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Gay attorney elected head of Rehoboth marriage bureau

Anti-gay mailers attacked losing gay candidates in Delaware

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Andy Staton, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade
Andy Staton, Delaware, gay news, gay politics dc

Andy Staton was the target of anti-gay emails by a conservative group in advance of Election Day last week. (Photo courtesy of prugallo.com)

In a little noticed development, an openly gay attorney won election on Nov. 6 as Clerk of the Peace in conservative, Republican leaning Sussex County, Del., where the liberal enclave of Rehoboth Beach is located.

John Brady, a Democrat, defeated a Republican opponent by a margin of 54 percent to 44 percent, winning in parts of the county where gay Democrats Andy Staton and Marie Mayor lost their bids to become the first openly gay members of the Delaware Legislature.

As Clerk of the Peace, Brady, among other things, will issue marriage and civil unions licenses as well as perform civil marriages and civil unions in his role as head of the Sussex County Marriage Bureau.

Staton lost in a newly created State Senate district and Mayor lost in a newly created State House of Representatives district that most political observers believed to be favorable to Democrats.

But Staton, a Rehoboth Realtor, and Mayor, a farmer and businesswoman in the town of Milton, became the target of attack mailings and emails generated by the anti-gay Delaware Family Policy Council.

“Did you hear? The largest gay activist group in the country, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, just endorsed – and is fully backing – two Delaware candidates: Andy Staton for Senate in the new 6th district and Marie Mayor for Rep. in the new 20th district (Georgetown, Milton, Lewis, Rehoboth),” says an Oct. 17 email to voters from Nicole Theis, president of the Delaware Family Policy Council.

Theis’ email quotes from a Victory Fund statement supporting Staton and Mayor that says the two “understand that Delaware is only 1 or 2 votes away from passing same-sex ‘marriage.’” Theis implies in her email — printed copies of which reportedly were distributed in dozens of churches — that Staton and Mayor’s election could result in the approval of a gay marriage bill by the Delaware Legislature.

“We also uncovered from sources on the ground that hundreds of out-of-state gay activists with a radical agenda are in Delaware door knocking by twos for Mayor and Staton,” Theis said in her email.

Republican Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez beat Staton by a 56.1 percent to 42.7 percent margin. GOP opponent Stephen Smyk defeated Mayor by a margin of 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent.

The Cape Gazette, a newspaper that covers Delaware’s eastern shore communities, including Sussex County, reported that Lopez beat Staton in 15 of the 17 precincts in the district where the two ran, with Staton winning only one precinct in his home base of Rehoboth Beach and one in Milton.

Smyk beat Mayor in 8 of the 10 precincts in the 20th House district, in which the two competed, according to the Cape Gazette.

“It just wasn’t in the cards for a Democrat down here in Sussex County,” Staton told the Blade. “I’m told there was an 80 percent Republican turnout in this part of the county and a much lower Democratic turnout.”

Sussex was the only one of Delaware’s three counties to give Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney a win over President Obama in the Nov. 6 election.

However, other popular state Democrats who are strong supporters of LGBT rights did win in Sussex. Among them were Gov. Jack Markell, U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, U.S. Rep. John Carney, and state Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, whose district includes Rehoboth Beach. All four won their re-election bids.

Brady, who’s been openly gay in the county for more than 10 years, said the Family Policy Council did not target him, possibly because the group knew he’s widely known and respected by many Republicans and Democrats.

Brady, 53, changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2009. He’s been praised as a good government advocate during his tenure as an elected and appointed official in offices that include county Recorder of Deeds and solicitor, or attorney, for the towns of Milton, Dewey Beach and Ellendale.

“I flew by the wire,” he said in explaining his Nov. 6 victory, which made him the only non-incumbent Democrat to win a county-wide race in Sussex.

“I have a record that people know about,” he said. “When you run the land office you don’t run on gay or straight issues, you run on getting the job done and saving the taxpayers money.”

Brady ran against 23-year-old security guard Brooks Witzke, a Republican who stated in campaign appearances that he’s a conservative Christian who opposes same-sex marriage and would lobby the state legislature to repeal the civil unions law, which lawmakers passed in 2011.

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Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach gets rainbow crosswalks

Pride Month begins on Saturday

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(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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Local

Comings & Goings

Viet Tran appointed as senior advisor to OPM Director

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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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Delaware

Blade Foundation awards 7th Steve Elkins journalism fellowship

Joe Reberkenny will cover Delaware LGBTQ news all summer

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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 bladefoundation.org.

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