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SMYAL honors Katie O’Malley at Fall Brunch

Event at Mandarin Oriental raised $122,000

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Katie O'Malley, Maryland First Lady

Maryland First Lady Katie O’Malley (Washington Blade photo by Jonathan Ellis)

The Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) on Sunday honored Maryland First Lady Katie O’Malley for her efforts to combat bullying.

“It just breaks my heart when I hear the Tyler Clementi stories or young kids being [picked on] and called horrible things just because of who they are and what they choose to do,” said O’Malley during SMYAL’s annual Fall Brunch at the Mandarin Oriental in Southwest Washington. “It’s very, very troubling, so in Maryland we have been able to pass some pretty strong anti-bullying laws. But as I always tell kids when I go to schools you know you can have laws on the book, but it’s really about our culture.”

O’Malley, who is a judge on the Baltimore City Circuit Court, has appeared in an “It Gets Better” video for the Trevor Project. She has worked with Facebook and Time Warner to promote National Bullying Prevention Month. O’Malley also spoke at the U.S. Department of Education’s third annual Bullying Prevention Summit that took place in D.C. in August.

“You don’t have to be everybody’s friend, but you can look out for each other and you can be kind and we can try to promote that in our culture as best as we can,” she said. “I think it really goes a long way.”

O’Malley also expressed optimism that Marylanders will vote for the state’s same-sex marriage law in next month’s referendum.

“We’re so hopeful that in just 40-some days we’re going to be able to pass the marriage equality referendum,” she said.

SMYAL has worked with thousands of LGBT and questioning youth in the metropolitan area since a group of local activists founded the organization in 1984 in response to reports that young male D.C. public school students who acted “too effeminate” were incarcerated in St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital.

Staffers and clients earlier this year testified in support of the city’s anti-bullying bill that Mayor Vincent Gray signed into law in June. SMYAL members in May joined Cyndi Lauper on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of homelessness among LGBT youth.

Andrew Barnett, the group’s executive director, noted that the new strategic plan that SMYAL adopted in March allows it to identify what he described as key issues facing LGBT youth and how the organization can most effectively respond to them.

“A really big piece of our strategic plan is knowing that there are hundreds, if not thousands of LGBTQ youth across this region, many of whom right now have no safe space. They have no support,” he said. “So a big piece of our strategic plan as we look to SMYAL’s future is to find ways for us to bring our programming to them. Finding ways for us to bring what we do at our youth center on Capitol Hill out into suburban Maryland and into Virginia, where we know there’s a huge, huge unmet need.”

Wendy Rieger, NBC4, news anchor, Washington Blade, gay news, SMYAL

NBC4 news anchor Wendy Rieger (Washington Blade photo by Jonathan Ellis)

NBC4 news anchor Wendy Rieger, who emceed the brunch that raised $122,000 for SMYAL, discussed how her 16-year-old niece recently texted a lesbian friend struggling to come out to her parents information about the organization.

“She said, ‘thank you so much, this is exactly what I’m looking for,’” recalled Rieger. “When you are in need of something, whether you find wildlife on the road and you don’t want this poor creature to suffer or whether a relative tells you this story and you’re thinking there’s someone whose confused out there, you want to be able to call someone. You want to be able to call someone. And that’s what SMYAL does. They’re there.”

SMYAL intern Tatiana Newman, who began attending the Women’s Leadership Institute’s meetings in February, agreed.

“When I found SMYAL I found safety, community and inspiration,” she said. “Being a lesbian in 2012 doesn’t mean I have a particularly easy live, but it’s one of change — change that SMYAL allows me to be a very proactive part of.”

SMYAL board member Cheryl S. Clarke discussed how the organization helped her after her oldest son Michael came out to her at the start of his senior year of college.

“I knew I needed to learn more about his community. I knew I wanted to be supportive of my son. I knew I wanted to educate myself to be in touch with resources that I needed to expand my repertoire,” she said, noting she reached out to current SMYAL Board Vice Chair Mike Schwartz for help. “’I said, Mike I need some help. I want to continue to be the best mother I can, but I want to now understand how to be an African American mother of an African American gay man.”

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Capital Pride to resume ‘large-scale’ outdoor events

Organizers say one of the largest ever parades and festivals set for June

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Happy days are here again? Scenes like this from 2019 could be back in 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced on its website that it plans to resume the city’s Pride Parade and Festival in June 2022 that traditionally has attracted tens of thousands of participants after canceling the two events in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

“The Capital Pride Alliance is excited to announce the highly anticipated return of our annual large-scale outdoor Pride Celebration in June 2022!” the group says on its website. “Registration for the Capital Pride Parade on June 11, 2022, and the Capital Pride Festival on June 12, 2022, will be open soon,” the website message says.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, told the Washington Blade the group met with D.C. government officials on Monday to coordinate plans for the upcoming outdoor events in June. He said an updated announcement with more details of the events would be released later this week or early next week.

The Capital Pride website message focuses on the parade and festival.

“Join the LGBTQ+ community for the return of the historic Capital Pride Parade,” the website message says. “In 2022, a modified route will honor our history and acknowledge the evolution of the LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in Washington, DC, while respecting the origins and importance of taking to the streets in our fight for equality,” it says.

“Be prepared to experience one of the largest Pride Parades to ever take place in the United States Capital,” the message adds.

The message says the Pride Festival will resume at its traditional location on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. near the U.S. Capitol that it refers to as America’s Mainstreet.

“Enjoy a full day of entertainment on three stages, food, drink and advocacy with over 300 exhibitors,” the website message says. “The Festival is the largest annual event in the national capital region,” the message continues, adding that the Capital Pride Concert will also return this year at its usual locations at the site of the festival.

“You will experience entertainment on three stages, from international headliners to our best local regional LGBTQ+ talent,” according to the Capital Pride website message. It says concert performances will take place from 12-10 p.m. And a “Capitol” Sunset Dance Party will take place at the festival site from 8-10 p.m.

“The concert may end but the dancing will continue,” the message says. “Enjoy the electronica sounds of an international DJ sensation while you dance in the middle of America’s Main Street on Pennsylvania Avenue, with the sun setting on the U.S. Capitol.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s public health officials ended the city’s COVID-related restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend outdoor events as well as indoor entertainment events last May as the number of COVID infections began to decline.

But as the number of Omicron variant cases of the COVID virus increased dramatically in the fall of 2021, the mayor resumed the requirement of the use of face masks in all indoor public places.

Also put in place earlier this month by the city was a requirement that restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment establishments require customers to show proof of vaccination as a condition for admission to the establishments. Bowser, however, has said the city was not considering resuming restrictions on the number of people allowed in establishments such as restaurants and bars or outdoor stadiums.

Capital Pride Alliance has not said whether it will put in place a vaccination requirement for admission to the Pride festival and parade as well as some of its planned indoor events. With the number of Omicron related COVID cases beginning to drop in the past two weeks in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs, the prospect of a resumption in restrictions on the number of people allowed to assemble at outdoor events like the Pride Parade and Festival appears to be less likely.

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Virginia

Man who killed one in 2000 Roanoke gay bar shooting dies in prison

One of the worst bias attacks targeting LGBTQ community

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Ronald Edward Gay died while serving life sentences for attacking a Virginia gay bar. (Washington Blade clipping from Sept. 29, 2000)

A man sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison for the September 2000 shooting at a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., in which one man lost his life and six others were wounded, died of natural causes on Jan. 15, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WSLA 10 TV News that Ronald Edward Gay died while being treated at a hospital near the Deerfield Correctional Center, a state prison where he had been living as an inmate. He was 75. 

Witnesses and law enforcement officials reported at the time of the shooting that a middle-aged man later identified as Gay arrived alone at Roanoke’s Backstreet Café, a popular gay bar, on the night of Sept. 22, 2000.

According to an account by an eyewitness to the incident who spoke last week with the Roanoke Times newspaper, after ordering a beer and standing next to the bar for a short time, Gay reached into the long trench coat he was wearing, pulled out a 9mm pistol, and fired a round “straight into the chest of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet, before opening fire on the rest of the bar.”

Overstreet, a beloved regular patron at the Backstreet Café, died at the scene of the shooting. Six others, who were wounded by bullets fired by Gay, later recovered, but they and many others who were present and witnessed the shooting were left emotionally scarred, the Roanoke Times reported.

In the weeks following the shooting, news media outlets, including the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, reported findings of an investigation by local police that Gay told police he went to Backstreet specifically to target gay people because he became bitter after years of being taunted and teased for his last name of “Gay.”

The Roanoke Times reported that, among other things, Gay told police “God told him to do it” and that he once wrote that there was an evil inside of him telling him “to shoot or have no rest.”

Gay later pleaded guilty to multiple charges against him, including murder. On July 23, 2001, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison for the shooting incident and the murder of Overstreet.

The Backstreet incident in Roanoke was considered by LGBTQ rights advocates and others to be one of the worst incidents in which LGBTQ people were targeted for a shooting until the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 people died and 53 more were wounded in a mass shooting by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, who was shot and killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff, told police in a phone call from inside the nightclub after the shooting began that he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and his attack against the gay nightclub was motivated by the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria. The FBI later classified the incident as a terrorist attack.

The Roanoke Times reported that the shooting incident at Backstreet Café prompted LGBTQ residents and allies to gather in the days and weeks after the incident for vigils and marches. About 1,000 people walked through the streets of downtown Roanoke to honor the life of Overstreet and to urge Congress to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the newspaper reported.

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Local

Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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