July 22, 2010 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Local news in brief

Chief condemns anti-gay police flier

Following calls by LGBT activists for a public response, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier issued a statement this week condemning the distribution of anti-gay fliers inside a police station by one or more unidentified officers.

Lanier said the department’s Internal Affairs unit was investigating the matter.

The fliers include a photo of two male detectives assigned to the department’s Major Crash Investigation Unit. The detectives are shown in the photo displaying gang hand signals, which resemble sign language used by the deaf. They are dressed in civilian clothes and appear to be standing in a police station office doorway.

“Celebrating D.C.’s First Deaf Mute Gay Marriage,” says a title above the photo. The flier goes on to describe the two detectives as “newlyweds using sign language to express their everlasting love and commitment for each other,” and says the men are “pictured as they enter the honeymoon suite prepared for hours of naked sweaty man love.”

Kristopher Baumann, chair of the labor committee of the Fraternal Order of Police, which serves as a police union, said the detectives pictured in the flier consider it highly offense. Baumann noted that someone distributed the same flier in May and department officials “took no action.”

A police source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two detectives shown in the flier are straight but supportive of their gay and lesbian colleagues on the force.

The source said it’s known that a lieutenant at the crash unit took the photo, but it could not be determined if the lieutenant created the fliers. According to the source, police officials initially appeared more concerned that the media learned about the incident than the incident itself.

Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence issued a statement last week calling the fliers a slur against the LGBT and deaf communities. The group’s co-chairs, Kelly Pickard and Joe Montoni, expressed concern that Lanier had not yet issued a public statement about the incident five days after the Washington Examiner broke a story July 13 about the flier.

In her June 19 statement, Lanier said the flier contained comments that were “both offensive and unacceptable.” She noted that she initially held off on issuing a statement because she “did not want to give attention or credence to such an unacceptable act.”

“The Metropolitan Police Department prides itself in having a diverse police department that provides above the board police services to all residents and visitors of the District of Columbia,” she said. “I am clear to all my members that I will not stand for any type of discrimination; therefore, individual acts, such as the creation and distribution of these fliers, are reprehensible and only serve to damage the fine efforts that our members strive to achieve in establishing respect and trust in the community.”

Baumann said department insiders have pointed to at least two other incidents in which anti-gay literature was placed inside police stations in recent years by members of the force. One was a Jehovah’s Witness religious pamphlet called “Homosexuality: How Can I Avoid It?”

He said authorities never determined who was responsible for placing the literature in areas of the police buildings not open to the public.

LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Gray criticized over Thorpe endorsement

D.C. City Council Chairman and mayoral candidate Vincent Gray (D-At Large) drew criticism this week for accepting the endorsement of a controversial Shaw neighborhood activist who has used anti-gay slurs to denounce people with whom he disagrees.

Leroy Thorpe, who has used the word “faggot” to attack gay and straight rivals during his tenure as an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member, endorsed Gray during a neighborhood block party July 17. Gray attended the event.

“Previously, Mr. Thorpe has said the most vile things about gay Americans and decent hardworking members of the D.C. Police force,” said Toni Williams, a supporter of Mayor Adrian Fenty, in an e-mail to local media. “Mr. Thorpe’s rants and hatred extend to Latinos, whites, and women.

“Why would Chairman Vincent Gray associate himself with such a divisive figure in the Shaw Neighborhood? Gray demonstrates that he truly did not learn from the PFOX incident that plagued Adrian Fenty,” Williams said, referring to an award the mayor’s office mistakenly gave the head of the anti-gay Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, also known as PFOX.

Traci Hughes, a spokesperson for the Gray campaign, addressed Thorpe’s endorsement in an e-mail to the Blade.

“The fact that he is supporting Chairman Gray in no way suggests the two agree on anything more than this: Chairman Gray is the best person to put an end to cronyism and restore integrity and sound fiscal management to the mayor’s office,” Hughes said. “We are happy to have Mr. Thorpe’s unsolicited support and his vote on September 14th.”

Gay activist Peter Rosenstein, a Gray campaign adviser, called Young’s criticism unfair, and said that Gray’s long record of support for LGBT rights shows he neither supports nor condones any inappropriate statements Thorpe may have made in the past.

Rosenstein noted that another controversial neighborhood figure, Sinclair Skinner, distributed anti-gay posters attacking gay D.C. City Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) in 2006 at the same time Skinner endorsed and campaigned for Fenty.

“When Thorpe or Skinner endorse candidates, they endorse the views of those candidates, not the other way around,” Rosenstein said. “I can assure anyone that asks that Leroy Thorpe will have zero impact on Vince Gray’s ongoing commitment to the LGBT community, my community.”

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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