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House panel kills LGBT protections in D.C. schools bill

GOP committee defeats amendment to ban bias

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SOAR Act, gay news, Washington Blade, LGBT students

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) (Photo public domain)

The Republican-controlled U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week voted to kill an amendment to a D.C. school voucher bill calling for protecting LGBT students from discrimination in private and religious schools that receive government funding.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) introduced the amendment at a March 10 committee markup hearing on a bill reauthorizing the Scholarships for Opportunity Results Act, known as SOAR.

Congress first passed the controversial SOAR Act in 2003 to provide federal funds for school vouchers to pay the tuition for low-income D.C. students to enroll in private and religious schools. The law only applies to D.C.

Some LGBT activists have opposed the voucher program because it provides government funds for religious schools that are exempt from the city’s Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity among other categories of protections.

Watson Coleman’s amendment called for inserting the terms sexual orientation and gender identity into the list of protected classes under the SOAR Act.

The committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), defeated the amendment by a vote of 22 to 17. Those voting no included 22 of the 24 Republicans who sit on the committee. Two of the GOP members, Rep. William Hurd (R-Texas) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) did not vote.

On the Democratic side, 17 of the 18 Democrats on the committee vote for the amendment. Rep. Gerald Connelly (D-Va.) did not vote.

Among those voting for the amendment was Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) who is allowed to vote in committee but not on the House floor. Norton has been a longtime supporter of LGBT rights.

Stephanie Franklin, a spokesperson for the D.C. Office of Human Rights, which enforces the city’s Human Rights Act, said the act would apply to non-religious private schools receiving SOAR Act funds through student tuition.

Franklin said the OHR has interpreted the Human Rights Act to also apply to religious schools under certain circumstances. She said the act would allow religious schools to limit hiring of employees and the acceptance of students to those who are members of their schools’ religious denomination.

But she said once an employee is hired or a student is accepted the Human Rights Act could in some circumstances prevent the schools from discriminating against such employees or students.

“However, we must decide on a case-by-case basis,” Franklin said.

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Maryland

Md. House of Delegates approves transgender rights bill

State Medicaid program would be required to cover gender-affirming treatment

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Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act in Annapolis, Md., on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

The Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment for transgender people.

House Bill 283, or the Trans Health Equity Act, passed by a 93-37 vote margin. The measure now goes before the Maryland Senate.

“Proud that the MD House of Delegates passed the Trans Health Equity Act with such a strong majority,” tweeted state Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County), who introduced HB 283.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride reveals 2023 Pride theme

This year will focus on ‘peace, love, revolution’

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Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith speaks at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in D.C. on March 16, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Over 300 people turned out Thursday night, March 16, for the annual D.C. Capital Pride Reveal celebration, which organizers say served as the official kick-off of the LGBTQ Pride events for 2023 in the nation’s capital.

Among other plans for the 2023 Pride events, including the annual Pride parade and festival, organizers announced this year’s theme for the Pride festivities will be “peace, love, revolution.”

The event took place in one of the large ballrooms at D.C.’s Kimpton Hotel Monaco at 700 F St., N.W.

Officials with Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Pride events, also announced at the Reveal celebration that the 2023 Pride events will set the stage for 2025, when D.C. will serve as the host city for World Pride 2025.

World Pride is an international LGBTQ event that takes place over a period of several days that usually draws a million or more visitors from countries throughout the world to the host city.

Organizers of the World Pride celebration announced last year that they had accepted D.C.’s bid to host World Pride 2025. The bid was prepared by the Capital Pride Alliance and D.C. government officials, including officials from the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau.

“We are thrilled to introduce our theme for Capital Pride 2023 as we gear up to welcome the world to D.C. in 2025, which is also the 50th anniversary of Pride in D.C.,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos in a statement released on Friday. “This year’s theme kicks off a three-year campaign leading into the message that we want to share with the world in 2025,” Bos said.

In the statement it released on Friday, Capital Pride explained its rationale for selecting its theme, saying it was based in part on the LGBTQ rights movement’s history.

“Social justice issues, including those involving the LGBTQ+ community, were shaped by moments that turned into movements beginning in the 1950s and in the years that followed,” the statement says. “These movements created a REVOLUTION of change that sparked the beginning of newfound freedoms,” it says.

“The fight for these liberties instilled a sense of Pride in members of the LGBTQ+ community in the decades since,” the statement continues. “PEACE and LOVE motivated many of these pioneers to be brave and inspired others to fight for human rights for years to come,” it says.

The statement points out that “recent challenges” have arisen in state legislatures and in Congress that have once again placed the LGBTQ community “under fire from those who would deny us our basic civil rights.” It says these challenges will require a continuation of the fight for freedom “through direct action in the streets and the halls of government.”

Among those who spoke at the Reveal event, in addition to Bos, were Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith, and Capital Pride’s public affairs director, Marquia Parnell.

Also speaking was Japer Bowles, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, who told the gathering that the city government, especially Bowser, will be working diligently to provide full city support for WorldPride 2025.

D.C. drag performer Shi-Queeta-Lee drew loud applause from the crowd that filled the hotel ballroom for a drag performance after the speakers addressed the crowd.

“We’re going to be focused on peace, love, and revolution over the course of this next year,” Smith told the Washington Blade at the conclusion of the Reveal event. “We’re super excited about it because this is a part of the movement that adds to the historical pieces as we approach 2025 and World Pride in 2025,” he said.

In its statement released on Friday, the Capital Pride Alliance announced the 2023 Capital Pride Parade will take place June 10, and will travel the same route as last year’s D.C. Pride Parade. A Pride block party will also take place this year in a two-block section of 17th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in the same location as last year, the Capital Pride announcement says.

And it says the annual Capital Pride Festival and concert will take place on June 11, also at the same location as last year — along a stretch of Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop.  

“Through the events of Capital Pride and its many partnerships, last year Capital Pride Alliance was able to raise over $200,000 for the Pride 365 Fund,” according to the Capital Pride statement. 

“The success of last year allowed CPA to invest and partner with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community to establish a new LGBTQ+ community center for Washington, D.C., and continue the support of partner organizations that organize events such as DC Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride, Silver Pride, Latinx Pride and Asian and Pacific Islander Pride,” the statement says.

Further details of plans for Capital Pride 2023 can be access at www.CapitalPride.org.

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Virginia

Former Log Cabin Republicans executive director named to Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board

R. Clarke Cooper ‘proud to accept’ Youngkin’s appointment

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R. Clarke Cooper (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has named former Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

“Proud to accept appointment from Gov. Glenn Youngkin to serve on the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board,” wrote Cooper in a post on his LinkedIn page. “Every citizen of the commonwealth has God given inalienable rights, envoys individual liberty and is charged with individual responsibility.”

“May Virginians judge our neighbors on the content of their character, not by their sexual orientation,” he added.

Youngkin announced Cooper’s appointment on March 10.

Cooper, an Army Reserve officer who served in the Iraq War, as Log Cabin Republicans’ executive director from 2010-2012. 

He was Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2019-2021. Cooper is currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

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