December 29, 2016 at 10:00 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Top 10 local stories of 2016
D.C.-area stories, election night, gay news, Washington Blade

Hundreds of Hillary Clinton supporters filled Town on Hundreds of Hillary Clinton supporters filled Town on Election Night, only to leave shocked and disappointed. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

These are the top 10 D.C.-area stories of 2016 as selected by the Blade’s editorial staff.

#10: D.C. submits bid to host 2022 Gay Games

Tennis legend Billie Jean King was among those who announced their support for D.C.’s bid to host the 2022 Gay Games, which a committee representing local LGBT sports groups officially submitted on Nov. 30.

The quadrennial LGBT international sports competition usually draws between 12,000 and 15,000 athletic competitors and between 80,000 and 100,000 spectators to the host city.

#9: African-American History Museum opens

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, gay news, Washington Blade

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on Sept. 24. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT activists joined in the celebrations surrounding the grand opening on Sept. 24 of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is located on the National Mall across the street from the Washington Monument.

The new museum, which has drawn record crowds, includes several LGBT-related exhibits, including an inscribed watch that Martin Luther King Jr. gave to Bayard Rustin, a gay man who served as lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington in which King gave his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

“It’s a very poignant reminder of the relationship between Martin Luther King and Bayard Rustin,” said William Pretzer, a supervisory museum curator of history associated with the African American Museum.

Pretzer said many of the museum’s exhibits show that the African American freedom movement inspired other groups, including LGBT rights advocates, to organize and agitate for their own liberation.

#8: ‘Furies House’ named historic landmark 

Furies, gay news, Washington Blade

The National Park Service on May 4 honored the Furies House on Capitol Hill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The National Park Service on May 4 added a Capitol Hill row house used in the early 1970s as headquarters for a lesbian feminist group called the Furies Collective to the National Register of Historic Places.

The action by the Park Service came four months after the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to designate the Furies House as a historic landmark on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites.

LGBT history advocate Mark Meinke, who filed a 63-page nominating petition for the house’s D.C. historic status, said its designation by D.C. and the National Park Service as a historic site and landmark marked the first time a specifically lesbian oriented site achieved such a status.

“The house at 219 11th Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. became the operational center of the lesbian feminist separatist collective, The Furies, between late 1971 and the autumn of 1973 which created and led the debate over lesbians’ place in society,” Meinke wrote in his nomination application.

#7: Police end midnight shift for LGBT Liaison Unit 

D.C. police officials confirmed in January that they had discontinued the midnight shift for the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit a few months earlier as part of a redistribution of officers to “where the call volume is heaviest.”

Sources familiar with the LGBT unit said its midnight shift has often been the unit’s busiest time period because higher rates of violent crime and domestic violence occur during late-night hours.

The elimination of the midnight shift came about one year after members of the LGBT Liaison Unit and other police liaison units were assigned to unrelated patrol duties for half of their daily work shifts due to a shortage of officers on the force, police officials said.

The LGBT Liaison Unit has been “greatly diminished” in recent years, Stephania Mahdi, chair of the D.C. Anti-Violence Project, told a City Council hearing on police matters in March.

“The truth of the matter is the LGBT community does not feel the same level of support from the Liaison Unit that they have received in previous years,” she said.

#6: Trump campaign courts gay delegates in D.C.

A representative of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in February called the president of Log Cabin Republicans of D.C. and four or five other members of the group to invite them to run as delegate candidates pledged to Trump.

D.C. Log Cabin President Chris Allen said the Trump campaign representative knew that he and several other D.C. Log Cabin members were running as uncommitted delegate candidates in the city’s March 12 Republican presidential preference convention.

“She just called to say that the Trump campaign noticed that I wasn’t affiliated with anyone and wanted to know if I would like his endorsement for delegate,” Allen told the Blade. “And I just told her I wasn’t looking for any endorsement at this time.”

Allen and the other Log Cabin delegate candidates, who also declined the Trump campaign’s offer of an endorsement, lost their races to become uncommitted delegates at the D.C. GOP convention. Most of the D.C. GOP candidates who won delegate positions were committed to then presidential candidate Marco Rubio and John Kasich.

#5: Chase Brexton roiled over union fight

Baltimore’s Chase Brexton Health Care, which operates health centers that serve the LGBT community in Maryland, became the target of community protests and criticism from more than a dozen LGBT advocacy organizations in August when its upper management aggressively opposed an effort by employees to form a union.

Union organizers and their supporters among Chase Brexton’s patients and local activists became outraged when top managers, reportedly with the approval of CEO Richard Larison, fired at least five managers in retaliation for their support for the unionizing effort. In November Chase Brexton’s Board announced that Larison decided not to renew his contract to continue as CEO and would be stepping down at the end of the year.

#4: Chef Tyonne Johns murdered 

Lesbian chef and caterer Tyonne Johns was stabbed to death in August. She was later honored at the Blade’s Best Of awards. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lesbian chef and caterer Tyonne Johns was stabbed to death in August. She was later honored at the Blade’s Best Of awards at Town Danceboutique. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lesbian chef and caterer Tyonne Johns, 35, a beloved figure in the D.C. area, was stabbed to death on Aug. 6 while coordinating the catering of an outdoor wedding at a park in Chantilly, Va.

A Fairfax County judge on Oct. 31 ruled that prosecutors established probable cause that 19-year-old Kempton Alexander Bonds, a summer employee at the park, allegedly fatally stabbed Johns during an argument over the ownership of folding chairs used for the wedding. Police charged Bonds with second-degree murder. He has been released on a $250,000 bond while awaiting trial.

Johns was a highly acclaimed chef who operated her own catering business in the D.C. area during the past several years. Readers of the Washington Blade in October voted to posthumously award Johns the honor of “Best Chef” in the Blade’s 2016 Best of Gay D.C. competition.

No. 3: One-third of LGB students considered suicide

Thirty-two percent of D.C. high school students who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual reported they “seriously considered attempting suicide” during the previous 12 months, according to the city school system’s annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey released on Sept. 1.

The survey findings show that the LGB students’ heterosexual peers reported seriously committing suicide during the same 12-month period at a rate of 10 percent.

D.C. Public Schools officials didn’t respond to an inquiry by the Blade about why transgender students have not been included in the annual survey since it began more than 10 years ago.

No. 2: Trans women murdered in D.C. area

Deeniquia Dodds, gay news, Washington Blade

Deeniquia Dodds was shot to death on July 4. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

LGBT activists in D.C., Virginia and Maryland have expressed alarm that at least four transgender women lost their lives to violence in 2016 in separate incidents in D.C., Rockville, Baltimore and Richmond.

Each of the victims was a transgender woman of color, which anti-violence activists say is in keeping with a longstanding national trend showing trans women of color are at high risk for violent attacks and murder.

Authorities have identified the victims as Keyonna Blackeny, 22, who was found stabbed to death on April 16 in a room she had booked at the Red Roof Inn in Rockville, Md.; Deeniquia Dodds, 22, who was fatally shot in the early morning hours of July 4 near her home on Division Ave, N.E., in D.C.; Crystal Edmonds, 32, who was fatally shot Sept. 16 on a street in Baltimore; and Noony Norwood, 30, a Richmond resident who was found suffering from fatal gunshot wounds on a street in South Richmond on Nov. 6.

Two men have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the Blackeny case at the Red Roof Inn and another two men have been charged with first-degree murder in the Dodds case in D.C. D.C. police have said the motive in the Dodds murder was robbery but the two suspects appear to have targeted Dodds because she was transgender.

#1: LGBT allies win most races in D.C. area

Chris Van Hollen, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) will succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) in the U.S. Senate. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Nine of 10 LGBT allies, including former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, won their races for seats on the City Council and the D.C. State Board of Education in the Nov. 8 election. Among those winning their races was D.C. State Board of Education President Jack Jacobson, the city’s highest-ranking openly gay elected official.

In key races in Maryland, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, won election to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), who also has been a longtime LGBT rights backer.

Another longtime LGBT ally who won on Nov. 8 was Maryland State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), who beat GOP challenger Dan Cox for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Van Hollen. Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, yet another LGBT ally, won election to the state’s 4th Congressional District, which includes parts of Prince George’s County.

In Virginia, LGBT supporter Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) won re-election to his Northern Virginia U.S. House seat. But Democratic challenger and LGBT rights supporter LuAnn Bennett lost her race against incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) in the state’s 10th Congressional District, also in Northern Virginia. Comstock has had a mixed record on LGBT issues during her tenure as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

While pleased with the electoral success of local and state allies, LGBT activists grew increasingly somber at an election night party at D.C.’s Town nightclub as election returns projected on large video monitors showed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton.

election night, gay news, Washington Blade

Hillary Clinton supporters attended an election watch party at Town. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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