Connect with us

Local

Ebbin, Fisette on ‘short list’ for U.S. House seat in Northern Va.

Gay officials considered viable candidates to replace Moran

Published

on

Adam Ebbin, Jay FIsette, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
Adam Ebbin, Jay FIsette, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (left) and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette are possible candidates for Congress. (Washington Blade file photos. Photo of Ebbin by Michael K. Lavers; photo of Fisette by Jeff Surprenant)

Political insiders in Northern Virginia have placed two openly gay elected officials near the top of a list of at least a dozen possible candidates considered qualified to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who announced he’s not running for re-election this year.

Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin, whose district includes parts of the City of Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties; and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, who represents the entire county, are well known and have longstanding ties to the 8th Congressional District, according to people familiar with the district.

Ebbin and Fisette are both Democrats. The 8th District, which Moran has represented for more than 20 years, is a Democratic stronghold. Virtually all political observers say the candidate that wins the Democratic primary scheduled for June 10 is almost certain to win the general election in November.

“The 8th District is a highly educated, progressive, engaged district that has embraced LGBT equality for years,” said Joshua Israel, former president of Virginia Partisans, a statewide LGBT Democratic group that recently changed its name to LGBT Democrats of Virginia.

Israel says he knows most of the other candidates considering entering the race and all of them are strong supporters of LGBT rights, just as Moran has been a staunch ally of the LGBT community during his tenure as a congressman.

“The field will no doubt be an embarrassment of riches,” he said.

Fisette became the first known openly gay candidate to win election to public office in Virginia in 1997, when he won his race for a seat on the Arlington County Board, which serves as the county’s legislative body. He has won re-election four times since then by wide margins, with his latest electoral victory in 2013.

Fisette’s colleagues elected him chair of the five-member board in 2001, 2005, 2010, and again this year under a system in which the board rotates its leadership posts every year.

Ebbin became the first openly gay candidate to win election to the Virginia General Assembly when he won his race for a seat in the House of Delegates in 2003 in a district in Alexandria, which is his home base. He won re-election to the seat in 2007.

When a seat in the 30th State Senate district came open in 2011 Ebbin tossed his hat in the ring and won the Democratic primary in a hotly contested, three-candidate race by a three-point margin. He won the general election against a Republican opponent by a margin of 64.4 percent to 35.4 percent.

Political observers note that Ebbin is the only potential candidate for the 8th District congressional seat who represents parts of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax, giving him an advantage in the June primary should he enter the race.

“With the 2014 legislative session just beginning, I am working hard every day for the people of the 30th District,” Ebbin said in a statement released last week. “I am honored that people think I’d make a good congressman, and I will give it the serious consideration it deserves,” he said. “I hope to have more to say about this in the future.”

Ebbin told the Blade on Monday that a report posted on Twitter by Virginia political blogger Ben Tribbett incorrectly claimed Ebbin announced his candidacy for the congressional seat at a Jan. 18 meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

“I don’t know why he tweeted that,” said Ebbin. “I didn’t make an announcement.”

Although Ebbin told the Blade he isn’t ready to announce his decision on whether or not to run, Charlie Conrad, vice chair of elections for LGBT Democrats of Virginia said “the word is out” that Ebbin plans to run for the congressional seat.

“I’m supporting Adam,” he said. “He is very popular and very well respected.”

Fisette, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, had not made a public statement about whether he was considering running for the congressional seat as of early this week.

A spokesperson for the Virginia election board said that if the Democratic Party decides to hold a primary, as expected, rather than a caucus to nominate a candidate for the seat, candidates must file petitions with 1,000 valid signatures by March 27 to gain placement on the June 10 ballot.

Other potential Democratic candidates for the 8th District seat mentioned by political insiders  include Alexandria Mayor William Euille and former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley; Del. Charniele Herring (Alexandria); Del. Patrick Hope (Arlington); Del. K. Robert Krupicka Jr. (Alexandria); Del. Alfonso Lopez (Arlington); Fairfax Board of Supervisors member Jeff McKay; Del. Mark Sickles (Fairfax); and Del. Scott Surovell (Fairfax).

Surovell and Krupicka have sponsored bills in the House of Delegates in support of same-sex marriage rights. Hope has proposed legislation to ban “ex-gay” therapy for minors.

Chesterfield resident Maggie Sacra, the current chair of LGBT Democrats of Virginia, which recently became an official arm of the Virginia Democratic Party, said the organization can no longer endorse candidates in a primary under party rules.

Thus the state’s largest LGBT Democratic group won’t be able to endorse Ebbin or Fisette should they decide to run in the primary. Sacra said the group nevertheless will be “very active” in the primary campaign by reaching out to all of the Democratic candidates to discuss their positions on LGBT issues and inform them of the issues of concern to the LGBT community.

“I think we will have a good group of candidates,” she said. “All are pro-equality.”

She added, “It would be a great thing for the state if we were to get an openly gay congressman,” noting that such a development would be an historic first in the South.

Israel, who lives in Arlington, said the LGBT vote could be a key factor in the primary if a large number of candidates enter the race.

“The biggest question is going to be how many people run and who is able to turn out a plurality of their supporters,” he said. “Given the number of potential candidates considering this race, one candidate with a particularly committed base of support could become a U.S. representative for decades to come.”

In August 2003, Fisette announced he would run against Moran in the 2004 Democratic primary at a time when Moran came under fire for what political observers called a series of widely reported “missteps.” Among other things, fellow Democrats criticized him for suggesting that the Jewish lobby was responsible for persuading President George W. Bush to start the Iraq war.

“Jim deserves credit for his past work, but it’s time to move forward,” the Free Republic blog quoted Fisette as saying at the time. “I’m convinced that there’s an overwhelming number of people looking for a change.”

But less than two weeks later, Fisette changed his mind and withdrew from the race, saying that while he had differences with Moran he agreed with the congressman on most issues and didn’t want to engage in a negative campaign.

“He made the very smart decision not to run,” said Nick Benton, the gay editor and publisher of the Falls Church News-Press and an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights. “It would have been very destructive of his future ambitions to run.” Benton has been a longtime supporter of Moran.

Moran defeated another primary challenger who ran against him in 2004 by a wide margin.

As of early this week, the only candidate to officially declare his candidacy for the 8th District congressional seat was Bruce Shuttleworth, a retired Navy fighter pilot and marketing executive.

“I have roomed with at least two gay midshipmen and I will be the loudest voice in the land for equal rights for all minorities to include our transgender brothers and sisters who remain outside a proper embrace,” he said in a declaration of candidacy statement.

Shuttleworth ran against and lost to Moran by a wide margin in the 2012 Democratic primary.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Christopher Schäffer

    January 23, 2014 at 5:42 am

    Fisette has announced he is not running. Congress is too dysfunctional for him!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Local

Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit

Published

on

Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

Continue Reading

Local

Comings & Goings

Ward named project manager at REACH

Published

on

Adam Ward

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 & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten 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 Adam Ward on his new position as program manager and biostatistician for the newly formed Research Enterprise to Advance a Cure for HIV (REACH) Collaboratory, based at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. This is a multi-institution project recently funded by the National Institutes of Health through the Martin Delaney Collaboratories program, with institutions represented from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Uganda, and the U.K. 

Upon accepting the position, Ward said, “I am humbled to take on this role and to have the opportunity to continue working in the HIV cure field — work that I find so personally meaningful and fulfilling. I genuinely believe that the science this collaboratory will undertake over the next five years will be some of the most impactful in the field, and I am looking forward to supporting it as well as to the progress that will be made. Additionally, community engagement is a key component of this work, so please look for future opportunities to be involved and to learn more.”

Ward began his Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2016 at George Washington University, and worked as a Research Assistant then Research Associate in the laboratory of R. Brad Jones conducting HIV cure research. Ward’s research focused on several areas, including developing new pre-clinical models to test HIV cure strategies, studying how HIV hides in cells of the central nervous system, and investigating drivers of inflammation and associated comorbidities in cohorts of participants living with HIV. 

Ward has worked as a Graduate Student Researcher at North Carolina State University, Department of Molecular Biomedical Science. He was an Honors Village Community Director, North Carolina State University. He has been a contributing author to numerous publications and has done presentations and sessions at conferences around the world.

Ward has his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from North Carolina State University; his master’s degree in Comparative Biomedical Sciences, North Carolina State University; and is slated to receive his Ph.D. in epidemiology from the George Washington University in D.C. 

Congratulations also to Zachary L. Baum on his new position with New York State United Teachers Union (NYSUT) as Regional Political Organizer for Long Island. Baum is a communications and public affairs professional with more than 10 years of experience working in the public and private sectors. He has an extensive track record of delivering results on complex intergovernmental matters regarding environmental policy, housing policy, economic development, food policy, and public health. 

Prior to joining NYSUT, Baum was chief of staff to Brookhaven Council member Jonathan Kornreich. He has worked for Stanton PRM as a senior account executive. Baum also worked as a political organizer for Michael Bloomberg in 2020 and prior to that for the Office of Suffolk County Executive as a Community Affairs Liaison.

Baum earned his bachelor’s degree in political science with distinction from SUNY Stony Brook Universit; and his master’s of public administration with a concentration in public management from the Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College, New York. 

Zach Baum
Continue Reading

Local

Md. sodomy law used in bookstore arrests of gay men still on books

Only one of two separate sodomy laws repealed in 2020

Published

on

Lawmakers in Annapolis, Md., last year struck from a repeal bill the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act, which has been used to prosecute gay men for consensual sex. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a little-noticed development, the Maryland General Assembly agreed to requests by Republican lawmakers to delete one of the state’s two separate sodomy laws from a sodomy law repeal bill that it approved in March of 2020, leading most LGBTQ activists into incorrectly believing the full sodomy law had been repealed.

According to Maryland House of Delegates member David Moon (D-Montgomery County), who introduced the repeal bill in the state House, which approved the bill on Feb. 20, 2020, the Democratic-controlled Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted unanimously to pass an amendment that deleted from the bill a provision calling for the repeal of Maryland’s Criminal Code Section 3-322, which is known as the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act.

The act criminalizes oral sex in all possible circumstances, including between consenting adults.

It states, “A person may not: take the sexual organ of another or of an animal in the person’s mouth; place the person’s sexual organ in the mouth of another or of an animal; or commit another unnatural or perverted sexual practice with another or with an animal.”

The offense of violating the act is listed as a misdemeanor but includes a penalty of up to 10 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both upon conviction of the offense.

During its deliberations in March 2020, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, while deleting the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act from the repeal bill, left in place the provision in the bill that called for repealing Maryland’s criminal Code Section 3-321, which criminalizes “sodomy” between consenting adults as a felony with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.

Supporters of the original repeal bill say the two statutes each criminalize same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults and the repeal of one of them and not the other leaves on the books a statute that stigmatizes LGBTQ people even if the law is not enforced.

Supporters of the original bill also pointed out that separate, existing Maryland laws strictly prohibit acts of cruelty to animals as well as any non-consensual sexual acts, including same-sex rape and sex between adults and juveniles. This meant that repealing the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act would not prevent anyone engaging in sexual assault, sex with minors, or abuse of animals from being arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Among those who supported that assessment in testimony before the committee was Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

But despite these assurances, which were further confirmed at the Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing by Maryland’s Assistant Attorney General Carrie J. Williams, Republican members of the committee, including Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick & Carroll Counties) raised strong objections to repealing any existing statute that might be used to prosecute someone engaging in sexual assault or pedophilia.

Sources familiar with the committee have speculated that Hough’s strong hints that he would hold anyone who voted for the full repeal responsible for an inability to prosecute sexual assault and sex with minors as well as incidents of cruelty to animals may have “spooked” the Democrats on the committee to back the amendment.

Sen. William Smith (D-Montgomery County), who chairs the committee; Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery County), the committee’s vice chair; and committee members Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County) and Sen. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery County) did not respond to requests by the Blade for comment on why they voted for the amendment to remove the Unnatural and Perverted Sexual Practice Act from the repeal bill.

Each of them has been supportive on LGBTQ rights on other legislation that has come before the Maryland General Assembly. Lee, for example, introduced a sodomy law repeal bill several years earlier that failed to pass.

The other members of the committee that voted to remove the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act from the repeal bill included Sens. Ronald Young (D-Frederick County), Charles Sydnor (D-Baltimore City & Baltimore County), Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City), Robert Cassilly (R-Harford County), Chris West (R-Baltimore County), Justin Ready (R-Carroll County), and Michael Hough (R-Frederick & Carroll Counties).

Moon said the full Maryland Senate quickly approved the committee’s amended bill that repealed the sodomy law but did not repeal the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act. He noted the committee’s approval by a unanimous vote came just as the Maryland General Assembly’s 2020 legislative session was coming to an end one month earlier than usual due to restrictions related to the COVID pandemic.

With just one day left before the legislative session was to adjourn for the year on March 18, 2020, Moon said the House of Delegates, which had passed the full repeal version of the bill by a vote of 133 to 5 on Feb. 20, 2020, had a choice of accepting the Senate version or letting the bill die. He said House members decided to approve the Senate bill, with the vote taking place March 18.

“Basically, that change was made in the last day of the pandemic legislative session,” Moon told the Blade. “And so, it was a take it or leave it situation. So, we went ahead and struck the sodomy part out, and here we are,” he said.

He noted that the truncated legislative session did not provide time for the Senate version of the bill to come before a House-Senate conference committee, where supporters of the original bill could have pushed for rejecting the Senate version and sought approval of the House version.

“The next year the Unnatural or Perverted Sex Practice law is being used exactly in the manner we were trying to stop it from being used,” he said, referring to the May 20 raid on Bush River Books & Video store, in which four of the arrested men were charged with Perverted Sexual Practice.

Moon said he plans to introduce another repeal bill at the start of the General Assembly’s legislative session in January 2022 calling for the full repeal of the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act. Supporters of Moon’s original bill in 2020, including the Maryland LGBTQ advocacy group Free State Justice, say they will push hard for passage of Moon’s bill next year.

The 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared state sodomy laws unconstitutional, and other court rulings impacting Maryland made the two Maryland sodomy statutes theoretically unenforceable for consenting adults. But attorneys familiar with the two statutes have said police have made arrests and prosecutors sometimes have attempted to prosecute mostly men, including gay men, charged under the laws in the years following the court rulings.

The most recent known arrests took place on May 20 of this year, when Harford County, Md., Sheriff’s deputies arrested nine men during the raid on the adult Bush River Books & Video store in the town of Abingdon. Four of the men were charged with “Perverted Sexual Practice.” The store is located 25 miles north of Baltimore.

One of the men charged with Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice was also charged with indecent exposure. Another four were charged with indecent exposure and one of the men was charged with solicitation of prostitution.

A friend of one of the men charged with indecent exposure told the Blade his friend was with another adult male inside an enclosed video room with a locked door when Sheriff’s Office deputies opened the door with a key obtained from the store and placed the two men in handcuffs as they were arrested.

The friend and others familiar with the arrests said the arrested men spent the night in jail before they were released in the morning and appeared in court. Several of the cases are scheduled for trial on Aug. 2 in Harford County District Court.

Greg Nevins, an attorney who serves as senior counsel for the national LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal, said lower court rulings that apply to Maryland and other states, in addition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision overturning state sodomy laws, have left it largely up to individual trial court judges to interpret these rulings to determine whether consensual sexual activity under sodomy or indecent exposure laws took place in a “private” or “public” setting.

Most of the court rulings declaring sodomy laws unconstitutional have limited those rulings to consensual, non-commercial sexual activity conducted in a private setting.

But according to Nevin, at least one ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which includes Maryland, had the effect of making the Maryland Unnatural and Perverted Sexual Practice statute unenforceable for consenting adults regardless of whether alleged sexual activity takes place in a private or public place.

Nevin and other attorneys have said reports that some of the arrests at the Bush River Books & Video store in Harford County involving Sheriff’s Deputies opening locked private video rooms, where men allegedly were engaging in sexual activity, should be considered private spaces like a rented hotel room.

The owner or a representative of Bush River Books & Video store has not responded to requests by the Blade for comment.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular