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Marine calls fellow Marine anti-gay slur, stabs him to death near 8th St. barracks

D.C. police report says incident wasn’t a hate crime

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D.C. police chose not to list as a hate crime an April 21 incident in which one U.S. Marine allegedly stabbed another Marine to death after reportedly calling him an anti-gay slur on a D.C. street, according to a police incident report.

The commander of the D.C. Police Homicide Branch, Lt. Robert Alder, said the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit and the police hate crimes coordinator were reviewing information about the case and a hate crime designation could be added to the report sometime later.

Police said the incident took place about 2:30 a.m. on the sidewalk along the 700 block of 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the historic Marine Corps Barracks where the man charged in the killing is stationed.

Michael Joseph Poth, 20, has been charged with second-degree murder while armed for the stabbing death of Marine Lance Cpl. Philip Bushong, 23, police said in a statement released on Saturday.

“Information uncovered during the course of the preliminary investigation indicates that there was a verbal exchange, and during the exchange a homophobic slur was heard from the suspect prior to the stabbing,” the police statement says.

Alder told the Blade on Monday that a Marine guard stationed across the street outside the Marine Barracks witnessed the incident. Police said one or more of the guards apprehended Poth before D.C. police and D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel arrived on the scene.

According to Alder, police investigators are looking for more witnesses who may have heard what Poth and Bushong were arguing about just prior ot the stabbing. He said evidence so far indicates the two did not know each other and likely met for the first time when they crossed paths on the sidewalk on 8th Street minutes before a verbal altercation turned violent.

“From what we know, the argument was not over sexual orientation,” Alder told the Blade. “And I would say at this time the information that we have appears to show that it was an insult in the heat of their argument and did not have anything to do with any perceived sexual orientation,” he said.

The police report says Bushong was taken to the Med Star unit at Washington Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

The police report, known as the 251 Incident Based Event Report, says the stabbing took place on the sidewalk in front of 727 8th St., S.E., a sporting goods store located two doors away from the Ugly Mug restaurant and bar.

The Washington Post reports that friends of Bushong said Bushong visited the Ugly Mug earlier that night and was a regular customer and former employee of the bar.

The location where Bushong was stabbed is three doors away from the Dignity Center, a building owned by the gay Catholic group Dignity Washington. The site of the stabbing is also located less than a block from the residence of Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant.

“He was a very lighthearted, good young man,” the Post quoted the Ugly Mug’s general manager, Brent McCaslin, as saying of Bushong. “He was an outstanding employee. I never saw him angry. He was always happy,” the Post quoted McCaslin as saying.

Some additional information about the case was expected to emerge at a D.C. Superior Court presentment hearing for Poth scheduled for Monday afternoon.

“Bushong’s friends said Bushong was not gay, nor was he homophobic,” the Post reported.

“You could have called him gay and he wouldn’t have cared,” the Post quoted Nishith Pandya, one of Bushong’s friends, as saying. “He would have laughed,” the paper quoted her as saying.

Assistant D.C. Police Chief Diane Groomes told the Blade in an email that the police report stating the incident was not a hate crime may have been prepared before witnesses were interviewed and additional information became known.

“When things first happen, not all facts are sorted out immediately on the scene,” Groomes said.

Even if the police listed the incident as a hate crime, the final decision on whether to charge Poth with a hate crime is made by the United States Attorney’s office, which prosecutes most cases in the city involving a violent crime.

The city’s hate crimes law calls for charging a person with committing a hate crime if he or she commits a violent act against another person based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or several other factors such as race, religion, or ethnicity.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the office doesn’t comment on pending cases.

Miller declined to say in general whether prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office would charge someone with a hate crime if he or she hurled an anti-gay slur with the intent of insulting a victim whose sexual orientation was unknown or believed to be straight.

“We have veteran prosecutors who review cases to determine if they meet the criteria for hate-crime enhancements,” Miller told the Blade in an email. “We decline to address your specific questions. We can say that we weigh the evidence very carefully in making the charging decisions.”

Zeke Stokes, a spokesperson for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national LGBT organization that represents gay members of the military, said the group is not aware of an increase in anti-LGBT violence in the military as a result of the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which cleared the way for gays to serve openly in the military.

“All reports from the field are that implementation of DADT repeal is going very well across all services,” Stokes said.

Concerning the murder of Marine Corps member Bushong outside the Marine Barracks in D.C., Stokes said, “We understand that an investigation is underway by the appropriate authorities and it would be premature for SLDN to comment on this homicide until more of the facts are known.”

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats backs Robert White over Bowser

LGBTQ group endorses Erin Palmer over incumbent Mendelson

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Council member Robert White won the backing of Capital Stonewall Democrats in his bid for mayor over incumbent Muriel Bowser. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, announced on May 17 that it has selected D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large) over incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser and political newcomer Erin Palmer over D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson as its endorsed candidates in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary.

With Bowser and Mendelson as well as White having longstanding records of support for LGBTQ rights and Palmer expressing strong support for the LGBTQ community, local observers say the LGBTQ Democratic group’s 163 voting members appear to have based their endorsement decisions on other pressing issues facing the city rather than only LGBTQ specific issues.

In other races, Capital Stonewall Democrats, formerly known as the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which was founded in 1976, voted to endorse incumbent Ward 1 Council member Brianne Nadeau over gay former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary and community activist Sabel Harris who are running against Nadeau.

In the Ward 5 Council race, the group has endorsed gay D.C. Board of Education member Zachary Parker in a five-candidate contest for the seat being vacated by incumbent Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who ran unsuccessfully for the office of D.C. Attorney General.

The group has also endorsed Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who is running unopposed in the primary; D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who’s favored to win re-election against two lesser-known opponents; and D.C. shadow U.S. Rep. Oye Owolewa, who’s also favored over a lesser known opponent.

Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it did not make an endorsement in the Ward 3 and At-Large D.C. Council races and in the D.C. Attorney General race because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote under the group’s longstanding rules for endorsements.

By not endorsing in the At-Large race, the group passed over incumbent At-Large Council member Anita Bonds, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ issues. Bonds is being challenged by Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Lisa Gore, former D.C. shadow House member Nate Fleming, and former D.C. Council staffer Dexter Williams.

In the hotly contested Ward 3 Council race, nine candidates are competing for the seat being vacated by incumbent Mary Cheh, another longtime LGBTQ rights supporter.

In the race for attorney general, three prominent local attorneys — Brian Schwalb, Ryan Jones, and Bruce Spiva — are competing for the AG position being vacated by incumbent Karl Racine, who chose not to run for re-election.

Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsements follow a series of five LGBTQ candidate forums the group held virtually in which most of the candidates running in the various races attended.
In the group’s mayoral form, Bowser was the only one of the four mayoral contenders that did not attend. Her supporters said she had a conflicting event organized by gay Democratic activist Kurt Vorndran that prevented her from attending the Stonewall event.

Those who attended the mayoral forum were Robert White, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Trayon White (D-Ward 8), and former attorney and community activist James Butler.
A detailed vote tally released by Capital Stonewall Democrats shows the vote count for each of the endorsed candidates as well as candidates in the races for which the group did not make an endorsement.

In the mayoral race, Robert White received 120 votes, or 74.5 percent. Bowser came in second place with 37 votes or 23.0 percent; Trayon White received just two votes or 1.2 percent, with Butler receiving just 1 vote at 0.6 percent. One vote was cast for no endorsement.

In the D.C. Council Chair race, Palmer received 89 votes or 60.1 percent, just surpassing the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement. Mendelson received 48 votes or 32.4 percent. Eleven votes were cast for no endorsement.

In the Ward 1 Council race, Nadeau received 100 votes or 69.4 percent compared to gay candidate Czapary, who came in second place with 23 votes or 16.0 percent. Candidate Sabel Harris came in third place with 9 votes or 6.3 percent, with a no endorsement selection receiving 12 votes or 8.3 percent.

In the Ward 5 contest, gay school board member Parker received 91 votes or 64.5 percent. Candidate Faith Hubbard came in second with 31 votes or 22.0 percent. The remaining candidates received fewer than 10 votes each, including former At-Large and former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, who received 5 votes or 3.5 percent.

“Since Capital Stonewall Democrats has only 221 members, and only 163 bothered to vote, this is clearly not representative of the LGBTQ+ community in the District,” said gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who is supporting Bowser for mayor.

But longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate A. Billy S. Jones-Hennin is among the local activists who view the Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement of lesser-known challengers – most of whom have progressive, left-leaning views – as a reflection of changes in the demographics of the LGBTQ community and the Stonewall group’s members.

“At the forefront for voters is who they feel can address core problems like crime, open drug transactions, and increased homeless populations,” Jones-Hennin told the Blade. “Just asking voters for support based on their support of the LGBTQ+ community in the past does not cut it,” he said. “We are multi-faceted voters looking for new, more progressive and aggressive leadership.”

The Capital Stonewall Democrats list of endorsements as well as races with no endorsement can be viewed below:

• Mayor: Robert White, with 74.5% of the round one vote
• DC Attorney General: No Endorsement
• DC Council Chair: Erin Palmer, with 60.1% of the round one vote
• Ward 1 Council: Brianne K. Nadeau, with 69.4% of the round one vote
• Ward 3 Council: No Endorsement
• Ward 5 Council: Zachary Parker, with 64.5% of the round one vote
• Ward 6 Council: Charles Allen, with 83.2% of the round one vote
• At-Large Council: No Endorsement
• Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives: Eleanor Holmes Norton, with 69.7% of the round one vote
• U.S. Representative: Oye Owolewa, with 66.1% of the round one vote

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District of Columbia

Pannell resigns in protest from Ward 8 Council member’s LGBT Commission

Says Trayon White has no out member of his staff

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Phil Pannell resigned as a member of the Ward 8 LGBT Commission created by D.C. Council member Trayon White. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights activist Phil Pannell announced on May 6 that he has resigned as a member of the Ward 8 LGBT Commission created by D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) on grounds that White does not have an LGBTQ person on his Council staff.

White’s office has said the Council member created the commission to “focus on the specific needs of this community” in his role as a supporter of LGBTQ equality.

“For me, this is a major issue of inclusion, affirmative action and diversity,” Pannell said in an email message announcing his resignation. “I as a Black Gay man cannot in good conscience continue to be a member of my Councilmember’s LGBT Commission when he has no one from my community on his staff,” Pannell’s announcement message continues.

“This is hypocritical at best and structurally homophobic at worst,” he said. “I deeply resent and refuse to be used as anyone’s homosexual prop for any purposes. Therefore, I resign from the commission effective immediately.”

In response to a request by the Washington Blade for comment on Pannell’s resignation, Julia Jessie, White’s director of communications, said White’s Council office “follows all legal HR procedures and hires based on experience and skillset.” Jessie added, “As an employer, we do not discriminate or consider a person’s race, color, religion, or sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity, when making decisions about employment qualifications.”

According to Jessie, “We do, however, harvest a safe and inclusionary work environment where employees who wish to voluntarily disclose their sexual orientation of gender identity feel comfortable doing so.”

White’s office released a statement from the Ward 8 LGBT Commission’s chair, Marvin ‘Rahim’ Briggs, saying the commission “regretfully accepts” Pannell’s resignation.

“The Commission will continue to focus on and address issues affecting Ward 8 LGBTQ,” Briggs says in the statement. “We’ll continue to organize to promote acceptance of LGBTQ community diversity and to foster respect and appreciation for each member of the community residing in Ward 8.”

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District of Columbia

Two gay candidates disqualified from D.C. primary ballot

Republican, Libertarian activists withdraw from races

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(Blade archive photo by Aram Vartian)

A member of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest LGBTQ local political group, mounted a successful challenge before the D.C. Board of Elections earlier this month that resulted in a gay Republican and a gay Libertarian Party activist withdrawing as candidates for public office in the city’s June 21 primary.

James Harnett, 24, a member of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee and a member of the staff of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), filed challenges to the candidacy of gay Libertarian Party activist Bruce Majors, who was running unopposed in the June 21 primary for the office of both D.C. Delegate to the U.S. House and chair of the Libertarian Party of D.C.

The Board of Elections upheld Harnett’s challenge claiming that Majors failed to obtain a sufficient number of valid petition signatures needed to be placed on the ballot for both offices, according to elections board spokesperson Nicholas Jacobs. Majors withdrew his candidacy for both offices rather than contest the challenge.

The Board of Elections also upheld a challenge filed by Harnett against the candidacy of gay Republican and D.C. Log Cabin Republicans organization member Andrew Desser, who was running unopposed in the primary for the position of Ward 1 Chairperson of the D.C. Republican Committee.

Desser told the Blade he acknowledged that he fell short in obtaining the needed number of valid petition signatures and would not contest the challenge.

Harnett, who appeared to be acting on his own behalf and not representing the Capital Stonewall Democrats in his challenges to Majors and Desser before the election board, did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

Board of Elections records showed that he also successfully challenged six other candidates seeking ballot placement in the June 21 primary, one of whom, Lori Furstenberg, was running for mayor as a Republican and another, Corren Brown, was running for mayor as a Statehood-Green Party member.

The others Harnett mounted a successful challenge against were GOP candidates running for the Ward 2, Ward 4, and Ward 7 GOP Chairperson positions; and Leniqua ‘Dominique’ Jenkins, a Democrat running for the at-large D.C. Council seat, who was the only Democrat challenged by Harnett.

Harnett, a former ANC commissioner in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for the nonpartisan office of D.C. Board of Education for Ward 2. Among the candidates he ran against was gay education advocate Allister Chang, who won that race.

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