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Va. guv addresses anti-gay bias in directive



Virginian Gov. Bob McDonnell has issued an executive directive saying that discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment will not be tolerated.

The directive, which is different from an executive order in that it cannot be similarly enforced, comes after state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli advised Virginia colleges and universities to strike any policies that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also comes after the governor failed to renew his predecessor’s executive order barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in all state employment decisions.

“Employment discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated by this administration,” says the directive. “Discrimination based on factors such as one’s sexual orientation or parental status violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The directive issued March 10 appeared to countermand — at least in part — Cuccinelli’s advice to state universities and colleges. But it was not immediately clear whether McDonnell’s directive would legally trump Cuccinelli’s advice on the matter.

McDonnell’s directive was silent on the matter of discrimination against students based on sexual orientation.

Martin Kent, the governor’s chief of staff, explained the shift in a message to state employees.

“While the separation of powers doctrine precludes the governor from changing the Virginia Human Rights Act via executive order, he wants to be clear that discrimination in state employment will not be tolerated,” he said. “Independent agencies and state supported colleges and universities should likewise adopt a similar standard of conduct.”

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said McDonnell’s directive was a step in the right direction, but noted that it’s insufficient to fully protect gay state employees.

“No one should be fooled by the governor’s directive,” he said. “While it is a positive step to acknowledge that employment discrimination is a challenge faced by LGBT Virginians, public employees remain vulnerable without an inclusive executive order or law passed by the legislature.”

Equality Virginia CEO Jon Blair also called the directive a “major positive step forward,” but expressed concern that it was silent on discrimination based on gender identity.

“Equality Virginia applauds his implementation of a ‘standard of conduct’ that recognizes that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional and establishes a strict prohibition against such discrimination in the state workforce,” Blair said in a statement.

Saying that more work needs to be done, Blair urged McDonnell and state lawmakers to work with Equality Virginia to codify workplace protections for all LGBT state employees. He also called for legislation protecting Virginians from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

“Equality Virginia sincerely hopes that the attorney general agrees that the governor’s action today is within his authority and that he will defend the governor’s enforcement of Executive Directive #1.”

David Lampo, vice president of the Log Cabin Republican Club of Virginia, also praised the governor’s intervention and called for the directive to be codified in law.

“This is certainly a step in the right direction and certainly puts some meat on the bones of his stated policy of employment non-discrimination,” Lampo said. “[Codifying this directive] is the only fair and just outcome to this controversy, and it would end once and for all the attorney general’s disgraceful attempts to intimidate state colleges and universities into dropping their entirely justified employment non-discrimination policies.”

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  1. Sean

    March 11, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I don’t trust him. Just another slick politician trying to save face, I guess.

    The courts don’t have to pay attention to this. Plus, it doesn’t cover students at Virginia universities.

    There is one good thing about this: A republican governor has admitted that: “The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits discrimination without a rational basis against any class of persons. Discrimination based on factors such as one’s sexual orientation or parental status violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.” So sooner or later they are going to have to admit that the equal protection clause of the US constitution trumps the Marshall Newman amendment in the Virginia constitution, too.

  2. David

    March 12, 2010 at 9:34 am

    This is monumental for a Republican in the Bible-belt South. McDonnell deserves credit and support for this effort. It won’t play to his base at all, but it was the right thing for him to have done.

  3. Peter the saint

    March 17, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    In the US Census, we classify people according to race – gender – ethnicity – disability – etc. Virginia state officials clearly here acknowledge that sexual orientations exist which are different from each other. That L, G, B, & T are different classes and are classifiable, as is heterosexual orientation (so many of whom lean towards BI anyway, and won’t say, but we won’t go there…).

    But they simply REFUSE to enter us into public record. The Government of Virginia refuses to recognize our existence under the law. LAWYERS refuse. WHAT DO WE CALL THAT, CHILDREN?? DIS-CRIM-I-NAY-SHUN, everyone say it with me: DISCRIMINATION. GOT IT? GOOD!

    You artless, heartless, waspy thugs…

    And I disagree with David above. The right thing to do would have been to leave the previous executive order as it was, with inclusion of sexual orientation. Politicians who are daily only out to help themselves and nooooobody else…

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

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] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9



David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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