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Gay Republican accuses Dem of gay-baiting in Va.

‘Why would you want to vote for someone who’s a homosexual?’

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A gay Republican running for state Senate in Virginia is accusing his Democratic incumbent opponent of engaging in gay-baiting tactics, an assertion supported by an audio recording obtained by the Washington Blade of inflammatory remarks made by a Democratic volunteer.

On the recording, the intoxicated Democratic volunteer can be heard saying, “Why would you want to vote for someone who’s a homosexual and is going to push his agenda in your schools?”

Patrick Forrest, the gay Republican running for state Senate in Reston, Va., said he’s heard that Democratic volunteers for State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) have been reaching out to conservative voters in her district to inform them of his sexual orientation in an effort to dissuade them from supporting him.

ALSO IN THE BLADE: NEGATIVE MESSAGING STIR EMOTIONS WITH SUPPORTERS OF GAY CANDIDATES

Forrest said he heard this information from Republicans in Virginia’s 32nd district while knocking on doors and campaigning.

“I’ve been approached by several people … very, very conservative — and had basically said to me, ‘You know, we heard you’re a homosexual,'” Forrest said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gay. I’ve always been openly gay.’ Well, we were actually told by … volunteers from the Democrats that you would be promoting the homosexual agenda in our schools.'”

Howell, a 19-year incumbent with a strong pro-gay record, said the claim that her campaign has been highlighting Forrest’s sexual orientation is “absolutely not true.”

“We’re not mentioning his orientation at all,” Howell told the Blade. “It’s simply not an issue. The only one who seems to be making it an issue is Mr. Forrest himself.”

Forrest’s assertion is supported by a recording of a conversation between Eric Newland, Forrest’s field director, and Kavita Imarti, a Democratic precinct captain in Reston. Newland said the recording took place on Oct. 5 outside of Imarti’s home during a party.

On the recording, Newland asks Imarti about rumors that the Howell campaign is approaching Republican voters and highlighting Forrest’s sexual orientation in order to dissuade them from supporting him. Imarti says that her side is employing this tactic. She attempts to justify the tactic throughout the recording by alleging that Republican voters are racist and homophobic and would want to know Forrest is gay.

Newland asks whether Imarti thinks the campaign should be telling people about Forrest’s sexual orientation. She replies, “Yes, because you guys are racist bastards.” Later, when asked what exactly the campaign is saying, Imarti says, “He’s gay! You guys say you’re anti-gay, but you have a gay candidate. What you gonna do now?”

Asked on the recording to clarify whether this tactic is coming from the Howell campaign, Imarti says, “Yes! You guys are openly prejudiced against someone due to orientation. I think that’s wrong. That’s wrong.”

Later, Imarti says, “What my campaign is saying is here’s your Republican candidate. He’s a homosexual. Why would you want to vote for someone who’s a homosexual and is going to push his agenda in your schools?”

Imarti isn’t a member of the Howell campaign. At one point in the conversation, she says, “I’m not working with Janet.” In the recording, she says she makes phone calls and participates in canvassing efforts. But in the recording another voice says, “You guys work together, which means you’re working for Janet.”

In a statement to the Blade, Newland said he recorded the conversation with Imarti because he heard she had been discussing this campaign strategy openly and he wanted to hear it for himself.

“Frankly, we had heard from several of our volunteers that ‘gay-baiting’ was being utilized against Patrick,” Newland said. “When hearing one of their own grassroots political organizers talking openly about this strategy to tell people that Patrick was gay, as a way to help re-elect Sen. Howell, I was deeply offended.”

Nick Kowalski, Howell’s campaign manager, said Imarti is a Democratic volunteer for a county-coordinated campaign and doesn’t speak for Howell or her campaign.

“We did not recruit her,” Kowalski said. “We have not solicited her efforts to volunteer for Janet Howell directly, and she has no direct association with this campaign. Clearly, in this recording, she’s highly intoxicated and speaking about something she knows nothing about.”

Kowalski said the campaign has sent a message to the coordinated campaign of Fairfax County that Imarti has “no further association — volunteer or otherwise — with our campaign.”

Additionally, Kowalski acknowledged he had two five-minute talks with Imarti prior to the recording. But he maintained that he did not discuss campaign specifics with her in those conversations.

Kowalski denied the assertion that the Howell campaign is telling potential Republican voters about Forrest’s sexual orientation.

“We 100 percent categorically deny we are sending any messages to Republican voters on Patrick’s sexuality or otherwise,” Kowalski said. “We are not reaching out to Republican voters at all in the campaign. This campaign is about getting a message out about the issues that concern voters, and Patrick’s sexuality is not an issue for us, and it’s not an issue for voters in the district.

Speaking with the Blade, Imarti disavowed any involvement with the Howell campaign and denied any knowledge about the campaign engaging Republican voters. She said the recording was made without her knowledge and has been “a real inconvenience” for her and her family.

“I was obviously intoxicated in the recording,” Imarti said. “I was not speaking clearly. I was speaking out of anger. I said some things I did not mean, and, in fact, were not true.”

Imarti said she can’t speak for the Howell campaign and she hasn’t “heard anything” about the Howell campaign reaching out to Republican voters and informing them that Forrest is gay.

“I do not have any knowledge of anything either campaign is doing, any strategy or anything like that,” Imarti said. “I was speaking for myself as a Democrat, as a person. I was being instigated and I was apparently very upset, and visibly intoxicated.”

But accusations about gay-baiting in the race go beyond this incident.

Forrest also said he spoke to two members of the Virginia Legislature — State Sen. Mark Obenshain and Del. Barbara Comstock — who asserted Howell informed them of his sexual orientation. Forrest said the lawmakers told him Howell said “this guy is a homosexual” and “you should not be supporting him.”

“She’s going about this two ways: one, by approaching … Republican legislators in Virginia [and saying] he’s gay and not a true conservative and then also by approaching conservative voters,” Forrest said.

Speaking with the Blade, Obenshain said Howell had asked him about Forrest during a brief 45-second conversation and said Republicans were “running a RINO” in the district based on several reasons, including the fact that Forrest has a same-sex partner. RINO, or Republican-In-Name-Only, is a pejorative word for a member of GOP who often doesn’t adhere to party dogma.

“She ticked off three of four things that would, I guess, indicate he was not conservative: something about taxes, maybe that he may have voted in a Democratic primary, that he has a partner — and just went tick, tick, tick,” Obenshain said. “I think my response was, ‘Gee, Janet, it sounds like you’re asking me for my endorsement,’ which was tongue-in-cheek.”

Obenshain said Howell didn’t explicitly say anything about him not wanting to support Forrest because he allegedly is a RINO or because of his sexual orientation, but added such a message may have been “a fair implication.”

“She listed off three or four things, including that he had a partner,” Obenshain said. “She didn’t place any more or less emphasis on that than the other things that she listed.”

Obenshain added he “absolutely” supports Forrest’s candidacy based on the candidate’s credentials.

“I attended and participated in fundraisers for him,” Obenshain said. “I think he’s a strong candidate who has a strong command of the issues and would do a very good job representing that district in the Senate.”

Comstock didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment on Forrest’s allegation. They both have anti-gay voting records and have voted against legislation that would bar state government employers from discriminating against gays in the workplace.

Forrest said he’s “very sad” about reports that his sexual orientation has become an issue because he wants the campaign to be about other other things, such as the fact that Northern Virginia sends significant tax dollars down state.

“I was frankly shocked that a liberal member of the Virginia State Senate who is so powerful and on the Budget Committee would resort to these types of tactics, but she has, and that’s what she’s chosen to do,” Forrest said. “I have fought this kind of gay-baiting when it’s been on the political right, I will continue to fight it when it’s on the political left, and I’m going to go out there and just talk about transportation, jobs, economy, my vision of the type of independent voice we need for Northern Virginia.”

Forrest said he hopes Howell apologizes so that those involved “can put this behind us and we can move on and have a real campaign talking about real issues.”

Howell denied the accusation that she has spoken to Republican lawmakers about Forrest’s sexual orientation and accused the candidate of lying.

“I’m deeply offended that Patrick Forrest would lie like this,” Howell said. “I have never said and never would say that anyone would be unwelcome in Richmond because of their sexual orientation. … A person’s sexual orientation isn’t a issue for me, and I certainly hope it isn’t for anybody who’s voting in Virginia.”

Howell said she has the “strongest record on civil rights in the Senate.” She noted she’s been endorsed by Equality Virginia and said she thinks she obtained the endorsement “because of my years of work on issues of importance to the GLBT community.”

Howell was the chief patron of bills allowing companies to provide life and health insurance benefits to the partners of their gay employees. She also worked against passage of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was enacted in 2006. She voted against the measure in the General Assembly and said she led the effort to defeat the measure when it came before voters.

“I’m one of the ones who was the strongest opponents of that odious Marshall-Newman constitutional amendment,” Howell said. “I spoke and voted against it on the floor of the Senate, and I worked my district like crazy to have that defeated, and glad to say they did.”

Howell said she supports same-sex marriage and backs legislation that would bar employers from discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace.

“I’ve been married for 45 years, and I know how marriage can deepen a relationship, and I think everyone should have that same right,” Howell said.

Forrest, who’s been endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, also said he supports marriage equality and legislation that would bar job discrimination against LGBT people.

Denis Dison, a Victory Fund spokesperson, said the alleged gay-baiting “has no place in politics” and came to the defense of his organization’s endorsed candidate.

“If this is true then it’s really unfortunate,” Dison said. “Patrick is eminently qualified to serve in the Virginia Senate and we applaud the fact that he’s been open and honest about being gay. We were proud to endorse him and we stand by our candidate in this race.”

Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who’s gay and also endorsed by the Victory Fund, said he couldn’t comment on the veracity of the allegations, but defended Howell based on her record. Ebbin is also seeking a Virginia Senate seat in another race.

“Without Janet Howell, we wouldn’t have extended life insurance or health insurance to same-sex partners in Virginia, and she’s been a true leader on issues of equality,” Ebbin said.

NOTE: This article has been updated.

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Baltimore

Baltimore Pride event disrupted by possible chemical agent, causing panic and injuries

Incident caused a stampede

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This year’s Pride Parade and Festival was expected to attract 100,000 people. (Photo by Kaitlin Newman/the Baltimore Banner)

BY JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV and BRENNA SMITH | A possible chemical agent was released in front of the main stage at the Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party on Saturday night, causing a stampede.

The incident occurred around 7 p.m. and police did not release the chemical agent, according to a spokesperson. The main stage for the event was located near North Avenue and Charles Street.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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District of Columbia

Accused drug dealer charged with fentanyl distribution leading to deaths of two D.C. gay men

June 13 indictment links previously arrested suspect to deaths

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(Bigstock photo)

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. has announced that federal prosecutors on June 13 obtained an indictment against one of two D.C. brothers previously charged with multiple counts of illegal drug distribution that now charges him with “distributing cocaine and fentanyl” on Dec. 26, 2023, that resulted in the deaths of D.C. gay men Brandon Roman and Robert “Robbie” Barletta.

In a June 13 press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Jevaughn ‘Ledo’ Mark, 32, is charged in a new “secondary superseding indictment” linked to the Roman and Barletta deaths. It says he and his brother, Angelo Mark, 30, “previously were charged on April 9 in a 17-count superseding indictment for participating in a conspiracy that distributed large amounts of fentanyl and cocaine in the metropolitan area.”

The press release says Jevaughn Mark is currently being held without bond on charges that include eight counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin and distributing 40 grams or more of fentanyl between Jan. 10, 2024, and March 13, 2024. According to the press release, the charges were based on six illegal drug purchases from Jevaughn Mark by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and undercover D.C. police officers.

Court records show that Angelo Mark was charged in a criminal complaint on March 22 with multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and is also being held without bond.

D.C. police and Fire and Emergency Medical Services reports show that Roman, 38, a prominent D.C. attorney and LGBTQ rights advocate, and Barletta, 28, a historic preservation expert and home renovation business owner, were found unconscious when police and emergency medical personnel responded to a 911 call and arrived at Barletta’s home on Dec. 27. The reports show that Roman was declared deceased at the scene and Barletta was taken to Washington Hospital Center where he died on Dec. 29.

A police spokesperson told the Washington  Blade in February that police were investigating the Roman and Barletta deaths, but investigators had to wait for the D.C. Medical Examiner’s official determination of the cause and manner of death before the investigation could fully proceed.

Both men were patrons at D.C. gay bars and their passing prompted many in the LGBTQ community to call for stepped up prevention services related to drug overdose cases, even though the cause and manner of death for the two men was not officially determined until early April.

In April, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disclosed that the cause of death for both men was an accidental consumption of several drugs that created a fatal “toxic” effect. The Medical Examiner’s office said Barletta’s death was linked to the consumption of at least four different drugs and Roman’s death was caused by the “combined toxic effect” of six drugs. The Medical Examiner’s office disclosed that cocaine and fentanyl were among the drugs found in the bodies of both men. And for both men, the manner of death was listed as “Accident/Intoxication.”

When the cause and manner of death were disclosed by the Medical Examiner, D.C. police spokesperson Tom Lynch said the police investigation into the deaths remained open but said, “There are no updates on the investigation that we are ready to release to the public.”

But the Medical Examiner’s findings prompted Johnny Bailey, the community outreach coordinator for HIPS D.C., an LGBTQ supportive organization that provides services and support for those who use recreational drugs, to say he strongly believed that Barletta and Roman did not intentionally consume some of the drugs found in their system.

“I’m going to say I do believe this was a poisoning,” Bailey told the Blade. “I think it is unfair to call some things an overdose because an overdose is when you do too much of a drug and you die from that drug,” he said. “This is like if you have a few glasses of wine every night and someone puts arsenic in your wine, no one would be like, ‘oh, they drank themselves to death.’ They were poisoned. And that’s what I think is happening here,” he said in referring to Barletta and Roman.

In announcing the new charges against Jevaughn Mark that link him to Barletta and Roman’s deaths, the U.S. Attorney’s press release discloses that he supplied fentanyl in the drugs he sold unknowingly to the undercover DEA and D.C. police officers when one of the officers, posing as a drug buyer, did not ask for fentanyl.

“In each instance, the DEA/MPD agents requested to buy ‘Special K’ or Ketamine from Jevaughn Mark,” the press release says. “In every instance, Jevaughn Mark supplied a mixture of fentanyl and other substances, including heroin, but not ketamine,” it says.

The release says that after the earlier indictment against Jevaughn Mark was issued, law enforcement agents conducted a search of his Southeast D.C. home and “recovered two firearms, cocaine, fentanyl, about $38,000 in cash, body armor vests, and drug trafficking paraphernalia.” It says on that same day authorities executed another search for a second residence linked to Jevaughn Mark, where they located a bedroom used by his brother Angelo Mark.

“From Angelo Mark’s bedroom, law enforcement recovered seven firearms, 900 rounds of ammunition, dozens of pills, cocaine, fentanyl, drug trafficking paraphernalia, and about $50,000 in cash,” the press release says, adding, “Based on the evidence, both brothers were indicted in the first superseding indictment.” 

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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