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Activists denounce changes to gay police unit

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Four local LGBT organizations have issued a joint statement calling D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s plan to overhaul the department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit “ill-conceived” and a “severe disappointment” to the community.

“Today a broad coalition of D.C.’s LGBT community groups stand together to express our severe disappointment with the Metropolitan Police Department’s ill-conceived plan to restructure the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit,” says the Dec. 9 statement.

“An award-winning unit has been effectively dismantled without meaningful input from the very community that unit serves,” it says. “Lanier is quick to point out that she and her staff have held meetings with community members to discuss their plans, but she fails to mention that not one critique of her plan was accepted.”

Groups that signed the statement include the D.C. Trans Coalition, Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence, and Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.

Lanier has insisted her reorganization plan would strengthen the GLLU and three other special liaison units serving the Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and deaf and hard of hearing communities.

She has said that by decentralizing the units to each of the seven police districts and assigning more officers to each unit, the units would be far more responsive and effective than under the old system, where the units worked out of a central headquarters.

But representatives of the four groups that issued the statement said Lanier has effectively dismantled the central GLLU by reducing its staff through attrition from seven to one full-time officer and one part-time sergeant. At the same time, they argue that Lanier only this month began to train new officers to staff the decentralized structure, and no GLLU officers have been assigned to any of the seven districts.

The two-page statement, published on the GLAA web site, cites 10 specific deficiencies in the GLLU’s reorganization plan, including what it calls an inadequate training program for GLLU or GLLU affiliated officers. The statement says the training, among other things, doesn’t devote enough attention to transgender-related issues and gay-related domestic violence cases, which have comprised 82 percent of the GLLU’s caseload.

LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Local gay chamber of commerce hires director

The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has named a gay businessman as its first executive director.

Mark Guenther, the Washington Blade’s former sales and marketing director, is leaving his current job as operations director at GSI Specialties to work full time for the chamber. His new job — the chamber’s first paid position — begins in January.

“This is a dream position for me,” he told DC Agenda. “I want to fulfill the vision that we put out there, the objectives that we feel are obtainable.”

The Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce works to advocate, promote and facilitate the success of LGBT businesses and their allies in the metro D.C. region. It’s known for hosting Network Thursday socials and other professional development sessions. The organization was previously known as the Potomac Executive Network or PEN.

Guenther, who has served on the chamber’s board for four years, said he helped develop a plan for the organization “to earn and spend money over the next 12 months” that included the executive director position. He declined to comment on his slated pay as executive director.

“You can look at this as an expense or as an investment,” he said. “I think the board all looks at this as an investment for the future, for what we can achieve for the community.”

Ken White, the chamber’s president, agreed. He said the board’s vote Dec. 8 to establish the executive director position and hire Guenther was “a leap of faith” for the previously all-volunteer organization.

“This has been a really great year for the chamber with our name change and increased excitement about our activities and programs and services,” White said. “We came to a point where we were thinking that we could take this chamber to the next level if we brought aboard someone dedicated to this on a full-time basis.”

White said Guenther will focus on increasing chamber membership and corporate partnerships, and work to “add value” to the organization’s members and supporters.

Guenther said he’s planning to work from his home office as executive director, but the chamber “would love to have a real address” and is evaluating an office space option.

JOSHUA LYNSEN

Cheatam elected to D.C. Democratic Party committee

Veteran lesbian activist Carlene Cheatam was one of two openly LGBT people elected this month to fill vacant seats on the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which serves as the governing body of the city’s Democratic Party.

The committee on Dec. 3 elected Cheatam and D.C. gay Democratic activist Ed Potillo, both from Ward 7, to at-large seats on the 82-member committee. Gay Democratic activist David Meadow, a member and spokesperson for the D.C. Democratic State Committee, said the election of Cheatam and Potillo brings the total number of open gays on the panel to 11.

Earlier this year, the committee passed a resolution endorsing legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. Cheatam has been among the lead local advocates for same-sex marriage.

LOU CHIBBARO JR.

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Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 64

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Capital Pride, No Justice, No Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 64.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as “an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.”

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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