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Top 10 local news stories of 2022

Casa Ruby shuts down, As You Are opens

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From left, Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike of As You Are DC celebrate under the mistletoe; the crowd cheers at the 2022 Capital Pride Parade; and Ruby Corado stands in front of Casa Ruby. (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

From the return of Pride to the shutdown of Casa Ruby, the Blade was busy in 2022 covering all the local LGBTQ news. Here are our staff picks for the top 10 stories of the year.

#10 As You Are bar overcomes hurdles to open  

Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike hold an ‘Ugly Sweater Party’ at As You Are. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Plans of lesbian activists and businesswomen Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike to open the LGBTQ café and bar of their dreams called As You Are in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill appeared uncertain at best in January 2022.

Some nearby residents raised objections to what they said would bring noise and neighborhood disturbances by plans for a second-floor dance floor at the bar’s 500 8th St., S.E. location. But as it turned out, many residents expressed support for the bar.

McDaniel and Pike, with help from their attorney, worked out an agreement with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which gave its support for the bar’s liquor license application that was later approved by the city’s liquor board.

Although McDaniel and Pike say they still have some hurdles to overcome, the bar opened for business on March 22. Among the several dozen people who showed up on opening day were gay U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband.

#9 Gay Hyattsville mayor posthumously charged with embezzlement 

Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the City of Hyattsville)

Gay Hyattsville, Md., Mayor Kevin Ward, who took his own life on Jan. 25, was posthumously charged a few months later with embezzling more than $2.2 million from a D.C. charter school network where he worked as director of technology.

The revelations shocked LGBTQ supporters and Hyattsville city officials, who had praised Ward as a progressive and highly regarded public official who worked for the betterment of all of Hyattsville’s diverse residents.

U.S. Park Police said they found Ward deceased in a federal park in Northern Virginia from what authorities said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

News of the alleged embezzlement surfaced when federal prosecutors filed a civil forfeiture complaint against Ward’s estate charging, among other things, that he used the money he stole to buy at least 10 cars, a camper, sports memorabilia, and property in West Virginia. 

#8 Loudoun County sexual assault case triggers opposition to trans policies

Loudoun County Public Schools building. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Transgender supportive public-school policies adopted in Loudoun County, Va., and throughout the state and beyond continued to face intense opposition in 2022 from a 2021 incident in which a 15-year-old boy initially believed to be transgender or gender fluid was charged with sexually assaulting two girls in separate high schools. One of the two assaults took place in a girl’s bathroom while he wore a skirt.

Although the boy’s mother has said her child is not transgender and identifies as straight, critics seized on the two sexual assault cases as grounds for reversing or opposing school policies that allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and other school facilities that match their gender identity.

In a separate development, the Loudoun County school board, which previously had adopted trans-supportive school policies, voted to uphold a decision by the school superintendent to remove the LGBTQ book ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’ from high school libraries.

#7 Monkeypox hits D.C. gay, bi men

The Washington Blade and the D.C. Department of Health hold a Monkeypox town hall panel of experts. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Officials with the D.C. Department of Health reported in July that gay and bisexual men and those in the category of men who have sex with men (MSM) appeared to comprise at least 90 percent of the reported monkeypox cases in Washington, D.C.

But that percentage declined a short time later when the DOE changed its reporting policies in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with monkeypox infections. Officials said they did not want to appear as if they were applying undue pressure on people to disclose their sexual orientation when they apply for a monkeypox vaccination or seek a monkeypox test or treatment.

That change in policy appeared to result in a lower number of newly reported cases being attributed to men who have sex with men and a higher number of cases attributed to an “unknown” risk group.

In late summer, some public health officials said the lead cause of monkeypox transmission appeared to be through sexual relations rather than casual contact such as from dancing.

#6 Ally Wes Moore wins election as Maryland governor

Gov. Wes Moore (D-Md.) (Photo courtesy of the Wes Moore Campaign)

Maryland Democrat Wes Moore, an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights, won election in November as Maryland’s first African-American governor. In other LGBTQ related races, lesbian former Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur lost her race for a U.S. House seat in the state’s Eastern Shore district.

In Delaware, transgender woman Sarah McBride won re-election to her seat in the State Senate. And in Virginia, transgender State Del. Danica Roem announced she will run for a seat in the Virginia Senate in 2023.

#5 Gay former D.C. cop Brett Parson arrested on sex with minor charge

Brett Parson (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former D.C. police lieutenant Brett Parson, who served as supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit before retiring from the force in 2020, was arrested in Boca Raton, Fla., on Feb. 12, for allegedly having sex with a consenting 16-year-old boy in violation of Florida’s age of consent law, which is 18, according to an arrest affidavit filed in court.

The affidavit says the 16-year-old told police he and Parson met on the gay online dating app called Growlr and agreed to meet for a sexual encounter in Coconut Creek after exchanging “explicit” photos of each other. It says the two engaged in consenting sex in Parson’s car while parked in a secluded parking lot at night.

An arrest warrant obtained by Coconut Creek police charges Parson with two counts of “Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Minor.” Parson was released on bond while awaiting trial. Court records show no trial date has been set and the next court status hearing for the case is scheduled for March 17, 2023.

#4 Youngkin creates uproar over proposed trans school policy

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia introduced a proposed directive in September requiring all the state’s 133 public school districts to adopt transgender “model policies” that, among other things, would require transgender students to use school facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender at birth.

The proposed policies, which drew strong opposition from LGBTQ rights advocates, also would require students who want to change their name or gender on official school records to obtain legal documentation, such as a legal name change, with parental approval. Additionally, the Youngkin policies would call for teachers and other school employees to refuse to refer to trans students by their desired name or pronoun unless students’ parents request that change in writing.

Although the proposal received mixed reactions from the public through about 71,000 written comments during a 30-day review period, the state Department of Education postponed the policy directive’s implementation for more than a month following legal issues raised by opponents. Among the issues raised is that the policies would violate Virginia’s LGBTQ nondiscrimination law.  

#3 Large-scale D.C. Pride events resume

2022 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Organizers of D.C.’s 2022 Capital Pride Parade and Festival say the two events attracted close to a record half-million people during the city’s Pride weekend in June when large-scale outdoor and indoor Pride events resumed following the scaled-back events in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

Organizers of the city’s Black Pride events, which take place each year during the Memorial Day weekend in May, said large-scale indoor celebrations, including conference sessions and dance parties, resumed in full force as well in 2022. The Blade’s annual Pride on the Pier celebration at the Wharf also returned to packed crowds.

Among those who joined the Capital Pride celebration was U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who made a surprise appearance on the Capital Pride Festival stage before a cheering crowd.  

#2 D.C. election highlights LGBTQ political involvement

D.C. Council member-elect Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ activists said among the highlights of the 2022 D.C. election was gay D.C. school board member Zachary Parker, who won election to the Ward 5 D.C. Council seat, becoming the first out LGBTQ person to serve on the Council since 2015.

Gay former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary lost his race for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat, and two gay Libertarian Party candidates lost their races for the D.C. congressional delegate seat and the Ward 3 Council seat.

In the June Democratic primary, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council Chair Phil Mendelson won in hotly contested races. In a development that surprised some political observers, the city’s largest LGBTQ political group, Capital Stonewall Democrats, endorsed Bowser and Mendelson’s lead opponents.

LGBTQ supporters of Bowser and Mendelson claim the large majority LGBTQ residents voted for Bowser and Mendelson, who have strong records of support on LGBTQ issues. Like all D.C. elections over the past 20 years or longer, virtually all candidates running in 2022 expressed support for LGBTQ rights.

#1 Casa Ruby shuts down 

Ruby Corado (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Casa Ruby, D.C.’s once highly regarded LGBTQ community services center, closed its operations in July due to a financial crisis brought about by the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in city funding and alleged mismanagement.

On July 29, shortly after the shutdown, the Office of the D.C. Attorney General filed a civil complaint against Casa Ruby and its founder and former executive director Ruby Corado, alleging that Casa Ruby and Corado had violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act for the past several years.

The complaint said improper actions by Corado, including the unaccounted-for expenditure of city funds and a gross failure by the Casa Ruby Board of Directors to provide oversight, was the cause of the financial crisis. The AG’s office on Nov. 28 filed an amended complaint in D.C. Superior Court with new allegations, including claims that Corado withdrew more than $400,000 of Casa Ruby’s funds for unauthorized use in El Salvador.

Corado has denied any improper or illegal financial practices and blamed the D.C. government for Casa Ruby’s collapse. In an interview with the Blade in El Salvador, where she has lived most of the time for the past two years, Corado said the allegations against her, especially those made by the D.C. Attorney General, amount to “persecution.”

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Maryland

Joe Vogel campaign holds ‘Big Gay Canvass Kickoff’

Gay Md. lawmaker running for Congress

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Maryland state Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery County) attends the "Big Gay Canvass Kickoff" event at his congressional campaign headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., on April 19, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Maryland state Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery County) on Friday held a “Big Gay Canvass Kickoff” event at his congressional campaign’s headquarters.

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Vice President of Outreach and Engagement Marty Rouse and John Klenert, chair of the DC Vote board of directors, are among those who participated alongside members of Equality PAC. Vogel spoke before Rouse, Klenert and others canvassed for votes in the area.

“Joe brings a fresh new perspective to politics,” said Gabri Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, deputy field director for Vogel’s campaign.

Vogel, 27, is among the Democrats running for Congressman David Trone’s seat.

Trone last May announced his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in the U.S. Senate. 

The Democratic primary is on May 14. Vogel would be the first Latino, the first gay man and first Gen Zer elected to Congress from Maryland if he were to win in November.

“We need a new generation of leadership with new perspectives, new ideas, and the courage to actually deliver for our communities if we want things to get better in this country,” Vogel told the Washington Blade last month during an interview in D.C.

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Maryland

Montgomery County police chief discusses arrest of trans student charged with planned school shooting

County executive tells news conference student’s trans identity is irrelevant to criminal charge

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(Photo by jiawangkun/Bigstock)

Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Marcus Jones joined other county and law enforcement officials at a news conference on Friday, April 19, to provide details of the police investigation and arrest of an 18-year-old high school student charged two days earlier with threats of mass violence based on information that he allegedly planed a mass shooting at the high school and elementary school he attended in Rockville, Md.

In charging documents and in a press release issued on April 18, Montgomery County Police identified the arrested student as “Andrea Ye, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye.”

One of the charging documents states that a friend of Ye, who police say came forward as a witness who played a crucial role in alerting authorities to Ye’s threats of a school shooting, noted that Ye told the witness that Ye identified as the transgender student he wrote about as character in a 129-page manifesto outlining plans for a school shooting. Police have said Ye told them the manifesto was a fictional story he planned to publish.  

At the news conference on Friday, Police Chief Jones and other law enforcement officials, including an FBI official and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, referred to the student as Alex Ye and Mr. Ye. None of the officials raised the issue of whether Ye identified as a transgender man, seven though one of the police documents identifies Ye as a “biological female.”

County Executive Elrich appeared to express the views of the public officials at the news conference when one of the media reporters, during a question-and-answer period, asked Elrich why he and the others who spoke at the news conferment failed to “admit that this individual was transgender.”

“Because it’s not a lead,” Elrich replied, asking if the press and law enforcement authorities should disclose that someone arrested for murder is “a white Christian male who’s heterosexual.” Elrich stated, “No, you don’t – You never publish somebody’s sexual orientation when we talk about this. Why you are focusing on this being a transgender is beyond me. It’s not a news story. It is not a crime to  be transgender.”

The reporter attempted to respond but was cut off by the press conference moderator, who called on someone else to ask the next question.

In his remarks at the press conference Chief Jones praised the so far unidentified witness who was the first to alert authorities about Ye’s manifesto appearing to make threats of a mass school shooting.

“Now, this is a situation that highlights  the critical importance of vigilance and community involvement in preventing potential tragedies,” Jones said. “I commend the collaborative efforts of the Montgomery County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  the Rockville City Police Department, and the Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as Montgomery County Health and Human Services,” he told the gathering.

“Thanks to their swift action and cooperation a potentially catastrophic event was prevented,” Jones said.

Jones pointed out that during the current school year, police have received reports of 140 threats to the public schools in Montgomery County. He said after a thorough investigation, none of them rose to the level where an arrest was made. Instead, police and school officials took steps to arrange for the student making the threats and their parents to take remedial action, including providing  mental health services.

“But this case is different,” Jones said. “This case is entirely different that takes it to a different level. It was a concerned witness who brought this matter to light by rereporting the suspect’s manifesto to the authorities. This underscores the value of community engagement and the ‘see something say something’ approach,” he said.

Jones mentioned at the press conference that Ye was  being held without bond since the time of his arrest but was scheduled to appear in court for a bond hearing on Friday shortly after the press conference took place to determine whether he should be released while awaiting trial or continue to be held.

In his manifesto obtained by police, Ye writes about committing a school shooting, and strategizes how to carry out the act. Ye also contemplates targeting an elementary school and says that he wants to be famous.

In charging documents reported on by WJLA 7 and WBAL 11, the 129-page document, which Ye has referred to as a book of fiction, included writings that said, in part:

“I want to shoot up a school. I’ve been preparing for months. The gun is an AR-15. This gun is going to change lives tomorrow … As I walk through the hallways, I cherry pick the classrooms that are the easiest targets. I need to figure out how to sneak the gun in. I have contemplated making bombs. The instructions to make them are surprisingly available online. I have also considered shooting up my former elementary school because little kids make easier targets. High school’s the best target; I’m the most familiar with the layout. I pace around my room like an evil mastermind. I’ve put so much effort into this. My ultimate goal would be to set the world record for the most amount of kills in a shooting. If I have time, I’ll try to decapitate my victims with a knife to turn the injuries into deaths.”

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Maryland

Rockville teen charged with plotting school shooting after FBI finds ‘manifesto’

Alex Ye charged with threats of mass violence

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Alex Ye (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Police Department)

BY BRETT BARROUQUERE | A Montgomery County high school student is charged with what police describe as plans to commit a school shooting.

Andrea Ye, 18, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye, is charged with threats of mass violence. Montgomery County Police and the FBI arrested Ye Wednesday.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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