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Catania, Gray in dead heat for mayor: poll

David Catania, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

Council member David Catania (left) predicts a ‘competitive’ race should he decide to run for mayor against Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

A poll released by the Washington Post on Tuesday shows that gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) is in a statistical tie with Mayor Vincent Gray if the two were to run against each other for mayor.

The poll, which consisted of a sample of 1,003 city residents contacted by phone Jan. 9-12, found that among registered voters, 43 percent support Gray and 40 percent support Catania. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, the Post said.

Catania has said he’s seriously considering entering the mayoral contest in the November general election. The close polling numbers indicate that if Gray wins the Democratic nomination in the April 1 primary he could face a competitive race against Catania in November.

“Today’s Post poll results are encouraging,” Catania said in a statement released on Tuesday. “They indicate that should I choose to run for mayor this year the race will be very competitive.”

The poll showed that Gray had a substantial lead over his challengers in the primary. Among registered voters, 24 percent said they support Gray, 12 percent support Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), 11 percent said they support both Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), 9 percent said they back Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), 5 percent said they support businessman and Busboys and Poets Restaurant owner Andy Shallal.

The remaining candidates, including Reta Lewis and Christian Carter, had 1 percent or less support, the poll shows.

Among likely voters, the poll showed Gray would receive 27 percent support, with Evans coming in second with 13 percent. Bowser and Wells each had 12 percent among likely voters. Orange had 7 percent, Shallal had 5 percent, Lewis had 2 percent and Carter had 1 percent.

15
Jan
2014

Trans candidate Beyer to challenge gay incumbent Madaleno

Dana Beyer, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director, Dr. Dana Beyer. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer on Thursday announced she will challenge incumbent state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) in the 2014 Democratic primary.

“We are ready for progress,” said Beyer in a statement that announced her candidacy. “For too long, hardworking Marylanders have waited for economic fairness and equal opportunity. We have asked our elected officials to help bring better jobs to our neighborhoods, build stronger schools for our children, fix our roads and infrastructure and make quality health care an affordable reality.”

“We are ready to move forward, and that’s why I’m declaring my candidacy for the Maryland Senate,” continued Beyer.

Beyer, 61, announced her campaign slightly more than a week after Madaleno introduced a bill that would ban discrimination against transgender Marylanders.

Madaleno, who is gay, reported to state campaign officials on Jan. 13 he has more than $36,000 on hand. Beyer on the same day reported her campaign has roughly $364 in the bank.

“I’m extremely proud of my record of accomplishments,” Madaleno told the Blade as he discussed the three terms he has served in the state Senate since Montgomery County voters first elected him to the chamber in 2006. “I’m confident voters who have elected me three times in the past will re-nominate me in June.”

Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, which endorsed Madaleno’s re-election campaign late last year, told the Blade the Montgomery County Democrat’s “strong record of accomplishments go beyond the LGBT communities.”

“He works passionately and effectively for his constituents and indeed for all Marylanders,” said Evans. “We are confident the voters of District 18 will convincingly send him back to Annapolis.”

Beyer is a former member of the Equality Maryland board of directors.

Lisa Polyak, who stepped down as chair of the Equality Maryland board in 2012, also defended Madaleno.

“Although Dana has been a tireless advocate for transgender equality locally and nationally, she doesn’t possess the seniority or relationships that can advance priorities of LGBT citizens of Maryland,” Polyak told the Blade.

Evans said having another LGBT candidate “challenging our endorsed candidate” will divert the “limited resources that we earmarked to help our friends in other races” who supported Maryland’s same-sex marriage law in 2012. She also described Beyer’s announcement that comes less than a week before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on the trans rights bill as “ironic.”

“Some might say the timing of her announcement only serves to distract and potentially diminish our chances of passing the bill,” said Evans. “Since this is our top legislative priority in 2014 and transgender Marylanders should not have to continue to wait for inclusion in the state anti-discrimination laws, Equality Maryland hopes it does not. “

Beyer in 2010 challenged Democratic incumbent state Del. Alfred Carr (D-Montgomery County) to represent portions of Montgomery County that include Chevy Chase and Kensington in the Maryland House of Delegates. She was among the 11 openly transgender delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The retired eye surgeon was a senior assistant to Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg. Beyer also chairs the Freedom to Work board of directors.

“I ask for your support and your vote,” she said in her announcement statement. “In return I promise to be the progressive champion Montgomery County sorely needs.”

Beyer would become the first trans person elected to the Maryland Legislature if she wins in November.

30
Jan
2014

Va. legislator, U.S. House candidate comes out

Mark Sickles, Fairfax, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) is the second out gay member of the Virginia General Assembly. (Photo by Cliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A member of the Virginia House of Delegates who is one of 11 Democrats running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) disclosed he is gay on Friday in a guest column in the Washington Post.

In making the disclosure, Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax) became the second out gay member of the Virginia General Assembly.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who became Virginia’s first out state legislator in 2003, is also running for the 8th District congressional seat, which includes parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax.

Sickles’ coming out in the Post came three days after gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine announced his candidacy for the 8th District congressional seat, opening the way for an unprecedented development – three prominent openly gay candidates running against each other in a Virginia election.

Sickles, Ebbin and Levine along with the other eight Democrats are running in the hotly contested race in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Most political observers say the winner in the June 10 Democratic primary will be the odds-on favorite to win the general election in November.

In his column in the Post, Sickles, 57, said he long ago came out to family members, friends and political allies. He said he was prompted to come out publicly at this time by two developments. One, he said, was a decision this month by a federal judge declaring Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The other, according to Sickles, was remarks by at least two of his colleagues on the floor of the House of Delegates earlier this month describing LGBT people in a derogatory and inaccurate way. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William County), Sickles noted, referred to the “LGBT lifestyle” as a series of “life shortening and health compromising behaviors.”

Another delegate, whom he didn’t identify, claimed there was “overwhelming science demonstrating that children have better outcomes when they are [raised] by a mother and father,” suggesting that LGBT people were not fit to raise children, Sickles said.

“Hearing such caustic remarks yet again on the House floor, coupled with the overturning of our same-sex marriage ban, has motivated me to state publicly here what many close friends  and family have known for decades: I am a proud, gay man,” he wrote in his column.

“I have always lived openly with my neighbors, friends and family, lived a full life and never regretted the way I was born,” he said. “But the current moment in Virginia has convinced me that it could be helpful to share this aspect of my life with all of my constituents.”

Levine, a resident of Alexandria since 2001, served as legislative counsel to former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) from 2001 to 2003 and has provided legal counsel to LGBT rights related causes since the late 1990s, including marriage equality litigation. He said he has been a talk show host or commentator on radio and television, including CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, as an advocate for progressive causes for the past decade.

His campaign’s Facebook page describes him as an “aggressive progressive.”

Ebbin and Sickles have a long record of advocating for progressive legislation, including LGBT rights legislation, during their tenure as state legislators.

It couldn’t immediately be determined how LGBT rights organizations that endorse political candidates will respond to the possibility of having to choose between three gay candidates.

23
Feb
2014

Catania enters race for mayor

David Catania, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania is the first serious openly gay contender for the office of D.C. mayor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) filed papers on Wednesday to become a candidate for mayor in the November general election, saying he has the “values and the vision and the tenacity” to tackle the challenges facing the city.

As a 16-year veteran on the Council with a long record of legislative accomplishments, including his role as author of the city’s historic marriage equality law, Catania becomes the first serious openly gay contender for the office of D.C. mayor with a shot at winning.

“This is a city that believes strongly in equality of opportunity, a strong sense of fairness and the importance of playing by the rules,” Catania said at a news conference outside the city’s Reeves Center municipal building, where he registered his candidacy.

“These are the values we all share and these are the ones that have guided me since I was elected,” he said.

In what many LGBT activists will likely view as a twist of fate, a large segment of the city’s LGBT community has already lined up behind the re-election campaign of Mayor Vincent Gray, who they consider the most LGBT-supportive mayor in the history of the city.

The potential dilemma of LGBT voters having to choose between an out gay candidate with a longstanding record of support on their issues and a pro-LGBT mayor they consider a longtime friend and ally was likely heightened on Wednesday when Catania reiterated his call for Gray to resign.

When asked by reporters at his news conference what he thought about revelations by the U.S. Attorney earlier this week that Gray was aware of an illegal “shadow campaign” orchestrated by businessman Jeffrey Thompson to benefit Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign, Catania said he believes the allegations to be true.

“I made my feelings known about the mayor’s shadow campaign when it was first disclosed nearly two years ago,” he said. “I said he should have resigned then and I believe that today.”

Catania, however, said the timing of his declaration of candidacy for this week was set in motion over a week ago, before the revelations of the U.S. Attorney were known, when he set up a campaign bank account that required him to formally enter the race this week.

Catania said he’s ready to run against Gray or any of the other seven Democrats challenging Gray in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary, including four of Catania’s Democratic colleagues on the Council.

In response to questions by reporters, Catania said he’s not at all deterred by the fact that he’s an independent and former Republican running in a city with an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate. No non-Democrat has ever won election as mayor in the District of Columbia.

“I want to be as clear as I can be,” he said. “I won more citywide races than everyone else in the race combined. I’ve won five times citywide. I’ve represented every corner of the city since 1997.”

Catania added, “I believe I have the values and the vision and the tenacity to tackle the challenges facing the city and I have the record of accomplishments that supports it. So I’m not worried about who prevails in the Democratic primary. I’ve got a record that I’m very proud of and that I’m very excited to share, and I’m very excited to talk about my vision for the city.”

The most recent poll on the Democratic primary, which was conducted before the latest revelations about Gray’s alleged 2010 shadow campaign, show Gray leading his closest rival, Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), by a margin of 28 percent to 20 percent. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), were trailing with 13 percent, 12 percent and 4 percent respectively.

Businessman Andy Shallal had 6 percent, attorney and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis had 3 percent, and civic activist Carlos Allen had less than 1 percent.

Political observers, including Bob Summersgill, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said that if Gray squeaks out a victory in the primary with around 30 percent of the vote or less, many of the Democratic voters that backed his rivals could turn to Catania in the November election.

When asked by the Blade where he thinks the LGBT vote would go in the general election, Catania said he believes he would be a strong contender for that vote based on his record on a wide range of issues.

“I think people are going to vote their interests and their values,” he said. “And I hope we can refrain from having constituency voting blocs. I don’t think that’s good for anybody.”

But he added, “I’m happy to put my record as an LGBT advocate against anyone. I hear in these forums how everyone takes responsibility and credit for same-sex marriage. But I was there. I know members who never showed up for the hearings and never said a word on the dais,” he said.

“I know the difference between those who have revisionist history and those who were there,” he said. “And so whether it’s having been the first openly gay elected member of the Council, from championing everything from HIV education and treatment to same-sex marriage to adoption to transgender rights, I’ll put my record against anyone’s.”

When asked about a recent independent report indicating shortcomings in the D.C. Police Department’s handling of anti-LGBT hate crimes, Catania praised Police Chief Cathy Lanier but said he would not discuss personnel issues before the election.

“I think Cathy Lanier has been an excellent chief,” he said. “Now we can all do better and learn from our mistakes…[T]here’s always room for improvement both in terms of the reaction of the LGBT community, internal affairs and others,” he said.

A transcript of Catania’s news conference follows:

Reporter: So you just filed your papers today to run?

Catania: Actually, this has been in the works for some time. We decided in January that this would be the week we would announce. In fact, just last Wednesday, before any of the latest revelations came out, we opened our bank account and by law we have five business days to file. And so last Wednesday we opened our bank account, always with the intention of filing this week. And of course you know what has happened in the intervening time known to all of us.

Reporter: What do you think about what’s happened with the mayor this week?

Catania: Well, I made my feelings known about the mayor’s shadow campaign when it was first disclosed nearly two years ago. I said he should have resigned then and I believe that today.

Reporter: What is your path to victory at this point? Does the mayor have to win the primary?

Catania: No. I want to be just as clear as I could be. I won more city wide races than everyone else in the race combined. I’ve won five times citywide. I’ve represented every corner of the city since 1997. I believe that I have the values and the vision and the tenacity to tackle the challenges facing the city and I have the record of accomplishments that supports it. So I’m not worried about who prevails in the Democratic primary. I’ve got a record that I’m very proud of and that I’m very excited share and I’m very exciting to talk about my vision for the city.

Reporter: This is a city that remains hugely Democratic.

Catania: That’s right. And I would be delighted to put my record against any of those who have Democrat by their name as it relates to democratic values. I think my record more embodies democratic values than the field of candidates running as Democrats. If you look at what I’ve done for marriage equality, medical marijuana, smoke free D.C., cutting the rate of uninsured children and adults in half in this city, my work with HIV, and most recently my work with respect to education, including a fair funding bill which is finally going to give the resources for poor kids to catch up. And so labels are fine but I think the people are looking for a leader who’s actually delivered. And there’s one thing I can say – I’ve delivered.

The others have talked a good game and good for them for having labels. But I’ve actually delivered.

Reporter: You’re a former Republican and you’re also a white person. How does that play into the racial mix of this city?

Catania: Well I think the citizens of this city want a leader that shares their values. And it doesn’t matter what label you have. Clearly I do. This is a city that believes strongly in equality of opportunity, a strong sense of fairness and the importance of playing by the rules. These are the values we all share and these are the ones that have guided me since I was elected. So with respect to labels, you know, I think they may matter with some but by and large if you look at where we are in the city and if we’re going to secure our future we need a leader who shares our values, has a vision, and has the tenacity to get the job done.

Reporter: You’re campaigns have actually taken money from Jeffrey Thompson and then I guess you had a really serious falling out with him. Would you give back the money you took from Jeffrey Thompson or did you give the money back?

Catania: You know, Mr. Thompson held a fundraiser for me in 2006. And so the bulk of the funds that were raised through that fundraiser were in 2006. Unfortunately, as you know, we, unlike federal campaigns, we close each of our campaigns out – by law we’re required to – at the conclusion of the election. So the money has simply been closed out. Now the money – whatever was left over – went to a constituent services fund. And so it’s not like I have additional monies lying around to do that. And I think we’re prohibited by law from taking our existing campaign funds to pay back the debts of another campaign.

Reporter: Were you the chairman of the Health Committee when the agreement to give Jeffrey Thompson more money signed out? You fought that, didn’t you?

Catania: I think what’s interesting is that we’re here today because of the work of the Committee on Health when I became chairman. In 2005 when I became chairman of the committee the first thing I wanted to do was kind of survey the landscape of the area of responsibility that I had, which included the city’s three largest contracts for managed care and for Medicaid. And so I actually put the money in in 2005 to conduct an audit of our three managed care organizations, including Jeff Thompson’s. That audit is what ultimately led to Mr. Thompson having to settle with the city with $17 million in 2008. So it’s not about having a falling out one way or another. I was doing my job. I wanted the city’s largest contracts to be subject to an audit. They were. It demonstrated that he was helping himself, candidly, and that resulted in him having to pay some money back. I suspect that’s part of what inspired him to try to find leaders that were more malleable. I wasn’t one of them.

Reporter: The mayor calls him a liar. He says everything he says is a lie, lie, lie.

Catania: Well I think this whole subject, this whole drama we’ve had with Jeff Thompson – this great drama – the time has come for this to end. And you know we need to be talking about how we’re going to make sure our kids are ready to succeed. We need to be talking about an affordable housing plan and a public safety plan of action for Fire and EMS. The less we talk about Vince Gray and Jeff Thompson the better. That’s for others to talk about. I’m talking about my vision for the city, which doesn’t include serving as a human lie detector for Jeff Thompson or Vince Gray.

Reporter: What about this settlement. Did you think that settlement that was reached with Chartered Health was good and above board or did you think –

Catania: Which settlement, the first one or the second?

Reporter: The one that was agreed to [by the city] and paid him.

Catania: This was obviously an attempt to square accounts with the shadow campaign as far as I am concerned. It was laid out as meticulously as it could be. Jeff Thompson in 2008 had to pay $12 million because he stole from the city. And then two weeks after he wins his primary his group begins putting in motion the very settlement that ultimately, that Mayor Gray advanced – that we paid him the money from the false claims actions against the city. Do I believe the mayor knew it and participated and do I believe the city actually paid the shadow campaign money back? Yes, I believe that…

Reporter: You have a reputation for being a little difficult. I won’t even say the words that some – [Tom Sherwood interrupts: The Rahm Emanuel of D.C.?]

Catania: Well listen, we’re not cutting the crusts off cucumber sandwiches here. This is not a garden party. This is about running a $12 billion organization where the lives of 640,000 people depend on someone being honest, having values and a vision and being faithful to those values and those visions. And so I’m not going to apologize for the passion that I take to this job. I think most of us are outraged when they have Fire and EMS officials just standing by while our citizens are in harm’s way. I think most of our citizens are outraged when the see half of our African American males not graduating on time for high school. I think most of our citizens are outraged when they see our homeless in rec centers. So I’m not going to apologize for that outrage. I’m not going to apologize for the passion. It’s helped me get though some of the toughest measures in the last 15 years, 16 years on the Council…

Reporter: Concerning the police department, there was an independent report that just came out saying there are some shortcomings in their handling of hate crimes and that the chief may have caused the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to not be able to do its job as well as it could. If you were elected, have you decided whether you would retain the police chief?

Catania: Look, I think Cathy Lanier has been an excellent chief. Now we can all do better and learn from our mistakes. But I want to make clear I’m not talking about personnel decisions until after the election. It is the right of every mayor to select those individuals that he or she wishes to work with. I think that Chief Lanier has been an excellent chief but there’s always room for improvement both in terms of the reaction of the LGBT community, internal affairs and others.

Reporter: We’re now in the primary. Will you be out campaigning or will you wait to see who wins the primary?

Catania: No, the race starts today, Tom. The race starts today.

…If we’re electing leaders rather than administrators I think it’s time for people to look at the record. And among those who are running for mayor if you look at what have they done in the last 15 months. I think that’s a fair subject for discussion and it’s what I intend to talk about during this race. But look, it isn’t about who the Democratic nominee might be. I have an affirmed agenda that I believe is consistent with the values of our residents. I think we can do better. We have incredible fundamentals. When I look at our economy and I look at the values of our citizens and we have yet to capture the entire trajectory, the entire direction of those values…

Q: The leading candidates in the Democratic primary are all very supportive on LGBT issues. The mayor says he’s very supportive. Whoever wins the primary, how do you think the LGBT vote will go in the general election?

A: Lou, I think people are going to vote their interests and their values. And I hope we can refrain from having constituency voting blocks. I don’t think that’s good for anybody. I’m happy to put my record as an LGBT advocate against anyone. I hear in these forums how everyone takes responsibility and credit for same-sex marriage. But I was there. I know the members who never showed up for the hearings and never said a word on the dais. I know the difference between those who have revisionist history and those who were there. And so whether it’s having been the first openly gay elected member of the Council, from championing everything from HIV education and treatment to same-sex marriage to adoption to transgender rights, I’ll put my record against everyone’s or anyone’s.

Q: Can you say something about the EMS?

A: You know, I’m very open to the idea of separating the EMS and putting it candidly under the Department of Health because I see the EMS as the front line of the Department of Health. These are the front line deliverers of health services. The way it has been organized, specifically it’s been subsumed by the Fire Department and has not been able to stand on its own. And so I’m open to the idea of separating the two…

Q: Would you retain Chief Ellerbe as fire chief?

A: No. I’ll make an exception because that’s so glaring.

Q: How do you assess your chances?

A: Good.

Q: Why do you think they’re good?

A: Well I think this is an election about change. I think the electorate is eager to have a leader instead of an administrator and I think the work that I’ve done touches many constituencies across the city. Who else can claim that they saved our public hospital? Who else can lay claim to a marriage equality bill that finally made all of our families equal before the law? Who else can claim that they produced the lowest rate of uninsured children in the country? Who else championed medical marijuana or the most comprehensive mental health system for young people in the country? So I think it’s time to ask some of those who are running on the inertial of a label why they believe they have a chance of winning having accomplished so little.

12
Mar
2014

Whitman-Walker to honor former White House AIDS czar

Jeffrey Crowley, AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade

Former White House AIDS czar Jeffrey Crowley. (Photo courtesy of Whitman-Walker Health)

Whitman-Walker Health on April 17 will honor former White House AIDS czar Jeff Crowley at its annual spring benefit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Northwest D.C.

“I’ve had a chance to reflect on this great experience I had and then just to be recognized for my work by Whitman-Walker I think is really special,” Crowley told the Washington Blade during an interview on March 31.

Crowley, who was the director of the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House from February 2009 until December 2011, spoke with the Blade hours before the deadline for Americans to sign-up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed into law in 2010.

Crowley described the Affordable Care Act as a “structural intervention that will make it easier to get” people with HIV onto care and keep them in treatment. He further noted Obama signed the law less than four months before the White House released the first national HIV/AIDS strategy.

“I’ve also said there’s no way I could have imagined a transition that didn’t have bumps along the way,” said Crowley, referring to glitches with the Affordable Care Act website and other enrollment-related concerns. “Over time those things will work themselves out. The ACA really creates an opportunity for us to make a lot of progress.”

Crowley acknowledged undocumented immigrants are unable to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. He also said those with HIV below the poverty level who live in states that did not expand Medicaid may not be able to afford coverage because they cannot access marketplace subsidies.

“We have these ongoing challenges,” Crowley told the Blade.

The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act remains available to assist uninsured people with HIV and those who are underinsured. The program can also supplement and help reduce drug costs for those living with the virus.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program under the Affordable Care Act will also be able to cover drugs that Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance will not cover.

“There are issues of the affordability because some of drugs may not be covered and then the co-payments might be too high,” said Crowley. “There’s a lot of advocacy going on right now with some of the HIV advocates in some cases state-by-state with the local advocates to really educate these plans to improve their formulary policy so they don’t put all the drugs in the highest level.”

Crowley, who is the program director of the National HIV/AIDS Initiative at Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute, also applauded D.C.’s response to the epidemic.

He specifically noted the “test to treat” approach to combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the nation’s capital and the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA)’s work with local HIV/AIDS service organizations to use a surveillance model to reconnect people with the virus who have stopped treatment to care.

“I’m actually really, really proud of the District,” said Crowley. “In the past they weren’t necessarily the leader on a lot of fronts.”

Crowley, who is a Whitman-Walker client, taught high school science in Swaziland from 1988-1991 when he was a member of the U.S. Peace Corps. He also held various positions with the now defunct-National Association of People with AIDS from 1994 through 2000.

Crowley described the organization’s 2013 bankruptcy as “sad.”

“It’s really important for people living with HIV to have a voice,” Crowley told the Blade. “There’s still a need to be a voice for people with HIV and we’re going to have to look at different mechanisms.”

02
Apr
2014

Smooth sailing on first Equality Cruise

Equality Cruise, gay news, Washington Blade

Sixty-nine passengers took part in the inaugural Equality Cruise. (Photo by Steve Charing)

A total of 69 passengers participated in Equality Maryland’s first Equality Cruise Jan. 12-19. Those participating were mostly from the Baltimore-Washington region but some came from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee. They included a diverse group of LGBT people and allies. Carnival Cruises donated a portion of the group’s proceeds to Equality Maryland.

Travel arrangements were made by Equality Maryland’s office manager, Vanessa Bowling, who also owns Vanessa Addrienne Travel. She, along with Doug Rose, communications volunteer for Equality Maryland, served as hosts for the group.

The cruise took place aboard the aptly named Carnival Pride, which departed from Baltimore. It sailed to Port Canaveral and then on to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas before returning. Both Bowling and Rose hosted a meet-and-greet as the ship departed Baltimore. They also arranged group gatherings including pre-dinner socials and organized a “red party” in the Pride’s dance club.

Tokyo Derekston of Glen Burnie, Md., enjoyed her first cruise.  “I’m having a great time,” she said during its midpoint. “As long as people stop asking me to sing.”

Bowling indicated that she intends to send out surveys about what people would like in the way of future cruises and ports of call. The Equality Cruise’s maiden voyage went well and there is optimism that the size of the group will increase next year.

22
Jan
2014

Defense calls for new trial in Marine murder case

Marine Barracks, gay news, Washington Blade

Witnesses said Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong was stabbed in the upper chest with a pocketknife on 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the Marine Barracks. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge has postponed the sentencing of a former U.S. Marine convicted in December of voluntary manslaughter for the April 2012 stabbing death of a fellow Marine following an altercation in which he reportedly called the victim an anti-gay name.

The postponement of the sentencing set for Feb. 7 came after Judge Russell Canan agreed to a request by defense attorney Bernard Grimm for more time to prepare a motion to request a new trial for his client, 22-year-old former Pfc. Michael Poth.

According to court records, Canan gave Grimm until March 24 to file his motion, known as a Rule 33 Motion, for a new trial. Canan directed prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office to file a response to the defense motion by April 21.

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether Grimm, who represented Poth during the trial, cited a reason for seeking a new trial rather than appealing the conviction before the D.C. Court of Appeals.

A Superior Court jury found Poth guilty of voluntary manslaughter on Dec. 2 following a 9-day trial. The jury found him not guilty of a more serious charge of second-degree murder while armed.

Poth has been held in jail since his arrest on April 21, 2012, minutes after witnesses said he stabbed Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong, 23, in the upper chest with a pocketknife on 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the Marine Barracks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman, the lead prosecutor in the case, stated at a pre-trial hearing last year that the stabbing appeared to be a hate crime. But the government never formally classified the case as a hate crime. Had it done so, the judge would have had an option of handing down a more severe sentence.

Liebman argued during the trial that Poth called Bushong a faggot when the two crossed paths on the street outside a bar on 8th Street near the barracks with the intent of provoking Bushong into a confrontation to give Poth an excuse to stab him.

He said the hurling of the anti-gay slur took place a short time after Bushong called Poth a “boot,” a term used by Marines to describe a new recruit that’s considered an insult. Liebman argued that the “boot” remark angered Poth to such a degree that he made plans to track down Bushong after the two initially went their separate ways with the intent to stab him and kill him.

Grimm argued that Poth stabbed Bushong in self-defense after Bushong, who was taller and heavier than Poth, walked toward him with a friend and pulled back his arm with a clinched fist in an attempt to assault him.

The D.C. group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence planned to submit a victims impact statement to the judge at the time of the sentencing describing how Poth’s use of an anti-gay slur immediately prior to the fatal stabbing had a negative impact on the LGBT community, according to GLOV co-chair Hassan Naveed.

06
Feb
2014

D.C. mayor to announce trans health insurance policy

Vincent Gray, Transgender Remembrance Day, gay news, Washington Blade, health

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mayor Vincent Gray is scheduled to announce on Thursday new steps the city plans to take to protect the transgender community from discrimination in health care, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office on Wednesday.

“Transgender individuals have historically been denied [health insurance] coverage for certain medically necessary health-care procedures,” the statement said. “This has resulted in a denial of benefits for some individuals because their gender identity or expression is different from their assigned sex at birth. The mayor and other District officials will clarify the District’s position regarding this issue,” the statement said.

The Blade will have coverage of the mayor’s action Thursday.

26
Feb
2014

Maryland lawmaker: trans bill would ‘normalize abnormal behavior’

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A Maryland lawmaker says a transgender rights bill would “normalize abnormal behavior.” (Image public domain)

A Frederick County Republican has told her constituents a bill that would ban discrimination against transgender Marylanders would “normalize abnormal behavior.”

“I am completely and unequivocally opposed to this bill, which doesn’t aim to end discrimination, but to normalize abnormal behavior,” wrote state Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Frederick County) in a letter to her constituents.

Afzali also notes that House Bill 1265 that state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) introduced in January has been called the “Bathroom Bill.”

“HB 1265 seeks to create a new class of protected individuals in the state’s anti-discrimination statute,” said Afzali. “Specifically, the bill defines ‘gender identity’ as ‘appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.’”

“It is important that Maryland does not separate one’s ‘gender identity’ and their ‘assigned sex at birth’ as noted in the bill,” adds the Republican. “Like the majority of Marylanders, I share the view that this redefinition rejects our society’s understanding of human nature. So ladies if you happen to see a guy in a dress in the restaurant bathroom, you’ll know the bill passed and that I voted no.”

Afzali is among those who spoke at an October 2012 rally in Frederick during which a local pastor suggested Superstorm Sandy struck New York City after then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000 to the campaign in support of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved in a referendum. The Frederick County Republican has also said gay men are bad parents.

The Maryland House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee on Tuesday is expected to vote on HB 1265. A final vote on the measure is slated to take later this week.

The Maryland Senate earlier this month approved a similar bill that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced.

Baltimore City, Hyattsville and Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery Counties have already enacted trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinances.

Neighboring Delaware is among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New York and other states have introduced similar measures.

A recent poll the Sarah T. Hughes Field Center at Goucher College conducted found 71 percent of Marylanders support efforts to ban anti-trans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation.

23
Mar
2014

Homeless youth, Annie’s street-naming bills advance

Anne Kaylor, Annie's Paramount Steak House, gay news, Washington Blade

Annie Kaylor (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

The D.C. City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to give preliminary approval of one bill calling for services to homeless LGBT youth and another that would name a street near Dupont Circle after Annie Kaylor, the beloved bartender and manager of Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse who died last July at the age of 86.

The LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Amendment Act of 2013 and the Annie’s Way Designation Act of 2013 are expected to win final approval at the Council’s next legislative meeting later this month.

The homeless LGBTQ youth measure, among other things, allocates funds for expanding existing homeless facilities to include additional beds for “youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.” It also requires service providers to implement “best practices for the culturally competent care of homeless youth” who identify as LGBT or questioning.

The Annie’s bill calls for naming a one-block section of Church Street, N.W., between 17th Street and Stead Park as “Annie’s Way.” The block was where Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse first opened more than 40 years ago and became a favorite eatery and watering hole for members of the LGBT community. Kaylor and her family members who owned and operated the restaurant were longtime supporters of the LGBT community.

08
Jan
2014