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Anti-gay groups donate thousands to Va. GOP candidates

Cuccinelli received $20,000 from Family Research Council

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Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The latest campaign finance reports that Virginia’s Republican candidates for statewide office filed last week indicate they continue to receive significant financial support from social conservatives and anti-LGBT groups.

The campaign finance report that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15 notes Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell gave the gubernatorial hopeful $19,665 on Sept. 12.

Morton, who opposed the gay group GOProud’s participation in the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference and received an award during last year’s Values Voter Summit, has given the Cuccinelli campaign a total of $25,878. Morton also gave $1,000 to state Sen. Mark Obenshain(R-Harrisonburg)’s attorney general bid on Sept. 30, according to campaign finance records.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Family Research Council Action PAC on Sept. 30 made a $5,000 contribution to E.W. Jackson’s campaign; he’s running for lieutenant governor. The group also donated $20,000 to Cuccinelli’s campaign on Aug. 31.

Obenshain’s campaign on Sept. 10 received a $10,000 contribution from Pat Robertson, according to a campaign finance report it filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15. The anti-gay televangelist also gave $2,500 to Jackson’s campaign on Aug. 31.

Foster Friess, who backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential bid, on Sept. 19 gave Cuccinelli’s campaign $20,000. Campaign finance reports further indicate the billionaire businessman has thus far contributed $50,000 to the attorney general’s gubernatorial campaign.

John Rocovich, Jr., a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors who led efforts to remove sexual orientation from the university’s anti-discrimination policy in 2003 when he was rector, has given $38,986 in cash and in-kind contributions to Cuccinelli’s campaign. He has also contributed $7,500 to Jackson’s bid and another $18,750 in cash and in-kind contributions to Obenshain’s campaign.

The Family Foundation, a Richmond-based group that supports the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and opposes LGBT-specific measures in the General Assembly, has also contributed to the three men’s campaigns.

Roger Pogge of the Family Foundation has given $400 to Cuccinelli, according to campaign finance records. Pogge has given $250 to Jackson and another $200 to Obenshain.

The re-election campaign for state Del. Brenda Pogge (R-James City), whose husband is Roger Pogge, has given $1,150 to Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial bid. Campaign finance reports indicate the Republican lawmaker has also given $500 to Obenshain.

Jackson in his latest campaign finance report noted a $1,500 donation to the Family Foundation on Sept. 24. This contribution came less than two weeks before the organization held its annual dinner in Richmond at which Cuccinelli and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke.

LGBT advocates criticize Va. Republican ticket

Cuccinelli’s, Jackson’s and Obenshain’s Democratic opponents and LGBT rights advocates note these contributions come as no surprise considering the three men’s opposition to marriage for same-sex couples and other gay-specific measures in the commonwealth.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month denied Cuccinelli’s request to appeal a lower court ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli, who has previously described same-sex sexual acts as “intrinsically wrong”, in July reaffirmed his opposition to homosexuality during a gubernatorial debate against former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe.

The current attorney general in 2010 recommended Virginia colleges and universities remove LGBT-specific provisions from their non-discrimination policies. Cuccinelli was also among those who spoke at an anti-gay marriage gathering at a Manassas church last October to which the Washington Blade was denied access — a California pastor who attended the event described gay men as “predators” during a separate event at a Baltimore church the week before that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and others attended.

LGBT rights advocates have repeatedly blasted Jackson over his comparison of gay men to pedophiles and describing them as “very sick people.”

Obenshain sponsored a bill that Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law in March that bans public universities from denying recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate in their membership based on sexual orientation and other categories that federal law does not protect. He also opposed a measure a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee in February tabled that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting” whose eldest son now works as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council in D.C., joined Cuccinelli on the campaign trail last week.

Cuccinelli reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples in response to the Blade’s question after he and McAuliffe squared off in a debate sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and NBC 4 in McLean last month. He declined to say whether he feels his position on the issue and his previous anti-LGBT statements have received too much attention on the campaign trail.

“That’s a very sensitive issue, and I respect that,” Cuccinelli told the Blade as he discussed his position on same-sex marriage. “There are people who feel very strongly about it, and I respect that. For those folks they want to hear about it, it is one of a range of issues.”

Poll: Nearly half find Cuccinelli too conservative

A poll that Rasmussen Reports conducted on Oct. 20 shows McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by a 50-33 percent margin. Eight percent of respondents said they support Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis.

Forty-six percent of likely Virginia voters who responded to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted between Oct. 2-8 said they feel Cuccinelli is too conservative.

“Ken Cuccinelli has spent his career demonizing and insulting gay Virginians,” McAuliffe campaign spokesperson Josh Schwerin told the Blade. “It’s no surprise that some of his biggest donors would have equally offensive records.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain all have a record of “being openly hostile” to LGBT Virginians through their own statements or their legislative actions.

“It’s not surprising that Pat Robertson, Family Research Council and other opponents of fairness and equality are funding the most right-wing, anti-gay, anti-choice ticket to ever run for statewide office in Virginia,” gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) added. “They’re not just conservatives; they are zealots on a mission and it’s a common mission that some of their most prominent donors share.”

Democratic statewide candidates tap gay money

McAuliffe and Jackson and Obenshain’s Democratic opponents – state Sens. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) and Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) respectively – have all publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples. The former DNC chair has repeatedly said as governor he would issue an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Campaign finance records indicate that McAuliffe, Northam and Herring continue to receive significant financial backing from LGBT contributors.

McAuliffe’s latest campaign finance report he filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15 indicates Tim Gill donated $10,000 to his gubernatorial bid on Sept. 25. The gay philanthropist on the same day made $2,500 contributions to Northam and Herring’s campaigns.

DNC Treasurer Andrew Tobias has donated $11,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign. Gay Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf on March 20 made a $5,000 contribution to the former DNC chair’s gubernatorial bid – and campaign finance reports indicate he made an in-kind donation of $4,060 on May 16 for event expenses.

California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 21 gave $1,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign, while lesbian Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen on Sept. 27 donated $1,000.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Human Rights Campaign made a $23,308 in-kind donation to the Democratic Party of Virginia for staff time and telephone calls on Sept. 11, and another $31,013 in-kind donation for the same items and e-mail advocacy on Oct. 26. The organization’s PAC on Sept. 11 made $117 in-kind contributions for online advocacy to McAuliffe, Northam and Herring’s campaigns.

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Virginia

Youngkin mum on whether parents should report teaching of LGBTQ topics

Republican governor on Monday touted tip line during an interview

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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has yet to clarify whether the governor is encouraging parents to report educators who are teaching LGBTQ-specific topics.

The Washington Post reported Youngkin on Monday during an interview with John Fredericks on “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” referenced a tip line that parents can use to report the teaching of “divisive” subjects.

“We’re asking for folks to send us reports and observations [to] help us be aware … of their child being denied their rights that parents have in Virginia, and we’re going to make sure we catalogue it all,” Youngkin told Fredericks, according to the Post.

Fredericks co-chaired former President Trump’s 2016 campaign in Virginia.

Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter on Tuesday did not respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on the tip line.

The first executive order that Youngkin, who is a Republican, issued after he took office on Jan. 15 ended “the use of” so-called “critical race theory” (which is not taught in Virginia public schools) and other “divisive concepts” in the state’s classrooms.

Youngkin during his campaign against Terry McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students. Youngkin has also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin has named Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, to his administration.

Republicans control the House of Delegates by a 52-48 vote margin. Democrats have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) has introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) has put forth Senate Bill 766, which would ban trans students from school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. State Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) has sponsored House Bill 1126, which would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools.

Democrats have vowed to block any anti-LGBTQ bill in the General Assembly.

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District of Columbia

Lawsuit charges D.C. Courts illegally fired trans man

Complaint says building technician subjected to abuse by supervisors

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Among the names appearing on the AG office’s court briefs in the Carter lawsuit is D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Court of Appeals is currently deliberating over whether a 51-year-old transgender man who was fired in June 2019 from his job as a building maintenance technician at three buildings where the D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals are located has legal grounds to contest the firing, which he says was based on his gender identity.

In a little-noticed development, D.C. resident Dion Carter in June 2020 filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court naming the D.C. government as the main defendant in the case on grounds that it plays a role in the funding of the D.C. Courts system and was responsible in part for more than eight years of discrimination and abusive treatment to which Carter was subjected on the job.

At the request of the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, which is representing the DC Court system in the lawsuit, a D.C. Superior Court judge on Jan. 29, 2021, dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds without addressing any of Carter’s allegations of discrimination.

Superior Court Judge William M. Jackson stated in a three-page ruling that the D.C. Attorney General’s Office correctly stated in a motion seeking the dismissal of the case that Carter’s lawsuit failed to plead a viable cause of action on two grounds.

One of the grounds, the AG’s office stated, is that the D.C. Courts’ Comprehensive Personnel Policy does not provide a remedy for employment discrimination allegations. Jackson cited the second ground for dismissal proposed by the AG’s office was that the D.C. Courts’ same personnel policy does not provide a private right of action for employees to seek monetary damages in a lawsuit related to discrimination.

In its brief calling for dismissal, the D.C. AG’s office also pointed out that Carter’s lawsuit was invalid because under court rules pertaining to the D.C. Courts’ personnel system, an internal administrative complaint alleging employment discrimination must be filed and carried out to completion before a lawsuit could be filed in court.

In a brief in support of Carter’s lawsuit, Carter’s attorney, Stephen Pershing, strongly disputes the AG office’s assertions, saying at least one Court of Appeals ruling indicated the D.C. Courts’ personnel policies legally “mirror” the provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act, which, among other things, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.  

Pershing also argued in his court briefs that Carter did file an internal administration complaint to contest his firing. But he stated that a high-level D.C. Courts’ official advised Carter that under the court system’s personnel rules, a ruling in Carter’s favor could not result in monetary compensation for lost wages or other legal remedies that Carter called for in his complaint. The official advised Carter and Pershing to file the discrimination case in a lawsuit in court, the lawsuit says. This prompted Carter to withdraw his administrative complaint, a development that Pershing now says was based on false and misleading information provided by the D.C. Court’s official.

In February 2021, Pershing appealed the dismissal of the case before the D.C. Court of Appeals, requesting that the dismissal be reversed and the case be sent back to D.C. Superior Court, where the specific merits of the case could be argued and presented before a jury.

Since the filing of the appeal, Pershing and attorneys with the Office of the D.C. Attorney General have filed briefs under consideration by the Court of Appeals supporting and opposing the contention that the D.C. Courts’ personnel rules allow a remedy for Carter’s discrimination claims.

Like the original lawsuit filed in Superior Court, Carter’s appeal briefs filed by Pershing state that the alleged discrimination against Carter started shortly after Carter first began working in the court system’s building maintenance department in January 2010 as an out lesbian prior to his transition as a male.

At that time Carter already had 15 years of experience in the field of building maintenance technology and became the first woman to hold such as position at the D.C. Courts, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, the abusive and discriminatory treatment toward Carter increased dramatically in 2015 when Carter informed his then-supervisor Emanuel Allen that he would be taking a short period of leave to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Upon his return to work after the first of five gender reassignment surgical procedures that he has now completed, Carter presented for the first time at work as a male, the lawsuit says.

“For the six months between Carter’s Family Medical Leave Act notice and his surgery, Mr. Allen cut Mr. Carter out of all overtime duty, overtime that was mandatory for all building maintenance workers and that they considered desirable,” the lawsuit says. It says that when Carter asked why Allen did this Allen refused to provide an answer and threatened to issue a poor work performance evaluation against Carter if he continued to question the overtime denial decision.

When Carter returned from his surgery and presented as male, the lawsuit charges, Allen repeatedly referred to Carter as “he-she” in the presence of fellow employees as well as high-level officials involved in the operation of the court system buildings. Carter viewed his treatment by Allen as a form of bullying and disrespect, the lawsuit states.

Over the next three years, according to the lawsuit, Carter was subjected to a hostile work environment by supervisors who, among other things, made false claims that Carter was not doing his job properly, was absent from work without permission, and was acting “aggressively” toward his supervisors or fellow employees. One supervisor blamed Carter’s alleged hostile behavior on the testosterone treatment that Carter was undergoing as a routine part of his gender transition process, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges that Carter was ultimately fired “on a false pretext” allegedly fabricated by James Vaughn, the Chief Building Engineer and Acting Building Operations Manager of the D.C. Courts. The lawsuit and appeals court briefs say Vaughn accused Carter of consuming an alcoholic beverage at one of the court buildings where Carter was assigned to work on April 6, 2019.

Vaughn recommended to the court system’s acting director of capital projects and facilities management that Carter be terminated from his job on grounds of violating Personnel Policy No. 800, which prohibits consuming illegal drugs or alcohol on court property while on duty.

“That allegation is factually untrue,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Carter neither consumed nor was under the influence of alcohol while on site,” it says.

“Mr. Carter’s termination was unjustified on any legitimate ground and was an act of unlawful discrimination on account of Mr. Carter’s race, sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression, and in retaliation for his complaining to his superiors about his illicit mistreatment on these grounds,” the lawsuit and the current appeals court briefs charge.

“These acts and omissions caused Mr. Carter loss of employment, loss of pay and other benefits of employment, as well as anguish, intense hurt, humiliation, anger, sense of loss, disappointment, and emotional conflict between his desire for professional excellence and the torment inflicted on him merely for showing up every day, working, and working well, as an African American, as a lesbian, and as a transgender male,” the lawsuit says. 

“The acts of one or more of Mr. Carter’s superiors alleged in this complaint were motivated by actual malice and/or evil intent and were done with the intention to cause Mr. Carter pain, humiliation, anguish and torment, and as such warrant the imposition of punitive damages,” the lawsuit concludes.

Abigail McDonough, a spokesperson for the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, did not respond to an email message from the Blade asking the AG’s office to comment on Carter’s discrimination allegations. Among the names appearing on the AG office’s court briefs in the Carter lawsuit is D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, who has expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights in the past.

Douglas Buchanan, a spokesperson for the D.C. Courts, said he would try to determine whether the court system’s building maintenance department would respond to a Blade request for comment on the Carter lawsuit and its allegations that high-level court officials in the maintenance department engaged in anti-transgender discrimination.

Pershing said he plans to file a separate lawsuit on Carter’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia claiming the discrimination Carter faced violated his constitutional rights. He said he is hopeful that the D.C. Court of Appeals will rule in Carter’s favor, but a backlog in cases will likely mean a ruling would not take place before June of this year.

Under federal court rules, Carter must file his federal discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court within three years from the time he was fired from his job in June of 2019.

Congress created the D.C. court system as a federal entity in 1970 at the time it created D.C.’s home rule government. The U.S. president appoints all judges. The D.C. Council and mayor have no control over the court system, although the D.C. government along with Congress funds the court system. The system is run by a Joint Committee on Judicial Administration consisting of five judges and a secretary who serves as the executive officer.

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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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