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Muriel Bowser’s vision includes all eight wards

Muriel Bowser, Ward 4, Washington D.C., D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council Member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

It is with great pride that I strongly support Muriel Bowser and encourage all Washingtonians to vote for her in the Democratic primary on April 1, 2014. I have lived in Washington for more than 35 years and had the privilege of working for a mayor and serving as an ANC commissioner. What I have learned from those experiences is that our great city needs a leader with passion, determination and a willingness to hold people accountable regardless of personal loyalty or political expediency. We need a leader who understands that unifying the city takes more than putting a logo on government letterhead. We need a leader who isn’t satisfied with maintaining the status quo and has a vision for the future of our great city. Muriel Bowser is that kind of leader, which is why I support her.

I met Muriel during the 2006 Fenty campaign. She and I knocked on countless doors and helped him win the election. She was elected to replace him as the city Council member representing Ward 4 and has provided outstanding service to her constituents and been a vocal champion for economic development throughout the city. Muriel is a fifth generation Washingtonian who received her master’s degree in public policy from American University. Prior to serving on the Council, Muriel worked with Montgomery County government on economic development issues and helped develop plans for the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring. She also served her neighbors as an ANC Commissioner prior to joining the Council.

In 2011, Muriel authored and guided into law several comprehensive ethics reform bills. These reforms created the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, consolidated ethics laws into a single code of conduct, and required all City Council and other government meetings to be open to the public. In 2013, Muriel created Kids Ride Free, legislation allowing all D.C. students free bus rides to school in order to remove a barrier to attendance.

Muriel has been a strong advocate for our community. She voted for the marriage equality bill, held hearings on combating school bullying and co-introduced recently passed legislation that will provide additional resources for homeless LGBT youth.

Each election provides us with an opportunity to choose how we want to grow as a city. I have a great deal of respect for Mayor Gray and it would be folly not to acknowledge the support he has provided the LGBT community. That being said, I am disappointed in his challenges in presenting a compelling vision for the rest of this city. Supporters of Mayor Gray are absolutely correct when they state that this election is not about what happened in 2010. The shadow of that campaign provided a distraction that has made it difficult for him to govern. Mayor Gray takes great pride in restoring our fiscal reserves yet seemed blindsided by a growing problem with homeless families. It is great that we are well respected on Wall Street but that is cold comfort to those that are struggling. Mayor Gray is a very loyal leader. That loyalty is one of his most admirable traits but it is costing the city when he stands by agency directors whose slow reaction to crisis might put citizens’ lives in danger.

As mayor, Muriel Bowser will create a city that is second to none in providing economic opportunity to everyone and will help prepare District residents for high-paying jobs. She will lead a government that respects the great diversity of our city and speeds up school reform. She will be a champion of local business and wants to take steps to reduce the barriers to their success. She will hire agency directors who are committed to providing world-class city services.  She will continue to promote the restoration of unimpeachable ethics to city government. She will once again make D.C. proud across all eight wards. Please help this city move forward and vote for Muriel Bowser on April 1.


Couples encounter snags in D.C. divorce law

divorce, Phil Mendelson, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) said he’s willing to introduce legislation to fix the problems that are just now surfacing regarding divorces for same-sex couples.

Since its marriage equality law took effect in 2010 the District of Columbia has welcomed same-sex couples from other states to come to the city to get married.

But according to local attorneys and at least one D.C. judge, if any of those couples come back to the city to get a divorce they will likely be eligible only for the divorce itself.

Divorce related provisions readily available to straight married couples such as alimony, legal separation and court approved division of jointly owned property will likely be denied to same-sex married couples unless one of the spouses becomes a D.C. resident for six months.

“What D.C. judges have been doing is granting these divorces but not granting or addressing any other issues, such as alimony, property division relief, etc.,” said local family law attorney Marjorie Just.

“Judges are interpreting the law in a way that limits their authority to just granting a divorce but nothing more,” Just said.

Just was referring to the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Act, which the D.C. Council passed and Mayor Vincent Gray signed in 2012. Supporters said the law was aimed at exempting out-of-town same-sex couples that marry in D.C. from a six-month residency requirement in the event they seek to obtain a divorce.

Gay rights advocates, who asked the Council to pass the law, noted that the exemption was needed for same-sex couples that marry in D.C. but live in states like Virginia that don’t recognize their marriages.

Unlike straight couples, whose marriages are recognized everywhere, same-sex married couples can’t get a divorce in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage. That forces them to return to the jurisdiction in which they were married to obtain a divorce. Many states, including Maryland, have a six-month residency requirement for obtaining a divorce.

According to attorneys familiar with the D.C. Superior Court’s family court division, judges have interpreted the D.C. law in a way that limits its scope to an “absolute divorce,” a legal term used to describe a divorce alone.

American University Law Professor Nancy Polikoff and local attorney Michele Zavos, who specialize in gay family law, each said they believe the D.C. statute does give judges the authority they need to address issues like alimony and property division.

“I think there is a very good argument that the court does have power over the property and support issues, but it would be much cleaner to resolve the ambiguity by making that clear in the statute,” Polikoff told the Blade. “For that reason, I agree that the preferred course of action at this time would be to amend the statute.”

Zavos agreed with that assessment.

“I think we probably do have to go back to the City Council to make it very clear that the intent of this new statute is to cover all aspects of divorce, including legal separation,” Zavos said. “So I think we’re going to have to do that.”

Polikoff and Zavos said child custody related issues are clearly addressed in separate laws in D.C. and other states, and those issues must be addressed in the state in which the child lives at the time of a divorce.

Zavos released to the Blade a copy of a January 2013 order issued by D.C. Superior Court Judge Alfred S. Irving, Jr., denying a request by one of the partners of a same-sex couple living in Virginia to obtain a legal separation. The couple, whose identity was redacted from the order, was married in D.C.

“The District of Columbia very recently amended the residency requirements to permit an ‘action for divorce by persons of the same gender, even if neither party to the marriage is a bona fide resident of the District of Columbia…’ and neither party to the marriage resides in a jurisdiction that will maintain an action for divorce,” Irving wrote in his order.

“The amendment, however, only pertains to actions for divorce, not actions for legal separation,” he stated in his denial order.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who introduced the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Act of 2012, said he’s willing to introduce legislation this year to fix the problems that are just now surfacing regarding same-sex couples.

“We were very clear when we adopted the law in 2012 that, as usual, we were trying to treat same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples,” Mendelson told the Blade on Tuesday.

“So this distinction that somehow a same-sex couple that lives in another state can only get a divorce but can’t get any of the other modifications that heterosexual couples can get – that was not our intent,” he said.

Asked if he thought election year politics might make it difficult for the Council to pass a bill this year to correct the divorce related problems facing out-of-town same-sex couples, Mendelson said it would not.

“I don’t like the speculation about election politics,” he said. “The reality is the Council is in session until the end of the year. And if the attorneys give me the suggestions for how to fine-tune the law we’ll try to proceed this year to do it.”

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said GLAA would support legislation to “to fill any legal gaps encountered by same-sex couple, as we have done in the past.”

Once introduced, Mendelson’s bill to correct the divorce law problem would go to the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which is chaired by Council member Tommy Wells (D-At-Large).


Time for LGBT Dems to take broader view

Tommy Wells, 2013 Capital Pride Parade, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


At the recent Gertrude Stein Democratic Club mayoral forum, candidates and members focused exclusively on which candidate had the most impressive record on LGBT rights. That’s all good, but it misses the point. The questions for LGBT Democrats this year isn’t just which mayor would be best for the LGBT community; it’s also which mayor would be best for Democrats.

The good news is that every Democrat on the mayoral ballot says the right things about LGBT issues. Not every candidate has the kind of record that deserves our trust (or our votes), but at least they are all mouthing the right words.

LGBT Democrats should think beyond the specific needs our community as well; as Democrats, we should care deeply about good government and clean elections. We’re the party that believes government has a useful and positive role to play in reducing income inequality, increasing economic opportunity and helping build a diverse and welcoming community. If government is corrupt, and elections are frauds, then support for the programs we value will wither accordingly.

So D.C. Democrats should be particularly alarmed at the steady drumbeat of official corruption we’ve seen over the past year. Last week, disgraced businessman Jeffrey Thompson named Mayor Gray as his accomplice in a scheme to defraud voters and buy the last mayoral election. This follows guilty pleas by three members of the Council, and by numerous aides. The U.S. Attorney promises that the corruption he’s uncovered is just “the tip of the iceberg.”

Over the years, the Thompson network reached throughout D.C.’s government. All but one member of the Council – including mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser and Jack Evans – accepted money from Thompson.

D.C.’s political system is gripped by a culture of corruption. We’ve seen the worst offenders hauled off to jail, or about to go.

Even worse, a good deal of the corrupt and unethical behavior that goes on every day in D.C. is still legal. That’s because the politicians – again Bowser and Evans included – have blocked tough new ethics laws from being enacted, and have slowed the creation of an independent attorney general’s office that could root out corruption.

LGBT Democrats must get behind a candidate we can trust to be a staunch defender of LGBT rights, and who will fight the pay-to-play system that corrupts our government.

In both regards, Tommy Wells is right for the job. The nonpartisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance gave Wells the highest score of any mayoral challenger, commending him for his “excellent voting record” and deep understanding of LGBT issues. In contrast to Wells’s near-perfect 9.5, Muriel Bowser scored just 5.5 out of 10 points.

We know that Tommy Wells will fight for clean elections and good government; he’s based his entire campaign on it. He’s the only elected running for mayor who hasn’t accepted a dime from Jeffrey Thompson. He’s called for public financing of elections, and he’s fought for tough election reforms.

And Tommy isn’t just talking: He’s the only candidate running for mayor who’s refusing corporate donations, PAC money and special interest dollars that have polluted our elections.

Tommy hits all the other progressive issues correctly too. He’s widely known as an advocate for public transportation, which led to his endorsement by the popular blog Greater Greater Washington. He’s fought for women’s rights and equality, which led him to be endorsed by the National Organization for Women. Wells was the author of the pro-environment Bag Law, a higher minimum wage and the newly passed decriminalization of marijuana.

Thanks to the work of so many before us, LGBT Democrats now have the privilege of looking beyond the narrow needs of just our own community. When we vote in the primary, my husband and I will be supporting a candidate who can be trusted to fight for LGBT rights and end pay-to-play corruption. For both reasons, Tommy Wells will be our choice.


250,000 expected for Capital Pride weekend

Capital Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

The 39th annual Capital Pride Parade and Festival will be held this weekend. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

More than 250,000 people from the D.C. metropolitan area and the Mid-Atlantic region are expected to participate in the 39th Annual Capital Pride Parade on Saturday and the annual Capital Pride Festival on Sunday.

The parade and festival in recent years have served as the grand finale to a month of LGBT Pride-related events in the nation’s capital, including the annual Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride and Latino Pride.

As D.C.’s largest LGBT community event of the year, Sunday’s Pride festival was to include entertainment from nationally recognized headline performers, hundreds of booths representing LGBT organizations and LGBT-friendly groups and businesses, including corporate sponsors.

Several federal and D.C. government agencies were scheduled to set up booths at the festival, including LGBT employee groups with the FBI and the CIA. At least four D.C. government agencies, including the Office of Human Rights and the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking reserved space for booths.

Although the White House isn’t participating in the parade or festival, President Barack Obama submitted an official letter of recognition, which is published in the Pride Guide, Capital Pride’s official publication.

“For generations, courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans have spoken up, come out, and blazed trails for others to do the same,” the president wrote in his letter. “Festivals like Capital Pride bring opportunities to reflect on hard-won progress and the work before us still to forge a more just Nation,” he said.

Among the 170 floats and contingents set to participate in the parade, Capital Pride organizers say they are especially proud that for the first time ever, a U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard contingent was scheduled to march in the parade. The contingent was scheduled to perform its traditional presenting and retiring of the “colors” or U.S. flag at the start and end of the parade.

“We are very pleased that we asked and the Department of Defense agreed to provide us with a Color Guard,” said Bernie Delia, chair of the Capital Pride board of directors.

“It’s a wonderful step forward for everyone involved – for the country, for those LGBT members of the military,” he said. “I think it is a fantastic development for everyone.”

Former Minnesota Vikings player Chris Kluwe, an LGBT ally, was scheduled to serve as grand marshal for the parade.

Similar to past years, the festival on Sunday will be held on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between 3rd and 7th streets, with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop to the main stage.  The festival exhibit hours are from noon to 7 p.m.

As a new feature this year, events on the main “Capitol” stage, including a dance party, will continue until sunset at about 9 p.m., according to an announcement by Capital Pride.

Among those scheduled to appear on that stage throughout the day were headliner performers Rita Ora, Karmin, Bonnie McKee, Betty Who and DJ Cassidy.

“We’re looking forward to an absolutely wonderful weekend,” Delia said. “We’ve got a phenomenal lineup for the entertainment on Sunday. And we’re thrilled that Chris Kluwe is our grand marshal for the parade.”

The parade was scheduled to kick off Saturday, June 7, at 4:30 p.m. at its traditional starting point of 22nd and P streets, N.W. Similar to last year, it will travel east on P Street to Dupont Circle, where it winds around the circle to New Hampshire Avenue and heads to R Street, where it will turn right on 17th Street.

With thousands of spectators expected to line 17th Street, where several gay bars and restaurants are located, the parade will pass along 17th Street then turn left on P Street, where it will travel past the official reviewing stand at 15th and P.

From there, the parade will continue along P Street to 14th Street, where it will turn left and travel north to its endpoint at 14th and R streets, N.W.

According to information released by Capital Pride, the lesbian group Dykes on Bikes of Washington, D.C. was designated as the lead contingent of the parade. Contingents of the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C., the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, the Arlington County Police gay and lesbian liaison division and George Mason University Police were scheduled as the next contingents.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and at least eight members of the D.C. City Council, including Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and mayoral candidates David Catania (I-At-Large) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), were scheduled to lead their own parade contingents.

And at least eight candidates running for seats on the D.C. Council as well as Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who’s running for a U.S. House seat, were scheduled to participate in the parade.

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Catania, Gray in dead heat for mayor: poll

David Catania, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hardworking Catania is right choice for mayor

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

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

Although I was disappointed that Mayor Vincent Gray did not win the Democratic nomination for mayor, last week’s results resolved a conflict that I was facing: I now do not have to chose between Mayor Gray and D.C. Council member David Catania.

Before I went to bed early Wednesday morning, I sent a letter to Catania that I was now enthusiastically supporting his election as mayor next Nov. 4 and that I would be sending my first check to his campaign manager, Ben Young.

Council member Muriel Bowser, who ran as the candidate of resentment, said that she would not support the Democratic nominee if Mayor Gray won the primary. Now that she has won the Democratic nomination, Bowser has reversed herself and says that she now expects every Democrat to support her candidacy.

As chair of the D.C. Council committee with oversight of housing, Bowser has accomplished little. Catania said on Wednesday, ”In a year and a quarter of chairing the committee, she has not advanced a single substantive measure to address a single part of the problem.”

Also on Wednesday, Catania said that in her years on the Council, “all that she has done is to vote yes on about 50 pieces of legislation which I introduced.”

In addition, Bowser scored only a mediocre rating of +5.5 from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance on its candidate questionnaire.

In contrast, Colbert King wrote in his Washington Post column that, “Catania is the Council’s hardest-working member. Probably the smartest and feistiest, too.”

As an openly gay candidate, Catania has won the endorsement of the Victory Fund, which raises funds nationally for gay candidates.

In 1997, Catania first ran an for an at-large Council seat as a Republican against Democratic candidate and former Council chair Arrington Dixon. The conventional wisdom then — as now — was that Catania had no chance of winning. Back then, I believed that wisdom. But I told myself, I am going to vote for him anyway.

On that Tuesday morning, while waiting for a cab to take me to Washington National Airport for a flight to Chicago, I ran over to Jefferson Junior High School and voted for Catania. The following Thursday afternoon, I was on another flight to San Francisco when I noticed that someone had left a copy of USA Today on an empty seat.  I picked up the paper to discover that Catania had won. I was astonished! Our LGBT community now had its first openly gay member of the D.C. City Council.

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


Gay marriage opponent working for Shallal campaign

Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets, District of Columbia, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Democratic mayoral candidate Andy Shallal’s campaign has paid $4,000 to an official who ran for D.C. mayor in 2010 on a platform supporting a voter referendum to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law. (Photo by Laela25; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A candidate who ran for D.C. mayor in 2010 on a platform supporting a voter referendum to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law was paid $4,000 in December as a consultant to Democratic mayoral candidate Andy Shallal, according to campaign finance records.

Records filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance on Jan. 31 identify the consultant as 2010 mayoral candidate and former TV news anchor Leo Alexander.

In his run for mayor, Alexander’s campaign received at least $1,950 from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and was backed by Bishop Harry Jackson, the Maryland minister who led the unsuccessful campaign to repeal the city’s marriage equality law.

Alexander received less than 1 percent of the vote in the September 2010 Democratic primary, far behind then City Council Chair Vincent Gray, who won the primary and then Mayor Adrian Fenty, came in second place behind Gray.

Shallal has expressed strong support for LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage. As owner of the local Busboys and Poets restaurant chain, Shallal has hosted LGBT events at his restaurants.

Shallal campaign spokesperson Dwight Kirk told the Washington City Paper that Alexander met with Shallal before joining the campaign and promised that he changed his mind and that his positions “evolved” on the same-sex marriage issue since his 2010 campaign.

But City Paper columnist Will Sommer, who was the first to report Alexander’s connection with the Shallal campaign, said in a posting on Thursday that Alexander wouldn’t tell him whether his positions on gay marriage changed.

News of Alexander’s involvement in the Shallal campaign comes two weeks after news surfaced that an advocate for a voter referendum on the D.C. marriage equality law in 2010 was working as a paid consultant in January for Gray’s re-election campaign.

Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bob King, who was paid by the anti-gay NOM in 2010, is currently being paid to help the Gray campaign arrange logistics to drive senior citizens to the polls for the April 1 primary. Gray campaign chair Chuck Thies said King has no role in policy making issues and now accepts the marriage equality statute as the “law of the land.”

Alexander and Kirk couldn’t immediately be reached for comment by the Blade.


Is city funding complaint by D.C. gay groups valid?

funding, money, gay news, Washington Blade

In the case of gay service groups, a dearth of public funding will further exacerbate competition. The city will seek to address a wide range of needs for the broadest number in the most effective manner.

Is it legitimate for LGBT organizations to advocate deferential consideration or funding favoritism when seeking D.C. government financial support?

Asked another way, is it valid for gay groups to demand dedicated earmarks?

The answer is no.

Some of the D.C. gay organizations unsuccessfully applying for city grants released a statement last week lamenting that no LGBT-specific organizations received funding in the first of four rounds of awards. This prompted them to renew a call for set-aside allocations.

“A dedicated public funding stream needs to be made available for programs and services for the LGBT community,” concluded the statement released by 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. Also not funded but not joining in the statement were Whitman-Walker Health and Food and Friends.

The complaint by the six organizations raises questions about their reaction and demand for special consideration in the distribution of government monies.

The real question is whether LGBT groups should be treated differently when competing for limited government funds alongside a large number of other non-profits. If they receive preferential status, other demographic-focused organizations would justifiably clamor for the same.

When the City Fund announced the winning proposals on April 16 it was evident that the decision-making process had been rigorous in evaluating the huge number of submissions. The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, administering the city-funded program, received 315 proposals requesting more than $30 million.

The foundation was able to award grants to 58 groups, or less than one-in-five applicants, distributing more than $3.5 million. Established last year with $15 million in District tax revenues by Mayor Vincent Gray and approved unanimously by the D.C. Council, the City Fund’s mission 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.”

Terry Lee Freeman, president of the Community Foundation, told the Blade in a statement last week that the D.C. government instructed that grants “target issue areas rather than specific populations.” Mission focus includes the arts, education, environment, health, job readiness, public safety and senior services.

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

Of note, at least two non-LGBT-specific organizations did receive funding for services of gay community interest, including Metro Teen AIDS. TrueChild, an organization educating the public on gender role discrimination, also received a grant to develop programs to prevent violence against transgender women of color.

In defending the evaluations used to determine awardees, Freeman indicated that some of the gay organization requests were deficient in complying with proposal requirements, were outside the guidelines or funding criteria, or sought funding for programs generating concerns over ongoing project viability or staffing-to-service expenditure ratios.

In other words, in a highly competitive grant making process with submission protocols and utilizing industry-standard evaluations to distribute finite resources, applications by at least some of the gay groups proved deficient.

Disappointment, however, is not justification for returning to the days of government earmarks.

It might just be that the same effects of cultural assimilation and community integration that have reduced the number of gay-centric local businesses are the newest challenge for gay non-profits. While there remains intrinsic benefit in maintaining both, gay-centric organizations are subject to new realities.

In the case of gay service groups, a dearth of public funding will further exacerbate competition. The city will seek to address a wide range of needs for the broadest number in the most effective manner.

D.C. should not return to a system of public grants driven by politics and favoring connections and influence. All organizations should welcome the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

After all, being treated equally in D.C. is the community’s greatest achievement.

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


Voting is an important responsibility

Anita Bonds, Phil Mendelson, Vincent Gray, D.C. Council, Washington, Washington Blade, gay news, election, endorsements

From left, D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), D.C. Council chair Phil Mendelson and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Early voting has begun. When you cast your ballot there are many things to consider. By all statistics, the District of Columbia is doing better than ever before. Crime is down; student test scores are up; we are winning awards for the District’s environmental policies and as a new high tech center. The mayor has added more than $1 billion to the reserve fund, the envy of every other state and city. Vincent Gray is the strongest supporter we’ve ever had for the LGBT community and has backed that support with action.

We see tremendous progress in many areas and need to continue that momentum. While some pretend that none of this is the doing of the current mayor, to believe that is to live in a never-never land where all things just happen on their own. Some blame everything that happened in the mayor’s 2010 election on him, though he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Still others are willing to give the mayor credit for the progress our city has made. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “Mayor Gray knocked the ball out of the park in terms of improvement” when talking about D.C. schools. The Coalition for Non-Profit Housing said, “We applaud Mayor Gray… His plan makes strong investments in the production and preservation of affordable housing.” Then recently the mayor accomplished what many in politics say is nearly impossible to do: He won the endorsement of nearly all the unions in the District and also the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce.

I understand the problems facing the mayor and voters especially after the statements that came out in the indictment of Jeffrey Thompson. I know Jeff Thompson and if it comes to believing him or the mayor I still choose to believe the mayor. Jeff did everything he did for personal gain. But for the moment that is something each person will have to settle in their own mind and heart. There are other good and decent candidates in this race; they just don’t have the experience and record of success of the mayor.

For Council chair I urge support for Phil Mendelson. He has proven himself a steadfast supporter of progressive policies and is a stabilizing force on the Council. From his support of LGBT human and civil rights issues to his work to preserve and build affordable housing; from his efforts to make sure the criminal justice system is working fairly to his support of a cleaner environment, Mendelson has stood with and worked diligently for all the people of the District. He deserves our support and to be reelected as chair of the Council.

For Council-at-large I urge support for Anita Bonds. Like many, I was wary when she was first running for office that her connections to old-time politics in the District would not be productive on the Council. But she has impressed many with her hard work and willingness to listen to the community and make decisions based on the facts. She was willing to stand up to one of her first mentors in government when it was called for and make a stand for ethical government. Her work on issues such as raising the minimum wage, helping seniors to remain in the District and in their homes, and her support for forward-looking environmental policies make her deserving of reelection.

The District of Columbia is changing and growing. There are some good people who have been a part of making that happen. There are some politicians who should be turned out of office. But others are still forward looking and effective and should be rewarded with another term. Gray, Mendelson and Bonds are three such politicians. They are moving the District forward and have more to do and the proven ability to do it.

It is my hope that we will see huge numbers of voters come to the polls on April 1 and make their voices heard. That is what democracy is all about. Voting is not only a privilege it is a responsibility.


Principal comes out at D.C. high school Pride event

Pete Cahall, gay news, Washington Blade

Woodrow Wilson High School Principal Pete Cahall came out to students at a Pride event on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Woodrow Wilson High School)

The principal at D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson High School, Pete Cahall, disclosed he is gay at the school’s second annual LGBTQ Pride Day ceremony on Wednesday.

Cahall, 50, received loud applause and cheers from students as well as from D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and City Council member David Catania (I-At Large), who attended the event.

“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 at Wilson High School,” he said.

“Mayor Gray, you have led the way and set the circumstances that I could never imagine as a high school student or a principal to say what I want to say today,” Cahall said.

The principal’s coming out announcement came five days before members of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas were scheduled to hold a protest demonstration at 8:15 a.m. Monday, June 9, at the school in opposition to its decision to allow students to hold an LGBT Pride celebration on school grounds.

Working with the local LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL, students at Wilson said they are planning a counter demonstration at the same time, which they say could draw more than 100 students and supporters.

Catania has said he plans to support the students’ plans for a counter demonstration.

D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) released a statement on Wednesday saying she, too, is supporting the counter protest. Bowser called on her supporters to make a contribution to SMYAL to help the group continue its work on behalf of LGBT youth.