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Gay candidate loses Rehoboth mayor’s race

‘Lack of experience’ cited by longtime incumbent

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Gay businessman Tom McGlone lost his bid to become mayor of the resort city of Rehoboth Beach, Del., on Saturday, finishing behind seven-term incumbent Mayor Sam Cooper by a vote of 665 to 483.

Gay restaurant owner Mark Hunker won his bid for a seat on the Rehoboth City Commission, the town’s legislative body. His election leaves two open gays on the six-member commission. Commissioner Pat Colluzzi, a lesbian, was not up for re-election this year.

McGlone’s status as an openly gay candidate did not emerge as an issue in a town that has long been a popular vacation destination for LGBT people in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Washington and Baltimore.

But he did emerge as an advocate for the town’s tourist oriented businesses, including bars and restaurants, which have complained that the Cooper-led town government was harming them through overly restrictive regulations.

Among McGlone’s supporters were the owners of the popular gay restaurant and bar Aqua Grill. One of its two owners was arrested last year for allegedly keeping the establishment’s outdoor patio open beyond a required 11 p.m. closing time.

Police later dropped the charge after discovering that Aqua Grill was exempt from the closing time restriction. Aqua Grill’s owners and customers, however, became outraged earlier this year when a town code enforcement officer informed the place that it was in violation of another ordinance for flying a flag over the sidewalk in front of the restaurant two inches lower that the code requirement.

Rehoboth gay activist Peter Schott said he’s concerned that Cooper’s re-election will be viewed as a signal for continuing a regulatory enforcement program that some view as targeting gay establishments.

Cooper has strongly disputed claims that the enforcement action was targeting any particular group or type of business. He said the enforcement effort targeted everyone found to be in violation of the town’s rules and laws pertaining to excessive noise or other ‘quality of life’ issues such as trash disposal.

In a phone interview with the Blade last month, Cooper said he welcomes the town’s diverse array of residents and visitors, including LGBT people. He said he was proud to have helped to build and maintain a town infrastructure that has resulted in a beautiful beach and boardwalk that attracts everyone to Rehoboth Beach.

Observers familiar with Rehoboth said Cooper appears to have succeeded in portraying McGlone as someone who lacked sufficient experience to become mayor because he never served in an elective post in the town or on a town board or committee.

McGlone argued that his experience as the owner of a successful financial planning business, a masters in business administration degree, and his commitment to improving the town’s relations with small businesses, among other skills, made him qualified for the job.

His supporters say he was well qualified to be mayor but note that the majority of the town’s voters consist of longtime residents and homeowners who tend to support Cooper and agree with Cooper’s position on regulating bars and other nightlife businesses. Although McGlone had the support of some longtime residents, observers say his base of support came largely from the growing but minority faction of voters who own homes in the town but don’t live there full-time. This group is eligible to vote under the Rehoboth election law, even though most live in D.C., Baltimore and other areas outside Delaware. They don’t turn out to vote as often as the permanent, full-time residents, according to observers familiar with the town.

“Well obviously I’m disappointed,” McGlone said after the election results were announced. “But I think that as a result of my running we lifted the bar. And I hope the current government has their ears open in terms of the issues that came up during the course of the campaign because I think those are still valid issues even though I didn’t get elected.”

Schott, who supported McGlone even though he lives just outside the Rehoboth town limits, said he and other McGlone backers were hopeful that a larger than usual turnout of voters, including new residents who tend to support entertainment businesses, would carry McGlone to victory.

But the results indicate that didn’t happen. The turnout of 1,148 people who voted for mayor in the Saturday, Aug. 13, election was slightly less than the 1,209 ballots cast for mayor in the August 2008 election. In that election, Cooper defeated challenger Paul Kuhns by a margin of 675 to 534 votes.

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Virginia

Va. students warn against ‘don’t say gay’ policies

New law requires parental notification of ‘sexually explicit content’ in classroom

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(Bigstock photo)

More than 600 students from across Virginia signed a letter from the Pride Liberation Project that calls for the Virginia Department of Education to clarify that teaching students about LGBTQ people and events is not “sexually explicit.”

Senate Bill 656, which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed earlier this year, requires parents be notified when instructional materials contain “sexually explicit content” — without any input from students.

Current Virginia law defines “sexual conduct” as “masturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact in an act of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification.”

Because SB 656 does not itself specify what constitutes “sexually explicit content,” LGBTQ students and activists are concerned that the bill will rest on Virginia’s pre-existing definition of sexual conduct.

In their full letter, signees argued that “In effect, SB 656 can potentially be interpreted to define all references to people in same-sex relationships as inherently sexual.”

“Consequently, all references to LGBTQIA+ people in K-12 schools, including Supreme Court cases, historical events impacting LGBTQIA+ people, and discussions about queer authors, may be deemed as sexually explicit content under SB 656, effectively erasing LGBTQIA+ representation in our school curriculum,” reads the Pride Liberation Project’s press release.

Representation has been shown to positively increase academic performance, and LGBTQ youth already face exacerbated risks of suicide and mental health crisis. In Virginia specifically, the vast majority of LGBTQ students reported hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks at school, and 26 percent of LGBTQ students reported being “disciplined for public displays of affection (PDA) that did not result in similar action for non-LGBTQ students.” 

 “Most of my LGBTQIA+ friends are already struggling with their mental health,” said one Loudoun County student in the Pride Liberation Project press release. “I’m scared about the message these guidelines could send and losing the already limited affirming representation in my class.” 

Another student from Richmond said that they “didn’t want to see their friends who are from homes that aren’t accepting not see themselves reflected at school.” 

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District of Columbia

SMYAL announces new executive director

Erin Whelan to start Sept. 1

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Erin Whelan (Photo courtesy of SMYAL)

SMYAL on Thursday announced Erin Whelan will become the organization’s new executive director on Sept. 1.

SMYAL’s mission is to support and empower LGBTQ youth ages 6-24.

A press release that announces Whelan’s appointment notes the organization over the last five years has grown “exponentially.” Its services include affirming programs, housing support, leadership training and mental health services, designed to help LGBTQ youth develop advocacy skills and an educated, welcoming community.   

Whelan most recently served as the director of housing and homeless services at LifeWorks, an Austin, Texas,-based nonprofit that provides youth with housing and services. She has worked in nonprofit management for almost 20 years, and SMYAL’s press release highlighted her commitment to antiracism, equity and the LGBTQ community. 

“Erin Whelan is a compassionate and strong leader who I am confident is the right person to lead SMYAL,” board chair Rob Cogorno said. “I could not be more proud of the tremendous growth in services for our LGBTQ youth and of the SMYAL staff’s hard work that made that growth possible. Erin’s extensive experience in service to youth in need and her passion for that work will help guide SMYAL in continuing its excellent work in this challenging time for LGBTQ youth in our region and across the country.” 

Whelan in the press release shared her enthusiasm for stepping into leadership with this driving purpose. 

“I am beyond excited and honored to join SMYAL as the new executive director. My work has been committed to understanding and seeing the world through the lens of the most marginalized youth and young adults and being a fierce advocate for LGBTQ youth,” Whelan said. “I believe all LGBTQ youth deserve an opportunity to build a life they love and a chance to feel celebrated and affirmed for exactly who they are and strive to be. From the moment I stepped into the SMYAL community, it felt like exactly where I wanted to be. SMYAL creates a community for queer and trans youth where they can feel radically accepted and safe to step into their true selves.” 

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National

Judge: West Virginia Medicaid must cover transgender care

Fain v. Crouch is litigation challenging blanket exclusions of coverage for gender-confirming care in West Virginia’s state health plans

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A U.S. District Court judge ruled Tuesday that West Virginia’s Medicaid program could no longer discriminate by excluding coverage for gender-confirming surgical care for transgender West Virginia Medicaid participants. 

U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Chambers also certified the lawsuit as a class action, covering all transgender West Virginians who participate in Medicaid.  In the lawsuit brought in November of 2020 by Lambda Legal, Nichols Kaster, and The Employment Law Center, the plantiffs challenged the state’s ban on gender-confirming care in West Virginia’s Medicaid and state employee health plans.

“We applaud Judge Chamber’s decision to remove the discriminatory barrier to accessing medically necessary, gender-confirming surgical care for all transgender West Virginia Medicaid participants. Protecting and advancing health care for transgender people is vital, sound, and just. Transgender West Virginia Medicaid participants deserve to have equal access to the same coverage for medically necessary healthcare that cisgender Medicaid participants receive as a matter of course,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. 

Fain v. Crouch is a class action litigation challenging blanket exclusions of coverage for gender-confirming care in West Virginia’s state health plans. The blanket exclusions of coverage for care are stated expressly in the health plans offered to Medicaid participants and to state employees. West Virginia’s state health plans serve approximately 564,000 Medicaid participants and15,000 state employees.

“I am excited to finally have access to the healthcare I deserve. The exclusion negatively affects my health and wellbeing as well as the health and wellbeing of other transgender Medicaid participants in our community. Gender-confirming care is healthcare, and it is lifesaving,” said plaintiff Shauntae Anderson, West Virginia Medicaid participant.  

“This is a victory not only for me but for other transgender Medicaid participants across West Virginia. This decision is validating, confirming that after years of fighting to prove that gender-confirming care is medically necessary, we should have access to the same services that West Virginia Medicaid already provides to cisgender participants. Transgender West Virginians should never feel as if our lives are worth less than others,” said plaintiff Christopher Fain, West Virginia Medicaid participant. 

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