Connect with us

Local

D.C. prepares for primary

Election outcome not likely to change Council support on LGBT issues

Published

on

Political observers say Democratic opponents with the backing of LGBT activists have a shot at unseating Council member Vincent Orange in next week’s primary. Orange once opposed marriage equality but later changed his mind. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The District’s influential LGBT vote was expected to be divided on April 3 in the hotly contested race for an at-large D.C. Council seat held by Democratic incumbent Vincent Orange.

Orange and four of his Council colleagues — Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) — are running for re-election in the Democratic Party primary. Evans, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, is running unopposed.

Similar to nearly all past elections, the winner in the primary is expected to win the general election in November in a city where registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans.

But unlike most D.C. primaries in recent years, where almost all incumbents win, political observers say Democratic opponents with the backing of LGBT activists have a shot at unseating Orange and Alexander.

And the president of the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans of D.C., Robert Turner, says gay Republicans are joining their moderate to progressive fellow party activists to wage a spirited challenge for at least three Council seats in the November election.

Based on the candidates running, most LGBT activist leaders say they don’t expect the election outcome in the April primary or November general election to change the D.C. Council’s overall longstanding support for LGBT equality.

“I do not see any changes that will impact the LGBT community,” said gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein. “We are a strong community with the support of the majority of the Council today and that will continue,” he said.

Alexander and Barry were the only two Council members that voted against the city’s same-sex marriage law when it passed in the Council by a vote of 11-2 in 2009. Both have been supportive on most other LGBT issues in the past.

However, the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance this year assigned Alexander and Barry a -3.5 rating on LGBT-related issues in a rating system with -10 as the lowest possible score and +10 the highest. (A full listing of GLAA’s ratings of all D.C. Council candidates and the candidates’ responses to GLAA’s questionnaire on LGBT-related issues can be viewed at glaa.org.)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, has endorsed both Alexander and Barry in past elections. This year the club endorsed Ward 7 challenger Tom Brown over Alexander. The club didn’t make an endorsement in the Ward 8 race after none of five Democratic candidates running were able to obtain a 60 percent vote from club members to secure an endorsement.

The club also endorsed Bowser in the Ward 4 race, who’s favored to emerge as the winner over five Democratic challengers. Bowser, who voted for the same-sex marriage bill, received a +6.5 rating from GLAA.

Orange wasn’t on the Council at the time of the same-sex marriage vote. He came out against same-sex marriage when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2006 but said he changed his mind on the issue a short time later. He says he now strongly supports the city’s marriage equality law and points to his past support on a wide range of other LGBT-related issues during his tenure as a Ward 5 Council member from 1999 to 2007.

GLAA, which assigned Orange a rating of +0.5, says Orange lost points for backing a number of initiatives opposed by GLAA, including a bill to make permanent certain locations in the city designated as “prostitution free zones.” Many of the city’s gay activists have joined transgender rights leaders and civil liberties advocates in calling for repeal of the law that created temporary prostitution free zones, saying it has been used to target and “profile” transgender women for police harassment on grounds that they appear to be engaging in prostitution by merely standing in certain parts of the city designated as prostitution free zones.

Orange said he no longer supports the bill to make the zones permanent. The bill calling for making them permanent was introduced by Alexander.

He is being challenged by former D.C. school board member Sekou Biddle, who was appointed to the at-large Council seat for less than a year in 2011, before losing it to Orange in an April 2011 special election. The seat became vacant in January 2011 after Council member Kwame Brown, who held the seat, won election to the post of Council chairman. Biddle received a GLAA rating of +5.5.

Also competing for the seat in the April 3 Democratic primary are Peter Shapiro, a former Prince George’s County Council member who recently moved to D.C., who also received a +5.5 GLAA rating, and E. Gail Anderson Holness, a Ward 1 Democratic activist and pastor of D.C.’s Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, who received a -1.5 GLAA rating.

Biddle and Shapiro have expressed strong support on LGBT issues. Both have lined up support in the LGBT community, with the largest number of prominent LGBT activists backing Biddle. Holness, who has called for a voter referendum on the city’s same-sex marriage law, failed to obtain a single vote at a Stein Club endorsement meeting earlier this month.

Biddle finished ahead of Orange in the Stein endorsement vote but fell five points short of the 60 percent needed for an endorsement. Gay supporters of Orange and Shapiro said support for their respective candidates prevented Biddle from winning the club’s endorsement, saying the development indicates Biddle’s support in the LGBT community may be declining.

They note that the Stein Club endorsed Biddle over Orange in the April 2011 special election, in which Biddle finished in third place behind Republican Patrick Mara and Orange, who won the election.

Biddle supporter John Fanning, a longtime gay Democratic activist, said polling data shows that Biddle has emerged as Orange’s strongest challenger and has a shot at beating Orange if the opposition vote isn’t evenly divided between Biddle and Shapiro.

Biddle has been endorsed by gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), and former rival Mara, a pro-LGBT school board member from Ward 1 who campaigned for the city’s same-sex marriage bill when it was pending before the Council.

Stein Club President Lateefah Williams said she believes challenger Tom Brown has a reasonable chance of beating Alexander in the Ward 7 primary. But similar to the at-large race, Williams and others seeking to replace Alexander say Alexander is likely to win if what they believe is a majority of the electorate opposing Alexander is divided among several candidates. Brown received a GLAA rating of +3.5.

Five candidates in addition to Brown are running against Alexander in the primary, including Kevin Chavous Jr., son of former Ward 7 Council member Kevin Chavous Sr., who also received a +3.5 GLAA rating.

Also running unopposed in the primary is D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is considered to be among the strongest supporters of LGBT rights in the U.S. Congress; and shadow U.S. House candidate Nate Bennett-Fleming. Both received endorsements from the Stein Club. GLAA doesn’t issue ratings for federal offices.

The Stein Club didn’t make an endorsement in the race for the city’s shadow Senate seat, in which incumbent Michael D. Brown is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Pete Ross. Both have expressed support for LGBT rights.

Republican Mary Brooks Beatty is running unopposed in the April 3 D.C. Republican primary for the at-large Council seat. In the Statehood-Green Party primary, Ann Wilcox and G. Lee Aikin are also competing for the at-large Council seat. Brooks received a “0” GLAA rating for not returning the group’s questionnaire and not having a known record on LGBT issues. Wilcox received a +0.5 rating. GLAA said she, too, did not return the questionnaire but received a half point for her record of support as an attorney for the gay direct action group Get Equal.

In the Ward 7 Council race, longtime community and anti-crime activist Ron Moten, who has helped the former LGBT gang Check It convert into a youth organization promoting a fashion clothing line, is running for the Republican nomination. He is being challenged by GOP candidate Don Folden Sr. The Log Cabin Republicans of D.C. has endorsed Moten and Brooks. Moten received a +1.5 GLAA rating.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

Published

on

The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

Continue Reading

Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

Published

on

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

Continue Reading

Baltimore

Police say they didn’t spray a chemical agent at Baltimore Pride. Why don’t those who attended believe it?

Attendees allege city failed to adequately respond to emergency

Published

on

A parade participant is photographed clutching on to a rainbow flag at Baltimore’s Pride Parade held on June 15, 2024. (Photo by Ronica Edwards/Baltimore Banner)

BY BRENNA SMITH and JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | A chemical agent that disrupted Pride Parade festivities last weekend continues to cause confusion and raise suspicion among many in the Baltimore LGBTQIA+ community, who question the police account of what happened.

The Baltimore Police Department said Tuesday that they had determined the released substance was Mace, but did not say how they came to that conclusion. A BPD spokesperson said that the chemical was released after two groups of people got into an altercation. Three people were treated and released from a nearby hospital because of injuries from the spray.

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular