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Hill insiders say Mass. election won’t derail D.C. marriage bill



Capitol Hill insiders say D.C.’s same-sex marriage bill, which is undergoing its required congressional review, should not be adversely affected by Tuesday’s election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to a U.S. Senate seat.

“It had nothing to do with same-sex marriage — nothing at all,” said U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is gay.

Frank and other Capitol Hill observers have said the D.C. marriage bill, which must clear a 30 legislative day review in Congress, is moving ahead as expected, with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate committed to blocking any attempt to overturn the bill during the review period.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape and, obviously, we’re going to watch it,” Frank said. “But I don’t think you’re going to see any stirring up in that.”

Gay Republican activist Bob Kabel, chair of the D.C. Republican Party and a same-sex marriage supporter, said Wednesday that he agrees with Frank’s assessment relating to the congressional review.

“I’m not sure how Scott Brown’s election can make a difference at all,” Kabel said. “He’s more or less a social conservative. But he ran on economic issues. He ran clearly against the health care bill and the way the Democrats handled — or mishandled — the health care debate.”

Kabel noted that Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, a staunch social conservative, and New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie, both Republicans, won their respective races in November also by stressing economic and good-government issues rather than social issues, such as gay marriage.

Kabel and others monitoring the GOP gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey, plus the Brown victory in Massachusetts this week, noted these victories should not be viewed as a voter rejection of LGBT rights.

“The people I would be concerned about in Congress on the D.C. marriage bill would be the blue dog Democrats,” said Kabel, referring to the moderate-to-conservative Democrats in the House from GOP-leaning districts.

Capitol Hill insiders have long said that LGBT rights legislation could be blocked if enough blue dog Democrats join Republicans to oppose pro-LGBT bills. But many of the same insiders note that on the D.C. marriage bill, LGBT supportive Democrats have a clear advantage because it’s always easier to block bills than to pass them.

On the D.C. same-sex marriage bill, opponents must secure enough votes to affirmatively pass a disapproval resolution during the congressional review period and President Obama must sign it in order for it to pass.

“That’s just not going to happen,” a House Democratic aide said. “What’s more likely is opponents will try to attach a rider to D.C.’s fiscal year 2011 appropriations bill” to kill the marriage bill, which would have become law by that time.

Most observers expect the D.C. marriage bill to clear its congressional review in early to mid March. The city’s appropriations bill is expected to come up in Congress in the summer or early fall.

The House Democratic aide and other Hill observers said they were uncertain about the impact of Brown’s victory in Massachusetts on the ability of same-sex marriage opponents to successfully attach an amendment to the D.C. budget bill killing the marriage law. Up until now, most political observers believed the Democratic-controlled House and Senate would block any effort to kill the D.C. marriage law through an appropriations amendment.

“I think anti-marriage members of Congress may be emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory,” said Michael Crawford, co-chair of the same-sex marriage advocacy group D.C. for Marriage.

“But I think they are going to have a real challenge trying to prevent marriages from being performed here in D.C.,” he said. “We are going to be working very, very hard to convince members of Congress to do nothing on the issue because that’s exactly what we want them to do. And we’re going to continue to push them to allow the laws of the District to be decided by the elected representatives of the District.”

Michael Mitchell, executive director of National Stonewall Democrats, an LGBT partisan group, said the organization is scheduled to launch a national campaign next week in support of D.C.’s same-sex marriage bill.

He said the campaign will urge LGBT Democrats and their supporters across the country to call on their members of Congress to allow the D.C. law to go into effect without congressional interference.

“Last night’s election in Massachusetts was never going to be a make-or-break moment for our community’s agenda,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “The simple truth we have known all along is that the Democratic majority does not equal a pro-LGBT majority.”

Solmonese joined Mitchell in calling on congressional Democratic leaders not to back away from their campaign promises to support LGBT rights bills and oppose ballot measures seeking to ban same-sex marriage.


District of Columbia

Taste of Point returns at critical time for queer students

BIPOC scholar to speak at Room & Board event on May 2



A scene from the 2022 Taste of Point. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Point Foundation will kick off May with its annual Taste of Point DC event. The event will be hosted at Room & Board on 14th Street and feature a silent auction, food tastings, a speech from a scholar, and more. 

Point’s chief of staff, Kevin Wright, said that at Taste of Point, the scholars are the star of the show.

“People never come to an event to hear Point staff speak, they come to hear from the people most impacted by the program,” he said. “At its core Taste of Point is designed to center and highlight our scholars’ voices and experiences.”

This year, a Point BIPOC Scholar, Katherine Guerrero Rivera will speak at the event. 

“It is a great opportunity to highlight the scholars out there on the front lines making impacts in almost every sector and job field,” Wright said. 

Wright pointed out that this year especially is a pivotal time for LGBTQ students. 

“In 2023, there were 20 states that passed anti-LGBTQ legislation,” he said. “By this point in [2024] we already have more.”

Wright said the impacts of those legislative attacks are far reaching and that Point is continuously monitoring the impact they have on students on the ground. 

Last month, The Washington Post reported that states with anti-LGBTQ laws in place saw school hate crimes quadruple. This report came a month after a non-binary student, Nex Bennedict, died after being attacked at school. 

“So, we see this as a critical moment to really step up and help students who are facing these challenges on their campus,” Wright said. “Our mission is to continue to empower our scholars to achieve their full academic and leadership potential.” 

This year Point awarded nearly 600 LGBTQ students with scholarships. These include the flagship scholarship, community college scholarship and the BIPOC scholarship. When the foundation started in 2002, there were only eight scholarships awarded. 

Dr. Harjant Gill is one of those scholars who said the scholarship was pivotal for him. Gill said he spent his undergraduate years creating films and doing activism for the LGBTQ community. 

As a result, his academic record wasn’t stellar and although he was admitted into American University’s graduate program he had no clue how he would fund it. 

Upon arrival to American he was told to apply for a Point scholarship and the rest was history.

“It ended up being the one thing that kept me going otherwise I would have dropped out,” he said. “Point was incredibly instrumental in my journey to becoming an academic and a professor.”

More than a decade later, Gill serves on the host committee for Taste of Point and is a mentor to young Point scholars. He said that he donates money yearly to Point and that when he is asked what he wants for a gift he will often tell his friends to donate too.

To attend the event on Wednesday, May 2, purchase tickets at the Point website. If you can’t attend this year’s Taste of Point DC event but would like to get involved, you can also donate online. 

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District of Columbia

Three of five LGBTQ candidates win race for DNC delegate from D.C.

32 candidates competed for 13 elected seats in party caucus



John Fanning finished in first place in the race for DNC delegate. (Photo courtesy of Fanning)

Three out of five known LGBTQ candidates running for election as delegates from D.C. to the Democratic National Convention won their races at an April 20 Democratic Party caucus election held at D.C.’s Walter Washington Convention Center.

Ward 2 gay Democratic activist John Fanning finished in first place with 140 votes and Ward 8 gay Democratic activist David Meadows finished in second place with 127 votes in a race in which six male candidates committed to supporting President Biden were competing for three male seats in a section of the city designated as Congressional District 1, which included registered Democratic voters in Wards 1, 2, 6, and 8.

Ward 7 gay Democratic activist Jimmie Williams won his race, finishing in third place with 200 votes in a race in which eight male candidates committed to President Biden competed for four male seats in the Congressional District 2 section of the city that included Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7.

Gay Democratic activist Felipe Afanador lost his race, finishing in sixth place with 47 votes in the Congressional District 2 election for male candidates backing Biden. It couldn’t immediately be determined which of the four wards in District 2 he is from.

The Washington Blade didn’t learn about Afanador’s status as an LGBTQ candidate until the Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it one day before the April 20 party election in an email statement.

In the Congressional District 2 race among female candidates, in which eight candidates competed for three female seats, transgender rights advocate and Ward 3 Democratic Party activist Monika Nemeth lost her race, finishing in sixth place with 49 votes.

The five LGBTQ candidates were among 32 candidates competing for just 13 elected delegate positions in D.C. D.C. will have a total of 51 delegates to the Democratic Convention, but the other 38 include elected officials and party leaders who are considered “automatic” or appointed delegates. The Democratic Convention will be held in Chicago Aug. 19-23.

Observers familiar with the April 20 party caucus election said Fanning, Meadows, and Williams had participated in local D.C. Democratic Party events and activities for a longer period than Nemeth and Afanador and appear to have been better known among Democratic voters in their respective wards as well as other wards. Those factors contributed to their receiving significantly more votes than most other candidates, observers have said. 

In his candidacy statement posted on the D.C. Democratic Party website, Afanador said he worked on the 2020 Biden presidential election campaign in Pennsylvania. His LinkedIn page says in 2022 he began work in Washington for the Biden administration as an official in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nemeth is a past president of D.C.’s Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest LGBTQ local political group, and has been an active member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, the local party governing body. She served as a Biden delegate at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“It is important for our D.C. delegation to have strong LGBTQ representation,” Capital Stonewall Democrats said in its April 19 statement. “There are five LGBQ candidates running to be delegate, and Capital Stonewall Democrats asks that our members support each one,” the statement says.

“Unfortunately, they fell short, but they and all queer Democrats are welcome to attend and participate in convention events and activities sponsored by the national and local party,” Meadows told the Blade in referring to Nemeth and Afanador. “Our shared goal is to unite behind the Biden-Harris ticket to protect our LGBTQ rights from being dismantled by Donald Trump and the GOP,” Meadows said.

“Running for District Delegate is one of the most grassroots efforts,” Fanning told the Blade. “It’s very beneficial to align yourself on a slate with community leaders that have either previously run for District Delegate or have developed a constituency in their community from other civic engagements,” he said, referring to possible reasons for his, Meadows, and Williams’s election victory.

Aside from the D.C. elected LGBTQ delegates, two prominent D.C. LGBTQ Democratic leaders will be appointed as delegates to the 2024 Democratic National Convention in their role as members of the Democratic National Committee from D.C. They are Claire Lucas, a highly acclaimed Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights advocate and party fundraiser; and Earl Fowlkes, one of the lead organizers of D.C.’s annual Black LGBTQ Pride celebration and former president of the Capital Stonewall Democrats. Both are committed to supporting President Biden as the Democratic nominee for re-election.

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Joe Vogel campaign holds ‘Big Gay Canvass Kickoff’

Gay Md. lawmaker running for Congress



Maryland state Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery County) attends the "Big Gay Canvass Kickoff" event at his congressional campaign headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., on April 19, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Maryland state Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery County) on Friday held a “Big Gay Canvass Kickoff” event at his congressional campaign’s headquarters.

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Vice President of Outreach and Engagement Marty Rouse and John Klenert, a member of the DC Vote and Victory Fund Campaign board of directors, are among those who participated alongside members of Equality PAC. Vogel spoke before Rouse, Klenert and others canvassed for votes in the area.

“Joe brings a fresh new perspective to politics,” said Gabri Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, deputy field director for Vogel’s campaign.

Vogel, 27, is among the Democrats running for Congressman David Trone’s seat.

Trone last May announced his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in the U.S. Senate. 

The Democratic primary is on May 14. Vogel would be the first Latino, the first gay man and first Gen Zer elected to Congress from Maryland if he were to win in November.

“We need a new generation of leadership with new perspectives, new ideas, and the courage to actually deliver for our communities if we want things to get better in this country,” Vogel told the Washington Blade last month during an interview in D.C.

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