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D.C. shelter drops ban on trans women

Shelter director doesn’t contest court restraining order sought by trans woman

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Lakiesha Washington, gay news, Washington Blade
Lakiesha Washington, gay news, Washington Blade

Lakiesha Washington, a transgender women who challenged the John L. Young Shelter for homeless women’s policy of denying admission to transgender women, holds a judge’s order requiring the shelter to immediately discontinue that policy. (Photo courtesy of DCTC)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order requiring a city funded shelter for homeless women located near the U.S. Capitol to stop denying transgender women access to the facility.

The Blade had previously reported about a lawsuit brought upon the shelter by a trans women alleging discrimination.

Judge Geoffrey Alprin issued the order after the executive director of New Hope Ministries, which operates the John L. Young Shelter for Women, chose not to contest a request for the restraining order filed by an attorney on behalf of Lakiesha Washington, a transgender woman who was denied admission to the shelter.

D.C. Trans Coalition attorney Jeffrey Light filed a motion seeking the restraining order as part of a lawsuit that accuses the shelter of violating the D.C. Human Rights Act by denying Washington access to the shelter on April 3.

“We don’t do transgenders here,” the lawsuit quotes an employee at the shelter saying when Washington, who was homeless, attempted to enter the shelter. “You have to leave,” the lawsuit quotes the employee as saying.

A decision by New Hope Ministries’ executive director, John Shetterly, not to contest the restraining order followed negotiations between Shetterly and Light earlier in the week, according to a statement issued by the D.C. Trans Coalition. The statement says Shetterly also agreed to provide transgender sensitivity training to the shelter’s staff and was taking steps to provide private bathroom and shower facilities to better serve all shelter clients, including transgender women.

Shetterly told the Blade on April 10 that the John Young shelter was reluctant to accept transgender women because its communal bathroom and shower facilities didn’t provide privacy for shelter occupants. He said the lack of privacy would create a problem in some cases where trans women and other female clients used shower facilities at the same time.

He said New Hope Ministries is supportive of transgender people and would never intentionally discriminate against them.

The D.C. Trans Coalition statement says the staff sensitivity training to which Shetterly agreed is being organized by Earline Budd, an official with Transgender Health Empowerment, a local organization that provides services to the transgender community, and by the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs.

“This is a great day for all transgender people,” Washington said in commenting on the decision by Shetterly to open the shelter to trans women. “Nobody should have to face discrimination and humiliation, and thanks to this case, homeless transgender people will now be safer.”

D.C. Trans Coalition member Andy Bowen, who filed a separate complaint against the John Young Shelter with the D.C. Office of Human Rights charging anti-transgender discrimination, told the Blade that she has dropped her complaint based on the latest actions by New Hope Ministries.

“D.C. has great nondiscrimination laws, but good laws do not equal adequate enforcement,” Bowen said in a statement. “This case showed the need for more vigilant enforcement, and if D.C. Trans Coalition has anything to do with it, enforcement’s gonna happen.”

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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Baltimore

Police say they didn’t spray a chemical agent at Baltimore Pride. Why don’t those who attended believe it?

Attendees allege city failed to adequately respond to emergency

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A parade participant is photographed clutching on to a rainbow flag at Baltimore’s Pride Parade held on June 15, 2024. (Photo by Ronica Edwards/Baltimore Banner)

BY BRENNA SMITH and JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | A chemical agent that disrupted Pride Parade festivities last weekend continues to cause confusion and raise suspicion among many in the Baltimore LGBTQIA+ community, who question the police account of what happened.

The Baltimore Police Department said Tuesday that they had determined the released substance was Mace, but did not say how they came to that conclusion. A BPD spokesperson said that the chemical was released after two groups of people got into an altercation. Three people were treated and released from a nearby hospital because of injuries from the spray.

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

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