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D.C. has marriage, so now what?

Despite successes, activists say ‘we have not overcome yet’



Aisha Mills, president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, said LGBT activists cannot ‘rest on our laurels’ despite recent successes. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When the weddings for same-sex couples began in the District of Columbia on March 9, many in the community hailed the occasion as the capstone of the city’s decades-old LGBT rights movement.

The District government’s enactment of a same-sex marriage law in December and Congress’s decision not to stop it follows a long list of existing city laws and policies that protect LGBT people from discrimination, some of which were approved more than 30 years ago.

With this as a backdrop, some in the community wondered whether the same-sex marriage law marked the completion of the LGBT rights movement within the city, enabling activists to move on to other causes and endeavors.

But an informal Washington Blade survey of local LGBT activists conducted over the past two weeks shows that virtually all those contacted believe a wide range of LGBT-related problems and concerns remain on the agenda of local advocacy groups.

“There’s still so much work to be done,” said veteran D.C. gay and Ward 8 community activist Phil Pannell. “We have not overcome yet.”

Pannell and others involved with local LGBT organizations pointed to alarmingly high rates of HIV infection among D.C. men who have sex with men, the city’s unwelcome status of having the nation’s highest rate of reported anti-LGBT hate crimes, and its distinction of being one of the few major U.S. cities that fails to provide ongoing city funds for its LGBT community center.

The same contingent of activists expressed caution that the fight for same-sex marriage in the city is not yet over. They noted that a lawsuit seeking to force the city to hold a voter initiative calling for repealing the law is scheduled to come up for a hearing May 4 before the D.C. Court of Appeals.

City attorneys, who have already won several earlier court challenges to the marriage law, say they are optimistic the city will ultimately win its case in defending a provision of its initiative and referendum law that bans ballot measures seeking to take away rights from minority groups.

That law, which gay activists persuaded the City Council to pass in the late 1970s, has so far spared the city a divisive ballot fight over gay marriage that has rocked other states, including California and Maine.

“We still have to stay vigilant and make sure we are actively monitoring what will come down through the courts,” said Aisha Mills, president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, one of the lead groups that lobbied for the city’s same-sex marriage law.

“And we also know that Congress still has an opportunity to get involved and intervene in D.C. in a number of ways,” she said, pointing to Congress’s authority to overturn a D.C. law at any time, including through its process of approving the city’s annual appropriations bill.

“We are not going to be able to rest on our laurels and be safe and secure in having marriage at least, I would say, for another year or two or even longer,” she said.

Veteran D.C. gay activist Bob Summersgill, who is credited with mapping the strategy for passing a same-sex marriage law, said he, too, is hopeful that a ballot measure seeking to repeal the law will be defeated in court. However, he noted that Congress could always exert its authority to force the city to put the issue before the voters.

“The Democrats will not hold both houses [of Congress] forever, and it is unlikely that any Republicans will back marriage equality in D.C. if they gain a majority,” Summersgill said. “The longer that they are put off, the safer we are, but we must be prepared to fight a ballot initiative.”

On other matters, Summersgill and Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, point to GLAA’s 21-page 2008 LGBT Agenda, or policy paper for D.C., which describes a wide range of issues that the group believes are related to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender city residents.

Rosendall said the group is updating the Agenda document in time to present it to candidates running in this year’s mayoral and City Council races.

“Marriage equality is only part of one of six sections in our policy paper,” Rosendall said.

In addition to addressing LGBT families, Rosendall said the document lists LGBT-related concerns over public safety, including the Police and Fire and Emergency Medical Services Departments and the Department of Corrections; public health, including AIDS; human and civil rights; education and youth; and consumer and business issues.

“Even if we achieve equality on paper — and we have a long way to go in some of these areas — continued vigilance is required to ensure that good policies are put into practice,” he said.

Among the specific issues addressed in the document are bullying of LGBT youth in the city’s public schools “while adult authority figures often look the other way,” lack of social services for transgender residents, and a local health care system that doesn’t sufficiently serve lesbians.

The GLAA Agenda document is available online at the organization’s web site,

Lesbian Democratic activist Barbara Helmick cited a litany of issues similar to those raised in the GLLA Agenda document, but said that local activists should go a step further by joining others in the community to push for changes in federal law.

Of particular concern to same-sex married couples, she said, is the existing federal law barring them from obtaining Social Security spousal benefits given to straight married couples.

“I think with our unique seat right here with the federal government down the street, the local community becoming active in that campaign would have enormous benefits for many of our married couples here in the city as well as married couples throughout the country,” she said.

David Mariner, executive director of the D.C. LGBT Community Center, said many of the LGBT-related social services programs that groups like GLAA seek to improve are performed in other cities by LGBT community centers.

Pointing to a call by activists in Philadelphia for “brick and mortar” projects and programs for LGBT youth, seniors and other vulnerable populations, Mariner said the D.C. LGBT Center has the ability to house or operate such programs if the city helps fund the center.

“We are the only major U.S. city that doesn’t have a permanent building for our local LGBT Community Center,” Mariner said. “In our short time at 1810 14th St., N.W., we’ve seen what is possible when we have an appropriate facility. Unfortunately, we will have to leave this facility, possibly as soon as this summer, and our future is uncertain.”

Mariner was referring to a lease the Center has for a building formerly used by the Whitman-Walker Clinic. The building is owned by a real estate development company that plans to demolish it to build a new condominium and office complex. The Washington Blade offices also are located in the building.

Brian Watson, director of programs for the non-profit social services group Transgender Health Empowerment, and longtime transgender activist Earline Budd, an outreach worker for the group, both said the community’s work in addressing transgender issues is far from complete.

The two pointed to the organization’s Wanda Alston House for LGBT youth, which provides temporary housing and social services to gay and trans youth. Due to city budget cuts, the Alston House lost a sizable portion of its city funding, requiring THE to reduce services to the youth staying at the house.

“Homelessness in our community is mostly invisible,” Budd said. “One of my priorities for our movement is to find out how we can reach the social and economically disadvantaged in our community.”

Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein said an important part of the community’s continuing agenda should be making sure the mayor and city agencies properly implement LGBT-related laws and policies already on the books. He noted that agencies such as the public school system haven’t been aggressive enough in carrying out anti-bullying polices, for example.

“We may also need to legislate action” requiring the agencies to better carry out such programs, he said.

Carlene Cheatam, a same-sex marriage advocate and longtime member of the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Men & Women before recently stepping aside from the group, called for a fundamental change in the LGBT movement’s approach on the local level.

Instead of working mostly within specific LGBT groups that limit their work to LGBT-specific issues, Cheatam said activists should become fully involved in their local communities and integrate LGBT advocacy into the broader community.

“I have always thought that the community does it wrong,” she said. “I feel the community does it separate from other issues and the broader community. … You can’t just go to the straight community and say let’s talk about LGBT.”

She said a small number of LGBT people who are involved in their local communities work on broader, non-LGBT issues as well as LGBT issues.

“But as an agenda, the community does not get involved in something that’s not LGBT,” she said. “And yet we expect our allies to support us. … And so what I want is for the LGBT community to become part of the broader community and participate, support other people, other communities to establish allies.”

Cheatam also said that LGBT people who take a low profile in their involvement in the broader community should be fully out and self identified as LGBT.

“This also helps other people who are in the closet to see LGBT [people] who are visible, who are cleaning up neighborhood alleys with the gay T-shirt on. You can see that from your window and say, ‘Wow, they’re able to be out and in the neighborhood.’

“That’s my wish for the community.”



LGBTQ University of Maryland students prepare to celebrate Hanukkah

Eight-day festival to begin Thursday night



(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A number of Hanukkah events for LGBTQ students will take place at the University of Maryland this week.

Queer Jewish students and allies are welcome to attend Crazy Cozy Chill Chanukah Celebration on Sunday at the University of Maryland Hillel. Hamsa, home to queer Jewish life on campus, hosted a study break with hot drinks, snacks and games and a chance to welcome Hanukkah early. 

The first night of Hanukkah is Thursday.

Chabad UMD is hosting a menorah lighting on Thursday in front of McKeldin Library and plans to mention the war between Israel and Hamas, according to Rabbi Eli Backman of Chabad UMD. The event is going to be a focus on the positivity and the message of the Hanukkah story.  

“We’ve been around for thousands of years and all those who’ve tried to make sure that we didn’t live to see the next generation (is) no longer here,” Backman said. “That message will really resonate at home for the holiday.”

The story of the Maccabees is one of the few stories where Jewish people fought, Backman said. In Jewish history, people don’t see a military response in many of the other holiday moments. 

“It should give us a boost of energy,” Backman said. “A boost of strength (and) a boost of hope.”

Part of the Hanukkah story’s message is that Jewish people were in a position that they needed to form a military to secure their borders, Backman said. And they succeeded. 

For some, celebrating Hanukkah depends on the people they’re around, Florence Miller, a sophomore English and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies who is Hamsa’s president, said.

Miller is agnostic and does not find themself to be a religious person, but the thing that has kept their Jewish faith is the people about whom they care are Jewish and the sense of community that comes from being Jewish.

“I just wanted to do a Hanukkah event,” Miller said. “It’s been a good refresher with how the semester has been.”

Miller last year attended a Hanukkah party and played a game of dreidel, a spinning top with four sides marked with a Hebrew letter. The people who were in attendance wanted to bet something, but the only thing they could find were pinto beans. 

“When I took them out of my pocket one got stuck in there,” Miller said. “I still have that bean.”

For some Jewish students it’s important to go to Hanukkah events like Hamsa’s celebration to be around like-minded Jewish people, Yarden Shestopal, a sophomore American Studies major, said. 

“Which is why I like Hamsa,” Shestopal said. “Since we’re all queer people or allies we kind of share that mentality of acceptance.”

Being part of the Jewish community at the University of Maryland has opened Shestopal up to how diverse the LGBTQ and Jewish communities are. Shestopal this year, however, debated whether or not to put his menorah up on the windowsill of his apartment because of the rise in anti-Semitism due to the war in Israel.  

“I’m pretty sure I am going to put the menorah in my window,” Shestopal said. “The only way to combat anti-Semitism is to stay visible.” 

Several University of Maryland students lived in Israel before or during their time at the university. 

Elisheva Greene, a junior animal science major, went to seminary, a school for women to learn about Torah, during the pandemic. Greene said celebrating Hanukkah while a war is happening is going to be a similar feeling. 

“I’m able to do what I can from over here by supporting my family and friends,” Greene said. “The biggest thing I can be doing is living my life as a Jewish person and showing that I express my Judaism and I’m not afraid.”

Greene recalled they could not go more than 1,000 feet from home for two months and Hanukkah took place during that time. While it was difficult, Greene said people still put their menorahs on their windowsill.  

“Knowing the resilience the Israelis have and the fact people like to show their Jewishness (is not) gonna stop me,” Greene said. “Like there’s a war going on but you’re gonna be a Jew and you’re gonna flaunt that.”

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District of Columbia

Hearing postponed for gay D.C. gym owner charged with distributing child porn

Prosecutors call for Everts to be held in jail until trial



Michael Everts will likely remain in jail until a Jan. 10 hearing in his case. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A detention hearing scheduled for Monday, Dec. 4, in which a judge would decide whether gay D.C. gym owner Michael Everts should remain in jail or be released while he awaits a trial on a charge of distribution of child pornography was postponed with no immediate date set to reschedule it.

However, records with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, before which the case is being held, show that Everts’s defense attorney later in the day on Dec. 4 filed a motion in which Everts waived his right to a detention hearing and requested that a preliminary hearing be scheduled on Jan. 10, 2024.

In his motion, defense attorney David Benowitz says the lead prosecutor with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. does not oppose this request. As of Tuesday morning, the magistrate judge presiding over the case had not ruled on Benowitz’s motion, but judges usually approve this type of motion when both sides agree to it.

Everts has been held without bond since the time of his arrest on Nov. 29 on a single charge of distribution of child pornography following a joint D.C. police-FBI investigation that led to his arrest.

He has owned and operated the FIT Personal Training gym located at 1633 Q St., N.W., near Dupont Circle since its opening in 2002.

Court records show that Benowitz filed a motion on Dec. 3 seeking a one-day postponement of the detention hearing to give him time to review the evidence presented by prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office. But Benowitz’s second motion waiving Everts’s right to a detention hearing and calling for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 10 appears to have voided his first motion and will result in Everts being held in jail until at least the time of the preliminary hearing in January.  

“Mr. Everts has been advised of his rights under the Speedy Trial Act (“STA”) and agrees to toll the time under the STA until the next hearing in this matter,” Benowitz’s second motion states. 

Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey apparently agreed to the postponement, but as of Tuesday morning, court records showed a date for the preliminary hearing had not yet been posted on the court docket.

On Dec. 1, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jocelyn Bond, the lead prosecutor in the case, filed a 20-page Memorandum In Support of Pretrial Detention that describes the government’s evidence against Everts and argues strongly in favor of having Everts held in custody at least until the time of his trial.

“Distribution of Child Pornography is a crime of violence and there is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of children in the community – both in the physical world and online – if Mr. Everts is released,” the memorandum states.

The memorandum notes that Everts’s arrest came about after an employee at the gay and bi hookup site Sniffies alerted the FBI that a Sniffies user was exchanging messages with other users expressing an interest in images of underage boys for sexual gratification. A joint FBI and D.C. police investigation traced the messages to Everts, according to an arrest affidavit and the U.S. Attorney’s memo.

The affidavit and memo point out that an undercover D.C. police detective working with the FBI and posing as someone interested in underage boys contacted Everts through the Sniffies site and a social media messaging address of @ethaneffex. The undercover detective, who is identified in charging documents as the “online covert employee” or “OCE,” engaged in messaging with Everts that prompted Everts to send the OCE video and photo images of child pornography, the arrest affidavit and memo state.

The memo seeking pretrial detention for Everts says Everts went beyond just expressing interest in viewing or sending the OCE child porn videos or photos but also described his interest in interacting with and possibly having sex with underage boys he knew.

“On multiple occasions he discussed his sexual interest in actual children that he encountered in his life, particularly emphasizing his desire to sexually abuse Minor 1 and noting that he had surreptitiously recorded Minor 1 at the playground in the past,” the memorandum says.

“Not only did he send photos of these children to someone whom he had reason to believe also had a sexual interest in children,” the memo states, “but he sent multiple voice messages to the OCE reiterating his sexual interest in Minor 1 – as well as in Minor 2 and other unknown minors — and describing the specific sexual acts he wanted to engage in with these minors.”

The memo adds, “Only amplifying his danger to children, Everts then bragged about having previously engaged in sex with a minor and his willingness to sexually abuse a child as young as 10 years old.”

Benowitz, Everts’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a request by the Washington Blade for comment on the case and whether he or his client dispute any of the allegations against Everts brought by prosecutors.

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District of Columbia

‘Behind-the-scenes’ activist Paul Kuntzler marks 62 years in D.C.

Inspired by Kennedy, Michigan native played key role in early LGBTQ movement



Paul Kuntzler is the last surviving member of the original 17 members of the D.C. Mattachine Society. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In reflecting on his many years of involvement in U.S. politics and the LGBTQ rights movement, Paul Kuntzler points out that Dec. 28 of this year will mark his 62nd year as a resident of Washington, D.C. And he also points out that two days before that, on Dec. 26, he will celebrate his 82nd birthday.

Those who have known Paul Kuntzler over the years say that while his is not a household name in politics and the LGBTQ rights movement, he has played a critical role as an everyday hero and behind-the-scenes organizer for the Democratic Party and the local and national LGBTQ rights movement.

Among other things, Kuntzler served as campaign manager for D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny’s 1971 role as the first openly gay candidate for the U.S. Congress when Kameny ran for the newly created position of non-voting Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives for D.C.

In his role as campaign manager, Kuntzler is also credited with arranging for more than a dozen volunteers from the then-Gay Activists Alliance and Gay Youth group of New York City to come to D.C. on a bus that the Kameny campaign paid for to help gather the needed 5,000 signatures to get Kameny’s name on the ballot.

“I knew how difficult that was going to be,” Kuntzler said. “And I recognized we were not going to do this all on our own,” adding that the gay volunteers from New York, who joined forces with local D.C. volunteers, obtained a total of 7,800 signatures of registered D.C. voters to get Kameny’s name on the ballot.

Although Kameny finished in fourth place in a six-candidate race, his run as the first openly gay candidate for the U.S. Congress drew national publicity, including support from actor Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward, who made a $500 contribution to the Kameny campaign while they were performing at the time at D.C.’s National Theater.

Observers of the LGBTQ rights movement at that time considered Kameny’s candidacy an important development in the effort to advance LGBTQ rights both in D.C. and nationwide. 

“Looking back, that probably was one of the most significant things I did in my life,” Kuntzler said in recalling his role as Kameny’s campaign manager.

He says his involvement in politics began in the summer of 1960 in his hometown of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., a Detroit suburb, when he co-founded the Grosse Pointe Young Democrats and served as a volunteer on the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.

“I met JFK at the Detroit airport and shook his hand,” Kuntzler recalls while he joined a crowd of supporters welcoming Kennedy on his arrival for a campaign tour in Michigan. “It was Labor Day weekend – Sunday, Sept. 4, 1960,” Kuntzler said in demonstrating an amazing recall of dates and events.

Kuntzler, who traveled to D.C. to attend the Kennedy inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961, said the idealism of the Kennedy administration prompted him to move to D.C. one year later to become involved in politics and the fledgling gay rights movement.

“I met Frank Kameny at Lafayette Chicken Hut on Sunday, Feb. 25, 1962,” Kuntzler says in referring to the then-popular D.C. gay bar. “And he was then president of the Mattachine Society of Washington,” Kuntzler noted, which was the first significant gay rights group in D.C. that Kameny co-founded.

“He invited me to attend the next Mattachine Society meeting,” Kuntzler recalls. “So, on Tuesday, March 6, 1962, at Earl Aiken’s apartment on Harvard Street, I became the 17th member of the D.C. Mattachine Society.,” Kuntzler continued. “And at the age of 20, I was the only minor involved in the gay rights movement consisting of about 150 people in five American cities,” he said. “I’m the only one still living of the original 17.”

His membership in the Mattachine Society of D.C. was the start of Kuntzler’s 50-plus years of involvement in the local and national LGBTQ rights movement. He recalls that he helped make history when he joined Kameny and other members of the Mattachine Society in April of 1965 for the nation’s first gay rights protest in front of the White House.

Kuntzler said he brought with him a large poster-size sign he made reading, “15 Million Homosexuals Protest Federal Treatment.” He said Mattachine Society of D.C. co-founder Jack Nichols asked permission to carry that sign on the picket line in front of the White House. Kuntzler gave him permission to do so.

To this day, Kuntzler says, he has a large United Press International photo of Nichols carrying the sign with Kameny, lesbian activist Lilli Vincenz, and Kuntzler standing beside him with the White House as a backdrop.

In the following three decades or more, Kuntzler served as an organizer and founder of several LGBTQ organizations and projects while pursuing a work career as a manager for several organizations. He served from 1973 to 2007 as assistant executive director for advertising, exhibits and workshop sales for the D.C.-based National Science Teachers Association.

His many behind-the-scenes involvements included serving in 1975 as the first treasurer for the Gay Rights National Lobby, one of the first national LGBTQ rights organizations based in D.C. that later evolved into the Human Rights Campaign in 1980, for which he also served for a short time as treasurer. In 1979, Kuntzler became a co-founder of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s first LGBTQ Democratic organization.

Also in 1979, Kuntzler helped found the National Convention Project, an effort to elect openly gay delegates and secure a “gay rights” plank in the platform at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. The effort resulted in the election of about 100 openly LGBT delegates to the 1980 convention from states across the country, including D.C. and the adoption of an LGBT supportive plank in the Democratic Party’s platform at that time.

Kuntzler said he and the others working on the project, which he called a success, were deeply disappointed when then-Democratic President Jimmy Carter lost the November 1980 presidential election to Republican Ronald Reagan. But he said he was inspired to continue his work on behalf of the Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights issues over the next several decades.

The person most important in his life, Kuntzler said, was his domestic partner Stephen Brent Miller of 42 years who died in July 2004.

“Stephen and I met on Friday, March 30, 1962, at Lafayette Chicken Hut,” Kuntzler said. “I was sitting on the side and Stephen was sitting in the middle, and I think he sent me a beer and then came over and sat down and we talked,” Kuntzler recalls. “We had our first date on the second Sunday in April of 1962.”

The two went to brunch before going to see a movie and then took a bus to get to Frank Kameny’s house. It was a housewarming party of the house that Kameny had just secured a lease to rent for his residence and his gay rights endeavors. Miller, a professional stenographer who later started his own court reporting business, Miller Reporting, quickly took on the role of being the loving spouse to a committed activist, people who knew the couple have said.

Kuntzler said his attendance at the Human Right Campaign’s annual Washington dinner last month, which is one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ events, in which President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden spoke, was a further sign of progress for the LGBTQ rights movement as he sees it.

Asked if he has any advice for the LGBTQ community at this time, Kuntzler said, “I think we need to continue to be vigilant … We need to continue to be vigilant.”

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