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Library of Congress staffer fired, claims anti-gay bias

Says he was outed on Facebook, ‘stalked’ by superior at D.C. gay bar



Peter TerVeer, gay news, gay politics dc

Peter TerVeer, 30, was fired last week from his job at the Library of Congress and claims his former boss cited biblical passages condemning homosexuality.

A gay man has charged in a discrimination complaint that he was fired last week from his job at the Library of Congress after being harassed and humiliated for more than a year by a supervisor who repeatedly cited passages from the Bible condemning homosexuality.

Peter TerVeer, 30, a management analyst at the Library of Congress’s Office of the Inspector General since 2008, says in his complaint that supervisor John R. Mech created a hostile work environment for him to such a degree that he suffered severe stress, forcing him to take disability leave last fall and earlier this year.

“I contend that I have been subjected to a hostile work environment by Mr. Mech since August 2009 on the basis of my sex (male), sexual orientation (homosexual), and religion (non-denominational Christian/Agnostic),” TerVeer states in an affidavit accompanying his complaint.

“I maintain that Mr. Mech has acted to impose his religious beliefs on me,” TerVeer says in the affidavit.

TerVeer’s attorney, Thomas Simeone, said he will likely file a discrimination related lawsuit against the library on TerVeer’s behalf regardless of how the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is deliberating over the complaint, rules on the matter.

Gayle Osterberg, director of communications for the Library of Congress, said TerVeer’s complaint is considered a personnel matter and the library never comments on personnel-related issues pertaining to an individual employee.

She said that under library rules, neither John Mech, an accountant and lead auditor for the library’s Office of The Inspector General, nor any other library employee familiar with TerVeer’s case would be permitted to comment on the case.

Simeone said a key factor in the case is that library officials promoted TerVeer three times and praised his work and that negative job performance reviews suddenly began after Mech learned TerVeer was gay.

Asked about a policy adopted by the Library of Congress in the 1990s prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, Osterberg declined to confirm whether such a policy is still in effect.

“We adhere to Title 7, period,” she said, referring to a provision in existing U.S. civil rights law that bans job discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex and other criteria but not on sexual orientation.

An internal “Librarian’s Policy Statement Regarding Non-Discrimination” issued to Library of Congress Employees on May 6, 2010, reiterates the 1990s-era statement pertaining to sexual orientation discrimination.

“Discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment), national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or political affiliation will not be tolerated,” the statement says.

Osterberg declined to disclose whether that and previous sexual orientation non-discrimination statements were still in effect.

TerVeer’s complaint, filed with the EEOC, follows a September 2008 federal court decision finding that the Library of Congress violated federal law against sex discrimination by denying a job to a transgender woman.

In that case, the library had determined that the applicant was qualified and hired her shortly before she announced she was transitioning from male to female. When officials learned that David Schroer was transitioning to Diane Schroer they rescinded the job offer and refused to hire Schroer.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in September 2008 that the library’s refusal to hire Schroer violated a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination, a development hailed by the ACLU as an important breakthrough for transgender rights. The library decided against appealing the case and agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Diane Schroer in which it paid her compensatory damages.

Library of Congress: ‘AWOL’ for 37 days?

Dome of the Library of Congress. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a March 29, 2012 letter to TerVeer, Karl W. Schornagel, the library’s Inspector General and head of the division where TerVeer worked, said he approved TerVeer’s firing on grounds that TerVeer had been absent from work without approved leave or “AWOL” since Jan. 4, 2012.

Schornagel states in the letter that under library personnel rules, absence without approved leave is considered a form of misconduct that could lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.

“I considered that you failed to report for duty as scheduled for over 37 consecutive workdays and failed to properly request approved leave despite being reminded of the proper procedures for requesting approved leave and advised of the consequences of your failure to report for duty as scheduled,” Schornagel said in his letter.

TerVeer told the Blade that library officials approved disability leave he had requested in October 2011 at the urging of his therapist and doctor based on the therapist’s determination that a hostile work environment at the library caused him to suffer severe mental stress.

According to TerVeer, the unpaid disability leave approved by the library expired in January 2012. He said library officials declined his request for a transfer to another office and demanded he return to duty with Mech remaining as his supervisor.

Simeone, TerVeer’s attorney, said library rules may have allowed TerVeer to apply for an extended disability leave. But he said TerVeer by that time had exhausted his financial resources following three months of unpaid leave and couldn’t afford to pay doctors and his therapist for the necessary examination and documentation needed to apply for extended disability leave.

“He was in a bind,” said Simeone. “He loved working there and he wanted to continue. And as you can tell, he needed the money. He tried to get a transfer to a new setting or a new area, but it was just not possible. They wouldn’t do that.”

Simeone said going back to the office where TerVeer knew he would be subjected to the same harassment and stress wasn’t an option he could accept.

Outed by boss’s daughter

TerVeer told the Blade he never intended to come out as gay at work when he first started his job at the library in February 2008. He said he had recently moved to D.C. from rural Western Michigan, which he said was devastated by the economic recession.

With a bachelor’s degree in business management from Hope College in Michigan and his enrollment at the University of Maryland for a degree in accounting and auditing, TerVeer said the start of his employment at the library’s Office of The Inspector General appeared to be a perfect fit for his chosen career path.

“The first year and a half, almost two years I was there I was closeted and essentially I was kind of the golden boy in the office,” he said. “He took me under his wing and we had a cordial discourse,” he said of Mech. “And he appeared to come off initially as really nice.”

TerVeer said the cordial relationship was based, in part, on their shared interest in sports and TerVeer’s role as captain of a school football team in Michigan. At one point Mech invited him to join his wife and son at a University of Maryland football game, TerVeer said.

As TerVeer tells it, his problems started just after that, when Mech invited him to “look up his daughter” in the late summer or early fall of 2009. Within days, said TerVeer, Mech’s daughter Katie contacted him on Facebook and asked to become Facebook friends.

He said he accepted her request after using the appropriate Facebook privacy controls to hide information on his own Facebook page that identified him as gay. But a short time later, Facebook put in place changes in its settings in such a way that TerVeer’s link to a Facebook group in support of gay adoptions became publicly visible, TerVeer said.

“I get home one day and she saw it and commented and she said, ‘You’re not one of those weirdoes are you?’ I said I am actually, in fact, one of those weird ones if you’re referring to the fact that I’m gay.”

TerVeer said Katie Mech initially said she wasn’t troubled by this discovery, saying she had a good friend in San Francisco who’s gay.

However, the following day TerVeer said he discovered that she had both “de-friended” and blocked him from her Facebook page. Within days of that, John Mech began raising his religious beliefs with TerVeer in emails and in face-to-face conversations with him, TerVeer said.

“All of a sudden now, every time I’m going into his office he’s starting off with a religious conversation. Then it comes out where he pointed out he was a believer with a literal translation of the Bible,” said TerVeer. “Then he goes specifically into homosexuality.”

TerVeer said he knew then that Katie Mech informed her father that he is gay.

In his affidavit, TerVeer said things came to a head on June 21, 2010.

“He came into my office on that date and said he wanted to educate me on hell and that it was a sin to be a homosexual,” TerVeer says in the affidavit. “He said he hoped I repented because the Bible was very clear about what God does to homosexuals.”

Among other things, TerVeer says in the affidavit that Mech quoted the Old Testament passage of Leviticus, stating, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their heads.”

TerVeer says in the affidavit, “He stated that as a homosexual I could never succeed because it was against God’s law.”

Four days later, on June 25, 2010, Mech spoke with TerVeer about TerVeer’s annual performance review and TerVeer expressed concern that his ratings were lower than he believed they should be, he says in the affidavit.

According to the affidavit, he politely told Mech he was concerned that the lower performance review might be biased because of Mech’s strongly expressed religious beliefs toward homosexuality.

“Mr. Mech became extremely upset and vehemently denied that my homosexuality and his personal views had an impact on his rating of me,” TerVeer says in the affidavit. “He accused me of attempting to injure his career and reputation and to ‘bring down the Library.’”

Gay official ‘stalks’ TerVeer

TerVeer says in his affidavit that beginning in July 2010 through the middle of 2011 Mech appeared to be “piling on” work assignments in an effort to set him up to fail. He said one particular project he was assigned to handle by himself had been previously worked on by six full-time employees and took more than a year to complete, yet he was told to complete it during a shorter period of time.

“I believe that Mr. Mech gave me this assignment to set me up for failure and to give him a better opportunity to identify and manufacture deficiencies in my performance,” TerVeer says in the affidavit. “I believe he decided in advance to give me negative ratings in my next performance review and began to create a record of alleged ‘job deficiencies’ to support this.”

In an effort to appeal what he believed to be an unfairly negative job performance rating calling for denying him a normally routine “step” pay increase, TerVeer said he approached Mech’s supervisor, Nicholas Christopher, the assistant inspector general for audits. “Mr. Christopher declined to change my performance evaluation and denied me a WIGI [Within Grade Increase]” in pay, he says in the affidavit.

When he indicated he was in the process of filing a possible discrimination complaint, TerVeer said that both Mech and Christopher appeared to warn him against doing so, saying he could face consequences such as additional poor performance ratings.

In a staff meeting on June 28, 2011, TerVeer says in the affidavit that Mech demanded that he explain, “what I was doing” concerning his stated intention to appeal the low job performance rating.

“He berated and humiliated me in front of my co-workers,” TerVeer says in the affidavit. “He interrogated me regarding the exact nature of my appeal and who I was filing the action against.”

After beginning his disability leave in the fall of 2011, TerVeer said he was startled when Christopher appeared at the D.C. gay bar Number Nine, where TerVeer had been working as a security staffer, and began to take a video of him with his cell phone.

TerVeer and his lawyer at the time, Brennan McCarthy, said TerVeer’s therapist believed working a job at a gay bar provided a friendly, supportive work environment and was an important part of his recovery from the stress-related ailment that required he take a leave from his job at the library.

In a Feb. 16, 2012 letter to Vicki Magnus, acting deputy director of the library’s Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness and Compliance, which investigates discrimination complaints, McCarthy expressed concern that Christopher had “commenced a pattern of harassment, including stalking Mr. TerVeer at his second job and videotaping Mr. TerVeer while working.”

McCarthy said Christopher appeared to have begun harassing TerVeer after Christopher learned that TerVeer was considering filing a discrimination complaint.

“Following that revelation, Mr. Christopher took all steps possible not only to keep Mr. TerVeer from filing his complaint with your office, but also stated that poor performance reviews are ‘what happens’ when someone tried to bring down the Library of Congress (i.e., files an EEOC complaint),” McCarthy said in his letter.

Sources familiar with the Library of Congress have told the Blade that it’s widely known at the library that Christopher is gay. Christopher states in the publicly accessible part of his Facebook page that his “relationship status” is “single” and he’s “interested in” men.

He also describes his religious views on his Facebook page as being “vociferously atheist.”

Christopher didn’t respond to a Blade message asking whether he was troubled over TerVeer’s allegation that Mech had been reciting biblical passages to TerVeer at work condemning his homosexuality.


District of Columbia

New D.C. LGBTQ+ bar Crush set to open April 19

An ‘all-inclusive entertainment haven,’ with dance floor, roof deck



Crush (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s newest LGBTQ+ bar called Crush is scheduled to open for business at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 19, in a spacious, two-story building with a dance floor and roof deck at 2007 14th St., N.W. in one of the city’s bustling nightlife areas.

A statement released by co-owners Stephen Rutgers and Mark Rutstein earlier this year says the new bar will provide an atmosphere that blends “nostalgia with contemporary nightlife” in a building that was home to a popular music store and radio supply shop.

Rutgers said the opening comes one day after Crush received final approval of its liquor license that was transferred from the Owl Room, a bar that operated in the same building before closing Dec. 31 of last year. The official opening also comes three days after Crush hosted a pre-opening reception for family, friends, and community members on Tuesday, April 16.

Among those attending, Rutgers said, were officials with several prominent local LGBTQ organizations, including officials with the DC Center for the LGBTQ Community, which is located across the street from Crush in the city’s Reeves Center municipal building. Also attending were Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, and Salah Czapary, director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture.  

Rutgers said Crush plans to hold a grand opening event in a few weeks after he, Rutstein and the bar’s employees become settled into their newly opened operations.

“Step into a venue where inclusivity isn’t just a promise but a vibrant reality,” a statement posted on the Crush website says. “Imagine an all-inclusive entertainment haven where diversity isn’t just celebrated, it’s embraced as the very heartbeat of our venue,” the statement says. “Welcome to a place where love knows no bounds, and the only color or preference that matters is the vibrant tapestry of humanity itself. Welcome to Crush.”

The website says Crush will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m., Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 3 a.m., and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. It will be closed on Mondays.

Crush is located less than two blocks from the U Street Metro station.

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District of Columbia

Reenactment of first gay rights picket at White House draws interest of tourists

LGBTQ activists carry signs from historic 1965 protest



About 30 LGBTQ activists formed a picket line in front of the White House April 17. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 30 LGBTQ activists formed a circular picket line in front of the White House Wednesday afternoon, April 17, carrying signs calling for an end to discrimination against “homosexuals” in a reenactment of the first gay rights protest at the White House that took place 59 years earlier on April 17, 1965.

Crowds of tourists looked on with interest as the activists walked back and forth in silence in front of the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue. Like the 1965 event, several of the men were dressed in suits and ties and the women in dresses in keeping with a 1960s era dress code policy for protests of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the city’s first gay rights group that organized the 1965 event.

Wednesday’s reenactment was organized by D.C.’s Rainbow History Project, which made it clear that the event was not intended as a protest against President Joe Biden and his administration, which the group praised as a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights.

“I think this was an amazing event,” said Vincent Slatt, the Rainbow History Project official who led efforts to put on the event. “We had twice as many that we had hoped for that came today,” he said.

“It was so great to see a reenactment and so great to see how far we’ve come,” Slatt said. “And also, the acknowledgement of what else we still need to do.”

Slatt said participants in the event who were not carrying picket signs handed out literature explaining the purpose of the event.

A flier handed out by participants noted that among the demands of the protesters at the 1965 event were to end the ban on homosexuals from working in the federal government, an end to the ban on gays serving in the military, an end to the denial of security clearances for gays, and an end of the government’s refusal to meet with the LGBTQ community. 

“The other thing that I think is really, really moving is some of the gay staff inside the White House found out this was happening and came out to greet us,” Slatt said. He noted that this highlighted how much has changed since 1965, when then President Lyndon Johnson’s White House refused to respond to a letter sent to Johnson from the Mattachine Society explaining its grievances. 

“So now to have gay people in the White House coming out to give us their respects and to say hello was especially meaningful to us,” Slatt said. “That was not expected today.”

Among those walking the picket line was longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate Paul Kuntzler, who is the only known surviving person who was among the White House picketers at the April 1965 event. Kuntzler said he proudly carried a newly printed version of the sign at Wednesday’s reenactment event that he carried during the 1965 protest. It stated, “Fifteen Million Homosexuals Protest Federal Treatment.”  

Also participating in the event was Japer Bowles, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Bowles presented Slatt with a proclamation issued by Bowser declaring April 17, 2024, Mattachine Society Day in Washington, D.C.

“Whereas, on April 17, 1965, the Mattachine Society of Washington courageously held the nation’s inaugural picket for gay rights, a seminal moment in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQIA+ equality in the United States, marking the genesis of public demonstrations advocating for those rights and paving the way for Pride Marches and Pride celebrations worldwide,” the proclamation states.

About 30 minutes after the reenactment event began, uniformed Secret Service agents informed Slatt that due to a security issue the picketers would have to move off the sidewalk in front of the White House and resume the picketing across the street on the sidewalk in front of Lafayette Park. When asked by the Washington Blade what the security issue was about, one of the Secret Service officers said he did not have any further details other than that his superiors informed him that the White House sidewalk would have to be temporarily cleared of all people.

Participants in the event quickly resumed their picket line on the sidewalk in front of Lafayette Park for another 30 minutes or so in keeping with the 1965 picketing event, which lasted for one hour, from 4:20 p.m. to 5:20 p.m., according to Rainbow  History Project’s research into the 1965 event.

Although the LGBTQ picketers continued their procession in silence, a separate protest in Lafayette Park a short distance from the LGBTQ picketers included speakers shouting through amplified speakers. The protest was against the government of Saudi Arabia and organized by a Muslim group called Al Baqee Organization.

A statement released by the Rainbow History Project says the reenactment event, among other things, was a tribute to D.C.-area lesbian rights advocate Lilli Vincenz, who participated in the 1965 White House picketing, and D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who founded the Mattachine Society of Washington in the early 1960s and was the lead organizer of the 1965 White House protest. Kameny died in 2011 and Vincenz died in 2023.

The picket signs carried by participants in the reenactment event, which were reproduced from the 1965 event, had these messages:

• “DISCRIMINATION Against Homosexuals is as immoral as Discrimination Against Negroes and Jews;”

• “Government Should Combat Prejudice NOT PROMOTE IT”

• “White House Refuses Replies to Our Letters, AFRAID OF US?

• “HOMOSEXUALS Died for their Country, Too”

• “First Class Citizenship for HOMOSEXUALS”

• “Sexual Preference is Irrelevant to Employment”

• “Fifteen Million U.S. Homosexuals Protest Federal Treatment”

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District of Columbia

Organizers announce details for D.C. Black Pride 2024

Most events to take place Memorial Day weekend at Westin Downtown



Black Pride 2024 details were announced this week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Center for Black Equity, the organizer of D.C. Black Pride, the nation’s first and one of the largest annual African-American LGBTQ Pride celebrations, announced this year’s event will take place Memorial Day Weekend from May 24-27.

The announcement, released April 16, says that most 2024 D.C. Black Pride events will take place at the Westin Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel at 999 9th St, N.W.

“With the theme Black Pride Forever, the event promises a weekend filled with vibrant celebrations, empowering workshops, and a deep exploration of Black LGBTQIA+ history and culture,” the announcement says.

It says events will include as in past years a “Rainbow Row” vendor expo at the hotel featuring “organizations and vendors created for and by the LGBTQIA+ community” offering products and services “that celebrate Black excellence.”

According to the announcement, other events include a Health and Wellness Festival that will offer workshops, demonstrations, and activities focused on “holistic well-being;” a Mary Bowman Poetry Slam “showcasing the power and beauty of spoken word by Black LGBTQIA+ artists;” the Black Pride Through the Decades Party, that will celebrate the “rich history of the Black LGBTQIA+ movement;” and an Empowerment Through Knowledge series of workshops that “delve into various topics relevant to the Black LGBTQIA+ community.”

Also, as in past years, this year’s D.C. Black Pride will feature its “Opening Night Extravaganza” reception and party that will include entertainment and live performances.

The announcement notes that D.C.’s annual Black Pride celebration, started in 1991 as a one-day outdoor event at Howard University’s Banneker Field, has inspired annual Black LGBTQ Pride events across the United States and in Canada, United Kingdom, Brazil, Africa, and the Caribbean. More than 300,000 people attend Black LGBTQ Pride events each year worldwide, the announcement says.

Full details, including the official schedule of events, can be accessed at

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