May 18, 2010 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Graham, Thomas win Stein Club endorsements

D.C. City Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is gay, and Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) won endorsements Monday from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.

The two incumbents, both of whom voted for legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the District, are running for re-election in the city’s Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Club members voted by lopsided margins to endorse the two men during a club candidate forum and endorsement meeting for the wards 1 and 5 races, held at the Thurgood Marshall Building at 12th and T streets, N.W., in Ward 1.

The meeting took place less than a week after former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, a Democrat, announced his candidacy for the Council chairman’s seat being vacated by incumbent Vincent Gray, who is running for mayor.

Orange’s chief opponent in this year’s Council chair race, Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large), voted for the same-sex marriage law and has been a strong supporter of LGBT-related issues during his Council tenure.

In 2006, when Orange ran for mayor, he expressed strong opposition to proposals to legalize same-sex marriage in the city, calling his opponents who backed same-sex marriage “morally unfit to run this city.” Mayor Adrian Fenty, an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, defeated Orange and other candidates by a wide margin.

It thus surprised some activists that shortly after announcing his candidacy for Council chair, Orange issued a statement saying he now supports same-sex marriage.

He noted that as a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, he voted for a committee resolution endorsing the bill introduced by gay Council member David Catania (I-At Large) that legalized same-sex marriage in the District. The Council passed the bill in December, 11-2, and Fenty signed the measure that same month.

“In 2006, I did say that I believed that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Orange said in his statement released last week. “We have come a long way in the journey of life. Today, I stand on the right side of history.”

Gay activist Bob Summersgill, who helped coordinate the lobbying campaign in support of the D.C. same-sex marriage bill last year, said he was pleased that Orange has changed his position on the issue. But he was skeptical that Orange would win support from many LGBT voters.

“He wasn’t with us when this was a tough issue,” said Summersgill. “Now he’s with us when it’s a safe issue.”

At the Stein Club meeting Monday, Graham and Thomas pledged to work hard to ensure that the same-sex marriage law remains on the books by opposing efforts to hold a voter initiative to overturn it.

The main challengers to Graham and Thomas told club members that they, too, support the same-sex marriage law and would work to oppose efforts to place a voter initiative on the ballot to overturn the law. The opponents who spoke at the meeting were Ward 1 Democratic candidates Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver, and Ward 5 candidate Kenyan McDuffie.

Each of the candidates, including Graham and Thomas, outlined their records and positions on LGBT issues in their responses to a Stein Club questionnaire. The documents can be viewed on the club’s web site, steindemocrats.org.

The club is scheduled to hold candidate endorsement forums for the wards 3 and 6 Council races May 24; the mayoral and D.C. delegate to Congress races June 14; and the Council chairman and at-large Council member contests July 12.

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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