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Judge dismisses part of gay D.C. cop’s bias lawsuit

Officer alleges anti-gay harassment

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

Former D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has said the department does not tolerate anti-LGBT discrimination. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A federal judge on Monday dismissed three of 11 counts in a lawsuit filed last year by a gay former D.C. police officer accusing fellow officers and supervisors of subjecting him to discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on his sexual orientation.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the three counts in response to a motion filed in January by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine asserting that former Metropolitan Police Department Officer Christopher Lilly failed to state a valid claim that the alleged discrimination violated his First and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights.

As part of his Sept. 26 ruling, Sullivan ordered the city to respond by Oct. 10 to the remaining eight counts of Lilly’s lawsuit that still stand. Those counts charge that the alleged discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by the MPD against Lilly violate the D.C. Human Rights Act and Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Lilly charges in his lawsuit filed in May 2015 that between 2011 and 2013 he was subjected, among other things, to repeated anti-gay name-calling and other forms of harassment, including the placement of AIDS stickers on his locker at the Fourth Police District, where he was stationed.

The lawsuit says the discriminatory actions began shortly after 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.

Police officials and the Office of the Attorney General, which is defending the city against the lawsuit, have declined to comment, saying they never discuss pending litigation. Neither Lilly nor his attorney, Sameera Ali, responded to a request by the Blade for comment.

The city’s response to the remaining counts in the lawsuit, due by Oct. 10, would become the city’s and the MPD’s first response to Lilly’s specific allegations of discrimination.

The Attorney General’s court brief calling for dismissal of the lawsuit’s constitutional claims limited its arguments to procedural and legal issues and did not address Lilly’s claims of being subjected to anti-gay discrimination and harassment.

The Fourth District commander at the time the alleged discrimination against Lilly occurred, Kimberly Chrisley-Missouri, has since been promoted to the rank of deputy chief and is said to be among those under consideration to replace Cathy Lanier as D.C.’s next permanent police chief.

The lawsuit says Lilly filed an internal complaint with Chrisley-Missouri informing her of the discrimination and harassment he said he was encountering at the Fourth District but received no response from her.

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Glenn Youngkin sworn in as Va. governor

Republican backed teacher who opposed trans student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin at his swearing in in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 15, 2022 (YouTube screenshot)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Saturday amid concerns that he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in the state.

“Today we gather not as individuals, not as Republicans and Democrats,” said Youngkin after his swearing in. “Today we gather as Virginians.”

Former Gov. Ralph Northam and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are among those who attended the ceremony that took place at the State Capitol. Terry McAuliffe, who Youngkin defeated in the general election, did not attend because of a COVID-19 scare.

Youngkin during his campaign against McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students. Youngkin has also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin on Thursday named Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, to his administration.

“We will remove politics from the classroom and focus on the essentials,” said Youngkin in his inaugural speech, without specifically mentioning LGBTQ students.

He added “parents should have a say in what is taught in schools.”

Youngkin has also expressed his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and would “support that” as governor.

Lieutenant Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares also took office on Saturday.

Winsome, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, is the first woman and first female of color elected lieutenant governor. Miyares, a former House member whose mother was born in Cuba, is Virginia’s first Latino attorney general.

Youngkin in his inaugural speech noted “the people of Virginia just elected the most diverse leadership” in the state’s history. Youngkin’s first executive order ends “the use of” so-called “critical race theory” (which is not taught in Virginia schools) and other “divisive concepts” in Virginia’s public schools.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Wednesday.

Republicans control the House by a 52-48 margin. Democrats have a 21-19 edge in the Virginia Senate.

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Va. school board names new chair who called for burning books

Kirk Twigg backed torching of materials with “sexually explicit” content

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(Screenshot via WUSA)

The Spotsylvania County School Board voted Monday to name Kirk Twigg, who advocated for burning books he deemed “sexually explicit” in November, as its new chair. 

His win gives conservatives the majority on the board as Republicans across the country continue an effort to ban books dealing with LGBTQ issues and racism from schools. 

Spotsylvania County has been involved in the controversy from the beginning, voting last year to remove books containing “sexually explicit” materials — only to rescind the order a week later.  

Monday’s board meeting, Twigg’s first as chair, would prove to be disorganized and, at times, unruly. 

Twigg’s first order of business was to call an unscheduled, closed-door session, which may have violated Virginia’s open meeting requirements. According to Virginia Code, a closed meeting cannot be called without a public body approving a motion that states the subject matter and the purpose of the meeting, as well as an applicable exemption from open meeting requirements.    

After the board returned from the closed-door session, Twigg said well-regarded Superintendent Dr. Scott Baker would be fired without cause. Baker had already announced he would be resigning at the end of the school year in December. 

After Baker decided to resign, a longtime Spotsylvania resident penned a letter in the Free Lance-Star, calling him “the finest superintendent, by far.”

“Dr. Baker is trusted and respected by parents, students and employees of Spotsylvania Schools; and he never lost sight of his mission for good reason,” it read. “He did so despite the noise and disruption from those few board members dedicated to bringing political disruption and dissidence into our public educational system. Shame on the few.”

As Twigg made the announcement, another member of the board interrupted him, saying: “Um, Mr. Twigg, no he is not. You need to make a motion — there needs to be a motion and a vote.”

Board members continued to speak over each other as conservative members attempted a vote. But Board Member Nicole Cole told the chairman she had comments. 

“I believe that the board members who have lodged this termination owe our citizens and our students of Spotsylvania County a justification for firing Dr. Baker,” said Cole. “You have not stated any justification or ability to fill the position. How is this good for the students, the children of Spotsylvania? How does this make sense?”

In a rebuke of the chaotic meeting, she added that Twigg “couldn’t even properly chair a meeting.”

After approximately 7 minutes of heated discussion where members from both sides got noticeably frustrated, the board voted 4-3 to fire Baker. 

Twigg, Lisa Phelps, April Gillespie and Rabih Abuismail, who also advocated for burning books, voted in favor. 

The Free Lance-Star reported that Baker was escorted from the building before the board returned from the second closed-door meeting. 

An emergency meeting has been scheduled for Friday to name an interim superintendent.

“It’s just very sad to hear that a superintendent who has been fully engaged in this community for 10 years is just let go with no rhyme or reason,” said Board Member Dawn Shelley, while noting Baker’s accomplishments. 

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Melissa Etheridge to host Heather Mizeur fundraiser

Virtual event to take place on Tuesday

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Heather Mizeur, left, with Melissa Etheridge. (Photo courtesy of Heather Mizeur)

Singer Melissa Etheridge next week will hold a virtual fundraiser for Heather Mizeur’s congressional campaign.

The fundraiser will take place on Tuesday at 8 p.m. with tickets starting at $50. Supporters who donate at least $250 will be able to speak with Etheridge and Mizeur in a private Zoom room.

Mizeur, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates who lives on the Eastern Shore with her wife, is running against anti-LGBTQ Republican Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District. Mizeur ran for Maryland governor in 2014.

Mizeur on Thursday noted to the Washington Blade that her congressional campaign has raised more than $1 million.

“It’s going really, really great,” said Mizeur.

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