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Controversial minister endorses gay D.C. Council candidate

Rev. Wilson called ‘lesbianism’ threat to youth, families

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D.C. City Council candidate Clark Ray (center) accepted an endorsement this week from a controversial Baptist minister. (Photo courtesy of Clark Ray for Council)

Gay D.C. City Council candidate Clark Ray drew mixed reactions from the LGBT community this week when he accepted the endorsement of a minister who preached in 2005 that “lesbianism is about to take over our community.”

Ray, who is challenging LGBT-supportive Council member Phil Mendelson, noted that Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Anacostia, apologized for the remarks about lesbians and gay men in his widely reported 2005 sermon.

Ray said he and Wilson developed a friendship while meeting regularly over the past two years on a wide range of issues beginning when Ray served as director of the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation.

“What we’re trying to do today and I think what this is an example of is building a bridge,” Ray said at Denny’s Restaurant in Southeast D.C., where Wilson announced the endorsement Wednesday and pledged to work hard for Ray’s election in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

“We don’t agree on everything, the reverend and I,” Ray said at the announcement. “And I disagree on a number of topics that we’ve talked about. But the deal is we can talk about it. And I can learn from him and he can learn from me. … So I welcome the endorsement.”

Wilson told the gathering that as parks and recreation director, Ray showed a strong interest in the issues and concerns of residents in wards 7 and 8 and helped Wilson with several projects related to city recreation and senior citizen centers.

“We developed a very close friendship,” Wilson said. “I vigorously support his campaign for at-large member of the D.C. City Council. I will personally canvas my community to get out the vote in support of Clark Ray for at-large Council member.”

Members of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance criticized Ray for accepting Wilson’s endorsement, triggering a debate on the group’s blog, GLAAforum.org.

Bob Summersgill, a former GLAA president, pointed to published reports and transcripts of Wilson’s 2005 sermon, saying Ray’s acceptance of the endorsement appeared to be “pandering to one group while alienating others.”

In his sermon July 3, 2005, Wilson asserted that black families were being harmed by a growing number of young women who were rejecting men and forming romantic relationships with other women.

“Lesbianism is about to take over our community,” he said. “I’m talking about young girls.”

In remarks that drew expressions of outrage by LGBT activists and women’s rights groups, Wilson recounted how his son had complained that he could not find a date for his high school prom.

“He said, ‘Dad, I ain’t got nobody to take to the prom because all the girls in my class are gay. There ain’t but two of them straight and both are ugly.’”

Wilson continued, “But when you get down to this thing, woman falling down on another woman, strapping herself up with something. It ain’t real. That thing ain’t got no feeling in it. It ain’t natural.”

Turning to his concern about gay men, Wilson told his congregation, “Any time somebody got to slap some grease on your behind, and stick something in you, it’s something wrong with that. Your butt ain’t made for that.”

Following a flurry of news reports about the sermon, which began when the Blade broke the story after obtaining an recorded copy of Wilson’s sermon, Wilson issued an apology that some in the LGBT community said wasn’t sincere.

“Some people in the community were offended by the language I used in my message, which I will admit was intemperate,” Wilson told the Washington Post. “I apologize to anyone who was hurt by the language that I used.”

The Post reported that Wilson added, “I do not apologize for raising a very serious issue concerning our young girls, some as young as 10 and 11 years of age, who are engaging in same-sex relations.”

Three months later, in October 2005, Wilson angered gay activists on a separate matter when he reportedly blocked black gay activist and former Clinton administration official Keith Boykin from speaking at an African American civil rights rally on the National Mall known as the Millions More Movement March. Wilson served as national executive director of the march.

Boykin was scheduled to speak at the event following extensive negotiations between the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT group, and organizers of the Millions More Movement. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the event’s lead organizer, initially agreed to allow a gay speaker and didn’t object when activists decided Boykin would be a speaker representing the black LGBT community. Wilson objected late to Boykin taking the stage and his appearance was scrapped.

Ray said he believes Wilson has “come a long way” since his 2005 actions. Ray noted that while Wilson personally opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds, he chose not to become involved with efforts by his fellow ministers to campaign against the city’s same-sex marriage law passed by the City Council in December.

In a statement released this week, Wilson said, “I have enjoyed getting to know and working with Clark. He knows that I support full civil equality for all residents of the District of Columbia — including those who comprise the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Questioning (GLBTQ) Community.”

Ray supporter Joel Lawson, a gay activist and Dupont Circle civic leader, said Ray’s acceptance of the Wilson endorsement was an important conciliatory gesture.

“I think Clark is showing leadership in building a bridge through and across some very uncomfortable territory,” Lawson said. “We have gay marriage now. We’ve won. The question now is do we expand our discussions with one another within this family of D.C. residents.

“They have forged a very improbable connection,” he said of Ray and Wilson’s relationship. “And I think that is progress.”

But in the GLAA blog, Mitch Wood, the group’s president, expressed skepticism about how much Wilson may have changed in his views on LGBT rights.

“I am all for building bridges across cultures and demographics — but anyone from the gay and lesbian community should be exceptionally wary about embracing a ‘man of God’ with such a tarnished and divisive record,” he said.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride honorees

Nine LGBTQ leaders, Destination DC to be honored

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Iya Dammons is among this year’s Pride honorees. (Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced its selection of nine individuals and one D.C. organization as recipients of its annual honors awards recognizing outstanding service for the LGBTQ community and the cause of LGBTQ equality.

“Each year, the Capital Pride Alliance honors outstanding individuals, leaders, and activists in the National Capital Region who have furthered causes important to the LGBTQ+ community,” the group said in a statement. The statement says the honorees chosen this year “tirelessly contribute to our collective advocacy, outreach, education, and programming in support of our intersectional community.”

The awards were scheduled to be presented to the recipients at a Capital Pride Honors ceremony on Friday, May 31 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. A statement released by Capital Pride says the event will be hosted by WUSA9 TV news reporter Lorenzo Hall, with entertainment by special guests, including singer-songwriter Crystal Waters, DJ Honey, and the Black Leaves Dance Company.

The award recipients as released by Capital Pride Alliance include the following:

Hero Award recognizing  “individuals who have furthered the causes important to LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region” and “have brought about positive changes to our lives and our community.”

• Hope Gisselle, nationally recognized author, artist, and activist who advocates for LGBTQ rights through organizations she has been a part of, including her founding of a human resources organization called AllowMe and her current role as CEO and Executive Director of the National Trans Visibility March.

• Jamison Henninger, has served as leader of the D.C. Area Transmasculine Society, known as DCATS, a community-based organization that aids transmasculine individuals in the D.C. metro area, serves on the board of Trans Pride DC, and serves as a consultant for Gender Illumination, a nonprofit group.

• Kenya Hutton, a social justice, equity, HIV prevention, and sexual health advocate who has worked to address issues impacting communities affected by HIV and other health disparities for over 20 years. He currently serves as deputy director of the D.C.-based national LGBTQ organization Center for Black Equity and is set to become its acting CEO and executive director in August.

• Carol Jameson has worked for more than 35 years in Northern Virginia developing and administering programs that address health care disparities and provide access to health care services, including HIV/AIDS related services. She has served as executive director for NOVAM, a nonprofit group providing HIV prevention and HIV care for adolescents and young adults in Northern Virginia.

• Tula, an esthetician and hair stylist by day, has been a widely recognized drag performer for more than 30 years and host to D.C. cabaret shows. A former title holder and member of the Academy of Washington, D.C. drag organization, “she brings a plethora of stage experience to any show,” according to a Capital Pride writeup.

• Jose Alberto Ucles has been involved with a wide range of LGBTQ supportive events and projects both culturally and politically while working in his day job for the past 23 years as the Hispanic Outreach Spokesperson and Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of his many involvements include past work with the Whitman-Walker Clinic, Capital Pride organizing in the 1990s, and currently a member of the Arts & Culture Committee for World Pride 2025 DC.

Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award recognizes individuals or organizations who have demonstrated significant impact on the LGBTQ+ community and helped eliminate barriers for social, personal or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community.

• Iya Dammons, a widely recognized transgender and LGBTQ rights advocate is the founding Executive Director of DC Safe Haven and Maryland Safe Haven, the nonprofit organizations credited with providing support and services for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness, substance use problems at risk of an overdose, and discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service acknowledges exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance and its programs, initiatives or other Pride sponsored activities.

• Bryan Davis is an accomplished Sign Language interpreter trained at D.C.’s Gallaudet University who currently serves as Volunteer Chair with Capital Pride Alliance and previously has served as Executive Producer and Chair for Accessibility and Interpreter Coordinator for Capital Pride.

• William Hawkins has since 2017 been a committed volunteer for Capital Pride as part of its production team and as Executive Producer of Health and Safety and later as Health and Safety Chair. He is credited with helping to form alliances with G.W. Hospital, the D.C. Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department, and the D.C. Licensing Division.

Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride recognizes outstanding efforts related to programs and initiatives of the annual Capital Pride Alliance or Pride movement.

• Destination DC, a private, nonprofit corporation, serves as the lead organization to successfully manage and market Washington, D.C. as a premier global convention, tourism, and special events destination, with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historical communities. It is credited with generating economic development for the city through visitor spending.

Further details about the Capital Pride honorees and the May 31 event, including availability of admission tickets, can be accessed at their website.

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District of Columbia

D.C. mayor to hold 2nd annual LGBTQ flag raising ceremony

Event set for June 3 outside District Building

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Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at last year's flag ceremony outside of the John A. Wilson Building. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs announced this week the mayor will lead the city’s second annual LGBTQIA+ Flag Raising Ceremony at 4 p.m. on June 3 outside the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., which serves as the D.C. government’s city hall.

“We are delighted to invite you to the LGBTQIA+ Flag Raising Ceremony, a significant event celebrating the visibility and diversity of our LGBTQIA+ community,” said Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, in a May 21 statement.

“Join us as we raise the LGBTQIA+ flag alongside Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council members, and community leaders,” Bowles said in the statement. “This event is free and open to the public, and we encourage everyone to attend,” the statement says.

“Washington, D.C. is proud to be a leader in LGBTQIA+ rights and advocacy,” the statement adds. “This ceremony symbolizes our ongoing commitment to equality and the vibrant diversity of our community.”

The event was expected to take place on the sidewalk in front of the Wilson building at the site of its flagpole.

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats clarifies ‘no endorsement’ of Pinto

Says it postponed action on Ward 2 D.C. race until November

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D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The president of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, expressed regret that he did not clarify in an announcement earlier this week that the organization chose to postpone deciding whether to endorse D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) in the city’s June 4 primary election because she is running unopposed in the primary.

“I misspoke, and I take responsibility for that,” Michael Haresign, the group’s president, told the Washington Blade on Thursday. Haresign said that he regrets that he did not inform the Blade in a May 21 interview at a post endorsement party the group held that Pinto’s name was not on the endorsement ballot the group sent to its members earlier this month to vote on the endorsements.

Based on a press release issued by the group on May 21, the Blade reported that Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it had endorsed just four candidates appearing on D.C.’s June 4 primary ballot – President Joe Biden, D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Janeese Lewis Geroge (D-Ward 4), and D.C.’s U.S. Shadow Representative Oye Owolewa (D).

Among the candidates not endorsed that surprised some in the LGBTQ community were Pinto and D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D),  who, like Pinto, is a strong LGBTQ community supporter. In the group’s May 21 press release it did not disclose that Pinto’s name was not on the group’s endorsement ballot.

Elizabeth Mitchell, Capital Stonewall’s Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs, and Austin Naughton, a member of the group’s endorsement committee from Ward 2, contacted the Blade by email on May 23 to point out that the group decided at the committee’s recommendation to postpone a decision on whether to endorse Pinto, and the membership did not vote on a Pinto endorsement.

 “We made a careful and considerate decision as an election committee to not impose upon CM Pinto’s busy schedule at this time as there was no challenger for the primary,” Mitchell told the Blade in an email. “We assured CM Pinto and her campaign that we would revisit the subject of endorsement after the primary as it’s possible a challenger may emerge at that time,” said Mitchell, who added that the group was unaware of anyone emerging to challenge Pinto in the November election.

“As such, we did not include her on our endorsement ballot,” Mitchell said. Mitchell was also referring to the decision not to invite Pinto to one of the group’s candidate forums related to the June 4 primary, even though Pinto made it clear she would be happy to participate in a forum.  

No candidates have emerged in the June 4 primary to challenge Pinto either as Democrats or as members of the city’s two other registered political parties – the Republican and Statehood Green parties. An independent candidate could emerge to challenge Pinto in the November general election, and voters are eligible to vote for a write-in candidate in both the primary and general election.

Mitchell said Norton’s office did not respond to an invitation to participate in the Capital Stonewall Democrats first of two candidate forums and told the group a conflict in her schedule prevented Norton from attending the group’s second candidates forum.

“Her office sent us a very professional letter explaining that she had a prior engagement the evening of our forum and would be unable to attend,” Mitchell said. “We explained that to our members,” according to Mitchell, who added, “She was on our ballot and failed to receive enough votes to win an endorsement.”

 Under the group’s endorsement policy, candidates must receive at least 60 percent of the vote from the members to receive an endorsement. Under that policy, Haresign said the group also did not make an endorsement for the Ward 7 and Ward 8 D.C. Council races or in the race for the D.C. U.S. Shadow Senator seat because no candidate received a 60 percent vote threshold.

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