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Union leaders among LGBT speakers at MLK rally

Anniversary March on Washington embraces LGBT community as ‘out and equal partner’

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Adrian Shanker, Equality Pennsylvania, civil rights, Martin Luther King III, gay news, Washington Blade

Pennsylvania gay rights leader Adrian Shanker (left), one of at least four LGBT people, including union leaders, scheduled to speak on Saturday at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington, with Martin Luther King III at a Philadelphia event earlier this month promoting the march. (Photo courtesy Equality Pennsylvania)

Union leaders Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, both out lesbians, will be among at least four LGBT rights advocates to speak on Saturday at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.

Also confirmed as out gay speakers are Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, director of faith partnership and mobilization for the Human Rights Campaign, and Adrian Shanker, president of the statewide LGBT rights organization Equality Pennsylvania.

MacArthur Flournoy, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. MacArthur Flournoy (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Other LGBT advocates were expected to speak at the Lincoln Memorial rally, but organizers of the event said they could not confirm additional speakers until an official list was released later this week.

“Fifty years later, our nation is also more diverse than ever,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s largest civil rights organization, in discussing the 1963 march, in which famed civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“And Saturday’s march will be a true reflection of that diversity,” said Henderson in a telephone news conference this week. “Women, who held no speaking roles at the original march, will play leading roles in Saturday’s event. Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Arab Americans will all be represented as well,” he said.

“And whereas Bayard Rustin, executive director of the 1963 march, was silenced because of his sexual orientation, the LGBT community has been embraced as an out and equal partner in Saturday’s event,” Henderson said.

Joining Henderson in speaking at the news conference were Chad Griffin, president of HRC; Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT organization; and Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Shanker, a marketing director for a company near Bethlehem, Pa., said he was honored to have received a letter from Martin Luther King III and Rev. Al Sharpton inviting him to speak at the event. King III is the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. and one of the lead organizers of the 50th anniversary march. Sharpton, president of the New York-based National Action Network (NAN), is another of the lead march organizers.

Shanker has worked on LGBT rights initiatives in Pennsylvania for at least 10 years. This year he said he has followed in the footsteps of his grandfatherAlbert Shanker, who, as a teacher’s union leader, helped arrange for thousands of teachers to travel to Washington for the 1963 march.

He said that as part of his organizing for the 50th Anniversary March he recently spoke at an event in Philadelphia promoting the march at which King III also spoke.

“I guess some of the people who were there thought I was a good enough speaker that they wanted me to speak at the march,” Shanker said. “I do a lot of speaking and I do a lot of organizing in Pennsylvania…But I certainly wasn’t expecting an invitation to speak at the march. It’s a major honor.”

He added, “This is a time when we can really make it clear that the LGBT movement is focused on the broader civil rights agenda and is part of that broader civil rights agenda. So I’m very excited to be among many speakers at this event.”

Weingarten and Henry have been vocal supporters of LGBT equality as part of their work in the U.S. labor movement. The unions they head have endorsement LGBT rights, including marriage equality.

Flournoy of HRC is a theologian, author, and preacher who has worked on civil rights issues for more than 30 years. He served as Faith Director for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group that led the successful ballot campaign last fall for Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

In an open letter released on Monday, HRC, NBJC, the Task Force and Pride At Work, an LGBT arm of the AFL-CIO, along with 36 other LGBT advocacy organizations declared their strong support for the 50th anniversary commemoration March on Washington.

“History was made that day 50 years ago when thousands came to Washington, D.C. to lift up their voices in support of civil rights, employment protection, and an end to racial segregation in our nation’s schools,” the open letter says. “On Aug. 24, 2013, we will rededicate ourselves to that dream of equality and justice.”

The letter also notes that the LGBT rights movement celebrated historic victories in the past year, including voter approval of marriage equality in several states and the Supreme Court’s rulings striking down a key provision of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the nation’s largest state.

But the open letter says that LGBT people – like other minorities and immigrants – continue to face discrimination in employment and other areas, and that gays and transgender Americans continue to be victimized by violence based solely on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Working together, this rally and mobilization are an opportunity to lift up the voices of LGBT people as part of a broad progressive agenda for social and economic justice,” the letter says. “Please join us on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, at 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. in Washington, D.C. at the D.C. War Memorial at 900 Independence Ave., S.W.

The D.C. War Memorial, located across Independence Ave. from the Martin Luther King Memorial, is being used as the starting point for an LGBT contingent in one of many feeder marches that will culminate at the Lincoln Memorial, where the main rally was scheduled to be held.

At least eight LGBT-related events, including forums and receptions, were scheduled to take place this week and next week in association with the 50th Anniversary March on Washington.

Several of the events will honor Bayard Rustin, whom LGBT activists such as National Black Justice Coalition official Mandy Carter of North Carolina have described as an unrecognized gay hero in the U.S. civil rights movement.

At one of the events Tuesday night, D.C. gay activist Paul Kuntzler was one of four panelists to reflect on their participation in the 1963 March on Washington. Kuntzler told a gathering at D.C.’s Martin Luther King Library that he marched with a contingent of United Auto Workers Union members from Detroit, where he lived before moving to Washington.

March on Washington 
LGBT-related events

Friday, Aug. 23


  • Celebrating the Legacy of A. Philip Randolph & Bayard Rustin 44th Annual A. Philip Randolph Institute National Conference. 
8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
 Hyatt Regency Hotel. 
400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.
  • What is the Unfinished Business for the LGBT Community? 
A Conversation and Reception on the Heels of the Anniversary of the March on Washington. 
4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
 Rayburn House Office Building
 Foyer
  • Welcoming Reception for LGBT Participants 50th Anniversary March on Washington
. 6–10 p.m. 
Us Helping Us HIV/AIDS services organization. 
3636 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Saturday, Aug. 24


  • LGBT March contingent 
assembles at D.C. Statehood Rally
. D.C. War Memorial (North side of Independence Ave. between World War II Memorial and Lincoln Memorial). 
Mayor Vincent Gray to speak 
8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
  • 50th Anniversary March on Washington rally
speakers and entertainers to be announced later in week
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.,
Lincoln Memorial

Monday, Aug. 26

A Tribute to Bayard Rustin & the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Sponsored by National Black Justice Coalition, American Federation of Teachers, A. Philip Randolph Institute. 
6– 9 p.m., 
Lincoln Theater,
 1215 U St., N.W.

Wednesday, Aug. 28

The Life and Legacy of Bayard Rustin: How an African American gay man became the lead organizer of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. 
Panel discussion and reception, hosted by the Center for Black Equity 
and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign,
 7 p.m.
 in the HRC Equality Forum Hall, 
1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Tom

    August 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

    It’s a sad day when our community ends up being represented by labor union leaders at a national event.

  2. Kurt

    August 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    @Tom, Dr. King would not have thought so.

    • rbockman

      August 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      King must be twisting in his grave, 50 years later his people, the people he died for are still living in their ghettos, by choice, committing violent crime and anti-social behavior.

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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