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Rainbow crosswalks, street murals installed in Alexandria, Arlington

Street painting received support from government officials

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One of two rainbow street murals, shown here, was installed earlier this month on South 23rd Street in the Crystal City section of Arlington across from the gay bar Freddie’s. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

With approval by local government officials, rainbow-colored crosswalks were installed this month on a street in Virginia’s Old Town Alexandria and what officials are calling rainbow street murals were painted on a street in the Crystal City section of nearby Arlington, Va., in time for this year’s Pride celebrations.

Kirk McPike, a gay member of the Alexandria City Council, said the Council gave unanimous approval for the installation of two bright rainbow-colored crosswalks at the intersection of King and Royal streets at Old Town’s Market Square “right there in front of City Hall.”

McPike said he first proposed the rainbow crossings in June 2023, and with support from the Council,  the city’s Human Rights Commission brought the proposal to him as the gay member of the Council, and he introduced it. He said the Council approved it last November. According to McPike, the crosswalks were officially dedicated with a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 1 during Alexandria’s annual Pride festival in Old Town.

“And this year, we had one of our Pride wrapped Dash buses drive through the ribbon to snap the ribbon and officially open the new Pride crosswalks,” he told the Washington Blade.

In Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood, rainbow stripes were painted on June 12 and 13 on South 23rd Street at the intersections of Eads Street and Fern Street. The Fern Street intersection is located steps away from Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, which is Arlington’s only gay bar. Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s, was among the community leaders who advocated for the rainbow crosswalks.

Kellen MacBeth, president of the LGBTQ group Equality Arlington, said the Arlington Department of Environmental Services, which oversees street and roadway issues, gave approval of the installation of the two rainbow stripes as “street murals” rather than crosswalks, even though they are located next to or parallel to the crosswalks. He said for reasons he is unsure of, the Environmental Services Department didn’t want the crosswalks themselves to be painted with rainbow stripes.

 “If you compare what Alexandria did and what Arlington did, Alexandria has the full crosswalk painted in rainbow,” he said. “Whereas Arlington did the rainbow stripes on either side of the crosswalk,” MacBeth told the Washington Blade. “For whatever reason, the county said they weren’t able to do the full rainbow crosswalk this year. And we’re hoping to have the full rainbow crosswalks for next year.”

Kathryn O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Environmental Services Department, told the Blade that painting crosswalks in rainbow strips “is not allowable” under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD), which she said defines national standards for traffic signs, road markings, and other road related issues that Arlington adheres to.

MacBeth praised the National Landing Business Improvement District, an organization that promotes community-based businesses in the area known as National Landing, which includes the Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods, with playing a lead role in advocating for the rainbow street mural project, among other things, by paying for the street installations.

“Located at key intersections along S. Fern Street and S. Eads Street, these installations are the first of their kind in Arlington, designed to show solidarity and support for the LGBTQIA+ community,” the organization, known as National Landing BID, said in a statement. “Beyond their aesthetic appeal, they foster a sense of community pride and inclusivity, transforming National Landing into a vibrant and welcoming neighborhood,” the statement says. “Their presence encourages dialogue, celebration, and reflection, making them integral to the cultural fabric of our community.”

The installation of the rainbow crosswalks in Alexandria and the rainbow street murals in Arlington came about seven years after D.C. first installed two full rainbow-colored crosswalks on 17th Street, N.W. near Dupont Circle in 2017 near the gay bar JR.’s and the LGBTQ supportive restaurant Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse. Additional rainbow crosswalks were installed in that section of 17th Street in subsequent years.

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Virginia

J.D. Vance lives in LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood in Alexandria

VP nominee’s home in Del Ray is near newly opened gay bar

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Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) speaks at the Republican National Convention on July 18 in Milwaukee. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a development that may come as a surprise to some, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, who Donald Trump has chosen as his vice-presidential running mate and who has voted against LGBTQ rights legislation, has lived for a little over a year on a quiet street in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., that has a sizable number of LGBTQ residents.

Public property records show that Vance and his family live on a side street two blocks off a section of Mt. Vernon Avenue, which is Del Ray’s main commercial street, where the gay pop-up bar Pride On The Avenue opened in June.

Vance’s house in Del Ray, which the Washington Post reports was purchased for $1.6 million, is also located in the district of gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), which includes all of Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties.

“Being a resident of a district as diverse as mine gives J.D. Vance an opportunity to experience what truly makes America great,” Ebbin told the Washington Blade. “With a bilingual elementary school and LGBTQ gathering space nearby, I’d encourage Mr. Vance to visit with some of my constituents so he can hear from them on how they will be negatively impacted by anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT policies put forward in the GOP Party Platform and Project 2025,” Ebbin said in an email.

Ebbin was referring to the 900-page far-right policy document prepared by the conservative Heritage Foundation as a plan of action for a new Trump administration if Trump wins the presidential election in November. The Project 2025 document, among other things, opposes LGBTQ rights initiatives and calls for repealing existing LGBTQ rights legislation.

Bill Blackburn, a co-owner of Pride On The Avenue, recalls that people referred to then as members of the gay community moved to Del Ray in the early 1990s and possibly earlier in large numbers and played a lead role in buying old, often rundown houses and renovating them.

“It’s interesting that Del Ray was kind of gentrified by a lot of the gay community in the ‘90s,” Blackburn said. “And there’s still a lot of residents in Del Ray from that early period who kind of reinvigorated Del Ray,” he said. “So, it’s interesting how this neighborhood evolved and how it’s become such a sought-after neighborhood that we even get right-wing Republicans who see the value of living here.”

According to Blackburn, Vance “lives like a hundred yards away” from Pride On The Avenue.

People familiar with Del Ray point out that during Pride month in June many of the stores and shops along Mt. Vernon Avenue display Pride flags. Blackburn said Pride On The Avenue, which is currently the only gay bar in Alexandria, “has been very well received” by nearby residents and visitors to the neighborhood.

Voting records from past elections show Del Ray, even more than Alexandria as a whole, has elected Democrats over Republicans and has supported Democrats in statewide elections. In the 2020 presidential election, President Joe Biden won against Donald Trump in Del Ray by a greater than 80 percent margin, according to the Washington Post.

Washingtonian magazine has reported that after news surfaced last year that Vance and his family had moved into their house in Del Ray, a local artist staged a one-person protest by placing rainbow colored striped cloth and Pride flags in the area, including on a tree across the street from Vance’s house.

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Historic marker to honor Lilli Vincenz in Arlington

Pioneering activist co-founded Blade in 1969

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Lilli Vincenz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Board of Historic Resources has approved a historic marker that will honor Washington Blade co-founder Lilli Vincenz.

The Arlington County Historic Preservation Program sponsored the marker that will be located at 817-829 S. Carlin Springs Road.

Vincenz, along with Frank Kameny and others, in the 1960s participated in gay rights protests that took place in front of the White House and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Vincenz in 1969 co-founded the Blade.

A Virginia Department of Historic Resources press release says Vincenz hosted the Gay Women’s Open House in her home in Arlington’s Columbia Heights West neighborhood from 1971-1979. It also notes Vincenz’s “documentaries recording significant gay rights marches brought visibility to the movement.”

Vincenz died on June 27, 2023, at the age of 85.

“Dr. Lilli Vincenz was a pioneering leader whose work as a journalist, filmmaker, and psychotherapist empowered the national gay civil rights movement,” reads the Virginia Department of Historic Resources press release.

The marker will be the first one in the state that specifically highlights LGBTQ history. The Virginia Board of Historic Resources approved it and four other markers during their June 20 meeting.

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Federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Va. student blocked from girls sports team

Hanover County School Board approved refusal in 2023

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(Bigstock photo)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on July 3 filed a federal lawsuit against the Hanover County School Board on behalf of a transgender student who was prevented from playing on a sports team consistent with their gender identity.

A press release refers to the student as “Janie Doe,” and the lawsuit notes she is 11 and is in middle school.

The lawsuit notes the school board in 2023 voted not to allow her to “participate in” the girls’ tennis team, even though the ACLU of Virginia noted “she successfully qualified during tryouts, and her parents provided documentation requested by the school board to establish her eligibility.”

The ACLU of Virginia and WilmerHale, a Washington-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond.

“School boards have a duty to protect every child’s right to a public education, but by bullying a transgender young person in its district, Hanover County Public Schools are depriving our client of opportunities every public school student should have — and running afoul of federal discrimination protections that Virginia schools are legally required to uphold,” said ACLU of Virginia Senior Transgender Attorney Wyatt Rolla.

The Biden-Harris administration earlier this year released its final Title IX rules that specifically protect discrimination against LGBTQ students based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. The new regulations are slated to take effect on Aug. 1.

Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is among the state attorneys general who have pledged to block the new Title IX rules from taking effect.

The Virginia Department of Education in July 2023 announced the new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. 

Advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

The ACLU of Virginia earlier this year filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Hanover County middle school student who is not allowed to participate in a girls sports team. The group filed a second lawsuit on behalf of a York County high school student who alleges her teacher refused to call her by her “correct first name.” 

“Banning trans students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity violates discrimination protections that are there to make sure public schools include all students,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Eden Heilman on July 3. 

“It’s a fallacy to think we have to choose between protecting girls’ sports and transgender youth, and it’s patently unlawful to prohibit trans students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity — no matter how much adults with an ideological axe to grind may wish to do so,” added Heilman.

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