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Comings & Goings

Marriott exec becomes American citizen



Comings & Goings, gay news, Washington Blade
Comings & Goings, gay news, Washington Blade, Michael Hennessy

The ‘Comings & Goings’ column chronicles important life changes of Blade readers.

The Comings and Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at [email protected].

Congratulations are in order for Michael Hennessy, one of 31 petitioners who became an American citizen last Tuesday morning at a Naturalization Ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. President Obama delivered the keynote address as Hennessy reflected over the past 16 years on his path to citizenship. The ceremony coincided with the 224th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Hennessy is a native of Dublin, Ireland. Graduating in 1994 from the College of Commerce in Dublin, Hennessy entered the hospitality industry and worked his way through the ranks at some of Ireland’s preeminent properties, arriving in D.C. in 1999. Since his arrival, Hennessy has worked for several D.C. hotels in senior leadership roles in operations, event planning and sales. Hennessy joined Marriott International in 2005 and soon headed up its catering sales efforts as an area sales director representing all Marriott brands in the metropolitan area. Hennessy’s professional path, ambitions and desires to experience more have allowed him a front row seat to history hosting many high-profile events, conferences and celebrations. It is that same spirit of celebration and ambition that initially motivated Hennessy to make his move to the United States. Today, Hennessy heads up sales and marketing for Marriott International, based at The Mayflower Hotel.

Hennessy’s path to citizenship is a realization of the American dream. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 marked a turning point for him and soon thereafter he applied for permanent residence status. As a long-term resident in D.C., he witnessed many historic local and national events that have shaped the community and country. As a non-citizen he was unable to vote, and decided to apply for citizenship primarily to exercise that right and power to contribute to the future of his adopted country. When asked about the ceremony, he said, “What better way to celebrate receiving my citizenship than on the anniversary of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, guaranteeing rights such as freedom of speech, assembly, and worship. I want to remind everyone to exercise your right as American citizens and to stay engaged in the political process understanding every vote makes a difference.” Hennessy added he is humbled and thankful for all that the United States of America has allowed him to do.

Michael Hennessy

Michael Hennessy

Congratulations also to Lorella Praeli, who was naturalized in the same ceremony. I was fortunate to meet Lorella last year through friends. She was born in Peru and came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant when she was 10. She recently moved from D.C. to Brooklyn, N.Y., to become Hillary Clinton’s Latino Outreach Director. She is an amazing young woman who happens to be an amputee. She has overcome many odds to achieve success and through it all has dedicated her life to helping others.

Congratulations are also in order for Chris McCannell who recently became a partner in the Eris Group, formerly Bartlett and Bendell. The Eris Group is a government relations practice. Chris previously worked as the lead of the D.C. financial services practice at APCO Worldwide.

A press release from the Eris Group stated, “In addition to continuing work on previous clients, Chris brings to the Eris Group the perspective of a senior House Democrat. Chris was previously chief of staff for current Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), and also served as chief of staff for Rep. Michael E. McMahon (D-N.Y.).”

Doyle Bartlett, founder and managing partner of the Eris Group added, “The Eris Group is fortunate to have Chris. Chris has a passion for his clients and the clients value his counsel. He is someone who is respected on both sides of the aisle and has a proven track record of getting things done both when he was on Capitol Hill and with his clients.”

Michael Hennessy, Chris McCannell, gay news, Washington Blade

Chris McCannell


District of Columbia

Anacostia group honors LGBTQ advocate Pannell for 30 years of service

Oct. 5 celebration set for Ward 8 Sycamore & Oak retail village



Phillip Pannell (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), an advocacy organization for D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood and surrounding areas east of the Anacostia River, is holding a celebration honoring LGBTQ rights and Anacostia community activist Phillip Pannell for his 30 years of service with the ACC.

The event was scheduled to take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the recently opened Sycamore & Oak retail village mall on the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus in Southeast D.C.

Pannell, 73, serves as the ACC executive director, a position he has held since 1995. He has been a member of the Anacostia-based nonprofit organization’s staff since 1993.
A longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, Pannell has been credited with persuading many of D.C.’s LGBTQ organizations to reach out to LGBTQ residents who live in Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River.

He has also been credited with persuading African-American organizations, including organizers of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebrations, to include and welcome LGBTQ people to their events.

“Join us for an evening of food, fun, and surprises,” an announcement of the event released by the ACC says.

ACC spokesperson Lamont Mitchell told the Washington Blade several community leaders and public officials who have known Pannell during his many years of D.C. community involvement were expected to speak at the Oct. 5 celebration. Among the expected speakers, Mitchell said, was former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt.

According to the announcement, the event is free and open to the public, but organizers requested that people register in advance at

The ACC event honoring Pannell was to take place about a month after the D.C. newspaper Washington Informer published a detailed article profiling Pannell’s career as a community activist and advocate for several important local causes and issues, including D.C. statehood.

“D.C. statehood is not just a political issue, it is also a civil and human rights issue because if D.C. were a state, we would be a state with the highest percentage of African Americans, basically a majority, minority state,” the Informer quoted Pannell as saying. “That’s one of the reasons a lot of right-wing Republicans don’t want to see D.C. become a state because we are going to elect progressive, Black Democratic senators,” Pannell told the Informer.

A statement on the ACC’s website says Pannell has received more than 100 awards during his nearly four decades of work in D.C., including the 2011 U.S. President’s Call to Service Award and the 2012 D.C. Federation of Civic Associations award for Outstanding President of a Member Association.

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Elected officials turn out for annual Equality NoVa Ice Cream Social

Northern Virginia LGBTQ group stresses ‘political awareness, education’



Freddie Lutz, on right, and his husband Johnny Cervantes host the annual ice cream social. (Photo courtesy of Lutz)

Four LGBTQ supportive members of the Virginia General Assembly and two candidates running for seats on the Arlington County Board were among more than 100 people who turned out on Sunday, Sept. 24, for the LGBTQ organization Equality NoVa’s annual Ice Cream Social.

The event was held at the Arlington, Va. home of Freddie Lutz, owner of the Arlington gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar, and Lutz’s husband, Johnny Cervantes.

Daniel Hays, president of Equality NoVa, told those attending the event in introductory remarks that Equality NoVa, which recently changed its name from the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), was founded in 1981 and is the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ organization in Virginia.

In an announcement in April the group said the name change came after it had taken on for some time the activities and representation of the now-defunct LGBTQ groups in Alexandria and Fairfax counties and had expanded its operations to cover most if not all the regions known as Northern Virginia.

Hays noted that the group is a nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates for public office but organizes educational and political awareness events and awareness campaigns on issues impacting LGBTQ people related to statewide and local government agencies and officials.

The elected officials attending the event were Virginia House of Delegates members Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria & Fairfax), Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-Alexandria & Arlington), and Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax).

Also attending was Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties.

Joining the state lawmakers attending the Equality NoVa social were Arlington County Board candidates Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham and Arlington County School Board candidate Miranda Turner.

Many of those attending the event said they were rooting for the re-election of Herring, Bennett-Parker, Watts, and Favola in the upcoming Virginia elections in November. All members and candidates for the General Assembly will be on the ballot in an election that political observers say could decide which party controls both houses of the state legislature.

Currently, Democrats control the 40-member Virginia Senate by a margin of 22-18 seats. Republicans currently control the House of Delegates by a margin of 51 to 46 seats, with three vacancies in the 100-member House.

With Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) putting in place through executive action public school policies that LGBTQ activists consider hostile and discriminatory for transgender students, LGBTQ activists are hopeful that a Democratic takeover of the House of Delegates would result in a reversal of Youngkin’s school policy.

Some of the activists attending the Equality NoVa event said they were fearful that a Republican takeover of the state Senate and if Republicans retain control of the House of Delegates could result in the General Assembly approving the type of anti-LGBTQ legislation passed in Florida and other states.

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Anti-transgender heckler interrupts Danica Roem during debate

Trans lawmaker is running for the Va. state Senate



Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An anti-transgender heckler interrupted Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Sept. 28 during a debate with her Republican opponent for the state Senate.

The woman heckled Roem during the Prince William Committee of 100-organized debate between her and Bill Woolf that took place at Metz Middle School in Manassas. 

“Thank you for reminding me why I won three elections in this district in Prince William County, which is the most diverse county in all of Virginia and the 10th most nationally where we welcome everyone because of who they are, not despite it, no matter what you look like, where you come from how you worship, if you do, or who you love because you should be able to thrive here because of who you are, never despite it,” said Roem.

Audience members applauded Roem after she responded to the heckler who was eventually removed from the auditorium.

Roem in 2017 defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall, a vocal LGBTQ rights opponent who co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved 11 years earlier. Roem subsequently became the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature in the U.S.

Roem in 2019 became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election. Roem in May 2022 announced she is running to represent the newly redistricted Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Woolf during the Sept. 28 debate did not say whether he would support the repeal of the marriage amendment. Woolf also reiterated his support of a bill that would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.

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