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Church groups are biggest donors to D.C. marriage ban effort



Two religious groups linked to Bishop Harry Jackson’s church in Beltsville, Md., have provided more than $102,000 in contributions to his campaign to ban same-sex marriage in D.C.

Contributions from the High Impact Leadership Coalition and Christian Hope Ministries-High Impact comprise slightly more than half of the $199,530 raised as of Jan. 31 to fight the city’s same-sex marriage law, according to reports filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

Nearly all of the $97,338 that reports show were contributed by other donors came from national anti-gay groups, including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council Action, the group’s political arm and the National Organization for Marriage.

The reports show Jackson gave $100 of his own money to two of the three committees he formed to ban same-sex marriage in the District. FRC official Chuck Donavan of Manassas, Va., and NOM executive director Brian Brown of Great Falls, Va., each made individual contributions of $50 to one of the three committees.

“No donations are from D.C. residents, unless you believe Harry Jackson actually lives in D.C.,” said gay activist Bob Summersgill, one of the leaders of the city’s same-sex marriage effort.

Summersgill was referring to allegations that Jackson and his wife continue to live in their home in Silver Spring, Md., and use a rented apartment in Southeast D.C. near the Washington Nationals stadium as an address to maintain D.C. residency.

City records show that Jackson registered to vote in the District for the first time on April 22, shortly before he filed papers for the first of three ballot measures he has proposed to ban same-sex marriage in D.C.

In response to a complaint challenging his city residency, local officials ruled last year that Jackson’s D.C. apartment and his D.C. driver’s license, among other factors, were sufficient proof that he met the requirements for city residency.

Neither Jackson nor a spokesperson for his church returned calls this week seeking comment for this story.

The Office of Campaign Finance reports show that one of the committees established by Jackson, Stand for Marriage D.C. Initiative, sought to place a voter initiative on the ballot that would ban same-sex marriage. The second committee, Stand for Marriage D.C. Referendum, sought a voter referendum on the issue, and the third one, Stand4MarriageDC, sought to prevent the City Council from passing a same-sex marriage bill.

Finance reports show the three committees spent a total of $146,499 as of Jan. 31 in those efforts. According to the reports, the money was partly used to hire two prominent public relations firms to build support for a ballot measure and to retain a law firm to challenge rulings against a ballot measure.

One of the public relations firms, Schubert Flint Public Affairs, worked on the 2008 Proposition 8 campaign in California, which succeeded in banning gay marriage. It also assisted the successful ballot measure campaign in Maine in November, which resulted in overturning that state’s gay marriage law.

Summersgill and other local activists were quick to note that Jackson and his supporters have so far lost on all three fronts, with the D.C. Council passing the Religious Freedom & Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 in December and the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics and two judges ruling against Jackson’s call for a ballot measure.

The same-sex marriage bill the City Council passed and Mayor Adrian Fenty signed is expected to clear its congressional review and become law the first week of March.

“What’s Harry Jackson getting for his money?” Summersgill asked on the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance blog, GLAA Forum. “All of his efforts have been for nothing.”

Jackson and his supporters have argued the campaigns opposing same-sex marriage have galvanized city residents who are said to be outraged that they’ve been unable to directly decide on the issue through a ballot measure.

A Washington Post poll released two weeks ago appears to partially support the claim. While the poll shows that 56 percent of city residents surveyed support legalizing same-sex marriage in the District, it also shows that 59 percent favor allowing voters to decide on the issue through a ballot measure.

Last year, Jackson and his local supporters disputed claims by marriage equality advocates that same-sex marriage opponents are dominated by non-D.C. residents. Jackson and his backers have said a large number of D.C. residents, including many of the city’s black clergy, have joined the campaign to allow the city’s voters to decide directly whether gay marriage should be legal.

LGBT activists have argued, however, that many of the clergy helping Jackson are from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. They note that more than 100 D.C. clergy members have joined forces to support the same-sex marriage bill.

The election board has ruled three times since last spring that a ballot measure seeking to ban same-sex marriage in the city cannot be held because it would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Two D.C. Superior Court judges have upheld the board’s rulings.

The board considered Tuesday yet another proposed ballot measure — this time an initiative seeking to ban gay marriage proposed by Ward 8 civic activist Joyce Little. It was not immediately clear when the board would rule on the issue.

High Impact Leadership Coalition and Christian Hope Ministries-High Impact are components of the Beltsville-based Hope Christian Church, where Jackson serves as senior pastor. His wife, Vivian Michelle Jackson, is listed on the church web site as executive pastor.

The church’s web site describes the High Impact Leadership Coalition as a non-profit, tax-exempt group that “exists to protect the moral compass of America and to be an agent of healing to our nation by educating and empowering churches, community and political leaders.”

The web site does not disclose the tax status of Christian Hope Ministries-High Impact, but its listing as an arm of the church suggests that it also has a tax exemption under the Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) provision.

IRS rules prohibit tax-exempt religious organizations from engaging in partisan political campaigns on behalf of candidates running for public office. But the rules allow religious groups to become involved in some lobbying for or against proposed laws — including voter initiatives or referenda — as long as the lobbying is not a “substantial” part of their overall activity or expenditure of funds.

Neither Jackson nor a spokesperson for High Impact Leadership Coalition or Christian Hope Ministries group could be reached this week to determine the size of the two groups’ budgets or expenditure of funds. Neither group is listed by the non-profit watchdog organization as having filed an IRS 990 public disclosure form that is required for most, but not all, tax-exempt organizations.

Without knowing the overall budget of the two groups, it could not be determined whether they are in compliance with or in violation of the IRS rules barring “substantial” lobbying activity by such groups. IRS rules stipulate that any “religious organization that engages in excessive lobbying activity over a four-year period” could lose its tax-exempt status.

Summersgill said he was considering filing a citizen request with the IRS calling for an investigation into the two groups.


District of Columbia

Activists, policy makers mark Celebrate Bisexual Day in D.C.

BiPlus Organizing US hosted event at HRC



Adrian Shanker, senior advisor for LGBTQI+ health equity in the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, speaks at a Bisexual Awareness Day event at the Human Rights Campaign on Sept. 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Cal Benn)

BiPlus Organizing US on Saturday hosted a Celebrate Bisexual Day event at the Human Rights Campaign.

Fiona Dawson, co-founder of BiPlus Organizing US, and Mélanie Snail, committee member of the organization, emceed the event. HRC Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Rebecca Hershey welcomed attendees. 

Heyshey discussed her journey as a bisexual, mixed race, Jewish woman. Hershey paraphrased Adrienne Maree Brown, stating “change is coming, we are creating change.” 

PFLAG Learning and Inclusion Manager Mackenzie Harte gave a presentation on the history of bisexual identities, defined terms surrounding gender and sexuality and went over statistics of discrimination and health disparities that bisexual individuals face.

Harte’s presentation noted 48 percent of bisexual individuals reported an annual income of less than $30,000, compared to 30 percent of gay men, 39 percent of lesbians and 28 percent of all adults in the U.S. 

Harte went on to say 28 percent of bisexual students report having attempted suicide; and bisexual people have a higher risk of mood disorders, substance abuse and mental illness than their lesbian, gay, or straight cohorts. Bisexual people of all genders face higher rates of sexual assault than those same peers. One reason for these statistics is isolation: 39 percent of bisexual men and 33 percent of bisexual women report not being out to any health care provider, and only 44 percent of bisexual youth report having an adult they could turn to if they were sad. 

Harte also spoke about the Bisexual Manifesto, which the Bay Area Bisexual Network wrote in 1990. 

“The bisexual manifesto very intentionally was not binary,” Harte said.

They said the text works against the stigma and stereotypes that claim bisexuality is confined to “male, female.” 

Tania Israel, a bisexual advocate and psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shared some of her bisexual haikus, which she calls, “bikus.”

Dawson moderated the next panel.

Panelists included Nicole Holmes, a bisexual advocate and public health professional, National Center for Transgender Equality Communications Director Leroy Thomas and NCTE Policy Counsel Kris Tassone. 

The panel talked about how shame and stigma drive the statistics that negatively impact the bisexual community. Another word that came up as a driving force was “intersectionality.” 

Holmes said that when it comes to intersectionality, it’s important to not just “list identities,” but to look deep into “the purpose behind why we are talking about intersectional identities” in the first place.

Adrian Shanker, senior advisor on LGBTQ+ Health Equity for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about health equity for the bisexual community. 

“Striving for health equity remains a core priority. It also remains an unmet dream,” said Shanker. “Queer people have always had to be our own health advocates.” While health equity may not be here yet, Shanker says there is much in the works for the LGBTQ community, bisexuals specifically. 

Shanker cited a National Cancer Institute funding opportunity that invites research proposals to cancer care for sexual and gender minorities, stating bisexual specific proposals are welcome. The impending potential government shutdown may postpone it. 

The Biden-Harris administration is also working to ban so-called conversion therapy at the federal level. Additionally, 988, the national suicide prevention hotline, began a program to offer specialized support for LGBTQ youth and young adults last year. 

Shanker said bisexual people should prioritize preventative screenings for skin cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, regular cervical and anal pap tests, mammograms, prostate exams and colonoscopies. 

“If you have a body part, get it screened,” said Shanker. 

Megan Townsend, senior director of entertainment research and analysis for the GLAAD Media Institute, did a presentation on bisexual representation in the media and opportunities for advancement. 

 “I want to see bi+/pan colors displayed on the White House,” said Dawson. “I want every national LGBTQIA+ organization to be talking about us, to put our concerns front and center.”

The data presented can be found here.

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Flight attendants union endorses Sarah McBride

Del. lawmaker would be first transgender member of Congress



Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride speaks at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware congressional candidate Sarah McBride has earned the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s most prominent flight attendant union.

It’s the second big labor endorsement for McBride after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27’s endorsement. The Association of Flight Attendants praised her for spearheading efforts to bring paid family and medical leave to Delaware, which will take effect in 2026. 

“Sarah’s record in the Delaware Senate shows that she understands how to work collaboratively, build power and make big things happen,” the union’s president, Sara Nelson, wrote in a press release shared exclusively with the Washington Blade. “That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy.”

McBride also announced her support for creating a list of abusive passengers and banning them from flying. Each airline has a list of passengers banned from flying, but airlines don’t share the lists with each other, though Delta Air Lines has asked them, because of “legal and operational challenges,” as a representative for the airline industry trade group Airlines of America told a House committee in September 2021.

“Right now, someone can be violent towards a flight attendant or another passenger and walk directly off of that flight and onto one with a different airline to endanger more people,” an Association of Flight Attendants spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

The Protection from Abusive Passengers Act would put the Transportation Security Administration in charge of building the database of passengers fined or convicted of abuse and has bipartisan support but has sat idly in committee since March. It failed to pass last year, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have charged that the list would disproportionately target people of color and strip and a better step to reducing hostility would be making flights more comfortable. Reports of defiant and unruly passengers have more than doubled between 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2022.

“I thank the Association of Flight Attendants for endorsing our campaign,” McBride wrote in the press release. “It’s important that we recognize and celebrate the symbiotic relationship between strong, unionized workforces and the continued growth of employers here in our state.”

The union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 19 airlines is putting pressure on airlines to grant union demands in contract negotiations. At American Airlines, unionized flight attendants voted to authorize a strike — putting pressure on the airline to accede to its demands. Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines say they are ready to strike but have not voted to authorize one yet. United Airlines flight attendants picketed at 19 airports around the country in August, ratcheting up the pressure. 

The union’s endorsement adds to a growing list of McBride endorsements, including 21 Delaware legislators, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and Delaware Stonewall PAC. McBride, who would be the first openly transgender politician in Congress, has powerful connections in Washington — including with the White House — and is favored to win Delaware’s lone House seat. 

A poll commissioned by HRC shows her leading the pack of three candidates vying for the seat — 44 percent of “likely Democratic voters” told pollster company Change Research, which works with liberal organizations. The poll of 531 likely Delaware Democratic primary voters, though, was conducted only online — meaning those with less familiarity or access to the internet may not have been counted — and Change Research’s methodology for screening likely voters is unclear. The company also did not provide a breakdown of respondents by age, gender, and race, but says it uses an algorithm to make the results representative.  

Nelson said McBride’s time in Delaware’s state Senate shows her prowess in building power and working collaboratively.  

“That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy,” she wrote.

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Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July



(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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