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District of Columbia

D.C. Council poised for first out gay member since 2015

Parker favored to win in Ward 5; Bowser, Mendelson expected to prevail

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Zachary Parker is expected to easily win the Ward 5 Council seat.

In a city whose voters, including LGBTQ voters, are overwhelmingly Democratic, D.C. Democratic elected officials – including Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson – are considered the odds-on favorites to win reelection in the city’s Nov. 8 election.

Among the non-incumbent Democrats expected to win is gay Ward 5 D.C. Council candidate Zachary Parker, who most political observers say will become the first openly gay member of the D.C. Council since 2015, when then gay Council members David Catania (I-At-Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) left the Council.

Parker is an elected member of the nonpartisan D.C. State Board of Education. He won the Ward 5 Democratic primary on June 21 in a hotly contested, seven-candidate race, beating, among others, former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange. He is considered the strong favorite against his lesser-known Republican opponent, Clarence Lee, in the Nov. 8 general election.

Two other out gay candidates are also on the Nov. 8 D.C. election ballot, but they are considered far less likely to win than Parker. Both are running as Libertarian Party candidates. Bruce Majors is running for the D.C. congressional delegate seat held by longtime incumbent and LGBTQ rights supporter Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who is considered the strong favorite to win reelection. Also running for the congressional delegate seat is Statehood Green Party candidate Natalie Stracuzzi.

The other out gay Libertarian, Adrian Salsgiver, is running for the Ward 3 D.C. Council seat against Democratic nominee Matthew Frumin and Republican David Krucoff. The Ward 3 seat became open when incumbent Democrat Mary Cheh announced she would not run for reelection. Both Frumin and Krucoff have expressed support for LGBTQ rights.  

Bowser, who has a long record of support on LGBTQ issues, is similarly considered the strong favorite to finish ahead of her general election challengers, who include Republican Stacia Hall, Independent Rodney Red Grant, and Libertarian Party candidate Dennis Sobin.

Council Chair Mendelson, also a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter, is considered the favorite to win against his challengers – Republican Nate Darenge and Statehood Green Party candidate Darryl Moch. 

In a development that surprised some political observers, the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, endorsed D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large) against Bowser and Democratic challenger Erin Palmer against Mendelson in the June 21 Democratic primary.

A short time after the primary, when Bowser and Mendelson emerged as the clear winners, Capital Stonewall Democrats endorsed Bowser, Mendelson, and the Democratic nominees in all of the other races.

Among the other races is the contest for two at-large D.C. Council seats, which has emerged as the only race in which the outcome is considered uncertain in the Nov. 8 D.C. general election. And some political observers believe the LGBTQ vote could be the decisive factor in determining the two winners in that race.

Under the city’s Home Rule Charter approved by Congress in the early 1970s, two of the city’s four at-large Council members must belong to a non-majority political party or be an independent.

Longtime LGBTQ rights supporter Anita Bonds holds the Democratic seat up for election this year. The other seat is held by independent incumbent Elisa Silverman, who has also been a strong supporter on LGBTQ issues. Six others are competing for the two seats, with voters having the option of voting for two of the eight contenders.

They include Democrat-turned-independent Kenyan McDuffie, who currently holds the Ward 5 D.C. Council seat; Republican Giuseppe Niosi, who, along with his wife and child, rode in D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade in June; Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman; and independent candidates Graham McLaughlin, Fred Hill, and Karim Marshall. McDuffie has a record of support for LGBTQ rights on the Council and the others have each expressed support for LGBTQ rights.

McLaughlin, a former corporate manager and small business advocate, has said he has worked with LGBTQ organizations, including the Trevor Project, in his role as an advocate for homeless youth.

The Capital Stonewall Democrats has endorsed Bonds for reelection but decided not to make an endorsement for the non-Democrat seat, saying to do so would be backing someone running against Democrat Bonds.

In addition to the Ward 3 and Ward 5 Council races, D.C. Council seats in Wards 1 and 6 are up for election on Nov. 8. In the Ward 1 race, incumbent Democrat Brianne Nadeau, a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter, is considered the strong favorite over Statehood Green Party challenger Chris Otten.

Capital Stonewall Democrats endorsed Nadeau in both the Nov. 8 general election and in the June primary when out gay Democrat and former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary challenged her.

LGBTQ activists who supported Czapary said the LGBTQ voters who backed Nadeau over Czapary based their decision clearly on non-LGBTQ issues – just as most LGBTQ voters are expected to continue to do on Nov. 8 in a city where all candidates with any chance of winning support LGBT rights.

In the case of the Nadeau-Czapary rivalry, Nadeau is considered to be among the progressive-left faction of the Democratic Party, with Czapary falling into the moderate Democratic faction. With the Democratic Party dominating D.C. politics, the liberal left versus moderate factions appears to be the dividing line in D.C. Democratic primaries.

The remaining Council seat up for election this year is in Ward 6, where incumbent Democrat Charles Allen, yet another longtime LGBTQ rights supporter, is running unopposed on Nov. 8.

In the sometimes-overlooked race for the position of U.S. Representative to Congress, which is widely referred to as D.C.’s “shadow” U.S. House seat, incumbent Democrat Oye Owolewa is considered the favorite over Statehood Green Party challenger Joyce Robinson-Paul. Capital Stonewall Democrats has endorsed Owolewa, who has expressed support for LGBTQ rights.

The shadow House position, which has no congressional powers, was created in an amendment to the D.C. home rule charter as a position to lobby Congress for D.C. statehood and D.C. congressional voting rights.

In the race for D.C. Attorney General, Democrat Brian Schwalb, who won the Democratic primary in June, is running unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election. He, too, has expressed support for LGBTQ rights issues.

Longtime D.C. gay Democratic activist Earl Fowlkes, who serves as executive director of the D.C.-based national LGBTQ advocacy group Center for Black Equity, is among those who have said D.C.’s LGBTQ residents sometimes don’t appreciate the supportive political climate of the local D.C. government.

“One of the incredible things that’s happened in D.C. in the last 27 years I’ve been here is the fact that LGBTQ+ issues have been brought to the forefront and there is a universal agreement among almost anyone running for any position or office that they have to be strong in supporting LGBTQ+ issues,” Fowlkes told the Blade.

“This is one of the great places in the world to live in,” he said. “And thanks to our political system and the people who run for office who understand and have their finger on the pulse of the community, LGBTQ people are considered equal citizens in the District,” Fowlkes said. “And there’s a lot of places in this country not far from here who can’t say that.”

In races that traditionally have been nonpartisan, seats on the D.C. State Board of Education are up for election on Nov. 8 for Wards 1, 3, 5, and 6. The Capital Stonewall Democrats has not taken a position on Board of Education candidates.

And the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), which rates candidates for mayor, D.C. Council, and Attorney General, does not issue ratings for school board candidates, nor does it rate candidates for congressional delegate or the shadow House seat.

Founded in 1971, GLAA is a nonpartisan, all volunteer LGBTQ advocacy group that bills itself as the nation’s oldest, continuously operating LGBTQ organization. It has been rating local D.C. candidates since the 1970s on a rating scale of -10 to +10, which is the highest possible rating score showing strong support for LGBTQ equality.

But in the past year it has received criticism from some local LGBTQ activists for basing its ratings on mostly non-LGBTQ specific issues that critics say represent a progressive left viewpoint.

Among the issues the group asks all candidates to take a position on in a required 10-question questionnaire it sends to candidates are decriminalization of sex work, reallocating funds from the police budget for violence prevention programs, support for affordable housing programs for low-income residents, and support for removing criminal penalties for illegal drug possession for personal use.

Other questions in the GLAA questionnaire ask candidates about whether LGBTQ people should have access to a housing voucher program, increasing funding for the Office of Human Rights, which enforces nondiscrimination laws pertaining to LGBTQ people, and whether the city’s tipped minimum wage law should be repealed.

The tipped wage law is the subject of an initiative on the Nov. 8 D.C. election ballot called Initiative 82, which calls for repealing the lower minimum wage for tipped workers and raising it to the full D.C. minimum wage.

GLAA President Tyrone Hanley has said important so-called non-LGBTQ issues such as affordable housing impact LGBTQ people just as they impact all others, and it’s important to ask candidates running for public office to take a stand on those issues.

The group in October released its numerical ratings along with the responses to its questionnaire for 14 candidates that returned the questionnaire, including Mayor Bowser, who the group assigned a +6 rating. For 10 candidates that did not return the questionnaire, GLAA assigned a “0” rating.

Below is a list of the candidates that GLAA has rated along with their ratings. Also below is a link to the group’s explanation for why it issued its specific rating scores and to the questionnaire responses from the 14 candidates that returned the GLAA questionnaire.

D.C. Mayor
Muriel Bowser (D) – +6
Rhonda Hamilton (I) Write-In candidate — +4
Stacia Hall (R) – 0
Dennis Sobin (Libertarian) – 0
Rodney Red Grant (I) — 0

D.C. Council Chair
Phil Mendelson (D) +6
Nate Derenge (R) – 0
Darry Moch (Statehood Green) – 0

D.C. Council At-Large
Elissa Silverman (I) — +7
Kenyan McDuffie (I) — +6.5
Anita Bonds (D) — +6
David Schwartzman (Statehood Green) +6
Graham McLaughlin (I) — +5
Karim Marshall (I) — +4
Giuseppe Niosi (R) – 0
Fred Hill (I) – 0

D.C. Council Ward 1
Brianne Nadeau (D) — +9.5
Chris Otten (Statehood Green) – 0

D.C. Council Ward 5
Zachary Parker (D) +6.5
Clarence Lee (R) – 0

D.C. Council Ward 6
Charles Allen (D) +8.5

D.C. Attorney General
Brian Schwalb (D) +6

Copies of the candidates’ GLAA questionnaire responses and GLAA’s explanation for why it issued specific ratings for the candidates can be accessed here.

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District of Columbia

Matthew Shepard portrait dedicated at National Cathedral

Gay Wyoming student killed in 1998 hate crime honored in daylong ceremony

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Judy and Dennis Shepard stand in front of a portrait of their son, Matthew. Matthew Shepard was honored at a ceremony on Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime while tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo., was to be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral dedicating a newly commissioned portrait of Shepard.

Officials at the cathedral said the portrait by artist Kelly Latimore and commissioned by LGBTQ members of the Cathedral staff, is the only artistic image of Matthew Shepard created in collaboration with Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who were present during the ceremony.

Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018, 20 years after his death. The Cathedral announced in a statement this week that the Dec. 1 dedication of the Shepard portrait would also take place on what would have been Shepard’s 46th birthday.

A Thanksgiving and Celebration of Matthew Shepard service was held on October 26, 2018 at the Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard’s legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a statement.

Events surrounding the portrait dedication began with a 7 a.m. online prayer service “to celebrate and recall Matthew Shepard’s life,” the statement released by the Cathedral says. The service was led by Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Cathedral next hosted a preview of the portrait for the news media at 10:30 a.m., where Dennis and Judy Shepard talked about the portrait and their son’s life and the impact his death had on the nation’s understanding of hate crimes.

“It’s amazing how similar and what a great job that Kelly [Latimore] has done to make it look like Matt and showing the essence of Matt,” Dennis Shepard told the Washington Blade while viewing the portrait in the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where the portrait was on display.

Artist Latimore, who also spoke to reporters during the morning briefing at the chapel, said he was moved in his discussions with Judy and Dennis Shepard while getting ready to begin work on the painting by copies of dozens of letters they sent him that had been sent to the Shepards by people across the country after their son’s death.

Latimore included written excerpts from dozens of those letters as the background to his portrait of Matthew Shepard, which can be seen and read when standing close to the portrait.

Artist Kelly Latimore (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

“Matthew will not be forgotten,” an excerpt from one of the letters on the portrait says.
Dennis and Judy Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after Matthew’s death, which has been credited with playing a lead role in advocating for the passage by Congress in 2009 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure was the first federal hate crime statute that expanded the coverage of the federal hate crimes law to include a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.

President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Oct. 22, 2009. (Washington Blade archive photo by Michael Key)

The Cathedral was to open its St. Joseph’s Chapel from 2-5 p.m. on Thursday to visitors where the Matthew Shepard portrait was on display. Dennis and Judy Shepard were scheduled to be present to greet visitors.

According to the statement released by the Cathedral, later in the evening at 7 p.m., the portrait was to be officially dedicated in a private service in the Cathedral’s crypt near the site where Shepard’s ashes were interred.

“A longtime supporter of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church, the Cathedral considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century,” the statement released by the Cathedral says.

One of the two men charged with Matthew Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to a murder charge in exchange for an agreement by prosecutors not to seek a death sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The other man charged in the murder, Aaron McKinney, pleaded not guilty and went to trial, where he was convicted of murder by a jury. In a dramatic statement before the judge at the conclusion of the trial, Dennis Shepard announced and he and his wife had asked prosecutors and the judge to spare McKinney from being sentenced to death, something he said McKinney did not do while fatally striking his son in the head multiple times with the barrel of a gun after the two men tied him to a fence post in a remote field outside Laramie.

The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.

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District of Columbia

Three more LGBTQ ANC candidates declared winners

At least 38 LGBTQ hopefuls elected; outcome for two more uncertain

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There will be a special election to fill the seat of Kent Boese, who withdrew his candidacy but received the most votes.

The number of known LGBTQ candidates who won election to Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats rose from 35 to 38 as the D.C. Board of Elections this week released its final, certified vote count for the Nov. 8 D.C. election.

The 38 winners were among 44 known LGBTQ candidates who ran for ANC seats this year. One of the candidates who emerged as a winner, incumbent James Tandaric of ANC 3F05 in the city’s Van Ness neighborhood, was trailing opponent Andrew Koval by just eight votes when the early vote count was released in the days following the election.

The final vote count that emerged this week shows Tandaric beat Koval by a vote of 258 to 250.

When the early vote count was released in the week after the election, the outcome of four LGBTQ ANC write-in candidates along with all write-in candidates could not be determined until the Board of Elections received a required affidavit of candidacy from the write-in candidates, which was due by Nov. 15.

When the final write-in candidate results were released earlier this week along with the names of the write-in candidates, two of the four LGBTQ write-in candidates emerged as winners, both from the Logan Circle ANC. The two are Christopher Dyer of ANC 2F05 and Matt Fouracre of ANC 2F06.

Another one of the LGBTQ write-in candidates, Charles Panfil of ANC 6E02 in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood, finished in a tie with another write-in candidate. A spokesperson for the Board of Elections said tie votes in ANC elections are resolved by the drawing of lots. The spokesperson, Nicholas Jacobs, said he couldn’t immediately say when a drawing of the lot would take place.

The race for the fourth LGBTQ write-in candidate, Bradley Gallagher of ANC 1E01 in the city’s Park View neighborhood, could not be determined and a special election for that seat will have to be held, according to the Board of Election. The reason, the elections board said, is longtime gay ANC member Kent Boese, who withdrew his candidacy after it was too late to remove his name from the ballot, received the most votes. “As such, there is no winner for this contest” under the city’s election law, the Board of Elections said.

Elections board spokesperson Jacobs said a special election for that ANC seat will be called, with Gallagher and others who obtain the required number of ballot petition signatures will be allowed to run in the special election.

Boese withdrew his candidacy after he was nominated and subsequently approved by the D.C. Council to become director of the D.C. Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

If Gallagher were to win in the special election and should Panfil win the drawing of the lot following the tie vote in his race, the total number of known LGBTQ candidates elected to ANC seats would rise to 40, a record number compared to past ANC elections.

There were 33 known LGBTQ ANC candidates who won election in 2020, which was the first year the Washington Blade kept track of the known LGBTQ ANC candidates who ran and won.

A list of the 35 winning LGBTQ ANC candidates known during the week following the Nov. 8 election can be seen here.

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District of Columbia

Ruby Corado withdrew $400,000 of Casa Ruby funds: D.C. att’y gen’l

Complaint says she transferred money to banks in El Salvador

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Ruby Corado faces new allegations after her organization collapsed earlier this year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Office of the D.C. Attorney General on Monday filed an amended civil complaint in D.C. Superior Court against Casa Ruby and its founder and former executive director Ruby Corado that includes new allegations, including claims that Corado withdrew more than $400,000 of Casa Ruby funds for unauthorized use in El Salvador. 

The 25-page amended complaint adds multiple new allegations to the Attorney General office’s original complaint against Casa Ruby filed on July 29. That complaint, among other things, charged the nonprofit LGBTQ community services organization and Corado with violating the D.C. Nonprofit Corporations Act in connection with its financial dealings.

The amended complaint also follows the approval by D.C. Superior Court Judge Danya Dayson of a request in August by the Attorney General’s office to place Casa Ruby under receivership and to appoint the Wanda Alston Foundation as the receiver. The D.C.-based Alston Foundation provides housing services for homeless LGBTQ youth.

On Oct. 28, the Alston Foundation released its Receiver’s Second Interim Report on its findings related to Casa Ruby’s finances. The report points to some of the same unexplained and unauthorized expenditures and transfers of Casa Ruby’s funds by Corado that are included in the AG office’s amended complaint.

The Alston Foundation had been scheduled to release its Receiver’s Third Interim Report also on Monday, Nov. 28. But Alston Foundation Executive Director June Crenshaw told the Washington Blade the foundation requested an extension of that deadline to give it a chance to review the new allegations in the AG office’s amended complaint.

Among other things, the AG office’s amended complaint adds three new defendants to what legal observers say is the equivalent of a lawsuit by the D.C. government against Corado and Casa Ruby. The new defendants named in the complaint are limited liability companies created and controlled by Corado to purportedly perform services in support of Casa Ruby.

They include a new version of Casa Ruby called Casa Ruby LLC doing business as Moxie Health; Pneuma Behavioral Health LLC; and Tigloballogistics LLC doing business as Casa Ruby Pharmacy.

The amended complaint notes that Corado, who claimed the new companies, especially the pharmacy, were part of Casa Ruby’s mission, never received approval to create the companies from the Casa Ruby board of directors, which the AG’s office has said rarely met and failed to provide any oversight of Corado’s actions.

According to the amended complaint, Corado transferred large sums of money from the original Casa Ruby to these companies and at some point, transferred funds from the new companies to her own personal bank account.

Both the earlier complaint filed in July and the amended complaint allege that Corado transferred as much as $500,000 of Casa Ruby’s funds to create what she said was a new Casa Ruby in El Salvador approved by the Casa Ruby board. But the earlier and amended complaints allege that the board never authorized the El Salvador operation.

Between April 2021 and September 2022, the amended complaint says, Corado transferred over $400,000 from two Casa Ruby related accounts “to accounts she held under her birth name in two El Salvador banks.” It says the Casa Ruby board “never authorized any of these transfers.”

In addition to the financial related allegations, the amended complaint charges Casa Ruby and Corado with violating D.C.’s Wage Payment and Collection Law and the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act by failing to pay Casa Ruby employees all the wages they earned for their work several months before Casa Ruby closed its operations in July 2022.

“At various times between July 2021 and July 2022, while Corado was freely supplementing her $260,000 salary with additional funds drawn from Casa Ruby’s bank accounts, many of Casa Ruby’s employees were paid only $15.00 per hour, less than the minimum wage in the District of Columbia as of July 1, 2021,” the amended complaint says. “None of these employees received the full wages they earned,” it says.

One of the former employees told the Washington Blade most of the remaining employees during Casa Ruby’s final months before its shutdown were paid late or not paid at all. Under the two labor related laws the amended complaint has charged Casa Ruby and Corado with violating, an employer could be required to pay the employees any lost or missing wages.

But the Receiver’s Second Interim Report filed in October by the Alston Foundation says among other improper financial dealings, Casa Ruby failed to pay the U.S. Internal Revenue Service payroll taxes withheld from its employees. The AG office’s amended complaint says that as of June of this year, Casa Ruby owed the IRS $127,435 in employment taxes, not including interest and penalties.

The receiver’s report points out that under federal law, employers that owe back taxes to the IRS must pay those claims first. “Thus, after all outstanding payroll taxes have been paid off, there is little chance that there will be anything left for any other debts or obligations like past rent or wages,” the report says.

The amended complaint filed by the AG’s office says a copy of the amended complaint was sent to Corado through an email address, which has been the only known way of reaching Corado. Former Casa Ruby employees have said she had been spending most of her time over the past year or longer in El Salvador. The complaint says that as of October, Corado still had not retained an attorney to represent her and was representing herself in a process known as pro se representation.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Corado for comment on the amended complaint through the same email address.

During a virtual court hearing in September, Corado denied any improper or illegal financial practices and blamed the D.C. government for Casa Ruby’s collapse, saying city agencies cut off funding for Casa Ruby without a legitimate reason. However, the D.C. Department of Human Services, which provided much of Casa Ruby’s funding through grants, has said the funding was stopped after Casa Ruby failed to submit financial reports required for all grant recipients that account for how the grant money is spent.

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