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Graham, Thomas win Stein Club endorsements

Announcements come as Orange enters Council chairman race

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D.C. City Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is gay, and Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) won endorsements Monday from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.

The two incumbents, both of whom voted for legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the District, are running for re-election in the city’s Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Club members voted by lopsided margins to endorse the two men during a club candidate forum and endorsement meeting for the wards 1 and 5 races, held at the Thurgood Marshall Building at 12th and T streets, N.W., in Ward 1.

The meeting took place less than a week after former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, a Democrat, announced his candidacy for the Council chairman’s seat being vacated by incumbent Vincent Gray, who is running for mayor.

Orange’s chief opponent in this year’s Council chair race, Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large), voted for the same-sex marriage law and has been a strong supporter of LGBT-related issues during his Council tenure.

In 2006, when Orange ran for mayor, he expressed strong opposition to proposals to legalize same-sex marriage in the city, calling his opponents who backed same-sex marriage “morally unfit to run this city.” Mayor Adrian Fenty, an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, defeated Orange and other candidates by a wide margin.

It thus surprised some activists that shortly after announcing his candidacy for Council chair, Orange issued a statement saying he now supports same-sex marriage.

He noted that as a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, he voted for a committee resolution endorsing the bill introduced by gay Council member David Catania (I-At Large) that legalized same-sex marriage in the District. The Council passed the bill in December, 11-2, and Fenty signed the measure that same month.

“In 2006, I did say that I believed that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Orange said in his statement released last week. “We have come a long way in the journey of life. Today, I stand on the right side of history.”

Gay activist Bob Summersgill, who helped coordinate the lobbying campaign in support of the D.C. same-sex marriage bill last year, said he was pleased that Orange has changed his position on the issue. But he was skeptical that Orange would win support from many LGBT voters.

“He wasn’t with us when this was a tough issue,” said Summersgill. “Now he’s with us when it’s a safe issue.”

At the Stein Club meeting Monday, Graham and Thomas pledged to work hard to ensure that the same-sex marriage law remains on the books by opposing efforts to hold a voter initiative to overturn it.

The main challengers to Graham and Thomas told club members that they, too, support the same-sex marriage law and would work to oppose efforts to place a voter initiative on the ballot to overturn the law. The opponents who spoke at the meeting were Ward 1 Democratic candidates Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver, and Ward 5 candidate Kenyan McDuffie.

Each of the candidates, including Graham and Thomas, outlined their records and positions on LGBT issues in their responses to a Stein Club questionnaire. The documents can be viewed on the club’s web site, steindemocrats.org.

The club is scheduled to hold candidate endorsement forums for the wards 3 and 6 Council races May 24; the mayoral and D.C. delegate to Congress races June 14; and the Council chairman and at-large Council member contests July 12.

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Virginia

Virginia Beach high school students stage walkouts to support transgender rights

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

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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 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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District of Columbia

Pepco, Exelon announce $2.7 million in funding for four minority-owned businesses

‘It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table’

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Pepco and Exelon held a press conference Friday to announce four recipients of $2.7 million in investments. (Photo courtesy Exelon)

Pepco and Exelon announced a $2.7 million investment in four minority-owned businesses on Friday.

“Today’s been a long time coming,” said Pepco Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs Valencia McClure.

Pepco’s parent company, Exelon, launched the Racial Equity Capital Fund (RECF) in 2022 to expand capital access to diverse businesses. This latest $2.7 million investment is just a portion of RECF’s $36 million in funding.

At the announcement, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser spoke about the other ways Pepco and Exelon have “put their money where their mouth is” through their partnership with the D.C. Infrastructure Academy. She reported that all 22 of the residents that graduated from the program last week have a job offer from Pepco.

“We know that is not just a job, but a career,” she said to the crowd’s applause. “We know that working together, we can invest in D.C. residents, provide opportunity, and ensure that our D.C. businesses are a part of D.C.’s growing prosperity.”

The four minority businesses that received funding were Gemini Energy Solutions, Public Sector Solutions Group, CJR Development Partners, and Escalate.

“It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table,” said fund recipient Nicole Cober, CJR Development’s Principle Managing Partner.

Gemini Energy Solutions, which is Black owned, received $1 million, the most of the four companies. Its mission is to equitably scale energy efficiency to marginalized communities. For the founder and CEO Anthony Kinslow II, this investment means that he is able to get paid and advance the work of his organization.

“We are now able to accelerate the work in our software and technology development,” he said. “What we were going to do in two years, we are now going to do in six months.”

For Escalate, a workforce development platform focused on frontline worker retention, the funding means that it will be able to double the pay for frontline workers.

Public Sector Solutions Group CEO Darryl Wiggins emphasized that this investment was not just ‘charity’ work, but mission-driven work.

“The principle and the intent is greater than the money we receive,” he said. Public Sector Solutions is Black owned.

Public Sector Solutions Group received a $600,000 debt investment; CJR Development, a minority and woman-owned small business, received a $600,000 debt investment; and Escalate, a majority Black and woman-owned company, received a $500,000 equity investment.

Exelon launched the RECF in partnership with RockCreek, one of the world’s largest diverse-owned global investment firms, in 2022. The RECF expands capital access to diverse businesses so they can create more jobs, grow their companies and reinvest in their neighborhoods and communities, according to a statement from Exelon.

New RECF applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested businesses may apply online or contact RockCreek at [email protected] for more information.

(Photo courtesy Exelon)
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Comings & Goings

Armstrong recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award

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Lynden C. Armstrong

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].

Congratulations to Lynden C. Armstrong on his Lifetime Achievement award from the Congressional Management Foundation in recognition of his exemplary public service in Congress. 

Upon receiving the award Armstrong said, “This recognition is not just a personal achievement, but a testament to the unwavering dedication and hard work of colleagues and mentors who have been with me on this journey. I’ve dedicated my entire career to public service within the Senate, where recognition isn’t the primary motivation for our work, making this recognition even more humbling.” He is currently Deputy Assistant Senate Sergeant at Arms and Chief Information Officer.  

Armstrong started his career with Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), where he rose to Deputy Chief of Staff in his more than 13-year stint. In 2004, during his tenure with Domenici, amid a debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment, Armstrong became a co-founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Allies Senate Staff (GLASS) Caucus. In 2014, he moved to the Sergeant at Arms CIO organization, where he established a new department within the CIO that was crafted to engage Senate offices in comprehending and harnessing technologies provided by the SAA. 

Lynden has previously served as Chief Clerk on the U.S. Senate, Committee on Rules and Administration, and with the U.S. Senate, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, as Deputy Inaugural Coordinator, 2012–2013.  In that role among other responsibilities, he served as civilian liaison to the National Special Security Event Executive Steering Committee and subcommittees, including the Capitol, USCP, Crowd Management, Public Relations, Transportation, and credentialing, and as liaison to the Joint Task Force – National Capital Region. 

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