September 27, 2010 at 2:19 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gray greeted warmly by gays on 17th Street

D.C.’s presumptive mayor-elect Vincent Gray shook hands with customers of the 17th Street gay bar J.R.’s Saturday during an appearance at the 17th Street Festival, which celebrated the popular Dupont Circle area restaurant and entertainment strip.

Many of the LGBT residents and visitors along the section of 17th Street between P and R Streets, N.W., where the festival was held and where three gay bars and one gay restaurant are located, approached Gray to congratulate him on his victory in the Sept. 14 mayoral primary.

A number of them posed for photos with him as he walked along the street chatting with festival goers.

Among those who greeted Gray at the festival was veteran D.C. gay activist Frank Kameny. City officials honored Kameny earlier this year by designating a section of 17th Street where the festival was held as “Kameny Way.”

Also attending the festival was Christopher Dyer, director of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s Office of LGBT Affairs. Dyer, who wore a “Gray” campaign sticker on his shirt, acknowledged that he campaigned for Fenty’s re-election and was disappointed that his boss lost to Gray in the Democratic primary.

“He’s our party’s nominee and I certainly support him in the November election,” Dyer said. “And my message to our community — now is the time for unity and support for our next mayor.”

Faced with only token opposition, Gray is considered the odds-on favorite to win the general election.

Others attending the festival included D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), whose ward includes the 17th Street strip; and Council members David Catania (I-At-Large) and Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large). Mendelson, who won re-nomination for his seat in the Sept. 14 primary, and Catania are also running in the November election. Both are considered strong favorites to win.

Catania, who is gay, had a booth at the festival.

“I want to be the mayor for everyone, not just the people who voted for me,” Gray said after shaking hands with J.R.’s customers in an outdoor beer garden that the bar set up for the festival.

He was responding to a reporter’s question about his appearance in a part of the city where voters backed Fenty in the Sept. 14 primary.

Speaking earlier from a stage at the festival, Gray invited Dupont Circle area residents to attend a Ward 2 town hall meeting this fall, one of eight town hall meetings he’s organizing throughout the city to obtain input from city residents.

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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