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Md. trans activist, businesswoman Sharon Brackett dies at 59

Co-founded Gender Rights Maryland

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Sharon Brackett died this week due to ‘chronic illnesses that manifested themselves in cardiac arrest.’ (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sharon Brackett, a Maryland businesswoman and transgender rights advocate who played a lead role in the successful effort to persuade the Maryland Legislature to pass transgender rights legislation in 2014, died on May 24 at her Baltimore home. She was 59.

Her son, Steven Brackett, told the Baltimore Sun she had “chronic illnesses that manifested themselves in cardiac arrest.”

Brackett’s LinkedIn page says she helped to start five companies over the past 20 years and was named by the Maryland Department of Commerce in 2016 as one of Maryland’s Top Women in Tech.

With a degree in computer engineering from Syracuse University in New York, Brackett served as president and CEO for the Laurel, Md., based tech company Tiresias Technologies, Inc. from 2011 to 2019. She served from 2019 to 2021 as founder of Baltimore Design Works, Inc., an engineering and design company, according to her LinkedIn page.

In a YouTube interview in March of this year conducted by a student intern, Brackett said that after encountering what she considered discrimination in the business world as a transgender woman she joined other trans activists in 2011 as co-founder of Gender Rights Maryland, a statewide group that advocates for transgender rights. Bracket served as chair of the group’s board from 2011 to the time of her passing this week.

LGBTQ activists in Maryland have said Brackett also became involved in the broader LGBTQ rights movement. She served as co-chair for the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference in Baltimore in 2012. She also served on the boards of the Point Foundation, a national LGBTQ scholarship organization; and OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for LGBTQ people in the military.

As if that were not enough, Brackett co-founded Trans Parent Day and served as a volunteer co-moderator for a gender identity support group of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore. In prior years, she served as a mentor for high school students interested in tech-related projects and was a scout master in the Boy Scouts of America.

In 2018, Brackett won election to the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee, becoming the first transgender person to be elected to any political office in Maryland. She was later named as chair of the LGBTQ+ Diversity Leadership Council of the Maryland Democratic Party.

Brackett appeared to sum up her career as a businesswoman and her role as an activist in a campaign website post when she ran as a candidate for the Democratic committee position.

“Yes, I am an Engineer, Entrepreneur, Corporate Executive, Roboticist, Rocketeer, Maker, and sometimes Activist,” her campaign write-up says. “I also just happen to be trans. If that’s a showstopper for you then I’m probably not your candidate,” she stated.

“But if you consider my challenges and experience. My support of diversity and inclusion. My on the ground experience in Annapolis. I think you will find I’ve honed all the tools for this job and then some,” she stated.

“Sharon was a dedicated champion of equality for all and gave much of her time, heart and soul to the fight for equality for all Marylanders,” said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, who’s gay. “Her passing is a true loss for the whole LGBTQ+ community,” Wojahn said.

Sara Law, Brackett’s partner for the past seven years, was the first to announce Brackett had passed away in a Facebook posting.

“She left this world so much better than she found it,” Law wrote. “That was one of her goals, and she met it many times over – be it Boy Scouts, or gender rights, or robotics, or local politics.”

The Baltimore Sun reported Brackett was born in Batavia, N.Y., and lived in Laurel, Md., before settling in Baltimore.

Survivors include her partner, Sara Law; her son, Steven Brackett; and daughter, Jess Brackett. No immediate plans were announced for funeral or memorial services.

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2021 Best of LGBTQ DC Readers’ Choice Award Finalist Voting

Vote for your favorite finalist in our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC categories through October 3rd.

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It is Decision 2021! You nominated and now we have our Top 5 finalists. Vote for your favorites in our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC categories through October 3rd. Our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC will be announced at the Best of LGBTQ DC Awards Party on October 21st and our special issue will come out on Friday, October 22nd.

Thank you to our sponsors: ABSOLUT, PEPCO, Washington Regional Transplant Community.

Vote below or by clicking HERE.

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Veteran restauranteurs to open Drift in Rehoboth

Second Block Hospitality eyes 2022 debut for new raw bar

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Double L, Diego's Hideaway, Fourth, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade
A new raw bar is coming to Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite the generally anti-business positions of the current Rehoboth Beach Mayor and some members of the Rehoboth Beach Commission, there are still some entrepreneurs who have faith in Rehoboth Beach.

One such group is the newly announced Second Block Hospitality Group, which brings together local industry leaders Lion Gardner, Tyler Townsend, Bob Suppies, and David Gonce.

According to the partners, “The mission of Second Block Hospitality is simple…to deliver exceptional hospitality. Second Block projects will be designed to become places that matter; that bring the community together. They aim to create unique spaces that foster positivity, a creative atmosphere, and memorable experiences. Driven by this philosophy we are thoughtful in everything we do, down to the smallest detail. In all our endeavors we are committed to crafting unique guest experiences through innovative design, authentic flavors, and warm hospitality.”

Their first new venture, Drift, will be a raw bar and dining room on Baltimore Avenue. The new project, already underway, is a massive restoration designed to transform the existing building, originally built in 1890 and used as a camp meeting house, into a modern structure with historic charm. Drift restaurant will feature a refined design, open airy spaces and lots of glass for open vantage points with an indoor/outdoor bar area and intimate back patio that will add to the allure of Baltimore Avenue.

“We could not be more excited to be breaking ground on another passion project,” said Suppies. “Coming through the last year brought many new challenges to our industry, but we were able to get very creative and grow as a company, so this new venture is very exciting for us.”

Another of the partners, Gardner, brings his skill set as a longtime chef to the new venture.

“One of my roles in the company will be to oversee the menu and kitchen at Drift and all of our projects moving forward,” Gardner said. “The great thing about our ownership group is that even though each partner has his own area of expertise, there is collaboration across the board; we are all involved in all aspects of the business. I am excited to learn and contribute in other areas as well, and luckily for me I’m working with a group of really talented, experienced and passionate guys.”

Drift is slated to open sometime in early 2022, and things are in full swing for the new restaurant owners, including menu planning. Townsend said, “Drift will be a true raw bar focusing on the art of raw seafood and not just oysters, along with traditionally prepared dishes influenced by the sea. From a beverage standpoint we will feature craft cocktails and eccentric wine and beer offerings. Think small and intimate, rustic and classic, yet casual with a focus on culinary inventiveness and creative spaces.” and good times. For more information visit driftrb.com.

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McAuliffe participates in Virginia Pride roundtable

Gubernatorial candidate highlighted plans to keep Va. ‘open and welcoming’

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Terry McAuliffe, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Monday met with Virginia Pride in Richmond to discuss his plans to keep the state “open and welcoming” for the LGBTQ community.

“Great opportunity to speak with @VA_Pride in Richmond this AM,” McAuliffe tweeted following the roundtable that took place at Diversity Richmond’s headquarters. “VA is the #1 state for business because we are open and welcoming — but that’s all at risk this November. Glenn Youngkin’s far-right social agenda would harm LGBTQ+ Virginians and send our economy into a ditch.”

McAuliffe and Youngkin are running a close race for the governorship, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Saturday that shows the former Virginia governor leading by a 50-47 percent margin among likely voters.

The Human Rights Campaign endorsed McAuliffe, who was governor from 2014-2018, for his record of supporting LGBTQ rights, including supporting marriage equality and signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees as his first action in office. 

“LGBTQ leaders in Richmond had a great meeting with Gov. McAuliffe where he was able to lay out his agenda for building on the tremendous progress Virginia has made towards equality,” said Virginia Pride Program Director James Millner in an email to the Washington Blade. “The governor talked extensively about his record on LGBTQ issues and promised to work with us to ensure that every LGBTQ Virginian is able to live openly and authentically.”

McAuliffe’s legacy includes welcoming businesses turned off by North Carolina’s passage of its anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” 

When North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a law requiring students to use public restrooms and locker rooms aligned with the gender on their birth certificates, took effect in 2016, McAullife recruited CoStar, a real estate information company that operates databases for Apartments.com, ApartmentFinder.com and similar companies, to move its headquarters to Richmond. This recruitment brought 730 jobs to the state.

David Dorsch, a senior vice president at Cushman and Wakefield, which represented CoStar nationally, told the Charlotte Business Journal that CoStar’s primary reason for choosing “Richmond over Charlotte was HB 2.”

Youngkin is a former business executive who previously ran the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm named by the HRC in 2019 as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. HRC, however, has called out Youngkin for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his current campaign.

McAuliffe in April released an LGBTQ rights platform that includes a call to repeal the so-called “conscience clause,” which allows religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Governor Ralph Northam, who was McAuliffe’s former lieutenant governor and has signed historic LGBTQ-inclusive legislation during his time in office, also endorsed McAuliffe for governor.

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