The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance surprised D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray before a crowd of about 90 LGBT activists and supporters attending its 43rd anniversary reception on April 30 by presenting him with an unscheduled Distinguished Service Award.
As he has in past years, Gray attended the event to present GLAA with a mayoral proclamation recognizing the non-partisan advocacy group for its work on behalf of LGBT equality. While introducing him, GLAA President Rick Rosendall announced that the group decided to give Gray its Distinguished Service Award because of his longstanding record of support for LGBT rights.
“For those of us working in the trenches, it is all too easy to focus on the latest flap and forget that Vince is, by the evidence, the best mayor on LGBT issues our city has ever had,” Rosendall told the gathering.
Gray was joined at the event, held at Policy Restaurant and Lounge at 1904 14th St., N.W., by six members of the D.C. City Council, including mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and David Catania (I-At-Large).
The other Council members attending were Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), David Grosso (I-At-Large), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large).
Also attending were at least three candidates running for seats on the Council along with gay congressional candidate Mark Levine (D), who’s running for the 8th District U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).
Bowser and Gray greeted each other warmly and praised one another when they spoke following a hotly contested mayoral primary in which Bowser defeated Gray on April 1, becoming the Democratic nominee in the November general election.
With Catania running as an independent, that contest has also become what most political observers are calling a competitive race in a city where the Democratic mayoral nominee has won the general election in every prior election since the city’s home rule government started in 1974.
Catania, who had another engagement to attend, left the GLAA reception before the speeches began. Bowser, breaking from her months of criticism of Gray during the primary campaign, praised Gray’s record on LGBT rights issues.
Bowser told the Blade in the week following her primary victory that, if elected mayor in November, she would continue the LGBT-related initiatives put in place by Gray and “continue to move forward” on LGBT issues.
Bowser reiterated that pledge in her remarks at the GLAA reception.
“We are not finished,” she said referring to LGBT equality.
Catania and his supporters have said Bowser hasn’t taken the initiative to introduce significant legislation during her seven years on the Council. They point to Catania’s record of introducing a wide range of bills, including the city’s marriage equality law, saying his record is much broader than Bowser’s.
The three people scheduled to receive GLAA’s annual Distinguished Service Award and who were presented with the award at the April 30 event were veteran gay rights and civic activist Jerry Clark, who serves as chair of the D.C. Statehood Coalition and political director of D.C. for Democracy; LGBT rights advocate Alison Gill, who serves as Government Affairs Director for The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBT and questioning youth; and longtime LGBT rights advocate Earl Fowlkes Jr., president and CEO of the Center for Black Equity, an LGBT rights organization that, among other things, organizes and coordinates Black Pride events in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa.
Bonds won the Democratic primary in her re-election bid for the at-large Council seat by a wide margin on April 1 in a multi-candidate race. She will be facing several expected independent candidates as well as gay Republican Marc Morgan and a Libertarian and Statehood-Green Party candidate in the November general election. All of the candidates except Bonds will be competing for her seat as well as the “non-Democratic” at-large seat that Catania is giving up to run for mayor.
Longtime Democratic activist Elisa Silverman, who finished a strong second behind Bonds in a special election for the at-large seat currently held by Bonds, has told supporters she plans to run for the non-Democratic seat as an independent. Silverman attended the GLAA anniversary reception, where she greeted LGBT activists, some of whom supported her in her previous race for the at-large seat.
Others attending the GLAA anniversary reception included Charles Allen, who won the Democratic primary on April 1 for the Ward 6 Council seat being vacated by Tommy Wells (D), who gave up the seat to run for mayor; and Robert White, an independent candidate running for the at-large seat.
Under the city’s election law, one of the two at-large seats up for election this year must go to a non-majority party candidate, which means a Democrat is ineligible for the seat. The highest two vote-getters in the November election are declared the winners of the two-at-large seats in accordance of the election law. Although a non-Democrat could win both seats, the Democratic candidate has won the seat in which a Democrat is eligible to run in every election since home rule began in 1974.
Veteran D.C. gay activist Paul Kuntzler, who is one of the co-founders of GLAA, continued the tradition of the group’s anniversary receptions by leading a Champagne toast to GLAA’s accomplishments over its 43-year history.