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D.C. Mayor Gray calls Catania remarks ‘nonsense’

Gay Council member wants answers about campaign scandal — or a resignation

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Mayor Vincent Gray spoke at the Pride week LGBT town hall on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray took a shot at gay Council member David Catania during a Pride town hall event Thursday.

A day earlier, Catania said in a televised interview that Gray should resign if he fails to tell all he knows about allegations of improprieties in his 2010 mayoral campaign.

He told Fox 5 news, “The time has come … for the mayor to provide answers to the questions that people have regarding his campaign or return as a private citizen and address those issues,” said Catania.

“I don’t want to respond to that kind of nonsense,” the mayor said when asked by the Blade’s Lou Chibbaro Jr. about Catania’s remarks. “David Catania makes comments at times that are ridiculous.”

The reception and town hall, which took place at the Charles Sumner School in Washington, D.C., also saw the swearing in of members of the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee. The event was sponsored by Capital Pride, the Washington Blade, the Victory Fund and the Crew Club.

“We want to get them sworn in tonight,” Mayor Gray said in announcing the new members of the committee after an introduction by the mayor’s GLBT liaison, Jeffrey Richardson. “Because we want them to take this seriously. This is serious work.”

“People can step back for a minute,” the mayor said in response to a question about the resignation and indictment of City Council Chair Kwame Brown. “The city is doing extremely well.”

The mayor said he was shocked and saddened by the resignation but said the scandal would not impact city services. He rattled off a list of accomplishments during his tenure as mayor, including posting a budget surplus, lower unemployment and a reduced number of homicides.

“We are a resilient city,” the mayor said, saying the District is adding 1,000 new residents each month. “Our city is in great shape.”

“I was stunned and I was sad to learn what was revealed,” the mayor said of the resignation of his longtime friend, but assured residents the city was on the right track.

The mayor also answered questions from the Blade about President Obama’s support of marriage equality as well as the impending Maryland referendum on same-sex marriage.

The mayor also spoke extensively of his pride over the District playing host to the International AIDS Conference, being held in the United States for the first time in two decades. He also said he was not prepared to make any statements about running for mayor again in 2014.

“We will be able to showcase what we are doing in the District of Columbia itself,” the mayor said, saying the conference will be an opportunity for AIDS/HIV researchers and advocates to advance the science of HIV prevention and care. “We are doing a lot.”

The comments came after a line of questioning about the rising HIV rates among gay men in the District of Columbia.

During an audience question and answer session immediately following the interview, trans advocate Ruby Corado thanked the mayor for his support.

“Since you’ve been mayor a lot of LGBT activists can sleep a little better,” said Corado, whose Casa Ruby recently opened catering to the Latino LGBT community. “As a trans activist, I certainly sleep a lot better.”

The members of the committee sworn in Thursday night are:

  • Andrew Barnett – Executive Director Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League
  • Gregory A. Cendana – Executive Director of Asian American Labor Alliance
  • Wesley D. Thomas – Dentist, U.S. Department of Defense & board member, Whitman-Walker Health
  • Brittany E. Walsh – Program Manager, LIFT-DC
  • Ryan C. Wilson – Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
  • Lester Johnson – President, Team DC Executive Council
  • Kareem Murphy – Partner, Ferguson Group & Member, Metropolitan Community Church Public Policy Team
  • Megan Wallace – Principal, Wallace Law, LLC,
  • Matthew Leblanc – Program Coordinator, LGBTQ Resource Center, Georgetown University
  • Savanna Wanzer – Founder of Capital Trans Pride 2007 & Board member Whitman Walker Health
  • Iden McCollum – Founder and Executive Director of the Ida Mae Campbell Foundation
  • Ronald L. Swanda – Aging Advocate
  • Dr. Imani Woody – Chair, SAGE Metro DC
  • Khadijah Tribble – Director of Operations for the Not-for-Profit Hospital Corporation’s Infectious Diseases Care Center & Principal, of Trifecta Consulting Group
  • Julius Agers – Two-Spirited American Indian and Transgender Advocate
  • Courtney Snowden – Principal, Raben Group
  • David Perez – President, Board of the Latino GLBT History Project & Director of Development for the League of United Latin American Citizens
  • June Crenshaw – Chair of the Board of Rainbow Response Coalition (RRC)
  • Barbara Ann Helmick – Deputy Chief of Staff for Citizen Outreach for The Public Interest Network (appointed as Vice Chair of Mayor’s GLBT Advisory Committee)
  • Earl Fowlkes – President/CEO of the International Federation of Black Prides (IFBP) – Appointed as Chair of Mayor’s GLBT Advisory Committee

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Laura

    June 8, 2012 at 8:05 am

    The homicide rate is lower? Doubt it. Maybe Lanier has doctored the data like they do with rapes to make it APPEAR that homicides are down, but there are no fewer homicides. As far Grey’s campaign activities, they weren’t any different than anyone before him. Kwame Brown was a close friend and associate but who knows if that means Grey was acting in concert. At least he isn’t Marion Barry!

  2. Chas.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I attended this event. Gray arrived extremely late, keeping us waiting for an extended length of time, but he failed to apologize. He offered no concrete measures to combat DC’s extremely high HIV infection rate and seemed only vaguely concerned. He ingenuously claimed to be ‘stunned’ by Kwame Brown’s crimes. When asked about the extension of bar hours, he dismissed the concerns of law-abiding citizens who will be adversely affected by drunks pouring out of the bars into the streets in the middle of the night. In general, Gray came across as self-aggrandizing, smug and sleazy — the kind of politician who tarnishes DC’s image within and outside the District and who prevents DC from becoming first-class.

  3. Julius

    June 8, 2012 at 11:56 am

    To some people, it means nothing that Mayor Gray has done more for the GLBT community in DC than almost any other mayor in the country. They scream about “how late he arrives” and how “he looks” but fail to appreciate his long list of accomplishments, including spearheading Marriage Equality (something people erroneously give Fenty credit for) when he was Council Chair, as well as his very strong efforts to help the Transgender community, much of which will continue to save lives.
    A dis-service to the great advocate that is Mayor Gray.

  4. MPetrelis

    June 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    What a good example of democratic engagement through a town hall forum. The HRC leaders might follow this example and start holding open forums with the community. Why is HRC so afraid of town hall meetings?

  5. brian

    June 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Wow, Julius. That’s just flatly false. RU competing with Mitt Romney for tallest tale of the day???

    All-in-all, Gray’s record– **excepting LGBT public safety**– averages out as merely OK re. LGBT issues. The best we can say is that is a “mixed bag” of accomplishments and failures. But the same can be said of former CM Harry Thomas, Jr.– and now, former CM Kwame Brown.

    Mayor Gray started out his administration by outrageously breaking his campaign promise to the LGBT community to consult with LGBT activists regarding his selection of Chief of Police. Now, Chief Lanier’s recent hostile stance to the LGBT community has only been tempered by MPD’s not-credible, periodic PR efforts and photo-ops. It is clear that MPD’s ACTUAL policies and practices continues to be a critical FAILURE of Mayor Gray’s administration.

    Justice for LGBT victims of homicides and violent assaults on DC’s mean streets continues to be ignored in Mayor Gray’s Washington. Nothing focuses the mind of LGBT residents and visitors to DC, than the prospect that they, their friends or their loved ones will be violently assaulted or killed, merely because they are LGBT.

    Accordingly, most DC LGBT residents don’t give a fig what Mayor Gray’s LGBT record is compared to other mayors across the nation. You (and Jeff Richardson) ought stop making such lame, self-serving comparisons.

    And, BTW, David Catania was WAAAY ahead of everyone on marriage equality. Likewise, Phil Mendelson, Jim Graham and … and yes, Mayor Fenty.

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Gay man attacked, beaten by neighbors in Northeast D.C.

Police list incident as hate crime but courthouse ‘backlog’ could delay arrests

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Antonio Zephir was beaten by neighbors and fears for his life. (Photo courtesy of Zephir)

A woman, her daughter, and a man believed to be the daughter’s father repeatedly punched a gay man in the face while the mother called him a “Jewish faggot” and other anti-gay slurs during an Oct. 13 incident on the grounds of an apartment building where the victim and the two women live, according to the victim and a D.C. police incident report.

The victim, Antonio Zephir, 51, told the Washington Blade the incident began after the mother began shouting anti-gay slurs at him as he walked past her and his roommate outside the Northwood Gardens Apartments at 4870 Fort Totten Dr., N.E. at about 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13. 

Zephir identifies the mother as Aurlora Y. Ellis in court papers seeking a restraining order against her that he filed in D.C. Superior Court. He said she had acted in a hostile way toward him before the assault incident.

“For several months, every time Ms. Ellis sees me, she shouts homophobic slurs and I continued to ignore her,” Zephir told the Blade in an email.

He said that minutes before the Oct. 13 attack, Ellis yelled the words “Jewish faggot” when he walked past her as she was talking to his roommate, Steven Johnson. Zephir said it is well known among his neighbors at the apartment complex that he is of the Jewish faith.

“I responded with not-so-kind words. She ran towards me and assaulted me with hard punches toward my face,” Zephir wrote in his email to the Blade. 

“I punched back in an attempt to defend myself,” he wrote. “Mr. Johnson tried to break us up when her daughter Latera Cox and [Cox’s] father assaulted me,” according to Zephir’s account of the incident. “Ms. Ellis yelled, ‘Call the police, you bitch faggot. They’re not going to do anything. This isn’t over yet.”

At that point, Ellis, her daughter Latera Cox, and the man Zephir believes to be Cox’s father fled the scene, Zephir told the Blade.

The D.C. police incident report, which lists the assault as a suspected hate crime, says, “All three suspects then fled east bound” on the 4800 block of Fort Totten Dr., N.E.

Zephir said he immediately called police, who arrived on the scene and took a report on the incident. The report obtained by the Blade lists the incident as a simple assault, which is a misdemeanor under D.C. law.

But Zephir said a detective working on the case told him this week that police were looking into speeding up the process of obtaining warrants for the arrest of the three attackers based, in part, on the injuries Zephir suffered from the attack. He provided the Blade with a medical report issued by the Washington Hospital Center, where his roommate took him to the emergency room the day following the attack, in response to severe pain he was experiencing to his face and head.

The report from the hospital, which treated and released him on Oct. 14, says he was diagnosed as having a fractured nose; a fracture of the “interior orbital wall,” which is the bone surrounding one of his eyes; subconjunctival hemorrhage or bleeding of his left eye; and “laceration of oral cavity” which means an injury inside his mouth caused by trauma from the assault.

Zephir told the Blade that the same detective told him last week that due to a “backlog” in cases at the D.C. Superior Court, it could take between one and two months for police and prosecutors to obtain warrants for the arrests of the two women and the man who assaulted him.

A police spokesperson told the Blade the case remains under active investigation. A spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which acts as the prosecutor for adult criminal cases in D.C., said he would look into whether the office could publicly comment on the status of efforts to obtain arrest warrants for the three attackers.

Zephir said rumors had surfaced prior to the assault incident that Ellis may have access to a gun. Based on what he feared was a threat by Ellis when she told him during the attack that “this isn’t over yet,” he said he persuaded his roommate to drive him to the courthouse on the same day as the attack to apply for a court restraining order to prevent Ellis from harming him again.

Court records show he also filed a civil complaint against Ellis, Ellis’s daughter, and Ellis’s roommate, Linda Miller, who Zephir says in the complaint acted as an “enabler” for Ellis’ hostility toward him.

The complaint, which is a civil lawsuit that Zephir wrote by hand and filed by himself without hiring a lawyer, calls for $18,000 in damages.  

“I have nightmares,” Zephir told the Blade. “I can’t believe it happened. I keep reliving the experience over and over and over in my head,” he said. “And I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own apartment. I don’t feel safe because I, honest to God, feel like she is going to bodily harm me and I might be, God forbid, murdered.”

Ellis, Cox, and Miller could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Biden endorses Roem for re-election

Former journalist is first out trans person in any state legislature

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Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks to supporters following her re-election on Nov. 5, 2019. President Biden has endorsed her for re-election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Biden on Tuesday endorsed Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) for re-election.

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) is among the other Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates who Biden backed. Biden in his tweet also stressed his support of Terry McAuliffe, who is running against Republican Glenn Youngkin to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

“Building back better starts in the states,” tweeted Biden. “Since flipping the legislature in 2019, Virginia Democrats have been a model of progress—including helping us vaccinate folks to beat the pandemic. To keep our progress, we must elect Terry McAuliffe and Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Roem, a former journalist, in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S.

Biden called Roem on the night she defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall and congratulated her. A Washington Post picture that showed Roem crying moments later went viral.

The Manassas Democrat who represents the 13th District in 2019 easily won re-election. Christopher Stone, the Republican who is running against Roem in this cycle, opposes marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

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Conservatives blame pro-trans policy after assaults in Loudoun schools

‘Gender fluid’ 15-year-old accused of attacking female students

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The Loudoun County, Va., public school system’s recently adopted policy of allowing students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity has come under fire over the past two weeks by outraged parents and conservative political activists following reports that a 15-year-old “gender fluid” boy allegedly sexually assaulted two girls in different high schools.

The parents of one of the girls released a statement through the Virginia-based Stanley Law Group blaming school officials for failing to put in place safeguards to prevent the boy, who they say was dressed in a skirt, from entering the girl’s bathroom to assault their daughter at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., on May 28.

The statement accuses Loudoun County Schools officials and the Loudoun County Board of Education of failing to take steps to prevent the same 15-year-old boy from allegedly sexually assaulting another female student at Broad Run High School, also located in Ashburn, on Oct. 6 in a vacant classroom.

School officials acknowledge that the boy was transferred to the second school after law enforcement authorities released him from a juvenile detention facility following his arrest for the first case, in which the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said he was charged with two counts of forceable sodomy against his female victim. 

“The sexual assault on our daughter and the subsequent sexual assault by the same individual were both predictable and preventable,” the parents’ statement says. “Subsequent to the sexual assault on our daughter, Loudoun County Public Schools formalized the policy regarding restroom use that was easily exploitable by a potential sexual assailant,” the statement continues. 

“Because of poor planning and misguided policies, Loudoun Schools failed to institute even minimal safeguards to protect students from sexual assaults,” says the statement.

Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler apologized at an Oct. 15 news conference for what he acknowledged was the school systems’ mishandling of the two sexual assault cases. He noted that school officials should have publicly disclosed the two cases or at least alerted parents at the time they occurred. But he said a federal civil rights law known as Title IX that mandates how schools must respond to cases of sexual harassment appeared to prevent Loudoun school officials from initially disclosing the two cases of sexual assault until they were investigated by law enforcement authorities.

Ziegler said the school system was revamping its disciplinary procedures and its interaction with the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office to ensure that parents and students are alerted to potential danger similar to the cases where the 15-year-old boy allegedly assaulted the two female students.

Meanwhile, school officials and the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Loudoun have pointed out that law enforcement officials have yet to confirm whether the 15-year-old boy charged in the two cases was actually dressed in women’s clothes during the first incident or whether he is trans or gender fluid.

Equality Loudoun’s president, Cris Candice Tuck, released a statement to the Washington Blade on Oct. 18 that she said was the first official known statement responding to the Loudoun school controversy from an LGBTQ organization.

“In light of the reporting of recent sexual assault allegations, the Board of Directors of Equality Loudoun wishes to extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these heinous attacks and their families,” the statement says. “Equality Loudoun advocates for due process and justice for the victims regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator was a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement continues. “Such actions have no place in our community, and Equality Loudoun does not condone any form of sexual violence, assault, or harassment,” it says.

“However, the accusations that the alleged perpetrator of these assaults is transgender or genderfluid have so far been unverified,” the Equality Loudoun statement asserts. “Attempts to shift blame of this incident to any individual, group, or policy – other than the alleged perpetrator – does a grave disservice to the victims of these crimes and already marginalized youth in our community.”

The statement adds, “We remind those advocating for change to the laws and policies that the initial assault predated any enactment of Policy 8040 by almost 4 months.”

The Equality Loudoun statement was referring to the fact that the Loudoun County School Board did not vote to approve the school system’s trans nondiscrimination policy until August of this year, more than three months after the first of the two sexual assault incidents occurred. 

The policy, among other things, allows transgender and genderfluid students to use the school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The policy also requires that teachers, school administrators and fellow students address a trans or genderfluid student by their chosen name and pronouns.

“Inadvertent slips in the use of names and pronouns may occur,” the policy states. “However, staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy,” it states.

The statement says that rumors of a bathroom “pilot” program that predated the official approval of Policy 8040 that would have allowed female trans or genderfluid students to use the girls’ bathrooms “are simply untrue” and were never put in place.

In a separate statement to the Blade, Equality Loudoun’s Cris Candice Tuck challenged claims by some parents and conservative political activists, some of whom are supporting Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin over Democrat Terry McAulliffe, that the trans nondiscrimination policy is placing students at risk for sexual assault.

“The adoption of nondiscrimination policies are in no way endangering students,” Candice Tuck said. “Across the country, sexual assaults have occurred in schools for decades before any transgender inclusive policies were passed,” she said. “And in those counties and states where such protections have passed in recent years, there has been no verified incidence of anyone abusing such policies to commit such attacks in schools.”

Candice Tuck added, “The focus should be on improving systems of reporting, coordination, and investigation, protecting the victims of these attacks, and creating safer school environments by creating modernized areas and bathrooms that increase protection for all students, including LGBTQ+ students who are statistically more likely to be the victim of such a crime.”  

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