April 20, 2012 at 9:34 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Orange edges Biddle, wins D.C. primary
Vincent Orange, Sekou Biddle, gay news, gay politics dc

Vincent Orange won the Democratic primary for City Council after absentee ballots were counted. The April 3 race was initially too close to call as Orange led Sekou Biddle by just 523 votes.

D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who emerged last Friday as the winner in the city’s April 3 Democratic primary, will be a strong supporter of the LGBT community, according to gay Democratic activist Barry Doneker.

Doneker, a longtime Orange supporter, is first vice president of the Ward 5 Democrats and treasurer of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.

“I have no doubt in my mind that he will be a good friend of our community,” said Doneker.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics on April 13 declared Orange the winner over Democratic rival Sekou Biddle in a four-candidate race after it completed the counting of absentee and provisional ballots.

On the day following the April 3 primary, the board said the race was too close to call, with Orange leading Biddle by just 523 votes. As many as 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots remained to be counted.

When those ballots were counted, Orange’s lead over Biddle increased to 1,746 votes, with a final tally of 40.39 percent for Orange and 37.41 percent for Biddle.

A Washington Blade analysis of voter precincts shows that Biddle beat Orange in 12 of 14 precincts considered to have high concentrations of LGBT residents.

The Stein Club didn’t make an endorsement in the race after no candidate was able to obtain a required 60 percent vote from the membership for an endorsement. Club members were divided between Biddle, Orange and Democratic challenger Peter Shapiro, who received 10.56 percent of the vote in the primary.

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, a nonpartisan group, gave Biddle a rating of +5.5 percent on LGBT-related issues compared to a +0.5 percent rating for Orange. The group’s ratings are based on a scale of +10, the highest possible rating, to -10, the lowest rating.

Doneker said the GLAA rating didn’t accurately reflect Orange’s overall support and commitment on LGBT issues. GLAA says Orange lost rating points due to his support for a school voucher program, which the group says it opposes because it provides government funds to private religious schools that aren’t covered by the city’s non-discrimination laws. Orange also lost points for his opposition to cultivation centers for medical marijuana and licenses for nude dance clubs in Ward 5, and his initial support for making permanent prostitution free zones.

LGBT activists say the existing “prostitution free zones” law has been used to unfairly target transgender women for police harassment and arrest. Orange said he changed his mind and came out against making the prostitution free zones permanent.

Doneker points to Orange’s past support on issues such as funding for the city’s LGBT community center and his role as co-sponsor of a bill to make the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs a permanent part of the city government. In 2006, Orange came out against a same-sex marriage law for D.C. He later changed his position on the issue and now says he fully supports the city law allowing same-sex couples to marry.

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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