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Keeping Dem mayor trumps loyalty to Gray

Vince Gray, Vincent Gray, David Catania, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) (on left) and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

Now that Council member David Catania (I-At Large) is running for mayor, it is more important than ever for Democrats to elect a candidate who cannot only win the Democratic primary, but who can also prevail in the general election.

I like Catania on a personal level, despite his public brashness, and I understand how significant it would be to have an openly gay mayor, but I am a loyal Democrat and I make no apologies for that. I strongly believe in the principles of the Democratic Party and I believe that candidates who support those principles are the best candidates to lead. While many D.C. Council members who have held one of the two seats reserved for the non-majority party have been Democrats who have changed their party to qualify for the seat, Catania was a Republican when he was first elected to the D.C. Council. He changed his party affiliation to independent due to homophobia in the national Republican Party. Ideologically, he is not my choice for mayor.

In past columns, I have used this space to acknowledge that I am undecided in the mayor’s race. While I am not going to endorse a candidate today, I will not pretend that the shadow campaign does not factor into my final decision. Truth be told, if there were no shadow campaign, I would have already made up my mind to support Mayor Vincent Gray. He is doing a good job running the city and his support for the LGBT community, specifically transgender people, has been groundbreaking. Though Gray fell just short of receiving the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club endorsement, the overwhelming support he received over the other mayoral candidates is a testament to his wonderful LGBT initiatives.

That said, specific details about the allegations against Mayor Gray that came out on March 10 during shadow campaign financier Jeffrey Thompson’s guilty plea make it difficult for me to support Mayor Gray. I’m not going as far as others and suggesting that he drop out of the race, but, at this point, to support him, I need to know that there is no smoking gun that proves Thompson’s allegations and that the overwhelming public perception is that Gray, and not Thompson, is telling the truth. Sadly, it seems unlikely that these conditions will be met.

These questions need to be answered in less than one week. Early voting starts on March 17 and by that time, Democrats may need to start lining up behind one candidate.  I am going to stop short of saying who that candidate should be.

One saving grace is that this news is coming out now and not after the Democratic primary. Even as I have leaned toward supporting Mayor Gray, my greatest fear during this election season has always been that Gray would be implicated in the shadow campaign after the Democratic primary and Catania would use that to defeat him in November.

Democrats cannot afford to lose the mayoralty and no individual is bigger than the party. At some point, we may have to decide to put personalities and petty differences aside and, for the good of the D.C. Democratic Party, unite behind the candidate with the best chance of prevailing in the general election.

We are in a unique situation, not just because of game-changing allegations leveled against the mayor shortly before the Democratic primary, but also because, for the first time since home rule, a non-Democratic candidate has a legitimate chance to be elected mayor. A January Washington Post poll listed a potential race between Gray and Catania as a statistical dead heat before this latest bombshell. Most likely, if the poll were taken today, Catania would be in the lead.

I believe we should still hear Mayor Gray out and give him a chance to clear his name. However, while it may not be fair and it is against my legal training, the burden of proof has clearly shifted. Generally, the prosecution must prove a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the same rules don’t apply in the court of public opinion and if, in another week, Gray has not convinced a significant portion of the electorate that he is telling the truth, for the sake of the D.C. Democratic Party, it may be time to unite behind one of the other frontrunners.

Lateefah Williams’ biweekly column, ‘Life in the Intersection,’ focuses on the intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation. She is a D.C.-based political and LGBT activist. Reach her at lateefah_williams@msn.com or follow her on Twitter @lateefahwms

12
Mar
2014

Stadium deal could displace D.C. LGBT Center

D.C. Center, Reeves Building, gay news, Washington Blade, stadium

The D.C. Center is currently located in the Reeves Center. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mayor Vincent Gray on May 23 submitted legislation to the City Council calling for a series of land deals to facilitate the building of a new soccer stadium that could displace the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community from its current home at 14th and U Street, N.W. in three years.

Among other things, Gray’s proposal would trade the Reeves Center municipal building where the D.C. Center is currently renting space to a private developer in exchange for obtaining land owned by the developer in the Buzzard’s Point section in Southwest Washington, where the soccer stadium would be built.

“No current Reeves tenants will need to be relocated until the new Reeves Center is finished in approximately three years,” a statement released by the mayor’s office says. “The District will make every effort to keep select tenants in the vicinity of the 14th and U Street location for continuation of services to their target constituents,” the statement says.

Gray has told D.C. Center officials that his administration would find a suitable new location for the Center, possibly in another city-owned building in the 14th and U area if the stadium deal results in the closing of the Reeves Center. Under Gray’s plan for the soccer stadium, all of the city government agencies currently housed in the Reeves Center would be moved to a new Reeves Center planned to be built in Anacostia.

Several members of the Council, including mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), have expressed skepticism over the soccer stadium deal, saying they might vote against approving the legislation submitted by Gray last week. Gray’s timetable for trading the Reeves Center for the land in Buzzard’s point is linked to a quick approval of the proposal by the Council before it recesses for its two-month summer break in July.

If the Council doesn’t act on the proposal until after it returns from its break in September, the closing of the Reeves Center at 14th and U Street, N.W., could be delayed beyond the three-year projected timetable in the mayor’s proposal.

27
May
2014

Marriage and more

The momentous events of 2013 hit close to home, as marriage equality arrived in Maryland and Delaware. But last year wasn’t all about marriage. It was a big year for Democrats in Virginia and a lesbian lawmaker announced a bid for Maryland governor.

Here’s a look at the top 10 local news stories of 2013 as chosen by Blade editorial staffers.

 

#1 Marriage equality comes to Md., Del.

 

Clayton Zook, Tracy Staples, Wayne MacKenzie, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Tilghman Island

Marriage equality expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic in 2013 with Maryland and Delaware joining D.C. in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie tied the knot on New Year’s Day on Tilghman Island. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland and Delaware were among the states in which same-sex couples began to legally marry in 2013.

Seven same-sex couples married at Baltimore City Hall on Jan. 1 shortly after Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect in a ceremony that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated. They include long-time mayoral aide James Scales and his partner, William Tasker.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” said Rawlings-Blake.

More than half a dozen same-sex couples exchanged vows at the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on Jan. 1. These include innkeepers Tracy Staples and Bob Zuber who tied the knot almost immediately after the law took effect at midnight.

“I’m very proud of Maryland,” Michelle Miller of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County told the Washington Blade on Jan. 1 after she married Nora Clouse at the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on May 7 signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) came out as a lesbian on the floor of the state Senate while she and her colleagues debated the measure. The New Castle County Democrat and her partner of more than 20 years, Vikki Bandy, on July 1 became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple when the couple converted their civil union into a marriage during a ceremony that New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden officiated.

“It’s exciting, both historically and personally,” Peterson told reporters after she and Bandy exchanged vows inside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington. “I never thought in our lifetimes we would be getting married.”

Boulden later on July 1 also officiated Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cote’s wedding in Wilmington that Attorney General Beau Biden, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon and other local and state officials attended.

“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” said Biden.

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis and Rev. Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington are among those who testified against the same-sex marriage bill. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church on July 1 protested the law outside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington and at other locations throughout the state.

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) is the only Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored the measure. John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, on March 15 came out during an exclusive interview with the Blade at an Equality Delaware fundraiser in Wilmington.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” said Fluharty. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

 

#2 McAuliffe elected Va. governor

 

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe is Virginia’s next governor after a campaign that prominently featured gay issues. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Nov. 6 defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.

McAuliffe has repeatedly said his first executive order as governor will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. The former DNC chair in February also endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily defeated Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson in the state’s lieutenant gubernatorial race. The State Board of Elections on Nov. 25 officially certified state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) as the winner of the race to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general, but state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) requested a recount because he lost to his Democratic rival by only 165 votes.

Cuccinelli highlighted his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples during two debates against McAuliffe that took place in Hot Springs and McLean in July and September respectively. LGBT rights advocates also blasted the outgoing attorney general for appealing a federal appellate court’s March ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Jackson faced persistent criticism during the campaign over his previous comments that equated gay men to pedophiles and “very sick people.”

“Without exception, the Democratic candidates for statewide office offered unflinching support for marriage equality, a welcoming business climate and respect for a woman’s right to choose,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) after the election. “The people of Virginia aligned themselves with McAuliffe’s and Northam’s vision of an inclusive, forward moving commonwealth.”

 

 

#3 Va. lawmakers confirm gay judge

 

Virginia lawmakers on Jan. 15 confirmed gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked the former prosecutor’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s.

Thorne-Begland in 1992 publicly discussed his sexual orientation during an interview on ABC’s “Nightline.” He unsuccessfully challenged his discharge from the U.S. Navy under the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

Thorne-Begland is also a former Equality Virginia board member.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after lawmakers approved Thorne-Begland’s judgeship. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

Thorne-Begland is Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

 

 #4 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay: report

 

gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Gallup says that 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A report released in February by the Gallup polling organization showed that the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of self-identified LGBT residents in the nation in comparison to the 50 states.

Ten percent of 493 D.C. residents who responded to Gallup’s daily tracking polls between June 1 and Dec. 30, 2012 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the report. By comparison, 3.3 percent of a sample of 4,195 Maryland residents and 2.9 percent of a sample of 6,323 Virginians identified themselves as LGBT.

The report did not compare D.C. to other cities. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which studies LGBT related demographics, told the Blade the Gallop statistics appeared to be a more accurate snapshot of the country’s LGBT population than previous studies.

 

#5 Mizeur runs for governor in Md.

 

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

Del. Heather Mizeur is seeking to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on July 16 officially entered the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m running for governor because I love this state and I see limitless possibilities on what we can accomplish together,” the Montgomery County Democrat told the Washington Blade before she announced her candidacy. “There are great challenges facing us and also incredible opportunities.”

Mizeur last month raised eyebrows when she tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton as her running mate. The Prince George’s County pastor in 2012 emerged as one of the most prominent supporters of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved in a referendum.

“I have stood up for justice,” said Coates at a Nov. 14 campaign event during which Mizeur officially introduced him as her running mate. “I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”

Mizeur will face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed Martin O’Malley.

“Diversity is enormously important,” Mizeur told the Blade in July. “Not simply to have a gay governor, but to have a governor who can represent the voices of people in communities that have not always had a voice in the process.”

 

#6 Rash of violent incidents in June

 

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

Drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria in June. (Screen capture)

Four transgender women, a gay man dressed in drag, and a lesbian were victims of separate violent attacks, including a murder, during the last two weeks of June, prompting LGBT activists to call a “community response” meeting to address the incidents.

Lesbian Malika Stover, 35, of Southeast D.C., was shot to death on June 22 following what police said was an argument with a neighbor that did not appear to be linked to her sexual orientation.

But transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized the meeting, said Stover’s slaying stunned people in the LGBT community who knew her.

“This is really putting all of us on edge,” she said. “You’re seeing all of these incidents happening in such a short period of time.”

Police arrested a 23-year-old male suspect for allegedly stabbing transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, multiple times on June 21 in an abandoned house in Southeast D.C. Police said the incident stemmed from a dispute and did not appear to be a hate crime. In another incident on June 23, gay male drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria near 14th and U streets, N.W. in an incident that was captured on video and posted on the Internet. The two women were arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge simple assault.

 

#7 Trans birth certificate bill hailed  

 

Vincent Gray, JaParker Deoni Jones, David Grosso, Ruby Corado, Rick Rosendall, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill in August enabling trans people to change their birth certificates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bill signed into law by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in August that removes obstacles to the process of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their new gender has been hailed as a groundbreaking measure.

Among other things, the new law repealed a provision in an existing law that required transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery as a condition for obtaining a new birth certificate. Transgender advocates said the surgery was too expensive for many people and medically hazardous to others.

The new law is named the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 in honor of a transgender woman murdered near her home in 2012.

Another key provision in the law requires the D.C. Registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition.”

 

 

#8 T.H.E. declares bankruptcy

 

Earline Budd, gay news, Washington Blade

Earline Budd called on the city to investigate T.H.E.’s management practices. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender Health Empowerment, D.C.’s leading transgender services and advocacy organization for nearly 10 years, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7. A short time later it discontinued all of its transgender-related programs.

The bankruptcy filing came after the D.C. Department of Health abruptly cut off its funding for T.H.E. when it learned that the IRS placed liens on the organization for its failure to pay more than $260,000 in employee withholding taxes over a period of at least three years. The bankruptcy filing shows that T.H.E.’s total debt comes to more than $560,000.

During a bankruptcy trustee’s hearing in August, T.H.E. executive director Anthony Hall said the group’s only source of income at the time of the hearing was a city grant calling for the organization to operate a non-LGBT related temporary housing facility for crime victims.

Longtime transgender activist Earline Budd, a former T.H.E. employee and one of its founders, has called on the city to investigate the group’s management practices to determine the cause of its financial problems.

 

 

#9 Mautner merges with Whitman-Walker

 

Don Blanchon, Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization based in Washington, D.C. since its founding in 1990, became an arm of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health in 2013 in what leaders of both groups called an “historic collaboration.”

In a joint statement released in June, the two organizations said the arrangement would bring the Mautner Project’s programs and staff under the “umbrella” of Whitman-Walker, an LGBT community health care provider founded in 1978.

Leslie Calman, Mautner Project’s executive director at the time the merger was announced, said the joining of the two groups would allow Mautner to “offer more critical services to a greater number of women who need those services throughout the region. It’s a natural fit.”

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. He said the Mautner Project’s “programs and reach within their community will help us fulfill that mission.”

Calman said that in addition to continuing its services for lesbians with serious illnesses such as cancer, the Mautner programs at Whitman-Walker would also continue various illness prevention programs such as cancer screening, smoking cessation and obesity reduction.

 

 

#10 Carson steps down as Hopkins speaker

 

Ben Carson, Values Voter Summit, Washington Blade, gay news

Ben Carson compared LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman).

A rising star in the Republican Party stirred controversy by comparing LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia, leading him to give up his role as commencement speaker at John Hopkins University.

The former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity when expressing his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition” of marriage, Carson said.

Carson’s remarks invoked the ire of students at John Hopkins University, where he was selected to speak as commencement speaker. The organization Media Matters asserted a majority of the graduating class, or around 700 students, called for his ouster. Although sources initially said Carson wouldn’t relinquish his speaking role at commencement, Carson eventually indicated he would acquiesce to students’ desires and step down as speaker.

But Carson went on to other public appearances, including one later in the year at a venue closer in tune with his views. Carson was among the speakers the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, where he articulated his opposition to marriage equality.

“We need to recognize that God created the family structure for a reason and marriage is a sacred institution from God himself, and there is no reason that man needs to change the definition of marriage,” Carson said.

02
Jan
2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31
Mar
2014

‘I’m liberated, free’

Pete Cahall, gay news, Washington Blade

‘One of the things our kids do in our community is embrace the diversity and celebrate it and value it,’ said Pete Cahall of Wilson High’s students. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Peter “Pete” Cahall, who has served as principal at D.C.’s highly acclaimed Woodrow Wilson High School for the past six years, became the subject of international news coverage in early June when he announced at the school’s LGBT Pride Day gathering that he’s gay.

Cahall’s coming out declaration came during his speech at a June 4 Pride Day event, which was held in the school’s spacious ground floor atrium. Several hundred students, faculty members, and administrators were assembled before him, and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), the first out gay person elected to the D.C. Council, were standing beside him.

“I have hid in the shadows for the last 50 years,” he said, adding that Gray’s outspoken support for LGBT equality and the warmth and support he has received from Wilson’s students, faculty and fellow administrators inspired him to “say what I need and must say today.”

Appearing nervous and exhilarated at the same time, Cahall declared, “Mayor Gray – I want to say publicly for the first time because of your leadership, care, and support that I am a proud gay man who just happens to be the principal of Wilson High School.”

In a June 16 interview with the Washington Blade, Cahall said his coming out was the culmination of a “long tumultuous journey” as a closeted gay man struggling with his identity beginning as a middle school student in New Jersey. It continued through his years as a high school and college athlete and early career as a physical education teacher and football coach in Virginia and North Carolina, he said.

Before recounting those early years Cahall told how much he was moved by the loud and prolonged applause and cheers he received by the students and his colleagues when he came out at the Pride event. Continued expressions of support in the days that followed lifted his spirits, he said.

“I can’t even describe how I feel now,” Cahall recounted while talking in his office. “I’m liberated, free, relaxed. And I just never expected how far reaching this has been,” he said.

“I’ve gotten emails from people in Australia, from Italy, from Canada. I’ve gotten emails and messages from educators across the country and from principals,” said Cahall.

“I’ve gotten a number of emails from parents across the country that have gay and lesbian kids that say how much their kid has been bullied and tormented and tried to commit suicide and I wish my son could be in a school like where you are with the acceptance in your community.”

On Monday, Cahall was recognized by President Obama at the White House during the annual White House Pride reception for LGBT rights advocates from throughout the country.

“Pete is here today,” Obama told the gathering in the White House East Room, drawing loud applause. “Because of his example, more young people know they don’t have to be afraid to be who they are; no matter who they love, people have their backs,” the president said. “So we’re proud of you.”

Cahall, 50, was born and raised in Mount Holley, N.J., an agricultural and factory town about 20 minutes by car from Philadelphia.

He recalls being bullied in middle school and subjected to anti-gay taunts before blossoming into a strapping six-foot, six-inch tall high school athlete who excelled on the football team and landed a full athletic scholarship to the University of Virginia.

“As long as I can remember I knew that I was gay,” he said. “I knew at five or six years old that there was something different with me. But I kept it inside.”

With that as a backdrop, Cahall said he remained deep in the closet during his college years and early career as a teacher and coach.

He remained in Charlottesville after graduating from UVA, beginning his career as an elementary school teacher in physical education. He soon began coaching at a nearby high school.

“I was assistant football coach, head wrestling coach and head track coach,” he said.

During his 10-year stay in the Charlottesville area, he returned to the university to earn a master’s degree in administration before taking a job as assistant principal at a high school in Greensboro, N.C. He was soon promoted to principal at a middle school in the same school district.

Two years later, Cahall said the administrator who hired him in Greensboro became superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Md. With his parents’ health failing, he felt the need to move closer to the Southern New Jersey area where his parents lived to help them at a time of need. So he took a job as principal at Rocky Hill Middle School in Montgomery County.

He became principal at Watkins Mill High School two years later before being promoted to an administrative post in the district as director of school performance “where I worked less, got paid more and hated it,” he said.

“I was bored. I was dealing with adults with adult problems,” said Cahall. “And so that’s when I made it to Wilson High School.”

According to Cahall, then D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, the controversial administrator who put in place major school reforms, hired him as Wilson’s principal at a time when the position became open.

Now, six years later, Cahall is credited with maintaining Wilson’s status as one of the city’s highest performing high schools, both academically and through its athletics programs. Although located in the city’s upscale Tenleytown section in Northwest Washington, Cahall is quick to point out that the school is among the most diverse racially and ethnically among the city’s public schools.

Pete Cahall, gay news, Washington Blade

‘I’ve gotten emails from people in Australia, from Italy, from Canada,’ said Wilson High Principal Pete Cahall following his coming out announcement last month. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“We’re a magnet school that is the largest and most diverse,” he said. “We have 1,740 kids – 50 percent African American, 25 percent white, 16 percent Latino, 9 percent Asian. We’ve got kids from 80 different countries speaking 47 different languages. There’s no other high school like us.”

As Cahall and Alex Wilson, the school’s openly gay director of academic development, escorted a Blade reporter and photographer through the atrium toward the principal’s office, students flocked toward Cahall, yelling “Hi Mr. Cahall.” Several boys gave him the high five signal with their hands.

Wilson said that at least one of the students who greeted Cahall was among a group of students experiencing problems academically or personally that he mentored and closely monitored, meeting with their parents and doing all he could to boost their morale and desire to succeed.

“He calls them the Cahall kids,” Wilson said.

Although Cahall didn’t say so directly, his personal struggle over whether or not to come out during many years as an educator appears to have played a role in his interest in and empathy for students facing their own struggles academically or for other reasons.

“As a gay man, my quality of life was diminished because I could not be me,” he wrote in a two-page essay he shared with the Blade called “My Reflection of the Process of My Decision.”

“The last issue that I considered is my relationship with Jesus Christ,” Cahall wrote in his “reflection” essay. “Yes, I am a Christian. I have accepted Jesus into my heart and have asked for His forgiveness for my many sins.”

He added, “In all my formative years, I was told that homosexuals were going straight to hell. In hearing this I … kept asking myself, ‘If God created me as a gay man would he really then sentence me to hell?’”

Cahall credits a video he discovered just a few months ago that was produced by the gay son of a conservative preacher with debunking for him the “supposed evidence” that homosexuality is the ultimate sin.

He said the video’s producer, Matthew Vines, helped him get through the final impediment to coming out.

“After watching this video many times, I determined that the Word of God, The Bible, has been manipulated to support the religious contention that God hates homosexuals when, actually, God is a God of love,” he wrote.

“With that acknowledgement, I freed myself of the issues with which I struggled throughout my life,” Cahall said in his essay. “I was tired of living in the shadows. I was tired of not sharing my private life with my public life.”

He told the Blade that he’s committed as an out gay man – just as he was when in the closet – to continue to strengthen Wilson High School’s welcoming atmosphere.

“The one thing we at Wilson identify with is our diversity,” he said. “And we celebrate our diversity whether it’s sexual orientation, whether it’s skin color, race – religion. One of the things our kids do in our community is embrace the diversity and celebrate it and value it.”

Pete Cahall, gay news, Rob Reiner, Washington Blade

Pete Cahall and director Rob Reiner at Night Out at the Nationals. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

02
Jul
2014

Mayor, council members pay tribute to slain trans woman

Deoni JaParker Jones, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray spoke at the annual memorial. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and four members of the City Council joined more than 100 people Saturday night for the second annual memorial rally for slain transgender woman Deoni JaParker Jones.

Jones’ family members organized the event at the parish hall of St. Luke Roman Catholic Church at 4925 E. Capitol St., S.E., less than two blocks from a bus stop where Jones was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2012, in a development that shocked the city’s LGBT community.

Judean Jones and Alvin Bethea, Deoni Jones’ mother and stepfather, said they have sought to channel their pain and sadness over the loss of their daughter into a positive effort to change hearts and minds and build understanding and support for trans people and the LGBT community.

“God chose to take Deoni,” Bethea told the gathering. “That’s the way we look at it. And we continue to see to it that transgender people get a fair shot at life and a fair shot at jobs,” he said.

Bethea announced the launching of the Deoni Jones Foundation, which he said his family and supporters plan to use to help strengthen efforts to combat anti-LGBT violence.

Saturday’s memorial gathering took place one day after a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled that Gary Niles Montgomery, 57, the D.C. man charged with first-degree murder while armed in connection with Deoni Jones’ death, is mentally competent to stand trial.

Judge Robert E. Morin’s decision on Friday reversed an earlier ruling that Montgomery was not competent to stand trial. He said his latest ruling was based on the findings of a mental competency exam conducted at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the fourth such examination given to Montgomery since the time of his arrest two weeks after Deoni Jones’ murder.

Morin scheduled the trial to begin on Oct. 6, 2014.

Some LGBT activists have joined the Jones family in expressing concern that the U.S. Attorney’s office didn’t list Deoni Jones’ murder as a hate crime. Video footage from a city surveillance camera shows Montgomery stabbing her in the head with a knife and then taking her handbag. Bethea has said the brutality of Montgomery’s action went far beyond a simple robbery and had all the makings of someone targeting a trans person for murder.

“Deoni was going to be who she wanted to be,” he said, in noting that she chose not to hide her status as a trans woman. “She was not going to walk out of the house being something she was not.”

The City Council members participating in the Deoni Jones memorial rally on Saturday were David Catania (I-At Large), David Grosso (I-At-Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Each of them joined Gray in calling for continued efforts to secure the full rights and dignity of trans people by working hard to overcome hate and prejudice.

Also attending the event were Capt. Edward Delgado, commander of the D.C. Police Department’s Special Liaison Division, which includes the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit; and Officer Juanita Foreman, a member of the GLLU.

Deoni Jones, gay news, gay politics dc

Deoni JaParker Jones (Screenshot via Facebook)

Others who spoke at the event included veteran trans activists Earline Budd and Jeri Hughes; Hassan Naveed, co-chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence; Je-Shawna Wholley, program manager for the national LGBT rights group National Black Justice Coalition and Ronald King, staff assistant to D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7).

Last August, Gray signed what activists have called a landmark bill approved by the City Council called the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013. Catania, the bill’s author, said chose the name to honor Jones. The bill removes obstacles to the process through which trans people change their birth certificate to reflect their new gender.

09
Feb
2014

LGBT groups rejected for D.C. funded grants

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

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray encouraged LGBT groups to apply for the grants. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A foundation retained by the D.C. government to award city funded grants to local non-profit organizations under a newly launched program turned down grant applications from six LGBT organizations and another three groups that provide services to LGBT clients.

The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region announced on April 16 that it had approved grants of up to $100,000 each for 58 non-profit organizations out of a total of 315 groups that applied for grants under the $15 million City Fund program created by Mayor Vincent Gray.

The six LGBT oriented groups – including the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Casa Ruby, and the SMYAL – were among 257 of the 315 organizations applying for a grant that were turned down, according to information released by the Community Foundation.

Casa Ruby is an LGBT community center based in Columbia Heights that reaches out to the Latino and transgender communities. SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) provides services for LGBT youth.

The other LGBT specific groups turned down for grants were the Center for Black Equity, which, among other things, coordinates black LGBT Pride events and sponsors conferences for the black LGBT community; the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign; Us Helping Us, an AIDS service organization that reaches out to black gay and bisexual men; and Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s largest AIDS service organization that provides health related services to the LGBT community as well as other communities.

Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), which, among other things, provides services for transgender sex workers; and Food and Friends, which provides home-delivered meals and nutritional services to people with HIV and other serious illnesses, including LGBT people, were also among the groups turned down for grants under the City Fund program.

“Today, the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, the Center for Black Equity, Casa Ruby, SMYAL, Us Helping Us, HIPS, and the Human Rights Campaign expressed their deep disappointment that not a single local LGBT organization received funding under the City Fund,” a joint statement by the groups says.

“Currently, very few services specifically targeted to the LGBT community are publicly funded in Washington, D.C.,” the statement says. “This lack of targeted funding is particularly problematic as the LGBT community is dealing with a variety of challenges around HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and stigma; youth homelessness; healthcare access – including mental health services; disproportionate levels of anxiety, depression and substance abuse; and high levels of unemployment in the transgender community,” according to the statement.

“We are hopeful that the Community Foundation will take a hard look at this issue and urge the Foundation to learn more about the needs of the LGBT community,” the statement says. “A dedicated public funding stream needs to be made available for programs and services for the LGBT community.”

Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, said she has called on officials with the Community Foundation to meet with LGBT community representatives to discuss concerns that no LGBT specific groups were approved for a City Fund grant.

Terry Lee Freeman, president of the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, told the Blade in a statement on Monday that last week’s grant awards were the first of at least three rounds of grant awards that will be made this year and early next year.

She said the Community Foundation is urging organizations that weren’t approved in the first round to apply again for grants under the program.

“We received 315 applications totaling over $30 million in requests for this round alone,” she said. “We were able to fund 58 programs totaling over $3.5 million. That leaves over 250 applications that were unfortunately not accepted for funding in this round, including many wonderful organizations with important missions,” she said.

“The review committee carefully considered all applications and the process was highly competitive,” she said. “There are a number of reasons why an organization might not be funded. In some cases it’s because they do not fit with the guidelines or funding criteria or did not properly complete the application.”

Criteria listed on the City Fund website include a requirement an organization must have an IRS 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status; that it cannot be an “advocacy” organization; it must have an annual budget of at least $100,000; and it must submit an audited financial report showing financial stability.

At the request of Gray, the D.C. Council in 2013 approved funding of $15 million for the grant program. A write-up on the fund’s website says the program is aimed at supporting “effective non-profits that provide critical programs and services across the city.”

The goal of these programs, the write-up says, is to “grow and diversify the District’s economy, educate and prepare the workforce for the new economy; and improve the quality of life for all.”

At an LGBT Pride forum organized by the Blade last June, Gray urged LGBT organizations to apply for grants under the program, saying the criteria for awarding grants “are broad and certainly would include the kinds of issues we are talking about here tonight.”

But Freeman said in her statement on Monday that the mayor’s office directed the Community Foundation to limit the focus of the grants on seven “issue areas” that include the arts, education, environment, health, job readiness, public safety, and senior services.

“The fund was set up to target issue areas rather than specific populations,” Freeman said. “The issue areas were created by the D.C. government and provided to the Community Foundation to enact as the fund administrator.”

Freeman added, “Funding in each issue area is intended to serve as wide and diverse a population as possible, including District residents in the LGBT community.”

She noted that grants approved for at least two organizations – TrueChild and Metro Teen AIDS – will address LGBT-related issues.

Riki Wilchins, executive director of TrueChild, said the organization isn’t specifically LGBT oriented but specializes in educating the public on gender role issues and gender role discrimination that impact the LGBT community. Wilchins said the TrueChild grant approved by the Community Foundation calls for following up on earlier research by TrueChild to develop educational programs and “interventions” to prevent violence against trans women of color.

The program is aimed at changing the hearts and minds of young straight males who are most often identified as the perpetrators of violence against transgender women and LGBT people in general, Wilchins said.

Adam Tenner, executive director of Metro Teen AIDS, which reaches out to LGBT youth and other population groups through HIV prevention programs, said a $46,000 grant approved by the Community Foundation for Metro Teen AIDS will be used to expand an existing program called REALtalk.

According to Tenner, Metro Teen AIDS and a partner group will train over 60 young people “to make more than 5,000 contacts with youth throughout the city” to educate the youth on HIV prevention. He said LGBT youth will be involved in the program.

Community Foundation spokesperson Jenny Towns said the foundation doesn’t release its reasons for turning down grant applications and leaves it up to the organizations themselves to release such information.

In the case of the LGBT groups, Casa Ruby and the D.C. Center released to the Blade a brief summary sheet they received from the Community Foundation stating why their grant application was declined.

“Overall, the proposed program had a nice design and referenced a need in the community,” the statement said about the D.C. Center’s proposal. “A large portion of the requested funding was for a staff position,” it said. “There were questions over the sustainability of the project: What would happen to this position and the program if you did not receive funding next year? The amount of the request compared to the organizational budget was high,” the statement said.

In the case of Casa Ruby, the Community Foundation said in its summary statement Casa Ruby didn’t submit with its application an audited financial statement or a certificate of good standing required of all applicants, and submitted an “incomplete budget versus actuals” in connection with the group’s income.

Corado said she will check with the person who prepared the Casa Ruby grant application, but as far as she knows, everything requested was submitted with the application.

“I feel a grant giving organization would work with us,” she said. “They could have called us and worked with us to get all the information they needed. Any funder that really cares – they will work with you.”

She said she was troubled that the Community Foundation has turned down grant applications for all of the LGBT groups that submitted proposals, including Casa Ruby’s. She said the Casa Ruby proposal was aimed at helping trans people find employment in the city.

Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of the Center for Black Equity, said he is skeptical of the Community Foundation’s suggestion that LGBT organizations may not have been approved for a grant because criteria set by the city called for “issue” oriented grants rather than grants targeting a specific population group.

“That to me is not an excuse,” Fowlkes told the Blade. “We have a large LGBT population in the District and we have a large LGBT population that is very visible and has a great deal of community needs,” he said.

“Obviously we’re disappointed that none of us were funded,” Fowlkes said. “We’re kind of shocked that none of us were funded. And we all couldn’t have written bad grants.”

Fowlkes and representatives of the LGBT groups aside from Casa Ruby and the D.C. Center said they had not received information from the Community Foundation explaining why their applications were declined as of late Monday.

Paul Guequierre, spokesperson for the HRC Foundation, said the HRC Foundation proposal called for “engaging educators, families, and students in the community to decrease bullying and increase respect for diversity.” He said the program would focus on 500 educators and 30 schools in Wards 1, 7 and 8.

Shawn Jain, a spokesperson for Whitman-Walker Health, said Whitman-Walker applied for a $100,000 grant to boost its patient centered medical home program, which helps patients manage and organize their own care at the organization’s Elizabeth Taylor Clinic.

“We don’t know what the reason was,” he said, when asked why the City Fund declined to approve the grant. “We got a notice saying we have to call them to find out.”

Jain added, “We congratulate the organizations that received their grants.”

22
Apr
2014

Catania to run for mayor

David Catania, Washington D.C., District of Columbia, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Council member David Catania plans to file papers this week to run for mayor.

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) plans to file papers this week to become a candidate for mayor in the November general election, according to Ben Young, an official with Catania’s mayoral exploratory committee.

Catania, a 16-year veteran on the Council, would become the city’s first serious openly gay contender for D.C. mayor based, among other things, on a Washington Post poll in January showing him to be in a statistical tie with Mayor Vincent Gray if the two were to run against each other.

Young declined to comment on the timing of Catania’s expected announcement, which would come just days after U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen alleged in court documents that Gray knew about an illegal “shadow campaign” that Machen said helped Gray win his race for mayor in 2010. Gray has denied the allegations.

Some had speculated that Catania would wait to see who wins the Democratic nomination in the hotly contested April 1 primary before deciding whether to enter the race as an independent. Gray is being challenged by seven candidates, including four incumbent Council members.

The most recent poll, which was conducted before this week’s allegations by the U.S. Attorney, showed Gray in the lead, with Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) as his closest rival. The poll conducted by NBC4, WAMU Radio, the Washington Informer and Marist College Institute for Public Opinion showed Gray ahead of Bowser by 28 percent to 20 percent.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) had 13 percent, Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) had 12 percent, businessman Andy Shallal had 6 percent, and Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) had 4 percent. Former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis had 3 percent and civic activist Carlos Allen had less than 1 percent.

Veteran gay activist Bob Summersgill, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said the campaign finance allegations hanging over Gray’s head and the division among Democrats between the four Council candidates could help Catania in the November election.

“Yesterday’s news on the shadow campaign I think is not going to deter Gray’s supporters, so I still think he’s going to get the 25 to 30 percent of the vote that he needs” to win the primary, Summersgill said.

“But I don’t think the Democrats are going to line up behind him after the primary because of the scandal,” he said. “So I think that people are much more likely to look at David Catania.”

Summersgill and others watching the election believe current supporters of Wells, Evans and Bowser – including LGBT supporters of those candidates – could break from their party by voting for Catania rather than Democrat Gray.

No non-Democrat has won election as mayor in D.C. since the city received its home rule government from Congress and the first modern era mayoral election was held in 1974.

Others, however, say Gray could falter between now and the April 1 primary and another candidate, such as Bowser, could emerge as the Democratic nominee. If that were the case the D.C. electorate’s longstanding inclination to elect a Democratic mayor could once again prevail, according to some political observers.

Catania told the Blade in January when he formed his mayoral exploratory committee that he believes his long record of accomplishments as a Council member has benefited residents in all parts of the city and would make him a strong candidate.

“I think it underestimates the independence of our voters to suggest that they will vote for someone simply by virtue of their sexual orientation, or their gender or their color or geography,” he said. “I think we are entering an era where people no longer feel that they have to or are inclined to support a person who may be demographically similar to them.”

11
Mar
2014

Outdoor café fee hike hot as a summer sidewalk

fee, gay news, Washington Blade

The popular patio at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

It might have seemed like a good idea to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to scheme up a proposal to hike city fees for outdoor cafés by $1 million in the dreary days of winter. But it sure looked silly when the public caught wind of it last week in the run-up to the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

When D.C. Council members sat down at an all-day meeting to review Gray’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Act, incorporating Council recommendations, a previously little-known proposal to more than double sidewalk café fees for most businesses and nearly double them for the remaining few dominated public attention.

Dupont Circle eateries on 17th Street were featured on NBC4 News with reporter Tom Sherwood. Hank’s Oyster Bar manager Jeff Strine and Floriana Restaurant owner Dino Tapper pointed out that ever-increasing fees and taxes were a growing hardship for local establishments. D.C. Council member Tommy Wells pledged his opposition to the increase, saying, “It really sends a message to small business that we’re raising the fee for the sake of raising the fee.”

Mayor Gray wants to increase annual fees by 66 percent – although a companion provision eliminating prorated fees for partial-year seasonal operation converts it to a much higher amount for all but about 30 businesses among hundreds.

Reaction was equally swift and harsh to an additional element of the legislation. A D.C. Council committee, chaired by frequent enterprise nemesis Mary Cheh, had approved a new penalty stipulating that business owners could face imprisonment of up to 10 days or a fine of $1,000 for each day of a regulatory violation.

Local restaurateur and industry advocate Geoff Tracy remarked on social media, “I’ll never understand why politicians keep restaurants perpetually in the crosshairs.”

At-Large Council member David Grosso – not always a friend to local small businesses but proven when provoked to possess common-sense reactions to the most egregious excesses – took to Twitter to call the idea of locking up business owners for regulatory infractions “ridiculous.” Logan Circle neighborhood advisory chair Matt Raymond sardonically commented on Facebook, “We MUST get these dangerous scofflaws whose sidewalk cafés encroach one inch beyond their permit off the streets and behind bars, where they belong!”

You could envision neighborhood naysayers rustling around in kitchen drawers for tape measures. Cheh sensibly demurred, suggesting she was willing to remove the prison provision.

Gray’s proposal, along with Cheh’s committee, also relinquishes future D.C. Council control of regulations and fees – instead giving the executive exclusive authority to determine all licensing approvals, rules and permit costs. Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington President Kathy Hollinger had earlier written to Council members arguing against investing sole authority with the mayor.

“Sidewalk cafés contribute greatly to the ambiance of our city, create jobs and provide substantial revenues…through sales and employment taxes,” Hollinger wrote. “In addition, sidewalk cafés contribute to public safety, by encouraging ‘eyes on the street,’ a known inhibitor of criminal activity. Given these important contributions…the rental rates paid for the use of public space for cafés should be part of larger policy discussions before the full Council…”

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, however, astonishingly revealed he thought the proposed fees weren’t set high enough.

David Garber, a neighborhood advisory commissioner in the rapidly developing Navy Yard area where residents gleefully cheer the opening of each new outdoor dining and drinking space, offered a succinct retort. “D.C. already has a reputation for being a difficult and costly place to start and run a business. When businesses and entrepreneurs are considering where to open, grow, and succeed, I hope that in the future our reputation is a little more friendly than it is today. Proposed fee increases like this won’t bring us there, and will ultimately cost us more than we hope to earn.”

D.C. Council budget deliberations get underway this week. As quick as an egg fries up on a hot summer sidewalk, the Council should reject these proposals.

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

28
May
2014

2013 in photography

2013 was a banner year for the LGBT community. Here are the top Washington Blade photos of the year. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen, Tyler Grigsby, Michael Key, Kevin Majoros, Damien Salas, Lee Whitman and Jon Wooten) buyphoto 

03
Jan
2014