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The LGBT community was divided in the city’s hotly contested Democratic primary in April when Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) finished ahead of Mayor Vincent Gray to capture the Democratic Party nomination for mayor for the Nov. 4 general election.
But virtually all of the city’s prominent LGBT activists agree — regardless of whom they supported in the primary — Mayor Gray’s record and accomplishments on LGBT issues in his more than three-and-a-half years in office are unprecedented and even historic in their breadth and scope.
“For those of us working in the trenches, it is all too easy to focus on the latest flap and forget that Vince is, by the evidence, the best mayor on LGBT issues our city has ever had,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the non-partisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.
Rosendall made that comment when he presented Gray with GLAA’s Distinguished Service Award on April 30.
Gray’s LGBT-related initiatives and actions as mayor are so numerous that his supporters lamented during the primary campaign that people were having a hard time keeping track of them. Among the highlights:
• He directed his Office of GLBT Affairs to embark on a first-of-its-kind LGBT cultural competency or “sensitivity” training program that called for every D.C. government employee to undergo such training to better familiarize them with LGBT-related issues that could surface in their city agency.
• He made numerous appointments of LGBT people to important city government jobs and commissions, including the appointment of transgender advocates Earline Budd and Alexandra Beninda to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.
• In response to concerns raised by transgender rights advocates, Gray directed the city’s Department of Employment Services to launch another first — a transgender employment initiative called Project Empowerment that reaches out to transgender residents in need of job training and related skills.
• The Office of Human Rights, in keeping with Gray’s interest in addressing discrimination faced by the transgender community, put in place a public relations and advertising campaign to promote respect and understanding for trans residents. It’s called the Transgender and Gender Identity Respect Campaign.
• In yet another first for the city, Gray directed the city’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking to require that health insurance companies doing business in the city, including companies providing health coverage for D.C. government employees, cover medical treatment such as hormone therapy for transgender people transitioning from one gender to the other.
• Gray also initiated an LGBTQ Youth Task Force and Bullying Prevention Task Force aimed, among other things, at curtailing bullying targeting LGBT youth. He convened and presided over the first city government sponsored LGBTQ Youth Summit.
• He became the first D.C. mayor to perform a City Hall wedding ceremony for a gay male couple shortly after legislation approved by the City Council giving the mayor and Council members authority to perform marriages took effect.
• In an action that angered some of the city’s conservative clergy, Gray disinvited controversial gospel singer Donnie McClurkin as a performer in a city-sponsored concert in August 2013 at the Martin Luther King Memorial. McClurkin, an outspoken “ex-gay,” has denounced homosexuality as a sin and a sickness. Gray said he was unaware that the city’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities had invited McClurkin to perform and directed the commission to cancel the invitation.
Prior to becoming mayor, Gray was an outspoken supporter of the city’s marriage equality law in his role as City Council Chair when the law came before Council for a vote.