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News that Caps, Wizards will stay in D.C. comes amid Pride Night games

LGBTQ sports group ‘excited’ hockey, basketball teams will remain in District



The Caps are staying in D.C. Here a Washington Capitals player uses Pride tape during warmups at Hockey is for Everyone night in D.C. (Screen capture via Capitals YouTube)

The headline grabbing news this week that Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis reached an agreement with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and will keep his hockey and basketball teams in D.C. rather than move them to Virginia came one week after the Capitals hosted its annual LGBTQ Pride Night Out game at the Capital One Arena.

And the announcement of the decision to keep the two teams in D.C. also came two days before the Wizards were scheduled to host their annual Pride Night Out game at the arena on Friday, March 29.

“We’re very excited that we can keep these teams in D.C.,” said Miguel Ayala, president of Team D.C., the local LGBTQ sports organization that helps the city’s professional sports teams organize Pride Night Out events. “And we’re very excited that we can partner with the Caps and the Wizards to do events there,” Ayala said in referring to the Capital One Arena located in the Chinatown section of downtown D.C.

Ayala said Team D.C., which provides support for more than 30 LGBTQ sports clubs ranging from softball and bowling to hockey and rock climbing, recognizes that Leonsis’s company, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, has been supportive of the LGBTQ community through the Pride Night Out events and fundraising events for local LGBTQ organizations.

The Capitals’s website includes a detailed section on LGBTQ topics, including a statement that Leonsis created a Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation that has donated more than $200,000 to LGBTQ organizations. Among the recipients, the website says, are the local LGBTQ youth support group SMYAL, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Youth Well Being Project that provides support for LGBTQ youth, and Team D.C.

“In addition to in-season Pride Nights, the Capitals celebrate Pride month annually in June,” the website says. “In partnership with the D.C. Capital Pride Alliance, Monumental Sports and Entertainment paints the town rainbow and participates in the D.C. Pride parade each summer,” it says.

The announcement of the decision by Leonsis to keep its two teams in D.C. came three months after he and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced plans for a $2.2 billion project to build a sports and entertainment complex in the Potomac Yard section of Alexandria, Va. that would include an arena where the Capitals and Wizards would hold their games. 

Although the project received bipartisan support by most Virginia elected officials and was approved by the Virginia House of Delegates, the state Senate adjourned without approving the project after a Democratic state senator blocked the measure in her committee on grounds that taxpayers would be footing the bill for the project, a claim that Youngkin strongly disputes.

The agreement reached between Bowser and Leonsis includes $515 million in funds from the city for the renovation of the Capital One Arena that Leonsis has said needs modernizing for the two teams to continue playing there. In exchange for this and other provisions, Leonsis agreed to sign a new lease to keep the two teams in D.C. for another 25 years.

The agreement must be approved by the D.C. Council, which was expected to vote overwhelmingly to pass legislation approving it

Leonsis’s decision to keep the two teams in D.C. also came close to six months after the National Hockey League announced it had reversed a policy it put in place earlier in 2023 to prohibit its players from placing tape on their hockey sticks supporting social causes, including rainbow-colored Pride tape in support of the LGBTQ community.

The reversal of the policy by the NHL came after a groundswell of opposition surfaced opposing the ban from many LGBTQ and LGBTQ supportive sports organizations as well as from some NHL hockey players. Although Washington Capitals officials didn’t say whether they would enforce the policy for their players or penalize players for violating the policy, a spokesperson for the Capitals released a statement to the Washington Blade expressing support for the LGBTQ community.

“The Capitals stand proudly with and support the LGBTQ+ community,” spokesperson Sergey Kocharov said in the statement. “We strive to create and cultivate an inclusive atmosphere for all our players, staff, and fans and are committed to fostering an environment that welcomes all,” the statement says.

“Although all players are free to decide on their level of involvement and engagement on Pride Night, and their effort may vary from season to season, our commitment in this space won’t waver,” the statement continues. “Everyone is treated with respect and dignity regardless of their sexual orientation or identity, and we will continue to advocate for full LGBTQ+ equality.”


District of Columbia

Four LGBTQ candidates running for delegate to Democratic National Convention from D.C.

Thirty-two candidates competing for 13 elected delegate positions in April 20 party caucus



From left, candidates include John Fanning, Jimmie Williams, Monika Nemeth and David Meadows. (Photos courtesy of the D.C. Democratic Party)

Four LGBTQ Democratic Party activists are running for election as delegates from D.C. to the Democratic National Convention at an April 20 local Democratic Party caucus election in which all D.C. voters who are registered as Democrats will be eligible to vote.

The four LGBTQ candidates are among 32 candidates competing for just 13 elected delegate positions. D.C. will have a total of 51 delegates to the Democratic Convention, but the other 38 include elected officials and party leaders who are considered “automatic” or appointed delegates. The convention will be held in Chicago Aug. 19-23,

Under the delegate selection process put in place by the D.C. Democratic Party, six of the thirteen elected delegate positions will be elected by voters in a section of the city designated as District 1, which includes Wards 1,2, 6, and 8. The other seven elected delegates will be chosen by voters in District 2, which includes Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7.

The LGBTQ candidates include longtime gay Democratic activists David Meadows of Ward 6 and John Fanning of Ward 2 who are running in District 1. Transgender rights advocate and Democratic Party activist Monika Nemeth of Ward 3 and gay Democratic activist Jimmie Williams of Ward 7 are running in District  2.

All four of the LGBTQ candidates have been active members of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, one of D.C.’s largest LGBTQ political organizations. Nemeth and Meadows are past presidents of the organization. Williams has served as chair of the Ward 7 Democratic Committee and is a current member of the committee. Fanning has served as an elected member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee from Ward 2 and served as a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

A total of 12 candidates are running in each of the two districts. Under party rules the highest six vote getters in District 1 and the highest 7 vote getters in District 2 will be declared the winners.

The Saturday, April 20 caucus election for the delegate candidates will take place at the Walter E. Washington D.C. Convention Center. An announcement by party officials says two voting sessions will take place, one from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the other from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Aside from the elected delegates, two prominent D.C. LGBTQ Democratic leaders will be appointed as delegates to the 2024 Democratic National Convention in their role as members of the Democratic National Committee from D.C.

They are Claire Lucas, a highly acclaimed Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights advocate and party fundraiser; and Earl Fowlkes, one of the lead organizers of D.C.’s annual Black LGBTQ Pride celebration and former president of Capital Stonewall Democrats.

Lucas and Fowlkes and the four LGBTQ candidates running in the April 20 caucus election are committed to backing President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee for re-election.

Statements from each of the candidates running for delegate in the April 20 caucus election, including the four LGBTQ candidates, can be accessed here: Candidates for Delegate | DC Democratic Party

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District of Columbia

HIPS D.C. launches ‘Harm Reduction’ vending machine program

LGBTQ supportive group says program aimed at ‘saving lives’ in response to overdose crisis



HIPS official Alexandra Bradley, at right, provides information about the HIPS Harm Reduction Vending Machine at Whitman-Walker's Max Robinson Center as University of Maryland Professor Andrea Lopez, who is conducting a study of the vending machine program, stands beside a red syringe disposal bin that accompanies the vending machines. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

HIPS D.C., the LGBTQ supportive organization that provides support and services for drug users and sex workers, officially launched on April 5 a ‘Harm Reduction Vending Machine Pilot Program’ that it says will help save lives by providing free of charge harm reduction supplies for drug users in locations where there is a “higher than average” rate of overdose cases.

The announcement of the project was held outside the Whitman-Walker Health Max Robinson Center building at 1201 Sycamore Dr., S.E., next to where one of the first three HIPS vending machines is located.

Alexandra Bradley, HIPS’ Outreach and Community Engagement Manager, told a small gathering at the announcement event that among the supplies provided free of charge through the vending machines are naloxone, the life-saving nasal spray medication used to treat an opioid drug overdose; fentanyl test kits, syringes, and syringe wound care kits; drug snort kits, condoms, and other items, including  water bottles and snack food such as crackers and granola bars.

Bradley and other officials with HIPS and Whitman-Walker Health said they believe most people, when informed of the rationale behind the vending machines and other programs supporting drug users, will understand that the programs are not encouraging drug use.

“People will use drugs,” Bradley said. “We want them to use them safely,” she added, with the hope that they will seek support to get off drugs. “We can’t help anybody if they are dead. We want to keep people safe,” Bradley said.

A statement released by HIPS says the vending machine pilot program is being funded by a grant from the D.C. Department of Health. It says anyone can access the machines free of charge by contacting HIPS through a phone number posted on the machines – 202-779-0486 – to obtain a four-digit participant code “that they will then punch in to use the machines.” It says that as of April 5, 150 individuals had already registered and enrolled in the program.

Bradley pointed out that registration is not required to obtain naloxone supplies, which can be obtained through a code number posted on the machines. She said each of the three machines are also accompanied by a metal disposal receptacle for safely placing used syringes.

“These machines have been placed in areas where there are higher concentrations of overdose deaths and/or underserved areas with high levels of need for access to services and supplies,” the HIPS statement says.

In addition to the HIPS vending machine at the site of Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center, the second HIPS vending machine is located at The Michelle Obama Southeast Center of Bread for the City at 1700 Marion Barry Avenue, S.E., and the third one is located at Bread for the City’s Shaw neighborhood facility at 1525 7th Street, N.W.

The announcement of the vending machine harm reduction project comes at a time when many in the D.C. LGBTQ community have mourned the loss of beloved local LGBTQ members from a drug overdose, including accidental drug overdoses caused by contamination of their preferred drug such as cocaine with fentanyl.

Also speaking at the announcement event was Andrea Lopez, an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Anthropology, which she said is partnering with HIPS to conduct a  study of the vending machine pilot program and its impact as a public health project and the public health benefits of vending machines as an “intervention” in support of those in need.

Others who spoke at the event and provided details of the vending machine project were Cyndee Clay, the HIPS Executive Director; Starr O’Leary, the HIPS Community Outreach Coordinator;  and Jona Tanguay, an official with Whitman-Walker Health.

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District of Columbia

Anti-gay incident on Metro train under investigation by Metro transit police

Police response prompted by social media post of incident that drew over 5 million views



(Photo by jiawangkun/Bigstock)

An incident on Sunday afternoon, April 7, in which an unidentified man began shouting anti-gay slurs at two men believed to be a gay couple with a child on board a Metro train as it left the Dupont Circle Station and which was witnessed by a lesbian couple who defended the gay male couple is being investigated by Metro transit police.

Mishka Espey, who witnessed the incident with their partner, Gianna Gronowski, told the Washington Blade they and their partner became fearful that the male passenger might have physically assaulted them, and the gay male couple, based on his loud yelling of anti-gay names and the angry facial expressions he displayed.

According to Espey, he did not physically attack them or the gay couple and got off the train at the Judiciary Square station shortly after the gay couple got off the train a few stops earlier, possibly at Metro Center or Gallery Place.

Espey noted that their partner Gianna used Gianna’s phone to capture part of the incident on video, which Gianna posted on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, and which has been viewed over 5 million times, according to D.C.’s Channel 7 News, which has reported the incident.

Espey said someone from Metro police called Gronowski about the incident after police learned about it through the X posting.

“Just witnessed a small child get SCREAMED at by a man for having two dads,” Gronowski posted on X. “This man yelled that everyone on the train should ‘be sick’ that this ‘innocent child’ was being raised by two fags – we yelled at him to get off the train, the family departed, and he followed them,” Gronowski states in their post.

Espey told the Blade that when they saw the man appearing to follow the gay couple as the couple left the train, Espey and Gronowski shouted at the man to divert his attention, with the hope that he would not assault the gay couple on the train platform.

“He was very angry and loud and aggressive toward this couple that was standing right in front of us,” Espey told the Blade. “And he got closer to them. They were horrified,” said Espey. “They got off the Metro and he seemed to be following them off the Metro. And at that point, me and my partner started yelling at him,” Espey recalls. “And he turned his attention to us and started yelling at us,” said Espey, who uses the pronoun ‘they.’

“He was getting off to follow them, and then when we started yelling at him, he stopped right in the middle of the Metro door and was yelling at us from the doorway and holding up the train because he was literally in the doorway,” Espey said. “He then got off the train and walked down the other end of the same car we were in and then got back on the train,” Espey continued.

At that point, Gronowski filmed the second part of their video from their phone that shows the man standing on the opposite side of the train car, Espey says. “And that’s him just glaring at us from the other side of the Metro,” as seen in the video. “And at that point I was a little bit scared he was going to follow us all the way home” to the Silver Spring Metro station, which was their destination.

But instead, the man got off the train at the Judiciary Square station, Espey points out.

Metro Transit police had not responded to a request by the Blade for comment on the incident, including  the question of whether the type of hostile name-calling without a physical assault engaged in by the unidentified man constitutes a crime — including a hate crime designation — that would merit an arrest and prosecution.

Channel 7 News reports that Metro Transit Police told Channel 7 it is “investigating the alleged incident.”

Anyone who witnessed the incident onboard the train or who may have seen the video image of the man who engaged in the name-calling from the X posting and who may be able to identify him can contact Metro Transit Police at 202-962-2121.

Under D.C. law, name-calling by itself is neither a crime nor a hate crime “regardless of how offensive it may be,” according to a statement on the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department website. The MPD statement says a hate crime is also not a crime by itself but instead is a motive for an underlying crime such as assault, murder, or vandalism.

The Office of the United States Attorney for D.C., which prosecutes D.C. crimes, says in a statement that an underlying crime could be an “assault or a threat,” but the statement does not specify exactly how a threat is defined.  

Espey told the Blade that they and their partner Gianna felt threatened by the man on the Metro and they believe the gay male couple also felt threatened.

Espey said they and partner Gianna boarded the Metro at the Dupont Circle station after they walked from nearby Stead Park, where they played kickball as part of the LGBTQ Stonewall Kickball League.

The X posting by Gianna Gronowski can be viewed here:

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