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Bowser wins Stein Club endorsement

Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade

Muriel Bowser won the endorsement of the Stein Club in her bid for mayor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, voted Monday night to endorse D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) for mayor.

The club also voted to endorse Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) in her re-election bid, Ward 1 Council candidate Brianne Nadeau and Ward 6 Council candidate Charles Allen. Bonds, Nadeau and Allen each won the Democratic nomination for their respective Council seats in the city’s April 1 primary.

Bowser also won the Democratic primary, beating Mayor Vincent Gray and three other Council members who ran for mayor.

The club’s vote on the endorsements followed a town hall meeting in which Bowser, Nadeau and Allen spoke and answered questions from club members about their positions on both LGBT and other issues.

The meeting was held at the Human Rights Campaign building at 17th Street and Rhode Island Ave., N.W.

The endorsements also came after at least five club members who are supporting D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor sought to block an endorsement vote, citing provisions of the club’s bylaws that they said did not allow such a vote unless a special endorsement forum was held or unless a separate vote was taken to suspend the rules.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club’s executive committee carefully reviewed the bylaws and determined they did not prevent the club from voting to endorse Bowser and the three Council candidates as well as shadow Senate incumbent Paul Straus, who also won the Democratic nomination for his post in the April 1 primary.

The vote on Monday night came in the form of a motion introduced by Stein Club member Jeri Hughes that called for endorsing all Democratic nominees that the club didn’t endorse for the primary.

The club didn’t make primary endorsements for mayor, the three Council seats and the shadow Senate seat because no candidate obtained the required 60 percent of the vote needed for an endorsement as specified by the club’s bylaws.

At Monday night’s meeting, the club voted 35 to 8 to approve a motion calling for the endorsements. There were two abstentions, two “no votes,” and one spoiled ballot. The vote for the endorsements passed with 73 percent of those voting, easily clearing the 60 percent rule.

“I’m glad the Democrats are going to support the Democrats,” Bowser said after the vote. “That’s what the Gertrude Stein is all about.”

Bowser was referring to the discussion last month by some club members, including the officers, that an endorsement vote for Bowser and the Council candidates wasn’t needed because it should be assumed that a Democratic club would support the Democratic nominees.

Other club members, however, speaking on condition that they not be identified, suggested that the club’s officers wanted to avoid a direct endorsement vote in the general election out of fear that Catania supporters might line up enough votes to block the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement.

Peoples said the officers never sought to avoid an endorsement vote. She said the officers waited before scheduling an endorsement vote to ensure that the process was open and club members had a chance to weigh in on the decision. Peoples said the officers also wanted to hold a town hall meeting to give members the opportunity to listen and ask questions of the candidates before voting on an endorsement.

Monday’s vote suggests that Catania supporters could only muster about 13 votes, which fell short of the 40 percent needed to block an endorsement.

The club members that spoke out against an endorsement of Bowser on Monday night were Don Haines, Paul Kuntzler, Lane Hudson, Pat Hawkins, Robin Helprin and John Klenert. All except Haines are supporting Catania. Haines said he’s undecided on whom to back for mayor.

After the endorsement vote Haines introduced a motion calling for the club to ask the City Council to withhold a salary for the mayor in his or her first two years in office. Haines said the motion was directed at Bowser, whom he said has sought to impose a similar withholding of a salary for the city’s shadow House and Senate members, who currently work as volunteers without a salary.

He noted that Bowser proposed that no salary should be approved for the Shadow positions for at least two years during which time the people holding those positions must “prove their worth.”

At the request of former Stein President Kurt Vorndran members voted to table Haines’ motion.

10
Jun
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31
Mar
2014

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

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

Case of assault on drag performer expected to be dropped

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

Miles Deniro (Screen capture)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday approved a plea bargain agreement expected to result in the dismissal of a charge of simple assault against the second of two women accused of dragging a gay male drag performer by the hair at a D.C. carry-out pizzeria in June that was captured on video.

Under the agreement offered by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Raymone Harding, 28, of Gaithersburg, Md., pleaded guilty to the assault charge in exchange for being allowed to withdraw the plea and have the charge dismissed if she successfully completes 48 hours of community service over a period of six months.

The agreement also requires her to stay out of trouble, stay away from the man she was charged with assaulting — Miles DeNiro, 24 — and undergo a drug test as directed by the court’s Pre-Trial Services Agency.

Judge Juliet J. McKenna approved the agreement for Harding one week after she approved an identical plea agreement for co-defendant Rachel M. Sahle, 22, also from Gaithersburg.

“This is essentially less than a slap on the wrist,” DeNiro told the Blade when informed of the outcome of Friday’s court proceeding.

He said one of the prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Missler, called him a little over a week ago to inform him of plans for the plea bargain offer and to get his thoughts on the matter. DeNiro said Missler told him the two women would be required to perform community service work rather than jail time.

“He said allegedly the judge they are seeing is lenient so he was leaning toward doing this so that way they get community service no matter what,” said DeNiro.

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

A video of the altercation involving drag performer Miles DeNiro at Manny & Olga’s pizzeria on 14th Street, N.W., shows these two women assaulting DeNiro as one of them drags him by his hair across the floor. (Screen captures)

In a development that had not been previously disclosed, Deniro told the Blade on Friday that he was called to testify before a grand jury convened by prosecutors in July in connection with the assault charges pending against Harding and Sahle.

According to court records, the grand jury did not hand down an indictment in the case, an outcome that court observers consider unusual because grand juries usually follow the recommendation of prosecutors by approving an indictment.

The decision by prosecutors to offer the two women the plea agreement is likely to surprise LGBT activists because it came shortly after the U.S. Attorney’s office told the court it was looking into the possibility of upgrading the assault charge with a “bias” or hate crime designation.

“The government is not seeking a bias enhancement based on the results of a thorough investigation and review of the case,” William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, told the Blade.

Miller said he could not comment on whether a grand jury is convened on a specific case but said that in general grand juries are sometimes called to assist in an investigation rather than for the purpose of an indictment.

“It is used to get people to testify under oath as an investigative tool,” he said.

D.C. attorney Dale Edwin Sanders, who practices criminal law in D.C. and Virginia, said the fact that the assault against DeNiro was captured on video provided prosecutors with a strong case with a good chance of obtaining a conviction against the two women had the case gone to trial.

He said DeNiro’s statements that the two women made anti-transgender and anti-gay remarks toward him during and immediately after the attack made a strong case for designating the incident as a hate crime.

“I think this is ridiculously lenient for what happened,” said Sanders in referring to the plea agreement. “To me this sounds like a total whitewash.”

The June 23 incident at Manny & Olga’s pizzeria at 1841 14th St., N.W., created an uproar in the LGBT community after a customer used his cell phone to record the altercation on video and posted the video on a popular hip-hop music website, resulting in it being viewed by thousands in D.C. and across the country.

According to police and court records, the video taken by the customer and a separate video taken by security cameras at the restaurant show DeNiro being punched, kicked and dragged across the floor by the hair after being knocked down by the two women. The video posted online also shows that many of the bystanders screamed and laughed as the altercation unfolded. DeNiro said no one, including employees at the restaurant, intervened to stop the assault.

He said one or both of the women shouted that he was a man and a “tranny” as they hit him. According to his account of what happened, one of the women called him a “faggot” after the altercation ended when they saw him walk past them on the sidewalk outside.

Miller of the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the plea agreements offered to the two women are part of a widely used court “diversion/deferred sentencing” program that’s limited to misdemeanor cases involving defendants with no prior criminal record.

“Where a defendant is charged with an offense that is potentially diversion eligible, we look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the event and make a determination as to whether diversion is appropriate,” he said.

“A supervisor has to approve a simple assault case for diversion, adding another layer of scrutiny,” he added.

Hassan Naveed, co-chair of the D.C.-based Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), said the group is assessing the plea bargain agreement offered in the Denaro assault case and would issue a statement on the development shortly.

D.C. transgender activist Jeri Hughes said she was troubled over the outcome of the case, which she said appears to her as a hate crime.

“You’ve got people like trans women in jail because they are poor and turn to prostitution,” Hughes said. “And here are two people who commit a violent attack and they are going to walk. This is unacceptable.”

28
Sep
2013

Trans activist Hughes to run for Stein Club president

Jeri Hughes, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeri Hughes (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Veteran D.C. transgender activist Jeri Hughes this week announced she is a candidate for president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in the group’s annual officers’ election scheduled for Nov. 18.

Hughes is the second candidate so far to enter the race for the president’s position. Stein Club Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs Angela Peoples announced two weeks ago that she was running for president after incumbent President Martin Garcia said he would step down as president and run for the vice presidential seat held by Peoples.

If successful, Hughes would be the first transgender person to serve as the club’s president. Transgender and Democratic Party activist Julius Agars served as the club’s vice president two years ago.

Meanwhile, Stein Club Secretary Jimmie Luthuli announced this week that she is running for the position of vice president for administration. That post is being vacated by incumbent Vincent Paolo Villano, who isn’t running for re-election. As of this week, no one has announced candidacy for the Stein Club treasurer’s position, which is being vacated by gay Democratic activist Barrie Daneker, who also decided not to seek re-election.

“Everyone who knows me knows I’m a fighter who works hard to help the community,” Hughes said. “Whatever the issues are I will fight for them.”

She added, “This has very little to do with Martin and Angela. I want to give the existing members a choice.”

Garcia, Peoples and Vallano ran as a slate in the club’s election last year in opposition to the slate organized by then-Stein Club President Lateefah Williams. Their victory, which caught some of the club’s longtime members by surprise, resulted in a change in leadership and came about after an effort by the then challengers to sign up more than 50 new members supportive of them just days prior to the election.

At the time, Hughes criticized the new group for “stacking” the election, even though she acknowledged their actions were allowed under the club’s bylaws. The club has since changed its bylaws to require prospective members to join the club at least 30 days prior to a club election in order to be eligible to vote.

31
Oct
2013

Stein Club election heats up

Martin Garcia, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade, Stein Club

Martin Garcia, Stein Club’s current president, is now running for vice president. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club officials Martin Garcia and Angela Peoples issued a statement on Tuesday announcing the names of three people running with them on a slate for the five officer positions in the club’s Nov. 18 election.

Garcia, the club’s current president, announced last month he’s running for vice president for legislative and political affairs, a post currently held by Peoples. Peoples, in turn, announced she’s running for president.

In the statement released on Tuesday, Garcia and Peoples said Vietnamese-American “queer community organizer, advocate and poet” Diana Bui will run on their slate for the position of vice president for administration; local transgender activist Bobbi Strang, who has worked with the D.C. Trans Coalition and Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), will run for secretary; and local gay activist Terrance Laney, a former special assistant for the LGBT advocacy organization National Black Justice Coalition, will run on the slate for Stein Club treasurer.

Peoples is being challenged in the race for president by veteran D.C. transgender activist and longtime Stein Club member Jeri Hughes. Bui will be running for the vice president for administration post against Jimmie Luthuli, who currently serves as the club’s secretary. Luthuli told the Blade she is backing Hughes for president.

No candidates have surfaced so far to challenge Garcia, Strang or Laney. The club members currently holding the secretary and treasurer’s positions being sought by Strange and Laney are not running for re-election.

“I could not be happier with the talent and experience represented on our slate,” Peoples said in the statement. “The club’s membership is full of diverse backgrounds and perspectives; Diana, Terrance, and Bobbi are a tribute to that diversity.”

Luthuli, a public policy analyst, said she and Hughes would bring years of experience and involvement in the LGBT community to their positions as president and vice president for administration.

“Jeri and I will be asking members of the club to support us,” she said.

06
Nov
2013

‘Incumbent’ slate wins Stein Club elections

Angela Peoples, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Angela Peoples won election as the Stein Club’s president Monday night in a hotly contested race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s vice president for legislative and political affairs, Angela Peoples, won election as the club’s president Monday night in a hotly contested race against transgender activist and longtime club member Jeri Hughes.

Peoples ran on a slate that she and Stein Club President Martin Garcia organized after the two decided to swap positions, with Garcia stepping down as president to run for the vice presidential position currently held by Peoples.

Peoples won by a vote of 49 to 24. Garcia ran unopposed and was declared the winner of the vice president’s position by acclamation.

Stein Club members supporting both Peoples and Hughes said both candidates were well qualified to serve as president but a majority chose Peoples as part of a new, younger leadership team that won control of the club in its 2012 election on a platform of reinvigorating the organization by aggressively building a larger, more diverse membership.

“This year we saw a lot of energy and enthusiasm and I think we’re going to carry that into 2014,” Peoples said after the election results were announced. “We’re going to continue to raise money, we’re going to reach out and hold candidates accountable to move our community and our issues forward,” she said, referring to next year’s D.C. mayoral and City Council elections.

“The Stein Club will be fine,” Hughes told the Blade in a statement after the election. “It was a fair election. I truly appreciate the support that I received.”

The Stein Club, which celebrated its 37th anniversary in October, is the city’s largest LGBT political organization.

Peoples and Garcia earlier this month invited three new members of the club — Diana Bui, Terrance Laney and Bobbie Strang — to join their slate of candidates for vice president for administration, treasurer and secretary respectively. Laney and Strang won in uncontested races after incumbent treasurer Barrie Daneker chose not to run for re-election and incumbent secretary Jimmie Luthuli ran for vice president for administration.

Shortly after Luthuli announced her intent to run for the vice presidential post Bui entered the race for the position as a member of the Garcia-Peoples slate.

During a candidate discussion period on Monday, Bui described herself as a “Vietnamese-American queer” who has worked in the fields of public relations, media and social justice advocacy. She said she would become a “fearless” advocate for LGBT equality if elected to the position.

Luthuli, who was not part of the Garcia-Peoples slate in the 2012 club election, said her status as a longtime club member and LGBT rights advocate would bring continuity and more experience to the club’s leadership team.

Bui beat Luthuli in the race for the vice president for administration post by a vote of 40 to 31.

Biographical information on members of their slate released by Garcia and Peoples says Bui serves as co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum D.C. Chapter. She also heads the immigration advocacy work for the Asian Pacific Labor Alliance in the role of membership and chapter coordinator, according to the biographical information.

Laney, the club’s treasurer-elect, recently worked on the successful marriage equality campaign in Rhode Island and previously served as special assistant to the CEO at the LGBT advocacy group National Black Justice Coalition.

Strang, who will assume her duties as Stein secretary in January, has been active with the D.C. Trans Coalition, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), and the D.C. Center, information released by the club says. It says she has also worked at the D.C. Office of Latino Affairs and currently works as the first openly transgender employee at the D.C. Department of Employment Services.

Monday night’s election came just under a year after Garcia, Peoples and Villano organized a successful challenge to a slate organized by then-Stein Club President Lateefah Williams, resulting in the ouster of the club’s established leadership.

Supporters credited Garcia, a political consultant, with helping to recruit as many as 50 new members in December 2012 to back his slate, prompting Hughes and other longtime members of the club to complain that the new group “stacked” the election.

But Garcia and others, including many of the club’s longtime members, acknowledged that signing up new members immediately prior and up to the time of the election meeting was permitted under the club’s bylaws.

Earlier this year the club voted to change the bylaws to require that people be members of the club for at least 30 days to be eligible to vote in a club officers election.

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Bob Kuntzler, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of the Stein Club cast ballots for their 2014 leadership. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Correction: This story originally reported that the vote for president was 73-24 instead of 49-24. We regret the error.

19
Nov
2013

Gray joins advocates at D.C. Transgender Day of Remembrance commemoration

Ruby Corado, Vincent Gray, Metropolitan Community Church, Transgender Day of Remembrance, gay news, Washington Blade

Ruby Corado and Mayor Vincent Gray (Washington Blade photo by Tyler Grigsby)

Hundreds of people gathered at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington on Wednesday to commemorate the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance really marks another day in the struggle to be able to protect the rights of people who are transgender in the District of Columbia,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said.

Transgender advocates Earline Budd, Charles Hastings and Jeri Hughes; Wanda Alston Foundation Executive Director Brian Watson; Nico Quintana of the D.C. Trans Coalition and Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado are among those who also spoke.

Organizers of the event honored Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, Alison Gardner and her late-husband, Dan Massey. Shirli Hughes, Ovation, the Unity Fellowship Church DC Agape choir and members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington also performed.

“Tonight we gather here in light and love,” Hastings said. “That light and love is radiating from this building, going all over the city even into the darkest and hate-filled corners.”

Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance as a way to honor Rita Hester, a trans woman murdered inside her Boston apartment in 1998.

The D.C. event was one of dozens of Transgender Day of Remembrance commemorations, vigils and other gatherings held across around the world.

Those who gathered at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington read the names of the 12 trans D.C. residents who have been killed since 2000. They also honored known victims of anti-trans homicides from around the U.S. and the world.

“Each and every one of us is important to our community,” D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, who apologized on behalf of the department during last year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance commemoration for the way emergency medical personnel treated Tyra Hunter after a car accident in 1995. She subsequently died from her injuries. “Our commitment to each and every one in this city is important.”

Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham highlighted the unsolved murders of Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis in 2002 and Elexius Woodland in 2005. He said seven of the 12 trans homicides that have taken place in D.C. since 2000 remain open.

“The Metropolitan Police Department does not intend to forget these victims or their families,” Newsham said. “MPD will not be satisfied until all the people responsible for these homicides are brought to justice.”

Gray highlighted the passage of the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 that allows trans Washingtonians to legally change their birth certificates without sex reassignment surgery during his remarks.

He said no trans Washingtonian has lost their life to violence in D.C. so far this year, but there have been a number of attacks he said should be classified as hate crimes.

“We have a long ways to go,” Gray said.

21
Nov
2013