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Early win could be only pro-LGBT victory this year in Va.

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A bill to reinstate sexual orientation in Virginia’s public employment non-discrimination policy passed the state Senate last week — marking what some LGBT activists fear could be their only success this year.

Virginia Partisans President Terry Mansberger said a near total shut-out by the minority Republican senators on Senate Bill 66 means it’s unlikely to see a vote in the Republican-controlled House. And he noted that any other LGBT-inclusive bill could meet the same fate.

“When you put forward things like this that protect people from discrimination, most people agree that’s wrong,” he said. “But the teabaggers who’ve taken over the Republican Party think any legislation that helps gays and lesbians is bad.”

Sen. Frederick Quayle (R-Suffolk) was the sole GOP member to back the bill that appeared to square with Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s stance that expanding the policy was a matter for the legislature.

Newly elected Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Burke), who defeated anti-gay Republican Steve Hunt by 327 votes in the Fairfax special election, was among the 7-6 majority who earlier endorsed the bill in subcommittee.

Mansberger said the narrow victory in subcommittee showed the importance of supporting pro-gay candidates like Marsden, even if the bill itself doesn’t become law this year.

Aside from the public employment non-discrimination push, several bills advancing LGBT rights have been introduced at the Virginia General Assembly, which gave community activists a tangible goal to focus on at Equality Virginia’s lobby day earlier this month.

Dels. Tom Rust (R-Hendon) and Adam Ebbin (D-Arlington) introduced House Bill 352 to allow employers to extend life insurance benefits to workers’ domestic partners. Ebbin also introduced a House version of the inclusive public employment non-discrimination policy.

House Bill 1142 from Del. Jim Scott (D-Merrifield) would add sexual orientation to the state’s hate crimes law. It also would add the right for hate crime victims to bring civil action for damages and allow Internet providers to restrict access to anti-gay hate material.

But several bills introduced this session would cut same-sex partners out of typical next-of-kin roles, such as House Bill 650 introduced by Del. Ward Armstrong (D-Martinsville), which excludes domestic partners in disputes over funeral arrangements. And Del. Chris Peace (R-Mechanicsville) introduced House Bill 719, which allows spouses and dependents to petition for power of attorney, but not domestic partners.

Despite this year’s robust legislative agenda, state LGBT activists and supporters are tackling an additional task: working toward a vote to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

A proposal to repeal the 2005 constitutional amendment has been introduced into the state’s House by Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria). It does not replace the amendment text with language enacting same-sex marriage; it simply removes the current restrictions that preclude the legislature from recognizing same-sex relationships.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Equality Virginia’s chief counsel and legislative lobbyist, said laying the groundwork for repealing the amendment through hearts-and-minds campaigning is already underway and will continue until a majority of lawmakers back the measure.

If enough legislators vote for the measure before the next election, the earliest the proposed change could go before voters would be 2012, as it has to pass two consecutive sessions. However, Guthrie Gastañaga said she’d be surprised to see the issue on the ballot again before 2016.

Nonetheless, Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson said Virginia’s pro-LGBT forces could work toward victory by following the path activists are blazing in Oregon.

“Once that constitutional amendment passed in 2004, Basic Rights Oregon, the Equality Virginia counterpart, moved to begin laying the foundation to undo that discrimination,” Wolfson said. “At first, they secured a statewide non-discrimination law as well as a partnership law, so even with the passage of the anti-gay amendment, Oregon moved on to win more protections than we had there before the amendment.

“It’s now embarking on the vigorous public education and outreach effort, asking people in Oregon to have conversations with their neighbors and to get involved in raising their voices and creating the climate to overturning the amendment, possibly in 2012.”

Wolfson said there’s no substitute in this process for local engagement, with conversations beginning among neighbors and leading toward a reshaped national dialogue.

“None of us can rely on the courts,” he said. “We have to get out there. Even though it may not immediately topple the amendment, and though it may not immediately lead to marriage in Virginia, it helps create the climate nationwide.”

But Isaac Wood, assistant communications director at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said it could be too soon for LGBT Virginians to expect change.

“With a heavily Republican and very conservative House of Delegates and a conservative governor, it is unlikely that the LGBT lobby will make much headway in Richmond this year or in the near future,” he said.

“Politics is cyclical and Virginia is a battleground state, so it is possible the ideological makeup of the legislature could change significantly over the next five years. While it is unlikely that Democrats could retake the House of Delegates in 2011, they can bolster their razor-thin majority in the state Senate and get within striking distance to retake the House in the 2013 elections. In politics, as in sports, there is always next year.”

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Comings & Goings

Peter Chandler named executive director of Internet Works

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Peter Chandler

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Peter Chandler on being named executive director of Internet Works. Since 2020, Internet Works has worked to ensure the voice of small and medium-sized online platforms is included in policy discussions typically targeted at the largest companies.

Laura Bisesto, chair of the board, said “We’re thrilled that Peter Chandler has joined as Internet Works’ Executive Director. The tech policy space is constantly changing, especially around intermediary liability, and as we work to ensure small and medium-sized tech companies are included in the policy debates lawmakers are having around the country, Peter was a natural fit for us.”

Chandler has 30 years of campaign, political, legislative, and advocacy experience at the state and federal levels. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Federal Policy and Government Relations at TechNet. During his time at the association, Peter was named a “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper. Prior to that he served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). Chandler has also consulted and trained numerous political and advocacy groups, including the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in 1998. In 2020, he was elected to the board of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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District of Columbia

New D.C. walking tour highlights LGBTQ history

Zach Patalingjug launched company in June in time for Pride Month

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Zach Patalingjug leads his Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour on July 13, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

Want to learn more about the city’s LGBTQ history while seeing some of the sights? Beyond the Landmarks’ Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour could be just the choice.

Zach Patalingjug launched the company in June, and offers walks that highlights some of Washington’s LGBTQ history.

The LGBTQ-specific tour starts with him emailing each person on the route with a meet-up location and some advice for the tour itself. His business last month saw a lot of tourists participate in his tour — in part because of Pride Month, and Patalinjug is hoping to keep the momentum. 

Patalingjug, who is from California, has traveled to more than half of the country’s states and has traveled abroad numerous times to sightsee and absorb cultures. He told the Washington Blade he became inspired to create his company after reading James Kirchick’s “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.”

Patalingjug spent a year researching his tour. He utilized the D.C. Central Library, where its fourth floor is dedicated entirely to the city’s history.

“I wanted to create a company that really explores the hidden gems, the lesser known history of Washington, D.C., to get the experiences that are truly authentic, and to tell stories that you don’t hear on most sightseeing tours,” he told the Washington Blade. 

The tours are between two to three hours long, depending on the group’s speed.

They officially start at 9:30 a.m., but Patalingjug recommends participants arrive 10 minutes earlier.

Each group meets in Farragut Square, directly outside of the Farragut West Metro station. The tour begins there and proceeds to Lafayette Square, where Patalingjug discusses the White House, the Hay-Adams Hotel, the former Lambda Rising bookstore, the Human Rights Campaign, the now-closed Chicken Hut near the White House, and myriad other locations. 

The tour ends in Dupont Circle.

Human Rights Campaign headquarters (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Patalingjug’s tour is more than a walk — each one is themed with topics that include “service, persecution, and liberation.

“Countless folks within the LGBTQ community have served and continue to serve the federal government,” he told the Blade.

He noted many of the people the tour highlights worked for the federal government before they lost their careers because they were outed or caught with a same-sex partner during the so-called “Lavender Scare.”

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before he stepped down in 2017 formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired under the directive that then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued in 1953. President Joe Biden last year issued a formal proclamation on the policy’s 70th anniversary.

“For so many members of the LGBTQI+ community, hate, discrimination, and isolation throughout our country’s history have denied them the full promise of America,” Biden said. “The ‘Lavender Scare’ epitomized — and institutionalized — this injustice.”

Patalingjug’s tour highlights Frank Kameny, founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the city’s first politically active LGBTQ rights group that organized one of the country’s first gay rights protest that took place in front of the White House in 1965.

The protest highlighted the federal government’s discrimination against gays and lesbians. Kameny in 1957 lost his job as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay.

Frank Kameny Way in Dupont Circle is part of Zach Patalingjug’s Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

The tour also highlights Margaret “Midge” Costanza, an advisor to former President Jimmy Carter who invited members of the National Gay Task Force, which is now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force, to the White House in 1977.

“I’m just incredibly excited to be able to tell the authentic stories of people who lived through this period of history,” said Patalingjug.

Log onto Beyond the Landmarks’ website for more information.

Michael K. Lavers and Lou Chibbaro, Jr., contributed to this story.

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District of Columbia

Ruby Corado pleads guilty to wire fraud in plea agreement

Reduced charge says she stole at least $150,000 in COVID-relief funds

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Ruby Corado in El Salvador (Photo via Facebook)

Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of the now-defunct LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, pleaded guilty Wednesday, July 17, to a single charge of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The charge to which she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for D.C. says she diverted at least $150,000 “in taxpayer-backed emergency COVID relief funds to private off-shore bank accounts for her personal use,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records show that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 10, 2025.

Corado’s guilty plea came a little over six weeks after prosecutors on May 31 filed a one-count criminal information charge of wire fraud against her that replaced an earlier criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud, money laundering, monetary transactions in criminally derived proceeds, and failure to file a required report of a foreign bank account.

The earlier complaint was filed at the time the FBI arrested Corado on March 5 of this year at a hotel in Laurel, Md., shortly after she returned to the U.S. from El Salvador. The initial complaint, like the new criminal information that replaced it, accused Corado of diverting at least $150,000 of federal pandemic relief funds to her own bank accounts in El Salvador. The charges say the funds were intended for use by Casa Ruby to support indigent LGBTQ clients in need of housing and other support services.

At the request of Corado’s court-appointed attorney and against the wishes of federal prosecutors, who said Corado would be a flight risk, another judge agreed to release Corado into the custody of her niece in Rockville, Md., under a home detention order. The release order came seven days after Corado had been held in jail since the time of her arrest on March 5.

In addition to a prison sentence, the charge of wire fraud also includes a possible penalty of financial forfeiture for which Corado could be required to pay restitution to the government. The plea agreement filed in court includes this statement to Corado’s attorney: “Specifically, your client agrees to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in an amount ordered by the Court, which is equal to the value of any property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense in Count One of the Information in which your client is pleading guilty.”

However, legal observers have said that under a plea agreement like the one offered to Corado, prosecutors most likely will ask the judge for a lesser sentence. Corado’s attorney is also expected to point out that this is a nonviolent, first-time offense for Corado, which merits a lesser sentence.

Corado has denied wrongdoing in her operation of Casa Ruby in response to a separate civil complaint filed against her and Casa Ruby by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. That complaint is still pending in D.C. Superior Court.

In its July 17 statement the U.S. Attorney’s office refers to court documents showing that Corado, “on behalf of Casa Ruby, received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.” The statement adds, “Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS.”

The statement says that in 2022, “when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador.” It says FBI agents arrested her at the hotel in Laurel, Md. on March 5 “after she unexpectedly returned to the United States.”

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