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D.C. shelter accused of rejecting trans women

Lawsuit, human rights office complaint filed against facility near U.S. Capitol

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Sterling Washington, Mayor's office of GLBT Affairs, gay news, Washington Blade

Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, told the director of a D.C. shelter for homeless women that refusing to admit transgender women violates the D.C. Human Rights Act, according to a lawsuit. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A shelter for homeless women located three blocks from the U.S. Capitol is violating the D.C. Human Rights Act by refusing to admit transgender women unless they provide “documentation” of a legal name change or gender reassignment surgery, according to separate complaints against the facility by two transgender women.

In a lawsuit filed April 5 in D.C. Superior Court and a complaint filed with the D.C. Office of Human Rights on March 22, the two women charge that employees at the John L. Young Women’s Shelter at 119 D Street, N.W. said they could not be admitted because of their status as transgender women.

An attorney with the D.C. Trans Coalition filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lakiesha Washington against New Hope Ministries, Inc. of Woodbridge, Va., which operates the John L. Young Women’s Shelter under a city funded contract.

The lawsuit says Washington, who was homeless, attempted to gain admission to the shelter on April 3, when the lawsuit says the alleged discriminatory action took place.

An unidentified female employee at the shelter asked Washington, “Are you a woman or a man,” the lawsuit says. “Ms. Washington replied, ‘I’m a transgender woman.’ The employee then asked Ms. Washington if she had any documentation, to which Ms. Washington replied that she did not.”

The lawsuit says the employee then told Washington, “We don’t do transgenders here. You have to leave.”

In a separate discrimination complaint filed with the Office of Human Rights, D.C. Trans Coalition member Andy Bowen says a shelter employee provided more details when Bowen asked about the facility’s policy regarding transgender women in a Feb. 5 phone conversation.

“The respondent stated that I would need to provide proof of a sex change,” Bowen said in her complaint with the OHR. “When I asked what would constitute proof, respondent answered that I would need to furnish documents of a name change or proof of surgery.”

Bowen told the Blade on Monday that she initiated her phone call to the shelter after learning that the John Young Shelter “has a history of refusing service to transgender women.”

John Shetterly, executive director of New Hope Ministries, told the Blade on Monday that he was looking into the allegations in the lawsuit and the OHR complaint and would be able to provide the shelter’s assessment of what happened within days.

The lawsuit states that Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, contacted Shetterly by phone on March 18, more than two weeks before Lakiesha Washington was refused entry to the Young Shelter. It says Sterling Washington informed Shetterly of reports he received that the shelter was refusing services to transgender women.

The lawsuit says Sterling Washington told Shetterly that the shelter’s action violated the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based, among other things, on gender identity and expression.

“Nevertheless, Mr. Shetterly did not take action to bring John L. Young into compliance with the law, and Ms. Washington suffered injury as a result,” the suit says.

The lawsuit calls on the court to “[t]emporarily, preliminarily, and permanently enjoin defendant…from continuing to discriminate against transgender women.” It also calls for the court to order New Hope Ministries to pay a civil penalty to the city’s general fund and to grant the plaintiff an award of attorney’s fees and other expenses associated with the litigation.

Court records show the court has scheduled a hearing on April 12 to consider a motion filed on Washington’s behalf by attorney Jeffrey Light for a temporary restraining order to force the Young Shelter to stop refusing admission to transgender women while the lawsuit is pending.

Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the D.C. Office of Human Rights, said the office would have to make a legal determination on whether New Hope Ministries is exempt from the Human Rights Act based on its religious status before the office can begin to review the case on the merits.

The Human Rights Act provides an exemption, under certain circumstances, to religious organizations that allows them to limit “employment, or admission to” the organization based on religious beliefs.

In its most recent IRS 990 report released to the public, which covers the period of July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, New Hope Ministries says it generated $1.25 million in revenue and incurred $918,015 in expenses. The report shows that $817,509 of its revenue came from “government grants.”

The report doesn’t say from which government entity the grant money came. The Blade has made inquiries with New Hope Ministries, the Office of Mayor Vincent Gray, and the D.C. Office of Partnerships and Grants Services to determine if any of the grants came from the D.C. government. Officials with those offices couldn’t immediately be reached.

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District of Columbia

60,000 expected for annual D.C. Black Pride this weekend

Celebration includes educational workshops, social events, more

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A scene from last year’s Black Pride celebration. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The 33rd annual D.C. Black Pride festival and celebration is scheduled to take place May 23-27 during Memorial Day weekend with at least 60,000 people from the D.C. metro area and across the country and some from abroad expected to attend.

Like in recent years, most of the events are scheduled to take place at the Westin Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel at 999 9th St., N.W.

Although the official DC Black Pride Opening Reception is scheduled to take place Friday, May 24, at the Westin Hotel with live entertainment, an online schedule of events shows that earlier events, including a Mr. & Miss DC Black Pride Pageant and the 8th annual DC Black Pride Unity Ball, were scheduled to take place Thursday, May 23 at the Westin.

Also similar to recent past years, a Rainbow Row: Organization & Vendor Expo will open at the hotel at 5 p.m. on May 25 and remain open most of the time throughout the weekend events. The Rainbow Row includes booths and tables set up by local and national LGBTQ organizations and LGBTQ-supportive allied organizations and businesses.

According to the official schedule, the Opening Reception will include performances by Paris Sashay, Keith Angels, Bang Garcon, Black Assets, Marcy Smiles, and Sherri Amoure and will be hosted by the “DMV’s own Anthony Oake” and the “legendary DJ Sedrick will be spinning all night.”

The schedule shows that 11 individual workshop sessions will take place at the hotel throughout the day on Saturday, May 25. Among the workshop titles are Drag Chronicles: From Artform to Activism; Self-Care and Self-Compassion; Sexpectations: Navigating Sexual & Romantic Compatibility While Dating; Advocating for Black LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care; Queering Theology: Black Pride in the Pews; What is the L?! All Things Lesbian; and Primary Sources: Elders Sharing Our Histories.

Two official outdoor events include Pride by the River Super Sunday scheduled for Sunday, May 26, from 12-8 p.m. at D.C.’s Anacostia Park at 1500 Anacostia Dr., S.E. presented by the local group Project Brings; and the annual Pride In The Park set for Monday, May 27, at D.C.’s Fort Dupont Park, 1500 Anacostia Dr., S.E., presented by the local community services group Us Helping Us.

Some of the other numerous events, aside from several evening parties at popular D.C. nightclubs, include a Wellness Pavilion, a Poetry Slam, a Writer’s Forum, and a Faith Service.

A statement released by the D.C.-based Center for Black Equity, which organizes the D.C. Black Pride events, notes that the first D.C. Black Pride was held May 25, 1991, and organized by local Black gay activists Welmore Cook, Theodore Kirkland and Ernest Hopkins, became the “catalyst for what is now regarded as the Black Pride Movement.”

It notes that, among other things, the first D.C. Black Pride event and Black Pride events in subsequent years raised funds for HIV/AIDS organizations that provided services to the African-American community in D.C. and the surrounding area.

The statement adds, “Since its birth, more than 50 other Black Pride celebrations now take place throughout the world, many using DC Black Pride as its model.”

And like in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued an official mayoral proclamation declaring May 20-27, 2024, DC Black Pride Week.

The full schedule for DC Black Pride 2024 events can be accessed at dcblackpride.org/schedule.htm.

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Dems endorse Biden, 2 incumbent Council members

LGBTQ political group doesn’t back Del. Norton or Brooke Pinto

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D.C. Council member Robert White speaks with a Capital Stonewall Democrats member at a post endorsement party. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

The Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political organization, announced on May 21 that it has endorsed President Joe Biden, incumbent D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), and incumbent U.S. Shadow Rep. Oye Owolewa (D) in the city’s June 4 primary election.

But the LGBTQ Democratic group did not make endorsements in five other races to be decided in the primary, including the re-election bid of D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter on Capitol Hill; and D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), an outspoken LGBTQ rights supporter who is running unopposed for re-election.

Capital Stonewall Democrats President Michael Haresign said the no endorsement decisions happened at least in part because of a longstanding requirement that candidates must receive at least a 60 percent threshold vote by the organization’s members to secure an endorsement. He said members also had the option of voting for “no endorsement” under the organization’s voting system.

“Very few candidates met the 60 percent threshold,” he told the Washington Blade. Haresign said the organization would soon release the numerical vote count and percentage of the vote each candidate received from Capital Stonewall members through an online ranked choice voting process.

In a press release issued on May 21, Capital Stonewall Democrats announced the percentage of the vote the four endorsed candidates received from its members who voted: Biden, 82.2%, Lewis George, 79.07%, Robert White, 78.6%, and Owolewa, 67.5%. Haresign said the organization was not ready to release the vote percentage for the candidates that were not endorsed, but he said those figures would be released soon.

He told the Blade that Capital Stonewall Democrats currently has 91 members who are eligible to vote for endorsements and that 47 of those members participated in the voting.

 “I’m honored by this endorsement,” Robert White told the Blade at a party for its endorsed candidates that Capital Stonewall Democrats held beginning at 7 p.m. on May 21 at The Brig restaurant and bar in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill.

“The Stonewall Democrats have stood with me in every election, and it’s meant a lot to me,” White said. Most LGBTQ activists have said White is among the Council’s strongest LGBTQ supporters.

The other endorsed Council candidate, Lewis George, and Shadow D.C. Representative Owolewa were invited to the party but had other conflicting events to attend, according to Haresign, who said Owolewa texted him to say he might show up shortly before the event was to end at 9 p.m.

The races in which no endorsement was made include the Ward 7 D.C. Council race in which 10 Democratic candidates are competing for the Council seat held by incumbent Council member and former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who is not running for re-election. With 10 candidates running, the fact that none received a 60 percent vote threshold did not come as a surprise.

Haresign said Ward 7 candidate Eboni-Rose Thompson made a strong showing by capturing 51 percent of the vote. Thompson attended the endorsement party as a “runner up,” one of her supporters said.

A no endorsement decision  by the group was also made in the Ward 8 D.C. Council race in which incumbent Council member Trayon White (D) is being challenged by Democrats Rahman Branch and Salim Adofo. Trayon White has been an LGBTQ rights supporter during his tenure as a Council member. Adolfo expressed support for LGBTQ rights during his appearance at a virtual candidates forum held by Capital Stonewall Democrats earlier this month. Trayon White and Branch did not appear at the forum.

Capital Stonewall’s decision not to endorse Pinto came as a surprise to some local LGBTQ activists. Pinto has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights. She is running unopposed in the Democratic primary on June 4, and no one is running for the Ward 2 Council seat in the primary for D.C.’s two other registered political parties – the Republican and Statehood Green parties. That means Pinto will also run unopposed in the November general election, although a write-in candidate could emerge.

Also coming as a surprise was the group’s decision not to endorse Eleanor Holmes Norton in her re-election bid as D.C.’s non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Norton has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights and a vocal opponent of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in the House by anti-LGBTQ Republicans in her 34 years in office.

Haresign said neither Norton nor Pinto attended the group’s candidate forum and the two also did not submit a statement or video as did other candidates who were unable to attend the forums. That could have played a role in the members’ decision not to endorse them, according to Haresign.

However, Haresign said it is possible that due to a glitch in the group’s online invitation process that Pinto may not have received the invitation for the candidate forum. The Blade has contacted Pinto’s office to confirm whether the invite was received, but the office did not immediately respond.

 The other race in which Capital Stonewall Democrats did not make an endorsement is the race for U.S. Shadow senator in which incumbent Michael D. Brown is not seeking re-election. Local political activists Eugene Kinlow and Ankit Jain, both Democrats, are competing for the seat. Kinlow and Jain attended one of the two virtual candidate forums held by Capital Stonewall Democrats and each expressed support for LGBTQ rights.

The second of the two Shadow D.C. U.S. Senate seats is held by incumbent Democrat Paul Straus who’s not up for re-election this year. Like the D.C. Shadow U.S. Representative seat, the Shadow Senate positions have no voting rights or authority in Congress and are unpaid positions created to advocate for D.C. statehood and support for D.C. in Congress.

As has been the case in D.C. elections for many years, the lesser-known candidates running against Robert White, Lewis George, and Owolewa have also expressed support for LGBTQ rights. Robert White’s sole Democratic opponent, Rodney Red Grant, expressed strong support for LGBTQ equality at one of  the virtual candidate forums held by Capital Stonewall Democrats.

One of Lewis George’s two opponents in the Ward 4 Democratic primary, Paul Johnson, expressed support for LGBTQ rights during one of the two forums. The second opponent, Lisa Gore, did not show up for the forum and her position on LGBTQ issues could not immediately be determined.

Linda L. Gray, Owolewa’s sole opponent in the Democratic primary for the Shadow Representative seat, also expressed strong support for LGBTQ issues at one of the two Capital Stonewall candidate forums.

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Virginia

Youngkin vetoes bill that would have expanded Va. bullying definition

Bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole introduced House Bill 536

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at a CNN Town Hall on March 9, 2023. (Screen capture via CNN)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday vetoed a bill that would have added sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the state’s definition of bullying.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved House Bill 536, which bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole (D-Fredericksburg) introduced. 

“While I agree with the general purpose of the legislation, regrettably, the General Assembly did not approve my amendments,” said Youngkin in a statement. “Those recommendations would have expanded the definition of bullying to encompass all possible motives.”

“School administrators must work to prevent bullying and support our students’ mental health through a healthy learning environment, but the narrow definition provided in the legislation could be interpreted to exclude groups not included in the Virginia Human Rights Act, such as bullying victims raised with traditional values or those who are in foster care,” added the Republican.

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