An open discussion of D.C. Council member and mayoral contender David Catania’s status as a gay man surfaced for the first time in a mayoral debate on Wednesday, which is scheduled to be broadcast Sunday morning on WRC-Channel 4 at 11:30 a.m.
Washington Post columnist Colbert King, who served as co-moderator with WRC’s Tom Sherwood, asked Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) whether she would reject the support of a voter who told the Post last month that she could not vote for Catania because he sleeps with men and that is against her religious beliefs.
“There are a lot of reasons not to vote for my colleague, Mr. Catania,” Bowser said. “And none of them have to do with his sexual orientation,” according to a report on the debate by the Post.
When pressed further by King about whether she would want the vote of 75-year-old Hester Campbell, the North Michigan Park resident who told the Post she couldn’t vote for Catania because he’s gay, Bowser said, “I reject that notion that people should be judged on their sexual orientation any differently…I would want Ms. Campbell to think differently.”
Catania, who’s running as an independent, said he tells voters such as Campbell that he believes he can represent them.
“I have had those encounters in my 17 years on the Council, and I would tell her the same thing I have mentioned to others,” the Post quoted Catania as saying. “We are all children of God. It is not up to us to judge each other.”
The Post quoted Schwartz as saying Catania’s sexual orientation should be “off limits” in the campaign.
“If you’re going to be that intolerant of people I don’t want your vote,” Schwartz said.
In expanding on his thought on the question, Catania pointed to D.C.’s long history of equality for all people, including the interracial couple whose challenge of Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage let to a Supreme Court decision overturning that ban.
“When Richard and Mildred Loving decided to get married when they couldn’t get married in the state of Virginia they came to the District of Columbia,” said Catania. “And we were a place that was welcoming for equality. So it is part of our tradition of equality.”
Catania added, “Now I have some enlightened self-interest because I hope to one day marry Bill. But in the meantime I’m very proud of our city and I’m proud of the efforts we’re making toward equality.”
He was referring to his partner, Bill Enright.
Bowser also expanded on her response to King’s question.
“What I have done, Colby, is in my tenure in Ward 4 – I’ve been a leader,” she said. “I’ve stepped up when it has made a difference to speak up on what is right. Not everybody in my ward agreed with my vote on marriage equality. I reject that notion that people should be judged on their sexual orientation any differently.”
Schwartz told the Blade in an interview that she has stood with her LGBT friends during her 40 years in D.C. politics, pushing for equal rights for gays going back to the 1970s.
The Post interviewed Campbell and more than a dozen other D.C. residents as part of a story last month on a mayoral race in which Catania, if elected, would be the first non-Democrat, first white person, and first out gay to serve as a D.C. mayor since the start of the city’s modern day home rule government in 1975.
“I will be candid,” the Post quoted Campbell as saying. “If you’re a man and you’re going to sleep with men, how can you represent me, because I’m a woman of dignity and a woman of integrity – a born again Christian.”
Most of the city’s prominent LGBT activists appear to be dividing their support between Bowser and Catania, with some longtime activists backing Schwartz.
The most recent public opinion polls show Bowser in the lead, with Catania narrowing the gap.