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An end to Kameny burial stalemate?

‘Tentative agreement’ could clear way for interment of activist’s ashes

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Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade
Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade

Frank Kameny died in October 2011 but his ashes remain in limbo due to a dispute between his estate and a local non-profit. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An attorney representing the estate of nationally acclaimed gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny said on Wednesday that a “tentative agreement” has been reached to end a dispute that has prevented Kameny’s ashes from being interred at D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery nearly two years after his death.

Christopher Brown, an attorney with the gay-owned law firm Ackerman Brown, said the tentative agreement was reached on July 9 with Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), a local LGBT charitable group that bought a plot for the burial of Kameny’s ashes at Congressional Cemetery after soliciting donations from the community to pay for it following Kameny’s death on Oct. 11, 2011.

Brown’s comment came one day after Ackerman Brown’s client, Timothy Clark, Kameny’s longtime friend and heir to his estate, told the Blade that he understood that an agreement between the two parties over the cemetery plot had been reached.

“We reached an agreement on that so I’m going to keep the burial plot,” Clark said in a telephone interview.

“I just have to decide on when I want to have something,” he said in referring to a burial ceremony at the cemetery. “I just don’t know. But I’m open to any suggestions that anybody wants to have because that was Frank’s life. The gay community was Frank’s life. That’s what he fought for.”

HOBS and a group of Kameny’s friends and colleagues in the LGBT rights movement initially scheduled an interment ceremony for Kameny at the cemetery for March 3, 2012. But they abruptly cancelled it after the estate reportedly told the cemetery it would not release Kameny’s ashes until it obtained legal ownership of the burial plot from HOBS.

For more than a year, HOBS and Ackerman Brown have declined to publicly disclose specific details of the nature of the dispute between the two parties over the burial plot other than to say they were negotiating an agreement to enable HOBS to transfer ownership of the plot to the estate.

“[W]e would point out that HOBS has never stood in the way of or delayed the burial of Dr. Kameny’s ashes,” said HOBS President Marvin Carter in an email to the Blade earlier this month. “HOBS has made numerous proposals and overtures to the Kameny estate to have Dr. Kameny’s remains buried at Congressional Cemetery.”

Brown told the Blade in an email on Wednesday that the estate, which is in possession of Kameny’s ashes, also is interested in moving ahead with the burial.

“The estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,” Brown said in his email.

In response to a request from the Blade last month, HOBS on Wednesday released information about the money it raised and spent both for Kameny’s personal needs in the last years of his life and for expenses related to Kameny’s funeral and planned burial.

HOBS’s IRS 990 finance reports filed with the IRS for 2010 and 2011 – the most recent such reports publicly available for HOBS – don’t include specific information about money raised for Kameny-related projects.

But the reports show that HOBS’s income increased dramatically in 2010 and 2011 during a period when the non-profit, tax-exempt group and its supporters appealed to the LGBT community for Kameny-related donations — initially to help Kameny pay household expenses and property taxes and later for Kameny’s funeral and burial.

The 990 reports, which all tax-exempt organizations are required to file, show that HOBS’s income was $2,125 in 2008, the first year for which such figures are reported, and $6,544 in 2009. The reports show that in 2010, HOBS’s income rose to $61,480 and in 2011 its income increased to $115,440.

In an op-ed column published in the Blade just before the Thanksgiving holiday in November 2011, Carter discussed efforts by HOBS and other groups and individuals to arrange two separate memorial services for Kameny, one of which was held at the Carnegie Library building in downtown D.C.

“Thus far, with the generosity of many friends, we have covered expenses for Kameny’s viewing at Carnegie Library and his essential funeral costs, too,” which Carter later explained involved paying for Kameny’s cremation and the rental of a casket and the service of a funeral hearse for the viewing ceremony.

“In addition, we have now paid the deposit on a fitting, public gravesite for Kameny at the historic Congressional Cemetery,” he said in the op-ed. “For all who wish to help raise the remaining $4,000 anticipated; you may make your tax-deductible contribution online…or simply mail a check to HOBS…”

The Blade and other local publications also published stories on HOBS’s Kameny-related fundraising activities for the funeral and burial and efforts by HOBS to help Kameny prior to his death.

One effort organized by local gay activist Ben Carver in 2010 was billed as the “Buy Frank a Drink” campaign, which Carver promoted on a Facebook page.

HOBS’s 990 report for 2012, which would include that year’s income, has yet to be released by the charitable watchdog group Guidestar.com, which obtains 990 reports for nearly all U.S. non-profit groups each year from the IRS. HOBS’s 990 report for 2010 was filed in November 2011, and its 2011 report was filed in November 2012. This suggests that its 2012 990 report will likely be filed in November of this year.

The 2011 report shows that HOBS during that year spent $66,413 on “direct support to qualified individuals,” $20,222 on “mentoring programs,” and $11,605 on “educational programs.”

Those three programs, which came to a total of $98,240, accounted for the bulk of HOBS’s expenditures for that year. The 2011 report shows that all other expenses were under $4,000 and were for administrative and overhead expenses such as supplies ($3,727), board meetings ($1,007), Internet ($1,555), meals and entertainment ($505), and telephone ($1,494). More detail on those reported expenses wasn’t available.

Carter discussed HOBS’s mission in an email he sent the Blade on July 24, which also provided information about money HOBS raised and spent on Kameny-related projects.

Frank Kameny, Marvin Carter, Dan Choi, Washington Blade, gay news, HOBS, Helping Our Brothers and Sisters

The late Frank Kameny (left) standing next to Marvin Carter at a HOBS benefit dinner in 2010. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

HOBS “is an all-volunteer micro-charity that helps marginalized LGBT individuals in our community to meet short-term and often life-sustaining needs,” Carter said. “We focus on helping those who often do not fit the criteria for help from other organizations or agencies – filling gaps in human distress here in Washington, D.C.  A sizable portion of our work involves discrimination cases too, many involving torture and asylum,” said Carter, referring to cases noted on the group’s website in which HOBS assists LGBT foreign nationals seeking U.S. political asylum to escape persecution in their home country.

“Before his passing, HOBS assisted Dr. Kameny frequently with some of his essential needs, including transportation for doctor’s appointments, the use of a mobile phone, groceries and meals, urgent bathroom plumbing repairs, repair of his eyewear, and the payment of past property tax bills to prevent his home foreclosure – spending in total thousands of dollars in the years before his death,” Carter said.

Carter provided these figures and related information in connection with the contributions HOBS received and expenditures it incurred for Kameny-related projects in 2010 and 2011:

  • Contributions earmarked by donors for Kameny’s burial expenses totaled about $800.
  • Other donors “make clear that their donations may be used for HOBS’ general mission,” were silent about how to use the donations.
  • During this period, “approximately $15,000 was raised in connection with our general fundraising efforts.”
  • HOBS incurred expenses totaling approximately $8,500 related to the purchase of a cemetery plot for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery, cremation expenses and “other expenses of the funeral home (including rental of a casket and hearse for transporting Dr. Kameny’s ashes to the memorial service…and a gravesite marker reading ‘Gay is Good.’”
  • There was no surplus of funds from contributions for Kameny’s burial and memorial service efforts. HOBS used money from its general operating account to cover the Kameny funeral and burial expenses not covered by earmarked donations.
  • HOBS did not solicit funds for payment of Kameny’s property taxes in 2011. It did raise money for and contributed to Kameny’s property tax payments in 2010.
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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rick Mangus

    July 25, 2013 at 4:07 am

    For Christ Sake let this man rest in peace!

  2. John Shields

    July 25, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    It's about time~!

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Youngkin reiterates opposition to marriage equality

Va. gubernatorial candidate says issue ‘legally acceptable’ in state

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(Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Glenn Youngkin in an interview with the Associated Press has reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Youngkin—a Republican who is running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam—said in an interview published on Friday that he feels “called to love everyone.” Youngkin then reiterated his opposition to marriage equality before he added it is “legally acceptable” in the state.

“I, as governor, will support that,” Youngkin told the AP.

McAuliffe was Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018.

Same-sex couples began to legally marry in Virginia a few months after McAuliffe took office.

McAuliffe in 2014 became the first governor of a Southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple who McAuliffe married recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

McAuliffe on Friday criticized Youngkin. “As governor, I worked my heart out to keep Virginia open and welcoming to all,” said McAuliffe in a tweet. “This type of bigotry and intolerance has no place in our commonwealth.”

The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin, but Log Cabin Republicans are among the groups that have backed his campaign. The Human Rights Campaign in 2019 named Youngkin’s former company, the Carlyle Group, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.

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D.C. school board calls for LGBTQ-inclusive teaching standards

Sweeping resolution proposing content in curricula approved unanimously

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Gay State Board of Education member Allister Chang.

The D.C. State Board of Education voted unanimously on Oct. 20 to approve a resolution calling for LGBTQ+ Inclusive Education Standards for the city’s public schools that “reflect on the political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific contributions and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

The two-page resolution, which was introduced by gay State Board of Education member Allister Chang, who represents Ward 2, cites national research showing that students who have access to LGBTQ+ curricula in their schools “are more likely to report lower frequency of bullying, lower levels of depression, more accepting peers, and greater feelings of safety in school.”

The resolution states that research also shows that multicultural education, including the teaching of LGBTQ topics, “helps prevent the formation of bias and prejudice and creates more democratic communities.”

LGBTQ rights advocates have long considered the local D.C. government through its mayor and City Council to be highly supportive of the LGBTQ community. But Chang and other supporters of the resolution approved by the board Wednesday night say their research shows that D.C. public schools, while supportive of LGBTQ students, are far behind the school systems in several other states in the inclusion of LGBTQ topics in school curricula.

As an example, supporters of the resolution point out that curriculum standards for social studies classes in the D.C. school system include only one mention of LGBTQ people in a teaching section related to victims of the Holocaust.   

Unlike most other cities and states, under current D.C. law, the school system is controlled by the mayor through the D.C. Department of Education, which is headed by a Deputy Mayor for Education and who, in turn and in consultation with the mayor, appoints a State Superintendent of Education who oversees the day-to-day operations of the schools.

Under a change in the education statute approved by the D.C. Council and signed by then-Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2007, the school board, which was renamed the State Board of Education, became a mostly advisory body on education matters with some statutory authority to approve education standards on which school curricula are based.

Thus, the resolution approved by the board on Wednesday “advises” and “recommends” that the State Superintendent of Education develop school curricula, guidance for teachers, and school-based leaders and staff “in providing LGBTQ+ inclusive lessons and practices in their classrooms.”

The resolution concludes by recommending that the State Superintendent of Education conduct a survey of students within two years after the Oct. 20 adoption of the resolution “to establish baseline data and to gain an understanding of the current experiences of LGBTQ+ students across the district and what all students know and understand about the contributions and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the relevant subject areas.”

Chang and other members of the State Board of Education noted at the Oct. 20 meeting, which was virtual, that Will Beckerman, who graduated this year from D.C.’s School Without Walls High School, played an important role in conducting the research used to prepare the LGBTQ standards resolution and helped in the drafting of the resolution.

Chang noted that much of the background information used to draft the resolution came from Beckerman’s senior year school research paper and advocacy project that focuses on the topic of LGBTQ-inclusive education.

In comments supporting the resolution, Chang also spoke about how the very limited LGBTQ content he encountered during his high school days helped him accept himself as a gay youth.

“As a student myself, I don’t remember a single mention of any LGBTQ people in any of my classwork until I read Thomas Mann in my senior year in high school,” Chang said. “And in Death in Venice, this Nobel Prize winner touches upon his struggles with homosexuality but never actually names it explicitly,” Chang told fellow board members.

“And I remember holding on to this novella despite the self-hatred that’s woven throughout this story because it was the first time that I saw this aspect of my identity reflected in my class work,” he said. “My hope – and I think this hope comes true with this resolution tonight – is that future generations of LGBTQ students have more opportunities to see themselves reflected in their class work and to feel less isolated by their class work than I did growing up.”

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will endorse the school system changes proposed by the resolution approved by the State Board of Education.

The full text of the resolution follows:

State Board of Education Resolution

On LGBTQ+ Inclusive Education Standards

SR21-7

WHEREAS, the 2019 District of Columbia Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual students make up 15.9 percent of high school students in the District and transgender students make up1.9 percent of District high school students;

WHEREAS, in the District, these students, in comparison to their heterosexual peers, experience double the rate of bullying on school property, report higher rates of being removed from class for disciplinary reasons, and are more than twice as likely to experience suicidal ideation;

WHEREAS, national data shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual students are significantly more likely to receive grades of D or F than their heterosexual peers and were more likely to be truant;

WHEREAS, consistent research suggests that students with LGBTQ+ inclusive curricula in their schools are more likely to report lower frequency of bullying, lower levels of depression, more accepting peers, and greater feelings of safety in school—and this safety leads students to report higher attendance, higher GPAs, a greater sense of belonging in the school community, and higher educational aspirations;

WHEREAS, research shows that multicultural education helps prevent the formation of bias and prejudice and creates more democratic communities ; 

WHEREAS, the State Board of Education recognizes the need to have revised social studies standards that create “windows and mirrors” so students see themselves and people like them reflected in the content of standards and curriculum, as well as having the opportunity to learn about diverse people, cultures, places, and experiences unlike themselves—explicitly noting that the current standards emphasize the lives of presidents and other figures who held/hold power and under-represent or lack representation of people and groups like those identifying as LGBTQ+, and their respective histories;

WHEREAS, in the State Board of Education’s review and revision of the social studies standards, the State Board called upon the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to “seek standards writers who reflect the demographics and experiences of District students and of the communities they are writing about” sharing a list of examples that included writers identifying as LGBTQ+;

WHEREAS, the State Board of Education is committed to ensuring students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be engaged global citizens in a diverse democratic society; and,

WHEREAS, the State Board of Education has a commitment to promote equity, introduce policies to reduce disparities between students, and create safe school environments for all students.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, upon the next revision of any District of Columbia state education standards, the State Board of Education should adapt standards, when appropriate, that reflect on the political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific contributions and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the State Board of Education advises the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to provide guidance to teachers and school-based leaders and staff on creating inclusive lessons in science and English language arts (ELA) classes that align with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core ELA standards, respectively;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the State Board of Education recommends that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) implement professional development for teachers and school-based leaders and staff to aid them in providing LGBTQ+ inclusive lessons and practices in their classrooms, such that that the professional development includes: workshops for local education agencies (LEAs) and teachers to draft curriculum related to LGBTQ+ topics in their subject areas, lessons on use of inclusive language in the classroom, lessons on ensuring LGBTQ+ students’ safety and confidentiality while maintaining respect for their name and pronouns, and mandatory diversity training related to the LGBTQ+ community; and,

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED THAT, the State Board of Education recommends that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) survey students within two (2) years of adoption of this resolution to establish baseline date and to gain an understanding of the current experiences of LGBTQ+ students across the district and what all students know and understand about the contributions and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the relevant subject areas.

https://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/2019%20DC%20YRBS%20Report.pdf

Brikett, Michelle et al. “Sexual-orientation disparities in school: the meditational role of indicators of victimization in achievement and truancy because of feeling unsafe.” American Journal of Public Health vol. 104, 6 (2014): 1124-8. doi: 10.2105/AJHP.2013.301785

Kosciw, Joseph G., et al. “The 2019 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth in Our Nation’s Schools.” GLSEN, GLSEN, 2020, glsen.org.

Camicia, Steven P. Critical Democratic Education and LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum: Opportunities and Constraints. Routledge Focus, 2016.

Camicia, Steven P. “Prejudice Reduction through Multicultural Education: Connecting Multiple Literatures.” Social Studies Research and Practice, vol. 2, no. 2, 2007, pp. 219–227.

socstrpr.org/files/Vol%25202/Issue%25202%2520-%2520Summer%25202007/Action%2520Research/2.2.6.pdf

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Nellie’s agrees to $5,000 fine, 7-day license suspension over brawl

Penalty prompted by security guard dragging Black woman down stairs

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Nellie’s must pay a fine and face a seven-day license suspension over a June 13 brawl in which a Black woman was dragged down the stairs. (Blade file photo by Tom Hausman)

The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Wednesday, Oct 20, approved a compromise agreement it reached with Nellie’s Sports Bar that calls for the U Street, N.W. gay bar to pay a $5,000 fine and serve a seven-day license suspension over a June 13 incident in which a Black woman was dragged down a flight of stars by a Nellie’s security guard during a brawl between Nellie’s customers.

The agreement calls for a license suspension of 24 days with 17 days to be suspended and seven days to be served “so long as the Respondent does not commit any violations within (1) year from the date of this Order,” the ABC Board declared in a three-page order confirming the agreement.  

The order states that the license suspension will be served from Dec. 20-26 of this year. It also states that Nellie’s must pay the fine within 120 days from the date of the order. If the fine is not paid during that time “its license shall be immediately suspended until all amounts owed are paid.”

As a final stipulation of the agreement, the ABC Board states that Nellie’s must file a “legally compliant security plan” within 10 calendar days of the Oct. 20 order.

The security plan requirement stems from an earlier finding by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration related to the June 13 incident that Nellie’s was in violation of several provisions of the city’s liquor law, including a provision that a security plan that meets the standards of the city’s liquor regulations is in place.

An ABRA investigation of the June 13 incident found, among other things, that “multiple assaults occurred inside the establishment while the licensee was engaged in a method of operation conducive to unlawful conduct.”

The action by the Nellie’s security guard, which took place during the city’s LGBTQ Pride weekend, was captured on video taken by one of the customers on their phone. The video went viral on social media, prompting a series of protests against the bar by LGBTQ activists and Black Lives Matter advocates.

Nellie’s issued an apology for the incident the following day and announced it had fired the private security company whose employee, who is Black, dragged Keisha Young, 22, down the stairs. Nellie’s also announced it would temporarily close for business to assess what had happened and develop plans for reopening as a safe space for all members of the community. It reopened 35 days later, with protesters continuing to assemble outside the bar for several more weeks.

 When the five-member ABC Board on Oct. 20 held a roll call vote to approve what is officially called an Offer-In-Compromise or OIC agreement with Nellie’s that includes the fine, license suspension, and other provisions, gay ABC Board member Edward Grandis voted against the agreement, becoming the only member to do so.

A video recording of the virtual ABC Board meeting available through YouTube shows that Grandis expressed general support for the decision by both the board and Nellie’s to reach a compromise agreement. But he said he objects to the license suspension requirement.

“In this particular regard, when the facts and the testimony indicate that the licensee on its own initiative without any knowledge, at least in the testimony, of prompting from the government or MPD or any party, to itself close for 35 days during – generally – the pandemic when so many companies lost their companies and their employees lost their jobs and the neighborhoods lost their establishments, I really believe that this particular situation shows that the licensee took this event seriously and accordingly in a manner that hopefully will prevent it from happening again or have better security measures to avoid this type of situation in the future,” Grandis told his fellow board members.

“And I just wanted the record to show I’m supportive of the OIC generally, but I don’t believe it was constructed in a way that indicates what this licensee has done since that incident,” Grandis said.

Nellie’s owner, Douglas Schantz, and Nellie’s attorney, Andrew Klein, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Klein, who spoke at the ABC Board hearing on Wednesday, said in response to a question by Grandis that Nellie’s reluctantly agreed to the fine and license suspension, which he called “excessive,” among other things, because Schantz wants to put the matter behind him and to “heal” and “move on” with the community.

The ABC Board’s action came one day after the Washington City Paper announced that Nellie’s Sports Bar finished in second place among its readers in its annual Best of D.C. contest for the category of “Best Gay Bar/Club/Lounge.”

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