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Spirited discussion at Pride town hall

Organizers consider return to park setting for 2015

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town hall, Baltimore Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
town hall, Baltimore Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

A majority of those surveyed were unhappy with this year’s Baltimore Pride celebration. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There was some heat and a bit of a storm on the night of July 23 but we’re not referring to the weather outside the Waxter Center, the new home of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB).  It was billed as a town hall meeting to provide feedback regarding the Pride celebration of June 14-15, but the meeting morphed into a sometimes heated discussion of the broader issues regarding the GLCCB’s past and current lack of accountability and relevancy.

In an open letter to the LGBT community, the Center’s interim executive director Kelly Neel wrote, noting the urgency, that the community is disengaging with the Center and vice versa,  “I am here to ask for your help in bringing it back. It will take time, patience, and a lot of community elbow grease, but I’m confident that we can learn from our past mistakes and revive the bond between Baltimore’s LGBTQ community and its community center.”

Neel sent out email invitations to the Center’s mailing list and through social media inviting people to the town hall and to complete an online feedback survey. About 60 people showed up to listen to the Pride coordinators and GLCCB board members and to voice their concerns. The survey extends to Aug. 15.

Neel said there was insufficient time to adequately plan for Pride 2014 given the Center’s move to a new building and the departure of the previous executive director, Matt Thorn.

“We got started late in the game,” explained Neel. Dates had to shift, and a new “footprint” to the Mt. Royal area required permits and added security. The decision to move the events was made before Neel assumed her duties.

Expenses for Pride 2104 exceeded $114,000 while revenue was close to $178,000 resulting in a $64,000 profit, which is a modest total as Pride is the main fundraising activity for the Center.

Based on the survey results, the GLCCB is considering a return to Druid Hill Park for the Sunday celebration, which would add a family-friendly element to the event. It will also try to deal with concerns about the beer garden and the drag stage, among other tweaks suggested via the survey. Of the 61 responses received at the time of the meeting, 58 percent were either unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with Pride this year.

The meeting was opened up to comments from the audience. Initially, some issues with Pride were brought up, such as why there was no open drinking permitted.

Then comments came about a range of topics, including the Center’s outreach to minorities, a perceived lack of transparency, the sale in 2013 of its long-held building, the need for face-to-face communication with the community rather than electronic dispatches, renewed charges of racism and classism in board selections, that transgender people are not made to feel welcome, the Center’s failure to respond to invitations to faith-based events, and a lack of a specified mission or purpose.

Mike McCarthy, board president since 2012, and others stated that the board has never intended to exclude anyone. Since the meeting, a board application was made available at GLCCB.org.

Neel and the board members thanked the audience and promised to take this feedback seriously. “We heard what needs to be heard—not just Pride but the Center,” Neel said following the meeting. “Changes are needed. It starts here.”

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Virginia

Elected officials turn out for annual Equality NoVa Ice Cream Social

Northern Virginia LGBTQ group stresses ‘political awareness, education’

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Freddie Lutz, on right, and his husband Johnny Cervantes host the annual ice cream social. (Photo courtesy of Lutz)

Four LGBTQ supportive members of the Virginia General Assembly and two candidates running for seats on the Arlington County Board were among more than 100 people who turned out on Sunday, Sept. 24, for the LGBTQ organization Equality NoVa’s annual Ice Cream Social.

The event was held at the Arlington, Va. home of Freddie Lutz, owner of the Arlington gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar, and Lutz’s husband, Johnny Cervantes.

Daniel Hays, president of Equality NoVa, told those attending the event in introductory remarks that Equality NoVa, which recently changed its name from the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), was founded in 1981 and is the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ organization in Virginia.

In an announcement in April the group said the name change came after it had taken on for some time the activities and representation of the now-defunct LGBTQ groups in Alexandria and Fairfax counties and had expanded its operations to cover most if not all the regions known as Northern Virginia.

Hays noted that the group is a nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates for public office but organizes educational and political awareness events and awareness campaigns on issues impacting LGBTQ people related to statewide and local government agencies and officials.

The elected officials attending the event were Virginia House of Delegates members Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria & Fairfax), Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-Alexandria & Arlington), and Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax).

Also attending was Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties.

Joining the state lawmakers attending the Equality NoVa social were Arlington County Board candidates Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham and Arlington County School Board candidate Miranda Turner.

Many of those attending the event said they were rooting for the re-election of Herring, Bennett-Parker, Watts, and Favola in the upcoming Virginia elections in November. All members and candidates for the General Assembly will be on the ballot in an election that political observers say could decide which party controls both houses of the state legislature.

Currently, Democrats control the 40-member Virginia Senate by a margin of 22-18 seats. Republicans currently control the House of Delegates by a margin of 51 to 46 seats, with three vacancies in the 100-member House.

With Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) putting in place through executive action public school policies that LGBTQ activists consider hostile and discriminatory for transgender students, LGBTQ activists are hopeful that a Democratic takeover of the House of Delegates would result in a reversal of Youngkin’s school policy.

Some of the activists attending the Equality NoVa event said they were fearful that a Republican takeover of the state Senate and if Republicans retain control of the House of Delegates could result in the General Assembly approving the type of anti-LGBTQ legislation passed in Florida and other states.

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Virginia

Anti-transgender heckler interrupts Danica Roem during debate

Trans lawmaker is running for the Va. state Senate

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Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An anti-transgender heckler interrupted Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Sept. 28 during a debate with her Republican opponent for the state Senate.

The woman heckled Roem during the Prince William Committee of 100-organized debate between her and Bill Woolf that took place at Metz Middle School in Manassas. 

“Thank you for reminding me why I won three elections in this district in Prince William County, which is the most diverse county in all of Virginia and the 10th most nationally where we welcome everyone because of who they are, not despite it, no matter what you look like, where you come from how you worship, if you do, or who you love because you should be able to thrive here because of who you are, never despite it,” said Roem.

Audience members applauded Roem after she responded to the heckler who was eventually removed from the auditorium.

Roem in 2017 defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall, a vocal LGBTQ rights opponent who co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved 11 years earlier. Roem subsequently became the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature in the U.S.

Roem in 2019 became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election. Roem in May 2022 announced she is running to represent the newly redistricted Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Woolf during the Sept. 28 debate did not say whether he would support the repeal of the marriage amendment. Woolf also reiterated his support of a bill that would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.

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Virginia

Virginia Beach high school students stage walkouts to support transgender rights

City’s school board approved policy to out trans students to parents

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Transgender flags (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)

Students at five Virginia Beach high schools on Friday staged walkouts in support of transgender rights.

The walkout is in response to the Virginia Beach School Board potentially approving policy 5-31, which the Pride Liberation Project says will require schools to out trans students to their parents.

Students have been organizing walkouts across the state since Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year announced new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students.

“Students like me aren’t going to be able to talk to our teachers if we’re constantly worried about our school officials calling home to forcibly out us,” AJ, a trans Kellam High School Student, told the Pride Liberation Project.

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