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Longtime gov’t speechwriter Shelbia Lengel dies at 81

Played lead role in organizing first national AIDS hotline

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Mia Henderson, gay news, Washington Blade
Shelbia Lengel, Black Caucus, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Shelbia “Shellie” Lengel, who served as a public affairs spokesperson and writer, including speechwriter, for several U.S. government agencies in Washington beginning in the late 1950s and played a lead role in organizing the government’s first national AIDS hotline in the early 1980s, died Aug. 27 of cancer at her home in Charlottesville, Va. She was 81.

A native of West Virginia, Lengel graduated second in her high school class in Charleston, W.Va., and was accepted at Duke University in North Carolina on a full scholarship, according to her son, Eric Lengel. Eric Lengel said his mother graduated from Duke in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in English.

He said his mother began her professional career in the federal government in 1958 at the Department of Agriculture as a public information writer and speechwriter.

She continued her role as a writer and speech writer in subsequent years at the then Department of Health, Education, and Welfare from 1962 to 1968; and at the Environmental Protection Agency from 1969 to 1971. While at EPA she helped organize the agency’s first Earth Day activities, Eric Lengel said.

He said she took a hiatus from government service from 1971 to 1976 when she served as executive director of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Pennsylvania at the organization’s office in Reading, Pa.

She resumed her career in the federal government in 1976, her son said, when she became a public affairs spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, where she remained until her retirement in 1988.

Eric Lengel said his mother became actively involved in HHS’s efforts to address the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, among other things, by playing a key role in getting the agency’s AIDS hotline up and running.

He said she also worked on AIDS related projects with then U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Everett Koop at a time when AIDS was little understood. President Ronald Reagan appointed Koop, who was known then as a conservative fundamentalist Christian who was strongly opposed for the Surgeon General’s position by LGBT and AIDS activists.

But in the midst of Shellie Lengel’s role as a spokesperson for HHS, Koop riled his once conservative supporters and pleased many AIDS activists by calling for widespread distribution of condoms, including in schools, as part of the nation’s AIDS prevention effort.

Eric Lengel said his mother became involved as a volunteer for AIDS causes upon her retirement in 1988. Among other things, she worked as a volunteer for D.C.’s Food and Friends, the first large-scale organization in the D.C. area that delivered meals for homebound people with HIV/AIDS.

Her longtime support for the LGBT community and its struggle with AIDS hit home in a profound way in 1994, Eric Lengel said, when his brother, one of her three sons, Andy Lengel, who was gay, died of AIDS.

Shellie Lengel is survived by her husband, Alan Lengel; her sons Eric and Ed Lengel; and grandchildren Megan Lengel, Stephen Lengel, Mike Lengel, Thomas Lengel, and Laura Lengel.

She was scheduled to be buried at the National Memorial Park in Falls Church, Va., next to her son Andy in an upcoming private ceremony.

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Delaware

Delaware governor vetoes legalization of marijuana possession

Carney cites impact on youth, public health, law enforcement

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Delaware trans student policy, gay news, washington blade
Delaware Gov. John Carney vetoed a bill that would have legalized the possession of marijuana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Delaware Gov. John Carney on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have legalized the possession of marijuana in the First State. House Bill 371, which passed the House on May 5 and the Senate May 12, would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and remove criminal and civil penalties associated with the non-remunerative transfer of marijuana for individuals ages 21 or older.

“I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people,” Carney said in his veto statement Tuesday. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”

Current state laws deem the possession of one ounce of marijuana or less a civil offense resulting in a financial penalty. Still, the possession of more than one ounce of marijuana remains a misdemeanor — a designation that would remain unchanged with the passage of the bill.

In the statement, Carney acknowledged that marijuana can help individuals with certain health conditions, and said that possession and private consumption of the substance should not lead to imprisonment. But he also noted that these beliefs are already reflected in state legislation, following his passage of marijuana decriminalization in 2019.

“I have been clear about my position since before I took office, and I have articulated my concerns many times,” he added.

The Delaware Center for Justice called upon the General Assembly to override the veto in a Tuesday press release, emphasizing that legalizing marijuana is of particular importance to low-income communities and communities of color across the state. 

These communities “experience police harassment and arrest for marijuana at disproportionate rates than those of white affluent communities, despite usage rates being almost the same,” DCJ Director of Policy Kailyn Richards noted in the press release. She added that DCJ believes state legislators should further “pass a companion bill that sets up a safe and legal marketplace.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware also emphasized that the General Assembly should override the veto.

Carney’s veto of the bill “is an affront to the lawmakers, advocates, and residents of Delaware who have shown consistent and overwhelming support for this measure,” Mike Bichner, ACLU of Delaware executive director, said in a statement Tuesday. “The criminalization of cannabis has been a tool of the failed, racist War on Drugs, which has caused irrevocable harm to our Black communities.”

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Rehoboth Beach

Vandals target 2 Rehoboth Beach LGBTQ-owned businesses

Staff discovers graffiti on walls, doors

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Vandals targeted the Purple Parrot in Rehoboth Beach on Monday. (Photo courtesy Purple Parrot)

Freddie’s Beach Bar and the Purple Parrot — two LGBTQ+ bars and restaurants in Rehoboth Beach — discovered that their establishments had been vandalized on Monday, according to a series of posts to the Purple Parrot’s Facebook page made by Hugh Fuller, the restaurant’s owner.

The vandal, whose identity remains unknown, painted on the walls and carved graffiti into the mirrors of the Purple Parrot’s bathroom, and painted graffiti on the front door of Freddie’s Beach Bar, the posts recounted. The establishments have since filed police reports with the Rehoboth Police Department.

Tony Rivenbark, a manager at Freddie’s, said that a staff member first noticed the vandalism around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, and that it was dry to the touch, leading restaurant management to believe it was painted early in the day. Upon discovering the graffiti, restaurant staff reported it to local police and were told that other nearby locations had similarly been vandalized, he said.

Between its Rehoboth and Arlington, Va. locations, Rivenbark has worked at the establishment for almost two decades, and added that this was the first instance of vandalism at the Rehoboth venue, which has been open for less than one year. He noted that Freddie’s management is currently reviewing security footage for further information, and is likely to soon install additional security cameras.

At the establishment’s Arlington, Va., location, “we’ve had some minor spray painting done, we’ve had some rocks thrown at windows,” he recounted. “Mostly I have attributed it to drunken antics, not so much hate. Hopefully that’s the case here as well.”

Rivenbark added that Freddie’s staff remains positive despite the circumstances. “It doesn’t seem like a huge issue. It’s something we’ll probably just paint over tomorrow,” Rivenbark said. “I’d much rather it be some kid that’s got a new little airbrush … than it being somebody that’s targeting LGBT businesses.”

The Rehoboth Beach Police Department declined to comment or to confirm details of the reports filed.

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District of Columbia

Pride Run returns after two-year hiatus

1,500 participants to join 10th annual event on June 10

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The Pride Run 5K is back after COVID hiatus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After a two-year pandemic hiatus that saw the Pride Run go mostly virtual, the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K is elated to once again welcome nearly 1,500 runners, walkers, volunteers, and spectators back to the Historic Congressional Cemetery for their Tenth Anniversary Race on Friday, June 10.

As an official Capital Pride Partner Event, the Pride Run 5K kicks off Capital Pride weekend with a bang. Well perhaps more of a “On your mark, get set, GO!” 

Join us as we run, walk, skip, shantay, and sashay on a course that starts near the cemetery’s “Gay Corner” where many LGBTQ rights activists, such as Leonard Matlovich, are interred. The race then winds along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to finish where you started.  

Gates open at 5 p.m. for packet pickup with the race beginning at 7 p.m. The post-race party includes beer and hard seltzer provided by DC Brau along with a DJ playing music until 9 p.m. Be sure to check out the return of the DCFR dance troupe performing to a hyped-up crowd. 

Race proceeds benefit the following local LGBTQ and youth-supporting organizations via the Pride Run Foundation: Ainsley’s Angels (National Capital Region), Casa Ruby, Team DC Student-Athlete Scholarship, SMYAL, The Wanda Alston Foundation, The Blade Foundation, and Teens Run DC. You can help support these amazing charities by registering for the race or donate directly at DCPrideRun.com.

A special thanks to the presenting sponsors, Capital One Café, Choice Hotels, KNEAD Hospitality + Design, Shake Shack, and Wegmans Food Market to the premier sponsors DC Brau, Pacers Running, and Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, and our elite sponsors, AHF Healthcare Centers, Avalon Bay Communities, Casey Trees, Endorphin Fitness, and Starbucks, and of course our special partner the Historic Congressional Cemetery. Last, but not least, a big thank you to all individual donors who contribute via the race website directly to our incredible charity partners. Together, we proudly celebrate who we are in a festive, safe, and inclusive event.

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