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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

Gray, Bowser in tight race

Vincent Gray, Muriel Bowser, mayor, race, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray and Council member Muriel Bowser lead a slate of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in next week’s primary. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Supporters of Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and his main rival, City Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), were making a final appeal to LGBT voters for support this week just days before the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

Two polls released on Tuesday and a separate poll released one week earlier each show Gray and Bowser in a statistical tie and far ahead of the other six mayoral candidates.

Bowser’s dramatic rise in the polls over the past month has prompted her campaign to step up its effort to urge supporters of the other candidates — especially Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) — to switch their backing to Bowser.

Although most observers believe the LGBT vote will be divided among several candidates, some activists say LGBT voters could be a deciding factor in the race if they coalesce behind either Gray or Bowser.

One of the polls released this week by the Washington Post shows Bowser with 30 percent support from a sample of likely voters, with Gray receiving 27 percent. An NBC4/Marist poll also released on Tuesday shows Bowser with 28 percent and Gray with 26 percent.

The poll released one week earlier and commissioned by WAMU Radio and the Washington City Paper showed Gray and Bowser each receiving 27 percent. All three polls show that Gray’s support has largely remained at the same level it was more than two months ago while Bowser’s support has risen by more than 10 points.

According to the NBC4/Marist poll released on Tuesday, among likely Democratic voters, Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) was in third place with 11 percent; Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) was in fourth place with 9 percent; and Busboys and Poets Restaurant owner and progressive activist Andy Shallal and Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) each had 4 percent.

Attorney and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis had 2 percent and businessman Carlos Allen had less than 1 percent. Fifteen percent of the respondents were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.

“The latest polls are showing what we knew all along — that this is a two-candidate race,” said gay activist and businessman Everett Hamilton, who’s supporting Bowser. “All the candidates are great on our issues and we are really fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches among the candidates,” he said.

“So this election is really not about whether someone will be good on LGBT issues,” Hamilton said. “It’s about things that need to be better in this city.”

Transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who supports Gray, said she was troubled that some opponents of Gray are arguing that people shouldn’t vote for him because of the pending criminal investigation into an illegal shadow campaign on the mayor’s behalf in 2010.

At least four people associated with Gray’s 2010 election campaign, including businessman Jeffrey Thompson, have pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the raising of more than $660,000 in illegal campaign funds. But despite statements by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen that more is to come in his ongoing investigation, which began four years ago, no charges have been filed against Gray, who strongly denies any involvement in illegal campaign activities.

“I don’t think the people moving toward Bowser are LGBT people for the most part,” Hughes said. “This is due to allegations against the mayor. Nothing has been proven. I’m very disappointed that so many people are buying into innuendo,” she said.

“I can’t turn away my support because of innuendo,” said Hughes. “I believe the mayor is of the utmost integrity and most people I know in the LGBT community share this view.”

Hughes and Lane Hudson, a local gay Democratic activist who founded an independent LGBT group supporting Gray called Gray Pride, are among a number of activists who consider Gray’s record on LGBT issues to be the strongest in the nation for a big city mayor.

Transgender activists have described as groundbreaking a first-of-its-kind city job training program initiated by Gray aimed at low-income transgender residents, who often face prejudice and discrimination when seeking employment. Also considered groundbreaking by activists was the mayor’s recent directive requiring health insurance companies doing business in the city to cover gender reassignment surgery and other procedures deemed medically necessary for transgender people in the process of transitioning.

Hudson, however, acknowledges that the campaign finance scandal has chipped away at Gray’s support among voters, including some LGBT voters.

“It will be a close race,” Hudson said. “The turnout will be crucial. The more activist types are favoring Gray,” he said. “I feel he is getting around half to a majority of LGBT votes.”

Evans and Wells supporters, meanwhile, questioned whether the latest polls accurately reflect the view of the people who will actually turn out to vote. They urged supporters to remain loyal to their respective candidate in a hotly contested election with an outcome that seasoned political observers, including LGBT advocates, said was unpredictable, in part, because the voter turnout is expected to be at an all-time low.

A low turnout is expected, according to political observers, because voters are unaccustomed to having a primary – or any city election – in April. In a controversial action, the D.C. Council voted last year to move the primary from September to April 1.

In addition to Democratic candidates, gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors is running unopposed in his party’s mayoral primary on April 1, ensuring that he will be on the ballot in the November general election.

Also running unopposed in the April 1 primary is Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith, a former Broadway musician who has run for public office several times in the past.

At a campaign rally Monday night at the D.C. gay bar Number 9, Evans reminded the mostly gay crowd that he has been on the front lines in support of LGBT rights since he began his tenure on the Council in 1991 when he led the effort to repeal the city’s sodomy law. In his GLAA questionnaire response, Evans lists nearly two-dozen LGBT-related bills he has introduced, co-sponsored or supported that have passed since he became a Council member.

Jack Evans, Washington Blade, gay news

‘I’m the alternative that you need,’ said Jack Evans. ‘And I can win if you vote for me.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Evans said he’s telling anyone who will listen – including LGBT voters – that he has a shot at winning if everyone familiar with his long record of accomplishment on a wide range of issues votes for him.

“What I’m saying to people is I’m the alternative that you need,” Evans said. “And I can win if you vote for me.”

All of the candidates except Allen have expressed strong support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality. Although Allen has expressed general support on LGBT issues during candidate forums, he received a “0” rating from the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance for failing to return a questionnaire asking about specific issues. The non-partisan GLAA rates on a scale of -10 to +10.

Gray received a +10, the highest possible rating from GLAA. He received 58 percent of the vote in the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s mayoral endorsement forum, falling four votes short of the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement under the club’s rules. With support from Stein Club members divided among the candidates, the club did not endorse anyone for mayor.

Wells received a +9.5 GLAA rating; Evans received a +9, Shallal received a +6, Bowser received a +5.5, Lewis received a +4.5, and Orange received a +3.

The mayoral candidates responding to the GLAA questionnaire each expressed support for a wide range of LGBT issues and initiatives proposed by the non-partisan GLAA. GLAA President Rick Rosendall noted that none of the mayoral candidates were designated as hostile or in opposition to a significant LGBT issue.

Wells supporters point to his role as chair of the Council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, where he has pushed through a number of important LGBT-related bills, including a measure easing the ability of transgender people to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their new gender. Wells has also monitored police handing of anti-LGBT hate crimes in a series of oversight hearings on the subject.

Orange supporters, including LGBT backers from his home base in Ward 5, note that, among other things, he helped push through legislation to create the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs and worked with gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) in securing Council passage of an amendment that added transgender people to the D.C. Human Rights Act’s prohibitions against discrimination.

In addition to being a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, Shallal said he regularly arranges for his Busboys and Poets restaurants to host and sponsor LGBT-related events, including “a monthly queer open series that encourages self-expression for the LGBT community.”

Lewis said that as a senior State Department official in the Obama administration, she backed then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s implementation of domestic partnership benefits and spousal privileges to same-sex partners of U.S. Foreign Service employees. “I was proud to have been a part of the administration that made it possible for landmark legislation like the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to become law,” she said on her GLAA questionnaire response.

A breakdown of the GLAA rating scores for each of the candidates and their questionnaire responses can be accessed at glaa.org.

26
Mar
2014

New Mattachine Society of D.C. uncovers LGBT history

Charles Francis, Mattachine Society, gay news, Washington Blade

The new Mattachine Society focuses almost exclusively on what Charles Francis calls ‘archive activism.’ (Photo courtesy of Charles Francis)

When gay rights pioneers Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. in 1961 as the first gay advocacy organization in the nation’s capital, conditions were so hostile toward gay people that Kameny initially was the only one to use his real name on the group’s membership list.

More than 50 years later, gay public affairs consultant Charles Francis and Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance President Rick Rosendall reinstated the lapsed corporate charter for the Mattachine Society of Washington shortly after Kameny’s death in October 2011.

Francis and Rosendall along with a new board of directors have since reshaped the group’s mission to conduct archival research to uncover long forgotten government documents that show in chilling detail how federal policies were put into place to ban gays from the federal workforce.

“We believe the importance of these documents is the enormous evidentiary and educational value that they have,” Francis told the Blade.

“The evidentiary and educational value of the original archival documents show the persecution of gay people without regard to any valid government purpose,” he said. “Just malicious persecution over and over, and we see that beginning in 1953.”

Francis was referring to what Kameny and other veteran gay leaders called the infamous Executive Order 10450 issued by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 – possibly at the request of then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The order, among other things, barred from the federal workforce individuals found to be involved with “any criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, habitual use of intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, or sexual perversion.”

Although the order didn’t specifically mention homosexuality or homosexuals, it was interpreted by the U.S. Civil Service Commission to mean homosexuals were barred and should be summarily dismissed from any federal government job.

The order for the first time “equated gays and lesbians with disloyalty,” Francis said. “And that was a catastrophe for gay and lesbian Americans” that “much too little has been written about and much too little is actually known about it,” Francis said.

One expert who does know about it, gay rights advocate and University of South Florida professor David K. Johnson, author of the book “The Lavender Scare,” is scheduled to be one of two featured speakers at a Mattachine Society of Washington forum scheduled for May 21.

Joining Johnson as a speaker at the event, to be held at the offices of the D.C. law firm McDermott Will & Emery, will be David S. Ferriero, who serves as Archivist of the United States and director of the National Archives and Records Administration.

A write-up on the Mattachine Society of Washington’s website says its sources of information have and will continue to be archival records found at the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, visits to presidential archives and libraries, and family foundations and university libraries.

Francis said he doesn’t believe the “repurposed” Mattachine Society of D.C. will conflict with or duplicate the work of the Rainbow History Project, a longstanding D.C.-based group that keeps records of and reports on the history of the D.C. LGBT community, individual LGBT people and LGBT institutions such as gay bars.

Instead, the new group focuses almost exclusively on what Francis called “archive activism,” an aggressive search for archival documents that tell the story of how gays were targeted for discrimination and persecution through government policies and laws.

With pro bono help last year from the McDermott Will & Emery law firm, Mattachine found at the National Archives a memorandum written in 1962 by a high-level Civil Service Commission official that appeared to summarize the views of many government officials on gays and lesbians, Francis said.

The official was John W. Steele, chief of the Civil Service Commission’s Program Systems and Instructions Division.

“[W]e set homosexuality apart from other forms of immoral conduct and take a much more severe attitude toward it,” Steele wrote. “Our tendency to ‘lean over backwards’ to rule against a homosexual is simply a manifestation of the revulsion which homosexuality inspires in the normal person.”

Steele added, “What it boils down to is that most men look upon homosexuality as something uniquely nasty, not just as a form of immorality.”

In another recent project, Francis said Mattachine Society of Washington discovered documents showing that J. Edgar Hoover and his then top FBI assistant Clyde Tolson played a role in pressuring the U.S. Postal Service into refusing to allow one of the nation’s first gay publications, One magazine, from being distributed through the mail.

In the early 1950s, at the time it banned One from being mailed, the Postal Service described the publication as “obscene, lewd, licentious and filthy,” according to documents obtained by Mattachine.

A short time later, Francis points out, One successfully challenged the mail ban on First Amendment grounds and won its case before the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark ruling that opened the way in 1954 for gay publications to be distributed through the mail.

Mattachine Society of Washington recently honored California attorney Eric Julber, now 90 years old, who represented One magazine before the Supreme Court on a pro bono basis.

On its website, the Mattachine Society of Washington says it recently received approval by the IRS as a 501(C)(3) charitable and educational organization and obtained full legal status as a non-profit corporation in D.C.

The original Mattachine Society of Washington founded by Kameny and Nichols was a political and advocacy organization, among other things, organized the first-ever gay rights protests outside the White House, Pentagon and the Civil Service Commission.

Mattachine Society, gay news, Washington Blade

The Mattachine Society of Washington celebrated its 25th anniversary on Nov. 15, 1986. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

14
May
2014

Guide to D.C. primary races

Phil Mendelson, Calvin Gurley, primary, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Calvin Gurley. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

D.C. Council Chair

Incumbent Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, is being challenged in the primary by former federal government auditor and civic activist Calvin Gurley. Most political observers consider Mendelson the strong favorite to win re-election.

Mendelson received a +10 rating from GLAA and received the Stein Club endorsement. Gurley received a +1 GLAA rating. GLAA said Gurley expressed support for the city’s same-sex marriage law when it came up for a vote in 2009, but said he expressed disagreement with a number of LGBT-related proposals in his responses on the GLAA candidate questionnaire.

Mendelson has been credited with acting as the lead advocate for the same-sex marriage law during his tenure in 2009 as chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, which had jurisdiction over the measure.

 

Anita Bonds, Nate Bennett-Fleming, John Settles, Pedro Rubio, primary, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), Nate Bennett-Fleming, John Settles and Pedro Rubio. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

At-Large Council Seat

Incumbent Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), another longtime supporter of the LGBT community, is being challenged by three opponents who have also expressed strong support for LGBT equality.

The challengers are attorney and adjunct law professor Nate Bennett-Fleming, who currently serves as one of two shadow U.S. Representatives; businessman and civic activist John Settles; and federal government contract specialist and Latino community activist Pedro Rubio.

Bennett-Fleming, who won the Stein Club endorsement in the past when running for his shadow House seat, received the highest vote count in the club’s Council endorsement meeting last month but fell short of obtaining the 60 percent threshold needed for the endorsement. He received a +7 GLAA rating compared to a +6 rating GLAA gave to Bonds.

Rubio received a +3 GLAA rating and Settles received a +2.5.

Each of the candidates, including Rubio and Settles, has expressed strong support for LGBT-related issues.

Gay civic activist and Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Marc Morgan is running unopposed for the at-large seat in the Republican primary also scheduled for April 1.

 

Jim Graham, Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and challenger Brianne Nadeau. (Washington Blade photo of Graham by Jeff Surprenant; Blade photo of Nadeau by Michael Key)

Ward 1 Council Seat

Sixteen-year incumbent Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is one of two openly gay members of the Council, is being opposed by public relations executive Brianne Nadeau.

GLAA gave Graham a rating of +7.5 compared to the +5 rating it gave to Nadeau. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT partisan political group, didn’t make an endorsement in the Ward 1 race because neither candidate obtained a required 60 percent of the vote from club members needed to endorse.

However, Nadeau beat Graham by a vote of 70 to 64 in the endorsement race, a development that Nadeau’s LGBT supporters said was a sign that she has widespread support in the LGBT community. Graham is being backed by many of the city’s prominent LGBT activists and received endorsements from most of the city’s labor unions.

 

Ward 3 Council Seat

Incumbent Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, is running unopposed in the primary. She won the endorsement of the Stein Club and received a rating of 8.5 from GLAA.

She’s considered the strong favorite to win the general election in November against Libertarian Party candidate Ryan Sabot, who’s running unopposed in the Libertarian primary on April 1.

 

Kenyan McDuffy, Kathy Henderson, primary, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and Kathy Henderson. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Ward 5 Council Seat

Incumbent Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who has expressed strong support for LGBT rights, is being challenged by Ward 5 civic activists Kathy Henderson, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner; and Carolyn Steptoe. McDuffie, who was endorsed by the Stein Club, is considered the strong favorite to win re-election.

McDuffie received a +4.5 rating from GLAA. Henderson received a “0” GLAA rating and Steptoe received a -2, the lowest rating GLAA has issued for any of the candidates running in the April 1 primary.

Henderson has told the Blade she considers herself a strong supporter of LGBT equality. GLAA said it gave her a 0 rating because she expressed opposition to a number of issues on the questionnaire deemed important by the group.

 

Charles Allen, Darrell Thompson, primary, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Charles Allen and Darrell Thompson. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Ward 6 Council Seat

The Ward 6 seat is being vacated by incumbent Tommy Wells, who’s running for mayor. Wells’ former chief of staff, Charles Allen, is running for the seat in the Democratic primary against Darrel Thompson, a former deputy chief of staff for U.S. Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Both have expressed strong support for LGBT rights and say they addressed LGBT issues as part of the duties of their previous jobs. GLAA gave Allen a +8.5 rating, the highest rating it awarded this year for a non-incumbent.

Thompson received a +3 rating. GLAA said he submitted a “weak questionnaire” but was given credit for the LGBT-related issues he worked on when serving on the staff of Reid as well as on the staff of former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and then U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The Stein Club didn’t endorse in the Ward 6 race because neither candidate received the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement.

 

Paul Strauss, Pete Ross, primary, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Paul Strauss and Pete Ross. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Shadow Senate Seat

Incumbent Paul Strauss, an attorney, who has held the shadow seat for 17 years, is being challenged by retired Army Capt. Pete Ross in the Democratic primary. Neither one obtained sufficient votes to receive the Stein Club endorsement. GLAA does not rate candidates running for the shadow seats.

The seats were created as positions of advocacy for D.C. statehood and voting representation in Congress. They are unpaid positions without any powers or duties from the Congress.

Strauss and Ross have been longtime supporters of the LGBT community.

 

Shadow House Seat

Latino community activist Franklin Garcia is running unopposed for the seat.

27
Mar
2014

Lanier gives briefing on police-trans issues

Cathy Lanier, DC Metro Police, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier (Washington Blade photo by Strother Gaines)

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told a transgender community town hall meeting Tuesday night that her department is moving quickly to implement recommendations by an independent task force on ways to improve police response to crimes targeting the transgender community.

Lanier, who was joined by nearly a dozen high-level police officials, including a captain and sergeant in charge of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said the overwhelming majority of officers are sensitive to the needs and concerns of transgender citizens.

She said that in cases where members of the LGBT community in general and the trans community in particular encounter improper or abusive treatment by a police officer, such incidents should immediately be reported to the department through an established complaint process.

“If there is wrongdoing on the part of a police officer, we want to know about it,” she said. “We should address that, and we will.”

The town hall event was sponsored jointly by the D.C. Trans Coalition, Casa Ruby, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL and the sex worker advocacy group HIPS.

The meeting was held in a community room of the D.C. Department of Employment Services on Minnesota Ave, N.E.

The sponsoring groups asked Lanier to discuss the department’s response to the findings and recommendations of a 41-page report prepared by the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force, an independent body created by the Anti-Defamation League of Washington at Lanier’s request.

Among other things, the task force found that although the “vast majority of MPD leaders and personnel” are committed to the security and safety of the LGBT community, shortcomings exist in the department’s relations with the transgender community.

“With the exception of GLLU officers, most transgender people do not trust the police and believe that MPD officers too frequently see them as criminals because they are transgender,” the report states.

The report says the task force conducted its research between April 2012 and September 2013, which included “extensive interviews with LGBT leaders and advocates, LGBT community members, and MPD personnel of all ranks throughout the department,” with an emphasis on officers assigned to hate crimes, LGBT outreach and related duties.

In response to at least two-dozen questions from audience members, Lanier outlined the department’s efforts to address issues raised by the task force report, most of which are included as an addendum to the report.

The department has already taken steps to revamp the GLLU’s officer affiliate program to improve the training and selection of GLLU affiliate officers, who are assigned to each of the department’s eight police districts throughout the city.

The task force report says many in the LGBT community expressed concern that the GLLU became more distant and less visible to the community after the affiliate program was created by Lanier to expand the reach of the GLLU beyond its half dozen or so “core” officers.

Lanier said her supervisors in the police districts are now carefully assessing how the GLLU affiliate members are interacting with the community. Those found not to have a “good fit” for community interaction will be reassigned to other duties and officers more suited for the GLLU’s duties will replace them, she said.

“So we’ve come a long way,” she told the Blade after the meeting. “Are there individuals in the department — we have almost 5,000 employees — that may harbor a bias? Of course there are. But we can’t let that define our organization. We have to let the mass of the police define our organization and keep looking to get rid of people who don’t belong here,” she said.

Veteran transgender activist Earline Budd and Jason Terry, a member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, said they were optimistic that Lanier will carry out the task force report’s recommendations for improving the department’s relations with the trans community.

12
Jun
2014

Attack ad blames Mendelson for rise in hate crimes

Phil Mendelson, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news

‘Rather than doing nothing, I publicly disagreed with the MPD’s decision to reorganize the GLLU,’ said Council Chair Phil Mendelson. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBT activists are defending D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) against an election campaign ad by the D.C. police union that accuses him of failing to take steps to prevent the number of anti-LGBT hate crimes from nearly doubling between 2009 and 2011.

The Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee (FOP), which serves as a police union, is calling on city residents to “vote no on Phil Mendelson” in the April 1 primary in which he is running for re-election.

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; transgender activist Jeri Hughes; and gay activist and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bob Summersgill called Mendelson a champion of LGBT rights and disputed the FOP’s claim that he didn’t adequately respond to hate crimes targeting the LGBT community.

In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind attack ad accusing a politician of failing to protect the safety of the LGBT community, the FOP ad says that when Mendelson was chair of the Council’s Judiciary and Public safety Committee in 2009, he “sat by and did nothing as the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) was dismantled.”

The ad, which the FOP posted on its website and placed in the Washington Blade, goes on to say, “The result of Mendelson’s failure to act? The police department’s effectiveness in responding to hate crimes was weakened and it led to an almost 50 percent jump in hate crimes based on sexual orientation.”

Kristopher Baumann, chair of the FOP, told the Blade that LGBT organizations and activists joined the FOP in 2009 in criticizing a decision by the police department to reorganize and restructure the GLLU in a way that most activists said would decrease its effectiveness.

Baumann noted that concerns about the GLLU reorganization were found to be correct by a report assessing the police handling of anti-LGBT hate crimes released earlier this year. The report was prepared by an independent task force created and led by the Anti-Defamation League of the national capital area at the request of D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

Most LGBT activists don’t dispute the findings of the task force report that the reorganization of the GLLU by Lanier led to its becoming less effective in addressing hate crimes and led to strains in relations between the LGBT community and the police department. But Mendelson and some of his LGBT supporters, including Rosendall and Hughes, dispute the claim that Mendelson was responsible for these developments.

“The charge is inaccurate and false,” Mendelson told the Blade in a statement on Monday. “Rather than doing nothing, I publicly disagreed with the MPD’s decision to reorganize the GLLU, and this was the subject of a number of public hearings that I held — including several specifically focused on hate crime and MPD’s handling of hate crime,” he said.

Mendelson said he held separate hearings on hate crimes and determined that the increase in hate crimes targeting the LGBT community was likely due, in part, to improved reporting of hate crimes on the part of LGBT victims rather than an actual increase in the number of such crimes.

“It’s easy for negative campaigns to level false charges days before an election, but the charges neither comport with the facts, nor are echoed by any of the LGBT groups that have actually worked on this problem,” Mendelson said.

“This campaign to hold Phil Mendelson accountable is nothing more than an egregious campaign to smear and malign,” said Hughes. “I know several rank and file officers,” she said. “None of them feel that Phil Mendelson deserves this abuse – none.”

Baumann, who has been a longtime critic of Chief Lanier, said Mendelson held “hearing after hearing” but chose not to take legislative action to correct longstanding problems associated with hate crimes reporting and the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

Mendelson said the hearings were productive and that none of the LGBT advocacy groups or Baumann proposed legislative changes at that time.

“They forced MPD to address the issue — prior thereto they were downplaying it,” Mendelson said of the hearings. “Police handling of [hate crimes] reports improved.”

According to Mendelson, the hearings also prompted the independent Office of Police Complaints, which investigates citizen complaints against police officers, to weigh in on the issue and led to the revival of the then inactive group Gays and Lesbians Against Violence (GLOV).

Baumann said the FOP has not endorsed Mendelson’s Democratic opponent in the primary, Calvin Gurley. Baumann said the police union’s ad campaign was aimed at urging voters to “take another look” at Mendelson and decide how best to vote both in the primary and, if Mendelson wins on Tuesday, as expected, whether to vote for an opponent that surfaces in the November general election.

GLAA gave Mendelson a +10 rating on LGBT issues on a rating scale of -10 to +10, the highest possible score. The group gave Gurley a +1 rating.

Although most political observers believe Mendelson is the odds-on favorite to win Tuesday’s primary, Gurley received close to 69,342 votes when he ran against Mendelson in a special election in 2012. According to Board of Elections returns, Mendelson won that election with 174,742 votes, with 3,017 voters writing in someone else’s name on the ballot.

Hassan Naveed, co-chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, and Jason Terry, an official with the D.C. Trans Coalition, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the FOP’s attack ad targeting Mendelson.

31
Mar
2014

Restaurant manager says he fired server for writing slur on check

gay news, Washington Blade

A bartender at Bistro 18 wrote the words ‘GAY BITCHES’ on the check of a transgender customer and eight friends last summer. (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

The manager of an Adams Morgan restaurant whose bartender wrote the words “GAY BITCHES” on the check for a transgender customer and eight friends who were with her said he immediately fired the bartender for writing the slur and apologized, according to gay blogger Bil Browning of the Bilerico Project.

The New York-based LGBT litigation group Lambda Legal announced in a press release on Tuesday, June 10, that it filed a discrimination complaint against Bistro 18 restaurant and hookah bar at 2420 18th St., N.W., over the slur and other alleged discriminatory actions by the restaurant before the D.C. Office of Human Rights.

Lambda said it filed the complaint on behalf of Amira Gray, a transgender woman who was sitting with eight friends, two of whom are gay men, when a female bartender who’s not identified in the complaint delivered the check to their table.

The issue of whether the bartender printed the slur on the check is not in dispute.

But in a development not common in LGBT discrimination cases, at least two prominent gay activists — Deacon Maccubbin, founder and owner of D.C.’s now closed Lambda Rising bookstore and Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance — are siding with the accused party. Both say Bistro 18 shouldn’t be held responsible for a single employee’s action and that the restaurant has taken all necessary steps to remedy the situation.

The incident took place in August 2013, the complaint states. A Lambda Legal official told the Blade that Gray chose to come forward to file the complaint this week after considerable reflection, deciding that she and her friends were wronged, even though the manager cancelled the bill that came to $152.30.

Lambda Legal’s announcement of the filing of the complaint, which is posted on its Facebook page, triggered a flurry of social media postings highly critical of Bistro 18. Some of the postings called for a boycott of the restaurant.

Browning, editor and publisher of the Bilerico Project blog, triggered a separate flurry of postings by some LGBT activists and others condemning Lambda Legal for publicizing an allegation implying that Bistro 18 was a homophobic or anti-trans establishment that condones discrimination.

The Blade could not reach a representative of Bistro 18 for comment through repeated phone calls and through a visit to the bar Thursday night. The Washington Post and Washington City Paper reported their attempts to reach a representative of the restaurant were also unsuccessful.

According to Browning, Mohammad Elhoda, Bistro 18’s manager, told him his restaurant welcomes LGBT customers, gay employees currently work at the establishment, the restaurant has hosted LGBT events, and it has a strict policy of non-discrimination covering everyone, including LGBT people.

Gray states in her complaint that in addition to the anti-LGBT slur on the check, which she kept and turned over to Lambda Legal, her party was being denied service at the table in which they were seated. She walked to the bar and ordered drinks for her friends, which she brought to her table, the complaint states. No server came to the table except one who delivered the hookah smoking pipe while people seated at nearby tables were being waited on regularly by servers, the complaint says.

Browning reports that Elhoda said service at the restaurant was slow on the night Gray and her friends were there and he intervened to help his staff, providing Gray’s party with at least one round of free drinks to make up for the delays. At least some of the people in Gray’s party returned to the restaurant in the following weeks and appeared to be enjoying themselves, Browning reports Elhoda as saying.

Elhoda also claims that some of the people in Gray’s party yelled insults at the bartender and threatened her after the check with the slur was delivered to their table, prompting the restaurant’s security staff to intervene, Browning reports.

Browning, who appears to be the only media representative with whom Elhoda has spoken so far, wrote in his blog that Lambda should have investigated the allegation of discrimination further before publicizing it on Facebook.

“With LGBT activists and netizens constantly ready to retaliate against any perceived slight and conservative Christians regularly claiming that many businesses are unfairly attacked by activists, what responsibility does Lambda Legal have to ensure that they aren’t damaging a business’ reputation without reason?” Browning wrote. “Should they be held responsible for any harm they cause the establishment – particularly if the bar is found innocent by the city’s human rights commission?”

In a follow-up statement posted on its website, Lambda Legal questioned the accuracy of Elhoda’s version of what happened.

“The statements of the restaurant’s manager, as recounted in the blog as if they were accurate, however, are in sharp contrast to what our client and her friends experienced,” the Lambda statement says.

“Lambda Legal doesn’t make decisions lightly about how to proceed, and gathered confirmation of the allegations in the OHR complaint before it was filed,” the statement says. “Not only do we have the receipt clearly showing the anti-gay slur, but multiple members of a large group of friends who were with Amira at Bistro 18 have corroborated what actually happened that night.”

Maccubbin, who notes that he helped lobby for passage of the city’s Human Rights Act in the 1970s, said in a comment posted with the Blade that Bistro 18 was getting a “raw deal” by Lambda Legal.

“There is no history of discriminatory actions on the part of this business, its management or employees, other than this one incident by this one former employee,” he said. “The business responded appropriately and should not be castigated, by Lambda Legal or anyone else.”

Maccubbin added, “It’s fine for Lambda Legal to represent the complainant, but they should do so within the parameters of the complaint process, not by fomenting unjust and defamatory vigilantism in social media.”

In her complaint Gray said, “As a transgender woman, I was extremely hurt, embarrassed and upset. I felt that the slur was meant as a slap in the face because of my gender identity and expression, my perceived sexual orientation, my personal appearance, and my association with my friends who are or may have been perceived as being lesbian or gay.”

14
Jun
2014

Hardworking Catania is right choice for mayor

David Catania, Washington D.C., District of Columbia, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Although I was disappointed that Mayor Vincent Gray did not win the Democratic nomination for mayor, last week’s results resolved a conflict that I was facing: I now do not have to chose between Mayor Gray and D.C. Council member David Catania.

Before I went to bed early Wednesday morning, I sent a letter to Catania that I was now enthusiastically supporting his election as mayor next Nov. 4 and that I would be sending my first check to his campaign manager, Ben Young.

Council member Muriel Bowser, who ran as the candidate of resentment, said that she would not support the Democratic nominee if Mayor Gray won the primary. Now that she has won the Democratic nomination, Bowser has reversed herself and says that she now expects every Democrat to support her candidacy.

As chair of the D.C. Council committee with oversight of housing, Bowser has accomplished little. Catania said on Wednesday, ”In a year and a quarter of chairing the committee, she has not advanced a single substantive measure to address a single part of the problem.”

Also on Wednesday, Catania said that in her years on the Council, “all that she has done is to vote yes on about 50 pieces of legislation which I introduced.”

In addition, Bowser scored only a mediocre rating of +5.5 from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance on its candidate questionnaire.

In contrast, Colbert King wrote in his Washington Post column that, “Catania is the Council’s hardest-working member. Probably the smartest and feistiest, too.”

As an openly gay candidate, Catania has won the endorsement of the Victory Fund, which raises funds nationally for gay candidates.

In 1997, Catania first ran an for an at-large Council seat as a Republican against Democratic candidate and former Council chair Arrington Dixon. The conventional wisdom then — as now — was that Catania had no chance of winning. Back then, I believed that wisdom. But I told myself, I am going to vote for him anyway.

On that Tuesday morning, while waiting for a cab to take me to Washington National Airport for a flight to Chicago, I ran over to Jefferson Junior High School and voted for Catania. The following Thursday afternoon, I was on another flight to San Francisco when I noticed that someone had left a copy of USA Today on an empty seat.  I picked up the paper to discover that Catania had won. I was astonished! Our LGBT community now had its first openly gay member of the D.C. City Council.

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

08
Apr
2014

GLAA opposes ENDA over religious exemption

Jeri Hughes and Risk Rosendall

Jeri Hughes and Rick Rosendall. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, D.C.’s leading non-partisan LGBT advocacy group, voted at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night to declare its opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA.

GLAA becomes one of the first prominent local LGBT groups to join a growing number of national LGBT advocacy organizations that have announced their opposition to ENDA within the past two weeks.

The groups have cited a religious exemption provision that was added to ENDA at the time it passed in the Senate last year as the main reason for the opposition to the pending federal legislation. The groups, including GLAA, say the exemption clause would allow an unacceptably large number of religious organizations to continue to discriminate or fire LGBT employees working in non-religious positions.

“In its current form, sweeping religious exemptions in ENDA could enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law by allowing far more organizations to bypass civil rights protections than are permitted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” GLAA President Rick Rosendall said in a statement.

He was referring to the landmark 1964 civil rights law that bans discrimination in employment and other areas based on race, religion and ethnicity. The law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity and thus excludes LGBT people from being protected from discrimination.

Various forms of ENDA have been pending in Congress for more than 40 years. Leaders of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have refused to take a vote on the version of ENDA passed by the Senate. Most political observers don’t believe any version of ENDA could pass in the House as long as the current GOP leadership remains in control of the body.

 

10
Jul
2014

D.C. activists seek to ‘build on victories’ in 2014

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

Mayor Vincent Gray announced late last year that he would seek re-election. The primary is slated for April 1. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT activists in D.C. acknowledge that they live in a city that has had one of the nation’s strongest anti-discrimination laws protecting their community for more than 20 years, the city passed a same-sex marriage law in 2009, and virtually all elected officials strongly support LGBT equality.

With that as a backdrop, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance last week released its 2014 Election Year Agenda for LGBT Equality in Washington, D.C., which, among other things, calls for more than a dozen policy initiatives and for the approval of five LGBT-related bills currently pending before the City Council.

In an announcement last week, GLAA said the 16-page policy document was used to formulate a questionnaire on LGBT issues that the group has sent to all candidates running in the April 1 D.C. primary for mayor and seats on the City Council, just as it has done in every city election since the early 1970s.

“We have won most of the policy reforms for LGBT equality, which is reflected in the title of this year’s policy brief, ‘Building on Victory,’” said GLAA President Rick Rosendall.

“What remains mostly falls into two broad categories – translating our model policies and laws into reality, especially for at-risk populations including LGBT youth and transgender persons, and remaining vigilant,” Rosendall said.

The issues covered in the five pending bills include:

• The Surrogacy Parenting Agreement Act, which calls for updating the city’s surrogate parenting law that gay rights attorneys have called archaic to add provisions to better enable same-sex couples to enter into surrogacy agreements.

• The Domestic Partnership Termination Recognition Amendment Act, which calls for changing D.C.’s existing domestic partnership law to enable couples that don’t live in D.C. to terminate their partnerships in a way that is recognized by courts in other states.

• The LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Amendment Act calls for, among other things, city funds to pay for beds reserved for LGBT youth in homeless shelters and other homeless facilities that activists say traditionally have not met the needs of LGBT or “questioning” youth.

• The Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Act calls for prohibiting licensed therapists in the city from seeking to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of people under the age of 18 through so-called “conversion” therapy. Advocates for the legislation point out that virtually all professional mental health organizations have said the therapy is harmful to the mental health of those participating in such therapy, especially young people.

• The Marriage License Issuance Act calls for amending the city’s marriage law to eliminate the current mandatory, three-day waiting period for obtaining a marriage license. Marriage reform activists, both gay and straight, have called the waiting period requirement an unnecessary relic of the past.

The GLAA policy brief also calls for a requirement by city regulators and the mayor’s office that health insurance plans offered to D.C. government employees and the city’s Health Link insurance exchange program under the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act include full coverage for sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatment for transgender people.

GLAA’s candidate questionnaires ask all candidates running for mayor and for the City Council to state whether they would support such a proposal.

“This is a huge priority in our community,” said Nico Quintana, senior organizer for the D.C. Trans Coalition.

 

Voters to choose among friends in election

 

Many LGBT activists have said that since nearly all of the candidates running this year for mayor and seats on the City Council have strong records of support on LGBT issues, LGBT voters will likely choose among them based on non-LGBT issues.

Mayor Vincent Gray, who some activists say has the strongest record on LGBT issues of any mayor in D.C. history, is being challenged by four members of the City Council, all of whom have expressed strong support for the LGBT community.

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) each have longtime records as strong supporters of LGBT equality. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who opposed same-sex marriage when he ran for mayor in 2006, has said he changed his mind and has become a committed supporter of the city’s same-sex marriage law while continuing his support on all other LGBT-related issues.

Former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis and, Busboys and Poets Restaurant owner and businessman Andy Shallal have also expressed strong support for LGBT rights. The positions of lesser-known mayoral candidates Carlos Allen, a music promoter, Christian Carter, a businessman and civic activist, couldn’t immediately be determined.

Political observers say the LGBT vote, which surveys show will likely comprise at least 10 percent of the vote in the April 1 Democratic primary, could be a key factor in the outcome of the election.

But based on interviews with LGBT activists following the campaigns of the mayoral candidates, the LGBT vote will likely be divided among Gray and his City Council rivals, although many activists believe Gray remains highly popular in the LGBT community.

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

Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) has said he will enter the mayor’s race as an independent if Vincent Gray wins the primary and becomes the Democratic Party nominee. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In looking beyond the primary to the November general election, gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) is being viewed as the wildcard of the 2014 mayoral race. Catania last fall formed an exploratory committee to consider whether to enter the mayoral race, knowing that as an independent he doesn’t have to file papers as a candidate until June, long after the winner of the Democratic primary is known.

In a development that startled some political observers, Catania told the Washington Post that he has already decided he will enter the race if Gray wins the primary and becomes the Democratic Party nominee.

In every mayoral election since the city obtained its home rule government in 1974, the Democratic Party nominee has won his or her race as mayor in the November general election. Catania, however, is telling potential supporters that this year is different and that the electorate is “tired” of politics of the past.

LGBT voters, who have long supported Catania in large numbers, could be faced with a dilemma if forced to choose between Gray and Catania, according to some LGBT advocates.

Next week: A preview of City Council races and the prospects for gay longtime Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).

08
Jan
2014