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‘Archive Activism’ reveals efforts to recover hidden LGBTQ gov’t documents

Memoir by Charles Francis highlights ‘secrets’ held at LBJ Presidential Library



(Book cover image via Amazon)

A newly released book called “Archive Activism: Memoir Of A ‘Uniquely Nasty’ Journey” describes the efforts by author Charles Francis and his supporters to uncover long hidden documents, among other things, revealing how LGBTQ federal workers were forced out of their jobs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Francis, a former public relations consultant and longtime Washington insider, co-founded in 2011 a repurposed Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. as an advocacy group to uncover LGBTQ-related historical and archival documents while advocating for LGBTQ equality.

The original Mattachine Society of Washington was co-founded by pioneer D.C. gay rights advocate Frank Kameny in the early 1960s as D.C.’s first gay rights organization to become politically active and engage in gay rights protests.

Francis points out that the title of his book is taken, in part, from a 1964 document in which an attorney for the then U.S. Civil Service Commission named John Steele defended the longstanding policy of not allowing LGBTQ people to work for the government.

“What it boils down to is that most men look upon homosexuality as something ‘uniquely nasty,’ not just a form of immorality,” Steele states in the document.  

“Archive Activism is the story of recovering forgotten, sealed – often deleted – LGBTQ history and using it to fight for equality and social justice at a time of historic erasure, book bans, and political assault,” Francis told the Washington Blade. “This is not a bland text about ‘LGBTQ history month,’” he said.

“It is about protecting ourselves, our families and political gains by understanding the shoulders we stand upon through original archival research,” he said in a statement. “A gay, ex-Republican raised in Texas in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I was awakened by the power of our history, our gay and lesbian legacy and the fight to save American democracy,” he said.

Francis’s book covers his early years in Washington working for nationally known public relations executive and Republican Party advocate Bob Gray, his efforts to help elect former Texas Gov. George W. Bush as U.S. president in the 2000 presidential election, and his subsequent disillusionment with Bush after Bush became an outspoken advocate for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

The book also tells how Francis in 2000 formed the Republican Unity Coalition, an LGBTQ supportive group that called on the Republican Party to make homosexuality a “non-issue” for the GOP. In a development that surprised many GOP officials, then U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), former president Gerald Ford, and Mary Cheney, daughter of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, signed on as members of the RUC group.

Francis describes in the book his early archive activism efforts that included co-founding the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for the Library of Congress to acquire the voluminous collection of the documents of Frank Kameny. The Mattachine Society of Washington also arranged for the Library of Congress to acquire the papers and documentary films produced by D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate Lilli Vincenz.

A statement released by the book’s publisher, University of North Texas Press, says the book breaks ground in uncovering LGBTQ-related documents generated under President Lyndon Johnson.

“For the first time, ‘Archive Activism’ reveals how LGBTQ secrets were held for decades at the LBJ Presidential Library in the papers of President Johnson’s personal secretary, sealed until her death at age 105,” the statement says.

Francis and Mattachine Society of Washington co-founder Pate Felts went to Texas in 2016 to work with LBJ Library officials to find LGBTQ-related documents, including those showing that Johnson quietly fired a longtime Johnson family friend and White House staffer named Robert “Bob” Waldron after learning that Waldron had “engaged in homosexual acts,” according to one of the documents.

“‘Archive Activism’ is a rescue mission for primary archival materials located in archives and libraries, large and small, worldwide,” Francis says in the book. “It is a preservation-minded movement to recover and protect historical queer memory,” he writes. “Archive Activism is a populist mission to recover the erased past and to document the government animus that continues to course through LGBTQ political and policy history.”

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District of Columbia

Anacostia group honors LGBTQ advocate Pannell for 30 years of service

Oct. 5 celebration set for Ward 8 Sycamore & Oak retail village



Phillip Pannell (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), an advocacy organization for D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood and surrounding areas east of the Anacostia River, is holding a celebration honoring LGBTQ rights and Anacostia community activist Phillip Pannell for his 30 years of service with the ACC.

The event was scheduled to take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the recently opened Sycamore & Oak retail village mall on the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus in Southeast D.C.

Pannell, 73, serves as the ACC executive director, a position he has held since 1995. He has been a member of the Anacostia-based nonprofit organization’s staff since 1993.
A longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, Pannell has been credited with persuading many of D.C.’s LGBTQ organizations to reach out to LGBTQ residents who live in Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River.

He has also been credited with persuading African-American organizations, including organizers of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebrations, to include and welcome LGBTQ people to their events.

“Join us for an evening of food, fun, and surprises,” an announcement of the event released by the ACC says.

ACC spokesperson Lamont Mitchell told the Washington Blade several community leaders and public officials who have known Pannell during his many years of D.C. community involvement were expected to speak at the Oct. 5 celebration. Among the expected speakers, Mitchell said, was former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt.

According to the announcement, the event is free and open to the public, but organizers requested that people register in advance at

The ACC event honoring Pannell was to take place about a month after the D.C. newspaper Washington Informer published a detailed article profiling Pannell’s career as a community activist and advocate for several important local causes and issues, including D.C. statehood.

“D.C. statehood is not just a political issue, it is also a civil and human rights issue because if D.C. were a state, we would be a state with the highest percentage of African Americans, basically a majority, minority state,” the Informer quoted Pannell as saying. “That’s one of the reasons a lot of right-wing Republicans don’t want to see D.C. become a state because we are going to elect progressive, Black Democratic senators,” Pannell told the Informer.

A statement on the ACC’s website says Pannell has received more than 100 awards during his nearly four decades of work in D.C., including the 2011 U.S. President’s Call to Service Award and the 2012 D.C. Federation of Civic Associations award for Outstanding President of a Member Association.

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Elected officials turn out for annual Equality NoVa Ice Cream Social

Northern Virginia LGBTQ group stresses ‘political awareness, education’



Freddie Lutz, on right, and his husband Johnny Cervantes host the annual ice cream social. (Photo courtesy of Lutz)

Four LGBTQ supportive members of the Virginia General Assembly and two candidates running for seats on the Arlington County Board were among more than 100 people who turned out on Sunday, Sept. 24, for the LGBTQ organization Equality NoVa’s annual Ice Cream Social.

The event was held at the Arlington, Va. home of Freddie Lutz, owner of the Arlington gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar, and Lutz’s husband, Johnny Cervantes.

Daniel Hays, president of Equality NoVa, told those attending the event in introductory remarks that Equality NoVa, which recently changed its name from the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), was founded in 1981 and is the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ organization in Virginia.

In an announcement in April the group said the name change came after it had taken on for some time the activities and representation of the now-defunct LGBTQ groups in Alexandria and Fairfax counties and had expanded its operations to cover most if not all the regions known as Northern Virginia.

Hays noted that the group is a nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates for public office but organizes educational and political awareness events and awareness campaigns on issues impacting LGBTQ people related to statewide and local government agencies and officials.

The elected officials attending the event were Virginia House of Delegates members Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria & Fairfax), Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-Alexandria & Arlington), and Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax).

Also attending was Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties.

Joining the state lawmakers attending the Equality NoVa social were Arlington County Board candidates Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham and Arlington County School Board candidate Miranda Turner.

Many of those attending the event said they were rooting for the re-election of Herring, Bennett-Parker, Watts, and Favola in the upcoming Virginia elections in November. All members and candidates for the General Assembly will be on the ballot in an election that political observers say could decide which party controls both houses of the state legislature.

Currently, Democrats control the 40-member Virginia Senate by a margin of 22-18 seats. Republicans currently control the House of Delegates by a margin of 51 to 46 seats, with three vacancies in the 100-member House.

With Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) putting in place through executive action public school policies that LGBTQ activists consider hostile and discriminatory for transgender students, LGBTQ activists are hopeful that a Democratic takeover of the House of Delegates would result in a reversal of Youngkin’s school policy.

Some of the activists attending the Equality NoVa event said they were fearful that a Republican takeover of the state Senate and if Republicans retain control of the House of Delegates could result in the General Assembly approving the type of anti-LGBTQ legislation passed in Florida and other states.

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Anti-transgender heckler interrupts Danica Roem during debate

Trans lawmaker is running for the Va. state Senate



Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An anti-transgender heckler interrupted Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Sept. 28 during a debate with her Republican opponent for the state Senate.

The woman heckled Roem during the Prince William Committee of 100-organized debate between her and Bill Woolf that took place at Metz Middle School in Manassas. 

“Thank you for reminding me why I won three elections in this district in Prince William County, which is the most diverse county in all of Virginia and the 10th most nationally where we welcome everyone because of who they are, not despite it, no matter what you look like, where you come from how you worship, if you do, or who you love because you should be able to thrive here because of who you are, never despite it,” said Roem.

Audience members applauded Roem after she responded to the heckler who was eventually removed from the auditorium.

Roem in 2017 defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall, a vocal LGBTQ rights opponent who co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved 11 years earlier. Roem subsequently became the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature in the U.S.

Roem in 2019 became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election. Roem in May 2022 announced she is running to represent the newly redistricted Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Woolf during the Sept. 28 debate did not say whether he would support the repeal of the marriage amendment. Woolf also reiterated his support of a bill that would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.

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