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“We repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ to make sure that nobody who wants to serve our country gets kicked out because of who they love,” Obama said, generating applause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


District of Columbia

Cherry Fund files lawsuit  against Republiq Hall

LGBTQ nonprofit says breach of contract led to $137,000 in lost revenue



Cherry Fund claims Republiq Hall canceled a contract for one of its popular events. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cherry Fund, the D.C.-based nonprofit organization that has raised money for HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ organizations for the past 27 years, filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on May 31 charging Republiq Hall, a large entertainment venue in Northeast D.C, with abruptly and improperly cancelling Cherry Fund’s reservation to rent the hall for an April 6 event expected to draw 2,000 paid guests.

The event was to be one of several circuit dance parties that Cherry Fund produces as part of its annual Cherry weekend in April, which has raised several million dollars for LGBTQ related organizations since the Cherry weekend  events began in 1996.  

The lawsuit, which charges Republiq Hall with breach of contract, says the contract signed by the two parties in January called for Cherry Fund to pay Republiq Hall an initial deposit of $3,500 on Jan. 10, 2024, to be applied to a nonrefundable rental fee totaling $7,000 for the one-time use of the space on April 6.

Republiq Hall is located in a large former warehouse building at 2122 24th Place, N.E., near the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. 

According to the lawsuit, under the contract, Cherry Fund “was responsible for promoting the event, booking talent, and managing ticket sales,” with Cherry Fund to “retain all door fee revenues and a percentage of the net bar sales.”

The lawsuit states, “On February 28, after Plaintiff had already begun promoting the event and booking talent, the Defendant unilaterally and without just cause demanded an additional $9,000 from the Plaintiff. When the Plaintiff refused to pay the additional amount, the Defendant cancelled the reservation.”

 As a result of Republiq Hall’s action, the lawsuit states, Cherry Fund was “forced to book an alternative venue with significantly less capacity, resulting in substantial financial losses.” 

It says as a direct result of the alleged breach of contract, Cherry Fund “suffered financial damages in the amount of $130,000 in lost door fees and $7,000 in a lost percentage of the net bar sales that were estimated to be collected on the date of the event.”

A spokesperson for Republiq Hall did not respond to a phone message from the Washington Blade requesting a comment and a response to the lawsuit’s allegations.

Court records show that Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna, who is presiding over the case, scheduled an initial hearing for the case on Sept. 6. McKenna issued an order providing guidance for how a civil litigation case should proceed that includes a requirement that Republiq Hall must file a response to the lawsuit within 21 days of being officially served a copy of the lawsuit complaint.

Sean Morris, the Cherry Fund president, issued a statement expressing disappointment over the developments leading to the lawsuit.

“Our organization, powered by volunteer efforts, relies on our annual event to fundraise for local non-profits,” he said. “This abrupt and unforeseen demand, and subsequent cancellation, has severely affected our ability to support vital community programs focused on HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ+ advocacy,” Morris says in his statement.

The lawsuit concludes by stating, “The Plaintiff, the Cherry Fund, respectfully requests the following relief: Direct compensatory damages for the lost benefits it was entitled to under the terms of the contract; Restitution for the benefits retained by the Defendant in unjust enrichment; Reasonable attorney fees and costs of this action; and Any other relief this court deems just and proper.”

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Silver Spring Pride sign rebuilt in memory of beloved neighbor

GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000



Tony Brown's neighbors help repaint the Pride sign his late partner created in their Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Molly Chehak)

Residents of Silver Spring’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood have come together to rebuild a Pride sign. 

The sign was constructed in June 2020, and was meant to stay in place throughout Pride Month. Neighborhood residents, however, requested it stay up past its intended month-long display, and has remained in place for more than four years. 

The sign spelling LOVE is at the neighborhood’s entrance between Sundale and Richmond Streets. It was made from plywood and the O was painted in the colors of the Pride flag.

“We wanted to take it down, but we just felt it was not ours anymore and belonged to the neighborhood.” Tony Brown told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It was a positive thing for the neighborhood and began to take on a life of its own.” 

Brown and his partner, Mike Heffner, designed the sign and said the Black Lives Matter movement inspired them to create it as a strong symbol of an accepting community.

The sign was vandalized numerous times last fall, resulting in neighborhood residents taking turns repairing it. Brown and his partner could not do the repairs themselves because Heffner was fighting Stage 4 lung cancer.

Heffner passed away on Oct. 6, 2023.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help raise funds for the replacement Pride sign, and it has raised more than $4,000. The replacement sign is more permanent and made of metal.

“I can’t speak for the neighborhood overall, but people who knew Mike I think are happy that we were able to honor his memory with this sign because this sign is so him,” Molly Chebak, a friend who lives next door to Brown, told the Blade. “He (Heffner) was an outgoing super social (person) who just made you feel good the way this sign does. It’s a perfect tribute to him.” 

Chebak and other neighbors created the GoFundMe account.

Heffner’s family and his neighbors are still working to rebuild the Pride sign. It has become a memorial to Heffner.

“We wanted to do one that was clearly a Pride reference,” said Brown, noting the L is a fully painted Pride flag that spirals across the entire letter. 

“For the O we wanted to do something reminiscent of times in the past, a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a hippie montage of flowers and butterflies,” he said. 

Brown described the V as being colorful, nonbinary people hugging each other with the idea that love is more than what one may see. 

“During COVID, he had started painting rocks and putting kind and fun messages on them leaving them around places as sort of a pay it forward Karma and so the E is basically that stylized writing and to embrace a bunch of ways we embrace love,” he said. 

The final letter had the phrase “love is love” written repeatedly in various handwritings to pay homage to Heffner and what he did for his neighborhood during the pandemic.  Brown’s four daughters — one of whom is a professional artist — and their friends designed it.

The landscape around the sign has also been transformed with rocks that honors Heffner’s love for Rosemary Hills and his passion for rocks.

Chebak also said Heffner always wanted a bench, and neighbors are looking to install one soon next to the Pride sign.

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s beloved Duplex Diner closes its doors

Owners looking to open new location in Rehoboth Beach



Duplex Diner owners Mark Hunker and Jeff McCracken. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Owners of D.C.’s Duplex Diner announced Tuesday that they closed the business immediately after the landlord terminated a sub-lease last month. They also announced that they are searching for a new location in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to open a “Duplex 2.0.”

A note posted to the door reads as follows: “On May 31st JAM Holdings, owners of Duplex Diner since 2014, were notified by our landlord that he was terminating our sub-lease effective July 31, 2024. We have come to an agreement to sell our assets to our general manager who will be creating a new concept in this location, but unfortunately, we must close effective immediately.

“This decision is not made lightly. We know how much The Duplex Diner has meant to so many people who worked here, played here, had our rosé-all-day here, laughed here, cried here, over-imbibed here, celebrated here, found love here, and trusted us enough to leave credit cards on file here. Like us, we hope you have memories that last a lifetime. We leave this community with love and gratitude and will miss this beloved neighborhood institution more than we can describe. Thank you all for making The Duplex Diner a stop on your journey! Stay tuned though! JAM Holdings is searching for a location in Rehoboth Beach to open Duplex 2.0 and continue its legacy.”

The Diner’s general manager, Kelly Laczko, posted a message on social media indicating that she plans to reopen under a new name in the same space. She wrote, “While the Duplex Diner owners may have closed the original spot abruptly, we will be opening your next hang in this location. We remember your order, know where you sit and when you left your credit card. … More to come.”

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