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D.C. gay bars launch campaign against ‘tipped wage’ measure

Workers fear wage losses, staff cutbacks

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Town Danceboutique, gay news, Washington Blade

Town Danceboutique (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Westlund)

Employees, managers, and owners of the D.C. gay bars Town Danceboutique, Trade, and Number Nine organized an election committee earlier this month to oppose a June 19 ballot measure asking voters to decide whether the so-called “tipped wage” exemption should be eliminated.

Other D.C. bars, restaurants, and nightclubs across the city quickly joined the committee, called NO2DC77, according to gay D.C. nightlife advocate Mark Lee, who is serving as a consultant to the committee.

The ballot measure, called Initiative 77, calls for ending an exemption to the city’s minimum wage law that allows employers of tipped workers to pay them less than the prevailing minimum wage. If approved by voters, it would require all tipped workers to be paid the full city minimum wage as part of their base pay.

NO2DC77 points out on its website NO2DC77.com that existing D.C. law requires restaurants, bars and other employers of tipped workers to pay tipped workers the difference if their tips fall short of the full minimum wage, which is currently $12.50 per hour. Under the existing tipped wage exemption, employers also pay tipped workers a lower minimum wage of $3.33 per hour.

“It is extremely rare for tipped workers to not earn incomes that are significantly higher than minimum wage, and the tip-wage system allows them to retain great earning potential,” NO2DC77 says in a May 4 statement.

“Tipped employees at the city’s nightlife establishments know that outlawing the tip-wage system will reduce their incomes, as well as result in staffing cutbacks and reductions in shifts and hours,” the statement says. “Jobs will be lost, consumer prices will skyrocket, venues won’t survive, and the economic foundation of D.C.’s vibrant and dynamic nighttime economy will be shattered,” the statement concludes.

Lee said that because LGBT people make up a disproportionately high percentage of tipped workers in nightlife establishments, they could be among the most to be adversely impacted if the initiative passes on June 19 in the city’s primary election.

Supporters of the initiative, led by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, or ROC United, dispute restaurant industry leaders’ claim that forcing them to pay tipped workers the full minimum wage over and above their tips would create a severe economic hardship in D.C.’s highly competitive hospitality industry.

ROC United officials also dispute claims that the large majority of tipped workers earn more than the minimum wage, saying servers in smaller venues that are not high end “white tablecloth” restaurants often make less than the minimum wage. The group has also launched a campaign highlighting what it says are studies showing that female tipped workers are subjected to sexual harassment to a far greater degree than females who work in other professions.

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Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing

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census, gay news, Washington Blade
(Bigstock photo)

A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

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Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’

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A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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