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D.C. gay business leader charged with unlawful entry

CAGLCC’s Guenther, prosecutors negotiating after arrest

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Mark Guenther, CAGLCC, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay news, Washington Blade
Mark Guenther, CAGLCC, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Guenther, director of the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, was arrested this month on charges of unlawful entry. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

The disposition of a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry filed earlier this month against the head of the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is under negotiation between prosecutors and the defense attorney, according to D.C. Superior Court records.

The records show the two parties in the case agreed at a Nov. 20 status hearing to “a brief continuance to further negotiate” the outcome of the charge against Mark Guenther, 42, who has served as executive director of CAGLCC for more than two years.

News of Guenther’s arrest on Nov. 7 on the unlawful entry charge was first reported by LGBTQ Nation.

According to a D.C. police arrest affidavit, Guenther allegedly entered a male neighbor’s apartment at 3 a.m. on Oct. 26 without permission.

“The complainant awoke at 0300 hours to find the defendant standing over him at his bedside,” the affidavit says. “The complainant yelled at the defendant, asked him what he was doing, and told him to get out of his apartment,” it says.

The affidavit says Guenther fled the second floor apartment through the front door and the complainant heard him close the door to his own apartment, which is located across the hall in an apartment building on the 1400 block of Chapin Street, N.W.

It says the complainant told authorities Guenther sent him an email at 9:42 a.m. that same day admitting to entering the complainant’s apartment and apologizing for doing so.

Court records show Guenther pleaded not guilty to the unlawful entry charge at an arraignment on Nov. 7, two days after the complainant identified Guenther to police from a photo presented to him by a police investigator.

Superior Court Judge Marisa Demeo released Guenther on his own recognizance and issued a stay-away order prohibiting him from engaging in “threatening, abusive, harassing, or stalking behavior toward” the complainant, court records state. The judge scheduled another status hearing for Dec. 13.

Under D.C. law, a conviction for a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry could result in a maximum sentence of up to 180 days in jail or a fine up to $1,000. There is no required minimum sentence for the offense, allowing judges to hand down a sentence of probation with no jail time or fine.

None of the public court or police records say how Guenther gained entry into the complainant’s apartment or how he obtained his email address. The public records make no mention of a forced entry.

“The complainant reported he has seen the defendant on a weekly basis for over a year as they reside in the same apartment complex,” the affidavit says.

Court observers say negotiations between prosecutors and defense attorneys in criminal cases are usually over a plea bargain offer made by prosecutors. Such an offer usually, but not always, involves a promise to lower the charge or a promise to ask the judge for a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Guenther, the complainant, and the United States Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, have declined to comment on the case.

Guenther’s attorney, Meaghan Hearn of Ackerman Brown, said Guenther would not be issuing any statements at this time. Ernesto Santalla, president of CAGLCC, declined to comment on specifics of the case.

“The Executive Director of CAGLCC serves at the pleasure of the Board of Directors,” he said. Santalla added that CAGLCC has no internal policy that calls for the executive director’s dismissal in the event of a misdemeanor conviction.

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce named CAGLCC as the winner of its 2012 Chamber of the Year Award and Guenther accepted the award at the group’s annual Washington dinner earlier this month.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Jim Feig

    November 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Maybe he was drunk? If not he is just really creepy.

  2. Jim Wasser

    November 29, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Mark, you can walk in and stand by my bed Anytime!

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Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing

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(Bigstock photo)

A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

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Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’

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A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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