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District of Columbia

Too soon to decide on candidate for D.C. mayor: activists

Bowser, two Council challengers considered strong LGBTQ supporters

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Mayor Muriel Bowser announced her intent to run for re-election last week. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Several D.C. LGBTQ activists this week said they believe it is too soon for the city’s LGBTQ community to make a decision on whom to support for mayor in the 2022 mayoral election, especially since the three well-known Democratic candidates for mayor are longtime LGBTQ allies.

Most but not all the local activists contacted by the Washington Blade in an informal survey who called for holding off on deciding on whom to back for mayor expressed those views one week after Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she filed papers to run for a third term in office in the city’s June 21, 2022, Democratic primary.

The mayor’s announcement came about a month after D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large) and Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) announced they would run for mayor in the Democratic primary.

With the overwhelming majority of D.C. voters registered as Democrats, the winner of the Democratic primary for mayor has always won the November general election since the city’s home rule elected government took effect in the 1970s.

Robert White, like Bowser, filed papers to run under the city’s Fair Election program that offers public financing for candidates who must accept campaign contributions no greater than $100 from individual donors in a citywide election.

Trayon White had yet to officially file papers for his mayoral bid as of early this week, but his supporters have said he, too, was expected to run under the Fair Election public financing program.

“I think it’s much too early,” said gay Democratic activist Earl Fowlkes, when asked if he was currently backing one of the mayoral candidates.

Fowlkes was elected last week as vice president of legislative affairs for the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group. He also serves as executive director of the D.C.-based national LGBTQ group Center for Black Equity.

“People are going to have to listen to the candidates and look at their records and make a decision accordingly,” Fowlkes said. “I think the mayor has a good record and Robert White is certainly a friend of our community,” he said. “And Trayon White has also made great strides in understanding our issues.”

Like other local activists, Fowlkes said D.C.’s longstanding status as an LGBTQ supportive local city government with far reaching LGBTQ rights legislation in place means that LGBTQ voters will turn to other issues on which to base their support for a mayoral candidate.

“It’s no longer that you can silo just on LGBTQ issues,” said Fowlkes. “We have to worry about homelessness for all citizens, not just queer citizens, but everyone. Access to healthcare – those are important to everyone whether you’re LGBTQ or not,” he said. “And I think that our rights as LGBTQ Washingtonians are pretty enshrined in legislation. And I don’t think that’s an issue.”

Similar to past election cycles, Fowlkes said Capital Stonewall Democrats will hold a series of candidate forums in the spring of 2022, including a mayoral candidate forum, in which candidates will be invited to discuss issues of concern to the LGBTQ community. The forums are part of the organization’s process for endorsing candidates for mayor, D.C. Council, and other elective offices, which the LGBTQ Democratic group will make prior to the June 21` Democratic primary.

Lesbian activist Barbara Helmick, who serves as director of programs for the D.C. statehood advocacy group called D.C. Vote, said she agrees it’s too soon for D.C. residents to decide on a mayoral candidate. But Helmick said D.C. statehood should be at the top of the list of issues of concern for the LGBTQ community in the mayoral election.

“We as a vulnerable community will be particularly vulnerable to conservative movements that have a lot of power in this country right now,” Helmick said. “And our best protection against that is having self-government, to be able to elect representatives who will speak for us in Congress,” she said. “We need senators. We need a voting member of the House for whatever conservatives may be coming up with.”

Helmick was referring to past instances where Congress used its authority to overturn or block D.C. laws, which she said could happen again if conservative Republicans regain control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. She said the city’s LGBTQ rights protections could be in jeopardy by a hostile Congress.

While noting that Bowser and Robert and Trayon White have been advocates for D.C. statehood, Helmick said the mere expression of support is not enough. “What are each of them going to do?” she said.

June Crenshaw, executive director of the Wanda Alston Foundation, the D.C. group that provides housing services for homeless LGBTQ youth, said that while her organization does not endorse candidates for public office it will be closely monitoring the candidates’ positions on issues that impact LGBTQ youth.

“We’ll be involved in the process because our next mayor or our existing mayor really has to make sure that they are caring for queer and LGBTQ folks in their budget process and in their programming process,” Crenshaw said.

Ron Moten, one of the founders and lead adviser for Check It Enterprises, an Anacostia-based LGBTQ community services center and small business, said the organization has not endorsed candidates in the past but it would consider the possibility of doing so. However, he said choosing between the three main Democratic mayoral candidates would be difficult.

“All of them have supported Check It,” he said. “Robert White introduced legislation to help us get our building,” Moten said. “The mayor has helped us get grants to do the things we are doing. And Trayon White has always supported everything that we’ve done.”

Gay Democratic activist John Klenert, who is among those calling for waiting a few months before deciding on which mayoral candidate to support, said LGBTQ voters along with all voters would benefit by taking time to reflect on the candidates.

“Let’s catch our breath and take a look,” said Klenert, who agrees that the three main Democratic mayoral candidates have good records on LGBTQ issues. “Let’s see,” he said. “The past is one thing. What are they promising for the future, not only for our community but for the city in general?”

The Blade could find just two prominent D.C. LGBTQ activists who have come out in support for a D.C. mayoral candidate at this time.

Rick Rosendall, former president of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, announced on Facebook that he’s supporting Robert White.

“Robert White is thoughtful, decent, progressive and experienced, and has shown a willingness to take on controversial issues, as when he co-sponsored sex work decriminalization favored by at-risk members of our community and those of us who support them,” Rosendall told the Blade in a statement. Rosendall noted that Robert White received a +10 GLAA candidate rating, the highest possible rating, when he ran for reelection to his Council seat in 2020.

Gay Democratic activist John Fanning, an elected member of the Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said he is backing Mayor Bowser’s reelection campaign on grounds that she has served the city “exceptionally well” during her first two terms in office.

“I believe the mayor and her administration’s response to the pandemic was exceptional, because if the mayor and her administration didn’t do what they did when they needed to do it, there would have been more deaths,” Fanning told the Blade.

“And I also think that carving out a space regarding racial justice and social justice with Black Lives Matter Plaza” is also one of the mayor’s important accomplishments, Fanning said. “And she took on Donald Trump when we needed somebody to speak up for the residents of the District of Columbia,” he said.

Citing other actions by the mayor that Fanning said he believes has benefited the city, including an affordable housing program, Fanning added, “I’m not sure we need to make a change right now.”

Mark Lee, coordinator of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a nonprofit trade association that advocates for restaurants, bars and nightclubs, said the group does not officially endorse political candidates. But Lee said individual members of the DCNC, including representatives of LGBT bars and other LGBT venues, are “overwhelmingly supportive” of the reelection of Mayor Bowser and D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large).

“Both Mayor Bowser and Phil Mendelson appreciate the massive economic contribution that nightlife provides to the District’s economy and understand the challenges local establishments face as we emerge from the pandemic period,” Lee said. “Both Bowser and Mendelson continue to support our city’s largest hometown independent small business sector and nightlife operators are eager to return that support,” he said. 

Records from the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance show that two lesser-known candidates have also filed papers to run in the D.C. Democratic primary for mayor in June – James Butler, a former Ward 5 ANC commissioner and unsuccessful 2018 mayoral candidate; and community activist Michael Campbell.

Another three lesser known candidates have filed papers to run for mayor as non-Democrats—community activist Rodney “Red” Grant is running as an independent; community activist Barbara Summers is also running as an independent; and Corren Brown is running as a Statehood Green Party candidate.

Their positions on LGBTQ issues couldn’t immediately be determined. 

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 68

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, June 21, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 68.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as “an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.”

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

In a statement posted on social media, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she and her administration were “heartbroken” over the news of Delia’s passing.

“Bernie leaves behind an incredible legacy in our city and country — through his life and advocacy, he helped pave a path for LGBTQIA+ residents in our city and within the federal government to live and work openly and proudly,” the mayor says in her statement.

“He helped transform Capital Pride into one of the largest and most inclusive Pride celebrations in the nation — a true reflection and representation of our people and values,” the statement says. “This is the D.C. that Bernie helped build and that he leaves behind.”

“All of the hopes and dreams that we had about what Pride could be and what CPA could do, are things that Bernie actualized over the last many years and in his work for next year,” said Vincent Slatt, Rainbow History Project’s director of archiving in a statement. “He wasn’t the first one to say it, but he always reminded everyone: ‘we make each Pride special because, for someone, it is their first Pride, and they’ll remember it always.’ Bernie lived that ideal each and every year. WorldPride 2025 will be a testament to his efforts and his legacy will live on — it will be someone’s first Pride. We’ll try to make Bernie proud of us.”

Delia’s oral history interview is part of the Rainbow History Project Archives. You can access it at rainbowhistory.org.

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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District of Columbia

Accused drug dealer charged with fentanyl distribution leading to deaths of two D.C. gay men

June 13 indictment links previously arrested suspect to deaths

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(Bigstock photo)

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. has announced that federal prosecutors on June 13 obtained an indictment against one of two D.C. brothers previously charged with multiple counts of illegal drug distribution that now charges him with “distributing cocaine and fentanyl” on Dec. 26, 2023, that resulted in the deaths of D.C. gay men Brandon Roman and Robert “Robbie” Barletta.

In a June 13 press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Jevaughn ‘Ledo’ Mark, 32, is charged in a new “secondary superseding indictment” linked to the Roman and Barletta deaths. It says he and his brother, Angelo Mark, 30, “previously were charged on April 9 in a 17-count superseding indictment for participating in a conspiracy that distributed large amounts of fentanyl and cocaine in the metropolitan area.”

The press release says Jevaughn Mark is currently being held without bond on charges that include eight counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin and distributing 40 grams or more of fentanyl between Jan. 10, 2024, and March 13, 2024. According to the press release, the charges were based on six illegal drug purchases from Jevaughn Mark by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and undercover D.C. police officers.

Court records show that Angelo Mark was charged in a criminal complaint on March 22 with multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and is also being held without bond.

D.C. police and Fire and Emergency Medical Services reports show that Roman, 38, a prominent D.C. attorney and LGBTQ rights advocate, and Barletta, 28, a historic preservation expert and home renovation business owner, were found unconscious when police and emergency medical personnel responded to a 911 call and arrived at Barletta’s home on Dec. 27. The reports show that Roman was declared deceased at the scene and Barletta was taken to Washington Hospital Center where he died on Dec. 29.

A police spokesperson told the Washington  Blade in February that police were investigating the Roman and Barletta deaths, but investigators had to wait for the D.C. Medical Examiner’s official determination of the cause and manner of death before the investigation could fully proceed.

Both men were patrons at D.C. gay bars and their passing prompted many in the LGBTQ community to call for stepped up prevention services related to drug overdose cases, even though the cause and manner of death for the two men was not officially determined until early April.

In April, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disclosed that the cause of death for both men was an accidental consumption of several drugs that created a fatal “toxic” effect. The Medical Examiner’s office said Barletta’s death was linked to the consumption of at least four different drugs and Roman’s death was caused by the “combined toxic effect” of six drugs. The Medical Examiner’s office disclosed that cocaine and fentanyl were among the drugs found in the bodies of both men. And for both men, the manner of death was listed as “Accident/Intoxication.”

When the cause and manner of death were disclosed by the Medical Examiner, D.C. police spokesperson Tom Lynch said the police investigation into the deaths remained open but said, “There are no updates on the investigation that we are ready to release to the public.”

But the Medical Examiner’s findings prompted Johnny Bailey, the community outreach coordinator for HIPS D.C., an LGBTQ supportive organization that provides services and support for those who use recreational drugs, to say he strongly believed that Barletta and Roman did not intentionally consume some of the drugs found in their system.

“I’m going to say I do believe this was a poisoning,” Bailey told the Blade. “I think it is unfair to call some things an overdose because an overdose is when you do too much of a drug and you die from that drug,” he said. “This is like if you have a few glasses of wine every night and someone puts arsenic in your wine, no one would be like, ‘oh, they drank themselves to death.’ They were poisoned. And that’s what I think is happening here,” he said in referring to Barletta and Roman.

In announcing the new charges against Jevaughn Mark that link him to Barletta and Roman’s deaths, the U.S. Attorney’s press release discloses that he supplied fentanyl in the drugs he sold unknowingly to the undercover DEA and D.C. police officers when one of the officers, posing as a drug buyer, did not ask for fentanyl.

“In each instance, the DEA/MPD agents requested to buy ‘Special K’ or Ketamine from Jevaughn Mark,” the press release says. “In every instance, Jevaughn Mark supplied a mixture of fentanyl and other substances, including heroin, but not ketamine,” it says.

The release says that after the earlier indictment against Jevaughn Mark was issued, law enforcement agents conducted a search of his Southeast D.C. home and “recovered two firearms, cocaine, fentanyl, about $38,000 in cash, body armor vests, and drug trafficking paraphernalia.” It says on that same day authorities executed another search for a second residence linked to Jevaughn Mark, where they located a bedroom used by his brother Angelo Mark.

“From Angelo Mark’s bedroom, law enforcement recovered seven firearms, 900 rounds of ammunition, dozens of pills, cocaine, fentanyl, drug trafficking paraphernalia, and about $50,000 in cash,” the press release says, adding, “Based on the evidence, both brothers were indicted in the first superseding indictment.” 

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