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Capital Pride reiterates 2018 policy banning D.C. police from parade

Black Pride has no plans to ban officers

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This scene from 2019 Capital Pride parade won’t be repeated as uniformed officers have been banned entirely from participating. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, says it adopted a policy in 2018 to ban uniformed D.C. police officers from marching in the Capital Pride Parade.

Some LGBTQ community members contacted by the Washington Blade, including D.C. Black Pride organizer Earl Fowlkes, have said they were unaware of the Capital Pride policy of not allowing police participation in the parade and other Capital Pride sponsored events.

Fowlkes, who serves as executive director of the D.C.-based Center for Black Equity, which supports Black Pride events throughout the country, said D.C. Black Pride has had police presence at some of its events over the past 30 years and has no plans to ban police from its activities.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, sent the Blade a statement he said Capital Pride posted on its website in June of 2020 formally announcing the police policy. The statement came five days after an earlier statement posted on the group’s website expressing strong solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“In 2018 the decision was made that MPD [D.C. Metropolitan Police Department] would not participate as a contingent in the Pride Parade, and has not since,” says the statement, which was posted on June 8, 2020. “Going forward, CPA will not permit any uniformed and armed police officers to march in the Pride Parade or participate in CPA-sanctioned events,” the statement continues.

“As required by the city government, MPD has jurisdiction to close and clear the streets,” the statement says. “The MPD will continue to manage street closures as outlined in permit requirements. When needed, CPA will hire private security as has been done previously.”

The statement concludes by saying Capital Pride Alliance was committed to having “further talks with its LGBTQ+ partners and other organizations and the city to address the on-going concerns that have been raised by the community.” It adds that Capital Pride Alliance “will take additional actions in the coming days and weeks.”

Although the statement did not say so directly, it was referring to the earlier statement discussing Capital Pride’s support for the nationwide protests in June 2020 over the murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a police officer who was later convicted of second-degree murder and manslaughter for Floyd’s death.

“Pride this year comes on the heels of a global pandemic and a nation confronting the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers,” the earlier statement posted on June 3, 2020, says.

“This horrific tragedy, and the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Abrery by police and white vigilantes, have created a nationwide uprising crying out for racial justice and the protection of Black life,” the statement says.

“As members of the Black and Brown communities have stood with the LGBTQ+ community, the Capital Pride Alliance stands in complete solidarity to unite against those disparities that impact communities of color,” says the statement. “We pledge that we will work together to find solutions and make the positive changes that are so desperately needed to end inequity, injustice, and violence against people of color.”

In prior years, uniformed members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit have marched as a contingent in the Capital Pride Parade. During some prior years going back to the 1990s, D.C. police chiefs have joined the parade in police vehicles or watched the parade while standing along the parade route.

D.C. police spokesperson Dustin Sternbeck did not respond to a request by the Blade for comment on the Capital Pride policy of banning uniformed police participation in Pride events.

Gay retired D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who served as director of the department’s Special Liaison Branch, which oversees the LGBT Liaison Unit, declined to comment on the Capital Pride ban on D.C. police participation.

Some LGBTQ activists have expressed the view that D.C. police participation in Pride events, especially participation by high-level police officials, was a sign of the D.C. police department’s strong support for the LGBTQ community.

But other activists, including members of the local transgender community, have said police crackdowns on sex workers, including transgender female sex workers of color, have involved what they believe to be a misplacement of police priorities. The local transgender and sex worker advocacy group No Justice No Pride has long called on Capital Pride to ban police from participation in all Pride-related events.

In the years since Capital Pride adopted its police policy, other cities, including Seattle, Denver, and just last week New York City’s Pride organization adopted policies banning police participation in their Pride parades and other Pride events.

Bos of Capital Pride said that similar to last year, due to COVID restrictions in place earlier this year, the traditional D.C. Pride Parade and festival will not be held in June this year. Although D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier this month removed all restrictions on large outdoor events beginning June 11, Bos said Capital Pride did not have time to organize a parade and festival for June. He said a Capital Pride Parade and festival are under consideration for October of this year.

The Capital Pride website includes information about a number of smaller Pride events for June, both in-person and virtual events. Among them will be a caravan of cars and vehicles decorated with Pride displays scheduled to travel across the city on June 12 to view houses and businesses that will display Pride decorations on their buildings or in their front yards.

Fowlkes said D.C. Black Pride organizers also fully support the Black Lives Matter movement and have condemned the incidents of police abuse, including the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis. But he said Black Pride organizers see no reason for banning police participation, especially the LGBT police officers who regularly attend Black Pride events.

“We’ve never had a problem,” he said. “Our members have never voiced a problem in dealing with the police,” according to Fowlkes.

“We know a lot of queer police officers and I welcome their presence,” Fowlkes said. “As long as they behave, I welcome everyone’s presence. It’s open to everybody. I can’t see eliminating the police any more than if people come in an Army uniform.”

David Johns, executive director of the D.C.-based LGBTQ group National Black Justice Coalition, has taken a different position than that of Black Pride.

“The D.C. Capital Pride Alliance was right to ban uniformed police from participating in the Pride Parade when it made its decision back in 2018,” Johns told the Blade in a statement. “For too many members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially Black LGBTQ+ and same-gender loving people, the presences of armed, uniform police make us feel less safe,” he said.

“It is important that the D.C. Capital Pride Alliance recognized that the struggle for civil rights for all must uplift all parts of us all of the time – including Black LGBTQ+ people who have too often been sidelined or excluded from the important discussions facing our community,” Johns said.

In yet another indication that the LGBTQ community is divided on the police issue, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, who’s gay and African American, wrote a column published in the Post on Monday expressing strong disagreement with the New York City Pride organization’s decision last week to ban LGBTQ police officers from marching in the New York Pride parade next month.

Capehart wrote that he fully understands the concerns over police abuse in New York and other cities in the past and in recent times. But he said he believes the New York Pride organizers made a “really bad call” in banning the NYPD Gay Officers Action League or GOAL from marching in this year’s parade.

“If you’ve been to a pride parade, you know it’s a celebration of acceptance and inclusion,” said Capehart in his column. “That’s why it’s beyond troubling that a community made up of so many who’ve been rejected by their families because of who they are is now turning on its own members because of what they do for a living,” he states. “This is wrong. This is shortsighted. This is a mistake.”

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Capital Pride to resume ‘large-scale’ outdoor events

Organizers say one of the largest ever parades and festivals set for June

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Happy days are here again? Scenes like this from 2019 could be back in 2022. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, has announced on its website that it plans to resume the city’s Pride Parade and Festival in June 2022 that traditionally has attracted tens of thousands of participants after canceling the two events in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

“The Capital Pride Alliance is excited to announce the highly anticipated return of our annual large-scale outdoor Pride Celebration in June 2022!” the group says on its website. “Registration for the Capital Pride Parade on June 11, 2022, and the Capital Pride Festival on June 12, 2022, will be open soon,” the website message says.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride Alliance executive director, told the Washington Blade the group met with D.C. government officials on Monday to coordinate plans for the upcoming outdoor events in June. He said an updated announcement with more details of the events would be released later this week or early next week.

The Capital Pride website message focuses on the parade and festival.

“Join the LGBTQ+ community for the return of the historic Capital Pride Parade,” the website message says. “In 2022, a modified route will honor our history and acknowledge the evolution of the LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in Washington, DC, while respecting the origins and importance of taking to the streets in our fight for equality,” it says.

“Be prepared to experience one of the largest Pride Parades to ever take place in the United States Capital,” the message adds.

The message says the Pride Festival will resume at its traditional location on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. near the U.S. Capitol that it refers to as America’s Mainstreet.

“Enjoy a full day of entertainment on three stages, food, drink and advocacy with over 300 exhibitors,” the website message says. “The Festival is the largest annual event in the national capital region,” the message continues, adding that the Capital Pride Concert will also return this year at its usual locations at the site of the festival.

“You will experience entertainment on three stages, from international headliners to our best local regional LGBTQ+ talent,” according to the Capital Pride website message. It says concert performances will take place from 12-10 p.m. And a “Capitol” Sunset Dance Party will take place at the festival site from 8-10 p.m.

“The concert may end but the dancing will continue,” the message says. “Enjoy the electronica sounds of an international DJ sensation while you dance in the middle of America’s Main Street on Pennsylvania Avenue, with the sun setting on the U.S. Capitol.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s public health officials ended the city’s COVID-related restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend outdoor events as well as indoor entertainment events last May as the number of COVID infections began to decline.

But as the number of Omicron variant cases of the COVID virus increased dramatically in the fall of 2021, the mayor resumed the requirement of the use of face masks in all indoor public places.

Also put in place earlier this month by the city was a requirement that restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment establishments require customers to show proof of vaccination as a condition for admission to the establishments. Bowser, however, has said the city was not considering resuming restrictions on the number of people allowed in establishments such as restaurants and bars or outdoor stadiums.

Capital Pride Alliance has not said whether it will put in place a vaccination requirement for admission to the Pride festival and parade as well as some of its planned indoor events. With the number of Omicron related COVID cases beginning to drop in the past two weeks in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs, the prospect of a resumption in restrictions on the number of people allowed to assemble at outdoor events like the Pride Parade and Festival appears to be less likely.

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Virginia

Man who killed one in 2000 Roanoke gay bar shooting dies in prison

One of the worst bias attacks targeting LGBTQ community

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Ronald Edward Gay died while serving life sentences for attacking a Virginia gay bar. (Washington Blade clipping from Sept. 29, 2000)

A man sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison for the September 2000 shooting at a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., in which one man lost his life and six others were wounded, died of natural causes on Jan. 15, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WSLA 10 TV News that Ronald Edward Gay died while being treated at a hospital near the Deerfield Correctional Center, a state prison where he had been living as an inmate. He was 75. 

Witnesses and law enforcement officials reported at the time of the shooting that a middle-aged man later identified as Gay arrived alone at Roanoke’s Backstreet Café, a popular gay bar, on the night of Sept. 22, 2000.

According to an account by an eyewitness to the incident who spoke last week with the Roanoke Times newspaper, after ordering a beer and standing next to the bar for a short time, Gay reached into the long trench coat he was wearing, pulled out a 9mm pistol, and fired a round “straight into the chest of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet, before opening fire on the rest of the bar.”

Overstreet, a beloved regular patron at the Backstreet Café, died at the scene of the shooting. Six others, who were wounded by bullets fired by Gay, later recovered, but they and many others who were present and witnessed the shooting were left emotionally scarred, the Roanoke Times reported.

In the weeks following the shooting, news media outlets, including the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, reported findings of an investigation by local police that Gay told police he went to Backstreet specifically to target gay people because he became bitter after years of being taunted and teased for his last name of “Gay.”

The Roanoke Times reported that, among other things, Gay told police “God told him to do it” and that he once wrote that there was an evil inside of him telling him “to shoot or have no rest.”

Gay later pleaded guilty to multiple charges against him, including murder. On July 23, 2001, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison for the shooting incident and the murder of Overstreet.

The Backstreet incident in Roanoke was considered by LGBTQ rights advocates and others to be one of the worst incidents in which LGBTQ people were targeted for a shooting until the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 people died and 53 more were wounded in a mass shooting by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, who was shot and killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff, told police in a phone call from inside the nightclub after the shooting began that he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and his attack against the gay nightclub was motivated by the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria. The FBI later classified the incident as a terrorist attack.

The Roanoke Times reported that the shooting incident at Backstreet Café prompted LGBTQ residents and allies to gather in the days and weeks after the incident for vigils and marches. About 1,000 people walked through the streets of downtown Roanoke to honor the life of Overstreet and to urge Congress to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the newspaper reported.

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Local

Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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