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‘Lesbian Bar Project’ film shown at Library of Congress

Sen. Baldwin, Rep. Davids join LGBTQ activists for viewing

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Left to right: Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), both of whom are out lesbians, joined about 100 LGBTQ activists and supporters at the Library of Congress’s main auditorium on Thursday night, Oct. 28, for the premiere showing in the nation’s capital of the film “Lesbian Bar Project.”

The film is named after a project founded last year by New York-based lesbian filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street who are listed as the film’s directors. The two women told the Washington Blade earlier this year that they started the Lesbian Bar Project to help the nation’s 21 remaining lesbian bars that were struggling to survive during the COVID pandemic.

The project has raised more than $250,000 since its founding, which it has provided in the form of grants to lesbian bars in financial need during the pandemic. Among the bars receiving support from the project was D.C.’s only remaining lesbian bar, A League of Her Own, in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood.

“In the late 1980s, there were an estimated 200 lesbian bars across the country,” a statement posted on the Lesbian Bar Project website says. “These bars are disappearing at a staggering rate, and we cannot afford to lose more of these vital establishments to the fallout of COVID-19,” the statement says.

Street and Rose said they arranged for the production of the 20-minute documentary film, Lesbian Bar Project, with financial support from the Jagermeister liquor company’s Save the Night campaign, which the company launched to provide financial support for nightlife businesses such as bars and restaurants during the pandemic. A Jagermeister spokesperson said the company has also provided financial support for the Lesbian Bar Project’s website in an effort to promote the project’s awareness of the role lesbian bars play in the greater LGBTQ community.

In remarks before the film was shown at the Library of Congress’s Coolidge Auditorium, Baldwin and Davids praised the work of the Lesbian Bar Project, calling the nation’s 21 remaining lesbian bars across the country safe spaces for lesbians to meet and socialize.

“While so much has changed for the LGBTQ community, Sharice Davids and I stand here before you as elected members of the House and Senate. We’re proof of that,” Baldwin told the audience. “But we also know that for too many people in too many places we still have a long, long way to go,” she said. “We still need places to feel safe that are supportive and a part of the community, places where we can be unequivocally and unreservedly ourselves.”

Baldwin became the nation’s first out lesbian member of the U.S. House of Representatives following her election to the House in 1998. She became the nation’s first out LGBTQ U.S. senator following her election to the Senate in 2012.

Davids became the nation’s first out LGBTQ Native American member of Congress in 2018, when she won election to her House seat.

Following the showing of the film, Rose, Street and owners or representatives of four of the lesbian bars that were portrayed in the film, including Ally Spaulding, general manager of D.C.’s A League of Her Own, appeared for a panel discussion on the stage in front of the screen where the film was shown.

Also appearing on the panel were D.C. lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, who appear in the film, and who talked about their plans to open an LGBTQ welcoming bar in D.C. called As You Are.

Other speakers included Lisa Meninchino, owner of the New York City lesbian bar Cubbyhole; Lisa Cannistraci, owner of the lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson, also located in New York City; and Rachel and Sheila Smallman, co-owners of the Mobile, Ala. lesbian bar Herz.

The event was sponsored by the LGBT Congressional Staff Association; Library of Congress GLOBE, which represents LGBTQ staff members at the Library of Congress; and the U.S. House Equality Caucus, which is co-chaired by the nine out LGBTQ House members.  

Laura Munoz Lopez, an official with the House Democratic Caucus and the LGBT Congressional Staff Association, was the lead organizer of the event and served as moderator for the panel discussion.

Prior to the showing of the film, officials at the Library of Congress set up an exhibit for attendees to view that included some the library’s collections of lesbian-related artifacts, including lesbian publications going back to the early 1960s.

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Anti-LGBTQ group claims Va. marriage amendment repeal will legalize polygamy

State Sen. Adam Ebbin rejected claim during committee hearing

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census, gay news, Washington Blade
(Bigstock photo)

A representative of an anti-LGBTQ group on Tuesday said the repeal of Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman would pave the way for the legalization of polygamy in the state.

“There are some, at least, very legitimate concerns about whether this would actually legalize polygamy, among other forms of marriage,” said Family Foundation of Virginia Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler.

Hetzler made the comment during a Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee hearing on state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. Ebbin, who is the only openly gay member of the Virginia Senate, in response to the claim noted polygamy is a crime under Virginia and federal law.

“I take offense to the Family Foundation’s characterization that this would allow polygamy,” said Ebbin. “This has nothing to do with polygamy, what this has to do with is equality.”

Carol Schall, who, along with her wife, Mary Townley, joined a federal lawsuit that paved the way for marriage equality in Virginia, and outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck are among those who testified in support of the resolution. The committee approved it by a 10-5 vote margin.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin earlier this month told the Washington Blade he remains “hopeful” the resolution will pass in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. Prospects that the resolution will pass in the Republican-controlled state House of Delegates are far less certain.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin before his election reiterated his opposition to marriage equality. Youngkin, however, stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

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Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’

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A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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