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Gray under fire from McClurkin, D.C. ministers

City to pay ‘ex-gay’ singer $10,000 for cancelled appearance

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Mayor Vincent Gray withdrew an invitation for Donnie McClurkin to perform at last weekend’s festivities. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Controversial gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who has said God delivered him from the “sin” of homosexuality, has accused D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray of violating his civil rights by requesting that he withdraw as a performer at a concert last Saturday at the Martin Luther King Memorial.

Gray spokesperson Doxie McCoy released a statement to the Blade on the day before the concert saying the mayor directed the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to ask McClurkin to withdraw on grounds that his appearance would be a “distraction at an event about peace, love and justice for all.”

The mayor’s directive came one day after gay activist and longtime civil rights advocate Phil Pannell said McClurkin’s past inflammatory statements comparing gays to drug dealers and prostitutes were “vile” and were at odds with King’s call for ending discrimination and injustice.

The Commission on the Arts and Humanities, a city agency, organized the concert as the kick-off for a series of events over the next two weeks to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington at which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

McCoy said the mayor’s office had not been aware that the commission invited McClurkin to perform at the concert, which was entitled “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King.”

In a video released several hours before the 8 p.m. concert was scheduled to begin on Aug. 10, McClurkin said the mayor’s office and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities incorrectly claimed he and the city came to a mutual agreement that he withdraw as a performer.

“Last night on the way to the airport we received a phone call from the promoters who received word from the mayor’s office…that I was not welcome and uninvited the night before the concert,” McClurkin said on his video, which was posted on YouTube.

“It’s bullying,” he said. “It’s discrimination. It’s intolerance. It’s depriving someone of his civil rights when told he cannot come to an event and by coming it would cause a disruption.”

In an Aug. 11 press release, a spokesperson for the Baptist Convention of the District of Columbia and Vicinity said “pastors from throughout the city contacted the mayor’s office to insist” that McClurkin, himself a minister, be included in the concert as planned. The release says Gray ignored the request.

“Mayor Gray has systematically and deliberately done everything possible to strike at the fabric of the faith community – at least the sector of us who opposed his views,” Rev. Patrick J. Walker, president of the Baptist group, stated in the release. “This, however, is an atrocity and cannot be tolerated.”

Walker was among the leaders of the opposition to D.C.’s same-sex marriage law at the time the proposed measure came before the City Council in 2009.

The Washington Post reported Monday night that mayoral spokesperson Rob Marus said the city still plans to pay McClurkin $10,000 he is owed under a performance contract drawn up at the time the Commission invited him to take part in the event.

LGBT advocates in D.C. and in other parts of the country, upon learning of McClurkin’s latest comments criticizing the mayor’s decision to seek his withdrawal from the King Memorial concert, defended Gray’s action, saying McClurkin’s record as a leader of the “ex-gay” movement made him a divisive figure.

“If Donnie McClurkin was a white supremacist who called African Americans ‘vampires,’ ‘sissies’ and ‘evil’ people, then compared our existence to diabetes, he would never have been invited to perform on any stage in the District,” said gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green of Ward 8. Green was referring to words that McClurkin used to describe gay people in past public appearances.

“All I ask is we end the double standard,” Green said in a Facebook posting Monday night. “The days of the great Bayard Rustin are no longer here. There is no more delegating my gay brothas and sistas to the back room to shut their mouths for the good of the cause. We are all part of the cause!” he said.

Journalist and commentator Rod McCullom, who writes about issues affecting the black LGBT community on his blog Rod 2.0: Beta Gay News, disputed in a blog posting Monday night McClurkin’s claim that he was a victim of discrimination and bullying when Mayor Gray took steps to cancel his performance at the King Memorial.

“McClurkin is correct about one thing,” McCullom wrote. “This is about ‘bullying’ and ‘intolerance’…except he is not on the side of ‘love, unity, peace and tolerance.’ McClurkin has become the poster child for the church-based homophobia and intolerance that is harassing, bullying and making life horrible for millions of black gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender youth in the church.”

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Capital Pride to resume ‘large-scale’ outdoor events

Organizers say one of the largest ever parades and festivals set for June

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Happy days are here again? Scenes like this from 2019 could be back in 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced on its website that it plans to resume the city’s Pride Parade and Festival in June 2022 that traditionally has attracted tens of thousands of participants after canceling the two events in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

“The Capital Pride Alliance is excited to announce the highly anticipated return of our annual large-scale outdoor Pride Celebration in June 2022!” the group says on its website. “Registration for the Capital Pride Parade on June 11, 2022, and the Capital Pride Festival on June 12, 2022, will be open soon,” the website message says.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, told the Washington Blade the group met with D.C. government officials on Monday to coordinate plans for the upcoming outdoor events in June. He said an updated announcement with more details of the events would be released later this week or early next week.

The Capital Pride website message focuses on the parade and festival.

“Join the LGBTQ+ community for the return of the historic Capital Pride Parade,” the website message says. “In 2022, a modified route will honor our history and acknowledge the evolution of the LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in Washington, DC, while respecting the origins and importance of taking to the streets in our fight for equality,” it says.

“Be prepared to experience one of the largest Pride Parades to ever take place in the United States Capital,” the message adds.

The message says the Pride Festival will resume at its traditional location on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. near the U.S. Capitol that it refers to as America’s Mainstreet.

“Enjoy a full day of entertainment on three stages, food, drink and advocacy with over 300 exhibitors,” the website message says. “The Festival is the largest annual event in the national capital region,” the message continues, adding that the Capital Pride Concert will also return this year at its usual locations at the site of the festival.

“You will experience entertainment on three stages, from international headliners to our best local regional LGBTQ+ talent,” according to the Capital Pride website message. It says concert performances will take place from 12-10 p.m. And a “Capitol” Sunset Dance Party will take place at the festival site from 8-10 p.m.

“The concert may end but the dancing will continue,” the message says. “Enjoy the electronica sounds of an international DJ sensation while you dance in the middle of America’s Main Street on Pennsylvania Avenue, with the sun setting on the U.S. Capitol.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s public health officials ended the city’s COVID-related restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend outdoor events as well as indoor entertainment events last May as the number of COVID infections began to decline.

But as the number of Omicron variant cases of the COVID virus increased dramatically in the fall of 2021, the mayor resumed the requirement of the use of face masks in all indoor public places.

Also put in place earlier this month by the city was a requirement that restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment establishments require customers to show proof of vaccination as a condition for admission to the establishments. Bowser, however, has said the city was not considering resuming restrictions on the number of people allowed in establishments such as restaurants and bars or outdoor stadiums.

Capital Pride Alliance has not said whether it will put in place a vaccination requirement for admission to the Pride festival and parade as well as some of its planned indoor events. With the number of Omicron related COVID cases beginning to drop in the past two weeks in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs, the prospect of a resumption in restrictions on the number of people allowed to assemble at outdoor events like the Pride Parade and Festival appears to be less likely.

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Virginia

Man who killed one in 2000 Roanoke gay bar shooting dies in prison

One of the worst bias attacks targeting LGBTQ community

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Ronald Edward Gay died while serving life sentences for attacking a Virginia gay bar. (Washington Blade clipping from Sept. 29, 2000)

A man sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison for the September 2000 shooting at a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., in which one man lost his life and six others were wounded, died of natural causes on Jan. 15, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WSLA 10 TV News that Ronald Edward Gay died while being treated at a hospital near the Deerfield Correctional Center, a state prison where he had been living as an inmate. He was 75. 

Witnesses and law enforcement officials reported at the time of the shooting that a middle-aged man later identified as Gay arrived alone at Roanoke’s Backstreet Café, a popular gay bar, on the night of Sept. 22, 2000.

According to an account by an eyewitness to the incident who spoke last week with the Roanoke Times newspaper, after ordering a beer and standing next to the bar for a short time, Gay reached into the long trench coat he was wearing, pulled out a 9mm pistol, and fired a round “straight into the chest of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet, before opening fire on the rest of the bar.”

Overstreet, a beloved regular patron at the Backstreet Café, died at the scene of the shooting. Six others, who were wounded by bullets fired by Gay, later recovered, but they and many others who were present and witnessed the shooting were left emotionally scarred, the Roanoke Times reported.

In the weeks following the shooting, news media outlets, including the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, reported findings of an investigation by local police that Gay told police he went to Backstreet specifically to target gay people because he became bitter after years of being taunted and teased for his last name of “Gay.”

The Roanoke Times reported that, among other things, Gay told police “God told him to do it” and that he once wrote that there was an evil inside of him telling him “to shoot or have no rest.”

Gay later pleaded guilty to multiple charges against him, including murder. On July 23, 2001, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison for the shooting incident and the murder of Overstreet.

The Backstreet incident in Roanoke was considered by LGBTQ rights advocates and others to be one of the worst incidents in which LGBTQ people were targeted for a shooting until the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 people died and 53 more were wounded in a mass shooting by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, who was shot and killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff, told police in a phone call from inside the nightclub after the shooting began that he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and his attack against the gay nightclub was motivated by the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria. The FBI later classified the incident as a terrorist attack.

The Roanoke Times reported that the shooting incident at Backstreet Café prompted LGBTQ residents and allies to gather in the days and weeks after the incident for vigils and marches. About 1,000 people walked through the streets of downtown Roanoke to honor the life of Overstreet and to urge Congress to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the newspaper reported.

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Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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