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Catania says LGBT voters face ‘a very tough call’



D.C. City Council member David Catania spoke with DC Agenda on Monday regarding the evolving mayor’s race. Following is an abbreviated transcript of the conversation.

DC Agenda: It now appears as if Council Chair Vincent Gray will enter the mayoral race this week. Many in the LGBT community will likely be faced with a tough choice, choosing between two candidates who have been supportive on LGBT issues. Where do you stand on this?

David Catania: That’s a predicament I’m facing as a person and as a voter myself because I happen to like both of them as individuals and as public officials. So it’s going to be a very tough call, I think, for members of the LGBT community. On what basis do they go with? Both have excellent scores as far as I’m concerned on LGBT issues. Both were very early and strong supporters of marriage equality. Both support me in the work we’re trying to do to overhaul the HIV/AIDS Administration. We have an excellent senior deputy [Shannon Hader of the Department of Health, who serves as director of the HIV/AIDS Administration] here. The mayor has done quite a lot to support her. It hasn’t always gotten the attention I think it might. Similarly, the chairman has been a great advocate for the Effy Barry Initiative [on AIDS] to strengthen the infrastructure of communities that are now affected and infected in greater numbers. So these are going to come down to issues of personality and of policy. So I look forward to a rigorous debate. This is what campaigns are for. Both candidates are going to come out with their agendas and how they intend to accomplish it and then people will make choices based on each of those agendas they agree with more.

DC Agenda: Some in the community are saying the mayor appears to be strong on LGBT issues from a policy standpoint but they are put off by his personality and even say he comes across as arrogant. How do you see him on the substantive issues you care about?

Catania: On marriage equality, I had an early discussion with the mayor last year. He was just absolutely — it wasn’t even something he needed to consider. There was no reflection or no need to waiver — absolutely supportive. So the mayor has, I think, injured himself in how he’s perceived. He’s picked some fights that people don’t understand and they’re hard to explain at times. I think that’s hurt him in the eyes of some voters, who want in a chief executive, who want in a mayor a different demeanor at times than what we’ve seen demonstrated by Adrian. On the other hand, I can tell you that these are very demanding jobs. At times, shortness of temper comes with the territory. It’s an illustration of his frustration in wanting to do things quicker, better and faster. On the substance, I have to tell you, I support the mayor in his efforts to overhaul the schools. This has not been something easy. It’s been very hard and long overdue. And he and the [D.C. public schools] Chancellor [Michelle Rhee] have very strong personalities that can rub people the wrong way. But there’s no debating his commitment to overhauling the system for the betterment of the children. He seems really committed to it. And so now we’re going to have a clash of ideas. Both men have very similar ideologies, so it’s about how do we get from here to there. And that’s what this campaign is going to be about. It’s going to be very tough for the LGBT community to pick between these two because both have considerable strengths and, similarly, both have weaknesses.

DC Agenda: Some are asking whether if two or more LGBT-supportive candidates run against each other, both in the mayor’s race and for Council chair, can they split the progressive vote — including the LGBT vote — and allow a homophobic candidate or a candidate far less supportive on LGBT issues to win?

Catania: I just don’t think there’s any stomach in this city for intolerance of that variety. You know, not widespread. You’re going to have — in any community you’re going to have a certain percentage of people who don’t like a particular community for whatever reason. But I don’t believe there’s anything approaching even a plurality in this city in support of bigotry, I just don’t. I’ve been really thrilled about how well received marriage equality has been around the city. … So as far as I’m concerned, if Vince runs, come November, either Adrian Fenty or Vince Gray will be elected mayor. It will be one or the other. And they’re going to have to sharpen their talking points and come up with concrete proposals on how to fulfill the agenda, which is a progressive agenda for both of them. So we’re in good shape. People are going to be looking at — I’m going to be looking at what plans they have to get us through these difficult times. How do we sustain the safety net we’ve constructed?

DC Agenda: What’s your thought on R. Donahue Peebles, who also may enter the mayor’s race? He has said he would have signed the same-sex marriage bill if he was mayor, but some say he also indicated he supports a voter initiative on the issue.

Catania: Well, I’ll tell you what he said to me. We didn’t talk about a referendum or initiative. That subject didn’t come up. But unprompted, he did tell me how delighted he was about marriage equality and how much he supported it, how he finds that all of our rights are interconnected. And he doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to deny one group of rights because that same strategy was used against the community that he belongs to. I was very impressed by his reaction to the issue. So, again, as soon as we can get past these issues, we can always come together on how we’re going to construct the best city and who’s the best person to do that. And that’s going to require issues of judgment and temperament but also concrete evidence of what you have done.



Elected officials turn out for annual Equality NoVa Ice Cream Social

Northern Virginia LGBTQ group stresses ‘political awareness, education’



Freddie Lutz, on right, and his husband Johnny Cervantes host the annual ice cream social. (Photo courtesy of Lutz)

Four LGBTQ supportive members of the Virginia General Assembly and two candidates running for seats on the Arlington County Board were among more than 100 people who turned out on Sunday, Sept. 24, for the LGBTQ organization Equality NoVa’s annual Ice Cream Social.

The event was held at the Arlington, Va. home of Freddie Lutz, owner of the Arlington gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar, and Lutz’s husband, Johnny Cervantes.

Daniel Hays, president of Equality NoVa, told those attending the event in introductory remarks that Equality NoVa, which recently changed its name from the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), was founded in 1981 and is the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ organization in Virginia.

In an announcement in April the group said the name change came after it had taken on for some time the activities and representation of the now-defunct LGBTQ groups in Alexandria and Fairfax counties and had expanded its operations to cover most if not all the regions known as Northern Virginia.

Hays noted that the group is a nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates for public office but organizes educational and political awareness events and awareness campaigns on issues impacting LGBTQ people related to statewide and local government agencies and officials.

The elected officials attending the event were Virginia House of Delegates members Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria & Fairfax), Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-Alexandria & Arlington), and Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax).

Also attending was Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties.

Joining the state lawmakers attending the Equality NoVa social were Arlington County Board candidates Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham and Arlington County School Board candidate Miranda Turner.

Many of those attending the event said they were rooting for the re-election of Herring, Bennett-Parker, Watts, and Favola in the upcoming Virginia elections in November. All members and candidates for the General Assembly will be on the ballot in an election that political observers say could decide which party controls both houses of the state legislature.

Currently, Democrats control the 40-member Virginia Senate by a margin of 22-18 seats. Republicans currently control the House of Delegates by a margin of 51 to 46 seats, with three vacancies in the 100-member House.

With Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) putting in place through executive action public school policies that LGBTQ activists consider hostile and discriminatory for transgender students, LGBTQ activists are hopeful that a Democratic takeover of the House of Delegates would result in a reversal of Youngkin’s school policy.

Some of the activists attending the Equality NoVa event said they were fearful that a Republican takeover of the state Senate and if Republicans retain control of the House of Delegates could result in the General Assembly approving the type of anti-LGBTQ legislation passed in Florida and other states.

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Anti-transgender heckler interrupts Danica Roem during debate

Trans lawmaker is running for the Va. state Senate



Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An anti-transgender heckler interrupted Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Sept. 28 during a debate with her Republican opponent for the state Senate.

The woman heckled Roem during the Prince William Committee of 100-organized debate between her and Bill Woolf that took place at Metz Middle School in Manassas. 

“Thank you for reminding me why I won three elections in this district in Prince William County, which is the most diverse county in all of Virginia and the 10th most nationally where we welcome everyone because of who they are, not despite it, no matter what you look like, where you come from how you worship, if you do, or who you love because you should be able to thrive here because of who you are, never despite it,” said Roem.

Audience members applauded Roem after she responded to the heckler who was eventually removed from the auditorium.

Roem in 2017 defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall, a vocal LGBTQ rights opponent who co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved 11 years earlier. Roem subsequently became the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature in the U.S.

Roem in 2019 became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election. Roem in May 2022 announced she is running to represent the newly redistricted Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Woolf during the Sept. 28 debate did not say whether he would support the repeal of the marriage amendment. Woolf also reiterated his support of a bill that would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.

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Virginia Beach high school students stage walkouts to support transgender rights

City’s school board approved policy to out trans students to parents



Transgender flags (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)

Students at five Virginia Beach high schools on Friday staged walkouts in support of transgender rights.

The walkout is in response to the Virginia Beach School Board potentially approving policy 5-31, which the Pride Liberation Project says will require schools to out trans students to their parents.

Students have been organizing walkouts across the state since Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year announced new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students.

“Students like me aren’t going to be able to talk to our teachers if we’re constantly worried about our school officials calling home to forcibly out us,” AJ, a trans Kellam High School Student, told the Pride Liberation Project.

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