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D.C.’s gay-friendly election

Supportive candidates lead field in host of November races



D.C. Councilman Michael Brown (I-At-Large)
D.C. Councilman Michael Brown (I-At-Large)

D.C. Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large) may be in jeopardy of losing his seat due to ethics-related questions. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Nearly all candidates supportive on LGBT issues are expected to win their races in the Nov. 6 election for seven seats on the D.C. City Council, the city’s non-voting seat in Congress and five seats on the D.C. school board.

But LGBT activists say they are joining fellow citizens across the city in watching with concern the unfolding campaign investigation and past driving infractions surrounding D.C. Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large), a long-time friend and supporter of the LGBT community.

Revelations this month that more than $113,000 have gone missing from Brown’s 2012 campaign coffers and a Washington Post report that Brown had his driver’s license suspended five times over the past eight years due to traffic violations have fueled speculation that Brown’s re-election bid could be in jeopardy

Brown said his former campaign treasurer, who he fired in late June, stole the campaign funds and the U.S. Attorney’s office is investigating the reported theft. Through his attorney, the former treasurer has denied he stole the money. Brown, meanwhile, has declined to comment on the driving infractions, which the Post obtained through public records.

“I have no legal and ethical issues at all,” he told the Blade.”I’m the victim of a crime and the other stuff is personal.”

The fact that his main opponent, David Grosso, is also supportive on LGBT issues prompted Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance Vice President Rick Rosendall to note that D.C.’s LGBT community has been blessed with highly supportive political candidates and elected officials for the past 20 years or longer.

“It’s a luxury to be choosing between LGBT-friendly candidates,” he said. “It’s a luxury to have to choose among friends. Here in D.C., most candidates are gay friendly. We should remember how lucky we are.”

Two openly gay candidates are running for seats this year on the D.C. State Board of Education. One of them, Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jack Jacobson, is running unopposed for the Ward 2 Board of Education seat.

Longtime Ward 8 gay rights and community activist Phil Pannell is making a second try at capturing the Ward 8 school board seat. Pannell ran and lost his bid for the seat last year in a special election after the incumbent died. Pannell is running against his former opponent and now incumbent Trayon “Tray” White, who has received the backing of Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry (D).

A third openly gay candidate, D.C. libertarian activist and Realtor Bruce Majors, is running as a Libertarian candidate against incumbent D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.). Norton, who is running for her twelfth term, is considered among the most LGBT supportive members of Congress and is highly popular in the LGBT community.

She is considered the strong favorite to win re-election. Majors has acknowledged that his chances of defeating Norton are slim. He said his main objective is to promote the Libertarian Party cause and to capture at least 7,500 votes, which would give the Libertarian Party an automatic place on the ballot in future D.C. elections.

Leaders of the city’s three main LGBT political organizations – GLAA, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and D.C. Log Cabin Republicans – said this week they would not be taking an official position on an investigation into the Brown campaign’s missing funds.

Stein Club President Lateefah Williams, D.C. Log Cabin President Robert Turner, and GLAA Vice President Rick Rosendall said their respective groups also would not be taking an official position on three proposed D.C. City Charter amendments that will be on the ballot in the November election. The amendments were placed on the ballot as part of a sweeping city ethics reform bill approved by the Council last December.

The Charter amendments, if approved by the voters and later cleared by Congress, will give the D.C. Council authority to vote by a 5/6 majority to remove from office a fellow Council member or a sitting mayor if the mayor or Council member is convicted of or pleads guilty to a felony charge. One of the amendments would also give the Council authority to remove from office a Council member that demonstrates a “gross failure to meet the highest standards of conduct” expected of an elected official.

“This is something we will leave to our individual members to decide,” said Williams, who added that the club might consider taking a position on the charter amendments if members raise the issue at upcoming club meetings.

Of the seven incumbent Council members on the ballot in November, political observers say Brown could become the only one in jeopardy of losing his seat, although most political insiders say they expect him to win unless more damaging revelations surface.

Brown is running in a contest in which two at-large Council seats are at play, with one of them earmarked only for a non-majority party candidate. With Democrats being the majority party in the city, the seat Brown holds and is seeking to retake must go to a non-Democrat.

Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), the incumbent in the so-called “Democratic” seat, is considered the favorite to win re-election in November. Orange, a former Ward 5 Council member, came out against same-sex marriage in past years but has since said he changed his mind and fully supports the city’s same-sex marriage law.

Grosso worked on the staff of pro-LGBT former Council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) and is a former staffer to Norton. He has expressed support for LGBT issues during his campaign for Council this year.

Others running for one of the two at-large seats are Republican Mary Brooks Beatty, who has been endorsed by D.C. Log Cabin Republicans; and Statehood Green Party candidate Ann Wilcox, an attorney who has represented gay activist and former Army Lt. Dan Choi after Choi was arrested in one of his White House protests against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Independent candidates A.J. Cooper and Leon Swain Jr. are also running for the at-large seat. Under the city’s election law all seven candidates compete on the same ballot and the highest two vote getters will be declared the winner.

Transgender activist Jeri Hughes appeared to reflect the views of many in the LGBT community in expressing her support for Brown on grounds that his commitment to equal rights for LGBT people and his “good work on the Council” far outweigh any of the media reports about his campaign problem or driving record.

“I’m going to support the people who support us,” Hughes said. “Michael Brown supports us. I have no problem with him.”

In other Council races, acting Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) is considered the strong favorite to win election as permanent Council chair in a Nov. 6 special election to fill the unexpired term of Council Chair Kwame Brown (D-At-Large), who resigned earlier this year after being indicted on corruption related charges.

Mendelson is being challenged by Democrat Calvin Gurley, who expressed mixed views on LGBT issues during a bid for a Council seat two years ago.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), another longtime supporter of LGBT rights, is running unopposed as is Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), another strong supporter of LGBT equality.

Former D.C. Mayor and Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) – both considered strong supporters of the LGBT community in past years – lost support from many of their LGBT allies in 2009 when the two voted against the same-sex marriage law.

The law passed by a vote of 11 to 2, with Barry and Alexander emerging as the only ones to vote no. Both said their constituents were strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. Both also told LGBT activists they remain strong supporters of LGBT equality on nearly all other issues. At an endorsement meeting for the Stein Club earlier this year, Barry pointed out that he was among the nation’s strongest politicians backing gay rights during his years as D.C. mayor in the 1980s and 1990s.

Although the Stein Club had endorsed Barry and Alexander four years ago, Stein members chose not to endorse the two Council members this year. Most political observers, however, consider Barry and Alexander the odds on favorites to win re-election.

The two are being challenged by the two co-founders of Peaceoholics, a city anti-gang youth organization that has received millions of dollars in city funding. Co-founder Ron Moten is running as a Republican against Alexander. The other co-founder, Jauhar Abraham, is running as an independent against Barry. Mouten has pointed out that Peaceoholics has provided support services to LGBT youths affiliated with Checkit, a group with mostly gay and transgender members.

In the race for the city’s so-called “shadow”seat for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Stein Club has endorsed Democrat Nate Bennett-Fleming, who has expressed strong support for LGBT issues. He is being challenged by Statehood Green Party candidate G. Lee Aikin.

In the contest for the shadow U.S. Senate seat, D.C. Log Cabin-endorsed Nelson Rimensnyder is running as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Michael D. Brown, who is unrelated to Council member Michael A. Brown. Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman is also competing for the seat. The city created the shadow congressional seats as unpaid advocacy positions to push for D.C. statehood and D.C. congressional voting rights. The positions have no voting rights or other privileges in Congress.

At least 20 out gays, and possibly far more, are running for seats to the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, which were created as citizen advisory bodies to assist D.C. agencies on neighborhood issues such as trash collection, crime, and liquor licenses for bars and restaurants. There are 296 total seats.

The Washington Blade will provide a full report of the LGBT ANC candidates as they become fully identified in the next few weeks.



LGBTQ University of Maryland students prepare to celebrate Hanukkah

Eight-day festival to begin Thursday night



(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A number of Hanukkah events for LGBTQ students will take place at the University of Maryland this week.

Queer Jewish students and allies are welcome to attend Crazy Cozy Chill Chanukah Celebration on Sunday at the University of Maryland Hillel. Hamsa, home to queer Jewish life on campus, hosted a study break with hot drinks, snacks and games and a chance to welcome Hanukkah early. 

The first night of Hanukkah is Thursday.

Chabad UMD is hosting a menorah lighting on Thursday in front of McKeldin Library and plans to mention the war between Israel and Hamas, according to Rabbi Eli Backman of Chabad UMD. The event is going to be a focus on the positivity and the message of the Hanukkah story.  

“We’ve been around for thousands of years and all those who’ve tried to make sure that we didn’t live to see the next generation (is) no longer here,” Backman said. “That message will really resonate at home for the holiday.”

The story of the Maccabees is one of the few stories where Jewish people fought, Backman said. In Jewish history, people don’t see a military response in many of the other holiday moments. 

“It should give us a boost of energy,” Backman said. “A boost of strength (and) a boost of hope.”

Part of the Hanukkah story’s message is that Jewish people were in a position that they needed to form a military to secure their borders, Backman said. And they succeeded. 

For some, celebrating Hanukkah depends on the people they’re around, Florence Miller, a sophomore English and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies who is Hamsa’s president, said.

Miller is agnostic and does not find themself to be a religious person, but the thing that has kept their Jewish faith is the people about whom they care are Jewish and the sense of community that comes from being Jewish.

“I just wanted to do a Hanukkah event,” Miller said. “It’s been a good refresher with how the semester has been.”

Miller last year attended a Hanukkah party and played a game of dreidel, a spinning top with four sides marked with a Hebrew letter. The people who were in attendance wanted to bet something, but the only thing they could find were pinto beans. 

“When I took them out of my pocket one got stuck in there,” Miller said. “I still have that bean.”

For some Jewish students it’s important to go to Hanukkah events like Hamsa’s celebration to be around like-minded Jewish people, Yarden Shestopal, a sophomore American Studies major, said. 

“Which is why I like Hamsa,” Shestopal said. “Since we’re all queer people or allies we kind of share that mentality of acceptance.”

Being part of the Jewish community at the University of Maryland has opened Shestopal up to how diverse the LGBTQ and Jewish communities are. Shestopal this year, however, debated whether or not to put his menorah up on the windowsill of his apartment because of the rise in anti-Semitism due to the war in Israel.  

“I’m pretty sure I am going to put the menorah in my window,” Shestopal said. “The only way to combat anti-Semitism is to stay visible.” 

Several University of Maryland students lived in Israel before or during their time at the university. 

Elisheva Greene, a junior animal science major, went to seminary, a school for women to learn about Torah, during the pandemic. Greene said celebrating Hanukkah while a war is happening is going to be a similar feeling. 

“I’m able to do what I can from over here by supporting my family and friends,” Greene said. “The biggest thing I can be doing is living my life as a Jewish person and showing that I express my Judaism and I’m not afraid.”

Greene recalled they could not go more than 1,000 feet from home for two months and Hanukkah took place during that time. While it was difficult, Greene said people still put their menorahs on their windowsill.  

“Knowing the resilience the Israelis have and the fact people like to show their Jewishness (is not) gonna stop me,” Greene said. “Like there’s a war going on but you’re gonna be a Jew and you’re gonna flaunt that.”

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District of Columbia

Hearing postponed for gay D.C. gym owner charged with distributing child porn

Prosecutors call for Everts to be held in jail until trial



Michael Everts will likely remain in jail until a Jan. 10 hearing in his case. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A detention hearing scheduled for Monday, Dec. 4, in which a judge would decide whether gay D.C. gym owner Michael Everts should remain in jail or be released while he awaits a trial on a charge of distribution of child pornography was postponed with no immediate date set to reschedule it.

However, records with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, before which the case is being held, show that Everts’s defense attorney later in the day on Dec. 4 filed a motion in which Everts waived his right to a detention hearing and requested that a preliminary hearing be scheduled on Jan. 10, 2024.

In his motion, defense attorney David Benowitz says the lead prosecutor with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. does not oppose this request. As of Tuesday morning, the magistrate judge presiding over the case had not ruled on Benowitz’s motion.

But an entry in the court record on  Wednesday, Dec. 5, states that Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey approved the motion and agreed to set the date for the preliminary hearing on Jan. 10 at 4 p.m. The court record shows that Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather will preside over the preliminary hearing, in which prosecutors must present evidence, sometimes through testimony by witnesses, that probable cause or sufficient evidence exists to proceed to a trial. Meriweather will issue a ruling on whether probable cause exists.

Everts has been held without bond since the time of his arrest on Nov. 29 on a single charge of distribution of child pornography following a joint D.C. police-FBI investigation that led to his arrest.

He has owned and operated the FIT Personal Training gym located at 1633 Q St., N.W., near Dupont Circle since its opening in 2002.

Court records show that Benowitz filed a motion on Dec. 3 seeking a one-day postponement of the detention hearing to give him time to review the evidence presented by prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office. But Benowitz’s second motion waiving Everts’s right to a detention hearing and calling for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 10 appears to have voided his first motion and will result in Everts being held in jail until at least the time of the preliminary hearing in January.  

“Mr. Everts has been advised of his rights under the Speedy Trial Act (“STA”) and agrees to toll the time under the STA until the next hearing in this matter,” Benowitz’s second motion states. 

Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey apparently agreed to the postponement, but as of Tuesday morning, court records showed a date for the preliminary hearing had not yet been posted on the court docket.

On Dec. 1, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jocelyn Bond, the lead prosecutor in the case, filed a 20-page Memorandum In Support of Pretrial Detention that describes the government’s evidence against Everts and argues strongly in favor of having Everts held in custody at least until the time of his trial.

“Distribution of Child Pornography is a crime of violence and there is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of children in the community – both in the physical world and online – if Mr. Everts is released,” the memorandum states.

The memorandum notes that Everts’s arrest came about after an employee at the gay and bi hookup site Sniffies alerted the FBI that a Sniffies user was exchanging messages with other users expressing an interest in images of underage boys for sexual gratification. A joint FBI and D.C. police investigation traced the messages to Everts, according to an arrest affidavit and the U.S. Attorney’s memo.

The affidavit and memo point out that an undercover D.C. police detective working with the FBI and posing as someone interested in underage boys contacted Everts through the Sniffies site and a social media messaging address of @ethaneffex. The undercover detective, who is identified in charging documents as the “online covert employee” or “OCE,” engaged in messaging with Everts that prompted Everts to send the OCE video and photo images of child pornography, the arrest affidavit and memo state.

The memo seeking pretrial detention for Everts says Everts went beyond just expressing interest in viewing or sending the OCE child porn videos or photos but also described his interest in interacting with and possibly having sex with underage boys he knew.

“On multiple occasions he discussed his sexual interest in actual children that he encountered in his life, particularly emphasizing his desire to sexually abuse Minor 1 and noting that he had surreptitiously recorded Minor 1 at the playground in the past,” the memorandum says.

“Not only did he send photos of these children to someone whom he had reason to believe also had a sexual interest in children,” the memo states, “but he sent multiple voice messages to the OCE reiterating his sexual interest in Minor 1 – as well as in Minor 2 and other unknown minors — and describing the specific sexual acts he wanted to engage in with these minors.”

The memo adds, “Only amplifying his danger to children, Everts then bragged about having previously engaged in sex with a minor and his willingness to sexually abuse a child as young as 10 years old.”

Benowitz, Everts’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a request by the Washington Blade for comment on the case and whether he or his client dispute any of the allegations against Everts brought by prosecutors.

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District of Columbia

‘Behind-the-scenes’ activist Paul Kuntzler marks 62 years in D.C.

Inspired by Kennedy, Michigan native played key role in early LGBTQ movement



Paul Kuntzler is the last surviving member of the original 17 members of the D.C. Mattachine Society. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In reflecting on his many years of involvement in U.S. politics and the LGBTQ rights movement, Paul Kuntzler points out that Dec. 28 of this year will mark his 62nd year as a resident of Washington, D.C. And he also points out that two days before that, on Dec. 26, he will celebrate his 82nd birthday.

Those who have known Paul Kuntzler over the years say that while his is not a household name in politics and the LGBTQ rights movement, he has played a critical role as an everyday hero and behind-the-scenes organizer for the Democratic Party and the local and national LGBTQ rights movement.

Among other things, Kuntzler served as campaign manager for D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny’s 1971 role as the first openly gay candidate for the U.S. Congress when Kameny ran for the newly created position of non-voting Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives for D.C.

In his role as campaign manager, Kuntzler is also credited with arranging for more than a dozen volunteers from the then-Gay Activists Alliance and Gay Youth group of New York City to come to D.C. on a bus that the Kameny campaign paid for to help gather the needed 5,000 signatures to get Kameny’s name on the ballot.

“I knew how difficult that was going to be,” Kuntzler said. “And I recognized we were not going to do this all on our own,” adding that the gay volunteers from New York, who joined forces with local D.C. volunteers, obtained a total of 7,800 signatures of registered D.C. voters to get Kameny’s name on the ballot.

Although Kameny finished in fourth place in a six-candidate race, his run as the first openly gay candidate for the U.S. Congress drew national publicity, including support from actor Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward, who made a $500 contribution to the Kameny campaign while they were performing at the time at D.C.’s National Theater.

Observers of the LGBTQ rights movement at that time considered Kameny’s candidacy an important development in the effort to advance LGBTQ rights both in D.C. and nationwide. 

“Looking back, that probably was one of the most significant things I did in my life,” Kuntzler said in recalling his role as Kameny’s campaign manager.

He says his involvement in politics began in the summer of 1960 in his hometown of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., a Detroit suburb, when he co-founded the Grosse Pointe Young Democrats and served as a volunteer on the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.

“I met JFK at the Detroit airport and shook his hand,” Kuntzler recalls while he joined a crowd of supporters welcoming Kennedy on his arrival for a campaign tour in Michigan. “It was Labor Day weekend – Sunday, Sept. 4, 1960,” Kuntzler said in demonstrating an amazing recall of dates and events.

Kuntzler, who traveled to D.C. to attend the Kennedy inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961, said the idealism of the Kennedy administration prompted him to move to D.C. one year later to become involved in politics and the fledgling gay rights movement.

“I met Frank Kameny at Lafayette Chicken Hut on Sunday, Feb. 25, 1962,” Kuntzler says in referring to the then-popular D.C. gay bar. “And he was then president of the Mattachine Society of Washington,” Kuntzler noted, which was the first significant gay rights group in D.C. that Kameny co-founded.

“He invited me to attend the next Mattachine Society meeting,” Kuntzler recalls. “So, on Tuesday, March 6, 1962, at Earl Aiken’s apartment on Harvard Street, I became the 17th member of the D.C. Mattachine Society.,” Kuntzler continued. “And at the age of 20, I was the only minor involved in the gay rights movement consisting of about 150 people in five American cities,” he said. “I’m the only one still living of the original 17.”

His membership in the Mattachine Society of D.C. was the start of Kuntzler’s 50-plus years of involvement in the local and national LGBTQ rights movement. He recalls that he helped make history when he joined Kameny and other members of the Mattachine Society in April of 1965 for the nation’s first gay rights protest in front of the White House.

Kuntzler said he brought with him a large poster-size sign he made reading, “15 Million Homosexuals Protest Federal Treatment.” He said Mattachine Society of D.C. co-founder Jack Nichols asked permission to carry that sign on the picket line in front of the White House. Kuntzler gave him permission to do so.

To this day, Kuntzler says, he has a large United Press International photo of Nichols carrying the sign with Kameny, lesbian activist Lilli Vincenz, and Kuntzler standing beside him with the White House as a backdrop.

In the following three decades or more, Kuntzler served as an organizer and founder of several LGBTQ organizations and projects while pursuing a work career as a manager for several organizations. He served from 1973 to 2007 as assistant executive director for advertising, exhibits and workshop sales for the D.C.-based National Science Teachers Association.

His many behind-the-scenes involvements included serving in 1975 as the first treasurer for the Gay Rights National Lobby, one of the first national LGBTQ rights organizations based in D.C. that later evolved into the Human Rights Campaign in 1980, for which he also served for a short time as treasurer. In 1979, Kuntzler became a co-founder of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s first LGBTQ Democratic organization.

Also in 1979, Kuntzler helped found the National Convention Project, an effort to elect openly gay delegates and secure a “gay rights” plank in the platform at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. The effort resulted in the election of about 100 openly LGBT delegates to the 1980 convention from states across the country, including D.C. and the adoption of an LGBT supportive plank in the Democratic Party’s platform at that time.

Kuntzler said he and the others working on the project, which he called a success, were deeply disappointed when then-Democratic President Jimmy Carter lost the November 1980 presidential election to Republican Ronald Reagan. But he said he was inspired to continue his work on behalf of the Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights issues over the next several decades.

The person most important in his life, Kuntzler said, was his domestic partner Stephen Brent Miller of 42 years who died in July 2004.

“Stephen and I met on Friday, March 30, 1962, at Lafayette Chicken Hut,” Kuntzler said. “I was sitting on the side and Stephen was sitting in the middle, and I think he sent me a beer and then came over and sat down and we talked,” Kuntzler recalls. “We had our first date on the second Sunday in April of 1962.”

The two went to brunch before going to see a movie and then took a bus to get to Frank Kameny’s house. It was a housewarming party of the house that Kameny had just secured a lease to rent for his residence and his gay rights endeavors. Miller, a professional stenographer who later started his own court reporting business, Miller Reporting, quickly took on the role of being the loving spouse to a committed activist, people who knew the couple have said.

Kuntzler said his attendance at the Human Right Campaign’s annual Washington dinner last month, which is one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ events, in which President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden spoke, was a further sign of progress for the LGBTQ rights movement as he sees it.

Asked if he has any advice for the LGBTQ community at this time, Kuntzler said, “I think we need to continue to be vigilant … We need to continue to be vigilant.”

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