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Bowser says city looking into lawsuit filed by gay employee at D.C. jail

Staffer alleges anti-gay threats, discrimination by supervisors



‘We’re looking forward to a time when we can roll back some of those COVID protocols in the jail,’ said Mayor Muriel Bowser. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

When asked by the Washington Blade on Monday for her reaction to a lawsuit filed last week by a gay employee of more than 20 years at the D.C. Jail that accuses his supervisors and fellow employees of subjecting him to anti-gay slurs, discrimination, and threats, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she could not comment on the specifics of a pending lawsuit.

“Certainly,” the mayor said when asked if her office was looking into the issues raised by the lawsuit. “And especially when there is a lawsuit, you know there is not a lot I can say about it,” she said. “But we look at all allegations to make sure that we’re addressing anything acutely but also dealing with the lawsuit itself,” the mayor said.

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of D.C. on behalf of Sgt. Deon Jones, a Department of Corrections employee who has worked for many years as a medical liaison at the D.C. Jail, alleges that Jones has endured years of verbal harassment, demeaning anti-gay slurs, and intimidation and threats by fellow officers and supervisors for being an out gay man.

The lawsuit also charges that Jones’ fellow employees failed to come to his assistance during at least one incident in which an inmate threatened to sexually assault Jones and “cut his throat.”

Filed in D.C. Superior Court on Nov. 17, the lawsuit names four of Jones’s supervisors and one co-worker along with the D.C. government as defendants in the case.

The Blade asked the mayor about the lawsuit at a Nov. 22 press conference on holiday safety tips for D.C. residents and stepped-up efforts by D.C. police to confiscate illegal firearms.

“But let me just say this,” Bowser said in response to the Blade’s question about Jones’s lawsuit. “Let me kind of take a step back about the jail and our approach to making sure that the jail is working for our residents who have to be there,” she said. “COVID, as I have said, has upended a lot, and the operation of the jail is no different. Our focus has been on the safety of our residents, and we have been able to keep outbreaks of COVID to a minimum at the D.C. Jail,” she said.

“But it’s also created a lot of strain,” the mayor continued. “And strain being in a locked facility restricted in a lot of ways from activity that had been normal in the jail,” she said. “Being able to have their lawyer visit, lawyers coming in and out or being able to walk around, go outside, take advantage of all the programs that we offer,” Bowser said. “That is significantly restricted to keep down incidents of COVID. So that presents a lot of strain.”

The mayor did not say whether she was suggesting that some of the concerns raised by Jones in his lawsuit may be related to stress and strain brought about by COVID-related restrictions placed on the jail.

“It’s also a lot of strain on our guards, who’ve also been impacted by COVID,” Bowser said. “And how we are able to make sure we have enough people on duty, that they have enough rest, they’re not working too many hours,” she said. “So, we’re looking forward to a time when we can roll back some of those COVID protocols in the jail and to keep the incidents of COVID down. And I know that will improve the operations.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, which oversees the operation of the jail, did not respond to a request from the Blade for comment on the lawsuit.

Under court rules, the city has 21 days to file court papers responding to the allegations made in the lawsuit, including the charge that the Department of Corrections employees and supervisors named in the lawsuit violated the D.C. Human Rights Act in their alleged discriminatory behavior toward Jones.

“I have been tormented and abused so badly, my life has changed,” Jones said in a statement released by the ACLU. “The discrimination and hostile work environment I faced has been devastating. I have suffered depression, PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] and anxiety attacks,” he said. “In spite of it all, I continue to do my job and lift my head up.”



Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July



(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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HME Consulting and Advocacy stands on frontline of LGBTQ policy

Heidi Ellis is a consultant who doesn’t take clients ‘not aligned with my mission’



‘Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,’ says Heidi Ellis. (Photo courtesy of Ellis)

September is here, which means Congress and the D.C. Council return from their August recess and life for consultant Heidi Ellis quickly gets busy. 

Her days are filled with negotiating with Council members, phone calls with clients, and policy planning for advocacy groups. The organizations she represents are looking to her to help them push policy and she hopes to guide them to victory. 

Ellis’s company, HME Consulting and Advocacy, came after years of working in the public and private sectors as a consultant. In 2019, Ellis decided to shift her focus to work that stood at the center of the intersections in which she lives. She sought to figure out how she could better serve her community as a Black queer Latino woman. Ellis recognized that there was a niche for mission-driven consulting in the District. 

“I was sought out and recruited by a lot of organizations that wanted me and I took a beat, because I was like ‘Do I want to go back into a machine where even if I do effect change, I have to answer to someone?’”she said, in reference to consulting agencies that were in pursuit of her talent. Ultimately, she decided against continuing her work under another company. “By doing what I do, I have much more flexibility for one to say ‘Yes’ but also to say ‘No’.”

Although Ellis has considered going back to working in the corporate space, she still loves the flexibility of being able to be nimble as a private consultant. 

Although Ellis doesn’t work entirely in the advocacy space, her consulting clients still align with her personal values. She joked that she differs strongly from the stereotypical money-driven D.C. consultant who sports Brooks Brothers suits on K Street. 

“Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,” she said. “I don’t take any clients that are not aligned with my mission.”

Her mission is simple, Ellis is “committed to elevating issues that sit at the nexus of education, mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color.”

“The more marginalized you are, the more you suffer from the failures of policy and the gaps of service,” she said. 

As a consultant in the advocacy space, Ellis does the behind-the-scenes work for organizations to help correct these policy failures and close the gaps. Whether she is facilitating training for companies to better understand how to serve their LGBTQ communities, or she is on the frontline of education policy changes –– Ellis aims to only do work that she is passionate about.

She said that the balance of her combined passion and level-headedness help her to build trusting relationships with her clients and in the end, “Get stuff  done.”

Since starting her organization, some of her proudest work has been done with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition. The coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations that aim to advocate for investments and policy changes that affect LGBTQ lives. As a leader of this coalition, her services include policy support, facilitation, training, initiative development and organizational redesign. Since she began leading the coalition, they have raised more than $5 million of investments in LGBTQ programs.

Later this fall, she will work with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition along with the ANC Rainbow Caucus to convene the first LGBTQ+ Housing Summit from Nov. 29-30.

“The one thing we all recognize is that housing is the common denominator of every other social affliction facing LGBTQ communities,” she said.  

At the summit they will focus on the barriers within the current housing system and explore revitalized approaches to dealing with the current housing market. To pre-register for the event, visit the LGBTQ+ Housing Summit website.

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Comings & Goings

Former D.C. resident opens art gallery in San Francisco



Jonathan Carver Moore

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 Jonathan Carver Moore on opening his contemporary art gallery in San Francisco. The gallery specializes in working with emerging and established artists who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women. As the only openly gay Black male-owned gallery in San Francisco, Moore is committed to amplifying the voices of the often-underrepresented artists through a Black queer lens. He said, “I want the gallery to be a place where the LGBTQ+ community and people of color walk inside and see themselves knowing that they belong. I want us to be able to collect work from and support underrepresented artists who are often overlooked, but add some much value to our culture.”

Moore is also the founder of ARTUCATED, a digital journal that helps share, spotlight, and educate people about marginalized artists. Previously he was director of Donor Relations, Partnerships & Programming Director with the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco. He was Communications Manager, Rosenberg Foundation; and Associate Director of Public Relations, Out & Equal, San Francisco Bay Area. 

Moore earned his bachelor’s in Sociology, Women’s Studies, from George Washington University in D.C.; and his master’s in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communications, also from George Washington University.

Congratulations also to Jim Bobick on having his paintings included in a permanent collection by Saks Fifth Avenue. He said, “I am thrilled Saks Fifth Avenue chose my art for its permanent collection. I have long been a customer of the store and an admirer of the fashion designers represented there. I am especially pleased to know my work is on public view in the Chevy Chase, Maryland store. Not only did I grow up in the area, for part of my education I attended art school nearby, where I had the good fortune of studying under the notable painter Allen Dester Carter of Washington, D.C., whose work is in the Smithsonian collection. My ties to the Washington area art scene and my love of Saks makes this professional moment especially important to me. I am grateful and honored the store chose my paintings for their collection.” 

He has had numerous exhibitions of his work, including: Gallery 101 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (solo); Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs, Fla. (group); Studio B “Delicacies” Washington, D.C. (group); Columbia Art Center “Abstract Paintings” (solo); and Gallery 50 “Freestyle” (solo) Rehoboth Beach, Del. He has been written about in several publications including Michael Mills, Jim Bobick Creates Landscapes of the Mind at Gallery 101, New Times; Arterpillar South Florida Arts Blog; Stefan Braham, Eclectic Expressions, Coastal Style Magazine; Artist Looks Beyond the Temporal Beauty, Coast Press.

He earned his bachelor’s in Visual Arts, University of Maryland, College Park, Fine Art; and attended the Maryland College of Art and Design. 

Jim Bobick
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