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In reversal, Kameny heir says no ashes for public memorial

Dramatic shift leaves fate of cemetery plot unclear

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Timothy Clark, Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade
Timothy Clark, gay news, gay politics dc

Timothy Clark, who earlier said he would release half of Frank Kameny’s ashes to be interred at Congressional Cemetery, changed his mind and now plans to inter the ashes at an undisclosed location. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Timothy Clark, the man D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny named in his will as heir to his estate, has released a statement through his lawyers saying he has decided to inter Kameny’s ashes at an undisclosed location.

The statement released Feb. 20 by the D.C. law firm Ackerman Brown represents a dramatic change from Clark’s earlier statements, including comments in an interview with the Blade in 2012, that he would release half of the ashes for burial at a memorial site in the city’s historic Congressional Cemetery. He reiterated his intent to inter ashes in D.C. in another Blade interview in July 2013.

“We reached an agreement on that so I’m going to keep the burial plot,” Clark said at that time. “I just have to decide on when I want to have something,” he said in referring to a burial ceremony at Congressional Cemetery.

Clark, 37, Kameny’s housemate and longtime friend, had said in the months following Kameny’s death on Oct. 11, 2011, that he planned to keep some but not all of the ashes for his personal reflection and possible interment elsewhere. Kameny died in his Washington home of natural causes at the age of 86.

“The decision regarding interment of Frank Kameny’s ashes rests solely with Timothy Clark, the Personal Representative of the Estate of Franklin E. Kameny,” the Ackerman Brown statement says.

“Mr. Clark has decided to inter the ashes at an undisclosed location. Mr. Clark asks the community to respect his wishes and his privacy,” the statement says.

Clark’s announcement through his attorneys comes more than two years after the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS) purchased a burial plot for Kameny’s ashes at Congressional Cemetery.

HOBS and some of Kameny’s gay activist friends and supporters who worked with the group to choose the location of the cemetery site said it would become a monument to Kameny’s legacy and a place where people could go to pay their respects to a nationally known figure considered a hero to the LGBT rights cause.

The site they selected is located just behind the gravesite of the late gay rights leader and U.S. Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who, with Kameny’s assistance in 1975, became the first active duty military service member to come out of the closet and challenge the military’s ban on gay service members. Matlovich died in 1987.

A planned ceremony and burial of Kameny’s ashes scheduled for March 2012 was abruptly cancelled at the request of the estate, according to Patrick Crowley, who worked as senior manager of Congressional Cemetery at that time. Lawyers for the Kameny estate wanted HOBS to transfer ownership of the cemetery plot to the estate, Crowley said.

Although HOBS agreed to the transfer, a dispute arose over the terms of an agreement proposed by lawyers for both parties, and negotiations dragged on for nearly two years.

Last July, both sides said a tentative agreement had been reached, raising hopes among Kameny’s friends and admirers that a burial ceremony and the official opening of a Kameny memorial site at Congressional Cemetery would soon take place.

“The estate has always been, and remains willing to work with gay community representatives who knew Frank Kameny in organizing a burial service and appropriate gravesite at which members of the community could pay tribute to Kameny,” said attorney Christopher Brown of Ackerman Brown at that time.

However, no announcement of an agreement emerged since that time. When Ackerman Brown released its statement last week saying Clark decided to inter the ashes at an undisclosed location, neither Ackerman Brown nor HOBS would disclose where things stood with the cemetery plot.

“The estate has no further comment,” said Glen Ackerman, principal partner of Ackerman Brown, in a Feb. 23 email to the Blade.

Matthew Cook, an attorney with the national law firm Fried Frank, which is representing HOBS, sent the Blade a separate statement from HOBS that made no mention of whether ownership of the cemetery plot had been transferred to the estate or whether HOBS would seek to set up another memorial site for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery.

“Dr. Kameny was a true gay rights pioneer and local legend,” the HOBS statement says. “HOBS was proud to work with and for Dr. Kameny during the last years of his life. Of course, as the executor of the Kameny Estate, it is Mr. Clark’s decision where to inter Dr. Kameny’s ashes.”

Veteran D.C. gay activist Paul Kuntzler, who worked with Kameny on gay rights activities beginning in 1962, and San Francisco gay activist Michael Bedwell, a friend of Kameny’s, each told the Blade that the LGBT community should now take immediate steps to arrange for another memorial site for Kameny at Congressional Cemetery, even though the ashes won’t be interred there.

The four local activists and Kameny friends who initiated plans to inter Kameny’s ashes at Congressional Cemetery in early 2012 – Marvin Carter, CEO of HOBS and LGBT rights advocates Charles Francis, Bob Witeck and Rick Rosendall – have declined to comment on Clark’s decision to inter the ashes at another location.

They also declined to comment on what, if anything, they may do to set up a Kameny memorial site at the cemetery now that the ashes are out of the picture.

“Frank Kameny’s monumental legacy may be best remembered by laws he helped overturn, the hateful policies he defeated and the causes of equal rights he unselfishly advanced for the LGBT community,” said Witeck in an email statement on Sunday.

The relationship between the four men and the Kameny estate became strained in 2012 shortly after they announced plans for a Congressional Cemetery memorial site and burial when Clark stated through his attorneys that Clark was never given the courtesy of being consulted about those plans.

Carter, however, has said Clark was informed about the plans and invited to participate in the planned ceremony.

The relationship between the four men and the estate became further strained when the estate filed individual lawsuits against each of them, charging that they took without permission items from Kameny’s house that belonged to the estate shortly after Kameny’s death. The men disputed the allegations, saying Clark along with Clark’s lawyer at the time, Michele Zavos, gave them permission to enter the house and take an inventory of Kameny’s papers and other possessions to arrange for their safe keeping.

The lawsuits, which were filed by Ackerman Brown on Clark’s behalf, were later dropped after undisclosed settlements were reached in three of the cases. The court dismissed the case against Rosendall on grounds that no cause was shown to justify the complaint, according to Rosendall’s attorney, Mindy Daniels.

Upon learning of Clark’s decision to inter the ashes in an undisclosed location, Bedwell expressed concern that Clark, who among other things, inherited Kameny’s house that the estate sold in 2012 for $725,000, was not doing his part to promote Kameny’s legacy.

“Frank’s trust and affection made Mr. Clark a wealthy man,” Bedwell said. “His sacrifices helped make him, like all LGBTs, a freer man,” Bedwell said.

“Now that Mr. Clark has disappeared with Frank’s ashes along with any hopes of his repaying Frank’s extraordinary generous friendship by sharing them for a memorial, I trust that others will create one without them,” he said.

Clark didn’t respond to a phone message from the Blade this week.

In a 2012 interview with the Blade, Clark described himself as a private person who shunned the spotlight, saying he intentionally remained in the background during the 19 years he lived in Kameny’s house.

Frank Kameny, gay news, gay politics dc

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Also remaining unclear this week is what will become of a headstone and separate grave marker that HOBS and the activists working with the group installed at the cemetery site before the dispute with the estate surfaced.

Francis, the founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged several years before Kameny’s death to have Kameny’s voluminous collection of letters and gay rights documents donated to the Library of Congress, obtained the headstone from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Francis and others working on the memorial site said the military headstone would recognize Kameny’s role as a World War II combat veteran. The stone is identical to gravestones used for soldiers and veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and is issued free of charge to all deceased military veterans.

HOBS purchased a separate footstone inscribed with the slogan Kameny coined in the 1960s, “Gay is Good.” Carter said HOBS paid for the footstone along with the cemetery plot through funds donated by members of the LGBT community.

HOBS had both stones installed at the gravesite in March 2012 in anticipation that plans for burial of the ashes would move forward as planned.

Cemetery officials later removed the headstone and the “Gay is Good” marker and placed them in storage, saying it was inappropriate for them to remain in place while the ownership of the gravesite was in dispute.

Bedwell, who has played a role in managing the Matlovich gravesite, said he owns a separate plot next to the Matlovich site that he offered to donate for the Kameny burial shortly after Kameny died. HOBS instead chose to buy a plot a short distance away. Now, Bedwell said he is open to donating the plot he owns for a new Kameny memorial site at the cemetery.

“Neither [Clark’s] permission or Frank’s ashes are required for anyone to create a memorial to Frank anywhere,” Bedwell said in a comment to the Blade in October. “Millions more visit Lincoln’s Memorial in Washington every year than his actual gravesite in Springfield, Ill.,” he said.

“I’m confident many would be eager to contribute to the purchase of another marker bearing Frank’s name,” Bedwell said, in the event that the Veterans Administration stone or the “Gay is Good” stone won’t be released by the estate.

Ackerman, while repeating his firm’s written statement that the Kameny estate would have no further comment on Clark’s decision to inter the ashes in a private location, said the estate would welcome inquiries “by anyone” interested in establishing a public memorial for Kameny.

“All they have to do is call us,” he said.

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Delaware

Blade Foundation awards 7th Steve Elkins journalism fellowship

Joe Reberkenny will cover Delaware LGBTQ news all summer

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Joseph Reberkenny

The Blade Foundation this week announced the recipient of its 2024 Steve Elkins Memorial Fellowship in Journalism is Joseph Reberkenny, a recent graduate of American University.

He will cover issues of interest to Delaware’s LGBTQ community for 12 weeks this summer. The fellowship is named in honor of Steve Elkins, a journalist and co-founder of the CAMP Rehoboth LGBT community center. Elkins served as editor of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth for many years as well as executive director of the center before his death in March of 2018.

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, welcomed Reberkenny and introduced him to the Rehoboth Beach community at a recent event there. 

“We’re all excited to work with Joseph during this important election year in which Delaware is poised to make history by electing the nation’s first transgender congressperson and only the fourth Black woman U.S. Senator,” Naff said.

Reberkenny is the seventh recipient of the Elkins fellowship, which is funded by community donations at the Blade Foundation’s annual fundraiser in Rehoboth Beach. This year’s event was held May 17 at the Blue Moon and included a generous sponsorship from Realtor Justin Noble and a keynote address by Sarah McBride, a candidate for U.S. House.

“I am honored to work for the Blade and to contribute to its rich history in supporting the LGBTQ community,” Reberkenny said. “I am excited to cover Delaware’s politics, and can’t wait to amplify voices that deserve to be heard.” 

“The CAMP Rehoboth community is thrilled to know that the Washington Blade continues to support a student intern in memory of Steve Elkins,” said Kim Leisey, Ph.D., executive director of CAMP Rehoboth. 

For more information on the fellowship program or to donate, visit bladefoundation.org.

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Maryland

Turning around sex trafficking: One year after Safe Harbor in Maryland

TurnAround Inc. working to rescue youth, trans girls from exploitation

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The staff at TurnAround Inc. in Baltimore.

In 2023, the law in Maryland dictated the following: If a child was discovered to be sex trafficked during a sting operation, they were to be arrested, handcuffed, and then incarcerated as a “child prostitute.” One survivor testified to Maryland lawmakers that after being trafficked throughout College Park from ages 12 to 15, it was their ‘rescue’ by law enforcement that was the most traumatizing part of their experience.

In 40 states and in federal law, the sex trafficking of minors was already understood to be a crime committed against children, and not a crime committed by children. When Gov. Wes Moore signed the Safe Harbor law on May 16th of last year, prohibiting the criminal prosecution of sex-trafficked minors, he brought Maryland out of a legal dark age.

How do things look in Maryland a year later? The Washington Blade got in touch with TurnAround Inc., headquartered in Baltimore, to find out. TurnAround is Maryland’s first provider of comprehensive services to survivors of sexual trafficking, Baltimore’s rape crisis center, and a support center for victims of intimate partner violence and sexual violence.

Perhaps the most striking thing about TurnAround is how large of an operation it is — how large of an operation it needs to be. The organization fielded more than 10,000 calls on their hotline in 2022, conducted almost 4,000 counseling sessions, and placed 337 clients in safe shelter: nearly one for every day of the year. But the staff at TurnAround is relieved to see these numbers so high. During the pandemic, there was a steep decrease in reports of sex trafficking. 

“[COVID] had a very chilling effect on the number of trafficking survivors that were getting access to services,” said Amanda Rodriguez, executive director of TurnAround. Many of the avenues through which cases were referred to TurnAround simply shut down. The hospitals were inundated with COVID cases, and so weren’t referring anyone; the schools were closed down, and so weren’t referring anyone; and State Attorney Marilyn Mosby stopped prosecuting low-level crimes, which had the unintended consequence of limiting the opportunities law enforcement had to identify youth at risk of trafficking.

In 2020, TurnAround moved into a new office in downtown Baltimore, and it is cavernous — half the floor of a skyscraper. When you walk in, you could mistake the headquarters for a dentist’s office for how calmly the front desk attendant answers the phone. A few lines here and there give away the seriousness of their work: “Is it OK for us to leave a voicemail?” Not every caller’s phone is a safe place.

The office is flanked by a hallway of therapists on one side of the building, who focus on the inner lives of their clients, and a hallway of advocates on the other side, who focus on their outer lives: support in court, government benefits, direct outreach on the streets of Baltimore. At the center are a host of services one would think spread across the whole of the city: a computer center, a clothing donation center, storage for the goods and products needed to survive while in shelter, a kitchen for group meals, and a place to wash and dry your clothes. But the most sobering part of the office is the play center full of toys, for the children that TurnAround serves. “We have clients as young as three years old,” said Jean Henningsen, senior director of strategic initiatives. Some of these children come in as the dependents of adult survivors, but they are sometimes the victims of sexual violence themselves.

“When we were creating Safe Harbor, we looked to see how many kids had been arrested and charged by law enforcement in every county in the state,” Amanda said. “Baltimore City had the highest number at the time. This has changed since then, and is actually getting much better.” The majority of these trafficked kids were trans girls living in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore — a situation that would surprise many Baltimore residents. Charles Village has a reputation for being one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. It is the neighborhood of Johns Hopkins University, which has, in an effort to assuage the concerned parents of its undergraduates, stationed security officers on many of the surrounding street corners. Despite criticism, the university recently partnered with the Baltimore Police Department to create its own police force, and has started recruiting and training officers as of this spring.

“It’s historically been a safer neighborhood for the LGBTQ community in general,” Amanda said. “I don’t know what spurred more nefarious individuals coming in and exploiting people, other than opportunity. Traffickers are just such master manipulators. They will figure out for anybody what their vulnerability is.” But these nefarious individuals are not part of some transnational crime organization. They are sometimes trans women themselves, trafficking these girls to serve their own needs in the home. Often rejected by their families and in search of community,  trans girls find this community among other trans women, and then get manipulated into sexual service.

The procedure for dealing with suspected child sex trafficking in Maryland begins with what are called “Regional Navigators,” a role established by the Child Sex Trafficking Screening and Services Act of 2019. Law enforcement agents and local departments of Social Services will notify the county’s Regional Navigator of a suspected trafficking case, and then this Regional Navigator will put together a Multi-Disciplinary Team, or MDT. The MDT consists of all agents and departments that are involved in or have some stake in the case, including Child Protective Services, Juvenile Services, law enforcement, therapists, and schools. These stakeholders will compare notes on what the youth has told them, since they will often have provided different agents and departments with competing descriptions of what’s going on. 

While the MDT procedure is highly effective for inter-departmental coordination on a given case, Stephanie Gonzalez, the Acting Regional Navigator for Howard County, explained that the system has some way to go when it comes to LGBTQ youth. “When we get referrals in general, a lot of times, it’s not mentioned how they identify,” she said. As a consequence, their data on how many LGBTQ youth are being trafficked isn’t always accurate, and these youth sometimes aren’t being handled in ways consonant with their sexual or gender identity. And even when these youth are appropriately identified, they aren’t always able to access the appropriate resources.

“We had a transgender female come to us from another state, and she had been trafficked,” Stephanie said. “We had her in a hotel while we looked for other housing options. We could not find trans-friendly housing options.” The women’s shelters they approached didn’t have the requisite training or resources. They would ask insensitive and irrelevant questions about any surgeries the girl had undergone as part of her transition, or require that she be isolated from other women for their safety. “Why are they trying to make it seem like I’m going to hurt someone,” she would ask.

But that situation is changing. TurnAround has partnered with the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County to open up a safe house with the resources needed to support any child survivor of sex trafficking. “It’s built!” Jean said. “TurnAround will be staffing it and running it 24/7. Right now there are no children in the facility. We’re still waiting on the final licensing paperwork from the state.”

The project is expensive, with an estimated running cost of $1.5 million each year. TurnAround has partnered with Femi Ayanbadejo, a former Super Bowl winner with the Baltimore Ravens, to help coordinate fundraising. Ayanbadejo advocates for TurnAround with a deep enthusiasm—hearing him talk on the work they do, it could easily be a field-side interview in the final quarter of a game. “If we can reach five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty thousand people that we wouldn’t have with [the Blade’s] reach, maybe there’s one or two foundations that would give five, ten, a hundred, a thousand, maybe a million dollars. Who knows?”

To learn more about TurnAround’s work, visit their website at turnaroundinc.org. If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence, TurnAround has offices in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County. All three offices can be reached via 410-377-8111.

CJ Higgins is a postdoctoral fellow with the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

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District of Columbia

12 percent of D.C. homeless adults identify as LGBTQ

Annual count shows increase over 2023

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The number of LGBTQ homeless in D.C. is growing by double digits.

In a development not widely reported, the 2024 annual Point-In-Time (PIT) Count of homeless people in the District of Columbia conducted in January shows that 527 or 12 percent of the homeless adults counted identified as “part of the of the LGBTQ+ community based on their responses to questions about their sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to a report released on May 13 by the D.C. Department of Human Services.

The 195-page report, which was prepared by the Metropolitan Washington Council  of Governments, or COG, includes separate counts of homeless people in the entire D.C. metropolitan area, including the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs. A statement released by the D.C. DHS says the D.C. count was conducted for the city  by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, a local nonprofit group that provides services to homeless people.

The count of D.C. homeless people shows that a greater number of what the report calls Transition Age Youth between the ages of 18 and 24 — 28 percent — identified as LGBTQ, but it doesn’t provide the specific number that the 28 percent comprises.

“As in past counts, Transition Age Youth (ages 18-24) were more likely than older adults experiencing homelessness to identify as LGBTQ+,” the report says, “To wit, 34 percent of unaccompanied youth and eight percent of parenting youth (or 28 percent of all 18-to-year-olds) identified as LGBTQ+ compared to estimates of around nine percent of youth in the District at large,” according to the report.

The report says the total number of homeless people counted in D.C during the one-day count conducted on Jan. 24, was 5,616, with the total number of homeless adults coming to 4,391 based on the 12 percent figure said to comprise LGBTQ adults. It says the count was conducted by a team of trained counters who visited homeless shelters and places on the streets and other locations where homeless people are known to reside and congregate.

This year’s D.C. count showed an overall 14 percent increase in the number of homeless people compared to 2023. This year’s count of 527 LGBTQ homeless people marks an increase over the 349 LGBTQ homeless people counted in D.C. in 2023 and 347 LGBTQ counted in 2022.

This year’s report also says that for LGBTQ+ youth in the District, there are at least 53 transitional housing units and a rehousing program that serves 20 individuals at a time. Although the report doesn’t identify the LGBTQ youth housing facilities by name, they most likely are operated by the local LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL and the Wanda Alston Foundation, which also provides housing services for LGBTQ homeless youth.

SMYAL spokesperson Hancie Stokes said SMYAL currently operates residential facilities that accommodate 55 homeless LGBTQ youth.  

“In Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as nationwide, a key contributing factor to youth experiencing homelessness was conflict with a parent, guardian, or foster parent,” the report states.  

In addition, the report mentions that D.C. opened its first shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ adults in 2022 that serves up to 40 individuals. It says that the shelter, which D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser initiated, was filled to capacity on the day the count was conducted.

The report states that the count conducted in Arlington shows that 4 percent of the homeless identified as LGBTQ and 1.2 percent identified as transgender.

Like other jurisdictions, including D.C., the Arlington count showed that 63 percent of all homeless people counted identified as male and 36 percent identified as female.

The full 2024 Point-In-Time Count report of homeless people in the D.C. metro area can be accessed here.

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