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The difficulties of beating an incumbent

Vincent Gray, Muriel Bowser, Tommy Wells, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange, mayor, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade

Over the next less than 70 days, the struggle will be for the challengers in D.C. to make the case for how they can make a difference. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

The D.C. primary is less than 70 days away. There are numerous candidates running for office and nearly all incumbents have more than one challenger. Looking at a recent Washington Post poll it is clear that no challenger in the mayor’s race has yet created enough excitement around their candidacy to stand out from the crowd.

But creating that excitement is a very hard thing to do even for good candidates in races with numerous challengers. From the political perspective the problem of running against an incumbent is very difficult. From president to local school board, incumbents have an advantage and the only way to beat them is if you can first get voters to focus on things they have done wrong and then move them to buy into what you as the challenger can do right.

We recently witnessed a mayoral primary and election in New York where there was no incumbent on the ballot but the winning candidate, rather than focus on his opponents. ran against the mayor in office. Bill de Blasio was able to tap into an electorate tired of Michael Bloomberg after 12 years in office. He was able to run pitting the haves against the have-nots. That is often a way national races are run. One of the major issues in New York was universal pre-kindergarten. Instead of focusing on the issue he focused on “taxing the rich” to pay for it. It was very effective as a campaign issue even if he may not be able to do it now that he is in office.

De Blasio was able to tie incumbent Council President Christine Quinn, a lesbian, to Bloomberg and then benefitted when many in the LGBT community attacked her. That election showed that voters in New York have moved beyond guaranteeing votes to a candidate based on their being the same race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. De Blasio also did something hard to do and which could have backfired when he highlighted his family in the election. De Blasio is white. His wife is African American — beautiful, intelligent and she was once an activist lesbian. His son seems to have a great personality and great natural hairstyle to go with it; he captured the interest of the press and the imagination of the community. Clearly not all candidates have such an interesting family.

Now there are some candidates running across the nation who look at Bill de Blasio’s campaign as a blueprint for their own. Some see it as the rise of progressivism and the public finally fighting back against the economic inequality that we are seeing in the nation. But I would caution candidates to think twice about using New York as an example of how to run a campaign. Some think that it was former Mayor Adrian Fenty trying to model himself after Michael Bloomberg that caused many of his problems. There are few cities with eight million people and the diversity of New York. More are like the District, which is comparable to a collection of just a few neighborhoods in New York.

D.C. today has only 400,000 registered voters. Everyone in politics tends to know everyone else and their business. When a new mayor is installed in New York, he or she has a choice of millions of people to place in government positions. That isn’t the case in D.C. and it is the reason many people remain in their positions from one administration to another.

Challengers who generally have the same positions on the issues as the incumbent have a difficult time making themselves stand out. Challengers who are themselves incumbents in another office have the additional problem of having already staked out positions many the same as the person they are now challenging. In a small city like D.C. the issues always tend to be the same. They include education, public safety, fiscal stability, economic development and balancing the needs of the haves and have-nots, which includes dealing with gentrification.

Over the next less than 70 days, the struggle will be for the challengers for all offices in D.C. to make the case for how they can make a difference. First they will try to convince voters that the city isn’t moving in the right direction and present a believable plan to change things. If that doesn’t work they must make the case for why the incumbent can’t continue to lead.

Not easy in a one-on-one challenge but made even more difficult when there are multiple candidates having to run not only against the incumbent but against each other.

21
Jan
2014

Republicans continue to self-destruct

Ann Coulter, CPAC, gay news, Washington Blade

This week, we will be treated to the annual spectacle of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place where the most outrageous Republicans are invited to spew their venom to the party faithful. In the past the conference has hosted the likes of irrelevant figures like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There is a certain Schadenfraude when I hear Republicans say things that are sure to quicken the downward spiral of the national Republican Party.

Republicans in places like Arizona who pass legislation designed to allow people to discriminate just keep adding to the view that the Republican Party today is a place that only welcomes those who want to discriminate against the LGBT community, women and other minorities. The few moderates left seem to be losing any control they once had of the platform or direction of the party.

That makes it difficult to convince people in places like Massachusetts to even consider electing a Republican. Take the case of congressional candidate Richard Tisei who is being touted as a moderate gay Republican who can change the party from within. The facts challenge that assumption. When he ran on a ticket for lieutenant governor with Charlie Baker who claimed to be a moderate, he couldn’t even get him to support basic equality for the transgender community. The Blue Mass group said, “If he can’t convince his own running mate in Massachusetts to be less extreme, how in the world will he convince Republicans from conservative states to be less extreme on gay rights or any other issue?”

Another problem with electing someone like Tisei to Congress is that his first vote would be for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as House Speaker — the same speaker who has blocked ENDA since the Senate passed it last year.

This week, we will be treated to the annual spectacle of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place where the most outrageous Republicans are invited to spew their venom to the party faithful. In the past the conference has hosted the likes of irrelevant figures like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. This year promises to bring more of the same; the intellectual giant Sarah Palin will be there.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be two of the big draws. I understand they were excited to invite and get an acceptance from Christie before he got entangled in Bridgegate. It will be interesting to see how far right Christie will go to attract the GOP faithful. They forced Mitt Romney far enough right in the last election to ensure a loss to President Obama. Huckabee, on the other hand, already has just the kind of far-right cred they love.

Then CPAC attendees will surely hear from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). This is the same Ryan who ran as Romney’s running mate and managed to gain a reputation as someone who had a few problems telling the truth. He recently spoke about the budget he is preparing for the Republican House, which will question all the programs meant to help those in need, the safety net programs like Medicare, food stamps, Head Start etc. Democrats wait with baited breath to see if his solution is simply to cut these programs or to legitimately improve them.

CPAC attendees will also get to hear from that Joseph McCarthy-like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.). They will also get another chance to hear from right-wing Johns Hopkins retired surgeon turned Fox News commentator Dr. Ben Carson. This is the same Carson forced to withdraw as the Johns Hopkins commencement speaker after he compared gay marriage to bestiality and pedophilia. He attacked the Affordable Care Act as socialism by quoting Lenin: “Lenin thought so. He declared: ‘Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the Socialized State.’” Carson apparently took that quote from a brochure attacking Harry Truman for his attempt to get everyone medical insurance and some have disputed that Lenin ever said it.

Democrats aren’t perfect and there are Blue Dog Democrats whose voting records clearly don’t match the Democratic Party platform. The difference is those Democrats don’t control the party and they vote for a leadership team that is progressive and favors ensuring the human and civil rights of all people.

04
Mar
2014

Obama must keep promise to LGBT workers

Barack Obama, LGBT workers, Election 2012, gay news, Washington Blade, Affordable Care Act, Obamacare

President Barack Obama (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Obama signed two more executive orders continuing to make good on his promise to move issues forward that aren’t being dealt with by Congress. Many applaud his efforts because waiting for this Congress to act is like “Waiting for Godot.”

Women were the beneficiaries of the two executive orders he signed last week. The time is way past due for us to deal with the disparities in pay between men and women in the workplace. The New York Times reported, “He signed two executive measures intended to help close longstanding pay disparities between men and women as Democrats seek to capitalize on their gender-gap advantage at the ballot box in a midterm election year.”

The Times continued, “Mr. Obama, standing in front of a platform of women in a picture-ready ceremony in the East Room of the White House, said his actions would make it easier for women to learn whether they had been cheated by employers. He called on Congress to pass legislation that would take more significant steps.”

In signing these executive orders the president has put the Republican Party on the defensive and raised the question of why anyone would be opposed to equal pay for equal work. This continuing economic inequality is just another indication that the fight for equal rights for women is not yet won. Whether it is equal pay or the right to control their healthcare, the current leadership of the Republican Party thinks the way to move forward is to go back to the 18th century.

So I join with others who believe the president is taking the right position by signing these orders while at the same time imploring Congress to move on legislation in these areas. What I question is why he seems so averse to moving the ball forward when it comes to LGBT employment rights. While he is fighting for equal pay for women, there are lesbians who can’t even get employment because of discrimination. For them it’s not about equal pay it’s about any pay.

There are lesbian heads of household who are being denied employment by federal contractors because the president refuses to make good on a campaign promise from his 2008 campaign. At that time he ran on a slogan of “Hope and Change” and the LGBT community by large majorities supported him because of that. They put their trust in him to bring about positive change for the community.

In many ways both large and small he has done that. The president’s evolving to support marriage equality has been life altering for many in the community. It has allowed many people to have their families be fully recognized. He has hired members of the LGBT community on his staff and throughout government. He spoke out about equality for the LGBT community around the world at the United Nations and has made a huge statement to the world about our belief in equality by naming a number of openly LGBT persons to be ambassadors.

So what is stopping him from issuing the order to bar anti-LGBT workplace bias among federal contractors? This lack of action on his part is so perplexing given the other efforts he has made to move the ball forward toward full civil and human rights for the LGBT community.

Recently the White House press office stated that the president believes that signing this order would be redundant. The Washington Blade reported that Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign referring to the executive orders the president signed said, “Issuing these executive orders helps build momentum for Congress to act on paycheck fairness legislation. The exact same logic applies to the executive order that would afford protections to the LGBT workers of federal contractors. By the stroke of his pen, the president can immediately protect over 16 million workers and pressure Congress to pass ENDA. There is simply no reason for President Obama to wait one second longer.”

Anyone who believes in equality must join with the 47 senators and 148 representatives who have sent a letter calling on the president to sign the order. President Obama: the time to keep your promise is NOW.

17
Apr
2014

Electing more out women to public office

Tammy Baldwin, women, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

By STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK

There is a big difference between being a topic of conversation and being a part of the conversation. If we want a truly representative democracy, we need to elect a government that actually looks like our nation of individuals – of every gender, race, religion and orientation.

EMILY’s List works on making that vision a reality by supporting diverse Democratic women candidates for every level of office. And we have work to do: We elected an historic number of women in 2012, but women are still only 19 percent of Congress. That’s one of the reasons we’ll fight for the underdog candidate when we know she is the right one.

In 2011, when everyone told us that Tammy Baldwin couldn’t win a Senate race in Wisconsin, we put everything we had behind her and made it happen. We’d been standing with Tammy for years and knew she was a champion for every Wisconsinite. And, in 2012, Baldwin made history when she was elected as our nation’s first openly gay United States Senator.

Having her voice in the Senate makes a difference. Having Kyrsten Sinema’s voice in the House of Representatives makes a difference. Having Annise Parker as mayor of Houston makes a difference.

Having LGBT voices in the halls of power is not just important, it’s essential. It’s something we need to work on every month, not just Pride Month, because the work these women do has a lasting impact.

Women like current candidate for governor of Maryland, Del. Heather Mizeur, who has done incredible work to bring marriage equality to her state. As a city councilor she helped Takoma Park become the first municipality to pass a resolution in support of same-sex marriage and as a state delegate, her passionate floor speech helped secure final passage for statewide marriage equality. And women like candidate for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey who, as assistant attorney general took on the federal government and worked working tirelessly to challenge DOMA and see it overturned.

In Houston, Mayor Annise Parker championed an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite threats of a recall, Parker refuses to put political games ahead of the rights of the people of Houston. In Nevada, state Sen. Pat Spearman, an advocate for LGBT people of color, ensured gender identity protections were included in hate crimes prevention laws. Oregon’s House Speaker Tina Kotek played a large role in the passage of the Oregon Family Fairness Act, the Oregon Equality Act and strengthening laws to protect students from bullying in schools.

Elections matter. Electing these women has changed their towns and states and our country. Electing more LGBT women and more women LGBT allies will make ours a more inclusive country.

Right now, the EMILY’s List women in the Senate have a 100 percent record on supporting the overturning of DOMA, backing an LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act, voting for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and publicly backing marriage equality. That’s a record I am proud of.

One of the bravest things you can do in a democracy is put your name on the ballot. Especially when you may not meet the stereotypes of a candidate, or be the most obvious person to run for office.

We need to stand with the women brave enough to do just that. This is a nation of individuals, and it should be a nation where everyone can be proud of what makes them unique, and have their voices heard.

Stephanie Schriock is president of EMILY’s List.

17
Jun
2014

Robin Williams’ depression a familiar battle

Robin Williams, depression, gay news, Washington Blade

Actor Robin Williams took his own life this week after a long battle with depression. (Photo by Eva Rinaldi; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

I am among the untold numbers of people who remain deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who took his own life in his home outside San Francisco on Aug. 11. I sat stunned on the couch in the den of our Dupont Circle apartment as my partner and I watched news reports that indicated the celebrated actor and comedian committed suicide after suffering from what some have described as “severe depression.”

Reading the details of how Williams hanged himself with a belt in the bedroom of his Marin County home nearly brought me to tears.

This tragic news hit too close to home because I am among the millions of Americans who live with some form of depression.

My doctor diagnosed me with the disorder in September 2012 after I sent him a late night e-mail in which I admitted that I was likely experiencing many of the symptoms associated with depression: mood swings and a lack of energy in particular. The best way I can categorize this disorder for those who are fortunate enough not to live with it is that it is comparable to walking through a thick fog that leaves you disoriented and saps your strength.

I had done enough research before reaching out to my doctor to understand that I had likely lived with the disorder for quite some time. I had — and continue to have — a very fulfilling personal and professional life and a family that unconditionally accepts me as a gay man, so there was no reason for me to feel so bad.

I simply reached a point where I wanted to confirm my own suspicions and do something about it.

I am fortunate enough to live with a mild form of depression that allows me to function normally with a low dose of prescription medication that costs less than $2 a month with insurance that I am privileged enough to have. I am also fortunate enough to have a doctor and a partner who continue to remind me there is nothing wrong with me simply because I am living with a disorder.

There are days when I struggle with mood swings and a lack of energy for no apparent reason, but overall I am able to life my life on my own terms without any disruptions.

Others who live with depression are far less fortunate.

I have never been someone who wants people to feel sorry for me, and I certainly don’t expect anyone to start now because I have publicly discussed the fact that I live with depression. It is simply a part of my story.

Williams’ untimely death provides a stark reminder that millions of people in this country and around the world live with this disorder, and some of them unfortunately lose their struggle. I celebrate this amazing man on the sad occasion of his untimely death and keep those who live with depression and struggle with it in my thoughts.

13
Aug
2014

Howling at the moon: Dupont group decries noise

noise, gay news, Washington Blade

Claiming ignorance after moving into an entertainment district should not be grounds for later complaints regarding living in a commercial zone.

The tiny cadre of chronic complainers railing against the indignities of city living in D.C.’s Dupont Circle mixed-use neighborhood seldom fail to amaze and amuse.

So it was once again this week when Washington City Paper advised that yet another small ad hoc anti-business group had launched in the commercial district. Headlined “Citizen Vigilante Group Forms to Combat Noise in Dupont,” the publication reported that residents of the Palladium Condominium, directly adjacent to the six-lane Connecticut Avenue, N.W., commercial thoroughfare, were upset about noise from nightlife venues in the downtown area.

Named the D.C. Nightlife Noise Coalition, the assemblage appears to be the latest incarnation of one formed by Palladium resident Abigail Nichols, now a Dupont Circle neighborhood advisory commission member from district 2B-05. Her group, the Alcohol Sanity Coalition D.C., was formed in an unsuccessful effort opposing liquor-licensing reforms enacted a little over a year ago.

Nichols had argued that nightlife establishments have a monetary incentive to play music with “a rhythmic beat” at elevated levels. She publicly claimed that “alcohol tastes sweeter in the presence of loud music” and that “young males consume beer 20 percent faster” when listening to it.

The new “anti-noise” gaggle is demanding enforcement of a city ordinance limiting exterior sound within one meter outside venues to less than 60 decibels, the equivalent of two persons laughing during normal conversation. In a 23-page document detailing their annoyance, building residents acknowledge that this measurement is equivalent to “a quiet conversation.”

Sound measurements conducted in another part of the city by a restaurant battling objections to an outdoor patio abutting a major traffic artery registered a passing Metrobus at decibel levels in the mid-to-high-80s, with patron conversations adding no additional noise to the surrounding area. Sound meter readings by the Dupont coterie indicate that in seven of eight instances the noise level immediately outside area nightlife establishments overlapped with the ambient levels of auto traffic prior to venue opening.

This so-called “citizen group” objects to standard city inspector protocol to first verify that an excessive noise level exists within the complaining person’s home. They argue that, according to the law, the sound measurement must be made within one meter – or 3.28 feet – of the business. City regulators, however, have discovered that businesses targeted by coordinated cliques generate anonymous phone complaints without merit or from blocks away. In a high-profile instance several years ago on U Street, officials utilized Caller ID to visit the home of a woman who had phoned in nearly 100 complaints, finding no unusual noise could be heard inside her apartment.

These Dupont dwellers are actually late to the public discussion regarding noise abatement strategies and should be careful what they wish for in any official response. A D.C. Council committee recently engaged a task force meeting for two years to make recommendations regarding revising noise regulations. Key among the determinations was requiring housing construction soundproofing materials and window qualities to prevent noise seepage into units.

That should be of concern to Steve Coniglio, developer of 70 planned units of housing on a commercially zoned street only a half-block from several nightclubs, who has joined the complaining Palladium residents around the corner. Is it not his responsibility to ensure construction includes sufficient soundproofing to mitigate noise originating within a commercial area? Or should he be allowed to build housing units not adequately designed for urban noise?

Claiming ignorance after moving into an entertainment district, however, should not be grounds for later complaints regarding living in a commercial zone.

Before this disgruntled group howls too loudly, they might pause to consider the potential downside to their whining. If the city determines that current noise restrictions are unrealistically low or unenforceable, the likely solution may be to either raise the allowable level or officially require that sound measurements be conducted inside the complainants’ domicile.

How loudly would a hearty cackle register on a sound monitor?

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

05
Feb
2014

Catania is superior candidate for mayor

David Catania, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As a lifelong Democrat, I was interested to read Lateefah Williams’ March 12 piece in which she argues that LGBT voters should look no further than the political party of a candidate when choosing our next mayor. First, I know Williams and find her to be a passionate advocate for the causes close to her heart. However, the notion that we should blindly fall in line and support the candidate with a “D” at their end of their name does a disservice to our community and is not in the best interest of our city.

Williams would have us look only at a label rather than the quality of a candidate’s character and record. David Catania has fought for the LGBT community and stood up for “Democratic values” more than any other elected official in the District. His efforts to improve public schools, expand healthcare coverage to all District residents regardless of their immigration status, create a medical marijuana program and foster economic opportunity for the entire city speak for themselves and clearly reflect our shared values.

There is no other candidate in the race who can hold a candle to David Catania when it comes to issues affecting both the future of our city generally and our community specifically.  David not only authored the bill that brought the District marriage equality, but he was the chief executive of the tireless and relentless campaign to guide it to passage. It was David who brought the various voices of our community together behind an effective and unified strategy and it was David who fought against and stared down the prospect of a ballot initiative that could have been its undoing.

Because of David’s leadership as chair of the Council’s Committee on Health, the District increased the number of publicly funded HIV tests from 8,320 in 2005 to nearly 138,000 in 2012, the final year of his tenure as chair. Further, he was instrumental in taking the District from a place of ignorance about its epidemic to being a national leader in effectively tracking and understanding the spread of the disease. The District’s annual HIV/AIDS epidemiology report that David funded and championed is now a model for jurisdictions across the country. As a result of this work, the number of newly diagnosed cases fell from 700 in 2008 to 363 in 2012 and the number of HIV-related deaths went from 238 in 2008 to 69 in 2012. What’s more, because of his efforts to uncover and address the mismanagement of the city’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, the number of District residents receiving life-saving medication for free has tripled since 2008 and there is no waiting list.

When the only acute care hospital east of the Anacostia River faced imminent collapse, David took action. He held hearings, rooted out the problems, championed the cause of saving the hospital, and led the effort to secure grants and loans to ensure the hospital’s survival. What was once a facility at risk of being unable to ensure basic patient safety was reborn as “United Medical Center” with new equipment, facilities and patient services. The hospital has seen patient volumes increase and its bottom line drastically improve. If not for David’s intervention, this critical component of the District’s healthcare infrastructure and social safety net would have been lost forever.

In 2013, David introduced legislation to undo the District’s prohibition on surrogacy agreements. Under District law, couples and single people wanting to have children face a fine of up to $10,000 or a year in jail if they enter into a surrogacy agreement. The District is the only jurisdiction in the country with such a prohibition. The legislation authored by David permits surrogacy agreements and establishes a legal framework to protect those agreements.

David authored and guided to passage legislation to undo laws that burdened our transgender brothers and sisters. Until last year, the District required expensive medical procedures before individuals could obtain a birth certificate that reflects their true gender identity. Seeing these laws as outdated and discriminatory, David did something about it. He introduced the “JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013,” which aligned the District’s requirements with modern medical standards and implemented privacy protections for those seeking a new birth certificate.

Yes, there was a time when David Catania was a Republican. But our community stands for being true to ourselves, true to our beliefs and true to the values of acceptance and fairness.  David Catania’s decision to leave the Republican Party more than a decade ago when it was clear that it did not align with his core values and go on to serve as an independent member of the Council is the logical extension of that same ethic.

David Catania may not have a “D” after his name, but I would put his record up against anyone who does. While some have spent their time worrying about labels, David Catania has been busy putting the District of Columbia first.

John Klenert has been a D.C. resident since the Lyndon Johnson administration. He is a longtime member of the Stein Club and serves on the Victory Fund Campaign Board.

20
Mar
2014

Catania best-qualified candidate ever for D.C. mayor

David Catania, qualified, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania filed papers to run for mayor on March 12 at the Reeves Center. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Isaiah Webster III wrote in his May 2 Blade column that Democrats should support Muriel Bowser over David Catania simply because Bowser managed to win the Democratic nomination with a small percentage of Democrats. On April 1, 90 percent of the District’s registered voters either did not vote or they voted for other candidates.

Bowser, who ran as the anti-Gray candidate of resentment, vowed not to support the Democratic nominee if Mayor Gray won the nomination. Now that she has prevailed, Webster writes that Democrats should vote for Bowser despite her questionable qualifications.

My involvement in the Democratic Party goes back to fall 1960 in Michigan when I helped organize Grosse Pointe Young Democrats in support of John Kennedy’s election.  At 19, I first arrived in Washington during January 1961 for JFK’s inauguration.

In 1979, I was the first openly gay person to serve on the D.C. Democratic State Committee. During the 1980s, I was an officer of the District’s Democratic party. In 1980, I was one of five D.C. gay delegates to the Democratic National Convention in New York at Madison Square Garden. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, moreover, was founded in my living room in January 1976.

Webster accused Lane Hudson in his April 23 column of “taking his case right to the gutter.” But it is Webster who got down in the gutter when the raised the issue of race:  “Would Muriel Bowser be deemed qualified enough if she were a white gay man like David Catania or Lane Hudson?”

Outside the District, voting for Democrats has great meaning. But here in Washington, the issue of party affiliation has little relevance, other than most decisions are made within the Democratic Party.

On April 30 at Policy Restaurant on 14th Street, N.W., Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance celebrated its 43rd anniversary. Carol Schwartz, a progressive Republican and an excellent former member of the City Council, financially supported the event as a sponsor.

So did Council members Catania, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange and Tommy Wells.  Every time that Schwartz ran for office, I voted for her.

In Bowser’s years on the Council, what has she accomplished? Although Bowser chairs the committee responsible for housing issues, she has done nothing to address the housing crisis. The InTowner newspaper called her “derelict in carrying out her assigned responsibility.”

On the important issue of education, Bowser has failed to offer a single proposal of substance to improve our schools.

Since 1997, Catania has been elected five times — winning votes in all eight wards.  Over the years, David has achieved an outstanding record of accomplishments. Colbert I. King of The Washington Post wrote: “They don’t come any smarter, more dedicated or gutsier than Catania. And no one works harder.”

I have known every mayor since the late Walter Washington was elected in November 1974. I can write with great confidence that David Catania is the best-qualified person to have ever run for mayor of the District of Columbia.

Paul Kuntzler is a longtime LGBT advocate and D.C. resident.

07
May
2014

Standing by our client in D.C. restaurant bias case

gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

By JON DAVIDSON

When a B&B in Hawaii refused to rent a room to a lesbian couple, when a restaurant in New York harassed a woman and her friends because they thought she was a lesbian, and when a housing complex in Florida turned away a gay man and his partner—Lambda Legal investigated, filed suit and righted those wrongs.

Just recently, Lambda Legal took on representation of two gay men in Iowa after a small business refused to rent them space for their wedding.

Whether a business is large or small, homophobic by reputation or self-proclaimed “LGBT friendly,” where there is strong evidence of discrimination, Lambda Legal is committed to fighting unequal treatment of LGBT people and people living with HIV in public accommodations at all levels.

The discrimination detailed in our complaint to the D.C. Office of Human Rights is yet another case in which LGBT people have suffered mistreatment in their everyday lives. Our client’s claims are supported by multiple witnesses and by the receipt containing an anti-LGBT slur.

Our client and companions with her that night are hurt and bewildered by claims that they were somehow to blame for what happened and that the bar manager apologized to them and publicly fired the waitress, when that is simply not at all what our client and others at her table saw or heard.

Whether it’s representing a transgender woman who was entitled to equal treatment at a bar or gay men seeking to rent an apartment, Lambda Legal is committed to being there to see that acts of bias are investigated and non-discrimination laws are enforced.

Jon Davidson is legal director and Eden/ Rushing chair at Lambda Legal. 

01
Jul
2014

Robin Roberts comes out — take that Duck Dynasty

Robin Roberts, ABC, gay news, Washington Blade

Robin Roberts (Photo public domain)

Sometimes I wonder if we should care any more when a celeb comes out. When seemingly every couple you know is planning their same-sex wedding; openly LGBT politicos serve in the U.S. Congress; and gay hosts are an indelible part of awards shows – what difference does it make if someone in the public eye is openly queer? Yet when Robin Roberts, an anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” recently came out as a lesbian, I felt as if a cultural milestone had been reached.

Back in the day, we rarely saw (openly) LGBT people on TV. The few images of gay life then showed us to be “deviant,” monstrous or “sick.” An out game show host, sit-com star — let alone news anchor — would have been inconceivable. If Jane Pauley, Bryant Gumbel, Joan Lunden, David Hartman, Tom Brokaw or any of the many morning shows co-hosts over the years had been gay, their careers would have ended instantly if they’d left the closet. When Ellen came out, you’d have thought the Apocalypse had arrived. News outlets blazed with the story and her career, for a time, hit the skids.

It’s hard to imagine a morning show anchor coming out even five years ago without risking being fired and unleashing vociferous homophobia. If an anchor had opted to be openly gay then, the announcement would have entailed as much choreography as a Busby Berkeley production number. The complex, nervous dance would have involved publicists, magazine covers and handwringing over sponsors and ratings.

Yet Roberts’ coming out on Dec. 29, like that of many celebs lately, appeared almost as an aside. As is often the case now with revelations from news anchors, actors and others, Roberts bypassed old school outlets for social media. Most tellingly, no Barbara Walters interview or “After School” type special was involved. In 2012, Roberts had a bone marrow transplant to treat a rare blood disorder. “I am grateful for my entire family, my long time girlfriend, Amber, and friends as we prepare to celebrate a glorious new year together,” she wrote in a Facebook post on her recovery.

Far from firing her, ABC supported Roberts. “We love Robin and Amber, who we have all known for a long time,” the network said in a statement, “We were so touched by Robin’s Facebook message today and so thankful for all the loving support she has in her life.”

The Twitterverse lit up with love for Roberts.  “I am so happy for you and Amber!  You continue to make us all proud – mo,” Michelle Obama tweeted.

“Go on with your bad self,” comedian and actress Wanda Sykes wrote on Twitter.

“Sending good thoughts to Robin Roberts#Loveislove,” wrote Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons.

Sure, nearly every celeb seems to be queer now, and another famous person coming out can be as exciting as your BFF’s sister’s Facebook status update. Yet, Roberts’ coming out matters.

Broadcast TV doesn’t have the power it had in the days of Yesteryear. TV audiences today are fragmented, smaller and many of us watch shows (or pieces of shows) on mobile devices.  But the TV morning shows still earn big profits and ratings. The hosts of these programs continue to serve as our morning “families” and to kick-start pop culture. A politician who appears on “Today” or “Good Morning America” makes news and a movie or book plugged on these shows is likely to do well.

The TV show morning co-hosts have to daily “appear alive and alert and attractive on the air…no matter how sleepy or stressed or ugly they really feel,” writes Brian Stelter, author of “Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.”

Homophobia remains alive and well. Think “Duck Dynasty.” Roberts will encounter haters.  Still, an anchor of the No. 1 morning TV show in America coming out is a moment to celebrate.

07
Jan
2014