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Va. lawmakers introduce anti-bullying bills

Ebbin, Englin plan legislation to toughen state’s existing laws

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Two members of the Virginia House of Delegates — one gay, one a straight ally — have introduced two anti-bullying bills that, if successful, will be major accomplishments in the coming legislative session considering how difficult activists and elected officials there have found getting pro-LGBT legislation passed.

Del. Adam Ebbin, who represents Virginia’s 49th House District, which includes parts of Arlington County, Alexandria and Fairfax County, has introduced legislation that would make bullying a class one misdemeanor, give victims the right to sue bullies who are sanctioned or found guilty, provide for expulsions for bullies and require that any bullying that causes injury be reported to the state’s attorney. Ebbin is the only openly gay member of the House of Delegates.

Del. David Englin, who represents the state’s 45th House District which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and Alexandria, has introduced the “Anti-Bullying Responsibility Act,” which would add specificity to the codes of student conduct already required of state school districts, require schools to have procedures in place to separate victims from bullies, make bullying intervention a requirement for teachers, require incidents to be reported to superintendents and hold administrators responsible for their local policies.

“No child should be afraid to go to school and every child has a right to a safe learning environment,” Ebbin said. “We need to make sure that school is a safe environment for all our children.”

Forty-seven states have anti-bullying laws in place and 35 states have taken action against cyber bullying, including Virginia. Ebbin said these new laws, if passed, would “add teeth” to existing laws.

Englin’s bill, for instance, adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of bullying even though some districts, such as his, already have that specified. He said having those areas identified is important because in some parts of the state, educators don’t take anti-gay bullying seriously.

“Even some teachers have been known to use anti-gay epithets in class,” Englin said. “This law would make it so that even in areas where there isn’t a strong policy that makes it clear that’s not OK, this would.”

Ebbin said he was inspired to introduce the legislation in part because of the late Christian Taylor, a 16-year-old freshman at Grafton High School in Yorktown, Va., who committed suicide last May after enduring months of bullying. He hung himself in his bedroom. His mother told reporters they had reported the bullying to school administrators and police but nothing was done. Police said they looked into the situation but turned it over to the school when they determined no crime had been committed.

Ebbin said one bully told Taylor, “you need to just go commit suicide and get it over with.”

Englin admitted, considering Virginia’s poor track record of passing LGBT-friendly laws, the sexual orientation and gender identity provisions in his bill could hinder it but he said it’s still important to try to get it passed that way.

Equality Virginia, of course, supports the legislation but said its staff and lobbyists have yet to finalize their legislative priorities for the year. The board of its lobbying arm is meeting this weekend to decide its members’ goals.

“We haven’t finalized anything but obviously a law protecting LGBT employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been on the top of our wish list for about three years,” said James Parrish, the organization’s deputy director.

Parrish also said provisions for partners of gay state employees and having sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the state’s human rights act will likely top the organization’s “wish list.”

And if Del. Bob Marshall introduces a bill — which he said he’s drafting — to ban gays from serving in the Virginia National Guard, Parrish said defeating it would be among his group’s top goals.

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District of Columbia

Nonprofit D.C. groups invited to apply for anti-LGBTQ violence grants

$700,000 available for FY 2025 ‘VPART’ program

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LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs held a conference on July 18 to inform interested officials with local nonprofit community-based organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ community how best to apply for city grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 as part of the city’s Violence Prevention and Response Team program, known as VPART.

Information released by the program states that its mission is to “address, reduce, and prevent crime within and against the LGBT community” by “creating a strong partnership between the community and the government which enables us to focus on coordinating a community response to violence.” 

Addressing hate-bias crimes targeting the LGBTQ community are among the program’s high priority objectives, information released by the program says.

Presentations on how best to apply for the VPART grants and what the requirements are for obtaining them were given by LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and the office’s grants administrator, George Garcia. The two said the deadline for submitting grant applications for the program is Aug. 5. Organizations whose applications are approved will receive the grant funds they are approved for on Oct. 30, which is the start of fiscal year 2025.

Garcia said a total of $700,000 has been allocated to fund the VPART grants, the number of which will depend on how many applications are received.  

Garcia said that among the key components of the VPART program are Victim Response Services, Case Management, Legal Services, Trauma Informed Mental Health Services, and Cultural Humility Training that he said are aimed, among other things,  to support LGBTQ victims of violent crime.

One of the organizations that has received VPART grants in past years, and that is expected to apply again this year is the D.C. LGBTQ Community Center.

 “Along with offering trauma-informed therapy and casework, the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center directly supports LGBTQ+ survivors with our mental health services, shelter assistance, and other resources victims of violence may need,” the LGBTQ Center says in a statement. “If you are LGBTQ+ and are a victim of violence, or know someone who is, you can refer them to the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center and we will make sure they are supported and connected to the resources they need,” the statement says.

The conference was held at the Reeves Center municipal building where the LGBTQ Affairs office and other city agencies as well as the LGBTQ Community Center are located at 2000 14th St., N.W. About a dozen people attended the conference in person and another 14 attended virtually through Zoom, according to Bowles.

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Virginia

J.D. Vance lives in LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood in Alexandria

VP nominee’s home in Del Ray is near newly opened gay bar

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Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the Republican National Convention on July 18 in Milwaukee. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a development that may come as a surprise to some, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, who Donald Trump has chosen as his vice-presidential running mate and who has voted against LGBTQ rights legislation, has lived for a little over a year on a quiet street in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., that has a sizable number of LGBTQ residents.

Public property records show that Vance and his family live on a side street two blocks off a section of Mt. Vernon Avenue, which is Del Ray’s main commercial street, where the gay pop-up bar Pride On The Avenue opened in June.

Vance’s house in Del Ray, which the Washington Post reports was purchased for $1.6 million, is also located in the district of gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), which includes all of Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties.

“Being a resident of a district as diverse as mine gives J.D. Vance an opportunity to experience what truly makes America great,” Ebbin told the Washington Blade. “With a bilingual elementary school and LGBTQ gathering space nearby, I’d encourage Mr. Vance to visit with some of my constituents so he can hear from them on how they will be negatively impacted by anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT policies put forward in the GOP Party Platform and Project 2025,” Ebbin said in an email.

Ebbin was referring to the 900-page far-right policy document prepared by the conservative Heritage Foundation as a plan of action for a new Trump administration if Trump wins the presidential election in November. The Project 2025 document, among other things, opposes LGBTQ rights initiatives and calls for repealing existing LGBTQ rights legislation.

Bill Blackburn, a co-owner of Pride On The Avenue, recalls that people referred to then as members of the gay community moved to Del Ray in the early 1990s and possibly earlier in large numbers and played a lead role in buying old, often rundown houses and renovating them.

“It’s interesting that Del Ray was kind of gentrified by a lot of the gay community in the ‘90s,” Blackburn said. “And there’s still a lot of residents in Del Ray from that early period who kind of reinvigorated Del Ray,” he said. “So, it’s interesting how this neighborhood evolved and how it’s become such a sought-after neighborhood that we even get right-wing Republicans who see the value of living here.”

According to Blackburn, Vance “lives like a hundred yards away” from Pride On The Avenue.

People familiar with Del Ray point out that during Pride month in June many of the stores and shops along Mt. Vernon Avenue display Pride flags. Blackburn said Pride On The Avenue, which is currently the only gay bar in Alexandria, “has been very well received” by nearby residents and visitors to the neighborhood.

Voting records from past elections show Del Ray, even more than Alexandria as a whole, has elected Democrats over Republicans and has supported Democrats in statewide elections. In the 2020 presidential election, President Joe Biden won against Donald Trump in Del Ray by a greater than 80 percent margin, according to the Washington Post.

Washingtonian magazine has reported that after news surfaced last year that Vance and his family had moved into their house in Del Ray, a local artist staged a one-person protest by placing rainbow colored striped cloth and Pride flags in the area, including on a tree across the street from Vance’s house.

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Maryland

Moore joins Democratic chorus endorsing Harris

Announcement comes day after Joe Biden ended 2024 campaign

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, left, applauds as Vice President Kamala Harris, right, endorses U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks last month. Moore is now endorsing Harris for president. (Photo by Ulysses Muñoz/Baltimore Banner)

BY PAMELA WOOD | Maryland Gov. Wes Moore joined the chorus of prominent Democrats backing Vice President Kamala Harris to be the party’s nominee on Monday.

In a statement, Moore said the vice president is the best choice for Democrats and the nation.

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

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