December 14, 2018 at 4:45 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Pelosi visits Floriana, plugs Equality Act
Nancy Pelosi, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Nancy Pelosi stopped by Floriana on 17th Street on Friday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told LGBT activists and others who joined her on a visit Friday to a Christmas tree outside Floriana Restaurant on 17th Street, N.W. near Dupont Circle that’s dedicated to her that she will give top priority to passing an LGBT rights bill in 2019.

Dito Sevilla, who works as Floriana’s bar manager, said he has been in charge of arranging for the installation of a large Christmas tree on the plaza in front of the popular Italian restaurant. He said he decorates the tree each year with a different theme, drawing the attention of Floriana customers and nearby residents and visitors.

“This year I said, ‘oh my God, it has to be Nancy Pelosi,’” he told the Blade. “She’s going to be our next Speaker. She’s the Democratic leader. And she looks terrific. And so that’s where it all began.”

The 17-and-a-half-foot tall Douglas fir tree has a large photo of Pelosi holding the Speaker’s gavel from when she was House Speaker in 2007 as its tree-top ornament. In addition to having more than 9,000 lights glowing at night, Sevilla placed on the tree more than a dozen American flags and large white ribbons with the names of the women elected to the U.S. House in the 2018 mid-term election along with photos of some of them.

“This is really something,” said Pelosi when she arrived at the site at 1602 17th St., N.W. “It’s really remarkable. I’m going to show the pictures to my grandchildren.”

Among those joining Pelosi were members of her staff and friends and well-wishers, including several gay activists who live in the neighborhood. Among them were former Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance President Rick Rosendall and Democratic activist and political commentator Peter Rosenstein.

Pelosi agreed to numerous requests by neighborhood residents to pose with them for photos.

When asked by the Blade whether she thought the LGBT rights bill known as the Equality Act would come up for a vote in the House after Democrats take control of the body in January, Pelosi said she was certain the measure would pass in the House.

“But the way that we will be successful – not only that we can pass it but we want it to become law,” she said referring to its prospects of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“So we think our best friend in all of this will be public opinion,” she said. “The public sees what this is and says let’s just get on with it – let’s just get on with it.”

Pelosi said that along with the Equality Act, House Democrats would be pushing hard for “responsible background checks to end gun violence” and for legislation to protect “dreamers,” the mostly young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who have lived in the U.S. most of their lives.

Sevilla said Pelosi’s visit was initiated by some of her staff members who live in the neighborhood.

“The tree started getting some traction and people started getting their picture taken in front of it and hash-tagging it,” he said. “And a couple of people from her office I think live up the street and they ended up stopping by. And they said we have to bring her by. She would love this,” he said.

“And one thing led to another and they gave me a call…and here they are,” said Sevilla.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with Dito Sevilla. (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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