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Home loan service Apex

Franckie DiFrancesco, gay news, Washington Blade

Francki DiFrancesco (Photo courtesy of DiFrancesco)

Fresh from a Sirius/XM Radio appearance last Saturday, longtime community personality Francki DiFrancesco fast personifies the passion fueling her successful career. The knowledgeable local mortgage banker at Apex Home Loans had finished discussing new lending regulations and was eager to talk the trade.

Facts and figures, however, aren’t what propelled the 45-year-old Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist (CMPS) to the pinnacle of her profession. That came with dedication and an instinct for customer service first honed as a popular local bartender and women’s nightlife event producer.

“If you can’t trust your bartender,” she jokes, “whom can you trust?” Working ‘back-in-the-day” at former nightclub Tracks and prior restaurant-lounge Trumpets on Dupont Circle’s 17th Street taught the value of an attentive ear and art of personal confidences. “Mortgage lending is more than just loan rates,” she explains, “people need to feel comfortable along the way.”

“Assisting a client should feel like I’m sitting in their living room,” says DiFrancesco, adding that her “goal is to always bring information on how to best structure a purchase or refinance a loan.” “It’s one of life’s most important financial decisions,” DiFrancesco emphasizes, “and it should be with a trusted adviser who understands their situation and future financial goals.”

In her earliest days in the business, clients would pick up mortgage documents at her bar at Trumpets. “I was their friendly gay mortgage banker,” DiFrancesco recalls. “Back then, client couples didn’t want to explain their relationship to a stranger in order to acquire ‘joint on title’ status and develop survivor arrangements,” she explains. “I was one of the first to handle same-sex couple loans.”

DiFrancesco, now a long-established Senior Mortgage Banker at Apex Home Loans headquartered in Rockville, Md., is a top producer at the award-winning firm. Apex was recently named “Best Small Business of the Year” in Montgomery County following national recognition as among the “Top 100 Mortgage Companies in America.”

Last year she handled 133 home loans totaling more than $45 million, highest volume by other than firm principals. Mission success at Apex, however, isn’t calculated in dollars – it’s measured in customer satisfaction.

Her recently launched “Francki’s Rock Bottom Rates” Facebook page provides testimonials. While mortgage processing oftentimes ranks alongside undergoing a root canal, DiFrancesco’s client commendations prove it can be otherwise. Credited with making it “easier than buying a refrigerator,” plentiful praise reaps a steady stream of referral and repeat business. Both individual borrowers and real estate agents laud her attention to the details leading to inking final documents.

DiFrancesco services D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Rehoboth Beach – as a direct lender. That’s an important distinction, she points out, allowing for an expedited process and independent underwriting brokers can’t provide. “There aren’t many who can handle all the steps,” noting her additional certifications throughout Delaware and New Jersey, with Pennsylvania and Florida licensing pending.

“Many banks don’t do business with brokers,” she notes, “they prefer to deal with mortgage bankers. We understand the local market and know our clients. We provide personalized service, handle credit vetting and hold the initial note.” That level of “customer relationship speeds up the process, allows us to shop for better rates among banks and provides the best solution for borrowers.”

Having raised two children with a former partner, DiFrancesco will soon share her Gaithersburg, Md., home with Dr. Tammy Anderson, a University of Delaware sociology professor. They met several years ago at a Mautner Project benefit while DiFrancesco was relaxing at her house in Rehoboth.

“Home is the place we feel most secure, where memories are made,” DiFrancesco says. Her clients quickly discover she loves helping them acquire theirs.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

29
Jan
2014

Gay activist Robert Coggin dies at 62

Robert Coggin, gay news, obituary, Washington Blade

Robertg Coggin (Submitted obituary photo)

Robert Mitchell Coggin, a longtime D.C.-area resident who played a key role in helping to pass a gay rights law in Montgomery County, Md., in 1984, died Jan. 19 from complications associated with Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy. He was 62.

His friends Tanner Wray and Karl Debus-Lopez said Coggin became active in gay rights activities in 1972 when he co-founded the first gay student group, the Gay Student Union, at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1976.

Wray and Debus-Lopez said Coggin became the founder of the Suburban Maryland Lesbian and Gay Alliance in Montgomery County in 1982 after becoming a resident of the county.

“He was a leader in the fight to have Montgomery County, Md., pass a non-discrimination law that includes gays and lesbians in 1984,” the two said. “Over the years, Robert continued to be active with numerous gay and lesbian rights groups in their efforts to move forward on civil rights legislation.”

Coggin, who lived in Silver Spring, Md., was born in Danville, Va. He worked for many years for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland as an administrative assistant, Wray and Debus-Lopez said.

“During his time at NIH, Robert received many awards for his outstanding performance,” the two said. “Despite the fact that he had a chronic and degenerative illness, Robert’s outlook on life was always positive,” they said. “He enjoyed movies, theater, dinners out with friends, and he was a pioneering crusader in the fight for gay rights in the mid-Atlantic region.”

Through his estate, Coggin made arrangements to establish a scholarship fund for LGBT students at the University of Virginia, according to Wray and Debus-Lopez.

He is predeceased by his parents, Belva Mitchell Coggin and Henry Ernest Coggin, and a brother, William Henry Coggin. He is survived by numerous cousins and friends, including Debus-Lopez and Wray and his former partner Don Crisostomo.

A memorial service is being planned for the near future. Donations can be made to the University of Virginia Fund of Charlottesville, Va., under the name Robert Coggin, and to the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Tucson, Ariz.

29
Jan
2014

When LGBTs run against incumbent LGBTs

Dana Beyer, Richard Madaleno, Annapolis, Maryland, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade, incumbent

Dana Beyer and Richard Madaleno. (Washington Blade photo of Beyer by Michael Key; Blade photo of Madaleno by Jeff Surprenant)

The LGBT community is debating the question of whether a member of the community should challenge an incumbent who is also a member of the community and has been very supportive and successful in fighting for our issues. That is the crux of some hard feelings generated by Dr. Dana Beyer, a transgender activist, who has thrown her hat into the ring challenging incumbent Maryland State Sen. Richard Madaleno. Beyer’s move was quickly criticized by two of her former colleagues at Equality Maryland.

Beyer is a graduate of Cornell University and the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine. She is an ophthalmic surgeon and physician and grew a small business. She was a senior policy and legislative adviser to Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg and a program consultant with the Children’s National Medical Center Department of Psychiatry. She is also the mother of two and a well-known community activist.

The work of both these candidates and so many others who fought for the civil and human rights of all people means that a member of the LGBT community running against someone else from the community will become much more the norm. In this case, most would agree that the interests of the LGBT community will continue to be well served by either candidate.

I am not endorsing Beyer or Madaleno. I consider myself a friend of both, respect both, am proud of what both have accomplished for our community, and don’t live in their district. But I took the opportunity to sit down with Beyer to ask her what would lead her to challenge Madaleno. Asked whether there is anything he hasn’t done for our community that would cause her to run, she agreed there isn’t much. I asked if there wasn’t another race she could have entered since she has for many years been interested in elective office and she explained that she has more of an interest in the issues being debated in Annapolis, such as a progressive tax-code, economic justice, transportation and education. She also said that Madaleno hasn’t been supportive enough of home rule, and his positions on matters of economic justice are a major problem for the district and the county. Beyer brought up a series of issues that among others will be the focus of her campaign and that she hopes voters will make their choice on. (These are her thoughts and in no way am I agreeing or disagreeing with them.)

A big issue for Beyer is whether local counties have the right to make decisions on caps for per student funding of education. She says she would have voted against the 2012 budget reconciliation act because it included an MOE (Maintenance of Effort) clause giving the state the right to force a locality to spend money they believe they don’t have. Beyer believes this doesn’t allow them the freedom to determine their own budget priorities. She also opposed the transfer of the teacher pension responsibility from the state to the county, which Madaleno supported. She is for building the Purple Line and fighting for all mass transit improvements and says that Madaleno supports the lawsuit filed by those trying to stop the Purple Line. She supported the Montgomery County Council’s vote to not grant tax abatement to Lockheed Martin for its training academy and says Madaleno then went against home rule when he supported the state’s effort to grant the tax abatement.

Based on these issues and her background it would seem that an activist of Beyer’s stature has a right to run and bring her concerns to the electorate letting them decide who should represent them. Again, I take no position on whether she should run this particular race or not but it is clear that if the electorate is happy with Madaleno, then she will lose and that is what every candidate running against an incumbent must be prepared for.

Running against an incumbent is always more difficult than running for an open seat but in politics, especially in areas with no term limits, no incumbent should take the voters for granted or feel entitled to their seat.

05
Feb
2014

Lawmakers endorse trans equality

lawmakers, SB 212, transgender rights bill, gay news, Washington Blade, Maryland, Annapolis

Several Maryland lawmakers testified before the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee for SB 212 on Feb. 4. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Included among those testifying before the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee in Annapolis on behalf of SB212, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, were Councilwoman Courtney Watson of Howard County and Councilman Tom Quirk of Baltimore County. Both represented jurisdictions where gender identity protections were enacted. Other jurisdictions that have such anti-discrimination laws in place in Maryland are Baltimore City, Montgomery County and the city of Hyattsville.

Howard County passed the law in December 2011, and Watson reported that since the law went into effect, there have been “no complaints, no problems.”  Baltimore County enacted a similar law in February 2012. Quirk, who also testified that there have been no problems arising from the law, said that the current bill before the committee represents “a respect for human dignity.”

Alvin Gilliard, representing Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, testified he was proud that Baltimore City was the first jurisdiction in the state to pass a non-discrimination law in 2002.

11
Feb
2014

Triple threat

David Lutz, TriOut, D.C. Triathlon Club, gay news, Washington Blade

David Lutz of TriOut, a gay subgroup of the D.C. Triathlon Club. (Photo courtesy Lutz)

In 2011, the D.C. Triathlon Club began a loosely organized effort to reach out to the large number of LGBT athletes in the area.  In 2013, the club began a more formal outreach spearheaded by club members David Lutz and Jonathan Montet.

This year, with its club member list swelling upwards to 1,500 athletes, the Club launched a pilot project to begin segmenting its athletes into affiliate triathlon teams. The first new affiliate is TriOut, which will consist of athletes from the LGBT community and their friends. Also launching soon is MoCo Mafia (Montgomery County).

“We thought about forming our own entity,” Lutz says. “But with so many great programs already in place at DCTri, this was the best choice for us.”

Athletes interested in joining TriOut will receive the full benefits of the Club, $50 membership fee and will receive a member kit geared specifically to the TriOut athletes.

“We are just launching this project and the support has been amazing,” Lutz says. “There are already 69 members on our Facebook page.”

All club training events will be available to new LGBT team members along with some extra training rides, runs and swims to bolster an inclusive team feel. In the works for later in the summer is an intense training weekend in Lost River, W.Va., where attendees can expect to spend a three-to-four day weekend cycling, running, swimming and recovering with yoga workouts.

In addition to the club’s featured races, TriOut team members will compete in several LGBT-interest races.

“We will be sending athletes to the D.C. Frontrunners Pride Run and the District of Columbia Aquatics Club’s Swim for Life,” Lutz says. “In August, we are hoping to send at least 10 members to the Olympic-length triathlon at the Gay Games in Cleveland.”

Lutz competed in his second Ironman in Copenhagen last August followed a week later by an Olympic-length triathlon in Stockholm. He was awarded “Most Improved Triathlete” by DCTri for his accomplishments in 2013.

Currently, the TriOut members are holding happy hours every second Thursday of the month and the location rotates around the various bars in the area. Coming up in March is the first quarterly mixer with multiple local LGBT sports teams, which will feature the D.C. Gay Flag Football League, the D.C. Frontrunners and TriOut.

Interested athletes will also get a chance to talk to the triathletes one on one at the annual Team D.C. Sportsfest to be held in April. Over this past weekend, I was in attendance at the virtual Pride House event at the HRC for the Sochi opening ceremonies. I ran into Washington Wetskins water polo player Kris Prichard, who enthusiastically told me about training for his first triathlon with some of the inspiration coming from TriOut.

Welcome to the Team D.C. family, TriOut.

Stay tuned for the announcement of yet another LGBT sports team in the coming weeks.

13
Feb
2014

College Park considers trans, LGBT contractor bias bills

Dave Kolesar, Patrick Wojahn, gay news, Washington Blade, marriage equality, Maryland, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

College Park City Council member Patrick Wojahn (on right) with his partner, Dave Kolesar. Wojahn said a majority of the eight-member Council expressed support for the pro-LGBT bills. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The College Park, Md., City Council has directed its city attorney to draft three separate bills that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression and require that contractors doing business with the city adopt policies of non-discrimination for their LGBT employees and provide equal benefits for employees’ same-sex spouses.

According to College Park City Council member Patrick Wojahn, who’s gay, the Council informally discussed the idea of drafting the three bills at a Feb. 4 work session. Wojahn said a clear majority of the eight-member Council expressed support for the bills. He said the Council then asked the College Park city attorney to draft the bills.

Wojahn said the Council expects the attorney to complete the drafting process within a month or two.

Both the State of Maryland and Prince George’s County, in which College Park is located, have existing laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodation. But neither the state nor P.G. County has laws banning discrimination against transgender people. Nearby Montgomery County and three other counties in Maryland, including Baltimore, have transgender non-discrimination laws on the books.

Fellow Council member P.J. Brennan, who’s also gay, is among the Council members pushing for the three new laws, Wojahn said.

20
Feb
2014

Judge halts gay marriages in Philly suburb

Kathleen Kane, gay news, Washington Blade, Pennsylvania, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced she would not defend the state’s anti-gay marriage law. (Photo courtesy AG website)

A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday ordered a clerk in a suburban Philadelphia county to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying only the state legislature or a state or federal court had legal authority to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The ruling came two months after Montgomery County, Pa., Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes startled state officials by deciding on his own to begin granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Hanes, who is in charge of the county’s marriage license office, said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act on grounds that it was unconstitutional also invalidated the Pennsylvania law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

But Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ruled on Thursday that it was not up to Hanes to decide whether or not a state law is unconstitutional.

“Unless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the marriage law provisions or a court of competent jurisdiction orders that the law is not to be obeyed or enforced, the marriage law in its entirety is to be obeyed and enforced by all commonwealth public officials,” Pellegrini said in his ruling.

The Associated Press reported that Hanes said he was disappointed by Pellegrini’s ruling but would abide by the judge’s order to stop issuing marriage licenses.

Earlier this year the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of same-sex couples challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. To the delight of LGBT activists, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced she would not defend the law.

Hanes cited Kane’s position that the state law was unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling as justification for his decision to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in Montgomery County, which touches on the northwest border of Philadelphia.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Hanes began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on July 24 with the full backing of the county’s Democratic commissioners. As of earlier this week, 174 same-sex marriage licenses had been issued and 118 of the couples that obtained their license had completed their weddings, the Inquirer reported.

Pelligrini issued his ruling ordering Hanes to stop issuing the licenses after the administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) filed suit against Hanes in Commonwealth Court on grounds that the state was obligated to enforces all of its laws.

It could not immediately be determined whether the marriages of the same-sex couples through licenses issued by Hanes would remain valid.

Vic Walczak, an attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania representing gay couples challenging the state’s gay marriage ban, told AP Pellegrini’s decision would have no impact on the ACLU case.

“It is full speed ahead for the ACLU lawsuit,” AP quoted him as saying.

Similar to the action by Hanes, several counties in New Mexico have begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses. New Mexico’s Supreme Court is deliberating over a challenge by state officials to the issuance of the licenses and a ruling on the issue was expected later this year.

13
Sep
2013

Equality Maryland celebrates milestone

Rich Madaleno, Maryland, Democratic Party, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade, Equality Maryland

Maryland State. Sen. Rich Madaleno was honored last weekend at Equality Maryland’s anniversary event at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Looking back on the journey to achieve full equality in Maryland and its aspirations to continue the fight for social justice, Equality Maryland celebrated 25 years with a gala brunch at the venerable Lord Baltimore Hotel on Oct. 27 with nearly 500 in attendance. State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who’s gay, was the guest of honor.

The event, which was emceed by television journalists Derek Valcourt and Adam May, received congratulatory proclamations from Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin made brief remarks on Maryland’s successes in attaining equality. A message from Sen. Barbara Mikulski congratulating Equality Maryland was read to the audience.

To underscore the importance of wooing LGBT voters, gubernatorial candidates Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) and Attorney General Douglas Gansler as well as his running mate Del. Joline Ivey (D- Prince George’s County) were on hand. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, another candidate for governor, appeared later on a video honoring Madaleno.

“We have seen a sea change in elimination of discrimination over the last 25 years,” Cardin said but noted there is more to accomplish. “We will not be satisfied until we pass the Employment Non-discrimination Act. We have work to do.”

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans thanked the many folks who worked and volunteered for Equality Maryland over the years and the elected officials who helped reach its goals.

“The 25-year journey was climaxed with the achievement of marriage equality,” she said.

Evans made a special point to express gratitude to the Human Rights Campaign for its efforts during the Question 6 battle. She thanked the organization for increasing support during that time.

“Without HRC, we would not have won,” she said.

She said that Equality Maryland is determined to have a transgender non-discrimination law passed, integrate African-Americans into the movement, seek equality in immigration and help lesbian and bisexual women achieve pay parity with men.

Elected officials including Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, members of the LGBT caucus as well as current and former Equality Maryland leaders and volunteers all took light-hearted jabs at Madaleno in a video.

“The work is not done,” Madaleno told the audience. “We have a lot to achieve.”  He cited a gender identity non-discrimination law as the first priority. “Personally, it is appalling to me that we have to fight about the same ignorant comments about transgender individuals as we had to face as gays.”

His other priorities consist of fighting HIV/AIDS and homelessness of LGBT youth, which he considers intolerable. Echoing a theme that Delegate Maggie McIntosh articulated in the video, Madaleno said, “We have to stay focused and stick together.”

31
Oct
2013

Police say Gaithersburg man sexually assaulted young men

Joey Poindexter, sexual assault, Montgomery County, beer pong, gay news, Washington Blade

Joey Poindexter (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Department of Police)

Montgomery County police say a Gaithersburg man who faces charges in an alleged sexual assault may have targeted straight men he met at local beer pong tournaments.

Joey Poindexter, 38, allegedly sexually assaulted a man whom he met during a beer pong tournament at Looney’s Pub in College Park late on Oct. 2 or early on Oct. 3. Police told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday that the alleged victim became intoxicated and went with Poindexter to his Gaithersburg home where the assault took place.

Poindexter remains held on bond following his Oct. 10 arrest.

Police said detectives found pictures of college-aged men in various states of consciousness and what they described as “in compromising positions” during their investigation.

Authorities said they have identified 10 victims who include the man who said Poindexter sexually assaulted him at his Gaithersburg home. Others include the six men in the pictures whom detectives found on Poindexter’s cell phone who remain unidentified.

Police said they have also learned that Poindexter met several of his alleged victims at beer pong tournaments in the D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan areas. They also noted he frequently attends BMX and skateboarding competitions and recently traveled to Dallas; Salt Lake City; Las Vegas, Atlantic City, N.J., and Virginia Beach, Va., to attend such events.

Officials said Poindexter assaulted his victims while they were unconscious or “significantly impaired by alcohol.” They also did not rule out the possibility that Poindexter drugged the men whom he is accused of assaulting.

All of Poindexter’s alleged victims who have been identified thus far are straight, according to police.

Detectives also believe Poindexter has been targeting college-aged males for roughly a decade. They categorized him as a “sexual predator.”

Authorities urge anyone who believes Poindexter sexually assaulted him to call the Major Crimes Division of the Montgomery County Police Department at 240-773-5070.

12
Nov
2013

EMILY’s List backs Heather Mizeur

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

EMILY’s List on Dec. 13 announced it would encourage its members to contribute to Heather Mizeur’s Maryland gubernatorial campaign. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON—EMILY’s List on Dec. 13 announced it would encourage its members to contribute to Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur’s campaign.

“Heather Mizeur is a progressive powerhouse who will fight for the rights of Maryland’s women and working families from day one,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock in a statement.

Mizeur’s campaign in a Dec. 13 e-mail to supporters described the announcement from the PAC with more than three million members that support pro-choice Democratic women who run for office as “a game changer.”

The Montgomery County Democrat represents Silver Spring and Takoma Park in the Maryland House of Delegates. Mizeur, who tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton as her running mate last month, could become the country’s first elected openly gay governor if voters next year elect her to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Mizeur earlier this month announced she would accept public campaign funding in the Democratic primary.

She is the first Maryland gubernatorial candidate to use this system since 1994.

18
Dec
2013