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Md. campaign features undocumented LGBT students

At the intersection of immigrant, gay rights movements

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Ivette Roman, DREAM act, dreamers, immigration, equality, gay news, Washington Blade, Equality Maryland
DREAM act, dreamers, immigration, equality, gay news, Washington Blade, Equality Maryland

Edwin (photo courtesy of Equality Maryland)

Gay Silver Spring resident Edwin came to the United States from Guatemala in 2004 when he was 14. His family initially told him after he came out at 19 that he was going to go to hell because of his sexual orientation. Edwin, now 22, only recently disclosed his undocumented status after a friend criticized President Obama’s immigration policy.

“I was never asked to come to the U.S.,” Edwin, who declined to provide his last name, told the Washington Blade during an interview last month. “It was my mom’s decision. I was 14. I couldn’t say yes or no. Knowing you’re in the community but you’re different; it made me seem like I’m less than everybody else.”

Edwin is among those profiled in the Familia es Familia Maryland campaign that Equality Maryland and CASA de Maryland formally launched in August to garner additional support for laws that provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and marriage rights for same-sex couples ahead of Election Day.

A Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies poll last month shows that 58 percent of Maryland voters would vote for the Dream Act in Question 4, compared with 34 percent who oppose it. The same survey finds that 51 percent of Marylanders would vote for the same-sex marriage law in Question 6, compared to 43 percent who said they oppose it.

JJ from Panamá, who asked the Blade not to use his real name because his parents are Pentecostal ministers, came out to his family last year because he said it “became harder and harder to hide who he is.” He also testified in support of the Dream Act in Annapolis before Maryland lawmakers passed it in 2011.

“Being from Montgomery County, it’s never been an issue to come out as undocumented,” JJ told the Blade before filming a pro-Question 4 ad at CASA de Maryland’s Langley Park headquarters. “It’s something everybody knew. When I was doing advocacy around it, everybody was really proud of me and know that I’ve started doing this.”

J.J., DREAM act, dreamers, immigration, equality, gay news, Washington Blade, Equality Maryland

JJ (photo courtesy of Equality Maryland)

Silver Spring resident Ivette Roman, who came to the United States from Perú with her brother when she was 10, said during the August press conference at which Equality Maryland and CASA de Maryland officially launched the Familia es Familia Maryland initiative that her immigration status prevents her from receiving financial aid to attend college. She told the Blade that her friends and family remain proud of her activism on both issues, even though she said her mother did not speak to her for months after she came out to her as a lesbian.

“Some of them kind of moved away — they are kind of ashamed about the way that I am,” said Roman, 20. “My mother has been very supportive. She’s been with me on everything I’ve done.”

Equality Maryland is among the handful of statewide LGBT advocacy groups that have partnered with immigrant rights organizations on immigration-related issues.

“Equality Maryland is pleased with the responses we are getting from the LGBT communities on our work with these LGBT youth and the issues impacting them,” said Carrie Evans, the group’s executive director. “People recognize these youth as part of our community in need of support.”

Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland, again stressed to the Blade that his group remains committed to ensuring marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state.

“CASA de Maryland’s work in support of marriage equality flows from values and love,” he said. “As an organization with a mission that seeks to create a more just society by building power and improving the quality of life in low-income immigrant communities, we believe that a more just society includes mutual respect for all human rights, including equality for LGBT communities.  And, we do this work out of love for our Latino LGBT brothers and sisters in our families, among our members and staff, and in our communities.”

The intersection of these two issues was the subject of a Sept. 25 panel that Torres moderated during the fifth annual National Immigrant Integration Conference in Baltimore.

Michael Crawford, director of online programs at Freedom to Marry, noted that the plight of bi-national same-sex couples “really connects the immigration and LGBTQ movements and serves as a really stark example of how the Defense of Marriage Act hurts families.” Former Equality North Carolina executive director Ian Palmquist, who is now the director of regional and program support at the Equality Federation, stressed what he described as the need to engage the women’s and other progressive social movements in the fight for LGBT equality.

“Different organizations have gone in different directions with that,” he said, referring to Equality Utah’s work with the Mormon Church to support Salt Lake City’s gay-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance that took effect in 2010. Palmquist further noted the New York Republicans who supported their state’s same-sex marriage bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed last year. “It’s something that we all are constantly re-evaluating and trying to figure out how we are going to be true to our values and also how to develop all the programs that we need to win.”

Ivette Roman, DREAM act, dreamers, immigration, equality, gay news, Washington Blade, Equality Maryland

Ivette Roman (photo courtesy of Equality Maryland)

Back in Montgomery County, Roman remains optimistic that Maryland voters will support both the Dream Act and the state’s same-sex marriage law on Nov. 6.

“I’m very positive about it,” she said. “People who are against it [the Dream Act and same-sex marriage] are going to change their minds once they hear the stories about it. Living as a lesbian and undocumented has been very hard for me to achieve my goals. I know there’s many others who are afraid. I’m just trying to help them out because I know how it feels.”

Edwin shared a similar perspective.

“I’m pretty sure there’s a large group of people who support the Dream Act. I’m pretty sure it’s going to pass,” he said. “I think people realize we shouldn’t decide who we should be married to. It should be up to us.”

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District of Columbia

Pannell resigns in protest from Ward 8 Council member’s LGBT Commission

Says Trayon White has no out member of his staff

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Phil Pannell resigned as a member of the Ward 8 LGBT Commission created by D.C. Council member Trayon White. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights activist Phil Pannell announced on May 6 that he has resigned as a member of the Ward 8 LGBT Commission created by D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) on grounds that White does not have an LGBTQ person on his Council staff.

White’s office has said the Council member created the commission to “focus on the specific needs of this community” in his role as a supporter of LGBTQ equality.

“For me, this is a major issue of inclusion, affirmative action and diversity,” Pannell said in an email message announcing his resignation. “I as a Black Gay man cannot in good conscience continue to be a member of my Councilmember’s LGBT Commission when he has no one from my community on his staff,” Pannell’s announcement message continues.

“This is hypocritical at best and structurally homophobic at worst,” he said. “I deeply resent and refuse to be used as anyone’s homosexual prop for any purposes. Therefore, I resign from the commission effective immediately.”

In response to a request by the Washington Blade for comment on Pannell’s resignation, Julia Jessie, White’s director of communications, said White’s Council office “follows all legal HR procedures and hires based on experience and skillset.” Jessie added, “As an employer, we do not discriminate or consider a person’s race, color, religion, or sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity, when making decisions about employment qualifications.”

According to Jessie, “We do, however, harvest a safe and inclusionary work environment where employees who wish to voluntarily disclose their sexual orientation of gender identity feel comfortable doing so.”

White’s office released a statement from the Ward 8 LGBT Commission’s chair, Marvin ‘Rahim’ Briggs, saying the commission “regretfully accepts” Pannell’s resignation.

“The Commission will continue to focus on and address issues affecting Ward 8 LGBTQ,” Briggs says in the statement. “We’ll continue to organize to promote acceptance of LGBTQ community diversity and to foster respect and appreciation for each member of the community residing in Ward 8.”

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District of Columbia

Two gay candidates disqualified from D.C. primary ballot

Republican, Libertarian activists withdraw from races

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(Blade archive photo by Aram Vartian)

A member of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest LGBTQ local political group, mounted a successful challenge before the D.C. Board of Elections earlier this month that resulted in a gay Republican and a gay Libertarian Party activist withdrawing as candidates for public office in the city’s June 21 primary.

James Harnett, 24, a member of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee and a member of the staff of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), filed challenges to the candidacy of gay Libertarian Party activist Bruce Majors, who was running unopposed in the June 21 primary for the office of both D.C. Delegate to the U.S. House and chair of the Libertarian Party of D.C.

The Board of Elections upheld Harnett’s challenge claiming that Majors failed to obtain a sufficient number of valid petition signatures needed to be placed on the ballot for both offices, according to elections board spokesperson Nicholas Jacobs. Majors withdrew his candidacy for both offices rather than contest the challenge.

The Board of Elections also upheld a challenge filed by Harnett against the candidacy of gay Republican and D.C. Log Cabin Republicans organization member Andrew Desser, who was running unopposed in the primary for the position of Ward 1 Chairperson of the D.C. Republican Committee.

Desser told the Blade he acknowledged that he fell short in obtaining the needed number of valid petition signatures and would not contest the challenge.

Harnett, who appeared to be acting on his own behalf and not representing the Capital Stonewall Democrats in his challenges to Majors and Desser before the election board, did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

Board of Elections records showed that he also successfully challenged six other candidates seeking ballot placement in the June 21 primary, one of whom, Lori Furstenberg, was running for mayor as a Republican and another, Corren Brown, was running for mayor as a Statehood-Green Party member.

The others Harnett mounted a successful challenge against were GOP candidates running for the Ward 2, Ward 4, and Ward 7 GOP Chairperson positions; and Leniqua ‘Dominique’ Jenkins, a Democrat running for the at-large D.C. Council seat, who was the only Democrat challenged by Harnett.

Harnett, a former ANC commissioner in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for the nonpartisan office of D.C. Board of Education for Ward 2. Among the candidates he ran against was gay education advocate Allister Chang, who won that race.

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats holds D.C. Council chair, at-large Council candidates forum

Mendelson, Bonds join opponents in discussing LGBTQ forum

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D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson is among those who participated in the Capital Stonewall Democrats forum for candidates for D.C. Council chair and at-large Council seats. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, hosted the fifth and last of its series of LGBTQ candidate forums on May 11 by hosting candidates running for D.C. Council Chair and At-Large D.C. Council in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary.

Similar to the earlier forums, each of the candidates, including incumbent Council Chair Phil Mendelson and incumbent at-large Councilmember Anita Bonds, expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights and cited their records in office or their work in the community on various issues related to LGBTQ programs or projects.

Among those participating in the virtual forum broadcast via Zoom was ethics attorney and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Erin Palmer, who is challenging Mendelson for the Council Chair position.

The candidates challenging Bonds for the at-large Council seat included Lisa Gore, Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and former housing fraud investigator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Nate Fleming, former D.C. shadow U.S. House member and former D.C. Council staffer; and Dexter Williams, former Howard University government relations official, former D.C. Council staffer, and current election systems consultant.  

Local community activists and small business owners Heidi Ellis and George Kerr, who served as co-moderators of the forum, asked the candidates questions on a wide range of topics, including the city’s efforts to curtail anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, city funding for local LGBTQ organizations that provide services for LGBTQ people in need and problems faced by LGBTQ elders.

Other questions touched on the topics of racial and economic justice, whether the candidates or incumbents have LGBTQ people on their Council or campaign staff; whether term limits should be put in place for members of the Council, and whether D.C. police and the Office of the federally controlled U.S. Attorney for D.C. were doing enough to address anti-LGBTQ violence.

Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier stated at the forum that electronic voting had begun for members of the organization to decide on which candidates to endorse and that an announcement of the winners of the group’s endorsements would be made on or shortly before May 17. Frazier said that under the organization’s rules, a 60 percent majority vote for a candidate was needed for an endorsement to be given.

A full video recording of the May 11 forum can be accessed here:

https://www.facebook.com/StonewallDems51/

A Washington Blade transcript of the candidates’ opening statements at the May 11 forum can be viewed below.

D.C. COUNCIL CHAIR RACE

Opening Statements

Phil Mendelson

Thank you, Capital Stonewall Democrats for doing this once again. Although I have to say this is the first time in my many years that this has been virtual. So, it’s a different experience. But I very much welcome this opportunity. For those of you who don’t know me, I was an ANC commissioner for 20 years before I was elected to the Council. I have been chair of the Council for the past 10 years.

I have an adopted daughter who graduated from the D.C. public schools with a major in art, which she is pursuing as her career. As an incumbent, I have a record, not just promises. And I am proud of my record. And my record has been very strong in the area with regard to issues that are important to the LGBTQ community.

Although it was a few years ago, when I chaired the Committee on the Judiciary, I got through the Council our legislation to make the District the sixth jurisdiction in the country to recognize marriage equality. And I got it through with a strategy that ensured that Congress wasn’t going to override what we did. As you know, they tried to do it many other times.

I have a very strong progressive record when it comes to these issues. When I chaired the Judiciary, I had hearings frequently with regard to hate crimes and enforcement against hate crimes. Most recently I introduced legislation to prohibit the gay panic defense in the District so that would not be used or misused with regard to hate crimes. As I said it’s not enough to just say one has progressive values or to put forth campaign promises but actually to see how I delivered over and over again on issues, like universal paid leave, where I not only rewrote the law but got it through the Council over the opposition of the mayor. And other issues as well. I guess my time is up. But I look forward to the questions and ask for your support.

Erin Palmer

Thank you so much. Thank you to the Capital Stonewall Democrats. My name is Erin Palmer. I use she/her pronouns. And I’m running for D.C. Council chairwoman. And a little bit about myself–I’m a mom to three children who are 11, nine and seven. They are very much a part of my civic and political life. And if you know me, you’ll get to know them as well. I fondly refer to them as the monsters because they’re chaotic.

My profession—I’m in ethics … most recently having worked on judicial ethics and institutional accountability for the federal judiciary. And I’m also an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 4, where I have worked across commissions with commissioners citywide on systemic issues, including being an ally to the ANC Rainbow Caucus on some of the issues that they have worked on.

I’m running to bring energy, vision and compassion to D.C.’s challenges. And I think it is particularly important in light of the current national context. As we’ve seen, there was a recent release of a draft Supreme Court decision overturning Row v. Wade. And this is a reminder that we have to be constantly vigilant. We have to not take our rights and protections for granted. And we need to be dedicated at the local level to working very intentionally to support our communities with the most aid.

I bring a dedication to ethics in government and accountability. I’m the only Fair Elections candidate in this race, which means that I am rejecting corporate donations. And I’m accountable to and engaged with D.C. residents. I’m also the only candidate in this race with a D.C. Council accountability plan for a more modern ethical and accountable D.C. Council that ties specifically to the role of the chair in setting the procedures and governance structure for the Council.

I believe strongly in meeting basic needs as rights as a values-driven proposition. Things like housing, education and healthcare that lead with those values impacts how we budget, how we legislate, how we do oversight. And that doing those things keeps our community safe and strong. And I will lead with those values every day. Thank you so much.

AT-LARGE D.C. COUNCIL RACES

Anita Bonds

Well good evening, everyone. My name, of course, is Anita Bonds. And I am your at-large Council member on the D.C. Council. It is a pleasure to join with you this evening and to talk about our city that I have built my career on making sure that we, all of us, have an opportunity to continue to live here. It is vital that we hold ourselves and one another accountable for ensuring that we are allies, not only visibly but materialistically each and every day.

As an ally to the LGBTQ community, I have maintained a legislative agenda that consists of priorities demonstrated in my votes on legislation and in the budget that ensures the rights, protections and the livelihood of members of the LGBTQ community. While we work to achieve true equality and make sure that voices of the LGBTQ community are heard, especially considering the history of the violence that this community has endured for a number of years.

I made it a priority to include members of the LGBTQ community when making my appointments to the Police Reform Commission as an example. And I also have representation from the LGBTQ community on my staff, in fact, from the day when taking my seat on the Council. The senior LGBTQ community that has been historically neglected by society is one that always is dear to my heart. And I have spent a lot of energy trying to make things right. And I have also co-introduced and voted for care for LGBTQ seniors and—I ran out of time. Thank you.

Lisa Gore

Good evening, everyone, and thank you Capital Stonewall Democrats for hosting this important forum. I’m glad to be here tonight to discuss a little bit about myself and my campaign. And my name is Lisa Gore. I’m a D.C. public school mom. I am a current sitting ANC commissioner In ANC 34G serving both Ward 3 and Ward 4. And I recently retired as a federal investigator from the IG’s office from HUD, where I spent over 25 years investigating housing fraud and conducting oversight of a national housing program.

My campaign is basically centered around marginalized communities. And our campaign is centered around making D.C. a more just D.C. That’s everything from education, housing, environmental justice, aging and health, senior platform issues, and especially issues that are common in the LGBTQ community. I’m proud that I recently got the highest at-large rating with the GLAA endorsement of 8.5. And I think that really demonstrates the strength of our policy platform in this area.

There’s several members of my campaign team paid and unpaid that are members of the LGBTQ community. And you might know me as a candidate that has rainbow signs out there, all across D.C. So, this community has been in my heart from day one and the day I started this campaign designing my yard signs. I wanted to make sure that D.C. knows that I’m representative of this community. So, thank you. I’m looking forward to hearing the issues and talking to you tonight about my platform.

Nate Fleming

Good evening, everyone. My name is Nate Fleming. I’m running for D.C. Council at-large. And I’m not here to pander to you. I’m here to speak to you about the issues impacting the LGBT community. I’m a member of this club. I’ve been a longtime member of this club since 2010. A little bit about me—I grew up in this city. Single mother household in the middle of the crack epidemic.

But education is what took me to Morehouse College. I was able to become a lawyer. I studied at Berkeley Law. I got a full scholarship to Harvard Kennedy School. And I believe that when you get opportunities like that coming from my background, you have a responsibility to try to create opportunities for others. And that’s really what I worked to do. First, coming back to D.C. serving as D.C. shadow representative.

The first political endorsement I ever received was from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the former name of the Capital Stonewall Democrats. I’ve been endorsed in every campaign that I’ve run. And in this race in 2014 I received more votes than any other candidate from the Capital Stonewall Democrats. That’s because this club has done so much work in the fight for equal rights, justice and fairness, particularly the fight in 2010 for marriage equality, where I stood directly with members of this club to fight for those rights with the Council.

And I believe these issues, these values that this club represents needs to extend and permeate throughout the city. Because the pandemic has exacerbated the issues that are important to the LGBT community, whether that’s housing, whether that’s job and employment, whether that’s healthcare. And we need more than ever bold, creative and thoughtful leadership that’s going to help us build back better and reverse these systems so they can work for everyday people.

So, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing. There’s some great programs that are out there like the transgender and gender nonconforming workforce program. Thirty percent of LGBT youth identify as homeless. We have to expand LGBTQ centered health care, mental health care specifically in this city. And I’m looking forward to implementing the HIV long term bill of rights. Those are the type of issues I’m going to work on as your next at-large Council member.

Dexter Williams

Thank you and good evening. My name is Dexter Williams. I’m running for at-large Council member. And I want to thank the Capital Stonewall Democrats for sponsoring tonight’s forum. As a candidate, I am very committed to the LGBTQ community, just as I am for all marginalized people across the city. What I want you to know is that this forum is no different for me because I am very sensitive to the inequities and struggles that are faced by many in the LGBTQ community, whether it is discrimination, crime and even murder impacting the trans community, double marginalization of race unemployment faced by the Black, Latino [inaudible] communities or the possible threats to marriage equality depending on just how far the Supreme Court and states will go in the future.

As a candidate, I am running on a theme of change. While D.C. is viewed as gay friendly, I know that housing discrimination, ageism, employment barriers and even in the [inaudible] issues still persist. Whether subtle discrimination such as the recent statement by Vincent Orange referring to Zach Parker as a candidate for Ward 5 Council member, who recently came out as gay, followed by Vincent Orange’s equally weak apology for his egregious—for his weak apology or the more egregious trans murders that took place last year.

No one should be made to feel less for being their true selves. I know we are [inaudible] in the city, but we can and should do better in housing, places of employment. We should do better and I’m going to make sure that we do. Thank you.

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