April 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Local news in brief

A rally marking the opening of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s re-election campaign headquarters had few gay Democratic activists in the crowd. (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

Gay activists missing at Fenty campaign kick-off

Few gay Democratic activists attended a rally last week that marked the opening of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s re-election campaign headquarters on Georgia Avenue, N.W.

About 300 supporters and volunteers cheered April 10 as Fenty opened his campaign with a speech highlighting his administration’s accomplishments, including reforms in education and crime fighting that he acknowledged weren’t always popular.

“We did it because it was the right thing to do,” he said, reciting a litany of policy changes and actions that would make D.C. a “world-class city.”

Among the gays seen at the event were Christopher Dyer, director of the mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, and Joe Martin, director of the mayor’s office of constituent services for Ward 4. Also present were gay civic activists John Fanning of Logan Circle and Martin Moulton, the gay president of the Convention Center Community Association.

Fanning, who works for the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation and is a former Advisory Neighborhood Commission member, said he believes Fenty will receive “solid” support from the LGBT community.

“I think the mayor has made some very tough decisions and has significantly improved city services and the delivery of them in many areas,” he said. “The mayor has always been a longtime supporter of the LGBT community and I believe that he remains very sensitive to our causes and issues.”

Don Colodny, a member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, was one of the few club members present. He said the lack of a large gay presence at the event was not a sign that gays won’t vote for Fenty.

“It was held at 10 in the morning on a Saturday in the far side of the city,” he said, noting that the location and early hour most likely discouraged gays from attending the event. Other people noted that the event wasn’t widely publicized in the LGBT community.

In his speech at the rally, Fenty did not mention LGBT issues or the city’s same-sex marriage bill, which he signed into law in December. He also did not reference two recent city studies that show record high numbers of HIV infections among city residents, including African Americans and men who have sex with men.

He instead pointed to the more positive findings of the AIDS studies showing that the city’s aggressive programs to administer HIV testing over the past several years — and placing people who test positive into city-funded treatment — has reduced the number of AIDS cases.

“We knew we had to fight the spread of AIDS,” Fenty said. “The number of new AIDS cases, ladies and gentlemen, declined 33 percent between 2004 and 2008. We have doubled the amount of testing, distributed three-and-a-half million free condoms, [and] removed 350,000 needles from our streets.”

DC Agenda boxes stolen in Georgetown

Boxes used to distribute the DC Agenda at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, N.W., in Georgetown were discovered to be missing on three occasions in March, prompting the paper’s publisher to file a stolen property report with D.C. police.

The boxes were positioned on the sidewalk on Wisconsin Avenue in front of the United Colors of Benetton clothing store, next to distribution boxes for Politico, The Hill and Washington City Paper.

Publisher Lynne Brown said that when the first DC Agenda box disappeared at the Georgetown location, the newspaper’s distribution company quickly replaced it with another box. When that replacement box disappeared a short time later, a heavier metal box was installed, Brown said.

She noted that that box disappeared sometime before DC Agenda’s delivery person arrived to deliver the subsequent issue. Because the DC Agenda is distributed free of charge, Brown said she concluded someone appears to be taking the boxes and the newspapers inside with the intent of stopping their distribution at that location.

Brown is asking that anyone with information that might lead to the identification of the person or people responsible for stealing the boxes contact the DC Agenda’s distribution department at 202-747-2077, ext. 8080.

Virginia man sentenced for hate crime

A 27-year-old Virginia man has been sentenced to 120 days in jail after pleading guilty to assaulting a group of lesbians on a sidewalk in Adams Morgan in September, a crime that police listed as a hate crime.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Craig Iscoe handed down the sentence April 5 against Christopher McDonald, who pleaded guilty to charges of simple assault and bias-related threats to do bodily harm.

The United States Attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case, dropped separate charges of possession of a prohibited weapon — a knife — and a second count of bias-related threats to do bodily harm in exchange for McDonald’s agreeing to plead guilty in February.

According to prosecutors, McDonald admitted to “confronting the women about their sexual orientation and made derogatory, profanity-laced remarks about their appearance and sexual orientation.”

In an unprovoked action, McDonald, who was born in Jamaica, “pulled out a knife and began advancing toward one of the women, saying ‘if we were in Jamaica I’d shoot you in the face for being gay,’” says a statement released by prosecutors.

Police said the incident took place on the 2400 block of 18th Street, N.W., on Sept. 7.

Under the terms of his sentencing, McDonald’s incarceration will be followed by a two-year period of supervised probation. He must also complete 50 hours of community service, obtain substance abuse treatment, and “complete courses in anger management and sensitivity to issues of sexual orientation,” according to the prosecutors’ statement.

Attorneys spar over evidence rules in Wone murder case

Attorneys are still arguing over procedures and rules for the submission of evidence at the upcoming trial of three gay men charged in connection with the August 2006 murder of Washington attorney Robert Wone.

At a status hearing in D.C. Superior Court on April 5, Judge Lynn Leibovitz acted as a taskmaster to facilitate agreement between the two sides on how to deal with a mountain of evidence. Among the items of evidence is a knife that the three defendants claim an unidentified intruder used to stab Wone to death while he was asleep in a guest bedroom at their Dupont Circle home.

The defendants, Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward, have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and evidence tampering. No one has been charged with Wone’s murder.

Prosecutors have alleged in a detailed arrest affidavit that the three men, among other things, cleaned Wone’s blood off a kitchen knife they say they found beside Wone’s body as part of a conspiracy to prevent investigators from determining who killed the prominent Asian-American attorney.

Prosecutors have said they believe the actual knife used to stab Wone may have been part of a three-knife cutlery set found in Ward’s bedroom. One of the knives was missing upon police inspection.

Leibovitz scheduled another status hearing for April 23. The trial in the case is scheduled to begin May 10.

Richmond’s gay center hosts musical, comedy shows

The Gay Community Center of Richmond in Virginia is hosting three musical and comedy shows in coming weeks.

Musicians Gaye Adegbalola and Roddy Barnes will be in concert together at the Center’s event hall at 8 p.m. April 24. Gregg Johnson, a Center director, said the joint performance is expected to be “one hell of a show.”

“Gaye Adegbalola embraces and redefines the classic style of the great blues divas of the 1920s and 1930s, those of 10 fiercely independent wild women who were unashamed to lay their souls bare and unafraid to give advice,” he said. “She invokes the spirit and addresses the lyrics and improvisational techniques of the classic blues women and brings history to life.”

Johnson said Adegbalola was a founding member of Saffire the Uppity Blues Women, and is “truly the epitome of uppity.”

“Roddy Barnes is a classically trained pianist and can play any genre, but excels in the old-timey sound that works best with this music,” he said. “Experience the dynamic and compelling performance of Adegbalola and Barnes as they conjure up another era and put on one hell of a show.”

Tickets for the event are $10 and can be purchased at the Center or online by following a link at GayRichmond.com.

On April 25, students from Virginia Commonwealth University will stage a comedy and improvisation show at the Center’s event hall. Tickets to the three-hour event that begins at 7 p.m. are $3 and available at the door.

And early next month, Johnny Blazes will stage his “wo(n)man show” at the Center. Johnson described the performance as blending “cabaret arts with theater to create a series of vignettes that are a humorous look at gender stereotypes that pervade our world.”

Blazes has a background in theater, clowning and drag. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show May 5 are $10 and available at the door.

The Gay Community Center of Richmond is located at 1407 Sherwood Ave. in Richmond.

LGBT elder group opens D.C. office

The New York-based Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, also known as SAGE, has opened an office in Washington, D.C., to strengthen its advocacy for LGBT elders with the federal government, the group said in a statement.

With the Washington office in place this month, SAGE “will ensure that the needs of LGBT older people are addressed in public policy and public discussion across the country,” said Michael Adams the group’s executive director.

John Johnson, the group’s director of federal government relations and currently the sole staff person in the Washington office, said the office is operating out of space rented from the National Caucus & Center on Black Aged at 1220 L St., N.W., Suite 800.

The opening of the Washington office comes after the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded SAGE a contract to create and help operate an LGBT Elder National Technical Assistance Resource Center. SAGE will manage the center with a network of partners, including the American Society on Aging and the National Council on Aging.

Johnson, however, said the SAGE Washington office will be involved solely in advocacy work and won’t take part in operating the new elder center.

Since its founding in 1978, SAGE and its affiliate member groups have expanded significantly their support services for older LGBT people across the country, according to the group’s statement.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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