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Marriage overshadows Va. General Assembly session

GOP lawmakers sought ability to defend gay nuptials ban

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Virginia, Norfolk, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
Virginia, Norfolk, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Marriage rights for same-sex couples overshadowed the 2014 Virginia General Assembly that ended on March 8. (Photo courtesy of Casey Hartman)

RICHMOND, Va.–Marriage rights for same-sex couples overshadowed the Virginia General Assembly’s 2014 regular session that ended on March 8.

Attorney General Mark Herring in January announced he would not defend Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. State Dels. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) and Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) subsequently introduced a bill that would have allowed any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so.

The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates last month overwhelmingly approved the measure, but the state Senate Rules Committee on Feb. 24 struck it down by a 12-4 margin. Gov. Terry McAuliffe also denied a request from Marshall, Gilbert and 28 other legislators to appoint a special counsel to defend the marriage amendment.

State Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, announced at the start of the 2014 General Assembly it would not consider proposed resolutions that sought to repeal the marriage amendment until next year. State Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) a few weeks later became the first Republican state lawmaker to back marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“As far as same-sex marriage goes, it does not bother me,” Yost told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview at an Equality Virginia reception in downtown Richmond on Jan. 29 that coincided with the group’s annual Lobby Day. “I don’t think the government should be involved in marriage period — straight or gay. I feel like we have bigger things to worry about.”

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen on Feb. 13 struck down the gay nuptials ban in a case that two same-sex couples from Norfolk and Chesterfield brought against it. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond earlier this week granted a motion from Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union – which filed a separate lawsuit against the marriage amendment last August on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley – to join the case for which oral arguments are tentatively scheduled to begin on May 12.

“She clearly had a view coming in,” former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 during an interview after Allen issued her decision, referring to the quote from Mildred Loving on the 40th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the commonwealth’s interracial marriage ban she used to open it. “We expect judges to look at these things more objectively.”

Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam, who took office in January alongside McAuliffe and Herring, is among those who applauded Allen’s ruling.

“We shouldn’t as a government be telling people who they should and shouldn’t love,” Northam told the Blade during a celebration of Allen’s decision that took place at a gay-owned furniture store in Norfolk on Feb. 14. “In 2014 one should be able to love and marry who they want.”

The 2014 General Assembly otherwise proved a mixed bag for Virginia LGBT rights advocates on a range of issues that include adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to existing anti-discrimination laws.

McAuliffe is expected to sign into law a bill the House approved last week by a 100-vote margin that seeks to repeal Virginia’s sodomy law. An identical measure passed unanimously last month in the state Senate.

The Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee in January struck down a measure introduced by state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax Country) that would have extended second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

State Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) introduced a similar measure in the Virginia House of Delegates that two Republicans – state Dels. Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson) and Tom Rust (R-Fairfax County) – co-sponsored. It died in committee last month.

The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee in January also struck down a bill state Sens. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) introduced that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees. The first executive order that McAuliffe signed upon taking office on Jan. 11 was a ban on discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Ron Villanueva, Virginia, Virginia Beach, Commonwealth of Virginia House of Delegates, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

State Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) introduced a bill that sought to ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the state. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

State Dels. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) introduced bills that sought to ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. Both measures died last month in committee.

“I know how the system works up here and I know it was a tough argument, but I think because I’m a Republican carrying it made a statement,” Villanueva told the Blade during a Jan. 28 interview in his Richmond office. “[I hope to] help persuade that God loves all of us and in the Constitution its written life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all of us should be enjoying the same liberties.”

A bill state Del. Patrick Hope introduced that sought to ban so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in Virginia died last month in a House subcommittee.

“While we fell short of achieving all of our goals, this session has shown that a growing number of legislators are willing to stand on the right side of history in support of equality and fairness,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish. “We will take the momentum we have gained this session to continue our work towards making Virginia a place that is fair and welcoming for all.”

McAuliffe is expected to call for a special legislative session later this month to debate a state budget and his proposed expansion of the commonwealth’s Medicaid program.

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District of Columbia

Inaugural Uptown Pride to take place June 10

Festival to feature drag storytime, makers’ market, DJs

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Logo created by Anthony Dihle (Courtesy of Justin Noble)

A new Pride festival is coming to D.C. 

The inaugural Uptown Pride will be hosted in Sixteenth Street Heights on June 10 with Pride celebrations for Washingtonians of all ages.

The festival, hosted at the intersection of 14th Street, Colorado Avenue and Kennedy Street, NW, will feature a drag storytime, a makers’ market, DJs and more. There will also be a raffle for various prizes, with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services for LGBTQ teens.

The festival will be from 2-7 p.m. and is partnering with local businesses like Moreland’s Tavern, Captain Cookie and Lighthouse Yoga Center for activities and refreshments.

Justin Noble, one of the organizers of the festival, said that the inspiration for the event came out of wanting a Pride experience tailored to the residents of the Sixteenth Street Heights, Petworth and Brightwood neighborhoods.

“It can be a hassle to get to downtown,” Noble said. “There needs to be something in our community that supports LGBTQ+ people and the culture and all of that because we’re everywhere, right? We are everywhere.”

Organizer Max Davis said that the inclusion of children’s events like a drag storytime was purposeful, and helps make the event more accessible to LGBTQ families and youth. 

“Kids I feel are the most important in as far as just showing them, just visibly showing them that you can live out and you can be queer,” Davis said. “There is no more dangerous time than now to be queer, questioning youth … So who better to welcome into the fold than kids who might be questioning their sexuality.”

Davis said that a big part of wanting to bring Pride celebrations uptown was to have a physical representation of support for the LGBTQ community.

“I felt like because there wasn’t anything going on in Sixteenth Street Heights — the clientele that we were serving up at Moreland’s absolutely is supportive, and I never felt that it wasn’t a supportive environment — but if you don’t have something to actively support that I feel that your support is just words,” Davis said. “If our community had someplace to attend even for one day to just be like, ‘Hey, I stand with you,’ … that is something that every community should have available to them to actively support the LGBTQ community.”

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2023 honorees, grand marshals

Assistant Secretary of Health Levine among picks

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Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine and acclaimed longtime D.C. LGBTQ and transgender rights advocate Earline Budd are among nine prominent LGBTQ community leaders named on Wednesday by the Capital Pride Alliance as its 2023 Capital Pride honorees.

Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes D.C.’s annual Capital Pride parade, festival, and related events, announced in a May 24 statement that it will present the honoree awards to each of the recipients at a ceremony scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2, at the Penn Social event and catering hall at 801 E St., N.W.

“The recipients are nominated each year by members of the community,” the Capital Pride statement says. “They represent individuals who and organizations that have advanced the causes of LGBTQ+ rights,” it says.

The statement says Levine was selected for the Capital Pride Paving the Way Award, which “acknowledges an individual or organization that has provided exemplary contributions, support, and/or advocacy that has positively impacted the LGBTQ+ community, and whose leadership has inspired continued progress.”

Levine, who was appointed by President Biden in 2021 as Assistant Secretary of Health, is a longtime pediatrician who also serves as an admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She became the first openly transgender person to hold the admiralty position.

Capital Pride named Earline Budd as recipient of the Capital Pride Super Hero Award, which “recognizes additional significant and important contributions to the LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region.”

The statement announcing the honorees says Levine and Budd will also serve as grand marshals for the June 10 Capital Pride Parade. It says each of the other honorees will serve as parade marshals.

The announcement says the following four people have been named as recipients of the Capital Pride Hero Award:

• Shi-Queeta Lee, the D.C.-based nationally acclaimed drag performer
• Benjamin Rosenbaum, longtime congressional staffer, LGBTQ rights advocate, and LGBTQ Jewish community advocate
• Nancy Canas, president of D.C. Latinx History Project and advocate for the LGBTQ Latinx community
• Abdur-Rahim Briggs, longtime leader of the D.C.-based Project Briggs, which provides philanthropic support for LGBTQ causes.

The following two organizations were named as recipients of the Capital Pride Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that have “demonstrated a significant impact to the LGBTQ+ community at either the local or national level and who helped eliminate barriers for social, personal, or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community:

• Drag Story Hour DMV
• National LGBTQ Task Force

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services, which acknowledges “exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance, its programs, initiatives, or other Pride sponsored activities,” is being given to Brandon Bayton, Jr., a longtime Capital Pride volunteer, consultant, and organ transplant advocate, and LGBTQ rights advocate.

“We are fortunate to have such a vibrant honoree selection process, with so many outstanding individuals who were nominated,” said Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance Board of Directors. “We are very pleased to celebrate these individuals at the 2023 Capital Pride Honors,” Smith said in the CPA statement.

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District of Columbia

Blade names recipients of two summer fellowships

Kravis, Lev-Tov join LGBTQ news team

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Isabelle Kravis and Joel Lev-Tov are the Blade Foundation’s 2023 summer fellows.

The Blade Foundation this week announced the recipients of its 2023 summer fellowship program. 

Isabelle Kravis (she/they) is a senior at American University studying journalism and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She will focus on covering LGBTQ issues in the local D.C. area for 12 weeks starting this week. The fellowship is made possible by a generous donation from the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K event.

“I’ve been reading the Blade since I first moved to D.C. for my freshman year and I’m so excited to be able to contribute to such a historic paper,” Kravis said. “I love covering the LGBTQ community because of the diversity of experiences that each queer person has and the joy that queer people bring to everything they do. I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to be able to cover both the city and community that I love.”

Joel Lev-Tov (they/them) is a senior at the University of Maryland College Park studying journalism. Lev-Tov also serves as president of the Association of LGBTQ Journalists at College Park. Lev-Tov is the sixth recipient of the Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, which honors the co-founder of CAMP Rehoboth. The fellow covers issues of interest to the LGBTQ community in Delaware, also for 12 weeks. The fellowship is funded by donations from the Rehoboth Beach community.

“I’m extremely excited to start reporting about my community for my community,” Lev-Tov said. “The Blade is offering me a special opportunity that I’m very grateful for. I can’t wait to start reporting!”

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, welcomed Kravis and Lev-Tov to work this week.

“We’re all excited to work with Isabelle and Joel this summer,” Naff said. “There’s never been more news to cover and they will add an important, fresh perspective to our work. Thank you to our donors and to the Front Runners for making this program possible.”

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

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