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Couples plan courthouse visits to celebrate D.C. marriage law



Aisha Mills and her domestic partner, Danielle Moodie, plan to mark March 3, the day the District’s same-sex marriage law is scheduled to take effect, by going to the courthouse to apply for a marriage license.

Due to a mandatory three-business-day waiting period, jubilant same-sex couples — some of whom have been in relationships for more than 20 years — won’t be able to marry until March 9 at the earliest. That’s when the D.C. Superior Court’s Marriage Bureau completes the processing of their marriage licenses.

But for Mills, president of the same-sex marriage advocacy group Campaign for All D.C. Families, March 3 nevertheless represents an historic day.

“The Campaign for All D.C. Families has been working hard for some time to ensure that all residents of the District of Columbia have the opportunity to wed here, and we are excited that it will finally become a reality on March 3,” she said.

Mills’ group and other local LGBT organizations were still finalizing plans this week for a celebration linked to a possible joint appearance by same-sex couples at the courthouse on the morning of the March 3 to fill out their applications for a marriage license.

“We have at least a half-dozen couples expected at the courthouse,” said Cathy Renna of Renna Communications, an LGBT-oriented public relations firm that’s coordinating plans for celebrating the start of the marriage law.

Under court rules, a $35 license application fee plus a $10 fee for a Certificate of Marriage, must be paid by cash or money order to enable couples to submit their applications. All this takes place in Room 4485 of the Moultrie Superior Court Building at 500 Indiana Ave., N.W.

Other groups involved in the same-sex marriage equality effort in D.C. that were expected to participate in a celebration March 3 include the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, D.C. for Marriage, and D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality.

District resident Reggie Stanley and partner Rocky Galloway “definitely” plan to be at the courthouse on the morning of March 3 to apply for a marriage license, Stanley said. But Deacon Maccubbin and longtime partner Jim Bennett, owners of the recently closed Lambda Rising Bookstore, weren’t sure this week whether to join other same-sex couples at the courthouse that morning.

“Jim and I haven’t had time to sit down and actually work out how we want to do this — whether we want to be in that first wave or whether we just want to take our time and do it in the old-fashioned way, so to speak,” Maccubbin said.

But regardless of which couples are in the first wave — or which couple is the first to wed in D.C. — Rick Rosendall of GLAA said the shared moment will be special.

“Whichever couples happen to be first in line on March 3, and whoever happens to have the first [wedding] ceremony on March 9,” he said, “it will be a deeply satisfying moment for those of us who have worked to make it possible.”

Local same-sex marriage advocates expressed a sigh of relief Feb. 19 when a Superior Court judge denied a request by their opponents for a court injunction to stop the same-sex marriage law from taking effect.

The opponents, led by Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., said an injunction was needed to give them more time to organize a voter referendum that could overturn the marriage law.

Judge Brian Holeman denied the injunction request on grounds that the court lacked legal authority to block a law approved by the local D.C. government and cleared by Congress through its regular 30 legislative day review, which ends March 3.

Holeman, in a ruling delivered from the bench Feb. 19 and released in writing Monday, also said an underlying lawsuit filed by Jackson seeking to force the city to hold a referendum on the marriage issue did not appear likely to succeed on its merits. He noted the likelihood of the success of Jackson’s lawsuit was a key factor in determining whether to grant an injunction.

Jackson and his attorneys appealed Holeman’s ruling Monday to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Legal observers believe the Appeals Court is likely to uphold Holeman’s decision.

“In my view, the appeals court has no more authority to stop a law passed by the city and cleared by Congress than the lower court,” said Mark Levine, a local gay rights attorney.

Under the city’s election law, Jackson and his backers must complete a series of requirements for a referendum, including obtaining petition signatures from voters, by the time Congress completes March 3 its review of the same-sex marriage law.

Even if the appeals court were to grant him a stay, many observers believe it would be impossible for Jackson to complete the administrative requirements for a referendum by that date.

Jackson is separately appealing a D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics decision denying his application for a voter initiative seeking to ban same-sex marriage in the city. Under the city’s election law, Jackson and his backers have at least six months to complete the petition requirements for an initiative and an unlimited time to challenge the city’s denial of his initiative request through the courts.

The election board has on three occasions denied requests by Jackson and others for ballot measures seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage law. The board has based its denials on grounds that such measures would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In addition to pushing for ballot measures, same-sex marriage opponents have called on Congress to either overturn the marriage law or force the city to place the issue on the ballot through a referendum or initiative. Most political observers believe Congress won’t intervene on the matter as long as Democrats are in control.

Capitol Hill insiders say all bets are off if Republicans regain control of Congress in the November election or sometime after that. But large numbers of same-sex couples will have married by the time a serious threat to the law surfaces in Congress.

“Everyone will see that the sky hasn’t fallen,” said Michael Crawford, a same-sex marriage activist.


District of Columbia

Bill calls for designating D.C. street in honor of gay former slave

Black resident called ‘early pioneer’ for LGBTQ rights in 1880s



Excerpt from the National Star, Jan. 13, 1896. (Image courtesy National Archive)

The D.C. Council is expected to approve a bill that calls for designating Swann Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in honor of William Dorsey Swann, a little known Black gay D.C. resident and former slave who is credited with leading a group that organized drag shows in the late 1800s. 

A statement released by D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), who introduced the bill along with 10 other Council members, including gay Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), says William Dorsey Swann was an early pioneer in LGBTQ rights who referred to himself as “The Queen of Drag.”

“Beginning in the 1880s, William Dorsey Swann ran a group known as the ‘House of Swann’ and organized balls, largely attended by queer, formerly enslaved men who would gather to dance and cross dress,” according to Pinto’s statement, which she released on Feb. 28 at the time she and the other Council members introduced the bill.

“William Dorsey Swann was persecuted by the authorities and arrested multiple times for ‘impersonating a woman’ and ‘keeping a disorderly house,’ and was the first American activist to lead an LGBTQQIA+ resistance group,” Pinto’s statement says. “Swann eventually sought a pardon from President Grover Cleveland, becoming the first American on record to pursue legal action in defense of LGBTQQIA+ rights,” the statement says.

Her statement cites the Jan. 24, 1912, edition of the Congressional Record for the U.S. Senate as saying that Swann Street, N.W. had originally been named for Thomas Swann, an “enslaver” who served as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

“Officially designating this street in honor of native Washingtonian and trailblazing LGBTQQIA+ rights activist William Dorsey Swann is an opportunity to ensure that our streets honor those who embody the District’s value of social equality and human dignity,” the statement says. 

“The location of Swann Street, N.W. provides a physical and symbolic representation of the District’s Black Queer community, sitting both within the Strivers’ Section Historic District, a historic Black neighborhood, and the Dupont Circle neighborhood, the historic epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQQIA+ community,” it says. The street would maintain the current nomenclature and signage as ‘Swann Street,’” the statement concludes.

Swann Street is located between 14th Street, N.W. and 19th Street, N.W. and parallel to and between S Street, N.W. and T Street, N.W.

Pinto’s statement says William Dorsey Swann is believed to have been born in 1858 and died in 1925.

At the time of its introduction, the bill, called the William Dorsey Swann Street Designation Act of 2023, was sent to the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which consists of all 13 Council members.

In addition to Pinto and Parker, the Council members who co-introduced the bill include Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Robert White (D-At-Large), Kenyan McDuffie (I-At-Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), and Matthew Frumin (D-Ward 3).

Lindsey Walton, a spokesperson for Mendelson, said the Committee of the Whole voted unanimously on March 21 to approve the bill, which was expected to come before the full Council on April 4 for the first of two required votes.

One potential problem for the immediate passage and implementation of the Swann Street bill surfaced in a March 21 memo prepared by D.C. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee and sent to Council Chair Mendelson.

Lee says in his memo that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has determined it will cost $30,000 to fabricate and install a commemorative sign called for under the bill explaining the historic background of William Dorsey. It says the sign is to be located at the intersection of Swann Street, New Hampshire Avenue, and 17th Street, N.W.

“Funds are not sufficient in the fiscal year 2023 through fiscal year 2026 budget and financial plan to implement the bill,” Lee says in his memo. “Department of Parks and Recreation will need to work with ANC 2B to design the sign and then will fabricate and install it…The fabrication and installation will cost $30,000 and the agency is unable to absorb the cost within its existing budgeted resources,” the memo says.

Walton, Mendelson’s spokesperson, said Mendelson and the other supporters of the bill on the Council will look for funds for the $30,000 needed to implement the bill in the city’s supplemental budget.

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District of Columbia

Former Trump official elected president of D.C. Log Cabin Republicans

Says GOP group welcomes ‘wide spectrum’ of conservative adherents



D.C. Log Cabin Republicans President Thad Brock (Screen capture via Heritage Action for America YouTube)

Log Cabin Republicans of D.C., the local chapter of the national LGBTQ Republican organization with the same name, earlier this month elected former Trump administration official Thad Brock as its new president.

Brock replaces longtime GOP activist Adam Savit, who served as the D.C. Log Cabin group’s president for the past two years. The local group held its officers election on March 7 during a meeting in which U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) appeared as a guest speaker.

Brock served from 2018 to 2019 during the Trump administration as Assistant to the Administrator at the U.S. General Services Administration, according to his LinkedIn page.

His LinkedIn page says he served from 2019 to January 2021 as Special Assistant to the CEO at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. agency that works with the State Department to help facilitate foreign trade and assistance for developing countries.

Brock told the Blade the two positions were presidential appointments.

Information released by the D.C. Log Cabin group says its members also elected Andrew Mink as vice president, Matthew Johnson as secretary, Greg Wallerstein as treasurer, and Andrew Desser, Tyler Stark, and Jaime Varela as at-large board members.

“Log Cabin Republicans is the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies,” the national Log Cabin group states on its website. “For more than 40 years, we have promoted the fight for equality through our state and local chapters, our full-time office in Washington, D.C., and our federal and state political action committees,” the statement says.

“We believe in limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty,” the statement continues. “We believe equality for LGBT Americans is in the finest tradition of the Republican Party,” it adds, an assertion that many LGBTQ Democrats strongly dispute.

Asked what he thought about the Trump administration’s record on LGBTQ rights, Brock said he would defer that question to Charles Moran, president of the National Log Cabin Republicans.

In discussing plans for the D.C. Log Cabin group, Brock said he and the newly elected board members will continue the types of activities and emphasis of the former board and former President Savit.

“We will definitely continue to build off the success of the former board members and continue with speakers and events that are representative to the interest of our membership,” he said. “But one of our big focuses will be meeting people where they are,” he said, noting that plans were underway to hold events in different D.C. neighborhoods.

“I think one of the things that we’re also really looking forward to doing is a really big recruitment push to get a lot more members on the conservative spectrum that share a wide variety of ideas,” he said.

But Brock said he and his fellow board members will likely retain a policy put in place by Savit and the previous board in which most of the group’s meetings and events are closed to the press.

“The culture of our membership is strengthened by an open and honest dialogue with our speakers,” he said, which have included GOP members of Congress. “For a better free-thinking environment, we have limited access for the press to attend,” Brock said. “If there is an event that warrants press availability, I will certainly let you know,” he said.

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As Md. advances bill to fund gender-affirming care, LGBTQ advocates stress it will save lives

Trans Health Equity Act would impact state Medicaid



Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

By John-John Williams IV | Shaylie Elliette wishes the Trans Health Equity Act that appears headed for final passage in the Maryland General Assembly would have been around seven years ago, when she turned 18. She believes that transitioning earlier in life would have eliminated years of torment, abuse and discrimination all linked to transphobia.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner website.

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