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Equality Maryland rejects $500,000 donation

Board says conditions unacceptable

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Equality Maryland’s board of directors turned down an offer by an anonymous donor to give the financially struggling group $500,000 in exchange for the board giving up its voting privilege and becoming an advisory body, with a new board to be selected by the donor.

Darrell Carrington, an Equality Maryland board member who knows the identity of the donor and acted as the donor’s representative, said he resigned from the board on Monday following the board’s decision to turn down the offer.

He said he recused himself from voting on the offer, among other things, because the donor wanted him to be part of a new board selected by the donor to help save the organization, which faces the prospect of having to lay off all of but one of its employees by July 1.

“It’s a gay man out of Montgomery County. I can’t identity him any more than that,” said Carrington, when asked to reveal something about the mystery donor.

“The reason why he made the offer is because he’s been following Equality Maryland for years,” Carrington said. “And of course he wants to see the organization survive.”

Added Carrington, “In any corporate type of structure, or even a non-profit, if someone’s coming in with money to lift the organization they need to be able to call the shots. And that was something that was not going to work for them,” he said of the board.

Patrick Wojahn, one of five remaining Equality Maryland board members, said Carrington also withheld the donor’s identity from the board. According to Wojahn, Carrington disclosed the name of another individual working with the donor who was to join the donor and Carrington to become a new three-member board that would take control of the group under the terms of the offer.

“There were a number of strings tied to the deal, which basically made us uncomfortable with it,” Wojahn said. “And we decided that if we are going to turn over the organization to some people who really didn’t have any ties to the LGBT community that we needed to have more of a conversation with the community first.”

Carrington, who is straight, works as a political consultant and lobbyist before the Maryland Legislature on issues other than LGBT rights. However, activists familiar with Equality Maryland say he worked hard for a same-sex marriage bill that died in the legislature earlier this year.

Since meeting with LGBT activists and Equality Maryland members over the past few weeks, the board has been told repeatedly that “people want more accountability and more transparency” from the group, Wojahn said.

“To basically turn over the organization to these folks who really didn’t have any ties to the community without further dialogue within the community about what that would mean, we thought that would not be fair to the membership of the organization,” he said.

Carrington said he and others who have worked with the organization doubt it will be able to survive much longer. “It’s essentially out of money,” he said.

“We don’t believe the organization is going to fold,” said Wojahn. “We’re looking forward. We’ve already been doing fundraising. We’re working on a plan to expand the board, to rebuild the organization, and we feel that we can work with the community to rebuild.”

Yet he said that unless contributions begin to flow to a substantial degree, the board will be forced to follow through with its earlier stated plan to lay off all but one employee by the end of this month due to an inability to meet the payroll.

Asked if the board would reconsider the offer by the anonymous donor after discussing the proposal with the group’s membership, Wojahn said, “I don’t know. They wanted an answer fairly quickly about whether or not we would take their offer. So I don’t know if it would still be available.”

Carrington told the Blade on Tuesday that the donor would consider making the offer available if the board should change its mind, but he said the terms would remain the same.

“The offer is we’ll put the money up but the current board has to be ex-officio,” he said. “They cannot have any voting rights or responsibilities.”

Added Carrington, “I’m a little disappointed, with the amount of work I have done over the years for marriage equality, for them not to understand that I would not put together a team that would try to destroy what we’ve built. I think the financial commitment should speak volumes to the level of commitment that everyone has to saving Equality Maryland,” he said.

“I have to question them when they say they are the custodians of the organization for the state of Maryland,” added Carrington. “My question is who are you the custodians of if you have to close your doors by the end of July? I just don’t know if they’re seeing the big picture here.”

In addition to Wojahn, the other board members remaining with Equality Maryland include Lisa Polyak, Rosemary Nicolosi, David Lublin and Mark Yost.

The group’s board chair, Charles Butler, resigned after stating in a Blade interview that the former executive director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, was responsible for much of the group’s financial problems. Meneses-Sheets disputed his allegation, saying Butler and the board were responsible for the money problems. Butler said this week that he resigned from the board for personal reasons unrelated to the organization.

He said he and his husband were beginning the process of adopting a child and because of that, along with the demands of his job, he no longer had the time to devote to serving on the board.

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 64

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Capital Pride, No Justice, No Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 64.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as “an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.”

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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