Keith Thirion, acting director of Equality Maryland, is departing the organization to take a position at a D.C.-based non-profit. Thirion joined Equality Maryland’s staff in January 2014 as director of advocacy and programs before assuming the role of acting director in June 2015 when the previous director, Carrie Evans, was laid off as a result of the organization’s financial difficulties.
Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein, chair of the Equality Maryland Foundation Board, said in the statement, “Keith Thirion has worked tirelessly, effectively, and passionately on behalf of the LGBT community in Maryland during his time with Equality Maryland. In conducting training sessions for police officers and educators on LGBT issues, Keith has had an enormous impact on public servants who interact with the LGBT community. Keith has worked effectively with other social justice organizations in Maryland, and with the General Assembly and the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, to advance equality for Maryland’s LGBT community.”
“The organization’s work is incredibly important, as members of our community continue to face discrimination, violence and harassment in daily life,” said Thirion. “There will continue to be a need for advocacy and education until every Marylander including our most vulnerable youth, transgender people and communities of color, are free to live their full lives.”
Thirion’s last day will be Oct. 14. The boards will launch a search for a new director for the organization. The job description is available at equalitymaryland.org/director-search.
Capital Stonewall Democrats holds D.C. Council chair, at-large Council candidates forum
Mendelson, Bonds join opponents in discussing LGBTQ forum
The Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, hosted the fifth and last of its series of LGBTQ candidate forums on May 11 by hosting candidates running for D.C. Council Chair and At-Large D.C. Council in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary.
Similar to the earlier forums, each of the candidates, including incumbent Council Chair Phil Mendelson and incumbent at-large Councilmember Anita Bonds, expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights and cited their records in office or their work in the community on various issues related to LGBTQ programs or projects.
Among those participating in the virtual forum broadcast via Zoom was ethics attorney and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Erin Palmer, who is challenging Mendelson for the Council Chair position.
The candidates challenging Bonds for the at-large Council seat included Lisa Gore, Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and former housing fraud investigator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Nate Fleming, former D.C. shadow U.S. House member and former D.C. Council staffer; and Dexter Williams, former Howard University government relations official, former D.C. Council staffer, and current election systems consultant.
Local community activists and small business owners Heidi Ellis and George Kerr, who served as co-moderators of the forum, asked the candidates questions on a wide range of topics, including the city’s efforts to curtail anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, city funding for local LGBTQ organizations that provide services for LGBTQ people in need and problems faced by LGBTQ elders.
Other questions touched on the topics of racial and economic justice, whether the candidates or incumbents have LGBTQ people on their Council or campaign staff; whether term limits should be put in place for members of the Council, and whether D.C. police and the Office of the federally controlled U.S. Attorney for D.C. were doing enough to address anti-LGBTQ violence.
Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier stated at the forum that electronic voting had begun for members of the organization to decide on which candidates to endorse and that an announcement of the winners of the group’s endorsements would be made on or shortly before May 17. Frazier said that under the organization’s rules, a 60 percent majority vote for a candidate was needed for an endorsement to be given.
A full video recording of the May 11 forum can be accessed here:
A Washington Blade transcript of the candidates’ opening statements at the May 11 forum can be viewed below.
D.C. COUNCIL CHAIR RACE
Thank you, Capital Stonewall Democrats for doing this once again. Although I have to say this is the first time in my many years that this has been virtual. So, it’s a different experience. But I very much welcome this opportunity. For those of you who don’t know me, I was an ANC commissioner for 20 years before I was elected to the Council. I have been chair of the Council for the past 10 years.
I have an adopted daughter who graduated from the D.C. public schools with a major in art, which she is pursuing as her career. As an incumbent, I have a record, not just promises. And I am proud of my record. And my record has been very strong in the area with regard to issues that are important to the LGBTQ community.
Although it was a few years ago, when I chaired the Committee on the Judiciary, I got through the Council our legislation to make the District the sixth jurisdiction in the country to recognize marriage equality. And I got it through with a strategy that ensured that Congress wasn’t going to override what we did. As you know, they tried to do it many other times.
I have a very strong progressive record when it comes to these issues. When I chaired the Judiciary, I had hearings frequently with regard to hate crimes and enforcement against hate crimes. Most recently I introduced legislation to prohibit the gay panic defense in the District so that would not be used or misused with regard to hate crimes. As I said it’s not enough to just say one has progressive values or to put forth campaign promises but actually to see how I delivered over and over again on issues, like universal paid leave, where I not only rewrote the law but got it through the Council over the opposition of the mayor. And other issues as well. I guess my time is up. But I look forward to the questions and ask for your support.
Thank you so much. Thank you to the Capital Stonewall Democrats. My name is Erin Palmer. I use she/her pronouns. And I’m running for D.C. Council chairwoman. And a little bit about myself–I’m a mom to three children who are 11, nine and seven. They are very much a part of my civic and political life. And if you know me, you’ll get to know them as well. I fondly refer to them as the monsters because they’re chaotic.
My profession—I’m in ethics … most recently having worked on judicial ethics and institutional accountability for the federal judiciary. And I’m also an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 4, where I have worked across commissions with commissioners citywide on systemic issues, including being an ally to the ANC Rainbow Caucus on some of the issues that they have worked on.
I’m running to bring energy, vision and compassion to D.C.’s challenges. And I think it is particularly important in light of the current national context. As we’ve seen, there was a recent release of a draft Supreme Court decision overturning Row v. Wade. And this is a reminder that we have to be constantly vigilant. We have to not take our rights and protections for granted. And we need to be dedicated at the local level to working very intentionally to support our communities with the most aid.
I bring a dedication to ethics in government and accountability. I’m the only Fair Elections candidate in this race, which means that I am rejecting corporate donations. And I’m accountable to and engaged with D.C. residents. I’m also the only candidate in this race with a D.C. Council accountability plan for a more modern ethical and accountable D.C. Council that ties specifically to the role of the chair in setting the procedures and governance structure for the Council.
I believe strongly in meeting basic needs as rights as a values-driven proposition. Things like housing, education and healthcare that lead with those values impacts how we budget, how we legislate, how we do oversight. And that doing those things keeps our community safe and strong. And I will lead with those values every day. Thank you so much.
AT-LARGE D.C. COUNCIL RACES
Well good evening, everyone. My name, of course, is Anita Bonds. And I am your at-large Council member on the D.C. Council. It is a pleasure to join with you this evening and to talk about our city that I have built my career on making sure that we, all of us, have an opportunity to continue to live here. It is vital that we hold ourselves and one another accountable for ensuring that we are allies, not only visibly but materialistically each and every day.
As an ally to the LGBTQ community, I have maintained a legislative agenda that consists of priorities demonstrated in my votes on legislation and in the budget that ensures the rights, protections and the livelihood of members of the LGBTQ community. While we work to achieve true equality and make sure that voices of the LGBTQ community are heard, especially considering the history of the violence that this community has endured for a number of years.
I made it a priority to include members of the LGBTQ community when making my appointments to the Police Reform Commission as an example. And I also have representation from the LGBTQ community on my staff, in fact, from the day when taking my seat on the Council. The senior LGBTQ community that has been historically neglected by society is one that always is dear to my heart. And I have spent a lot of energy trying to make things right. And I have also co-introduced and voted for care for LGBTQ seniors and—I ran out of time. Thank you.
Good evening, everyone, and thank you Capital Stonewall Democrats for hosting this important forum. I’m glad to be here tonight to discuss a little bit about myself and my campaign. And my name is Lisa Gore. I’m a D.C. public school mom. I am a current sitting ANC commissioner In ANC 34G serving both Ward 3 and Ward 4. And I recently retired as a federal investigator from the IG’s office from HUD, where I spent over 25 years investigating housing fraud and conducting oversight of a national housing program.
My campaign is basically centered around marginalized communities. And our campaign is centered around making D.C. a more just D.C. That’s everything from education, housing, environmental justice, aging and health, senior platform issues, and especially issues that are common in the LGBTQ community. I’m proud that I recently got the highest at-large rating with the GLAA endorsement of 8.5. And I think that really demonstrates the strength of our policy platform in this area.
There’s several members of my campaign team paid and unpaid that are members of the LGBTQ community. And you might know me as a candidate that has rainbow signs out there, all across D.C. So, this community has been in my heart from day one and the day I started this campaign designing my yard signs. I wanted to make sure that D.C. knows that I’m representative of this community. So, thank you. I’m looking forward to hearing the issues and talking to you tonight about my platform.
Good evening, everyone. My name is Nate Fleming. I’m running for D.C. Council at-large. And I’m not here to pander to you. I’m here to speak to you about the issues impacting the LGBT community. I’m a member of this club. I’ve been a longtime member of this club since 2010. A little bit about me—I grew up in this city. Single mother household in the middle of the crack epidemic.
But education is what took me to Morehouse College. I was able to become a lawyer. I studied at Berkeley Law. I got a full scholarship to Harvard Kennedy School. And I believe that when you get opportunities like that coming from my background, you have a responsibility to try to create opportunities for others. And that’s really what I worked to do. First, coming back to D.C. serving as D.C. shadow representative.
The first political endorsement I ever received was from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the former name of the Capital Stonewall Democrats. I’ve been endorsed in every campaign that I’ve run. And in this race in 2014 I received more votes than any other candidate from the Capital Stonewall Democrats. That’s because this club has done so much work in the fight for equal rights, justice and fairness, particularly the fight in 2010 for marriage equality, where I stood directly with members of this club to fight for those rights with the Council.
And I believe these issues, these values that this club represents needs to extend and permeate throughout the city. Because the pandemic has exacerbated the issues that are important to the LGBT community, whether that’s housing, whether that’s job and employment, whether that’s healthcare. And we need more than ever bold, creative and thoughtful leadership that’s going to help us build back better and reverse these systems so they can work for everyday people.
So, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing. There’s some great programs that are out there like the transgender and gender nonconforming workforce program. Thirty percent of LGBT youth identify as homeless. We have to expand LGBTQ centered health care, mental health care specifically in this city. And I’m looking forward to implementing the HIV long term bill of rights. Those are the type of issues I’m going to work on as your next at-large Council member.
Thank you and good evening. My name is Dexter Williams. I’m running for at-large Council member. And I want to thank the Capital Stonewall Democrats for sponsoring tonight’s forum. As a candidate, I am very committed to the LGBTQ community, just as I am for all marginalized people across the city. What I want you to know is that this forum is no different for me because I am very sensitive to the inequities and struggles that are faced by many in the LGBTQ community, whether it is discrimination, crime and even murder impacting the trans community, double marginalization of race unemployment faced by the Black, Latino [inaudible] communities or the possible threats to marriage equality depending on just how far the Supreme Court and states will go in the future.
As a candidate, I am running on a theme of change. While D.C. is viewed as gay friendly, I know that housing discrimination, ageism, employment barriers and even in the [inaudible] issues still persist. Whether subtle discrimination such as the recent statement by Vincent Orange referring to Zach Parker as a candidate for Ward 5 Council member, who recently came out as gay, followed by Vincent Orange’s equally weak apology for his egregious—for his weak apology or the more egregious trans murders that took place last year.
No one should be made to feel less for being their true selves. I know we are [inaudible] in the city, but we can and should do better in housing, places of employment. We should do better and I’m going to make sure that we do. Thank you.
Alexander-Reid, Pendarvis honored as ‘legendary elders’
National Black Justice Coalition to recognize prominent activists
Longtime D.C. LGBTQ advocates Sheila Alexander-Reid and Rayceen Pendarvis are among nine prominent activists from across the country named as recipients of the second annual Legendary Elders Wisdom Award by the National Black Justice Coalition, the D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy group.
“The National Black Justice Coalition is proud to present the 2nd annual Legendary Elders Wisdom Awards and Tea commemorating National LGBTQ+ Elders Day on Monday, May 16, 2022, at 1 p.m. EST,” the group announced in a statement.
“This signature event is an opportunity for our community to honor iconic, Black LGBTQ+/SG women and femme elders and celebrate the process of aging while sharing the wisdom accrued by our elders through a virtual event,” the statement says. “This year, we honor Black women and femmes who have blazed trails in the arts and creative fields,” it says.
Alexander-Reid served for six and a half years as director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs before taking on a new job last year as the senior vice president of business development for BiasSync, a Los Angeles-based company that provides online support and resources to address the issue of workplace bias.
In her earlier involvement as an LGBTQ community leader, Alexander-Reid was the founder and executive director Women in the Life Association, for which she served as publisher and national distributor of Women in the Life magazine, which focused on issues of interest to Black lesbians. She later founded and hosted Inside Out, a D.C. LGBTQ radio program.
Pendarvis, a longtime D.C.-based LGBTQ activist and event moderator, became best known as host of “The Ask Rayceen Show,” an online program that features a wide range of guests, including local artists, musicians, and authors as well as public officials and LGBTQ activists. The show ran on a monthly basis from 2012 until last year, when the D.C. Council voted unanimously to approve a ceremonial resolution honoring Pendarvis’ work on the show and her many other endeavors.
“The Council of the District of Columbia recognizes, honors and celebrates Rayceen Pendarvis, emcee, entertainer, social media personality and activist, for exemplary service and contributions to the District of Columbia and its residents, and the LGBTQIA+ community, on the occasion of the final season of The Ask Rayceen Show,” the resolution states.
The other Legendary Elders Wisdom Award recipients named by the National Black Justice Coalition include Ann Allen Shockley, author, editor; Anita Cornwell, author of writings in the lesbian publication “The Ladder” and author of the 1983 book “Black Lesbian in White America;” Cheryl Clark, poet, essayist, educator and Black feminist activist; Jewelle Gomez, author, poet, critic and playwright; Andrea Jenkins, president of the Minneapolis City Council, writer, poet, performer and oral history archivist; Barbara Smith, writer of essays, reviews and short stories and founding member of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and Linda Villarosa, journalist, author, editor, novelist and educator.
Additional information about NBJC’s Wisdom Awards can be accessed here:
Bowser, gay D.C. Council candidates trail opponents in GLAA ratings
Robert White leads incumbent mayor in scorecard
The D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance on May 10 released its rating scores for candidates running for D.C. Mayor, D.C. Attorney General, and D.C. Council in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary as it has in D.C. elections since the early 1970s.
In a development that may come as a surprise to some observers, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the two gay candidates running for seats on the D.C. Council received lower ratings than one or more of their opponents.
Bowser received a +6 rating out of a highest possible rating score of +10 compared to her lead opponent, at-large D.C. Councilmember Robert White, who received a +9 GLAA rating. Ward 8 D.C. Councilmember Trayon White, who’s also running for mayor, received a “0” GLAA rating for not returning a GLAA candidate questionnaire. The remaining mayoral contender, James Butler, received a +3 rating.
GLAA, a nonpartisan LGBTQ advocacy group, issues its ratings on a scale ranging from -10, the lowest possible score, to +10, the highest possible score. It bases its ratings on candidates’ responses to a 10-question GLAA questionnaire that covers a wide range of both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ specific issues. The questionnaire also asks candidates to provide a detailed account of their past record on LGBTQ specific issues.
Candidates that do not return the questionnaire receive an automatic rating of “0.”
Gay former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary, who’s running for the Ward 1 Council seat and who has been endorsed by the Washington Post, came in third place in the GLAA ratings for the three-candidate race in Ward 1. He received a +4 GLAA rating compared to the +9.5 rating for incumbent Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau and the +6 rating received by challenger Sabel Harris.
Gay D.C. Board of Education member Zachary Parker, who’s running for the Ward 5 Council seat, came in second place for the GLAA ratings in the seven-candidate Ward 5 race with a +6.5 GLAA rating. Community activist Faith Gibson Hubbard came in first for GLAA’s Ward 5 ratings with a score of +7.5. Candidates Gordon Fletcher, Gary Johnson, Kathy Henderson, and Art Lloyd each received a “0” rating for failing to return the GLAA questionnaire.
GLAA announced it has declined to rate the Ward 5 candidate with the highest name recognition – former at-large and former Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange “due to his 2016 resignation from the D.C. Council for a conflict of interest.”
GLAA adopted a policy of not rating candidates found to have what it considers ethics related violations in 2020 when it similarly declined to rate former Ward 2 D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, who also resigned over ethics issues.
In the race for D.C. Council Chair, GLAA awarded a rating of +8.5 to Democrat Erin Palmer, the only challenger in the primary to incumbent Council Chair Phil Mendelson, who received a +6 GLAA rating.
For the at-large D.C. Council race, incumbent Councilmember Anita Bonds came in second place with a +6 rating behind challenger Lisa Gore, who received a 8.5 rating. Of the two remaining challengers, Nate Fleming received a +5.5 rating and Dexter Williams received a +4.5 rating.
In the three-candidate D.C. Attorney General’s race in which incumbent Attorney General Karl Racine is not running for re-election, attorney Bruce Spiva received a +6.5 rating compared to attorney challengers Brian Schwalb, who received a +6, and Ryan Jones, who received a +2.5.
In a statement accompanying its ratings for each of the candidates GLAA explains the rationale for its individual ratings, pointing out that some of the candidates – including Bowser and the two gay candidates – lost points for disagreeing with GLAA’s positions on both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ specific issues.
Those issues are outlined in a nine-page document GLAA released with its rating scores called “Leave No One Behind: 2022 D.C. LGBTQ Election Guide.” The document expresses strong support for a number of controversial issues that political observers say will play a role in D.C. voters’ decisions on which candidates to support for mayor and D.C. Council.
Among the issues for which GLAA supports and asks in its questionnaire whether the candidates support are “full decriminalization of sex work for adults;” repeal of the subminimum wage for tipped workers; removal of criminal penalties for drug possession for personal use; and a call to “divest” from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department funds that should be invested in “vital programs, including anti-poverty, violence prevention, and crisis intervention” programs.
The GLAA policy document also calls for providing “sufficient affordable housing units for all households earning less than 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI);” expanding access to the city’s housing voucher programs for LGBTQ people in need; and additional funding for the D.C. Office of Human Rights to end its backlog of discrimination cases.
In the statement accompanying its rating for gay candidate Czapary, GLAA says he supports the GLAA policy statement on most issues but lost points for opposing cuts in the D.C. police budget and for not providing enough details about his past record on LGBTQ issues. “GLAA values him running for office as an out member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement says.
GLAA said Parker, the Ward 5 Council gay candidate, also supports GLAA’s policy positions on most issues and his responses to the questionnaire “have an average level of detail.” The group said he too didn’t provide sufficient detail on how his past work “impacts LGBTQ+ people” but that GLAA “appreciates him coming out as gay while running for office.”
In a “President’s Message” accompanying GLAA’s detailed policy statement and election guide, GLAA President Tyrone Hanley appears to raise broader non-LGBTQ political issues that GLAA, the nation’s longest continuously running LGBTQ organization, has not addressed in the past.
“Sadly, these simple truths go ignored as the District government continues to neglect individuals and families struggling to get by in a wealthy city, demolish homeless encampments, blame city challenges on housing voucher holders, and stuff residents in decaying jails,” Hanley states in his message.
“Our election guide outlines key priorities for addressing the need of LGBTQ residents while focusing on racial and economic justice,” he says, “including housing, workers’ rights, health, and policing and incarceration.” Hanley adds, “Our priorities reflect feedback from community partners and the work being done across D.C. to make it a better place for everyone.”
Longtime D.C. LGBTQ Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who is supporting Mayor Bowser’s re-election, expressed the sentiment of some local LGBTQ activists who disagree with GLAA’s expanded policy positions.
“GLAA has issued candidate ratings for 2022 based on criteria which the president of the organization explained in a statement,” Rosenstein said. “Sadly, based on that statement, the entire focus of the organization has changed,” he said. “Clearly, a revered organization once representing the entire LGBTQ+ community, no longer exists.”
Asked to respond to concerns raised by Rosenstein and others who say GLAA has expanded its agenda too far beyond LGBTQ related issues, Hanley said in a short statement that GLAA has put on the table multiple issues that should never have been taken off in the first place.
“We at GLAA want to uplift everyone in our community, including drug users, sex workers, the poor and homeless, and those who are currently and formerly incarcerated,” he said. “They are our people, and we will fight for them. We are learning and building from the successes and failures of the past,” he said, adding, “we want to build a new world where all of us are free and happy living as we truly are.”
The GLAA ratings for each of the candidates, its statement explaining the ratings for each of the candidate, and the candidates GLAA questionnaire responses can be accessed at glaa.org.
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