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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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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats backs Robert White over Bowser

LGBTQ group endorses Erin Palmer over incumbent Mendelson

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Council member Robert White won the backing of Capital Stonewall Democrats in his bid for mayor over incumbent Muriel Bowser. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, announced on May 17 that it has selected D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large) over incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser and political newcomer Erin Palmer over D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson as its endorsed candidates in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary.

With Bowser and Mendelson as well as White having longstanding records of support for LGBTQ rights and Palmer expressing strong support for the LGBTQ community, local observers say the LGBTQ Democratic group’s 163 voting members appear to have based their endorsement decisions on other pressing issues facing the city rather than only LGBTQ specific issues.

In other races, Capital Stonewall Democrats, formerly known as the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which was founded in 1976, voted to endorse incumbent Ward 1 Council member Brianne Nadeau over gay former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary and community activist Sabel Harris who are running against Nadeau.

In the Ward 5 Council race, the group has endorsed gay D.C. Board of Education member Zachary Parker in a five-candidate contest for the seat being vacated by incumbent Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who ran unsuccessfully for the office of D.C. Attorney General.

The group has also endorsed Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who is running unopposed in the primary; D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who’s favored to win re-election against two lesser-known opponents; and D.C. shadow U.S. Rep. Oye Owolewa, who’s also favored over a lesser known opponent.

Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it did not make an endorsement in the Ward 3 and At-Large D.C. Council races and in the D.C. Attorney General race because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote under the group’s longstanding rules for endorsements.

By not endorsing in the At-Large race, the group passed over incumbent At-Large Council member Anita Bonds, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ issues. Bonds is being challenged by Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Lisa Gore, former D.C. shadow House member Nate Fleming, and former D.C. Council staffer Dexter Williams.

In the hotly contested Ward 3 Council race, nine candidates are competing for the seat being vacated by incumbent Mary Cheh, another longtime LGBTQ rights supporter.

In the race for attorney general, three prominent local attorneys — Brian Schwalb, Ryan Jones, and Bruce Spiva — are competing for the AG position being vacated by incumbent Karl Racine, who chose not to run for re-election.

Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsements follow a series of five LGBTQ candidate forums the group held virtually in which most of the candidates running in the various races attended.
In the group’s mayoral form, Bowser was the only one of the four mayoral contenders that did not attend. Her supporters said she had a conflicting event organized by gay Democratic activist Kurt Vorndran that prevented her from attending the Stonewall event.

Those who attended the mayoral forum were Robert White, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Trayon White (D-Ward 8), and former attorney and community activist James Butler.
A detailed vote tally released by Capital Stonewall Democrats shows the vote count for each of the endorsed candidates as well as candidates in the races for which the group did not make an endorsement.

In the mayoral race, Robert White received 120 votes, or 74.5 percent. Bowser came in second place with 37 votes or 23.0 percent; Trayon White received just two votes or 1.2 percent, with Butler receiving just 1 vote at 0.6 percent. One vote was cast for no endorsement.

In the D.C. Council Chair race, Palmer received 89 votes or 60.1 percent, just surpassing the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement. Mendelson received 48 votes or 32.4 percent. Eleven votes were cast for no endorsement.

In the Ward 1 Council race, Nadeau received 100 votes or 69.4 percent compared to gay candidate Czapary, who came in second place with 23 votes or 16.0 percent. Candidate Sabel Harris came in third place with 9 votes or 6.3 percent, with a no endorsement selection receiving 12 votes or 8.3 percent.

In the Ward 5 contest, gay school board member Parker received 91 votes or 64.5 percent. Candidate Faith Hubbard came in second with 31 votes or 22.0 percent. The remaining candidates received fewer than 10 votes each, including former At-Large and former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, who received 5 votes or 3.5 percent.

“Since Capital Stonewall Democrats has only 221 members, and only 163 bothered to vote, this is clearly not representative of the LGBTQ+ community in the District,” said gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who is supporting Bowser for mayor.

But longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate A. Billy S. Jones-Hennin is among the local activists who view the Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement of lesser-known challengers – most of whom have progressive, left-leaning views – as a reflection of changes in the demographics of the LGBTQ community and the Stonewall group’s members.

“At the forefront for voters is who they feel can address core problems like crime, open drug transactions, and increased homeless populations,” Jones-Hennin told the Blade. “Just asking voters for support based on their support of the LGBTQ+ community in the past does not cut it,” he said. “We are multi-faceted voters looking for new, more progressive and aggressive leadership.”

The Capital Stonewall Democrats list of endorsements as well as races with no endorsement can be viewed below:

• Mayor: Robert White, with 74.5% of the round one vote
• DC Attorney General: No Endorsement
• DC Council Chair: Erin Palmer, with 60.1% of the round one vote
• Ward 1 Council: Brianne K. Nadeau, with 69.4% of the round one vote
• Ward 3 Council: No Endorsement
• Ward 5 Council: Zachary Parker, with 64.5% of the round one vote
• Ward 6 Council: Charles Allen, with 83.2% of the round one vote
• At-Large Council: No Endorsement
• Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives: Eleanor Holmes Norton, with 69.7% of the round one vote
• U.S. Representative: Oye Owolewa, with 66.1% of the round one vote

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District of Columbia

Pannell resigns in protest from Ward 8 Council member’s LGBT Commission

Says Trayon White has no out member of his staff

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Phil Pannell resigned as a member of the Ward 8 LGBT Commission created by D.C. Council member Trayon White. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights activist Phil Pannell announced on May 6 that he has resigned as a member of the Ward 8 LGBT Commission created by D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) on grounds that White does not have an LGBTQ person on his Council staff.

White’s office has said the Council member created the commission to “focus on the specific needs of this community” in his role as a supporter of LGBTQ equality.

“For me, this is a major issue of inclusion, affirmative action and diversity,” Pannell said in an email message announcing his resignation. “I as a Black Gay man cannot in good conscience continue to be a member of my Councilmember’s LGBT Commission when he has no one from my community on his staff,” Pannell’s announcement message continues.

“This is hypocritical at best and structurally homophobic at worst,” he said. “I deeply resent and refuse to be used as anyone’s homosexual prop for any purposes. Therefore, I resign from the commission effective immediately.”

In response to a request by the Washington Blade for comment on Pannell’s resignation, Julia Jessie, White’s director of communications, said White’s Council office “follows all legal HR procedures and hires based on experience and skillset.” Jessie added, “As an employer, we do not discriminate or consider a person’s race, color, religion, or sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity, when making decisions about employment qualifications.”

According to Jessie, “We do, however, harvest a safe and inclusionary work environment where employees who wish to voluntarily disclose their sexual orientation of gender identity feel comfortable doing so.”

White’s office released a statement from the Ward 8 LGBT Commission’s chair, Marvin ‘Rahim’ Briggs, saying the commission “regretfully accepts” Pannell’s resignation.

“The Commission will continue to focus on and address issues affecting Ward 8 LGBTQ,” Briggs says in the statement. “We’ll continue to organize to promote acceptance of LGBTQ community diversity and to foster respect and appreciation for each member of the community residing in Ward 8.”

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District of Columbia

Two gay candidates disqualified from D.C. primary ballot

Republican, Libertarian activists withdraw from races

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(Blade archive photo by Aram Vartian)

A member of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest LGBTQ local political group, mounted a successful challenge before the D.C. Board of Elections earlier this month that resulted in a gay Republican and a gay Libertarian Party activist withdrawing as candidates for public office in the city’s June 21 primary.

James Harnett, 24, a member of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee and a member of the staff of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), filed challenges to the candidacy of gay Libertarian Party activist Bruce Majors, who was running unopposed in the June 21 primary for the office of both D.C. Delegate to the U.S. House and chair of the Libertarian Party of D.C.

The Board of Elections upheld Harnett’s challenge claiming that Majors failed to obtain a sufficient number of valid petition signatures needed to be placed on the ballot for both offices, according to elections board spokesperson Nicholas Jacobs. Majors withdrew his candidacy for both offices rather than contest the challenge.

The Board of Elections also upheld a challenge filed by Harnett against the candidacy of gay Republican and D.C. Log Cabin Republicans organization member Andrew Desser, who was running unopposed in the primary for the position of Ward 1 Chairperson of the D.C. Republican Committee.

Desser told the Blade he acknowledged that he fell short in obtaining the needed number of valid petition signatures and would not contest the challenge.

Harnett, who appeared to be acting on his own behalf and not representing the Capital Stonewall Democrats in his challenges to Majors and Desser before the election board, did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

Board of Elections records showed that he also successfully challenged six other candidates seeking ballot placement in the June 21 primary, one of whom, Lori Furstenberg, was running for mayor as a Republican and another, Corren Brown, was running for mayor as a Statehood-Green Party member.

The others Harnett mounted a successful challenge against were GOP candidates running for the Ward 2, Ward 4, and Ward 7 GOP Chairperson positions; and Leniqua ‘Dominique’ Jenkins, a Democrat running for the at-large D.C. Council seat, who was the only Democrat challenged by Harnett.

Harnett, a former ANC commissioner in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for the nonpartisan office of D.C. Board of Education for Ward 2. Among the candidates he ran against was gay education advocate Allister Chang, who won that race.

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