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Bowser, gay D.C. Council candidates trail opponents in GLAA ratings

Robert White leads incumbent mayor in scorecard

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D.C. Councilmember Robert White scored the highest on GLAA’s ratings in the mayoral race. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance on May 10 released its rating scores for candidates running for D.C. Mayor, D.C. Attorney General, and D.C. Council in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary as it has in D.C. elections since the early 1970s.

In a development that may come as a surprise to some observers, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the two gay candidates running for seats on the D.C. Council received lower ratings than one or more of their opponents. 

Bowser received a +6 rating out of a highest possible rating score of +10 compared to her lead opponent, at-large D.C. Councilmember Robert White, who received a +9 GLAA rating. Ward 8 D.C. Councilmember Trayon White, who’s also running for mayor, received a “0” GLAA rating for not returning a GLAA candidate questionnaire. The remaining mayoral contender, James Butler, received a +3 rating.

GLAA, a nonpartisan LGBTQ advocacy group, issues its ratings on a scale ranging from -10, the lowest possible score, to +10, the highest possible score. It bases its ratings on candidates’ responses to a 10-question GLAA questionnaire that covers a wide range of both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ specific issues. The questionnaire also asks candidates to provide a detailed account of their past record on LGBTQ specific issues.

Candidates that do not return the questionnaire receive an automatic rating of “0.”

Gay former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary, who’s running for the Ward 1 Council seat and who has been endorsed by the Washington Post, came in third place in the GLAA ratings for the three-candidate race in Ward 1. He received a +4 GLAA rating compared to the +9.5 rating for incumbent Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau and the +6 rating received by challenger Sabel Harris.  

Gay D.C. Board of Education member Zachary Parker, who’s running for the Ward 5 Council seat, came in second place for the GLAA ratings in the seven-candidate Ward 5 race with a +6.5 GLAA rating.  Community activist Faith Gibson Hubbard came in first for GLAA’s Ward 5 ratings with a score of +7.5. Candidates Gordon Fletcher, Gary Johnson, Kathy Henderson, and Art Lloyd each received a “0” rating for failing to return the GLAA questionnaire.

GLAA announced it has declined to rate the Ward 5 candidate with the highest name recognition – former at-large and former Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange “due to his 2016 resignation from the D.C. Council for a conflict of interest.”

GLAA adopted a policy of not rating candidates found to have what it considers ethics related violations in 2020 when it similarly declined to rate former Ward 2 D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, who also resigned over ethics issues.

In the race for D.C. Council Chair, GLAA awarded a rating of +8.5 to Democrat Erin Palmer, the only challenger in the primary to incumbent Council Chair Phil Mendelson, who received a +6 GLAA rating.

For the at-large D.C. Council race, incumbent Councilmember Anita Bonds came in second place with a +6 rating behind challenger Lisa Gore, who received a 8.5 rating. Of the two remaining challengers, Nate Fleming received a +5.5 rating and Dexter Williams received a +4.5 rating.

In the three-candidate D.C. Attorney General’s race in which incumbent Attorney General Karl Racine is not running for re-election, attorney Bruce Spiva received a +6.5 rating compared to attorney challengers Brian Schwalb, who received a +6, and Ryan Jones, who received a +2.5.

In a statement accompanying its ratings for each of the candidates GLAA explains the rationale for its individual ratings, pointing out that some of the candidates – including Bowser and the two gay candidates – lost points for disagreeing with GLAA’s positions on both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ specific issues.

Those issues are outlined in a nine-page document GLAA released with its rating scores called “Leave No One Behind: 2022 D.C. LGBTQ Election Guide.” The document expresses strong support for a number of controversial issues that political observers say will play a role in D.C. voters’ decisions on which candidates to support for mayor and D.C. Council.

Among the issues for which GLAA supports and asks in its questionnaire whether the candidates support are “full decriminalization of sex work for adults;” repeal of the subminimum wage for tipped workers; removal of criminal penalties for drug possession for personal use; and a call to “divest” from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department funds that should be invested in “vital programs, including anti-poverty, violence prevention, and crisis intervention” programs.

The GLAA policy document also calls for providing “sufficient affordable housing units for all households earning less than 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI);” expanding access to the city’s housing voucher programs for LGBTQ people in need; and additional funding for the D.C. Office of Human Rights to end its backlog of discrimination cases.

In the statement accompanying its rating for gay candidate Czapary, GLAA says he supports the GLAA policy statement on most issues but lost points for opposing cuts in the D.C. police budget and for not providing enough details about his past record on LGBTQ issues. “GLAA values him running for office as an out member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement says.

GLAA said Parker, the Ward 5 Council gay candidate, also supports GLAA’s policy positions on most issues and his responses to the questionnaire “have an average level of detail.” The group said he too didn’t provide sufficient detail on how his past work “impacts LGBTQ+ people” but that GLAA “appreciates him coming out as gay while running for office.”

In a “President’s Message” accompanying GLAA’s detailed policy statement and election guide, GLAA President Tyrone Hanley appears to raise broader non-LGBTQ political issues that GLAA, the nation’s longest continuously running LGBTQ organization, has not addressed in the past.

“Sadly, these simple truths go ignored as the District government continues to neglect individuals and families struggling to get by in a wealthy city, demolish homeless encampments, blame city challenges on housing voucher holders, and stuff residents in decaying jails,” Hanley states in his message.

“Our election guide outlines key priorities for addressing the need of LGBTQ residents while focusing on racial and economic justice,” he says, “including housing, workers’ rights, health, and policing and incarceration.” Hanley adds, “Our priorities reflect feedback from community partners and the work being done across D.C. to make it a better place for everyone.”

Longtime D.C. LGBTQ Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who is supporting Mayor Bowser’s re-election, expressed the sentiment of some local LGBTQ activists who disagree with GLAA’s expanded policy positions.

“GLAA has issued candidate ratings for 2022 based on criteria which the president of the organization explained in a statement,” Rosenstein said. “Sadly, based on that statement, the entire focus of the organization has changed,” he said. “Clearly, a revered organization once representing the entire LGBTQ+ community, no longer exists.”

Asked to respond to concerns raised by Rosenstein and others who say GLAA has expanded its agenda too far beyond LGBTQ related issues, Hanley said in a short statement that GLAA has put on the table multiple issues that should never have been taken off in the first place.

“We at GLAA want to uplift everyone in our community, including drug users, sex workers, the poor and homeless, and those who are currently and formerly incarcerated,” he said. “They are our people, and we will fight for them. We are learning and building from the successes and failures of the past,” he said, adding, “we want to build a new world where all of us are free and happy living as we truly are.”

The GLAA ratings for each of the candidates, its statement explaining the ratings for each of the candidate, and the candidates GLAA questionnaire responses can be accessed at glaa.org.

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District of Columbia

Nonprofit D.C. groups invited to apply for anti-LGBTQ violence grants

$700,000 available for FY 2025 ‘VPART’ program

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LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs held a conference on July 18 to inform interested officials with local nonprofit community-based organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ community how best to apply for city grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 as part of the city’s Violence Prevention and Response Team program, known as VPART.

Information released by the program states that its mission is to “address, reduce, and prevent crime within and against the LGBT community” by “creating a strong partnership between the community and the government which enables us to focus on coordinating a community response to violence.” 

Addressing hate-bias crimes targeting the LGBTQ community are among the program’s high priority objectives, information released by the program says.

Presentations on how best to apply for the VPART grants and what the requirements are for obtaining them were given by LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and the office’s grants administrator, George Garcia. The two said the deadline for submitting grant applications for the program is Aug. 5. Organizations whose applications are approved will receive the grant funds they are approved for on Oct. 30, which is the start of fiscal year 2025.

Garcia said a total of $700,000 has been allocated to fund the VPART grants, the number of which will depend on how many applications are received.  

Garcia said that among the key components of the VPART program are Victim Response Services, Case Management, Legal Services, Trauma Informed Mental Health Services, and Cultural Humility Training that he said are aimed, among other things,  to support LGBTQ victims of violent crime.

One of the organizations that has received VPART grants in past years, and that is expected to apply again this year is the D.C. LGBTQ Community Center.

 “Along with offering trauma-informed therapy and casework, the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center directly supports LGBTQ+ survivors with our mental health services, shelter assistance, and other resources victims of violence may need,” the LGBTQ Center says in a statement. “If you are LGBTQ+ and are a victim of violence, or know someone who is, you can refer them to the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center and we will make sure they are supported and connected to the resources they need,” the statement says.

The conference was held at the Reeves Center municipal building where the LGBTQ Affairs office and other city agencies as well as the LGBTQ Community Center are located at 2000 14th St., N.W. About a dozen people attended the conference in person and another 14 attended virtually through Zoom, according to Bowles.

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District of Columbia

Trans woman announces candidacy for ANC race in Columbia Heights

D.C. government official to challenge gay incumbent

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Vida Rangel (Photo by Praddy Banerjee/@praddyban)

Vida Rangel, a transgender woman who currently serves as Director of Operations in the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments, has announced her candidacy for an Advisory Neighborhood Commission seat in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood

In a statement released on July 11, Rangel said she is running for the ANC single member district seat of 1A10, which is currently held by first-term incumbent Billy Easley, who identifies as a gay man.

“I’m running a groundbreaking campaign as the first trans person of color who would be elected in the District of Columbia,” Rangel said in the statement. “Representation matters.”

Rangel’s statement says in her current city government job she is the ‘highest-ranking openly transgender official in D.C. government history.” If elected to the ANC, she said she would focus, among other things, on language access for Spanish speaking residents, affordable housing, and reliable and accessible public transportation.

“As an autistic, queer, nonbinary, transgender Latina woman, Rangel’s commitment to public service and community is shaped by her lived experience,” her campaign statement says. “Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, Vida was raised by working parents and grandparents, along with her six siblings. She saw firsthand how social services and support could counterbalance devastating situations like a medical emergency, an unexpected bill, or even a misfiled form,” the statement says.

“My experiences ignited a fire, propelling me to fight for the rights of all communities, whether it be nondiscrimination protections, housing justice, access to education, worker’s rights, or voting rights,” she says in the statement.

Rengel could not immediately be reached for comment on whether she disagrees with any of the positions or actions taken by incumbent commissioner Easley.

Billy Easley (Photo courtesy of Easley)

In his successful campaign for the ANC 1A10 seat in the city’s 2022 election Easley stated in an online statement  “Together, we can make our streets safer and our community stronger. This neighborhood is where my husband and I met, it is where we fell in love, and it’s where we’ve lived for the last ten years.”

Easley told the Washington Blade in a July 19 phone interview that he has been endorsed in his re-election campaign by Ward 1 D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau, which Easley said was a recognition of his accomplishments during his first term in office.

“In the last election I knocked on every door, and I’m going to do that again because it’s really important to me to connect with the voters and make sure that they’re being represented and to be an advocate for them,” he said. “Vida is a great person,” he added. “I have nothing bad to say about her,” he said.

“But I have a record of accomplishment and I’m going to be running on that,” he told the Blade. “And I’m going to be running on making sure that our residents’ voices are heard. So, I’m ready to go.”

He said his accomplishments in his first term in office include contacting each of the residents in his district who the city’s water department said may have lead pipes and  informing them how to get the pipes replaced through a free D.C. program; his appointment by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to her Juvenile Justice Advisory Group; organizing a Public Safety Summit with D.C. police and other city officials to address the issue of crime; and “successfully advocating” for more city funding for increased trash pick-up services in the neighborhood.

Easley points out that besides him, at least three other members of the 10-member ANC 1A10 identify as gay men.

Vincent Slatt, who serves as chair of the D.C. ANC Rainbow Caucus, said he believes between three and four-dozen ANC commissioners citywide are members of the LGBTQ community. 

“This is probably not the first time that two LGBTQ people have run against each other for an ANC seat,” Slatt told the Blade in a statement. “However, to have two out LGBTQ candidates of color in one race certainly seems like a milestone,” he said. “Recently, we have had two out trans ANCs. To have a third out trans candidate is a sign of how much further along our city is than other places in the country,” Slatt said. “Not fully enough, but on the path forward.”

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District of Columbia

New D.C. walking tour highlights LGBTQ history

Zach Patalingjug launched company in June in time for Pride Month

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Zach Patalingjug leads his Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour on July 13, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

Want to learn more about the city’s LGBTQ history while seeing some of the sights? Beyond the Landmarks’ Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour could be just the choice.

Zach Patalingjug launched the company in June, and offers walks that highlights some of Washington’s LGBTQ history.

The LGBTQ-specific tour starts with him emailing each person on the route with a meet-up location and some advice for the tour itself. His business last month saw a lot of tourists participate in his tour — in part because of Pride Month, and Patalinjug is hoping to keep the momentum. 

Patalingjug, who is from California, has traveled to more than half of the country’s states and has traveled abroad numerous times to sightsee and absorb cultures. He told the Washington Blade he became inspired to create his company after reading James Kirchick’s “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.”

Patalingjug spent a year researching his tour. He utilized the D.C. Central Library, where its fourth floor is dedicated entirely to the city’s history.

“I wanted to create a company that really explores the hidden gems, the lesser known history of Washington, D.C., to get the experiences that are truly authentic, and to tell stories that you don’t hear on most sightseeing tours,” he told the Washington Blade. 

The tours are between two to three hours long, depending on the group’s speed.

They officially start at 9:30 a.m., but Patalingjug recommends participants arrive 10 minutes earlier.

Each group meets in Farragut Square, directly outside of the Farragut West Metro station. The tour begins there and proceeds to Lafayette Square, where Patalingjug discusses the White House, the Hay-Adams Hotel, the former Lambda Rising bookstore, the Human Rights Campaign, the now-closed Chicken Hut near the White House, and myriad other locations. 

The tour ends in Dupont Circle.

Human Rights Campaign headquarters (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Patalingjug’s tour is more than a walk — each one is themed with topics that include “service, persecution, and liberation.

“Countless folks within the LGBTQ community have served and continue to serve the federal government,” he told the Blade.

He noted many of the people the tour highlights worked for the federal government before they lost their careers because they were outed or caught with a same-sex partner during the so-called “Lavender Scare.”

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before he stepped down in 2017 formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired under the directive that then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued in 1953. President Joe Biden last year issued a formal proclamation on the policy’s 70th anniversary.

“For so many members of the LGBTQI+ community, hate, discrimination, and isolation throughout our country’s history have denied them the full promise of America,” Biden said. “The ‘Lavender Scare’ epitomized — and institutionalized — this injustice.”

Patalingjug’s tour highlights Frank Kameny, founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the city’s first politically active LGBTQ rights group that organized one of the country’s first gay rights protest that took place in front of the White House in 1965.

The protest highlighted the federal government’s discrimination against gays and lesbians. Kameny in 1957 lost his job as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay.

Frank Kameny Way in Dupont Circle is part of Zach Patalingjug’s Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

The tour also highlights Margaret “Midge” Costanza, an advisor to former President Jimmy Carter who invited members of the National Gay Task Force, which is now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force, to the White House in 1977.

“I’m just incredibly excited to be able to tell the authentic stories of people who lived through this period of history,” said Patalingjug.

Log onto Beyond the Landmarks’ website for more information.

Michael K. Lavers and Lou Chibbaro, Jr., contributed to this story.

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