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Halo bar to change name, go green

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The D.C. gay bar Halo is changing its name to MOVA and will evolve over the next year into an environmentally friendly “green” business with an expanded program to support both LGBT and broader community causes and projects.

Gay attorney and businessman Babak Movahedi, owner of Logan Circle Spectrum, LLC, the company that owns Halo bars in D.C. and Miami Beach, said the name change and plans for the business’s community-related projects would be formally announced during a Jan. 1 celebration at the club in D.C. at 7 p.m. Halo is located at 1435 P St., N.W.

“The event is the beginning of a year-long process for Logan Circle Spectrum to institute a philosophical shift in corporate culture and set the foundation for national expansion of a new entertainment concept,” Movahedi said in a statement announcing the changes.

“The LGBT community today has evolved and we want to create a place where people can have fun while having the opportunity to make a more direct impact in our local communities,” he said.

In an interview with DC Agenda, Movahedi said some of his environmental or “green” plans include using furnishings and products in his bars in D.C., Miami Beach and other locations yet to open that are produced by manufacturers that use processes to minimize environmental harm.

He said the newly named MOVA bar in D.C. will soon institute other changes to support LGBT and D.C.-area community causes and projects. He noted that some will involve sponsorship nights for a particular community organization in which the club will publicize the group and ask patrons to make a donation.

According to Movahedi, Halo in Miami, for example, offers a free drink to customers for every $15 they donate to a community group during nights in which the group is highlighted at the club.

“That’s just one idea,” he said. “We will launch different things for different cities depending on what the needs of that location are.”

He said his staff will get more involved, too, with efforts such as “having a cleaning the park day [in D.C.] or cleaning the beach day in Miami — things that give back to the community.”

Movahedi said he decided to change the name of his two bars after discovering that a bar in Minnesota owns the trademark for the Halo name and that other bars and clubs have been opening recently in a number of cities using that name. He noted that the name and concept for other bars he’s planning to open, including a soon-to-be-opened bar in Fort Lauderdale, would result in confusion among customers if he retained the Halo name.

The new name, MOVA, was taken from the first four letters of Movahedi’s last name.

“So for us, it’s a good time to include everything that we’re trying to do into a new brand and a new name and go forward with this in a new decade,” he said.

City argues against voter initiative in marriage case

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles argues in a court brief that the city’s congressionally approved Home Rule charter gives it full legal authority to prohibit a voter initiative calling for banning same-sex marriage in the District.

Nickles filed the 46-page legal brief Dec. 18 in D.C. Superior Court for the city in opposition to a lawsuit filed by same-sex marriage opponents, including Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of a church in Beltsville, Md.

The lawsuit calls for overturning a ruling by the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics that a voter initiative seeking to ban same-sex marriage cannot be held because it would violate the city’s Human Rights Act. The board held that the city’s election law governing initiatives and referenda bars such ballot measures if they would take away rights from minorities, including gays.

“[I]n exalting the people’s supposedly fundamental right of initiative above all else (except apparently the prohibition on popular appropriation of funds), petitioners disregard the basic republican principles that have governed the nation since its founding,” Nickles says in the brief.

“While petitioners treat the right of initiative as fundamental, the Founding Fathers recognized the threat that an unchecked majority posed to the liberty of disfavored minorities and thus created a republican form of government, even requiring the newly created Congress to ‘guarantee’ that form of government to ‘every state in the Union,’” Nickles says.

In their opposition to a ballot initiative on the marriage issue, LGBT activists have made similar arguments — that the city’s republican form of government empowers a City Council elected by the voters to pass laws, such as a same-sex marriage bill, and that laws providing civil rights for minorities should not be subjected to a popular vote.

Nickles called on the court to dismiss the lawsuit on other grounds, including a claim that it would be counter to the Supreme Court decision of Lawrence v. Texas, in which the high court overturned state sodomy laws. According to Nickles, the Lawrence decision, among other things, held that “moral objections are not a sufficient basis for infringing on the fundamental rights of homosexuals.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Maryland

Hyattsville mayor dies by suicide

Kevin Ward and husband adopted son in D.C. in 2012

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Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the city of Hyattsville)

The city of Hyattsville released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that their city’s openly gay Mayor Kevin Ward had died one day earlier by an apparent suicide.

“The city of Hyattsville reports with great sadness that our beloved Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, Jan. 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement says.

“Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville,” the statement continues. “We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to the mayor’s family,” it says.

“No further information is available at this time,” the statement adds. “Details about services and remembrances will be shared when they are available.”

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Park Police disclosed that Ward was found deceased in Fort Marcy Park in McLean, Va., with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Ward, 44, became acting mayor of Hyattsville on Jan. 1, 2021, following the resignation of former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. He was next in line to become mayor under the city’s political system in his then-position as president of the Hyattsville City Council.

He won election to complete the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term through 2023 in a May 11, 2021, special election, receiving 57.8 percent of the vote in a three candidate race, according to the Hyattsville election board. His closest opponent, Joseph Solomon, received 31.7 percent of the vote.

Nearby fellow gay mayors — Patrick Wojahn of College Park and Jeffrey Slavin of Somerset — said they got to know Ward through Maryland political circles and thought very highly of him.

“He was insightful, smart and dedicated,” Wojahn said. “He always seemed very confident and together as a person. And he had a great sense of humor.”

Slavin said he shared that remembrance of Ward, adding that he found Ward to be a “very nice person” dedicated to the people he served both as mayor and during his two terms on the Hyattsville City Council.

“There was noting in his public life that would have predicted this,” said Slavin in referring to Ward’s sudden passing.

The Washington Blade first reported on Ward in 2012 in a feature story on Ward and his then-domestic partner Chad Copeland when the two attended a ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court to complete the process of adopting their then-5-year-old son Norman. Ward and Copeland were among several gay couples who had their adoption papers signed by a judge at the ceremony.

On the website for his mayoral election campaign last year Ward said he and his family made Hyattsville their home in 2014 after he and his husband adopted their two sons.

“I am a pretty straightforward person,” he said in message to voters on his campaign website. “I believe in listening more than talking. But when I talk, I am not one to mince words or tell people what they want to hear,” he said. “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life,” he continued.

“This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and to human services, to help as many people as I can,” he said.  

Ward was referring to his career in the field of educational and human services technology.

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District of Columbia

ANC supports license for Capitol Hill LGBTQ bar

Lesbian owners back ‘settlement agreement’ with restrictions on hours

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AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel are the bar industry veterans behind As You Are Bar. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)

The Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a liquor license for the LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar, which plans to open in a two-story building at 500 8th St., S.E. in a commercial section of Capitol Hill known as Barracks Row.

The ANC’s decision to support the license took place at a virtual meeting attended by nearby residents and supporters of the bar after its owners, lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, agreed to the terms of an ANC settlement agreement that calls for restrictions in the hours the bar can offer dancing, entertainment, and music from a DJ.

The agreement means the ANC will not file a protest against the license before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a development that would have delayed a decision on the license by the ABC Board by as much as seven months. A protest by the ANC could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in legal fees to contest the protest by providing legal arguments seeking the approval of the license.

The ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve all liquor licenses in the city.

McDaniel and Pike have said they plan to operate an upstairs dance bar during evening hours and a café on the first floor during the day as well as in the evenings that will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture.”

The two, who are business and life partners, say As You Are Bar will welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities as well as drinkers and non-drinkers as customers.

They have also told the ANC and nearby residents they have taken steps to soundproof the building, which they are renting, to ensure their plans to operate a dance bar with music from a DJ on the second floor will not disturb nearby residents.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, which was posted on the ANC’s website prior to the start of the meeting, the bar’s operating hours will be from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Under D.C. law, bars are allowed to remain open for the sale of alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. during weekdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Settlement Agreement further calls for As You Are Bar to restrict the hours of consumption of alcohol from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It calls for allowing live entertainment and dancing (indoors only) from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, the agreement says DJ and amplified music will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

 McDaniel told the Blade that at the request of As You Are Bar’s attorney Richard Bianco, the ANC agreed to modify that restriction at the Tuesday night meeting to allow the bar to play “conversational” background music after 8 p.m. until closing time on weekdays.

 Among other things, the agreement requires the bar comply with a noise mitigation provision to “ensure that sound, noise, and vibrations are not audible or felt beyond the curb or any other premises at any time.” It also calls on the bar to provide an “appropriate number of staff” to monitor patrons as they leave the bar through the 8th Street entrance to “prevent loud voices and littering.”

Under rules established by the ABC Board and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration or ABRA, if a settlement agreement is reached between an applicant for a liquor license and the ANC, a protest against the license by groups of five or more citizens is not allowed. Protests could still be filed by community-based civic groups and residents of an “abutting” house or residential facility.

In the case of As You Are Bar, no citizens group has emerged to oppose the license. There is just one abutting townhouse on E Street whose owner has expressed general support for the settlement agreement, according to McDaniel. But the resident has indicated she will not rule out a possible protest until Feb. 7, which is the deadline for filing a protest under ABRA’s rules.

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