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Stein Club president withdraws from consideration for new club election

Special meeting on Wednesday to consider invaliding Dec. 3 election of new slate of officers

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A Gertrude Stein Democratic Club endorsements meeting from October of this year, prior to the leadership shake-up. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Lateefah Williams, the president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club who lost her race for a second term in the club’s Dec. 3 election, announced on Sunday that she won’t be a candidate if the club decides to invalidate the balloting for her seat and calls a new election.

Her announcement comes in the wake of an uproar among many of the club’s longtime members over the successful campaign by three young activists who won control of the club by defeating Williams and two vice presidential candidates running on Williams’ slate.

Gay political consultant Martin Garcia, 27, who beat Williams by a vote of 47 to 45, is credited with playing the lead role in organizing the upset victory by arranging for at least 46 mostly young LGBT activists to join the club less than a week before the election and vote for him and his vice presidential running mates.

Angela Peoples, 26, a policy analyst for the U.S. Consumer Financial protection Bureau, and Vincent Villano, 26, communications director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, won the two vice presidential seats on Garcia’s slate.

Club treasurer Barrie Daneker and club secretary Jimmie Luthuli were not challenged by Garcia’s backers and won re-election unopposed. But in winning three of the club’s five officer’s positions, Garcia, Peoples, and Villano were expected to gain control of the club when they take office Jan. 1.

Last week, several longtime members, including transgender activist Jeri Hughes, called for an official challenge to Garcia, Peoples, and Villano’s election. The club’s existing officers responded by calling a special meeting for Dec. 19 to decide whether the election should be invalidated based on the challenges.

Daneker, who is in charge of maintaining the club membership list, said a review of the online application forms for 17 of the new members raised questions about whether some qualified for a lower priced special membership category.

Daneker said the review of the application forms also indicated some of the new members did not submit a valid home address, which could be a violation of club rules.

Those challenging the election say the election should be invalidated if the club determines some of the new members should be disqualified due to membership “irregularities” and the number of disqualified members exceeds the margin of victory of Garcia, Peoples, and Villano. All three won by a margin of between two and seven votes.

The longtime members who called for the special meeting, which is to decide whether the election should be upheld or invalidated, are believed to be supporters of Williams and her slate of officers who lost the election.

Williams announced her withdrawal from consideration for retaining her seat after her current term expires on Dec. 31 in an open letter sent by email on Sunday to the club’s membership.

“While I am deeply humbled and profoundly grateful for the support of these longtime members and I believe that it is important to investigate potential election irregularities, I am also very concerned about the future of the club,” Williams said in her Dec. 16 email.

“It is imperative that the Stein Club move forward into the future as a unified organization, so that we may continue to focus on effectively advocating for the District’s LGBT community,” she said. “To that end, I am removing myself from consideration as the 2013 Stein Club president.”

Williams noted that she recused herself from the vote by the club’s officers, who make up the group’s executive board, to call the special meeting.

“While the decision to hold the special meeting and to possibly invalidate the election results is, and always has been, a different matter than my candidacy, I want to state my intentions unequivocally, so that it’s clear that any decision that is made by the membership at the special meeting should be made independent of me,” Williams said in her email.

Daneker said the club had a total of 190 members prior to the effort by Garcia and his supporters to recruit new members. According to Daneker, 46 new members, including Garcia, Peoples, and Villano, who had not appeared on the club’s membership rolls before, joined the club in the week prior to the Dec. 3 club election.

Although some of the new members have said their recruitment effort doubled the club’s membership, Daneker said the new members appear to have increased the membership from 190 to 236, which is about 24 percent.

Confusion over the membership totals surfaced, Daneker said, when the balloting at the Dec. 3 election showed that a total of 92 ballots had been cast, with Garcia beating Williams by a razor-thin two vote margin. He said some people incorrectly assumed that the 92 people who voted in the election made up most or all of the membership.

When asked why he thought as many as 145 of the 190 existing members didn’t show up for the election, Daneker said, “Historically, we don’t get all the members to come to every single meeting.”

Garcia and his supporters have argued that their election recruitment effort brought in energetic new members who will reinvigorate the club.

“We are disappointed that the Stein leadership intends to challenge new members who want to contribute to Stein’s growth,” Garcia said in a statement released last week.

“These new members are young people, people of color, and people from low-income backgrounds who were otherwise not engaged in Stein’s activities…We should be having a special meeting celebrating these new members and finding ways to engage them.”

In a series of Facebook messages and a commentary in the Blade, Hughes has emerged as the lead advocate for invaliding the election and holding a new election for president and the two vice president’s seats.

An attorney who reviewed the question of whether the Stein Club election can be invalidated has said such an action could only take place if it can be shown that new members gave a false address or joined at the $15 membership rate rather than the standard $35 rate when they were not qualified or the lower rate. The $15 membership is limited under the club’s bylaws to students, senior citizens, and “limited income” members.

Hughes, while saying the issue of possible membership irregularities should be resolved, has called the election a “farce” because the new members stacked the meeting with their supporters.

“It became a farce when a group of new members – most of whom have never attended a Stein Club meeting or participated in the local issues affecting the District – attended the election night process with the sole intention of usurping the Stein Club leadership,” she said in her commentary.

“They are strangers,” she said. “By their own admission, none had been Stein Club members for more than a week.”

Not all of the club’s longstanding members agree with Hughes that the election should be challenged.

Gay Democratic activist Rick Rosendall, who won election last week as president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, is a longtime Stein Club member.

“Jeri, they won according to the rules,” he told Hughes in a Facebook posting. “They represent the biggest influx of talent and energy into the group in a long time. Forcing them out in a special meeting which itself violates the rules is not legitimate,” he said. “Nor does it advance our cause.”

D.C. transgender activist Julius Agers, the club’s vice president for political and legislative affairs, who did not run for re-election, said he, too, considers the influx of new members to be beneficial to the club.

“Let us all strive as hard as we can to be open minded, and not let old thoughts and old prejudices and old loyalties blur our vision,” he wrote in a Facebook posting on Saturday. “These young people have earned their respect from many circles. In fact, they have done amazing things and I for one am thrilled that they are bringing their passion in our direction.”

The special meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, in Room 120 of the John A. Wilson D.C. city hall building at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Maryland

Hyattsville mayor dies by suicide

Kevin Ward and husband adopted son in D.C. in 2012

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Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the city of Hyattsville)

The city of Hyattsville released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that their city’s openly gay Mayor Kevin Ward had died one day earlier by an apparent suicide.

“The city of Hyattsville reports with great sadness that our beloved Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, Jan. 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement says.

“Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville,” the statement continues. “We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to the mayor’s family,” it says.

“No further information is available at this time,” the statement adds. “Details about services and remembrances will be shared when they are available.”

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Park Police disclosed that Ward was found deceased in Fort Marcy Park in McLean, Va., with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Ward, 44, became acting mayor of Hyattsville on Jan. 1, 2021, following the resignation of former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. He was next in line to become mayor under the city’s political system in his then-position as president of the Hyattsville City Council.

He won election to complete the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term through 2023 in a May 11, 2021, special election, receiving 57.8 percent of the vote in a three candidate race, according to the Hyattsville election board. His closest opponent, Joseph Solomon, received 31.7 percent of the vote.

Nearby fellow gay mayors — Patrick Wojahn of College Park and Jeffrey Slavin of Somerset — said they got to know Ward through Maryland political circles and thought very highly of him.

“He was insightful, smart and dedicated,” Wojahn said. “He always seemed very confident and together as a person. And he had a great sense of humor.”

Slavin said he shared that remembrance of Ward, adding that he found Ward to be a “very nice person” dedicated to the people he served both as mayor and during his two terms on the Hyattsville City Council.

“There was noting in his public life that would have predicted this,” said Slavin in referring to Ward’s sudden passing.

The Washington Blade first reported on Ward in 2012 in a feature story on Ward and his then-domestic partner Chad Copeland when the two attended a ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court to complete the process of adopting their then-5-year-old son Norman. Ward and Copeland were among several gay couples who had their adoption papers signed by a judge at the ceremony.

On the website for his mayoral election campaign last year Ward said he and his family made Hyattsville their home in 2014 after he and his husband adopted their two sons.

“I am a pretty straightforward person,” he said in message to voters on his campaign website. “I believe in listening more than talking. But when I talk, I am not one to mince words or tell people what they want to hear,” he said. “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life,” he continued.

“This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and to human services, to help as many people as I can,” he said.  

Ward was referring to his career in the field of educational and human services technology.

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District of Columbia

ANC supports license for Capitol Hill LGBTQ bar

Lesbian owners back ‘settlement agreement’ with restrictions on hours

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Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel are the bar industry veterans behind As You Are Bar. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)

The Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a liquor license for the LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar, which plans to open in a two-story building at 500 8th St., S.E. in a commercial section of Capitol Hill known as Barracks Row.

The ANC’s decision to support the license took place at a virtual meeting attended by nearby residents and supporters of the bar after its owners, lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, agreed to the terms of an ANC settlement agreement that calls for restrictions in the hours the bar can offer dancing, entertainment, and music from a DJ.

The agreement means the ANC will not file a protest against the license before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a development that would have delayed a decision on the license by the ABC Board by as much as seven months. A protest by the ANC could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in legal fees to contest the protest by providing legal arguments seeking the approval of the license.

The ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve all liquor licenses in the city.

McDaniel and Pike have said they plan to operate an upstairs dance bar during evening hours and a café on the first floor during the day as well as in the evenings that will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture.”

The two, who are business and life partners, say As You Are Bar will welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities as well as drinkers and non-drinkers as customers.

They have also told the ANC and nearby residents they have taken steps to soundproof the building, which they are renting, to ensure their plans to operate a dance bar with music from a DJ on the second floor will not disturb nearby residents.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, which was posted on the ANC’s website prior to the start of the meeting, the bar’s operating hours will be from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Under D.C. law, bars are allowed to remain open for the sale of alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. during weekdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Settlement Agreement further calls for As You Are Bar to restrict the hours of consumption of alcohol from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It calls for allowing live entertainment and dancing (indoors only) from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, the agreement says DJ and amplified music will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

 McDaniel told the Blade that at the request of As You Are Bar’s attorney Richard Bianco, the ANC agreed to modify that restriction at the Tuesday night meeting to allow the bar to play “conversational” background music after 8 p.m. until closing time on weekdays.

 Among other things, the agreement requires the bar comply with a noise mitigation provision to “ensure that sound, noise, and vibrations are not audible or felt beyond the curb or any other premises at any time.” It also calls on the bar to provide an “appropriate number of staff” to monitor patrons as they leave the bar through the 8th Street entrance to “prevent loud voices and littering.”

Under rules established by the ABC Board and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration or ABRA, if a settlement agreement is reached between an applicant for a liquor license and the ANC, a protest against the license by groups of five or more citizens is not allowed. Protests could still be filed by community-based civic groups and residents of an “abutting” house or residential facility.

In the case of As You Are Bar, no citizens group has emerged to oppose the license. There is just one abutting townhouse on E Street whose owner has expressed general support for the settlement agreement, according to McDaniel. But the resident has indicated she will not rule out a possible protest until Feb. 7, which is the deadline for filing a protest under ABRA’s rules.

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