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Jo Becker’s revisionist history on marriage

Proposition 8, Supreme Court, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade, Becker

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Jo Becker’s book “Forcing the Spring,” which lauds the work of the American Foundation for Equal Rights has generated much debate in the LGBT community. Andrew Sullivan trashed the book and its author and claimed some major credit for himself in the fight for marriage equality.

Elizabeth Birch, former president of the Human Rights Campaign trashed Sullivan in her Huffington Post column. But they apparently agree on one thing: The book by Becker is far from an accurate history of the fight for marriage equality.

Reading the excerpt published in the New York Times, it was easy to accept both Sullivan and Birch were right even if their language was harsh. Michael Calderone in his Huffington Post piece quotes Sullivan’s comments on Becker’s book in which he said it is “truly toxic and morally repellent,” and that it includes instances of “jaw-dropping distortion” and statements “so wrong, so myopic and so ignorant it beggars belief that a respectable journalist could actually put it in print.” I guess Sullivan and Becker won’t be going for brunch anytime soon.

Birch calls Sullivan “insufferable,” and notes, “While it is true that the struggle for marriage equality predates the Proposition 8 case and its aftermath, it also predates Andrew Sullivan. (Did anyone else notice no less than four of Sullivan’s books are pushed in the opening paragraphs of his diatribe against the Prop 8 team? So much for collective credit).”

But why is anyone surprised that Sullivan thinks the world revolves around him? I remember his New York Times magazine cover story on the AIDS epidemic, “When Plagues End,” in 1996 when he declared the AIDS epidemic over because the new medications worked for him. The millions who have died and been infected since may not see themselves in the same light.

Both Sullivan and Birch offered strong statements about what was left out of Becker’s book and after reading the excerpt, I was left wondering how much money AFER paid her to write it. It clearly is not a history of the fight for gay marriage but rather a book trying to create heroes of a select few. This is not to denigrate the work of Chad Griffin or the actual work of attorneys who fought the Prop 8 fight or the real heroes of that fight, the couples who brought suit.

But in the excerpt (I haven’t read the full book) she portrays Ken Mehlman as a hero, glancing over his personal responsibility for the anti-gay rhetoric and devastating policies of the Bush administration. She never mentions that while Olsen was one of the lawyers for these couples he was at the same time supporting the Romney/Ryan ticket that was promising to repeal all gay rights advances and to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would be guaranteed to rule against this case.

There are so many people and organizations deeply involved in the struggle for marriage equality. The fact is, the case brought by AFER to the Supreme Court was a partial victory instead of a possible total loss because Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration, submitted a brief offering the court what some called an “off-ramp.” It was his brief quoted in Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion that allowed the court to reject the case and return it to the Appellate Court in California where the ruling would only impact that state.

The Becker book apparently leaves out nearly all the activists who have spent a good part of their lives fighting for full human and civil rights for the LGBT community. Many have spent the years working for marriage equality that Mehlman and Olsen spent developing and supporting policies to prevent it.

From Hawaii, where the Supreme Court first ruled in 1993 that marriage equality was constitutional beginning the long fight there, to Massachusetts, which became the first state to legalize marriage equality in 2004; to Iowa that legalized it in 2009 to D.C., the fight for marriage was an effort by thousands. D.C. advocates spent 20 years preparing the stage and working to elect a City Council that would vote yes when the right time came. The question Becker says Griffin put to Obama about when he would “evolve” was asked by many others at those small $37,500 a couple fundraisers. I myself put him on the spot with the same question, and got the same answer, at one of those events on Sept. 30, 2011.

I hope that when marriage equality becomes a reality across the entire nation that someone will write the real history of the fight that won it. That book will be beneficial to future generations in a way that the Becker book will never be.

24
Apr
2014

Hobby Lobby plans D.C. Bible museum

Bible museum, gay news, Washington Blade

A Bible museum is scheduled to open in 2017 in a sprawling building at 300 D St., S.W., that was the home of the Washington Design Center. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The evangelical Christian family that owns the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores plans to open a Bible museum in Washington two blocks from the National Mall, prompting outrage from some LGBT advocates.

The concern expressed by LGBT advocates comes just one month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s contention in a controversial lawsuit that corporations with religious owners cannot be forced to provide health insurance coverage for contraception.

“Leaders in Washington should soundly reject a theme park for extremism disguised as a legitimate museum,” said Wayne Besen, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Truth Wins Out.

“The project, conceived and funded by Hobby Lobby owner Steve Green, would make a mockery of surrounding museums, which are based on research, history and scholarship,” Besen said in a July 16 statement.

Representatives of the Museum of the Bible, Inc., a non-profit organization created by Green, president and CEO of the multi-billion dollar Hobby Lobby store chain, say the museum will include a collection of rare and ancient biblical documents and artifacts of proven historical significance.

“The museum won’t be interpreting the Bible but presenting it from a scholarly perspective,” said museum spokesperson Mark DeMoss in a statement released to the Blade.

“This museum is about a book: the best-selling, most read and, arguably, most influential of all time,” DeMoss said. “A lot of people are making assumptions about a museum that hasn’t even been built yet.”

Information on the Museum of the Bible website says the museum is scheduled to open in 2017 in a sprawling building at 300 D St., S.W., that has been the home of the Washington Design Center and its interior designers and furniture showrooms for more than two decades.

The building, which has been designated as a historic landmark, was used between 1923 and 1959 as a cold storage and ice making plant. At one point it was owned by a Chicago-based company founded by Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy.

DeMoss’s office told the Blade that the Museum of the Bible, Inc., purchased the building in July 2012 for $50 million.

Last week, the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board gave final approval of the Museum of the Bible’s architectural plans to convert the building into a museum.

Gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Andy Litsky, former chair of ANC 6D, which has jurisdiction over the area where the museum will be located, said the ANC also voted to approve the use of the building as a museum.

“It’s private property,” Litsky said. “They showed us their architectural drawings and explained the changes they plan to make,” he said. “We did not question the content of the museum. I don’t believe that is our role.”

Besen of Truth Wins Out said he believes it is within the role of the D.C. government to raise questions about a museum that he says would promote misinformation and discrimination. He called on D.C. government officials to invoke zoning restrictions to block the museum from opening so close to the National Mall, where he said tourists and visitors would mistakenly assume it is part of the federal Smithsonian Institution’s museum system.

“It’s not designed to be a museum but to be a Trojan horse to get their ideas and make it look and feel like a museum,” Besen told the Blade. “These are hard core rigid politicized, radicalized ideologues that want to pretend they represent Christianity when in fact it’s just a narrow version of it and the most virulent and dangerous version of it.”

Besen was the only LGBT advocate reached by the Blade who called for preventing a Bible museum operated by the Green family from opening near the National Mall. Officials with other local and national LGBT groups, including the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, cited First Amendment grounds for allowing a privately owned museum to open on private property, even if they disagreed with its message.

“LGBT groups should not seek to suppress the First Amendment rights of those who oppose us,” said GLAA President Rick Rosendall. “As we are told by our friends in the ACLU…the proper response to offensive speech is more speech,” he said in an email to the Blade.

“Urging the government to suppress ignorant and obnoxious viewpoints is not only heavy-handed and improper, it is unnecessary since we have the better arguments and science on our side,” Rosendall said.

Rosendall and representatives of other LGBT organizations said they nevertheless remain concerned that a Green family-sponsored Bible museum could be used to promote an interpretation of the Bible that considers homosexuality an abomination – an interpretation that activists and many biblical scholars say is no longer supported by scholarly biblical research.

Green and his Museum of the Bible spokespersons have given conflicting signals on what, if any, message the museum would present on issues like homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Museum of the Bible spokesperson DeMoss, founder of an Atlanta-based, religious-oriented public relations firm bearing his name, did not respond to written questions from the Blade asking about Steve Green’s views on LGBT rights, homosexuality and the Bible, or whether the museum would address those issues.

However, The New Republic magazine reported in a March 25, 2014 article that the museum’s chief operating officer, Cary Summers, said the museum “won’t mention homosexuality, abortion, or any other ‘political commentary.’”

On Wednesday, one of DeMoss’s assistants, Adrienne Young, responded to the Blade by email, saying, “We can confirm that The New Republic report accurately reflects what will (not) be presented in the museum’s exhibits.”

The New York Times reported in a July 16 story about the Bible museum that Green himself has referred to the Bible as “a reliable historical document” and said he is developing a public school curriculum “to reintroduce this book to this nation” as part of the museum project.

“This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught,” the Times quoted Green as saying in a speech last year in New York. “There are lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. If we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary,” the Times quoted him as saying in his speech.

Observers who favor a scholarly, non-judgmental approach to the planned museum point to Green’s expenditure of $30 million of his own money to acquire in recent years a vast collection of Bible-related documents and artifacts from sites throughout the world that are to be part of the museum’s exhibits.

Known as the Green collection, the objects and documents include early recordings of the New Testament in the Aramaic language, ancient manuscripts, Torahs, and a nearly completed book of Psalms on papyrus paper, according to Scott Carroll, an archaeologist and historian who acted as an adviser to Green on the acquisition of the artifacts.

Although Carroll’s role as director of the Green Collection gave Green’s plans for the museum credibility, Carroll, a former Baylor University professor, told the New York Times he decided in 2012 to withdraw from the Green Collection and museum project.

“While he believes in the scholarly roots and historical significance of the collection, he is concerned that the Green family faces a difficult challenge in balancing its passion for ministry with the objective mission of a museum,” the Times reports.

Brent Childers is executive director of Faith In America, a national group that seeks to protect LGBT youth from mistreatment and abuse due to what he says is an incorrect interpretation of the Bible pertaining to homosexuality. He said the Green family has a right to open a Bible museum in Washington. But he’s concerned that it could be harmful to LGBT young people visiting its exhibits if it promotes a message of hostility toward homosexuality.

“If you walk into that museum and you see a section on biblical interpretation and how this historical book has been misinterpreted in the past, that could be a great service,” Childers said. “But from what I’m reading I don’t know if I could expect to see such a section in Green’s private museum.”

Added Childers, “If it’s going to be a museum where only his interpretation of the Bible is going to be on display, then I think that would be an unfortunate endeavor for everyone because it would open up divisiveness.”

Rev. Dwayne Johnson, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, an LGBT-oriented congregation, said he, too, would oppose an effort to block the Green family’s museum from opening on private property.

“Those of us who come from another perspective will have to be very alert and monitor the messaging and offer a counter voice when that messaging is going to have anything that would potentially lead to self-hatred or violence or an anti-gay message,” he said.

“At this point the weight of scholarship does not support the Bible as condemning homosexuality,” Johnson said. “The Bible does not speak to homosexuality as we experience it today. That’s why you’re seeing so many churches that are now becoming more accepting and affirming,” he said.

“It’s based on further weight of scholarship as they continue to do research on the original languages and looking at the context,” according to Johnson.

“I don’t think this proposed Bible museum is appropriate for the National Mall because the museums on the Mall should reflect the non-religious values of our nation,” said Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of the national LGBT advocacy group Center for Black Equity.

“However, I would be careful not to say that a Bible museum should not be built in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “The same argument could be used by those who would be opposed to an LGBT museum in Washington, D.C., which I support.”

Tim Gold, founder and director of the Velvet Foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt group created to build and maintain a National LGBT Museum in Washington, said the foundation is currently finishing a comprehensive master plan for the museum and hopes to have a site selected by the end of the year.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said HRC supports religious freedom for all people and recognizes that people of faith increasingly are supporting LGBT equality and viewing that support as an extension of their faith.

“To the extent the National Bible Museum empowers and enlightens then it will be a welcome addition,” he said. “But if the museum misuses the holy document as a cudgel for discrimination against LGBT people then it will have not only sullied the Bible, it will have exposed a dastardly political agenda.”

Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out, Bible Museum, gay news, Washington Blade

‘The project, conceived and funded by Hobby Lobby owner Steve Green, would make a mockery of surrounding museums, which are based on research, history and scholarship,’ said Wayne Besen. (Photo by Michael Murphy)

30
Jul
2014

2013 in photography

2013 was a banner year for the LGBT community. Here are the top Washington Blade photos of the year. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen, Tyler Grigsby, Michael Key, Kevin Majoros, Damien Salas, Lee Whitman and Jon Wooten) buyphoto 

03
Jan
2014

HRC launches Southern LGBT campaign

South, Human Rights Campaign, American Foundation for Equal Rights, AFER, HRC, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, Virginia, Chad Griffin, Tom Shuttleworth, Carol Schall, Emily, Mary Townley, Adam Umhoefer, David Boies, Ted Olson, Tim Bostic, Washington Blade, Tony London

“Right now, this country is deeply divided into two Americas — one where LGBT equality is nearly a reality and the other where LGBT people lack the most fundamental measures of equal citizenship,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. (Washington Blade file by Michael Key).

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign on April 28 announced a new campaign designed to bolster pro-LGBT efforts in the South.

Project One America establishes what the organization described as “permanent campaigns” in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC will spend $8.5 million over three years and devote 20 staffers to the effort.

“Right now, this country is deeply divided into two Americas — one where LGBT equality is nearly a reality and the other where LGBT people lack the most fundamental measures of equal citizenship,” said HRC President Chad Griffin, who was born and raised in Arkansas.

Gays and lesbians in the three states have filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Campaign for Southern Equality last year launched a campaign to highlight the need for gay nuptials in the South.

30
Apr
2014

SMYAL names new executive director

SMYAL, Sultan Shakir, gay news, Washington Blade

SMYAL has been carrying out its mission of supporting and empowering LGBTQ youth in the D.C. metro area for more than 20 years.

Sultan Shakir, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Youth and Campus Engagement Program and a longtime community organizer, will be the new executive director of the local LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL beginning Aug. 4.

According to a SMYAL announcement on Thursday, Shakir will replace SMYAL’s current executive director, Andrew Barnett, who’s leaving the organization to begin a doctorate program in clinical psychology this fall at George Washington University.

SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, has been carrying out its mission of supporting and empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth in the D.C. metro area for more than 20 years, according to a statement released by the group.

“Sultan Shakir is the right leader for SMYAL at an exciting time of change,” said Mike Schwartz, chair of the group’s board of directors.

Prior to serving in his current position at HRC, Shakir served as director of the campaign to persuade the Maryland General Assembly to pass a marriage equality law in 2012. He served in a leadership role in pushing for D.C.’s marriage equality law in 2009.

Before joining HRC in 2006, Shakir worked as a project manager with Grassroots Solutions, a consulting firm “where he trained young people nationwide to create progressive change,” a SMYAL statement says. The statement says he began his career as a community organizer in Baltimore.

“Andrew Barnett leaves SMYAL recognized among the LGBTQ and donor communities as a great way to invest in our young people,” Schwartz said in a statement announcing Shakir’s appointment. “LGBT young people in our area have safer, healthier and brighter lives because of Andrew Barnett,” he said.

31
Jul
2014

Pride House

The Human Rights Campaign, Team DC, Capital Pride, Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies and Pride House International hosted “Pride House: Washington Olympics Opening Ceremony Watch Event” at HRC headquarters on Friday to benefit the Russia LGBT Sport Federation. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) Pride House 

08
Feb
2014

Kluwe named grand marshal of Pride parade

Capital Pride Parade, gay news, Washington Blade

Though the parade and festival are next weekend, many official Capital Pride events are underway now. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Some moan and groan every November about so-called “Christmas creep” — retailers setting up their displays earlier, it seems, every year — but a similar thing is happening with Capital Pride and its various spin-off events, both official and unofficial and so far, no vociferous protest voices have emerged.

In fact, if Capital Pride organizers had their way, Pride 365 would be a way of life in Washington and beyond. This year’s theme is “building our bright future.”

“We really want this to be not just some event that gets trotted out once a year every June,” says Ryan Bos, Capital Pride’s executive director. “I’m extremely excited at the way we’ve seen things grow just in my short tenure, about two-and-a-half years, here. We’ve seen a variety of new partnerships and community excitement from those wanting to participate and support the organization. It’s extremely exciting to see the attention our community is receiving and realize that people want to be part of what Pride here represents.”

Capital Pride events are in full swing. They officially kick off Friday, but some events, such as the May 21 Pride Heroes Gala, have already been held. Youth Pride unofficially kicked off the D.C. Pride season on May 3 and Trans Pride and D.C. Black Pride also had their events this month. Latino Pride (see more on page 20) kicked off May 25 but has its main events this weekend. Anyone wanting to make a $10 donation can text the word “pride” to 85944 and it will be added to your phone bill.

Highlights of this year’s Capital Pride events include (all events are free and open to the public except where noted):

Build Your Best Life: Total Health Festival will be Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. At Kaiser Permanent Total Health (700 2nd St. N.E.). It’s billed as a day of learning about LGBT health with workshops, presentations, information booths, exercise instruction, nutrition counseling, giveaways and more. Whitman-Walker Health, SMYAL, Casa Ruby, Rainbow Families D.C., Kaiser Permanente and many other local groups are slated to participate.

Day in the Park is Sunday from 4-10 p.m. at Francis Stevens Elementary School’s Francis Field (2425 N St. N.W.), and will feature the Stonewall Kickball’s Drag Ball event and an outdoor moving screening of the movie “Space Balls!” Birdie LaCage hosts. Donations are welcome. The event is a fundraiser for the D.C. Center and Capital Pride. Gates open at 4. The game begins at 5. The movie begins at sunset, about 8 p.m.

• The third annual Music in the Night is Monday from 7-10 p.m. at Town Danceboutique (2009 8th St., N.W.). The event is a musical theater cabaret hosted by Joshua Morgan, a local actor and co-artistic director of No Rules Theatre. Bayla Whitten, Matt Delorenzo, Shayna Blass, Janet Aldrich, Austion Colby, Roz White and others are slated to perform. Tickets are $20.

• The 31st annual Capital Pride Interfaith Service is also Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. and will bring together nearly 20 LGBT-affirming faith groups. The theme will be “building interfaith allies” and Rev. Frank Schafer, a United Methodist pastor defrocked last year for officiating at his gay son’ s wedding, will be the keynote speaker. The Community Choir of Love and Justice, led by the revs. Candy Holmes and David North, will perform. The service will be held at Luther Place Memorial Church at 1226 Vermont Ave., N.W. in Thomas Circle.

• An LGBT poetry celebration will be held Tuesday from noon-2 p.m. on the first floor of the Library of Congress (Thomas Jefferson Building). This inaugural event will feature established and emerging gay and lesbian poets such as Joan Larkin, Kamilah Aisha Moon, D.A. Powell and Dan Vera as well as a display of the library’s rare LGBT materials. Book sales and a singing will follow.

• On Tuesday night, Capital Pride’s Women’s Spoken Word event featuring Adele Hampton and Mary Bowman and hosted by Shelly Bell will be held from 8:30-11:30 p.m. at Busboys and Poets (1025 5th St., N.W.). Tickets are $5 per person.

• The D.C. Bike Party Pride Run will be held starting in Dupont Circle on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Those participating are encouraged to dress festively with “your hottest pinks and most electric blues” with “feather boas and sparkles … strongly encouraged.”

• Human Rights Campaign, Capital Pride and SpeakeasyDC are joining forces for Born This Way: Stories about Queer Culture in America to be held Wednesday from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at HRC headquarters (1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.). A reception and cash bar starts at 6:30 with the SpeakeasyDC performance — billed as “an evening of entertaining, thought provoking and exquisitely crafted true stories that showcase a range of LGBT perspectives” (recommended for adults) will start at 7:30.

• AARP will present Who’s Taking Care of You on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams store (1526 14th St. N.W.), a panel discussion and networking reception to discuss caregiving and isolation among LGBT seniors.

• The D.C. Front Runners have the Pride Run 5K June 6 at 7 p.m. at Congressional Cemetery (1801 E St., S.E.). Cost is $40 or $30 for those under 21. Online registration closes at 11:59 p.m. June 5. Visit dcfrontreunners.org for details.

Blast Off!, the official Pride opening party from Brightest Young Things and Capital Pride, has its “spaaaaaaaace party” on June 6 at 9 p.m. at Union Market (1309 5th St. N.W.) COST?

• The 39th annual Pride Parade kicks off June 7 at 4:30 p.m. at 22nd and P streets, N.W. and travels 1.5 miles through Dupont Circle and 17th Street by Logan Circle and ends at 14th and S streets. About 150,000 watch the parade each year, which features around 170 floats/contingents. A review stand is located at 15th and P. The first contingent is expected there around 5 p.m. The final contingents should arrive there about 7:15 p.m.

For the first time, an Armed Forces Color Guard from the Department of Defense will present and retire colors at the parade. Organizers say they’re excited about “this significant step forward for the community as a whole and particularly for those LGBT members of the armed forces.”

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, an LGBT ally, will serve as grand marshal.

• The Cherry Fund will host an after party in the wee hours — from 3:30-9:30 a.m. Sunday at Tropicalia (2001 14th St. N.W.) featuring DJs David Merrill and Benny K. Tickets are $35 and are available at cherryfund.org.

• And on June 8, the Capital Pride Street Festival will be held in its usual spot on Pennsylvania Avenue, between 3rd and 7th streets, where the Capitol Stage, with the U.S. Capitol visible just behind, has been a tradition for 18 years. Festival exhibit hours are noon-7 p.m. and will feature 300 sponsors/vendors, three stages, two beverage gardens, a family area, numerous food vendors and headline performances by Karmin, Bonnie McKee, DJ Cassidy and Betty Who. The festival typically draws about 200,000 people. A $10-20 donation is requested.

Those attending the festival will have a chance to participate in the Future is Here, a “time machine” project from the National LGBT Museum and Capital Pride in which participants can record oral histories in video booths that are being collected for next year’s 40th anniversary of Capital Pride. The Future is Here is also a family and educational activity area at the festival with a moon bounce, water slide, refreshments and more.

Out DJ Tracy Young will spin at the Capitol Sunset Closing Party just after the festival.

Visit capitalpride.org for more information.

29
May
2014

‘Juno’ actress comes out

Ellen Page, Juno, X-Men, hollywood, gay, lesbian, gay news, Washington Blade

Actress Ellen Page. (Photo by Ninha Morandini; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Ellen Page, Oscar nominated for playing a pregnant teen in the hit 2007 film “Juno,” told a Human Rights Campaign crowd in Las Vegas Friday that she’s gay, several media outlets have reported.

“I’m here today because I am gay,” Page, 26, told the audience gathered at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for HRC’s THRIVE LGBT youth conference. “And because maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.”

“I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission,” Page said. “I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain.”

She’s slated to appear next in the upcoming film “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

The Hollywood Reporter broke the story and has more here.

15
Feb
2014

Former HRC president to co-chair D.C. Council campaign

Joe Solmonese, HRC, gay news, Washington Blade

Former HRC president Joe Solmonese will assist Khalid Pitts’ campaign for Council. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Joe Solmonese, former president of the Human Rights Campaign, has been named co-chair of the campaign of D.C. businessman and progressive activist Khalid Pitts, who’s running as an independent for the at-large Council seat being vacated by mayoral candidate David Catania.

Pitts and his wife, Diane Gross, are owners of Cork Restaurant and Wine Bar and Cork Market and Tasting Room, separate businesses located along the restaurant and entertainment corridor on 14th Street, N.W., near U Street.

Pitts also serves as president of US Action, a progressive advocacy group, and secretary-treasurer of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, which administers the city’s health insurance exchange program associated with the Obamacare law.

“Khalid Pitts is a friend, a community organizer, local business owner and a thoughtful progressive,” Solmonese said in a statement released by the Pitts campaign. “He has been a part of D.C.’s economic revitalization and has a thoughtful and responsible vision for the city’s future.”

Added Solmonese: “Khalid and I have talked on a number of occasions about the great strides we have made here in D.C. on behalf of LGBT equality. And we are both proud to have been a part of the fight to win marriage equality here.”

Pitts is one of at least seven candidates that have filed papers to run for the at-large Council seat as an independent. Democrat turned independent Elissa Silverman, who received strong support from LGBT activists in her previous unsuccessful race for the at-large seat, has been reaching out to the LGBT community for support this year.

Also running for the at-large seat being vacated by Catania is gay Republican Marc Morgan, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary on April 1.

Solmonese is a managing director and founding partner of Gavin/Solmonese, a corporate strategy and public affairs consulting firm with an office in D.C.

29
May
2014

Cartoon: Ellen Page comes out

Ellen Page, Human Rights Campaign, Juno, coming out, HRC, gay news, Washington Blade

Ellen Page comes out. (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

19
Feb
2014