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Webb vote leaves many supporters disappointed

Va. senator opposes ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal measure



Many LGBT Virginians are disappointed at U.S. Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-Va.) vote against overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Webb, a former Navy Secretary, was the sole Democrat to vote May 27 against an amendment to defense budget legislation that aims to repeal the military’s ban on open service by gays and lesbians. He’s chair of the Armed Services Committee Personnel Subcommittee.

In a statement released the day of the vote, Webb said he was waiting for the completion of a Department of Defense review on the matter and cited a May 24 White House letter and chiefs of all four military branches who concur that the study should be completed before Congress takes legislative action.

“I see no reason to pre-empt the process that our senior Defense Department leaders put into motion and I am concerned that many members of the military would view such a move as disrespectful to the importance of their roles in this process,” he said in the statement.

But several gay activists in Virginia and beyond who are following the repeal effort didn’t buy Webb’s explanation. Others said they weren’t surprised by the vote, yet found it disappointing.

“This is not totally unexpected,” said Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Va.), the only openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly. “When Sen. Webb was a candidate, he was candid in that he at that time said he did not support repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ I suppose that his stated willingness to look at the reports demonstrates a small bit of progress, but when conservative Democrats vote to repeal the policy and move forward, it is extremely disappointing that Sen. Webb did not join them.”

Webb has supported other gay rights legislation. He voted for the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which Congress passed last year; he’s signed on as a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; and he opposes Virginia’s Marshall-Newman amendment, which bans same-sex marriage. He also made an appearance at a gay fundraiser in Arlington by Virginia Partisans when he was running for his Senate seat.

Several observers said there are enough provisions in the legislation regarding implementation that Webb’s concerns were unwarranted.

“We were disappointed with the senator’s vote because we felt the provision addressed all of the possible procedural issues,” said Claire Gastanaga, general counsel for Equality Virginia. “The way this is structured, the vote wasn’t on the process. This was just putting Congress on record that they support the decision. To cite the process is misplaced at this juncture.”

Virginia Partisans members are planning a letter to Webb to express their disappointment.

“This is legalized discrimination,” said Terry Mansberger, the group’s president. “This is a stall tactic. They’ve built into the legislation enough of a timetable to implement the repeal, but Webb is insisting on even longer time and more study. We don’t know what’s going to happen in Congress in November. We have the majority now and a supportive president. It’s time to move and not blow a golden opportunity. We can’t wait.”

The Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network denounced Webb’s vote.

“There were many lawmakers who stood on the right side of history, but Sen. Webb disappointingly voted to maintain the kind of discrimination that hurts our national security,” said Michael Cole, an HRC spokesperson. “If you are interested in giving the military the tools they need to allow for open service, then the right vote would have been to repeal the law now with implementation pending the review.”

And SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said the White House letter Webb cited is not an acceptable explanation because the legislation stipulates that no repeal action will occur before the Pentagon’s recommendations are reviewed by the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

“We are terribly disappointed in the senator’s vote,” Sarvis said in an e-mail. “He wrapped himself up in the procedure and failed to stand up and do the right thing.”


Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach theater announces new managing director

Clear Space hires Joe Gfaller after national search



Joe Gfaller starts his new role in November.

Rehoboth Beach’s Clear Space Theatre Company announced Tuesday that its board of directors has unanimously selected Joe Gfaller to join the company as managing director after a national search. 

Gfaller, who currently serves as managing director for Metro Theater Company in St. Louis, will join Artistic Director David Button as co-leader at CSTC, which marks its 20th anniversary in 2024.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to help Clear Space Theatre Company grow its civic and philanthropic footprint as it begins a third decade of serving the community in coastal Delaware,” Gfaller said.

“Rehoboth is a special place to all who call it home, both year-round and seasonally. It is an extraordinary honor to work with such a creative and dynamic team as the CSTC staff and board to help the company grow to represent and reflect the fullness of this community.”

At Metro Theater Company, which is St. Louis’s primary professional theater for youth and families, Gfaller guided campaigns that helped grow the company’s revenues by 40% over four years, according to a release from Clear Space.

“Joe brings a wide range of theater experiences to the position and is sure to make an immediate impact on the company,” said Clear Space Board chair Laura Lee Mason. “His impressive track record and visionary leadership will undoubtedly elevate Clear Space to new heights. Joe shares our dedication to providing the community with outstanding education and theatrical experiences, and we look forward to collaborating with him to achieve those artistic aspirations.”

CSTC Artistic Director David Button added, “I look forward to Clear Space Theatre Company’s growth alongside Joe Gfaller. Not only will Clear Space benefit from his talent, but so will the community and state arts industry as a whole.”

Gfaller will begin full time in Rehoboth Beach in mid-November. During an October visit for the opening of “Young Frankenstein” at CSTC on Oct. 13, there will be opportunities for the public to meet him during the CAMP Rehoboth Street Festival on Oct. 15. He will be joined by his husband Kraig and their two dogs, Sprout and Emmit.

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District of Columbia

29 local LGBTQ supportive groups awarded gov’t grants

Bowser says recipients ‘tirelessly advance D.C. values’



Mayor Muriel Bowser has awarded community grants to 29 D.C. organizations that provide direct services to the LGBTQ community. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Mayor Muriel Bowser has awarded community grants to 29 D.C. organizations that provide direct services to the LGBTQ community, according to a Sept. 22 announcement by the mayor’s office. Nine of the 29 groups identify as LGBTQ specific organizations.

Information released in the announcement says the 29 LGBTQ supportive organizations receiving the grants for Fiscal Year 2024 are among a total of 137 D.C.-based community organizations that will receive a total of more than $2.2 million in funding through these grants.

“With these awards, recipient organizations will continue to offer programs that provide direct resources to communities across Washington, D.C., in areas including health and human services, education, public safety, civic engagement, the arts, and more,” a statement released by the mayor’s office says.  

The statement announcing the grants says the 29 organizations receiving the grants to provide LGBTQ-related services were selected by the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Japer Bowles, the longtime LGBTQ rights advocate who serves as director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, said the grants awarded to the nine LGBTQ specific groups and the remaining 20 LGBTQ supportive groups are earmarked for LGBTQ specific programs or projects dedicated to LGBTQ people.

A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Human Services, which oversees the community grants program, said the office was in the process of preparing a list of the dollar amount for each of the 137 grant recipients, which the office hopes to release soon.

Abby Fenton, an official with Whitman-Walker Health, which is one of the 29 grant recipients, said its grant was $20,000 for continued work on addressing the Monkeypox outbreak impacting LGBTQ people.  

The nine LGBTQ specific groups named as grant recipients include:

• Capital Pride Alliance

• Equality Chamber Foundation

• Equality Chamber of Commerce

• Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL)

• The DC Center for the LGBT Community

• Us Helping Us-People Into Living, Inc.

• Whitman-Walker Health

• Baltimore Safe Haven doing business as DC Safe Haven

• Washington Blade Foundation

The 20 LGBTQ supportive groups named as grant recipients include:

• Asylum Works

• Black Leaves Project dance company

• Casa for Children of DC

• Foster and Adoptive Parent Advocacy [FAPAC]

• Greater Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

• Harm Reduction at Westminster DC

• Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, DC

• Joseph’s House

• Latin American Youth Center

• MOSAIC Theater Company

• Project Briggs

• Sasha Bruce Youthwork

• Seabury Resources for Aging

• The Dance Institute of Washington

• The Giveland Foundation

• The Nicholson Project

• Totally Family Coalition

• Unity Health Care

• Washington Improvisational Theater

• Young Playwrights Theater, Inc.

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New campaign challenges Va. guidelines for transgender, nonbinary students

Students4Trans planning rallies, walkouts across the state



Students and Pride Liberation Project supporters hold signs supporting transgender rights at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Va., during a Fairfax County School Board meeting in 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of Virginia students have launched a campaign that challenges the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

The Pride Liberation Project on Sept. 20 announced the formation of Students4Trans.

Students4Trans held a rally outside the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond on Sept. 22. Another rally will take place during the Virginia Beach School Board meeting on Tuesday.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. The regulations, among other things, require parents to be informed of a student’s name and pronoun change, with the exception of “imminent risk of suicide related to parental abuse or neglect.” 

Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement the guidelines. 

The Spotsylvania County School Board announced last month that students are required to use the bathroom that aligs with their assigned sex, and parents could choose the names and pronouns their children use at school. Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Students4Trans has organized a student walkout on Friday to protest the Spotsylvania County School Board’s new policies.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this story.

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