(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
D.C. ELECTION PREVIEW Record number of LGBTQ candidates across city PAGE 06
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6 gay candidates competing in crowded field for Council, school board
At least 47 LGBTQ hopefuls competing for ANC seats
Three openly gay candidates are running for seats on the D.C. Council and another three are running for seats on the city’s nine-member State Board of Education in an election on Nov. 3 with a record number of candidates competing for Council and school board seats. At least 47 out LGBTQ candidates are also running for seats on the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, according to a list compiled by the ANC Rainbow Caucus and separate information obtained by the Washington Blade. That number is about double the number of known LGBTQ ANC candidates who ran in the 2018 election. Two of the gay D.C. Council candidates – Shaw Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alexander “Alex” Padro, who’s running as an independent, and Libertarian Party leader Joe Bishop-Henchman – are among 23 candidates running for two at-large D.C. Council seats up for grabs on Nov. 3. And gay Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Randy Downs, who’s also running as an independent, is one of three candidates challenging incumbent Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto, the Democratic nominee, in a hotly contested race. Downs and Padro have been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national group that raises money for LGBTQ candidates nationwide. In one of the State Board of Education races, gay former teacher and longtime education advocate Mysiki Valentine and gay Howard University Political Science Department Chairman Ravi K. Perry are among six candidates competing for an at-large seat on the nonpartisan education board. Gay education advocate Allister Chang, who recently served as a visiting researcher at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is one of four candidates running for the Ward 2 seat on the Board of Education. He is running to replace gay Ward 2 Board of Education member Jack Jacobson, who chose not to run for re-election and who has endorsed Chang. Valentine, Perry, and Chang have said the D.C. Public School System’s ability to address the needs and concerns of LGBTQ students would be among their highest priority in carrying out their role as a school board member. Other races on the ballot this year include the D.C. Congressional Delegate seat currently held by Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter who’s considered the strong favorite to win re-election; and the so-called “shadow” U.S. House and U.S. Senate seats, which have no powers but serve as advocacy positions for D.C. statehood and D.C.’s interests in Congress. Democratic incumbent Paul Strauss is considered the front runner against Statehood Green Party Challenger Eleanor Ory and Republican challenger Cornelia Weiss for the shadow Senate seat. Democrat Oye Owolewa is considered the frontrunner against Statehood Green Party candidate Joyce Robinson-Paul and independent candidate Sohaer Rizvi Syed for the shadow House seat. Also on the ballot are races for D.C. Council seats in Ward 4, in which Democratic nominee Janeese Lewis George is being challenged by Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd; the Ward 7 Council seat in which incumbent Democrat Vincent Gray is running unopposed; and the Ward 8 Council seat in which incumbent Democrat Trayon White is being challenged by Republican Nate Derenge and independent candidates Fred Hill and Christopher Cole. George, Trayon White, and Gray are considered the strong favorites to win their respective races. Similar to past recent D.C. local elections, nearly all candidates running and all those considered to have any chance of winning have expressed support for LGBTQ rights, with most expressing strong support. Local LGBTQ activists have said that means, unlike other cities and states, D.C.’s LGBTQ voters have the luxury of being able to choose who to vote for based on non-LGBTQ issues with the expectation that no serious candidate opposes LGBTQ equality. However, local LGBTQ activists sometimes disagree over whether an out LGBTQ candidate should be supported on the basis of their sexual orientation or whether other issues should take precedent. Many activists, including members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political organization, say it’s important to have LGBTQ people in elective office, especially on the D.C. Council. There has not been an LGBTQ member of the D.C. Council since gay Council members Jim Graham, a Democrat, and David Catania, an independent, left the Council in January 2015. The Stein Club has endorsed incumbent D.C. Council member Robert White for one of the two at-large seats up for election. But the club could not endorse any of the three gay Council candidates under its longstanding rules that prohibit the endorsement of a non-Democrat when a Democrat is running in the same race. The club endorsed all Democratic Council candidates running in the general election except Pinto in Ward 2 after Democrat Pinto was unable to obtain the 60 percent vote needed under club rules for an endorsement. The no-endorsement vote in the Ward 2 race is considered a clear sign of support among Stein Club members for Downs, whose supporters in the club 0 6 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • OCTOBER 23 , 2 0 2 0 • LO CA L NE WS
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.
voted against an endorsement for Pinto. Observers say Downs, while in an uphill campaign, may have a better shot at winning than Padro and Bishop-Henchman, who are competing with several better known candidates, including former at-large Council member Vincent Orange. In the Ward 2 race, Pinto, a 28-year-old attorney and political newcomer to D.C., won the Democratic primary with just 28 percent of the vote in an eight-candidate race. Two weeks later she won a special election to fill the Ward 2 seat until January after longtime Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans (D) resigned earlier this year following allegations of violations of ethics rules. The Democratic nominee for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat has won the general election in every election since D.C. began its local home rule government in 1974, a development that would normally make Pinto the strong front runner. But some political observers say Downs, who has received numerous endorsements from prominent Ward 2 activists and small businesses as well as from the Washington Teachers Union, say he has a shot at breaking the longstanding trend of the Democrat winning the Ward 2 seat. Pinto has expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights and has advocated for LGBTQ supportive legislation during her four months in office. She has also received prominent endorsements, including from the Washington Post and some LGBTQ activists, including gay bar owner and ANC BROOKE PINTO and RANDY DOWNS are facing off in the Ward 2 Council race that commissioner John Guggenmos. Also backing has divided LGBTQ residents. Pinto is gay Logan Circle ANC commissioner John Fanning, who was one of the unsuccessful candidates running against Pinto in the Democratic primary, and gay Democratic activist Austin Naughton, who serves as chair of the Ward 2 Democrats organization. Other political observers, while agreeing that Downs has waged a strong campaign, point out that two other candidates are running for the seat that are competing for votes that Downs needs to win an upset victory. The two are independent candidate Martin Miguel Fernandez, who is vying to become the Council’s first Latino member, and Statehood Green Party candidate Peter Bolton. Both have also expressed strong support for LGBTQ issues and are positioning themselves as left-leaning progressives. Downs has described himself as a “pragmatic progressive” compared to Pinto, who has positioned herself as a moderate to progressive on some issues, according to D.C. Council observers. Pinto is ahead in money raised for her campaign, with a cumulative total of $189,243 as of the time of the filing of her Oct. 10 campaign finance report. She has selected to enroll in the city’s traditional campaign donor program that allows corporate donations. Downs’s Oct. 10 report shows he is running a respectable second with $140,730 raised. He points out that he has enrolled in the city’s public financing program where he receives matching funds from the city with donations limited to a maximum of $50 per donor for a ward candidate and corporate donors are not allowed. Downs says he has far more donors from Ward 2 and from within D.C. than Pinto, who has received a large number of out-of-town campaign contributions. Bolton’s Oct. 10 finance report shows he has raised a total of $2,841 as of Oct. 10. The most recent report that Fernandez has filed, according to Office of Campaign Finance records, is for Aug. 10, which shows he raised $9,446 as of that time. He told the Blade on Tuesday that he applied for an extension for filing his Oct. 10 report but he estimates his total funds raised are about $12,000. Downs received a +10 rating on LGBTQ issues from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the group’s highest rating. GLAA gave ratings of +7.5 for Pinto, +7 for Fernandez, and +4 for Bolton. In a statement accompanying its ratings GLAA says each of the four candidates expressed support for all the LGBTQ related issues the group considers important in its candidate questionnaire. CONTINUES ON PAGE 08
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Pinto, Downs face off in competitive Ward 2 race
The statement says those with the higher ratings gave a greater degree of substance to their questionnaire responses or, like Downs, had a more extensive record of involvement in LGBTQ endeavors. Downs created a stir in September when he released a statement criticizing Pinto for accepting maximum campaign donations of $500 each from Michigan’s Republican former Attorney General Bill Schuette and Schuette’s wife. Schuette has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and civil rights protections for LGBTQ people. Schuette also received the endorsement of President Trump when he ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan in 2018. “These are not our values and we do not accept large donations from politicians who advocate for those values,” Downs said in his statement. The Blade confirmed from Pinto’s campaign finance report filed with the Office of Campaign Finance that Schuette and his wife made the contributions to her campaign. “My support for equal rights and the LGBTQ community is longstanding and unwavering,” Pinto told the Blade in a statement. “Views contrary to the rights of our LGBTQ community are abhorrent, and no contributor, politician, or anyone else is going to alter my beliefs, including my steadfast support for same-sex marriage and civil rights protections,” she said. “I do not vet the views and actions of the thousands of supporters and contributors to our campaign, but I do take my responsibility seriously to educate and encourage all in our community to be inclusive and supportive,” Pinto said. “Mr. Downs might consider discontinuing spurious attacks on me and start discussing policies he would promote.” Downs told the Blade his campaign website includes information on his numerous policy proposals and his long record of advocacy for Ward 2 residents. He criticized Pinto for not returning the contributions from the Schuettes. In the at-large Council race, incumbent Democrat Robert White, a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, is considered the favorite to win the so-called “Democratic” seat. He received a +10 rating from GLAA. Most political observers say the other seat, which under the city’s election law cannot go to a Democrat, is up for grabs among the better known independent candidates. Under the city’s election rules voters are asked to select two candidates in the at-large race. The two candidates with the highest vote counts are declared the winners. Padro is well known and has support from his home base in the Shaw neighborhood in his role as an ANC commissioner and as co-founder and executive director of Shaw Main Streets, a neighborhood advocacy and development group. But he doesn’t have widespread name recognition in other parts of the ward, although his campaign signs are appearing in all parts of the ward. Bishop-Henchman, an attorney who lives in the city’s Eckington neighborhood, serves as vice president of policy and litigation for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation and as chair of D.C.’s Libertarian Party. He ran as the Libertarian Party candidate two years ago in 2018 for the D.C. Attorney General’s position against incumbent Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat. D.C. Board of Election returns show Bishop-Henchman received 14,941 votes, or 6.68 percent, compared to Racine, who won easily with 207,451 votes or 92.77 percent. Records from the Office of Campaign Finance show that Bishop-Henchman this year applied for and received a waiver from having to file campaign finance reports by committing himself not to raise or spend more than $500 for his campaign. That suggests he may be running as the symbolic standard bearer of the Libertarian Party and not running an active campaign. He has not responded to a call from the Blade for comment as of early this week. Padro’s Oct. 10 finance report shows he has raised $39,010 for his campaign as of Oct. 10. In the school board race, Valentine has raised $14,488 according to his Oct. 10 finance report. Perry’s report shows he raised $5,255 for his at-large campaign as of Oct. 10. Chang’s report for Oct. 10 shows he raised $2,775 for his campaign as of that date. GLAA gave Padro a rating of +7, saying he has a strong record on LGBTQ issues and provided “good substance” on his questionnaire responses but lost points for disagreeing with GLAA’s position for decriminalizing sex work in the District. Padro instead has called for legalizing sex work with strict regulations to prevent ill effects, a position that GLAA says “creates more barriers and marginalization” for people involved in sex work. Bishop-Henchman received a +2.5 GLAA rating. GLAA says in its accompanying statement that he agrees with GLAA on all issues but offered “very little substance” and did not provide any record of working on LGBTQ issues. Among the other LGBTQ supportive candidates against whom Padro and Bishop-Henchman are competing is Christina Henderson, a former staffer to D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large). Henderson received a +10 GLAA rating. Grosso isn’t running for re-election, and his seat is the one the 23 candidates, including Padro, Bishop-Henchman, and Henderson are running for. Grosso, also a longtime LGBTQ community supporter, has endorsed Henderson as his replacement on the Council. Also running for the at-large Council seat is longtime LGBTQ community ally Monica Palacio who until earlier this year served as director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights. She received a +9.5 rating from GLAA. Former Council member Orange, who some consider one of the frontrunners for the at-large seat, received a +2.5 rating from GLAA on grounds that he did not return the GLAA questionnaire and his positions on various issues couldn’t be determined. Visit washingtonblade.com for a list of the 47 known LGBTQ Advisory Neighborhood Commission candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot. 0 8 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • OCTOBER 23 , 2 0 2 0 • LO CA L NE WS
Comings & Goings
LGBT Tech announces PowerOn Award winners By PETER ROSENSTEIN
The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: email@example.com. Congratulations to Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen on joining the board of AsylumConnect, which provides an online platform for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers to find affirming resources — lawyers, healthcare providers, housing services, etc. — anywhere in the country. Rodrigo said “AsylumConnect is the first tech resource like this in the world for LGBTQ people fleeing persecution. By using the app or website, LGBTQ asylum seekers across the U.S., from Delaware to South Dakota, can find safe service referrals. It’s a 24/7 digital one-stop-shop. With Trump fostering hostility toward both migrants and LGBTQ people alike, it’s more important than ever that those who live at the intersection of these issues be able to find safe RODRIGO resources.” HENG-LEHTINEN Rodrigo works full-time on the leadership team at the National Center for Transgender Equality where he is Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Action. Congratulations and welcome also to Jean-François Hould who began his third posting in the United States as director of the Québec Government Office in Washington. Upon accepting the position JeanFrancois said “Québec’s LGBTQ record shows that state-led initiatives can have a global impact. I look forward to building new relationships with LGBTQ partners and allies here in Washington, at a time when cross-border collaboration and solidarity is more necessary than ever.” In this position he is responsible for furthering Québec’s bilateral relations with the U.S. federal government. This strategic post in the American capital builds on his successes supporting Québec’s economic and political interests in the United States. Previously JEAN-FRANCOIS HOULD he served as Québec’s representative in Chicago, fostering Québec political and economic relations in the Midwest. He was particularly involved in Great Lakes issues and trade. He also served as Cultural Attaché in New York promoting Québec’s artistic development in the midAtlantic. Hould has a long history of public service beginning his governmental career in 2001. He was recruited to various political positions in ministerial cabinets including serving as Deputy Chief of Staff and Political Adviser to the Minister of Culture and Chief of Staff to the Minister of International Relations and la Francophonie. Congratulations also to the winners of LGBT Tech’s PowerOn awards. PowerOn is a national program of the LGBT Technology Institute. The Awards Ceremony was held on Oct. 1 to recognize program participants and supporters dedicated to closing the digital divide for the LGBTQ community. Awards were presented in four categories: The Visionary Award, honoring an individual or individuals whose work has empowered LGBTQ+ individuals to achieve success through technology and the internet, was presented to Kelli and Jacques van Gool of Houston and Staunton, Va., for their longtime support of PowerOn’s efforts. The Change Agent Award, honoring an individual in public service or social justice whose significant contributions to connectivity have helped support underserved populations, including the LGBTQ+ community, was presented to Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution in D.C. The Superstar Center Award, honoring a PowerOn partner center or organization that has made outstanding contributions to the program and to the community the organization serves, was presented to Triangle Community Center of Norwalk, Ct., with a runner up award presented to Kaleidoscope Youth Center of Columbus, Ohio. The Role Model Award, honoring a youth or young adult who set the bar for themselves and their peers while participating in the PowerOn Program, was presented to Mackenzie Williams of OUTMemphis in Tennessee, with a runner up award presented to Jordan Paris of Triangle Community.
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Trans challenger hopes to unseat Rep. Harris Mia Mason is vying to join Maryland’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives in a bid that could make her the ﬁrst transgender person ever elected to Congress. She is running against incumbent Republican Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District — which includes the Eastern Shore and portions of northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties — that leaned heavily to the right in 2016, with 60 percent of voters casting ballots for President Trump. Despite this, Mason said she is hopeful she will pull out a victory on Nov. 3. Born in Virginia, Mason joined the U.S. Navy in 1998 and went on to have a military career involving one tour in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. In 2014, she said she was going through a routine medical screening when her superiors discovered she is trans by looking at her Veterans Affairs paperwork. She was discharged by November, she said, but soon after President Obama announced that trans people could serve in the military. “I spent my entire Christmas break calling my attorneys to get back in,” she said in an interview with the Washington Blade. It took her until 2016 to be fully accepted back into the military as a part of the D.C. National Guard. Then in 2017, Trump tweeted that he would not allow trans people to serve in the military and Mason said she knew she needed to turn to advocacy and politics. “When I was ﬁghting to get back into the military I went through some really tough times. I lost a lot,” she said. “And with Trump’s tweet, that was going to be happening to thousands of people. His simple tweet could basically take out at least 10,000 service members including their family members who rely on their medical beneﬁts.” Harris is the only Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation. The Human Rights Campaign labeled him as one of the most “anti-equality” House members, saying he has “gone out of his way” to support anti-LGBTQ legislation. In 2020, HRC gave him a 0 out of 100 rating on its congressional scorecard. He has also voted in line with Trump’s position in 92 percent of House votes through his career, making him one of the president’s most loyal members in Congress.
(Photo courtesy the Mason campaign)
Mason said her biggest priorities coming into the federal government would be to push through the Equal Rights Amendment, which has hung in limbo for decades, and establish “Medicare for All.” But before those, Mason said she would work to provide ﬁnancial relief for the people in her district who are struggling with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. “When we call people asking for donations, they’re often asking us for food and we know that we won’t be able to provide that relief package for them until at least six months after we’re sworn in,” she said. “So it’s about making that promise and making sure we’re holding ourselves accountable to them.” PARKER PURIFOY
Salon Roi founder ROI BARNARD speaks in front of the newly restored ‘Marilyn’ mural in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington.
City ofﬁcials joined local business owners at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street on Saturday to celebrate the restoration of the iconic public art installation ‘Marilyn.’ The Marilyn Monroe mural on the third story of Salon Roi was originally painted in 1981 by the late artist John Bailey. The restoration was commissioned by Woodley Park Main Street and was completed by regional artist Kevin “Jazi” Irvin. Former owner of Salon Roi, Roi Barnard, 82, received the mural as a 40th birthday present from his late partner, Charles Stinson. “I’ve loved Marilyn Monroe from the time I was 12 years old,” Barnard told the gathered crowd. “And in 1970 when Charles and I were just getting our foothold in Woodley Park, when we ﬁrst came here we were extremely ﬂamboyant. One by one, Charles and I won over the people of Woodley Park.” The mural, long a staple image in Woodley Park, had become weathered over time and was in dire need of refurbishment. The mural has been brought back to its former glory as a gateway signpost welcoming passersby into the commercial and residential district. MICHAEL KEY
Whitman-Walker plans virtual Walk to End HIV Whitman-Walker Health, D.C.’s LGBTQ supportive healthcare center, announced last week that its 34th annual fundraising Walk & 5K Run to End HIV will be held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an Oct. 15 statement, Whitman-Walker said it is calling on its community supporters to gather as individuals or teams on Oct. 24 “by walking or running a 5K route of their choosing – however, supporters can walk, run and donate through December 31st.” The statement says the event’s fundraising goal this year is $400,000, which will be used to support Whitman-Walker’s “work and mission of keeping 20,000+ unique patients healthy and thriving.” It says the annual Walk & 5K to End HIV, which in the past was known as the annual 1 0 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • OCTOBER 23 , 2 0 2 0 • LO CA L NE WS
AIDS Walk, is Whitman-Walker’s largest fundraiser of the year. “The Walk is imperative to helping Whitman-Walker deliver affordable and dignifying HIV care, prevention and wellness services,” said Whitman-Walker Health CEO Naseema Shaﬁ. Similar to past years when the walk and run were held as an in-person event in downtown D.C., with over 1,000 people participating, participants are being asked to register for the event online and invite friends and supporters to pledge a contribution in support of their role as a walker or runner. LOU CHIBBARO JR.
DC NEEDS AN LGBTQ COUNCiLMEMBER AGAiN! Alex Padro is the only out Gay candidate for the At-Large seat on the DC Council. It’s been ﬁve years since we had an LGBTQ member of the Council of the District of Columbia. At one time, we had as many as two out members of the Council. While the community has allies on the Council, we need one of our own sitting on the dais, in the room when decisions are made that affect our rights and quality of life. Over a 20-year career as an ANC Commissioner and economic development leader, Alex Padro has led the effort to transform Shaw from a neighborhood primarily known for drugs, prostitution and gang violence to a world-renown dining and entertainment destination. Alex has added thousands of new residents to Shaw while maintaining the neighborhood’s economic and ethnic diversity. Alex Padro helped make Shaw the Washington Blade’s Best Gayborhood three years in a row, and supported LGBTQ businesses when narrowminded opponents tried to stop them from opening. In endorsing Alex Padro, the LGBTQ Victory Fund said, “Never before has the D.C. Council had a Latinx member and there are currently no out LGBTQ people on the Council. Representation in elected ofﬁce is essential to ensuring our concerns and priorities are included in policies and legislation. Alexander will be a strong voice for equality on the DC Council and that is why we support him in the at-large race.”
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To thwart Barrett confirmation, fears raised over gay marriage Hail Mary bid not likely to impact outcome of vote By CHRIS JOHNSON | firstname.lastname@example.org
the Supreme Court, it would likely come in the form In a Hail Mary bid to thwart the expected of a state challenging the legality of the Obergefell conﬁrmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. decision — either in the form of a state legislature Supreme Court, cries have emerged that she poses passing a new law against same-sex marriage or a threat to marriage equality — and leading that a state ofﬁcial simply declaring the decision was charge is the named plaintiff and defendant in the incorrectly decided. lawsuit that extended marriage rights for gay couples At least one such declaration is already pending throughout the country. before the Supreme Court in terms of birth certiﬁcates. Jim Obergefell, the widower who sued Ohio Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fischer has ﬁled a to ensure his name would appear on the death petition asking justices to take up Box v. Henderson, a certiﬁcate of now deceased spouse John Arthur, case to determine whether Obergefell applies to the and Rick Hodges, the Republican ofﬁcial who birth certiﬁcates of the children of lesbian parents. It represented the state in denying him that right — but would take a vote of at least four justices to agree to a supporter of same-sex marriage — both took part take up the case. Tuesday in a Zoom call with reporters against Barrett’s “[T]he Court should take this case for plenary conﬁrmation. review and hold that Obergefell does not preclude Obergefell, pointing to comments Barrett has Judge AMY CONEY BARRETT wouldn’t say during her conﬁrmation hearing states from reasonably (and rebuttably) presuming made in the past about Chief Justice John Roberts’ whether she thinks the Supreme Court correctly decided same-sex marriage. that a birth-mother’s husband, but not a birthdissent in his lawsuit, said he fears with Barrett on the (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP; POOL PHOTO used with permission) mother’s wife, is the biological father of her child,” the bench following her nomination by President Trump, petition says. marriage rights for gay couples would be “chipped away.” The Obergefell decision, however, explicitly addressed the birth certiﬁcate issue and the “I remember clearly what life was like before the day that the right of same-sex couples right for same-sex parents to place both their names on their child’s birth certiﬁcate was to marry became the law of the land,” Obergefell said. “We were able to have at most what reafﬁrmed in 2017 in Pavan v. Smith. [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg called ‘skim milk marriages’: Marriages in which, depending on state A state most likely to mount a challenge to Obergefell could very well be in the South, laws, we were not recognized as the families that we are.” where polls show support for LGBTQ rights is weaker and politicians in recent history — most Fears over the potential vulnerability of same-sex marriage were heightened this month notably Roy Moore in Alabama — have railed against same-sex marriage to win public favor. after U.S. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito issued a statement essentially Jay Barth, a political scientist at Hendrix College and author of “The South and the Battle declaring war on the Obergefell decision, citing insufﬁcient protection for religious liberty. If over LGBTQ Rights,” told the Washington Blade he’s “not immediately expecting” states in Barrett were to replace progressive champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, the South to challenge Obergefell, making the case for “a tale of two Souths right now in the court would have a new 6-3 conservative majority in any re-evaluation of the case. terms of these issues.” Hodges, despite being the ofﬁcial blocking Obergefell’s placing his name on his spouse’s “Look at the states like Georgia and Florida and Texas that have now really become more death certiﬁcates, said when the ruling came down from the Supreme Court in 2015 for New South states with signiﬁcant LGBTQ populations and straight populations increasingly, marriage equality, “I did everything I could to prepare my department for marriage equality pretty well educated, that are not into that issue anymore,” Barth said. “But then there are rural and equal treatment of all Ohioans marriages.” southern states and I think you put Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana in that camp, Breaking with his party as a Republican in opposition to Barrett, Hodges said he thinks that where you’re maybe more likely to see anything like that.” work could be undermined with her conﬁrmation. The Blade reached out to ofﬁces of the state attorneys general in Alabama, Mississippi, “I fear that what’s at stake with this fateful nomination to replace Justice Ruth Bader Arkansas and Louisiana seeking comment on whether they’d seek to challenge the Ginsburg, that all Americans are treated with full dignity and respect regardless of who Obergefell ruling. The only response came from Amanda Priest, a spokesperson for Arkansas they are or whom they love, and that all American families beneﬁt equally and fully from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who said, “The Attorney General does not have any government services they pay for through their taxes,” Hodges said. pending litigation with respect to this matter.” Hodges during the call said joining with Obergefell in opposition to Barrett’s conﬁrmation Barth, however, concluded his “gut” feeling is a direct challenge to Supreme Court was a “real pleasure,” adding the two are “bound by our names on a historic, momentous precedent like Obergefell won’t happen and states would be more likely to challenge and frankly wonderful decision.” Obergefell said at the start of the call the two have become LGBTQ rights with state religious freedom laws allowing the denying of services to same-sex friends. couples or a group refusing to provide marriage beneﬁts to same-sex couples. For her part, Barrett during her conﬁrmation hearing last week before the Senate Judiciary “I think we probably have some hints of where the new justice will fall, that she’s probably Committee said Obergefell “clearly says there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” more likely to fall in the hardcore camp with Alito and Thomas, but I think we’re still not she wouldn’t budge from no comment on whether she’d vote to overturn the decision, most positive there,” Barth said. “Clearly, there will be a battle within the conservative majority to notably in an exchange with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). move her to their side with the chief justice on one faction and Justice Alito on the other side “[You’re] implying that I’m poised to say I want to cast a vote to overrule Obergefell, and to get her to come down on any issue.” I assure you, I don’t have any agenda, and I’m not even expressing a view of disagreement The chances of defeating Barrett’s conﬁrmation in the U.S. Senate — where a conﬁrmation with Obergefell,” Barrett said. “You’re pushing me to try to violate the judicial canon of ethics vote is scheduled for Monday — are slim to none. Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and to offer advisory opinions, and I won’t do that.” on Wednesday sought to adjourn the Senate until after Election Day to block Barrett’s But Barrett has already articulated personal and religious opposition to same-sex marriage. conﬁrmation vote, but that motion was defeated in the Senate by a vote along party lines. In 2015, Barrett signed with other Catholic women a letter to bishops afﬁrming marriage is Polls have shown a bare majority of the American public backs her conﬁrmation. A Morning “founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.” Consult poll made public on Wednesday found 51 percent of American voters back her Barrett has also admitted to taking speaker fees from a legal fellowship afﬁliated with conﬁrmation, compared to 28 percent who say the Senate should reject and the 21 percent Alliance Defense Freedom, a group that fought against same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ who have no opinion. rights across the board. Meanwhile, the presumption that Barrett would be hostile to LGBTQ people continues Denise Brogan-Kator, interim CEO for the LGBTQ group Family Equality, said in the to develop. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported Trinity Schools, the religiously conference call with Obergefell and Hodges the conﬁrmation of Barrett based on her past afﬁliated private school where Barrett served as a trustee for three years, had a hostile climate statements would be “an LGBTQ rights emergency.” for LGBTQ teachers and effectively barred students with same-sex parents from admission. “I’d like to say that if the 1,200 rights and responsibilities attendant to marriage are chipped The most imminent opportunity for Barrett to adjudicate a case related to LGBTQ rights is away, one by one, state by state, then we might have marriage, but we won’t have marriage the issue of foster care. Catholic Social Services, in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, equality,” Brogan-Kators said. “That is not the vision of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.” is arguing a First Amendment right to refuse to place children with same-sex couples — even Although LGBTQ advocates are sounding the alarm over Barrett’s conﬁrmation that could though it had signed a contract with Philadelphia agreeing not to engage in anti-LGBTQ lead to a roll back of same-sex marriage, legal experts have downplayed that threat, although discrimination through its taxpayer-funded activities. The case is set for oral arguments on they conceded indirect challenges are still possible. Nov. 4, the day after Election Day. If Barrett were to end up being the deciding vote in a re-evaluation of the issue before 1 2 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • OCTOBER 23 , 2 0 2 0 • NAT I O NA L NE WS
Texas to allow social workers to discriminate Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is facing mounting criticism for new regulations in his state allowing social workers to turn away patients because they’re LGBTQ or have a disability. Two Texas agencies — the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners and the Behavioral Health Executive Council — voted unanimously last week to change a section of code of conduct to remove non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. The decision was made at the last minute at the behest of Abbott, who cited objections to the non-discrimination policy claiming the protections went beyond state policy on social work, according to the Associated Press. As a result, social workers in Texas — at least under state policy — are now allowed to reject patients based solely on being LGBTQ or having a disability, a situation advocates for those communities say places already vulnerable communities at greater risk. Ricardo Martinez, Chief Executive Ofﬁcer of Equality Texas, was among the advocates objecting to the change. “The social workers code of conduct previously helped ensure ethical treatment of all clients and prevented bias-motivated misconduct,” Martinez said in a statement. “Now with the removal of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression from the code, LGBTQ+ folks who experience discrimination could face more obstacles to getting the help they need.” Abbott’s ofﬁce didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether the governor stands by the change amid the criticism. An article in Yahoo News quotes Renae Eze, an Abbott spokesperson, as saying, “It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the legislature.” Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, said in a statement the change would be devastating for transgender people in Texas.
Gov. GREG ABBOTT
(Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
“Many LGBTQ+ Texans struggle to access competent, quality and affordable health care as is,” Schelling said. “There is always a real possibility that trans Texans speciﬁcally could be turned away or dissuaded from accessing the medical resources they need. At a time when many in our community require services to make it through an isolating pandemic, attempting to grant providers a license to discriminate is abhorrent.” According to a joint statement from groups opposing the decision, Abbott’s request wasn’t included in agenda materials, and public comment on the change before the vote was allowed. Although the agencies stripped out nondiscrimination language on disability and LGBTQ status, they left most prohibitions against discrimination based on other characteristics, such as age, gender, race, religion or political afﬁliation, the statement says. The Texas agencies made the change after the state legislature failed to pass bills exempting social workers and mental health professionals from non-discrimination policies of the basis of religious objections. In Tennessee, former Gov. Bill Haslam signed legislation into law along those lines in 2016. CHRIS JOHNSON
Tiffany Trump dragged on Twitter over support for father Tiffany Trump, the daughter of President Trump who hasn’t been as visible a are this, this, this. I say, ‘It’s because my father has always supported all of you.’” Tiffany Trump added her father has never supported these communities “for member of the Trump family as her half-siblings, trended on Twitter this week, facing criticism for promoting her dad as a supporter of the LGBTQ community, politics, and he’s not doing it for politics, and, unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of people out there and other politicians who do, OK?” an apparent reference to Joe despite the anti-LGBTQ record he has built over his administration. Biden and the Democratic Party. Speaking in Tampa on Saturday at an event But Tiffany Trump didn’t get a kind reaction coordinated by Trump Pride, the political coalition on Twitter, where users mocked her for afﬁliating within Trump’s re-election campaign, Tiffany Trump herself with her dad, downplaying his anti-LGBTQ in video footage of the event addressed cheering record and speaking at an event where video fans, many of whom were wearing “Make America footage shows a small audience. Outspoken, the Great Again” hats. media project of Log Cabin Republicans, reported “It’s such an honor to be able to be here and an estimated 150 people were in the audience. speak truthfully, honestly and from my heart,” Tiffany “When my father decided to run for the Trump said. “I know what my father believes in. Republican nomination, I can say I was a little bit Prior to politics, he supported gays, lesbians, the worried just based on previous — the past, the LGBQIA+ community, OK?” past Republican establishment on how their views Tiffany Trump noticeably omitted the “T” from maybe were towards this community, towards gays, the acronym for the LGBTQ community, which lesbians,” Tiffany Trump said. “But guess what? My has born the brunt of the Trump administration’s dad cannot be bought off. He’s not going to let anti-LGBTQ attacks, including the transgender anyone change his views and he’s done that.” military ban, removal of guidance from government Photos reveal others in attendance at the event websites on transgender workers and revocation were Richard Grenell, the former acting director of of Obama-era guidance allowing transgender kids national intelligence for Trump who has become in schools to use the restroom consistent with their the face for LGBTQ outreach in Trump’s re-election gender identity. campaign; Rob Smith, a member of the pro-Trump “We unfortunately see social media, we see student group Turning Point USA; and Trump’s these fabricated lies,” Tiffany Trump said. “It’s former spouse and Tiffany Trump’s mother Marla saddens me. I have friends of mine who reach out Maples. and they say, ‘How (they make up stories) how do TIFFANY TRUMP promoted her father’s record on LGBTQ issues. Queer Twitter wasn’t happy. CHRIS JOHNSON you support your father? We know you, we know your best friends are gay, we know your best friends NAT I O NA L NE WS • O CTO B E R 2 3 , 2 0 2 0 • WA S H I N GTO N B L A D E.CO M • 1 3
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BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including: Those in the “Most Important Information About BIKTARVY” section. Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking BIKTARVY. Kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys. If you develop new or worse kidney problems, they may tell you to stop taking BIKTARVY. Too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat. Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain. The most common side effects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea (6%), nausea (6%), and headache (5%). These are not all the possible side effects of BIKTARVY. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new symptoms while taking BIKTARVY. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.FDA.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088. Your healthcare provider will need to do tests to monitor your health before and during treatment with BIKTARVY.
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Election a matter of ‘survival’ for LGBT Latinos A group of LGBTQ Latino activists from across the country who participated in a virtual roundtable last week said the election results are a matter of “survival.” for their respective communities. “As a trans person, these elections are critical for our survival,” said Maria Roman-Taylorson, vice president and chief operation officer of the TransLatin@ Coalition who is based in Los Angeles. “It’s not only the presidency, but our health is on the ballot. us living authentically is on the ballot.” Roman-Taylorson spoke alongside National Center for Transgender Equality Deputy Executive Director Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen and URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity Executive Director Kimberly Inez McGuire during the panel that the Latino Institute, the Latino Equality Alliance, the Hispanic Federation, the Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade sponsored. Hispanic Federation Director of North Carolina and Mid-South Operations Daniel Valdez and Louie Ortiz-Fonseca, founder of Gran Varones, a project that documents issues through Black and Latino LGBTQ lenses, also participated in the round table. Tony Lima, chief operating officer of Arianna’s Center, a South Floridabased organization that advocates on behalf of trans Latina women, was the moderator. Richard Zaldivar, founder and executive director of The Wall Las Memorias Project in Los Angeles, spoke at the end of the roundtable. “The election in November will be the most important election of our lifetime, in the history of our nation,” said Zaldivar. “Either we can live with this authoritarian leadership of this president or we can raise our voice and objections to his bigotry, racism and defeat this dance with fascism that we are experiencing today.” Lima, who is based in Miami, echoed Zaldivar. “The queer and trans Latinx vote is the most important thing as Latinx people that we could be talking about right now,” said Lima. “We are at a moment where our lives absolutely depend on this coming election.” Heng-Lehtinen, whose mother is former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), among other things said President Trump “is really systematically trying to chip away at all of the health care access that we (trans people) have.” RomanTaylorson in her remarks noted the White House reinstated the ban on openly trans servicemembers. “Our lives are on the line here,” said Heng-Lehtinen. Florida and North Carolina among the states that will likely determine the
TransLatin@ Coalition Vice President MARIA ROMAN-TAYLORSON (Photo by Jonathan Timmes)
outcome of the presidential election. The panelists stressed state and local races are equally as important. McGuire noted state legislatures in recent years have sought to restrict access to abortion, implement anti-LGBTQ sex education curricula and pass religious freedom bills and other measures that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “We all want justice at home, which means if you are queer, if you are trans, if you are an immigrant, you should not have to feel like your home is a hostile place,” said McGuire. Valdez agreed. “We have seen our Latinx and immigrant communities vilified, our trans and queer communities used as scapegoats to win elections,” he said. “We have the opportunity to change that in this upcoming election to let them know that kind of divisiveness is not going to work.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Chilean group withdraws from marriage pact with gov’t An LGBTQ advocacy group in Chile has withdrawn from an agreement it reached with the country’s government over marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh) in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who were seeking marriage rights in Chile. A law that allows gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions took effect in 2015. The government of former President Michelle Bachelet — who is now the U.N. high commissioner for human rights — the following year said it would introduce bills to extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples as part of an agreement between it, Movilh and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Chilean Senate in January advanced a marriage equality bill that Bachelet introduced in 2017. Chile’s Constitutional Court in June ruled against a lesbian couple who sought recognition of their marriage in Spain. Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups noted the decision, among other things, says the inability for same-sex couples to legally marry in Chile does not constitute discrimination because “a homosexual person can contract marriage in Chile if they do it with a person of the opposite sex.” Human Rights Watch also points out the ruling compares marriage equality to “marriage of African countries” and says allowing same-sex couples to marry would mean the “destruction” of marriage. The Senate’s Constitution, Legislation and Justice Committee on Oct. 16 held a hearing on the marriage equality measure. Movilh on the same day in a press release noted its withdrawal from the agreement with the government. “If President Sebastián Piñera reverses course, we are willing to resume the
dialogue with the government to reactivate the agreement that the State signed with Movilh,” said Movilh spokesperson Oscar Rementería in the press release. Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer who represents Movilh in their Inter-American Commission on Human Rights lawsuit, on Sunday told the Blade he is “very pleased that Movilh has convinced the chairman of this (Senate) committee to take up the bill.” Carter nevertheless added he and Movilh “remain concerned about a number of poison pill amendments that have been offered and by the fact that the president’s representative couldn’t make the time to come to this important meeting and the president couldn’t give this important project the priority that is due.” La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper, reports the bill has 25 amendments that marriage equality supporters and opponents have proposed. Jaime Bellolio, a spokesperson for the Piñera administration, was invited to testify at the hearing, but he did not attend. “The president and his ministers have so thoroughly failed to uphold their government’s obligations under an agreement signed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that we have terminated that agreement and the commission will proceed to hear our client’s complaint that Chile is failing to uphold its obligations under international law to guarantee marriage equality,” said Carter. Carter noted to the Blade that “all of the commissioners present made strong statements about Panama’s obligations, and so we are confident of success there and ultimately in the Inter-American court.” Carter also cited media reports that suggest Piñera’s government is reconsidering its position towards marriage equality in Chile. MICHAEL K. LAVERS
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is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at email@example.com
The sad, closeted hypocrisy of Lindsey Graham S.C. senator pushes a Supreme Court justice hostile to LGBTQ rights Sen. Lindsey Graham returned to the national spotlight last week, overseeing the conﬁrmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. The irony of this appears largely lost on the mainstream media. Graham, for years and years rumored to be gay, is rushing the conﬁrmation of a Supreme Court justice who will likely rule on challenges to the Obergefell marriage decision that will undoubtedly curtail its scope, if not overturn it entirely, as Justices Alito and Thomas revealed last week as their goal. The conﬁrmed bachelor’s efforts to keep his sexual orientation a secret suffered a blow this summer, when male escorts and porn stars created a stir with the “Lady Graham” hashtag and revelations about “ladybugs” (Google it if you have an iron stomach). Porn star Sean Harding went public on Twitter, alleging Graham has hired multiple D.C.-based escorts over the years who signed nondisclosure agreements, which have enabled this farce to persist for so long. Closeted ﬁgures like Graham have done so much damage over the years, from Donald Trump’s idol and mentor Roy Cohn, to Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, passing laws and judgment against members of their own community while cowering in the shadows. It’s remarkable that in 2016 Graham ran for president and is now running for re-election to the Senate while largely avoiding questions about his sexual orientation from the media. His disdain for the LGBTQ community is established in a string of votes against our interests, from voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to co-sponsoring the Defense of Marriage Act, to shoving a hostile Supreme Court justice down our throats two weeks before a presidential election after vowing he would never do such a thing. Graham was asked about marriage during a recent debate with Jaime Harrison, his well-funded Democratic opponent in the South Carolina Senate race. “My partner and I have been married for ﬁve years and we’ve been together for 22. What will the candidates do to ensure our rights are protected — the rights of the gay people, married in the state of South Carolina,” asked Louis Yuhasz during the debate. “The law of the land by the Supreme Court is that same-sex marriage is now legal,” Graham replied. “I accept that ruling. We’re a conservative state, there are a lot of religious people around this state that believe in traditional marriage. They’re not bigots, they’re not neanderthals for believing in that but this man, under our law, has the right to his relationship. I’ll honor the law of the land. … I’ve tried to be tolerant. I’ve tried to understand that people have different life experiences. I do; I’m not a woman, I’m not a person of color. I listen, but I can tell you right now that when it comes to South Carolina, I think I’ve been an effective voice for who we are and to the gentleman, the law of the land is that same-sex marriage is legal and we will honor that.” Of course, that’s a far cry from actually endorsing marriage equality, as the “law of the land” will likely change given the new 6-3 conservative majority on the high court. It appears unlikely that Harrison will unseat Graham, but if enough South Carolinians recognize the harmful hypocrisy that Graham embodies, maybe, just maybe, we’ll see much needed change on Nov. 3. Patti Lupone said it best when she tweeted earlier this year: “Lindsey Graham you are a disgrace. On a personal note, why don’t you just bite the bullet and come out. You might just come to your senses.” 1 8 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • OCTOBER 23 , 2 0 2 0 • V I E WP O I NT
is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.
Vote Biden/Harris to save our country
Let’s show the world Trump was an aberration It is abundantly clear that to save our country and resume our place of leadership in the world we must elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Like others during the Democratic primary I wavered over who was the right person to lead our party. I hosted fundraisers for Pete Buttigieg and attended two for Kamala Harris and was incredibly impressed with both. Having met Joe Biden before, I was a fan but skeptical about whether he was the right person for 2020. Since winning the Democratic nomination he has proven beyond a doubt he has the right stuff. His innate decency, honesty, and empathy are just what our country needs to begin to heal from four years of Donald Trump and his sycophants. As the campaign reaches its zenith, Biden is getting stronger. His recent Florida town hall was pitch perfect as was his Gettysburg speech, maybe the best of his career. He is hitting all the right notes in his campaign appearances in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. His debate performance, against a deranged president, was impressive and moved some undecided voters to him. Then there’s Kamala Harris. Biden gets huge kudos for asking her to join him on the ticket. She has been beyond impressive as she navigates the role, never an easy one, but even harder for the ﬁrst African-American woman and only the fourth woman ever on a presidential ticket. She walks a tightrope each day. Harris is a strong personality with a powerful voice for progress in her own right. She has tempered her own voice to ensure she doesn’t make her own headlines especially now that the Biden/Harris ticket is ahead and gaining momentum. She handled Mike Pence just right in their debate showing him off as a bully. Her most memorable line may have been, “Excuse me I am talking,” something women have had to say to arrogant men who tried talking over them disrespectfully for years. She made all the points she wanted to make and did it with class. She used her membership on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Amy Coney Barrett hearings to great effect. Again, it was not an easy task to challenge another woman and to make the points she needed to make. I am sure there were some pithy remarks she would have liked to make but she held her tongue and spoke eloquently to the American people using her time to question Barrett and highlight issues including healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, and the survival of Roe v. Wade. It has become clear this election is a referendum on Donald Trump with much focus on his mishandling of COVID. As we approach 250,000 dead and more than eight million infected, Americans understand Trump is responsible for so much of this devastation. Biden recently said, “President Trump says he lied to the American people so as not to panic them.” Biden went on to say correctly “The American people don’t panic it was Trump who panicked.” The referendum on Trump is a major part of why Democrats are doing so well across the nation but the second half of the equation are Biden and Harris proving every time they speak they are capable of leading the country. Even Rudy Giuliani’s effort to tag Biden and his son with wrongdoing is backﬁring as it appears Rudy was duped by the Russians. Even his daughter tells us to disregard him. So as we enter the last two weeks of the campaign let us as Democrats, independents and decent Republicans stay strong and stay the course. We are looking toward a major win with Democrats taking back not only the White House but the Senate. If we can do that we will reclaim our country, our democracy, and show the world Donald Trump was an aberration, not who we are. We can once again move forward on issues such as healthcare, climate change, infrastructure, LGBTQ rights, and immigration. We can relegate Trump and his sycophants to the dustbin of history where they truly belong.
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ROBERT C. WHITE, JR.
is seeking reelection to the D.C. Council as an At-Large Democrat.
is a Washington Blade intern.
Do our policies match the District’s pride?
Making the most of my second coming out
After Pride month, once restaurants take down the rainbow ﬂags outside, the galas are over, and the parade passes, are allies doing enough to push for progress? As a city that is recognized for its vibrant LGBTQ community, it is easy for allies or members outside of the community to assume that we have done enough, but as a Black man, I know too well that just because a community is resilient or celebrated does not mean that it has achieved equality. So we have to ask ourselves, do our policies match the Pride energy that makes headlines across the country? Four years ago, I ran for ofﬁce to be a voice and ally for the underrepresented, and as I met with residents, I heard from many LGBTQ District residents about the struggle to gain access to healthcare services and housing, difﬁculty securing and protecting safe community spaces, and employment discrimination. So during my ﬁrst term, I’ve fought to change that. I have introduced policy solutions and funded programs that speciﬁcally address the needs of the LGBTQ community. I co-authored the LGBTQ Health Data Collection Amendment Act with Council member David Grosso to ensure that the District understands the speciﬁc health needs of our LGBTQ residents by surveying the community annually and publicly reporting on health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among the LGBTQ community. This bill also pushed back on efforts of the Trump administration to pretend as if the LGBTQ community did not exist. In response to two of the challenges I heard from LGBTQ seniors, affordable housing and social isolation, I funded a senior community dining program so that our LGBTQ neighbors have safe and afﬁrming space regardless of age, and I funded housing vouchers speciﬁcally for LGBTQ seniors. I also introduced the “Golden Girls Bill” that would give a stipend to seniors who rent rooms to other seniors, allowing them to age-in-place while also creating small communities of support and companionship. Further recognizing the need and importance of safe spaces, I secured funds to assist the DC Center for the LGBT Community to relocate to a new space. I later co-introduced Council member Grosso’s Community Safety and Health Amendment Act to decriminalize sex work. We know that many engage in sex work as a form of survival because of overt discrimination in the job and housing markets, and tragic family conﬂict. So, I worked to include in our most recent city budget, a study on D.C. government agencies’ hiring and employment practices related to transgender and non-binary employees and applicants. I hope to improve workplace culture, reduce hiring and wage discrimination, and reduce the high employment discrimination against transgender residents across the city, starting with our own government. While I am proud of the work that I have done in strong partnership with LGBTQ community leaders, I recognize that we have more work to do. When our region tragically lost two members of the LGBTQ community, Zoe Spears and Ashanti Carmon, within a few months of each other, I sent a letter to the mayor and the chairman of the Council, with an critical ask — that we work with government agencies and LGBTQ organizations to take immediate and ongoing action to resolve the underlying issues that make LGBTQ residents vulnerable to violence and stall progress. It was an important step that brought LGBTQ community leaders to the table to bring their policy proposals and ideas directly to top government ofﬁcials. Over the last fours years of a Trump administration, we have seen how dangerous it can be for communities when we do not have policy in place to protect residents. I’m proud to be a strong ally for the LGBTQ community, earning a +10 GLAA rating and the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, but I recognize that this trust comes with great responsibility. In these next four years, we will have to work quickly either to seize the moment or to defend every right and liberty LGBTQ leaders have fought for over the past decades. Whatever Election Day brings for the White House and Congress, we have to be ready.
I was 16 when I realized I was bisexual. It took months for me to come to terms with it and many more months to begin coming out to my close friends and my family. I had the coming out that everyone dreams of having. My friends and parents hugged me and told me they loved me and that nothing would change—it was exactly what I wanted. Despite the euphoria I felt from being honest with them, I kept my identity close to my chest. I grew up in Michigan and if you’ve ever lived in the rural Midwest, you know that very few people come out as LGBTQ. I lived in an extremely rural part of the state and graduated high school with a class of 70 people. No one—not a single person—in my high school had come out as queer and I sure as hell was not going to break that norm. At the time, I was more than happy to slide under the radar but as the years went on, I began to regret my inaction. What if I could have made it easier for someone else in my community to come out, simply by being myself? For LGBTQ people, representation is everything. We cannot be what we cannot see, both as individuals and as a society. This kind of representation is what sparked my own exploration with gender. In 2019, I watched season eight of “Are You The One?”AYTO is a stereotypical MTV reality dating show, but for season eight they brought in an entirely queer cast. One cast member in particular caught my eye from the ﬁrst episode—Kai Wes. Kai is a genderqueer person who was assigned female at birth, and decided to medically transition to present more masculine. For some reason, this blew my mind. I thought that to medically transition, you had to identify as the “opposite” gender. I never even considered the possibility that you could be something completely outside the gender binary and transition medically. What made the mindfuck more intense was when my then-partner turned to me and asked, “Do you think you would ever want top surgery?” Top surgery was never in the realm of possibility for me because I never felt like a man. I never felt completely comfortable identifying as female but also knew I didn’t identify as male either. I shrugged off my partner’s question but it continued to race through my mind for months. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I was forced to move back to my parents’ house that I really had time to think. I turned to the internet, as I had when I was questioning my sexuality, and found a handful of YouTubers who voiced feelings that were nearly identical to mine. They were trans, some identiﬁed as male and some as non-binary or genderqueer. It was through seeing them and their journeys that I was able to accept myself. There are so many things in my past that I look to and wonder why I didn’t question my gender identity sooner. It’s because I never met any gender non-conforming people or even saw them in the media. So, for my second coming out, I’m going to do everything I wish I had done the ﬁrst time. This is my do-over. I’m going to be unapologetically, loudly myself, because I know there are so many people who don’t have that privilege. My name is Parker Purifoy. I am a non-binary person who will be medically transitioning and I’m going to be talking about it a lot. We cannot be what we cannot see and so I’m going to show you that I can be happy, and loved, and fulﬁlled while also being a trans non-binary person who has a long road and a lot of struggle ahead of them.
We must be ready for whatever Election Day brings
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We cannot be what we cannot see
MAEVE KORENGOLD 16, is a high school junior and Safe Space NOVA’s newest Student Ambassador.
The harm of excluding queer history in schools
Stories of unapologetic LGBTQ+ figures inspire queer youth The majority of high school students can rattle off facts about the lives and legacies of figures like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Graham Bell, but can’t do the same for Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, or Leslie Feinberg. This is because in today’s school system, the contributions of key LGBTQ+ civil rights leaders and the movements they lead aren’t taught. This exclusion of queer history, coupled with the leaving out of LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education, affects all students in negative ways. Being forced to seek information about people like us in the past and different sexual orientations as we figure ourselves out is incredibly alienating. Because I had never been given information about it anywhere, I thought of being queer as something that I shouldn’t and couldn’t be. If I had been educated in school about these things, it would have been easier for me to recognize what I was feeling and realize that it was “normal” and natural for me. This is an experience that I share with many other LGBTQ+ youth, including my friends and classmates. “I didn’t know it was possible to like girls, let alone like girls and boys, or to not be a girl or a boy until I did my own research on it,” says 16-year-old Willa, who is non-binary and pansexual. “It definitely hindered my journey in discovering myself.” Furthermore, the representation of queer individuals in history who did groundbreaking things for the LGBTQ+ community will show students that people’s contributions to the world we live in now hold the same value as other historical events that shaped the way we live today. Representation matters, and the stories of unapologetic LGBTQ+ figures inspire queer youth to be proud of who they are. The narrative of the way that the LGBTQ+ community has been erased and devalued throughout history and how we’ve worked to overcome this inequity is a lesson that is beneficial to all students, according to teacher Colin O’Grady. “When people see themselves represented in history, or in literature, it validates their sense of self-worth. It tells them that their lives matter and that they are valued members of society,” he says. Students who are aware of the injustices faced by the queer community and how they shape our lives are better equipped to question inequality in their daily lives. History being taught through a solely cisgender and heterosexual lens creates a stigma around queerness that affects cishet student’s perception and understanding of their LGBTQ+ peers. For students who grow up in homophobic and transphobic households, the only image they’re likely to have of the queer community is that we’re “weird” or “gross,” and this is harmful to both their queer peers and themselves. GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey found that 91 percent of LGBTQ+ students in Virginia secondary schools heard their classmates use the word “gay” in a derogatory way. Eighty-one percent had heard their classmates use homophobic slurs, and 73 percent had heard negative comments about transgender people. Only 15 percent of queer Virginia students who were surveyed by GLSEN in 2017 said that they were taught about the queer community in a positive light, and 3 percent said that the sex education they had received was LGBTQ+ inclusive. As well as making queer students more comfortable, LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education would improve the safety of queer students, both physically and mentally. As it is today, the majority of sex education curricula include no mention of sexual orientation or gender identity. When these things are brought up, they’re often portrayed in a negative way. This contributes to the frequent bullying and discrimination that queer students face. Excluding queer students’ history and sex education doesn’t do any good for them or their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. The stories of strong LGBTQ+ leaders and how they broke barriers teach lessons that everyone can learn from, and normalize queer identities and relationships. Inclusive sex education gives queer students the same tools as their classmates to make informed and safe choices.
YOU CAN VOTE FOR 2 AT-LARGE CANDIDATES, MAKE SURE ONE OF YOUR VOTES IS TO
RE-ELECT ROBERT WHITE TO THE DC COUNCIL.
DC COUNCIL AT-LARGE
Robert has a proven track record of fighting for transparency, accountability, and equity.
IN-PERSON VOTING OCTOBER 27 - NOVEMBER 3 ENDORSED BY DC’S UNIONS, PROGRESSIVE ORGANIZATIONS, AND DEMOCRATIC GROUPS
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Jews United for Justice
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Greater Greater Washington
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Paid for by Friends of Robert White, PO Box 76655, Washington, DC 20013, Iris Bond Gill, Treasurer
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The liability of honesty
In 2003, it was said Michael Passons was leaving his hit gospel group Avalon to pursue ‘other things’; he was actually ﬁred and now he’s ﬁnally explaining why By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO | email@example.com
Fans of the Christian pop group Avalon always wondered why founding member Michael Passons resigned abruptly in 2003 and then seemed to drop off the face of the earth. There was talk of a solo album but none materialized. The ofﬁcial word was that he was “moving on to other things.” The group had had a wildly successful run. Founded in the mid-’90s, Avalon released its self-titled debut album in 1996 on Sparrow and four more (“A Maze of Grace” in 1997, “In a Different Light” in 1999, “Joy: a Christmas Collection” in 2000 and “Oxygen” in 2001) as well as a hits collection with new material (“Testify to Love: the Very Best of Avalon”) in 2003 racking up 19 No. 1 singles on the Billboard gospel charts, two RIAA-certiﬁed gold albums, six Dove Awards, an American Music Award and three Grammy nominations. Initially there was a blond male and female singer and a brunette male and female singer to round out the foursome in ways that were both visually and sonically appealing. There was regular turnover in one of the “female” slots but Passons, Janna (nee Potter) Long and Jody McBrayer formed the group’s backbone all through its early and most successful years. After years of silence, in September, Passons came out as gay on Josh Skinner’s “Jonah and the Whale” podcast and said he was ﬁred from the group for declining to continue with “reparative” therapy. The podcast generated signiﬁcant media buzz and was aggregated in mainstream outlets like Billboard and People. Though candid and forthcoming in the podcast, there was more to the story. Passons, a 54-year-old Yazoo City, Miss., native, was chatty and candid in a 45-minute phone interview from his Nashville home on working in the CCM (contemporary Christian music) bubble, hiding his sexuality for so many years, why he opted to come out now and about the Dove Award he nabbed from Whitney Houston at the 1998 ceremony. His comments have been slightly edited for length. Read the full conversation at washingtonblade.com. WASHINGTON BLADE: It was great to hear the podcast. It felt like you’d just kinda vanished. MICHAEL PASSONS: I understand that people would see it that way because you’re just kind of out of the public eye when you’re not making music, not putting music out and doing interviews, and I had not done any of that pretty much in 17 years. And I didn’t really expect this podcast to get the attention that it did get. It was a bit of a surprise to me that there was so much of an interest in a 17-year-old story. BLADE: Why did it feel like now was the right time? How did it come about? PASSONS: It wasn’t some calculated move, I was approached by a friend who introduced me to Josh Skinner who has a podcast Jonah and the Whale and said would you like to be a guest? This particular podcast deals with an underwater moment in your life and I had previously had conversations with my family just a couple months earlier, just about my life and the truth of my life so I thought, “Well now is the perfect time,” so it really wasn’t planned out far in advance. An opportunity landed in my lap and I decided to tell the story.
BLADE: Had you been approached before? PASSONS: Well, I’ve been pretty under the radar. I’ve been traveling the last 15 years with another Christian group, but only in the band. I play keys for Point of Grace. I wanted to keep my foot in the water … but I didn’t want to be the front guy … so I really hadn’t been approached by journalists at all until now. BLADE: You tell in the podcast about how they came to your house for a meeting in 2003 and this all came to a head. How had they known you were gay in the ﬁrst place? What led up to that meeting? PASSONS: Well at that point I was 38 years old, I wasn’t married, I wasn’t dating, (so) rumors begin to swirl when you have that type of scenario and we had discussions about it several years before. So that’s when … they said to me I needed to go to therapy. It really was in 2002 that they wanted me to go to reparative therapy or at least go see a counselor or some guy who said his credentials were counseling gay people. So I did that to appease them but I knew it was a fruitless effort, and as I say in the podcast, that didn’t last very long. I told them I wasn’t going back to that. It had been a conversation for about a year or so before 2003. BLADE: Did you have a pretty good relationship with them otherwise? PASSONS: Well over the course of the eight years we were traveling together, I saw those people more than anyone else. Our schedule was so demanding and we toured almost nonstop. … So we did at the time have this family-type relationship but … groups often have a shorter shelf life than solo artists because there are multiple people with multiple goals and aspirations and so unless all four of us aligned, there were always going to be these times where one wants to do a solo deal or they think we should do this or go in this direction and so we kind of started growing apart in our vision. Jody and Janna wanted to do solo records and I thought that was something that was going to fracture the group and our brand and that did cause some tensions because the other two members really wanted to focus our efforts on the Avalon brand because that’s what was familiar to everyone. So over the years we became not as close and then of course you add something like this which kind of draws a line and you have to choose what side of the line you’re going to be on. BLADE: Bear with me a sec, but I’m going to read you Jody’s quote to CCM Magazine in April, 2004 when he said: “We had a meeting at Michael’s house one day and he told us he was going to move on to other things. We sat and cried and felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us. Things had felt great with the new group and Michael seemed to get along and blend vocally with (then-new member) Melissa (Greene) really well. But Michael had been with us from the beginning and just felt it was time for him to do something else. It’s weird but since his departure, it seems everyone is looking for some scandalous thing to have happened there. It makes me just want to say, ‘Look, I’m sorry to disappoint you that we don’t have some juicy gossip or ‘Dynasty’ episode
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MICHAEL PASSONS (left) with his Avalon bandmates in a photo from their 1997 ‘A Maze of Grace’ album. With him from left are JODY McBRAYER, NIKKI HASSMAN-ANDERS and JANNA LONG. (photo by Paul Elledge; vintage promo material via Sparrow/EMI)
happening here.” Based on what you shared in the podcast, that was a gross mischaracterization of how it went down. Did you read that at the time? How did it make you feel? PASSONS: At the time the record label and management held really right reins on us because they created the group, it was their idea. They wanted to ﬁnd a group that was already in existence that was two guys, two girls. They couldn’t do it so they said, “Let’s just put one together,” so we never felt like we had ownership of much. … So when management and label say, “This is what you are to say,” it became kind of like a bullshit fest at that point. You just gotta stick with the story and that’s what Jody was doing, he was sticking with the story he was told to say. … That was just the way they chose to handle it at the time. … Interestingly enough, Jody reached out to me after the podcast aired and we had not really talked in 17 years other than bumping into each other in a restaurant and saying a quick hello. We met for about an hour we met at a park here in Nashville and just walked around and he apologized profusely and said his heart was broken when he was listening to that podcast. He was very sincere and I accepted what he had to say and I feel like our relationship has actually — there was some deﬁnite closure there as far as what I’d been feeling all of these years and so that was a good thing that came out of this and I’m glad he reached out to me. The Blade invited McBrayer to comment. In response to the question, “Did you feel muzzled by the label?” he sent this response: “Absolutely muzzled. However I would have never ever said anything to hurt Michael’s reputation. We were asked for years about what happened and myself and my family refused to say anything that would put Michael in a bad light. We were given a statement and told to go with it. We did everything we were told at the time. … Michael knows I love him and hate how all of it went down and how he was treated by the industry. I’m so thankful he’s happy and grown beyond it all now. I will continue to protect him. He will always be family.” BLADE: Was there any truth to what they were saying? Had you been considering a solo album? PASSONS: No. I know my strengths and my strength was not as a solo artist. … I enjoyed the team mentality of a group. … I think fans and people outside the industry took the press release at face value but people inside the industry heard pretty quickly what had really happened. Gossip and rumors spread really quickly around Nashville so I just thought, “OK, I’m gonna just start life No. 3 here.” (chuckles) BLADE: A few other big CCM artists eventually came out like Jennifer Knapp and Ray Boltz. Did you follow that or ever compare notes with them? CONTINUES ON PAGE 24
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Passons says coming out unplanned, thought nobody cared
PASSONS: I don’t know either of those artists personally. I’ve never really interacted with them. I think we did a show once with Jennifer years and years ago but it was just mainly, “Hello, nice to meet you.” I applaud them for living their best life and telling their truth but I just never felt like mine was necessarily a story that needed to be told. I wasn’t a solo artist. I would get recognized occasionally. People would say, “Oh, you’re that guy who was in that group,” but I would say 80 percent of fans just new me as the blond guy. So I didn’t feel like I had tons of name recognition or that my story mattered. But in the last few years, I wanted to be more truthful with my family so that’s really where all this came out of. BLADE: Did anybody else from your CCM days reach out besides Jody? PASSONS: I’ve received tons of texts and Instagram messages from friends from home, friends from college, fans, strangers. As far as the industry, some people that I haven’t seen in a while. It was very interesting. Amy Grant texted me and told me she listened and thought my story was beautiful in the way I told it and graceful and I appreciated that. Susan Ashton reached out and I haven’t seen her in years. She was very encouraging. She said, “You are seen and heard and loved.” Everything has been overwhelmingly positive. BLADE: What have you been living on all these years? PASSONS: I play for Point of Grace and also a friend of mine in town, an attorney and I actually work with her in her law practice and of course being friends with the boss, you can leave anytime and so I’m free to travel whenever I need to and want to so that allows me to hang out with Point of Grace and go where they go. 2020 has been interesting. Since March, we’ve only had two shows and they were very small, so it’s been really interesting year for sure. BLADE: What denomination did you grow up in? PASSONS: Southern Baptist. A little country church in Mississippi. BLADE: Are there still elements of Baptist or evangelical theology you struggle with? Queer or otherwise? PASSONS: I’m past struggling with it. Of course, it’s something I think about often but I don’t struggle with it any longer. … I’ve deﬁnitely got a different view of spiritualism. I don’t consider myself religious but I do believe in God and so I do have a spiritual life but it just doesn’t involve organized religion and that’s just where I’ve landed. BLADE: But do you still believe the Christianity basics — Jesus died for our sins and rose on the third day and so on or is it a broader thing for you? PASSONS: It’s a broader spiritual thing and like I said in my previous interview, I’m just in this place of my prayer to God is show me what is true. I’m not gonna close my mind to anything, I’m not going to say, “Oh this is what I was taught and I don’t believe that anymore,” I just want to step back and rebuild all those boxes, rebuild what my spirituality is, kind of like just implode it to ground level and let’s start again. I was taught by very well-intended people. All my Sunday School teachers in that little church, they didn’t have any malice, they were well-intended people teaching what they believed. We were spoon fed, so at some point in your life you have to just decide of all that information you took in, what do you really believe? I had to get to the point where I was OK disagreeing and not believing some of the things I was taught. it wasn’t
disrespectful to those people, I just have to ﬁnd my own way. BLADE: Do you think the conservative, white evangelical world will ever become openly accepting of LGBT people? Is it a lost cause or could it be a whole different story in another generation? PASSONS: I think there is hope. I’ve seen so much progress in Christian circles just in my lifetime that I never thought I would see. It’s pockets, it’s not widespread, but … I think there is hope. A lot of things used to be justiﬁed with scripture that they eventually came around on. (Author) Peter Gomes calls it “the last prejudice of the church.” … After I left, Avalon recorded a song called “Orphans of God,” which I thought was interesting that they were singing it because I was deﬁnitely an outcast to them. But now my friend (out country singer) Ty Herndon and Kristen Chenoweth are going to cover it for a Christmas release as a duet and they asked Melissa Greene and I to sing backing vocals on it so now it will take on a whole new meaning. It was a really nice, full circle moment. BLADE: Did you keep up with what Avalon was doing much after you were kicked out? PASSONS: No. It would have put me in a bad headspace. BLADE: Have you had many boyfriends? Are you in a relationship now? PASSONS: I am. I’m with a wonderful guy now and it’s going well. BLADE: Not married though? PASSONS: No, not married (laughs). BLADE: How long was it before you were comfortable dating guys? PASSONS: It took me a while, because when all that went down, I internalized a lot of things and I thought, “Well this is my fault,” type of thing. It really took many years for me to just work through all the junk and work through that cloud in my head and so it wasn’t like some big unleashing. It wasn’t like I left Avalon and just started living my best life, it deﬁnitely took awhile to repair the hurt that happened from those several years when Avalon was ending and all the things I went through at that point. BLADE: Do you know of other LGBT people in CCM who are not out? PASSONS: Yeah, I do. I feel for them because I know that panicky feeling I used to have, that someone might catch on. … But I think a lot of conservative Christians might be naive as to how many people are gay or bi in their church. You learn from a very early age to be a good actor. BLADE: Who’s a celebrity who would exemplify your type? PASSONS: (laughs) My type, wow. I’m deﬁnitely attracted to someone who is conﬁdent but not cocky, someone who has sensitivity but is not overly sensitive, someone who’s just conﬁdent in themselves, that’s a big attraction to me. If I were to throw out a celebrity I see a lot of those qualities in, and maybe I’m wrong, but someone like Bradley Cooper. BLADE: When you win a Dove Award, did you each get one or just one for the group? PASSONS: At the ceremony, just one is given but then they mail three more to you like a month later.
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MICHAEL PASSONS today. (photo courtesy Passons)
BLADE: Where do you keep yours? PASSONS: I have a little study/ofﬁce that I’m sitting in right now. I just have them on a shelf along with some pictures and mementos and things I like to keep out. The interesting story about one our Dove Awards is our ﬁrst Dove Award for new artist of the year and that was in 1998 I believe, and we got new artist of the year at the 29th Dove Awards and that was the year that Whitney Houston performed with Dottie Rambo … and we were backstage after we won doing a press junket so I missed her performance and I’m a huge Whitney Houston fan, like I would rival anyone else saying they’re a huge Whitney Houston fan. (laughs) She’s pretty much my all-time favorite artist. So after the show some press people wanted to take a photo of Whitney holding a Dove Award. She didn’t have one so Jody was standing close by with his and they said, “Can we have your Dove Award for a picture,” and so Whitney took our Dove Award and had her picture made with it and of course that was the only one we got that night and our manager said, “OK I’m gonna take that to the ofﬁce and hold it ’til the others come in and you all can come by and pick them up,” and so before he could get to it, I got that particular one and took a Sharpie and made a mark on the bottom of it and the day that our manager said, “OK you can come by and pick up the Dove Awards they’re all in,” I was ﬁrst one in there and I picked them all up and looked for the one I made the mark on because I wanted the one that Whitney had held. So I’m holding it right now, I’ve got that one in my hand and I always think of Whitney. BLADE: When your bandmates came to your house that day, did it feel like it was coming from a place of love and concern or did it feel like a power play? Like they were trying to oust you? PASSONS: It did feel like a power play. There were some very complicated personalities in the group and so it deﬁnitely — I did not feel much love that day. BLADE: To me, it was like when Florence got kicked out of the Supremes. They could go on and do whatever they want, but without Florence, it wasn’t the Supremes. Without you, it wasn’t Avalon. The one female singer didn’t matter so much because she always changed. That was like the new season of “Charlie’s Angels,” you always knew she would change. But when you left, it was never the same. PASSONS: I appreciate that, I’ve heard several say that and it’s always good to know that my contribution is something that was missed.
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www.chevychasecosmetic.com O CTO B E R 2 3 , 2 0 2 0 • WA S H I N GTO N B L A D E.CO M • 2 5
By Parker Purifoy
GEENA ROCERO will be the keynote speaker at the Kamayan Coalition’s celebration of Filipino American and LGBTQ History Months. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Friday Tea Time is a virtual social gathering at 2 p.m. for older LGBTQ adults via Zoom. Participants are encouraged to bring their beverage of choice while socializing with friends. For more information, visit thedccenter.org/events. The DC Center is hosting a virtual Trans Support Group session today at 7 p.m. The support group is designed as a safe space for transgender people and those who may be questioning their gender identity or expression. For more details, visit the dccenter. org/events Women in their Twenties and Thirties is a social discussion group for queer women in the D.C. area. They are meeting at 8 p.m. via Zoom. For the link to the meeting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, October 24
The LGBTQ People of Color Support Group will meet at 1 p.m. to provide an outlet for LGBTQ people of color to talk about anything affecting them. For the Zoom link to the meeting, email email@example.com. The DC Center is encouraging members of the LGBTQ community to join them in volunteering at Food and Friends at 9 a.m. Food and Friends is located 219 Riggs Road, NE. If any volunteers need a ride from the Fort Totten Metro, call the Food and Friends shuttle at (202) 669-6437. Anyone looking to learn more about facilitating support groups can sign up to attend a facilitator training session today at 12 p.m. The training session will focus on how to properly lead discussions via Zoom. The ﬁrst hour will be geared towards introductory material, while the second hour will invite current facilitators to share situations and best practices.more information can be found at thedccenter.org/events.
Monday, October 26
LGBT Older Adults and friends are invited to join the DC Center at 10 a.m. for a Center Aging Coffee Drop-In. For more information visit thedccenter.org and Center Aging on social media.
Tuesday, October 27
The DC Center is hosting its monthly support group for people who identify outside of the gender binary over Zoom at 7 p.m. Meetings are on the fourth Tuesday and third Mondays of each month. More information can be found at thedccenter.org/events
Wednesday, October 28
Virtual Job Club meets today at 6 p.m. via Zoom. This weekly support program helps job seekers improve their self-conﬁdence, resilience and motivation needed for effective job searching and networking. Discussions include strategies, techniques and goal plans needed to ﬁnd meaningful and satisfying employment. For more information, visit thedccenter.org. 2 6 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • OCTOBER 23 , 2 0 2 0 • A &E
Thursday, October 29 DC Center volunteer Danny Mendoza is leading a Dia De Los Muertos celebration at 7 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring their own supplies to paint a calavera as part of the celebrations. Head to thedccenter.org/events for more details. The Queer Book Club meets today at 7 p.m. via Skype. This meeting, they will be discussing “On The Enemy’s Side” by Hamour Baika. To join or to ask any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kamayan Coalition to celebrate Filipino American, LGBTQ History Months The Kamayan Coalition is hosting a virtual celebration of Filipino American History Month and LGBTQ History Month on Oct. 24 and Oct. 25. The two-day celebration will feature performances, presentations, and critical discussions that explore various facets of the queer Filipinx experience. The keynote speaker will be award-winning producer and trans-rights advocate Geena Rocero. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Kamayan Coalition, who hopes to collect at least $5,000 so they can pay the speakers. To register for the event, go to the Kamayan Coalition’s facebook page.
Transformer unveils this year’s ‘Queer Threads’ exhibits Transformer, a non-proﬁt visual arts organization, has launched this year’s exhibit of “Queer Threads” an ongoing initiative that seeks to explore LGBTQ identities through ﬁber and textile art forms. This year’s iteration was curated by John Chaich and features work by Zoe Schlacter and Andrew Terrel. Schlacter’s installation, titled “Darn” is crafted from yarn, paper mâché sculptures, and hand-made, wall-mounted loom structures. Schlacter is an interdisciplinary artist and designer from Brooklyn, New York. Through weaving, quilting, sculpture, and installation art, they seek to explore gendered expressions of personal style and the creative potential of trans sexuality. Schlacter’s installation can be found at Transformer’s storefront at 1404 P Street NW until November 14. André Terrel Jackson’s piece, titled “Crowns”, celebrates Black, female-identiﬁed cultural icons as a source of inspiration for the LGBTQ community. They created a series of headpieces out of everyday hardware, rope, and other textiles. Jackson’s work is on display at The Corner at Whitman-Walker at 1377 R St., N.W. until Oct. 24.
National Zoo holds socially distanced Boo Drive-Through Families are encouraged to pack their cars full of ghouls, ghosts, princesses, and superheroes to drive down the Smithsonian National Zoo’s North Road for a spooky tour of the zoo. The tours will be open from through Saturday and Sunday evenings. To purchase tickets, head to the zoo’s website.
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Washington, D.C.’s Only International LGBTQ Film Festival Returns for its 27th Year! Wednesday, Oct. 21 - Sunday, Oct. 25
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Tu Me Manques
I am samantha
Lipstick and Leather
The Right Girls
General Virtual Admission Tickets: Only $10 per program | Drive-In Tickets: $20 (at Union Market, Thursday, October 22) Festival Film Lover Passes start as low as $25 | Available now at http://reelafﬁrmations.eventive.org
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JOSÉ CARRASQUILLO recently received a Helen Hayes Award for directing 1st Stage’s production of ‘The Brothers Size.’ (Photo by Paulo Andrés Montenegro)
“The only way you really see change is by helping to create it.” ― Lena Waithe
1st Stage offering virtual roundtable discussions ‘Theater will exist always in some form’ By PATRICK FOLLIARD
Be the Change.
VOTE. We’re RENEWPR, a Washington, D.C.- based national public relations firm certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. We believe in the power of change for good. And that’s why we are a founding partner in The Change Agencies, the first and only national network of independently-owned multicultural and LGBTQ public relations agencies focused on inclusive marketing and communications. To learn more, visit the TCA website: www.thechangeagencies.com.
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For show-starved theatergoers, nothing beats a live performance. Even so, much of the pandemicfueled online offerings coming from local companies continue to prove entertaining and informative. At 1st Stage, the Tysons, Va.-based acclaimed company, artistic and managing director Alex Levy and associate artistic director Deidra LaWan Starnes, have introduced a series of six free Virtual Round Table Discussions with new segments added weekly through mid-November. Using Zoom, the forum pairs two theater professionals, many with insights into marginalized populations, in hourlong, unmoderated discussions on wildly different aspects of the industry. e were tr in to fi ure out a wa to continue en a in with audience and artists durin the pandemic,” says Starnes. “We have done community conversations as part of productions, and we were looking for something similar but with a different feel. We like the idea of getting artists together virtually to have conversations among themselves.” f the half do en discussions tarnes names two as closest to her heart Redefinin the lassics and “Theatre and Parenting.” “I’m at a point in life where I’m interested in how classic theater or the concept of classic theater is evolving,” says Starnes who is also an accomplished working actor. “We’re entering a new era that places other plays into the classical theater realm. I’m interested to hear what artists who have worked in that arena have to say.” As the mother of two children, 20 and 16, who have been a part of her theater career since they were born, Starnes made sure to bring raising theater babies into the conversation. Parenting round table participant Thembi Duncan, a longtime theater professional, on the boards and behind the scenes, and mother to a 22-year-old aspiring actor, says “I’m excited to talk about the ways theater practitioner parents can make it work for themselves and their families. My daughter benefited from bein e posed to m profession and has ended up oin into that profession with no pressure from me. Daily, she was exposed to the joy of self-expression and the way that selfexpression can impact the world in a positive way.” fter man ears in . . uncan and her wife now live in uffalo . . where uncan is director of arts en a ement and education at heas erformin rts enter. he advises oun er parents pursuing careers in theater to put something reliable in place to support the family. “Theater will be here; it will exist always in some form. If you want to be in theater, you can stay in theater, and it doesn’t have to be on stage — for every actor there are 15 people behind the scenes from administration to production.” nother upcomin conversation aitin for ife to e in a discussion of post pandemic life features out director and ord s heatre s director of artistic pro rammin os arras uillo. e recentl received a elen a es ward for directin st ta e s production of a pla wri ht arell lvin c rane s he rothers i e. ia phone from a borrowed bun alow in the wilds of ew or state where he s ridin out the pandemic arras uillo shares how he ll approach the round table ot onl do we have the pandemic but various reckonings, particularly the racial reckoning, so for me, I’m interested in discussing what kind of theater and work we want to do after we come back. e can t o bac to the wa thin s were before for various reasons. ut specificall we need to focus on the stories that we tell and how we as curators of the art that gets put onstage, dismantle racism and creates an industr where e ualit rules. ith re ard to return arras uillo sa s that s an individual decision addin metric will be whether I as a 59-year-old Latin person will feel safe going into a space. I think the space will have to reassure me that none of my actors or designers will get sick and the staff will not get sick and that audiences will feel safe. I don’t see that happening for myself until the fall of 2021.” In the meantime, he’s open to further discussion and happy to support 1st Stage in any way he can. For details go to 1ststagetysons.org.
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For Heather Matarazzo, ‘Equal’ is still a cause worth fighting for ‘We all desire to be seen, and held, in our humanity’ By JOHN PAUL KING
The HBO Max docuseries, “Equal,” which debuted this week, is designed to shore up our education by proﬁling various pioneers in a movement for LGBTQ equality that might never have happened if not for their refusal to stay invisible. It’s “infotainment” in the best sense of that term, blending real-life archival footage with newly ﬁlmed “reenactments” to deliver a concise overview of pre-Stonewall history. That means in addition to giving us a queer history lesson, “Equal” also gives us a host of queer actors paying homage to their forebears by standing in for them in the newly ﬁlmed sequences. There’s a long list: Cheyenne Jackson and Anthony Rapp (as Dale Jennings and Harry Hay), Jamie Clayton (Christine Jorgensen), Samira Wiley (as Lorraine Hansberry), and Hailie Sahar of “Pose” (as Sylvia Rivera) are some of the better known – but among these familiar faces is also someone who is something of an icon in her own right. Heather Matarazzo’s breakthrough performance at 13 as middle school outcast Dawn Weiner in Todd Solondz’s 1995 counter-culture classic, “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” made her a touchstone for a whole generation of traumatized teenagers. Later, she won a new ﬂock of fans as BFF Lilly in “The Princess Diaries” movies, as well. Now, she is appearing in “Equal” as Phyllis Lyon – who with partner Del Martin (played by Shannon Purser) co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955. The pair went on to become the ﬁrst LGBTQ couple married in San Francisco in 2008. Playing Lyon seems a natural ﬁt for Matarazzo, given her own history as a vocal advocate for feminist and LGBTQ social justice issues, which were still very much on her mind as she spoke with the Blade last week about her participation in “Equal.” Our conversation is below. BLADE: How did you feel about playing Phyllis? Was there a sense of personal connection? HEATHER MATARAZZO: It’s such an interesting question, right? Because history is history is history and so on, and so it goes. I got to feel safe enough to come out thanks to those who came before me, and put their bodies and their reputations on the line, in order for me to say, “Yes, I’m a lesbian,” and be able to say that publicly. I mean, really, I came out because I clearly didn’t have any other choice. It was so spontaneous, and it was so honest, and it was in the moment - and yet, within that, I get to look at those that came before me, in one way or another, and I get to see how their bravery allows me to be brave, too. BLADE: And now you get to be that for others. MATARAZZO: I do my best to receive any praise that I’m given, especially by those who say that my coming out helped enable them to come out – especially people that are younger than me, that knew me from “Princess Diaries” and whatnot, and then were like, “Oh my god, Lilly’s a LESBIAN?” I receive it as best as I can, because at the end of the day – and I say this in the most grounded of ways – we really, truly are all lights for each other. BLADE: Like links in a chain. MATARAZZO: Yeah, exactly. It’s a collective. BLADE: What was your takeaway from playing Phyllis? MATARAZZO: I think both she and Del were wonderful women who really stuck their necks out in order to build a safe community 3 0 • WA SHIN GTO N BLADE.COM • OCTOBER 23 , 2 0 2 0 • A &E
Heather Matarazzo with Shannon Purser in ‘Equal.’ (Photo courtesy HBO Max)
of lesbians. I was just talking about this with my wife the other night, about pre-Stonewall, and the risks that were continually taken in order for us, as members of the LGBTQ community, to be able to organize and meet with each other, in order to have a semblance of “normalcy.” That’s what I love about Phyllis and Del, their ability, seemingly, to exhibit deﬁant joy. There’s a lot of joy that I see in their interviews together, about their story, how they met, the sneaking around… it almost becomes like a “Great Muppet Caper.” You know? Where it’s “We’re gonna do whatever it is we have to do to get to wherever it is we desire to be.” And I’m grateful that they both got to have that full experience before they passed, unlike so many that didn’t get it, or haven’t gotten it yet. BLADE: Do you think it’s important to tell their stories for a generation that maybe doesn’t have it as hard? MATARAZZO: The older I’ve gotten, on one hand it doesn’t seem like being out is that big of a deal anymore – and yet, even as I say that, we are looking at the fucking clown show that is this Supreme Court nomination process. Let’s be clear, the United States is abysmal in its human rights practices. That’s not something that went away when we got marriage equality. I mean, look at all of the Black trans women that have been murdered here, this year alone? And I don’t think that we can talk about sexual orientation without also talking about race, without also talking about gender – there are so many different intersections, because when you talk about one, you can’t NOT talk about the other. We all desire to be seen, and held, in our humanity. And we shouldn’t have to spend so much time ﬁghting for our humanity and our fucking right to exist. Every single person deserves to feel safe, and not fear for their lives simply based upon one’s sexual orientation, or the color of one’s skin, or one’s religion, or one’s gender identity, or one’s – there are so many things. So, for me, it’s all so connected, it’s a microcosmic experience of something much larger. BLADE: That ties in with your ﬁrst-hand experience with sexism in Hollywood. You spoke up in support of Rose Byrne when she helped bring #MeToo and the Harvey Weinstein scandal into the spotlight. What would you say about that subject now? MATARAZZO: I’m glad Weinstein’s in jail. I hope he stays there, and I hope he rots. Here’s the thing, we still have a long way to go. Because again, MeToo was pretty much cis-gender, hetero white ladies speaking out about it, and so, you know, it’s synonymous now with cis-gender, hetero fucking white ladies – when the movement was founded by fucking Tarana Burke. And when you have 63 percent of white women voting for a fucking person who literally said, “I grab women by their pussies?” I mean, I think that white women just need to shut the fuck up, and ﬁnally listen to black women, for once. Right now, the truth is that we are living in precarious times – we always have been, to one degree or another, depending on where you are in the disparity that is this American caste system. BLADE: Do you hope that the current resurgence of the equality movement will help bring about change in those who oppose it? MATARAZZO: Sure. Or, we could just leave them by the wayside.
James Beard biography a luscious feast
‘The Man Who Ate Too Much’ chronicles chef’s iconic life By KATHI WOLFE
“The Man Who Ate Too Much,” the biography of James Beard by the queer writer John Birdsall released on Oct. 5, is a luscious feast. “The Man Who Ate Too Much” clocks in at more than 400 pages. Yet, you won’t want to put it down. You’ll want to spend still more time with James Beard, the gay chef, cookbook writer, teacher and TV personality known as the “dean of American cookery,” and his circle of queer and non-queer friends and colleagues. You’ll long to taste a bit of ham or to savor the ﬂavor of raspberries. Whether you’re a fabulous cook who loves to entertain, or, like me, an introvert who relishes a dinner of popcorn and ice cream, you’ve been inﬂuenced by Beard. The wide scope of Beard’s inﬂuence in our culture is evoked in a quote from the restaurant critic Gael Greene in the preface of “The Man Who Ate Too Much.” “In the beginning, there was James Beard,” Greene writes. “Before Julia [Child], before barbecuing daddies...before...chefs as superstars, and our great gourmania...there was James Beard, our big Daddy.” Beard, who was six-feet-three and weighed ‘The Man Who Ate Too Much: around 300 pounds was a celebrity decades before The Life of James Beard’ chefs were celebs. Born in Portland, Ore., in 1903, he By John Birdsall was a constant presence on the cultural scene from c.2020, W.W. Norton & Company the 1950s until his death in 1985. $35/464 pages Beard wrote numerous cookbooks, including “Cook It Outdoors,” “How to Eat Better for Less Money,” “Delights & Prejudices: A Memoir with Recipes” and (the kitchen bible) “James Beard’s American Cooking.” He hosted one of the ﬁrst TV cooking shows. For years, (being a great showman), Beard ran and taught at his cooking school. Today, many of us take farmers markets for granted. We want to cook with local, fresh fruits and vegetables whenever we can. Yet in Beard’s day, when Beard came of age, “the industrialization of American food was well underway,” writes Birdsall, who grew up near San Francisco and learned to cook at Greens restaurant in that city. Beard resisted this industrialization. He encouraged Americans to appreciate American foods – from Kentucky hams to California wines. Beard wanted people to grow corn on ﬁre escapes and to buy eggs from free-range chickens. Larry Forgione, Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower, and Bradley Ogden were among the many chefs who found a mentor in Beard. Beard was a national character, Birdsall says. “He was usually genial in public, prone to cornball puns and a folksy delivery that tended to make his audiences lose their anxiety about making a proper soufﬂé or buying a bottle of wine,” he adds,”Beard made it look fun.” Yet, beneath this avuncular, easygoing public persona, Beard was uncomfortable in his own skin. From the age of 7, he knew that he liked boys. “To the small circle of New York’s food world, the fact that James Beard was gay was an open secret,” Birdsall writes. Yet, Beard was terriﬁed that people would ﬁnd out that he was queer. His terror of being outed wasn’t unreasonable. He was expelled from Reed College as a freshman for committing “an act of oral indecency” with a professor. He knew that his mother, a lesbian, had to keep her love for a woman named Stella under wraps. In the 1950s, during the “Lavender Scare,” queers were targeted as “deviants.” To everyone other than his circle of queer friends and allies, “the people who bought his cookbooks and read his articles and showed up to his cooking classes — his queerness would have been problematic,” Birdsall writes. Beard was a fabulous mentor and good friend to many. Yet, as Birdsall reports, there were darker elements to his personality. He often used the recipes of others in his cookbook without attribution. On more than one occasion, he reportedly exposed himself to men who worked for him. Birdsall, who won a James Beard award for his “Lucky Peach” article “America, Your Food Is So Gay,” was inspired by his uncles Pat and Lou, a gay couple who helped raise him. Birdsall gives us a portrait of Beard that is neither a take-down nor hagiography. Pat and Lou would love “The Man Who Ate Too Much.”
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Some jurisdictions speciﬁcally add chimneys and environmental hazards to the list of possible inspections.
How and when to inspect a home
Skipping it improves your offer but comes with risk By VALERIE M. BLAKE
Property inspections have long been a part of the real estate buying process. Traditionally, a buyer would make an offer subject to a satisfactory home inspection. If something were found to be functioning poorly or not at all, the buyer would request that the seller make repairs and that request would be negotiated between the parties until they agreed on what was to be done. As with everything else, there have been changes to the process over the years. There are now options for radon and lead paint inspections, and inspection of wells and septic systems that are more commonly found in outlying areas. Some jurisdictions speciﬁcally add mold, chimneys and environmental hazards to the list of possible inspections. Now, when preparing an offer for a buyer, an agent will discuss how, when, which, or if inspections should be conducted, in what manner the process may differ in each jurisdiction, and how a buyer’s market or a seller’s market can affect the process. She will also caution the buyer to focus on systems that are malfunctioning and safety concerns rather than on cosmetic issues. Sometimes a listing agent will advise a seller to have a home inspection before putting the house on the market to identify items in need of repair upfront. The seller can then make the repairs and provide the report and invoices for the work to the buyer. If no repairs will be made, the information about the condition of the home can be used to set its price or market it “as is.” In D.C. and Montgomery County, for example, there are two types of home inspections, one where a buyer can choose between the ability to negotiate repairs with the seller and the opportunity to cancel the contract for any reason he is dissatisﬁed with the inspection, or both. A general inspection in D.C. need not be conducted by a certiﬁed home inspector but can be carried out by the buyer’s brother-in-law, best friend, or anyone else the buyer chooses. An inspector in Maryland as well as in Virginia must be licensed and insured. Radon, lead and well/septic inspections are required to be conducted by professionals who specialize in those areas. At this time, we are still experiencing a seller’s market in many portions of the metropolitan area, although condominium sales are slowing, with 1,160 of them available just in D.C. and nearly 300 of those on the market for more than 60 days.
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That means that houses in sought-after areas in pristine condition will still command multiple offers. When that is the case, a seller is looking for an offer with as few contingencies as possible. A home inspection contingency of 7 to 10 days leaves the seller in limbo, holding her breath to see if the transaction will continue or the buyer will opt out, so you can understand why she would look more favorably on an offer that has no such contingency. One of the ways around this is by doing a pre-offer inspection, also referred to as a “walk and talk.” With the seller’s permission, you go to the home with your inspector prior to making your offer to determine whether you want the house and how much you are willing to pay for it based on its condition. A walk and talk inspection is often less invasive and less expensive than a traditional inspection. You will either get an abbreviated report or none at all, so it’s important to take notes and photographs while you’re there with your inspector. Having this type of inspection allows you to write an offer without an inspection contingency, increasing the value of your offer to the seller. While I don’t recommend it, sometimes a buyer will opt to bypass an inspection altogether. For example, in new construction a buyer meets with the builder’s representative prior to settlement to check the physical condition of the property and make sure systems and appliances are working properly. Items of note are entered on a punch list for repair by the builder. Other examples may include a condominium, where the roof, basement, and some of the major systems are the responsibility of management, and a cooperative, which often requires an inspection by the building manager. Items identiﬁed must be repaired by the seller prior to transferring ownership. And a word of caution about quick ﬂips: During sellers’ markets, everyone with a hammer and a screwdriver becomes a renovation expert. There may be a pig hiding behind that lipstick.
Valerie M. Blake
is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202- 246-8602, email her via www.DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.
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