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Majority backs gay marriage, ballot measure in poll

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A Washington Post poll published Sunday shows that 56 percent of adult D.C. residents surveyed favor legalizing same-sex marriage in the city compared to 35 percent who said they oppose it, with 9 percent saying they had no opinion.

But the same poll also found that 59 percent of residents surveyed favor putting the issue to a public vote in a ballot measure. The poll found that 37 percent oppose bringing the issue to a citywide vote.

The poll also identified significant differences on the same-sex marriage issue along racial lines. But the opposition to gay nuptials by blacks doesn’t appear to be as strong as local gay marriage opponents have predicted.

An overwhelming 83 percent of whites responding to the poll said they favor legalizing same-sex marriage, while 12 percent oppose it. A bare majority of 51 percent of blacks said they oppose legalizing gay marriage in the District; 37 percent polled said they support it.

According to the survey, 4 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks said they had no opinion on the issue.

Although the poll’s finding that an overall majority of 56 percent support legalized same-sex marriage at this time, LGBT activists familiar with ballot measures on the issue in other states could view the D.C. poll results with caution. In a number of states, including California, voter support for same-sex marriage dropped sharply following well funded and what LGBT activists called highly negative campaigns waged by same-sex marriage opponents.

Voter initiatives or referenda seeking to prohibit same-sex marriage have won in every state where they’ve been placed on the ballot.

In D.C., a 1978 law barring ballot measures that would result in discrimination against minorities protected by the city’s Human Rights Act has so far prevented local opponents of same-sex marriage from putting the issue up for a public vote. The opponents have vowed to continue to challenge city rulings against a marriage ballot measure in court.

The Post poll shows that white and black voters differ sharply over whether to bring the gay marriage question to a public vote. Among blacks, 70 percent responding to the poll favor holding a citywide vote on the issue, while 25 percent say a ballot measure should not be held. Six percent had no opinion.

Among whites, 58 percent opposed bringing the gay marriage issue to a public vote; 39 percent favored such a vote. Three percent had no opinion.

The Post’s poll included responses from 1,135 adults reached by either landline or cell phone during Jan. 24-28. The paper says the poll has a 3 percent margin of error.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. John B.

    February 8, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Well, imagine that. We DC residents overwhelmingly elected an unabashedly liberal city council, most of whom have always been strongly supportive of gay rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular, and they voted overwhelmingly (11-2) to allow gay couples to marry, and the mayor we overwhelmingly elected signed it into law. But it’s nice to have confirmation that our DC Council and mayor aren’t so out-of-touch with their constituents as people like Harry Jackson and his Republicans friends in Congress who want to force a referendum on us would have everybody believe. What they call an “out-of-control city council” is largely representative of the city, but apparently they don’t believe in the principles of representative democracy as set out in the U.S. Constitution and D.C. charter. As such, the people make their will heard through their representatives, and that is what has happened here in DC.

    Our ELECTED DC Council and our ELECTED mayor have spoken, and in doing so they are doing the precise job we elected them to do. But the opponents of same-sex marriage would have us believe they are doing it in the name of democracy–“the people have a right to be heard” (and apparently they weren’t “heard” when they went out and voted in the last election???)–but having lost in every legal venue in the District, they are turning to Congress to get their way. They apparently don’t see the irony that having Congress–none of whom ANY of us DC residents ever had a chance to vote for–step in to overrule our ELECTED representatives and mayor and tell us what to do is the exact opposite of democracy. And to do what? To allow the civil rights of a minority to be put to a vote by the majority. Shame on all of them, they’ve helped put the last nail in the coffin of the civil rights movement.

    Unfortunately this won’t stop the opponents of same-sex marriage. If the majority were much larger it might make a difference but as it stands now don’t count on the anti-marriage forces singing a different tune after this poll–if anything it will embolden them because now they can taunt us, “what are you so afraid of?” 56% is a pretty strong majority but not invulnerable, especially if they bring in millions of dollars from outside groups and use slimy fear-mongering tactics as happened in both Maine and California–two other states where larger majorities than polls suggested ultimately voted to overturn same-sex marriage.

    Having lost in both the courts (where they railed against “unelected judges” and “judicial tyranny” and “legislating from the bench”) and the (elected!) legislature (DC’s “out-of-touch City Council”), the anti-marriage side claims to be respecting the “will of the people” in putting same-sex marriage up for a popular vote; in reality all they want is to outlaw same-sex marriage, by any means necessary, and they are counting on that happening if it is put to a vote.

    But the bottom line, which so many people seem to be missing, is why should ANYBODY’S civil rights be put to a popular vote?

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District of Columbia

Dupont Circle ‘gayborhood’ preserved in Council redistricting bill

All of neighborhood remains in Ward 2

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Brooke Pinto, gay news, Washington Blade
Councilmember Brooke Pinto raised objections to dividing the Dupont Circle neighborhood into two different wards.

A bill approved by the D.C. Council in a first-reading vote on Tuesday to redraw the boundaries of the city’s eight wards keeps all of the Dupont Circle neighborhood, which LGBTQ activists have referred to as the city’s preeminent “gayborhood,” in Ward 2.

The redistricting plan approved by the Council included a change from an earlier proposal by a special redistricting subcommittee that called for transferring part of the North Dupont Circle neighborhood into Ward 1.

Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who represents Ward 2, joined many of her ward’s LGBTQ residents in raising strong objections to dividing the Dupont Circle neighborhood into two different wards.

A number of LGBTQ residents, including Mike Silverstein, one of five openly gay members of the nine-member Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the initial subcommittee proposal would unnecessarily split Dupont Circle’s historic “gayborhood,” which he said has served as a safe space for LGBTQ D.C. residents for decades.

“Excising this part of Ward 2 would arbitrarily cut off the LGBTQIA+ community that has such a rich and pronounced presence in North Dupont,” Pinto said in a statement her office released last month. “I will be working with my colleagues to ensure that this community remains in Ward 2,” Pinto said.

A spokesperson for D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) said Mendelson worked with the three members of the redistricting subcommittee and other Council members to make some changes to the subcommittee’s initial release of three proposed maps with redrawn ward boundary lines. All three of the maps included plans to move the north part of Dupont Circle to Ward 1, each of which was dropped in the final proposal approved by the Council.

The Council is scheduled to hold a second and final vote on the redistricting measure later this month.

City officials have noted that a redrawing of the city’s ward boundary lines is needed to bring the city into legal conformance with the 2020 U.S. Census count for D.C., which shows shifts in population within the city.

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District of Columbia

U.S. Attorney’s Office declines to prosecute anti-gay assault case

D.C. police report says man beaten by neighbors in Northeast

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Antonio Zephir was beaten by neighbors. (Photo courtesy of Zephir)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute two women and a man who, according to a D.C. police report, assaulted a gay man after one of the women called him a “Jewish faggot” during an Oct. 13 incident on the grounds of a Northeast Washington apartment building where the victim and the two women live.

The victim, Antonio Zephir, 51, said one of the women, her daughter, and a man he believes to be the daughter’s father repeatedly punched him in the face after he shouted back at the mother in response to the anti-gay and anti-Jewish slur he says she hurled at him.

The incident took place outside the Northwood Gardens Apartments at 4870 Fort Totten Dr., N.E. at about 12:40 p.m. the police report says.

Zephir told the Blade this week that an official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes crimes committed by adults in D.C., informed him in a phone call that the office decided not to prosecute the case after police and prosecutors viewed a surveillance camera video that reportedly captured the entire incident.

He said the official, Crystal Flournoy, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Early Case Assessment Section, told him the video showed that he was the “aggressor” in the incident.

Zephir says he strongly disputes that characterization and believes the camera angle from the video may not have captured the full altercation in which he was assaulted first before attempting to defend himself.

A D.C. police spokesperson said police opened an investigation into the incident after Zephir called police immediately after the altercation. A police report lists the incident as a suspected anti-gay hate crime and lists the offense as a misdemeanor simple assault.

Zephir, who was treated and released from the Washington Hospital Center the day after the incident, suffered a fractured nose, a fractured bone surrounding one of his eyes, and other facial injuries, according to a hospital report he provided to the Blade. He said his doctor told him he may need facial surgery to treat ongoing effects from the injuries.

In a Dec. 7 email, a copy of which Zephir sent to the Blade, D.C. Police Lt. Scott Dowling informed Zephir that the U.S Attorney’s Office declined to process an affidavit submitted by police requesting the case be prosecuted.

“[T]he affidavit submitted to the United States Attorney’s Office was declined, meaning that their office is not willing to move forward with criminal charges,” Dowling told Zephir in his email message. “As a result, there will be no arrests relating to the offense you reported,” Dowling said. “As the Affidavit was declined, our investigation is closed,” Dowling wrote in the message.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute this matter after reviewing the evidence,” William Miller, a spokesperson for the office, told the Blade in a statement on Wednesday. “Beyond that, we typically do not comment on charging decisions and have no further comment,” Miller said.

Zephir said he doesn’t think the video, which he hasn’t seen, shows that one of the two women involved in the altercation was the first to assault him. He identified her in court papers he filed seeking a stay away protection order as Aurlora Ellis.

Court records show that a D.C. Superior Court judge on Nov. 30 issued a “Consent Stay Away Order” requiring Ellis and her daughter, identified as Latera Cox, and a woman who Zephir says lives at Ellis’s apartment, to “stay at least 100 feet away from Plaintiffs Zephir or Johnson.”

Steve Johnson, who is cited in the stay away order, is Zephir’s roommate who the police report says attempted to stop the Oct. 13 altercation in which Zephir says he was assaulted.

The court order further states that the three women “shall not contact Plaintiffs Zephir or Johnson in any manner, including but not limited to by telephone, in writing, and in any manner directly or indirectly through another person, including social media,” and that the order will remain in effect for one year.

“Ms. Ellis was the person who made those threats and slurs against me,” Zephir said. “I responded with not-so-kind words. She ran towards me and assaulted me with hard punches toward my face,” Zephir recounted. “I punched back in an attempt to defend myself,” he said.

According to Zephir, during the altercation Ellis told him, “Call the police, you bitch faggot. They’re not going to do anything. This isn’t over yet.” He said he continues to worry that Ellis’s comment that the matter “isn’t over yet” was a threat and that she may try to harm him again.

Ellis couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Zephir said the October altercation wasn’t the first time Ellis has acted in a hostile way toward him.

“For several months, every time Ms. Ellis sees me, she shouts homophobic slurs and I continued to ignore her,” he told the Blade in October after contacting the Blade about the incident.

On Tuesday, Zephir told the Blade that Ellis later apologized for the altercation and asked him to drop the charges he filed against her with D.C. police. He said he declined her request, but said he’s now dismayed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has refused to prosecute what he calls a “serious hate crime” against him.

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District of Columbia

Dignity Washington opens new center in Dupont Circle

Proceeds from sale of old building used to expand programming

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Dignity Washington President Tom Yates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The local LGBTQ Catholic organization Dignity Washington recently opened its new Dignity Center office and community meeting space at a Dupont Circle condominium building that includes first-floor offices for small businesses and community organizations.

Dignity Washington President Tom Yates said the new space at the Imperial House condominium building at 1601 18th Street, N.W., is currently being used as Dignity’s office headquarters and for meetings of the group’s board and committees. He said as COVID-related restrictions are relaxed the space will be used for various events and possible use by other LGBTQ community organizations.

Yates said the group purchased the 1,700-square-foot office space in March of this year, eight months after selling its former Dignity Center building at 721 8th St., S.E., in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill. Dignity officials have said the Capitol Hill building was larger than the space the group needed and the proceeds from its sale would provide funds to expand its programs.

“Dignity Washington, making use of the fiscal support made possible by the change of properties, hopes to become more active speaking truth to power of the Catholic Church,” Yates told the Blade. “The new facility is only a handful of blocks from the Cathedral of St. Matthew,” he said, referring to one of the city’s largest Catholic churches.

Noting the Catholic Church’s historic lack of support for the LGBTQ community, Yates said the proximity of the new Dignity Center would help the group’s mission of showing “the local same-sex community that one can be both Catholic and same-sex loving.” 

Yates said Dignity Washington, founded in 1972, is the largest chapter of the national LGBTQ Catholic organization Dignity USA. 

Dignity Washington, among other things, organizes a weekly 6 p.m. Sunday Mass for LGBTQ Catholics and their friends and families at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church at 1830 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

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