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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

Md. House of Delegates approves transgender rights bill

State Medicaid program would be required to cover gender-affirming treatment

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Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act in Annapolis, Md., on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

The Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming treatment for transgender people.

House Bill 283, or the Trans Health Equity Act, passed by a 93-37 vote margin. The measure now goes before the Maryland Senate.

“Proud that the MD House of Delegates passed the Trans Health Equity Act with such a strong majority,” tweeted state Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County), who introduced HB 283.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride reveals 2023 Pride theme

This year will focus on ‘peace, love, revolution’

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Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith speaks at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in D.C. on March 16, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Over 300 people turned out Thursday night, March 16, for the annual D.C. Capital Pride Reveal celebration, which organizers say served as the official kick-off of the LGBTQ Pride events for 2023 in the nation’s capital.

Among other plans for the 2023 Pride events, including the annual Pride parade and festival, organizers announced this year’s theme for the Pride festivities will be “peace, love, revolution.”

The event took place in one of the large ballrooms at D.C.’s Kimpton Hotel Monaco at 700 F St., N.W.

Officials with Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Pride events, also announced at the Reveal celebration that the 2023 Pride events will set the stage for 2025, when D.C. will serve as the host city for World Pride 2025.

World Pride is an international LGBTQ event that takes place over a period of several days that usually draws a million or more visitors from countries throughout the world to the host city.

Organizers of the World Pride celebration announced last year that they had accepted D.C.’s bid to host World Pride 2025. The bid was prepared by the Capital Pride Alliance and D.C. government officials, including officials from the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau.

“We are thrilled to introduce our theme for Capital Pride 2023 as we gear up to welcome the world to D.C. in 2025, which is also the 50th anniversary of Pride in D.C.,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos in a statement released on Friday. “This year’s theme kicks off a three-year campaign leading into the message that we want to share with the world in 2025,” Bos said.

In the statement it released on Friday, Capital Pride explained its rationale for selecting its theme, saying it was based in part on the LGBTQ rights movement’s history.

“Social justice issues, including those involving the LGBTQ+ community, were shaped by moments that turned into movements beginning in the 1950s and in the years that followed,” the statement says. “These movements created a REVOLUTION of change that sparked the beginning of newfound freedoms,” it says.

“The fight for these liberties instilled a sense of Pride in members of the LGBTQ+ community in the decades since,” the statement continues. “PEACE and LOVE motivated many of these pioneers to be brave and inspired others to fight for human rights for years to come,” it says.

The statement points out that “recent challenges” have arisen in state legislatures and in Congress that have once again placed the LGBTQ community “under fire from those who would deny us our basic civil rights.” It says these challenges will require a continuation of the fight for freedom “through direct action in the streets and the halls of government.”

Among those who spoke at the Reveal event, in addition to Bos, were Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith, and Capital Pride’s public affairs director, Marquia Parnell.

Also speaking was Japer Bowles, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, who told the gathering that the city government, especially Bowser, will be working diligently to provide full city support for WorldPride 2025.

D.C. drag performer Shi-Queeta-Lee drew loud applause from the crowd that filled the hotel ballroom for a drag performance after the speakers addressed the crowd.

“We’re going to be focused on peace, love, and revolution over the course of this next year,” Smith told the Washington Blade at the conclusion of the Reveal event. “We’re super excited about it because this is a part of the movement that adds to the historical pieces as we approach 2025 and World Pride in 2025,” he said.

In its statement released on Friday, the Capital Pride Alliance announced the 2023 Capital Pride Parade will take place June 10, and will travel the same route as last year’s D.C. Pride Parade. A Pride block party will also take place this year in a two-block section of 17th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in the same location as last year, the Capital Pride announcement says.

And it says the annual Capital Pride Festival and concert will take place on June 11, also at the same location as last year — along a stretch of Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop.  

“Through the events of Capital Pride and its many partnerships, last year Capital Pride Alliance was able to raise over $200,000 for the Pride 365 Fund,” according to the Capital Pride statement. 

“The success of last year allowed CPA to invest and partner with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community to establish a new LGBTQ+ community center for Washington, D.C., and continue the support of partner organizations that organize events such as DC Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride, Silver Pride, Latinx Pride and Asian and Pacific Islander Pride,” the statement says.

Further details of plans for Capital Pride 2023 can be access at www.CapitalPride.org.

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Virginia

Former Log Cabin Republicans executive director named to Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board

R. Clarke Cooper ‘proud to accept’ Youngkin’s appointment

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R. Clarke Cooper (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has named former Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

“Proud to accept appointment from Gov. Glenn Youngkin to serve on the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board,” wrote Cooper in a post on his LinkedIn page. “Every citizen of the commonwealth has God given inalienable rights, envoys individual liberty and is charged with individual responsibility.”

“May Virginians judge our neighbors on the content of their character, not by their sexual orientation,” he added.

Youngkin announced Cooper’s appointment on March 10.

Cooper, an Army Reserve officer who served in the Iraq War, as Log Cabin Republicans’ executive director from 2010-2012. 

He was Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2019-2021. Cooper is currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

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