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Third activist released from Kameny lawsuit

Attorneys for estate say picket signs, other property still missing



Richard Rosendall, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Gay activist, Richard Rosendall, has been released from the Kameny estate lawsuit. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay activist Richard Rosendall, a longtime friend of the late gay rights leader Frank Kameny, testified in court on May 11 that he has returned several items he “borrowed” from Kameny’s house shortly after Kameny died last October.

Rosendall appeared in a courtroom at the D.C. Superior Court’s Probate Division in response to a show cause order obtained by attorneys representing Timothy Clark, the personal representative and main heir of Kameny’s estate.

Through his attorneys, Clark has charged in a lawsuit that Rosendall and three other Kameny friends and associates removed without permission documents and other property belonging to the Kameny estate from Kameny’s house in Northwest Washington shortly after Kameny died last Oct. 11.

“After the death of Franklin Edward Kameny, I borrowed, and held in my possession and control, certain personal properly lawfully belonging to the Estate of Franklin Edward Kameny,” Rosendall stated in a sworn affidavit submitted to the court two days prior to the hearing.

He identified in the affidavit and on the witness stand the items borrowed as “a copy of Dr. Kameny’s 1961 brief for the Supreme Court of the United States; a letter to or from [U.S. Supreme Court] Justice [Lewis] Powell; several letters between Dr. Kameny and an Army official concerning [the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance’s] wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery; a box of business cards; and three or four books.”

Two of the other three named in the lawsuit, Charles Francis and Bob Witeck, have returned items they acknowledged belonging to the estate. Rosendall testified at the May 11 hearing that he helped Francis carry 17 boxes filled with papers and other items from Kameny’s house, which he said Francis placed in a storage facility for safekeeping. Rosendall has said Clark, who lived in the house with Kameny for 19 years, gave them permission to enter the house.

Upon their return of the property last month, attorneys for the estate dismissed Francis and Witeck from the lawsuit.

Similar to Rosendall, Francis and Witeck have said they took possession of the items to ensure they remain safe and properly preserved during a period of confusion following Kameny’s death. Each has said they planned all along to return the items to the estate. Witeck has said the only items he took were several photographs.

Rosendall testified that he returned the items he borrowed to Francis, who returned them to the Kameny estate last month.

“The Estate of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny is satisfied that Richard J. Rosendall has returned the items that Mr. Rosendall removed from Dr. Kameny’s home shortly after Dr. Kameny’s death,” said Glen Ackerman, one of the attorneys representing Clark and the Kameny estate, in a statement to the Blade on Monday.

“However, there are still a number of important historical items still missing from the Estate, including Dr. Kameny’s collection of buttons, handmade picket signs and posters,” Ackerman said in the statement. “The Estate is attempting to recover these missing historically significant assets as a part of the probate process and to make certain that Dr. Kameny’s wishes as recorded in his Last Will and Testament are carried out fully.”

In his will, Kameny bequeathed his papers to the Library of Congress while leaving all other possessions, including his house and car, to Clark.

In response to questions at the May 11 court hearing by Kameny estate attorney J. Max Barger, Rosendall disputed claims by the estate that Clark believes as many as 100 picket signs were taken from the house after Kameny’s death. Rosendall told Barger he doubted that many picket signs had been in the house.

Kameny and his fellow gay activists used the picket signs in their historic gay rights demonstrations outside the White House and other government buildings in the early 1960s, the first such demonstrations ever held.

Barger and Ackerman told Judge John Campbell, who presided over the hearing, that the picket signs and buttons, which are inscribed with gay rights messages, have an important historic value and must be accounted for during the probate process for the estate.

Rosendall testified that he has possession of one of the picket signs, which he said Kameny gave permission for him to take several years prior to his death. He said Kameny also gave him a signed copy of The Homosexual Citizen, a publication of the Mattachine Society of Washington, which Kameny co-founded in 1961.

Mindy Daniels, Rosendall’s attorney, expressed concern during the hearing that the estate was confusing items that Kameny gave to Rosendall and others with items belonging to the estate. She noted items given away by someone prior to their death are not part of their estate after the person dies.

Ackerman told Campbell that Francis, Witeck, Rosendall and Marvin Carter, another Kameny friend, had not responded to earlier efforts by the estate to obtain from them an inventory of the items they allegedly took from Kameny’s house following Kameny’s death.

Daniels said the estate never contacted Rosendall about these items until it filed suit against him in March. Ackerman said the estate did make attempts to reach Rosendall and the other three men.

The estate named Carter as a defendant in one of the lawsuits seeking the return of items taken from Kameny’s house and petitioned the court to order him to appear at the May 11 show cause hearing, but Carter did not show up for the hearing. Barger told the court the estate wasn’t able to locate him to serve him a summons to appear at the hearing.

Carter hasn’t returned calls from the Blade seeking comment on the case. As head of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), Carter arranged for the group to provide financial assistance and support for Kameny in the last years of his life.

“I don’t know where we are going with this,” the judge told the attorneys at the hearing. “You can say to these folks give the items back,” Campbell said to Ackerman and Barger. “They can say we did. You can say they didn’t…But we’re not sitting in a criminal court. I can’t convict someone of theft.”

Campbell called on all parties in the case to cooperate and do their best to come up with an inventory of all property that belongs to the state.

He ruled that Rosendall fulfilled the requirements of the show cause order and ordered that he be released from the order. He denied a request from Ackerman and Barger that he issue a “non-disparagement” order prohibiting Rosendall from saying disparaging things about Clark or the Kameny estate. Ackerman told Campbell that an attorney representing Francis made derogatory remarks and false accusations against Clark earlier this year.

Campbell said that as a probate judge he did not have authority to issue such an order.

“I always hope that people will be civil,” he said.

The judge said he could not issue a ruling for Carter because the attorneys for the estate had not been able to serve him with a summons calling on him to appear in court.

Ackerman said the estate would file a motion to dismiss its lawsuit against Rosendall, leaving Carter as the only one of the four with the lawsuit still pending against him. The lawsuit calls on the court to require that Carter disclose what, if any, items he may have that belong to the estate and that he return any such items. Carter has yet to file a response to the lawsuit.

In his affidavit filed with the court, Rosendall, vice president for political affairs of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, made these additional assertions:

“I hereby affirm that I have destroyed or returned any and all copied, digitized, or otherwise electronically or physically duplicated property belonging to the Estate, including but not limited to: personal papers, photographs, documents, memorabilia and other miscellaneous items of tangible personal property. I further affirm that I have not caused the duplication and/or digitization, whether electronic or physical, of said property of the Estate to third parties.”

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  1. Rick Rosendall

    May 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Here is a link to the cover of the 1967 publication that Frank Kameny gave me, showing his hand-written inscription:

  2. Legal Beagle

    May 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I guess these self-appointed activists got a lesson from the judge about the meaning of wills in our legal system. They never had any right to rifle through the belongings of Frank Kameny after his death, and Clark rightfully sued. They look like fools in front of the entire gay community.

  3. Rick Rosendall

    May 17, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Dear Legal Beagle: Actually, as was discussed at the May 11 hearing, my colleagues and I acted with the knowledge and cooperation not only of Mr. Clark but of the attorney for the estate at the time, Michele Zavos. We did not invade Frank Kameny’s house. We were there to help preserve his legacy, as we had been doing for more than five years with his full cooperation. The first portion of his papers have been at the Library of Congress, fully catalogued and available to scholars, for years now thanks to the excellent efforts of Charles Francis and Bob Witeck of the Kameny Papers. Charles got the Kameny collection appraised, raised the full appraised amount and paid it to Frank for the collection, after which the papers went to the library and the Smithsonian had its pick of the picket signs. All monies went to Frank. None of this was disputed by Mr. Clark’s lawyers on May 11. The remaining papers were left to the Library of Congress in Frank’s will, the fully executed version of which we found in Frank’s office on October 16 and which Ms. Zavos discussed with Mr. Clark in our presence. As far as we knew at the time, there was no rancor nor any hint of mistrust. We were concerned that the house might be condemned and the remaining historical materials in it lost. My fellow defendants and I acted in good faith and in a pro bono manner to help Frank and help preserve his legacy. Judge Campbell did not uphold anything that Mr. Clark’s counsel sought. So I fail to see how any of this proves anything against Mr. Francis, Mr. Witeck, Mr. Carter, or me. I understand the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished. But the facts do not support your disparaging remark.

  4. Rick Rosendall

    May 17, 2012 at 11:03 am

    BTW, Legal Beagle, all activists are self-appointed. That’s inherent in what activism is. Otherwise we would be employees. But I did not parachute in from nowhere; I was Frank’s esteemed friend and associate for over 33 years, as reflected by his inscription on the above-linked historical document. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.

  5. brian

    May 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    “I guess these self-appointed activists got a lesson from the judge…
    They look like fools in front of the entire gay community.”
    The “entire” gay community?!? Seriously, legal beagle???

    I think your guesses are exaggerated. Your opinion doesn’t frame a fuller picture of the participants’ contributions to all of us. FYI, most activists are “self-appointed” because they are willing to do the hard work that is needed BY their communities, FOR their communities, very often without pay or recognition.

    Lawsuits usually carry lessons in the law for all parties involved. But the judge clearly wants the parties to settle this case, as well. LGBT attorneys Mindy Daniels and Glen Ackerman are very well-suited to accomplish that task. DC’s LGBT residents and businesses are fortunate to have the professional talents of both of them.

    Everyone should know that Rick Rosendall is an honorable person. His intentions and efforts on behalf of DC’s LGBT community have always been honorable, too. Fact is, this being the nation’s capital and a bit of a national model, Rick’s activism has positively and honorably impacted LGBT communities all across our nation.

    On a personal note, DC’s Ward 5, a formerly hostile ward for LGBT residents, and politically, to LGBT civil rights, has now fully converted to a LGBT-friendly and welcoming ward in DC. This week, in a landslide election, the ward’s LGBT voters turned out fabulously to elect a true-blue champion of LGBT civil rights, Kenyan McDuffie, as their DC Council member. Rick could not have been more generous with his time, counsel and encouragement of Ward 5’s growing LGBT community and its political activism… for many years, now.

    Indeed, the body of Rosendall’s decades of selfless work with his colleagues at GLAA, accomplishing REAL change on behalf of all of DC’s LGBT communities, is just stunning. No local LGBT civil rights organization ANYWHERE has done it better. We are ALL better off for Rick Rosendall’s tireless advocacy. Thank you, Rick!

    A Capital Pride Hero, all of that can be said of Mindy Daniels’ pioneering, tireless work at GLAA– including legal crafting of DC’s hate crimes law– and of her legal services on behalf of LGBT families today, too. (A former resident of Ward 5, Mindy remembers how bad its LGBT politics used to be, I’m sure. Through her past GLAA activism, she deserves some credit for this week’s victory in Ward 5, too.) Thank you, Mindy!

    Glen Ackerman is a bit newer to DC, but many already know of his legal crafting to save the historic Washington Blade for its staff and its loyal readers. Glen’s team also provides vital legal and financial planning for the metro area’s LGBT residents and businesses. Thank you, Glen!

    In his own reply here, Rick has mentioned LGBT attorney, Michele Zavos, another politically active LGBT advocate and decades-long Ward 5 neighbor. For all you do for LGBT residents and families throughout metro DC/ Baltimore, thank you, Michele!

    These extraordinary people, along with many others, are heroes, recognized or not, of DC’s very diverse LGBT communities. They provide much needed LGBT professional services, political support, education and advocacy day-in/day-out, every week of the year.

    Heroes are important to communities. So it pains MANY of us to see them involved in a civil battle among themselves. It is my guess (and can only be a guess by anyone, lawyer or not) that very many of DC’s LGBT residents and stakeholders hope the parties settle this case amicably, and as quickly as possible.

  6. Jayson

    May 18, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Messy Messy Messy Messy. While there are REAL problems and issues that need our attention, we choose to be petty and divisive. Then we wonder why we don’t have equality.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9



David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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