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Gay Hill staffer remembered for humor, dedication

Crowe, 29, succumbed to staph infection

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Christopher Crowe (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The booming voice of Katy Perry accompanying a techno-dance beat of her song “Firework” jolted Kyle Murphy from sleep a couple months ago at 3 a.m.

Curious about the disturbance, Murphy arose from bed to find his best friend and roommate Christopher Crowe dancing on top of their kitchen island.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Murphy said. “He had brought some friends home and the first thing I saw was him standing on the island in our kitchen dancing to Katy Perry. He was kind of the life of the party.”

For Murphy, who had known Crowe for more than five years since they interned together at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, the memory represents Crowe’s over-the-top personality and willingness to go to great lengths to entertain others.

“Somebody had collected some quotes he used to say in his office, and one of them was ‘I say ‘no’ to drugs, and that’s it,'” Murphy said. “And that kind of, I felt like, summed up his personality.”

Crowe died last week at the Washington Hospital Center from a staph infection that damaged his heart after he contracted meningitis last summer.

Crowe, 29, who was gay, served as president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and as a staffer for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas). The death of the Kentucky native struck many Capitol Hill staffers and LGBT advocates with grief and prompted fond recollections of his life this week.

Johnson issued a statement expressing sorrow over the loss of her longtime staffer and sympathy for his family and loved ones.

“He was respected by his colleagues for his professionalism; he was beloved by many for his generous spirit and good humor,” Johnson said. “He was a person who enjoyed life and always had a smile to share. He never met a stranger.”

Many friends who worked with him on Capitol Hill and in LGBT advocacy had similar recollections of Crowe’s outgoing personality, which they said enabled him to make fast friends.

Marcus Paulsen, who’s gay and an administrative coordinator for the nonprofit group Community Wealth Ventures, said Crowe had a unique way of making others feel at ease.

“He was always laughing, and it didn’t matter if you told the dumbest joke,” Paulsen said. “He always would find it funny and could find something hysterical about it.”

A Dallas native, Paulsen said Crowe helped him obtain a position as an intern, and later a staffer, in Johnson’s office, where the two worked together for a year-and-a-half.

Paulsen recalled a time in December 2009 when he and Crowe participated in a retreat for staffers in Johnson’s office in Texas. Identifying the experience as one of his fondest memories of Crowe, Paulsen said people he knew from his home state easily made friends with Crowe.

“For me, it was kind of two worlds coming together: my D.C. life and my Texas life,” Paulsen said. “I wasn’t really sure how people would react to some of my D.C. friends and Chris, but he just had this way of becoming really close with people and everybody just absolutely adored him.”

Jason Mida, the Victory Fund’s vice president of development, knew Crowe from his days as an intern at the organization in 2005 and said Crowe had a unique way of drawing others to him.

“It didn’t matter who you were, it didn’t matter what your political affiliation was,” said Mida, who’s gay. “People were drawn to Chris. He was a ball of life and people wanted to be around him because you just felt better. You felt better about yourself; you felt better about things in general when he was around.”

Scott Simpson, press secretary of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, knew Crowe from working together on the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and said he admired the confidence that gave Crowe the ability to speak with anyone.

“He had an ease about dealing with any range of people,” Simpson said. “Chris wouldn’t think twice about calling up the highest-level person in an agency or to the lowest-level person.”

Simpson said Crowe’s care for others enabled him to stay engaged with friends even as he struggled with meningitis for several months.

“This was a man who was in the emergency room,” Simpson said. “He was sending e-mails, text messages, asking how things are going, asking if he can help. If you didn’t know that Chris was sick, if you weren’t informed about it, people never knew.”

While always eager to have a good time with others, Crowe was also known among his friends as a passionate worker in both legislative affairs and LGBT advocacy.

Murphy, a communications specialist for the National Minority AIDS Council, recalled that Crowe’s dedication enabled him to rise quickly to become a high-level staffer for Johnson and to get elected as president of LGBT Congressional Staff Association.

“Everything that I heard about him was that he was amazing — not the greatest writer — but he had dyslexia, but he worked through that very well and didn’t let anything hold him back,” Murphy said.

Simpson recalled his days as president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association before he left Capitol Hill when Crowe served as his deputy. The two worked on recreating the association after it had long been dormant.

Even though their work in recreating the association involved activity on rewriting bylaws and other less-than-exciting tasks, Crowe found ways to make the work enjoyable.

“Chris made people come to these meetings and actually enjoy themselves and actually laugh,” Simpson said. “He understood that in order to commit people to make change, they had to have a good time and that, I believe, was his secret weapon.”

As evidence of Crowe’s jovial personality, Simpson noted that Crowe would only refer to him as “Girl!” during the course of their work together. Simpson joked that he didn’t know if Crowe actually knew his name.

In his days as a Victory Fund intern, Mida said Crowe was dedicated and passionate about LGBT advocacy. He took a personal interest in working to elect Vivian Paige, a lesbian who ran in 2005 for city treasurer in Norfolk, Va.

“I remember how visibly upset he was when Vivian lost that night,” Mida said. “We’d only been there a few days, but he was so invested. I think that across the board —whether it was his work and whether it was relationships with folks — he immediately became invested in folks, and as a result, people were invested in him.”

Among the activities that friends cited as Crowe’s favorite was travel. In his work on foreign affairs issues for Johnson, Crowe would often take opportunities to go abroad as part of his work as a congressional staffer.

Murphy recalled that Crowe traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates as part of his work for Johnson, which Murphy said gave Crowe “a travel bug.”

Among the trips that Murphy took with Crowe was an expedition with him and his mother on a Key West cruise in 2009.

“We were both redheads and so we just kind of looked like brothers, so we just starting telling everybody that we were brothers from that cruise ship on — and I referred to his mom as ‘Mama,'” Murphy said.

Murphy recalled that he and Crowe went to Peru in 2008 and Crowe traveled with other friends to Bangkok and Hong Kong. Before Crowe’s death, Murphy said his friend had asked him to put together another trip together.

But dreams for travel and ambitions for further work on LGBT issues and politics were cut short. Murphy, who was present at the hospital where Crowe died, was the first of his friends to know.

“His mom had called me and was kind of frantic telling me the doctors had come out of the operating room saying they didn’t know if he was going to make it, so I rushed to the hospital,” Murphy said. “By the time I got there, he had passed.”

Murphy said in the operating waiting room he encountered Crowe’s mother, who was crying and at first unable to speak, but then said, “We lost him.” Murphy said the news was devastating, but he took on the responsibility of sending e-mails to Crowe’s friends and fellow Hill staffers to inform them.

Paulsen was one of the recipients of the e-mails and, in a state of shock, said he immediately left work upon hearing the news.

“I walked all the way over to Chris’ apartment to be with his roommate and family,” Paulsen said. “At first I couldn’t process it, but it was just very sad.”

Another e-mail recipient, Simpson said Crowe’s death came as a surprise because those who knew him thought he could just “smile through” his disease to become healthy.

“It didn’t seem real,” Simpson said. “I knew that Chris was sick, but it was never always clear that it would be this bad.”

Simpson observed that deaths at a young age are relatively uncommon in the younger generation of gay men — unlike what older gay men faced during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and early ’90s.

“We’re not used to death,” Simpson said. “He was the first of my peers to pass on. If you talk to gay men who are in their 40s and 50s, they had peers pass away all the time. That was one of those moments that I started to understand that this was just a hint of what gay men who were around in the ’80s were going through.”

Still, the memory of Crowe and his sparkling personality remain an inspiration for those who knew him.

Paulsen said he would always remember Crowe’s ability to find greater potential in others.

“He found some talents in me when we worked together and he made sure to always bring those up to the congresswoman or the chief of staff,” Paulsen said. “I think that’s what I’ll take from him — to try to make sure I see these things that might not be visible to everybody else and make sure that they’re aware of some of their talents.”

Murphy, who said he’s often a wallflower in social situations or nervous around guys he likes, expressed admiration for what he said was Crowe’s ability to embrace every situation head on and would try to emulate that approach to life.

“I think that’s something we and all of his friends really appreciated and his family, too,” Murphy said. “It’s something we’ll all probably try to live up to.”

For Simpson, Crowe’s memory inspires him to be proud of who he is and helps him stay grounded.

“Chris was aware of who he was and he fucking loved it, and played it up,” Simpson said. “Chris just knew that you have to be OK with who you are, but you have to be not just OK with it, but you have to own it and love it.”

A memorial service for Crowe is set to take place on Thursday at 12 pm in Room LJ-119 in the Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress. The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and the LGBT Congressional Staff Association are hosting the event. House chaplain Rev. Daniel Coughlin is set to officiate over the service.

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Real Estate

A guide to mortgage pre-approval for potential homeowners

Review your credit report to ensure there are no errors

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There are seven key steps to follow when seeking a mortgage.

For many potential homebuyers, the mortgage pre-approval process can be a daunting and confusing experience. However, obtaining a mortgage pre-approval is an essential step in the home buying process, as it demonstrates your financial readiness and helps you stand out as a serious buyer in a competitive market.

In this article, we will outline the exact steps for getting pre-approved for a new mortgage loan, so you can confidently embark on your home buying journey.

Step 1: Research potential lenders. There are various mortgage lenders to choose from, including banks, credit unions, and non-bank lenders. Take the time to research and compare interest rates, fees, and customer reviews to find a lender that best suits your needs. Referrals are always great, and the real estate professionals at GayRealEstate.com can refer you to LGBTQ mortgage lenders they trust and have a relationship with.

Step 2: Review your credit report and score. Before starting the preapproval process, it’s essential to review your credit report and score to ensure there are no errors or discrepancies. Your credit score plays a significant role in determining your eligibility for a mortgage and the interest rate you’ll receive. If necessary, take steps to improve your credit by paying down debts, disputing errors, and making timely payments.

Step 3: Gather necessary financial documents. Lenders will require a variety of financial documents to assess your creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan. Some of the essential documents you’ll need include:

Recent pay stubs

W-2 forms or 1099s from the past two years

Federal tax returns from the past two years

Bank statements from the past few months

Asset statements (e.g., retirement accounts, investments)

Proof of any additional income sources

Step 4: Determine your budget.  Before seeking pre-approval, it’s crucial to determine how much you can afford. Your GayRealEstate.com Realtor will help you to crunch the numbers. Together, you’ll consider your monthly expenses, debt-to-income ratio, and desired down payment to establish a budget for your new home. Be realistic and remember to factor in additional costs such as property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and maintenance expenses.

Step 5: Submit your mortgage pre-approval application. Once you have chosen a lender, complete their mortgage pre-approval application. This will typically involve providing your financial documents, Social Security number, and permission for the lender to perform a credit check. Be prepared to answer questions about your income, employment, and financial history.

Step 6: Await the lender’s decision. After submitting your application, the lender will review your financial information and credit history to determine your eligibility for a mortgage. This process is pretty quick and often happens the same day. If approved, the lender will issue a pre-approval letter, which outlines the maximum loan amount, loan type, and interest rate you qualify for.

Step 7: Keep your pre-approval up-to-date. A mortgage pre-approval is typically valid for 60-90 days. If you don’t find a home within that time frame, you may need to update your pre-approval with your lender. Be sure to maintain your financial stability during the home search process, as any significant changes in your credit, income, or debt could affect your pre-approval status. (Don’t make any new large purchases like furniture, cars, boats, etc.)

By following these steps and obtaining a mortgage pre-approval, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the competitive real estate market and confidently make an offer on your dream home.

(Jeff Hammerberg is a distinguished entrepreneur and broker, and the founder of GayRealEstate.com. For more than 25 years, he has been a prolific writer, coach, and author who has been instrumental in advancing the cause of fair, honest, and equitable representation for all members of the LGBTQ community in real estate matters. GayRealEstate.com, which he established, is the largest and longest-running gay real estate agent referral service in the nation, boasting more than 3,500 LGBTQ Realtors who operate in cities across the United States. His commitment to promoting inclusivity and accessibility in real estate has earned him a reputation as a passionate advocate for the LGBTQ community.)

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Rental housing discrimination and you

There are many ways landlords can disadvantage LGBTQ renters

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Housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression is illegal in the District of Columbia. This means that housing providers cannot refuse to rent to someone or treat them differently in their housing-related decisions because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. 

But what might housing discrimination against LGBTQ home seekers look like?

Discriminatory treatment can occur at a number of stages in the home rental or purchase process, including when scheduling rental (or sales) showings, during a tour of the property, or during the application or post-application process. 

But discrimination may also occur while you are living in a rental home. Today’s discrimination may not be as blatant as an outright rejection or a snide remark about a protected category. There have been incidents of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression discrimination cited in rental housing disputes and lawsuits.

Some of these include landlords refusing to rent or renew leases to LGBTQ tenants; harassment of LGBTQ tenants by landlords or from other tenants; imposing different rental terms and conditions; failing to provide necessary repairs or maintenance to a rental unit where LGBTQ individuals reside (while other non-LGBTQ tenants receive prompt service); as well as failing to take action against other parties who engage in discriminatory behavior toward the LGBTQ tenants.

But there is good news.

Housing industry leaders are actively working to eliminate these instances of discrimination in housing. Both at the national level through the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and at the local level through the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) association leaders are working with real estate professionals such as licensed sales agents, brokers, and property managers to improve understanding and sensitivity. Their overall promotion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) includes a substantial component surrounding sexual orientation and gender expression.

Christine Barnhart, Vice President of Strategic Communications at GCAAR told us, “We are doing our part to identify opportunities for diversity and inclusion conversation and education, and to promote the practice of inclusion and equity among our leadership, members, staff and within the industry.” GCAAR seeks to drive a larger conversation around DEI In addition to their “DEI Champions” program, providing a summary of their larger DEI initiatives can be found on their website.  

That education of the key industry players is being delivered through a variety of initiatives and updates to codes and policies. Barnhart points out that the programmatic elements of the training being done keep their members up to date, GCCAR’s ‘DEI Champions’ program features three key diversity training elements:

  1. “Completion of the six-hour ‘At Home With Diversity’ (AHWD) certification course
  2. “The National Association of Realtors (NAR) ‘Fairhaven fair housing simulation,’ and
  3. NAR’s Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing video.”

I took this certification course and found it very helpful. My original inspiration to become a GCAAR DEI Champion was to augment my service to the community. Now having been through the course, I’m better enabled to “put myself into others’ shoes.” I gained a stronger awareness of how each of us possesses inherent biases. And the program made me more authentically aware of the impact of my comments, my decisions, and my actions on others.

Similarly, the District of Columbia provides ethical codes and regulations for housing providers here in the city to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. For example, D.C.’s Office of Human Rights (OHR) has implemented guidelines and training programs for landlords and property owners to ensure they are aware of their obligations under anti-discrimination laws.

These regulations, industry guidelines, ethic codes, and best practices all help to make the D.C. rental housing market more inclusive and welcoming than other jurisdictions for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression,. However, if you feel that you have been a victim of discrimination, there are many agencies to turn to.

  1. Equal Rights Center – a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations in Greater Washington, D.C. and nationwide.
  2. D.C. Office of Human Rights – The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the D.C. Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against.
  3. Whitman-Walker Health – A non-profit organization that provides legal services, including assistance with housing discrimination cases, to the LGBTQ community in D.C.
  4. National Center for Transgender Equality – A national advocacy organization that works to advance the rights of transgender people, including those experiencing discrimination in housing.
  5. The DC Trans Coalition – A community-based organization that works to advance the rights and well-being of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the District of Columbia.
  6. Pride Center of the Capitol Region– A community center that offers a variety of resources and support for the LGBTQ+ community in D.C., including assistance with housing discrimination cases.

As a gay-owned business and long-term member of the Equality Chamber of Commerce, it is important to me that all who interact with me and my companies feel welcomed and taken care of, particularly the LGBTQ community.  Building on the foundation of the DEI courses, our firm will work to educate our staff and reinforce a culture of understanding and acceptance.  How about yours?

Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, go to ColumbiaPM.com.

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Autos

All charged up: Ford Mustang Mach-E, Mercedes EQB

Move over, Tesla!

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Ford Mustang Mach-E

Move over, Tesla! Elon Musk may have delivered a record number of electric vehicles last year, but rivals are certainly nipping at his heels. Robust demand for the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, for example, has helped make Ford the second-best EV producer in the U.S. And global EV sales for Mercedes more than doubled in 2022, thanks in part to the automaker’s all-electric crossover: the EQB. Motorheads like me are all charged about such electrifying rides, and for good reason.

FORD MUSTANG MACH-E
$46,000
Battery range: 270-312 miles
0 to 60 mph: 5.1 seconds

OK, fine, Ford sold fewer than 62,000 EVs in the U.S. last year compared with over 522,000 cars sold by Tesla. Yet while Tesla sales were up 40%, Ford EV sales skyrocketed a whopping 126%. Yes, Tesla sold an impressive 1.3 million-plus vehicles worldwide in 2022, but Ford expects to sell 2 million EVs by 2026. The Mustang Mach-E—first introduced as a 2021 model—shows you one way Ford expects to get there. 

For 2023, Ford knew better than to mess with the winning design of the Mach-E, which is at once futuristic and timeless. My fave styling cue is the clever use of flush-mounted buttons on the outside door frames instead of clunky conventional door handles. 

Inside, with the battery placed under the floor, there’s oodles of room for passengers and cargo—including 60 cubic feet of stowage with the rear seats folded. Beneath the center console, there’s enough space for a handbag or small computer case. 

The wide dashboard has a built-in soundbar, as well as large vertical touchscreen for the infotainment system. An active-safety system—with forward-collision alert, emergency braking, evasive steering and such—is now standard across the lineup.

This year the battery range can reach up to 312 miles, which outpaces much of the competition—including the Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen ID.4 and Volvo C40 Recharge. Another plus: Mach-E sticker prices have been reduced between $400 and $5,700, depending on trim level. Pricing also has been slashed for the extended-range battery, from $8,600 to $7,000. 

Sure, there’s still a big difference between the $46,000 base model and $65,000 high-test GT. But trust me, the thrill of that GT is hard to resist. Stomp on the accelerator, enjoy the excitement as your body is thrust back against the driver’s seat, and be prepared to achieve warp speed. Rocketing from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds took my breath away—literally. Many auto aficionados were skeptical when Ford first gave this EV the seemingly bait-and-switch moniker of a “Mustang,” but the GT version of the Mach-E comes closest to feeling like a true pony car. 

One side note: With so much emphasis on EVs today, it’s easy to forget how much of a gamble it was for Ford to create the Mach-E. After all, this was not the automaker’s first electric-car rodeo. Henry Ford built a prototype for a low-cost battery-powered vehicle in 1913, then opted for the internal combustion engine. Other experimental EVs came and went, including the quirky 1966 Ford Comuta minicar and an all-electric 1998 Ford Ranger pickup, which lasted only four years.

Lucky for Ford, it looks like the Mustang Mach-E is a keeper. 

(For more on the Ford Mustang Mach-E, read “One Lean, Mean Green Machine.”)


MERCEDES EQB
$54,000
Battery range: 205-243 miles
0 to 60 mph: 5.6 seconds

Mercedes EQB

My, how time changes things. As recently as 2020, Mercedes said that its diesel-powered cars were here to stay. But within a year, Mercedes announced it would go all-electric by 2030. 

Enter the Mercedes EQS. This flagship sedan debuted last spring in the U.S. and was followed by the seven-passenger EQS SUV. Both EVs are exquisite, oozing luxury and overflowing with techno gadgetry. But—ouch!—pricing for these beauties starts at $105,000 and tops out at close to $170,000. 

Fortunately, for those of us on a plebian budget, there’s the new Mercedes EQB. At half the price of its larger EQS siblings, the all-electric EQB is built on the same platform as the gas-powered GLB compact crossover. And except for minor styling tweaks and a bit quicker acceleration, the EQB looks and handles like the GLB. That’s a good thing for anyone needing some reassurance when making the leap to their first EV. 

Despite the low price on a base-model EQB, standard features include power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, automated parking, ambient interior lighting and other niceties. There’s also the MBUX infotainment system, which comes with 10.25-inch touchscreen, voice-recognition technology, smartphone integration and a navigation system.

While the EQB does seat seven, third-row legroom is extremely tight. Best to leave those seats folded flat, unless carting around kids—and only for short distances. 

Comparing the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Mercedes EQB is easy: Both have similar pricing and amenities. The Mach-E is certainly faster and has more of a space-age ambiance, but the traditional driving experience of the EQB is comforting on long drives. And, well, the EQB also has that coveted three-point star found only on a Mercedes. 

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