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Taking sides in ‘painful’ mayoral race

Hillary Rosen, mayoral race, gay news, Washington Blade

Hilary Rosen, a longtime LGBT advocate and CNN commentator, endorsed David Catania for mayor. A Blade survey of prominent D.C. activists reveals a split in support for Catania and rival Muriel Bowser. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

An informal survey of 37 prominent LGBT advocates in D.C. found that 13 of them would vote for Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor if the election were held this week, 12 would vote for Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and 12 were undecided.

All but five of the activists identified themselves in the survey conducted by the Washington Blade as registered Democrats This development suggests a significant number of LGBT Democrats who are normally loyal to their party in D.C. elections are considering voting for Catania, the openly gay independent and former Republican.

Veteran transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who was among those saying she’s undecided in the mayoral race, appeared to reflect the views of many in the LGBT community in weighing their choice between Catania and Bowser.

“Party lines become blurred when the independent candidate represents the Democratic Party line supporting the needy and social welfare to a greater extent and better than most Democrats,” said Hughes.

“I am inclined to vote along my party line, Democrat, but I need to know more about Council member Bowser’s vision for the District,” she said.

Hughes was also among about 30 mostly Democratic LGBT activists that met privately with Catania on Monday at Catania’s campaign headquarters on Connecticut Avenue, N.W., to engage in a “frank” discussion on a wide range of issues, including non-LGBT issues, according to those familiar with the meeting.

Others attending the meeting were transgender activists Earline Budd, Ruby Corado, and Alexandra Beninda and gay Latino activist Jose Gutierrez.

Gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who organized the meeting, said most of the attendees, including him, supported Mayor Vincent Gray in the April 1 Democratic primary and are now either undecided or are leaning toward Catania in the November general election.

Bowser beat Gray in the primary by a margin of 43 percent to 33 percent according to final returns released by the Board of Elections. Six other candidates, including another three members of the City Council, finished far behind Bowser and Gray.

Hudson said he now supports Catania. Although he said Catania’s record on LGBT rights is far more extensive than Bowser’s, his decision to back Catania is based on his belief that Catania is better qualified to lead the city.

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

LGBT advocates in D.C. are divided between David Catania and Muriel Bowser in the race for mayor. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

Among the LGBT advocates supporting Bowser are Bil Browning, founder of the LGBT news blog Bilerico Project, and his partner, Jerame Davis, former executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats.

Other Bowser supporters, as identified in the Blade survey, include Kurt Vorndran and Lateefah Williams, both former presidents of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club; Courtney Snowden, public relations executive and former Human Rights Campaign official; A. Billy S. Jones, veteran gay rights activist; and Riley Temple, an attorney and gay rights advocate.

Gay Democratic activist and businessman Everett Hamilton, who serves as a communications consultant to Bowser’s campaign, said other Bowser supporters include Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign; Jeff Marootian, former LGBT outreach director for the Democratic National Committee; and veteran lesbian activist Sheila Alexander-Reid, a radio talk show producer and founder of the lesbians of color advocacy organization Women In the Life Association.

Also among Bowser’s LGBT supporters is Christopher Dyer, the gay activist who served as director of the City’s Office of GLBT Affairs under former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Hamilton pointed to a statement released by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz congratulating Bowser on the day following her primary victory. He said Wasserman Schultz’s strong backing of Bowser would prompt D.C. Democrats, including LGBT Democrats, to remain loyal to their party’s nominee.

“Muriel’s vision to move D.C. in a positive direction resonates with the District’s working and middle class families,” Wasserman Schultz said in her statement. “Her plans to invest in the city’s schools, infrastructure, and economic development embody the Democratic Party’s priorities to increase opportunity for all.”

Although Wasserman Schultz said she believes D.C. Democrats are committed to uniting behind Bowser following the April 1 primary, at least two nationally recognized lesbian and gay Democrats have come out in support of Catania.

Hilary Rosen, a communications firm executive, Democratic Party advocate and commentator on CNN, announced on her Facebook page last month that she’s backing Catania because, among other things, he’s a “candidate who can bring people together.”

Steve Elmendorf, chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and current principal in the Democratic leaning lobbying and public affairs firm Elmendorf-Ryan Communications, raised eyebrows in Democratic Party circles when he, too, announced his endorsement of Catania.

Among other things, Elmendorf serves as chairman of the board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which also has endorsed Catania. The group raises money for openly LGBT candidates for public office across the country.

“I think David is a candidate who can bring people together and most importantly has shown himself to be willing to do the work,” Rosen said in her Facebook statement. “For example, when he chaired the [D.C. Council] Health Committee he created accessible health clinics for residents all over D.C. but most importantly east of the River.”

Others who identified themselves as Catania supporters in the Blade survey include Deacon Maccubbin, former Lambda Rising bookstore owner; Joel Lawson, Dupont Circle civic activist; Roger Moffatt, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Southwest Waterfront area; Alexandra Beninda, transgender activist and member of the D.C. Human Rights Commission; and William Waybourn, former publisher of the Washington Blade. Each of them said they are Democrats.

Also identifying themselves as Catania supporters in the survey are Marvin Carter, CEO of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters; Charles Francis, public relations executive and founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for the preservation of the papers of the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny; and Berin Szoka, a Libertarian Party activist and 2012 supporter of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Carter and Francis said they are registered as independent voters. Szoka said he’s a registered Republican.

Among the 12 Blade survey participants who identified themselves as being undecided in the mayoral race, gay activist Bob Dardano, transgender activist Toni Collins, and gay ANC commissioner and Georgetown University student Craig Cassey said they are “leaning” toward backing Catania. Each said they are registered Democrats.

Gay rights advocate and journalist Isaiah Poole and gay Asian and Pacific Islander association director Gregory Cendana said they are undecided but are leaning toward Bowser. The two said they are also registered Democrats.

Others identifying themselves as undecided are A. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic; Bob Summersgill, a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; lesbian activist Barbara Helmick, a Ward 1 civic activist; attorney, tax preparer and Ward 1 civic activist Wallace Dickson; and attorney and Dupont Circle civic activist Edward Grandis. All five said they’re Democrats.

Another survey participant saying he was undecided was Robert Turner, the gay executive director of the D.C. Republican Party. Turner, a registered Republican, said the local GOP has the legal authority to nominate its own mayoral candidate and may do so in time for the June filing deadline for the November general election.

In addition to Bowser and Catania, gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors and Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith, a former Broadway musician and perennial D.C. mayoral candidate, will also appear on the November ballot for mayor.

Majors and Faith ran unopposed in their respective party primaries on April 1. However, Board of Elections returns show that Faith received 191 votes, 19 fewer than the 210 write-in votes cast for several people not yet identified by the Board.

A Board of Elections spokesperson said Faith was expected to be certified as the winner because she received more votes than any of the individual write-in candidates.

The returns showed that Majors received a total of 30 votes in the primary by Libertarian Party members. Three write-in votes were cast by members of his party.

The Blade’s survey included Majors’ and Faith’s names as mayoral candidates in the November election, but none of the LGBT advocates participating in the survey expressed support for them.

Majors, a D.C. real estate agent and longtime supporter of LGBT rights, has said he plans to wage an aggressive campaign espousing Libertarian Party principles and how they would benefit the city.

The Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, did not endorse a candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote of the club’s membership. Gray received the most votes but fell just short of the 60 percent threshold.

In a development that surprised some longtime Stein Club members, the club didn’t take immediate steps to endorse Bowser as the Democratic nominee at its regularly scheduled meeting on April 14.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club’s officers would soon discuss plans for when to hold an endorsement meeting. She noted that the club’s bylaws prevent the club from endorsing a non-Democrat in races where a Democratic candidate is running.

Former Stein President Vorndran, who didn’t attend Monday’s meeting, said the club’s longstanding tradition since its founding in the 1970s has been to endorse Democratic primary winners at the club’s first meeting following the primary if the club had not already endorsed those candidates.

As a Democratic Party organization, endorsing primary winners almost never involved controversy assuming they were supportive on LGBT issues, Vorndran said.

“It was as routine as approving the minutes,” he said.

But he said the club’s apparent hesitation to endorse Bowser at its meeting this week suggests the club’s officers are uncertain that Bowser would garner the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement at this time.

With a number of club members supporting Catania, a sizable number of members would be expected to vote for the option of “no endorsement,” at least two club members told the Blade.

Peoples said the club and its officers are following an endorsement process adopted last year in which a club endorsement-political committee was formed to determine procedures for making endorsements.

“Our goal is to involve members in the process as much as possible,” she told the Blade. “At Monday’s meeting I said that we would take the feedback to the political committee and give them a chance to determine what the best next step is for the process,” she said.

“The only thing that can be inferred from that is that the Stein Executive Committee remains committed to an open and transparent endorsement process,” she said.

The possible complication in the Stein Club’s endorsement process is yet another example of how divisions within the LGBT community over the Bowser-Catania race may create tension between fellow Democratic activists.

“This race has been painful because I have been forced to make choices which adversely affect individuals whom I respect and admire,” said transgender activist Hughes.

“David Catania has been an LGBT champion, an exemplary and effective Councilman, and personally I love him,” Hughes said. “Muriel Bowser has supported LGBT rights and many in our community love her.”

Added Hughes, “It would be a relief to abdicate choice and rely solely on party line, but this choice will have a real impact on how the District will fare and prosper in the next four years.”

16
Apr
2014

Marriage and more

The momentous events of 2013 hit close to home, as marriage equality arrived in Maryland and Delaware. But last year wasn’t all about marriage. It was a big year for Democrats in Virginia and a lesbian lawmaker announced a bid for Maryland governor.

Here’s a look at the top 10 local news stories of 2013 as chosen by Blade editorial staffers.

 

#1 Marriage equality comes to Md., Del.

 

Clayton Zook, Tracy Staples, Wayne MacKenzie, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Tilghman Island

Marriage equality expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic in 2013 with Maryland and Delaware joining D.C. in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie tied the knot on New Year’s Day on Tilghman Island. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland and Delaware were among the states in which same-sex couples began to legally marry in 2013.

Seven same-sex couples married at Baltimore City Hall on Jan. 1 shortly after Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect in a ceremony that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated. They include long-time mayoral aide James Scales and his partner, William Tasker.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” said Rawlings-Blake.

More than half a dozen same-sex couples exchanged vows at the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on Jan. 1. These include innkeepers Tracy Staples and Bob Zuber who tied the knot almost immediately after the law took effect at midnight.

“I’m very proud of Maryland,” Michelle Miller of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County told the Washington Blade on Jan. 1 after she married Nora Clouse at the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on May 7 signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) came out as a lesbian on the floor of the state Senate while she and her colleagues debated the measure. The New Castle County Democrat and her partner of more than 20 years, Vikki Bandy, on July 1 became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple when the couple converted their civil union into a marriage during a ceremony that New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden officiated.

“It’s exciting, both historically and personally,” Peterson told reporters after she and Bandy exchanged vows inside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington. “I never thought in our lifetimes we would be getting married.”

Boulden later on July 1 also officiated Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cote’s wedding in Wilmington that Attorney General Beau Biden, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon and other local and state officials attended.

“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” said Biden.

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis and Rev. Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington are among those who testified against the same-sex marriage bill. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church on July 1 protested the law outside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington and at other locations throughout the state.

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) is the only Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored the measure. John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, on March 15 came out during an exclusive interview with the Blade at an Equality Delaware fundraiser in Wilmington.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” said Fluharty. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

 

#2 McAuliffe elected Va. governor

 

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe is Virginia’s next governor after a campaign that prominently featured gay issues. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Nov. 6 defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.

McAuliffe has repeatedly said his first executive order as governor will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. The former DNC chair in February also endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily defeated Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson in the state’s lieutenant gubernatorial race. The State Board of Elections on Nov. 25 officially certified state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) as the winner of the race to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general, but state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) requested a recount because he lost to his Democratic rival by only 165 votes.

Cuccinelli highlighted his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples during two debates against McAuliffe that took place in Hot Springs and McLean in July and September respectively. LGBT rights advocates also blasted the outgoing attorney general for appealing a federal appellate court’s March ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Jackson faced persistent criticism during the campaign over his previous comments that equated gay men to pedophiles and “very sick people.”

“Without exception, the Democratic candidates for statewide office offered unflinching support for marriage equality, a welcoming business climate and respect for a woman’s right to choose,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) after the election. “The people of Virginia aligned themselves with McAuliffe’s and Northam’s vision of an inclusive, forward moving commonwealth.”

 

 

#3 Va. lawmakers confirm gay judge

 

Virginia lawmakers on Jan. 15 confirmed gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked the former prosecutor’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s.

Thorne-Begland in 1992 publicly discussed his sexual orientation during an interview on ABC’s “Nightline.” He unsuccessfully challenged his discharge from the U.S. Navy under the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

Thorne-Begland is also a former Equality Virginia board member.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after lawmakers approved Thorne-Begland’s judgeship. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

Thorne-Begland is Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

 

 #4 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay: report

 

gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Gallup says that 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A report released in February by the Gallup polling organization showed that the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of self-identified LGBT residents in the nation in comparison to the 50 states.

Ten percent of 493 D.C. residents who responded to Gallup’s daily tracking polls between June 1 and Dec. 30, 2012 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the report. By comparison, 3.3 percent of a sample of 4,195 Maryland residents and 2.9 percent of a sample of 6,323 Virginians identified themselves as LGBT.

The report did not compare D.C. to other cities. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which studies LGBT related demographics, told the Blade the Gallop statistics appeared to be a more accurate snapshot of the country’s LGBT population than previous studies.

 

#5 Mizeur runs for governor in Md.

 

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Heather Mizeur is seeking to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on July 16 officially entered the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m running for governor because I love this state and I see limitless possibilities on what we can accomplish together,” the Montgomery County Democrat told the Washington Blade before she announced her candidacy. “There are great challenges facing us and also incredible opportunities.”

Mizeur last month raised eyebrows when she tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton as her running mate. The Prince George’s County pastor in 2012 emerged as one of the most prominent supporters of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved in a referendum.

“I have stood up for justice,” said Coates at a Nov. 14 campaign event during which Mizeur officially introduced him as her running mate. “I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”

Mizeur will face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed Martin O’Malley.

“Diversity is enormously important,” Mizeur told the Blade in July. “Not simply to have a gay governor, but to have a governor who can represent the voices of people in communities that have not always had a voice in the process.”

 

#6 Rash of violent incidents in June

 

Miles DeNiro, Manny & Olga's, hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

Drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria in June. (Screen capture)

Four transgender women, a gay man dressed in drag, and a lesbian were victims of separate violent attacks, including a murder, during the last two weeks of June, prompting LGBT activists to call a “community response” meeting to address the incidents.

Lesbian Malika Stover, 35, of Southeast D.C., was shot to death on June 22 following what police said was an argument with a neighbor that did not appear to be linked to her sexual orientation.

But transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized the meeting, said Stover’s slaying stunned people in the LGBT community who knew her.

“This is really putting all of us on edge,” she said. “You’re seeing all of these incidents happening in such a short period of time.”

Police arrested a 23-year-old male suspect for allegedly stabbing transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, multiple times on June 21 in an abandoned house in Southeast D.C. Police said the incident stemmed from a dispute and did not appear to be a hate crime. In another incident on June 23, gay male drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria near 14th and U streets, N.W. in an incident that was captured on video and posted on the Internet. The two women were arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge simple assault.

 

#7 Trans birth certificate bill hailed  

 

Vincent Gray, JaParker Deoni Jones, David Grosso, Ruby Corado, Rick Rosendall, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill in August enabling trans people to change their birth certificates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bill signed into law by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in August that removes obstacles to the process of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their new gender has been hailed as a groundbreaking measure.

Among other things, the new law repealed a provision in an existing law that required transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery as a condition for obtaining a new birth certificate. Transgender advocates said the surgery was too expensive for many people and medically hazardous to others.

The new law is named the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 in honor of a transgender woman murdered near her home in 2012.

Another key provision in the law requires the D.C. Registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition.”

 

 

#8 T.H.E. declares bankruptcy

 

Earline Budd, gay news, Washington Blade

Earline Budd called on the city to investigate T.H.E.’s management practices. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender Health Empowerment, D.C.’s leading transgender services and advocacy organization for nearly 10 years, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7. A short time later it discontinued all of its transgender-related programs.

The bankruptcy filing came after the D.C. Department of Health abruptly cut off its funding for T.H.E. when it learned that the IRS placed liens on the organization for its failure to pay more than $260,000 in employee withholding taxes over a period of at least three years. The bankruptcy filing shows that T.H.E.’s total debt comes to more than $560,000.

During a bankruptcy trustee’s hearing in August, T.H.E. executive director Anthony Hall said the group’s only source of income at the time of the hearing was a city grant calling for the organization to operate a non-LGBT related temporary housing facility for crime victims.

Longtime transgender activist Earline Budd, a former T.H.E. employee and one of its founders, has called on the city to investigate the group’s management practices to determine the cause of its financial problems.

 

 

#9 Mautner merges with Whitman-Walker

 

Don Blanchon, Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization based in Washington, D.C. since its founding in 1990, became an arm of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health in 2013 in what leaders of both groups called an “historic collaboration.”

In a joint statement released in June, the two organizations said the arrangement would bring the Mautner Project’s programs and staff under the “umbrella” of Whitman-Walker, an LGBT community health care provider founded in 1978.

Leslie Calman, Mautner Project’s executive director at the time the merger was announced, said the joining of the two groups would allow Mautner to “offer more critical services to a greater number of women who need those services throughout the region. It’s a natural fit.”

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. He said the Mautner Project’s “programs and reach within their community will help us fulfill that mission.”

Calman said that in addition to continuing its services for lesbians with serious illnesses such as cancer, the Mautner programs at Whitman-Walker would also continue various illness prevention programs such as cancer screening, smoking cessation and obesity reduction.

 

 

#10 Carson steps down as Hopkins speaker

 

Ben Carson, Values Voter Summit, Washington Blade, gay news

Ben Carson compared LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman).

A rising star in the Republican Party stirred controversy by comparing LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia, leading him to give up his role as commencement speaker at John Hopkins University.

The former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity when expressing his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition” of marriage, Carson said.

Carson’s remarks invoked the ire of students at John Hopkins University, where he was selected to speak as commencement speaker. The organization Media Matters asserted a majority of the graduating class, or around 700 students, called for his ouster. Although sources initially said Carson wouldn’t relinquish his speaking role at commencement, Carson eventually indicated he would acquiesce to students’ desires and step down as speaker.

But Carson went on to other public appearances, including one later in the year at a venue closer in tune with his views. Carson was among the speakers the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, where he articulated his opposition to marriage equality.

“We need to recognize that God created the family structure for a reason and marriage is a sacred institution from God himself, and there is no reason that man needs to change the definition of marriage,” Carson said.

02
Jan
2014

LGBT activists rally for Gray at re-election kick-off

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Today, I apologize to you for the pain that my campaign caused. I ask for your forgiveness,’ Mayor Vincent Gray said of his 2010 mayoral campaign. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

At least a dozen LGBT activists joined more than 500 city residents on Saturday for Mayor Vincent Gray’s first rally to launch his 2014 re-election campaign.

Several of the activists said Gray’s mention of LGBT people two times in his speech at the rally highlighted his long record of support for the LGBT community.

The event was held in a packed auditorium at an arts and recreation center on Mississippi Avenue in Southeast D.C. known as THEARC.

“I look around this room and I see folks from every part of our city,” Gray told the gathering. “I see enormous talent and tireless dedication. I see white, I see black, I see brown, and every color in between,” he said.

“I see straight, I see gay, and I see transgender. I see rich and I see poor,” he said. “But above all, I see what makes us the greatest city in the greatest country on Earth — I see a community.”

In another part of his speech Gray said the accomplishments of his first term included his longstanding effort to unify the city’s diverse and growing population.

“We are bringing together young and old, black, brown and white, Latino, Asian, immigrants from throughout the world, gay, straight, able and disabled,” he said.

Gray is being challenged by eight candidates in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary, including four City Council members, all of whom have records of support on LGBT issues.

Much of the coverage of Gray’s speech by the media focused on his apology to the city for the campaign finance irregularities associated with his 2010 mayoral campaign, which led to criminal charges and guilty pleas by four of his top campaign staff members. Gray has said the campaign finance law violations by the four staffers happened without his knowledge.

“I know that the 2010 campaign caused many people great pain,” Gray said in his speech. “I know that our city suffered embarrassment. Today, I apologize to you for the pain that my campaign caused. I ask for your forgiveness.”

Gray added, “Although I cannot apologize for the misdeeds of others, the 2010 campaign was my campaign, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and embarrassment it caused.”

The LGBT activists attending the rally joined virtually everyone one else in the packed auditorium in rising to their feet to give Gray a prolonged ovation in response to his apology. Many in the audience chanted, “Four more years, four more years” before sitting down to listen to the remainder of Gray’s speech.

“I thought it went extremely well,” said gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, a member of Gray’s 2014 campaign finance committee.

“It’s an overflow crowd. There are hundreds and hundreds of people here,” Hudson said. “The mayor gave a great speech. He addressed very well the 2010 election issue and laid out a real clear vision for the next four years.”

Asked how the LGBT vote is likely to break down in the April 1 primary, Hudson said, “I think it will probably split just like it did in the last election. But one thing that’s clear is Vince Gray is the best mayor in the entire country on LGBT issues.”

At least four prominent transgender activists attended the rally, including Earline Budd, Jeri Hughes and Alexandra Beninda. Budd and Beninda were appointed by Gray to the D.C. Human Rights Commission as the first-ever transgender people to serve on the commission.

“He has done what I think is vital to this city in so many ways in terms of economic development,” said Beninda. “Within our transgender community he definitely has a place in our hearts because he has done so much – with Project Empowerment, with the Transgender Awareness Campaign,” she said in referring to a city-sponsored job training program and a trans related non-discrimination campaign initiated by Gray.

“He has done more than anybody else has ever done in the city for the transgender community,” Beninda said.

Hughes and Budd said Gray, while breaking new ground in his support for the transgender community, has an exceptionally strong record in support of the entire LGBT community. The two also said the city as a whole has prospered under Gray’s tenure as mayor.

LGBT activists who are backing other candidates, including Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), have said those candidates are also strong supporters of LGBT rights and that LGBT people should select a candidate based on non-LGBT issues.

Longtime gay activists Deacon Maccubbin and Bob Summersgill said they are backing Wells over Gray, among thing things, because Wells has a stronger record on ethics in government issues.

Gay rights advocate and D.C. Department of Health official Ivan Torres, who attended the Gray rally on Saturday, said he believes Gray comes out ahead on non-LGBT issues.

“You can have any preferences that you like,” Torres said in referring to LGBT people supporting candidates running against Gray. “But you cannot deny that in the past four years Washington, D.C. has gone forward — forward in so many ways — economic development, the unemployment rate has gone down, and development is there, and the integration of us gay people, the gay and lesbian community, the transgender community into governance.”

13
Jan
2014

Mayor attends ‘Gray Pride’ rally in campaign’s final days

Vince Gray, activists, Gray Pride, Vincent Gray, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade, Capital Pride Parade

Mayor Vincent Gray, shown here marching in D.C.’s LGBT Pride Parade, joined about 50 LGBT activists last week for a fundraiser and rally sponsored by Gray Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) joined about 50 LGBT activists last Thursday night for a fundraiser and rally sponsored by Gray Pride, an LGBT group established in the past month to support his re-election campaign.

The event was held at the Northwest Washington home of longtime gay rights and AIDS activist A. Cornelius Baker. It took place three days after Lane Hudson, co-chair of Gray Pride, released the names of its 24 members, many of whom have been longtime activists in the LGBT rights movement.

“Comprised of a diverse group or people from all walks of life and all parts of the city, the Gray Pride Committee will work to highlight Mayor Gray’s solid record of accomplishment on LGBT issues in order to win LGBT support for his re-election,” according to a statement released by the group on March 24.

The group has had a presence on Facebook and Twitter before the official announcement of its members last week.

In addition to Hudson, Gray Pride co-chairs include Courtney Snowden, a principal at the Raben Group public affairs firm and former Capitol Hill staffer for then Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.); Jose Ramirez, HIV youth educator and board member of the Youth Pride Alliance; Alexis Blackmon, staff member of the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs and graduate of Project Empowerment, a city job training program with an outreach to the transgender community; and Peter Rosenstein, executive director of a national non-profit organization, Blade columnist and gay Democratic activist.

Members of the Gray Pride Committee include transgender activists Alexandra Beninda, Earline Budd, Jeri Hughes, Bobbi Elaine Strang, Ruby Corado, and Julius Agers; and gay or lesbian activists Brian Goldthorpe, Consuella Lopez, A. Cornelius Baker, Edgardo Guerrero, Ian Hedges, Jose Gutierrez, Justin Hill, Matt Ashburn, Miguel Ayala, Patricia Hawkins, Paul Kuntzler, Paul Morengo and Ted Eytan, M.D.

31
Mar
2014

Transgender woman stabbed repeatedly in D.C. attack

Gay News, Washington Blade, Bree Wallace, transgender

Bree Wallace (Photo courtesy of Ruby Corado.)

D.C. police have declined to confirm whether they have arrested a male suspect for allegedly stabbing a 29-year-old transgender woman as many as 40 times in an abandoned house in Southeast Washington around 1 a.m. on Friday morning.

A police report, which lists the incident as an assault with intent to kill, says the stabbing took place at 3038 Stanton Road, S.E. It says the victim, Bree Wallace, managed to run several blocks to the apartment building where she lives on the 2400 block of 15th Place, S.E., before collapsing on the street.

The report says Wallace was taken to Prince George’s Hospital Center in nearby Cheverly, Md., where she was being treated for multiple stab wounds to the back and chest and severe lacerations to both of her hands.

“I don’t know why he did it,” Wallace told the Washington Blade in a phone interview on Sunday from her hospital bed. “He didn’t say anything,” she said in recounting how the incident took place after she recently met the attacker in the neighborhood near where she lives.

“The investigation has revealed that this assault with intent to kill was neither random nor a hate crime,” police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump told the Blade in an e-mail.

But Crump and other police officials have declined to confirm Wallace’s assertion that police told her father that they arrested a suspect in the case late Friday or early Saturday.

“They told my dad,” said Wallace, in recounting to the Blade that a police investigator informed her father that an arrest had been made.

Trans activists Earline Budd and Ruby Corado, who know Wallace, said she told them she and the attacker had known each other casually prior to the attack. Corado said Wallace told her the attacker sent her a text message asking to meet up with her at the location where the stabbing occurred.

Corado told the Blade that Wallace informed her that at some point she declined the man’s request that the two become romantically or sexually involved. Corado said Wallace was a client at Casa Ruby, an LGBT community center with outreach to the Latino and trans communities for which Corado serves as director.

Wallace was also among 12 contestants chosen as a trans “calendar girl” in a fundraising contest sponsored by Casa Ruby as part of a Casa Ruby program to help train clients as makeup artists, Corado said.

Budd said the victim had also been one of her clients at Transgender Health Empowerment, a trans advocacy and services organization that recently has curtailed its operations due to financial problems.

“Complainant 1 [the victim] stated that she had met with Suspect 1 at the event location to buy a cigarette,” the police report says. “According to Complainant 1, Suspect 1 then suddenly started to stab Complainant 1 for unknown reasons,” the report says.

Budd and Corado said Wallace also informed them that police told her father that the suspect had been arrested and was expected to appear for a presentment or arraignment at D.C. Superior Court on Saturday during the court’s weekend proceedings.

“She knows who this guy is and she told police who he is,” Budd told the Blade. “I’m puzzled over why the police won’t confirm whether they made this arrest or not.”

Crump didn’t respond to a Blade inquiry about whether an arrest had been made.

Sgt. Matt Mahl, supervisor of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said the unit had been briefed on the incident but said he wasn’t authorized to comment further. He said the incident was still under investigation.

Budd expressed concern that police officials had not issued a public announcement about the incident over the weekend to alert the media and the community that a trans person had been attacked in what Budd called another in a string of violent anti-trans attacks that have occurred in the city over the past several years.

“I just want to make sure that it gets out there, that this attack happened and how brutal it was,” Budd said. “And also the message needs to be sent that transgender folks need to be very, very cautious in terms of their surroundings, who they are talking to and especially in the nighttime hours.”

Budd and Corado said Wallace told them doctors informed her that she had been stabbed about 40 times.

D.C. property records show that the unoccupied house where the stabbing took place was sold for $100,000 in January to a company called the Kamyab Group based in Fredericksburg, Va.

Wallace said she and the attacker entered the house through a door that was detached from its hinges.

23
Jun
2013

Shooting, stabbing of trans women sparks meeting

Gay News, Washington Blade, Bree Wallace, transgender

Bree Wallace was stabbed 40 times last week; another trans woman was shot on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Ruby Corado.)

The shooting of a transgender woman early Thursday morning on Eastern Avenue in Northeast D.C., which took place six days after another trans woman was stabbed 40 times near Stanton Road, S.E., has prompted LGBT activists to call a “community response” meeting tonight at the LGBT community center.

Police announced they made an arrest in the stabbing case on Wednesday, charging 23-year-old Michael McBride of Southeast D.C. with assault with intent to kill. McBride was scheduled to appear in court on Friday for an unrelated robbery charge.

“In light of the recent violence against the transgender community, Earline Budd along with D.C. Trans Coalition, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, and the D.C. Center invite you to a community gathering this Friday, [June 28] at 5:30 p.m.,” said D.C. Center director David Mariner in a Facebook announcement. The D.C. Center is located at 1318 U St., N.W.

Police officials and members of the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit were expected to attend the meeting.

Budd, a longtime D.C. transgender activist, informed fellow activists early Thursday morning in an email alert that police had just reported that a trans woman was shot by an unidentified male suspect about 6 a.m. on or near the 6000 block of Eads Street, N.E.

Police said later that the woman, whose name had not been publicly released, was standing near the corner of Eastern Avenue and Eads Street when two male suspects approached her. One of the suspects shot her in the left buttocks in what was said to be a non-life threatening gunshot wound, a police source said.

The woman was taken to a nearby hospital where she was treated and was expected to be released later in the day or on Friday.

Police in D.C. and Prince George’s County, Md., which borders on Eastern Avenue, and community leaders from both sides of the city-county line, have said the area is widely known as a place where transgender sex workers congregate. However, transgender activists have said the area is also known as a gathering place for transgender women who are not involved in prostitution.

In an email to LGBT activists, Sgt. Matt Mahl, supervisor of the D.C. police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said police found the woman suffering from the gunshot wound on the 6000 block of Eads Street, N.E., where she is believed to have fled immediately after being shot.

Mahl said affiliate members of the GLLU were among the first officers to arrive at the scene. No arrests had been made in the case as of late Thursday night. He said that as of late Thursday investigators had not identified a motive for the attack.

The stabbing victim, Bree Wallace, 29, told police she knew the man who stabbed her from the neighborhood where she lived. A police report said the stabbing took place inside an abandoned house at 3038 Stanton Rd., N.E., which is located a few blocks from the 2400 block of 15th Place, S.E., where Wallace lives.

Budd said Wallace was one of her clients at the D.C. transgender advocacy organization Transgender Health Empowerment. Budd said Wallace told her that the suspect, later identified as McBride, sent her a text message asking to meet her. The police report says Wallace told police she intended to meet up with McBride to buy a cigarette from him.

McBride “then suddenly started to stab [her] for unknown reasons,” the police report says.

In a telephone interview with the Blade from her hospital bed on June 23, Wallace said, “I don’t know why he did it. He didn’t say anything.”

Budd and transgender activist Ruby Corado, director of Casa Ruby, an LGBT community center that reaches out to the transgender and Latino communities, each have made appeals to the police and LGBT community to take action to address a growing problem of anti-transgender violence in the city.

28
Jun
2013

2 more trans women attacked in violent month in D.C.

Earline Budd, transgender activist, Washington DC

Transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized a Friday meeting to respond to anti-trans violence, said the slaying of a local lesbian stunned those in the LGBT community who knew her. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

One transgender woman was shot and another was sexually assaulted in separate incidents in D.C. early Saturday morning, June 29.

The two attacks came less than 24 hours after about 50 LGBT activists met to discuss ways to respond to a rash of violent incidents against LGBT people in the city since June 21, including the June 22 murder of a lesbian who was shot to death in what police said was a botched robbery.

Police said the shooting death of Malika Stover, 35, in the 1300 block of Stevens Road, S.E. didn’t appear to be linked to her sexual orientation.

But transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized the Friday night, June 28 “community response” meeting to address the recent incidents, said Stover’s slaying stunned those in the LGBT community who knew her.

“This is really putting all of us on edge,” Budd told the Blade. “You’re seeing all of these incidents happening in such a short period of time.”

The non-fatal shooting and the unrelated sexual assault of the two transgender women on Saturday, June 29, were the fifth and sixth violent assaults against a total of four transgender women, one gay man dressed in drag, and a lesbian, Stover, since June 21.

In the June 21 incident, transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, was stabbed multiple times in an abandoned house at 3038 Stanton Rd., S.E.

D.C. police have since arrested 23-year-old Michael McBride of Southeast D.C. for the attack, charging him with assault with intent to kill. Police told the Washington Post the stabbing was triggered by a dispute between Wallace and McBride, who knew each other.

“It’s been a series of horrible incidents in the past few weeks in terms of what’s going on against the transgender community,” said Hassan Naveed, co-chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV).

“And tonight we really built momentum to combat the hate violence in this city,” he said, in commenting on the June 28 meeting at the LGBT Center. “We can see the energy in the community and people really coming together to discuss these issues and acting on this,” said Naveed.

Among those attending the meeting was D.C. Police Capt. Edward Delgado, director of the police division that oversees the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, and two GLLU officers. D.C. Council member Tommy Wells also stopped by the meeting.

“I’m completely open to learning from you,” said Wells, who chairs the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. “We make progress and then sometimes we take two steps back,” he said in referring to efforts to curtail violence against the LGBT community.

One of the more tense moments of the meeting came when Earl Hooks, a public relations representative for Manny & Olga’s pizzeria chain, answered questions about a 2 a.m. incident on June 23 in which a gay man in drag was attacked at the Manny & Olga’s at 1841 14th St., N.W.

The incident, which was captured on a video that went viral online, involved two women who could be seen on the video dragging Miles Denaro, 24, across the floor by his hair as they punched and kicked him in the head and body. Denaro said he went to the pizzeria to take out some food after performing in drag under his stage name Heidi Glum at the nearby Black Cat nightclub.

An unidentified man taking the video is heard laughing and shouting along with other customers in the Manny & Olga’s restaurant as the two women assaulted Denaro and as blood could be seen dripping over his face from a head wound. According to Denaro, as many as five or six employees stood by watching and didn’t take steps to break up the altercation or call police. He said the two women who assaulted him called him “tranny” and “faggot.”

“I’m here right now to apologize for anything that is harmful to this community,” Hooks told the meeting.

Gay activist Nick McCoy, who helped organize the meeting, said he contacted Manny & Olga’s and invited the owners to send someone to the meeting to talk about the incident.

Several activists, including D.C. Center Executive Director David Mariner, pressed Hooks to explain why the employees apparently failed to take steps to stop the attack.

“Our policy is to not touch anyone who comes into the store,” he said. “From what I understand, a call was made to the police.”

Police sources, however, have said no call was received from Manny & Olga’s at the time of the incident.

Delgado told the Blade at the meeting that police have obtained warrants for the arrest of the two women on a charge of simple assault. He said the women had not been apprehended as of the time of the meeting.

Denaro told the Blade he wasn’t seriously injured.

In addition to Budd, speakers at the meeting included Naveed of GLOV; Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; Nico Quintana of the D.C. Trans Coalition; Ruby Corado of Casa Ruby; Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs; and Cyndee Clay, executive director of Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS).

Officer Juanita Foreman of the GLLU gave a presentation on steps citizens can take, including members of the LGBT community, to avoid danger while walking on the streets.

Mariner said the D.C. Center would make available to the community a compilation of proposals developed at the meeting to address anti-LGBT violence in the city.

The following summary of the six incidents involving attacks against members of the LGBT community between June 21 and June 29 is based on information released by D.C. police. As of early this week police had not classified any of the incidents as a hate crime, although a source familiar with police thought the incident at Manny & Olga’s would be listed as a hate crime:

1. Transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, was attacked and stabbed multiple times in an abandoned house at 3038 Stanton Rd., S.E. about 1 a.m. Thursday, June 21. A suspect was arrested and charged with assault with intent to kill.

2. Malika Stover, 35, identified by Earline Budd as an out lesbian known in the LGBT community, was fatally shot about 2 a.m. Saturday, June 22, in the 1300 block of Stevens Road, S.E. Police say she suffered from multiple gunshot wounds and the motive appeared to be robbery.

3. Gay male drag performer Miles Denaro, 24, was attacked and beaten by two female suspects about 2 a.m. Sunday, June 23, inside Manny & Olga’s pizzeria at 1841 14th St., N.W.

4. A transgender woman was shot in the buttocks in the 500 block of Eastern Avenue, N.E., about 6 a.m. Thursday, June 27. Police say the motive appears to be robbery.

5. A transgender woman was sexually assaulted by an unidentified male after accepting a ride in the suspect’s car while walking in the 300 block of 61st Street, N.E. about 3:30 a.m. Saturday, June 29. Police listed the incident as a first-degree sexual assault.

6. A transgender woman was shot and sustained non-life-threatening injuries while walking in the area of 5th and K Street, N.E., about 4 a.m. Saturday, June 29. Police said the shooting took place while two male suspects attempted to rob her.

01
Jul
2013

DC trans group files for bankruptcy

Earline Budd, gay news, gay politics dc

Transgender activist and one of DC trans group T.H.E.’s founders, Earline Budd, is owed $4,615 in back wages. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender Health Empowerment, which has been recognized as D.C.’s preeminent organization advocating for and providing services to the transgender community since 2004, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7.

The 56-page bankruptcy filing came two months after the D.C. government revoked or suspended most of its contracts and grants for T.H.E.  The cut off in funds came after D.C. officials learned the IRS filed tax liens against the group seeking to recover more than $260,000 in unpaid payroll taxes, possibly including penalties, that accumulated since 2008.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who praised T.H.E.’s work on behalf of the LGBT community, said the city was forced to withdraw its funding for the group under a “clean hands” policy that bars city funding for vendors and service providers found to be in violation of the law, including federal and local tax laws.

LGBT activists familiar with the group have said it ceased most of its operations and laid off nearly all of its employees at the time the city cut off its funding for the group.

T.H.E.’s bankruptcy filing with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia shows it has total remaining assets of $37,009 and liabilities totaling $566,544.26.

The filing identifies the IRS as the single largest creditor, showing the group owes $264,247.91 in employee federal payroll taxes between 2008 and 2013. The filing shows T.H.E. owes the D.C. government $22,485 in employee withholding taxes and $15,663 in D.C. “unemployment” taxes.

The group owes the State of Maryland $8,695 in “employment taxes/withholding” for 2012 and 2013, according to the bankruptcy filing.

Under the U.S. bankruptcy law, a Chapter 11 filing allows a business or organization to obtain temporary relief from paying its creditors while it reorganizes its corporate structure and works out a plan with creditors to eventually repay the debt.

Records filed with the bankruptcy court show that a meeting of creditors is scheduled to take place at the court, located at 333 Constitution Ave., N.W., at 3 p.m. on Aug. 8.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, T.H.E. discussed its financial problems for the first time since news of its money problems surfaced earlier this year.

“Transgender Health Empowerment (T.H.E.), a non-profit group that has provided a wide range of services for D.C.’s TGLB (Transgender, Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual) HIV+ and homeless community since 2004 has been struggling with financial challenges that have prompted us to curtail some services and suspend others,” the press release says.

“Communicating with our community and clients is of utmost importance to the Board of Directors, along with overseeing solid organization recovery,” it says.

The release, however, makes no mention of the bankruptcy filing, saying only, “Our renewed goal is to protect the organization financially to ensure that programs and services that are being provided have adequate support and to ensure that the actions of those we entrust adhere to the policies and direction set by the Board of Directors.”

Although T.H.E. has not published the names of its board members since its website was shut down earlier this year, the bankruptcy filing identifies 11 people as current board members. Among those identified as board members in the filing is D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).

However, Graham told the Blade on Tuesday that he is not now and has never been a T.H.E. board member. Instead, Graham said he has served on a T.H.E. advisory committee.

The filing identifies Rhonda Steward as interim chair of the board, Marjorie Borders as secretary and Rodney Pierce as treasurer. Gay Democratic activist Bradley Lewis is listed as a member of the board.

The T.H.E. press release, which appears to have been issued by the board, doesn’t mention the role the group’s executive director for over five years, Anthony Hall, will play in the reorganization.

Hall and other T.H.E. officials have declined to respond to requests by the Blade since May for an explanation of the root causes of the organization’s financial problems.

A document obtained by the Blade from the D.C. Department of Health through a Freedom of Information Act request, says the DOH decided in early May to discontinue its funding for T.H.E. after learning that the IRS had filed tax liens against the group and its financial prospects were grim.

The April 24 document, identified as a Programmatic Site Visit Report, says Hall told DOH officials during their visit to T.H.E.’s headquarters at 3339 10th Place, S.E., that much of the group’s financial problems stemmed from outstanding debts with the IRS and D.C. and Maryland tax offices related to unpaid payroll withholding taxes.

“This, he mentioned, was the result of incorrect filings of successive accountants,” the DOH report says. “He has since contracted with Wells Fargo Bank to manage the organization’s payroll and remit all withholdings and related tax obligations.”

But according to the report, “T.H.E. has no cash on hand and does not appear to have a realistic chance of working out a resolution with the IRS…Many of their staff has already been laid off and a limited few are volunteering to perform limited duties,” it says.

“Their clients are already impacted and have limited or no servicers…In all practicality, T.H.E. has already shut their doors and cannot even be paid were they to invoice further.”

The report recommended that all DOH sub-grants “be suspended immediately and appropriate providers identified to provide the services.”

Among the other creditors listed in the bankruptcy filing are 23 mostly former employees who are owed back wages ranging from between $3,000 and just over $5,000. Included among them are longtime transgender activist and one of T.H.E.’s founders, Earline Budd, who is owed $4,615 in back wages. Gay activist Brian Watson, who has served as a T.H.E. program officer, is owed $5,653, according to the bankruptcy filing.

11
Jul
2013

Casa Ruby to take over Wanda Alston House

The Wanda Alston House,

Wanda Alston House official Brian Watson, far left, and transgender activist Earline Budd, right, look on while the mother of the late Wanda Alston cuts a ceremonial ribbon marking the opening of the Alston House on July 8, 2008. (Washington Blade file photo by Henry Lisner)

In a little-noticed development, an organization that oversees the city’s housing programs for the homeless terminated its contract with the local group Transgender Health Empowerment to operate the Wanda Alston House, the city’s only residential facility for homeless LGBT youth.

The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness on July 1 awarded the Alston House contract to Casa Ruby, an LGBT community center on Georgia Avenue in Northwest D.C. with an outreach to the Latino and transgender communities.

The action by the Community Partnership, which is funded by the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS), came after it determined that T.H.E. was no longer capable of overseeing the Alston House due to financial problems that forced it to lay off most of its employees in May, sources familiar with the organization said. T.H.E. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7.

“They reached out to me and asked me if Casa Ruby could do this and, of course, I said we would,” Ruby Corado said in referring to a call she received from the Community Partnership’s executive director, Sue Marshall.

“My immediate reaction was it would be a tragedy for the clients if the Wanda Alston House was forced to close,” Corado told the Blade.

Corado is the founder and executive director of Casa Ruby

Under the new contract the Alston House will continue to operate at its current location at 804 46th St., N.E.

Dora Taylor, a spokesperson for DHS, said the contract was awarded to Casa Ruby on an interim basis and is scheduled to last until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Corado said she is considering taking steps to have the contract extended beyond that date, saying she believes Casa Ruby provides a good fit for the Alston House and its programs.

However, Earline Budd, one of the founders and most recently a program director for T.H.E., said former T.H.E. official Brian Watson informed her he was in the process of creating a new non-profit corporation to operate the Alston House called the Wanda Alston House Foundation.

Records with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs’ Office of Corporations show that someone reserved a corporate name of Wanda Alston House Foundation on July 2 but the required incorporation papers had yet to be filed.

Watson, who has been involved in the day-to-day operations of the Alston House since it opened in July 2008, was reluctant to comment two weeks ago when the Blade contacted him about the status of the Alston House in the midst of T.H.E.’s financial crisis.

“Right now the house is stable and open and occupied to capacity,” he said “I can’t comment on any changes that may have taken place.”

He didn’t respond to calls from the Blade this week seeking information about his plans for an Alston House Foundation.

A July 11 message posted on a Facebook page created by the Alston House states, “On behalf of the Wanda Alston House, we are pleased to announce its services are up and running under the Wanda Alston Foundation!”

The Facebook posting adds, “With the support of Casa Ruby, as its fiscal agent, the Wanda Alston House is moving forward with its mission, to increase the overall quality of life for LGBTQ youth in the District of Columbia.”

A message posted on the website of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community on May 17 suggested the Alston House at that time was encountering problems meeting the basic needs of its clients.

“A collection box has been set up at the D.C. Center (1318 U St., N.W.) for donations to the Wanda Alston House” for items such as shampoo, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, canned food, toilet paper, and bed sheets and pillows, among other items, the D.C. Center message said.

David Mariner, the center’s executive director, and Michael Sessa, the center’s board president, each said the center has provided assistance to the Alston House at various times since it opened in 2008. Mariner acknowledged that Watson contacted the center but said further details on the matter should be obtained from Watson.

The Alston House is named after the late lesbian activist who, among other things, served as director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs under Mayor Anthony Williams. Alston was stabbed to death in her home in Northeast D.C. on March 16, 2005, in what police said was a robbery attempt by a male neighbor that was not linked to her sexual orientation.

Her murder shocked the LGBT community, which recognized Alston for years of advocacy on behalf of LGBT and feminist causes, including efforts to assist LGBT youth.

Christopher Dyer, who served as director of the GLBT Affairs office under Mayor Adrian Fenty, said Watson played a key role in pushing for city funding for an LGBT youth homeless facility more than a year before the Alston House opened.

“Brian has been the one who has pushed for this from the beginning,” Dyer said. “I’m really pleased that it was able to survive.”

In a 2008 press release announcing its opening, the mayor’s office described the Alston House as a “groundbreaking housing program for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in Washington, D.C. It is the first transitional living program dedicated to preparing GLBT youth for independent living and adulthood in the District of Columbia.”

The house accommodates eight residents and has facilities for one or more adult supervisors who are present at the house on a 24-hour basis.

17
Jul
2013

T.H.E. no longer providing trans services

Earline Budd, transgender health empowerment, transgender activist, Washington DC

‘It’s just heartbreaking to see this happening,’ said Earline Budd of the bankruptcy of Transgender Health Empowerment. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The executive director of Transgender Health Empowerment told a U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceeding on Aug. 8 that the financially struggling group was no longer carrying out its core mission of providing services and advocacy for the D.C. area transgender community.

Anthony Hall said the group, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7, was devoting all of its limited resources to operating a temporary housing facility for crime victims under a non-LGBT related city grant. Hall and T.H.E. attorney Richard L. Gilman said the crime victims’ grant currently was the group’s only source of income.

Earlier this year, the D.C. Department of Health abruptly discontinued its grants for T.H.E. that funded transgender and LGBT-related programs since 2004. Mayor Vincent Gray said the city terminated the grants after learning that the IRS placed liens on the organization for its failure to pay more than $260,000 in employee withholding taxes over a period of at least three years.

The bankruptcy filing shows that T.H.E. also owes close to $50,000 in unpaid employee withholding and unemployment insurance taxes to D.C. and Maryland. Its total combined debt comes to more than $560,000, the bankruptcy filing shows.

Hall and Gilman answered questions about the organization’s finances and its plan to restructure and pay off its debt from two representatives of the bankruptcy court’s trustees in a proceeding known as a 341 Hearing. The hearing is named for a section of the bankruptcy code that allows both the trustee and creditors to question the person or organization in bankruptcy.

More than a dozen former T.H.E. employees attended the hearing.

In response to questions by veteran transgender advocate Earline Budd, one of the founders and longtime employee of T.H.E., Hall said it’s his strong desire to pay close to two dozen former and current T.H.E. employees’ wages that were unpaid for as long as two months. The bankruptcy filing shows Budd is owned $4,615 in back wages and most of the other employees are owed between $2,000 and $3,000 in back wages.

Hall and Gilman told Budd T.H.E.’s ability to resume its transgender and LGBT related programs would depend on whether the city agrees to reissue the grants it discontinued in April and May due to the IRS liens.

“It’s just heartbreaking to see this happening,” Budd told the Blade after the hearing. She said she is taking steps to help create a new organization to fill what she said was a vacuum in trans related services and advocacy brought about by T.H.E.’s financial collapse.

Hall and members of T.H.E.’s board have declined the Blade’s requests for comment.

14
Aug
2013