President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team announced on Thursday that Biden has named Jeff Marootian, one of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s openly gay cabinet members, as Special Assistant to the President for Climate and Science Agency Personnel.
Marootian, who currently serves as director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, was one of 14 appointees to the White House staff announced by the presidential transition team on Thursday who will advise the president on issues ranging from climate change, environmental quality, healthcare, veterans’ affairs, immigration, and racial justice among other issues.
“Delivering results to Americans grappling with the many challenges facing our country will require an experienced, innovative, and principled White House team,” Biden said in a statement. “The policy leaders announced today are accomplished public servants who are ready to build back better for this country immediately,” Biden said.
In a separate statement Vice President-elect Kamala Harris called the latest round of White House appointees “innovative thinkers and principled leaders,” and added, “I look forward to working with them to ensure that every American has a fair shot a pursuing their dreams.”
Marootian, a longtime advocate for LGBTQ equality, has served as director of the D.C. Department of Transportation since 2017. Since shortly after the November 2020 presidential election, he has served on the U.S. Department of Transportation Agency Review Team for the Biden presidential transition.
Prior to joining Bowser’s cabinet post in 2017, Marootian served in the administration of President Barack Obama as White House Liaison and later as Assistant Secretary for Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
During the 2012 Obama-Biden re-election campaign Marootian served as Director of LGBTQ Outreach at the Democratic National Committee.
The announcement of his appointment says he would be working at the White House Presidential Personnel Office. A spokesperson for the Biden transition team could not immediately be reached to determine whether the Personnel Office is in the White House itself, the Old Executive Office Building, which is part of the White House complex, or at another location.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is calling on the LGBTQ community to participate in several planned virtual inaugural events that reflect the theme of “America United,” an inaugural official told LGBTQ representatives at a Jan. 12 online briefing.
“We are looking forward to the inaugural ceremonies in which the American people and the world will witness the peaceful transition of power,” said Rina Patel, the inaugural committee’s Associate Director of Coalitions before a Zoom gathering of close to 50 representatives of LGBTQ organizations from across the country.
“This will mark a new day for the American people focused on healing our nation, bringing our country together, and building back together,” she said.
Patel noted that the inaugural swearing-in ceremony for Biden and Harris, which will take place outside the U.S. Capitol, will not be open for in-person viewing and will be restricted mainly to members of Congress.
“In order to be mindful of COVID-19 guidelines there are no public tickets available for the inauguration,” she said. “I know some folks are excited about being in D.C., but we are really encouraging everyone to stay home and not to travel to D.C.”
At least three national LGBTQ organizations, meanwhile, were scheduled to hold their own inaugural celebrations in honor of the incoming Biden-Harris administration.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced it is joining “community partners” in holding a virtual LGBTQ Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20 called the Power of Unity.
“This not-to-be-missed virtual event will feature musical performances and special appearances from equality leaders across the LGBTQ movement,” a statement promoting the event says. Among the performers scheduled to appear, the statement says, is Billy Porter, the Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor, singer and activist who stars in the FX hit series “Pose.”
HRC is billing the event as a fundraiser with suggested levels of donations of $400, $250, $175, $100, and $35, with financial supporters having access to an online reception and having their name posted as an official sponsor. But HRC says people can also attend the online Inaugural Ball free of charge by registering in advance of the event.
The Center for Black Equity, the D.C.-based national LGBTQ advocacy organization that organizes the nation’s Black Pride events, is holding its own virtual inaugural ball on Jan. 20, according to Executive Director Earl Fowlkes. Fowlkes said some LGBTQ elected officials were expected to speak at the event along with Reggie Greer, who served as the LGBTQ liaison for the Biden presidential campaign.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which raises money and provides logistical support for openly LGBTQ candidates running for public office, was scheduled to hold a virtual Inauguration 2021 fundraising event on Jan. 14.
In a statement on its website, the group said the event would celebrate “the queerest U.S. Congress in history!” a reference to the record number of LGBTQ candidates elected or re-elected to Congress in the 2020 election. Nine U.S. House members and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), were expected to appear at the Victory Fund event.
The Biden inauguration was scheduled to take place two weeks after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots in which hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building in a siege that took the lives of five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
The Biden-Harris inaugural committee has said it was working closely with the U.S. Secret Service, D.C. police, and a Capitol Police force with new leadership to ensure the security and safety of all those participating in the few in-person inaugural events.
Patel and Carrie Gay, another inaugural committee official, told the LGBTQ representatives at the Jan. 12 online briefing about at least three virtual inaugural events that community-based organizations, including LGBTQ groups, could participate in.
The two said one of the events scheduled for Jan. 18 was being organized in conjunction with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. Community organizations throughout the country, including LGBTQ organizations, were being invited to organize events assisting those in need that would be publicized on the inaugural committee’s website, Gay told the briefing. Most of the events were to be virtual.
“Events will focus on COVID-19 relief and address challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, such as poverty, hunger, racial injustice, homelessness, mental health, and educational disparities,” a statement released by the inaugural committee says.
“The Presidential Inaugural Committee is asking Americans everywhere to participate in community service and urging them to sign up to volunteer at bideninaugural.org/day-of-service and encourage their friends, family, and neighbors to join,” the statement says.
In a live online webinar broadcast from Hong Kong on Nov. 12, organizers of the 11th quadrennial Gay Games celebrated the start of a two-year countdown for the Nov. 12, 2022 opening ceremony at the Hong Kong Stadium for the world’s largest LGBTQ sports competition and arts andcultural event.
Members of the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 organizing team, which is an arm of the U.S.-based Federation of Gay Games, told the 79 people who joined the webinar from 29 countries that they expect 12,000 participants, 75,000 spectators, and 3,000 volunteers – a total of at least 90,000 from 100 countries — to take part in the Hong Kong Gay Games.
They noted that 36 sporting events are planned, including traditional sports like soccer, wrestling, volleyball, and figure skating as well as sports more common in Asia such as dragon boat racing, dodgeball, eSports, and trail running.
An outdoor Festival Village will be opened near the harbor in central Hong Kong that will showcase art and cultural events and exhibits as well as performing arts events including daily performances by bands, dance groups, and vocalists that have been associated with the Gay Games for many years, according to literature released by organizers.
Members of the organizing team also pointed to what they consider an historic first. The location of the Gay Games in Hong Kong will mark the first time in its 40-year history that the quadrennial event will be held in Asia.
“Unity is the key message of Gay Games Hong Kong,” said Dennis Philipse, a Hong Kong resident and the founder and co-chair of Gay Games Hong Kong.
“Carrying a torch of empowerment and connection in Hong Kong serves to bring our community together in this important time for our city,” he said in a statement.
“We are excited to welcome all the 12,000 participants and 75,000 spectators from 100 countries to the city as the Games serve to boost the local economy by 1 billion Hong Kong dollars,” he said.
Neither Philipse nor the other Gay Games Hong Kong organizers who spoke at the webinar mentioned the political strife and turmoil that has unfolded in Hong Kong beginning several years ago when pro-democracy protesters began a series of almost daily demonstrations, some of which turned violent. Many of the protesters said they were raising strong objections to China’s growing efforts in recent years to gain control of the local Hong Kong government that protesters say violates China’s international agreement in 1997 with Great Britain to allow Hong Kong to govern itself in domestic affairs for 50 years as a condition for Britain to cede Hong Kong to China.
The protests and virtually all of the episodes of violence appear to have stopped in July of this year shortly after China intervened by enacting a “national security” law that bypassed Hong Kong’s local legislature and which essentially bans demonstrations against the government of Hong Kong or China. The law defines such demonstrations as “sedition” and “subversion of state power” and calls for punishment of up to life in prison for violating the new law.
Federation of Gay Games spokesperson Shiv Paul told the Washington Blade in a statement that the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 organizing team has created a contingency planning committee that has developed plans to address “potential scenarios/risks such as an on-going pandemic, social unrest or unseasonal weather events.”
“We are closely monitoring the health, political, sporting, travel, and international events that could impact the delivery of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong,” Paul said. “Plans are in development so that we have prepared actions that would assist in mitigating the potential impact of any unfortunate circumstances that might arise.”
Paul added that there has not been a recurrence in “protest violence” in Hong Kong since the new national security law took effect in July of this year.
“The National Security Law (NSL) targets activities that endanger national security (secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces),” he said. “It does not have any bearing on LGBT+ affairs or sporting competitions,” Paul stated in his statement. “Based on our assessment to date, we do not expect the NSL will have any direct impact on the Gay Games taking place in Hong Kong.”
Added Paul, “Once the coronavirus pandemic is more settled, we anticipate Hong Kong will deliver a strong program of events to rebuild the tourism industry and Gay Games Hong Kong will be well timed to be a strong event within these plans.”
Philipse and others who spoke at the Nov. 12 webinar from Hong Kong said LGBTQ supportive sports organizations and businesses in Hong Kong have expressed strong support for the Gay Games and have made financial contributions to support the city’s ability to hold the Games. Organizers also point out that local Hong Kong government officials have also expressed support for the Games.
“Becoming Asia’s first city to host Gay Games isn’t just a cause for pride and celebration for Hong Kong,” said Ricky CHU Man-kin, chairperson of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission. “It drives home the message that the LGBTI community and indeed all in society deserve to be visible, represented and included in sports and other areas of life,” CHU Man-kin said in a statement released by Gay Games Hong Kong 2022.
A 60-minute video recording of the webinar organized by Gay Games Hong Kong can be accessed through this link.
Additional information about Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 can be accessed here.
The owner of the Baltimore Eagle, an LGBTQ leather-Levi bar that has been in business for 30 years, has raised strong objections to what he says was an Aug. 7 raid on his establishment by a dozen representatives of city regulatory agencies who claimed they were investigating a complaint that the Eagle was violating COVID-19 social distancing rules.
Eagle owner Ian Parrish told the Washington Blade the raid came shortly after he alerted officials with the Baltimore Board of Liquor License Commissioners that he learned that people associated with a competing LGBTQ establishment filed complaints against the Eagle with the liquor board and the city Health Department falsely claiming the Eagle was violating social distancing requirements.
He said his attempt to alert the liquor board and health department about the false complaints apparently did not reach the people who conducted the raid.
Parrish said one of the officials in charge of the agents that conducted the raid, all of whom wore “black body armor,” became angry when he asked to take their temperature as they arrived at the Eagle’s door. Parrish said taking people’s temperature “is part of our COVID-19 protocols for all people entering the premises.”
“’We’re the f[**]king liquor board,’ was their answer to my request,” Parrish said in an email to Maryland State Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore), a copy of which he sent to the Blade. “Then, the horde of the agents in body armor walked through me. I was ping-ponged from side to side as each agent physically pushed me from left to right and back about ten feet as they forced their way past me,” he said in his email to Washington.
“Not only did those agents abuse their authority by assaulting me, they put our patrons at risk by willfully ignoring State of Maryland COVID protocols, and some of them weren’t even wearing masks!” Parrish said in his email message.
“The SWAT style show of force put upon us was grossly out of proportion for the circumstances, it frightened our patrons to the point of them leaving, and the worst part of it was that we were subjected to this gross abuse of authority for absolutely no valid reason,” said Parrish in the email.
Adam Abadir, a spokesperson for the Baltimore City Health Department, responded by email to a Blade inquiry about the concerns raised by Parrish that the Health Department was part of an unnecessary raid on the Baltimore Eagle.
Abadir characterized the visit to the Eagle by the various city agents as an “inspection” that was conducted by members of the Baltimore Social Club Task Force, which consists of several city agencies, including the Health Department, liquor board, and the police and fire departments. He said the inspection visit was prompted by complaints received from citizens that the Eagle was allegedly in violation of social distancing orders issued by Baltimore Mayor Barnard Jack Young to address the COVID pandemic.
Abadir said that at least one of the individuals that filed a complaint against the Eagle sent the Health Department a flier issued by the Eagle advertising a “foam party” scheduled to take place Aug. 7 and 8. The flier, a copy of which Abadir sent the Blade, states: “Throw on your harness and get naughty under piles of safe, antibacterial foam on our social distance patio. Thank you for respecting our COVID-19 guidelines.”
According to Abadir, the task force members determined through their inspection that the Eagle was in violation of a mayoral order issued on Aug. 7 just hours before the Eagle raid that banned indoor operations at bars and restaurants after 10 p.m. He said that during the inspection visit the Eagle’s management immediately complied with the order by moving all indoor patrons to the Eagle’s outdoor space and no penalty was imposed.
Abadir said that due to threats made against members of the Social Club Task Force during past inspection visits to other establishments, the task force members “unfortunately must wear bulletproof vests/flak jackets for their protection.” He said the “body armor,” as Parrish called it, is worn by task force members on all inspection visits and the inspection visit to the Eagle was handled the same as inspections for all other bars, restaurants and other establishments.
Matt Achhammer, a spokesperson for the Baltimore Board of Liquor License Commissioners, provided the liquor board’s explanation of the raid on the Eagle in a Sept. 2 email to Baltimore City Council member Ryan Dorsey. Dorsey asked the liquor board about the raid after being contacted by Parrish.
Achhammer said in his message to Dorsey that the inspection visit to the Eagle was prompted, among other things, by the Eagle’s flier advertising its foam party as well as two complaints about the Eagle from citizens who called the city’s 311 non-emergency services phone line to report the complaints.
“In this case please note that on August 7, though the location had major COVID violations, it was issued a warning,” Achhammer told Dorsey in his email. Achhammer acknowledged Parrish’s concern that multiple executive orders by the Baltimore mayor have created confusion among businesses required to put in place COVID related restrictions and policies.
Parrish said that he later learned that the mayor’s order banning indoor operations at restaurants and bars was issued at noon on Aug. 7, just hours before the raid took place at the Eagle. He said no one from the liquor board or health department contacted the Eagle to inform the club about the revised order.
“There is no reason why a call, a text, an email can’t be sent out to licensees to keep us informed so that nobody is causing an infraction unwittingly,” Parrish told the Blade. He said that at least one of the task force members participating in the Eagle raid acknowledged that the COVID related orders and rules have changed frequently over the past several months, making it difficult for businesses to keep abreast of the changes.
In his email message to State Sen. Mary Washington, a lesbian, a copy of which he sent to the Blade, Parrish said the Baltimore Eagle has a long record of operating as a responsible bar, restaurant, and retail shop.
“I mention this because in 30 years the Baltimore Eagle has never – not once – never been called before the Liquor Board for any wrongdoing,” Parrish states in his email to Washington. “We are a bar with a very long and verifiable history of community involvement and charitable giving, and we enjoy the formal written support of over 1,200 residential and commercial neighbors of all backgrounds and beliefs, the Charles North Community Association, and the support of 5,000-plus people who follow the Baltimore Eagle on social media,” he said.
Parrish told the Blade the agents participating in the raid never explained to him what the alleged multiple COVID violations were that Achhammer referred to in his email message to Councilmember Dorsey. Parrish said it was possible that Eagle patrons moved closer together than required for social distancing during the confusion that took place during the raid when the agents walked through all of the Eagle’s different rooms and spaces.
“Regarding the presence of foam, that has absolutely no bearing on social distancing or our other COVID-19 protocols,” Parrish said in a follow-up email to Councilmember Dorsey. “[T]he antibacterial soap-based foam has a deleterious effect on the COVID-19 virus, which is one of the reasons why we moved forward with it in the first place,” Parrish told Dorsey.
“So that certainly was not a reasonable impetus for the raid,” he continued. “What was actually relevant about the theme was that it was a threat to a competing venue’s performers to the point they openly discussed in the very same Facebook post their plan to file false complaints – which they did; and again, I personally made the authorities aware of this prior to the raid,” Parrish said in his email.
Parrish said he believes the people who filed what he says were false complaints against the Eagle were drag performers associated with a competing LGBTQ venue. But he declined to identify the competing venue.
“I think this story has a real chance of just touching off more negativity and a bigger problem,” he said. “I’m not trying to point fingers, even though these people really frightened our patrons and affected our business,” Parrish said. “But we’re talking to them since this whole incident. We started talking. We’re really not trying to go backwards and inflame anybody.”
Officials with Gay Games Hong Kong 2022, the committee organizing the quadrennial international LGBTQ sports event scheduled to take place in Hong Kong in November 2022, announced at an online webinar on Aug. 27 that a “contingency planning committee” has been created to address potential “risks” associated with the event.
Although those risks include the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing “social unrest” in Hong Kong, organizers stated during the webinar that the Hong Kong government remains highly supportive of the Gay Games. They said a team of more than 100 volunteers is working diligently to safely accommodate the thousands of LGBTQ athletes and spectators expected to arrive in Hong Kong in November 2022.
The webinar took place less than two months after China enacted a highly controversial security law giving the Hong Kong government greater authority in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters who have been holding demonstrations, some of which have become violent, for more than a year.
The Federation of Gay Games, the international governing body that oversees the Gay Games, reaffirmed its decision to select Hong Kong as host for the 2022 Gay Games during its Annual General Assembly meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico last November. One year earlier, the FGG selected Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, who were the two finalist cities competing with Hong Kong, to become the host city for the games.
FGG officials have predicted at least 12,000 athletes will participate in 36 sports in the 2022 Gay Games, with at least 75,000 spectators expected to turn out in Hong Kong to watch the games and participate in at least 20 accompanying arts and cultural events.
“As mentioned in the webinar, Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 has set up a contingency planning committee and has drawn up a contingency plan to cover specific risks, like the pandemic and social unrest,” said Federation of Gay Games spokesperson Shiv Paul in response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade.
“FGG with GGHK are closely monitoring the health, political, sporting, travel, and international events that could impact the delivery of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2022,” Paul said. “Contingency plans are in development to mitigate the potential impact any unfortunate circumstances might cause,” he said.
“The team on the ground in Hong Kong are doing an excellent job in keeping the board up to date with concerns surrounding Hong Kong,” Paul quoted Joanie Evans, co-president of the FGG, as saying.
Paul added, “The GGHK team is composed of a team of 100 passionate LGBTQ+ volunteers and are looking forward to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games, first in Asia. They happily make Hong King their home, feeling safe in the ability to lead out, productive lives. The organization cannot speculate on sensationalized unconfirmed preconceptions.”
He was referring to a question from the Blade asking whether China might force local Hong Kong officials to arrest Gay Games spectators from Europe, North America or elsewhere if they make statements critical of China during the Gay Games cultural events.
Under the sweeping national security law enacted by China earlier this year, Hong Kong officials have made numerous arrests of dissidents denouncing China for infringing on what dissidents say was China’s 1997 agreement with the United Kingdom to allow Hong Kong to remain a semiautonomous region of China for 50 years after the British handed over its former colony to China.
Paul said the Hong Kong government has been involved in the Gay Games Hong Kong organizers’ application process for holding the Games in Hong Kong beginning in 2016.
“GGHK has been having ongoing and regular communications with multiple departments of the Hong Kong government to ensure that they are kept abreast of the process and support required from the government,” Paul told the Blade.
“In all the interactions GGHK is having with the Hong Kong government, support continues to grow within the Hong Kong government regarding GGHK,” he said. “New allies are offering support as it will be one of the biggest events to take place in Hong Kong during the next few years and stands to positively impact on the city,” said Paul.
American Gene Technologies, a Rockville, Md.-based gene and cell therapy company, announced on Aug. 11 that it has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin its first human clinical trial for a unique cell altering treatment that it believes will enable the immune system of people who are HIV positive to permanently eliminate HIV from their body.
“AGT developed a new treatment to repair immune system damage done by HIV and allow natural responses to control the virus,” the company says in a statement announcing the approval for its clinical trial. “From its research, AGT believes a cure is attainable and is now taking the significant step of testing in humans.”
The statement says AGT is conducting its Phase 1 clinical trials at sites in the Baltimore-D.C. area. It says the Washington Health Institute in Northeast D.C., Georgetown University, and the University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore will be the three sites for the trials.
According to the statement, the Phase 1 trial will investigate the safety and efficacy of a product the company calls AGT 103-T, “a genetically modified cell product made from a person’s own cells.” It says the product and treatment should work to remove HIV infected cells from the body and “decrease or eliminate the need for lifelong antiretroviral treatment.”
In an online virtual news conference held on Aug. 12, AGT Chief Executive Officer Jeff Galvin explained that the clinical trial involves a multi-step process of extracting blood from an HIV-positive person whose HIV is fully under control through anti-retroviral medication and immediately subjecting the blood to a process of Leukapheresis, which separates a type of white blood cells known as T-cells.
Galvin said the T-cell samples extracted through that process will be sent to a lab, where they will be genetically altered in a process developed by AGT. He said AGT believes the genetically altered T-cells will make them resistant to HIV infection and enable them to do what HIV has prevented human T-cells from doing during the course of the 40-year plus HIV epidemic – to neutralize the virus and prevent it from harming the human body.
Once the gene altering process is completed and an initial waiting period is used to allow the altered cells to multiply in the lab, the cells will be “reinfused” into the body of the person participating in the trial and from whom the original collection of T-cells was obtained, Galvin said.
AGT has said in earlier statements that individuals participating in the clinical trial will initially continue to take their regularly prescribed anti-retroviral medication while testing of their blood continues to determine whether the newly infused T-cells are killing or neutralizing HIV to a degree that will no longer make the anti-HIV medication necessary.
C. David Pauza, AGT’s chief science officer and the company’s lead researcher in the development of the genetically altered, HIV resistant T-cells, stated at the news conference that under FDA protocol, the process must be shown to be safe and not have significant side effects on the first person to undergo the procedure before the procedure is performed on the second person to participate in the clinical trial.
Pauza said he, Galvin and the AGT team consider the FDA’s approval of the clinical trial an important development brought about by years of research and laboratory testing.
“This is momentous news that we have FDA approval to launch Phase 1 and conduct our first human trials,” he said in a statement. “We are beyond excited to reach this milestone. This brings us closer to our goal of transforming lives with genetic medicines,” he said.
“Based on our successful commercial-scale product manufacturing runs and features of the product observed in our labs, this therapy has a high potential to be effective,” Pauza said.
Galvin told the news conference that the current cost for the complete process of extracting cells from an HIV infected person, genetically altering the cells, and reinfusing the HIV resistant T-cells back into the person’s body is about $200,000. But he said he’s optimistic that the cost of the procedure will go down dramatically as it is used more frequently in coming years. Among other things, he said that the extraction of the T-cells and the genetic alternation process can be done through machines in an automated process that can lower costs.
FDA spokesperson Monique Richards told the Washington Blade the FDA is prohibited by law and regulation from commenting on or acknowledging the existence of an “investigational new drug” application, known as an IND, or whether a clinical trial is taking place.
“The FDA supports the safe clinical development of these products and we are committed to continuing to work collaboratively with industry and the medical and scientific communities to provide the information and guidance needed to help foster the advancement of these promising therapies,” Richards said in an email on Friday.
D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton released a letter last week calling on Michael R. Sherwin, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia who serves as the city’s top prosecutor, to step up prosecutions of hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ community.
Norton’s office said her letter follows several public meetings Norton has held to address the issue of prosecuting hate crimes.
“This letter is the latest in my longstanding work to ensure every member of our community is safe from attack and harassment,” Norton said in an Aug. 5 statement. “We must work to protect our LGBTQ community,” she said.
“The U.S. Attorney for D.C., who is not elected by D.C. residents or appointed by D.C. officials, is responsible for prosecuting almost all local crimes in D.C.,” Norton said. “I have continuously pressed the last several U.S. Attorneys for D.C. to prosecute hate crimes and will continue to do so. The office must work to ensure everybody can live in a safe environment.”
D.C. police records show that as of June 30, 2020, in the first half of 2020, there were 15 reported hate crimes targeting the victim because of their sexual orientation and 12 reported hate crimes targeting the victims because of their gender identity. It couldn’t immediately be determined from police records how many of those cases resulted in an arrest and whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted any of the cases.
Norton noted she has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives calling for giving D.C. the authority to prosecute all local crimes. The legislation was not expected to be approved by Congress under the current Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
A spokesperson for the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Norton’s letter to Sherwin.
Police in St. Paul, Minn. are urging a 21-year-old transgender woman who was attacked and beaten on June 1 by more than dozen men at a St. Paul convenience store that was captured on video to report the incident to police, who are eager to apprehend the attackers.
According to St. Paul police spokesperson Steve Linders, the victim, who identifies herself on Facebook as Iyanna Dior, never contacted police about the incident. Linders told the Washington Blade that he is unaware of either an employee or another customer at Sana’s Market convenience store at 1541 Maryland Avenue East in St. Paul having called police about the incident.
Most social media accounts of the incident incorrectly reported it took place in the neighboring city of Minneapolis and that it occurred at a gas station. Linders said there is no gas station located at the site of the convenience store where the incident took place.
A video that captured the incident and which has gone viral shows at least a dozen if not many more mostly men and one or two women punching and kicking Dior inside a store while shouting and screaming at her. One or two people who appear to be store employees standing behind a counter appear on the video to be trying to help Dior by separating her from the attackers.
Although unconfirmed reports on social media have said the incident started after a “fender-bender” car accident at or near the convenience store, Linders said police have yet to determine what triggered the attack.
“Our investigators are doing everything they can to find her,” said Linders. “So hopefully we can reach her and hopefully she wants to make a complaint and then we can move forward with the investigation,” he said.
“What was shown in that video is beyond troubling,” Linders told the Blade. “And we want to do everything we can to first make sure that she’s OK and second find the people who assaulted her and hold them accountable. And we’re working many different angles to make that happen.”
The Blade sent Dior a Facebook message asking to speak with her to get her first-hand account of what happened. She had not replied as of Friday afternoon.
The attack against Dior occurred at a time when protests, some of which have become violent, erupted in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and across the country over the death of African American Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. A video capturing that incident shows the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd shouted that he could not breathe.
Prosecutors in Minneapolis have charged the police officer who placed his weight on Floyd’s neck, essentially choking him to death, according to authorities, with second-degree murder. Three other officers on the scene have been charged with accessory to a murder.
Linders said St. Paul Police would not speculate on who it was that committed the attack until they compile the evidence they need to make an arrest.
“I don’t want to do a disservice to her by speculating on how this happened until we talk to her and find the people responsible,” he said. “So I don’t want to speculate on what people heard online. We need to talk to her to find out with precision why this happened and make sure she’s OK first and foremost.”
Out Front Minnesota, a statewide LGBTQ rights organization, issued a statement on June 3 condemning the attack and assault on Iyanna Dior, calling it yet another in a long list of attacks on transgender women of color in recent years.
“In 2019, at least 26 transgender people were murdered in the United States, and the vast majority of those killed were Black transgender women,” the statement says. The statement identifies by name each of the trans people killed in 2019, including two black trans women who were shot to death in Prince George’s County, Md., just across the D.C. line – Ashanti Carmon and Zoe Spears.
“This violence has got to stop,” said Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in an interview with Rolling Stone. “Black lives matter and that includes trans, nonbinary, queer, cis and straight black lives,” Cooper told Rolling Stone.
“All of our hearts should hurt watching the video of this young trans woman being hit by a group of people,” she said.
Donald Haines, an attorney with two D.C.-based labor unions, an official with both the ACLU’s national and local offices based in the nation’s capital, and an outspoken advocate for human rights, including LGBTQ rights, died April 24 of natural causes at his D.C. residence, according to family members. He was 69.
Friends and colleagues described Haines as a hard-working, innovative attorney committed to workers’ rights in his various roles working for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and later for the Office and Professional Employees International Union known as the OPEIU in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Attorney Beth Slavet, one of Haines’ longtime friends, said Haines won election in the early 1980s as president of the OPEIU Local 2, which represents private sector mostly white collar office workers in the D.C. area. She said he created a stir by organizing a strike by employees of AFGE, his then former employer.
“It was a successful strike where everybody walked off the job for higher wages and better conditions of employment,” Slavet said. “It is a situation where unions can be great employers and they can also be the worst employers,” she said. “He was a very active unionist.”
Haines was born and raised in East Grand Forks, Minn., a small city just east of the North Dakota line. He graduated from East Grand Forks Senior High School before beginning studies at Harvard University on a scholarship. Upon graduating from Harvard in 1973 Haines began his studies at the University Of Virginia School Of Law, where he received his law degree, according to a write-up released by family members and posted on Legacy.com.
Slavet and others who knew Haines said he began his career as an attorney in Washington at the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service, which provides research for members of Congress on a wide range of issues, including legal issues.
Arthur Spitzer, an official with the ACLU’s National Capital Area Office, said Haines began work at the ACLU in the 1990s when he became Legislative Counsel at the national ACLU’s Washington, D.C. Office.
“He was the main policy person on privacy,” Spitzer said in an ACLU write-up on Haines. “He was way ahead of most of us on the threats that modern technology posed to personal privacy, and sounded many alarms on the Hill,” said Spitzer, who was referring to privacy rights advocates’ calls for Congress to consider regulatory action on technology related matters that jeopardized people’s privacy.
According to Spitzer, in the late 1990s or early 2000s Haines began work at the ACLU’s National Capital Area Office, taking the position of Administrative Officer. In that position, Spitzer said, Haines played many roles, including that of office manager, editor of the office’s newsletter, recruiter and supervisor of undergraduate interns, and webmaster of the office’s original website.
Slavet said she met Haines in 1979 when she worked under him at AFGE as a young attorney just out of law school.
“He was the most incredible legislative attorney,” she said. “Learning from Don was incredible.” She said Haines at that time helped members of Congress draft legislation on labor related issues.
Haines, who was gay, also played a role in advocating for LGBTQ issues as a member of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group. Johnny Barnes, the former executive director of the ACLU’s National Capital Area Office under whom Haines worked, called Haines a “learned” lawyer who brought important insight into the work he did.
“He was an intellectual,” said Barnes, who’s also an attorney. “He was sort of a different intellectual. His thinking was broader and deeper and further than most. And when you engaged him it became apparent he was a very thoughtful person,” Barnes said.
Barnes said Haines, who retired from the ACLU in 2012, remained active in civil liberties and First Amendment rights issues in his retirement. Among other things, Barnes said, Haines became a strong advocate for D.C. statehood and worked on and supported D.C. statehood rallies and other events.
Sharon House, another longtime friend of Haines, said in retirement Haines was able to pursue activities related to his lifelong interest in history and continued to enjoy books, movies and music as well as activities related to civil rights.
House said his remains were to be interred at a family grave in Minnesota and there were no immediate plans for a memorial service.
Haines was preceded in death by his mother, Helen Haines and four brothers and one sister, a write-up by his family says. He is survived by sisters Phyllis Aarhus, Beverly Heppner, Alyce Smith, and many nieces, nephews, and friends.
“Remembering Don’s values and interests, donations can be made to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC),” his family’s write-up says. “And, please support newspapers!” the write-up concludes.
David Carter, an author and historian on LGBTQ civil rights who is credited with writing the definitive book about the 1969 Stonewall riots that he said triggered a worldwide “mass movement” for LGBTQ rights, died May 1 at his Greenwich Village apartment in New York City. He was 67.
His brother, Bill Carter, said doctors believe the cause of death was a heart attack.
David Carter’s 2004 book “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution” thrust Carter into the limelight as a leading expert on the June 1969 riots triggered by the now infamous police raid on the Stonewall gay bar in Greenwich Village in which the patrons fought back.
Carter’s book was the basis for the PBS American Experience film “Stonewall Uprising,” which won a Peabody Award. He also played a key role working with the U.S. National Park Service to have the site of the Stonewall bar and surrounding streets designated as a national monument and an historic landmark.
Shortly after his Stonewall book was published, Carter began work on what he considered his next major project – a definitive biography of gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, the co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. in the early 1960s. For more than 10 years, Carter conducted extensive research on Kameny’s role as one of the first known pre-Stonewall activists who declared homosexuals to be a minority group deserving of full civil rights.
It couldn’t immediately be determined whether others might assemble Carter’s findings and documentation on Kameny, including recorded interviews with dozens of people who knew Kameny, into the book Carter was unable to finish.
Carter was born and raised in the Southeast Georgia town of Jesup. He graduated from the town’s Wayne County High School before attending Emory University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and French, according to information provided by his brother.
During his junior year in college he studied at the Paris-Sorbonne University in France. He later attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a master’s degree in 1978 in South Asian Studies, a write-up prepared by his brother says.
Carter, who was gay, first became involved in the gay rights movement while a graduate student in Madison, his brother said in his write-up on Carter. Among other things, Carter organized a 1977 dance that raised more than $1,000 to support a Dade County, Fla., gay rights group that was fighting a campaign by anti-gay advocate Anita Bryant to overturn the Florida county’s gay rights law.
A short time later, Carter co-founded an organization in Madison that led a successful effort to prevent anti-gay advocates from overturning Madison’s gay rights law, making Madison one of the few places in the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s to stop an effort to repeal a pro-LGBTQ nondiscrimination law.
Carter later became involved in the successful lobbying effort that made Wisconsin the first state in the nation to pass a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
He moved to New York City in 1985 shortly before starting work as an editor at Chelsea House Publishers, a publisher of young adult multicultural books, according to his brother Bill Carter. The brother said the company accepted a proposal by David Carter that it publish two separate book series for young adults, “Issues in Gay and Lesbian Life” and “Lives of Notable Gay Men and Lesbians.”
After leaving Chelsea House, Carter began work on the Stonewall book and a separate book consisting of a collection of interviews of famed gay poet Allen Ginsberg that was later published as “Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996.”
“Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2004 with many positive reviews, including from the New York Times. In 1998, six years before the book’s release, Carter received a grant to put together material from his research on Stonewall to support an effort to place the Stonewall riots site on the National Register of Historic Places, where it was placed in 1999. A year later the site was named a National Historic Landmark.
In 2014, Carter served as the historic adviser to the National Park Service in the successful effort to have the Stonewall site become a National Monument.
Beginning in 2006, Carter began work on his planned biography of Frank Kameny. Although he didn’t live to complete that project, Carter talked and wrote about Kameny’s groundbreaking work in the early homophile movement in writings in the gay press and in lectures and other speaking appearances.
Carter talked about Kameny in D.C. in June 2019 before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which invited him to give a presentation on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. As members of the commission and a small audience listened intently, Carter provided detailed historical background on the discrimination and persecution LGBTQ people faced prior to the 1969 Stonewall rebellion.
He noted that contrary to the generally accepted belief that the Stonewall riots triggered the modern gay rights movement, Carter said Stonewall triggered a mass movement for LGBTQ rights that actually began as a civil rights phase of the “homophile” movement started by Kameny and his followers in the early 1960s.
The earlier phase started by Kameny, Carter said, made it possible for activists to convert the spontaneous street protests that followed the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village into a focused and effective political movement for LGBTQ rights.
“The Stonewall uprising is historic for one reason,” he said in his presentation to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. “It inspired the creation of a new phase of the movement for the rights of gay men and lesbians and later for bisexuals and the transgendered, and this new phase, the gay liberation movement, created a mass movement, making most of the gains over the past five decades possible.”
Following publication of the Stonewall book, Carter appeared on national TV news programs, including on CNN and CBS and has written on LGBTQ issues for CNN, Time magazine, the BBC, the Washington Blade, and the Gay and Lesbian Review.
Carter has told the Blade in the past that one reason for the delay in completing the Kameny book was the need to work full time in a regular paying job. Eric Danzer, Carter’s longtime friend in New York, said at the time of his passing Carter was working as senior medical editor at Saatchi & Saatchi, a global communications firm.
“In his medical editing and his LGBT history work, he showed a passion for accuracy,” Danzer said. “In his LGBT history work, he was painstakingly methodical in assembling the facts, passionate about following them wherever they led to make sure that our history is recorded accurately.”
Added Danzer, “He had great respect for the subjects of his work and felt a great responsibility to preserve the legacy of subjects whose contributions were generally not well known, but should be, like Frank Kameny.”
Carter was preceded in death by his parents W. L. and Sarah Carter of Jesup, Ga. He is survived by longtime friend Eric Danzer; his brother William C. Carter and sister-in-law Lynn; three nieces, Josephine Monmaney, Sarah Davis, and Susanna Carter; and five great nieces and great nephews.
Arrangements were being made for David Carter’s burial in Jesup, Ga. A memorial service in Georgia and New York will be held at a later date.