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Gay candidates poised for victory in local races

Catania, Graham favored in D.C.; Md. could see 7 out lawmakers

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D.C.’s two gay Council members — David Catania (I-At-Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) — are considered strong favorites to win re-election, and the number of out gay or lesbian members of the Maryland Legislature is expected to increase from four to seven in Tuesday’s election.

In Virginia, most political observers expect Arlington’s lesbian school board member, Sally Baird, to win a second term on Tuesday in her role as the only out gay or lesbian candidate on the Virginia ballot this year.

“We feel really excited about increasing our numbers in the legislature, not only lesbian and gay members but other members who are supportive on our issues, including marriage equality,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, a statewide LGBT group.

Meneses-Sheets noted that the four lesbian or gay incumbent legislators and three challengers who won nomination in the Democratic primary on Sept. 14 are running in strong Democratic districts and are expected to win in the general election Tuesday.

One of the challengers, Mary Washington, is poised to become Maryland’s first out black lesbian to win election to the state legislature and just the second black lesbian to win a state legislature seat nationwide.

Lesbian Democrat Simone Bell became the first to capture that distinction last year when she won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives from Atlanta.

The incumbent gay or lesbian lawmakers expected to win re-election to the Maryland Legislature on Tuesday include Sen. Richard Madaleno (District 18 in Montgomery County); Del. Maggie McIntosh (District 43 in Baltimore); Del. Heather Mizeur (District 20 in parts of Silver Spring and Takoma Park); and Del. Anne Kaiser (District 14 in parts of Silver Spring, Olney and Damascus). All four are Democrats.

The three Democratic challengers include Washington, who is running in the same House of Delegates District as McIntosh. Most districts in the Maryland Legislature include one senator and three delegate seats, with voters authorized to cast one vote for a senator and three votes for House of Delegates members.

The other challengers include gay Anne Arundel County Assistant State’s Attorney Luke Clippinger, who is running for a House of Delegates seat in District 46, which includes south and southeast Baltimore, including parts of Federal Hill, Fell’s Point and Patterson Park.

Lesbian teacher and National Education Association Foundation official Bonnie Cullison is running for a House of Delegates seat in District 19, which includes the Montgomery County jurisdictions of Gaithersburg, Aspen Hill, Wheaton and Olney.

Another gay challenger in Maryland, consultant Byron Macfarlane, is running for the state post of Register of Wills in Howard County. Macfarlane is a member of the Howard County Democratic Committee and is running against a Republican incumbent, Kay Hartleb. His prospects of winning are less certain, according to Howard County political observers.

In D.C., Catania and Graham have longstanding community ties to a broad constituency and are expected to beat their lesser-known incumbents. They also have strong records on LGBT rights, with Catania writing and Graham co-introducing the same-sex marriage law that the Council passed last December. The two have been endorsed by the Washington Post.

Both received +10 ratings from the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, the group’s top rating on a scale ranging from -10 to +10.

Graham is being challenged by gay Republican activist Marc Morgan, who has expressed strong support for LGBT issues, including the city’s same-sex marriage equality law. Morgan received a +6.5 rating from GLAA.

Catania is running in a four-candidate race where two at-large seats are lumped together in the same contest under the city’s election law. Also running for re-election to one of the two seats is Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who has a strong record in support of LGBT rights. Mendelson played a lead role in advancing the same-sex marriage law in his position as chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.

The two are being challenged in the race by Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman, who received a +6 GLAA rating, and independent candidate Richard Urban, who received a -3.5 GLAA rating score. Urban is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage equality and is aligned with Bishop Harry Jackson and other gay rights opponents who favor a ballot measure calling for repeal of the same-sex marriage law.

City election rules allow voters to cast ballots for two candidates in the four-candidate race. The candidates with the highest two vote counts win the race.

The fourth out gay candidate running in D.C.’s general election this year is Republican Tim Day, an accountant who is challenging Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5).

Day created a stir two weeks ago when he released records from the IRS and D.C.’s office of corporations showing that a constituent services group for which Thomas has raised money as a non-profit organization did not have an IRS tax exemption. Day also produced city records showing the group has lost its status as a D.C. corporation, prompting Day to accuse Thomas of operating a “fake organization” and a political “slush fund.”

Thomas denied the allegations, saying Day was seeking to turn the matter into a publicity stunt to help his flagging election campaign, where Thomas is considered the odds-on favorite to win. According to Thomas, he never promoted his Team Thomas/SwingAway charitable group as having an IRS non-profit status.

But the Washington Post, which has disagreed with Thomas’ positions on other issues, cited questions about the group as being among its reasons for endorsing Day for the Council seat.

“Mr. Day, an accountant with a record of community service, impresses us with his devotion to the ward and his pragmatic ideas about how to solve some of its more persistent problems,” the Post wrote in its endorsement. The Post endorsement didn’t identify Day as a gay candidate.

GLAA gave Day a +1.5 rating, saying he did not clearly show evidence of involvement in LGBT-related issues. The group noted it docked points from him after he stated on a GLAA candidate questionnaire that he supported an amendment by Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) seeking to weaken the same-sex marriage law by allowing businesses and non-religious organizations to refuse to provide services related to same-sex weddings if the businesses or groups had objections to gay unions.

Day told the Blade this week that he misinterpreted GLAA’s question about Alexander’s amendment, which lost in a committee vote. He said he would never support an effort to deny services to same-sex couples and should have stated in the questionnaire that he strongly opposed such an amendment.

Thomas voted for the same-sex marriage law and stated on his GLAA questionnaire response that he also opposed the Alexander amendment.

In other D.C. races, all of the remaining Democratic nominees, including mayoral candidate Vincent Gray, City Council Chair candidate Kwame Brown, and D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Homes Norton are considered strong favorites to win their respective races. All are supporters of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage equality.

In addition, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club has identified at least 27 gay or lesbian candidates running for Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats. About half are running unopposed.

Those facing opponents include Ramon Estrada of ANC District 2B09 in Dupont Circle, who is being challenged by attorney and community activist Sunit Talapatra; and Bob Siegel of 6DO7 (Washington Nationals Stadium area), who faces a challenge by neighborhood newcomer and urban design specialist David Garber.

Go here to see the gay ANC candidates.

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Maryland

Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’

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Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out just before the pandemic in collaboration with Wells Fargo. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship each year of their community college experience as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

Meanwhile, the foundation is also expanding its new BIPOC scholarship, which announced its next round of recipients on May 22. The scholarship is currently supporting between 500 and 555 scholars across the country.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

This year, Point also did a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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