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LGBT issues discussed at first-of-its-kind U.N. meeting

Funders of global gay initiatives met in NYC, Kerry signs onto declaration

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Rajiv Shah, USAID, United Nations General Assembly, gay news, Washington Blade

Rajiv Shah, USAID, United Nations General Assembly, gay news, Washington Blade

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is among those who attended a meeting of global LGBT funders on September 24 during the U.N. General Assembly in New York. (Photo courtesy of USAID.)

Global LGBT advocacy efforts were among the issues discussed during the U.N. General Assembly this week in New York.

USAID, the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA,) the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and the Ford Foundation on Tuesday hosted a meeting of funders of global LGBT advocacy efforts.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, SIDA Director General Charlotte Petri Gornitzka and former Planet Out CEO Megan Smith, who is now vice president of Google[x], attended the gathering alongside high level officials from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Swedish, the United Kingdom, the U.N. Development Program, the State Department and the World Bank.

Representatives from the American Jewish World Service, the Arcus Foundation, the Fund for Global Rights, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, the Dutch foundation Mama Cash, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the Open Society Foundation and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights are among the other groups that took part in the meeting. Organizers said it drew 85 percent of groups around that contribute to global LGBT efforts.

“It was a seminal moment in history because it is the first global meeting where public and private donors for LGBT equality came together to discuss priorities, programs and potential collaboration for ways forward,” senior USAID advisor Claire Lucas told the Washington Blade on Friday.

USAID in April announced the LGBT Global Development Partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute, (SIDA) and other groups will contribute $11 million over the next four years to advocacy groups in Honduras and other developing countries. The initiative’s first two trainings took place in the Colombian cities of Cartagena and Bogotá late last month and in the spring respectively.

Denis Dison of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute added his organization remains “proud” to “partner in this work” with USAID and Astraea as he discussed Tuesday’s meeting with the Blade.

“This meeting was an important step in recognizing the truly global effort to advance LGBT human rights, and the leadership role now being played by the U.S. is a remarkable turnaround from just a few years ago,” he said.

Funders of global LGBT initiatives met in New York two days before Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives from 10 countries issued a declaration that calls for an end to anti-LGBT violence and discrimination.

Members of the LGBT Core Group at U.N. that includes the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and ministers from Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway declared their “strong and determined commitment to eliminating violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“We reaffirm our conviction that human rights are the birthright of every human being,” the statement reads. “Those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) must enjoy the same human rights as everyone else.”

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Affairs Dean Pittman told the Blade during an interview from New York on Friday the meeting and the declaration underscores the U.N. and the U.S. are committed to “pursuing and advancing LGBT rights around the world.”

“Everybody’s reinforced the idea that everyone deserves human rights,” Pittman said. “It shouldn’t be a decision of who you are, who you love, what your gender is.”

Pittman further categorized the statement as “really strong, powerful.”

“This really has a ripple effect that sort of goes out through LGBT communities around the world who see this as sort of a vote of confidence,” he told the Blade. “[It] sort of gives them the ability to go into their own communities with the backing of a global organization like the U.N. to pursue some of these human rights issues in their own countries.”

The meeting took place two months after the U.N. officially launched a public campaign that seeks to increase support for LGBT rights around the world. It’s been endorsed by singer Ricky Martin and others.

More than 70 countries around the world continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts in spite of a 2011 resolution in support of LGBT rights the U.N. Human Rights Council passed. Gambian President Yahya Jammeh on Friday said in his speech during the U.N. General Assembly that homosexuality is among the three “biggest threats to human existence” as the Associated Press reported.

85 countries have also backed a U.N. General Assembly declaration in support of LGBT rights.

President Obama earlier this month met with two Russian LGBT rights advocates during the G-20 summit. Both he and Kerry have also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin over his country’s LGBT rights record, which includes a law that bans gay propaganda to minors.

Pittman declined to say whether Kerry discussed Russia’s LGBT rights record during his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday during the U.N. General Assembly. He said Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, briefed Kerry and other ministers on the country’s gay propaganda law before they issued their declaration.

“This is an issue we’ve raised with the Russians at many levels and repeatedly,” Pittman told the Blade. “It’s obviously unacceptable.

Council for Global Equality Chair Mark Bromley welcomed the meeting and the resolution.

“One would expect Syria and Iran to be on the agenda, but not necessarily human rights for LGBT people,” he told the Blade, referring to the U.N. General Assembly. “For a group of committed foreign ministers to come together during this time, including Sec. Kerry, to pledge collective action to respond to human rights abuses directed at LGBT communities worldwide is unprecedented.”

Chris Johnson contributed to this article.

John Kerry, United States Department of State, LGBT, United Nations General Assembly, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates in an LGBT ministerial event in New York on Thursday during the U.N. General Assembly. (Photo courtesy of the State Department.)

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Maryland

Protests interrupt Moms for Liberty meeting about removing books in Howard County schools

Guest speaker led book-removal campaign in Carroll County

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Gabriella Monroe holds a poster that says 'Ban Bigotry Not Books' outside Howard County’s Central Branch library in Columbia on Feb. 26, 2024 (Photo by Sam Mallon for the Baltimore Banner)

BY KRISTEN GRIFFITH | When a Howard County chapter of Moms for Liberty wanted to learn how to remove books from schools, they were met with a swarm of protesters sporting rainbow colors and signs looking to send the message that such actions are not welcome in their district.

The conservative parents’ group met Monday night at Howard’s Central Branch library in Columbia to brainstorm how they could get books they deemed inappropriate out of their children’s school libraries. Their guest speaker for the evening was Jessica Garland, who led a successful book-removal campaign in Carroll County. The Howard chapter wanted the playbook.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Rehoboth Beach

Former CAMP Rehoboth official pleads guilty to felony theft

Salvatore Seeley faces possible jail time, agrees to reimburse $176,000

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Salvatore “Sal” Seeley, who served as an official at the Rehoboth Beach, Del., CAMP Rehoboth LGBTQ community center for 20 years, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Theft In Excess of $50,000 for allegedly embezzling  funds from the organization for at least a two-and-a-half-year period, according to a Sussex County, Del., Superior Court indictment and a spokesperson for the Delaware Office of the Attorney General.

The spokesperson, Mat Marshall, sent the Blade a copy of the indictment, which he said was handed down against Seeley on Feb. 27 and which provides the only specific court information that the Washington Blade could immediately obtain.

“Salvatore C. Seeley, between the 27th day of February 2019 and the 7th day of September 2021, in the County of Sussex, State of Delaware, did take property belonging to Camp Rehoboth, Inc., consisting of United States currency and other miscellaneous property valued at more than $50,000, intending to appropriate same,” the indictment states.

“I can further confirm that the Defendant entered a guilty plea to one count of Theft in Excess of $50,000,” spokesperson Marshall told the Blade in an email message. “Mr. Seeley also agrees to make restitution of $176,199.78 to CAMP Rehoboth,” Marshall said. “He will be sentenced on April 5 and does face the possibility of prison time.”

Marshall declined to provide additional information on the findings of the law enforcement investigation into Seeley’s alleged theft. The restitution figure of $176,199.79 suggests investigators believe Seeley embezzled at least that amount from CAMP Rehoboth during the time he worked for the organization.

Seeley couldn’t immediately be reached for comment

CAMP Rehoboth describes itself as a nonprofit LGBTQ community service organization and the largest organization of its type “serving the needs of LGBTQ+ people in Rehoboth, greater Sussex County, and throughout the state of Delaware.” The statement adds that the organization “is dedicated to creating a positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Rehoboth and its related communities.”

Kim Leisey, who began her job as executive director of CAMP Rehoboth in July of 2023, said it was her understanding that officials with the organization discovered funds were missing and opened an investigation in September of 2021, a short time before Seeley left the organization. Leisey said that at the time of his departure, Seeley served as CAMP Rehoboth’s director of health and wellness programs. 

At that time, former D.C. Center for the LGBT Community director David Mariner was serving as CAMP Rehoboth’s executive director and reportedly took steps to open an investigation into missing funds. Wesley Combs, CAMP Rehoboth’s current board president, said Seeley resigned from his job around that time in 2021.

“I know that I took this job knowing there was a concern and a problem and an investigation,” Leisey told the Blade. “And I also know that the board of CAMP Rehoboth has done everything it needs to do to ensure that we were compliant, cooperative and that things are going really well here at CAMP Rehoboth.”

Leisey said CAMP Rehoboth currently has a staff of six full-time employees and several contract employees. She said the organization has a current annual budget of $1.4 million.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride theme

‘Totally radical’ a nod to 80s and 90s

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Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos, on left, announces this year's Pride theme at the Pride Reveal party on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance on Thursday announced this year’s Pride theme is “totally radical.”

The organization made the announcement at Penn Social in Downtown D.C.

“Capital Pride’s 2024 theme celebrates the courageous spirit and unwavering strength and resilience that defined the LGBTQ+ community during the transformative decades of the 1980s and ‘90s,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos. “It’s about embracing our authenticity, pushing boundaries and advocating for a world where everyone can live their truth without fear or discrimination.”

Capital Pride on Thursday announced this year’s Pride parade, which will take place on June 8, will begin at 14th and T Streets, N.W., and end at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, N.W.

The Capital Pride Block Party and Family Area will once again take place on 17th Street in Dupont Circle. A Tea Dance will also take place on Constitution Avenue, N.W., near the end of the parade. 

The Capital Pride Festival and Concert will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., on June 9.

Capital Pride has also launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million for a new D.C. LGBTQ community center. 

WorldPride will take place in D.C. in 2025. The event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pride events in the nation’s capital.

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