Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Mayor Gray has earned our support

Lane Hudson, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

Lane Hudson at Mayor Gray’s re-election campaign kick-off event on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

It was nearly four years ago that a man with an impeccable reputation decided to challenge the incumbent mayor. Up to that point, Vince Gray had a lifelong career in non-profit management dedicated to improving the lives of others. He served for two years on the D.C. Council before being elected as its chair. By all accounts, his tenure was seen as a time of civility and productivity.

Once he put his hat in the ring to challenge Adrian Fenty, what followed was terrible to watch. The Fenty campaign worked vigorously to cast Gray as the new Marion Barry and the Washington Post editorial board was happy to play the accomplice. The largely white half of the city was mostly willing to go along with it.

While it could not be further from the truth, the betrayal of a few people furthered the notion that Vince Gray was just as the Fenty campaign had sought to portray him.  Those people are in jail or rightfully headed there soon. In the meantime, Mayor Gray has focused on doing his job.

Last week, he addressed the 2010 campaign in a wide-ranging interview with WUSA reporter Bruce Johnson and also during his re-election kickoff rally. He expressed remorse for the embarrassment that the misdeeds of his former staff had brought to the District. More importantly, he asked us to forgive him for it.

That’s exactly what we should do. He has said repeatedly that he had no knowledge of the misdeeds of the 2010 campaign and three years of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney has given us no reason to think otherwise.

On the issues, Mayor Gray is superior to every other candidate. He is the most LGBT friendly mayor in the country and is incredibly proud of it. He has always been a supporter of marriage equality in spite of coming from Ward 7, where support for marriage equality is among the lowest in the District. Under his leadership, D.C. developed a job training program for transgender residents and began the very first, and only, transgender awareness publicity campaign run by a local government. D.C. public schools have taken a much more proactive stance against bullying LGBT students and some high schools are actually sponsoring LGBT student pride days.

At this week’s Stein Club meeting, Mayor Gray said he absolutely supported D.C. recognizing the marriages performed in Utah before the Supreme Court stayed the lower court’s ruling pending appeal. Responding to a question from transgender Stein Club Officer Bobbie Strang, he also expressed support for outlawing transgender exclusions in insurance plans that are regulated by D.C. government. This would make a huge difference for the transgender community. These are positions that no one else in the race has taken.

In addition to his record, Vince is unmatched in strength of character. He was born and raised in the District and chose to stay here to build a life, a career and a family. His entire professional career, other than a brief stint running the D.C. Department of Health, was managing non-profits that provided services for people with mental disabilities and homeless teens. This is a man whose entire life has been about serving the neediest among us. That is exactly the kind of person I want leading our city.

Also, in a stark change from the previous mayoral administration, Mayor Gray and his staff have been readily accessible and very responsive to the LGBT community. He doesn’t only make himself and his staff available to our community and our advocacy organizations, he has also been very generous with his time, attending more LGBT events than any previous mayor.

Needless to say, the District is doing pretty darn good too: Cranes in the air, $1.5 billion in the bank, more than 1,000 new residents each month, rapidly improving test scores in public schools, nearly $200 million for affordable housing projects, lower unemployment numbers, burgeoning development east of the river, a growing technology sector and many more good things happening here. We are starting to appear on lists for good reasons instead of bad ones.

To sum it up, we’ve got a good thing going with Mayor Vince Gray. Let’s keep things headed in the right direction. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Lane Hudson is a D.C.-based Democratic activist and writer.

14
Jan
2014

How did LGBT candidates fare in D.C. elections?

Phil Pannell, Ready for Hillary, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party, LOOK, gay news, Washington Blade

Phil Pannell won election as Alternate National Committeeman as part of a slate of candidates called Ready for Hillary. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Eight gay or lesbian candidates won their races on Tuesday in the city’s primary and Democratic Party election while another eight LGBT candidates were defeated.

Among the winners were gay Democratic activist Phil Pannell and lesbian Democratic activist Courtney Snowden, who won election as Alternate National Committeeman and Alternate National Committeewoman as part of a slate of candidates called Ready for Hillary.

The two have said the slate was created to encourage former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.

Gay Libertarian Party candidates Bruce Majors, who’s running for mayor, and Martin Mouton, who’s running for the city’s shadow U.S. House seat, ran unopposed in their party’s primary. Both will be on the general election ballot in November.

Also winning was gay Republican activist and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Marc Morgan, who ran unopposed for the Replication nomination for an at-large D.C. Council seat in November.

Six out of seven LGBT candidates that ran for seats on the Democratic State Committee as part of an insurgent slate called The Rent is Too Darn High lost their races on Tuesday. Among the losing candidates was transgender activist Alexandra Beninda, who was vying to become the first known transgender person to win election to a D.C. citywide office. Beninda was running for an at-large seat on the State Committee.

Others who ran on the ‘Rent is Too High’ slate and lost were gay or lesbian Democratic activists Gregory Cendana, Edgardo Guerrero, Nikisha Carpenter, Jessica Pierce and Andy Litsky. Lesbian Tamara Angela Ferrell was the only LGBT member of the slate to win her race in Ward 4.

Gay Democrats Ron Collins and David Meadows, who were challenged by members of the ‘Rent is Too High’ slate, won their races for State Committee seats representing Ward 6.

Incumbent gay State Committee member Bill O’Field, who didn’t run on a slate, lost his bid for re-election to the State Committee for a seat representing Ward 1.

Gay Democratic activist and former Gertrude Stein Democratic Club treasurer Barry Daneker is listed by the Board of Elections as having won an at-large seat on the State Committee on Tuesday more than a month after he announced he was leaving D.C. to take a job in Rhode Island in March. Neither Daneker nor a spokesperson for the State Committee could be immediately reached to determine whether Daneker’s election would be invalidated if he’s no longer a D.C. resident.

02
Apr
2014

Norton, Cheh win Stein endorsement

Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mary Cheh, United States House of Representatives, District of Columbia Council, Democratic Party, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

The Stein Club voted to endorse the re-election races of D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) (on left) and D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3). (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, voted unanimously on Tuesday night to endorse the re-election races of D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3).

The club also voted unanimously to endorse Democrat Franklin Garcia in his race for the city’s shadow U.S. House seat.

All three are running unopposed in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary. Norton and Cheh are longtime supporters of the LGBT community. Norton faces opposition in the November general election from Republican, Statehood-Green Party, and Libertarian Party candidates but is considered the strong favorite to win the election.

Cheh and Garcia are being challenged in the general election by Libertarian Party candidates. Cheh is viewed as the odds-on favorite to beat lesser-known Libertarian Ryan Sabot.

Garcia, a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and an LGBT rights supporter, is being challenged in November by gay Libertarian candidate Martin Moulton, who is expected to reach out for support in the LGBT community.

The Stein Club has scheduled an endorsement meeting and forum for City Council candidates running in the Democratic Primary for 7 p.m., Feb. 26, at the Unity Church of Washington at 1225 R St., N.W. The club will hold a mayoral candidates forum at 7 p.m. on March 6 at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington at 474 Ridge St., N.W.

Stein Club Vice President Martin Garcia said that depending on time constraints, the club would listen to candidates running for the city’s shadow U.S. Senate seat and vote on an endorsement in that race either during the mayoral forum on March 6 or during the club’s regular meeting the following week on March 10.

12
Feb
2014

Eric Lee, former Inouye aide, dies at 69

Eric Lee, gay news, Washington Blade

Eric Lee (Photo courtesy of the SS United States Trust)

Eric H.M. Lee, an attorney, former legislative director for the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and most recently the principal partner in Lee and Associates, a Washington consulting firm specializing in telecommunications issues, died March 31 from complications associated with a stroke. He was 69.

Prior to founding his consulting firm, Lee worked in the 1990s in various positions with AT&T and an Internet trade association on projects credited with shaping current federal policies for the U.S. telecommunications industry.

He played a role in developing the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which, among other things, addressed and the then nascent commercial Internet.

Lee, who was gay, was a supporter of LGBT rights organizations and provided behind-the-scenes advice to many of his activist friends working on strategy for advancing LGBT rights legislation, according to friends and professional colleagues.

“He was a very active supporter and informed participant,” said Will Burrington, a former colleague at AT&T who later became president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.

“To me, aside from his brilliance, as a person, he was just a very authentic, nonjudgmental, inclusive friend, Burrington said.

A native Hawaiian, Lee graduated from Honolulu’s Iolani college preparatory school before going to Princeton University, where he received a bachelor’s degree with honors in European and modern Asian history. He received a law degree from Harvard University School of Law.

A Lee and Associates biography says he began his career in Washington working for Inouye on issues under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He later became staff counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Trade and Tourism before serving as Inouye’s legislative director.

He next joined AT&T’s Regulatory Affairs Division in Basking Ridge, N.J. and later became public policy director for AT&T International before returning to Washington as a member of AT&T’s Government Relations office.

After working on issues surrounding the Telecommunications Act, Lee left AT&T to become public policy director of the Commercial Internet Exchange Association (CIX), the world’s first Internet trade association, his biography says.

Among other things, Lee played a key role organizing a coalition of companies that negotiated what became the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, considered a landmark statute that determines online copyright policy.

Brenda Lee, his sister who lives in Honolulu, described her brother as “very caring and thoughtful and generous with a great sense of humor.” She added, “He was very devoted to his family and his three nieces.”

Burrington said Lee was an active supporter of the arts and progressive political candidates, a “tireless advocate for the interests of his native Hawaii and one of the most well-read people I know.”

Lee’s work on behalf of his home state was recognized by the office of Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii).

“I was very sorry to hear of Eric Lee’s passing,” said Hirono’s chief of staff, Betsy Lin, in an April 1 statement. “His service to Hawaii; as Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s counsel, his continued support of the delegation, and his generosity of spirit will be missed,” Lin said.

Robert Garnet, another friend and former AT&T colleague, said he was among a number of friends that Lee helped when they faced hard times, such as unemployment. He said Lee took him under his wing and invited him to stay at Lee’s Dupont Circle apartment until he got back on his feet.

“And my story, or some version of it, was repeated many times for others, both before I arrived on his doorstep and afterwards,” Garnet said.

Lee is survived by his sisters Brenda and Terri Lee; his brother Earl Lee; and his nieces Alyson, Annaliese and Katrina Kintscher – all of Honolulu.

Other survivors include his friends, many from Washington, who say they considered themselves part of Lee’s extended family. They include Will (Bill) Burrington, Craig Huffman, Bruce Lehman, Robert Garnet, Patrick Keating, John Weinfurter, Raymond Zahrobsky, John Gallagher, Hana Sakuta, Kevin Hartmann, and numerous other friends.

Family members and friends said contributions can be made in Lee’s memory online or by mail to the Daniel K. Inouye Institute Fund, c/o Hawaii Community Foundation, 827 Fort Street Mall, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 or through: http://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/daniel-k-inouye-institute.

09
Apr
2014

From Stonewall to marriage equality at lightning speed

Stonewall to marriage, gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Even those of us involved in the fight for women’s rights and civil rights would never have believed the speed at which things are changing for the LGBT community. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The progress from Stonewall to marriage equality in my lifetime is amazing. My accepting who I am mirrored the evolving LGBT movement. Coming of age at 21 in New York City, a gay man deep in the closet, hiding my sexual orientation to become a teacher. At 25, starting a political career and working for the most gay-friendly politician in the nation, the congresswoman who introduced the first ENDA bill in Congress, yet still deep in the closet.

Then moving to Washington, D.C. at 31, a city that just elected a mayor who credited the LGBT community and the Stein Democratic Club with making the difference in his election. Pride events were gaining in strength and visibility and my first in Dupont Circle had me hiding behind a tree to make sure my picture wouldn’t end up in a newspaper. Then life started moving faster for me and the LGBT community. By the time I was 34, we were beginning to hear about AIDS and that coincided with my coming out to friends. Then began the process of my morphing into an LGBT activist joining in the fight against HIV/AIDS and openly participating in marches for LGBT rights, openly attending Pride events on a muddy field in Dupont, and being a regular at Rascals, the bar of the moment.

Over the ensuing years the organized LGBT community would get stronger and stand up for our rights and I would find that being “out” still had its consequences. Being rejected for a job for being gay was one of them. As the community turned to more activism, my role in politics was becoming more identified with being gay. First becoming a columnist for the Washington Blade and then finding my picture on the front page of the Washington Post supporting a mayoral candidate and being identified as among other things a gay activist.

As the fight for marriage equality heated up in D.C., GLAA activist Rick Rosendall and I met at a little outdoor lunch place on 17th Street and set the plans in motion to form the Foundation for All DC Families, which begat the Campaign for All DC Families, which helped coordinate the fight for marriage equality in the District.

For so many who grew up in the Baby Boomer generation, life continues to hold many surprises. But even those of us involved in the fight for women’s rights and civil rights would never have believed the speed at which things are changing for the LGBT community.

The courts are moving at a much faster pace than anyone could have predicted even a year ago, striking down bans on gay marriage enacted by state legislatures. State constitutional amendments banning marriage equality are being declared unconstitutional by a raft of federal judges. From Oklahoma to Kentucky, Utah to Virginia, federal judges are saying that states must recognize these marriages. While the cases are being appealed there is a clear path for one or more of them to reach the Supreme Court in its next term. While they weren’t ready to make a decision when they rejected the Prop 8 case in 2013, they will now probably have to decide the fate of marriage equality nationwide and determine whether it is constitutional to discriminate against gay and lesbian citizens.

Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in her decision in Virginia added to the so-far unanimous group of federal judges who have thrown out these bans. Judge Allen quoted from Mildred Loving, who was at the center of the 1967 Supreme Court case that struck down laws banning interracial marriage. At the time that case was decided only 14 states had laws allowing interracial marriage and already there are 17 states and the District of Columbia that allow gay marriage. While people are hailing her decision she clearly had to be embarrassed when she had to amend her written opinion because she confused the U. S. Constitution with the Declaration of Independence. She isn’t the first and won’t be the last to do that.

Clearly the time has come in our country for full equality. The decisions made by these federal judges have been based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor. Then Attorney General Eric Holder announced “the federal government would recognize legal same-sex marriages in federal matters including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits.” He stated that, “It is the [Justice Department's] policy to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible, to ensure equal treatment for all members of society regardless of sexual orientation.”

In what seems like lightning speed, the LGBT community is moving toward full civil and human rights.

18
Feb
2014

Bowser or Catania?

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

The race between David Catania and Muriel Bowser for mayor is dividing the LGBT community. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

D.C.’s overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning LGBT community will likely be navigating unchartered waters this summer and fall as an LGBT-supportive Democrat, Council member Muriel Bowser, runs against a prominent openly gay Council colleague, independent David Catania, in a hotly contested race for mayor.

“I have no idea how it will come out,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the non-partisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“Many people are talking about supporting Catania,” Rosendall said. “At the same time, some people are circling the wagons as Democrats.”

Rosendall is among many activists who see a potential dilemma for LGBT voters in a city in which virtually all elected officials and nearly all credible candidates for public office are supportive on LGBT rights. Many have longstanding records of support on issues that were once considered highly controversial, such as the city’s same-sex marriage law.

Bowser’s decisive victory over D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary appears to have come with the support of large numbers of LGBT voters, even though the city’s most prominent LGBT leaders backed Gray.

A Washington Blade analysis of 18 voter precincts believed to have large concentrations of LGBT residents shows that Bowser won 14 of them, with Gray and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, a Council member from Ward 6, each winning two of the “LGBT” precincts.

Several of the precincts won by Bowser are located in areas long known as “gay” neighborhoods, including Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Adams Morgan and Shaw. Other precincts she won are in areas considered up and coming neighborhoods into which many LGBT people are moving, such as the 14th and U Street, N.W. corridor, Bloomingdale, and Ledroit Park.

Everett Hamilton, owner of a local public relations firm and longtime gay Democratic activist, is serving as a volunteer communications strategist for the Bowser campaign. He said he believes Bowser captured the majority of LGBT votes for the same reason that she won the overall citywide vote.

“At the end of the day, LGBT people, like all city residents, are going to vote for the person who can best run the city and who they believe is best for the city,” he said.

With a gay brother and a gay campaign manager, Hamilton said no one can dispute the fact that Bowser and her campaign have strong ties to the LGBT community, Hamilton said.

Other political observers, however, point out that Gray was ahead of Bowser and the other mayoral candidates until U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen took the extraordinary step of implicating Gray in an illegal scheme to raise more than $600,000 for Gray’s 2010 mayoral election campaign less than a month before the primary.

Gray has long denied having any knowledge in the scheme that led to the indictment of businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme in exchange for being promised a more lenient jail sentence. It was Thompson who has told prosecutors Gray knew about the illegal activity and approved it.

The revelations by Machen resulted in an immediate rise in support for Bowser that many observers believe led to her victory at the polls.

Catania’s LGBT supporters, meanwhile, have said that Catania’s reputation as a reform politician with a strong legislative record on issues such as healthcare, education, and LGBT rights will have none of the negative baggage that Gray had as the general election campaign for mayor moves forward.

Longtime gay Democratic activist Paul Kuntzler, one of the founders of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, surprised many in the LGBT community last week when he announced his support for Catania over Bowser. Ben Young, Catania’s campaign manager, said “many more” prominent LGBT Democrats would soon announce their support for Catania.

Veteran gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, a Blade columnist, has emerged as one of Catania’s leading critics, saying Catania’s status as a former Republican whose philosophy isn’t as progressive as people think will work against Catania in a city with an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.

Angela Peoples, president of the Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, said the club’s bylaws prevent it from endorsing a non-Democratic candidate when a Democrat is running in a particular race.

Even if the club could endorse a non-Democrat, Peoples said she expects the club to back Bowser, although its members have yet to set a date to vote on an endorsement.

“As always, I will certainly yield to the will of the membership,” she said. “This election poses an interesting situation for many folks and for LGBT folks in the District as there is an LGBT candidate on the ballot,” Peoples said.

“However, I think what I’ve seen thus far coming out of the primary is Democrats are uniting around Councilwoman Bowser. And I think that’s great to see,” she told the Blade.

Peoples said the club would likely adopt a plan for an endorsement vote at its April meeting scheduled for next Monday night.

The city’s most prominent transgender activists, who were solidly behind Gray in the primary, also have yet to say whether they will back Bowser now that she defeated a mayor that many in the trans community considered a champion for their rights.

Although Bowser has voted for all transgender equality measures that have come before the Council, Catania has been the author of several of those measures, including a landmark bill removing longstanding obstacles to the ability of trans people to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their transition to a new gender.

10
Apr
2014

Stein Club unable to endorse in 3 Council races

Jim Graham, endorsement, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), a four-term incumbent, failed to secure a Stein Club endorsement Wednesday night. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, was unable to make an endorsement in three of the five City Council races it considered Wednesday night when no candidate in three of the contests was able to capture a required 60 percent of the vote from more than 140 members in attendance.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), a longtime supporter of the LGBT community, easily won the club’s endorsement in his re-election bid after beating Democratic challenger Calvin Gurley by a vote of 120 to 13.

“I’m pleased and honored,” Mendelson told the Blade after the vote. “I’m very proud of my record on LGBT issues, not the least of which is marriage equality,” he said. “I’ve tried to be very supportive and I appreciate the support in return.”

Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) also won the club’s endorsement by beating Democratic challenger Kathy Henderson by a vote of 124 to 13. A third candidate running in the April 1 Democratic primary for the Ward 5 Council seat, Carolyn Steptoe, didn’t attend the forum.

endorsement

Brianne Nadeau (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a development that surprised some club members, challenger Brianne Nadeau finished ahead of gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), a four-term incumbent, by a vote of 70 to 64, with one person voting for no endorsement. Although Nadeau’s supporters called the outcome a victory for her, the vote total came nowhere near the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement.

Graham’s supporters, including former Stein Club President Kurt Vorndran, said the close vote between Nadeau and Graham didn’t reflect the true sentiment of LGBT voters, whom they said would vote overwhelmingly for Graham in the April 1 primary.

Nadeau supporters dispute that assessment, saying the Ward 1 civic activist and former Advisory Neighborhood Commission member has emerged as Graham’s strongest challenger in years.

The voting took place after incumbents and challengers running for Council seats in Wards 1, 5 and 6; an at-large seat; and the position of Council Chair gave opening remarks and answered questions from the audience.

Many of the questions were about non-LGBT issues, highlighting what some Stein Club members said was the perception that LGBT issues may no longer be a key factor because nearly all candidates running for public office in D.C. support LGBT equality.

Close to 200 people attended what the Stein Club called a combined endorsement meeting and candidate forum, which was held at Unity of Washington Church at 1225 R St., N.W.

In yet another surprise to some of the attendees, challenger Nate Bennett-Fleming, who holds the position of shadow U.S. Representative, finished ahead of incumbent Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) by a vote of 68 to 51 in a run-off ballot.

In the first ballot vote, Bennett-Fleming beat Bonds by a vote of 60 to 53. Challengers John Settles and Pedro Rubio came in third and fourth with 14 votes and 12 votes respectively.

In the Ward 6 race, Democratic activist Charles Allen, former chief of staff for Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), finished ahead of Darrel Thompson, a former chief of staff for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), by a vote of 68 to 65. Both have expressed strong support for LGBT rights and have worked on LGBT issues in their previous jobs.

Similar to the Ward 1 and At-Large races, the vote spread between Allen and Thompson was too close to give Allen the 60 percent margin he needed for an endorsement.

“When you have these endorsement processes it’s about who can bring their people out and who can electrify their constituency – and I think everyone did that,” said Earl Fowlkes, a member of the Democratic National Committee from D.C. and Stein Club member who served as moderator at the forum.

“That’s why there were these close races,” he said. “The people that are involved believe their candidate is better and they came out on a cold winter night and stayed for two ballots.”

Fowlkes said the club shouldn’t be disappointed in the lack of endorsements in the three Council races because the division in the vote reflects the sentiment of the club’s members.

Calvin Gurley, gay news, Washington Blade, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, endorsement, gay news, Washington Blade

Calvin Gurley (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

All of the candidates speaking at the forum except Gurley, Mendelson’s challenger, expressed strong support for LGBT rights and promised, if elected, to be an advocate for the LGBT community.

Gurley, who received a “0” rating from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, spoke mostly about non-LGBT issues, saying he is committed to cleaning up corruption and waste in the city, which he said would benefit all residents, including LGBT people.

GLAA said it gave Gurley a 0 rating because he didn’t return the group’s questionnaire and it had no knowledge of his view on LGBT issues. At the forum, Gurley said he never received the questionnaire. GLAA President Rick Rosendall has said the group is meticulous in making sure that questionnaires are mailed or emailed to the addresses the candidates submit to the Board of Elections when they file papers to run.

During a period of discussion among club members following the forum, speakers appeared to be equally divided in their support between Graham and Nadeau.

Lesbian activist Barbara Helmick, a longtime Ward 1 resident, praised Graham for his long record of support on LGBT issues but said it was time for “new blood” on the Council.

“Let’s give the new gal a chance,” she said, in urging fellow club members to vote for Nadeau.

Patricia Hawkins, former deputy director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, told of her work with Graham during the years he served as director of Whitman-Walker at the height of the AIDS epidemic and prior to his election on to the Council.

“He’s an important asset to our community and every community,” she said.

The Stein Club is scheduled to hold a similar endorsement meeting and candidate forum on March 6 for the eight Democratic candidates running for mayor, including Mayor Gray. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, 474 Ridge St., N.W.

27
Feb
2014

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

Gray wins vote but falls short of Stein Club endorsement

Tommy Wells, Vincent Orange, Vincent Gray, Jack Evans, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, endorsement forum, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray finished ahead of four rivals at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s mayoral candidates forum. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray finished far ahead of four of his rivals at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s mayoral candidates forum Thursday night but fell four votes short of the 60 percent threshold needed to win the club’s endorsement.

Gray beat D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), his closest rival, by a margin of 58 percent (112 votes) to 38 percent (74 votes) in a runoff ballot, with 4 percent voting for no endorsement.

“I am so happy about the number of people that came out and supported us tonight,” Gray said after the vote. “It really is an affirmation of our record and we’ll continue to do the things that got us here tonight.”

In a first ballot vote, Gray came in first with 115 votes, ahead of Evans, who received 56 votes. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) came in third with 28 votes, just ahead of Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who captured 26 votes. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) finished fifth with 8 votes. One person voted for no endorsement.

Under club rules, members have the option of holding a run-off vote between the top two vote getters in the first vote if no one obtains the 60 percent margin needed for an endorsement.

Paul Strauss, Pete Ross, U.S. Senate, District of Columbia, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, endorsement forum, gay news, Washington Blade

Paul Strauss (left) and Pete Ross at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s endorsement forum. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a separate endorsement vote on the contest for the city’s shadow U.S. Senate seat, challenger Pete Ross beat incumbent Paul Strauss by a vote of 93 to 85, with 33 people voting for no endorsement. Similar to the mayoral race, Ross failed to win the endorsement by falling 33 votes short of the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement.

Meanwhile, in a development that surprised some Stein Club members, mayoral contenders Andy Shallal and Carlos Allen were disqualified from participating in the forum because they didn’t return a candidate questionnaire that the club requires as a condition for being eligible for an endorsement. The two didn’t attend the event.

Democratic mayoral contender Reta Lewis returned the questionnaire but no one placed her name in nomination at Thursday night’s forum as part of another requirement for endorsement eligibility, according to Martin Garcia, the club’s vice president for political and governmental affairs. Garcia said Lewis also didn’t attend the event.

About 300 people, including D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), turned out to watch the forum, which was held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington at 474 Ridge St., N.W.

Mendelson and Bonds are running for re-election. Last week the Stein Club endorsed Mendelson but didn’t endorse in the at-large race in which Bonds and three other candidates are running in the April 1 Democratic primary because no one received the required 60 percent of the vote from the club’s membership.

Voting at Thursday’s endorsement forum took place after the participating candidates gave opening remarks and answered questions from the audience, which were submitted on index cards and read by Stein Club member Earl Fowlkes, who served as moderator.

Each expressed strong support for LGBT rights and each has a record of support for LGBT-related issues since the time they won election to the Council, with some, including Gray, pointing to their support for LGBT equality in previous jobs in government or in the private sector.

Evans, who has been on the Council for 23 years, brought with him a stack of 32 LGBT-related bills he said he introduced and helped pass during his tenure on the Council.

“I was the first elected official to support marriage equality at a time when no one was there,” he said.

Gray cited the LGBT-related initiatives he has put into effect since becoming mayor, including a first-of-its-kind transgender job training program. His LGBT supporters, who turned out in large numbers at the forum, have called him the nation’s strongest LGBT-supportive mayor.

“I’m proud to have stood up for what is right in the District of Columbia on behalf of the people who are LGBTQ in the District of Columbia,” he said. “I am proud to have led the fight on the Council of the District of Columbia to be able to approve marriage equality,” he said, referring to his role as chair of the Council in 2009 when the marriage bill came up.

Wells acknowledged that Evans, in his long tenure on the Council, and Gray, in his many LGBT-related initiatives as mayor, have done a lot for the LGBT community. Noting that his record and commitment to LGBT issues is also strong, he suggested that LGBT voters should consider turning their attention to issues such as ethics in government, that impact everyone.

“I am so proud of what we’ve done together to make this a fairer, just city for everyone,” Wells said. “Let me say that everyone on the dais has been part of that,” he said. “Your fight is my fight.”

Bowser said she is proud to have won the club’s endorsement in the past when running for her Ward 4 Council seat.

“I think Tommy is right,” she said. “There have been a lot of people who have worked long and hard so that all the institutions of the District of Columbia are equal.  Because of their hard work we’re talking about marriage equality tonight.”

Bowser, among other things, cited her role as co-introducer of a bill approved by the Council earlier this year calling for services for LGBT homeless youth.

Orange pointed to his role as a committee chair to help push through a bill introduced by gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham to add protections for transgender people in the city’s Human Rights Act.

In keeping with the club’s longstanding format for endorsement forums, the candidates were asked to leave the main hall where the event took place at the conclusion of the forum to give club members a chance to speak among themselves on who they support for the endorsement.

Among those speaking on behalf of Bowser was her gay brother, Marvin Bowser.

“Muriel has been up front in support of all of the LGBTQ issues in her campaign, including marriage equality, the anti-bullying law, and the homeless youth bill,” he said. “She’s about supporting the diversity and the vitality of the city,” he said. “She’s fully engaged in all the issues important to that.”

Martin Garcia, Angela Peoples, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, endorsement forum, gay news, Washington Blade

Stein Club Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs Martin Garcia (left) and President Angela Peoples. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said that while she’s disappointed that the club was unable to make an endorsement in the mayor’s race, along with the shadow Senate seat and several Council races, the endorsement forum has been beneficial to LGBT voters.

“I’m really proud and humbled and excited to see so much energy from the entire LGBT community,” she said. “The turnout at this event really shows that our LGBT community is diverse. We have straight allies. We have transgender leadership in our organization. We have people who have been here for a long time and also people who are new and excited.”

Peoples said the strong support that all of the candidates have expressed for LGBT equality was a testament to the strength of the LGBT community.

07
Mar
2014

Catania best-qualified candidate ever for D.C. mayor

David Catania, qualified, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania filed papers to run for mayor on March 12 at the Reeves Center. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Isaiah Webster III wrote in his May 2 Blade column that Democrats should support Muriel Bowser over David Catania simply because Bowser managed to win the Democratic nomination with a small percentage of Democrats. On April 1, 90 percent of the District’s registered voters either did not vote or they voted for other candidates.

Bowser, who ran as the anti-Gray candidate of resentment, vowed not to support the Democratic nominee if Mayor Gray won the nomination. Now that she has prevailed, Webster writes that Democrats should vote for Bowser despite her questionable qualifications.

My involvement in the Democratic Party goes back to fall 1960 in Michigan when I helped organize Grosse Pointe Young Democrats in support of John Kennedy’s election.  At 19, I first arrived in Washington during January 1961 for JFK’s inauguration.

In 1979, I was the first openly gay person to serve on the D.C. Democratic State Committee. During the 1980s, I was an officer of the District’s Democratic party. In 1980, I was one of five D.C. gay delegates to the Democratic National Convention in New York at Madison Square Garden. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, moreover, was founded in my living room in January 1976.

Webster accused Lane Hudson in his April 23 column of “taking his case right to the gutter.” But it is Webster who got down in the gutter when the raised the issue of race:  “Would Muriel Bowser be deemed qualified enough if she were a white gay man like David Catania or Lane Hudson?”

Outside the District, voting for Democrats has great meaning. But here in Washington, the issue of party affiliation has little relevance, other than most decisions are made within the Democratic Party.

On April 30 at Policy Restaurant on 14th Street, N.W., Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance celebrated its 43rd anniversary. Carol Schwartz, a progressive Republican and an excellent former member of the City Council, financially supported the event as a sponsor.

So did Council members Catania, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange and Tommy Wells.  Every time that Schwartz ran for office, I voted for her.

In Bowser’s years on the Council, what has she accomplished? Although Bowser chairs the committee responsible for housing issues, she has done nothing to address the housing crisis. The InTowner newspaper called her “derelict in carrying out her assigned responsibility.”

On the important issue of education, Bowser has failed to offer a single proposal of substance to improve our schools.

Since 1997, Catania has been elected five times — winning votes in all eight wards.  Over the years, David has achieved an outstanding record of accomplishments. Colbert I. King of The Washington Post wrote: “They don’t come any smarter, more dedicated or gutsier than Catania. And no one works harder.”

I have known every mayor since the late Walter Washington was elected in November 1974. I can write with great confidence that David Catania is the best-qualified person to have ever run for mayor of the District of Columbia.

Paul Kuntzler is a longtime LGBT advocate and D.C. resident.

07
May
2014