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Fenty urged to invalidate award to anti-gay group

6 Council members say mayor’s apology isn’t enough

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Six members of the D.C. City Council and seven LGBT-supportive organizations have signed a petition calling on Mayor Adrian Fenty to invalidate a certificate of appreciation he awarded to the leader of the anti-gay group Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays.

The mayor’s office has issued an apology for what it said was a “staff error” that led to the award being mistakenly issued last November to PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs for her “dedication, commitment and outstanding contributions” to the group.

The petition says its signers appreciate Fenty’s acknowledgment that the award was a mistake. But it says further action by the mayor is needed.

“This mistake has empowered an anti-gay organization to increase its fundraising and to legitimize itself in ways it would not have otherwise been able to,” it says.

“PFOX believes that homosexuality is a mental disorder that needs to be cured by ‘reparative therapy,’” says the petition. “Not only is this harmful to young people struggling to understand their sexuality, but every major medical, psychological, and educational association in America says it is wrong, ineffective, and dangerous.”

The Council members who added their names to the petition are Michael Brown (D-At Large), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7).

Also adding their names to the document were gay Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jack Jacobson and four gay elected officials from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. They include Rich Madaleno and Anne Kaiser of the Maryland House of Delegates, Adam Ebbin of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Patrick Wojahn of the College Park, Md., City Council. Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff also signed on.

“It is incredibly important for Mayor Fenty to make it clear that PFOX doesn’t have the support of the District of Columbia,” the petition says. “To do that, he must invalidate the certificate of appreciation and publicly condemn PFOX for its policies that undermine the dignity of LGBT people and threaten the mental and physical health of the most vulnerable of our community.”

It adds, “We find this course of action to be necessary and our names below indicate our formal request for the mayor to act affirmatively to bring this situation to a prompt and meaningful end.”

The organizations signing the petition include Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network; Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays National; Metro D.C. PFLAG; Trevor Project; Americans for Democratic Action; Greater Washington Americans for Democratic Action; and the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Mafara Hobson, a spokesperson for the mayor, said last week that the mayor’s office had not received the petition on May 12, when gay activist Lane Hudson said he planned to deliver it.

Hudson told the Blade he e-mailed the petition to the mayor’s office on that day through a section of the D.C. government web site that invites the public to submit comments to the mayor. Hudson said he decided to submit it through the web site rather than personally deliver it because the site is a designated way for the public to communicate with the mayor.

Hobson could not be reached by mid-week to confirm whether someone from the mayor’s office retrieved the petition from the web site.

Hudson, who said he was among a small group of local activists to start the petition effort through Facebook, said most of the organizations signing the document were approached because they support LGBT people likely to be negatively affected by groups like PFOX.

He noted that the Trevor Project, for example, works to prevent LGBT teen suicide. LGBT activists have said the “reparative therapy” programs advocated by PFOX have been shown to harm self-esteem among LGBT youth, putting them at greater risk for depression and suicide.

Hudson said organizers of the petition did not immediately hear back from all D.C. Council members approached to add their names.

A spokesperson for gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At Large), whose name wasn’t on the petition that was submitted to Fenty’s office, said Catania was not asked to sign the document.

“Council member Catania was not asked to sign this petition,” said Ben Young, Catania’s chief of staff. “But rest assured that he believes PFOX is a reprehensible organization.”

Hudson, who is supporting D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray’s candidacy for mayor, noted that he didn’t ask Gray to sign the petition because doing so would give it the appearance of a partisan political effort.

“I didn’t want to put him in the position to look like this is a political move on his part, because this is about more than politics,” he said.

Gray issued a statement calling the mayor’s certificate of appreciation for the PFOX leader an “embarrassment” to the city and an insult to the LGBT community.

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Delaware

Delaware’s Sussex Pride launches free statewide HIV, STI testing

Special program honors National HIV Testing Day on June 27

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Each year on June 27, people across the United States are encouraged to get tested for HIV. This year for Delawareans, it’s easier than ever.

Sussex Pride has partnered with STDCheck to offer free HIV and syphilis testing everywhere in Delaware. There are more than 20 locations across the state, making it simple to find a testing center.  

David Mariner, executive director of Sussex Pride, told the Blade, “We are thrilled with this new partnership with STDcheck. The ultimate goal is to empower individuals with knowledge about their HIV status, provide necessary support, and facilitate early intervention to improve health outcomes in our state.”

Finding a testing center, getting tested, and getting results is simple. Start by finding a lab near you using this link (https://www.stdcheck.com/std-test-center.php). Then call STDcheck at 800-456-2323 and request a free Sussex Pride HIV and/or syphilis test. Make sure to mention Sussex Pride in the call to get the test for free. Then schedule a time and get tested. 

“If you are HIV positive, the sooner you know, the better,” Mariner added. “Early and sustained treatment can help you live a long and healthy life. It can also help protect others.”

This special program is in honor of National HIV Testing Day, created in 1995 to highlight the lifesaving impact of HIV testing. HIV has historically had a disproportionate effect on the LGBTQ community. According to the CDC, 70% of all new cases of HIV in 2021 were among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

The CDC’s theme for this year’s HIV testing day is “Level up your self-love: check your status.” The theme emphasizes, “valuing yourself, showing yourself compassion and respect, and honoring your health needs with self-love,” and the best way to do that is to test.

For more information on Sussex Pride’s testing program visit sussexpride.org/posts/testing/ and for more information on HIV visit CDC.gov/hiv.

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District of Columbia

D.C. police chief, officers marched in Pride parade in uniform

Capital Pride cautious about whether MPD violated ‘no uniform’ policy

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D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith marches in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 8. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith led a contingent of D.C. police officers, including members of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, in the June 8 Capital Pride Parade with the chief and all the officers in uniform in what appeared to be a violation of a Capital Pride policy of not allowing law enforcement officers to participate in the parade in uniform.

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. Pride events, including the parade, posted a statement on its website in June of 2020 announcing that a policy it adopted in 2018 that does not allow uniformed police officers to march in the parade remained in effect. The group told the Washington Blade this week in a statement that the no uniform policy remained in place for this year’s Pride parade.

In her own statement released on the day of the parade Chief Smith appeared to take exception to the no uniform policy without saying so directly.

“I am proud to march in today’s Capital Pride Parade in full uniform to support our LGBTQ+ colleagues and to further our commitment to creating inclusive and supportive environments,” the chief said. “MPD will continue to support, and ensure security, at Pride events and different community focused events year-round,” she said.

The chief’s statement, which was sent to the news media in a press release, added, “Having been selected as the department’s first Chief Equity Officer, and now as the Chief of Police, I’m committed to celebrating diverse identities. I will always stand up for diversity, equity and inclusion for our members and our community.”

In response to an inquiry from the Blade asking for confirmation of whether the “no uniform” policy was still in effect for the 2024 Pride parade, Capital Pride Alliance responded with a statement. 

“The Capital Pride Alliance policy concerning MPD remains in place,” the statement says. “If the group officially registers for the march, they must participate out of official uniform,” it says. 

“This year, the police did not register and as such were not an official parade contingent,” the statement continues. “The police chief walked the route with on-duty police officers, and being on-duty, officers are required to be in uniform.”

The statement adds, “We continue to have conversations with MPD, including the Chief of Police, about how we build a collaborative relationship with our community.”

D.C. police didn’t immediately respond to a Blade request for comment by Chief Smith or a spokesperson on the claim by Capital Pride officials that the police were not in an official contingent in this year’s parade.

Capital Pride officials did not respond to the Blade’s additional request this week for an explanation of why the no uniform policy was adopted and whether the policy is still needed.

In earlier statements posted on its website in past years, Capital Pride officials cited the Black Lives Matter movement and the police killing of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd that triggered anti-police protests across the country as an issue that made some in the LGBTQ community and others participating in the Pride parade uncomfortable in the presence of uniformed police officers.

“Pride this year comes on the heels of a global pandemic and a nation confronting the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers,” the group said in a June 3, 2020, statement. The Floyd case and the 2020 police shooting deaths of a Black woman in Louisville, Ky., and a Black transgender man in Tallahassee, Fla. “have created a nationwide uprising crying out for racial justice and the protection of Black life,” the statement said.

“As members of the Black and Brown communities have stood with the LGBTQ+ community, the Capital Pride Alliance stands in complete solidarity to unite against these disparities that impact communities of color,” the 2020 statement said. “We pledge that we will work together to find solutions and make positive changes that are so desperately needed to end inequity, injustice, and violence against people of color.”

Activists have acknowledged that the LGBTQ community nationwide has been divided over decisions to ban uniformed police participation in Pride parades in cities across the country, including New York and San Francisco.

A June 2019 nationwide poll of 801 LGBTQ people in the U.S. conducted by the polling firm Whitman Insight Strategies and BuzzFeed News found that 79 percent of LGBTQ adults said, “police should be welcome to join pride events,” with just 8 percent expressing opposition to police presence, according to BuzzFeed.

“People of color, who made up 21 percent of all survey respondents, support cops in pride events by 77 percent to 8 percent (15 percent say it makes no difference either way),” BuzzFeed reported in a June 24, 2019, article.

Earl Fowlkes, the founder and former CEO of the D.C.-based Center For Black Equity, which organizes D.C.’s annual Black Pride events, told the Blade that Black Pride has not adopted a policy of restricting uniformed police officers from participating in any of its events.

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Comings & Goings

McCarty named director of partnerships at Universe

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Steven McCarty

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 Steven McCarty on his new position with Universe, as Director of Partnerships. Universe supports movement organizations, labor unions, and Democratic campaigns, with the software they need to win. On accepting the new position he said, “I’m most excited to take my years of campaign and technology experience to down-ballot Democrats across the country as we fight to preserve our Democracy this election cycle.” 

Prior to this, McCarty was Business Development + Partnerships Lead, at STAC labs (State Technology Acceleration Collaborative), where he spearheaded strategic business development initiatives, expanding STAC labs’ partner network by 400% with the launch of the Progressive Tech Index and doubling DemLaunch user base from four to 11 states within a year. Prior to that he was president at The Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.; Senior Customer Success Manager at Crowdskout; Vice President at Circle K International, Indianapolis, Ind.; and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, Lansing, Mich. 

He has done a lot of volunteer work, including being an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 2G04, representing Blagden Alley, Naylor Court, and Shepherd Court. He received a Youth Champion Award for outstanding support to LGBTQ Youth, from SMYAL; and was named a Kiwanis Member of the Year, Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.

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