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

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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.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Sean Ariel

    January 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    And DOMA repeal?

    I suspect none of the events of late are very good for GLBT issues, no matter what kind of happy face you want to put on them.

  2. Chairm

    January 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    1. Approval of the LGBT groups’ agenda was not front and center in recent elections, either, so the default position is not that their agenda has been approved by voters.

    Impose that agenda and there will be resistance aka Obamacare. That is a lesson learned, surely.

    2. According to Coakley’s campaign statement about Brown and the LGBT groups’ agenda, SSM was indeed an issue in the election.

    Congress has every right to deal directly with the DC Council’s odd marriage legislation. And elected representatives ought to be expected to make a stand, one way or the other, by voting to up or down on it.

    That way, the point #1 regarding approval from the electorate can be addressed fairly and squarely.

    Afterall, Obama, the Democratic National Party, and Democrats in the Senate and House claim to be about transparency. And Brown’s election — in the state that local LGBT groups have called “the birth place of SSM” — was certainly very much about popular dissatisfaction with the identity politics and machine politics of Beacon Hill and the Massachusetts Democratic contingency in the US House and Senate.

    Surely more lessons learned — or maybe you want to double-down.

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Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health

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Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors

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Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

The four-page order released by the mayor’s office, similar to the city’s earlier mask requirements, allows indoor patrons of restaurants and bars to remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking.

But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

In its social media postings, Pitchers and A League of Her Own said their proof of vaccination requirement was based on the concern for the health of their patrons and staff.

“We will require proof a COVID vaccination until further notice at Pitchers/ALOHO and masks per the mayor,” a Facebook posting says. “We take guidelines and the health of our patrons and staff very seriously. We will accept a picture or hard copy of your COVID vaccination card,” it says. “No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager.”

Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirement that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than a three day requirement to accommodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit

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Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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