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Gay D.C. cop alleges harassment in lawsuit

Police supervisors said to ignore anti-gay slurs for years



Cathy Lanier, discrimination lawsuit, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has stated that she and the department do not tolerate anti-LGBT discrimination within the department. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A gay former D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officer filed a discrimination lawsuit last August accusing fellow officers and supervisors at the department’s Fourth District of subjecting him to a “withering” onslaught of anti-gay discrimination, harassment and retaliation between 2011 and 2013.

Former MPD Officer Christopher Lilly charges in his lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that he was subjected to repeated anti-gay name-calling and other forms of harassment, including the placement of AIDS stickers on his locker.

The lawsuit names the city and the MPD as defendants. It accuses the MPD, among other things, of discriminating against him on the basis of his sexual orientation and gender.

It says the harassment and discrimination against Lilly began in December 2010 when “without Plaintiff Lilly’s knowledge or consent, his sexual orientation, homosexual, was publicized, maliciously and intentionally” at the Fourth District.

“Following Plaintiff Lilly’s ‘outing,’ any officer to come into contact with Plaintiff Lilly subjected him to scrutiny, retaliation and ridicule by means of vulgar language, slandering his name and abilities to function as a police officer and questioning his abilities to serve due to his sexual orientation,” the lawsuit says.

It says the alleged harassment escalated in January 2011 when after returning from duty Lilly “found his locker plastered with Blair Underwood posters, forty (40) District of Columbia HIV magnets stuck to his locker and a large ‘spurt’ looking puddle of unknown white liquid meant to simulate ejaculation.”

The lawsuit adds, “Officers around the area snickered and failed to assist Officer Lilly to clean the mess around his locker.”

The lawsuit’s 32-page complaint doesn’t say whether Lilly understood the significance of why Blair Underwood posters were placed on his locker.

But the lawsuit says that following the defacement of his locker in January 2011 Lilly filed a complaint with then Fourth District Commander Kimberly Chisley-Missouri, Det. Mary Bonacorsy and Officer Susan Taylor, who the lawsuit says was the department’s EEOC contact person.

“To Plaintiff Lilly’s knowledge, no investigation or follow-up was made into this matter,” the lawsuit says.

“By late spring 2011, Plaintiff Lilly’s superiors, fellow officers, and new academy graduates took to publicly ridiculing him,” says the lawsuit, with one officer shouting, “What a fucking faggot!”

Around that time period, according to the lawsuit, the harassment against him surfaced at a Fourth District roll call meeting in which nearly all of the district’s officers and many supervisors were in attendance.

“[A]n Officer Lavigne looked directly at Plaintiff Lilly, amidst the whole precinct, and bluntly said, ‘Well I just know all faggots will burn in hell…so that is on them.”

Adds the lawsuit, “To Plaintiff Lilly’s knowledge, no report, investigation or follow-up was made into this matter.”

When asked for comment on the lawsuit, Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham told the Washington Blade on Monday that under a longstanding policy the department never comments on pending litigation.

“I can’t talk about a specific lawsuit,” Newsham said. “But I can tell about how we don’t tolerate bias by any members on this police department. It’s something we take very seriously,” he said. “And if we become aware of it corrective action will be taken all the way up to removal if it was severe enough.”

Robert Marus, a spokesperson for the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, which is representing the city against the lawsuit, said his office also could not comment on a specific case pending in court.

Court records show that D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and other attorneys with the office responded to the lawsuit in January of this year by filing a motion calling for the dismissal of its first three counts. Those counts allege that the discrimination and harassment Lilly encountered by police violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights of freedom of expression and equal protection under the law.

“Plaintiff has failed to state a constitutional claim on which relief can be granted and this Court should dismiss Counts One, Two and Three of the Amended Complaint,” the Attorney General’s motion states.

The Attorney General’s court filings as of this week have not responded to the lawsuit’s specific allegations of discrimination and harassment and other substantive claims.

A spokesperson for U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who is presiding over the case, said Sullivan was deliberating over the pending motion and he was expected to rule on the motion without calling a hearing.

Lilly’s attorney, Sameera Ali of the D.C. law firm Ali, White & Coleman, said she would consider answering questions about the lawsuit submitted by the Blade, but she had not responded as of Wednesday.

A police source who was assigned to the Fourth District during part of Lilly’s tenure there disputed Lilly’s allegations, saying that Lilly had a reputation for “odd behavior” and that any ridicule or “teasing” he may have encountered had nothing to do with his sexual orientation.

The source, who spoke on condition of not being identified because the source was not authorized to speak to the media, said Lilly also had a reputation of not adequately carrying out his police duties.

“The lawsuit doesn’t ring true,” the source said. “He had a habit of not telling the truth.”

The lawsuit says that prior to becoming a police officer, Lilly “had been previously treated for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”) tendencies and has been diagnosed and treated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) since the age of 20.”

It adds, “Since the onset of Plaintiff Lilly’s employment, these diagnoses did not interfere or affect Mr. Lilly’s job performance.”

Lilly did not respond to a call from the Blade seeking comment.

His lawsuit says that over the next two years following the locker incident Lilly filed more internal MPD complaints about the alleged harassment and discriminatory actions, including at least one complaint before the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Compliance Division. It says Lilly was subjected to retaliation after filing those complaints.

“Plaintiff is a homosexual male who engaged in protected EEO activity when he repeatedly reported illegal harassment, hate crimes, bias-related disciplinary actions and retaliation to his supervisors in the Fourth District,” the lawsuit says.

“The Department has selectively mistreated Plaintiff on the basis of his gender and associated sexual orientation,” it says.

In doing this, the lawsuit charges that the MPD and the city violated among other laws, Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and the D.C. Human Rights Act.

The harassment and hostile treatment toward him combined with work-related health issues that occurred during that period resulted in the department taking steps to fire him and later forcing him to retire on disability in 2013, according to the lawsuit.

The forced retirement, which the lawsuit says was a form of termination, came after he was hospitalized for a mental health crisis, including a bout of posttraumatic stress disorder the lawsuit says was brought about by a prolonged period of being subjected to a hostile work environment.

Although the forced disability retirement includes a benefit of receiving 40 percent of his “basic salary” as compensation, the reduction in his income created a severe financial hardship for him, the lawsuit says.

“With the reduced income, Plaintiff Lilly was evicted from his home, resulting in homelessness and subsequent addiction,” it says.

The lawsuit says Lilly is currently living in Las Vegas.

It calls on the court to award Lilly compensatory damages to be determined by a jury up to a maximum award of $300,000; to impose civil penalties on the city and the MPD; and to order the city to pay Lilly’s attorney’s fees.

Although lawsuits of this type are part of the public court record, neither Lilly nor his attorney publicly disclosed that it had been filed last August. The Blade learned about the lawsuit last month from David Mariner, executive director of D.C.’s LGBT Community Center.

Mariner said he has spoken with Lilly and he believes Lilly’s case is just one example of what Mariner says have been “numerous” instances of LGBT D.C. police officers being subjected to discrimination on the job.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has stated at LGBT events in recent years that she and the department do not tolerate anti-LGBT discrimination within the department or through MPD officers’ interactions with members of the community.

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards



Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade


A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami



Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)


MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

















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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness



Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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