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D.C. prepares for primary

Election outcome not likely to change Council support on LGBT issues



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

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.


District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’



Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out just before the pandemic in collaboration with Wells Fargo. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship each year of their community college experience as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

Meanwhile, the foundation is also expanding its new BIPOC scholarship, which announced its next round of recipients on May 22. The scholarship is currently supporting between 500 and 555 scholars across the country.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

This year, Point also did a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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