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New pro-gay congressman could emerge in Md.

Controversial Dem redistricting plan threatens Rep. Bartlett’s re-election

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Roscoe Bartlett, John Delaney, gay news, Washington Blade

Ten-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) (left) faces his toughest challenge yet thanks to a redistricting plan. His challenger is businessman John Delaney.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a series profiling congressional districts in which the incumbent is not supportive of LGBT rights. The articles seek to assess the chances of electing a supportive candidate to help advance pro-LGBT bills that have been stalled in Congress.

LGBT advocates are hopeful that the long-stalled Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, will become one step closer to passage next year if a Democratic challenger unseats Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) in the once staunchly conservative 6th Congressional District.

Businessman and political newcomer John Delaney won the Democratic primary earlier this year to become his party’s challenger to Bartlett in a newly reshaped district that now includes a majority of Democratic voters, prompting most political observers to call him the frontrunner.

Delaney, who supports Maryland’s same-sex marriage law, is committed to becoming a co-sponsor of several LGBT rights bills pending in Congress, including ENDA, according to Will McDonald, his campaign press secretary.

Bartlett voted against ENDA when an earlier version of the bill came up before the House in 2007 and passed by a vote of 235 to 184. It died later that year when the Senate refused to take it up. It has been bottled up in committee since that time.

Based on his vote on ENDA and his refusal to back other LGBT supportive legislation, the Human Rights Campaign gave Bartlett a “0” rating in 2010 on LGBT-related issues.

HRC is expected its issue its next congressional ratings for the 112th Congress covering 2011-2012 in October. Capitol Hill observers say Bartlett doesn’t appear to have changed his views on LGBT issues since the last rating period.

Lisa Wright, press spokesperson for Bartlett’s congressional office, and Ted Dacey, spokesperson for Bartlett’s re-election campaign, did not respond to a request for comment on the congressman’s record on LGBT issues.

Wright said Bartlett has not released an official statement on the upcoming voter referendum in Maryland seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage law approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley earlier this year. She said she would seek to obtain Bartlett’s view on same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues but didn’t get back by press time.

McDonald said Delaney has also pledged to become a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages or other same-sex unions such as domestic partnerships or civil unions.

HRC and Maryland State Dels. Heather Mizeur and Bonnie Cullison, both Democrats and out lesbians, are among the groups and individuals that have endorsed Delaney.

“John Delaney will be a strong ally of the LGBT community in Congress in contrast to his opponent who has earned consistent zeros on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, an HRC spokesperson. “This is a critical race toward building pro-equality majorities in Congress.”

Carrie Evans, executive director of the statewide LGBT group Equality Maryland, said the group doesn’t endorse congressional candidates or get involved in those races.

“Equality Maryland PAC only endorses in state and local elections,” she said. “With almost 200 state legislative races the PAC only can do so much and being a statewide group the priority is state races.”

Political observers familiar with the history of ENDA say Maryland’s 6th Congressional District to some degree has been typical of districts throughout the country where incumbent House members have not been willing to support the bill. ENDA and earlier versions of the bill have been pending in Congress for more than 30 years.

The version of ENDA that passed in the House in 2007 called for banning employment discrimination based only on sexual orientation, which would have covered gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The current version of the bill includes a gender identity provision that covers transgender people. It has the strong backing of LGBT activists.

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Pelosi and fellow House Democratic leaders chose not to bring the trans-inclusive ENDA up for a vote in 2009 and 2010, when Democrats had a majority in the House, because they didn’t believe they had the votes to pass the measure.

This week Hammill said Pelosi believes ENDA could pass next year if Democrats are able to win the additional 25 seats needed to regain their majority and control of the House.

“We think there’s a good chance that will happen,” he said.

But other political observers and ENDA supporters, including congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), have said Democrats cannot regain a majority without relying on a dozen or more moderate to conservative Democratic candidates or incumbents in conservative-leaning swing districts who are capable of attracting moderate to conservative voters.

“That’s the political reality we face,” Norton has told gay activists in the past.

Norton and other LGBT supportive members of Congress, including Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who’s gay and the lead sponsor of ENDA in the House, have called on LGBT advocates to do the necessary work to change the hearts and minds of the relatively small number of moderate to conservative leaning Democrats, along with some Republicans, needed to pass ENDA in the House and Senate.

Prior to the redistricting that the Maryland Legislature approved last year in a highly controversial move, the 6th District consisted mostly of the state’s northwestern counties of Garrett, which borders on West Virginia; and Allegany and Washington counties, which border on conservative-leaning southern Pennsylvania.

The district was by far the most conservative of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Bartlett has represented the district since 1993 after winning election in November 1992 at the age of 65 as a retired scientist, part-time dairy farmer, and former professor at the University of Maryland. He is now completing his 10th term in office at the age of 85, becoming the second oldest member of the House.

According to the Almanac of American Politics, Bartlett, who has a bachelor’s degree in theology and biology and a Ph.D. in physiology, was among the state’s first House members to join the Tea Party Caucus in 2010. He has emerged as a strong conservative but has bucked fellow conservatives and Republicans on some issues that touch on science. He has said he believes global warming is a potential threat and he backs efforts to promote renewable energy, the Almanac reports. However, it says he also was among 33 Republicans to oppose renewal of the Voting Rights Act.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Bartlett has never been among the corps of outspoken House members that actively oppose LGBT rights. But Cooper said Bartlett’s refusal to co-sponsor or express some support for bills like ENDA has promoted Log Cabin to choose not to endorse him this year and in past years.

Noting that Bartlett voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Cooper said, “Our members in Maryland have so far not sought our endorsement of him. He doesn’t have a record that would merit our endorsement in the past.”

Sources familiar with Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, meanwhile, say that while Bartlett hasn’t indicated an inclination to change his views on LGBT issues, many of his constituents in western Maryland have changed their views on those issues.

“My sense is we’ve come a long way since Clinton tried to lift the ban on gays in the military in the 1990s,” said Timothy Magrath, political science professor at Frostburg State University, which straddles the border of Garrett and Allegany counties. “I sense there is a lot more progressive thinking all across the region,” he said. “My sense is it won’t hurt a congressional candidate to support ENDA or other bills of that kind.”

Magrath and others familiar with the 6th District point out that the radical change in the demographics of the district brought about last year by redistricting have made it possible to defeat Bartlett rather than persuade him to change his views on LGBT equality.

The boundary changes, which have outraged Maryland Republican leaders, created a new 6th District where 58 percent of its electoral precincts voted for President Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

Prior to redistricting, GOP presidential contender John McCain won in the district by capturing 59 percent of the vote in 2008. George W. Bush won 64 percent of the vote in the previous incarnation of the district in 2004.

The Democratic-controlled Maryland Legislature, with strong support from Gov. O’Malley, brought about the demographic changes, among other things, by adding nearly 350,000 mostly liberal Democratic voters from Montgomery County.

Republican leaders responded by organizing a petition campaign to place the state redistricting plan on the ballot in a voter referendum in November in the same election that Delaney is expected to win the 6th District seat. A spokesperson for the State Board of Elections told the Blade that if voters overturn the redistricting plan Delaney would most likely take his seat in Congress while the legislature drafts a new redistricting plan to take effect in time for the 2014 congressional election.

“This is unprecedented,” said election board official Ross Goldstein.

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 68

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, June 21, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 64.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as “an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.”

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

In a statement posted on social media, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she and her administration were “heartbroken” over the news of Delia’s passing.

“Bernie leaves behind an incredible legacy in our city and country — through his life and advocacy, he helped pave a path for LGBTQIA+ residents in our city and within the federal government to live and work openly and proudly,” the mayor says in her statement.

“He helped transform Capital Pride into one of the largest and most inclusive Pride celebrations in the nation — a true reflection and representation of our people and values,” the statement says. “This is the D.C. that Bernie helped build and that he leaves behind.”

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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