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Anti-gay consultant working for Gray campaign

Former NOM official King hired to transport senior citizens to polls

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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.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Sally Hawkins

    February 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Mr. Gray’s record speaks for itself.

    • uhhuhh

      February 4, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      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.

    • Chris

      February 5, 2014 at 3:57 am

      Under him DC has a surplus your point is?

  2. brian

    February 4, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    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.

  3. Efrem Capers

    February 5, 2014 at 9:13 am

    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.

  4. Chris

    February 5, 2014 at 4:14 am

    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.

  5. Peter Rosenstein

    February 5, 2014 at 11:04 am

    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.

  6. David Gershanik

    February 6, 2014 at 3:49 am

    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.

  7. Barrie Daneker

    February 6, 2014 at 11:11 am

    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

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

    February 6, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    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.

  9. Larry Moon Jr.

    March 30, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    wow!

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In plea deal, D.C. trans woman’s killers could be free in 3 years

Two in 2016 killing of Dee Dee Dodds guilty of voluntary manslaughter

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Deeniquia Dodds, gay news, Washington Blade
Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds was killed on July 4, 2016. (Photo via Facebook)

A D.C. LGBTQ anti-violence group will be submitting a community impact statement for a D.C. Superior Court judge scheduled to sentence two men on Dec. 10 for the July 4, 2016, shooting death of transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds in a case D.C. police listed as a hate crime.

Stephania Mahdi, chair of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community’s Anti-Violence Project, told the Washington Blade the project has been in contact with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C., which is prosecuting the case against the two defendants set to be sentenced this week, to arrange for the submission of a statement on the impact the murder of Dodds has had on the community.

The impact statement would also apply to the sentencing of two other men charged in the Dodds murder case who are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 20.

The Dec. 10 sentencing for Jolonta Little, 30, and Monte T. Johnson, 25, was set to take place a little over two months after Little and Johnson pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to a single count of voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.

In exchange for the guilty plea for voluntary manslaughter, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the charge of first-degree murder while armed originally brought against the two men. The plea agreement also called for dropping additional charges against them in connection with the Dodds murder, including robbery while armed, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

In addition, the plea agreement includes a promise by prosecutors to ask D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee, who is presiding over the case, to issue a sentence of eight years in prison for both men. Under the D.C. criminal code, a conviction on a voluntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Johnson has been held without bond for five years and three months since his arrest in the Dodds case in September 2016. Little has been held without bond since his arrest for the Dodds murder in February 2017. Courthouse observers say that judges almost always give defendants credit for time served prior to their sentencing, a development that would likely result in the two men being released in about three years.

The plea deal for the two men came two and a half years after a D.C. Superior Court jury became deadlocked and could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charges against Johnson and Little following a month-long trial, prompting Judge Lee to declare a mistrial on March 6, 2019.

The two other men charged in Dodds’ murder, Shareem Hall, 27, and his brother, Cyheme Hall, 25, accepted a separate plea bargain offer by prosecutors shortly before the start of the 2019 trial in which they pled guilty to second-degree murder. Both testified at Johnson and Little’s the trial as government witnesses.

In dramatic testimony, Cyheme Hall told the jury that it was Johnson who fatally shot Dodds in the neck at point blank range after he said she grabbed the barrel of Johnson’s handgun as Johnson and Hall attempted to rob her on Division Ave., N.E., near where she lived. Hall testified that the plan among the four men to rob Dodds did not include the intent to kill her.

In his testimony, Hall said that on the day of Dodd’s murder, he and the other three men made plans to commit armed robberies for cash in areas of D.C. where trans women, some of whom were sex workers, congregated. He testified that the four men got into a car driven by Little and searched the streets for victims they didn’t expect to offer resistance.

D.C. police and the U.S. Attorney’s office initially designated the murder charge against Little and Johnson as an anti-trans hate crime offense based on findings by homicide detectives that the men were targeting trans women for armed robberies. But during Johnson and Little’s trial, Judge Lee dismissed the hate crime designation at the request of defense attorneys on grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support a hate crime designation.

At the request of prosecutors, Judge Lee scheduled a second trial for Johnson and Little on the murder charge for Feb. 25, 2020. But court records show the trial date was postponed to June 22, 2020, and postponed several more times – to Jan 11, 2021, and later to Feb. 17, 2022, due to COVID-related restrictions before the plea bargain offer was agreed to in September of this year.  The public court records do not show why the trial was postponed the first few times prior to the start of COVID restrictions on court proceedings.

Legal observers have said long delays in trials, especially murder trials, often make it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain a conviction because memories of key witnesses sometimes become faulty several years after a crime was committed.

“The D.C. Anti-Violence Project is disappointed to hear about the unfortunate proceedings in the case to bring justice for Dee Dee Dodds,” Mahdi, the Anti-Violence Project’s chair, told the Blade in a statement.

“A plea bargain from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter as well as a reduction of years in sentencing from 30 to 8 communicates not only a miscarriage of justice, but a message of penalization for victims who attempt to protect themselves during a violent assault,” Mahdi said. “The continual impact of reducing the culpability of perpetrators who target members of specifically identified communities sends a malicious message to criminals that certain groups of people are easier targets with lenient consequences,” she said.

“As a result of this pattern, the D.C. community has failed to defend the life and civil rights of Dee Dee Dodds and leaves criminally targeted LGBTQ+ community and other cultural identity communities critically undervalued by stewards of justice in the nation’s capital,” Mahdi concluded.  

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has declined to disclose the reason why prosecutors decided to offer Johnson and Little the plea bargain deal rather than petition the court for a second trial for the two men on the first-degree murder charge.

Attorneys familiar with cases like this, where a jury becomes deadlocked, have said prosecutors sometimes decide to offer a plea deal rather than go to trial again out of concern that another jury could find a defendant not guilty on all charges.

During the trial, defense attorneys told the jury that the Hall brothers were habitual liars and there were inconsistencies in their testimony. They argued that the Halls’ motives were aimed strictly at saying what prosecutors wanted them to say so they could get off with a lighter sentence.

The two prosecutors participating in the trial disputed those claims, arguing that government witnesses provided strong evidence that Johnson and Little should be found guilty of first-degree murder and other related charges.

Before the jury announced it was irreconcilably deadlocked on the murder charges, the jury announced it found Little not guilty of seven separate counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and found Johnson not guilty of five counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence.

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Howard County activists and allies hit back at censorship, hate

More than 100 people attended ‘We ARE the People’ rally

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(Photo by Bob Ford)

A diverse crowd of 100 to 200 folks gathered at the Columbia Lakefront on Saturday to attend a rally to push back against censorship in the county’s public schools as well as homophobia and transphobia emanating from a group of conservative parents.

The rally called “We ARE the People” was organized in response to the comments and actions by members of a Maryland-based conservative group “We the People 2” that among other things are anti-masks, anti-vaccinations and are opposed to teaching racial history in the schools. They also oppose two books that are in Howard County Public Schools library shelves: “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy.”

Speakers at a We the People 2 rally last month at an Elkridge warehouse condemned the books, which contain LGBTQ characters, as sexually explicit. The group later filed police reports against the Board of Education alleging the books constitute pornography with “graphic sexual content and materials being used and disseminated in public schools,” according to the group’s press release.  A flier announcing this action used the loaded terminology, “We must not allow our children to be abused and victimized.”

Among the speakers at the Elkridge rally was Republican Gordana Schifanelli who is running for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Daniel Cox. Another speaker, George Johnson, a teacher from Baltimore City, was heard on a video of the event saying, “We’re doing God’s work because Marxism, homosexuality and transgenderism is the devil.”

In response, the pro-LGBTQ rally in Columbia announced the following:

We are taking a stance against hate in the community as we raise our voices in support of equity in our schools. Attacks on teachers and school staff have prompted us to stand united and drown out the noise.

In addition, We ARE the People states:

We stand for LGBTQ+ students and educational professionals

Teaching accurate history to our students

Supporting equitable practices in our schools

Providing students with relevant LGBTQ+ media through their school libraries

The two-hour rally, which was attended by several county council members, featured speakers representing a wide swath of community, educational, religious and political organizations. They included: Community Allies of Rainbow Youth (CARY), Black Lives Activists of Columbia (BLAC), Absolutely Dragulous, Howard County Schools, PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County, IndivisibleHoCoMd, Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC), HoCo Pride, Progressive Democrats of Howard County, and the Columbia United Christian Church.

Many of the speakers denounced the censorship of materials that are needed by many LGBTQ students. Genderqueer and non-binary students, they point out, are most vulnerable and need affirming literature to help with their development and self-acceptance. The speakers also decried hate speech, which has surfaced again, as well as the opposition to teaching history as it relates to race.

Others argued that the community must not sit back and take it from extremist groups.

“You are all defenders,” said Cynthia Fikes, president of the Columbia Democratic Club, in a fiery speech. “But to succeed a strong defense also needs a strong offense.”

The two books in question were recently the center of controversy in the Fairfax County (Va.) school system. The books were removed in September from the shelves of the high schools pending a comprehensive review following opposition from a parent at a school board meeting. It should be noted that both books were previous winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which each year recognize “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”  

The board established two committees consisting of parents, staff and students to assess the content of the books and make recommendations to the assistant superintendent of instructional services who would make the final determination.

One committee found that “Lawn Boy” includes themes that “are affirming for students” with marginalized identities. “There is no pedophilia in the book,” the committee added. The other committee found that “Gender Queer” depicts “difficulties non-binary and asexual individuals may face.” The committee concluded that “the book neither depicts nor describes pedophilia.” The books were restored to the shelves.

“As this backlash against LGTBQ+ literature demonstrates, we must be ready to stand up and defend the progress we have made,” said Jennifer Mallo, member of the Howard County Board of Education, expressing her own point of view. “We must ensure our elected officials understand and share our values and will fight for our marginalized students.”

The enthusiastic crowd was clearly pleased with the event.

“Today’s rally was meant to inspire our community to take action,” said Chris Hefty, who was the lead organizer of the rally and the emcee. “Action that protects our youth. Action that protects our educators and admins. This action comes in the form of advocacy, communication with elected officials so they know your voice, and through well informed voting to ensure those who represent us are those we know will support us. We shared a message of love, acceptance, and warmth.”

Hefty adds, “The unity we facilitated through this rally was a sight to behold. As the lead organizer I couldn’t have been more pleased! In the future we will be sure to better meet the needs of all our community members. We thank all those in our community for their support and feedback and look forward to accomplishing great things together moving forward.”

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

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 Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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