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Gray: Obama to ‘vocally’ back gay marriage

Mayor joined others who welcomed Obama’s second inaugural address.

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Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade
Vincent Gray, Transgender Remembrance Day, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT advocates and others who gathered inside the Wilson building in D.C. on Monday to watch President Obama’s second inauguration applauded his inaugural address.

Mayor Vincent Gray told the Washington Blade shortly after the president delivered his speech that he expects him to be “vocally supportive of marriage equality for the next four years.” Alexandra Beninda, a transgender member of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, said she welcomed Obama’s reference to marriage rights for same-sex couples, gays and lesbians, immigration and other issues.

“He hit on a number of good issues,” she told the Blade as she sat in an office overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue while awaiting the inaugural parade to begin.

When asked to comment on the lack of trans-specific references in Obama’s speech, Beninda noted an LGBT-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other issues remain “very important.” She said she does not expect Congress to act on the long-stalled measure during the president’s second term. Beninda added, however, she does not rule out the possibility of Obama issuing an executive order that would bar employers from firing their employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“He doesn’t have to worry about how things are going to look in terms of getting re-elected and getting various people on his side,” she said. “In a second term, presidents are usually looking for building their legacy and how they’re going to be looked at in the long run. They are more inclined to want to get major accomplishments that they can. I think certainly things like ENDA should be on the forefront.”

Gray and others also noted the White House’s decision to place D.C. license plates with the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan onto the presidential limousine.

“It’s coming together, but we also know that even with the license plates on we have a long distance to travel,” the mayor said in response to a question WTOP reporter Mark Segraves asked about whether the move would bolster D.C. statehood efforts. “I hope that it symbolizes that he [Obama] intends to be more active on issues affecting the District and I think a great place for him to signal that further would be in the State of the Union speech.”

Jeffrey Richardson, the mayor’s former LGBT liaison who now directs Gray’s Office of Volunteerism that is also known as Serve D.C., agreed.

“It’s just exciting to think about democracy in action,” he told the Blade just before Obama arrived at the U.S. Capitol. “Hopefully that will translate to some democracy in action for us in the District in ending our lack of representation.”

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Maryland

Prince George’s County library system launches banned book club

First discussion to take place in Hyattsville on June 14

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(Bigstock photo)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System has launched its Rock Banned Book Club.

The club will feature monthly discussions of the 13 top banned books from 2022, most of which focus on LGBTQ-specific themes. 

The club’s first discussion, which will take place at the Hyattsville Branch Library on June 14, will be on “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. 

Kobabe’s memoir won the 2020 American Library Association Alex Award and recounts Kobabe’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality through adolescence and adulthood. According to the American Library Association, the book faced the most censorship challenges of any novel at 151.

“We’re seeing nationally the highest rate of challenges to books in libraries since the data has been collected by the American Library Association,” Nicholas Brown, acting co-chief executive officer of the library, said. “I think what happens with all of the discourse around book banning is that, oftentimes, not everyone participating in that discourse is actually taking the time to read the full works and discuss them and understand where the author might be coming from and whose stories are being reflected in these books.”

Along with the book club, the library system is hosting a Pride celebration at the Hyattsville branch on Saturday from 12 – 4 p.m. It will feature a panel discussion, vogue and runway workshops, free HIV testing and more. 

The library system will host its second annual Rainbow Festival on June 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bowie Branch Library with family-friendly events like craft stations, story time and a live DJ. In April, the library system won a Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council for its banned books campaign.

“I think a lot of folks don’t always realize that your local public library is kind of the front line of democracy and we always have been,” Brown said. “Public libraries across the country are very united on this and if the right to read continues to be under threat like it’s been, it is not a good time for the state of our democracy.”

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Maryland

Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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