May 20, 2010 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Local news in brief

Frank Kameny (Photo by Joe Tresh)

Celebrations mark Kameny’s 85th birthday

At least two events were set to take place this week to celebrate the 85th birthday of D.C. gay activist Frank Kameny, who is credited with founding the LGBT rights movement locally and playing a key role in starting the modern gay rights movement nationwide.

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which Kameny helped found in 1976, is hosting a reception in Kameny’s honor Friday, May 21, at the LGBT Community Center at 1810 14th St., N.W., from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event was to include a special presentation on Kameny’s role in the D.C. LGBT community by fellow activist Paul Kunzler, another Stein Club founder.

A group of Kameny friends and fellow activists were scheduled to hold a separate event honoring his life’s work on behalf of gay rights on Thursday night at the Artist Inn Bed & Breakfast at 1824 R St., N.W., near Dupont Circle. The event, which was sponsored by Helping Our Brothers & Sisters, asked for donations from attendees to go toward a special Kameny fund that will “help support Frank Kameny in his later years of life,” according to an announcement of the event.

David Bradberry, a local activist and friend of Kameny, said local artist Don Patron, who was helping to organize the event, has made about a dozen oil paintings of Kameny. Bradberry said some were made from photos of Kameny taken in years past, including during his service in the U.S. Army during World War II. The paintings were to be sold in a silent auction at the event to help raise money for the Kameny fund.

“Kameny is the father of the modern gay movement, and his achievements are legend,” says the announcement.

“He was one of the leaders of the first gay rights demonstrations at the White House, State Department and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall — four years before Stonewall,” it says. “He founded or co-founded the D.C. chapters of the Mattachine Society and Gay Activists Alliance and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.”

LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Marriage applications skyrocket in D.C.

The number of applications for a marriage license in the District of Columbia has continued to rise dramatically since licenses became available to same-sex couples in March.

According to Leah Gurowitz, a spokesperson for the D.C. Superior Court’s Marriage Bureau, as of May 18, the bureau received 2,213 marriage license applications since March 3, the day same-sex couples became eligible to apply for a marriage license.

Gurowitz said the Marriage Bureau doesn’t compile figures showing how many of the applications are from same-sex couples. But she said the 2,213 figure, which covers only a two-and-a-half-month period, can be compared to the 3,096 marriage license applications received by the bureau for the entire year in 2009.

“We can’t say that they are all same-sex couples,” said Aisha Mills, president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, which successfully lobbied the City Council to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009. “But we can say that certainly this is the largest influx of applications they’ve had.”

Mills noted that she and her partner, who applied for a marriage license on March 3, encountered delays in scheduling a civil marriage ceremony at the courthouse.

“We were told the court had a backlog lasting through early June,” she said. “So for the first time ever, the court opened on a Saturday to perform ceremonies,” she said. “It was just one Saturday in late April, but it was the only time they have ever done that before to try to catch up.”

Gurowitz has said the backlog came about after far more same-sex couples applied for civil ceremonies at the courthouse than had been expected. She said steps have been taken to accommodate everyone that applies or a courthouse ceremony.

LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Capital Pride director to step down

The executive director of Capital Pride is planning to step down from her role following this year’s celebration.

Dyana Mason will leave Capital Pride Alliance at the end of July, when her contract expires, to pursue an advanced degree at the University of Southern California. Capital Pride Alliance announced Mason’s plans Friday.

Mason, who’s originally from California, is planning to pursue a doctorate in policy management.

Michael Lutz, president of the Capital Pride board of directors, said that while Mason “will be missed greatly, we also support and applaud her aspirations, and wish her the very best.”

“We were very fortunate to have Dyana with us as Capital Pride transitioned to its own self-perpetuating entity,” he said. “Her role as a servant-leader helped us to reach many of our growth goals earlier than expected.”

Capital Pride Alliance will post a formal job announcement to its web site, capitalpride.org, May 22. A selection process will take place over the summer, and Capital Pride Alliance aims to announce Mason’s successor this fall.

JOSHUA LYNSEN

Equality Virginia’s CEO resigns

The chief executive officer of Equality Virginia has resigned his position, according to a statement issued by the organization.

Jon Blair submitted his resignation April 30. Blair joined Equality Virginia in January 2009, notably taking the helm of an LGBT organization despite being straight.

Mark Board, chair of Equality Virginia’s board, said in the statement that Blair’s resignation was “unsolicited, unexpected and without notice.”

David Lampo, vice president of Virginia Log Cabin and a former Equality Virginia board member, said his understanding was Blair left Equality Virginia to take a job as campaign manager for Democratic Alaskan gubernatorial candidate Ethan Berkowitz.

According to the statement, Jean Segner, another Equality Virginia board member, will take up the role as interim CEO immediately and will serve without compensation.

Board said Equality Virginia is “fortunate to have board members ready to step up” to continue the work of the organization.

“The continuity of leadership offered by Jean Segner and our current staff ensures that [Equality Virginia] will continue to move forward effectively changing laws and changing lives,” Board said.

Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, Equality Virginia’s legislative strategist and general counsel, told the Blade the organization will be looking for a new CEO this summer after the membership of the board transition July 1.

“I suspect that the search process and all of that won’t … start until later this summer,” she said.

Lampo said those involved with the organization were “surprised and shocked” by Blair’s resignation.

“I think he did a reasonably good job given the constraints that a lot of organizations like that were under during the recession, with the substantially decreased funding, and decreased interest on the part of the GLBT community,” Lampo said.

Still, Lampo said Blair held a “political and partisan background” that affected his leadership at Equality Virginia.

“I think he always had trouble adjusting to the non-partisan atmosphere of an organization like Equality Virginia and the fact that he wasn’t down in the partisan trenches during election time,” Lampo said.

CHRIS JOHNSON

D.C. man guilty in anti-gay hate crime

A D.C. Superior Court jury last week rendered a guilty verdict for a bias-related assault and robbery against one of two men charged with attacking two teenagers in Southeast Washington in November.

The jury found Michael Cowan, 23, guilty of one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, and one count of assault with significant injury, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Both charges were considered bias-related.

The statement says witnesses observed Cowan calling one of the two victims, a 17-year-old male, a “faggot” during the attack. The second victim was a 19-year-old male, according to the statement.

The jury found a second defendant, Vernon Long, 25, guilty of robbery and assault-related offenses, but acquitted him of the government’s allegation that the two charges were bias-related.

The statement says the incident began the day before Thanksgiving as the two victims were leaving a convenience store along the 2400 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, S.E. It says the two defendants attacked the victims from behind and demanded they turn over their jackets.

“While the second victim was huddled in the fetal position on the ground, Cowan and Long, along with accomplices, repeatedly punched and kicked the second victim in the face and body,” says the statement. “As the attack continued, Cowan (and possibly others n the group) repeatedly called the second victim a ‘faggot.’”

Both defendants face a possible sentence of more than 10 years in prison, and Cowan faces greater jail time under an enhanced sentencing provision in the city’s hate crimes law.

LOU CHIBBARO JR.

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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