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GLAA celebrates 40 years

Activists move from the street to the suite after 4 decades of work

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Frank Kameny remembers seeing Paul Kuntzler, his campaign manager on a 1971 bid for Congress, walk into Temple Sinai on Military Road in Washington with large reams of paper rolled under each arm and an elated look on his face.

Kameny, who founded the gay liberation movement in D.C. after being fired from the federal government in 1957, needed 5,000 signatures to get on the ballot. With the late February deadline looming, the group only had about 1,300. Realizing outside help was needed, Kameny and Kuntzler thought a gay group in New York whom they found to be one of the few “getting much of anything done,” as Kameny puts it, might be able to help. The group — Gay Activists Alliance of New York — sent two busloads of people to blanket the District one Sunday afternoon to secure signatures.

A vintage 'Kameny for Congress' poster from 1971. This campaign inspired the launch of GLAA. (Image courtesy of Rainbow History Project)

A dance was held that night at the Temple and when Kuntzler arrived, the group knew it was home free. They had about 7,700 signatures — plenty to get Kameny on the ballot. The “Kameny for Congress” campaign ended with the candidate coming in fourth in a six-way race. Though he lost, the 1,900 votes he secured while running as a then-unheard-of openly gay candidate, galvanized local activists.

Kameny’s own Mattachine Society was fading as members began to find its formality anachronistic in the Vietnam era. And the D.C. Gay Liberation Front was too radical for some others. The Kameny campaign activists were so impressed with the GAA New York group, they used about $400 left in their coffers after the election to visit the Big Apple and find out how the group operated.

By about the third week in April, a D.C. chapter was formed in the apartment of Jim McClard, the local group’s first president. While the New York group folded about a decade later, Washington’s Gay Activist Alliance is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month (in 1986 then-president Lorri Jean — now head of Los Angeles’ mammoth LGBT Community Center — insisted on changing the name to Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, or GLAA as it is commonly known). It’s the oldest continuously active gay organization in the country.

The group celebrates Wednesday at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Thomas Circle. Kameny, now 85, will give his founder’s Champagne toast, as has become GLAA tradition. And the group will bestow its annual Distinguished Service Awards to six local activists. Minimum donations are $50. Visit glaa.org for more information.

Kameny says the group — which lists pages of political gains on its website — has thrived under strong leadership.

“Some of it has been sheer good luck,” he said. “Throughout the ’70s, ’80s and beyond, the group had a string of presidents who were absolutely superb. I said that frequently back then and I still say it. One after another, there were just a lot of great people. There may have been one or two duds, but they really had good people, good officers who kept the organization going. They kept it effective and were very dedicated.”

The group’s first effort was also its only formal collaboration with Mattachine and the local Gay Liberation Front — a protest of the 1971 American Psychiatric Association’s convention held that year in Washington. Though GLAA disavowed the use of force and worked to “act within the existing order,” that first effort involved storming the conference and seizing the microphone in an effort to convince APA brass that gays were not mentally ill.

“We couldn’t possibly be trusted with government secrets and security clearances if we were mentally disturbed,” Kameny said.

He chuckles at the tactics now and says the groups soon went in their own direction — GLAA with Robert’s Rules of Order for its meetings, a gay-specific focus and a strong commitment to non-partisanship.

“I used to attend the GLF meetings,” Kameny said. “They seemed to just drone on endlessly and you had the impression there was a small group meeting in the attic who really ran things. And they tried to tie in all the issues of the day. My feeling has always been if you try to do everything you end up doing nothing very well.”

Former president Craig Howell, who joined in 1973 and has been active ever since, admits the heavily political nature of the group’s work limits its appeal, but said its track record over 40 years speaks for itself.

The late Jeff Coudriet, a former GLAA president, speaks at the group's 2007 awards. (Blade file photo by Henry Linser)

“There’s always been a small number doing most of the work,” Howell said. “Many times we’d just be sitting there in the living room on [former president] Bob Carpenter’s couch. If we had four or five at a meeting, that was considered good. It’s always been very wonky, so that makes for limited people, but the devil is in the details and you have to go through that trivia to get what you want. But it’s worth paying the price.”

The group counts among its victories:

• Council’s 1973 passage of Title 34, which made Washington the first major U.S. city to outlaw discrimination against gays in housing, employment and public accommodations.

• Kameny’s 1975 appointment to the city’s Human Rights Commission, a first

• A 1978 gay rights rally, the largest of its kind to that time, to protest anti-gay singer Anita Bryant

• A 1979 public service campaign that required a court fight to allow “Someone you know is gay” posters to be placed at Metro stations

• Former president Mel Boozer’s 1980 speech at the Democratic National Convention

• Repeal of D.C.’s sodomy law in 1981

• A 1982 commitment from D.C. police for fair treatment of gays

• A 1986 Council bill that prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage to HIV-positive residents

• 1990 hate crimes legislation

• A 1992 domestic partnership bill

• A 1999 settlement in the Tyra Hunter case, a trans resident who was shunned and ridiculed by EMS workers following a car accident. She died in 1995.

• Part of a broad coalition that opposed an exception from the D.C. Department of Corrections from requirements in the D.C. Human Rights Act in 2008

• Marriage for same-sex couples in 2009

Current president Mitch Wood says the group is “really a labor of love” and that its non-partisan nature “allows us to build bridges across the political spectrum.”

It’s all volunteer and operates on a small budget of about $10,000 per year, most of which goes to maintain its website and blog and stage its annual awards reception. Money comes from nominal member dues — $25 per year — and ticket sales and donations. The group meets twice monthly for about 90 minutes, mostly at the Charles Sumner School but sometimes at the Wilson building. Meetings are usually followed by dinner and drinks, often at Dupont Italian Kitchen. New members are always welcome.

Among GLAA’s signature work is its candidate ratings. Members always point out the ratings should not be seen as endorsements, but they rank those running for local office based on questionnaire responses and members’ knowledge of the candidates’ records on gay issues, to rank them on a scale that runs from -10 to +10.

GLAA today (Blade file photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

“Usually in every election cycle somebody working with one of the candidates or another gets unhappy that so-and-so didn’t get a high enough rating,” Rick Rosendall, the group’s vice president for political affairs and a former president, says. “So they’ll make some snarky comments, but because we back up so thoroughly how we arrive at our ratings, we can show the point breakdowns and their responses to the questions, so they know what went into the ratings. It’s a very open process, not some beauty contest score with us up in some ivory tower.”

Over the years, the group’s ratings gained heft. Though he notoriously voted against the marriage bill, Council member Marion Barry initially scored a -10 during his run for mayor in the early ’80s. The low score led him to work with the local gay community and for years he was seen as a supportive public official.

Rosendall said the group’s decades of groundwork pays off even in unlikely places. He cites the two Council members — Barry and Yvette Alexander — who voted against marriage, and also Council member Harry Thomas Jr., who opposed the infamous club relocation bill for gay bars in 2007.

“They’ve all at various times emphasized their pro-gay credentials,” Rosendall said. “Even though Barry did speak at one of Bishop [Harry] Jackson’s rallies in Freedom Plaza, it was a far cry from the hateful rhetoric you hear from state legislators. … And GLAA can take some of the credit for that, but the community has played a key role in this as well. … It’s not just a handful of policy wonks, it’s our community who has been active in this city since before home rule.”

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham, who’s received many perfect scores from the group, said he respects GLAA even when he occasionally disagrees with members.

Frank Kameny giving his traditional GLAA toast at the group's 2007 awards. (Blade file photo by Henry Linser)

“They put an enormous amount of sincere effort into it,” Graham said. “I mean they really do. It’s not anything they do in a casual way. And most recently I’ve been getting pretty much 10s, so you’re always happy with a perfect score.”

Rosendall says one big change over the years has been what he calls “street versus suite” activism. The group has moved away from demonstrations largely because it’s usually given a seat at the discussion table.

“As you get more power and influence, there’s less need to be standing outside,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for groups like GetEqual. Different groups are good at different things. I like to say we’re working different parts of the vineyard.”

The group has, at times, faced criticism. Within the last four years or so, some activists, including Michael Crawford, said the group wasn’t moving fast enough on the marriage issue.

Rosendall said GLAA prides itself on avoiding excessive intramural fighting among other local activist groups.

“We really try not to let things deteriorate too much into personality and battles we don’t need,” he said. “We’ve tried to keep our collective eyes on the prize and the marriage victory demonstrated that. There’s no way we would have been doing all this policy work and building coalitions if we weren’t wanting it to happen. We just wanted to make sure it stuck.”

Graham said the group deserves praise for its tenacity, especially considering the era in which it launched.

“It’s difficult to imagine how very important and pioneering they were back in 1971,” Graham said. “In this day and age when we’ve made such progress, it’s important that we pause and acknowledge those who were there 40 years ago at a time when things were so very different. … The young men and women in our community really need to stop and realize this. We’re here because of these folks.”

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Real Estate

Totally radical home buying

We should celebrate advancement of homeownership rights

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The phrase “totally radical” came of age in the 1980s and was defined as cool, wonderful, or awesome. Its synonym, wicked, can be found in nearly all Ben Affleck movies and a cry of “Excellent!” will bring back memories of an adventure had by Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) in 1989.

Although some people are not ready for cocooning yet, homeownership is still a cornerstone of financial strength and wealth building. For LGBTQ individuals, owning a home can provide a sense of economic security and a sanctuary where they can express their personalities freely and without fear of discrimination or harassment. 

Whether house, condominium, or cooperative apartment, owning a place to chill allows you to build a legacy and provide for future generations. It offers the stability needed to plan for the future, whether that involves raising a family, supporting aging parents, or ensuring a spouse’s or partner’s financial security.

Homeowners are also more likely to invest in their communities, fostering strong, inclusive, bitchin’ neighborhoods. For many LGBTQ people, a home is “In the District,” which prides itself on diversity. Homeownership allows individuals to create personal spaces that reflect their identities and values, contribute to the city’s rich cultural tapestry, support local businesses, and participate in community events and governance.

The journey toward homeownership for gay individuals has evolved over the years, reflecting broader societal changes and the struggle for LGBTQ rights. The stark contrast between the ’80s and now highlights the progress made, the challenges that still exist, and future uncertainties brought forth by the space cadets in our political system. 

In the 1980s, homeownership for gay people was bogus. The decade was marked by lame, pervasive discrimination and limited legal protections. The HIV/AIDS epidemic further stigmatized the gay community, intensifying societal prejudices. This climate of fear and hostility permeated various aspects of life, including the housing market.

Gay individuals faced overt discrimination from landlords, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders, even in the rental market. It was not uncommon for same-sex couples to be denied housing simply because of their sexual orientation. Even in the late ’90s I had clients looking for homes in Prince William County, Va., who had to hightail it out of an open house when told to take a hike. I kid you not!

Financial institutions were often unwilling to grant mortgages to same-sex couples or openly gay individuals. When they did, the terms were often less favorable than those offered to heterosexual couples. This made the dream of homeownership significantly harder to achieve, even though DINKs (dual income, no kids) tended to have more household income than so-called “traditional” families.

Additionally, the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships posed harsh challenges. Without the ability to marry, same-sex couples faced difficulties in co-owning property and ensuring that their partner had legal rights to the home. Estate planning was complicated, as inheritance laws did not recognize same-sex partners, potentially leading to the loss of a home upon a partner’s death.

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, was a fantabulous moment. This ruling provided same-sex couples with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including the ability to jointly own property and inherit without complication.

Anti-discrimination laws have also evolved. The definition of sex under the Federal Fair Housing Act has been expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as have protected classes in Maryland and Virginia. The District has taken that a step further; our protected classes also include gender expression and personal appearance. 

Organizations like the DC Center for the LGBT Community and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) offer resources and advocacy for LGBTQ+ homebuyers. These organizations provide educational workshops, networking opportunities, and support to navigate the housing market.

The advancement of homeownership rights for gay people is a testament to the righteous resilience and determination of the LGBTQ+ community. As society continues to strive for equality, it is essential to address the remaining challenges to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can achieve the goal of homeownership.

In 2024, the only limitations on owning a home are finding one and being able to afford it. Pride weekend is a great time to go to open houses. You’ll probably be walking right by several. 

But if you’re not ready yet and just feel like getting your ’80s jams on, grab your disco balls and check out the Totally Tubular Festival at The Anthem at The Wharf on July 14.I’ll be Desperately Seeking Susan and will, as they used to say in the ’70s, catch you on the flip flop.

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Real Estate

Decorating tips for Pride in D.C.

Perfect time to add a dash of creativity to your living space

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Hang your Pride flag and other LGBTQ-themed décor this Pride month. (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

As the vibrant LGBTQ community in Washington, D.C., gears up for the much-anticipated Pride celebrations on June 8 and June 9, it’s the perfect time to add a splash of color and a dash of creativity to your living space. Normally, I know you’re used to reading more educational and serious articles in this space. In the spirit of D.C. Pride this year, I thought a bit of levity would be welcomed.

Whether you’re in a cozy condo, a spacious home, or a rental apartment, here are some fabulous ways to zhuzh up your indoors and outdoors with Pride-themed décor. 

Indoors: Celebrate with Style

1. Colorful Accents Everywhere

Transform your living area into a festive space by incorporating the colors of the rainbow. Here’s how:

• Throw Pillows and Blankets: Swap out your regular throw pillows and blankets for those in bright, rainbow colors. This simple change can make your space instantly feel more festive.

• Pride Flags: Hang LGBTQ Pride flags on your walls or in your windows. The traditional rainbow flag is a staple, but also consider including other flags like the bisexual, transgender, or pansexual flags to celebrate the diversity of our community.

• Art and Posters: Display Pride-themed art or inspirational quotes from LGBTQ+ icons. Local artists often have prints and posters that reflect the spirit of Pride.

2. Light It Up. Lighting can set the mood for any celebration:

• Fairy Lights: Drape rainbow-colored fairy lights around your living room or bedroom for a magical touch.

• LED Candles: Use multi-colored LED candles to safely add a warm glow to your space.

3. Tabletop Décor. Celebrate at every meal with:

• Tablecloths and Runners: A vibrant rainbow tablecloth or runner can turn every dining experience into a celebration.

• Centerpieces: Create centerpieces with flowers in hues of the rainbow, or use colorful glass bottles as vases.

4. DIY Pride Crafts. Get creative with DIY decorations:

• Rainbow Paper Chains: Make paper chains in rainbow colors and hang them across your rooms.

• Pride Mason Jars: Paint mason jars in rainbow stripes and use them to hold utensils or flowers.

Outdoors: A Festive Façade

1. Balcony or Patio Pride. If you have outdoor space, make it a part of the celebration:

• Rainbow Banners and Streamers: Decorate your balcony or patio railings with rainbow banners and streamers.

• Outdoor Flags: Fly a large Pride flag from your balcony or in your garden.

2. Welcoming Door Décor. Your front door can be a bold statement of support:

• Pride Wreath: Create or buy a wreath featuring rainbow colors or themed around different LGBTQ+ flags.

• Welcome Mats: Greet visitors with Pride-themed welcome mats.

3. Garden and Window Dressings. Let your garden or exterior windows echo your Pride:

• Window Decals: Use removable rainbow decals to decorate windows facing the street.

• Garden Flags: Place small rainbow or other LGBTQ+ flags throughout your garden or in plant pots on your porch.

4. Lighting the Night. Make your outdoor space shine:

• Solar Rainbow Lights: Use solar-powered lights in Pride colors to illuminate pathways or garden borders.

• Projection Lights: Project rainbow patterns or Pride flags onto your home’s exterior.

Community Engagement

1. Share the Spirit. Decorate your shared spaces if you’re in an apartment building:

• Bulletin Boards: Put up colorful notices or flyers announcing local Pride events.

• Community Areas: If possible, decorate communal areas with small flags or posters.

2. Local Pride. Support local LGBTQ businesses by buying decorations or craft supplies from them. This not only helps the community but also promotes local artists and crafters.

Safety and Considerations

• Check with your landlord or HOA: Before hanging decorations outside or in shared areas, make sure to check if there are any restrictions.

• Be Mindful of Neighbors: While celebrating Pride, ensure your decorations are respectful and mindful of your neighbors.

By decorating your home for Pride in Washington, D.C., you’re not just brightening up your living space; you’re showing your support and solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Let your Pride shine brightly, and make this year’s celebrations unforgettable!

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

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Real Estate

Looking for vacation homes during Memorial Day weekend

A busy, strategic time in the housing market

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As summer arrives, more tourists begin thinking of buying in resort towns like Rehoboth Beach, Del. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor the sacrifices of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, also marks the unofficial start of summer. Beyond its significance as a day of remembrance, it has become a prime period for the real estate market. The long weekend provides a unique opportunity for home buyers and sellers, making it one of the busiest and most strategic times in the housing market.

Memorial Day weekend is often a time when people head to the beach, the country, or the mountains for relaxation and to join in the local festivities. This long weekend offers a break from routine, a chance to honor those who have served, and an opportunity to enjoy the beginning of warmer weather. 

For real estate agents, however, Memorial Day weekend can be a blend of work and leisure, especially in resort communities where the real estate market is particularly active during this time. 

The influx of visitors to these destinations often includes prospective buyers who are considering purchasing vacation homes or investment properties. As a result, real estate agents in these areas might find themselves balancing work commitments with personal downtime.

We are keenly aware that the long weekend brings a surge in potential clients. Agents joke among themselves about business being slow until they make plans to go out of town. Open houses and community home tours are often scheduled to coincide with the holiday, taking advantage of the increased foot traffic.

Due to constantly improving technology, real estate agents can effectively manage their time and resources even during busy holiday weekends. Virtual tours, online listings, and digital marketing campaigns enable agents to reach a broad audience without always being physically present. Technology also allows agents to stay connected with clients and respond to inquiries promptly, ensuring that the clients do not miss out on potential sales opportunities. 

Often, agents licensed in the DMV are expanding their territories by becoming licensed in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Writing offers while on vacation has become the norm. Social media accounts can highlight special listings and open house events, and agents can also post pictures and descriptions of amenities in the towns they are visiting, attracting interested buyers who are in the area for the weekend.

The vibrant atmosphere of vacation getaway towns during Memorial Day weekend also provides a unique opportunity for networking and relationship-building. Agents can meet potential clients in a casual setting, forging connections that might lead to new business opportunities. They can also form relationships with other agents and create partnerships to help current and future clients find leisure homes.

The appeal of owning a place by the water, for example, is often strongest during the summer months, when the weather is inviting and the potential for rental income is high. Real estate agents who serve beach towns such as Ocean City, Md., Virginia Beach, Va., or Rehoboth Beach, Del., often mix business with pleasure as they seek out new clients.

Alternatively, if the relaxed life in the country is more to your liking, places such as The Amish area of Lancaster County, Pa. may be for you. Charles Town, W.Va., and Ashland, Va. have a robust military history and may be what you’re looking to enjoy. If mountains and lakes are more your style, the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, the Appalachians of West Virginia, or Deep Creek Lake, Md., may fit the bill, so let’s look at a few properties on the market today.

In Ocean City, you can find an oceanfront, one-bedroom condominium with beach and sunset views in a short-term rental building for $439,900. As you can imagine, it already has four weeks booked for the summer.

The historic district of Charles Town, W.Va., offers a 3,000-square-foot Victorian home built in 1890. It has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, 10’ high ceilings, original pocket doors, inlaid floors, and central air conditioning for $159,900. What’s the catch? It requires a complete renovation, but what a wonderful project it could be for weekend warriors.

Stretch your budget a bit more and you can own a 4,000-square-foot chalet with mountain views on both sides in Front Royal, Va. For less than $700,000, you will get four bedrooms and three baths, nearly two acres of land, and low-maintenance siding.

While many people flock to nearby vacation spots purely for relaxation, real estate agents often find themselves working diligently to learn about different areas and capitalize on the increased interest in local properties. By doing so, they can help clients find their dream homes, whether for retirement, short getaways, or investment potential.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed associate broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate / @properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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