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Frumin, Bonds, Brown score highest GLAA ratings

Mara loses points for views on school vouchers

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Anita Bonds, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade
Anita Bonds, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Interim D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Council candidate Matthew Frumin, a Democrat, local attorney and Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, received a +7 rating from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance Tuesday night, coming in ahead of his six competitors in the GLAA ratings.

Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who was appointed interim Council member until the special election is held on April 23, came in second with a +6.5 rating. Bonds is chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which elected her to the interim Council post.

Former Council member Michael Brown, who’s running as a Democrat, came in third with a +6 rating.

“They were the highest-rated candidates in this race, but Perry Redd, Elissa Silverman, and Patrick Mara had scores that followed closely behind,” GLAA said in a statement referring to four of the other five candidates.

GLAA is a non-partisan LGBT advocacy group that’s been rating candidates on LGBT issues since the 1970s. It rates candidates on a scale of -10, the worst possible rating, to +10, the highest possible score. The group bases its ratings on candidates’ responses to a detailed questionnaire covering a wide range of mostly LGBT issues and their record on LGBT-related matters.

Redd, a Statehood Green Party candidate and advocate for ex-offenders, received a +5.5; Silverman, a Democrat, former Washington Post and City Paper reporter and budget analyst for the Fiscal Policy Institute, also received a +5.5. Mara, a Republican who serves as the Ward 1 member of the D.C. school board, received a +5. Attorney and Democratic contender Paul Zuckerberg, who has led efforts to legalize marijuana, came in last in the GLAA ratings with a +2.

“No candidate received a negative rating,” GLAA said in its statement accompanying the ratings, a development the group has said shows that most candidates running for public office in the city have been supportive on LGBT issues.

All seven candidates, including Zuckerberg, stated in their questionnaire responses that they support LGBT equality across the board, including the city’s same-sex marriage law. Each said they also support LGBT-backed legislation pending before the Council.

GLAA said in its statement that Zuckerberg and Mara lost points for not providing substantive answers to the questions, even though the two agreed with GLAA on most of the issues. Under the group’s rating system, a “yes” answer agreeing with a GLAA position earns a candidate just two points out of a possible 10 points. Candidates can gain or lose an additional four points based on the substance of their answers, which shows their level of understanding of the issues, according to GLAA.

Mara, who’s considered one of two frontrunners in the race, along with Brown, lost points – as he has in the past – by not supporting GLAA’s position that private religious operated schools should not receive city or federally funded vouchers. GLAA says it holds this position because private religious schools are exempt from the city’s Human Rights Act and are free to discriminate against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The group says government funds shouldn’t be going to such schools.

Mara also lost points for his response to a question that asks whether the candidates favor legislation to eliminate legal standing for small ad hoc groups of citizens as well as civic associations to file a protest, or legal challenge, to liquor license applications. The question asked whether legal standing on those matters should be left to Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, whose members are elected.

“I do not support limiting peaceful protests or the right of citizen associations to engage in the political process,” Mara said in his response. “However, giving legal standing to one group and not another is a dangerous precedent,” he said.

Mara’s response appears to go against the positions of local business groups and nightlife advocates, who have complained that unelected civic and ad-hoc groups of as few as five people have blocked approval of licenses for restaurants and bars, even when the majority of nearby residents support the businesses.

Frumin, Bonds, and Silverman answered “yes” to the question, saying they support leaving the ANCs with the legal standing to challenge licenses when concerns about them are raised. Brown and Redd didn’t use the word yes, but said they support giving the ANC’s authority to file challenges to liquor license applications. Zuckerberg’s response was non-committal, saying he respects the work and dedication of both ANCs and “citizens that have a strong interest in liquor licensing issues.”

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Robert Turner

    March 14, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Please tell me how a candidate’s position on ad hoc protest groups is primary issue for a non-partisan LGBT advocacy group.

    • SPGorman

      March 14, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      Because since the passage of full equality in DC, every LGBT advocacy group can focus on the current issues facing the entire community. No need to specialize anymore.

      How else did Fenty get so much support from the LGBT community? He wasn’t special since the council vote was overwhelmingly pro LGBT and voted nearly unanimous for same sex marriage. Sure he was the hottie and he showed up sufficiently to stay eye candy but its a stretch to say that the LGBT community had a direct interest in schools since so few have children. Nevertheless, that’s what he ran on and it was a big topic among the parentless zip codes of Dupont and Logan Circles. So why close up shop and go home?

  2. Rick Rosendall

    March 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    To Robert Turner: We in GLAA never said that ABC licensing reform is our “primary issue.” But yes, it is one of a wide variety of issues on which we have advocated. If you are really interested in our reasons (rather than saying that rhetorically to give the impression that we are blatantly out of line with no further thought being necessary) you can read the relevant passage in our policy brief, “Agenda: 2013” (which takes up just one of our 23 pages): [URL REMOVED]

  3. Rick Rosendall

    March 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Why on earth was my URL to a politely worded policy brief removed? How gratuitously insulting, not to mention denying your readers ready access to further information relevant to the article. Very strange.

  4. brian

    March 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Rick Rosendall wrote…
    Why on earth was my URL to a politely worded policy brief removed? How gratuitously insulting, not to mention denying your readers ready access to further information relevant to the article.
    ************************
    I wish the Blade would revisit their *no-URLs-in-comments* policy as well, Rick. There are many times when a source information link is tasteful, relevant to the story and helpfully informative to Blade readers. Yours was obviously an example of such.

    Limiting URLs to a single link– and then strictly moderating (or booting) any comment posters who abuse that privilege with commercial spam or irrelevant content– should not pose a heavy time burden to the Blade and its moderators. It’s a policy change worth a tryout, anyway, IMHO.

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Howard County activists and allies hit back at censorship, hate

More than 100 people attended ‘We ARE the People’ rally

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(Photo by Bob Ford)

A diverse crowd of 100 to 200 folks gathered at the Columbia Lakefront on Saturday to attend a rally to push back against censorship in the county’s public schools as well as homophobia and transphobia emanating from a group of conservative parents.

The rally called “We ARE the People” was organized in response to the comments and actions by members of a Maryland-based conservative group “We the People 2” that among other things are anti-masks, anti-vaccinations and are opposed to teaching racial history in the schools. They also oppose two books that are in Howard County Public Schools library shelves: “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy.”

Speakers at a We the People 2 rally last month at an Elkridge warehouse condemned the books, which contain LGBTQ characters, as sexually explicit. The group later filed police reports against the Board of Education alleging the books constitute pornography with “graphic sexual content and materials being used and disseminated in public schools,” according to the group’s press release.  A flier announcing this action used the loaded terminology, “We must not allow our children to be abused and victimized.”

Among the speakers at the Elkridge rally was Republican Gordana Schifanelli who is running for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Daniel Cox. Another speaker, George Johnson, a teacher from Baltimore City, was heard on a video of the event saying, “We’re doing God’s work because Marxism, homosexuality and transgenderism is the devil.”

In response, the pro-LGBTQ rally in Columbia announced the following:

We are taking a stance against hate in the community as we raise our voices in support of equity in our schools. Attacks on teachers and school staff have prompted us to stand united and drown out the noise.

In addition, We ARE the People states:

We stand for LGBTQ+ students and educational professionals

Teaching accurate history to our students

Supporting equitable practices in our schools

Providing students with relevant LGBTQ+ media through their school libraries

The two-hour rally, which was attended by several county council members, featured speakers representing a wide swath of community, educational, religious and political organizations. They included: Community Allies of Rainbow Youth (CARY), Black Lives Activists of Columbia (BLAC), Absolutely Dragulous, Howard County Schools, PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County, IndivisibleHoCoMd, Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC), HoCo Pride, Progressive Democrats of Howard County, and the Columbia United Christian Church.

Many of the speakers denounced the censorship of materials that are needed by many LGBTQ students. Genderqueer and non-binary students, they point out, are most vulnerable and need affirming literature to help with their development and self-acceptance. The speakers also decried hate speech, which has surfaced again, as well as the opposition to teaching history as it relates to race.

Others argued that the community must not sit back and take it from extremist groups.

“You are all defenders,” said Cynthia Fikes, president of the Columbia Democratic Club, in a fiery speech. “But to succeed a strong defense also needs a strong offense.”

The two books in question were recently the center of controversy in the Fairfax County (Va.) school system. The books were removed in September from the shelves of the high schools pending a comprehensive review following opposition from a parent at a school board meeting. It should be noted that both books were previous winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which each year recognize “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”  

The board established two committees consisting of parents, staff and students to assess the content of the books and make recommendations to the assistant superintendent of instructional services who would make the final determination.

One committee found that “Lawn Boy” includes themes that “are affirming for students” with marginalized identities. “There is no pedophilia in the book,” the committee added. The other committee found that “Gender Queer” depicts “difficulties non-binary and asexual individuals may face.” The committee concluded that “the book neither depicts nor describes pedophilia.” The books were restored to the shelves.

“As this backlash against LGTBQ+ literature demonstrates, we must be ready to stand up and defend the progress we have made,” said Jennifer Mallo, member of the Howard County Board of Education, expressing her own point of view. “We must ensure our elected officials understand and share our values and will fight for our marginalized students.”

The enthusiastic crowd was clearly pleased with the event.

“Today’s rally was meant to inspire our community to take action,” said Chris Hefty, who was the lead organizer of the rally and the emcee. “Action that protects our youth. Action that protects our educators and admins. This action comes in the form of advocacy, communication with elected officials so they know your voice, and through well informed voting to ensure those who represent us are those we know will support us. We shared a message of love, acceptance, and warmth.”

Hefty adds, “The unity we facilitated through this rally was a sight to behold. As the lead organizer I couldn’t have been more pleased! In the future we will be sure to better meet the needs of all our community members. We thank all those in our community for their support and feedback and look forward to accomplishing great things together moving forward.”

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

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] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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