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Stein Club unable to endorse in three key D.C. Council races

Gray, Robert White, Norton win backing of LGBTQ Democratic group



Stein endorsements, gay news, Washington Blade
The Stein Club’s members voted to endorse the re-election of D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7). (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, was unable to reach a 60 percent threshold vote needed to make an endorsement in three key D.C. Council races, including the hotly contested Ward 2 race in which eight Democrats, including a gay candidate, are competing for the seat.

In an announcement released on Monday, the Stein Club said 320, or 76 percent, of its 419 eligible members voted in an online endorsement election held May 12-15.

The club’s members voted to endorse the re-election of D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7). White is running unopposed in the primary.

Club members also voted to endorse the re-election of D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and D.C. U.S. “shadow” Senator Paul Strauss (D). In addition, club members voted to endorse D.C. U.S. “shadow” Representative candidate Oye Owolewa (D). Norton, Straus, and Owolewa are also running unopposed in the June 2 primary.

White, Gray, Norton, and Strauss have longstanding records of support for LGBTQ rights, and political newcomer Owolewa expressed support for LGBTQ related issues during the Stein Club’s May 11 virtual candidate forum and endorsement meeting in which all but two of the 25 candidates running for the D.C. Council and congressional seats attended.

The Stein Club said in its announcement message on Monday that the club used a “contingent vote ranked-choice system” in its endorsement election process. According to the announcement, if no candidate received a 60 percent majority vote in the first round of voting the club calculated a second round “realignment” vote based on the second choice of club members who voted.

In the Ward 2 D.C. Council race, in which all Democratic candidates expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights, Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Kennedy came in first place in the first round of voting, with 88 votes (30.9%). Gay Logan Circle ANC Chairperson and longtime gay activist John Fanning finished second in the first round vote with 78 votes (27.4%).

Jack Evans, who resigned from the Ward 2 Council seat last year following ethics related allegations brought against him by his Council colleagues, finished third with 29 votes (10.2%).

The remaining Ward 2 Democratic candidates finished in this order: Former Obama administration official Jordan Grossman, 26 votes (9.1%); former Assistant D.C. Attorney General Brooke Pinto, 21 votes (8.4%); Georgetown area ANC member Kishan Putta, 22 votes (7.7%); community activist Yilin Zhang, 8 votes (2.8%); and community activist Daniel Hernandez, 4 votes (1.4%).

In the second round of voting, for which only the top two vote getters in the first round were eligible, Kennedy and Fanning each received 113 votes, or 39.6 percent, which was far short of the 60 percent vote tally needed for an endorsement under the Stein Club’s longstanding rules.

A spreadsheet released by the club showing the vote count for all candidates shows that in the Ward 2 race, six club members voted for “no endorsement” in the first round of voting, with 59 members or 20.7 percent voting for “no endorsement in the second round of voting. Thirty-five members cast a ballot to “abstain” from supporting any candidate in the Ward 2 race, according to the results released by the club.

In the Ward 7 D.C. Council contest, incumbent Vincent Gray, a former D.C. mayor with a strong record of support on LGBTQ issues, received 161 votes (63.2%) in the first round of voting, clinching the endorsement for him. Gay Ward 7 candidate Anthony Lorenzo Green, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, finished second with 55 votes or 21.6 percent. The four remaining Ward 7 candidates finished as follows: Veda Rasheed, 27 votes (20.l6%); Kelvin Brown, 8 votes (3.1%); Rebecca Morris, 0 votes (0%); and James Jennings, 0 votes (0%).

Four Stein members voted for “no endorsement” in the Ward 7 race and 65 members abstained from voting in that race.

In the Ward 8 Council race, incumbent Trayon White, who has expressed support for LGBTQ issues, came in first with 94 votes or 36.4 percent, falling short of the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement. White’s challengers finished in this order: Michael Austin, 80 votes (31.0%); Yaida Ford, 44 votes (17.1%); and Stuart Anderson, 20 votes (7.8%).

In what some have considered a surprise development, challenger Austin received 110 votes or 42.6 percent in the second round of voting in the Ward 8 contest, beating White, who received 105 votes or 40.7 percent. Austin nevertheless fell far short of the 60 percent needed for an endorsement. Sixty-two Stein members abstained from voting in the Ward 8 race and 43 or 16.7 percent voted for “no endorsement” in the second round vote.

Similarly, incumbent Council member Brandon Todd, who has also expressed support for LGBTQ issues, finished in first place in the Ward 4 race with 128 votes or 48.1 percent, ahead of challengers Janeese Lewis George, 122 votes (45.9%); and Marlena Edwards, 6 votes (2.3%). In the second round of voting Todd received 129 votes (48.5%), finishing ahead of George, who received 124 votes (46.6%).

In the At-Large Council race, incumbent Robert White, a longtime strong supporter of LGBTQ rights who’s running unopposed in the primary, received 250 votes or 89.0 percent. Twenty-seven Stein Club members voted for “no endorsement” and 39 members voted to “abstain” in the At-Large race.

In the Congressional Delegate race, Norton, another longtime strong supporter of LGBTQ rights who pushed hard for the U.S. House approval of the LGBTQ rights bill known as the Equality Act, received 254 votes or 90.4 percent, the highest vote count of any of the candidates vying for the Stein Club’s endorsement. But despite her popularity in the LGBTQ community, 27 Stein members voted for “no endorsement” in that race and 39 voted to “abstain.”

In the “shadow” U.S. Senate race, incumbent Paul Strauss, another strong supporter of LGBTQ rights, received 169 votes or 71.9 percent. Sixty-six club members voted for “no endorsement” and 85 voted to “abstain.”

In the “shadow” U.S. House race, Owolewa received 162 votes or 71.6 percent, with 61 members voting for “no endorsement” and 97 members voting to “abstain.”

“By all accounts, the Stein Club’s first virtual forum and endorsement vote was a resounding success,” said Stein Club President Kent Boese in a statement. “The Club will now focus its efforts on turning out the vote for its endorsed candidates.”

Stein Vice President for Legislative Affairs Monika Nemeth added that campaigning in the age of COVID-19 presents “unprecedented challenges” for both the candidates and the Stein Club.

“For this reason, the Stein Club plans to employ socially distanced campaign strategies such as phone banks, social media engagement, and online advertisements to support the Club’s endorsed candidates,” Nemeth said.

Stein Club Vice President for Political Affairs Jatarious Frazier told the Washington Blade the club’s endorsements will remain in effect for the November general election when the endorsed Democrats will face independent opponents as well as third party opponents, including Republicans and Statehood-Green Party members.

Frazier said the Stein Club does not plan to make an endorsement in the race for a second At-Large Council member in the general election. That seat, currently held by pro-LGBTQ Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large), cannot be held by a Democrat under the city’s election law.

The full tabulation and results for the Stein Club’s endorsement vote can be accessed here:

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards



Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade


A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami



Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)


MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

















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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness



Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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