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District of Columbia

Gay D.C. Council candidate Parker wins by wide margin

McDuffie leads Silverman for ‘non-Democratic’ at-large Council seat



Ward 5 D.C. Council candidate Zachary Parker won easily on Tuesday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ward 5 D.C. Council candidate Zachary Parker, who won the Democratic primary in June in a hotly contested seven-candidate race, won election to the Ward 5 Council seat on Tuesday by a wide margin, clearing the way for him to become the first openly gay member of the Council since 2015.

With the D.C. Board of Elections saying all but some remaining mail-in and drop-box ballots had been counted at around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Parker had 93.67 percent of the vote compared to his Republican challenger, Clarence Lee Jr., who had 5.57 percent of the vote.

“Although they say the Democrat usually takes it in the general election, I didn’t want to take anything for granted,” Parker told the Washington Blade at his election night victory party. “So, I ran just as hard in the general as I did in the primary, because Ward 5 deserves it,” he said.

About 150 people turned out for the Parker victory party, held at the Cotton and Reed distillery and tavern located next to Ward 5’s bustling Union Market. Those who attended and who cheered loudly as Parker delivered his victory speech reflected the diverse coalition of Ward 5 residents, including many seniors, who worked on Parker’s campaign.

“Ward 5 is a melting pot. It’s a microcosm of the city,” he told the Blade. “And it’s incumbent on me to represent all of the interests of Ward 5 residents. It’s a duty that I’m honored to have, and I look forward to the challenge.”

Parker was among nearly all the Democratic candidates, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, and the Democrats running in Wards 1, 3, and 6 who were far ahead of their challengers and expected to be declared winners.

Also winning in a decisive vote was Initiative 82, the ballot measure calling for ending the city’s tipped wage system by raising the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, currently at $5.25 per hour, to the full city minimum wage, currently at $16.10 per hour, over the five-year phase-in period.

As of Tuesday evening, the “yes” vote on Initiative 82 received 74.1 percent of the vote, with the “no” vote receiving 25.9 percent.

Several of the city’s gay bar owners and a number of LGBTQ tipped workers expressed strong opposition to the initiative, saying it would lower the earnings of tipped workers, most of whom, they say, earn far more than the city’s full minimum wage. But many of the city’s LGBTQ activists supported the initiative on grounds that all workers should receive the same full minimum wage.

The ‘yes’ vote on Initiative 82 received 74.1 percent of the vote, with the ‘no’ vote receiving 25.9 percent. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The only race on the D.C. election ballot that appeared too close to call as of Tuesday evening was the race for the so-called non-Democratic at-large D.C. Council seat. Two of the city’s four at-large Council seats were up for election this year, with voters allowed to vote for two candidates. A total of eight candidates were on the ballot for the at-large seats, including incumbent Democrat Anita Bonds and incumbent independent Elissa Silverman.

Incumbent Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie, a Democrat who switched to become an independent, was also among the contenders for one of the two at-large seats.

As of Tuesday evening, Bonds was in first place and the presumed winner of her seat with 32.02 percent of the vote. McDuffie was in second place with 22.16 percent, ahead of Silverman, who was in third place with 18.78 percent of the vote.

Of the remaining candidates, independent Graham McLaughlin had 10.02 percent, Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman had 5.15 percent, Republican Giuseppe Niosi had 4.02 percent, independent candidate Karim Marshall had 4.96 percent, and Independent Fred Hill had 2.36 precent.

Although McDuffie was ahead of Silverman by 8,925 votes, most political observers were reluctant to declare him the winner with an undetermined number of mail-in and drop box ballots yet to be counted.

The D.C. Board of Elections has yet to officially certify any of the races. Mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 8 will be allowed to be counted if they are delivered by Nov. 15 under Board of Elections rules. Board of Elections spokesperson Nicholas Jacobs said the board also had yet to count ballots placed in citywide drop boxes on election day.

The Associated Press, however, declared Bowser the winner, confirming her historic role of becoming the first woman to be elected to a third term as mayor of D.C.

At around 11 p.m. Tuesday night, Bowser had 74.5 percent of the vote, far ahead of her independent rival Rodney Red Grant, who had 14.8 percent and Republican rival Stacia Hall, who had 6.01 percent of the vote. Libertarian Party candidate Dennis Sobin had 1.3 percent of the vote.

As expected, two other gay candidates on the Nov. 8 D.C. ballot fell short of wining their respective races. Gay Libertarian candidate Bruce Majors had just 2 percent of the vote as of Tuesday evening in his race for the position of D.C. delegate to the House of Representatives. Incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton, a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter, had 86.28 percent of the vote. Republican Nelson Rimensnyder had 6.05 percent and Statehood Green Party contender had 4.0 percent of the vote.

The other out gay candidate, Adrian Salsgiver, also ran as a Libertarian Party candidate for the Ward 3 D.C. Council seat. He had 1.1 percent of the vote compared to Democrat Matthew Frumin, who had 74.9 percent of the vote. Republican candidate David Krucoff had 23.58 percent of the vote.

In the D.C. Council Chair race, Mendelson had 81.8 percent of the vote compared to Statehood Green Party candidate Darryl Moch, who had 9.5 percent and Republican challenger Nate Derenge, who had 7 percent.

In the Ward 1 D.C. Council race, incumbent Democrat and longtime LGBTQ rights supporter Brianne Nadeau had 79.5 percent of the vote. Her Statehood Green Party opponent, Chris Otten, had 17.5 percent.

Ward 6 D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who ran unopposed, had 93.6 percent of the vote, with 6.38 percent going to one or more write-in candidates, according to election returns.
Also running unopposed was D.C. Attorney General candidate Brian Schwalb, a Democrat, who had 97.4 percent of the vote, with 2.59 percent going to write-ins.

LGBTQ activists in D.C. have pointed out that unlike many states across the country, where far-right Republicans are using LGBTQ rights, especially transgender rights, as a wedge issue to attack the LGBTQ community, in D.C., for close to 20 years, all candidates with any chance of winning have been strong supporters of LGBTQ rights, including Republicans and independents.

Because of that near universal support, as longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights activist Earl Fowlkes put it, LGBTQ voters have the luxury of deciding who to vote for based on non-LGBTQ issues. And in a city where the overwhelming majority of voters, including LGBTQ voters, are Democrats, the distinction between Democratic candidates who compete in Democratic primaries has been moderate Democrats versus progressive farther left Democrats.

Parker, whose positions have placed him in the progressive left faction of the party, appears to have drawn support from the moderate faction of Democratic voters after he won the Democratic primary, according to Ward 5 political observers.

Among the moderate independents who backed Parker this year is gay former D.C. Councilmember David Catania.

“I like Zachary very much,” Catania told the Blade. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet with him, to help fundraise for him. I’m enormously proud of him,” Catania said. “And I think he is going to be an extraordinary leader.

Catania spoke about Parker while he attended the election night victory party for Mayor Bowser. Catania ran unsuccessfully against Bowser as an independent when she first ran for mayor in 2014. Carol Schwartz also ran that year as an independent.

Sporting a Bowser for Mayor sticker on his shirt, Catania said he and the mayor have the strongly held view that those who compete against one another in elections should join forces to support the needs of citizens after the election is over.

“The mayor and I certainly have done this,” Catania said. “After she was victorious, she reached out to me to serve on a number of commissions and to chair a board and so on and so on,” he said. “And I made a promise the night that I lost,” he said. “I made all my supporters raise their hands and promise to support her.”


District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride theme

‘Totally radical’ a nod to 80s and 90s



Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos, on left, announces this year's Pride theme at the Pride Reveal party on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance on Thursday announced this year’s Pride theme is “totally radical.”

The organization made the announcement at Penn Social in Downtown D.C.

“Capital Pride’s 2024 theme celebrates the courageous spirit and unwavering strength and resilience that defined the LGBTQ+ community during the transformative decades of the 1980s and ‘90s,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos. “It’s about embracing our authenticity, pushing boundaries and advocating for a world where everyone can live their truth without fear or discrimination.”

Capital Pride on Thursday announced this year’s Pride parade, which will take place on June 8, will begin at 14th and T Streets, N.W., and end at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, N.W.

The Capital Pride Block Party and Family Area will once again take place on 17th Street in Dupont Circle. A Tea Dance will also take place on Constitution Avenue, N.W., near the end of the parade. 

The Capital Pride Festival and Concert will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., on June 9.

Capital Pride has also launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million for a new D.C. LGBTQ community center. 

WorldPride will take place in D.C. in 2025. The event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pride events in the nation’s capital.

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District of Columbia

D.C. ceremony welcomes affirming church as ‘full standing’ UCC congregation

Bishop Abrams officially installed as pastor of UCC Empowerment Liberation Cathedral



Bishop Allyson Abrams (far right) was installed as pastor of UCC Empowerment Liberation Cathedral.

The Mt. Rainier, Md.-based Empowerment Liberation Cathedral, which Washington Blade readers have selected for five years as the D.C. area’s Best LGBTQ Church, was honored as an official United Church of Christ congregation in a ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Plymouth United Church of Christ on North Capitol Street in D.C.

The ceremony, organized by the Potomac Association of the United Church of Christ, which admitted Empowerment Liberation Cathedral as a UCC congregation last fall, also officially installed lesbian Bishop Allyson Abrams as pastor of the now UCC-affiliated Empowerment Liberation Cathedral.

Abrams founded Empowerment Liberation Cathedral in 2014 at its original location in Silver Spring, Md., as a nondenominational Protestant church that she declared would be a welcoming and affirming congregation “where all of God’s children are welcomed,” including LGBTQ people of faith. Washington Blade readers have also named Abrams the D.C. area’s Best Clergy for seven years.

Although many consider Empowerment Liberation Cathedral a “gay” church, one of its spokespersons, Kendrick Keys, told the Washington Blade ELC considers itself a welcoming church and congregation open to everyone, even though he said a majority but not all of its members are LGBTQ.  

A biography of Abrams prepared by the LGBTQ Religion Archives Network says her founding of Empowerment Liberation Cathedral came one year after she resigned as pastor of the Zion Progress Baptist Church in Detroit in 2013 and two years after she was consecrated as a bishop at Pneuma Christian Fellowship, a religious order in Orange County, Calif.

The biography says Abrams created a stir in 2013 shortly before her resignation as pastor of Zion Progressive Baptist Church, when she announced to the congregation that she had just married another female bishop, Diana Williams, who at the time was Bishop Emeritus of the Imani Temple African American Catholic Congregation.

A short time after that, Abrams and Williams moved to the D.C.-Maryland area where Abrams mapped out plans to open the Empowerment Liberation Cathedral known as ELC.

 “Bishop Abrams came to the Washington, D.C. area with a new blitz about her marriage to another female bishop,” a statement released by ELC says. “She was outcast by many organizations and religious groups for declaring you could be gay and Christian,” the statement says.

“When Abrams decided to open a church in the Washington Metropolitan Area many media outlets discussed her keeping her faith and opening a church for those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised from the church and from their legacies in churches across America,” the statement continues.

“Bishop Abrams has remained on the forefront of ministry and has united with a denomination that believes in justice and equality for all – the United Church of Christ,” says the statement.

It was referring to the United Church of Christ’s status as an LGBTQ-affirming church that welcomes LGBTQ people into its services and congregations.

A separate ELC statement says among those attending and participating in the Feb. 25 ceremony at Plymouth Church were pastors, bishops, ministers, parishioners, community leaders, organizations affiliated with ELC and the United Church of Christ’s Potomac Association.

Among them was Japer Bowles, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, who delivered a statement from Bowser.

“As Mayor of Washington, D.C., I congratulate Empowerment Liberation Cathedral as you join the United Church of Christ (UCC) family and install Bishop Alyson Abrams as pastor,” the statement says. “As you gather to celebrate this momentous occasion, may both pastor and congregation be inspired to even higher heights of achievement and service to our communities,” the mayor’s statement says.

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride parade and festival, issued its own statement congratulating Empowerment Liberation Cathedral. The statement mentions that in 2016, Capital Pride honored Bishop Abrams as a Capital Pride Hero “in acknowledgement of her work in the faith community for the acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ+ Christians.”

ELC spokesperson Keys said the church holds its weekly Sunday services at the Mt. Rainier Arts Center at 3311 Rhode Island Ave., Mt. Rainier, Md.

He said a nonprofit community services organization created by ELC called Empowerment Justice Center, is located at 1015 15th Street, N.W., Room 653 in D.C. The church office is also at that location, Keys said. 

Further information about church services and events can be obtained by contacting ELC at 202-798-4371 or at

But Keys said the church’s location in Maryland had not been updated on the website, which lists its former location in Lanham, Md., rather than its current location in Mt. Rainier.

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District of Columbia

GW transgender, nonbinary student group criticizes Utah governor’s on campus comments 

Spencer Cox decried ‘genital-mutilation surgeries’



Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (Photo courtesy of Cox's office)

A George Washington University transgender and nonbinary student group has criticized Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s comments about gender-affirming health care that he made last week during an on-campus.

The GW Hatchet reported Cox on Feb. 21 described gender-affirming health care as “genital-mutilation surgeries” during a “Disagree Better” event the university’s School of Media and Public Affairs hosted. Jonah Goldberg, a conservative writer and commentator, and NPR “Morning Edition” host Michel Martin also participated in the event that Frank Sesno, a GWU School of Media and Public Affairs professor who was previously CNN’s Washington Bureau chief, moderated.

The Transgender and Nonbinary Students of GW in a post to its Instagram page said it is “hurt, ashamed and frustrated that such harmful language was allowed to be given a platform on our campus.”

“Fear mongering claims that young trans people are ‘mutilating our bodies’ are factually incorrect and damaging to our community,” said the group in its post that notes the event took place days after Nex Benedict, a nonbinary student in Oklahoma, died after a fight in their high school’s bathroom. “Gender-affirming care for minors saves lives, and is approved by reputable institutions, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychiatric Association.”

The GW Hatchet notes Cox told Sesno that he invited trans youth and their families to the Governor’s Mansion in Salt Lake City “to discuss state measures that pertain to transgender people, a conversation that he said led to legislative change.” 

Cox in 2022 vetoed a bill that banned trans students from playing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. The Utah Legislature later overrode his veto.

The governor last year signed a bill that bans gender-affirming health care for minors in his state. Cox last month signed a bill that prevents trans and nonbinary people from using restrooms and locker rooms in public schools and government buildings that correspond to their gender identity.

The GW Hatchet reported Cox in response to a student’s question said “no one” in Utah has died by suicide because they were unable to access gender-affirming care.

“I care deeply about these kids. I love these kids. I want these kids to thrive. I want these kids to be successful,” Cox said, according to the GW Hatchet. “I think there’s a better way to do that than by having genital-mutilation surgeries before they’re 18 and old enough to have a rational decision, to actually make a decision for themselves. And so we can disagree with that.”

“As the only trans student org at GW, we refuse to let our community have their right to exist be put up for debate and threatened by disinformation,” said the Transgender and Nonbinary Students of GW in their statement. “We call on GW administration to consider ways in which they can repair the harm caused by Gov. Cox’s statements on campus, and make the safety of their trans students, faculty and staff a priority in a sociopolitical climate that is fixated on our eradication.”

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