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More than a dozen local LGBT Dems to attend convention

17 delegates from D.C., Maryland and Virginia headed to Charlotte

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Lateefah Williams, president of the Stein Club, is one of five openly gay and lesbian D.C. Democrats headed to the party’s national convention. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

As Democrats prepare for their party’s upcoming convention in Charlotte, local LGBT delegates stress they look forward to representing the community at the quadrennial gathering.

“I’m excited to be going to the convention and I’m honored to represent D.C. in Charlotte,” said Lateefah Williams, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. She is among the four openly LGBT delegates who will represent the nation’s capital at the Democratic National Convention that will kick-off on Sept. 4. Gay labor activist Gregory Cendana is among them, while Democratic activist David Meadows will serve as an alternate. “My goal is to provide a voice for all D.C. residents, particularly the LGBT community.”

Office of GLBT Affairs director Jeffrey Richardson (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs and the former vice chair of the D.C. Democratic Party, has attended two previous conventions as either a delegate or a volunteer. He told the Blade that this year is different in part because the presumptive nominee is the incumbent president.

“We’ll be focused on how we will unite the party, unite the base to ensure that President Obama gets re-elected,” Richardson said.

Earl Fowlkes, CEO of D.C. Black Pride and a member of the Democratic National Committee, will attend his first convention as a delegate. “I’m glad I’m going with all these people from D.C., which is wonderful,” he said. “I’m really very happy because this administration, this president has been so forthright in his skill in really creating a better environment for the LGBT community. He started slow, but he gained momentum and he’s come full circle and he supports the things that we all support that we believe will make us full citizens of the country.”

Members of Maryland’s LGBT delegation echoed Fowlkes.

“President Obama has stood up for us in so many ways in the face of a very strong and virulent opposition,” said state Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City,) who will attend the Democratic National Convention for the first time. “Now it is time that our community and our allies protect him at the ballot box.”

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Democrats

Salisbury Mayor James Ireton (Photo courtesy of city of Salisbury)

Gay Salisbury Mayor James Ireton is also a first-time delegate.

“I am excited and proud to be representing the First Congressional District and my hometown, Salisbury, Md., at the Democratic National Convention,” he told the Blade. “I am also proud to be a small part of the diversity that is, in my opinion, one of America’s and Maryland’s greatest strengths.”

In addition to Ireton and Washington, state Dels. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) and Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, transgender activist Dana Beyer and Mitch Case of Ellicott City are also members of Maryland’s LGBT delegation.

Beyer, a member of the convention’s Credentials Committee who is among the 11 openly trans delegates to this year’s convention, told the Blade she feels it remains important for out LGBT people to attend the convention.

“The more of us that exist out there, the better we can do our jobs and lay the groundwork for the next four years,” she said.

Gay Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) is among the four openly LGBT members — Peter Owen of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, Joel McDonald of the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee and Edmund Turner of Richmond — of the commonwealth’s convention delegation. He echoed others who pointed out what they maintain is Obama’s pro-LGBT record as president.

“There is no question that the president is 100 percent,” said Ebbin, who is also a member of the Credentials Committee. “Bill Clinton had said some of the right things and appointed some of the right people, but President Clinton did do some things that were regrettable and not acceptable to the community when he was president. We have nothing to apologize for. We have everything to be proud of and we have a president who not just on LGBT issues, but issues in general we can be proud of.”

National Stonewall Democrats data indicates that at least 470 of the 5,963 delegates slated to attend this year’s convention are openly LGBT — nearly double the 277 delegates who attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. They will also vote on a proposed platform that includes a same-sex marriage plank.

“This historic act by our party affirms that Democrats and President Barack Obama intend to continue to play a significant role in advancing civil rights for our LGBT community,” Washington said. “This is in stark contrast to that of the national Republican Party, which is clearly set on articulating a platform that seeks to turn back the clock not only for LGBT people, but for women and working and middle class [people] across the country.”

Williams agreed.

“It sends a message that the Democratic Party is inclusive,” she said. “For equality-minded people it does matter to see the party taking a strong stance in support of valuing all families.”

A Harris Interactive poll that Logo TV commissioned earlier this month found that the economy, unemployment and health care rank among LGBT voters’ top concerns going into the presidential election. Nine percent of respondents listed gay rights as their top priority, while only six percent said marriage rights for same-sex couples is the most important issue.

Only one percent of non-LGBT respondents identified gay rights and nuptials for same-sex couples as their top priorities.

Richardson conceded that he feels conservatives could potentially use marriage as what he described as a wedge issue among people of faith and communities of color in specific geographic areas. He stressed, however, that the economy will remain the dominant issue going into November. “The economy is just such a big issue,” Richardson said. “If I don’t have a job, I’m not all that concerned about who you marry.”

Williams was more optimistic.

“I don’t think it’s going to have an adverse effect because a lot of the people who have been strong supporters of President Obama do not support marriage equality still strongly support his ideas and his agenda on other issues,” she said. “I really don’t see those individuals backing away from him on the basis of one issue.”

In the end, local LGBT delegates remain optimistic that Obama will be re-elected in November.

“I think he’s going to win. I know he’s going to win,” Fowlkes said. “Fundamentally, the president’s a decent man, a good man. And his administration has done a good job at keeping this country from falling apart.”

Ebbin agreed.

“When the American people focus on his accomplishments and his role as president and what would have happened if we hadn’t had him, compared to the alternative, I think that people will support the president,” he said, further noting that Obama continues to poll well in Virginia and other battleground states. “That’s something that we’re really proud of, but it’s something that we can’t take for granted.”

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 64

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Capital Pride, No Justice, No Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
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, 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!”

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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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