District of Columbia – Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights http://www.washingtonblade.com America's Leading LGBT News Source Sun, 23 Sep 2018 02:25:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Bowser endorses Reeder in at-large D.C. Council race http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/19/bowser-endorses-reeder-in-at-large-d-c-council-race/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/19/bowser-endorses-reeder-in-at-large-d-c-council-race/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 18:33:45 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48196878 Lesbian candidate considered lead rival to incumbent Silverman

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Dionne Reeder, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday that she is backing lesbian businesswoman Dionne Reeder for Council. (Photo via Reeder Campaign Twitter)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced through her campaign chairman on Wednesday that she is backing lesbian businesswoman Dionne Reeder in the hotly contested race for one of two at-large D.C. Council seats up for election on Nov. 6.

The Washington Post reports that former D.C. Council member Bill Lightfoot, who is serving as Bowser’s campaign chairman, disclosed that the mayor plans to help raise money for Reeder and would encourage her volunteers to canvas city neighborhoods for Reeder.

Lightfoot told the Post that Bowser believes incumbent Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), who is Reeder’s main rival in the election, “has been not helpful to D.C. residents and has pushed a national agenda more than a local agenda and as a result has been divisive.”

According to the Post, Lightfoot added, “so for those reasons she is going to support Dionne Reeder, who has promised to focus on needs of D.C. residents.”

Silverman, who has been a strong supporter of the LGBT community, has disputed claims that she is pushing a national agenda, saying she has been an advocate for the city’s working families who are struggling to meet expenses due to the high cost of living in the city.

Reeder is also running as an independent. The seat held by Silverman under D.C. law cannot be held by a Democrat. Four other lesser-known candidates are running in the at-large race along with incumbent Anita Bonds (D-At-Large). Most political observers believe Bonds will win re-election to the so-called Democratic seat.

The dynamics of the at-large race changed dramatically earlier this month when the D.C. Board of Elections disqualified from the ballot S. Kathryn Allen, another independent that had been considered Silverman’s lead rival. In response to a challenge to Allen’s nominating petition signatures filed by Silverman, the election board found that a majority of Allen’s petition signatures were invalid and many of them were said to be forged.

That development immediately elevated Reeder as the leading challenger to Silverman. Bowser’s endorsement this week, some political observers believe, could prompt Allen’s supporters in the business community and establishment leaders such as former Mayor Anthony Williams, who had been supporting Allen, to back Reeder.

Silverman first won election to her at-large seat in 2014 by capturing just 15.4 percent of the vote in a 15-candidate general election race. Bonds won her seat that year with 31.4 percent of the vote.

If elected, Reeder would become the first LGBT person of color and the first LGBT woman to serve on the City Council. Two white gay men have previously served on the Council, the late Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and attorney David Catania, who was first elected to an at-large seat as a Republican and later changed his party affiliation to independent.

Reeder, a lifelong city resident and longtime community organizer, owns and operates Cheers at the Big Chair restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia.

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Judge denies Trump request to lift trans military ban http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/19/judge-denies-trump-request-to-lift-trans-military-ban/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/19/judge-denies-trump-request-to-lift-trans-military-ban/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 13:48:17 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48242129 Judge calls move discriminatory and unlawful

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transgender military ban, Donald Trump, Trump administration, mid-term elections, gay news, Washington Blade

President Trump’s attempts to ban trans service members are being blocked by judges. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U. S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal issued a ruling Tuesday, Sept. 18 denying the Department of Justice’s request to lift the preliminary injunction he issued last December halting President Donald Trump’s attempt to ban transgender individuals from openly serving in the military. It was the fourth nationwide preliminary injunction after Federal courts in Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia previously issued injunctions against the ban last year.

The California lawsuit, Stockman v. Trump, was filed last Nov. 20 by seven transgender individuals either serving in the armed forces or intending to enlist, Equality California, and the California Attorney General.

“Discriminating against capable soldiers because of their gender identity does not represent the values of our great nation,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on Dec. 27, 2017 after the injunction was issued. “We are pleased that today’s ruling proves that discrimination against transgender Americans will not be tolerated. The President’s disgraceful ban on transgender people serving in the military not only compromises our national security, but it marginalizes transgender Americans who are willing to sacrifice everything to keep us safe. We are proud to be part of the fight to protect the rights of this honorable group of brave people defending our country.”

Bernal’s decision means the preliminary injunction will remain in place, allowing transgender individuals to continue serving in the military. In his ruling, Bernal noted that the ban was discriminatory and unlawful:

“In the history of military service in this country, ‘the loss of unit cohesion’ has been consistently weaponized against open service by a new minority group,” Bernal wrote in his order denying the motion. “Yet, at every turn, this assertion has been overcome by the military’s steadfast ability to integrate these individuals into effective members of our armed forces. As with blacks, women, and gays, so now with transgender persons.

“The military has repeatedly proven its capacity to adapt and grow stronger specifically by the inclusion of these individuals. Therefore, the government cannot use ‘the loss of unit cohesion’ as an excuse to prevent an otherwise qualified class of discrete and insular minorities from joining the armed forces.”

“Today’s ruling upholds our nation’s values and interests. The Trump administration’s transgender military service ban does not,” Becerra said in a statement. “President Trump’s despicable ban weakens our national security and erodes the fundamental value of equality that makes our nation great. Our service members, regardless of gender identity, are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect us. We are proud to continue the fight to protect their liberties despite the federal government’s disregard for equality and the rule of law.”

“Anyone willing to risk their life to protect our country should be treated fairly and with dignity and respect,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “As long as President Trump continues to double down on this unpatriotic and discriminatory ban, we’ll continue to fight him with everything we’ve got — and we have a pretty good track record of winning.”

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LGBT workers testify on bill to retain tipped wage system http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/18/lgbt-workers-to-testify-on-bill-to-retain-tipped-wage-system/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/18/lgbt-workers-to-testify-on-bill-to-retain-tipped-wage-system/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 11:58:47 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48125508 Marathon D.C. Council hearing to include 252 witnesses

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Initiative 77, divorce, Phil Mendelson, gay news, Washington Blade

Phil Mendelson co-introduced the bill calling for repeal of Initiative 77. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

More than a dozen LGBT tipped workers and representatives of the city’s gay bars were among at least 252 people who signed up as witnesses to testify at a D.C. City Council hearing on Monday on a bill calling for repealing an initiative passed by voters in June to end the so-called tipped wage system.

Sources familiar with the witness list believe as many as 65 percent of the witnesses would be tipped workers at D.C. restaurants, bars, and nightclubs who favor repeal of Initiative 77, which voters approved by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in the city’s June 19 primary election.

If it were to remain in effect, Initiative 77 would require restaurants, bars and other employers of tipped workers to pay those workers the city’s full minimum wage, which is currently $13.25 per hour and which will increase to $15 per hour in 2020. The minimum wage for tipped workers is currently $3.89 per hour.

Under the city’s tipped wage law, employers in the city’s highly competitive restaurant bar and nightclub industries are allowed to pay tipped workers a lower minimum wage on grounds that they make more than the city’s full minimum wage in tips. The law requires employers to pay the difference if workers’ tips fall short of the full minimum wage.

Restaurant owners have said Initiative 77 would increase their labor costs to a degree that could force them out of business or force them to raise prices for food and beverages, which they say would result in lower tips and a lower overall income for tipped workers.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who introduced the repeal bill in July, said he and his Council colleagues have been besieged by tipped workers urging the Council to exercise its authority to repeal the initiative on grounds that it will have a devastatingly harmful impact on their livelihoods as servers and bartenders in the city’s thriving hospitality and nightlife industry.

Supporters of Initiative 77, including LGBT labor activists, have said the “alarmist” predictions by restaurant industry leaders have been proven to be wrong in a number of cities and states, including California, that have adopted legislation requiring tipped workers to receive the full minimum wage in their states or cities.

Among those scheduled to testify at Monday’s hearing, which was to begin at 11 a.m. and last late into the night, were John Guggenmos, co-owner of the D.C. gay bars Trade and Number Nine; and Mark Lee, managing consultant for NO2DC77, one of the leading groups opposing the initiative. Guggenmos has also been an outspoken opponent of Initiative 77.

Among the LGBT witnesses expected to testify against repealing the initiative is gay labor activist Gregory Cendana.

Six other Council members have joined Mendelson in co-introducing the bill calling for repealing Initiative 77. Mendelson assigned the bill to the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which he chairs and which consists of all 13 Council members. He has yet to schedule a vote on the bill in the full Council.

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Lesbian deputy mayor to step down for new opportunity http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/17/deputy-mayor-snowden-step-down/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/17/deputy-mayor-snowden-step-down/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 15:11:46 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48067941 Bowser calls highest-ranking LGBT city official a ‘trailblazer’

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Courtney Snowden, gay news, Washington Blade

Courtney R. Snowden is leaving her job on Sept. 21. (Photo courtesy of the Raben Group)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Friday that Courtney R. Snowden, her Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity since April 2015, will be leaving her job as of Sept. 21 “to pursue a new career opportunity outside of District government.”

Snowden, a lesbian who has worked on LGBT rights issues in previous private sector jobs, has served in her current job as Bowser’s highest-ranking openly LGBT appointee.

The mayor’s announcement didn’t disclose where Snowden would be working when she leaves her deputy mayor’s position on Sept. 21, and Snowden couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

In a press release making the announcement, Bowser praised Snowden for her groundbreaking work in fulfilling the mission of a newly created position intended to boost economic development in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River that had the city’s highest rates of unemployment and fewer sources of employment such as small businesses compared to other parts of the city.

“Courtney R. Snowden served as the District’s first-ever Deputy Mayor of Greater Economic Opportunity, and I don’t think I could have appointed a better person to build this post from the ground up and deliver for our residents,” Bowser said. “Courtney has been a trailblazer, forging pathways to the middle class for residents who needed someone to believe in them and give them a fair shot.”

The mayor’s press secretary, La Toya Foster, told the Washington Post that Snowden’s departure was not related to Snowden being the subject of at least two ethics investigations since May 2017 and that Snowden was not asked to step down.

Although Snowden was not cited for violating ethics rules, the city’s Inspector General in the spring of 2017 named Snowden as being among several city government officials who were given preferential treatment in 2015 by then D.C. Schools Superintendent Kaya Henderson by allowing their kids to be enrolled in prestigious schools without having to be placed on a long waiting list or a lottery.

Henderson disputed claims that her actions violated ethics rules. She said Snowden was among a number of parents, including those not associated with the D.C. government, who applied for a waiver of the school waiting lists based on a program Henderson said she created for children with special circumstances.

“The opportunity to petition the school chancellor for a waiver is available to all District parents,” mayoral spokesperson Kevin Harris said at the time. “Deputy Mayor Snowden did what any parent would do by pursuing every available option when her child faced a challenge,” he said.

In separate matter, the Inspector General’s Office in November 2017 issued a report saying Snowden violated D.C. personnel rules in 2015 when she reportedly instructed her staff to engage in babysitting duties for her son during working hours. The Washington Post reported that Bowser informed the IG’s Office that Snowden “admitted her conduct was not appropriate and expressed remorse” and that the mayor remained confident in Snowden’s ability to do her job.

Robert Raben, founder and CEO of the Raben Group, a D.C.-based progressive public policy and communications firm where Snowden worked before becoming deputy mayor, said Snowden was not returning there. But he said whoever works with her would be lucky.

“Courtney sees around corners, figures out how to get to where you want to go in ways you would not have dreamed,” Raben told the Washington Blade. “That, coupled with a singular ability to connect with anyone, and I mean anyone, of all stripes and types, makes her pretty much a rock star,” he said. “I learned an enormous amount from her.”

Prior to working at the Raben Group, Snowden worked as a legislative assistant for then-U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), as a political aide for the Human Rights Campaign, and as federal and national policy manager for the New York City-based Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), where she worked on policies to prevent anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination in schools.

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Dating in D.C. Part I: the apps http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/16/dating-in-d-c-part-i-the-apps/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/16/dating-in-d-c-part-i-the-apps/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 04:53:53 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47976419 At age 40, it’s time to ramp up my efforts at finding a man

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gay dating apps, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by bigtunaonline via Bigstockphoto)

I haven’t had a real romantic relationship in about 12 years. I know, I know. What’s my problem, right? To be honest, I just really haven’t felt the need to have a boyfriend. Well, up until about now. Maybe it’s time. I’ve turned 40 recently, and I’m getting the impression that I might have been the grasshopper that sang all summer, if you know your Aesop. Essentially winter is coming and it’s just me. Not to be a sad sap, but the closest thing I have to a long-term relationship at the moment is the Meiwah delivery guy. He gets me, though.

Recently I’ve stuck my toe back in the D.C. dating water, murky as it may be. Usually, this is enough to have me running back to the safe confines of singledom, with all its awesome, seemingly endless perks — a house regulated to the temperature I want, no judgment on my fairly awful music choices, not really having to compromise on anything. But I’m resolved to throw my hat back in the dating ring after all these years. Plus, I’m convinced that while dating in D.C. is difficult, it’s got to be easier in your 40s. It has to be. That, and I have no other options. So.

Be it resolved here, I will be trying in Part I of this three-part series, to find a boyfriend. Part I — trying three newish dating apps. Part II — trying three new bars I wouldn’t typically go to on a given weekend. And then, if need be, Part III — non-bar things, volunteering and charity functions. God, I hope it doesn’t come to that.

For part one, I’ll be trying these three apps — Tinder, Hinge, and Mr. X, simultaneously. First up is Tinder. I’ve been playing with this app, on and off, for a while now. I’ve even met up with a few guys. Nothing really came of anything. I’m sure most are familiar with the app, but basically it’s a swipe-right-swipe-left sort of thing based on attraction. I’m guessing a lot of guys out there just use this for a quick ego boost, “oh. . .let’s see who finds me cute” sort of thing. I’ll give it a try, nonetheless.

Also I’m trying Hinge, which I have to say is probably the best and sleekest of the apps here. Instead of swiping past someone based just on their pic, Hinge allows you to ‘discover’ them, which sounds awfully pre-colonial but it seems to work. You get to discover things about a guy other than their picture, browsing their funny responses to silly questions and such, and the whole process makes you feel less like a shallow jerk.

Then there’s Mr. X, which was entirely new to me until last Sunday. My friend Paul, slightly older than I am, turned me on to it and he’s been in a good and steady relationship for a few months now, all thanks to Mr. X. Here you can be a ‘Daddy’ a ‘Hunter’ or a ‘Mister.’ I’m a ‘Mister,’ I was told. Too old for ‘Hunter,’ too young for ‘Daddy,’ this sort of sums up my whole dating conundrum at the moment. Mr. X is the clunkiest of the apps here, but like the others I’m willing to give it a try. Mr. X’s tag line is “Dirty, Sexy, Social” so I’m not really sure if I signed up for a dating app, a sex app, or both. But one of the best married couples I know met on Grindr, so you never know.

So, I’m officially on the market. And I will be providing follow up in the next few columns. So stay tuned and wish me luck!


Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer who contributes regularly to the Blade.

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Reeder now one-on-one with controversial incumbent http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/14/opinion-dionne-reeder-vs-elissa-silverman/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/14/opinion-dionne-reeder-vs-elissa-silverman/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 19:27:31 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47894720 Election board creates path for lesbian D.C. Council At-Large challenger

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Dionne Reeder, gay news, Washington Blade

Dionne Reader is now lead challenger in an at-large Council race after A. Kathryn Allen was disqualified. (Photo via Reeder Campaign Twitter)

The composition of the only competitive marquee race in the Nov. 6 D.C. general election suddenly changed this week. The development creates a clear path for an underdog citywide victory by lesbian D.C. Council At-Large candidate Dionne Reeder in her uphill but promising challenge against controversial first-term incumbent Elissa Silverman.

Near the stroke of midnight on Monday evening the D.C. Board of Elections complied with its announced deadline to render a decision regarding ballot qualification by additional candidate S. Kathryn Allen. The local election board bumped Allen off the ballot, ruling that she had come up short by slightly more than 500 signatures of the 3,000 required for the seat.

Signature collection is a tedious and tiresome task, resulting in adequately funded first-time candidates not enjoying incumbent campaign infrastructure advantage commonly outsourcing the activity. Allen saw a large number of her valid signatures thrown out due to at least one non-resident collector not having registered with the election board, falsified collector names on petition sheets, and outright forged signatures provided by collectors. In the end, Allen’s nearly 6,100 signatures were whittled down to just under 2,500 accepted ones.

Silverman had contested Allen’s ballot petition after it was discovered, following the withdrawal of another candidate due to similar contractor-collected falsified voter signatures, that Allen may have been victim of the same problem. Ballot petitions are not audited or validated unless required as a result of a challenge by a registered voter – oftentimes a partisan associated with a competitor campaign.

It is unusual for an incumbent to personally challenge an opponent’s submitted signatures, as in this case by Silverman. Her directly doing so has prompted local political observers to note that it signifies Silverman recognizes she is vulnerable to being defeated for re-election.

Silverman won election to the seat in 2014, after a prior failed attempt, among a crowded field while garnering only 15 percent of the votes cast in the race. Under the city’s complicated set-aside of two-of-four At-Large Council seats for a “non-majority-party” candidate, voters are allowed to cast two votes each rotating four-year biennial election cycle – with the Democratic nominee joined by a usually Democrat-masked-as-an-independent winning the alternate seat.

Silverman may regret “clearing the field” to a single leading opponent, creating an opening for Reeder to consolidate community opposition to the oft-derided sole “socialist” elected official in the District. In addition to incumbent Democrat Anita Bonds, expected to easily win another term, voters have the opportunity to cast a second vote for “non-Democrats” Silverman or Reeder, or alternately for the long-shot candidacies of Republican Ralph Chittams, Libertarian Denise Hicks, Statehood-Green David Schwartzman, or independent Rustin Lewis.

Most observers anticipate that respected former Mayor Anthony Williams and former gay At-Large Council member David Catania, both co-chairs of Allen’s effort, will support Reeder. Mayor Muriel Bowser, gliding to re-election as one of the most popular executives in the nation, is said to support an alternative to Silverman.

Silverman, criticized as a short-tempered and hard-edged ideologue disinterested in a consensus-building approach to legislation or governance, has become known as an extremist policy outlier among most of her colleagues. Leftist political groups, however, are expected to push hard for her re-election, disappointed that all “further-left” challengers in the Democratic primary were easily defeated by more circumspect, centrist and business-friendly incumbents.

The local enterprise community had been backing either Allen or Reeder, with small-business operators largely lining up behind Reeder while moderate-sized and larger business sectors had favored Allen. Reeder is expected to coalesce the support of both the entire entrepreneurial community and residents hoping for a fresh approach with less of a heavy-handed, combative style.

The LGBT community could also play a role in determining the winner and may relish the chance to again have a gay person, woman of color, and the city’s first lesbian serving on the D.C. Council.

Now that the candidates have been finalized, let the rumble begin!


Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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D.C. clergy, judges call on city to strip Trump Hotel’s liquor license http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/11/d-c-clergy-judges-call-on-city-to-strip-trump-hotels-liquor-license/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/11/d-c-clergy-judges-call-on-city-to-strip-trump-hotels-liquor-license/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 14:34:20 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47614418 President lacks good character required of owners of licensed establishments

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Trump Hotel, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a complaint filed with the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a group of local clergy and former judges – of which we are members – alleges that Donald Trump lacks the good character required of all owners of licensed liquor establishments in the city. We made the complaint, which we have supplemented with additional evidence on multiple occasions, because we believe that among the hundreds of hotel, bar, and restaurant owners in the District of Columbia, Donald Trump is uniquely unfit. Good character, which the liquor laws require of all owners of establishments holding a liquor license, is, and should be, an easy requirement to meet. It merely requires the basic honesty and integrity to which all business owners can readily attest.

But as our complaint and its supplements have stressed, the one owner of a hotel holding a District of Columbia liquor license who lies with impunity, who has demonstrated his lack of integrity by defrauding individuals in his private business affairs and who has, according to his own lawyer, paid “hush money” to women with whom he allegedly had sexual relations in order to influence an election, is Donald Trump. And this is only a small sample of conduct inconsistent with good character set forth in our filings. As clergy devoted to helping others live moral lives and as former judges devoted to upholding the rule of law, we saw it as our duty to serve notice to the Board in this unusual and rare case that its most fundamental licensing requirement had been violated.

We recognize that the subject of our complaint is the president of the United States. Given our deep respect for the democratic process by which he was elected, we have assiduously avoided including in our complaint any of President Trump’s political or policy decisions with which we may disagree. Instead, because we are members of the clergy and former judges, we have focused on specific conduct by Trump that led us to the conclusion that he lacks a moral compass, which has conspicuously taken a backseat to his pursuit of pleasure and power. Indeed, we were struck by the fact that an anonymous senior member of President Trump’s own administration recently recognized that he was amoral. In our collective judgment, and as has been demonstrated in our filings with the Board, there can be no reasonable debate that Trump violates the basic good character requirement of the District of Columbia liquor licensing laws.

The District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has recommended a show cause hearing in circumstances where a liquor establishment owner engaged in misconduct less egregious than that of Trump. It now has the opportunity not only to uphold once again the good character requirement of the liquor laws, but also to demonstrate that no person, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. Good character is a requirement of the liquor licensing law. Unfortunately, our president lacks it. Thus, it is time for the Board to act.


This letter was signed by: Rev. Timothy Tee Boddie, Baptist Denominational Executive, Washington, D.C.; Rev. Jennifer Butler; Joan Goldfrank, Retired Magistrate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., retired U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia; Rev. William H. Lamar IV, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church; Rabbi Jack Moline; and Rabbi Aaron Potek.

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Lesbian candidate emerges as lead challenger in D.C. Council race http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/11/lesbian-candidate-emerges-as-lead-challenger-in-d-c-council-race/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/11/lesbian-candidate-emerges-as-lead-challenger-in-d-c-council-race/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 14:21:19 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47614017 Main opponent disqualified from ballot in successful petition challenge

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Dionne Reeder, gay news, Washington Blade

Dionne Reader is now lead challenger in an at-large Council race after Kathryn Allen was disqualified. (Photo via Reeder Campaign Twitter)

In a development that has shaken up the hotly contested race for one of two at-large D.C. Council seats up for election on Nov. 6, the city’s Board of Election late Monday night disqualified from the ballot R. Kathryn Allen (I), who was considered the main rival to incumbent Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large).

With Allen out of the race, lesbian businesswoman Dionne Reeder, who’s also running as an independent, immediately emerges as the new lead rival to Silverman.

The development creates a dilemma for many LGBT activists who supported Silverman, a longtime LGBT community ally, in her successful 2014 Council race but who also favor electing an LGBT person to the City Council.

In an 11-page Memorandum Opinion and Order released Monday night, the Board of Elections announced it had disqualified 3,642 of the 6,068 petition signatures that the Allen campaign submitted to obtain access to the ballot. Under the city’s election law, 3,000 valid petition signatures are required to be placed on the ballot for an at-large Council seat.

The election board examined the petition signatures submitted by Allen’s campaign in response to a challenge to the petitions filed by Silverman on Aug. 20. Silverman argued in a detailed statement submitted to the election board that large numbers of the signatures submitted by the Allen campaign were forged.

Silverman’s challenge also stated that several people identified on the petitions as circulators of the petitions said they were falsely listed as circulators and had nothing to do with Allen’s campaign. In its Memorandum Opinion and Order, the election board said its own investigation confirmed those allegations. The board said it determined that Allen presented 2,426 valid signatures, 574 fewer than the required 3,000.

Allen, an attorney and D.C. insurance commissioner under former Mayor Anthony Williams, said the disqualified petition signatures were the responsibility of a private company her campaign hired to gather the signatures. The election board stated in its opinion disqualifying Allen from the ballot that it would “refer the alleged instances of fraud to the Office of the Attorney General.”

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether many or some of the small and medium size businesses as well as big name politicians, including Williams and gay former D.C. Council member David Catania, who were backing Allen, would switch their support to Reeder.

Many of the business leaders have been open about seeking to replace Silverman with someone they consider to be a more business friendly Council member following Silverman’s lead role in backing and helping to pass legislation establishing one of the nation’s most generous employer paid family leave programs funded by a tax on businesses. Allen, who owns an insurance related business, was considered the business interests’ first choice.

Reeder, who owns and operates a restaurant in Anacostia, has also expressed opposition to the family leave bill in its current form, saying it should be modified so small businesses aren’t saddled with the burden of picking up the cost.

Reeder is a longtime advocate for LGBT rights. She is being supported by a number of LGBT activists. But in the at-large race, Silverman has a longstanding record of strong support for LGBT-related issues and also enjoys significant support in the LGBT community.

Under D.C.’s election law, two of the Council’s at-large seats will be on the same ballot and voters can select two candidates, although only one can be a Democrat. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who is also a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, is considered the strong favorite to win re-election to the “Democratic” seat.

In addition to Silverman and Reeder, four other candidates are competing for the non-Democratic seat. Among them are independent Rustin Lewis; Republican Ralph Chittams Sr.; Libertarian Denise Hicks; and Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman.

Chittams and Hicks have yet to file a finance report with the Office of Campaign Finance, indicating they have yet to raise any significant funds for their campaigns. Lewis has raised $19,793 and Schwartzman has raised just $1,325, according to their most recent reports filed with the Office of Campaign Finance.

Silverman has raised $111,597 compared to Reeder, who has raised $93,546 at the time they filed their most recent finance reports on Aug. 10. Although Silverman had $80,135 in cash on hand as of the Aug. 10 filing compared to just $4,542 in cash on hand for Reeder as of Aug. 10, political observers say Reeder remains competitive and could have a shot at defeating Silverman if Allen’s supporters back her campaign.

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBT political group, endorsed Bonds as a Democrat at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday night, according to Earl Fowlkes, the club’s president. Fowlkes told the Washington Blade the club has no plans to endorse any of the independent candidates running for D.C. Council, including Reeder or Silverman.

Fowlkes noted that the club’s longstanding policy has been to limit endorsements of non-Democratic candidates to races in which they are not running against a Democrat. Although most political observers consider it highly unlikely, it’s possible for Silverman and Reeder to win election to both at-large seats by receiving more votes than Bonds, resulting in Bonds losing her Council seat.

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Whitman-Walker receives $85,000 grant for immigrant legal services http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/10/whitman-walker-immigrant-justice-legal-services/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/10/whitman-walker-immigrant-justice-legal-services/#respond Mon, 10 Sep 2018 19:32:46 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47571980 ‘We are committed to protecting the rights of all our residents’

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‘Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary city, and we are committed to protecting the rights and humanity of all our residents,’ said Mayor Muriel Bowser. (Photo by Elvert Barnes via Wikimedia Commons)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Sept. 7 that Whitman-Walker Health is one of 15 community-based organizations to receive city grant funding to provide legal services for immigrants under the city’s recently launched Immigrant Justice Legal Services program.

Amy Nelson, director of Whitman-Walker’s Legal Services Program, said the grant will provide the program an award of $85,000 for fiscal year 2019 “to provide direct legal services to immigrants seeking asylum in the United States as a result of the persecution and violence they endured in their home countries on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Nelson said the grant will enable Whitman-Walker to expand its capacity to serve more foreign nationals who would otherwise not be able to afford legal counsel.

“Navigating the U.S. immigration maze is nearly impossible without an attorney, and our clients are especially vulnerable having already survived extreme violence in their home country because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Nelson told the Washington Blade.

“We appreciate the mayor’s commitment to the immigrant community through these grant funds to ensure that more families are connected to essential immigrant assistance,” Nelson said.

“Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary city, and we are committed to protecting the rights and humanity of all our residents,” Bowser said in a statement announcing the grant awards. “Through the Immigrant Justice Legal Services grant program, we are able to assist hundreds of residents each year with a wide range of issues, expand the reach of important community partners, and advance D.C. values,” Bowser said.

Whitman-Walker Health is the city’s largest private community-based health organization providing HIV services, with a special outreach to the LGBT community. Its Legal Services Program has provided legal assistance to the LGBT and other minority communities on a wide range of issues, including political asylum, naturalization, and refugee matters.

Human Rights First, another one of the organizations receiving a D.C. legal services grant for 2019, also provides services to LGBT immigrants in D.C. and other locations.

Casa Ruby, the D.C. LGBT community services center that has a special outreach to transgender people, provides a wide range of non-legal services for LGBT immigrants. It was not among the groups receiving one of the D.C. legal services grants for 2019 but it recently received a grant for HIV prevention services from the city’s Department of Health.

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Elissa Silverman for Council-at-large http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/06/opinion-elissa-silverman/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/06/opinion-elissa-silverman/#respond Thu, 06 Sep 2018 23:11:11 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47378054 Re-elect the independent, progressive incumbent

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D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (D-At-Large) (Photo courtesy of Silverman)

The voters of the District of Columbia should make a statement with their vote Nov. 6 and tell lobbyists they won’t accept them trying to control the votes of our City Council. There has never been a Council member with whom I agree all the time and Elissa Silverman is no exception; she is independent and stands unabashedly for workers and their families. She understands the District has become a place where the average worker finds it hard to afford living and is willing to do everything she can to make it easier for them to support themselves and their families here.

According to the Washington Post, Anthony Williams, former mayor and highly paid executive director of the Federal City Council and David Catania, former Council member, losing mayoral candidate and now lobbyist are “teaming up in an effort to unseat Silverman in November.” They don’t like the bill providing family leave to workers Silverman co-introduced with David Grosso. The final bill with support from Council Chair Mendelson won overwhelming support on the Council. According to the Post it is “among the nation’s most generous and imposes a new tax on business.” Now Catania and Williams don’t like the bill or the tax it creates and figure Silverman is the easiest target to go after; she is standing strong. They aren’t going after the chair or any of the other Council members who voted for it thinking they could be convinced/bullied to make changes before it goes into effect. I recently wondered why Catania wrote an opinion piece in the Blade supporting Anita Bonds and from the Post got my answer; he opened a new lobbying firm in the District.

This kind of heavy handed political action is not what the people of the District should lend their support to. Elissa is the most liberal member of the D.C. Council. She can be counted on to support workers and economic fairness which is why she is supported by unions like SEIU and the D.C. Nurses Association, and other groups like Democracy for America, the D.C. Chapter of NOW, TENAC, Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund, and is also supported by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

There are others aside from Williams and Catania’s candidate who announced they were running for the independent seat Silverman holds. When Catania and Williams stepped in to push a businesswoman there was already another businesswoman in the race and she happens to be a lesbian and someone I admire. My assumption is she wasn’t willing to commit as much to those two lobbyists. Their candidate is now having problems with her petition signatures. Maybe karma, but one would think that was something Williams, who had problems with his petitions and got tossed from the ballot, could have helped her avoid.

Before the Post column I was not sure who I would endorse in this race. But after this self-styled dynamic duo got involved friends who read the column called asking what I thought. They told me how infuriated they were after reading it. These were lawyers and business people who were aghast at what Williams and Catania were doing.

They were people who have lived in the District for years and were strong Williams supporters in both his campaigns as was I. They tend to follow more national politics than local and this just caught their eye and made them mad and they didn’t even know Elissa.

So I sought a meeting with Elissa to talk about the campaign. She told me in the next four years she will continue to fight for workers. She intends to introduce a bill to mandate national chains like CVS and Safeway give their employees their work schedules at least two weeks in advance so they can realistically arrange everything from childcare to doctor’s appointments. Low-salaried employees in those stores don’t always get that now. She wants to work with the city to ensure the city’s Infrastructure Academy that trains D.C. residents for D.C. jobs is actually doing the job and training potential employees for the jobs that are coming to the District. If we build the new proposed hospital east of the river she wants to ensure local residents will be prepared to work there. For that to happen some may need training not only in the actual job responsibilities/skills, but may need training in what are often called the soft skills — including how to answer a phone, write a resume and handle an interview. She has also pledged to continue to fight for a minimum of at least $100 million each year for affordable housing.

The voters in the District of Columbia are some of the most progressive in the nation. They believe in fairness for all and it is important we have some people like Elissa, un-pledged to any particular lobbyists, on the Council to stand up for fairness and the little guy. There are more than enough Council members already responsive to the business community and at times too responsive to lobbyists like Catania and Williams. That is why I urge voters to cast their ballot on Nov. 6 for Elissa Silverman for Council-at-large.


Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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