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Va. B&B rejects gays, couple claims

Lawmaker calls for anti-discrimination protections

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Russell Williams and David Schaefer (photo by Meghan Moore)

A legally married gay man claims that a Virginia bed and breakfast denied him and his spouse a reservation for a room because they are of the same gender.

Russell Williams, 56, of Hanover, Pa., said his spouse, David Schaefer, 54, tried to make reservations in late February at Stafford House in Fairfax, Va., as part of a trip for the wedding of their nephew. However, they say they were  denied a room over the phone on the basis of their relationship.

“So they, in that conversation — they ascertained that this was two men,” Williams said. “It’s a husband-and-wife operation. The wife was on the phone with David, and she said, ‘Well, we don’t accept non-traditional couples.'”

Williams, who married Schaefer five years ago in Boston after being together 35 years, said his spouse tried to “push back a bit” on the Stafford House owner, but she remained firm in denying the reservation. Williams, a racehorse breeder, said the owner also told Schaefer, a physician, that unmarried opposite-sex couples would be unable to obtain a reservation.

“There were no harsh words,” Williams said. “Apparently, the husband is a minister and it’s a religion-based policy that they have. And that was that. I guess we’ll stay at the Marriott.”

Stafford House didn’t respond to multiple requests from the Washington Blade to confirm the allegation that an owner denied the couple a reservation.

Virginia has no LGBT-specific non-discrimination law, nor one that protects same-sex couples against discrimination in public accommodations.

Williams said facing this discrimination reminded him of the mistreatment that racial minorities in the United States once faced in similar situations.

“The first thing that popped into my head was now I knew how black people felt 50 years ago,” Williams said. “It was bizarre. David felt the same way.”

Virginia State Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the only openly gay member of the General Assembly and a candidate for a Virginia State Senate seat, called the alleged discrimination faced by Williams and Schaefer “an embarrassment to Virginia.”

“It’s surprising, in spite of our lack of protections and laws, that this would happen in Fairfax County,” Ebbin said. “It’s another outrage that makes me want to redouble my efforts in support of equality in Virginia.”

Ebbin said a change in law to prohibit discrimination of all types would be the best way to remedy the situation. In the 2011 session of the General Assembly, Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) introduced legislation that would amend the Virginia Human Rights Act to include safeguards for LGBT people against unlawful discrimination.

“Clearly, we need to change the laws to prohibit discrimination of all types,” Ebbin said. “Unfortunately, we’re still at the building-block level.”

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, also expressed frustration that no legal protections exist to protect LGBT people from discrimination in public accommodations.

“These kinds of things should not be happening in this day and age, and the frustrating part is that they happen all too frequently in areas all across our country,” Sainz said. “It’s even more frustrating when they happen right across from the nation’s capital — in a city that is virtually within walking distance of the nation’s capital.”

Sainz said the incident “makes clear the need for uniformity of laws nationwide that protect all Americans, specifically on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” But Sainz also said the situation speaks to the need for state non-discrimination legislation in Virginia because he said states have always been “first and strongest” to protect LGBT families.

Williams said although he felt he faced discrimination, he doesn’t think sympathizers should retaliate against the owners of Stafford House.

“I would not want to see the people at the B&B persecuted,” Williams said. “I think it’s wrong and I think they’re ignorant, but I hope that — and I’ve talked about this with a lot of friends — gay people should not retaliate against this kind of thing. I think we should just go ahead and do what we have to do to get our civil rights and make sure that people comply.”

LGBT advocates said they felt drawing attention to this issue can help with efforts to pass laws to prevent such discrimination in the future. Ebbin said such examples can help build the case in the Virginia General Assembly to pass non-discrimination laws.

Del. Adam Ebbin (Blade photo by Michael Key)

“We constantly hear complaints from Richmond that there are no documented cases of discrimination,” Ebbin said. “Every incident like this helps us make it more clear to my colleagues that we need to move forward on protecting LGBT people along with all others.”

Sainz added he believes more LGBT couples throughout the country face this kind of discrimination, but few make the incidents public because they’re embarrassed.

“My suspicion is more incidents like this take place than we hear of because people are embarrassed, and so they don’t want to shine the light on these kinds of situations,” Sainz said. “I think that this couple bringing attention to this issue is the right thing to do.”

UPDATE: Following the posting of this article, Donna Stafford, an owner of Stafford House, told the Washington Blade that the bed and breakfast has changed its policy and will no longer bar anyone from making a reservation.

“We were in the process of [changing our policy] even before your article came out,” Stafford said. “We’re not going to put restrictions on anyone that stays.”

In a separate email, Stafford noted that the prior policy of Stafford House was within the letter of all relevant state and local housing laws.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: In a joint statement, Williams and Schaefer told the Blade on Wednesday via email that following Stafford House’s announced change in policy, they booked a room at the facility and plan a stay shortly.

“Pursuant to your update we have reserved a room at the Stafford House and plan to stay there this weekend,” they wrote. “Tolerance doesn’t require agreement about everything and if they learned that across the river in Congress the whole country would be better off.”

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Lane named senior counsel at Brady United

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Thomas Patrick Lane

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

Congratulations to Thomas Patrick Lane the new Senior Litigation Counsel and Director of Affirmative Litigation with Brady United. According to its website, Brady’s mission is, “To unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.”

Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel and vice president of legal at Brady said, “The whole Brady team is thrilled to welcome Tom’s skills as a trial lawyer and his leadership as a champion for justice and a voice for inclusivity and equal rights. Tom is one of the top litigators in the country, and has been a fighter his whole life who has proven himself undaunted by any challenge, including taking on the gun industry for its role in causing gun violence in America. Tom’s expertise and insights into complex litigation involving emerging technologies, such as 3-D printed guns, “smart” technology, and online commerce, will bolster our fight for industry-wide change by holding companies accountable and forcing reforms that will make all Americans safer.”

Upon accepting the position Lane said, “From my time as a prosecutor to private practice, I have seen the effects of gun violence and the importance of defending victims and survivors and upholding common-sense laws that keep our families and communities safe. I am excited to bring that background to Brady and to continue this important work nationwide.”

Prior to joining Brady, Lane was a partner in the New York office of Winston & Strawn, LLP. Before that he was a partner in Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP. He is recognized as one of the country’s top intellectual property and new media lawyers. He tried the first Internet music case and the first Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor case before juries. He has also served as a senior trial attorney in the office of the New York Kings County District Attorney.

Lane represented the City of New York in litigation against major gun manufacturers in the early 2000s. LawDragon named him as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America.

Lane earned his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.; and his J.D. from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans. He has created an endowed scholarship there for LGBTQ students to help law firms realize the importance of hiring diverse rosters of attorneys, and to honor the courage of his uncles Bernard Lane (an Army Ranger decorated with two Bronze Stars) and Richard Morrison (a recovered alcoholic who devoted his life to counseling others).

Both men were known for their toughness tendered by humor and both lived openly in loving relationships with same-sex partners in the 1970s. Lane is a former board member of the National LGBT Bar Association. He directs all external legal matters for the Tyler Clementi Foundation, whose mission is to end bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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Dupont Circle Fountain, Russian news agency, gay news, Washington Blade
The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Va. GOP governor nominee opposes transgender-inclusive youth sports

Glenn Youngkin made comment to Arlington voters in March

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Glenn Youngkin (Photo via Twitter)

 

The Republican gubernatorial candidate to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

“Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls sports,” Glenn Youngkin said during a meeting with a group of voters in Arlington on March 25, according to the Washington Examiner. “It’s just not fair.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to Youngkin’s campaign for comment.

Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, on Saturday defeated Pete Snyder, former House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), Peter Doran, Sergio de la Peña and Octavia Johnson in the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention. Virginia Republicans nominated Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares as their candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively.

The Democratic Party of Virginia will hold its primary on June 8. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is widely expected to win the vote, and run against Youngkin in the general election.

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