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Arora aide resigns in protest after marriage vote

Political operatives plan ‘to send Sam packing in 2014’



A senior adviser to Maryland Del. Sam Arora has abruptly resigned in protest over Arora’s vote against the state’s same-sex marriage bill.

Joshua Lapidus, Arora’s legislative director, quit Friday night just after the marriage vote in a scathing resignation letter obtained by the Blade.

“I respect you and your beliefs, however I cannot respect your decision to place personal religious belief over the roles and responsibilities of the stewardship the people of District 19 entrusted unto you,” Lapidus wrote. He added, “It saddens me that you are standing against the tide of history and ending your career over an issue that will no doubt be decided in the affirmative, with or without your vote, over the next couple years.  So, I write this letter to inform you that if you vote don’t vote for HB 438 l can no longer work under your employ.”

Arora campaigned in 2010 in support of the bill and sponsored the measure last year, before suddenly changing his position and opposing it by the end of the 2011 legislative session. He voted against it Friday.

Arora continues to decline interview requests, but he issued a brief statement to the Blade in response to Lapidus’s resignation.

“I don’t comment on personnel issues,” Arora wrote. “That said: Josh continues to be a friend, and I wish him well.”

Another one-time friend of Arora’s, columnist and Democratic strategist Karl Frisch, praised Lapidus for stepping down.

“I think it’s gutsy,” Frisch said. “It’s the right move and shows that we had allies working on our behalf in his office.”

Frisch, a D.C. resident, donated $100 to Arora’s campaign in 2010 and said he knew Arora socially for several years. But after rumors emerged that Arora’s marriage position was changing, Frisch said his calls and emails went unreturned.

“I feel personally betrayed,” Frisch said. “I don’t take candidates’ word for it — he was listed as a co-sponsor of the bill and filled out an Equality Maryland questionnaire [on marriage]. … I’m used to politicians lying, I’m not used to being lied to by a friend.”

After Friday’s vote, Frisch said he took part in a conference call with a group of “national and Maryland-based political operatives to discuss every tool we can deploy to send Sam packing in 2014.”

He declined to reveal the specifics of what was discussed or who else participated on the call. But Frisch added that he’s heard that Gov. Martin O’Malley personally lobbied Arora and reportedly told him that his career is over if “he doesn’t vote the right way.”

Frisch said he supports Jay Hutchins for the District 19 seat in 2014. Hutchins ran and lost in the Democratic primary in 2010. He recently began recruiting supporters for a 2014 race.

It’s unclear exactly why Arora switched his position on the marriage bill, though the speculation is that his religious beliefs played a part in the decision to vote no. Lapidus addressed the religion issue in his resignation letter.

“We have a right to be religious,” he wrote. “You have a right to disagree with the marital union between not just a man and a woman. But we do not have the right to impose our religious beliefs on the people of Maryland and impede societal progress. You will be on the wrong side of history and l will not have any part in it.”


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  1. Chris Lines

    February 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Good for Lapidus and Good for Frisch. I wish I lived in the 19th district. I would help Arora’s opponent in 2014. I may still regardless of living in Baltimore.

  2. Peter Rosenstein

    February 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I think that once the people of District 19 choose who they want to run against Arora that a large group of activists will help that person, he or she, to have a well financed campaign. The issue with Arora isn’t only his vote against the tide of history – it is his lying about it. Maryland and District 19 can do better than Arora.

  3. TNardi

    February 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I live in Philly and fully intend to do whatever I can — donating, driving down to volunteer, anything — to help Arora’s primary opponent.

  4. EdA

    February 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    How is it that one year Mr. Arora’s religion allowed him to co-sponsor marriage equality and then later that year and this year his religion called on him to oppose it?

  5. laurelboy2

    February 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    God is referenced in multiple locations in the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (DOI), including, in the DOI, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” As such, I find that our Nation was founded on “religious beliefs.” If Arora wants to base his vote on “religious beliefs” then he has every right to. What’s good enough for the founding fathers is good enough for Arora. I praise Arora for his courage.

    • E. Manhattan

      February 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      No, God is not referenced in the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence, important as it is in our history, is not the foundation of our law.

      And remember, enslaving black people, treating women as disenfranchised chattel, and refusing poor men the right to vote were also “good enough for our founding fathers”. Our founding fathers were seriously wrong about some things.

    • Dawn

      February 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      Where does god appear in the constitution? The DOI refers to Nature’s God but more importantly than that it is not a legal document. And even more important than both of those infs – Arora lied about his intention.

    • Sec

      February 21, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      Except that God isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, which is the document upon which our legal system is established. No court case has ever been resolved by interpreting the Declaration of Independence…

      Furthermore, decisions about civil equality should never, I repeat, never, be based upon religious convictions. If you take the time to read it, you’ll find that the Constitution has an establishment clause separating church and state in this country, and it is upon that document that lawmakers are expected to make their decisions.

    • tomwins

      February 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

      Your view of religious freedom as enshrined in the Constitution and Declaration is simplistic at best. Mainly, you ignore the “freedom” aspect of religion as presented in these documents. The country was not founded to impose religion on anyone, that is what our founding fathers were escaping from. They are rolling over in their graves with people like Arora and you using their words to justify imposing your religious views on others. Read some history and stop listening to the spin masters at Faux News.

    • Bernadette

      February 22, 2012 at 9:33 am

      The Founding Fathers also supported slavery and denied women the vote; yet, somehow, perhaps a result of Locke and Voltaire, they found a way to create the first amendment. Religion and moral code of conduct are two separate issues and must remain so if we are to maintain our Constituion. Natural law and natural rights as given to all persons in the natural state does not mean the application of one religious belief over all citizens.

    • EmDee

      February 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Doesn’t “all men are created equal” apply to GLBT persons, too (understanding the use of ‘men’ to mean ‘humans’)?
      And it is never right to allow the majority to vote on the rights of a minority–guess who will lose?

  6. laurelboy2

    February 22, 2012 at 11:26 am

    To those who doubt that the US Constitution contains the word God or reference to religious beliefs, one need look no further than the summary statement just prior to signatures where it states “…done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand…” To me Lord is God and vice versa.

    • Steve

      February 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      You’re an idiot. That’s not something that i routinely say, but I’m making an exception in your case. Posters have proven you wrong on your stance (which I attributed to mere ignorance), but you are so mule-headed that you refuse to acquiesce even when you know you’re talking pure crap.

  7. Northern Bystander

    February 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    It is impossible for someone to separate their religious views from the rest of their life. The whole point of religion is to infuse one’s life with spirituality. Lapidus does not seem to understand this. He goes on to make other errors, namely claiming that Arora’s decision will end his political career and even that Arora’s religion played any part in his vote. The article itself says that the reasons for Arora’s switch are unclear. It is likely that politics (read reelection financing) was at the heart of it.

    All of that said, Lapidus was right that the tide of history was moving in favor of same-sex marriage. Canada promotes equal rights for the LGBTQ community including marriage, and as a Canadian, I applaud the efforts in the U.S. to attain similar rights, although it is taking a VERY long time. Even in Canada there is still work to be done.

    • Sec

      February 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      It’s not at all impossible to separate the two. Governor Gregoire did it. Governor O’Malley did it. Governor Lynch did it. And the list goes on and on. The only people who are incapable of separating their religious beliefs from their civic duties are fundamentalists, and they have no business serving in government. If you disagree, take a look at the Middle East and get back to me.

  8. laurelboy2

    February 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    @Steve: Our Nation was built on a broad Judeo-Christian concept. That concept is woven throughout our founding documents and in the beliefs of those who wrote them. If Arora wants to invoke his conscience and oppose gay marriage based on his religious beliefs, then who am I to say he is wrong? In fact, everyone who voted for or against gay marriage did so based on their conscience. I don’t hear you and others squawking about that with regards to those voting in the affirmative, do I? As I’ve stated correctly, there are religious references in the Constitution, DOI, and all our founding documents. Bottom line: Why should anyone expect anything different from Arora? By electing someone to office, you do so based on a “guess” that they will vote precisley as you would. Sometimes, you lose.

    • Sec

      February 22, 2012 at 7:42 pm

      You really are clueless. “In the year of our Lord” is the Anglocized translation of “Anno Domini,”, or, as you might know it, “A.D.” These are merely the standardized designations for time when referencing the Gregorian calendar. They have been used throughout the history of Western civilization in both civic and religious contexts; and when used in the former context, they are devoid of any religious undertones that might otherwise accompany them.

      Furthermore, if the Founders wanted to base our legal system off of the Judeo-Christian value system, as you contend, one would think they would have been more explicit in their wishes, instead of sneaking in the word “Lord” at the end and hoping that everyone would fet the message. To that point, you might also be interested to learn that there have been several attempts by religious movements (believing that the Constitution was too secular) to amend the Constitution to include a “Christian nation” amendment. Each attempt, from shortly after ratification onward, has failed spectacularly. The Constitution established the United States as a secular nation that affords its citizens the right to practice whatever faith they choose. However, those citizens who choose to serve in public office must do so with the understanding that their decisions should be based on constitutional principles, not religious dogma.

      Educate yourself before you speak, lest you embarrass yourself further.

    • MAP

      March 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      so, does one person’s idea of religion then stand in for the hundreds of thousands of people represented? NO. And it was never intended to be that way. The founders cleared believed in a civil society, not one where theologians parsed their bibles or torahs and then decided for everyone. That’s so clear as to be unimpeachable.

  9. laurelboy2

    February 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    @Sec: I stand by my last post. In fact, let me expand. The word “God” appears on our money and in our Pledge of Allegiance as well as a multitude of other “modern” and “founding” documents of our country. Our founding fathers intended (what part of “intended” do you not understand?) to have our Nation premised on Judeo-Christian beliefs. Therefore, don’t complain when a politician votes his/her conscience based wholly or in part on their religious beliefs. That’s what Arora did. Respect his choice and his vote. And, if you’re his constituent, if you disagree with his/her performance in office then you have the right to vote for someone else. Beware: voting for someone else may get you someone who is even further distant from your core beliefs. I encourage you, and others, to look at Arora’s record as a whole, not just one issue – his vote on gay marriage.

    • Sec

      February 22, 2012 at 10:45 pm

      The word “God” was added to the Pledge and to our paper currency in 1954 and 1957, respectively. How in the hell are you reading these two events, both of which were centuries removed from the Constitution’s ratification and have no binding impact on our legal system whatsoever, as evidence for the Founders’ intentions regarding the separation of church and state? If you want to understand the Founders’ intentions on these matters, all you have to do is read the First Amendment of our Constitution! That is our founding document. It is the standard against which all of our laws and systems of government are measured, and it should be the standard against which our elected officials make their decisions on issues facing our country.

      As for Arora, I will respect neither his choice to place his religious beliefs ahead of my civil rights nor his vote to deny equal protection under the law (that’s in the Fourteenth Amendment, by the way, just in case you’re as uninformed on constitutional law as you appear to be) to scores of Marylanders. Those are decisions that will bring nothing but shame to him and his legislative career. Future generations of historians will be just as unkind to those sorts of discriminatory actions as current historians are to the actions of segregationists who were equally as sure of their moral rectitude as opponents to marriage equality appear to be.

  10. Northern Bystander

    February 22, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    “I don’t hear you and others squawking about …”

    You didn’t hear me “sqawking” about anything. In fact, I was agreeing that it was OK for Aurora to infuse his religion into his decisions (if in fact, that was what happened). But you like to hear your self talk.

  11. laurelboy2

    February 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    @Northern Bystander: I wasn’t responding to you. If you notice you’ll see an @Sec. Dunce.

  12. laurelboy2

    February 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    @Sec: It’s clear that you’re unable or unwilling to recognize/accept the fact that our Nation’s foundation is Judeo-Christian in nature and that religious beliefs, whether you like it or not, play a part in all of our -even politicians – thought processes, values, core beliefs, and, yes, votes. Arora is human, therefore his religious beliefs play a role in how he votes regardless of whether he’s a politician or a salesman. It would be utopic if he were able to rise above his religious beliefs, but he didn’t. So continue to give your money to and lead the battle to oust Arora. That is your right.

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17th Street High Heel Race draws large crowd

D.C. Mayor, three Council members, police chief mingle with drag queens



34th annual High Heel Race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 1,000 spectators turned out Tuesday night to watch D.C.’s 34th Annual 17th Street High Heel Race in which several dozen men dressed in drag and wearing colorful high heel shoes raced along a three-block stretch of 17th Street near Dupont Circle.

As she has in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose office organizes the annual event, gave the official signal for the runners to start the race from a stage at the intersection of 17th and R streets, N.W. 

Joining the mayor on the stage was Japer Bowles, who Bowser recently named as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which plays the lead role in organizing the High Heel Race. 

Also appearing on stage after being introduced by Bowser were D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2).

Bowser, who along with the three Council members delivered brief remarks before the start of the race, said the event highlights the city’s diversity and resilience coming after over a year of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we want the world to know – that even in a pandemic, even when we had to trim the budget, we stayed focused on how we can make life better for our LGBTQ community,” Bowser told the crowd. “And we’re going to keep on doing it,” she said. “We’re investing in making sure everybody in our community is accepted and safe.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, who walked along the three-block section of 17th Street before the race began, was greeted warmly by bystanders, some of whom called out his name to welcome him to what has become the city’s largest Halloween celebration.

“This is a great event,” Contee told the Washington Blade. “I enjoy coming out to be among D.C. residents and all who find our D.C. culture,” he said. “It’s just a great evening, so we’re happy to be out here supporting our community.”

Members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit were among the police contingent on duty at the event and overseeing the closing of the streets surrounding 17th Street.

Like past years, many of the race participants and dozens of others dressed in Halloween costumes paraded up and down 17th Street beginning at 6:30 p.m., more than two hours before the start of the race, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.  

However, the mayor this year gave the signal to start the race at about 8:35 p.m. Although a large number of drag runners participated in the race, some who planned to join the race didn’t make it to the starting line in time because they expected the race to begin at 9 p.m. as advertised, according to people in the crowd who knew those who missed the race.

To ensure that everyone had an opportunity to participate, Bowles and others from the mayor’s office agreed to hold a second race about a half hour after the first one. The number of participants in the second race appeared to be about the same as those who joined the first race, indicating many of the drag participants ran twice.

“This is a special treat,” said one bystander. “We got to see two races instead of one.” 

The High Heel Race was cancelled last year due to restrictions related to the COVID pandemic. Many in the crowd watching the race on Tuesday night said they were delighted the city decided to go ahead with the event this year at a time when other large events continue to be canceled or postponed.

Also similar to past years when the High Heel Race took place, the restaurants and bars that line 17th Street were filled on Tuesday night, including the gay bars JR.’s and Windows as well as the longtime LGBTQ-friendly Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.

Prior to the mayor’s arrival, gay local radio and TV personality Jimmy Alexander of DCW 50 TV served as host to a drag show and costume contest on the stage. DCW 50 also set up and hosted a separate stage on the sidewalk next to JR.’s bar in which race participants and others dressed in costumes were invited to have their pictures taken and provided with copies of the photos of themselves.

“I think it’s amazing,” Bowser told the Blade after the completion of the first race. “It’s good to be back. It was tough missing a year of activities,” she said referring to the business shutdowns brought about by the pandemic. “We had a lot of great, beautiful racers. And so, I’m really excited about it.”

To see more photos from this event, click here.

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Gay attorney’s plans to run for Del. Senate foiled by redistricting

Activists say move will ‘dilute’ LGBTQ vote



Mitch Crane, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay Democratic activist Mitch Crane. (Photo courtesy Crane)

Plans by Delaware gay attorney and Democratic Party activist Mitch Crane to run for a seat in the Delaware State Senate in a district that included areas surrounding the town of Lewes, where Crane lives, and Rehoboth Beach ended abruptly this week when state officials approved a redistricting plan that removes Crane’s residence from the district.

The seat for which Crane planned to run is in Delaware’s 6th Senate District which, in addition to Lewes and Rehoboth, includes the towns of Dewey Beach, Harbeson, Milton, and surrounding areas, according to the state Senate’s website. 

The seat is currently held by Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez, a moderate Republican who became the first Hispanic American elected to the Delaware Senate in 2012. Lopez announced in July that he would not seek re-election in 2022. 

The redistricting plan, which was approved by leaders of the Democratic-controlled Delaware General Assembly, places the section of the Lewes postal district where Crane lives into the 19th Senate District. Crane said that district is in a heavily Republican and conservative part of the state dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump who remain Trump supporters.

Under Delaware law, changes in the district lines of state Senate and House districts, which takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census count, are decided by the Delaware General Assembly, which is the state legislative body.

Crane told the Washington Blade that neither he nor any other Democrat would have a realistic chance of winning the State Senate seat next year in the 19th District.

“Jesus could not win in that district if he was a Democrat,” said Crane.

Crane said a Democratic candidate could win next year in the reconfigured 6th Senate District now that incumbent Lopez will not be seeking re-election.

The Cape Gazette, the Delaware newspaper, reported in an Oct. 22 story that Crane was one of at least two witnesses that testified at a two-day virtual hearing held Oct. 18-19 by a State Senate committee, that the proposed redistricting would dilute the LGBTQ vote in the 6th District and the draft proposal should be changed.

 “The proposed lines remove a significant percentage of the LGBTQ residents from the current 6th District where most of such residents of southern Delaware live and place them in the 19th District which has a smaller such population,” the Cape Gazette quoted Crane telling the committee. “By doing so, it dilutes the impact of the gay community which shares political beliefs,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“The proposed lines dilute the voting power of the LGBTQ community in addition to others who respect diversity,” the Cape Gazette quoted 6th District resident Sandy Spence as telling the committee. 

In an Oct. 10 email sent to potential supporters before the redistricting plan was approved, Crane said he believes he has the experience and record that make him a strong candidate for the state Senate seat. He is a former chair of the Sussex County Democratic Party, where Rehoboth and Lewes are located; and he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Delaware State University’s graduate school, where he teaches American Governance and Administration.

He is a past president of the Delaware Stonewall PAC, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, and he’s the state’s former Deputy Insurance Commissioner.

 “I intend to focus on smart growth in Sussex County; work on the problems of homelessness and the need for affordable housing; and assuring that this district receives its fair portion of tax dollars,” he said in his Oct. 10 email message announcing his candidacy.

Crane said he posted a Facebook message on Oct. 26 informing supporters that the redrawn district lines removed him from the district, and he is no longer a candidate.

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MSNBC’s Capehart to host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch Nov. 6

Ashland Johnson to serve as keynote speaker



Gay journalist Jonathan Capehart will host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pulitzer Prizing-winning gay journalist Jonathan Capehart, the anchor of MSNBC’s “Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart,” will serve as host for the 24th Annual SMYAL Fall Brunch scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6, at D.C.’s Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The annual Fall Brunch serves as one of the largest fundraising events for SMYAL, which advocates and provides services for LGBTQ youth in the D.C. metropolitan area. 

“Each year, a community of advocates, changemakers, and supporters comes together at the Fall Brunch to raise much-needed funds to support and expand critical programs and services for queer and trans youth in the DMV area,” a statement released by the organization says.

The statement says attorney and former Division I women’s collegiate basketball athlete Ashland Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the SMYAL Fall Brunch. Johnson founded the sports project called The Inclusion Playbook, which advocates for racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

Other speakers include Zahra Wardrick, a SMYAL program participant and youth poet; and Leandra Nichola, a parent of attendees of Little SMYALs, a program that SMYAL says provides support for “the youngest members of the LGBTQ community” at ages 6-12. The SMYAL statement says Nichola is the owner and general manager of the Takoma Park, Md., based café, bar, retail, and bubble tea shop called Main Street Pearl.

According to the statement, the SMYAL Fall Brunch, including a planned silent auction, will be live streamed through SMYAL’s Facebook page for participants who may not be able to attend in person. For those attending the event in person, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required, and masks will also be required for all attendees when not actively eating or drinking, the statement says.

The statement says that for attendees and supporters, the Fall Brunch is “a community celebration of how your support has not only made it possible for SMYAL to continue to serve LGBTQ youth through these challenging times, it’s allowed our programs to grow and deepen.”

Adds the statement, “From affirming mental health support and housing to fostering community spaces and youth leadership training, we will continue to be there for queer and trans youth together.”

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