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YEAR IN REVIEW: D.C. marriage law makes history

A look at the top 10 local stories of the year

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The year 2010 saw same-sex couples legally marry for the first time in D.C. Angelisa Young and Sinjhoyla Townsend were among the first to wed. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

 

#1 Same-sex couples marry in D.C.

A long line of same-sex couples snaked its way through a corridor at the D.C. Superior Court’s Marriage Bureau on March 3, the first day the couples could apply for a marriage license under the city’s Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Amendment Act.

The Act was approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty in December 2009, making D.C. the sixth jurisdiction in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. The weddings began in March following the completion of a required congressional review of the law.

Under the watchful eye of nearly two-dozen television cameras and news photographers, two lesbian couples and a gay male couple were among the first same-sex couples to wed—in ceremonies held at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters.

“Today was like a dream for me,” said Angelisa Young, 47, minutes after her wedding to Sinjhoyla Townsend, 41, her partner of 12 years.

“I always felt like it would come true. But it’s here now, and it’s really real,” she said. “We want to thank everyone who made this possible.”

Opponents of same-sex marriage, led by Maryland minister Harry Jackson, lost a series of court challenges seeking to force the city to hold a voter referendum on whether the law should be overturned. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide in January whether accept or reject Jackson’s final appeal on the question of whether the city should be forced to hold the referendum.

#2 Fenty loses to Gray

Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his re-election bid to City Council chair Vincent Gray in the city’s Sept. 14 Democratic primary. Although the two candidates each have a strong record of support on LGBT issues, including support for the same-sex marriage law, Gray received the strong backing of most LGBT organizations and activists.

Like other constituency groups, a number of LGBT leaders said Fenty appeared to have lost touch with the needs and concerns of the LGBT community. They noted that he declined to speak out, for example, on the growing number of anti-LGBT hate crimes and rarely attended LGBT events or meetings.

But election returns showed that Fenty beat Gray in nearly all voter precincts where large numbers of gays live such as Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Logan Circle and Capitol Hill. Areas where high concentrations of black gays live voted overwhelmingly for Gray, highlighting the city-wide racial divide in the election, with blacks voting mostly for Gray and whites voting mostly for Fenty.

#3 Principal Brian Betts murdered

The murder in April of highly acclaimed D.C. middle school principal Brian Betts, who was gay, by a 19-year-old man he met though an Internet chat line for men interested in sex with men drew extensive media attention.

Three of the four youths charged in the case — three 19 and one 18 at the time of the incident — have pleaded guilty through plea bargain offers by prosecutors in Montgomery County, Md., where Betts was shot to death in his house on April 15. Nineteen-year-old Alante Saunders, who admitted he shot Betts accidentally during a robbery, was sentenced to 40 years in jail.

Saunders acknowledged to police that he hatched a plan to meet someone on the chat line for the purpose of robbing them, a disclosure that created alarm in the gay community over potential danger of meeting sex partners online.

Two attorneys representing Betts’ family have called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether Saunders should be charged under the Matthew Shepard federal hate crimes law.

“Brian was a gay man and we believe an investigation should be opened under that law to determine whether a hate crime has or has not been committed,” said attorney Gloria Allred.

#4 Md. elects 7 out gays; Beyer loses race

Seven openly gay candidates – four incumbents and three newcomers – were elected to the Maryland Legislature in November, boosting chances that the legislature will pass a same-sex marriage law in 2011.

Meanwhile, Dana Beyer, a retired eye surgeon and political activist, lost her bid to become the first transgender person elected to the Maryland Legislature. Beyer ran for a seat in the House of Delegates from a district in Montgomery County.

Among the winners were gay incumbents Richard Madeleno, a member of the State Senate; and lesbian House of Delegates members Anne Kaiser, Heather Mizeur and Maggie McIntosh. Among the challengers to win was Mary Washington, who captured a seat in the House of Delegates from Baltimore, becoming the first black lesbian to be elected to the Maryland Legislature and just the second black lesbian to win a seat in a state legislature in the U.S.

Lesbian Bonnie Cullison and gay candidate Luke Clippinger each won seats in the House of Delegates. All seven are Democrats.

#5 Not guilty verdict in Wone case

Three gay men charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and evidence tampering in connection with the 2006 murder of D.C. attorney Robert Wone were found not guilty of the charges in June following a sensational trial.

In a development that stunned courtroom spectators and Wone’s family members, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz said it was “very probable” that defendants Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward engaged in a massive cover-up of the murder and know the identity of Wone’s killer, as asserted by prosecutors.

But she said the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the men committed the offenses with which they were charged, forcing her to issue a not-guilty verdict in the non-jury trial. The defendants waived their right to a jury trial.

They are now scheduled to for a second trial in a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit that Wone’s wife and family members filed against them, which is expected to begin in the spring.

They have claimed an unknown intruder killed Wone after entering their upscale townhouse near Dupont Circle, where Wone was spending the night after working late in his nearby office. Wone, whose wife said he was straight, had been longtime friends with the three defendants.

Police and prosecutors argued there was no evidence of a break-in at the house and an autopsy showed Wone appeared to have been immobilized – possibly by a paralytic drug – before being stabbed three times in the chest.

#6 Md. recognizes out-of-state gay marriages

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler issued a long-awaited legal opinion in February saying same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries most likely would have full legal standing in Maryland.

But in his 53-page opinion, Gansler said the Maryland Court of Appeals would have the final say in the matter if opponents of same-sex marriage decide to contest the legal standing of married same-sex couples living in or visiting the state.

Gansler’s opinion was hailed by LGBT activists and gay couples, who said they planned to marry in D.C. beginning in March, when the District’s same-sex marriage law took effect. But outraged opponents of same-sex marriage vowed to contest the Gansler opinion, and some called on the state legislature to impeach him over the issue.

Nearly a year after Gansler issued his opinion, it remained unclear whether same-sex married couples in the state have encountered problems with state agencies in receiving the same marriage-related benefits afforded opposite-sex married couples.

#7 GLOV calls for attention to hate crimes

The D.C. group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) says 2010 marked yet another year in which LGBT people were the victims in more than 70 percent of the total number of hate crimes reported in the District.

The LGBT community became alarmed earlier in the year when D.C. police issued an alert about nearly a half-dozen anti-gay assaults occurring near gay bars in the Dupont Circle and Logan Circle areas. In one case, a group of teenage males and females assaulted a gay man walking on P Street near Dupont Circle while shouting anti-gay names.

With teenagers and young adults emerging as the perpetrators in most of the anti-LGBT hate crimes, GLOV and other activists groups have called on the city’s public school system to increase diversity awareness programs foster better understanding of LGBT people.

#8 Trans woman claims assault by D.C. cop

Transgender activists have said D.C. police may have violated policies for addressing the transgender community in a Dec. 1 incident in which a transgender woman said she was assaulted by an off-duty police officer.

Chloe Alexander Moore, 25, was arrested on a charge of assault for spraying a chemical repellent into the face of Officer Raphael Radon. Radon was dressed in civilian clothes and, according to Moore, assaulted her after calling her names, leading her to believe she was in imminent danger. She said she squirted Radon with pepper spray in self-defense and did not know he was a police officer.

Two police sources told the Blade that a detective and sergeant who responded to the scene and interviewed witnesses initially determined that Radon started the altercation and he rather than Moore appeared to have committed an assault.

But police and court records show the two were overruled by a captain, who was not on the scene but was consulted by phone.

#9 Washington Blade re-launches

The Washington Blade resumed publishing as a local, independently owned newspaper in April after a November 2009 bankruptcy filing by its parent company, Window Media, forced it to shut down after 40 years of service as an LGBT publication.

Blade staff members, with the help of local advertisers and community supporters, launched the D.C. Agenda newspaper to fill in for the Blade immediately after the Blade shutdown. Following months of preparation, publisher Lynne Brown, editor Kevin Naff, and sales executive Brian Pitts formed a new company that bought the Blade’s name and remaining assets from the bankruptcy court.

The purchase enabled the new company to resume using the Blade’s name. The company – Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia — has since launched a non-profit foundation to raise money to digitize the Blade’s print archives, making all back issues dating back to 1969 available to the public online.

The existing electronic archives, which covered back issues beginning in the late 1990s, were destroyed shortly before or after the bankruptcy filing when Window Media failed to pay a web hosting company the monthly fees required to maintain and store the archives on a rented computer server.

#10 MTV’s ‘Real World’ showcases D.C.

D.C.’s gay community joined in the suspense and merriment in early 2010 when MTV’s reality series “Real World” premiered its “Real World: D.C.” episodes, which were filmed in the District in 2009.

Much of the filming took place in a Dupont Circle mansion, where the cast resided while they visited Washington’s historic sites as well as many nightlife venues. Cast member Mike Manning, who is bisexual, was filmed in some of the city’s gay bars and clubs and was followed by an MTV video crew when he attended the Oct. 2009 Human Rights Campaign dinner, in which President Obama was the keynote speaker.

MTV crews filmed another cast member at the Washington Blade’s then offices in the National Press Building as she worked as a Blade photographer.

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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Baltimore

People of Pride: Five Marylanders making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community

Baltimore Pride is this weekend

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Jabari Lyles poses for a portrait in East Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore on June 10, 2024. (Photo by Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | One hosts movie nights, karaoke and other events that provide a safe space for LGBTQ people. Another has become a sounding board for customers at his gay bar dealing with pressures of the outside world. And a third beats the pavement to promote political awareness about LGBTQ issues.

These are just some of the things five Baltimoreans the Baltimore Banner is profiling in honor of Baltimore Pride Month are doing in the fight for visibility, support and acceptance of their peers.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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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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