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D.C. Center announces new board

David Mariner, Michael Sessa, D.C. Center, LGBT, gay, bisexual, transgender, lesbian, gay news, Washington Blade

We are thrilled to welcome such distinguished members of D.C.’s LGBT community to the Board of Directors,’ said outgoing Center Board President Michael Sessa (on left) and Center Executive Director David Mariner. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A civil rights attorney with the U.S. Justice Department, an assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of Maryland, and an official at the international human rights organization Freedom House were recently elected to serve on the board of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

The three new members are joining 13 existing board members and several new officers who were elected or re-elected at the Center’s annual meeting on Dec. 16, according to Matthew Corso, a board member who serves as the Center’s chief communications officer.

“We are thrilled to welcome such distinguished members of D.C.’s LGBT community to the Board of Directors and are excited to see a new leadership team take the helm in 2014,” said outgoing Board President Michael Sessa and Center Executive Director David Mariner in a statement.

The new board members are Louis Lopez, Deputy Chief of the Employment Litigation Section at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; Julie Enszer, a Ph.D. candidate and visiting assistant professor at the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland; and Mindy Michels, Program Director for the Dignity for All: LGBT Assistance Program at Freedom House.

The existing members returning to the Center board are: Corso, Eddy Ameen, John Crow, Martin Espinoza, Michael Fowler, Holly Goldmann, Dr. Patricia Hawkins, Jason Laney, Michelle Ross, Michael Sessa, Ashley Smith, Kelly Zimmerman, and Patrick Zornow.

The board officers for 2014 elected at the annual meeting are Fowler, chair (new); Hawkins, vice-chair (new); Crow, treasurer (returning); Ameen, secretary (new); and Corso, chief communications officer (new).

The new and returning board members and officers assume their positions less than two months after the Center moved into its new and larger home at the city’s Reeves Center municipal building at 14th and U St., N.W.

More information about the board members and the Center’s programs and upcoming events can be found at


Police chief to release hate crimes report

Cathy Lanier, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is expected to release a report on how the department investigates and reports hate crimes. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was expected to release this week a report prepared by an independent task force that assessed how the department investigates and reports hate crimes, including anti-LGBT hate crimes.

A statement on Tuesday by a police spokesperson that Lanier planned to release the report this week came less than a week after the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) sent the chief an open letter asking about the status of the report, which was commissioned in June 2012.

“It has now been several months since the research phase of this study was completed, and we would like to inquire on the status of the final report findings,” said GLOV co-chairs Hassan Naveed and Matthew Corso, who signed the letter along with representatives of five other local LGBT groups.

Lanier announced at a June 2012 news conference that she had enlisted the Anti-Defamation League, a national group that fights prejudice and discrimination, to create the task force to conduct an impartial study of police practices and procedures for responding to hate crimes.

She said the effort was aimed at helping the department strengthen its efforts to combat hate crimes.

At the time, ADL Director David Friedman announced he had recruited representatives of the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and two university professors considered experts on hate violence to join the ADA as members of the task force.

Since its launching, the task force has interviewed more than two-dozen representatives of the LGBT community to obtain their views on how police have responded to anti-LGBT hate crimes in D.C, activists familiar with the task force have said.

“If the report has been completed, we request that it be released as soon as possible,” GLOV said in its Feb. 19 open letter. “We look forward to reviewing the report findings and discussing them with you.”


D.C. Center to launch immigrant asylum program

Mova, gay news, Washington Blade, LGBT nightlife

Mova (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

The D.C. LGBT Community Center held a fundraiser Jan. 8 at MOVA to launch a new program to assist LGBT foreign nationals who apply for U.S. political asylum to escape persecution in their home countries.

The program, called Center Global, is aimed at providing temporary housing, financial assistance and referrals to service providers for LGBT foreigners in the D.C. area who are going through the complicated process of applying for and awaiting approval for political asylum, according to Center director David Mariner and Center Global coordinator Matthew Corso.

The two noted that legal groups have long provided pro bono legal representation for people going through this process, some of whom have fled their home countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Jamaica after encountering violent assaults and death threats due to their sexual orientation.

But those going through the legal process are banned from working in the U.S. until their asylum application is approved, making it difficult for them to pay for housing, food and other basic necessities, Mariner and Corso said.

“Basically, what we’re trying to do is raise the funds to help support the folks who are here going through this process,” said Corso. “We also want to raise awareness within the D.C. LGBT community of the plight of LGBT people being persecuted in other countries around the world.”