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Harry Jackson to deliver keynote at ‘ex-gay’ event

Event scheduled to take place in D.C. on September 30

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Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade
Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Bishop Harry Jackson (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

An anti-gay Maryland pastor who vehemently opposes same-sex marriage is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at an ‘ex-gay’ event that is slated to take place in D.C. on September 30.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church of Beltsville, Md., is expected to deliver remarks at the first annual Ex-Gay Awareness Dinner and Reception that Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX,) a group that says it advocates on behalf of “former homosexuals and their families,” will host in the nation’s capital. Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver and Trace McNutt, a self-described “former Satanic drag queen,” will be honored during the event.

Dennis Jernigan, a Christian singer who identifies as post-gay, is also scheduled to perform at the dinner.

Voice of the Voiceless, a Virginia-based organization that claims to defend the rights of “former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions and their families,” said a Capitol Hill lobby day to coincide with Ex-Gay Awareness Month will also take place on September 30.

“It is my great honor and privilege to address this historic celebration,” Jackson said in a press release that Voice of the Voiceless issued on Monday. “I know that I and many others will be encouraged to hear the amazing testimonies of the men and women who have left homosexuality when they share their stories on September 30.”

Voice of the Voiceless President Christopher Doyle applauded the controversial pastor in the same press release.

“Bishop Jackson has been a beacon of hope, a leader in the faith community and an example for all of us to follow,” Doyle said. “We are truly blessed to have such a powerful man of God address the first annual Ex-Gay Dinner and Reception on September 30.”

Groups challenge efforts to ban ‘ex-gay’ therapy to children

The D.C. event is scheduled to take place less than two months after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that bans so-called “conversion therapy” to minors his state.

The Liberty Counsel last month filed a lawsuit in federal court that seeks to overturn the law on the grounds that it violates freedom of speech and religion under the New Jersey and U.S. Constitutions. The same group earlier this month appealed the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ August 30 ruling that upheld California’s 2012 law that bars licensed therapists in the state from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of a minor through “conversion” or “reparative” therapy.

Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who claims God delivered him from homosexuality and has previously compared gays to drug dealers and prostitutes, withdrew from a city-sponsored concert that took place at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Southwest Washington at D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s request. Rev. Patrick J. Walker, president of the Baptist Convention of the District of Columbia and Vicinity, is among those who criticized the decision to disinvite McClurkin.

Prince George’s County Public Schools earlier this year stopped using an anti-bullying campaign that Doyle, who is a psychotherapist, wrote that included “ex-gay” references.

Doyle said “anti-ex gay extremism” prompted him to postpone a dinner at the Family Research Council’s downtown Washington headquarters and other events that had been scheduled to take place in D.C. in July.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.,) who introduced a bill that would amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage a day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, are among those who received invitations to attend the dinner at the Family Research Council. Former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, who is president of the Heritage Foundation, also received an invitation to attend the dinner.

Doyle told the Washington Blade during an interview on Monday he received threatening phone calls and hate mail at his home addressed to him and his wife after Voice of the Voiceless announced the July events.

Organizers of the September 30 event will vet those who register before they receive information. Doyle told the Blade attendees will also have to sign “a values policy” that states they “agree with the terms of ex-gay awareness and that they’re a supporter.”

He declined to say where in the D.C. area the gathering will take place.

“We’re not opening to just anyone who wants to come,” Doyle told the Blade. “Unfortunately we just get too much heckling and too many people who have bad intentions of coming to this and they’re not very supportive of our cause. I wish it wasn’t like that. I wish I could just open the doors for anybody to come.”

Besen: D.C. event ‘desperate, last gasp’ for ‘ex-gay’ movement

The American Psychological Association, the Pan American Health Organization and the majority of other leading mental health groups oppose “reparative” or “conversion” therapy. Alan Chambers, executive director of Exodus International, the oldest and largest “ex-gay” organization, in June apologized for the “pain and hurt others have experienced” before he announced his group was shutting down.

Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, an LGBT advocacy group that challenges the “ex-gay” movement, dismissed both Doyle and the scheduled September 30 events.

“What we are really looking at is a desperate, last gasp of air for a failing industry,” Besen told the Blade. “In the West, this psychological voodoo has been thoroughly discredited and nearly vanquished. This is why it is in the hands of people like Doyle, who have no credibility and little expertise.”

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Comings & Goings

McCarty named director of partnerships at Universe

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Steven McCarty

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].

Congratulations to Steven McCarty on his new position with Universe, as Director of Partnerships. Universe supports movement organizations, labor unions, and Democratic campaigns, with the software they need to win. On accepting the new position he said, “I’m most excited to take my years of campaign and technology experience to down-ballot Democrats across the country as we fight to preserve our Democracy this election cycle.” 

Prior to this, McCarty was Business Development + Partnerships Lead, at STAC labs (State Technology Acceleration Collaborative), where he spearheaded strategic business development initiatives, expanding STAC labs’ partner network by 400% with the launch of the Progressive Tech Index and doubling DemLaunch user base from four to 11 states within a year. Prior to that he was president at The Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.; Senior Customer Success Manager at Crowdskout; Vice President at Circle K International, Indianapolis, Ind.; and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, Lansing, Mich. 

He has done a lot of volunteer work, including being an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 2G04, representing Blagden Alley, Naylor Court, and Shepherd Court. He received a Youth Champion Award for outstanding support to LGBTQ Youth, from SMYAL; and was named a Kiwanis Member of the Year, Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.

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District of Columbia

Cherry Fund files lawsuit  against Republiq Hall

LGBTQ nonprofit says breach of contract led to $137,000 in lost revenue

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Cherry Fund claims Republiq Hall canceled a contract for one of its popular events. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cherry Fund, the D.C.-based nonprofit organization that has raised money for HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ organizations for the past 27 years, filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on May 31 charging Republiq Hall, a large entertainment venue in Northeast D.C, with abruptly and improperly cancelling Cherry Fund’s reservation to rent the hall for an April 6 event expected to draw 2,000 paid guests.

The event was to be one of several circuit dance parties that Cherry Fund produces as part of its annual Cherry weekend in April, which has raised several million dollars for LGBTQ related organizations since the Cherry weekend  events began in 1996.  

The lawsuit, which charges Republiq Hall with breach of contract, says the contract signed by the two parties in January called for Cherry Fund to pay Republiq Hall an initial deposit of $3,500 on Jan. 10, 2024, to be applied to a nonrefundable rental fee totaling $7,000 for the one-time use of the space on April 6.

Republiq Hall is located in a large former warehouse building at 2122 24th Place, N.E., near the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. 

According to the lawsuit, under the contract, Cherry Fund “was responsible for promoting the event, booking talent, and managing ticket sales,” with Cherry Fund to “retain all door fee revenues and a percentage of the net bar sales.”

The lawsuit states, “On February 28, after Plaintiff had already begun promoting the event and booking talent, the Defendant unilaterally and without just cause demanded an additional $9,000 from the Plaintiff. When the Plaintiff refused to pay the additional amount, the Defendant cancelled the reservation.”

 As a result of Republiq Hall’s action, the lawsuit states, Cherry Fund was “forced to book an alternative venue with significantly less capacity, resulting in substantial financial losses.” 

It says as a direct result of the alleged breach of contract, Cherry Fund “suffered financial damages in the amount of $130,000 in lost door fees and $7,000 in a lost percentage of the net bar sales that were estimated to be collected on the date of the event.”

A spokesperson for Republiq Hall did not respond to a phone message from the Washington Blade requesting a comment and a response to the lawsuit’s allegations.

Court records show that Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna, who is presiding over the case, scheduled an initial hearing for the case on Sept. 6. McKenna issued an order providing guidance for how a civil litigation case should proceed that includes a requirement that Republiq Hall must file a response to the lawsuit within 21 days of being officially served a copy of the lawsuit complaint.

Sean Morris, the Cherry Fund president, issued a statement expressing disappointment over the developments leading to the lawsuit.

“Our organization, powered by volunteer efforts, relies on our annual event to fundraise for local non-profits,” he said. “This abrupt and unforeseen demand, and subsequent cancellation, has severely affected our ability to support vital community programs focused on HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ+ advocacy,” Morris says in his statement.

The lawsuit concludes by stating, “The Plaintiff, the Cherry Fund, respectfully requests the following relief: Direct compensatory damages for the lost benefits it was entitled to under the terms of the contract; Restitution for the benefits retained by the Defendant in unjust enrichment; Reasonable attorney fees and costs of this action; and Any other relief this court deems just and proper.”

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Maryland

Silver Spring Pride sign rebuilt in memory of beloved neighbor

GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000

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Tony Brown's neighbors help repaint the Pride sign his late partner created in their Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Molly Chehak)

Residents of Silver Spring’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood have come together to rebuild a Pride sign. 

The sign was constructed in June 2020, and was meant to stay in place throughout Pride Month. Neighborhood residents, however, requested it stay up past its intended month-long display, and has remained in place for more than four years. 

The sign spelling LOVE is at the neighborhood’s entrance between Sundale and Richmond Streets. It was made from plywood and the O was painted in the colors of the Pride flag.

“We wanted to take it down, but we just felt it was not ours anymore and belonged to the neighborhood.” Tony Brown told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It was a positive thing for the neighborhood and began to take on a life of its own.” 

Brown and his partner, Mike Heffner, designed the sign and said the Black Lives Matter movement inspired them to create it as a strong symbol of an accepting community.

The sign was vandalized numerous times last fall, resulting in neighborhood residents taking turns repairing it. Brown and his partner could not do the repairs themselves because Heffner was fighting Stage 4 lung cancer.

Heffner passed away on Oct. 6, 2023.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help raise funds for the replacement Pride sign, and it has raised more than $4,000. The replacement sign is more permanent and made of metal.

“I can’t speak for the neighborhood overall, but people who knew Mike I think are happy that we were able to honor his memory with this sign because this sign is so him,” Molly Chehak, a friend who lives next door to Brown, told the Blade. “He (Heffner) was an outgoing super social (person) who just made you feel good the way this sign does. It’s a perfect tribute to him.” 

Chehak and other neighbors created the GoFundMe account.

Heffner’s family and his neighbors are still working to rebuild the Pride sign. It has become a memorial to Heffner.

“We wanted to do one that was clearly a Pride reference,” said Brown, noting the L is a fully painted Pride flag that spirals across the entire letter. 

“For the O we wanted to do something reminiscent of times in the past, a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a hippie montage of flowers and butterflies,” he said. 

Brown described the V as being colorful, nonbinary people hugging each other with the idea that love is more than what one may see. 

“During COVID, he had started painting rocks and putting kind and fun messages on them leaving them around places as sort of a pay it forward Karma and so the E is basically that stylized writing and to embrace a bunch of ways we embrace love,” he said. 

The final letter had the phrase “love is love” written repeatedly in various handwritings to pay homage to Heffner and what he did for his neighborhood during the pandemic. Brown’s four daughters — one of whom is a professional artist — and their friends designed it.

The landscape around the sign has also been transformed with rocks that honors Heffner’s love for Rosemary Hills and his passion for rocks.

Chehak also said Heffner always wanted a bench, and neighbors are looking to install one soon next to the Pride sign.

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