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HRC store vandalized; radical queer group claims responsibility

The Dupont Circle Human Rights Campaign store was vandalized last night by a group claiming to be paying homage to the Stonewall Riots.



WASHINGTON — The Dupont Circle Human Rights Campaign store was vandalized last night by a group claiming to be paying homage to the Stonewall Riots.

HRC vandalized

Damage to the HRC store in Dupont Circle was minimal. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The group, which called themselves “The Right Honorable Wicked Stepmothers’ Traveling, Drinking and Debating Society and Men’s Auxiliary,” claims to have “poured pink paint into light bulbs, grabbed hammers,” before vandalizing the store, which according to HRC offers “a unique fusing of education and grassroots advocacy with HRC’s signature merchandise.”

All damage appears to be mostly cosmetic, with paint splatters visible on the windows of the store, and the word “Stonewall” spray-painted on the sidewalk immediately in front of the store.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, Director of Communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said in response to the vandalism, “HRC’s DC Action Center and Store was vandalized last night with paint on the front windows and an LGBT group has claimed responsibility for the crime. It’s unfortunate that after a marriage win in New York that represented an unprecedented coming together of LGBT groups, some are more interested in fostering division in the community.”

The full text of the offending group’s press release is bellow:


HRC vandalized

The word Stonewall painted on the sidewalk in front of the HRC store. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

(In the wee hours of June 29, 2011)

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) gift shop in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC is a god awful monstrosity. We were in there yesterday and between wiping our genitals on the clothing and discovering that the snow globes wouldn’t properly fit up our bums, we got to thinking:

“This place would look great with a bit of shattered glass and splattered paint.”

So we strapped on our riot chaps, poured pink paint into light bulbs, grabbed hammers, and went party party party! all over that tacky testament to the transformation of radical queer liberation into consumer junk.

We’ve got good reason. This week marks the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

On the night of June 28, 1969, New York City’s Public Morals Squad did a routine raid of an East Village gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. Everything was going fine until, in the midst of the standard genital check that police forced on draq queens, a lesbian beaned a cop straight in the head with a ripped-up parking meter. And so queer liberation was born.

The modern LGBT movement owes its success to three days of smashing, burning, punching, and kicking–all of it happily indiscriminate–and the confrontational tactics of groups like ACT-UP that followed in the decades since. Yet, somehow we’ve forgotten our riotous roots.

Gay Pride, for example, wasn’t always a suburban county fair with less fanny packs and lined with banks and politicians. The first Pride was the 1970 Christopher Street Liberation Day march, a celebration of the riots the year before (and to this day, Pride festivals the world over are celebrated in June).

But we’ve been snorting ritalin and drinking whiskey all night and this manifesto tomfoolery is wearing us down so let’s bring it home, shall we?

Why, you’re asking, did we specifically target the HRC, a massive national gay rights non-profit as opposed to vomiting urine on Rick Santorum or something equally fun?

Put simply, they suck. What do they suck? Cash. Lots of it.

The HRC rakes in something approaching 50 million dollars a year in revenue–their executive director, Joe Salmonellamayonaisemanese pulls in a salary of several hundred grand. What have we gotten out of this bloated carcass? Not a thing worth mentioning and every now and then, they eagerly sell trans people up the river. Seriously, this is an organization that hordes money and does nothing useful. It’s a sad, sick dinosaur.

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC violence against the LGBT community is on the rise; DC’s only LGBT center is forced to go hat in hand to real estate developers and beg for space, only to face eviction a few years down the road; We lack a homeless shelter for queer youth and services for our community are the victims of budget cuts. Can you think of something better to do with a few million dollars?

(Did you know that 50 million dollars can buy about 300 thousand pounds of glitter?)

Everyone: We know you mean well, but stop giving these idiots your money. Stop putting that equal sticker on your car. Stop going to their lame galas. And for the love of Judy Garland’s Ghost and Robert Mapplethorpe’s Zombie Bones, stop saying “It Gets Better” and hoping for a miracle from up on high. We don’t expect you to riot (although we swear you’ll love it once you get going!) but it’s time for us to quit with the passivity, move to action, build community and care for each other instead of hoping the Gay Non-Profit Industrial Complex will ever get anything done.



The group posted a copy of their press release here.

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  1. Patrick

    June 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    If HRC wasn’t so arrogant about claiming responsibility for NYS marriage equality (sorry y’all, you weren’t the “secret weapon”) and so quick to throw us transpeople under the bus on GENDA, they might not have LGBT groups pissed at them.

    • scotty501

      June 30, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      Ive heard this before. Does HRC publish the amount of money they receive each year and their accomplishments, salaries etc?

  2. Carlton Van Nostrand

    June 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    The Stonewall is in the West Village, geniuses.

    • Doctor Whom

      June 30, 2011 at 8:25 am

      Welcome to the wonderful world of political correctness. What matters is not mere facts, but how we feel about them.

  3. Dru Ochs

    June 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Fucken A!

  4. Victoria

    June 29, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I can’t say that I agree with the tactics, but I do support the underlying message. I wish HRC would get back to its grassroots already.

    • Andy

      July 1, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      HRC’s grassroots are only as good as the volunteers who get involved. If you want HRC to get back to its grassroots, then get involved with the organization and make it happen!

  5. Forrest

    June 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    As an average gay male I do not feel organizations like HRC and GLAAD represent me because in actuality they simply do not. I view them as more of DC social clubs where only those with money have any true influence. Personally, I’d much rather donate money or time to a local HIV/AIDS charity or GLBT youth homless shelter. At least there I know the money is actually doing some good for my community.

    • Andy

      July 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      HRC has local steering committees that are entirely run by volunteers, many who aren’t wealthy and are only trying to make a difference. You don’t need to have money to influence HRC!

  6. Chris

    June 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Wow. Points off for misspelling “hoards” though.

  7. Sean

    June 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Remember the recorded phone conversation in which Scott Walker said to “fake Koch” that he had considered planting troublemakers to help him break up the pro-union movement? Or documents obtained by FOIA that show FBI infiltration used against the animal rights movement?
    Part of me is concerned this group is of the same ilk—an outsider to LGBT issues appears to be working to make us look stupid and infight. Also, does spray-painting a public street shared by many businesses that cater to the gay community really seem like something a good neighbor and supportive person would do? I vote dubious.

    • Huh

      June 30, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      I agree. There are so many historical errors in the press release that it makes me wonder if this action wasn’t actually done by fringe people from HRC to make the radical queer movement look ridiculous. What bunch of rad queer activists wouldn’t know where the Stonewall rebellion took place?? Also, the pink paint “vandalism” looks more like a carefully placed decorative touch then an act of angry rebellion.

      • Huh

        June 30, 2011 at 4:45 pm

        However, that said… I do think the HRC does nothing but take pink dollars from well meaning folks to line their pockets! i don’t support the HRC and never have. If I have money to give I give it directly to small (truly) non-profit queer organizations that are actually helping people in a real way on a daily basis.

  8. laurelboy2

    June 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Hysterical. How appropriate – anarchy in the District of Anarchy. If the bulk of gays only knew and appreciated how well we have it here in the USA compared to most of the rest of the world…

    • Lyoness

      June 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Ignorant thinking.. we are leaders for the rest of the world.. wake up sheeple!!

    • TRST

      June 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      People in the 3rd World are dying of parasitic infestations. Suck it up and be happy you have prostate cancer.

      • laurelboy2

        July 1, 2011 at 7:32 pm

        Temper your expectations. You might get somewhere.

    • AFC

      July 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      This is really a protest against capital / monetization. Its only relation to gays is that, in THIS building a faux participation in LGBT struggle is being sold as a consumer good — whereas in the adjoining buildings, some other line of bullshit is disguising the pure profit motive.

      It is also true that ALL graffitti is a protest against the monetization of control over our shared visual landscape. Why should ¢apital decide whether Stonewall is commemorated at this address?

  9. Michi Eyre

    June 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    First the scandals and fallout at GLAAD and now this. The GLBTTI is finally striking back at these groups and in my opinion, it is long overdue. GLAAD is nothing more than a wine and dine social club and a rehabilitation center for wayward homophobic celebrities and HRC is just as bad in its way. They claim to support transgender/transsexual/intersex rights but they continue to throw us to the side to let GLB go through. When you look at the numbers, it is simple.. these boards are heavy with non-trans people (GLAAD only has one person). Why? Because the trans community is the most oppressed of the GLBTTI, they are not able to command the 7-figure net-worths necessary to buy their way on to the board of directors for these organizations. It’s time we move back to the grassroots and think about who is representing us. Gay is big business.

  10. Bex

    June 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    HRC offers “a unique fusing of education and grassroots advocacy with HRC’s signature merchandise.”

    Are you fricking kidding me?!?! Education and grassroots advocacy can NEVER com from capitalism! HRC has got to be the most willfully ignorant morons on earth.

    Hey, Michael Cole-Schwartz, you’re right that the marriage win in NY was part of “an unprecedented coming together of LGBT groups”. Now how about you show the T that the LBG can come together and pass GENDA? The REAL “division in the community” comes from groups like yours which consistently throw the T under the bus.

  11. johnnie

    June 29, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    More please.

  12. Megan

    June 30, 2011 at 1:11 am

    What is going on? We are finally making some progress and this happens?! This is just going to give us a bad name. We aren’t going to get any further if things like this keep happening we need to work together not apart. We need to love and support and not fight each other! This rediculous! Stay focussed on what is important everybody! <3

    • Sarah

      June 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

      Well that’s the point, isn’t it? We’ve been incredibly focused on some serious issues for decades while the major non-profits like HRC advocate one or two issues that disproportionally benefit rich, white, gay men. They’re trying to bring the focus back to the most vulnerable members of the community.

      By the way, literally every single action taken by any LGBT organization, from pride parades to condemnations of cowardly politicians, has been criticized as “giving us a bad name.” That concern in and of itself is not a valid argument not to do it.

      • Andy

        July 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm

        I didn’t realize that fighting for marriage equality, campaigning against anti-gay political candidates, and repealing DADT (three of HRC’s biggest priorities in recent years) “disproportionally benefit rich, white, gay men.” If you want HRC to focus on other issues, then you need to get involved with the organization (anybody can; it’s quite easy) and make it happen!

    • Saffo

      July 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      Stay focused on “what’s important?” Maybe part of what’s important is actual trans liberation. Maybe part of “what’s important” is not letting organizations like HRC suck up millions of dolloars while homeless queer youth are starving to death on the streets.

  13. Acetracy

    June 30, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Hoorah!! Finally the gay community is waking up to the hypocrites that run DC LGBT organizations like HRC, GLAAD, and NGLCC – all of which are shills for their corporate sponsors.

    Case in point: NGLCC’s big dinner on Wall Street every year where the NYSE, Wall Street firms and NGLCC cheer each other on their progress. The reality is quite different. There is not a single gay or lesbian senior executive, senior economist, or senior market strategists in any of the major Wall Street firms that is gay/lesbian. The glass ceiling is operating just like it did 30 years ago.

    If HRC or NGLCC really want to know if a corporation is progressive, simply ask the company’s HR department for the % of senior executives who put ‘single’ down on the 1099 form. Why? Because even if you list a partner with your firm, you still have to put ‘single’ for tax purposes. And there is an unwritten rule on Wall Street and most major corporations that you are not promoted to senior executive ranks if you are single. It is a clever way to weed out the gays.

    As with most of DC’s organizations, their main function is to self-perpetuate. They have long ago lost their mission.

  14. libhomo

    June 30, 2011 at 7:44 am

    This action reflects how out of touch most large Gay Inc groups are from the vast majority of queers. It’s all about wealthy donors, and the rest of us are shut out.

  15. Doctor Whom

    June 30, 2011 at 8:28 am

    I’m not a huge fan of HRC, but what do you suppose this stunt is going to accomplish? Is this our decade’s equivalent of Stonewall or of dropping the Eucharist on the floor of the cathedral?

  16. ColinATL

    June 30, 2011 at 9:24 am

    While I understand the underlying message of their actions, the tactics of this group will ultimately backfire. By attacking HRC in a violent way, they make HRC the empathetic victim. Why don’t you do some investigative journalism on the problems at HRC or the gallons of corporate money they launder? Instead, you throw pink paint on their storefront and throw a tantrum. Children.

    • Yeah That Flaming Guy Over There

      June 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      Because no amount of investigative journalism has proven remotely useful. Every few years there are stories on the salaries of HRC’s “leadership”, HRC says “It’s comparable to other nonprofits in DC with our budget,” and everyone goes on their merry way. It’s incredibly difficult to prove incompetence through journalism, and no one pays attention even when they do.

  17. ColinATL

    June 30, 2011 at 9:25 am

    empathetic = sympathetic :)

  18. Steve

    June 30, 2011 at 9:34 am

    defacing property is not the correct way to get a point across. It undermines what you are truly standing for, anyone who is supporting this act should be ashamed of themselves.

  19. Kyle

    June 30, 2011 at 10:21 am

    HRC is a largely ineffective organization, and it’s tactics and policies are deeply flawed. But this paint-throwing incident was pathetic, childish and ineffectual. It was an unfunny prank, which at best will be forgotten soon, and at worst garner the HRC some sympathy support.

  20. Chris

    June 30, 2011 at 10:28 am

    These dumbasses seem to miss the fact that Stonewall involved members of the LGBT community uniting in taking a stand against their oppressors, rather than creating division and attacking one of their own. It also is a strange time to be attacking HRC. HRC had 30 paid field staff in New York over the past month and the overwhelming majority of letters that went to NY legislators were provided to constitents by HRC. Marriage equality is a tremendous advance and it came about due to grassroots organizing, and HRC undeniabbly had a tremendous hand in that. It is sad that some in the LGBT community get upset that they are priced out of attending an HRC gala and miss the party, but they should realize that they too benefit from the money raised at these events.

    • AFC

      July 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      And what did HRC’s left hand do while its right hand was “in the movement”? Come on, don’t be a naive fool: HRC is selling your ideals to you in the form of merchandise. They are directing movement energy for their own ends, not to mention (pseudo-)movement money into their pockets. Don’t be a sucker!

  21. John

    June 30, 2011 at 11:24 am

    ho hum, boorrring. Next time focus your anger on NOM or Santorum or Bachmann. Or just stay home and talk ‘radicalization’ when you get drunk or high.

  22. The Legendary Dave

    June 30, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    the proletarii speak, and history is repeated. The Right Honorable Wicked Stepmothers’ Traveling, Drinking and Debating Society and Men’s Auxiliary hearken back to stonewall, but IMO this shit goes back through the millenia.

    it’s unfortunate that HRC suffered damage and gential wiping, but really, would ths attention be given to TRHWSTDDSMA (phew!) if they hadn’t been so extreme? people have been complaining about the bourgeois aspect of the HRC for a while now. it WOULD be nice if things seemed more, ironically, = for all. i dont know if there’s more inequality amongst the actual L-G-B-T-Q acronym, or if there’s more between the economics of who-has-what-and-how-it’s-spent. certainly as a bisexual man, i feel under-represented in it all. but i also share TRHWSTDDSMA’s frustration about how HRC allocates its dollars.

    i have to say, i’m quite impressed that TRHWSTDDSMA figured that 50 million dollars can buy about 300 thousand pounds of glitter! (maybe glitter is the answer after all?)

    “care for each other.”
    care for each other. care for each other. care for each other.

  23. The Legendary Dave

    June 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    by the way… about a month ago i was walking past stonewall with a client of mine. a 55-year-old-good-looking-previously-married man, he’s in the process of coming out. we were tooling around the village, and as we approached the stonewall inn i told him about it. he was he unaware of its history. then he told me he had never stepped foot in a gay bar. suddenly i thought, what a great moment on his coming out journey! we went in, had a drink, met some guys, and chatted up Tree (the bartender who was there in ’69). not a bad first gay bar experience, eh?

  24. Hi-C

    June 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    This. Is. Awesome.

  25. Yeah That Flaming Guy Over There

    June 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    It won’t make us look great, but honestly a) Who outside the gay community pays any attention to community in-fighting anyway? and b) I’m sorry, but they have a point. HRC likes to take gay community money in spades and doesn’t actually get results for any of it. They run from fights in Maryland, and when a state group manages by some miracle to get the work done they swoop in and take credit for the whole thing to bolster donations. They kiss the butts of politicians and beg and cheer for scraps of rights…and yet they’re considered our leaders. It’s about time someone pointed out all the ways they’re not helping the community OR its people.

  26. Frankie James

    June 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Instead of destroying a half ass organization trying to do good how about your freaks start your own…

  27. DJ Stuart

    June 30, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I was wondering, those of you who are complaining about HRC, GLAAD, etc, exactly what do you do to advance equality?

  28. Dale

    June 30, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    and why are these supposed gay people vandalizing a gay establishment–were they dropped on heads when they were younger

    • Kat

      July 1, 2011 at 10:03 am

      Uh…no. They’ve had shit dropped on them (their heads and the rest of their bodies) by corporatist parasites like HRC.

  29. scotty501

    July 1, 2011 at 9:26 am

    $50 million is ALOT of money. What are the specific accomplishments of the HRC in recent years?

    • Andy

      July 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      You can find out what HRC is doing with that money here:

      • AFC

        July 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm

        It says:

        > Founded in 1980, the Human Rights Campaign advocates on behalf of LGBT Americans, mobilizes
        > grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to
        > office and educates the public about LGBT issues.

        That’s all fine, but isn’t what they really do to capitalize on volunteer labor and LGBT good will and use it to pay for huge salaries and expensive retail rental? Remember, this is an attack on a retailer in the name of homeless shelters: in other words, it is against the allocation of property according to the profit-seeking motive, and for the allocation of property according to the needs of LGBT’s truly oppressed.

        And HRC is all about the opposite: they represent the profit-seeking motive directing allocation. HRC’s website is a giant advertisement for itself: that is how they choose to allocate YOUR ATTENTION. Don’t kid yourself: HRC is a money-gobbling beast that in the long run must be slain. Let the retail stores and professional ad campaigns starve; feed instead those who seek asylum from their sexually oppressive families. (America is especially harsh: adolescents are not allowed to work full-time, nor borrow for college on their own credit, nor draw any form of social security; everything costs money; and family bonds rarely extend beyond the nucleus.) Buy something real (for someone else) instead of a hyped up symbolic substitute for charity. If you’re getting a product with your donation, something is amiss: some professional huckster is selling you a product on his charitable good nature.

        Let’s be clear though, all those LGBT volunteers for HRC aren’t a part of HRC, and aren’t going to disappear if/when HRC salaries do. Hopefully they will better allocate their efforts when they have got more direct control over them. When they are not organized by some corporate profit-seeking machine, their organization will be superior in effectiveness.

  30. Andy

    July 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    It’s certainly very easy to be cynical about HRC, especially when your only contact with them is an endless flood of emails and letters asking for money. I certainly had given up on HRC for a while. But then last year my husband started volunteering for them, and it really opened my eyes to the huge amount of very good work that HRC does. I’ve worked at the HRC booth at Pride festivals; people come up with very real concerns, and HRC employees talk to them at length about the steps HRC is taking to address those concerns. It may not be the civil disobedience of old, but they are working within the system to make real change. They have also done a huge deal to build support among straight allies. When wives with homophobic husbands bring their children to HRC events, that’s real progress. Before people dismiss HRC I’d like them to do more research, maybe even get involved. Have you ever contacted your local steering committee? Have you attended any local HRC events so you can experience firsthand the work they do? If you think that HRC is not standing up for the trans community, then get involved and use your voice to make it happen! A day later, I’m still very saddened by this story. I’m not by any means against civil disobedience under appropriate circumstances, but in this case it just seems to me to be uninformed and unproductive.

  31. Saffo

    July 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Oh, and here’s my thoughts on “Marriage Equality”:

    FUCK MARRIAGE! And fuck these fuckers who waste millions of dollars on “marriage equality” while people are dying in the streets. Assholes.

  32. QueenRobin

    July 3, 2011 at 2:33 am

    Right on! Besides the factual issues within the Press Release about the Stonewall Riots, I think these people were spot on with their indictment of HRC. I would join them if I were younger, honestly.

  33. Chris

    July 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Like any other radical movement, the “Gay Rights” movement will self destruct with instances such as this. I am out, proud and gay, but I do not let it define who I am. Anyone who allows their sexuality to steer their course will crash and burn. Just look at the recent plight of Anthony Weiner, or Chris Lee. I will continue to temper my emotions, approaching all situations with a garbage in/garbage out mindset. So far, it hasn’t done wrong by me. Too many of my gay friends allow themselves to be self catagorized as GAY men and women, and not men and women who are GAY. There is a huge difference. As one who does not wear my heart on my sleeve, I don’t feel it proper to wear my penis there as well.

  34. LEFTY

    September 30, 2011 at 11:01 pm


  35. LEFTY

    September 30, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    People pushed inton a dire situation like animals ,will DIE ON THEIR FEET !!!

  36. simon

    March 12, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    are you kidding? stonewall created TONS of division. should it not have happened because it upset reformist types from groups like the mattachine society (or you) ?

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McAuliffe: School boards should make ‘own decisions’ on trans students policy

Former Va. governor debated Republican challenger on Thursday



Terry McAuliffe, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Thursday hotly debated Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin at the Appalachian School of Law in southwestern Virginia on a variety of issues that include vaccine mandates, economic development, abortion access and policing. The former Virginia governor’s support for a law that protects transgender students, however, seemed less clear.

When the moderator asked if local school boards should be allowed to reject Virginia Department of Education “model policies” developed as part of a state law passed last year to protect trans and non-binary students from discrimination, McAuliffe said school boards “should be making their own decisions.”

This soft support for the law that Gov. Ralph Northam signed is in contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement this week for his work as governor that includes signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees and vetoing anti-LGBTQ bills.  

HRC called out Youngkin, a former business executive and vocal Trump supporter, for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his campaign. (HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group, the private equity company that Youngkin previously ran, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.)

Younkin has supported Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County elementary school teacher who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education policy known as Policy 8040. The Virginia Supreme Court last month supported Cross’ reinstatement on First Amendment grounds.

“As governor, I will stand up for teachers like Tanner Cross,” the Republican candidate tweeted.

Youngkin also told Fox News the school board was trying to “cancel” Cross “simply for expressing his views that are in the best interests of the children and expressing his faith.”

But state Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the Washington Blade in an earlier interview that the 2020 law passed with bipartisan support and most school boards are acting in accordance with the nondiscrimination law.

“Loudoun is catching headlines, but look at all of the other school districts who have adopted this without controversy,” said Roem, who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S. “They are acting in compliance with Department of Education best practices for how to humanely treat transgender kids in schools.”

McAuliffe, after stating that decisions regarding implementing trans student protections should be left to local school boards, said he hated seeing all of the “divisiveness” and “children being demonized.” He then pivoted to his talking points about increasing both teacher pay and broadband access for students.

Early in-person voting in Virginia is underway and lasts until Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 2.

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Black gay man hopes to ‘shatter lavender ceiling’ in Annapolis

Keanuú Smith-Brown is running to unseat Ward 3 incumbent



Keanuú Smith-Brown (Photo by David Hartcorn)

Keanuú Smith-Brown, who is affectionately called KSB by his friends, is running to unseat incumbent Annapolis Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles (D-Ward 3) and become the first out LGBTQ elected official in the city.

“Keanuú is on-track to shatter a lavender ceiling in Annapolis, becoming the first out LGBTQ person ever elected in the city,” Victory Fund Vice President of Communications Elliot Imse told the Washington Blade.

Smith-Brown, a 26-year-old substitute teacher, announced in February that he was challenging Pindell Charles, who has represented his ward since 2013. They will face off in a Democratic primary on Sept. 21, then the winner advances to the general election on Nov. 2.

The Annapolis native is the eldest of six siblings, raised by a single mother and a first-generation college graduate who describes himself as a proud Black gay man. His opponent, also a Democrat, stated on an Annapolis Pride survey that she supports the LGBTQ community, just “not overtly.”

“But his candidacy is about more than just making history,” Imse said. “When in office, Keanuú will ensure the interests of the LGBTQ community are considered in every policy discussion and every piece of legislation that comes before the council.”

Smith-Brown told the Blade he is running to represent “those who have been left out,” emphasizing that “there is an urgent need for change in our ward.”

The Annapolis native first came out as gay while still a senior in high school, the same year Pindell Charles was first elected as his Ward 3 representative.

“I grew up surrounded by drug addiction and witnessed domestic violence both in my family and in my community,” he told the Blade, sharing he was raised by a single mom while his father was incarcerated during most of his life.

He still lives in the home in which he grew up, and within five minutes of his partner’s house “if you’re driving fast.”

After graduating from the University of Baltimore in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in government and public policy, Smith-Brown began working with legislators and advocating for LGBTQ bills in Maryland.

As president of the District 30 Democratic Club, Smith-Brown advocated for House Bill 1147 and its companion Senate Bill 401, which were both similar to neighboring D.C.’s requirement for single-occupancy bathrooms to be marked gender-neutral.

Both bills died in committee during the General Assembly’s pandemic-shortened session in 2020, but Smith-Brown’s advocacy continued.

He marched during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and he continued to be a public advocate for LGBTQ rights and visibility as a member of Annapolis Pride.

“I have led and joined LGBTQ+ marches, rallies and events, even hosting a campaign ‘Love with Pride and Unity’ Drag Brunch,” Smith-Brown wrote in response to Annapolis Pride’s first LGBTQ-issues survey. “I helped organize for Maryland’s Health Care Decisions Act which would extend the rights of partners when making medical or funeral decisions.”

Pindell Charles, by contrast, in her survey response stated she did not consider her advocacy for the LGBTQ community to be “overt.”

“My support for the LGBTQ+ community, and even other communities, usually revolves around me working with persons individually, which I prefer,” she wrote. “One-on-one, rather than as a group, or public displays.”

FreeState Justice, Maryland’s statewide LGBTQ rights organization supports public advocacy.

“It’s extremely important for LGBTQ community members to participate in civic engagement — especially as elected officials,” Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster told the Blade in an email.

FreeState Justice has encouraged LGBTQ Marylanders to speak out at public hearings in support of legislation such as the state’s “panic defense” ban, waiving the publication of name change petitions and the establishment of a state commission on LGBTQ affairs. All of these measures passed during the 2021 legislative session.

“There is such immense power for our community that can be built at the grassroots level. From leading neighborhood associations to sitting on city councils, or representing the community in the General Assembly,” said Smith-Brown. “As the world changes, so do the ways in which issues disproportionately or uniquely impact the LGBTQ community, especially for our youth, elders, trans and Black siblings.”

Pindell Charles, who did not respond to the Blade’s requests for comment prior to publication, is a retired Baltimore City prosecutor and chairs the Annapolis City Council’s Public Safety Standing Committee.

During her time in public service, her advocacy included a variety of “groups and communities considered to be ‘underrepresented,’” according to her Annapolis Pride survey response.

Smith-Brown said Ward 3 deserves better.

“She is saying this is in a position of power, that she’s not willing to get out of her comfort zone,” he told the Blade. “You may not be okay with seeing two men or two women together, but when you don’t allow yourself in your position to be inclusive of all people you are now failing in your position.”

“If someone said that about the Black community, it would not be taken in the same way,” he added. “Admit that you don’t need to be here in this way. We can all do our best to do better.”

The Capital Gazette in February reported Pindell Charles intends to run for a third term and welcomes Smith-Brown’s challenge.

“We need to win this,” Smith-Brown said, encouraging LGBTQ and all voters to get out and vote. “My being at that seat at the table means that we are all in that seat. What is it they say? If I eat, we eat. That is the impact on our future, and I’m in it to win it.”

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LGBTQ Democrats briefed on D.C. ranked choice voting bill

Council may already have enough votes to pass it



Stein Club, gay news, Washington Blade
Jatarius Frazier of the Capital Stonewall Democrats was among officials briefed on the ranked choice voting bill. (Photo courtesy D.C. Government)

Members of D.C.’s Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, received a briefing Monday night from the chief of staff for D.C. Council member Christina Henderson (I-At Large) on a bill she introduced in July calling for a “ranked choice” voting system for D.C. elections.

The bill, called the Voter Ownership, Integrity, Choice, and Equity (VOICE) Amendment Act of 2021, calls for D.C. to join about 50 other jurisdictions across the country, including New York City and San Francisco, in giving voters the option of ranking up to five candidates for a particular office in the order of their preference.

Under the ranked choice voting system, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the “first choice” votes, the candidate is declared the winner. But if no candidate receives greater than 50 percent of the first-choice votes in a race where there are three or more candidates, the system provides an instant runoff.

“The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate will have their votes count for their next choice,” according to a statement released by Henderson at the time she introduced the legislation. “This process continues in rounds until there’s a majority winner,” the statement says.

T.J. Maloney, Henderson’s chief of staff, told Capital Stonewall Democrats members during a virtual Zoom meeting that studies of the ranked choice voting system in jurisdictions where it has been adopted show that overall voter turnout has increased and, following a voter education process, voters appear to adjust and support the system.

Six other D.C. Council members joined Henderson in co-introducing the VOICE ranked choice voting bill, indicating it may already have a seven-vote majority in its favor on the 13-member Council. However, Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) does not support the current version of the bill, according to spokesperson Lindsay Walton.

Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee where the bill was sent and one of the bill’s co-introducers, has scheduled a public hearing on the bill for on Nov. 18. The hearing, which will be virtual, will be broadcast live on the Council’s website.

Last week, the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which is the governing body of the D.C. Democratic Party and of which the Capital Stonewall Democrats is an affiliated member, voted to oppose the VOICE Act legislation. Some of its members said they believe a ranked choice voting system would be beneficial to the city’s smaller political party candidates, including Republicans and Statehood Green Party candidates, and would place Democratic Party candidates at a disadvantage.

Gay Democratic activist John Fanning, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat in the 2020 D.C. Democratic primary, said he favors a simple runoff election system over a ranked choice voting system in cases where multiple candidates run, and none receive at least 50 percent of the vote.

Among the ranked choice bill’s supporters is gay Democratic activist Austin Naughton, who serves as chair of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee. Naughton told the Washington Blade he is not an expert on the ranked choice voting system but his initial research into the system leads him to believe the system has the potential for providing a greater electoral voice for minority communities, including possibly the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ candidates who run for public office.

Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier said the group was in the process of learning more about the ranked file voting system. No one raised the issue of the group taking a position on the legislation at Monday night’s meeting.

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