication of our amazing volunteers, staff, and loyal supporters, we raised $214,501.50 this year!' said Joshua A. Wallace, Executive Director of SASG. 'This is the fourth year in a row that we have been able to set a new record for this fundraiser. Special thanks also go to Group Health for donating their employee parking lot and providing us with power. Their generosity has allowed us to have more space, customer parking, and safe working conditions for our volunteers.'
'The family in the picture were celebrating their 20th year buying a tree from us,' he added. 'That was pretty cool.'
ANNE LEVINSON NAMED TO PDC
Governor Jay Inslee has appointed Anne Levinson to the state's Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). The PDC is in charge of enforcing campaign finance laws.
'Ensuring that the letter and the spirit of the State's disclosure laws are fully met is critically important to maintaining public trust in the integrity of the electoral and governing processes,' she wrote in her application for the position.
'The continually increasing influence of money and special interests in campaigns and governance makes our state's requirements for transparent and understandable reporting, public access to government records, disclosure of elected officials' sources of income and interactions with lobbyists as important today as they have ever been.'
Levinson is currently Auditor of the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), charged with overseeing discipline of SPD officers.
She is also an attorney and was previously a Municipal Court judge in Seattle, Deputy Mayor to Mayor Norm Rice, as well as a part-owner of the Seattle Storm women's basketball team until 2010.
Levinson also made her mark as an activist, chairing the 2012 Approve R-74 campaign to retain the state's Marriage Equality Act, and also chairing the 2009 R-71 effort to keep newly passed domestic partnership rights.
Levinson will join the commission January 1 and succeed Commissioner Kathy Turner who is stepping down. She will not need to give up her other responsibilities, since PDC commissioners are not full-time state employees. Commissioners earn $100 per day for any day they work, plus travel expenses.
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