February 4, 2014 at 7:30 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Anti-gay consultant working for Gray campaign
Bob King, National Organization for Marriage, NOM, gay news, Washington Blade

Vincent Gray’s campaign manager says Robert King is ‘not a political adviser’ to the campaign. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who was paid by an anti-gay group in 2010 to work on the unsuccessful effort to overturn D.C.’s same-sex marriage law in a voter referendum is working for Mayor Vincent Gray’s re-election campaign as a get-out-the-vote consultant aimed at senior citizens.

Chuck Thies, Gray’s campaign manager, said he hired Robert “Bob” King to assist with the effort to transport senior citizens to the polls on the day of the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

“Bob is not a political adviser to this campaign,” Thies told the Blade. “He has no influence whatsoever on public policy, internal policy, or strategy — nothing — zero,” said Thies.

Instead, King, who has had ties to the city’s senior citizen community for more than 30 years, will organize logistics to transport mostly low-income seniors to the polls by bus on Election Day, Thies said.

King’s role as a paid consultant in 2010 for the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, surfaced last April when he emerged as an early supporter of the mayoral campaign of D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4). The Bowser campaign at the time listed King as a member of the host committee for the campaign’s kick-off celebration and fundraiser.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, King said he’s been a longtime friend of the Bowser family and decided to support Bowser for mayor before Gray announced he was running for a second term, believing Bowser was the best candidate at that time.

However, he said the Bowser campaign never responded to a proposal he submitted last spring to do get-out-the vote work targeting senior citizens for her campaign. So after Gray announced his candidacy in December and Gray supporters approached him to organize Gray’s senior citizen outreach effort he decided to join the Gray campaign, King said.

“I looked around and I said the lowering crime rate, the improvement in the schools, the bond ratings – and I thought he had done a great job in advancing Mayor Williams and Mayor Fenty’s blueprint” for the city were factors that prompted him to switch his support to Gray, King said.

The Gray campaign’s Jan. 31 report filed with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance shows that the campaign paid King $2,500 on Jan. 8 for his services during the campaign’s first reporting period.
King told the Blade last April, at the time he was supporting Bowser, that he has never taken a public position for or against the city’s same-sex marriage law. He said he was retained as a consultant by the National Organization for Marriage to coordinate a campaign to place the marriage law on the ballot in a referendum.

“My position was to give the people the right to vote on the issue,” he said. “My personal view is not the issue. The issue was democracy and whether the people should be given the right to vote.”

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said at the time that King and others who clearly opposed marriage equality for same-sex couples have sought to “hide behind the ‘let the people vote mantra’ in their efforts to kill same-sex marriage laws in D.C. and elsewhere.

“The fact is that no other people’s rights are put to a plebiscite,” Rosendall said.

Thies noted that Gray is a strong supporter of marriage equality and LGBT rights and has taken heat from clergy members and many residents – including black senior citizens – for his outspoken advocacy for gay marriage.

“And so when it comes to Mayor Gray’s position on same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues, I don’t think anyone can question his commitment and his dedication to equal rights,” Thies said.

According to Thies, King told him he now accepts the city’s marriage equality law as the “law of the land.”

“I talked to him before I hired him,” said Thies. “I said Bob, I have a problem with this and you need to address this. And he said that’s the past. I accept the law and that is the status quo now.”

King reiterated that on Tuesday, saying he’s interested in meeting with representatives of the LGBT community to open the door to working together on future projects. He said he’s also doing senior citizen outreach on behalf of the re-election campaigns of D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5).

“They are marriage equality supporters and I am working with them,” he said.

Thies said King’s efforts to arrange transportation for senior citizens to the polls will be open to everyone regardless of who they are supporting for mayor.

“We will hire buses and bring them to the senior centers and anyone can board them, including someone wearing a sticker that belongs to one of our opponents,” he said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Mr. Gray’s record speaks for itself.

    • So does the record of that bigot, Bob King. Still seething with prejudice, the best he can grunt out is that he “accepts” the law? But would obviously lead an effort to overturn if he ever got a chance. I doubt the campaign would hire a segregationist and say “it’s okay because the bigot isn’t setting policy.” It’s not okay.

    • Under him DC has a surplus your point is?

  • More dubious back-room deal-making from Gray. Or maybe it’s another Gray shadow campaign move. Like I said, Gray is DC’s Chris Christie.

    Hey, given the way Gray has politicized DC’s police department (MPD), maybe Robert King will be put in charge of disclosing the status of all the violent anti-LGBT hate crimes Gray’s MPD has not closed with an arrest.

    After all, getting away with political gay-bashing in Ward 5 and citywide is something King knows a lot about.

  • Why Would Gray do this? White voters and Gays already want him out hoping to get a white mayor. And It doesn't matter what any person of color does or say. They won't trust them anyway and vice versa and most Black residents in this city supported marriage equality. Regardless Gray will win anyway this city is still predominately Black to the disgust of many other residents. OH WELL! Just dump him like Muriel did regardless the white voters still won't support you. They want one of their own to make HISTORY. Ummmm not this year.

  • Why Would Gray do this? White voters and Gays already want him out hoping to get a white mayor. And It doesn’t matter what any person of color does or say. They won’t trust them anyway and vice versa and most Black residents in this city supported marriage equality. Regardless Gray will win anyway this city is still predominately Black to the disgust of many other residents. OH WELL! Just dump him like Muriel did regardless the white voters still won’t support you. They want one of their own to make HISTORY. Ummmm not this year.

  • I am not a fan of Bob King. But as long as his only role is to help people to get to the polls I am ok with that. Clearly there is no question of where Vince Gray stands on te issue of LGBT rights. I would like to hear Bob King say, “I was wrong and I now believe that the civil and human rights of a minority should never be put to a vote”. It is time for him to make that statement along with the one he made on accepting the law on marriage-equality.

  • To the writer of this article. Good journalistic piece. It is fair to ask questions of the candidates for mayor.

    Mr. Lou would you be willing to ask Mr. Orang why he says to support LGBT citizens in DC yet in private he tells the black church leaders the opposite. The record needs to be clear on this.

    To mayor gray or his campaign manager, why aassocaite with someone intolerant like Mr. King.

    Finally the sacred cow and taboo of questions, ask Ms. Bowser why she sent her long time companion Tamara Watkins away. Tamara was working in Bethesda for Amgen now it appears she is in Chicago. Convenient.

    Why is ms. Bowser embarrassed of her relationship? She claims to support our community yet she sends away her partner.

    These are all fair questions.

  • I know Bob King and I’ve worked with him for a decade here in DC politics. Although Bob was hired for the NOM campaign as a paid consultant, he’s never make me feel oppressed in any way. Actually Bob has shown much respect to me personally and politically. I know Bob is not a hater and is on board with Marriage equality. As a political firm sometimes you must take on clients in order to eat and pay your bills and it has little to do with personal feelings

  • Really...you should be ashamed of yourself Peter

    Really, Peter? You’re going to try and explain this appalling lack of judgement by saying…you’re okay with this? Have matters gotten that bad on the non-shadow campaign that you’re willing to overlook what $60,000 pieces of silver to Mr. King bought? We’ve been through too much to have you simply say, oh, it’s okay.

    No, Peter, it’s not okay. It will never be okay to align yourself with someone that was the mouthpiece for NOM, no matter what their role is in the campaign you support. Stop selling us out. Stand up to that sort of hate, constantly. How stupid do you think the LGBT community is here…you’re not a fan of King, but you’ll still work with him? Chuck Thies spoke to King. Great, that makes it all the worse. He knew King’s record and still hired him.

    We don’t need self appointed people like you, Peter, describing themselves as activists saying you represent the LGBT community. You don’t. You should look forward to the spirited questions that will be asked of you, Chuck Thies, and the Mayor at the Stein forum on the 6th about King’s participation in your campaign. We will loudly demand an explanation and wouldn’t shut up till we have one.

    And Barrie Daneker, your last sentence is just beyond reason. No one needs to take on repugnant clients to eat or pay bills. King was trying to deny us the right to marry…and somehow that’s okay because he has to eat and pay bills?

    All of you should be ashamed of yourselves.

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