By JIMMIE LUTHULI
Many people in the D.C. LGBTQ political scene believe that we no longer need to judge candidates on LGBTQ issues because all candidates are equally supportive. I beg to differ. Not only did we see two Council members vote in opposition to marriage equality as recently as 2009, we have yet to achieve full participation of the Council in the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s endorsement process. It’s true that direct opposition to equality has mostly come from politicians representing Wards 7 and 8, but the borders of D.C. span the Anacostia River.
Additionally, there are some candidates who claim to support LGBTQ issues, but lack the vision and drive to achieve real change. In the race for D.C. Council at-large, there is a candidate from Ward 8 who not only champions equality, but has the preparedness and initiative to bring about substantive change. This candidate is Nate Bennett-Fleming.
I served on the board of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club for two years and personally witnessed Nate’s unwavering commitment to the LGBTQ community. Other current and former board members concur. Bennett-Fleming earned the full endorsement of the Stein Club when he was running for Shadow Representative in both 2010 and 2012 and he was also awarded the Stein Club’s Champion of Equality Award. This year, he received the majority vote of Club members by earning 68 votes in comparison to the 51 earned by the incumbent. This outcome is truly commendable given the incumbent’s length of membership in the Club. It shows that astute LGBTQ Democrats are ready to see innovation on the D.C. Council and Bennett-Fleming is their choice in the at-large Council race.
Bennett-Fleming also earned the highest score of any at-large Council candidate in the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance rating system. This shows that he has a deep understanding of the issues that affect the LGBTQ community and he’s not vulnerable to the misconception that the struggle is over because we’ve achieved marriage equality.
Nate has concrete solutions to pressing issues like transgender unemployment and smoking cessation among HIV-positive DC residents. In addition to connecting more transgender people with employment opportunities in D.C. government, Bennett-Fleming would help them become entrepreneurs. Being the owner of your own business can assist marginalized people in overcoming employment discrimination.
With regard to tobacco, Bennett-Fleming acknowledges in his Stein Club questionnaire that smoking can affect HIV-positive residents disproportionately and more severely. Therefore, he would push for initiatives designed to curb smoking rates specifically among HIV-positive D.C. residents.
The quest for LGBTQ equality in D.C. is not over and all candidates are not the same. We need an advocate for our concerns who can navigate D.C.’s political scene from Anacostia to Dupont Circle.
Moreover, this individual must be committed to achieving tangible outcomes and not just offering up lip service. Nate Bennett-Fleming was endorsed by the Washington Post because it saw more promise in him than in any other candidate.
Let’s show that we support progress and productivity by casting our vote for Nate Bennett-Fleming on April 1 or during early voting.
Jimmie Luthuli is the immediate past secretary of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.