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Carol Schwartz for mayor, ‘intolerant of intolerance’

Candidate’s daughter, daughter-in-law on why Mom is best choice for city

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Carol Schwartz, gay news, Washington Blade
Carol Schwartz, gay news, Washington Blade

Carol Schwartz learned the harsh lessons of discrimination growing up Jewish in West Texas. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

By STEPHANIE SCHWARTZ & JACKIE BRYKS

One of my proudest moments occurred when my mother, Carol Schwartz, won the National Capital Area Leadership Award from the Human Rights Campaign in 2002. In her acceptance speech, my mom told a story I had never heard. In high school and college, she had two friends who were gay. A few years after graduating, both committed suicide. It’s rare that my mother doesn’t share what’s on her mind, but I guess in this case, her friendships with these two men and their endings had weighed on her mind, silently until then.

I think my mother’s early experience with discrimination made her particularly empathetic to those who face it. Though nothing like many LGBT youth or other minorities endure, she did face anti-Semitism while growing up in West Texas. During the only snow day of her childhood, she got out of school early and a group went to a friend’s house. But the mother wouldn’t allow a Jewish person in her home so she stood outside in the snow for hours, waiting for the others. This incident of prejudice was not the first or the last—and they scarred. In addition, her only sibling Johnny, 18 months older, had intellectual disabilities, and she had to protect him from taunts and ridicule. That, plus the racism she observed in that place and time, made her “intolerant of intolerance” — a phrase Mom uses. I am sure that feeling has fueled her work in public and community service, starting as a special education teacher.

It is fortunate that in the last decade many people have joined the LGBT cause. But Carol Schwartz was there early on, fighting for our rights 40 years ago. When she was on the D.C. Board of Education in the mid-1970s, she pushed through the law that forbade employment discrimination against DCPS teachers and other personnel based on sexual orientation.

During her four terms on the D.C. Council, that commitment continued. She introduced the law that prohibited the harassment of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. She provided additional funding for the Office of Human Rights. She spoke out against the effort to exempt transgender people from certain protections under the D.C. Human Rights Act. She was instrumental in pushing the domestic partnership law—the strongest in the country—and had she been on the Council in 2009, would have voted for same-sex marriage. She was an active proponent of and a contributor to needle exchange programs and co-sponsored medical marijuana legislation, and lobbied Congress to stop the hold-up of both.

She also protected workers by putting forth the strongest Whistleblowers Protection Law in the country, which the federal government replicated, and made D.C. the second jurisdiction in the country to give sick and safe leave to workers who did not have that human benefit—and lost her Council seat because of it.

What someone chooses to do outside their role in elected office is also revealing. My Mom has chosen to lend her leadership skills to a host of volunteer community service organizations. To name just a couple, she was a member of the board of the Safe Haven Outreach Ministry, a service provider for low-income and homeless adults, who are substance abusers living with HIV/AIDS. And she was elected to be a 17-year member of the board of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, including during the worst years of the AIDS crisis, and was elected its vice president.

Her work, both elected and volunteer, earned her Best Straight Ally three times from Blade editors and readers as well as the Blade’s Local Female Hero.

One of my mom’s proudest moments was when she walked me down the aisle as I married my spouse Jackie in October of 2012 in New York. Years before, I had been engaged to a man. Soon after my broken engagement I became involved with a woman, then a man, then a woman again on my journey to where I belonged. But through it all, there was my mom, always supporting me. That support wasn’t a surprise. She had already been a member of PFLAG as a friend for decades before she knew she would qualify in every category.

As her daughter I have gotten the unique perspective on relationships she’s formed. Friends can’t have a birthday without getting an off-key birthday song on their voicemail. She looks after numerous seniors. And like many, she’s lost too many friends to AIDS, but there she was saying goodbye during their last moments, lying in bed with them, holding them. The faces of those friends are still displayed in photos in her home.

A good gay friend of hers often asks, “Do you ever spend time with people who aren’t gay?” “Yes,” she answers, “When I have to.”

She’s been a good role model. I have tried to follow her lead in my own career — working in a group home for people with cerebral palsy, serving as criminal defense attorney for Legal Aid, and advocating on behalf of victims of child abuse as a Children’s Services attorney for NYC in the Bronx.

Her empathy helps her build bridges. One of the reasons my Mom stayed a Republican all those years was because she was better able to lobby Congress on behalf of D.C. When a member of Congress put forth a rider that banned gay and lesbian adoptions, she and activist Carl Schmid were able to get an appointment. In that meeting, she spoke about her LGBT friends who had adopted children and the vibrant and loving families that exist for these kids who barely had hope for one — and cried. Later that day, the rider was withdrawn. This is what D.C. needs — someone who can be tough when called for but is always compassionate and unifying.

As D.C. is economically booming, it’s too easy to forget those who are left out. What we need now is a strong caretaker who has proven she can take care of business and people, and who will also continue the fight for LGBT — and voting — rights. I know of no better leader—or person—than my mom to be your mayor.

Stephanie Schwartz, Democrat

 

Carol Schwartz, gay news, Washington Blade

Longtime LGBT ally Carol Schwartz at Gay Pride Day in 1986. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

Proud of my mother in law

 

Soon after meeting my now wife, I made the charged pilgrimage from my home in New York for the first meeting with her mother, Carol Schwartz. You know the deal, everybody on their best behavior trying to make a good impression. Carol seemed to like me a lot, but I can say for certain that she blew me away. All I knew going into that first meeting was that Carol was some sort of local D.C. politician, a Republican no less. This meeting took place more than six years ago — a time during which the national Republican Party was less than welcoming to gays and lesbians. So let me be frank: As a lifelong gay rights advocate, I had some misgivings, apprehension even. But the reality upended all my preconceptions (a life lesson against pigeonholing people if I ever saw one).

Because what I found was the most progressive, most welcoming, most gay-positive person I had ever met. And these many years later, after marrying Carol’s daughter, Stephanie, I have been proud to learn — and not just from the family — that Carol, being Carol, used her estimable energies over decades to transform this progressive instinct into concrete policies supporting the LGBT community.

I was also proud that when the Republican Party continued to drift further and further to the right on social issues — notably on women’s health and LGBT rights — Carol, though usually loyal to a fault, decided to leave the party and register as an Independent. To me, that label suits her to a tee.

Jackie Bryks, Democrat

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Doug Levitt

    September 24, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    What a beautifully rendered piece by my big sister Stephanie and another by her wife, Jackie in support of my my mom's DC mayoral bid. I couldn't be prouder of all!!

  2. Thomas Metzger

    September 27, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Stephanie Schwartz is re-writing history with her opinion article. No one questions her mother’s historical support of the LGBT community. But during D.C.’s last big fight for our rights, Carol Schwartz was NOT a supporter of marriage equality. She wasn’t a member of the Council at that point, but she certainly had opportunities to publicly express her support for marriage equality and she didn’t. In fact, at that time, she publicly said LGBT marriage rights were a bridge too far for her. Furthermore, she publicly suggested that it was unfair for the LGBT community to criticize her lack of support when it mattered, because she had been there for us in the past.

    Carol Schwartz owes a public explanation about how she got it so completely wrong regarding our marriage rights. And frankly she owes LGBT citizens in D.C. an apology for not offering support at a time, when our rights weren’t certain.

    That she was so out of sync on LGBT rights, at a time when there would have been no cost to her to offer her support, makes me think she cannot be trusted to lead our city. It’s fine to honor her for when she did make the right decisions about supporting our community. But she should continue her retirement.

  3. Adrian Salsgiver

    September 28, 2014 at 4:34 am

    Nobody at the Washington Home will be voting for Carol or anybody else. Carol visits her friends there, and the DC BoEE will promise to send representatives to register the votes of our seniors, but then not show up and tell you if you don't like it to get a lawyer. http://thewashingtonhome.org/

  4. David Prescott

    October 9, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Why waste your time on this drivel about a proven loser. She is clearly running only to spite David Catania. I have lost any respect I might have once had for her.

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Opinions

Biden’s empty political theater on LGBTQ equality

President is a nice man who lacks the passion to fight

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Joe Biden, gay news, Washington Blade
President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Shortly before Joe Biden was inaugurated, LGBTQ Nation leaked a conference call between mainstream LGBTQ advocates and the president-elect in which he backed off repeated, forcible campaign promises to make passage of the Equality Act a top priority during his administration’s first 100 days.

I wrote an article criticizing him for reneging on his pledge. The Los Angeles Blade picked up my piece as an op-ed, and it went viral. I got a tremendous amount of feedback, much of it negative, more of it counseling patience, but now that a year has passed, let’s take a look at how things worked out.

In the first days of his presidency, Biden did vital work with pro-LGBTQ executive orders — redirecting the federal bureaucracy, which had become overtly homo/transphobic under Trump, and working to fix transgender military policy — but he never pushed for the Equality Act, which would have finally offered LGBTQ people status as free people in our own nation, protected by law from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, education, etc.

Without the Act, his executive orders won’t be worth the paper they’re written on when the next Republican president takes office.

Not only did President Biden fail to spend political capital to make the Act a top priority in his first 100 days, he never made it a priority of any kind.

Beltway insiders tell me the president did nothing behind the scenes to honor the pledge he made repeatedly to LGBTQ people in exchange for our votes. He did nothing publicly either. No national speeches. No fireside chats. No appeals to the better angels of the American people. He just stopped talking about the Equality Act, like if he never mentioned it again, we’d forget he promised to prioritize it.

The House passed the Act again this year, but it stalled in the face of Senate filibuster rules, which require 60 out of 100 votes for most legislation to pass. Progressive Democrats have been calling for ending or changing the filibuster since the day Biden took office, but not until last week did he announce support for changes, which brings us to the second half of today’s grievance.

In recent days, pressure has been intensifying on President Biden to lead on passing meaningful protections to counter strict new state laws that Republicans have been enacting to make voting more difficult, especially for Black voters.

Two federal laws proposed by Democrats, — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — would protect voter rights by (among other things) creating national standards for mail-in voting and restoring stripped-out elements of the Voting Rights Act. Republicans know the only way they can stay in power in many states is to suppress votes, especially the votes of Black people and other people of color. Republican senators fiercely oppose voter protection and will filibuster.

President Biden traveled to Atlanta last week to make a speech about supporting voter protection. Finally, after nearly a year in office, he indicated he might support changing the filibuster custom. The nation yawned. Black voters blinked. LGBTQ voters sighed in dismay.

A number of influential Black political activists in Georgia snubbed Biden’s speech, saying in advance they would not bother attending an event they called a “waste of time.” Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams was notably absent, which she and Biden both claimed was due to a scheduling conflict, but Georgia political insiders say she was sending the president a powerful message: Get serious. Take action. Stop with meaningless political theater, especially on my turf, where I’ve been doing the kind of real work you won’t do.

Obviously, the 50/50 Dem/Rep split in the Senate is not the president’s fault. Nor is he responsible for the recalcitrance of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They have each refused to consider filibuster reform, and without their votes it can’t happen.

But does Biden even want filibuster change?

He has consistently served up weak tea on the issue, calling himself an “institutionalist” and an “incrementalist,” which Democratic leaders have taken to mean he either doesn’t support overhauling Senate rules, or that he won’t get tough on Democratic senators who vote against overhauls.

If Biden has tried even half-heartedly to strong-arm Manchin and Sinema, he has not done so in public. Beltway insiders say he hasn’t done anything, just like he hasn’t prioritized the Equality Act.

Meanwhile, while the Democratic Party led by Joe Biden waffles and drifts, the Republicans maintain tight party discipline and look set to take the House back this year. They will continue to push agendas cementing themselves in power, putting democracy itself in grave danger, and making life for minorities increasingly unequal, painful, and difficult.

We don’t care about your institutions, Joe. We don’t value Senate customs and traditions, which mean nothing to us beyond what they can or can’t accomplish. We care about action. We demand results. You promised to deliver, and you’re failing us. Now you choose to go to Atlanta and say some pretty words? Nobody wants pretty words, Joe. You can keep them.

Look, we know your heart is in the right place, but we want your muscle to be in the right place. We want you to take charge, to LEAD, to exercise some of the awesome power of your office.

We expect you to play to win, to twist arms, to name and shame, to do whatever it takes to keep the promises you made to us when you needed our votes.

You need to get serious, Mr. President. If you don’t start kicking ass and taking names, don’t count on us to vote for you again. I mean that. There’s a REASON you’re dropping precipitously in the polls. It’s us, man. It’s Democratic members of minorities fed up with your milquetoast, do-nothing, business-as-usual approach to crises we see as EXISTENTIAL. While Republican rank-and-file are telling pollsters they believe armed violence against the government may be desirable, and while they’re demonizing Black people, immigrants, and queer people, you’re acting like everything is relatively fine.

It’s not.

We voted for a champion, but we got you instead, a very nice man who evidently lacks the gonads to fight for us. Please turn that around. Please get real. Please get tough. Please start fighting to win.

Today would be an excellent day to start keeping your promises.

James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and a frequent columnist for the Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

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Opinions

Support the arts: See ‘Our Town’ at Shakespeare Theatre

In-the-round production features diverse, stellar cast

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When we finally had the chance to go to live theater again, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) opened its doors with the pre-Broadway production of “Once Upon a One More Time” with Britney Spears’ music. It was a risk Simon Godwin, STC’s artistic director, took and it succeeded. Seats filled beyond expectations with many who had never been to an STC production before.

Now it’s hoped many of those new theatergoers will come back to see the classic play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. It will be at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) Harman Hall, Feb. 17-March 20. Many of those new audience members could find it a memorable and deeply thought-provoking night in the theater. 

The play is being directed by the talented D.C. resident Alan Paul, associate artistic director of the STC. Paul is a Helen Hayes award-winning director of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and has numerous Hayes nominations for productions, including “Comedy of Errors”; Studio Theatre 2ndStage “Silence! The Musical”; and “Man of La Mancha.” 

“Our Town” is Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play and its various productions over the years imbued audiences with a wonderful shared sense of humanity, something we are in desperate need of in today’s world. 

The play tells the story of the fictional American small town of Grover’s Corners between 1901 and 1913. It’s told through the everyday lives of the people of the town. Through them and what some might see as their generally typical lives, we are led to understand some universal truths about life and death, love, and community. 

In looking at the cast Paul chose, I realized all the ones I knew were from our own community. When I asked him about this he told me, “When I decided to direct ‘Our Town,’ the only way to do it would be to use the riches of talent who live in Washington, D.C. I saw many people out of work during the pandemic — actors and freelance artists were hit the most — so when we decided to do this play, I wanted to get the best actors I could find and found them here and knew I wanted to showcase them.” Turns out the great talent in our city is very diverse. The cast is white, Black, Latino, Asian and includes four who, along with Paul, are part of the LGBTQ community — Holly Twyford, Tom Story, Sarah C. Marshall, and Christopher Michael Richardson, all brilliantly talented and known to the community from their previous roles in various theaters around the DMV. The rest of the talented cast includes: Felicia Curry, Elliot Dash, Natascia Diaz, Josh Decker, Eric Hissom, Hudson Koonce, Jake Loewenthal, Tommy Nelson, Chinna Palmer, Maisie Ann Posner, Suzanne Richard, Kimberly Schraf, Craig Wallace, Summer Wei and Travis Xavier. 

“Our Town” is introduced and narrated by the stage manager (Holly Twyford), who welcomes the audience to the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., early on a May morning in 1901. The play then follows the characters for 12 years through their everyday lives. After the stage manager’s introduction, the activities of a typical day begin. Howie Newsome (Christopher Michael Richardson), the milkman, and Joe Crowell, Jr. (Hudson Koonce), the paperboy, make their delivery rounds. Dr. Gibbs (Eric Hissom) returns from delivering a set of twins at one of the homes in town. Mrs. Gibbs (Natascia Diaz) and Mrs. Webb (Felicia Curry) make breakfast, send their children off to school, and meet in their gardens to gossip. 

What should make this show particularly exciting is for the first time at the Harman a play will be done in-the-round. The stage will be extended out into the theater and the audience will be seated around it with some seats actually on the stage. Some cast members may actually be in the audience and speak from their seats helping to bring the audience into the action. 

Paul also assembled a superb artistic team for this production including among others; Scenic Designer Wilson Chin, Lighting Designer Yi Zhao, Composer Michael John LaChiusa and Costume Designer Sarafina Bush.

The Shakespeare theatre will abide by all CDC and DC guidelines in place at the time to ensure the safety and health of its staff, actors, and patrons.

Supporting the arts is something we all should do; going to the theater is something all of us can enjoy. I have high hopes for a great night at the theater with “Our Town.” Tickets can be purchased online.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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