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Roem challenger opposes marriage equality

Christopher Stone is a US Air Force veteran

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Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) is sworn in as the first openly transgender seated state legislator in the U.S. on Jan 10, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Republican who is challenging Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) stated in a recent interview that she “over-promised and under-delivered” on a core campaign pledge to reduce congestion along Route 28.

Christopher Stone, the Republican nominee who Roem will face in her reelection bid this November, told the Washington Blade the bottom line is Route 28 still isn’t “fixed.”

“You campaigned for it in 2017, in 2019 and in 2021,” he argued. “And you can’t say you’ve done anything other than a study.”  

Roem defended her infrastructure record, saying while a study had to be conducted, some improvements were already completed, such as reduced traffic signals at key busy intersections. She said these changes have reduced wait times and pollution from idling engines.

“That speeds up the commute without anyone having to lose their business, front property or homes. And we know from the study’s data that my plan will make your commute quicker, safer and greener,” Roem told the Blade. “Christopher Stone has no plan for fixing Route 28.”

Stone, however, challenged “improved light signaling” doesn’t necessarily “fix” or widen Route 28 to address commuter concerns. Roem pointed out the widening of Route 28 in Centreville is currently underway.

“I voted last year for authorization for the widening to go forward,” she said. “It is happening right before your very eyes in Centreville. You cannot tell me in good faith that we have not done anything to fix 28. It is being done right now.”

She added she is currently “chasing down the dollars” to bring further infrastructure to Manassas Park.

Expanded Medicaid, LGBTQ rights among Roem’s legislative victories

Roem in 2017 became the first openly transgender person elected and seated in a state legislature in the U.S.

Her four years in office have been busy ones. She has either sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that addressed discrimination, expanded Medicaid and helped make Virginia more inclusive.

LGBTQ Victory Fund Vice President of Political Programs Sean Meloy said Roem’s record clearly shows “she’s fulfilling her campaign promises and striving to create a more inclusive Virginia.” Meloy noted Roem has done considerable work — expanding healthcare and passing numerous LGBTQ-friendly bills — for her constituents since her 2017 election.

“While Del. Roem is hard at work, her opponent has decried mask mandates, supports extremist protesters in Loudoun County and called for an investigation of the 2020 election,” Meloy said. “Virginia voters are savvy, and they know when a candidate has their backs — which is why they’ve elected Del. Roem twice and will reelect her once again this November.”

Stone said he’s running for office because he felt laws the General Assembly has passed in the last few years benefitted “special interests” and not Virginians as a whole.

Stone and his wife moved to Prince William County from Fairfax County in 2013 because they were planning on having children and a friend said it was a good place to raise them. They now have two children who are 5 and 6-years-old, and the eldest is in his second year in the county’s school system.

“And she loves it,” Stone said proudly, especially now that she gets to return to in-person classes even though she has to wear a mask.

Stone, a U.S. Air Force veteran and former graduate school professor, said his wife encouraged him to run for office “and stop complaining.” He was concerned that LGBTQ laws in particular were too narrowly focused and not written with the interests of most Virginians in mind.

“A lot of people that I talk to are concerned that the way the laws are written you are protecting one group and infringing upon the constitutional freedoms of another,” he said, adding that allowing for exemptions for religious beliefs could be one way to make the laws more equitable.

“But you don’t just ignore those people,” he added. “You accommodate both sides. I don’t like laws aimed at a single group or giving protections to one side. That is how a lot of people see LGBTQ laws.”

Stone also discussed his opposition to marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples, stating judges shouldn’t legislate from the bench.

He pointed out the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in the Dred Scott case, which said slaves and their descendants were not American citizens, as an example of the harm judges “legislating from the bench” could do. The 13th and 14th Amendments overturned the ruling. But Roem, a life-long Virginian, pointed out Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia were two court cases with Virginia ties that made the state and the country a step more inclusive.

“If you have marriage equality, you can’t possibly tell an LGBTQ couple that they can’t adopt children,” Roem said. “What a horrible thing to tell any loving parent. We already litigated the hell out of this.”

For Roem, times have changed and so have the people of Virginia.

“If you are exclusionary like my challenger, then you are going to lose,” she said. “The people of the 13th district aren’t putting up with this any more.”

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9

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David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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