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Stein Club backs Mendelson

Kwame Brown wins support in Council chairman race



The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club this week endorsed D.C. City Council member Phil Mendelson over his gay challenger, Clark Ray. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, voted this week to endorse at-large D.C. City Council member Phil Mendelson over his gay challenger, Clark Ray, 62 percent to 35 percent.

Stein members also on Monday endorsed at-large Council member Kwame Brown in the race for City Council Chairman over his main rival, former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, 80 percent to 16 percent.

The club’s endorsement of Mendelson and Brown for the Sept. 14 Democratic primary followed its decision last month to endorse City Council Chairman Vincent Gray over Mayor Adrian Fenty in the hotly contested mayoral race.

Mendelson, whose gay supporters portrayed him as an unfailing straight ally who shepherded the city’s same-sex marriage law through the Council last year, received just two points above the 60 percent threshold required for an endorsement under the club’s rules.

Monday’s endorsements came after the candidates spoke during a club forum at the gay nightclub Town, and members debated whom to back. About 100 members voted on the endorsements, according to Stein Club President Jeffrey Richardson.

A third candidate running in the at-large Council race, D.C. shadow senator Michael Brown, did not receive any votes from Stein members, although he received loud applause for what he said was the main mission of his candidacy: to promote D.C. statehood.

Michael Brown expressed strong support for the city’s same-sex marriage law and pledged to be a “champion” for LGBT rights if elected to the at-large Council seat.

During the forum, several Mendelson supporters praised Ray as a highly qualified candidate. But they said it would be wrong not to stand behind Mendelson, a pro-LGBT Council member who has a record of support on a wide range of LGBT issues such as same-sex marriage equality, gay adoptions and domestic partnership laws during his nearly 12 years on the Council.

“Here in the District of Columbia, we have more rights as members of the LGBT community than we do in other states,” said transgender activist Jeri Hughes. “And it’s due to legislation from men like Phil Mendelson. So no matter how much I love Clark Ray, I’m not going to forget what Phil Mendelson has done and the progress that has been made in the District. I’m supporting Phil Mendelson.”

Ray, who also praised Mendelson for his role in helping pass the local same-sex marriage law, said he was running to bring change to a Council “status quo” that has impeded progress for city residents.

“I’m a firm believer that for a city to breathe and move forward, you need fresh leadership,” he said.

Ray pointed to his many years of experience in public service, including his work for Vice President Al Gore in the Clinton administration, his role as head of the constituent services office under former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and a similar post under Mayor Adrian Fenty. Ray also served as director of the Department of Parks & Recreation under Fenty.

“I have not asked any one of you to vote for me because I’m an openly gay man,” Ray told Stein Club members. “I want you to vote for me because I’m qualified.”

But Ray and his supporters also stressed that as an openly gay man, he would provide the LGBT community with another “seat at the table” in city government, where he would have a greater understanding of the needs and concerns of LGBT people.

“I’m not only a friend of the LGBT community, I am a member of that community,” he said.

If Ray wins the election, he would become the third openly gay person on the 13-member City Council. Gay Council members David Catania (I-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who are running this year for re-election, are considered strong favorites to win another term on the Council.

Among the club members who spoke on Ray’s behalf at the Stein forum were Nick McCoy and Carlene Cheatam, two of the lead organizers of a coalition of local activists and city residents who lobbied the Council to pass the same-sex marriage law.

Among the club members supporting a Mendelson endorsement were lesbian activist Barbara Helmick and nationally recognized gay rights attorney Nancy Polikoff.

Polikoff told club members that while Mendelson’s work on the same-sex marriage law captured most of the community’s attention, he introduced and played a key role in passing a gay adoption law that is considered the most far-reaching such measure in the country.

“None of this would have happened without Phil,” she said.

Mendelson said after Stein Club members voted that he was honored to have won the club’s endorsement and he would continue his commitment to LGBT rights and causes.

During a question and answer period, one written question directed at Ray asked whether he would consider running for the other at-large Council seat that would become vacant if Kwame Brown wins his race for Council chairman.

Under the city’s election rules, the D.C. Democratic State Committee would appoint Kwame Brown’s interim replacement until a special election is held several months later. Ray said he’s running to win in his race against Mendelson but added that he would view a Council vacancy created by Kwame Brown’s possible election as Council chairman as a development “of interest” to him.

Several club members supporting Mendelson said they would back Ray for an at-large seat vacated by Brown.

Orange addresses flip
on same-sex marriage

In his opening remarks at the Stein forum, Orange addressed an issue he seemed to know would hurt him in his quest for the club’s endorsement: his stated opposition to same-sex marriage during his unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2006.

In a development that riled LGBT activists, Orange said then that any of his fellow candidates for mayor who backed a proposed same-sex marriage bill were not fit to hold public office.

“In 2006, I did say marriage was for a man and a woman,” he told Stein members Monday. “Now, in 2010, I strongly support the Marriage Equality Act.”

Orange added that he had a long record of support on LGBT civil rights issues during his tenure as a Ward 5 Council member and later in his post as an executive with the Potomac Electric Power Company, where he said he pushed for a company policy of providing benefits to employees’ domestic partners.

When gay activist Lane Hudson, a Kwame Brown supporter, questioned Orange’s commitment to same-sex marriage, Orange reiterated his support for the same-sex marriage law, calling it the “law of the land.”

“I made some mistakes that I’m not proud of,” he said, referring to his 2006 comment. Orange said he changed his position to support marriage equality “long before” he decided to enter the Council chairman’s race.

Kwame Brown was among the 11 Council members who voted for the same-sex marriage bill in December. He told Stein members he’s strongly committed to LGBT equality in all areas, not just marriage.

He noted that his commitment to same-sex marriage is “unwavering,” despite expressions of outrage against his vote on the marriage bill by some community activists and clergy members who opposed the bill.

In response to an audience question, Kwame Brown said he opposes a ballot measure proposed by same-sex marriage opponents that would allow city voters to decide whether to keep or overturn the law.

Orange said he supports the marriage law but did not say, after repeated requests to comment on the matter, what his position is on a possible ballot measure to overturn the marriage law.

“I’m not going to speculate on hypotheticals,” he said.

Ray told the Blade he was disappointed but not discouraged over the Stein Club’s decision to endorse Mendelson.

“This is not going to hinder me at all,” Ray said. “I’m in this thing for the long haul and I’m in this to win. I plan to take my message to all residents — gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, straight, questioning — all the residents of the District of Columbia.”

Although Michael Brown, the D.C. shadow senator, received no votes from Stein Club members in his bid for the at-large seat, some political observers have said he poses a potential problem for Ray.

Michael Brown the shadow senator, who is white, has the same name as popular at-large D.C. Council member Michael Brown, who is black and is the son of the late Democratic National Committee chair and Clinton administration official Ron Brown.

Some activists say a significant number of voters are likely to confuse shadow senator Brown with Council member Brown and mistakenly vote for shadow senator Brown in the at-large Council race.

This would hurt Ray, some political observers say, because voters likely to back the wrong Brown would not be supporters of Mendelson, who enjoys widespread name recognition citywide, but instead could be potential votes for Ray.

The city’s two shadow senators, along with one shadow representative, hold unpaid elected posts created by the city to advocate voting rights for the District. They are not members of Congress and have no congressional authority or duties.

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  1. Kyle Milsaps

    July 14, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    For Clark Ray to state that the possible seat is “of interest” to him says it all. He’ll say or do anything, including throwing Mendelson – the Council’s top LGBT advocate – under the bus to get on the dais. Lust for power knows no bounds.

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D.C. area LGBTQ bars, eateries receive $100K COVID-19 relief grant

Pitchers, League of Her Own received NGLCC, Grubhub funds



indoor dining, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. LGBTQ sports bar Pitchers and League of Her Own, its adjoining lesbian bar, are among the nation’s first LGBTQ bars that serve food as well as alcoholic beverages to receive a $100,000 COVID-19 relief grant under a $2 million Community Impact Grant Program.

The program, aimed at supporting LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-allied small businesses struggling from the pandemic, was launched in September as a joint project of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which goes by the initials NGLCC, and the global online food delivery company Grubhub.

In a Tuesday announcement, NGLCC and Grubhub said Pitchers and League of Her Own, which operate as one business in adjoining buildings in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, are among the first three recipients of $100,000 grants under the Community Impact Grant Program. The other two recipients are FOODE + Mercantile of Fredericksburg, Va., and Café Gabriela of Oakland, Calif.

“Following this initial round of recipients, more grants will be issued in late 2021 and early 2022,” the announcement by the two groups says. In an earlier announcement, the groups said the application period for the grants program took place from September through Oct. 12, and the grants would range in amounts from $5,000 to $100,000.

“The impact of COVID-19 has been debilitating for countless restaurant and bar owners, including the many LGBTQ+-owned restaurants across the country who have persisted through lockdowns, operational changes and labor supply shortages,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson. “We’re grateful to have partnered with Grubhub to offer real lifelines to support businesses throughout the nation,” Nelson said.

“Building community in a fun and safe place has been our mission since the very beginning,” said David Perruzza, the owner of Pitchers and League of Her Own. “We’re relieved and thankful for these funds, and are looking forward to more stable days ahead,” Perruzza said.

“As a trans masculine and queer immigrant person of color, I’ve worked hard and put all my love and energy into building a beautiful and welcoming space in Café Gabriela,” said owner Penny Baldado. “I’ve remained resilient through COVID, and this grant is the injection of funds that we need to continue along our journey to full recovery,” Baldado said.

The statement announcing the first three grant recipient says funds for the $2 million grant program were generated by Grubhub’s “Donate the Change” program of which NGLCC became a partner in June. Grubhub says the program asks customers receiving food delivered by Grubhub “to round out their order and donate the difference” to the charitable fund.

“COVID has turned the restaurant industry on its head the last 18 months, and at Grubhub, we’ve been working hard every day to support our restaurant partners across the country,” said Amy Healy, Grubhub’s vice president of government relations. “As the world starts to return to a new normal, we’re proud to partner with the NGLCC and provide these grants to LGBTQ+-owned and LGBTQ+ ally-owned restaurants across the country that are pillars of their communities.”

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video



Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed



(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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