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LGBT activists rally for Gray at re-election kick-off

Mayor mentions gay, trans residents in first campaign speech

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Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade
Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Today, I apologize to you for the pain that my campaign caused. I ask for your forgiveness,’ Mayor Vincent Gray said of his 2010 mayoral campaign. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

At least a dozen LGBT activists joined more than 500 city residents on Saturday for Mayor Vincent Gray’s first rally to launch his 2014 re-election campaign.

Several of the activists said Gray’s mention of LGBT people two times in his speech at the rally highlighted his long record of support for the LGBT community.

The event was held in a packed auditorium at an arts and recreation center on Mississippi Avenue in Southeast D.C. known as THEARC.

“I look around this room and I see folks from every part of our city,” Gray told the gathering. “I see enormous talent and tireless dedication. I see white, I see black, I see brown, and every color in between,” he said.

“I see straight, I see gay, and I see transgender. I see rich and I see poor,” he said. “But above all, I see what makes us the greatest city in the greatest country on Earth — I see a community.”

In another part of his speech Gray said the accomplishments of his first term included his longstanding effort to unify the city’s diverse and growing population.

“We are bringing together young and old, black, brown and white, Latino, Asian, immigrants from throughout the world, gay, straight, able and disabled,” he said.

Gray is being challenged by eight candidates in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary, including four City Council members, all of whom have records of support on LGBT issues.

Much of the coverage of Gray’s speech by the media focused on his apology to the city for the campaign finance irregularities associated with his 2010 mayoral campaign, which led to criminal charges and guilty pleas by four of his top campaign staff members. Gray has said the campaign finance law violations by the four staffers happened without his knowledge.

“I know that the 2010 campaign caused many people great pain,” Gray said in his speech. “I know that our city suffered embarrassment. Today, I apologize to you for the pain that my campaign caused. I ask for your forgiveness.”

Gray added, “Although I cannot apologize for the misdeeds of others, the 2010 campaign was my campaign, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and embarrassment it caused.”

The LGBT activists attending the rally joined virtually everyone one else in the packed auditorium in rising to their feet to give Gray a prolonged ovation in response to his apology. Many in the audience chanted, “Four more years, four more years” before sitting down to listen to the remainder of Gray’s speech.

“I thought it went extremely well,” said gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, a member of Gray’s 2014 campaign finance committee.

“It’s an overflow crowd. There are hundreds and hundreds of people here,” Hudson said. “The mayor gave a great speech. He addressed very well the 2010 election issue and laid out a real clear vision for the next four years.”

Asked how the LGBT vote is likely to break down in the April 1 primary, Hudson said, “I think it will probably split just like it did in the last election. But one thing that’s clear is Vince Gray is the best mayor in the entire country on LGBT issues.”

At least four prominent transgender activists attended the rally, including Earline Budd, Jeri Hughes and Alexandra Beninda. Budd and Beninda were appointed by Gray to the D.C. Human Rights Commission as the first-ever transgender people to serve on the commission.

“He has done what I think is vital to this city in so many ways in terms of economic development,” said Beninda. “Within our transgender community he definitely has a place in our hearts because he has done so much – with Project Empowerment, with the Transgender Awareness Campaign,” she said in referring to a city-sponsored job training program and a trans related non-discrimination campaign initiated by Gray.

“He has done more than anybody else has ever done in the city for the transgender community,” Beninda said.

Hughes and Budd said Gray, while breaking new ground in his support for the transgender community, has an exceptionally strong record in support of the entire LGBT community. The two also said the city as a whole has prospered under Gray’s tenure as mayor.

LGBT activists who are backing other candidates, including Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), have said those candidates are also strong supporters of LGBT rights and that LGBT people should select a candidate based on non-LGBT issues.

Longtime gay activists Deacon Maccubbin and Bob Summersgill said they are backing Wells over Gray, among thing things, because Wells has a stronger record on ethics in government issues.

Gay rights advocate and D.C. Department of Health official Ivan Torres, who attended the Gray rally on Saturday, said he believes Gray comes out ahead on non-LGBT issues.

“You can have any preferences that you like,” Torres said in referring to LGBT people supporting candidates running against Gray. “But you cannot deny that in the past four years Washington, D.C. has gone forward — forward in so many ways — economic development, the unemployment rate has gone down, and development is there, and the integration of us gay people, the gay and lesbian community, the transgender community into governance.”

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Maryland

Hyattsville mayor dies by suicide

Kevin Ward and husband adopted son in D.C. in 2012

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Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the city of Hyattsville)

The city of Hyattsville released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that their city’s openly gay Mayor Kevin Ward had died one day earlier by an apparent suicide.

“The city of Hyattsville reports with great sadness that our beloved Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, Jan. 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement says.

“Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville,” the statement continues. “We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to the mayor’s family,” it says.

“No further information is available at this time,” the statement adds. “Details about services and remembrances will be shared when they are available.”

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Park Police disclosed that Ward was found deceased in Fort Marcy Park in McLean, Va., with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Ward, 44, became acting mayor of Hyattsville on Jan. 1, 2021, following the resignation of former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. He was next in line to become mayor under the city’s political system in his then-position as president of the Hyattsville City Council.

He won election to complete the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term through 2023 in a May 11, 2021, special election, receiving 57.8 percent of the vote in a three candidate race, according to the Hyattsville election board. His closest opponent, Joseph Solomon, received 31.7 percent of the vote.

Nearby fellow gay mayors — Patrick Wojahn of College Park and Jeffrey Slavin of Somerset — said they got to know Ward through Maryland political circles and thought very highly of him.

“He was insightful, smart and dedicated,” Wojahn said. “He always seemed very confident and together as a person. And he had a great sense of humor.”

Slavin said he shared that remembrance of Ward, adding that he found Ward to be a “very nice person” dedicated to the people he served both as mayor and during his two terms on the Hyattsville City Council.

“There was noting in his public life that would have predicted this,” said Slavin in referring to Ward’s sudden passing.

The Washington Blade first reported on Ward in 2012 in a feature story on Ward and his then-domestic partner Chad Copeland when the two attended a ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court to complete the process of adopting their then-5-year-old son Norman. Ward and Copeland were among several gay couples who had their adoption papers signed by a judge at the ceremony.

On the website for his mayoral election campaign last year Ward said he and his family made Hyattsville their home in 2014 after he and his husband adopted their two sons.

“I am a pretty straightforward person,” he said in message to voters on his campaign website. “I believe in listening more than talking. But when I talk, I am not one to mince words or tell people what they want to hear,” he said. “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life,” he continued.

“This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and to human services, to help as many people as I can,” he said.  

Ward was referring to his career in the field of educational and human services technology.

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District of Columbia

ANC supports license for Capitol Hill LGBTQ bar

Lesbian owners back ‘settlement agreement’ with restrictions on hours

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AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel are the bar industry veterans behind As You Are Bar. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)

The Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a liquor license for the LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar, which plans to open in a two-story building at 500 8th St., S.E. in a commercial section of Capitol Hill known as Barracks Row.

The ANC’s decision to support the license took place at a virtual meeting attended by nearby residents and supporters of the bar after its owners, lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, agreed to the terms of an ANC settlement agreement that calls for restrictions in the hours the bar can offer dancing, entertainment, and music from a DJ.

The agreement means the ANC will not file a protest against the license before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a development that would have delayed a decision on the license by the ABC Board by as much as seven months. A protest by the ANC could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in legal fees to contest the protest by providing legal arguments seeking the approval of the license.

The ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve all liquor licenses in the city.

McDaniel and Pike have said they plan to operate an upstairs dance bar during evening hours and a café on the first floor during the day as well as in the evenings that will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture.”

The two, who are business and life partners, say As You Are Bar will welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities as well as drinkers and non-drinkers as customers.

They have also told the ANC and nearby residents they have taken steps to soundproof the building, which they are renting, to ensure their plans to operate a dance bar with music from a DJ on the second floor will not disturb nearby residents.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, which was posted on the ANC’s website prior to the start of the meeting, the bar’s operating hours will be from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Under D.C. law, bars are allowed to remain open for the sale of alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. during weekdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Settlement Agreement further calls for As You Are Bar to restrict the hours of consumption of alcohol from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It calls for allowing live entertainment and dancing (indoors only) from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, the agreement says DJ and amplified music will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

 McDaniel told the Blade that at the request of As You Are Bar’s attorney Richard Bianco, the ANC agreed to modify that restriction at the Tuesday night meeting to allow the bar to play “conversational” background music after 8 p.m. until closing time on weekdays.

 Among other things, the agreement requires the bar comply with a noise mitigation provision to “ensure that sound, noise, and vibrations are not audible or felt beyond the curb or any other premises at any time.” It also calls on the bar to provide an “appropriate number of staff” to monitor patrons as they leave the bar through the 8th Street entrance to “prevent loud voices and littering.”

Under rules established by the ABC Board and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration or ABRA, if a settlement agreement is reached between an applicant for a liquor license and the ANC, a protest against the license by groups of five or more citizens is not allowed. Protests could still be filed by community-based civic groups and residents of an “abutting” house or residential facility.

In the case of As You Are Bar, no citizens group has emerged to oppose the license. There is just one abutting townhouse on E Street whose owner has expressed general support for the settlement agreement, according to McDaniel. But the resident has indicated she will not rule out a possible protest until Feb. 7, which is the deadline for filing a protest under ABRA’s rules.

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