December 31, 2014 at 11:00 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Top 10 local stories of 2014

It was a year dominated by election news, from D.C.’s odd April primary and prolonged general election campaign to Maryland’s shocking gubernatorial upset. A look back at 2014’s top 10 local news stories.


#10 Wilson High principal comes out, contract terminated


Fall Reception, Vincent Gray, Pete Cahall, DC Center for the LGBT Community, gay news, Washington Blade

Pete Cahall, on right, with Mayor Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

Less than a week after their principal came out as gay, hundreds of students from D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson High School and supporters from other schools and the community turned out on the school grounds on June 9 for a counter protest against members of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, who assembled a block away from the school.

Fewer than 20 Westboro protesters made the trip from their homes in Kansas to a street corner next to Wilson High to denounce the school’s decision to host an LGBT Pride event. At the school’s Pride event on June 4, Principal Pete Cahall disclosed he is gay, drawing cheers from the students and supportive write-ups in newspapers across the country.

The students supported Cahall’s request that they not directly confront the Westboro protesters and held their counter rally in front of the school’s main entrance a block away.

Despite the national media attention to Cahall’s announcement, the school district did not renew his contract for 2015 due to low test scores at the school.


#9 D.C. requires insurers to cover gender reassignment 


Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mayor Vincent Gray issued a directive in February requiring health insurance companies doing business in the city to cover gender reassignment treatment, including reassignment surgery, as part of their health plans.

Gray said the city’s department of insurance had the authority under existing law to require insurers to provide coverage for hormone treatment, gender reassignment surgery, and other forms of treatment as “medically necessary procedures” for transgender people seeking to transition from one gender to another.

“Transgender individuals have historically been denied coverage for certain medically necessary health-care procedures,” Gray said in a statement. “This has resulted in a denial of benefits for some individuals because their gender identity or expression is different from their assigned sex at birth.” He said his directive would end that denial.


#8 McAuliffe takes office in Va., bans anti-LGBT bias

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office on Jan. 11, 2014. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

On the day he took the oath of office, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Jan. 11, 2014, signed an executive order that bans discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Previous Democratic governors in Virginia have issued executive orders banning discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation. But McAuliffe became the first to extend the ban to cover transgender employees.

“My administration is committed to keeping Virginia open and welcoming to all who call our commonwealth home,” said McAuliffe after signing the directive. “Executive Order Number 1 sets the tone for an administration that will not accept discrimination in any form, and one that will work tirelessly to ensure all Virginians have equal opportunity in the workplace, no matter their backgrounds, race, religion, or whom they love.”


#7 Two trans women murdered in Baltimore


The unsolved murder of one transgender women of color in Baltimore in June and another in July left the city’s trans residents on edge and prompted Police Commissioner Anthony Batts to meet several times with representatives of the transgender community to discuss the killings.

Police on July 16 found the body of Mia Henderson, 26, in an alley off a street near Lake Ashburton in Northwest Baltimore. Authorities said she died of “severe trauma.”

Henderson’s murder came six weeks after police found transgender woman Kandy Hall stabbed to death in a field near a post office in the 1400 block of Fillmore Street. Police said both cases remain unsolved.

Henderson’s brother is Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Reggie bullock.

“A lot of black trans women are very nervous,” said Meredith Moise, an ordained minister of color in Baltimore. “The community is extremely on edge.”


#6 D.C. Council bans ‘conversion’ therapy 


conversion therapy, gay news, Washington Blade

Supporters and opponents of a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in D.C. debated the measure on June 27. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 2 to give final approval to a bill that bans so-called “conversion therapy” that seeks to change minors under the age of 18 from gay to straight.

The Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Act of 2014 makes D.C. the third jurisdiction in the country after California and New Jersey to ban the therapy for minors on grounds that mental health experts have shown it to be harmful and dangerous for those who undergo such therapy.

“Conversion therapy has been denounced by every mainstream medical and mental health association, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement.

Like all laws adopted by D.C., the conversion therapy measure was undergoing a 30 legislative day review by Congress that was expected to completed in January or early February if no member of Congress takes steps to block the bill.


#5 Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry dies


D.C. Council member and former Mayor Marion Barry, who was praised as the nation’s most LGBT supportive big city mayor in the 1980s and 1990s before he alienated LGBT activists by opposing the city’s marriage equality law in 2009, died Nov. 23 at the age of 78.

LGBT activists had mixed views over whether Barry’s alliance with anti-gay ministers to oppose the same-sex marriage law overshadowed or negated his years of support for LGBT equality since the 1970s.

But LGBT activists who knew Barry since he first became involved in D.C. politics in the early 1970s as an elected school board member through his earlier years on the City Council and four terms as mayor describe him as a leading figure in support of the LGBT rights movement.

Marion Barry, gay news, Washington Blade

Marion Barry died at age 78. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


#4 Md. lawmakers approve trans rights bill


Transgender Rights Bill, Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, Maryland, Annapolis, Martin O'Malley, gay news, Washington Blade

The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley on May 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bill banning discrimination against transgender people in Maryland cleared its final hurdle on Feb. 27 when the state’s House of Delegates voted 82-57 to approve the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014.

“It took eight years, and a great deal of tenacity, perseverance, patience and skill, but today the Maryland transgender community can celebrate its equality, and feel like full partners in the LGBT community,” said Dana Beyer, executive director of the statewide group Gender Rights Maryland.

“Maryland joins with 17 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico in providing comprehensive LGBT equality,” Beyer said.

Similar to an existing law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, the transgender measure covers the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.


#3 Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Virginia

Carol Schall, Mary Townley, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia

Carol Schall and Mary Townley talk with reporters outside the John Marshall Courts Building in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 6, 2014, after they renewed their marriage vows. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In an unexpected development, the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 6 refused to take cases seeking to uphold laws banning same-sex marriage in Virginia and four other states, clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in Virginia that same day.

With Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and state Attorney General Mark Herring strong supporters of marriage equality, the Supreme Court’s action also resulted in Virginia’s immediate recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Same-sex couples from all over the state descended on their local courthouses to obtain marriage licenses, with some getting married on the spot.

LGBT advocates in the state hailed the development as an historic breakthrough in LGBT equality not only for the Commonwealth of Virginia but for the South.


#2 Mizeur falls short in Md.; Hogan stuns Brown

Heather Mizeur, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Heather Mizeur, center, with her wife Deborah Mizeur and running mate Delman Coates, marched in the 2014 Baltimore Pride Parade on June 14. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown (D), who defeated lesbian State Del. Heather Mizeur in the Democratic primary for governor, lost his race in the general election to Republican Larry Hogan in what political observers called a stunning upset in the majority Democratic state.

Hogan has expressed opposition in the past to the state’s same-sex marriage and transgender rights laws but said during his come-from-behind campaign that he would not seek to overturn those laws.

Mizeur, who played a key role in pushing for passage of the state’s same-sex marriage law, would have become the nation’s first out gay or lesbian governor had she won her race.

Although Hogan has said he would not turn back the clock on LGBT issues, LGBT advocates expressed concern when news surfaced that two of his advisers hold stridently anti-gay views. One of them, Blair Lee, has said he believes gay sex is a mortal sin and two men engaging in sex “doesn’t rise to the dignity of marriage.”


#1 Catania loses bid to be D.C.’s first out gay mayor

David Catania, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania lost to Muriel Bowser in November’s mayoral election. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) lost his bid to become the city’s first out gay mayor on Nov. 4, finishing far behind LGBT-supportive mayoral contender and fellow Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4). With Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who’s gay, losing his re-election bid in the Democratic primary, the City Council will for the first time since 1997 be without an out gay person beginning Jan. 2.

Meanwhile, Mayor Vincent Gray, whom many LGBT activists consider to be the city’s most LGBT supportive mayor ever, lost his re-election race to Bowser in the Democratic primary.

Although Bowser is a strong supporter of LGBT rights, both Gray and Catania argued that their lengthy records on LGBT issues made them better suited to advance LGBT-related legislation and policies.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • What a year. I'm especially encouraged by the bans on conversion therapy. If there's any doubt to the harm caused by "conversion therapy," Bryan Christopher's new memoir, "Hiding from Myself" provides an honest and compelling lens. It should be required reading for anyone considering "ex-gay" therapy, either for themselves, or their kids.

  • Story # 10….
    "Despite the national media attention to Cahall’s announcement, the school district did not renew his contract for 2015 due to low test scores at the school."
    It is unusual for the Blade to summarize an important portion of a news story so inaccurately. But it has left enough out of this story that it leaves a significant false account.
    The truth is that DCPS' allegation that it fired Cahall for poor test scores was widely criticized as NOT truthful– by many, including parents, former colleagues and educators. DCPS' unbelievable"poor test scores" excuse was even criticied by Washington Post's veteran education columnist, in a column he dedicated to the subject.
    This story is important — but NOT for the fact that Pete Cahall came out publicly at Wilson High Cahall was very publicly supported and flanked by Mayor Gray and CM Catania at the time.
    The story the Blade has missed so far is the homophobic and political discrimination happily demonstrated, even doubled-down upon, by Mayor Bowser's renewed DCPS schools boss, Kaya Henderson.
    It's also hard for such a public slap-down of a gay principal, not to send a homophobic and transphobic chill throughout Muriel Bowser's school system. That alarming governing prospect ought to be coupled with Blade's reports of ongoing harassment of MPD's Gay and Lesbiain Liaison Unit (GLLU) and harassment of LGBT police officers.
    Let's hope a cancer of anti-LGBT and political discrimination has not already attached itself to the Bowser Administration, behind the curtain — before its magic machine has been fully fired up.

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