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Mendelson, Orange win Stein Club endorsement

Group also backs two gay candidates for school board

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Lateefah Williams, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Washington Blade, gay news, Human Rights Campaign

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, voted by acclamation Tuesday night to endorse D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) for the post of City Council Chair.

At an endorsement forum held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the club also endorsed Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) in his bid for re-election, D.C. “shadow” Sen. Michael D. Brown, and five candidates running for the D.C. State Board of Education, including gay education board candidates Phil Pannell and Jack Jacobson.

“It’s especially a pleasure for me to be here tonight because of the work I’ve done over the last several years to finally bring marriage equality to the District,” Mendelson told the gathering minutes before Stein members voted to endorse him.

As chair of the Council committee that had jurisdiction over 2009 legislation calling for legalizing same-sex marriage in D.C., Mendelson played a key role in shepherding the bill to passage, working closely with gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who introduced the marriage equality bill.

Mendelson, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, emerged as the lead candidate for Council chair when the post became vacant earlier this year following the abrupt resignation of Democrat Kwame Brown, who was indicted on corruption-related charges.

Phil Mendelson, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Mendelson is being challenged by Democrat Calvin Gurley in a special election for the Council chair post set to take place on Nov. 6, the same day as the city’s regularly scheduled general election. Gurley didn’t attend the Stein forum, although a supporter placed his name in nomination.

Stein members voted Tuesday night against endorsing Council members Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who are considered strong favorites to win re-election on Nov. 6. Both voted against the same-sex marriage law, becoming the only two of the 13 Council members to oppose the measure.

Although Alexander and Barry have supported the LGBT community on other issues, Stein members said the two Council members’ opposition to the marriage equality bill prompted a majority of the membership to oppose endorsing them.

The club voted by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent against endorsing Alexander and a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent against endorsing Barry, according to results announced by Stein Club President Lateefah Williams.

In the school board contests, Stein members voted to endorse Pannell for the Ward 8 seat over incumbent Trayon “Tray” White. Pannell, a longtime Stein Club member, has been a community activist in Ward 8 for more than 25 years.

Jacobson, a Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, is running unopposed for the Board of Education seat representing Ward 2. Similar to Pannell, he is a Stein Club member and community activist.

In response to questions from club members, Pannell and Jacobson said they would work hard for public school programs aimed at curtailing anti-LGBT bullying and other challenges faced by LGBT youth.

The club also endorsed at-large Board of Education candidate Mary Lord, who was praised by several club members as a “champion” for LGBT-related issues during her tenure as a Ward 2 school board member. Lord chose to run for the at-large seat rather than run for re-election to the Ward 2 seat, clearing the way for Jacobson to run unopposed for the Ward 2 seat.

Her opponent in the at-large race, Marvin Tucker, expressed support for LGBT-related issues, saying he would be an advocate for all students, “gay or straight.”

In other school board contests, the Stein Club voted Tuesday night to endorse D. Kamili Anderson for the Ward 4 seat and Karen Williams for the Ward 7 seat over rivals Villareal Johnson and Dorothy Douglas.

During the forum, each of the school board candidates in attendance said they would support condom distribution in city high schools as an AIDS prevention measure and sex education classes that discuss LGBT-related issues.

The Stein Club’s endorsement of Orange came seven months after the club didn’t make an endorsement for the at-large race in the city’s Democratic primary. At that time, Orange and his main rival, Sekou Biddle, split the vote among club members and neither obtained a required 60 percent margin needed to win an endorsement.

Vincent Orange, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news

Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Williams said the club’s endorsement of Orange clears the way for the club to consider making an endorsement of a non-Democratic candidate running for one of the two at-large seats at play in the Nov. 6 election.

Under the city’s election law, only one of the two at-large Council seats up for election this year can be held by a Democrat. With Democrat Orange nominated for re-election to one of the seats, Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At-Large) is running for re-election for the so-called “non-Democratic” seat.

All at-large candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will appear on the same ballot, with voters given the option of voting for two candidates. The two with the highest vote count are declared the winners.

Although it’s possible that Orange could lose his seat if two of the non-Democrats receive more votes than he does, that outcome has never occurred since Congress put in place the city’s current home rule government in 1974 due to the overwhelming Democratic majority among the city’s voters.

Brown, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, and independent candidate David Grosso, who has expressed strong support on LGBT issues, are campaigning aggressively for LGBT votes. Both are expected to push hard for the Stein Club’s endorsement.

Williams said she expects the club to hold an endorsement forum for the non-Democratic at-large seat in about two weeks.

Independent candidates Leon Swain and A.J. Cooper and Statehood Green Party candidate Ann Wilcox, who are also running for one of the at-large seats, are also expected to compete for the Stein endorsement. Also running for one of the seats is Republican Mary Beatty, who has been endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans of D.C.

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Virginia

Youngkin vetoes bill that would have expanded Va. bullying definition

Bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole introduced House Bill 536

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at a CNN Town Hall on March 9, 2023. (Screen capture via CNN)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday vetoed a bill that would have added sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the state’s definition of bullying.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved House Bill 536, which bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole (D-Fredericksburg) introduced. 

“While I agree with the general purpose of the legislation, regrettably, the General Assembly did not approve my amendments,” said Youngkin in a statement. “Those recommendations would have expanded the definition of bullying to encompass all possible motives.”

“School administrators must work to prevent bullying and support our students’ mental health through a healthy learning environment, but the narrow definition provided in the legislation could be interpreted to exclude groups not included in the Virginia Human Rights Act, such as bullying victims raised with traditional values or those who are in foster care,” added the Republican.

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Rehoboth Beach

Selling Rehoboth: Lee Ann Wilkinson wins prestigious real estate award

Longtime agent on beach prices, her LGBTQ allyship, and more

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Lee Ann Wilkinson doesn’t see real estate prices coming down anytime soon at the beach. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

Longtime Delaware real estate leader Lee Ann Wilkinson of Berkshire Hathaway recently celebrated a major industry award after being named No. 1 in total sales volume for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Network. Wilkinson, a Blade contributor, centers much of her work in the coastal communities of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. We caught up with her to discuss her long career in real estate, her LGBTQ allyship, and more.

Washington Blade: I learned your parents were in real estate, and you began working with them early on in your career. Did you initially intend to follow in their footsteps? 

Lee Ann Wilkinson: Not really. I majored in art. When I got out of college I couldn’t really find a job. So, my parents said, “You need to come work for us.”

Blade: I understand that as an art history major turned writer. Speaking of that: I know you have written some pieces for the Blade, about real estate trends, and the like. How do you pick your topics for these articles? 

Wilkinson:  People always want to know about real estate. Whether buying a first home, second home, a home to invest or retire in. It amazes even me how much interest there is. And it’s not just people looking to buy a $7 million home on beachfront property. It’s people looking to get something in budget for their family.

Blade: I know you have a lot of work in Rehoboth, the Delaware Valley’s historically gay beachside community. Was there ever a time you were NOT selling property to – I guess it was fair to say 40 years ago – mostly gay men? 

Wilkinson: Ha, I grew up coming down for the summer until my family moved here full-time from Norristown, outside of Philly. We had businesses and family in Rehoboth. I think Rehoboth has always been gay-friendly. We never thought about it. My grandfather had a house in Rehoboth before I was born. The gay population was always welcome.

Blade: Do you have a connection to the LGBTQ community beyond real estate? 

Wilkinson: Absolutely. One of my closest friends is a guy I went to college with at the University of Delaware, Joey. You know, Joey was maybe my first gay friend. In fact, we all went to the Easter Sunrise Service on the beach in Rehoboth. We have gay family members, so I have never thought that much about it being anything different.

Blade: I know you recently won a prestigious award with Berkshire Hathaway and were surprised to come in first place. Why?

Wilkinson: For the past 20 years or so we have been in the top 10. We started doing these national things with Berkshire Hathaway. To get in the top 10 was amazing to me especially going up against states like Florida, New Jersey, not to mention San Francisco or Bay Area agents. I just never thought we’d get to the number one spot. My only issue is — where to go now?

Blade: Where do you make your primary residence? Is that Lewes? Do you see the president on occasion? 

Wilkinson: I haven’t seen him at the beach. But he’s on the bike trail a lot. He pops up having breakfast. He goes to Mass at St. Edmond’s in Rehoboth on Saturday evening. But I’m often too busy with work on weekends to catch sight of him.

Blade: Having been in the industry 40 years, how do you find ways to get excited about your work? 

Wilkinson: I really am passionate about it. I really love a challenge. That’s part of the appeal for this job. I always like matching people with things. I really liked getting people the right bathing suits years ago. Selling, it’s just something I’m good at. I would get customers walking outta’ the store with three or four bathing suits when they only wanted one. 

Blade: Are you considering retiring in the next few years? Or will you always be associated with the industry on some level. Maybe as a mentor or silent partner? 

Wilkinson: Oh, no, I’ll always be involved. Three of my four daughters work for me. I am not retiring anytime soon. And if I did, they would be here to continue it on, and I am sure I’d weigh in.

Blade: So, this is very much a family legacy?

Wilkinson: Yeah. My parents are 87 and 91 now. Some 20 years ago mom predicted we’d see an increase in prices, people moving here, etc. I don’t know how she predicted it but mom is right.

Blade: Any current trends you’re noticing? 

Wilkinson: This cycle of people moving here, and prices increasing, and all the building happening. People think the prices are going to come down, but I don’t see that happening.

Blade: Tell me about that. Are the new building ventures changing the faces of Rehoboth and Lewes? After not visiting the Jersey Shore for over a decade I’ve been going the past few summers to my cousin’s place in Cape May. It’s a trailer on a nicely maintained campground and it’s what she can afford. And, there’s so much building happening there.

Wilkinson: Right? It’s about finding a second home you can afford. And, in terms of building projects, the good thing about Rehoboth and Lewes is they are strict on what you can and can’t build downtown. They aren’t going to tear down homes to build multi-family condos, not yet anyway. In Spring Lake, you are seeing townhomes. So, building is happening and we have some condos, but it’s great to not see “overbuilding” happening in these historically smaller cities.

To learn more about Ms. Wilkinson, or property in Sussex County, DE be sure to look for articles she publishes in the Blade and visit the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group website.

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Local

Blum named director of new LGBTQ program at Carr Center

Program to expand research, training on safeguarding human rights

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Diego Garcia Blum

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Diego Garcia Blum on his new position as director, Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program, at the Harvard, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. This new program will expand research and training on safeguarding the human rights of LGBTQI+ people worldwide. It will address the escalating crisis of violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals globally. The vision is to establish the Carr Center as a key international nexus for LGBTQI+ human rights policy, training, ideas, and dialogue

 “The heart of this program is empowering and supporting the brave LGBTQI+ activists working in challenging and often perilous environments,” Garcia Blum said. “Through our training and high-impact research, we aim to supercharge their efforts.”

Prior to this, he has had a varied and impressive career. Recently he served as a Social Change Fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. He worked with the Human Rights Campaign, serving on its Board of Governors. Prior to that, he worked as a nuclear engineer at Orano, a French company. It is described as a global leader in nuclear fuel cycle products and services, from mining to dismantling, conversion, enrichment, recycling, logistics and engineering. He has won many awards for his work and education. The Innovation CORE award at Orano; The Dean Joseph Weil Leadership Award, University of Florida; Most Outstanding Master in Public Policy Student – Ellen Raphael Award, Harvard Kennedy School. 

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