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ProudTimes Welcomes the New Monarchy

An Interview with Empress JenuWine Surreal Beauté & Emperor Chance de Valmont

by Jewell Harrington, III
ProudTimes CEO & (Unofficial) Rose Court Correspondent

The Imperial Sovereign Rose Court is Oregon’s oldest LGBTQ Organization, and second only to San Francisco’s Imperial Court System. On October 19th, came a very special time in Portland at The Melody Event Center, the crowning of Portland’s own Emperor and Empress. ProudTimes CEO and (Unofficial) Rose Court Correspondent, Jewell Harrington III sat down with Empress JenuWine Beauté, and Emperor Chance de Valmont for a personal interview to meet the newly crowned monarchs.

Proud Times: Congratulations to you both! Was this a pretty exciting ride for each of you? 

JenuWine Beauté: This was indeed a very exciting journey.

Chance de Valmont: Yes, very exciting indeed.

PT: How long have you been wanting to be crowned Emperor & Empress? When did you first say, “Someday, that’s for me!”

JWB: I’ve always admired and love Portland’s Rose Court. I often wondered if I would ever be one. Then one day I moved here and joined the organization. Six years ago, was when I realized that someday it could be me. 

CdeV: When I was a teenager titleholder with Portland’s Youth Court, I was introduced to the Rose Court. Ever since then I knew I would someday step up to become a Monarch of Portland.

PT: Can you tell us a little bit about your court names, your inspiration, etc.?

JWB: Well my name is JenuWine Surreal Beauté. I created the name JenuWine to reflect my persona in and out of drag. Surreal is a family name that comes from Mark & Rob Surreal, my Papas, who reside in the Tri-Cities of Washington. Beauté is my last name and comes from a queen who called me that one night and my friends adopted it and started using it for me. My Inspiration as a Rose Empress began with Rose Empress XLIV, Poison Waters. She showed me that you can have fun, stay classy, and support your community all by staying true to yourself. 

CdeV:  My stage name, Dr. Chance de Valmont has evolved over the years. Originally I went by Chance because it was my mother’s nickname for me. de Valmont is the last name of the male lead from the French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses. The Doctor title was given to me by the late DJ Scooter from The Escape Nightclub. A Disco-Pharmacologist If you will. 

PT: When did you each decide you would run for this year’s title? 

JWB: I made a personal change in March/April and began my process. It wasn’t until about June/July when I truly was onboard and committed to running. 

CdeV: After a successful step down as Imperial Prince Royal in 2017, I knew this was my time.

PT: What inspired you to run for your titles, and how long had you been considering it? 

JWB: I have been inspired by numerous Rose Monarchs who have paved the way in Portland for our community to be who they are. I have been considering running for five years now. 

CdeV: This community is what inspires me, without it there would be no reason to run. I am inspired by our College of Monarchs that came before us. They created the oldest LGBTQ+ organization in Oregon and since then we have helped to create and fund many services and organizations that this community holds dear.

PT: Chance, I noticed you were running uncontested. How did this have an effect on your campaigning for the title of Emperor? Did you find that you could relax more, or did you have to step up your game?

CdeV: I wanted to run my campaign as if there was competition. The community expects and more importantly deserves it. This was a way for me to give a preview as to what is to come this year. Having run before, I knew what is expected and why it is important to get out and engage the community you will be serving. 

PT: JenuWine Beauté, who were the other contestants to the throne, and did you find it particularly challenging to run against them?

JWB: There was one other candidate for the position. Her name is Shima B. Valentine. Whenever one competes for a competition it is always tough. This campaign is unlike many people have ever experienced. You put a ton of heart, soul, money, and determination into showing your community that they should elect you to represent. Shima was quite the competitor and definitely brought a strong campaign to the competition. The most challenging aspect is the fact of not knowing how you are doing or which way the votes will go. It really makes you anxious to know the results. 

PT: How long have you been involved with the Rose Court and/or participating in other pageants? What titles have you each held previously, and from where? 

JWB: My involvement with the Rose Court has been 6 years, however I have been involved in the International Court System for 20 years. I have held a few titles here and there. LaFemme Magnifique Tacoma 2001-2002, Miss Gay Tacoma 2002-2003, Empress XXV of Tacoma, LaFemme Magnifique Olympia, Miss Gay Oregon XLV, and now Rose Empress LXI. 

CdeV: This year marks 20 years of involvement with the Imperial Court System.  In 2001 I was crowned Thorn XXV of Portland, in 2005 I ran and won the title of Mr. Gay Portland XXX and in 2016 I was appointed Imperial Prince Royale XLII. I am the third person to elevate to the position of Rose Emperor from the Portland Youth Court. His Most Imperial Majesty, Rose Emperor XLIII, The Nobility of the Rose, Dr. Chance de Valmont.

PT:  Are either of you affiliated with any other LGBTQ organizations, and if so, what will holding the Emperor and Empress titles bring to these other organizations?  

JWB: I personally have participated in a few other organizations by attending their events and helping their organization. Some of those include but not limited to are as follows; Oregon Reign Football, Rose City Bowling League, HIV Day Center, and more. Reigning as Rose Empress LXI allows me the position in our community to help make a difference to those organizations on a broader scale. Leading the ISRC with my Rose Emperor, we are able to ask our constituents to volunteer/donate to this other organizations to truly unite all aspects of our diverse community. 

CdeV: My partner Ty VanHelsing and I head the world’s oldest LGBTQ+ Youth Court. It is my intention to bring more exposure to this amazing group of youth leaders by inclusion and community presents.

PT: I know reaching out, activism, giving back to the community is important to both of you–& important for those running. Did you establish a platform together? Or did you come up with individual ideas then meld the two together? 

JWB: We came up with our own platforms separately. We each have a passion to support our local queer businesses. We both worked on our own platforms and then after we were crowned, have been working together as a team to achieve our goals. 

CdeV: After sitting down with one another and many conversations it is clear that my Empress and I have the drive for community, inclusion and charity. It’s just the right thing to do.

PT: I know that traveling and taking time off of work has an effect on your jobs, so how do you work around that type of situation?

JWB: Luckily for me, traveling is my job. I’m a flight attendant for a living. The tricky part about that is I’m constantly traveling for work. This makes it a tad difficult when wanting to represent in the city during the weekdays, yet when I’m home in Portland, I definitely make sure I do my best to represent wherever I am able. 

CdeV: Recently I made a career move to go back to education. It happens to mesh very well with the obligations of this position. Weekends and holidays off. I am able to travel in the evenings and attend local events. Also summers off never hurt anyone. 

PT: Speaking of travel: we saw you went to Hawaii a few weeks ago. What was that like? 

JWB: Indeed we sure did. It was The Imperial Court of Hawaii’s annual Coronation. It was our very first walk together as the reigning Rose Monarchs of Portland. We were instantly greeted with the Aloha spirit from the moment we arrived until the time we left. The Rose Court members present represented Portland so beautéfully that we were awarded Hawaii’s highest honor of the night. The Teddy Award for Best Overall Presentation. An honor we both will cherish and remember. We also created lasting memories with the newest Monarchs of Hawai’i, Emperor Keoki Nalu Nunies and Empress Averianna Jewel Nunies! They are excited about making a journey to our City of Roses for Coronation on October 14th-18th. Hawaii was a great beginning for our reign. 

CdeV: I think my Empress covered this one for both us.

PT: Has it been decided how many other coronations will you be traveling to, and is there a calendar of events that people can check out to see what’s happening in the LGBTQ community? 

JWB: We have a tentative list of Coronations we plan/hope to attend during the year. We also have plans to attend local events here in Portland as well. Your readers may follow along on our Facebook group or they can become a member of our organization for the year on the Rose Court’s membership page. These are just a couple ways for members to follow along. 

CdeV: Yes, we do have quite this list of events here in the States, Canada and Mexico. We will be spreading the message of love, charity and community in more than 20 cities this year. My Empress mentioned our local webpage but also check out the International Court System and the Imperial Court System for more information.

PT: Perhaps, what issues you most wish to focus on over the course of the next year? 

JWB: We’d like to focus on raising funds through partnerships with local queer owned businesses and organizations. 

CdeV:  I will second my empresses statement but also would like to focus on community engagement and youth participation in the organization.

PT: Lastly, is there anything you’d care to add? 

JWB: We want to let everyone know that you may get involved by attending any of our monthly meetings. They take place the first Monday of every month (unless it’s a holiday) at Darcelle XV Showplace 208 NW 3rd Ave at 7pm. Attendance is free. We invite one and all to come check out our organization and see what we are about. We’d also like to thank Proud Times for this amazing opportunity to be featured. It’s very much appreciated. Thank you Portland and we look forward to seeing you out and about in our Beautéful community. 

CdeV: If any of the readers have further questions, comments or want to get involved please check out our website Rose Court. Thank you to Proud Times for this interview and taking this opportunity to get to know about our organization. And remember “For you in Portland a rose grows.”

With any news or information related to the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court please contact our CEO, Jewell Harrington, III at & he’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Portland Veteran with PTSD Given 15 Days in Jail for Assaulting Two Gay Men

By Sebastian Fortino, ProudTimes Editor-in-Chief

Last month, two gay friends were verbally and physically assaulted in Downtown Portland. Don Kirchhoff, who has been described by his attorney as being a former veteran who suffers from PTSD. The friends in question were sitting outside of a bakery, presumably just minding their own business, just radicalizing the gay agenda by having a coffee and a pastry.*

*If they had coffee it is unconfirmed; if they had pastry, we don’t know what kind.

Today it appears Kirchhoff was convicted of his crime but given what many locals may call a lenient sentence: 15 days, but…there is more to this story.

According to LGBTNation:

One of the victims is black and the other is white, and Kirchoff allegedly shouted homophobic slurs at them and used a racist slur for the black man.

Kirchhoff then attacked, pushing the white man against a brick wall. The victim had lacerations on his head and abrasions on his neck and back.
The men tried to walk away, but Kirchhoff went after them, pulling on their clothes. One of the men turned around and punched him and they left.

His defense attorney said that he was “severely intoxicated” and doesn’t remember the attack. She argued that Kirchoff is a veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and uses alcohol to self-medicate.
“That’s not a good solution for him, and he knows that,” the attorney told the court, asking for leniency.

Kirchhoff pled no contest to one count of bias crime in the first degree, a felony. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail and three years of probation. He also has to stay away from Lovejoy Bakers and the victims.

This past Friday, he pled guilty to felony strangulation in a separate case – he was accused of strangling his girlfriend. She survived the attack, and he was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years probation in that case.
Since he has already served a month and a half while awaiting his court dates, he has already served his time. The judge said that he will have to stay in jail until Monday.

As part of his probation he will have to wear a device on his wrist that will alert authorities if he consumes alcohol.

“Actions speak louder than words,” he told the judge. “I know I have a lot to prove to other folks besides the court, that’s my goal. To move toward a cleaner path.”

It is the first time that Oregon’s new hate crimes law has been used in the county since it went into effect this past July, according to prosecutors. The new law increased some bias crimes to felonies and added gender identity to the list of protected classes in the state.


What do our readers think? Is this a case of the new hate crimes law being used effectively? Is this a case of someone with mental illness getting away with too much? Let us know. Please send a message to and we’ll be sure to include it in a follow-up piece we plan to write.

Update: Dennis Day Disappearance

Breaking News

By Sebastian Fortino

Phoenix, Oregon–ProudTimes brought what should have been a story of national importance to the Portland region a few weeks ago concerning the disappearance of Dennis Day.

Day, who was last seen in mid-summer 2018, was an original Mousketeeer on the Mickey Mouse Show. Several factors however contributed to this case not gaining as much attention as it should have. Only in February, about seven months after the disappearance, did Dateline run a story on the investigation. The pictures used offer grim contrast; perhaps too severe a disparity between the two images.

Mr. Day was an openly gay, lower-income senior citizen living in a largely rural community.

“I think a lot of this has to do with the fact my uncle was poor, gay, and older,” said niece Janel Showers, who lives in the Fresno, California area. She has also said initial quotes were rehashed on both a local and national level from an original story released by the press. “No one really contacted us, his family.”

Due to constraints, such as a small police force with limited resources, and that Mr. Day’s next of kin–his husband–suffered from dementia and was living in a care facility, both the investigation and his family were seemingly ignored. In fact, the Day family didn’t even know their brother and uncle went missing for several weeks after the man was reported missing to police.

Today, April 5th 2019, the family called ProudTimes to say the case had progressed–finally. ProudTimes was the first news outlet to know that as of yesterday cadaver dogs and drones were being released to search the vicinity of Mr. Day’s property.

What was not shared with the press earlier is that Mr. Day’s home located at 510 Pine Street in Phoenix, Oregon shares a property line with a cemetery. They did not find a body in the cemetery however. Instead a body has been found on the grounds which Mr. Day and his partner called home for over 30 years.

The case, and the family were largely ignored. ProudTimes is privy to much information that we can only reveal when more comes to light about the investigation.

“We loved my uncle,” Showers said. “In fact the last time she saw him was in 2017, when my mother,” Nelda Adkins, “went to check on him in July 2017.”

Day, due to his husband’s ill-health hadn’t left the area for many years. Ideas were put forth by a source close to the case which painted Day’s closest relatives as estranged and homophobic. Upon interviewing both Showers via phone and her mother via email, ProudTimes is certain they were not biased against their missing relative.

Only now that a corpse has been found on the property of Mr. Day, is the mainstream media taking an interest. A man’s life was discounted because of his station socio-economically by mainstream media, but now that larger news outlets have a story to sell…they are taking an active interest.

This is an ongoing case. ProudTimes will be releasing more information as it becomes available.

Celebrating the Oregon Coast: Governor Kate Brown Bans Offshore Drilling

#ThatOregonLife #PacificWonderland

By Sebastian Fortino

To kick off the return to warmer weather, ProudTimes is asking our readers to share stories and pictures of your trips to the Oregon Coast. We’re launching this ongoing summer series with Kate Brown’s banning offshore drilling–permanently.  

It has been said it takes a woman to clean up the mess men leave behind. Especially politically, according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In a piece found on CNN, in terms of the domestic front, many households share the financial burdens of home and family by being double-income. However, in “traditional marriages” it seems women work equal hours but still find themselves doing the lioness’ share of chores at home.

Well, Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown, who queer Oregonians know identifies as bisexual, just signed a law banning offshore drilling from damaging our pristine coastline. #micdrop In effect, she just prevented the mess which would doubtlessly come from the current administration (in this case led by largely mega-rich white men) trying to open up a whopping 90 percent of federal waters to environmental exploitation. Several other states have banned offshore drilling in the wake of this threat.

Sadly, not all Oregonians feel this way. Some would like to see our waters exploited. If you read the responses to the Associated Press article posted by OregonLive, you’ll see some hateful responses. Some crassly attack the governor’s relationship with other Democrats, and her understandable umbrage against the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. These are expected in the public forum. The comments against her sexuality and gender shouldn’t be expected–but they are still sadly present.

However, it’s our job to celebrate what others eviscerate. Therefore, from all of us at ProudTimes, and all of us who love the Coast, we say “Thank you, Governor Kate Brown.”  

If you have any great photos and experiences you’ve taken away from the Oregon or Washington Coast, ProudTimes would love to publish you! Please reach out to proudtimesmag@gmail.comand we’ll see what we can do!

Portland Womxn’s March 2019: The Women Marched Forward Together

Portland Womxn’s March 2019: The Women Marched Forward Together
By Rachel Puma

On Sunday, March 3rd, women from all walks of life marched forward with their heads, voices, and signs held high. During the one mile long march from SW 10th Avenue to the South Park Blocks Near PSU thousands of women were led by a group of indigenous women who held the march with drums, songs, and ceremonial smoke.

Held high in the air were powerful signs created by women who are shining light on public issues and raising awareness on what women are facing today. Some of these hand crafted signs read “resistance is beautiful” and “anything you can do I can do bleeding”.

Even a couple of the Club Flock DJ’s Jen Roberton and Dakota Ushigome came out to set up a pop up dance party with a one of a kind rolling DJ cart. Dakota Ushigome of the DJ Duo The Dust Bunnies said “Music is love and it was a fantastic experience to be able to bring that love to the Womxn’s March and Rally for Action in Portland. Thanks to our good friend, DJ Joseph Lee who shared and set up his famous Robo Kart, one-of-a-kind sound system and DJ set up, we were able to keep the crowd going and spread positive vibes pre, post, and during the March.”

You could feel the energy, power, and love throughout the event as the women came together to support all women.

The march was a great kick off to International Women’s Day on March 8th and celebrating Women’s History Month this month.

For more photos from the Women’s March checkout out our Facebook Page – View here ProudTimes

ProudTimes thanks our colleague Rachel, aka Rappa for taking part in this event. We are looking forward to next year to celebrate Portland Women’s March. You can reach Jen at with any stories or events you may have.

Dennis Day

Original Mickey Mouse Club Star Disappears

Retired Gay Entertainer Dennis Day Missing for Seven Months
Original Mickey Mouse Club Star Disappears
By Sebastian Fortino

Since the late 1980s former actor Dennis Day has made his home in Southern Oregon, with his husband Ernie Caswell. He began acting at the age of 12 as an original Mouseketeer, alongside the late Annette Funicello. He came out as a gay man early in life, and was accepted by his family. Later, he spent many years living in San Francisco. Relatives describe Caswell as being a member of the family.

The majority of Day’s family live in California, and last saw him on a visit north in July of 2017. Day was unable to leave home to travel due to his husband’s health issues. However, since July of 2018, Day hasn’t been after leaving his home on foot.

“He doesn’t even leave his house to travel anywhere,” his niece Denise Norris told reporters. “The last time he left his town was to come to his mother’s funeral. And that was 12 years ago.”

His sister Nelda Adkins doesn’t speak to her brother that often, so she was not concerned at a lack of communication. To complicate matters, Mr. Caswell suffers from dementia. When he realized Day hadn’t come to see him in several weeks, he alerted authorities. His family was not contacted at this time.

“We were upset because we were not notified at the time of Dennis’ disappearance,” Adkins told ProudTimes. “Hearing of this through a news broadcast six months later has devastated us.”

Only a police report seen on television in Oregon by a relative caused his family in California to be alerted.

“He’s not the type of person who would just disappear. Especially with his significant other being in the hospital,” Norris said. “We are worried. We love him. We’re just kind of lost with what to do, or how to find him.”

She is also frustrated his family in California were not contacted immediately, in what the family describes as a poorly handled investigation. Curiously, after he disappeared, his car was found along the Oregon Coast with two people unknown to Day or Caswell. The car did not show any signs of foul play. There is also knowledge of a third man, a roommate, who was living in the couple’s home.

“No, we have never met the third roommate,” says Adkins when asked about the other man. “We were unaware of him. But have learned he was a homeless person with mental problems and has a police record.”

A letter found in a neighbor’s home implies the third man assaulted Day. A detective close to the case says there is no evidence to support the claim.

ProudTimes will continue to cover this story. Please contact Lt. Jeff Price of the Phoenix Police Department at 541-535-1113, ext. 309, or the anonymous tip line at 1-888-960-6450 if you have any information about Mr. Day’s whereabouts.

Country Artist Curtis Braly Celebrates 13 Year Anniversary with Husband/Manager

Nashville, TN (November 19, 2018) – Last Friday, country music star Curtis Braly celebrated his 13-year anniversary with husband/manager Jeff Riley. The “Song You Can Drink a Beer To” singer met Riley in 2002 at a mutual friend’s dinner party and the two have been inseparable ever since. Braly and Riley took their private plane to a special anniversary dinner in Texas.

About Curtis Braly:
Country music powerhouse and Humble,Texas native Curtis Braly is a jack of all trades. With experience in theatre, choir, radio, criminal justice, emergency medical services and aviation, he found his true calling as an entertainer & true showman. His single “Song You Can Drink A Beer To (REMIX)” released worldwide July 6th along with a thirst- quenching summertime music video . Performing and touring with fellow country artists such as Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, Daryl Singletary and Johnny Rodriguez, Curtis draws from these performers’ abilities to capture an audience—to bring music to life as a must-hear storyteller. With his explosive stage presence, Braly “delivers” an intimate connection with believable emotion and a charging energy allowing his story to unfold right before your ears. While Curtis is devoted to his music career, it is also his mission to give back. Braly takes pride in volunteering his piloting skills and personal aircraft to organizations like Pilots N Paws and Angel Flight. Curtis also volunteers, each year, to Christmas 4 Kids and recently announced the exciting launch of his non-profit “The Ruby Foundation,” an organization committed to inspiring, empowering & improving the lives of young adults by providing an annual uplifting & motivational youth camp to combat stress, depression & lack of self-esteem caused by bullying. Curtis’ music and sincere philanthropy caters to the seasoned music lover as well as the new generation of fans and listeners who have a hankering for pop, jazz, and rock influences.

Keep up with Curtis at and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

2018 Burien PRIDE Expands

Burien PRIDE Expands with Friday Night Bingo June 1, 2018! Festival Includes Live Music, Games, Kids Area & More

Burien, Wash. (May 21, 2018) – The second annual Burien PRIDE festival, sponsored by Blissful Knead and Kaiser Permanente, will take place in Burien Town Square Park on Saturday June 2, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with FREE admission to the public. Live musical performances will grace the stage throughout the day on Saturday. In addition, the super popular kids’ area will return, as will the 21+ beer garden, sponsored by local brewpub Elliott Bay Brewing Company.
New this year: Guests are invited to join their neighbors and friends for an all-ages Drag Queen Bingo event in the Park on Friday, June 1, 2018! The theme is “Grooving to the 70’s” and will be hosted by DonnaTella Howe and Rob Johnson from 5-10 p.m. Tickets are currently available in person via Discover Burien and the night of the event starting at 4 p.m.

A portion of all proceeds from Burien Pride 2018 will benefit the local community by way of the organization’s newly formed Burien Pride Scholarship Fund, which goes toward the college of the students choice and is to be used as they see fit, either for tuition or supplies.

Entertainment will perform throughout the day and into the early evening on two stages in Burien Town Square Park. One stage will boast fan favorites “The Newlywed Game” and “The Dating Game.” Musical acts, dance routines and Zumba will occur on the main stage. A drag show will take place from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

After-parties at The Point Liquor and Eats and Black Zia Cantina will occur as the festival closes. Additional establishments will show their support of the LGBTQ+ community throughout the evening as well.

Don’t miss out on the fun this year as Burien Pride returns on Friday, June 1 for Drag Queen Bingo and Saturday, June 2 for the festival
Burien Pride is expecting about 2,000 – 3,000 attendees this year! Come out and enjoy the events!

Don’t forget to follow Burien Pride on Social Media to keep up with the fun!

Facebook: and

Twitter @BurienPride

EEOC Ensures Restroom Access for Transgender Employees

NCLR Applauds the EEOC’s Decision Ensuring Restroom Access for Transgender Employees

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing federal workplace anti-discrimination laws, ruled that an employer’s refusal to allow a transgender employee access to restroom facilities consistent with his or her gender identity is sex discrimination under Title VII.

The decision addressed a charge filed by Tamara Lusardi, a transgender woman who works for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. During Ms. Lusardi’s gender transition, AMRDEC prohibited her from using the women’s restroom, relegating her instead to a single-staff restroom segregated from the other employees. One of her supervisors also repeatedly and intentionally harassed her by using her former name and male pronouns.

The EEOC ruled that AMRDEC’s decision to restrict Ms. Lusardi to a separate bathroom “isolated and segregated her from other persons of her gender” and “perpetuated the sense that she was not worthy of equal treatment and respect.” The EEOC also found that the supervisor’s intentional use of male pronouns “compounded that discrimination and sent the message that Ms. Lusardi was unworthy of basic respect and dignity because she is a transgender individual.” Each of these actions constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.

The EEOC also found that AMRDEC could not defend its actions by arguing that other employees might be uncomfortable or upset: “Allowing the preferences of co-workers to determine whether sex discrimination is valid reinforces the very stereotypes and prejudices that Title VII is intended to overcome.”

Ms. Lusardi is represented by the Transgender Law Center and the law firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP.

“We applaud the EEOC for clarifying that transgender employees suffer sex discrimination when they are relegated to separate bathroom facilities and harassed by other employees because of their gender identity’” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan. “Employees should never have to endure a hostile work environment because of their gender. This decision makes clear that employers have a duty to combat sex discrimination in all of its forms and wherever it occurs.”

NCLR Logo2
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

NCLR to Honor Idaho Navy Veteran and More

NCLR to Honor Idaho Navy Veteran and Couples/Legal Team in Historic Supreme Court Marriage Case

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is proud to announce that it will honor a retired Navy veteran and NCLR client who is fighting to bring LGBT equality to Idaho and the plaintiff couples and legal team in NCLR’s historic Tennessee marriage equality case at its 2015 Anniversary Celebration on May 2, 2015 in San Francisco.

Idaho Navy veteran Madelynn “Lee” Taylor, 74, will be honored with the Courage Award for her work standing up to the state’s discriminatory laws banning marriage equality and calling attention to the need for anti-discrimination laws by taking part in sit-ins at the State Capitol. The Tennessee plaintiff couples and their attorneys will be honored with the Justice Award just days after the U.S. Supreme Court hears the historic case that could decide marriage equality nationwide.

“All of our honorees exemplify the bravery and perseverance of the entire LGBT community and what it has taken us to get to this historic cusp,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “We hope the Anniversary Celebration will leave our supporters inspired and recommitted to our ongoing success, and that it will leave the NCLR board and staff energized for the challenges ahead to bring the full promise of equality to every member of our community.”

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in NCLR’s Tennessee marriage case and cases from three other states on April 28, 2015 in Washington D.C. In these cases, the Court will have an opportunity to bring an end to the serious harms caused by discriminatory laws that bar same-sex couples from marriage. The Court is expected to issue its decision by the end of June 2015.

The plaintiffs in the Tennessee marriage case who will receive the Justice Award are Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty, Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura, and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo. The attorney honorees are Abby Rubenfeld, Maureen Holland, and Regina Lambert, and the law firms of Sherrard & Roe PLC and Ropes & Gray LLP.

“We are humbled to be recognized by NCLR and the LGBT community,” said Tanco, who has a one-year-old daughter with Jesty. “We never would have imagined two years ago that we would be part of this moment and we are honored that we are helping advance marriage equality across the country. We are eternally grateful to our attorneys and the staff of NCLR for taking on our case and for all the work they do to bring full equality to every member of our community.”

Courage Award recipient Lee Taylor has always been committed to justice and fighting for others, but her commitment to LGBT equality was ignited after she was discharged from the Navy in 1964 when it was discovered that she was a lesbian. In 2014, with the help of NCLR, Taylor challenged Idaho’s marriage ban after the state-run veterans’ cemetery refused to allow her to be buried with her late wife. Late last year, after NCLR filed her lawsuit, the state reversed course, allowing her wife’s remains to be interred at the veterans’ cemetery, where the couple will be able to rest together.

While it’s getting increasingly difficult for Taylor to get around, she hasn’t slowed down. In March, she took part in a sit-in at the Idaho State Capital to protest lawmakers’ refusal to pass anti-discrimination protections. “Add the 4 Words” protesters blocked all entrances to the bill drafting office of the Idaho Legislature and only allowed entry to legislators who supported adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s Human Rights Act. She was arrested twice as a result.

Founded in 1977, NCLR is devoted to advancing LGBT equality through litigation, legislation, policy, and public education. Since its start, NCLR—which helps more than 5,000 people each year—has embraced every aspect of the diverse LGBT community through its work, recognizing that LGBT people and their families come from many different backgrounds and face a wide range of issues.

The Anniversary Celebration is NCLR’s annual signature event, drawing a sell-out crowd of more than 2,000 people. This year’s event will be held at San Francisco’s Marriott Marquis and the City View at Metreon. The Premiere Sponsor of the Anniversary Celebration is Wells Fargo.

About the Couples

Dr. Valeria Tanco & Dr. Sophy Jesty—Valeria and Sophy met while at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and have been together for four years. As Sophy neared the end of her post-graduate fellowship, Val and Sophy began looking for teaching positions in veterinary medicine that were geographically close to another. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville offered them both positions in their respective specialties. Although the couple had married while living in New York, the State of Tennessee treats them as if they are two unmarried women. They have a 1-year-old daughter.

Ijpe DeKoe & Thom Kostura—Ijpe and Thom have known each other since they were teenagers. Ijpe is a Sergeant in the Army Reserves. The couple got married on August 5, 2011, a week before Ijpe began a tour of duty in Afghanistan. In May 2012, Ijpe returned home safely and immediately moved with Thom to Memphis, Tennessee, where he had been stationed prior to his deployment.

Matthew Mansell & Johno Espejo—Matthew and Johno met in 1995 and were married in California in 2008. Matthew is a conflicts analyst at a law firm, and Johno is a stay-at-home dad and works part-time at the local YMCA. The couples moved to Franklin, Tennessee in 2012 with their two children, who now are 8 and 6 years old.

The Attorneys

Abby Rubenfeld, Esq. is a Nashville-based attorney who operates a general law practice with an emphasis on family law, sexual orientation, and AIDS-related issues. Read more.

Maureen T. Holland, Esq. is a Memphis-based attorney specializing employment, discrimination, and litigation. Read more.

Regina M. Lambert, Esq. is a Knoxville-based lawyer who is currently practicing civil rights litigation related to marriage equality. Read more.

Sherrard & Roe, PLC is a Nashville-based firm that provides a broad range of legal services to businesses and individuals.

Ropes & Gray LLP is a global law firm representing interests across a broad spectrum of industries in corporate law and litigation matters.

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.