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Anti-discrimination bill advances in Va. Senate

Committee approved SB 701 by a 8-7 vote

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Gay New, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia
James Parrish, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

James Parrish (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Monday narrowly approved a bill that would ban discrimination against LGBT employees.

The 8-7 vote in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee came hours after President Obama specifically mentioned gay men and lesbians and marriage rights for same-sex couples in his second inaugural speech. Senate Bill 701 supporters noted these references in their reaction to the vote.

“Our president spoke eloquently today in his inauguration speech by saying ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,’” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said. “This bill is an opportunity for our lawmakers at home to give all LGBT Virginians an opportunity for fairness and job security.”

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria,) who introduced SB 701 alongside Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) also applauded the vote.

“I’m excited that the bill passed committee and we will be working very hard to get it out of the full Senate,” Ebbin told the Washington Blade. “It’s exciting to see the General Laws Committee realize that there is a need for non-discrimination protections in Virginia for our workers.”

The state Senate in 2010 and 2011 passed bills similar to SB 701, but they both stalled in the House of Delegates.

Senator Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County) was the only Republican on the committee to back the proposal that currently has more than 40 co-sponsors in both legislative chambers. Parrish conceded late last year, however, its chances of passing in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates this year remain “very slim.”

SB 701 supporters remain steadfast.

“With 701, we have an opportunity to ensure that no current or future politician gives prejudiced individuals in state agencies license to discriminate against LGBT individuals, people with disabilities, pregnant women, veterans and others,” Ladelle McWhorter, vice chair of Virginian Organizing, a group that advocates for immigration reform and other issues, said during a Richmond press conference on Jan. 17. “We have an opportunity to create a policy that embraces our differences and reminds all Virginia citizens that we are valued for our perspective, skills and experience and that on one will be automatically dismissed because of those very strengths.”

Delegate Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) referenced the House of Delegates’ 66-28 vote last week that approved gay interim Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship before the committee approved SB 701.

“The nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland as judge shows we understand that workplace discrimination has no place in Virginia,” Krupicka told the Blade. “We have demonstrated that skills, hard work and talent should be all that matter. I hope we can continue that momentum by passing an end to workplace discrimination.”

A vote on SB 701 in the full Senate is expected to take place in the coming days or weeks.

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Maryland

Protests interrupt Moms for Liberty meeting about removing books in Howard County schools

Guest speaker led book-removal campaign in Carroll County

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Gabriella Monroe holds a poster that says 'Ban Bigotry Not Books' outside Howard County’s Central Branch library in Columbia on Feb. 26, 2024 (Photo by Sam Mallon for the Baltimore Banner)

BY KRISTEN GRIFFITH | When a Howard County chapter of Moms for Liberty wanted to learn how to remove books from schools, they were met with a swarm of protesters sporting rainbow colors and signs looking to send the message that such actions are not welcome in their district.

The conservative parents’ group met Monday night at Howard’s Central Branch library in Columbia to brainstorm how they could get books they deemed inappropriate out of their children’s school libraries. Their guest speaker for the evening was Jessica Garland, who led a successful book-removal campaign in Carroll County. The Howard chapter wanted the playbook.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Rehoboth Beach

Former CAMP Rehoboth official pleads guilty to felony theft

Salvatore Seeley faces possible jail time, agrees to reimburse $176,000

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Salvatore “Sal” Seeley, who served as an official at the Rehoboth Beach, Del., CAMP Rehoboth LGBTQ community center for 20 years, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Theft In Excess of $50,000 for allegedly embezzling  funds from the organization for at least a two-and-a-half-year period, according to a Sussex County, Del., Superior Court indictment and a spokesperson for the Delaware Office of the Attorney General.

The spokesperson, Mat Marshall, sent the Blade a copy of the indictment, which he said was handed down against Seeley on Feb. 27 and which provides the only specific court information that the Washington Blade could immediately obtain.

“Salvatore C. Seeley, between the 27th day of February 2019 and the 7th day of September 2021, in the County of Sussex, State of Delaware, did take property belonging to Camp Rehoboth, Inc., consisting of United States currency and other miscellaneous property valued at more than $50,000, intending to appropriate same,” the indictment states.

“I can further confirm that the Defendant entered a guilty plea to one count of Theft in Excess of $50,000,” spokesperson Marshall told the Blade in an email message. “Mr. Seeley also agrees to make restitution of $176,199.78 to CAMP Rehoboth,” Marshall said. “He will be sentenced on April 5 and does face the possibility of prison time.”

Marshall declined to provide additional information on the findings of the law enforcement investigation into Seeley’s alleged theft. The restitution figure of $176,199.79 suggests investigators believe Seeley embezzled at least that amount from CAMP Rehoboth during the time he worked for the organization.

Seeley couldn’t immediately be reached for comment

CAMP Rehoboth describes itself as a nonprofit LGBTQ community service organization and the largest organization of its type “serving the needs of LGBTQ+ people in Rehoboth, greater Sussex County, and throughout the state of Delaware.” The statement adds that the organization “is dedicated to creating a positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Rehoboth and its related communities.”

Kim Leisey, who began her job as executive director of CAMP Rehoboth in July of 2023, said it was her understanding that officials with the organization discovered funds were missing and opened an investigation in September of 2021, a short time before Seeley left the organization. Leisey said that at the time of his departure, Seeley served as CAMP Rehoboth’s director of health and wellness programs. 

At that time, former D.C. Center for the LGBT Community director David Mariner was serving as CAMP Rehoboth’s executive director and reportedly took steps to open an investigation into missing funds. Wesley Combs, CAMP Rehoboth’s current board president, said Seeley resigned from his job around that time in 2021.

“I know that I took this job knowing there was a concern and a problem and an investigation,” Leisey told the Blade. “And I also know that the board of CAMP Rehoboth has done everything it needs to do to ensure that we were compliant, cooperative and that things are going really well here at CAMP Rehoboth.”

Leisey said CAMP Rehoboth currently has a staff of six full-time employees and several contract employees. She said the organization has a current annual budget of $1.4 million.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride theme

‘Totally radical’ a nod to 80s and 90s

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Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos, on left, announces this year's Pride theme at the Pride Reveal party on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance on Thursday announced this year’s Pride theme is “totally radical.”

The organization made the announcement at Penn Social in Downtown D.C.

“Capital Pride’s 2024 theme celebrates the courageous spirit and unwavering strength and resilience that defined the LGBTQ+ community during the transformative decades of the 1980s and ‘90s,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos. “It’s about embracing our authenticity, pushing boundaries and advocating for a world where everyone can live their truth without fear or discrimination.”

Capital Pride on Thursday announced this year’s Pride parade, which will take place on June 8, will begin at 14th and T Streets, N.W., and end at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, N.W.

The Capital Pride Block Party and Family Area will once again take place on 17th Street in Dupont Circle. A Tea Dance will also take place on Constitution Avenue, N.W., near the end of the parade. 

The Capital Pride Festival and Concert will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., on June 9.

Capital Pride has also launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million for a new D.C. LGBTQ community center. 

WorldPride will take place in D.C. in 2025. The event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pride events in the nation’s capital.

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