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Prosecutor: fatal stabbing of Marine appears to be hate crime

S.E. incident called hate crime; before altercation, Poth allegedly shouted slurs after seeing Bushong embrace gay friend

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Marine Barracks, gay news, Washington Blade

Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The April 21 fatal stabbing of a Marine across the street from the Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill took place minutes after another Marine accused of the stabbing saw the victim hugging a gay male friend outside a straight bar, according to the prosecutor in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman told a D.C. Superior Court hearing on May 16 that the government considers the incident a hate crime. But a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said later that the government has not charged the case as a hate crime and that the case remains under investigation.

Liebman said defendant Pfc. Michael Poth, 20, shouted an anti-gay slur at Lance Cpl. Philip Bushong, 23, and Bushong’s gay friend, whom authorities have not identified.

Liebman told Judge Ronna L. Beck, who presided over a preliminary hearing, that the anti-gay slur came minutes before Poth and Bushong got into a verbal and physical altercation during which Poth allegedly plunged a pocket knife into Bushong’s upper chest, piercing his heart.

Bushong was pronounced dead a short time later at a hospital. D.C. police charged Poth with second-degree murder while armed. Police didn’t initially list the incident as a hate crime.

Liebman did not identify Bushong’s gay male friend, saying only that Poth saw Bushong and the friend hugging on the sidewalk outside Molly Malone’s bar and restaurant on the 700 block of 8th Street, S.E. The bar is located across the street from the Marine barracks at 8th and I Streets, S.E., where Poth had been stationed.

“This was a hate crime,” the Washington Post quoted Liebman as saying at the hearing. “The victim and his friend were embracing outside.”

Friends of Bushong have said he was straight. He had been stationed at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and was visiting Washington, where he planned to move, friends and family members said. At the time of his death, Bushong was days away from being discharged honorably after having completed his term of enlistment.

Poth’s attorney, David Benowitz, argued at the hearing that Poth acted in self-defense. He pointed to one of several video surveillance tapes played at the hearing which showed Poth on the ground before getting back on his feet. Benowitz said Poth was on the ground because Bushong hit or pushed him.

Benowitz also noted at the hearing that a witness told police that Bushong was the first to initiate contact with Poth. At the time of his arrest, Poth told D.C. police homicide detectives that Bushong punched him in the face and head and he stabbed Bushong in self-defense.

According to accounts in the Post and the Washington Times, Benowitz argued that the facts in the case didn’t support a second-degree murder charge and that the charged should be reduced to manslaughter.

Court records show that Judge Beck denied the request to lower the charge and ruled that prosecutors established probable cause that Poth committed second-degree murder while armed. She scheduled a felony status hearing for the case on July 13.

Beck’s ruling came after D.C. Police homicide Det. Dwayne Partman testified at the hearing that a witness told police Poth shouted he was “going to stab somebody and cut their lungs out” just after he walked past Molly Malone’s bar. Partman testified that the witness said Poth made that remark while Bushong and his gay male friend along with other people were standing in front of Molly Malone’s, the Post reported.

The Post also reported that two members of the Marines dressed in civilian clothes entered the courtroom before the hearing began and informed the attorneys that the Marines had given Poth an other than honorable discharge based on poor conduct that occurred prior to Bushong’s murder.

Liebman stated at the hearing that Marine Corps officials informed prosecutors that Poth tested positive for using synthetic marijuana and he had “verbally assaulted other soldiers and had to be restrained,” the Post reported.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said he could not provide further details on the case because it is pending in court and remains under investigation. However, Miller said that at the present time, the U.S. Attorney’s office has not charged the case in court as a hate crime.

Benowitz didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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District of Columbia

Bill calls for designating D.C. street in honor of gay former slave

Black resident called ‘early pioneer’ for LGBTQ rights in 1880s

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Excerpt from the National Star, Jan. 13, 1896. (Image courtesy National Archive)

The D.C. Council is expected to approve a bill that calls for designating Swann Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in honor of William Dorsey Swann, a little known Black gay D.C. resident and former slave who is credited with leading a group that organized drag shows in the late 1800s. 

A statement released by D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), who introduced the bill along with 10 other Council members, including gay Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), says William Dorsey Swann was an early pioneer in LGBTQ rights who referred to himself as “The Queen of Drag.”

“Beginning in the 1880s, William Dorsey Swann ran a group known as the ‘House of Swann’ and organized balls, largely attended by queer, formerly enslaved men who would gather to dance and cross dress,” according to Pinto’s statement, which she released on Feb. 28 at the time she and the other Council members introduced the bill.

“William Dorsey Swann was persecuted by the authorities and arrested multiple times for ‘impersonating a woman’ and ‘keeping a disorderly house,’ and was the first American activist to lead an LGBTQQIA+ resistance group,” Pinto’s statement says. “Swann eventually sought a pardon from President Grover Cleveland, becoming the first American on record to pursue legal action in defense of LGBTQQIA+ rights,” the statement says.

Her statement cites the Jan. 24, 1912, edition of the Congressional Record for the U.S. Senate as saying that Swann Street, N.W. had originally been named for Thomas Swann, an “enslaver” who served as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

“Officially designating this street in honor of native Washingtonian and trailblazing LGBTQQIA+ rights activist William Dorsey Swann is an opportunity to ensure that our streets honor those who embody the District’s value of social equality and human dignity,” the statement says. 

“The location of Swann Street, N.W. provides a physical and symbolic representation of the District’s Black Queer community, sitting both within the Strivers’ Section Historic District, a historic Black neighborhood, and the Dupont Circle neighborhood, the historic epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQQIA+ community,” it says. The street would maintain the current nomenclature and signage as ‘Swann Street,’” the statement concludes.

Swann Street is located between 14th Street, N.W. and 19th Street, N.W. and parallel to and between S Street, N.W. and T Street, N.W.

Pinto’s statement says William Dorsey Swann is believed to have been born in 1858 and died in 1925.

At the time of its introduction, the bill, called the William Dorsey Swann Street Designation Act of 2023, was sent to the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which consists of all 13 Council members.

In addition to Pinto and Parker, the Council members who co-introduced the bill include Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Robert White (D-At-Large), Kenyan McDuffie (I-At-Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), and Matthew Frumin (D-Ward 3).

Lindsey Walton, a spokesperson for Mendelson, said the Committee of the Whole voted unanimously on March 21 to approve the bill, which was expected to come before the full Council on April 4 for the first of two required votes.

One potential problem for the immediate passage and implementation of the Swann Street bill surfaced in a March 21 memo prepared by D.C. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee and sent to Council Chair Mendelson.

Lee says in his memo that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has determined it will cost $30,000 to fabricate and install a commemorative sign called for under the bill explaining the historic background of William Dorsey. It says the sign is to be located at the intersection of Swann Street, New Hampshire Avenue, and 17th Street, N.W.

“Funds are not sufficient in the fiscal year 2023 through fiscal year 2026 budget and financial plan to implement the bill,” Lee says in his memo. “Department of Parks and Recreation will need to work with ANC 2B to design the sign and then will fabricate and install it…The fabrication and installation will cost $30,000 and the agency is unable to absorb the cost within its existing budgeted resources,” the memo says.

Walton, Mendelson’s spokesperson, said Mendelson and the other supporters of the bill on the Council will look for funds for the $30,000 needed to implement the bill in the city’s supplemental budget.

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District of Columbia

Former Trump official elected president of D.C. Log Cabin Republicans

Says GOP group welcomes ‘wide spectrum’ of conservative adherents

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D.C. Log Cabin Republicans President Thad Brock (Screen capture via Heritage Action for America YouTube)

Log Cabin Republicans of D.C., the local chapter of the national LGBTQ Republican organization with the same name, earlier this month elected former Trump administration official Thad Brock as its new president.

Brock replaces longtime GOP activist Adam Savit, who served as the D.C. Log Cabin group’s president for the past two years. The local group held its officers election on March 7 during a meeting in which U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) appeared as a guest speaker.

Brock served from 2018 to 2019 during the Trump administration as Assistant to the Administrator at the U.S. General Services Administration, according to his LinkedIn page.

His LinkedIn page says he served from 2019 to January 2021 as Special Assistant to the CEO at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. agency that works with the State Department to help facilitate foreign trade and assistance for developing countries.

Brock told the Blade the two positions were presidential appointments.

Information released by the D.C. Log Cabin group says its members also elected Andrew Mink as vice president, Matthew Johnson as secretary, Greg Wallerstein as treasurer, and Andrew Desser, Tyler Stark, and Jaime Varela as at-large board members.

“Log Cabin Republicans is the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies,” the national Log Cabin group states on its website. “For more than 40 years, we have promoted the fight for equality through our state and local chapters, our full-time office in Washington, D.C., and our federal and state political action committees,” the statement says.

“We believe in limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty,” the statement continues. “We believe equality for LGBT Americans is in the finest tradition of the Republican Party,” it adds, an assertion that many LGBTQ Democrats strongly dispute.

Asked what he thought about the Trump administration’s record on LGBTQ rights, Brock said he would defer that question to Charles Moran, president of the National Log Cabin Republicans.

In discussing plans for the D.C. Log Cabin group, Brock said he and the newly elected board members will continue the types of activities and emphasis of the former board and former President Savit.

“We will definitely continue to build off the success of the former board members and continue with speakers and events that are representative to the interest of our membership,” he said. “But one of our big focuses will be meeting people where they are,” he said, noting that plans were underway to hold events in different D.C. neighborhoods.

“I think one of the things that we’re also really looking forward to doing is a really big recruitment push to get a lot more members on the conservative spectrum that share a wide variety of ideas,” he said.

But Brock said he and his fellow board members will likely retain a policy put in place by Savit and the previous board in which most of the group’s meetings and events are closed to the press.

“The culture of our membership is strengthened by an open and honest dialogue with our speakers,” he said, which have included GOP members of Congress. “For a better free-thinking environment, we have limited access for the press to attend,” Brock said. “If there is an event that warrants press availability, I will certainly let you know,” he said.

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Maryland

As Md. advances bill to fund gender-affirming care, LGBTQ advocates stress it will save lives

Trans Health Equity Act would impact state Medicaid

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Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

By John-John Williams IV | Shaylie Elliette wishes the Trans Health Equity Act that appears headed for final passage in the Maryland General Assembly would have been around seven years ago, when she turned 18. She believes that transitioning earlier in life would have eliminated years of torment, abuse and discrimination all linked to transphobia.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner website.

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