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Victory Fund endorses Catania for mayor

David Catania, Catania for mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania won the Victory Fund’s endorsement even though he hasn’t yet announced his candidacy for mayor. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an influential national group that raises money for LGBT candidates for public office, created a stir among local activists this week when it announced it has endorsed D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor.

With many LGBT activists supporting Mayor Vincent Gray’s re-election bid and others in the LGBT community supporting one of the four other City Council members running for mayor, some are asking why the Victory Fund would endorse Catania before he has formally announced he’s running for mayor.

Catania has formed an exploratory committee for a mayoral race and has said he most likely would run if Gray wins the Democratic primary on April 1.

Victory Fund Press Secretary Steven Thai said that while the group doesn’t endorse unannounced potential candidates very often, it has taken this step before. He noted that the Victory Fund endorsed former U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) for the U.S. Senate in 2012 before she officially announced she was running for the Senate.

Baldwin went on to declare her candidacy for the Senate and won that race, making history by becoming the first out lesbian or gay person to become a U.S. senator.

“David Catania brings an incredible amount of passion and commitment to his job,” the Victory Fund’s chief operating officer, Torey Carter, said in a statement released by the group on Tuesday.

“He helped guide Washington through a period of unprecedented growth and revitalization,” Carter said. “He is ideally positioned to lead a city with such a diverse and dynamic people.”

The Victory Fund also announced on Tuesday its endorsement of gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in his race for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Ebbin is running in a hotly contested Democratic primary scheduled for June 10 in which two other openly gay candidates are running in an 11-candidate race.

“Adam Ebbin has distinguished himself as an outspoken voice of progressive values,” Carter said in a separate statement on Tuesday. “After ten years in the state legislature, he has remained committed to his goal of increasing equality and opportunity for those who are often left behind.”

Virginia State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), who came out publicly last week in a column in the Washington Post, emerged as an unexpected ‘out’ candidate in the 8th District congressional race. Also running is gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine, who worked as a legal counsel for gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Levine says he’s been out as gay since the 1980s.

As of this week, the Victory Fund has endorsed 71 out LGBT candidates in national, state and local races and expects to endorse more than 200 out candidates across the country in the 2014 election cycle, the group says on its website.

Among those endorsed so far are at least nine gay or lesbian candidates running in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including Catania and Ebbin.

But missing from its endorsement list so far are lesbian Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Country), who’s running for governor, and gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is running for re-election to a fifth term.

Spokesperson Thai reiterated the Victory Fund’s longstanding policy of not disclosing why the group has not endorsed a candidate. However, he said many more candidates are in the endorsement pipeline and the group could very well endorse candidates not on the list in the next few weeks and coming months.

He said the group’s criteria for endorsing any candidate, as posted on the website, include a demonstration that the candidate is viable and can show a path to victory; a record of support on LGBT rights; and the completion of a detailed application seeking an endorsement. Thai said an endorsement for a prior election doesn’t carry over to the next election and all incumbents must re-apply each time they run.

Graham couldn’t immediately be reached to determine if he applied for an endorsement in his Council race.

The Mizeur for governor campaign didn’t say specifically whether the campaign formally applied for a Victory Fund endorsement.

“We are in close communication with the Victory Fund and we would welcome their support,” campaign spokesperson Steven Hershkowitz told the Blade.

Meanwhile, in a little-noticed development, Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles County), one of eight openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly, announced last month that he is not running for re-election to that position. Instead, Murphy said he decided to run for president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners, a position equivalent to a county executive.

“Whether you’re a state legislator or a county commissioner president, it’s all about the quality of life for all people,” Murphy said in a Feb. 3 statement. “I’ve always been accessible and responsive as a delegate, and I look forward to the opportunity of continuing to serve all our residents with the same enthusiasm and dedication.”

As a candidate for governor, Mizeur is giving up her seat in the House of Delegates. Records with the state board of elections show that she did not file for re-election to her delegate post prior to the filing deadline of Feb. 25. The election board lists Mizeur as an “active” candidate for governor in the June 24 Maryland primary.

The departure of Mizeur and Murphy from the House of Delegates would lower the number of out gay or lesbian members of the Maryland General Assembly from eight – the highest in the nation for a state legislature – to six if all six remaining lawmakers are re-elected this year.

The others running for re-election are State Sen. Richard Madelano (D-Montgomery County) and Delegates Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County).

All except Kaiser have been endorsed by the Victory Fund.

Other out gay or lesbian candidates in Maryland that have received the Victory Fund’s endorsement this year are Evan Glass, Montgomery County Council; Byron Macfarlane, Howard County Register of Wills; and Kevin Walling, Maryland House of Delegates, Montgomery County.

Walling is running in a different district than that of Mizeur and Kaiser’s districts in Montgomery County.

26
Feb
2014

Va. lawmakers repeal sodomy ban in unanimous vote

Adam Ebbin, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

‘The law was a terrible, symbolic insult,’ said gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin. ‘It will finally be off the books.’ (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

The Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday voted 100 to 0 to approve a bill that decriminalizes non-commercial sodomy between consenting adults in private, essentially repealing the state’s Crimes Against Nature statute that courts have declared unconstitutional.

The action follows a similar unanimous vote last month by the Virginia Senate to pass an identical bill. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe was expected to sign the bill.

“The bottom line is that the General Assembly made great progress for treating sex as sex and applying the same criminal laws regardless of what kind of sex somebody is having,” said Claire Gastanaga, director of the ACLU of Virginia.

“In terms of making it clear that it’s not a criminal act for two adults to have oral or anal sex in the privacy of their own home or some other private space, it accomplishes that,” she said.

State Sen. Thomas Garrett (R-Lynchburg) introduced an earlier version of the bill that was revised last month by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee following input from the ACLU.

Garrett and others pushing the bill said it was needed because a ruling last year by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond declaring the sodomy statute unconstitutional and unenforceable made it unclear whether prostitution involving oral or anal sex could be prosecuted.

Others, including former Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, argued that the appeals court ruling, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, would prevent the prosecution of adults seeking to have consensual oral sex with minors between the age of 15 and 18.

Virginia’s existing criminal code addressing prostitution and non-forcible sex was linked to the sodomy statute, which for years defined sodomy as a criminal felony regardless of whether the sex was between consenting adults in private.

“The law was a terrible, symbolic insult,” said gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria). “It will finally be off the books, 11 years after it was ruled unconstitutional [by the U.S. Supreme Court],” he said. “Once the governor signs it, I am glad that all consenting adults will finally be treated as adults.”

Maryland is among more than a dozen states that have yet to repeal their sodomy statutes more than a decade after the Supreme Court declared state sodomy laws unconstitutional in its landmark decision of Lawrence v. Texas.

The openly gay and lesbian members of the Maryland General Assembly — including Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), who’s running for governor — have not responded to requests from the Blade about whether they plan to introduce legislation to repeal Maryland’s sodomy law.

“I’m always glad to see a situation where Virginia is more progressive than Maryland,” said Gastanaga of the ACLU. “It doesn’t happen often enough.”

07
Mar
2014

‘It’s a new day’ in Virginia politics

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe takes office three days after the 2014 legislative session begins. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Efforts to ban anti-LGBT discrimination and repeal a state constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex marriage are among the priorities for Virginia LGBT rights advocates during the 2014 legislative session that begins on Wednesday.

State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) has once again introduced a bill that would ban discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The state Senate last January approved the measure by a 24-16 vote margin, but a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee subsequently killed it. Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has repeatedly said the first executive order he will issue once he takes office on Saturday is a ban on anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.

“We definitely want to continue that momentum,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish.

McEachin, state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) and state Dels. Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico County), Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County), Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria), Ken Plum (D-Fairfax County) and Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) have sponsored proposed resolutions that would seek a repeal of the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin. Howell and state Del. Joseph Yost (D-Giles County) are expected to introduce bills in their respective chambers that would extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Parrish told the Blade that more than 50 families have already said they want to testify in support of the measure.

“We expect that to be a big bill in the House and in the Senate,” he said.

State Del.-elect Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) has pre-filed a bill that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. State Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) has introduced an identical measure.

Simon has also proposed a measure that seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

State Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County) next week is expected to introduce a bill that would ban so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the commonwealth.

The Alliance for Progressive Values has worked with the Arlington County Democrat to write the bill that Ebbin is expected to introduce in the Senate.

Hope told the Blade on Tuesday similar bills that California Gov. Jerry Brown and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law last year “certainly inspired me that this is the right time to bring this to Virginia.”

Parrish said Equality Virginia would support the proposal, but Hope conceded it will likely face resistance.

“This is an uphill battle,” he said. “This is Virginia that we’re talking about, so I expect some stiff opposition and some hurdles.”

Christopher Doyle, director of the Maryland-based International Healing Foundation, singled out the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations that oppose “ex-gay” therapy for encouraging Hope and other state lawmakers to introduce measures that seek to ban the controversial practice.

“No one has ever tried to ban a specific therapeutic modality for any mental health issues,” Doyle told the Blade. “The foundations of the bill are incorrect and politicians are being misinformed and deceived.”

Krupicka and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Fairfax County) have introduced bills that would allow the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to issue license plates to Equality Virginia supporters that contain the slogan “Equality for All.”

Parrish said his group will also oppose a measure state Del. Bob Marshall (D-Prince William County) introduced that would require married same-sex couples to file their Virginia income tax returns as single individuals because the commonwealth does not recognize their unions. This measure seeks to codify the policy outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell announced in November.

“We have been reaching out to the new administration though about what we can possibly do about that very punitive tax opinion that came out of the [outgoing Gov. Bob] McDonnell administration,” said Parrish.

The 2014 legislative session will begin three days before McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and Attorney General-elect Mark Herring take office.

All three men publicly support marriage rights for same-sex couples. It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend Virginia’s gay marriage ban in two federal lawsuits that challenge it.

“It’s a new day,” Ebbin told the Blade as he discussed McAuliffe, Northam and Herring. “We’ll be dealing with people who are looking to help us instead of looking to harm and stymie us.”

Parrish said the tone from the governor and the attorney general’s offices will be “a 180” compared to McDonnell and outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He added the House will continue to remain a barrier to advancing LGBT-specific legislation during this legislative session.

“Now that we have a friendly administration in the governor and the attorney general’s office, it will allow us to better make the narrative that the Senate and the governor and the attorney general and the Virginia public are all on the same page,” said Parrish. “And it’s the House of Delegates that’s blocked any forward movement for the LGBT community.”

08
Jan
2014

Levine seeks U.S. House seat from Va.

Mark Levine, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Levine (Photo courtesy of Levine for Congress)

Gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine on March 9 officially launched his campaign for the U.S House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D).

At a rally in his Old Town Alexandria townhouse packed with supporters and family members, including his parents, Levine described himself as an “aggressive progressive” who will fight for the progressive causes and policies that he said many fellow Democrats have shied away from.

As a staff attorney for gay former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Levine said LGBT rights and marriage equality would be an important part of his campaign platform and would be at the top of his agenda if elected to Congress.

“I think all too often Democrats take what they can get and maybe cast a vote but aren’t out there changing the course of the debate,” he said.

“So those of you who know me and even some of you that don’t know me that well know that I’m really not a quiet person,” he said, drawing laughter and applause. “I don’t think we need quiet people in Congress.”

Levine is one of 11 candidates running in the hotly contested Democratic primary in a heavily Democratic district where the winner of the primary is expected to win the general election in November.

Among the others running are gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), and State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), who came out as gay last month in a column in the Washington Post.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which raises money for out LGBT candidates, has endorsed Ebbin. The group called Ebbin a champion for progressive causes and LGBT equality during his nine years in the Virginia General Assembly, both as a senator and former delegate.

Levine said he hopes to distinguish himself from his rivals by drawing attention to his experience in legal and public policy work for more than 20 years. He pointed to his stint as a congressional staffer and his outspoken advocacy for progressive causes, including universal health care, in his regular appearances on radio and TV political talk shows such as those on Fox News and MSNBC.

12
Mar
2014

Terry McAuliffe sworn in as Virginia governor

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe was sworn in on Saturday as Virginia’s 72nd governor. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

RICHMOND, Va.—Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Saturday became Virginia’s 72nd governor amid hopes his administration will extend rights to LGBT Virginians.

“An open and welcoming state is critical to the 21st century economy, but it’s also imperative for justice and fairness,” said McAuliffe.

The former DNC chair stressed throughout his inaugural address the economy remains among his administration’s top priorities. McAuliffe also said the commonwealth needs to “ensure that someone can’t lose their job simply because they are gay.”

“As the legislature and my administration work to diversity our economy, we need to remember that our sense of urgency is driven by those Virginians who struggle each and every day just to get buy and whose dream is simply to give their children the opportunities that may never have had,” said McAuliffe. “My administration will work tirelessly to ensure opportunities are equal for all Virginia’s children no matter if you are a girl or a boy, no matter what part of the commonwealth you live in, no matter your race or your religion and no matter who you love.”

Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring were also sworn in.

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) told the Washington Blade in November after McAuliffe defeated then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the hotly contested gubernatorial race and Northam beat Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson that the election results were a “clear victory for equality” that brings “the promise of a new day for Virginia.”

McAuliffe, Northam and Herring support marriage rights for same-sex couples. The former Democratic National Committee chair later on Saturday is expected to issue an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“We couldn’t be more ecstatic,” Maggie Sacra, chair of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, told the Washington Blade earlier on Saturday during a brunch her group hosted at a downtown Richmond hotel.

Kathy Green of Henrico County said during the same event she feels former Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cuccinelli’s policies towards women’s reproductive health rights were “frightening.”

“Having Democrats in the statewide offices will really help to advance equal rights for our friends and co-workers and neighbors,” added Green.

Members of Public Advocate, an anti-LGBT group founded by Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delguadio, placed posters around the State House against the expected directive. They also handed out stickers that read “preserve traditional marriage” to passersby outside security checkpoints.

Lawmakers are expected to consider a number of LGBT-specific bills during the 2014 legislative session that began on Wednesday. These include measures that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in Virginia, extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians and prohibit “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the commonwealth.

Eight lawmakers have also introduced proposed resolutions that would seek a repeal of Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin.

A federal judge in Norfolk on Jan. 30 is scheduled to hold the first hearing in a case challenging the commonwealth’s gay marriage ban that Ted Olson and David Boies, who argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court, joined last September. The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia in August filed a separate class action federal lawsuit against the state’s ban on nuptials for same-sex couples on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who were denied marriage licenses.

It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish told the Blade during a Jan. 8 interview the tone from the governor and the attorney general’s offices will be “a 180” compared to former Gov. Bob McDonnell and Cuccinelli. He said the state House of Delegates will remain a barrier to advancing pro-LGBT measures even with McAuliffe, Northam and Herring in office.

“Now that we have a friendly administration in the governor and the attorney general’s office, it will allow us to better make the narrative that the Senate and the governor and the attorney general and the Virginia public are all on the same page,” said Parrish.

Equality Virginia is among the groups that marched in the inaugural parade after McAuliffe, Northam and Herring took office. It is the first time an LGBT organization had been invited to take part in the quadrennial event.

Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade, Richmond

Equality Virginia was among the groups that marched in the Inauguration parade in Richmond, Va., on Saturday. It was the first time an LGBT group took part in the quadrennial event. (Photo courtesy of Kirsten Bokenkamp/Equality Virginia)

11
Jan
2014

Ebbin finishes fourth, Levine eighth in straw poll

Adam Ebbin, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

Gay congressional candidates Adam Ebbin and Mark Levine finished in fourth place and eighth place respectively in an unscientific straw poll conducted March 17 in a race in which 11 Democrats are competing in a June 10 primary for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, who’s considered the frontrunner in the race, finished first with 127 votes. Ebbin received 41 votes, with Levin receiving 22 votes.

The straw poll was conducted by the campaign of Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), whose 11th District boarders on the 8th District. Donald Brownlee, a Connolly campaign official, said the straw poll was taken at Connolly’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party in Fairfax just across the border from the 8th District. He said a majority of the attendees that participated in the poll are residents of the 8th District.

“We are neutral in the race,” he said of the 8th District contest. Connolly is running unopposed in the primary.

Beyer came in first place in another straw poll on March 1 conducted within the 8th District by the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee at the committee’s annual Mardi Gras party. Ebbin came in fifth and Levine came in 10th in that poll, which organizers also said was unscientific. Just over 400 people voted in the poll.

“Adam is proud of the support he’s gotten across the 8th District as the campaign continues to gain momentum,” said Michael Beckendorf, Ebbin’s campaign manager, who declined comment on the straw polls.

Levine said most straw polls are conducted at political fundraisers where people pay to attend, as was the case with the two straw polls for the 8th District congressional race.

“They are useful as good fundraisers,” he said. “But the only real poll will be the one on June 10.”

19
Mar
2014

Efforts to repeal Virginia marriage amendment blocked

Adam Ebbin, Alexandria, Virginia, Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in November introduced a resolution that sought to repeal a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Virginia lawmakers this year will not consider proposed resolutions that sought to repeal the state’s constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

State Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), chair of the Virginia House of Delegates Privileges and Elections Committee, on Jan. 9 announced it will not hear any so-called first reference constitutional amendments during the 2014 legislative session. He said his committee will instead consider them next year.

“Virginia Republicans refusal to even consider same-sex marriage is backwards and proving increasingly archaic,” said state Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) in a Monday press release that announced Cole’s decision. “Marriage is about loving, committed couples who want to make a lifelong promise to take care of and be responsible for each other, in good times and bad.”

A House subcommittee last year killed Surovell’s proposed resolution that sought to repeal the marriage amendment that Virginia voters approved by a 57-43 percent margin in 2006. The Fairfax County Democrat on Jan. 8 introduced a bill that would repeal the commonwealth’s statutory ban on marriages and civil unions for same-sex couples.

“Virginians are ready to repeal the Marshall-Newman amendment,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) earlier on Monday during a Richmond press conference at which state Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County), state Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County), Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish and Rev. Robin Gorsline of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia discussed their 2014 legislative priorities. “This unfair and discriminatory law denies loving couples the chance to build a life together, throwing up burdens that straight couples never have to face.”

The Richmond press conference took place two days after Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office.

The former Democratic National Committee chair on Saturday signed an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT state employees.

McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring publicly support marriage rights for same-sex couples. It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban in two federal lawsuits that challenge it.

Other 2014 legislative priorities for LGBT rights advocates include McEachin’s bill that would ban discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The Henrico County Democrat has also introduced a measure that would allow public colleges and universities and municipalities to offer benefits to their employees’ same-sex partners.

“Discrimination is wrong, and we should be doing more to prevent it,” said McEachin on Monday.

State Dels. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) have introduced measures that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. Simon and state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) have also proposed bills that seek to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

Yost and state Del. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) have introduced bills in their respective chambers that would extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians. Hope on Monday formally put forth a measure that would ban so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in Virginia.

Cole did not immediately return the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

13
Jan
2014

Ebbin launches campaign for Congress

Adam Ebbin, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Just call me a liberal,’ said Adam Ebbin. (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

Gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) on Saturday formally launched his campaign for the U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), telling about 125 supporters he will be a “champion for the underserved.”

Among those attending Ebbin’s campaign kick-off rally at Los Tios Restaurant in the Del Ray section of Alexandria were Alexandria’s popular former mayor and former State Sen. Patsy Ticer (D) and State Sen. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax). Both have endorsed Ebbin.

Sickles, who came out as gay in a Washington Post column in January, was among at least 11 candidates running for Moran’s congressional seat before dropping out of the race two weeks ago.

“In Congress, I’m going to be a champion for the underserved,” Ebbin said. “And that includes working people, LGBT people, women, the poor, immigrants, victims of human trafficking – anyone who has it tough.”

Ebbin noted that he spent nine of his 11 years in the Virginia General Assembly as a member of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates before being elected in 2011 to the State Senate.

“I’ve spent more than a decade passing progressive legislation through the General Assembly, including a hostile House of Delegates,” he said. “With me and supporters of principled legislation like Sen. Ticer I led the opposition to the anti-marriage equality amendment in 2006 that was recently overturned,” he said. “We have turned the corner and there is no going back.”

Ebbin was referring to a federal district court in Virginia that earlier this year declared the 2006 ballot measure banning same-sex marriage in the state constitution a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Supporters of the marriage ban are seeking to appeal the court ruling, and the case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Among the other issues he will push in Congress, Ebbin said, are comprehensive immigration reform, environmental protection, protecting Social Security and Medicare, raising the federal minimum wage and “a real raise for federal workers.”

Mark Levine, a gay rights attorney, radio talk show host and legal counsel to gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is among what had been 11 Democrats competing for Moran’s congressional seat in the solidly Democratic 8th District. Another two candidates reportedly have entered the race in the June 10 Democratic primary.

The winner of the primary is expected to be the strong favorite to win the general election in November.

“In this race there’s a lot of candidates, and you’re hearing a lot of progressive slogans,” Ebbin said at his rally on March 22. “We’ve got someone who is a proven principled progressive. We’ve got someone who is the aggressive progressive and someone who is even a progressive warrior,” he said.

“And if it’s easier, just call me a liberal,” said Ebbin.

24
Mar
2014

Ebbin, Fisette on ‘short list’ for U.S. House seat in Northern Va.

Adam Ebbin, Jay FIsette, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (left) and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette are possible candidates for Congress. (Washington Blade file photos. Photo of Ebbin by Michael K. Lavers; photo of Fisette by Jeff Surprenant)

Political insiders in Northern Virginia have placed two openly gay elected officials near the top of a list of at least a dozen possible candidates considered qualified to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who announced he’s not running for re-election this year.

Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin, whose district includes parts of the City of Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties; and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, who represents the entire county, are well known and have longstanding ties to the 8th Congressional District, according to people familiar with the district.

Ebbin and Fisette are both Democrats. The 8th District, which Moran has represented for more than 20 years, is a Democratic stronghold. Virtually all political observers say the candidate that wins the Democratic primary scheduled for June 10 is almost certain to win the general election in November.

“The 8th District is a highly educated, progressive, engaged district that has embraced LGBT equality for years,” said Joshua Israel, former president of Virginia Partisans, a statewide LGBT Democratic group that recently changed its name to Lesbian and Gay Democrats of Virginia.

Israel says he knows most of the other candidates considering entering the race and all of them are strong supporters of LGBT rights, just as Moran has been a staunch ally of the LGBT community during his tenure as a congressman.

“The field will no doubt be an embarrassment of riches,” he said.

Fisette became the first known openly gay candidate to win election to public office in Virginia in 1997, when he won his race for a seat on the Arlington County Board, which serves as the county’s legislative body. He has won re-election four times since then by wide margins, with his latest electoral victory in 2013.

Fisette’s colleagues elected him chair of the five-member board in 2001, 2005, 2010, and again this year under a system in which the board rotates its leadership posts every year.

Ebbin became the first openly gay candidate to win election to the Virginia General Assembly when he won his race for a seat in the House of Delegates in 2003 in a district in Alexandria, which is his home base. He won re-election to the seat in 2007.

When a seat in the 30th State Senate district came open in 2011 Ebbin tossed his hat in the ring and won the Democratic primary in a hotly contested, three-candidate race by a three-point margin. He won the general election against a Republican opponent by a margin of 64.4 percent to 35.4 percent.

Political observers note that Ebbin is the only potential candidate for the 8th District congressional seat who represents parts of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax, giving him an advantage in the June primary should he enter the race.

“With the 2014 legislative session just beginning, I am working hard every day for the people of the 30th District,” Ebbin said in a statement released last week. “I am honored that people think I’d make a good congressman, and I will give it the serious consideration it deserves,” he said. “I hope to have more to say about this in the future.”

Ebbin told the Blade on Monday that a report posted on Twitter by Virginia political blogger Ben Tribbett incorrectly claimed Ebbin announced his candidacy for the congressional seat at a Jan. 18 meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

“I don’t know why he tweeted that,” said Ebbin. “I didn’t make an announcement.”

Although Ebbin told the Blade he isn’t ready to announce his decision on whether or not to run, Charlie Conrad, vice chair of elections for Lesbian and Gay Democrats of Virginia said “the word is out” that Ebbin plans to run for the congressional seat.

“I’m supporting Adam,” he said. “He is very popular and very well respected.”

Fisette, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, had not made a public statement about whether he was considering running for the congressional seat as of early this week.

A spokesperson for the Virginia election board said that if the Democratic Party decides to hold a primary, as expected, rather than a caucus to nominate a candidate for the seat, candidates must file petitions with 1,000 valid signatures by March 27 to gain placement on the June 10 ballot.

Other potential Democratic candidates for the 8th District seat mentioned by political insiders  include Alexandria Mayor William Euille and former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley; Del. Charniele Herring (Alexandria); Del. Patrick Hope (Arlington); Del. K. Robert Krupicka Jr. (Alexandria); Del. Alfonso Lopez (Arlington); Fairfax Board of Supervisors member Jeff McKay; Del. Mark Sickles (Fairfax); and Del. Scott Surovell (Fairfax).

Surovell and Krupicka have sponsored bills in the House of Delegates in support of same-sex marriage rights. Hope has proposed legislation to ban “ex-gay” therapy for minors.

Chesterfield resident Maggie Sacra, the current chair of Lesbian and Gay Democrats of Virginia, which recently became an official arm of the Virginia Democratic Party, said the organization can no longer endorse candidates in a primary under party rules.

Thus the state’s largest LGBT Democratic group won’t be able to endorse Ebbin or Fisette should they decide to run in the primary. Sacra said the group nevertheless will be “very active” in the primary campaign by reaching out to all of the Democratic candidates to discuss their positions on LGBT issues and inform them of the issues of concern to the LGBT community.

“I think we will have a good group of candidates,” she said. “All are pro-equality.”

She added, “It would be a great thing for the state if we were to get an openly gay congressman,” noting that such a development would be an historic first in the South.

Israel, who lives in Arlington, said the LGBT vote could be a key factor in the primary if a large number of candidates enter the race.

“The biggest question is going to be how many people run and who is able to turn out a plurality of their supporters,” he said. “Given the number of potential candidates considering this race, one candidate with a particularly committed base of support could become a U.S. representative for decades to come.”

In August 2003, Fisette announced he would run against Moran in the 2004 Democratic primary at a time when Moran came under fire for what political observers called a series of widely reported “missteps.” Among other things, fellow Democrats criticized him for suggesting that the Jewish lobby was responsible for persuading President George W. Bush to start the Iraq war.

“Jim deserves credit for his past work, but it’s time to move forward,” the Free Republic blog quoted Fisette as saying at the time. “I’m convinced that there’s an overwhelming number of people looking for a change.”

But less than two weeks later, Fisette changed his mind and withdrew from the race, saying that while he had differences with Moran he agreed with the congressman on most issues and didn’t want to engage in a negative campaign.

“He made the very smart decision not to run,” said Nick Benton, the gay editor and publisher of the Falls Church News-Press and an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights. “It would have been very destructive of his future ambitions to run.” Benton has been a longtime supporter of Moran.

Moran defeated another primary challenger who ran against him in 2004 by a wide margin.

As of early this week, the only candidate to officially declare his candidacy for the 8th District congressional seat was Bruce Shuttleworth, a retired Navy fighter pilot and marketing executive.

“I have roomed with at least two gay midshipmen and I will be the loudest voice in the land for equal rights for all minorities to include our transgender brothers and sisters who remain outside a proper embrace,” he said in a declaration of candidacy statement.

Shuttleworth ran against and lost to Moran by a wide margin in the 2012 Democratic primary.

21
Jan
2014

Anti-LGBT group: Va. marriage ban is ‘rational’

Josh Duggar, Victoria Cobb, Family Foundation of Virginia, Allison Howard, Concerned Women for America, E.W. Jackson, Norfolk, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-LGBT groups on April 4 filed 21 briefs with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Photo courtesy of the Family Foundation of Virginia)

Anti-LGBT organizations on April 4 filed 21 amicus briefs with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“There is a rational and even compelling justification for the Virginia amendment and statutes,” wrote Mathew Staver in a brief he filed with the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., on behalf of the Liberty Counsel and the American College of Pediatricians. “The inherent harms of living a homosexual lifestyle and the inherent benefits of encouraging intact biological families for the rearing of children.”

The Liberty Counsel and the American College of Pediatricians told the 4th Circuit the “lack of exclusivity and permanence in same-sex relationships” and “the irresponsible sexual practices associated therewith greatly affect the health, safety and welfare of homosexuals.”

Staver in his brief included a statistic that says gay and bisexual men are roughly 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than “men who only have sex with women.” He also references Mark Regnerus’ disputed study that suggests children who are raised by their mother and father are better off than those who grow up with same-sex parents.

Frank D. Mylar, a Salt Lake City lawyer, argues in a brief he filed on behalf of the American Leadership Fund and 19 professors and scholars that marriage between a man and a woman is necessary for the procreation of children.

“This social institution is rooted in deep realities and oriented towards a purpose uniquely tied to its nature as the union of the sexes – a pairing that alone may naturally create a child and provide that child with a social context that accounts for his or her biological origins,” wrote Mylar.

Mylar also dismissed comparisons that U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen – who struck down the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban in February – and others have made between this case and the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling in 1967 that found interracial marriage prohibitions unconstitutional.

“[Mildred] Loving, who, as per her name, seemed a goodhearted soul, equated the struggle for gay marriage with her own struggle for interracial marriage,” writes David Boyle, a lawyer from Long Beach, Calif., in a brief he filed with the 4th Circuit. “The judge in Bostic uses this idea… to justify mandating gay marriage in the Old Dominion. However, this well-intentioned idea lacks logical foundation.”

Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., writes in a brief he filed with the federal appeals court on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that marriage as between a man and a woman is a “time-honored tradition.”

“We support the husband-wife definition of marriage because we believe it is right and good for children, families and societies,” said Picarello.

Steven W. Fitschen of the National Legal Foundation of Virginia Beach, Va., which filed a brief on behalf of Concerned Women for America, argues “homosexuals and lesbians are not politically powerless.” He notes recent polls indicate a majority of Virginians now support marriage rights for same-sex couples and the first executive order that Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed as governor bans discrimination against LGBT state employees.

The brief also references a Washington Blade article on the 2011 election of gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) to the Virginia Senate.

“The rapid shift in voter opinion evinces that homosexuals and lesbians do not need to shortcut the political process through judicial intervention,” writes Fitschen.

Attorneys general from Alabama; Alaska; Colorado; Idaho; Louisiana; Montana; South Carolina; South Dakota; Utah and Wyoming, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrison; the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Family Research Council, former National Organization for Marriage Chair Robert George and Ryan Anderson of the Witherspoon Institute are among those who also filed briefs with the 4th Circuit.

Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield last year challenged the commonwealth’s marriage amendment after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal – which filed a separate lawsuit last summer on behalf of Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff of Winchester and Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton – have been allowed to join the Bostic case.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski in January certified the ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit as a class action.

Attorney General Mark Herring earlier this year announced he would not defend the marriage amendment. He said on April 5 during the annual Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner in Richmond that same-sex couples are not seeking “special treatment” in the state.

The 4th Circuit on May 13 is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments in the Bostic case.

The Alliance Defending Freedom argued in a brief it filed late last month on behalf of Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is necessary for the “procreation” of children. Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, III, has also challenged Allen’s ruling.

Staver and Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty both refer to a New Mexico photographer who challenged a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that said she violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when she refused to photograph a same-sex couple’s wedding ceremony because of her religious beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced it will not hear the case.

07
Apr
2014