Connect with us

Local

Gay Republican accuses Dem of gay-baiting in Va.

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

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

Published

on

transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

Continue Reading

Maryland

Hyattsville mayor dies by suicide

Kevin Ward and husband adopted son in D.C. in 2012

Published

on

Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the city of Hyattsville)

The city of Hyattsville released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that their city’s openly gay Mayor Kevin Ward had died one day earlier by an apparent suicide.

“The city of Hyattsville reports with great sadness that our beloved Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, Jan. 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement says.

“Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville,” the statement continues. “We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to the mayor’s family,” it says.

“No further information is available at this time,” the statement adds. “Details about services and remembrances will be shared when they are available.”

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Park Police disclosed that Ward was found deceased in Fort Marcy Park in McLean, Va., with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Ward, 44, became acting mayor of Hyattsville on Jan. 1, 2021, following the resignation of former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. He was next in line to become mayor under the city’s political system in his then-position as president of the Hyattsville City Council.

He won election to complete the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term through 2023 in a May 11, 2021, special election, receiving 57.8 percent of the vote in a three candidate race, according to the Hyattsville election board. His closest opponent, Joseph Solomon, received 31.7 percent of the vote.

Nearby fellow gay mayors — Patrick Wojahn of College Park and Jeffrey Slavin of Somerset — said they got to know Ward through Maryland political circles and thought very highly of him.

“He was insightful, smart and dedicated,” Wojahn said. “He always seemed very confident and together as a person. And he had a great sense of humor.”

Slavin said he shared that remembrance of Ward, adding that he found Ward to be a “very nice person” dedicated to the people he served both as mayor and during his two terms on the Hyattsville City Council.

“There was noting in his public life that would have predicted this,” said Slavin in referring to Ward’s sudden passing.

The Washington Blade first reported on Ward in 2012 in a feature story on Ward and his then-domestic partner Chad Copeland when the two attended a ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court to complete the process of adopting their then-5-year-old son Norman. Ward and Copeland were among several gay couples who had their adoption papers signed by a judge at the ceremony.

On the website for his mayoral election campaign last year Ward said he and his family made Hyattsville their home in 2014 after he and his husband adopted their two sons.

“I am a pretty straightforward person,” he said in message to voters on his campaign website. “I believe in listening more than talking. But when I talk, I am not one to mince words or tell people what they want to hear,” he said. “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life,” he continued.

“This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and to human services, to help as many people as I can,” he said.  

Ward was referring to his career in the field of educational and human services technology.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

ANC supports license for Capitol Hill LGBTQ bar

Lesbian owners back ‘settlement agreement’ with restrictions on hours

Published

on

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel are the bar industry veterans behind As You Are Bar. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)

The Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a liquor license for the LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar, which plans to open in a two-story building at 500 8th St., S.E. in a commercial section of Capitol Hill known as Barracks Row.

The ANC’s decision to support the license took place at a virtual meeting attended by nearby residents and supporters of the bar after its owners, lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, agreed to the terms of an ANC settlement agreement that calls for restrictions in the hours the bar can offer dancing, entertainment, and music from a DJ.

The agreement means the ANC will not file a protest against the license before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a development that would have delayed a decision on the license by the ABC Board by as much as seven months. A protest by the ANC could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in legal fees to contest the protest by providing legal arguments seeking the approval of the license.

The ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve all liquor licenses in the city.

McDaniel and Pike have said they plan to operate an upstairs dance bar during evening hours and a café on the first floor during the day as well as in the evenings that will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture.”

The two, who are business and life partners, say As You Are Bar will welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities as well as drinkers and non-drinkers as customers.

They have also told the ANC and nearby residents they have taken steps to soundproof the building, which they are renting, to ensure their plans to operate a dance bar with music from a DJ on the second floor will not disturb nearby residents.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, which was posted on the ANC’s website prior to the start of the meeting, the bar’s operating hours will be from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Under D.C. law, bars are allowed to remain open for the sale of alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. during weekdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Settlement Agreement further calls for As You Are Bar to restrict the hours of consumption of alcohol from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It calls for allowing live entertainment and dancing (indoors only) from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, the agreement says DJ and amplified music will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

 McDaniel told the Blade that at the request of As You Are Bar’s attorney Richard Bianco, the ANC agreed to modify that restriction at the Tuesday night meeting to allow the bar to play “conversational” background music after 8 p.m. until closing time on weekdays.

 Among other things, the agreement requires the bar comply with a noise mitigation provision to “ensure that sound, noise, and vibrations are not audible or felt beyond the curb or any other premises at any time.” It also calls on the bar to provide an “appropriate number of staff” to monitor patrons as they leave the bar through the 8th Street entrance to “prevent loud voices and littering.”

Under rules established by the ABC Board and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration or ABRA, if a settlement agreement is reached between an applicant for a liquor license and the ANC, a protest against the license by groups of five or more citizens is not allowed. Protests could still be filed by community-based civic groups and residents of an “abutting” house or residential facility.

In the case of As You Are Bar, no citizens group has emerged to oppose the license. There is just one abutting townhouse on E Street whose owner has expressed general support for the settlement agreement, according to McDaniel. But the resident has indicated she will not rule out a possible protest until Feb. 7, which is the deadline for filing a protest under ABRA’s rules.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular