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Blade reporter turned away from Va. anti-gay marriage rally

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spoke at Manassas church

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Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MANASSAS, Va.—A local  church on Friday denied a Washington Blade staff writer access to an anti-gay marriage gathering at which Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spoke.

A woman who was standing near the entrance of Reconciliation Community Church in Manassas in front of two men wearing dark suits who appeared to be security personnel asked this reporter for identification and proof of media affiliation after he identified himself as a Blade staff writer. He proceeded to show her his drivers’ license and business card.

The women concluded this reporter was a member of Cooch Watch, a group named for the nickname Cuccinelli received while he was an undergrad at the University of Virginia that had planned to protest. She then pointedly told him to turn his car around in an adjacent driveway and leave the church’s property.

Cuccinelli’s spokesperson, Brian Gottstein, told the Blade the attorney general “fully expected the media as well as the protesters to be” at the church.

“We had not heard otherwise,” he said.

Gottstein apologized to the Blade over the incident.

“However, it is the host of the event who decides who can enter their event, not us,” he said. “As I said, the attorney general was expecting an open event.”

Pastor John Peyton of the Reconciliation Community Church acknowledged he was asked to host the gathering at which Cuccinelli spoke — the attorney general said on his Twitter account earlier on Friday he was “looking forward to speaking at the Virginia Defense of Marriage Summit tonight!” Peyton told the Blade in an e-mail he “did not bargain for any protesters to come.”

“We have members who have been delivered from many sins by having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “We also wanted respect for the guest[s] on our ground[s.] Sorry you weren’t allow[ed] in this meeting, but you may come back any Sunday and visit our church.”

The Manassas gathering was the last in a series of rallies and other events that took place across the commonwealth during the day-long Marriage Protection Virginia Bus Tour that began earlier on Friday at Liberty University in Lynchburg. It was part of the Traditional Marriage Tour the High Impact Leadership Coalition, a group founded by Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., organized.

Virginia was the seventh and final state that tour participants visited.

“Recent events including the president of the United States commenting that he supports gay marriage, instructing the Department of Justice not to enforce violations of the Defense of Marriage Act and a Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to strike down Proposition 8 in California, makes it necessary for us to act now,” said the High Impact Leadership Coalition in an Aug. 1 press release that announced the Traditional Marriage Tour.

In addition to Cuccinelli; Jackson, Bishop Eugene Reeves of New Life Ministries in Woodbridge, Va., and Phillip Goudeaux of the Calvary Christian Center in Sacramento, Calif., were among those scheduled to speak at Reconciliation Community Church. The Manassas event took place less than a week after Goudeaux described gay men as “predators” who seek to indoctrinate children during an anti-gay marriage gathering at a Baltimore church that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Maryland Marriage Alliance Chair Derek McCoy, Jackson, Reeves and roughly 100 others attended.

Shelley Abrams, co-founder of Cooch Watch, told the Blade roughly a dozen members of her group who traveled to Manassas to protest Cuccinelli were also denied access to the church. One Cooch Watch member who arrived at Reconciliation Community Church around 4:45 p.m. told Abrams a woman said “there’s no rally here.”

Abrams said the protester looked at the church and told the same woman she recognized its name. The woman reportedly said only congregation members were allowed to attend the gathering.

“She said, ‘We’re not allowing protesters in and we’re doing God’s work,’” said the woman, according to Abrams.

Abrams further stressed churches typically allow Cooch Watch members to attend forums, meetings and other events they host.

“To be denied entry into what’s considered God’s house is appalling,” she said. “Not only that, this is a public official. We are Virginians and we want to hear what he has to say about same-sex marriage. And we were not given that opportunity. There is fear among the ultra-right wing of being exposed and they know that Cooch Watch is here to expose them.”

Equality Virginia spokesperson Kevin Clay also criticized the church’s decision to deny access to the gathering.

“It’s a shame that the press has been denied access to the attorney general’s speaking engagement,” he told the Blade. “At Friday’s event Cuccinelli spoke on the marriage amendment to a small group that most likely did not represent fair-minded Virginians. Behind closed doors, we suspect he rehashed the same overreaching rhetoric. At Equality Virginia, we expect our elected officials to represent all of the commonwealth’s citizens.”

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Comings & Goings

Lane named senior counsel at Brady United

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Thomas Patrick Lane

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 Thomas Patrick Lane the new Senior Litigation Counsel and Director of Affirmative Litigation with Brady United. According to its website, Brady’s mission is, “To unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.”

Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel and vice president of legal at Brady said, “The whole Brady team is thrilled to welcome Tom’s skills as a trial lawyer and his leadership as a champion for justice and a voice for inclusivity and equal rights. Tom is one of the top litigators in the country, and has been a fighter his whole life who has proven himself undaunted by any challenge, including taking on the gun industry for its role in causing gun violence in America. Tom’s expertise and insights into complex litigation involving emerging technologies, such as 3-D printed guns, “smart” technology, and online commerce, will bolster our fight for industry-wide change by holding companies accountable and forcing reforms that will make all Americans safer.”

Upon accepting the position Lane said, “From my time as a prosecutor to private practice, I have seen the effects of gun violence and the importance of defending victims and survivors and upholding common-sense laws that keep our families and communities safe. I am excited to bring that background to Brady and to continue this important work nationwide.”

Prior to joining Brady, Lane was a partner in the New York office of Winston & Strawn, LLP. Before that he was a partner in Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP. He is recognized as one of the country’s top intellectual property and new media lawyers. He tried the first Internet music case and the first Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor case before juries. He has also served as a senior trial attorney in the office of the New York Kings County District Attorney.

Lane represented the City of New York in litigation against major gun manufacturers in the early 2000s. LawDragon named him as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America.

Lane earned his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.; and his J.D. from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans. He has created an endowed scholarship there for LGBTQ students to help law firms realize the importance of hiring diverse rosters of attorneys, and to honor the courage of his uncles Bernard Lane (an Army Ranger decorated with two Bronze Stars) and Richard Morrison (a recovered alcoholic who devoted his life to counseling others).

Both men were known for their toughness tendered by humor and both lived openly in loving relationships with same-sex partners in the 1970s. Lane is a former board member of the National LGBT Bar Association. He directs all external legal matters for the Tyler Clementi Foundation, whose mission is to end bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Va. GOP governor nominee opposes transgender-inclusive youth sports

Glenn Youngkin made comment to Arlington voters in March

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Glenn Youngkin (Photo via Twitter)

 

The Republican gubernatorial candidate to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

“Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls sports,” Glenn Youngkin said during a meeting with a group of voters in Arlington on March 25, according to the Washington Examiner. “It’s just not fair.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to Youngkin’s campaign for comment.

Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, on Saturday defeated Pete Snyder, former House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), Peter Doran, Sergio de la Peña and Octavia Johnson in the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention. Virginia Republicans nominated Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares as their candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively.

The Democratic Party of Virginia will hold its primary on June 8. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is widely expected to win the vote, and run against Youngkin in the general election.

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