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Obama campaigns in Va. on LGBT-inclusive vision

President coins ‘Romnesia’ to describe GOP nominee’s shift in positions



Barack Obama, Election 2012, gay news, Washington Blade
Barack Obama, Election 2012, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama rallies supporters in Virginia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX, Va. — President Obama presented an LGBT-inclusive vision for the country Friday during a campaign rally in a battleground state that could help determine the outcome of the election.

In an event at George Mason University that focused mostly on his commitment to women’s issues, Obama ticked off a list of accomplishments over his first term that included repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“We repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ to make sure that nobody who wants to serve our country gets kicked out because of who they love,” Obama said, generating applause from the audience.

Obama made additional references to the gay community in the speech. The president twice mentioned “gays” in the concluding portion of his speech warning his audience that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would reverse gains already made.

“In 18 days, you can let them turn back the clock 50 years for immigrants, and gays, and women, or we can stand up and say we are a country in which everybody has a place,” Obama said. “A country where no matter where you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, gay, straight, abled, disabled — we have a place for everybody.”

The inclusion of gays in Obama’s remarks at the rally stand in contrast to a campaign season that has been virtually devoid of discussion of same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues. The speech was more akin to the Democratic National Convention, where speakers emphasized LGBT-inclusiveness to pump up the crowd.

Among the estimated 9,000 people in attendance at the rally were members of the LGBT community who said they were delighted Obama made explicit references to them.

Broderick Greer, 22, a gay graduate student at the Virginia Theological Seminary, said Obama’s reference to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal was exciting.

“Sometimes I forgot about the strides that we’ve made with LGBT rights in the last few years since he’s been president,” Greer said. “When I heard repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I screamed so loud that I hurt the lady’s ears in front of me. I think she was kind of upset.”

Greer said he’s already volunteered to work on behalf of the Obama campaign on the Saturday before Election Day knocking on doors in Alexandria, Va., to talk to potential supporters about the president.

Daniel Roberts, Democratic Party, Barack Obama, Washington Blade, gay news

Daniel Torin Roberts was among the estimated 9,000 attendees at the Obama rally (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Daniel Torin Roberts, 22, a gay recent graduate of George Mason University, also said he thought Obama’s inclusion of gays in his rally speech was important.

“You want to feel like you have a seat at the table, like he’s still thinking about you and everything he’s doing and it’s still a concern,” Roberts said. “He carries what we want with him, he knows what we want and he’s still fighting for us.”

But the most memorable part of the speech was Obama coining a new term to describe Romney’s pivot away from the conservative policies he articulated during the Republican primary: “Romnesia.”

“Now that we’re 18 days out from the election, Mr. ‘Severely Conservative’ wants you to think he was severely kidding about everything he said over the last year,” Obama said. “I mean, he’s changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping we’ve got to name this condition that he’s going through. I think it’s called ‘Romnesia.'”

Among the policy shifts that Obama has identified is Romney saying he’s for equal pay for women, but reluctant to say whether he would have supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, in addition to his shift during the first presidential debate when he said he doesn’t support tax cuts for the wealthy if they add to the deficit.

Obama concluded his riff about “Romnesia” by saying people shouldn’t worry if they find themselves coming down with similar symptoms because there’s good news: “Obamacare covers preexisting conditions.”

The 13 electoral votes in Virginia could be crucial in determining the outcome of the presidential election. As national polls continue to show a tight race, an American Research Group poll published on Oct. 16 found Romney and Obama virtually tied in the state, with Romney leading 48-47.

Prior to Obama’s speech, a number of prominent Obama supporters appeared on stage to hype Obama’s work on women’s issues and to criticize Romney for holding positions they believed were contrary to supporting women, such as his pledge to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion rights. Among the speakers were Terri Riley, an Obama campaign leader in Virginia; Nan Johnson, a local retired school counselor; and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Johnson had particularly harsh words for Romney’s widely lampooned comments during the debate earlier this week that he selected female appointees to serve in his administration after requesting “binders full of women” who had submitted resumes to women’s groups.

“He admitted that when he became governor of Massachusetts, he had no idea where to find a single qualified woman,” Johnson said. “He needed someone to give him resumes stuffed in some binders instead. If he was saying that as governor, I wonder what he did during his 25 years in the corporate world.”

Johnson continued to say that she was even more troubled by Romney’s remarks that if you want women in the workforce, some flexibility is necessary because those remarks sounded as if “a woman with a job is some kind of proposition that you debate in a board room.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) also appeared on stage and drew on the binder remarks, holding a binder before him and saying, “I’m from Massachusetts originally, and I found the binder full of women.” Then, shaking his head, Connolly said, “Not so much,” and said Romney had one of the worst records in modern history in appointing women to the courts.

“When people asked me why am I supporting President Obama, I have a pretty simple answer,” Connolly said. “Because I have a daughter.”

Gerry Connolly, Democratic Party, Virginia, Barack Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Gerry Connolly speaks about President Obama’s support for women’s issues at the Obama rally (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach gets rainbow crosswalks

Pride Month begins on Saturday



(Photo courtesy of City of Rehoboth Beach's Instagram page)

The city of Rehoboth Beach has begun painting rainbow crosswalks in honor of the LGBTQ community. The crosswalks on the corners of First Street and Baltimore Avenue. and Second Street and Baltimore Avenue will have giant rainbows installed just as Pride Month kicks off. 

Images of city officials painting the crosswalk on Second Street were posted to the city of Rehoboth’s Instagram account on Wednesday and received positive comments. The post also announced next week’s plans to make a second Pride-painted sidewalk a block over on First Street after they are finished. 

The sidewalks, one of which lies on Steve Elkins Way in honor of the Rehoboth LGBTQ trailblazer, require three coats of paint to ensure the colors stay vibrant all summer.

The sidewalk appears to display the Philadelphia Pride Flag, which not only recognizes LGBTQ people but also LGBTQ people of color. The sidewalk has the six traditional Pride flag colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple) representing various elements of being a part of the LGBTQ community, and black and brown symbolize the unique struggles of people of color in the LGBTQ community.

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Comings & Goings

Viet Tran appointed as senior advisor to OPM Director



Viet Tran

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 Viet Tran on his appointment as Deputy Director for the Office of Communications, at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Tran serves as a senior adviser to the OPM Director and senior agency leadership on communications messaging, execution, and strategies. In addition, he oversees the press team and interagency coordination related to the Office of Communications team. He previously served as press secretary for OPM.

Prior to that he was a senior communications consultant to organizations, nonprofits, and state agencies, including the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, the California Department of Public Health, and American Civil Liberties Union California Action. Tran served as a press secretary, and on-record spokesperson, for the Human Rights Campaign. 

Congratulations also to Paul Williams elected president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG).

“I am happy to bring my expertise in historic preservation, and non-profit management, to the CAG,” Williams said after his election. “I have enjoyed getting to know its board and the community members as a fairly new superintendent in residence at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown.”  

Williams has an educational background in historic preservation, with degrees from Roger Williams and Cornell. He created the U Street Historic District and the walking trail there. Williams is the author of 24 history books, headed Dupont Main Streets, and Congressional Cemetery for 10 years, before becoming the 14th superintendent at Oak Hill in October 2021. He lives there with his writer and journalist husband Greg Alexander, and two cats.  

Paul Williams

Congratulations also to the newly elected board members of the Rainbow History Project (RHP) who include: Delaney Resweber, Ashley Bamfo as treasurer; Justin Weitz acting board secretary; Glenn C. Reimer starting his third one-year term as board chair. In addition, Frankie Witzenburg was promoted to deputy director of archiving. 

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Blade Foundation awards 7th Steve Elkins journalism fellowship

Joe Reberkenny will cover Delaware LGBTQ news all summer



Joseph Reberkenny

The Blade Foundation this week announced the recipient of its 2024 Steve Elkins Memorial Fellowship in Journalism is Joseph Reberkenny, a recent graduate of American University.

He will cover issues of interest to Delaware’s LGBTQ community for 12 weeks this summer. The fellowship is named in honor of Steve Elkins, a journalist and co-founder of the CAMP Rehoboth LGBT community center. Elkins served as editor of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth for many years as well as executive director of the center before his death in March of 2018.

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, welcomed Reberkenny and introduced him to the Rehoboth Beach community at a recent event there. 

“We’re all excited to work with Joseph during this important election year in which Delaware is poised to make history by electing the nation’s first transgender congressperson and only the fourth Black woman U.S. Senator,” Naff said.

Reberkenny is the seventh recipient of the Elkins fellowship, which is funded by community donations at the Blade Foundation’s annual fundraiser in Rehoboth Beach. This year’s event was held May 17 at the Blue Moon and included a generous sponsorship from Realtor Justin Noble and a keynote address by Sarah McBride, a candidate for U.S. House.

“I am honored to work for the Blade and to contribute to its rich history in supporting the LGBTQ community,” Reberkenny said. “I am excited to cover Delaware’s politics, and can’t wait to amplify voices that deserve to be heard.” 

“The CAMP Rehoboth community is thrilled to know that the Washington Blade continues to support a student intern in memory of Steve Elkins,” said Kim Leisey, Ph.D., executive director of CAMP Rehoboth. 

For more information on the fellowship program or to donate, visit

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