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Kameny estate dispute sparks lawsuits

Gay rights pioneer’s burial ceremony postponed

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Frank Kameny, gay news, gay politics dc

Frank Kameny’s March 3 burial was postponed, but his headstone and grave marker are now in place and are open for visitors at the cemetery, which is located at 18th Street and Potomac Avenue, S.E. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The man named by the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny as the main beneficiary of his estate has filed separate lawsuits against four of Kameny’s longtime friends and fellow activists, charging that they “wrongfully” removed property from Kameny’s house shortly after his death last October.

The lawsuits, which were filed in D.C. Superior Court on March 3 and March 5, came days after one of the men now named as a defendant, Bob Witeck, announced that a March 3 ceremony for the interment of Kameny’s ashes at Congressional Cemetery had been postponed in “deference” to Kameny’s estate.

“Timothy Lamont Clark, the Personal Representative of the Estate of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, filed Complaints for Writ of Replevin against Dr. Marvin Carter, Charles Francis, Richard Rosendall, and Robert ‘Bob’ Witeck in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Civil Division,” says a statement released by attorney Glen Ackerman, who is representing Clark and the Kameny estate.

“The Estate alleges that Messrs. Carter, Francis, Rosendall, and Witeck removed property belonging to the Estate of Dr. Kameny without authority or permission,” Ackerman says in the statement. “The Estate is seeking immediate recovery of the property wrongfully taken.”

Witeck and Rosendall said they had no immediate comment on the lawsuits. Rande Joiner, an attorney saying she represents Francis, said Francis also would have no comment. Carter did not respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.

U.S. Legal.com, a website specializing in legal issues, describes “Replevin” as an “action or writ issued to recover an item of personal property wrongfully taken.” It says it can be used as a legal remedy “in which a court requires a defendant to return specific goods to the plaintiff at the beginning of the action” while the case is awaiting trial.

The suits allege that some or all of the defendants improperly removed from Kameny’s house his personal papers; a U.S.  Army uniform of Kameny’s; a statue; “Gay is Good” pins; and “personal and historical photographs,” among other items.

The lawsuit also claims Francis is required to hand over to the estate the “posthumous certificate awarded to Franklin Edward Kameny by the American Astronomical Society on January 10, 2012.”

Francis said in a press release earlier this year that he traveled to Texas at the invitation of the astronomical society to accept the award on Kameny’s behalf.

The lawsuits say each of these items “belong to the Plaintiff and the Estate of Franklin Edward Kameny” and are of “unknown historical value and of a monetary value yet to be determined.”

Ackerman told the Blade that Francis, Witeck, Rosendall, and Carter removed the items from Kameny’s house in November.

Rosendall and Witeck told the Blade earlier this year that Clark, who was living in the house at the time, gave them permission to take the items to preserve them for safekeeping, with the intent of returning the items to the estate.

The two said Clark, who inherited Kameny’s house, told them he was about to have the house cleaned to prepare for placing it on the market for sale and was ready to dispose of many of the remaining items in the house as trash.

Rosendall told the Blade last week that he, Witeck, and Carter became alarmed that important papers and other items needed to preserve Kameny’s legacy were in danger of being discarded and lost. He said Clark had no objections to their temporarily taking possession of the items and allowed them access to the house.

Ackerman this week said Clark disputes that characterization of what happened. According to Ackerman, Clark says he never told Witeck, Francis, Rosendall, or Carter that he planned to throw away the items in question. Ackerman said Clark feels he was misled by the men into thinking they had the legal right to take the items from the house.

“At that time he didn’t understand the legal issues of all of this,” Ackerman said.

Activists helped Kameny in last years

Kameny’s will, which names Clark as Kameny’s personal representative for the estate, also names Clark as the sole beneficiary of Kameny’s house, car, and all other possessions except his papers, which Kameny bequeathed to the Library of Congress.

Activists who know Witeck, Francis, Carter, and Rosendall credit them with helping Kameny financially in the last years of his life. Carter, founder and executive director of the local charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), arranged for the group to raise money to help Kameny pay his bills at a time when he was in financial need.

Francis founded the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for the Library of Congress in 2007 to take possession of thousands of Kameny’s papers and documents that cover the gay rights leader’s work on behalf of LGBT equality over a 50-year period.

The project, under Francis’ and Witeck’s direction, raised more than $75,000 from donors to buy the papers from Kameny, giving him needed financial support, and donate them to the Library of Congress, where they are available to researchers.

Ackerman said he recognizes the contributions of the four men on Kameny’s behalf. But he said that he and Clark are legally obligated in probating Kameny’s will to keep an accurate inventory of all of Kameny’s property. All of the items taken from the house belong to Clark under the terms of Kameny’s will, Ackerman said.

He said Francis has declined to say why he has yet to deliver the Kameny papers he took from the house shortly after Kameny’s death to the Library of Congress.

“It’s almost six months since Dr. Kameny died,” Ackerman said. “What is it taking so long for him to give those papers to the Library of Congress?”

He said he was troubled to learn from Joiner, Francis’s lawyer,  that Francis and the others have agreed to return the items they took from the house but only if the estate issues a legal waiver releasing them from any liability associated with the estate or Clark.

Ackerman said the estate refuses to agree to such a waiver.

“Why do they want to be released from liability if they didn’t do anything wrong?” he said.

Interment delayed over gravesite ownership

The abrupt postponement of the March 3 interment ceremony for Kameny’s ashes at D.C.’s historic Congressional Cemetery startled many of the activists who knew Kameny and planned to attend.

Patrick Crowley, interim senior manager for Congressional Cemetery, said Witeck informed him on March 2, one day before the ceremony was to take place, that he and the other organizers of the event wanted to call it off.

“All I can say is there is a disagreement between the parties that own the plot and the estate of Mr. Kameny,” Crowley said.

Crowley said HOBS, operated by Carter, purchased the gravesite earlier this year.

Ackerman said HOBS along with Francis and Witeck announced plans for the burial service without consulting Clark or the Kameny estate. He said Clark, who has legal rights to the ashes and planned to take possession of them, was not informed in advance of the burial plans and was “completely excluded” from the entire process of obtaining a cemetery plot and planning the interment of the ashes.

When Clark asked about the ashes last year, he was told they already had been buried, Ackerman said Clark told him. Ackerman said he and Clark did not learn that the ashes had not been buried until last month, when he saw a press release about plans for the interment and a cemetery official told him the ashes were in an urn at the cemetery office.

With this as a backdrop, Ackerman said he informed the cemetery and Francis, Witeck, and Carter, through attorney Joiner that the estate would not allow the interment of the ashes to take place until HOBS signed over ownership of the cemetery plot to the estate.

The estate would pay HOBS for the plot and other burial related expenses, Ackerman said.

He said HOBS agreed to do this but informed him that the HOBS board could not make arrangements to approve the sale in time for the ceremony. Ackerman said the estate had no objections to holding the gravesite ceremony but it could not agree to the burial of the ashes until the estate gained legal ownership of the plot.

Reached by phone March 2, Witeck acknowledged that the interment ceremony was being postponed due to issues related to the Kameny estate, but he declined to provide further details on the reason for the postponement, including whether organizers didn’t want a ceremony if the ashes could not be interred.

Editor’s note: The law firm Ackerman Brown PLCC, of which Glen Ackerman is managing partner, represents the Washington Blade.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride honorees

Nine LGBTQ leaders, Destination DC to be honored

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Iya Dammons is among this year’s Pride honorees. (Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced its selection of nine individuals and one D.C. organization as recipients of its annual honors awards recognizing outstanding service for the LGBTQ community and the cause of LGBTQ equality.

“Each year, the Capital Pride Alliance honors outstanding individuals, leaders, and activists in the National Capital Region who have furthered causes important to the LGBTQ+ community,” the group said in a statement. The statement says the honorees chosen this year “tirelessly contribute to our collective advocacy, outreach, education, and programming in support of our intersectional community.”

The awards were scheduled to be presented to the recipients at a Capital Pride Honors ceremony on Friday, May 31 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. A statement released by Capital Pride says the event will be hosted by WUSA9 TV news reporter Lorenzo Hall, with entertainment by special guests, including singer-songwriter Crystal Waters, DJ Honey, and the Black Leaves Dance Company.

The award recipients as released by Capital Pride Alliance include the following:

Hero Award recognizing  “individuals who have furthered the causes important to LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region” and “have brought about positive changes to our lives and our community.”

• Hope Gisselle, nationally recognized author, artist, and activist who advocates for LGBTQ rights through organizations she has been a part of, including her founding of a human resources organization called AllowMe and her current role as CEO and Executive Director of the National Trans Visibility March.

• Jamison Henninger, has served as leader of the D.C. Area Transmasculine Society, known as DCATS, a community-based organization that aids transmasculine individuals in the D.C. metro area, serves on the board of Trans Pride DC, and serves as a consultant for Gender Illumination, a nonprofit group.

• Kenya Hutton, a social justice, equity, HIV prevention, and sexual health advocate who has worked to address issues impacting communities affected by HIV and other health disparities for over 20 years. He currently serves as deputy director of the D.C.-based national LGBTQ organization Center for Black Equity and is set to become its acting CEO and executive director in August.

• Carol Jameson has worked for more than 35 years in Northern Virginia developing and administering programs that address health care disparities and provide access to health care services, including HIV/AIDS related services. She has served as executive director for NOVAM, a nonprofit group providing HIV prevention and HIV care for adolescents and young adults in Northern Virginia.

• Tula, an esthetician and hair stylist by day, has been a widely recognized drag performer for more than 30 years and host to D.C. cabaret shows. A former title holder and member of the Academy of Washington, D.C. drag organization, “she brings a plethora of stage experience to any show,” according to a Capital Pride writeup.

• Jose Alberto Ucles has been involved with a wide range of LGBTQ supportive events and projects both culturally and politically while working in his day job for the past 23 years as the Hispanic Outreach Spokesperson and Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of his many involvements include past work with the Whitman-Walker Clinic, Capital Pride organizing in the 1990s, and currently a member of the Arts & Culture Committee for World Pride 2025 DC.

Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award recognizes individuals or organizations who have demonstrated significant impact on the LGBTQ+ community and helped eliminate barriers for social, personal or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community.

• Iya Dammons, a widely recognized transgender and LGBTQ rights advocate is the founding Executive Director of DC Safe Haven and Maryland Safe Haven, the nonprofit organizations credited with providing support and services for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness, substance use problems at risk of an overdose, and discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service acknowledges exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance and its programs, initiatives or other Pride sponsored activities.

• Bryan Davis is an accomplished Sign Language interpreter trained at D.C.’s Gallaudet University who currently serves as Volunteer Chair with Capital Pride Alliance and previously has served as Executive Producer and Chair for Accessibility and Interpreter Coordinator for Capital Pride.

• William Hawkins has since 2017 been a committed volunteer for Capital Pride as part of its production team and as Executive Producer of Health and Safety and later as Health and Safety Chair. He is credited with helping to form alliances with G.W. Hospital, the D.C. Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department, and the D.C. Licensing Division.

Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride recognizes outstanding efforts related to programs and initiatives of the annual Capital Pride Alliance or Pride movement.

• Destination DC, a private, nonprofit corporation, serves as the lead organization to successfully manage and market Washington, D.C. as a premier global convention, tourism, and special events destination, with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historical communities. It is credited with generating economic development for the city through visitor spending.

Further details about the Capital Pride honorees and the May 31 event, including availability of admission tickets, can be accessed at their website.

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District of Columbia

D.C. mayor to hold 2nd annual LGBTQ flag raising ceremony

Event set for June 3 outside District Building

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Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at last year's flag ceremony outside of the John A. Wilson Building. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs announced this week the mayor will lead the city’s second annual LGBTQIA+ Flag Raising Ceremony at 4 p.m. on June 3 outside the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., which serves as the D.C. government’s city hall.

“We are delighted to invite you to the LGBTQIA+ Flag Raising Ceremony, a significant event celebrating the visibility and diversity of our LGBTQIA+ community,” said Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, in a May 21 statement.

“Join us as we raise the LGBTQIA+ flag alongside Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council members, and community leaders,” Bowles said in the statement. “This event is free and open to the public, and we encourage everyone to attend,” the statement says.

“Washington, D.C. is proud to be a leader in LGBTQIA+ rights and advocacy,” the statement adds. “This ceremony symbolizes our ongoing commitment to equality and the vibrant diversity of our community.”

The event was expected to take place on the sidewalk in front of the Wilson building at the site of its flagpole.

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats clarifies ‘no endorsement’ of Pinto

Says it postponed action on Ward 2 D.C. race until November

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D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The president of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, expressed regret that he did not clarify in an announcement earlier this week that the organization chose to postpone deciding whether to endorse D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) in the city’s June 4 primary election because she is running unopposed in the primary.

“I misspoke, and I take responsibility for that,” Michael Haresign, the group’s president, told the Washington Blade on Thursday. Haresign said that he regrets that he did not inform the Blade in a May 21 interview at a post endorsement party the group held that Pinto’s name was not on the endorsement ballot the group sent to its members earlier this month to vote on the endorsements.

Based on a press release issued by the group on May 21, the Blade reported that Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it had endorsed just four candidates appearing on D.C.’s June 4 primary ballot – President Joe Biden, D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Janeese Lewis Geroge (D-Ward 4), and D.C.’s U.S. Shadow Representative Oye Owolewa (D).

Among the candidates not endorsed that surprised some in the LGBTQ community were Pinto and D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D),  who, like Pinto, is a strong LGBTQ community supporter. In the group’s May 21 press release it did not disclose that Pinto’s name was not on the group’s endorsement ballot.

Elizabeth Mitchell, Capital Stonewall’s Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs, and Austin Naughton, a member of the group’s endorsement committee from Ward 2, contacted the Blade by email on May 23 to point out that the group decided at the committee’s recommendation to postpone a decision on whether to endorse Pinto, and the membership did not vote on a Pinto endorsement.

 “We made a careful and considerate decision as an election committee to not impose upon CM Pinto’s busy schedule at this time as there was no challenger for the primary,” Mitchell told the Blade in an email. “We assured CM Pinto and her campaign that we would revisit the subject of endorsement after the primary as it’s possible a challenger may emerge at that time,” said Mitchell, who added that the group was unaware of anyone emerging to challenge Pinto in the November election.

“As such, we did not include her on our endorsement ballot,” Mitchell said. Mitchell was also referring to the decision not to invite Pinto to one of the group’s candidate forums related to the June 4 primary, even though Pinto made it clear she would be happy to participate in a forum.  

No candidates have emerged in the June 4 primary to challenge Pinto either as Democrats or as members of the city’s two other registered political parties – the Republican and Statehood Green parties. An independent candidate could emerge to challenge Pinto in the November general election, and voters are eligible to vote for a write-in candidate in both the primary and general election.

Mitchell said Norton’s office did not respond to an invitation to participate in the Capital Stonewall Democrats first of two candidate forums and told the group a conflict in her schedule prevented Norton from attending the group’s second candidates forum.

“Her office sent us a very professional letter explaining that she had a prior engagement the evening of our forum and would be unable to attend,” Mitchell said. “We explained that to our members,” according to Mitchell, who added, “She was on our ballot and failed to receive enough votes to win an endorsement.”

 Under the group’s endorsement policy, candidates must receive at least 60 percent of the vote from the members to receive an endorsement. Under that policy, Haresign said the group also did not make an endorsement for the Ward 7 and Ward 8 D.C. Council races or in the race for the D.C. U.S. Shadow Senator seat because no candidate received a 60 percent vote threshold.

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