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Gay PR exec considering running for Moran seat

Bob Witeck, gay news, Washington Blade

Bob Witeck is considering running for Congress. (Photo courtesy of Bob Witeck)

Bob Witeck, president and founder of the public relations firm Witeck Communications and a longtime LGBT rights advocate, says he’s thinking about running for the U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia currently held by Democratic Rep. James Moran, who’s retiring.

“I would say I’m talking to some folks about the idea,” Witeck told the Blade on Monday. “I would say my chances of doing it are not great but it’s something I want to consider before I would say absolutely not.”

Witeck said friends and supporters approached him about running and offered to help raise money for his campaign should he choose to enter the race.

As many as a dozen or more Democrats are considering or have announced plans to run for the seat in the 8th congressional district in the Democratic primary in June. The winner of the primary is strongly favored to win the November general election in the heavily Democratic district.

Among those expressing interest in running is gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), whose Senate district includes most of the sections of Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax County that make up the 8th congressional district.

Jay Fisette, chair of the Arlington County Board who’s gay, announced last week he isn’t running for Moran’s seat following speculation that he might become a candidate.

“I’m a native of the 8th District,” Witeck said. “I grew up there. It’s my hometown and a community I obviously care about.”

He said one factor making the race attractive to him is the idea of adding to the ranks of openly LGBT people in Congress.

“So there’s something I would want to give some serious thought to,” he said. “I think whoever is the nominee is going to be a very good one because we have a field of very strong people. So to me, getting behind someone is also very likely but at the same time I don’t want to rule it out yet.

Witeck noted that because so many people are likely to compete for the seat in the primary, garnering a plurality rather than an absolute majority of the vote would be sufficient to win the race.

“I think it means that individuals who may not be well known politically will have an opportunity to create a base,” he said.

Since founding the D.C.-based Witeck Communications in 1993, Witeck has represented some of the nation’s major corporations as clients, including American Airlines, Comcast/NBC Universal, NTV Networks, Volvo, and the U.S. Census Bureau. He is a recognized expert in advising businesses on how best to reach out and build bridges to the LGBT community.

Before starting his firm, Witeck served as senior vice president for the international public affairs and public relations firm Hill & Knowlton. Prior to that, he worked on Capitol Hill for more than a decade, serving as communications director for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and as a press secretary and legislative assistant.

Among those who have announced they are running for the congressional seat are Don Beyer, the Virginia businessman and former lieutenant governor; Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), who resigned from her post as chair of the Virginia Democratic Party to make way to run for the congressional seat; Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax); Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington); and businessman Bruce Shuttleworth, who lost to Moran in the 2012 Democratic primary.

All have records of support for LGBT rights.

28
Jan
2014

Ebbin wins informal Alexandria straw poll

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

Virginia Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) came in first place in an April 6 straw poll among voters in the June primary in which 10 Democratic candidates are running for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

“We won last night not because our campaign bought the most tickets or because we have popular friends — we won because you and I know that Congress needs a representative who can get progressive legislation passed,” Ebbin said in an April 7 statement.

“The win shows the continued momentum my grassroots driven campaign has been gathering,” he said.

The straw poll was conducted at a “beer tasting” fundraising party for the Alexandria Democratic Committee at the Port City Brewing Company in which participants paid $40 for advance tickets or $45 at the door to gain admission. The Democratic Committee organized the poll.

Although not scientific, political observers noted that Ebbin, who received 90 votes, beat Alexandria Mayor William ‘Bill’ Euille, who came in second place with 68 votes, and former Virginia Lt. Gov. Donald Beyer, who came in third place with 62 votes.

Beyer, a businessman who has widespread name recognition, is considered by political pundits to be the frontrunner in the race.

Among the other candidates, Patrick Hope came in fourth with 58 votes; Charniele Herring received 21 votes; Laver Chatman received 12 votes; gay rights attorney and TV talk show host Mark Levine finished seventh with 8 votes; Satish Korpe came in eighth place with 3 votes; Derek Hyra finished ninth with 2 votes; and Bruce Shuttleworth finished tenth with 1 vote.

09
Apr
2014

Adam Ebbin enters race for Congress

Adam Ebbin

Adam Ebbin (Photo courtesy Adam Ebbin)

Gay Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) officially tossed his hat in the ring on Thursday as a candidate for the Northern Virginia U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Congressman Jim Moran.

Ebbin joins seven other declared candidates running in the June 10 Democratic primary for a seat representing the strongly Democratic-leaning 8th Congressional District. The district includes parts of Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax County.

Other Democrats are expected to enter the race in a contest where the winner of the primary is considered the odds-on favorite to win the general election in November. All of the declared and potential candidates that have surfaced so far are supporters of LGBT rights.

“Today, I am excited to announce that I will be running to succeed Congressman Moran,” Ebbin said in a statement. “For over a decade in Richmond, I’ve been a strong voice for progressive values who’s gotten results. I’ve fought to end human trafficking, to strengthen protections for seniors and the disabled, to ensure LGBT equality and to expand Medicaid in Virginia,” he said.

On the same day Ebbin announced his candidacy Alexandria Mayor William Euille declared his candidacy for the congressional seat.

Earlier this week gay public relations executive Bob Witeck of Arlington said he was considering running for the seat, raising the possibility that two openly gay candidates might be among the contenders for Moran’s seat.

Last week, Jay Fisette, chair of the Arlington County Board, who’s gay and who many considered a possible candidate for the congressional seat, announced he would not be running.

Others who have formally declared their candidacies include Don Beyer, the former Virginia lieutenant governor; and state Dels. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) and Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington). Also running is businessman Bruce Shuttleworth, who lost to Moran in the 2012 Democratic primary.

On the day of his announcement, Ebbin launched a campaign website, www.ebbin.com, and sent out a fundraising email to potential voters that includes a video of Ebbin discussing the issues he would work for if elected.

“In Congress, I will work with President Obama to protect the Affordable Care Act and ensure access to quality health care,” he said. “I will protect federal workers from mean-spirited attacks. I will work alongside representatives from every state and political party to raise the minimum wage, fight climate change, and ensure that we never abandon the promise of Social Security and Medicare,” he said.

30
Jan
2014

Ebbin posts $178,000 in Va. race

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

Gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) had just over $178,000 in campaign funds for the most recent reporting period. (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

Gay rights attorney and talk show host Mark Levine reported cash receipts of more than $322,000 in campaign funds this week, placing him in second place behind front runner Donald Beyer in the 10-candidate race for the Northern Virginia congressional seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Federal Election Commission records show Beyer, Virginia’s former lieutenant governor, had receipts of more than $672,000 in campaign funds as of March 31, the end of the most recent campaign finance reporting period.

Gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who’s also running for the 8th District congressional seat, had just over $178,000 in campaign funds for the same reporting period.

However, unlike Ebbin and Beyer, FEC finance records show that Levine’s total receipts include a $250,000 loan he made to his campaign. The records show that just $72,808 of his $322,808 total came from individual contributors.

Levine, whose name recognition is not as high as that of Ebbin and Beyer, said his personal loan helps him become competitive with Beyer unlike most of the other candidates.

“I am beholden to no one,” he said when asked about his decision to lend the funds to his campaign. “It has never been about money for me. I use money as a means to achieve an end – to change the world for the better.”

A statement released by Ebbin’s campaign says Ebbin’s campaign funds came from 653 individual donors, with 70 percent of the total coming from “grass roots” donors that, according to his campaign manager, gave $200 or less per donation.

“I’m honored by the outpouring of support I’ve received from Northern Virginians,” Ebbin said in a statement. “For more than a decade, I’ve been fighting for progressive causes in the General Assembly. I look forward to continuing my work for our values as the next member of Congress from the 8th District,” he said.

FEC records show Ebbin came in sixth place among the 10 candidates in total receipts and cash on hand for his campaign. After Beyer and Levine, those coming in ahead of Ebbin in campaign fund receipts were Virginia Urban League president Lavern Chatman ($298,696—including a $100,000 donation to herself); Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille ($214,572); and Del. Patrick Hope ($186,534).

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

Mark Levine (Photo courtesy of Mark Levine)

17
Apr
2014

Witeck won’t run for Congress; backs Ebbin

Bob Witeck, gay news, Washington Blade

‘I plan to give my unqualified support to Adam Ebbin now,’ said Bob Witeck. (Photo courtesy of Bob Witeck)

Gay public relations executive Bob Witeck informed the Blade on Sunday that he won’t run for the U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Democratic Congressman James Moran and will instead support state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s bid for the seat.

Ebbin, who’s gay and a Democrat, served for eight years in the Virginia House of Delegates before winning election in 2011 to the Virginia Senate. He announced his candidacy for the congressional seat last week.

“Over the weekend, and upon careful consideration and lots of conversations with my partner, I have decided not to run for the 8th District congressional seat,” Witeck said in a statement.

Witeck, a longtime LGBT rights advocate, was among more than a dozen Democrats who either announced their candidacy for the 8th District seat or said they were considering running for the seat  in the June 10 Democratic primary. The winner of the primary is considered the strong favorite to win the general election in November in the heavily Democratic district.

In a statement released to the Blade, Witeck said the race has attracted other highly qualified candidates.

“While I am sure that I can work hard, raise funds and be competitive, I am equally if not more happy to get behind the ultimate Democratic nominee – so long as that candidate is as committed to LGBT equality, human rights and economic fairness issues that I care about,” he said.

Witeck said he’s a longtime supporter of the mission of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization that helps elect openly LGBT candidates running for public office.

“I therefore plan to give my unqualified support to Adam Ebbin now,” he said. “He is working doggedly to win the primary, and I’ve spoken to him today to give him my help.”

03
Feb
2014

Va. legislator, U.S. House candidate comes out

Mark Sickles, Fairfax, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) is the second out gay member of the Virginia General Assembly. (Photo by Cliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A member of the Virginia House of Delegates who is one of 11 Democrats running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) disclosed he is gay on Friday in a guest column in the Washington Post.

In making the disclosure, Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax) became the second out gay member of the Virginia General Assembly.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who became Virginia’s first out state legislator in 2003, is also running for the 8th District congressional seat, which includes parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

Sickles’ coming out in the Post came three days after gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine announced his candidacy for the 8th District congressional seat, opening the way for an unprecedented development – three prominent openly gay candidates running against each other in a Virginia election.

Sickles, Ebbin and Levine along with the other eight Democrats are running in the hotly contested race in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Most political observers say the winner in the June 10 Democratic primary will be the odds-on favorite to win the general election in November.

In his column in the Post, Sickles, 57, said he long ago came out to family members, friends and political allies. He said he was prompted to come out publicly at this time by two developments. One, he said, was a decision this month by a federal judge declaring Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The other, according to Sickles, was remarks by at least two of his colleagues on the floor of the House of Delegates earlier this month describing LGBT people in a derogatory and inaccurate way. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William County), Sickles noted, referred to the “LGBT lifestyle” as a series of “life shortening and health compromising behaviors.”

Another delegate, whom he didn’t identify, claimed there was “overwhelming science demonstrating that children have better outcomes when they are [raised] by a mother and father,” suggesting that LGBT people were not fit to raise children, Sickles said.

“Hearing such caustic remarks yet again on the House floor, coupled with the overturning of our same-sex marriage ban, has motivated me to state publicly here what many close friends  and family have known for decades: I am a proud, gay man,” he wrote in his column.

“I have always lived openly with my neighbors, friends and family, lived a full life and never regretted the way I was born,” he said. “But the current moment in Virginia has convinced me that it could be helpful to share this aspect of my life with all of my constituents.”

Levine, a resident of Alexandria since 2001, served as legislative counsel to former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) from 2001 to 2003 and has provided legal counsel to LGBT rights related causes since the late 1990s, including marriage equality litigation. He said he has been a talk show host or commentator on radio and television, including CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, as an advocate for progressive causes for the past decade.

His campaign’s Facebook page describes him as an “aggressive progressive.”

Ebbin and Sickles have a long record of advocating for progressive legislation, including LGBT rights legislation, during their tenure as state legislators.

It couldn’t immediately be determined how LGBT rights organizations that endorse political candidates will respond to the possibility of having to choose between three gay candidates.

23
Feb
2014

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