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Anti-gay consultant working for Bowser mayoral campaign

GLAA head calls move ‘act of disrespect’

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Muriel Bowser, Ward 4, Washington D.C., D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade
Muriel Bowser, Ward 4, Washington D.C., D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A political consultant who was paid by an anti-gay group to lead the effort to place D.C.’s same-sex marriage law on the ballot in a voter referendum in 2010 is serving on a fundraising committee for D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser’s campaign for mayor.

Robert “Bob” King, a Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, is listed as one of more than 100 people serving on the host committee for a May 2 “kickoff celebration and fundraiser” for Bowser’s bid to win the Democratic nomination for mayor next year.

Bowser, a Democrat from Ward 4, is a strong supporter of LGBT rights and voted for the city’s same-sex marriage law when it came before the D.C. Council in 2009. The Council passed the law by a vote of 11-2. Then Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the measure less than a week later.

King emerged as one of the top lieutenants of Bishop Harry Jackson, the Beltsville, Md., minister who came to D.C. to lead the campaign to overturn the marriage law.

King told the Blade this week that he has never taken a public position for or against the gay marriage law. He said he was retained as a consultant by the National Organization for Marriage — which opposes same-sex marriage — to coordinate a campaign to place the D.C. marriage law on the ballot in a voter referendum.

“My position was to give the people the right to vote on the issue,” he said. “My personal view is not the issue. The issue was democracy and whether the people should be given the right to vote.”

In a brief interview with the Blade Tuesday night at the election victory party for Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), Bowser said she had yet to hear from anyone who objected to King being on the host committee for her campaign kickoff event.

When asked how King was selected to be on the committee, Bowser said, “Well, we certainly invite people who want to support my candidacy for mayor all across the city. And certainly Bob King is a fixture in this community,” she said. “But he won’t change my views.”

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said King and others who clearly oppose marriage equality seek to “hide behind the ‘let the people vote’ mantra’ in their efforts to kill same-sex marriage laws.

“The fact is that no other people’s rights are put to a plebiscite,” he said.

“People have a right to support whatever candidate they like, of course,” Rosendall added. “But for a candidate to welcome the support of a documented organizer for bigotry, and even to welcome such a person on their host committee, is at the very least a significant act of disrespect for the LGBT community.”

Among others serving on the Bowser campaign host committee are gay activists Christopher Dyer, who served as director of the D.C. Office of GLBT Affairs under the Fenty administration; and gay activist and businessman Everett Hamilton.

King said he has been an advocate for D.C. residents, including senior citizens, for more than 30 years in his role as a civic activist and ANC commissioner. He said he’s supporting Bowser because he believes she is highly qualified to be mayor and would move the city forward.

“That issue has been decided,” he said of the D.C. marriage law. “We move on now to other issues.”

Records from the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance show that the National Organization for Marriage paid King $60,900 to, among other things, distribute fliers during the 2010 City Council election to urge voters to vote against Council members up for re-election who voted for the marriage equality law.

Bob King, National Organization for Marriage, NOM, gay news, Washington Blade

Bob King speaking at a National Organization for Marriage rally in 2010. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Norman Dostal

    April 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    ain't nothing sadder than a bigoted black…

    • Chris

      April 25, 2013 at 2:05 am

      and nothing sadder than a subliminal prejudice white queen! You’re no better than him. That’s why the city don’t mesh together now!

  2. brian

    April 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Bob King’s intentional appeal to bigoted, anti-gay voters in Ward 5 in 2010 is well-remembered by the voters of Ward 5– both LGBT and straight. After all, it’s only been a little over two years since King, for fun and profit, distributed his hateful, stereotype-filled literature to Ward 5 voters.

    King went way out of his way to demonize LGBT residents and families in Ward 5 with his NOM-financed literature on behalf of the anti-gay candidate, Delano Hunter. That anti-gay history remained an issue when Hunter then ran against our current council member, Kenyan McDuffie in a 2011 special election.

    Hunter’s transparently phony flip-flop on marriage equality was soundly defeated by Ward 5 voters, in part, due to the memory of his NOM-sponsored, Bob King-produced bigoted mailings.

    GLAA is right to raise the red flag on this tin-ear outrage perpetrated by the Bowser campaign.

    Why would any DC candidate want to provide a place of honor for anyone with such a record of unapologetic homophobic political activism? It is an extraordinary, stinging rebuke to LGBT households all across our city.

    Hateful political associations matter. Whatever her past record, CM Bowser would do well to remove homophobe Bob King from her campaign promptly– or rightfully face the hurt and wrath of the city’s LGBT voters in defense of their own families’ PRIDE and self-respect.

    To see samples of Bob King’s NOM-financed anti-gay literature in 2010, just google…
    “right wing watch NOM’s Capital Chutzpah”
    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/noms-capital-chutzpah

    ###

    • Bob Summersgill

      April 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

      I’m not even quoted in the article. Clearly you have a personal problem with me, that has nothing to do with this issue.

    • Bob Summersgill

      April 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      Sorry Brian, I hit the wrong button. That comment wasn’t meant in response to your comment.

      • brian

        April 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm

        See how Dems get AFTER an election? Can’t we all just get along?!?
        :-o
        (No problemo, Bob. I’ll get you back after the next cycle.)

  3. DC Gay

    April 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Rick Rosendall and Bob Summersgill and the whole GLAA need to get off their high-horse. I did not see them tell their candidate Elissa Silverman to return the $250.00 from Sinclair “Grahamzilla” Skinner, known homophobe. They need to look in the mirror and check their hypocrisy. I’m glad young blood took over Stein. Now can they please put these old fools to pasture.

    • Chris

      April 25, 2013 at 2:07 am

      Thank You!

    • Dem DC

      April 26, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Someone please remind me but weren’t the “young folks” who “took over” Stein 20 somethings who beat sitting and running candidates who mostly were 30 somethings? Not such a dramitic generational shift to tout. A philosophical shift perhaps, a downgrade in insitutional knowledge of our city very likely.

    • DCCommish

      April 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      You should be aware the Stein leaders you speak of not only supported Elissa Silverman. But Lso worked hard to get her the endorsement over a CM Bonds who has been a Stein meme dr since 1978! So you might want to rethink! You might want to vote in different leadership for Stein come Novemeber

  4. Ricky

    April 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I will not support her. Never. Would she accept the assistance of an avowed racist? I doubt it. I hope the GLBTA groups will protest this event. She has asked the community to tell her their opinion on this. If someone knows of a protest, can they post the details here? We need to let Bowser and all future Mayoral candidates know this is NOT acceptable.

    • Chris

      April 25, 2013 at 2:06 am

      But money from Sinclair “Grahamzilla” Skinner, known homophobe IS?????

  5. Chris

    April 25, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Lord Muriel please get rid of this guy. The White voters will hold it against you. Many of them already want Blacks out of DC so they can grab power and really run us out. Pssst that will never happen though. But you see how they know you’re an ally but because of him now you’re not. Muriel you’re like a faucet to them. They turn their likes of Blacks Off and on! and right now they want to turn you off!

    SMDH! D.C

  6. brian

    April 25, 2013 at 7:04 am

    “I’m glad young blood took over Stein. Now can they please put these old fools to pasture.”
    –DC Gay
    ***************
    Beyond bigoted name-calling, *DC Gay’s* point is…. WHAT???

    *DC Gay* thinks ‘young blood’ at Stein Dems will turn a blind eye to the virulent anti-gay PR work of Bob King –AND– will engage in bigoted AGE discrimination, too? Just because Stein Dems has young leaders? Stein DEMOCRATS? Seriously???

    Is *DC Gay* really another NOM or Bob King campaign dirty tricks operative?

    I’ve always thought pretty highly of CM Bowser. But now, adding Jean-Jacques’ comments above to that of *DC Gay’s*, I guess we can thank a dubious Bowser Campaign for bringing even more bigots out of the woodwork to attack DC LGBTs, LGBT families– and their ages. Not good.

  7. Art Reyes

    April 25, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    sounds fishy to me…and I don't like it.

  8. Me

    April 25, 2013 at 10:11 am

    If Marion Barry can return as mayor after the ultimate disgrace (jail!), so can Fenty. Let’s draft him.

  9. Ally Raymond

    April 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Voting on these rights is a sham. Should we put interracial marriage to vote? She wouldn't even be here! Ridiculous!

  10. Rick Rosendall

    April 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    A few points in response to comments: Bob Summersgill and I are different people. I did not publicly endorse anyone in the April 23 election. I did criticize Elissa Silverman for not returning the check from Mr. Skinner, though I don’t recall a reporter asking me about it as in this case.

    Of course it would be wrong to refuse forgiveness to someone who has repented of his earlier bigotry. Bob King helped lead the anti-gay effort on marriage in D.C., and has shown no sign of contrition as far as I am aware. Mr. Skinner, I should note, has been quite cordial to me.

    As for the young folks who recently “took over” the Stein Club, I supported them.

  11. Bob Summersgill

    April 26, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Additional points in response to comments: As Rick Rosendall points out, we are different people. I am not an officer in GLAA, and I haven’t been for many years. Unlike Rick, I was not quoted in the article, and I did not criticize Muriel Bowser for having Bob King on her host committee. When contacted by Lou Chibbaro on this issue, I praised Muriel Bowser for holding positions very much opposed to King. I told Lou that we are blessed by having three good friends running for mayor: Bowser, Evans, and Wells. Four if Mayor Gray runs for re-election, and five if David Catania gets into the race. The outcome will likely be for reasons other than gay rights if the mayoral contest is between these candidates as they are all very good on our issues.

    Unlike Rick, I did not criticize Elissa Silverman for accepting the donation from Sinclair Skinner, nor did I criticize Mayor Fenty for standing behind his friend at the time. I looked at the infamous “Grahamzilla” flier when it first circulated and while it was clearly anti-Graham, it was not obviously anti-gay or anti-white. Other people may feel differently, but I saw it as a childish drawing and ad hominem attack that backfired. Frankly, we have more important issues to deal with.

    As to the Stein leadership, my comment on the Blade story at http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/12/13/stein-club-election-challenged-by-losing-faction/ shows my position in favor of the current leaders. I was also quoted from the meeting to uphold the election:
    “Gay Democratic activist and longtime Stein Club member Bob Summersgill said no one presented any evidence or valid rationale for disqualifying any of the new members.
    “‘There is nothing in the bylaws that says anything about where you have to live,’ he said. ‘There is nothing in the bylaws to define low income.’” http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/12/20/stein-club-special-meeting-upholds-election-of-new-officers/

    I am not sure what high horse the anonymous “DC Gay” thinks I am on. I assure you that I have no horseback riding skills.

  12. Tina

    April 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    “Rick Rosendall and Bob Summersgill and the whole GLAA need to get off their high-horse. I did not see them tell their candidate Elissa Silverman to return the $250.00 from Sinclair “Grahamzilla” Skinner, known homophobe. They need to look in the mirror and check their hypocrisy. I’m glad young blood took over Stein.” – D.C. Gay; Chris co-signed “Thank You”

    You are very ignorant D.C. Gay & Chris. What do Rick & Bob have to do with the former Stein officers and both slates were young. One slate the top 3 officers were in their 20’s. The incumbent slate, the then-current president was in her 30’s with her other top two slate mates being newer folks in their 20’s, who would’ve been first time officers. Just because the winning slate put out a false narrative doesn’t mean it was true.

    Also, being mad at Rick and Bob for being hypocritical about Elissa and being happy “young blood took over Stein” doesn’t make since when the young blood are the strong Elissa supporters and their crony Greg Cendana is one of the main people putting forwarding negative stories about Anita. Former Stein President Lateefah Williams is one of Anita’s most visible LGBT supporters and is pictured in the Blade article on Anita’s victory. Other longtime Stein members like Bill O’Field (also pictured in the article), and former president Kurt Vorndran are also among Anita’s strongest supporters.

    Rick, you’re full of crap. You were telling folks after the election that you supported the incumbents. It’s ok to support the newcomers after the election, as that’s just supporting the org, but don’t try to play both sides of the fence.

    • Bob Summersgill

      April 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Rick was quite clear on the Stein elections. Although he and I voted for the losing slate of young people–who we were both more familiar with–we both affirmed support for the outcome of the elections and opposed the attempt to overturn the results. only 3 or 4 people actually sought to overturn those results. Nearly everyone in Stein, without regard for how they voted initially, voted to uphold the election of Martin Garcia, Angela Peoples, and Vincent Paolo Villano.

    • DCCommish

      April 26, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      You go Tina the truth is the only path

  13. Rick Rosendall

    April 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Tina, I don’t know who you are or what your source of information was concerning the Stein election, but I said no such thing. Whatever you may have heard, I did in fact vote for the challengers. Emotions ran high for a few weeks, and I tried to be diplomatic; but lying is something else. At the special meeting in mid-December, at which about 80 people were present, I spoke in opposition to reconsidering the election results and said the new young members were something to be welcomed. It’s interesting, BTW, how brave some people are in hurling charges without properly identifying themselves.

  14. sinclair skinner

    April 26, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    for the record I was wrong for publishing the grahamzilla posters 10 years ago. I am only anti political corruption which has no color or sexual orientation. Harry Thomas and Jim Graham are the same, corrupt duplicitous politicians.

  15. brian

    April 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    “Of course it would be wrong to refuse forgiveness to someone who has repented of his earlier bigotry. Bob King helped lead the anti-gay effort on marriage in D.C., and has shown no sign of contrition as far as I am aware.”
    -Rick Rosendall
    —–
    “for the record I was wrong for publishing the grahamzilla posters 10 years ago.”
    –Sinclair Skinner
    ****************
    Rick and Sinclair make essentially the same simple point, CM Catania made regarding CM Graham…

    “Sorry,” whether uttered publicly or in private, is such a simple, but powerful word.

    We’re taught to say it if we step on someones foot in a crowded subway or elevator, by sheer accident. And we do it reflexively by adulthood.

    What a powerful word!

    CM Vincent Orange could write a book on this subject.

    Orange didn’t do anything as repeatedly hurtful to LGBT families as Bob King did. But hurting LGBT residents and families made Vincent Orange pay a serious political price for his off-the-cuff comment in the 2006 Mayoral Primary Campaign.

    That said, V.O. being V.O.– that didn’t stop Vincent Orange from trying to do better by the LGBT communities of Washington.

    We also learn as kids that simple actions can speak louder than very powerful words.

    Both Orange and King share broad support among DC’s elderly populations. Indeed, Vincent Orange could take Bob King to Capital Pride in the company of DC Center’s SAGE volunteers, for example, and, given SAGE’s new report on health disparities faced by LGBT elders of color they would all have an issue in common to talk about …
    http://www.thedccenter.org/blog/2013/04/sage-releases-new-report-on-health-disparities-and-lgbt-elders-of-color.html
    …while enjoying one of DC’s great late spring events.

    Yeah, Vince. We get it. Sorry. And thanks.

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In plea deal, D.C. trans woman’s killers could be free in 3 years

Two in 2016 killing of Dee Dee Dodds guilty of voluntary manslaughter

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Deeniquia Dodds, gay news, Washington Blade
Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds was killed on July 4, 2016. (Photo via Facebook)

A D.C. LGBTQ anti-violence group will be submitting a community impact statement for a D.C. Superior Court judge scheduled to sentence two men on Dec. 10 for the July 4, 2016, shooting death of transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds in a case D.C. police listed as a hate crime.

Stephania Mahdi, chair of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community’s Anti-Violence Project, told the Washington Blade the project has been in contact with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C., which is prosecuting the case against the two defendants set to be sentenced this week, to arrange for the submission of a statement on the impact the murder of Dodds has had on the community.

The impact statement would also apply to the sentencing of two other men charged in the Dodds murder case who are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 20.

The Dec. 10 sentencing for Jolonta Little, 30, and Monte T. Johnson, 25, was set to take place a little over two months after Little and Johnson pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to a single count of voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.

In exchange for the guilty plea for voluntary manslaughter, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the charge of first-degree murder while armed originally brought against the two men. The plea agreement also called for dropping additional charges against them in connection with the Dodds murder, including robbery while armed, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

In addition, the plea agreement includes a promise by prosecutors to ask D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee, who is presiding over the case, to issue a sentence of eight years in prison for both men. Under the D.C. criminal code, a conviction on a voluntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Johnson has been held without bond for five years and three months since his arrest in the Dodds case in September 2016. Little has been held without bond since his arrest for the Dodds murder in February 2017. Courthouse observers say that judges almost always give defendants credit for time served prior to their sentencing, a development that would likely result in the two men being released in about three years.

The plea deal for the two men came two and a half years after a D.C. Superior Court jury became deadlocked and could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charges against Johnson and Little following a month-long trial, prompting Judge Lee to declare a mistrial on March 6, 2019.

The two other men charged in Dodds’ murder, Shareem Hall, 27, and his brother, Cyheme Hall, 25, accepted a separate plea bargain offer by prosecutors shortly before the start of the 2019 trial in which they pled guilty to second-degree murder. Both testified at Johnson and Little’s the trial as government witnesses.

In dramatic testimony, Cyheme Hall told the jury that it was Johnson who fatally shot Dodds in the neck at point blank range after he said she grabbed the barrel of Johnson’s handgun as Johnson and Hall attempted to rob her on Division Ave., N.E., near where she lived. Hall testified that the plan among the four men to rob Dodds did not include the intent to kill her.

In his testimony, Hall said that on the day of Dodd’s murder, he and the other three men made plans to commit armed robberies for cash in areas of D.C. where trans women, some of whom were sex workers, congregated. He testified that the four men got into a car driven by Little and searched the streets for victims they didn’t expect to offer resistance.

D.C. police and the U.S. Attorney’s office initially designated the murder charge against Little and Johnson as an anti-trans hate crime offense based on findings by homicide detectives that the men were targeting trans women for armed robberies. But during Johnson and Little’s trial, Judge Lee dismissed the hate crime designation at the request of defense attorneys on grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support a hate crime designation.

At the request of prosecutors, Judge Lee scheduled a second trial for Johnson and Little on the murder charge for Feb. 25, 2020. But court records show the trial date was postponed to June 22, 2020, and postponed several more times – to Jan 11, 2021, and later to Feb. 17, 2022, due to COVID-related restrictions before the plea bargain offer was agreed to in September of this year.  The public court records do not show why the trial was postponed the first few times prior to the start of COVID restrictions on court proceedings.

Legal observers have said long delays in trials, especially murder trials, often make it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain a conviction because memories of key witnesses sometimes become faulty several years after a crime was committed.

“The D.C. Anti-Violence Project is disappointed to hear about the unfortunate proceedings in the case to bring justice for Dee Dee Dodds,” Mahdi, the Anti-Violence Project’s chair, told the Blade in a statement.

“A plea bargain from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter as well as a reduction of years in sentencing from 30 to 8 communicates not only a miscarriage of justice, but a message of penalization for victims who attempt to protect themselves during a violent assault,” Mahdi said. “The continual impact of reducing the culpability of perpetrators who target members of specifically identified communities sends a malicious message to criminals that certain groups of people are easier targets with lenient consequences,” she said.

“As a result of this pattern, the D.C. community has failed to defend the life and civil rights of Dee Dee Dodds and leaves criminally targeted LGBTQ+ community and other cultural identity communities critically undervalued by stewards of justice in the nation’s capital,” Mahdi concluded.  

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has declined to disclose the reason why prosecutors decided to offer Johnson and Little the plea bargain deal rather than petition the court for a second trial for the two men on the first-degree murder charge.

Attorneys familiar with cases like this, where a jury becomes deadlocked, have said prosecutors sometimes decide to offer a plea deal rather than go to trial again out of concern that another jury could find a defendant not guilty on all charges.

During the trial, defense attorneys told the jury that the Hall brothers were habitual liars and there were inconsistencies in their testimony. They argued that the Halls’ motives were aimed strictly at saying what prosecutors wanted them to say so they could get off with a lighter sentence.

The two prosecutors participating in the trial disputed those claims, arguing that government witnesses provided strong evidence that Johnson and Little should be found guilty of first-degree murder and other related charges.

Before the jury announced it was irreconcilably deadlocked on the murder charges, the jury announced it found Little not guilty of seven separate counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and found Johnson not guilty of five counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence.

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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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