December 29, 2017 at 6:00 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
YEAR IN REVIEW: Top 10 local stories of the year
Democrats, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A year that started on a down note for most with the inauguration of President Trump ended with a stunning political upset in Virginia that lifted the spirits of LGBT advocates nationwide. Here, a look back at the biggest local stories of 2017.

10. Madaleno running for Md. governor

LGBT local news stories, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Rich Madaleno announced in July his bid for governor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who became the first openly gay member of the Maryland General Assembly in 2002, announced his candidacy for governor in July.

Madaleno, 52, is among the lawmakers and advocates who played a lead role in to secure passage of Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill in 2012 under then-Gov. Martin O’Malley. In addition to his outspoken support for LGBT rights Madaleno is known in Annapolis among political insiders as a highly knowledgeable lawmaker on a wide range of other issues, including financial matters.

Others competing with Madaleno for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next year are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, and former State Department official Alec Ross. If he were to win the nomination he would be running against incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

“I will never back down on civil rights, on LGBTQ rights, on workers’ rights, on women’s rights, on voting rights,” Madaleno said in his announcement speech. “Our rights cannot and will not be sacrificed with Rich Madaleno as governor,” he said.

9. Anti-LGBT groups challenge trans policy in Frederick

A 17-year-old transgender student in Frederick County, Md., filed a motion in federal court on Oct. 20 to defend the county school board against a lawsuit seeking to overturn the board’s sweeping policy of protecting trans students from discrimination and harassment at school.

James van Kuilenburg, an honor student at Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, filed his motion to intervene in the case as a defendant with the aim of presenting a separate legal argument for why the lawsuit lacks merit and should be dismissed by the U.S. District Court of Maryland, according to a team of attorneys representing him.

The Frederick School Board adopted its transgender nondiscrimination policy in June with widespread support from the community, according to LGBT activists.

With legal representation from an attorney known to be aligned with anti-LGBT groups, a cisgender female student and her mother anonymously filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the policy on grounds that it violates students’ privacy rights.

8. Forced resignation of pro-LGBT Del. teacher prompts community response  

Cape Henlopen High School, gay news, Washington Blade

Cape Henlopen High School (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The forced resignation of a popular LGBT supportive teacher and theater director at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, Del., prompted community meetings and the creation of a school district sponsored committee to look into reports of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

Several students and parents who know now former teacher Martha Pfeiffer said they believe school district officials forced her to resign because of her outspoken support for LGBT students in her role as faculty adviser for Cape Henlopen High’s Gay-Straight Alliance club.

 Reports of bullying and complaints by LGBT students that school officials were ignoring their appeals for help surfaced at a June 19 community forum in Rehoboth Beach organized by the LGBT community center CAMP Rehoboth.

 Schools Superintendent Robert Fulton told the Blade he created the Cape Henlopen LGBTQ Outreach Committee following media reports of concerns expressed by students at Cape Henlopen High that school officials were not adequately addressing longstanding concerns of anti-LGBT bullying at the school.

7. Va. man found not guilty in killing of lesbian chef

Tyonne Johns, gay news, Washington Blade

Tyonne Johns was stabbed to death; her accused killer was found not guilty.(Image courtesy Vimeo)

A Fairfax Circuit Court jury on Oct. 4 found a former county parks employee not guilty in the August 2016 stabbing death of lesbian chef and caterer Tyonne Johns during an altercation at a wedding reception in a park that Johns catered.

The verdict shocked friends and co-workers of Johns, who disputed claims by defendant Kempton A. Bonds, 20, who testified that he stabbed Johns in self-defense after she attempted to strangle him in an altercation that started over a dispute about who owned folding chairs used at the reception.

Bonds had been charged by Fairfax County, Va., police with second-degree murder at the time of the incident. The not-guilty verdict came three months after a mistrial was declared in July at the conclusion of an earlier trial when the jury became deadlocked and could not reach a verdict for Bonds.

6. Jim Graham dies at 71

D.C. Police and Fire Department honor guard carried former Council member Jim Graham’s coffin into the John A. Wilson Building on June 23, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jim Graham, a gay attorney who won election to four terms on the D.C. City Council after serving for 15 years as executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic during the height of the AIDS epidemic, died June 11 from complications associated with an intestinal infection. He was 71.

During a ceremony in which Graham’s coffin lay in state in the John A. Wilson Building, which serves as D.C.’s City Hall, Mayor Muriel Bowser, City Council Chair Phil Mendelson, and others who knew and worked for him spoke of what they called Graham’s dedication and outspoken advocacy for city residents who often were overlooked and in need of city services.

In a gesture considered appropriate by those who knew Graham and his trademark fashion statement of always wearing a bowtie when dressed for work, his former Council staff members arranged for a rainbow flag shaped into a giant bowtie to be draped over the coffin.

“As we were thinking about all of the cultures that Jim touched, of course the primary one was the gay community because that’s where he came from,” said Calvin Woodland Jr., who served as chief of staff for Graham’s Council office.

5. Report shows hate crimes rose 59 percent

The number of anti-LGBT hate crimes in the District of Columbia increased in 2016 by 59 percent, from 37 cases reported in 2015 to 59 cases reported in 2016, according to the city’s annual bias-crime report released in March.

The report showed that hate crimes targeting people based on their “gender identity/expression” and “sexual orientation” came in third and fourth place in the percentage increase among the categories of hate crimes, behind “ethnicity/national origin” and “religion” related hate crimes. But the report said anti-trans and anti-LGB hate crimes continued their multi-year trend of comprising the largest number of hate crime cases.

The number of reported anti-trans hate crimes increased by 90 percent, from 10 in 2015 to 19 in 2016. The number of anti-LGB hate crimes rose by 48 percent, from 27 in 2015 to 40 in 2016, the report shows.

At a news conference at which the report was released, Mayor Muriel Bowser and then acting Police Chief Peter Newsham reiterated the city’s commitment to combat hate crimes targeting all population groups.

4. Trump appoints LGBT-supportive U.S. Attorney for D.C.

Jessie K. Liu, who President Trump appointed as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, told a community meeting in October that she is committed to aggressively prosecuting all forms of hate crimes, including those targeting LGBT people.

Her office organized the meeting in partnership with D.C. government officials and members of community groups, including the D.C. LGBT Center’s Anti-Violence Project.

“I want to thank our community and government partners, the D.C. Anti-Violence Project…and the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Affairs, who helped our office plan this event tonight,” she said.

“As a woman of color myself I feel very emotionally strongly that we can’t tolerate anyone in our community being targeted because of race or religion or sexual orientation or gender or gender identity or any of the protected classes,” she said in referring to groups protected under the D.C. hate crimes law.

3. D.C. loses bid to host 2022 Gay Games

Gay Games, Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade

A crowd of supporters joined Mayor Muriel Bowser at a rally in support of D.C.’s Gay Games bid earlier this year. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Federation of Gay Games in October announced it had selected Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, Mexico, to host the 2022 Gay Games, the quadrennial international LGBT sports event that is expected to attract as many as 15,000 athletes and thousands more spectators to the host city.

The announcement came days after Mayor Muriel Bowser headed a 32-member D.C. delegation that traveled to Paris to make the city’s final presentation on why it should be selected as the host city for the Games. Earlier in the year the FGG selected D.C., Hong Kong, and Guadalajara as the three finalists among more than a dozen cities that submitted bids for becoming the host city.

Some speculated that the FGG’s selection committee, which included Europeans, may have passed over D.C. because of hostility toward President Trump. FGG officials insisted the selection was based strictly on its findings following detailed site visits of which city could best host the Games and advance the FGG’s objectives of advancing LGBT equality in sports and society.

2. Protesters disrupt Capital Pride Parade

D.C. Pride protest, gay news, Washington Blade

No Justice No Pride protesters block the Pride parade in June. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ten protesters from the local group No Justice No Pride stood in the street and locked arms to block the path of D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade on June 10 on P Street, N.W., to voice what the group said was its objections to participation by D.C. police and certain corporate sponsors in the annual Pride events.

D.C. police, including Police Chief Peter Newsham, were present on the street when the disruption occurred. As angry parade participants shouted at the protesters to leave the street police rerouted the parade. Capital Pride organizers said the disruption delayed the completion of the parade by about 90 minutes.

No Justice No Pride members said the decision to block the parade came after Capital Pride leaders, following a community meeting in which No Justice No Pride voiced its concerns, declined to agree to the dissident group’s demands that police, including the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, be banned from the parade. Protesters also wanted Capital Pride to drop its ties to several corporate sponsors of the parade and Pride festival set to take place the following day on grounds that the corporations had policies harmful to Native Americans and people of color despite their support for LGBT rights.

Capital Pride leaders promised to reassess their corporate sponsorship policies but said it was too late in the organizing to make any changes for the 2017 events. The protest triggered heated debate and disagreements among some in the LGBT community about how Capital Pride should operate each year.

1. Danica Roem unseats Bob Marshall in Va. House race 

Danica Roem stunned homophobe Bob Marshall in November. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Transgender rights advocate and former journalist Danica Roem made history on Nov. 7 when she won election to a seat in the Virginia House of delegates, becoming the first transgender person in the country set to be seated in a state legislature.

 Roem, a Democrat, drew both nationwide and international attention, in part, by defeating Bob Marshall, a Republican who held the seat in the House of Delegate’s 13th District in Northern Virginia’s outer suburbs of Washington, D.C. since 1992 and who was known as the state legislature’s most outspoken opponent of LGBT rights.

 Political observers said Roem ran a highly effective and strategic campaign that stressed local infrastructure issues. Her well researched proposals for alleviating traffic congestion and traffic backups along a route in her district that impacted large numbers of residents as they commuted to and from work every day resonated with voters, observers said.

 Despite Marshall and his supporters’ attempts to portray Roem as a militant activist promoting a transgender “agenda” over the needs of the district, Roem beat Marshall by a 54-45 percent margin.

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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