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District of Columbia

Judge dismisses gay D.C. cop’s bias lawsuit

Former officer claimed anti-gay harassment and retaliation



Former D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham told the Blade at the time the lawsuit was filed that the MPD does not tolerate discrimination. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a little-noticed development, a federal judge on Feb. 21 of this year dismissed a lawsuit filed in 2015 by gay former D.C. police officer Christopher Lilly accusing fellow officers and supervisors of subjecting him to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on his sexual orientation.

In a 65-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan explained why he approved a motion filed by the District of Columbia requesting a summary judgement decision dismissing the case based on the assertion that the lawsuit lacked sufficient evidence to substantiate that discrimination of any kind took place.

The motion was filed by attorneys with the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, who represented the District and the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., who were named as defendants in the lawsuit filed by Lilly.

Neither Lilly nor his attorney, Sameera Ali of the D.C. law firm Ali, White & Coleman, responded to a request by the Washington Blade seeking comment on the judge’s ruling.

Lilly charged in his lawsuit filed in May 2015 that between 2011 and 2013 he was subjected, among other things, to repeated anti-gay name-calling and other forms of harassment, including the placement of more than a dozen AIDS awareness stickers on his locker at the Fourth Police District, where he was stationed.

At the time he saw the AIDS stickers on his locker he also saw that someone wrote the word “fag” on the locker and poured a white liquid on the floor next to the locker simulating semen, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the discriminatory actions began shortly after December 2010 when “without plaintiff Lilly’s knowledge or consent, his sexual orientation, homosexual, was publicized maliciously and intentionally” at the Fourth District.

“Following plaintiff Lilly’s ‘outing,’ any other officer to come into contact with plaintiff Lilly subjected him to scrutiny, retaliation and ridicule by means of vulgar language, slandering his name and abilities to function as a police officer and questioning his abilities to serve due to his sexual orientation,” the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit, among other things, charged D.C., through the actions of police officials, with violating the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, and violating Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, by discriminating against Lilly because of his gender and sexual orientation, creating a hostile work environment, and retaliating against him when he raised objections to the alleged discrimination.

In his ruling dismissing the case, Judge Sullivan points to arguments in the District’s answer to the lawsuit filed in 2020 and in the District’s motion calling for summary judgement, that Lilly failed to provide sufficient evidence to support his allegations.

The judge also cited what he described as multiple undisputed facts presented by the AG Office attorneys showing that Lilly had faced disciplinary actions for breaching police rules, including not showing up for work or showing up late for his shift of duty.

Other allegations by the MPD against Lilly, which Judge Sullivan says were unrelated to his sexual orientation, involved the temporary revocation of his police powers in 2012 due to alleged emotional stress he faced from a work-related exposure to bedbugs, according to the judge’s account of court filings.

“A few days later, Mr. Lilly was referred by MPD officials for a Psychological Fitness for Duty Evaluation,” the judge states in his ruling.

“Gloria Morote, a licensed clinical psychologist, evaluated Mr. Lilly on October 10, 2012, and October 24, 2012, alongside MPD referral documents informing her that ‘following a period of good service, Officer Lilly’s performance and appearance began to deteriorate in August/September 2012,’ including ‘two major investigations for neglect of duty,’ ‘deterioration’ in his mental condition, and ‘marked nervousness and erratic behavior while on-duty after exposure to bedbugs,’” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Over the next several months, the judge’s ruling states, Lilly continued to get into trouble for being late for work and other breaches of police rules leading up to May 22, 2013, when “Mr. Lilly was placed on administrative leave after ‘rambling’ with ‘glassy’ eyes to a commanding officer about being sent by his family to a ‘funny farm,’” Judge Sullivan continues in is ruling.

“Then, on May 31, 2013, Mr. Lilly self-admitted into Dominion Hospital, a mental health facility in Virginia, to receive psychiatric treatment,” Sullivan states.

He reports in his ruling that based on Lilly’s record of infractions of police rules and his mental health status, the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board (PFRRB) “ordered Mr. Lilly’s retirement, determining that he was incapacitated from further duty by reason of a disability incurred in the performance of duty, and his retirement took effect on August 16, 2013.”

Court records show that under this forced retirement order Lilly would receive 40 percent of his salary as part of his retirement benefit.

“Drawing every justifiable inference in Mr. Lilly’s favor, as the Court must do, it finds no basis under Title VII or the D.C. Human Rights Act upon which a reasonable fact finder could conclude that the District had discriminatory intent based on his gender and/or sexual orientation or was retaliating against him for taking part in a protected activity,” Sullivan concludes in his ruling. “Accordingly, the District’s Motion for Summary Judgement, EFC No. 45, is granted.”

The judge described his action as a “final appealable order,” which indicates that Lilly could appeal the ruling to the D.C. Court of Appeals. 

Lilly and his lawyer, Sameera Ali, couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether Lilly plans to appeal the decision. 

Shortly after Lilly’s lawsuit was filed, officials with the MPD and the Office of the Attorney General declined to comment, saying they could not discuss issues surrounding a pending lawsuit. But then Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, who later became Chief of Police, told the Blade the department does not tolerate discrimination.

“I can’t talk about a specific lawsuit,” he said. “But I can tell you about how we don’t tolerate bias by any members of this police department,” said Newsham. “It’s something we take very seriously. And if we become aware of it, corrective action will be taken all the way up to removal if it was severe enough,” he said.


District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’



Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out in 2016. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship to support their costs in community college as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

The foundation is expanding all of its programs. In the next academic year, Point will offer 574 scholarships and grants to students around the country. This includes scholars in its BIPOC scholarship, the newest and largest program at Point.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

Last year, Point also launched a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Pride celebrations include parade, festival, fireworks, and more

More than 100 events for all ages planned for June



The Blade’s Pride on the Pier returns June 10 with the region’s only Pride fireworks display at 9 p.m.

More than 100 different events for all ages and interests will take place in D.C. for Pride month.

The Capital Pride Alliance will officially kick off Pride month on Thursday with a show from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Sasha Velour, the 17th Official D.C. Latinx Pride Party and more at Bunker (2001 14th St., N.W.)

Capital Pride on Friday will hold Capital Pride Honors at Penn Social (801 E St., N.W.). Capital Pride every Pride month honors individuals and organizations that have made a lasting impact on D.C.’s LGBTQ community. Among the honorees this year is the National LGBTQ Task Force, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The Washington Nationals will host the 17th annual Pride Night Out on June 6. With the purchase of a Pride ticket, attendees will receive a Pride T-shirt and $5 from their ticket will go to support Team DC, which helps to support the LGBTQ community in sports.

D.C.’s largest Pride event, the Capital Pride Parade, will take place on June 10. The parade will follow a 1.5-mile route, which will step off on 14th Street at T Street, N.W., and finish on P Street at 21st Street N.W. A map of the expected parade route can be found on the Capital Pride website

During the parade, the Capital Block Party will take place at the intersection of Q and 17th Streets. The party will feature local vendors, food trucks and a 21+ beverage garden. The party will also have a designated viewing area for families with children to watch the parade, along with other children’s activities. 

The Wharf will be home to the fourth annual Pride on the Pier during the parade, hosted by the Washington Blade, LURe DC and the Wharf. The event, held from 2-9 p.m., will feature a fireworks show at 9 p.m., a DJ, drag performances, and more. VIP tickets are available in two shifts, offering catered food, open bar, and more. The fireworks display is sponsored by the Leonard-Litz LGBTQ Foundation. For more information and to buy VIP tickets, visit General admission to the festivities on the pier is free.

The parade will be followed by the Capital Pride Festival on June 11. Taking place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., the festival will feature more than 300 booths with local vendors, businesses and organizations. From 12-8 p.m., the Capital Pride Concert will host acts such as Broadway actress Idina Menzel and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Monét X Change.

From June 5-Aug. 11, ARTECHOUSE will be exhibiting its newest exhibit “PIXELBLOOM: Timeless Butterflies.” Visitors can use the promo code “PRIDE20” to get 20 percent off their ticket during Pride month.

Throughout the summer, Capital Pride will also host a variety of online events. In partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Capital Pride will host Youth in Action: Wearing Our PRIDE, which will feature young indigenous activists working toward social justice. Capital Pride will also host Zoom affinity support groups and social hours.

Further details and a full calendar of events can be found on the Capital Pride website.

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