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LGBT supporters remain loyal to Gray

U.S. Attorney says mayor knew about 2010 ‘shadow’ campaign



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

Mayor Vincent Gray has not been charged in the case of the so-called ‘shadow campaign.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Similar to their straight counterparts, many LGBT supporters of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said their commitment to his re-election has not wavered over allegations by the U.S. Attorney on Monday that Gray knew about an illegal scheme to raise more than $660,000 for his 2010 election campaign.

New details about Gray’s alleged knowledge of a so-called “shadow” campaign surfaced at a hearing in U.S. District Court Monday morning in which businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson pleaded guilty to secretly channeling more than $2 million in illegal contributions to federal and local political campaigns.

In a news conference following the court hearing, Ronald Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said someone identified in court documents as “Mayoral Candidate A” was among the recipients of the illegal contributions. Although Machen did not say so directly, it was clear to reporters and court observers that Mayor Vincent Gray was Mayoral Candidate A.

Machen declined to say whether Mayoral Candidate A or other candidates receiving illegal campaign contributions from Thompson were being targeted for prosecution, saying only that the government’s investigation was ongoing.

Gray has not been charged in the case and has repeatedly denied he had any knowledge of illegal actions by Thompson and others associated with the campaign.

“This doesn’t change my level of support for the mayor,” said gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who has served as a volunteer fundraiser and coordinator of the Gray campaign’s outreach to the LGBT community. “In fact, it probably increases it.”

Hudson was among the Gray supporters that questioned Machen’s motive behind the government’s decision to file felony campaign violation charges against Thompson and linking Gray to the fundraising scheme less than a month before the city’s April 1 mayoral primary.

Gray told the Washington Post and at least two local TV news stations that Thompson’s accusations that he knew about the illegal campaign scheme were “lies.”

Noting that Thompson made the accusations as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty on Monday in exchange for a more lenient sentence and a promise to cooperate with prosecutors, Gray said Thompson’s credibility was in doubt.

Thompson, 58, is the former chairman and CEO of a company that had a multi-million dollar city contract to process Medicaid-related services and other health-related services for the D.C. government.

He pleaded guilty on Monday to a federal charge of conspiring to violate federal campaign finance laws and to submit false filings to the IRS. He also pleaded guilty to a D.C. offense of conspiring to violate D.C. campaign finance laws by “defrauding the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Jeff Thompson is a man who’s trying to cling to his freedom and offered allegations that have not been substantiated or repeated by anyone else,” Hudson told the Blade. “And until the U.S. Attorney provides evidence to the contrary, Mayor Gray is entitled to the presumption of innocence, especially when his reputation is far more valuable than an admitted felon.”

Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, another Gray supporter, said he and others in the LGBT community were not condoning illegal campaign practices.

“I believe Thompson should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law as should anyone else found to have knowingly participated in his schemes,” Rosenstein said. “Knowing the mayor and Thompson I am still inclined to believe the mayor. If there is definitive proof the mayor knew what was going on the U.S. Attorney owes it to the citizens of the District to share it now,” he said.

“All I know is that Mayor Gray is a great friend of the LGBT community and denies the allegations,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. “Machen’s news conference and charges against Thompson seem suspiciously timed given the upcoming primary election, which is galling given the paternalistic position the U.S. Attorney is in over the District,” he said.

Rosendall was referring to longstanding complaints by D.C. home rule advocates that the city’s prosecutors are federally appointed rather than elected, as is the case with most other cities and states.

Transgender activist Ruby Corado, founder and director of the LGBT community center Casa Ruby, is among many in the city’s transgender community who view Gray’s support for transgender rights as groundbreaking and among the strongest in the nation for an elected official.

“Whatever happens, the only thing I know is I’m supporting the mayor,” Corado said. “I hope everything goes well for him. Nobody is perfect,” she said. “But I know the LGBT community is doing the right thing by standing with him.”

Lateefah Williams, an attorney and former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, was less certain about the impact of the U.S. Attorney’s actions on the LGBT community as a whole.

“I think the news surrounding Jeffrey Thompson’s guilty plea will have an impact on LGBT voters, just as it will have an impact on all other District voters,” Williams said. “Diehard Gray supporters will probably remain loyal, but those who are on the fence or who respect Gray’s accomplishments but have always been uncomfortable with the shadow campaign allegation, will find it much harder to support him,” she said.

Ronald Machen, U.S. Attorney, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen speaks at news conference about allegations linking Mayor Gray to ‘shadow’ campaign funds in 2010. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

During the news conference, Machen said the federal investigation into campaign finance law violations in D.C. was continuing and that the information released so far amounted to “the tip of the iceberg.”

In charging documents filed in court, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Thompson’s scheme involved making hidden and illegal campaign contributions totaling $1.3 to seven candidates seeking public office in D.C. between 2006 and 2011.

The documents also say Thompson funneled $608,750 between February and May 2008 for a shadow campaign for a U.S. presidential candidate. Last month, news media outlets reported they learned through sources that the presidential candidate was Hillary Clinton. Clinton has so far not commented on the reports, but people familiar with her 2008 presidential campaign have said she had no knowledge of the alleged shadow campaign.

In addition to the 2010 mayoral campaign, in which Gray was the alleged beneficiary, the charging documents say Thompson funded shadow campaigns for a candidate running in the city’s 2006 mayoral election; the 2007 special election for a Ward 4 Council seat; the 2008 election for an at-large Council seat; the 2010 elections for Ward 1 and Ward 6 Council seats; and the 2011 special election for an at-large Council seat.

Machen declined to name the Council candidates that allegedly received Thompson’s illegal contributions or to say whether they were under investigation for having knowledge of the illegal contributions. However, he said in a number of the cases under investigation, the candidate was unaware that the contributions were illegal and would not be a target for prosecution.

According to the charging documents, Thompson “disbursed approximately $140,000 in excessive and unreported corporate contributions” for a City Council candidate running in 2010 in Ward 1, where gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham was running for re-election. The Washington Post identified the candidate as Jeff Smith, one of two candidates challenging Graham in the Democratic primary.

“I have been seriously victimized by the huge illegal donation to my opponent,” Graham said in a statement released on Monday in referring to Thompson’s donation to Smith. “I want to note also that Jeff Smith failed to file his final month campaign report and his final total campaign report, which was very disturbing to me,” Graham said.

Smith couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.


District of Columbia

Activists, policy makers mark Celebrate Bisexual Day in D.C.

BiPlus Organizing US hosted event at HRC



Adrian Shanker, senior advisor for LGBTQI+ health equity in the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, speaks at a Bisexual Awareness Day event at the Human Rights Campaign on Sept. 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Cal Benn)

BiPlus Organizing US on Saturday hosted a Celebrate Bisexual Day event at the Human Rights Campaign.

Fiona Dawson, co-founder of BiPlus Organizing US, and Mélanie Snail, committee member of the organization, emceed the event. HRC Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Rebecca Hershey welcomed attendees. 

Heyshey discussed her journey as a bisexual, mixed race, Jewish woman. Hershey paraphrased Adrienne Maree Brown, stating “change is coming, we are creating change.” 

PFLAG Learning and Inclusion Manager Mackenzie Harte gave a presentation on the history of bisexual identities, defined terms surrounding gender and sexuality and went over statistics of discrimination and health disparities that bisexual individuals face.

Harte’s presentation noted 48 percent of bisexual individuals reported an annual income of less than $30,000, compared to 30 percent of gay men, 39 percent of lesbians and 28 percent of all adults in the U.S. 

Harte went on to say 28 percent of bisexual students report having attempted suicide; and bisexual people have a higher risk of mood disorders, substance abuse and mental illness than their lesbian, gay, or straight cohorts. Bisexual people of all genders face higher rates of sexual assault than those same peers. One reason for these statistics is isolation: 39 percent of bisexual men and 33 percent of bisexual women report not being out to any health care provider, and only 44 percent of bisexual youth report having an adult they could turn to if they were sad. 

Harte also spoke about the Bisexual Manifesto, which the Bay Area Bisexual Network wrote in 1990. 

“The bisexual manifesto very intentionally was not binary,” Harte said.

They said the text works against the stigma and stereotypes that claim bisexuality is confined to “male, female.” 

Tania Israel, a bisexual advocate and psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shared some of her bisexual haikus, which she calls, “bikus.”

Dawson moderated the next panel.

Panelists included Nicole Holmes, a bisexual advocate and public health professional, National Center for Transgender Equality Communications Director Leroy Thomas and NCTE Policy Counsel Kris Tassone. 

The panel talked about how shame and stigma drive the statistics that negatively impact the bisexual community. Another word that came up as a driving force was “intersectionality.” 

Holmes said that when it comes to intersectionality, it’s important to not just “list identities,” but to look deep into “the purpose behind why we are talking about intersectional identities” in the first place.

Adrian Shanker, senior advisor on LGBTQ+ Health Equity for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about health equity for the bisexual community. 

“Striving for health equity remains a core priority. It also remains an unmet dream,” said Shanker. “Queer people have always had to be our own health advocates.” While health equity may not be here yet, Shanker says there is much in the works for the LGBTQ community, bisexuals specifically. 

Shanker cited a National Cancer Institute funding opportunity that invites research proposals to cancer care for sexual and gender minorities, stating bisexual specific proposals are welcome. The impending potential government shutdown may postpone it. 

The Biden-Harris administration is also working to ban so-called conversion therapy at the federal level. Additionally, 988, the national suicide prevention hotline, began a program to offer specialized support for LGBTQ youth and young adults last year. 

Shanker said bisexual people should prioritize preventative screenings for skin cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, regular cervical and anal pap tests, mammograms, prostate exams and colonoscopies. 

“If you have a body part, get it screened,” said Shanker. 

Megan Townsend, senior director of entertainment research and analysis for the GLAAD Media Institute, did a presentation on bisexual representation in the media and opportunities for advancement. 

 “I want to see bi+/pan colors displayed on the White House,” said Dawson. “I want every national LGBTQIA+ organization to be talking about us, to put our concerns front and center.”

The data presented can be found here.

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Flight attendants union endorses Sarah McBride

Del. lawmaker would be first transgender member of Congress



Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride speaks at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware congressional candidate Sarah McBride has earned the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s most prominent flight attendant union.

It’s the second big labor endorsement for McBride after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27’s endorsement. The Association of Flight Attendants praised her for spearheading efforts to bring paid family and medical leave to Delaware, which will take effect in 2026. 

“Sarah’s record in the Delaware Senate shows that she understands how to work collaboratively, build power and make big things happen,” the union’s president, Sara Nelson, wrote in a press release shared exclusively with the Washington Blade. “That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy.”

McBride also announced her support for creating a list of abusive passengers and banning them from flying. Each airline has a list of passengers banned from flying, but airlines don’t share the lists with each other, though Delta Air Lines has asked them, because of “legal and operational challenges,” as a representative for the airline industry trade group Airlines of America told a House committee in September 2021.

“Right now, someone can be violent towards a flight attendant or another passenger and walk directly off of that flight and onto one with a different airline to endanger more people,” an Association of Flight Attendants spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

The Protection from Abusive Passengers Act would put the Transportation Security Administration in charge of building the database of passengers fined or convicted of abuse and has bipartisan support but has sat idly in committee since March. It failed to pass last year, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have charged that the list would disproportionately target people of color and strip and a better step to reducing hostility would be making flights more comfortable. Reports of defiant and unruly passengers have more than doubled between 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2022.

“I thank the Association of Flight Attendants for endorsing our campaign,” McBride wrote in the press release. “It’s important that we recognize and celebrate the symbiotic relationship between strong, unionized workforces and the continued growth of employers here in our state.”

The union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 19 airlines is putting pressure on airlines to grant union demands in contract negotiations. At American Airlines, unionized flight attendants voted to authorize a strike — putting pressure on the airline to accede to its demands. Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines say they are ready to strike but have not voted to authorize one yet. United Airlines flight attendants picketed at 19 airports around the country in August, ratcheting up the pressure. 

The union’s endorsement adds to a growing list of McBride endorsements, including 21 Delaware legislators, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and Delaware Stonewall PAC. McBride, who would be the first openly transgender politician in Congress, has powerful connections in Washington — including with the White House — and is favored to win Delaware’s lone House seat. 

A poll commissioned by HRC shows her leading the pack of three candidates vying for the seat — 44 percent of “likely Democratic voters” told pollster company Change Research, which works with liberal organizations. The poll of 531 likely Delaware Democratic primary voters, though, was conducted only online — meaning those with less familiarity or access to the internet may not have been counted — and Change Research’s methodology for screening likely voters is unclear. The company also did not provide a breakdown of respondents by age, gender, and race, but says it uses an algorithm to make the results representative.  

Nelson said McBride’s time in Delaware’s state Senate shows her prowess in building power and working collaboratively.  

“That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy,” she wrote.

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Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July



(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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