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Gray to embrace ‘two-way dialogue’ with LGBT community

Activists begin to take sides in hotly contested mayoral race

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Freedom Plaza, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade, Vince Gray
Freedom Plaza, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade, Vince Gray

Mayor Vincent Gray announced Monday he plans to run for re-election. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The manager of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s just-announced re-election campaign called Gray’s record on LGBT issues “rock solid” and said the campaign will be open to an ongoing, “two-way dialogue” with LGBT people throughout the city.

Chuck Thies, a longtime D.C. political consultant who Gray picked to lead his 2014 campaign, told the Blade he believes LGBT people understand that Gray’s longtime support for their rights and dignity is based on the mayor’s deeply held beliefs that are not motivated by politics.

“So will there be a focused outreach to the LGBT community? Absolutely,” Thies said. “And I think it will not just be outreach. I’m expecting a two-way dialogue.”

Gray’s announcement on Monday that he plans to run for a second term came in the form of an open letter to D.C. voters, which he released as he and Thies visited the offices of the Board of Elections and Ethics to register Gray as a candidate. The two also picked up petitions to obtain the 2,000 signatures from registered Democrats needed for Gray to run in the April 1, 2014 Democratic primary. The deadline for filing the petitions is Jan. 2.

Gray became the 11th candidate to enter the Democratic primary contest at a time when four members of the D.C. City Council, a restaurant owner-political activist and five lesser-known candidates have vowed to challenge his record, among other things, on grounds of ethics and political corruption.

Similar to political activists across the city, several LGBT activists told the Blade that despite Gray’s solid record on LGBT issues they are reluctant to support the mayor’s re-election bid out of concern that he might be implicated in a two-and-a-half year ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into Gray’s 2010 election campaign.

Four people associated with the 2010 Gray campaign have pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from allegations that they helped operate a secret “shadow” campaign that raised $655,000 without reporting the existence of those funds in violation of campaign reporting laws.

Gray has said he knew nothing about the shadow campaign or alleged illegal activity by some of his campaign aides.

Among those considered his main rivals are D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Also entering the race last month was Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who ran and lost his bid for mayor in 2006 to former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Political observers say Wells and Andy Shallal, owner of the local restaurant chain Busboys and Poets who has been a longtime advocate for progressive causes, could attract support from progressive voters because of their outspoken calls for campaign finance reform and stronger ethics-in-government laws.

Veteran D.C. gay activist Bob Summersgill, a Ward 3 ANC commissioner and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, is among the LGBT activists that supported Gray in 2010 but aren’t supporting him now. Summersgill said he’s backing Wells for mayor.

“All of the major candidates have excellent records on LGBT issues,” Summersgill said in response to a Blade survey of the city’s LGBT activist leaders. “I have largely looked at other issues in deciding who to support.”

Summersgill and Deacon Maccubbin, owner of the now closed Lambda Rising bookstore and a longtime Democratic Party supporter, said they are backing Wells, among other things, because he has taken the lead in speaking out against political corruption and pushing for campaign finance and ethics reforms.

Other prominent LGBT activists who backed Gray in 2010 said they remain strong supporters of Gray and plan to work to help the mayor win election to a second term.

“I’ve been waiting to see what the mayor was going to do,” said gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson. “Now that he’s announced he will seek re-election I am 110 percent in support of that.”

Hudson added, “I think he’s probably the most competent mayor we have ever had. He understands the D.C. government better than anyone that I know. He has been accessible and he’s a hard worker.”

On LGBT issues, Hudson said of Gray, “There’s never been anyone who’s had a better record on LGBT issues in D.C. politics.”

Others backing Gray are D.C. transgender activists Jeri Hughes and Alexandra Beninda, who called Gray the nation’s most supportive mayor on transgender issues.

Hudson, Hughes and Beninda each said the fact that Gray has not been implicated in wrongdoing related to his 2010 mayoral campaign leads them to believe Gray’s long-stated assertion that the wrongdoing took place without his knowledge or approval.

Barrie Daneker, treasurer of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, and John Fanning, a Ward 2 gay civic activist, are among a sizable number of LGBT activists backing Evans. The two note that Evans’ strong support for LGBT rights dates back to the beginning of his tenure as a Council member 20 years ago.

Christopher Dyer, the gay Democratic activist who served as director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs under Mayor Fenty, is among the LGBT advocates backing Bowser’s mayoral bid.

Veteran gay activist A. Billy S. Jones-Hennin is among those who remain undecided in the mayoral race.

“I believe Gray has done a credible job as mayor,” Jones-Hennin told the Blade, “however, the cloud of his 2010 election woes is still lingering. I’m impressed by the campaign of Bowser.”

One of the lesser-known mayoral candidates, Reta Jo Lewis, a former State Department official, has said she is a strong supporter of LGBT rights.

The positions on LGBT-related issues among the remaining candidates that took out petitions to get on the Democratic primary ballot for mayor couldn’t immediately be obtained. They include Christian Carter, Michael Green, Frank Sewell and Octavia Wells.

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Virginia

Va. House committee advances two anti-transgender bills

Democrats in state Senate will likely kill measures

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia House Education Committee on Friday approved two anti-transgender bills.

Committee members advanced state Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach)’s House Bill 1387, which would ban transgender athletes from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, and state Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun County)’s House Bill 2432, which would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.

A House subcommittee earlier this week approved the two bills.

Republicans control the House of Delegates by a 51-47 margin. Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the Virginia Senate.

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday killed six anti-trans bills. It is likely HB 1387 and HB 2432 will meet the same fate once they reach the state Senate.

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Local

Comings & Goings

Swaruup takes role as executive director of DC Legal Aid

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Vikram Swaruup

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].

The Comings and Goings column also invites LGBTQ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, landed an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Vikram Swaruup on his new position as executive director of DC Legal Aid. Upon accepting the position Swaruup said,“Legal Aid is one of the most important institutions working to make sure all District residents are treated fairly in our legal system, and I could not be more grateful to the board for this tremendous honor. I’m excited to be joining a top-notch team that is on the front lines of fighting for District residents.” 

Swaruup has been working in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, as Chief Deputy Attorney General. He served as second-highest ranking officer and thought partner to the attorney general in management of all legal work of the office, including the District’s affirmative, defensive, and appellate litigation, as well as legal advice provided to District agencies and the legislature. He began working there in the Civil Rights Section, as Assistant Attorney General. He litigated civil rights cases, including investigating pre-suit, drafting complaints, engaging in discovery and motions practice, and developing recommendations for amicus participation. 

Prior to that he served in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Appellate Section, Washington, D.C., as a senior attorney. Before going to the DOJ, he served as a law clerk for Judge Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose, Calif. He was a summer associate with Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, Oakland, Calif. He was a Holley Law Fellow with the the National LGBTQ Task Force in D.C., and a Pride Law Fund Fellow with the Transgender Law Center, San Francisco. 

Vikram earned a bachelor’s of journalism, with high honors, University of Texas, Austin; and a Juris Doctor, University of California, School of Law, Berkeley, Calif. During his college years he participated in many activities including: California Law Review (Senior Articles Editor); Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice (Executive Editor); Faculty Appointments Committee (student co-chair); Queer Caucus (outreach chair); and South Asian Law Student Association. 

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council to honor drag performer Ba’Naka

Memorial resolution expected to pass unanimously on Feb. 7

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Drag performer Dustin Michael Schaad (Ba’Naka) died Jan. 11. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

All 13 members of the D.C. City Council have signed on as co-introducers of a ceremonial resolution honoring the life of the late D.C. drag performer Dustin Michael Schaad, who performed at many of the city’s gay bars and LGBTQ events under the name Ba’Naka.

The resolution, introduced by D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), was expected to be approved unanimously at the Council’s Feb. 7 legislative session.

“The Council of the District of Columbia honors Dustin Schaad’s memory, recognizes and celebrates their legacy of love, unity, and compassion for all those who knew him, and expresses sincere condolences to Dustin’s family and loved ones,” the resolution states.

The resolution notes that Schaad, 36, moved to D.C. shortly after graduating high school in his hometown of Bradenton, Fla., and not too long after that “began performing as Ba’Naka at drag shows around the city, eventually becoming one of the most recognizable people in the District’s drag community.”

Schaad died Jan. 11 at George Washington University Hospital from complications associated with a longstanding illness, according to friends.

David Perruzza, owner of the D.C. gay bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, said Schaad had been performing most recently at Pitchers while overseeing a popular drag bingo event at the Adams Morgan bar. Perruzza said Schaad talked about having performed in drag since the age of 18.

“[T]hrough their vibrant personality and outgoing nature, Ba’Naka raised awareness around issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community,” the Council resolution says, adding, “Ba’Naka became a beloved regular at gay bars and clubs around the District, lifting the spirit of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, that this resolution may be cited as the ‘Dustin Michael Schaad Memorial Recognition Resolution of 2023,’” the resolution states.

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