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MLB’s ‘Gay Night Out’ goes mainstream

An embrace of LGBT fans or a gimmick to sell tickets?

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Night Out, gay news, Washington Blade
Night Out, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C.’s Nats Night Out is MLB’s most successful and popular LGBT event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The annual LGBT Night Out at Washington Nationals Stadium, which began in 2003, attracted more than 3,800 participants on June 17, continuing its status as the largest LGBT event hosted by a Major League Baseball team.

Since the Chicago Cubs hosted what’s believed to be the first Gay Night Out event by a Major League Baseball team in 2001 at Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field, LGBT groups have organized similar events with varying amounts of participants with a growing number of teams.

An informal Washington Blade survey of online promotional announcements of the ‘Gay Night’ events and local media reports about them found that at least 22 of the 30 MLB teams have hosted such events in recent years.

Larry Felzer, co-organizer of the first Gay Community Night with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003, said the event was controversial at the time, drawing opposition from conservative groups and widespread media attention.

“There was a lot of flak in the first year,” he said. “Some of the conservative groups picketed the stadium.”

But in subsequent years, Felzer said, the event became routine, with the number of LGBT fans turning out in increasing numbers each year and officials with the Phillies providing a welcoming atmosphere.

He said the number of LGBT fans turning out for the event in the last few years has declined but most observers attribute that to an overall drop in attendance due to the Phillies losing far more games than they are winning.

For nearly all of the “gay night” events at baseball games, an LGBT organization, often an LGBT sports group, initiates the event and promotes it. In return, the team usually offers a special discounted group price for the tickets, allowing the group to sell them at the regular price and make a small profit to support its mission.

Many of the teams, including the Washington Nationals, arrange for members of the LGBT organization to participate in a pre-game ceremony on the field that includes an LGBT person being chosen to throw the ceremonial first pitch of the game.

In recent years, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington has sung the National Anthem at the LGBT Night Out games.

Brent Minor, president of Team D.C., a D.C.-area LGBT sports organization, and Les Johnson, a Team D.C. official, said the Nationals this year added a new feature to the LGBT Night Out event by including a newly designed rainbow colored Washington Nationals T-shirt to its inventory at the stadium store.

“I know that several of the clubs did that this year,” Johnson said. “I think there were at least eight of them that came out with merchandise where they took their logo and put the rainbow thing on it,” he said. “So now they’re getting into LGBT merchandizing.”

Cyd Zeigler, co-founder and editor of OutSports.com, a news website that reports on LGBT-related sports issues, said the welcoming by Major League Baseball teams of the LGBT Night events may be based more on the teams’ desire to push group ticket sales than an idealistic support for LGBT rights.

“There’s a reason that so many baseball teams do this and no NFL teams do it,” he said referring to the National Football League. “It’s because most baseball teams have a lot of tickets to sell. There are 81 home games,” he said, noting that baseball teams often struggle to draw fans to their stadiums 81 times.

“And baseball, frankly, in 2015 isn’t that popular,” Zeigler said. “Football teams, for example, have to sell out eight home games per year and it’s the biggest game in town. So NFL teams, for the most part, sell out every game without blinking an eye.”

Largely because of that, Zeigler and other sports observers have said, NFL teams have far fewer promotional nights for any constituency groups or causes.

Zeigler noted that the New York Yankees is among the few MLB teams that sell out most of their games. The Yankees is among the teams that has not had an LGBT Night event.

“At this point they’re not really a big deal,” Zeigler said of the baseball gay night events. “They have nights for Irish Catholics. They have nights for kids. They have nights for cancer awareness. They have nights for the Pakistani community,” he said.

“And the fact that we get so excited that a baseball team might have a gay night really tells me how low we have put the bar in sports for LGBT inclusion,” Zeigler told the Blade.

While the LGBT nights have become routine and welcomed at most of the stadiums where they’re held in recent years, LGBT fans of the Oakland Athletics were startled earlier this year by the negative response among some to the announcement in March that the Athletics would host their very first LGBT Pride Night on June 17.

Some season ticket holders, saying they strongly objected to a gay-themed baseball night, told Athletics officials they wanted to sell their tickets for the June 17 game. Others who had purchased tickets also complained that they would not have bought the tickets if they had known the game would be unsuitable for their children.

“Things got very ugly, and quickly,” the online publication San Francisco Bay reported.

The publication reported that “upon hearing of the negativity surrounding Pride Night,” Eireann Dolan, the girlfriend of Athletics relief pitcher Sean Doolittle, announced that she would buy the tickets of any fan upset about going to the Pride Night game and donate the tickets to the Bay Area Youth Center’s Our Space program, which provides services to LGBT youth.

In a message on her blog Dolan pointed out that she was raised by a lesbian mom and her mom’s partner and she understood the pressures and prejudices that LGBT people face in their everyday lives.

According to San Francisco Bay, in addition to buying tickets, Dolan and Doolittle created a GoFundMe account for the Our Space program that raised more than $36,000 in the two months leading up to the Pride Night game. It said a number of the LGBT youth affiliated with the program attended the Pride Night game.

“For every one negative comment about LGBT Pride Night from fans, there were hundreds of supportive and wonderful messages of acceptance and excitement from the rest of the fans,” Dolan wrote. “We all collectively said, okay, you don’t want to go to the game? Great, no problem, we’ll buy your tickets and give them to someone who could really benefit from being there with us.”

Although Major League Baseball’s corporate entity, MLB, Inc., has played no direct role in organizing or promoting the LGBT Night games, in 2013 then-Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig pushed through an official MLB policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The following year Selig appointed gay former baseball player Billy Bean as the MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion.

Among other things, Bean’s official duties include providing training for MLB teams in support of LGBT-related issues, Selig said.

Norman Kent, publisher of the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Gay News and the lead organizer of the Miami Marlins’ first LGBT Night event, said he proposed to the MLB diversity office that MLB select one night each year for all MLB teams to hold their LGBT Night so the events could be promoted and marketed nationally.

“But they were not receptive to it, saying it was something they could ‘work to’ but it would need planning and coordination,” Kent told the Blade.

Following is a list of MLB teams that have hosted LGBT Night events in recent years:

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

Atlanta Braves

Chicago White Sox

Chicago Cubs

Detroit Tigers

Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kansas City Royals

Miami Marlins

Minnesota Twins

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

San Diego Padres

Tampa Bay Rays

San Francisco Giants

Texas Rangers

St. Louis Cardinals

Toronto Blue Jays

Washington Nationals

 

Following are the teams for which no records could be found to show they have hosted an LGBT Night event:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Cleveland Indians

Cincinnati Reds

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Angels

Milwaukee Brewers

New York Yankees

Pittsburgh Pirates

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D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011

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shooting, DC Eagle, assault, hate crime, anti-gay attack, police discrimination, sex police, Sisson, gay news, Washington Blade

A D.C. man arrested in August 2020 for allegedly threatening to kill a gay man outside the victim’s apartment in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and who was released while awaiting trial was arrested again two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill another man in an unrelated incident.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Jalal Malki, who was 37 at the time of his 2020 arrest on a charge of bias-related attempts to do bodily harm against the gay man, was charged on May 4, 2021 with unlawful entry, simple assault, threats to kidnap and injure a person, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon against the owner of a vacant house at 4412 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Court charging documents state that Malki was allegedly staying at the house without permission as a squatter. An arrest affidavit filed in court by D.C. police says Malki allegedly threatened to kill the man who owns the house shortly after the man arrived at the house while Malki was inside.

According to the affidavit, Malki walked up to the owner of the house while the owner was sitting in his car after having called police and told him, “If you come back here, I’m going to kill you.” While making that threat Malki displayed what appeared to be a gun in his waistband, but which was later found to be a toy gun, the affidavit says.

Malki then walked back inside the house minutes before police arrived and arrested him. Court records show that similar to the court proceedings following his 2020 arrest for threatening the gay man, a judge in the latest case ordered Malki released while awaiting trial. In both cases, the judge ordered him to stay away from the two men he allegedly threatened to kill.

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police in the 2020 case states that Malki allegedly made the threats inside an apartment building where the victim lived on the 2300 block of Champlain Street, N.W. It says Malki was living in a nearby building but often visited the building where the victim lived.

“Victim 1 continued to state during an interview that it was not the first time that Defendant 1 had made threats to him, but this time Defendant 1 stated that if he caught him outside, he would ‘fucking kill him.’” the affidavit says. It quotes the victim as saying during this time Malki repeatedly called the victim a “fucking faggot.”

The affidavit, prepared by the arresting officers, says that after the officers arrested Malki and were leading him to a police transport vehicle to be booked for the arrest, he expressed an “excited utterance” that he was “in disbelief that officers sided with the ‘fucking faggot.’”

Court records show that Malki is scheduled to appear in court on June 4 for a status hearing for both the 2020 arrest and the arrest two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill the owner of the house in which police say he was illegally squatting.

Superior Court records show that Malki had been arrested three times between 2011 and 2015 in cases unrelated to the 2021 and 2020 cases for allegedly also making threats of violence against people. Two of the cases appear to be LGBTQ related, but prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not list the cases as hate crimes.

In the first of the three cases, filed in July 2011, Malki allegedly shoved a man inside Dupont Circle and threatened to kill him after asking the man why he was wearing a purple shirt.

“Victim 1 believes the assault occurred because Suspect 1 believes Victim 1 is a homosexual,” the police arrest affidavit says.

Court records show prosecutors charged Malki with simple assault and threats to do bodily harm in the case. But the court records show that on Sept. 13, 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen F. Eilperin found Malki not guilty on both charges following a non-jury trial.

The online court records do not state why the judge rendered a not guilty verdict. With the courthouse currently closed to the public and the press due to COVID-related restrictions, the Washington Blade couldn’t immediately obtain the records to determine the judge’s reason for the verdict.

In the second case, court records show Malki was arrested by D.C. police outside the Townhouse Tavern bar and restaurant at 1637 R St., N.W. on Nov. 7, 2012 for allegedly threatening one or more people with a knife after employees ordered Malki to leave the establishment for “disorderly behavior.”

At the time, the Townhouse Tavern was located next door to the gay nightclub Cobalt, which before going out of business two years ago, was located at the corner of 17th and R Streets, N.W.

The police arrest affidavit in the case says Malki allegedly pointed a knife in a threatening way at two of the tavern’s employees who blocked his path when he attempted to re-enter the tavern. The affidavit says he was initially charged by D.C. police with assault with a dangerous weapon – knife. Court records, however, show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office lowered the charges to two counts of simple assault. The records show that on Jan. 15, 2013, Malki pleaded guilty to the two charges as part of a plea bargain arrangement.

The records show that Judge Marissa Demeo on that same day issued a sentence of 30 days for each of the two charges but suspended all 30 days for both counts. She then sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for both charges and ordered that he undergo alcohol and drug testing and undergo treatment if appropriate.

In the third case prior to the 2020 and 2021 cases, court records show Malki was arrested outside the Cobalt gay nightclub on March 14, 2015 on multiple counts of simple assault, attempted assault with a dangerous weapon – knife, possession of a prohibited weapon – knife, and unlawful entry.

The arrest affidavit says an altercation started on the sidewalk outside the bar when for unknown reasons, Malki grabbed a female customer who was outside smoking and attempted to pull her toward him. When her female friend came to her aid, Malki allegedly got “aggressive” by threatening the woman and “removed what appeared to be a knife from an unknown location” and pointed it at the woman’s friend in a threatening way, the affidavit says.

It says a Cobalt employee minutes later ordered Malki to leave the area and he appeared to do so. But others noticed that he walked toward another entrance door to Cobalt and attempted to enter the establishment knowing he had been ordered not to return because of previous problems with his behavior, the affidavit says. When he attempted to push away another employee to force his way into Cobalt, Malki fell to the ground during a scuffle and other employees held him on the ground while someone else called D.C. police.

Court records show that similar to all of Malki’s arrests, a judge released him while awaiting trial and ordered him to stay away from Cobalt and all of those he was charged with threatening and assaulting.

The records show that on Sept. 18, 2015, Malki agreed to a plea bargain offer by prosecutors in which all except two of the charges – attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and simple assault – were dropped. Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. on Oct. 2, 2015 sentenced Malki to 60 days of incarnation for each of the two charges but suspended all but five days, which he allowed Malki to serve on weekends, the court records show.

The judge ordered that the two five-day jail terms could be served concurrently, meaning just five days total would be served, according to court records. The records also show that Judge Irving sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for each of the two counts and ordered that he enter an alcohol treatment program and stay away from Cobalt.

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Biden names civil rights veteran to U.S. Education Dept.

Catherine Lhamon’s portfolio will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct, racial discrimination

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Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon. (Photo public domain))

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon currently serves as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity at the White House, where she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. She is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021.

She has also served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Her portfolio at Education, where she previously served in the same position under former President Barack Obama, will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools, universities and colleges. Lhamon was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, to which President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed her in 2013.

“I am thrilled that President Biden is nominating Catherine Lhamon to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Catherine has devoted her career to ensuring equity is at the core of all her work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement released by his office Thursday.

“She has a strong record of fighting for communities of color and underserved communities, whether as the current Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, or as a civil rights educator at Georgetown University. We are thrilled to have Catherine serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and know she will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students.”

Lhamon has also litigated civil rights cases at National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel Law Center, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  Lhamon taught federal civil rights appeals at Georgetown University Law Center in the Appellate Litigation Program and clerked for the Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Catherine Lhamon is the right choice to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights at such a critical time for the country and the agency. There is much work to do in order to roll back the harmful policies and legacies of Betsy DeVos, from her attacks on transgender students to her unconscionable revocation of discriminatory discipline guidance and rewrite of Title IX rules,” Adele Kimmel, Director of the Students’ Civil Rights Project at Public Justice told the Blade in an email.

“During her previous tenure in the same job, Catherine embraced equality, enforced Title IX and ensured students had an ally inside the federal government. She will do so again, and the Senate should move to quickly confirm her so she can begin the work of restoring the Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights and dignity of students and implementing the Biden Administration’s pledge to undo the damage that DeVos has done,” Kimmel added.

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Lhamon graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Lhamon and her husband and two daughters are transitioning between California and Maryland.

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IDAHOBiT events to promote intersectionality, resilience, allyship

HRC president to participate in virtual panel in Canada

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(Photo courtesy of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia committee)

 

Intersectionality, resilience and allyship are among the themes that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia events will highlight.

Dignity Network Canada and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention on May 17 will hold a virtual panel that will feature Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity Executive Director Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, COC Nederland Executive Director Marie Ricardo and Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. The British High Commission and the Dutch Embassy in Canada have co-sponsored the event.

“We hope that this will be a really interesting and important conversation on intersectionality and transnational solidarity — and what it means for these leaders and their organizations during these times,” reads a description of the event.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will host a virtual IDAHOBiT event that will focus on ways to develop an “inclusive and diverse post-pandemic world.” The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks host a similar IDAHOBiT commemoration.

“In order to heal from the economic, social, and public health dire impact the pandemic has had and still has, every plan of recovery must take into account a human-rights based, intersectional and gender responsive approach that addresses the specific needs of LGBTI persons in order not to leave them further behind,” reads a description of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group event.

Several Russian LGBTQ rights groups on May 17 will hold a “Vaccine for Acceptance” event that seeks to bolster allyship in the country.

Retired South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron on May 16 will moderate a virtual panel that will focus on religion and anti-LGBTQ violence.

Workplace Pride and the Dutch Embassy in Budapest on May 17 will host a symposium on LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces in Hungary. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, on the same day will participate in a webinar the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is hosting with Oogachaga, a local LGBTQ advocacy group.

Haver Srbija, a Serbian NGO, on May 15-16 will hold Falafel, a film festival that seeks to build “bridges and promotes Israeli, Jewish and LGBTQI culture and communities” and highlight “various social issues in the context of the fight against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia and encourages the audience to develop critical thinking on the issue of these topics.” Proud Lebanon is slated to hold a series of six webinars between May 17-22 that will focus on feminism, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

The National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba will hold a series of virtual forums and other events through the month to commemorate IDAHOBiT.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, whose father is former Cuban President Raúl Castro, during a May 4 press conference in Havana said the IDAHOBiT events are part of the process of amending the country’s family code to make it more equitable for LGBTQ Cubans. Mariela Castro said a bill to amend it will be introduced in the Cuban Parliament in July.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference, according to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s events will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups around the world.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries. Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains rampant in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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