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D.C. LGBTQ+ community services center closes after finances collapse

Earlier this year the entire Board of Directors had resigned, raising the question of whether Casa Ruby could legally operate without a board

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Ruby Corado (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Casa Ruby, the D.C. LGBTQ community services center that provided transitional housing services for homeless LGBTQ youth and adults and support for LGBTQ immigrants, has shut down all of its programs after it lost most of its city funding, one of its few remaining employees told the Washington Blade.

Tania Cordova, a Casa Ruby official who has coordinated the group’s LGBTQ immigrant services program, said a failure to pay the rent for Casa Ruby’s offices and rental homes for its transitional housing program made it impossible for the remaining staff of about 10 employees to continue any of the group’s programs.

The Casa Ruby shutdown this week took place nine months after Ruby Corado, the group’s founder and longtime executive director, resigned last October. She announced her resignation less than a week after the D.C. Department of Human Services disclosed it would not renew an annual Casa Ruby grant of what was said to be $850,000 to operate a low-barrier shelter for LGBTQ people.

At the time of her resignation, Corado said Casa Ruby’s then-Government Affairs Director Alexis Blackmon would assume the position of interim executive director while a search took place for a permanent director. But Blackmon resigned from the interim position a short time later and Casa Ruby announced that Jackie Franco, one of its managers, would serve as interim leader for the group with the title of Chief of Staff.

According to Cordova and others familiar with Casa Ruby, who spoke on condition of not being identified, Corado retained full control of Casa Ruby’s finances and made all key decisions despite her claim to have resigned. Cordova and other Casa Ruby staffers have also pointed out that Corado since the time of her announced resignation has spent most of her time in El Salvador operating, among other things, a Casa Ruby she opened in the capital city of San Salvador.

Corado told the Blade in an interview in May that the Casa Ruby board approved the creation of the Casa Ruby in El Salvador. Among its objectives, Corado said, was to provide services for LGBTQ Salvadorans so that they would not be forced to immigrate to the U.S.

Neither Corado nor Franco could immediately be reached this week for comment on the claim by the Casa Ruby staff that they had shut down the D.C. Casa Ruby’s operations.

One source familiar with the D.C. Casa Ruby said there were only about 10 staff members left as of June of this year. Cordova said that as of earlier this year, the entire Casa Ruby Board of Directors had resigned, raising the question of whether Casa Ruby could legally operate without a board.  

The Washington Post reported this week that Casa Ruby employed as many as 100 people as of 2020, eight years after Corado founded the group in 2012.

In its 2020 IRS 990 finance report, which all nonprofit organizations are required to file each year, Casa Ruby reported its total revenue for the year was $4,161,905, with most of the funds coming from D.C. government grants. The 2020 report, the latest one the IRS has released, also shows that Corado’s salary and total compensation for that year was $260,416.

Casa Ruby sources said the group filed a request for an extension of the deadline for filing 2021 IRS 990 report because Corado had not provided the needed financial information. The sources said that while the D.C. government has withheld several hundred thousand dollars in grants for Casa Ruby in the past year or two due to “noncompliance” with the terms of the grants, Casa Ruby has continued to receive funds from private donors. And the staff has not been informed by Corado, according to the sources, on how the private donor funds have been used.

In her interview with the Blade in May, Corado said she believes the Department of Human Services, which has provided much of Casa Ruby’s D.C. government funding, as well as the mayor’s office, was retaliating against her for her outspoken criticism of the city’s handling of programs for the homeless and other programs.

The Department of Human Services has not responded to repeated requests by the Blade for its specific reasons for determining that Casa Ruby was not in compliance with the DHS grants, which prompted DHS to cut off its funds for those grants.

The Menkiti Group, the company that owns the building at 7325 Georgia Ave., N.W., which Casa Ruby used as its headquarters and for the low barrier shelter, claims in a Landlord Tenant Court filing that Casa Ruby owes the company over $1 million in unpaid rent and late fees, among other expenses. Corado told the Blade last year that she withheld some of the rent in a dispute over what she said was the owner’s failure to maintain the building that led to multiple violations in the city’s fire and building code.

A spokesperson for the company told the Blade last year that Corado agreed to a lease that holds the tenant responsible for all needed repairs for the building. Casa Ruby has since moved out of that building.

The landlord for two smaller buildings in the Dupont Circle area in which Casa Ruby rented space have also filed eviction notices for failure to pay the rent.

Cordova said that the Union Temple Baptist Church, which rented four small townhouses to Casa Ruby where Cordova helped to operate the group’s LGBTQ immigrant services program, filed for eviction in court over failure by Casa Ruby to pay the rent. The church owns the buildings. Cordova said the immigrant occupants of the buildings as well as she, who lived in one of them, were forced to move out.

“Everything is closed,” Cordova said. “Nobody is going there to get services because there is nobody to provide the services,” she said. “We don’t have an office, we don’t have office supplies, we don’t have an internet. How are we going to provide services?”

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Maxine Waters to deliver U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS keynote

Annual gathering to take place this week in D.C.

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U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) (Photo via Twitter)

WASHINGTON — More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS this week in D.C.

California Congresswoman Maxine Waters on Wednesday will deliver the keynote address at the conference the National Minority AIDS Council organizes. This year’s conference theme is “A Love Letter to Black Women.”

“The 27th annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS (USCHA) brings together community leaders and HIV advocates to learn the latest information and build skills to provide effective HIV prevention and treatment services,” reads the conference media advisory.

NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata and B. Kaye Hayes, deputy assistant secretary for infectious disease in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health who is also the executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, is among those who are also scheduled to speak at the conference.

The conference will take place at the Marriott Marquis in D.C. through Sept. 9.

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LGBTQ groups participate in March on Washington

Thousands of activists and spectators attended the 60th Anniversary March on Washington on Saturday, Aug. 26.

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Thousands of activists and spectators attended the 60th Anniversary March on Washington beginning at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, Aug. 26. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Thousands of activists and spectators attended the 60th Anniversary March on Washington on Saturday, Aug. 26. Advocates and leaders from labor unions, faith communities, political groups, and community organizations traveled to the Lincoln Memorial at the historic site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech to call for a continuation in the fight for racial justice and equality.

Several speakers at the rally included a call for LGBTQ equality as an integral part of the broader fight for social justice. Leaders of LGBTQ organizations were among the speakers at the Lincoln Monument. Notable LGBTQ speakers included activists Ollie Henry and Hope Giselle representing the National Black Justice Coalition; Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force; Stacey Stevenson, president and CEO of Family Equality; and Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Several speakers remarked upon the legacy of out gay activist and leader Bayard Rustin, the architect of the original 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

“I’m honored to be here among so many leaders, but especially the legacy of Bayard Rustin,” HRC President Robinson said in her remarks. “Bayard Rustin was the lead organizer for the first March on Washington and he led proudly and loudly as an out gay Black man, y’all. And I say that because the truth is that lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people: We are here today and we have always been here.”

“I have a simple request,” Robinson continued. “If you have a queer or trans child: love them and love them completely. If you have a Pride flag: fly it, waive it, and waive it proudly. And if you’ve got a vote: by God, use it.”

Task Force Executive Director Johnson spoke about the challenges facing members of the LGBTQ community, particularly those who live in the intersections of identities that face discrimination.

“Our lives are literally under attack,” Johnson said. “Our transgender, genderqueer and non-binary children are being targeted, religion has been weaponized to deny care and rights to our loved ones. The erosion of voting rights, the dehumanization of immigrants, the policing of Black and brown bodies and attempts to erase our contributions from the history books. And yet, here we are.”

Johnson continued, “We deserve congressional leaders that will pass essential, life-saving and affirming legislation like the EACH Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Renewing Immigration Provisions Act, and the expansion of civil rights in passing the Equality Act.”

In the pre-program speeches, non-binary activist Ollie Henry remarked, “The March on Washington has always been a march towards. A march towards actualizing the dreams our ancestors laid into each marble slab placed on this stolen soil. They had a dream to be seen, accepted and celebrated just as they are. Decades ago, queer folks in the movement were kept to the outskirts of our community’s garden. But today, we stand in the sunlight.”

Hope Giselle of Get Phluid and the GSA Network addressed the crowd.

“As I stand here, where 60 years ago someone believed in a dream, as a Black trans woman, my dream is to be able to walk around amongst my people at the very cookout that so many are invited to who don’t belong and feel safe,” she said. “My dream is that when I walk into my home, when I see the faces of the people that look like me, they are not turned up in disgust because of the way that I show up and that the contributions that I and the rest of my community make toward the betterment of Blackness is accepted as valuable.”

LGBTQ speakers at the March on Washington included trans activist Hope Giselle. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“To stand on the steps where this beautiful speech was given and be acknowledged in the fullness of who I am both being Black and being a trans woman at the same time feels amazing,” Giselle told the Blade. “But I also feel like it’s commemorative of the message that Dr. King gave, which is one, I believe, about solidarity of all people and about the coming together of everyone for the rights of folks.”

Following the speeches, activists held signs and chanted in a march beginning at Lincoln Circle proceeding south on 23rd Street, N.W. The march continued along Independence Avenue and concluded at West Potomac Park near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

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Biden tackles racism & hate at Howard University commencement

Biden said that he viewed white supremacy coupled with hate as “as the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland”

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President Joe Biden delivered the keynote commencement speech at Howard University’s 2023 graduation ceremony Saturday in Washington D.C (Screenshot/YouTube Fox 5 Washington D.C.)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden delivered the keynote commencement speech at Howard University’s 2023 graduation ceremony Saturday in Washington D.C.. The president stressed that he viewed hate, racism, anti-LGBTQ+ animus and white supremacy as a primary domestic threat for the country.

This year, 2,064 graduates were awarded degrees and walked across the platforms at their respective college and school ceremonies, as they took their well-earned long walk in the 155th Commencement Ceremony at the Capital One Arena.

The commencement was shifted from its usual location at William H. Greene Stadium on campus in northeast D.C. to the downtown arena due to the threat of serious inclement weather.

After receiving an honorary Doctor of Letters from Howard University president Dr. Wayne Alix Ian Frederick, Biden opened his remarks bantering with a previous speaker and then had the audience of graduates and families rise to acknowledge mother’s in advance of Mother’s Day Sunday.

“But, graduates, before we begin, as mentioned many times, tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  Stand for your mothers and grandmothers.  Stand and thank them,” the president said adding: “Where I come from, moms rule.”

The President is the seventh sitting American chief executive to give the graduation speech at Howard, a historically Black university founded in 1867, which has awarded more than 100,000 degrees in the professions, arts, sciences and humanities since its founding.

Howard ranks among the highest producers of the nation’s Black professionals in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering, nursing, architecture, religion, law, music, social work and education.

President Biden, standing with Dr. Frederick and Chairman Morse, received a Doctor of Humanities degree during Howard’s commencement.
(Photo Credit: Screenshot/Live Coverage Howard University Media & Public Relations)

In his remarks, Biden addressed the graduates stating: “We’re living through one of the most consequential moments in our history with fundamental questions at stake for our nation.  Who are we?  What do we stand for?  What do we believe?  Who will we be?  You’re going to help answer those questions.”

He told the audience that he had felt that the election of the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama, whom he served as Vice-President, had possibly marked a turning point for the country in race relations. The president reflected that the events which led to the civil unrest in 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a young woman protesting against the racist voices of far-right extremists, who had gathered to demonstrate against the removal of an equestrian statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee, was murdered.

“Crazed neo-Nazis with angry faces came out of the fields with — literally with torches, carrying Nazi banners from the woods and the fields chanting the same antisemitic bile heard across Europe in the ‘30s.  Something that I never thought I would ever see in America,” Biden said.

“Accompanied by Klansmen and white supremacists, emerging from dark rooms and remote fields and the anonymity of the Internet, confronting decent Americans of all backgrounds standing in their way, into the bright light of day.  And a young woman objecting to their presence was killed,” he added and then took aim at his predecessor without naming the 45th president: “And what did you hear?  That famous quote.  When asked about what happened, that famous quote.  “There are very fine people on both sides.”

“That’s when I knew — and I’m not joking — that’s when I knew I had to stay engaged and get back into public life.”

Biden stressed that hate was a factor in everyday contemporary American life and he urged the Class of 2023 to be prepared to meet the challenges posed head on.

“We could defeat hate.  But it never goes away.  It ju- — only hides under the rocks.  And when it’s given oxygen, it comes out from under that rock,” he said 
 
“And that’s why we know this truth as well: Silence is complicity.  It cannot remain silent.  We are live through this battle for the soul of the nation.  And it is still a battle for the soul of the nation.”

Biden then said that he viewed white supremacy coupled with hate as “as the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland.” Reiterating his call to “to reject political extremism and reject political violence,” the president then took aim at Republican led state legislatures passing an anti-LGBTQ+, anti-Black, agenda. He also addressed the pandemic of gun violence in the U.S.

“Protect fundamental rights and freedoms for women to choose and for transgender children to be free,” he urged. Then he ticked off a list of goals:

“For affordable healthcare and housing. For the right to raise your family and retire with dignity. To stand with leaders of your generation who give voice to the people, demanding action on gun violence only to be expelled from state legislative bodies. To stand against books being banned and Black history being erased.  I’m serious.  Think about it. To stand up for the best in us,” he said.

The president also addressed violence against Black men profiled and targeted by law enforcement. He ran through a list of his administration’s accomplishments highlighting the executive order “requiring the key elements of the George Floyd bill be applied to federal law enforcement: banning chokeholds, restricting no-knock warrants, establishing a database for police misconduct, advancing effective and accountable community policing that builds public trust.  And we’ll keep fighting to pass the reforms nationwide.” 
 
“Equal justice is a covenant we have with each other.  It must not just be an ideal; it has to be a reality,” he said.

Graduates and families gathered in the Capital One Arena for Howard University’s 2023 graduation listen as President Biden delivers the commencement address.
(Photo Credit: Screenshot/Live Coverage Howard University Media & Public Relations)

Washington D.C. CBS News affiliate WUSA 9 reported that some students weren’t thrilled about the choice of Biden as commencement speaker, and the extensive security screening that went with it.

“I just feel like since we’re an HBCU, we were expecting someone who could really relate to being black in America or going to an HBCU,” said graduate Nia Ollivierre. “But I still feel that Joe has an influence on us that will be respected.”

Vice-President Kamala Harris, herself a Howard graduate, will be the first woman to deliver a commencement speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point graduation ceremony later this month.

Other administration officials are delivering graduation speeches for the Class of 2023 at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), including U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina and his fellow cabinet member, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.

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President Biden Delivers Howard University Commencement:

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Young people organize D.C. Transgender rights march

Queer Youth Assemble organized events across the country

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The March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy took place in D.C. on March 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Upwards of 1,000 people on Friday participated in a Transgender rights march from Union Station to the U.S. Capitol.

SMYAL Executive Director Erin Whelan; Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson and Japer Bowles, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, are among those who participated in the March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy that Queer Youth Assemble organized to coincide with the Transgender Day of Visibility. 

Queer Youth Assemble advocates for young LGBTQ+ and intersex people. The group’s website notes it organized Transgender Day of Visibility marches across the country on Friday.

“This march has reached so many people around the country because of our strength as individuals and as a community,” said Queer Youth Assemble Co-president Alia Cusolito at the beginning of a rally that took place in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool after the march. “This is a heavy time. It’s a frightening time and a necessary time to speak up.” 

Samira Burnside, a 16-year-old trans woman from Tampa, Fla., spoke after Cusolito.

“These last few months have been hard; hard for all of us,” said Burnside. “As Republicans swept into more seats than they held last year and another election cycle begins, transgenderism has become the battleground through which the cultural war finds itself reborn, more violent, more angry, more terrible.”

Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth Executive Director Shaplaie Brooks noted “these attacks are strategic.”

“Grown adults are bullying LGBTQ youth,” said Brooks.

Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth Executive Director Shaplaie Brooks speaks at the March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy in D.C. on March 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

This year’s Transgender Day of Visibility took place against the backdrop of a proliferation of anti-Transgender bills and laws in states across the country.

Kentucky lawmakers on Wednesday overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a bill that will, among other things, ban gender-affirming medical care for Trans and nonbinary people who are under 18. Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in February signed a similar measure into law. 

“Transgender Americans deserve to be safe and supported in every community — but today, across our country, MAGA extremists are advancing hundreds of hateful and extreme state laws that target Transgender kids and their families. No one should have to be brave just to be themselves,” said President Joe Biden on Friday in his Transgender Day of Visibility statement.

“Let me be clear: These attacks are un-American and must end,” he added. “The bullying, discrimination, and political attacks that Trans kids face have exacerbated our national mental health crisis. More than half of Transgender youth say they have seriously considered suicide. Loving parents are terrified for their children’s futures.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Friday became the state’s first governor to publicly commemorate Transgender Day of Visibility.

“People who have the courage to demand visibility, even after facing hardship — in some cases, after facing violence and poverty — they represent the very best of Maryland. We need to elevate their stories, embrace their courage, and celebrate their humanity,” he said before he signed a proclamation that proclaimed March 31, 2023, as International Transgender Day of Visibility in Maryland. “By signing this proclamation, we are taking a step forward. And I look forward to working with all of you to continue that march in the years to come.”

U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Thursday reintroduced the Transgender Bill of Rights, which a press release from Jayapal’s office notes would provide “a comprehensive policy framework to provide protections for Transgender and nonbinary people, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of their gender identity or expression.”

“As the very proud mother of an incredible trans daughter, I am deeply disturbed by the rise in anti-trans legislation at all levels of government and at the uptick of transphobic violence,” said Jayapal on Friday during a virtual Transgender Day of Visibility town hall.

Jacobs, who represents California’s 51st Congressional District, noted her brother is Trans and another sibling is gender non-conforming.

The California Democrat said “one of the proudest moments of my life” was when she officiated her brother’s wedding late last year. Jacobs noted it took place the same week that Congress passed the Respect for Marriage Act. 

“His existence deserves to be recognized and respected, his wedding deserves to be celebrated,” said Jacobs, referring to her brother. “His life deserves to be protected, just like every other person and every other trans person.”

Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride, Whitman-Walker Institute Kellan Baker, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Rigo Heng-Lehtinen and Athlete Ally Ambassador Kaiya McCullough are among those who also participated in the town hall.

(Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Proud Boys skip planned Drag Story Hour protest in D.C.

“We’ve been doing the Story Hour for six months,” said Shane Mayson, owner and operator of Crazy Aunt Hellen’s

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Parasol Patrol members gather in front of Crazy Aunt Hellen's restaurant in Barracks Row on Feb. 25, 2023, during a Drag Story Hour event. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

WASHINGTON – Dozens of supporters turned out Saturday morning outside the Crazy Aunt Hellen’s restaurant on 8th Street, S.E., in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill in anticipation of a planned protest by the far-right group Proud Boys against a reading of children’s stories by D.C. drag performer Tara Hoot to children and their parents at the restaurant.

But D.C. police, who closed the one-block section of 8th Street in anticipation of the protest, said the Proud Boys never showed up, and the street closing evolved into a makeshift block party celebrating an event known as a Drag Story Hour.

The Barracks Row Drag Story Hour event took place one week after a similar event at the Loyalty Bookstore in Silver Spring, Md., became the target of a protest by Proud Boys members. 

Silver Spring police said they dispersed the Proud Boys members and supporters of the Drag Story Hour event after the two groups shouted at each other and reports surfaced that at least one Proud Boys member assaulted one of the supporters. No arrests were made, and no injuries were reported, the police said. 

“We’ve been doing the Story Hour for six months,” said Shane Mayson, owner and operator of Crazy Aunt Hellen’s, which is located at 713 8th St., S.E., across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

Mayson told the Washington Blade an organization called the Parasol Patrol, which provides support for Drag Story Hour events across the country and which attended the Silver Spring event, informed him that Proud Boys had placed his restaurant on a protest list that called on opponents of the Drag Story Hour events to show up at the event, which began 10 a.m. Saturday.

He then contacted the D.C. police LGBTQ Liaison Unit, which immediately arranged for the police presence at the time of the event, Mayson said. Among those who came to the location were members of the police LGBT Liaison Unit along with a contingent of 20 or more police officers led by Assistant D.C. Police Chief Jeff Carrol.

“Overall, I think everything went well,” Carrol told the Blade. “The business was able to have their story time, and everyone was able to come out here and peacefully support the business,” Carrol said. “And we didn’t have any incidents. So, I think overall everything went very well.”

Mayson said the children and their parents, who turned out in sizable numbers for the event, enjoyed the story readings by drag performer Hoot. 

“It was fabulously fun and gorgeous and filled with fun and love,” Hoot told the Blade after the event. “And having all these supporters out here means the world to me,” Hoot said. “I was saying to other people that I wish LGBTQIA people across the country were feeling this love and support. 

Hoot was referring to the protests against drag shows in general and against Drag Story Hour events that have taken place in recent months across the country, including some protests led by the Proud Boys group.

Asked if she had any message for the Proud Boys and others who have attempted to disrupt the Drag Story Hour events, Hoot said, “At the end of the day love is going to win. And the joy, that’s what I focus on at all my events,”

Among those standing outside the restaurant as Hoot finished reading stories to the children and parents inside was Salah Czapary, the recently appointed director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture. Czapary, who ran unsuccessfully last year as an openly gay candidate for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat, said he turned out for the event to show support from the city.

“Any time our community and our constituent who is a business owner here and members of the LGBTQ community ask for government support, we’re out here,” he said. “So, we’re happy to see a robust security presence and an even more robust community presence,” he told the Blade. “And we’re here just to assure people that we’re here to support the community and to have a good time at this drag story time.”

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Man who threatened D.C. hotel workers with gun gets probation

He pointed the gun at one of the security workers and told the worker that his gun is only for faggots and pussies

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A man was arrested after a confrontation at the Lyle Hotel in Dupont Circle. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON – A 21-year-old Tennessee man arrested by D.C. police on Aug. 24 outside the Lyle Hotel near Dupont Circle for threatening two hotel workers with a handgun while saying his gun “is only for faggots” was sentenced on Oct. 26 to three years of supervised probation.

The sentencing by D.C. Superior Court Judge Michael O’Keefe took place after Dylan Nation, a resident of Ooltewah, Tenn., pleaded guilty on Aug. 30 to Attempted Assault with a Dangerous Weapon and Carrying a Pistol Without A License Outside a Home or Business as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. agreed to drop the more serious charges initially filed by police of Assault With a Dangerous Weapon and Possession of a Firearm During A Crime of Violence.  

An arrest affidavit filed in court shortly after Nation’s arrest says he retrieved a handgun from his car parked in the hotel’s parking lot and threatened two hotel security workers after one of the workers attempted to deescalate a heated verbal altercation Nation was having with his girlfriend just outside the hotel’s front entrance.

The affidavit says Nation pointed the gun at one of the security workers and told the worker “he will blow his skull off.” Minutes later, when both security workers attempted to persuade Nation to put the gun back in his car, he told them he didn’t feel safe around them and they are not tough because they are “from the faggot part of D.C. and that his gun is only for faggots and pussies,” according to the affidavit.

It says one of the two security workers then reached for the gun and took it out of Nation’s hand without incident after others at the hotel called police. Nation fled the scene after hearing police sirens but was apprehended by one of the security workers and held until police arrived and placed him under arrest.

Court records show that Nation’s attorney argued that Nation voluntarily surrendered his gun to the security worker and later took full responsibility for his actions and apologized. He later said he was intoxicated from alcohol he consumed while in the hotel restaurant with his girlfriend shortly before the altercation began and had no recollection at all of what happened.

The court records show Judge O’Keefe sentenced Nation to 18 months of incarceration for the attempted assault with a dangerous weapon charge and suspended all 18 months and sentenced him to three years of supervised probation.

For the second charge of carrying a pistol without a license, O’Keefe sentenced Nation to six months incarceration and suspended all but the short time Nation had already spent in jail after his arrest. O’Keefe then handed down another sentence of three years of supervised probation for that charge but said the two three-year terms of probation were to run concurrently.

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Portrait of Matthew Shepard dedicated at National Cathedral

“It’s amazing how similar & what a great job [the artist] has done to make it look like and showing the essence of Matt,” said Dennis Shepard

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Judy and Dennis Shepard stand in front of a portrait of their son, Matthew. Matthew Shepard was honored at a ceremony on Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

WASHINGTON – Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime while tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo., will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral dedicating a newly commissioned portrait of Shepard.

Officials at the cathedral said the portrait by artist Kelly Latimore and commissioned by LGBTQ members of the Cathedral staff, is the only artistic image of Matthew Shepard created in collaboration with Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who were present during the ceremony.

Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018, 20 years after his death. The Cathedral announced in a statement this week that the Dec. 1 dedication of the Shepard portrait would also take place on what would have been Shepard’s 46th birthday.

A Thanksgiving and Celebration of Matthew Shepard service was held on October 26, 2018 at the Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard’s legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a statement.

Events surrounding the portrait dedication began with a 7 a.m. online prayer service “to celebrate and recall Matthew Shepard’s life,” the statement released by the Cathedral says. The service was led by Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Cathedral next hosted a preview of the portrait for the news media at 10:30 a.m., where Dennis and Judy Shepard talked about the portrait and their son’s life and the impact his death had on the nation’s understanding of hate crimes.

“It’s amazing how similar and what a great job that Kelly [Latimore] has done to make it look like Matt and showing the essence of Matt,” Dennis Shepard told the Washington Blade while viewing the portrait in the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where the portrait was on display.

Artist Latimore, who also spoke to reporters during the morning briefing at the chapel, said he was moved in his discussions with Judy and Dennis Shepard while getting ready to begin work on the painting by copies of dozens of letters they sent him that had been sent to the Shepards by people across the country after their son’s death.

Latimore included written excerpts from dozens of those letters as the background to his portrait of Matthew Shepard, which can be seen and read when standing close to the portrait.

Artist Kelly Latimore (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

“Matthew will not be forgotten,” an excerpt from one of the letters on the portrait says.
Dennis and Judy Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after Matthew’s death, which has been credited with playing a lead role in advocating for the passage by Congress in 2009 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure was the first federal hate crime statute that expanded the coverage of the federal hate crimes law to include a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.

President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Oct. 22, 2009. (Washington Blade archive photo by Michael Key)

The Cathedral was to open its St. Joseph’s Chapel from 2-5 p.m. on Thursday to visitors where the Matthew Shepard portrait was on display. Dennis and Judy Shepard were scheduled to be present to greet visitors.

According to the statement released by the Cathedral, later in the evening at 7 p.m., the portrait was to be officially dedicated in a private service in the Cathedral’s crypt near the site where Shepard’s ashes were interred.

“A longtime supporter of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church, the Cathedral considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century,” the statement released by the Cathedral says.

One of the two men charged with Matthew Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to a murder charge in exchange for an agreement by prosecutors not to seek a death sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The other man charged in the murder, Aaron McKinney, pleaded not guilty and went to trial, where he was convicted of murder by a jury. In a dramatic statement before the judge at the conclusion of the trial, Dennis Shepard announced and he and his wife had asked prosecutors and the judge to spare McKinney from being sentenced to death, something he said McKinney did not do while fatally striking his son in the head multiple times with the barrel of a gun after the two men tied him to a fence post in a remote field outside Laramie.

The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.

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District of Columbia

‘Smoke-in’ at Russia’s D.C. embassy protests Griner incarceration

Brittney Griner is now going to be sitting in a Russian slave labor camp for the next nine years after this appeal was denied

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Activists inflated a giant 'joint' outside the Russian Embassy in D.C. calling for Brittney Griner's release & freedom for the Russian people. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A small group of activists staged a protest in front of the Russian Embassy in D.C. on Thursday to protest the imprisonment of WNBA star Brittney Griner. The protest included a giant inflated “joint” and activists smoking marijuana at the gate along Wisconsin Avenue.

A Russian appellate court on Tuesday upheld Griner’s 9 1/2 year sentence to a penal colony following her conviction for smuggling drugs into the country. The vaping cartridge for which she was convicted is well within the legal limit of cannabis products to carry in D.C.

“I am outraged that Brittney Griner is now going to be sitting in a Russian slave labor camp for the next nine years after this appeal was denied,” activist Adam Eidinger told reporters.

“I know I’m not the only one that’s outraged,” Eidinger said as he raised a handful of cannabis plant material into the air. “I’m holding cannabis plants that grow in the District of Columbia lawfully in our backyards.”

Eidinger continued, “Brittney Griner is not a drug smuggler. She is not someone who is trying to corrupt the Russian children. It is simply her fate as a political pawn in this horrific war on Ukraine.”

Eidinger pointed to the Cyrillic writing on the inflated joint, “this message right here says it all: Free Brittney Griner and the Russians from Putin. He’s kidnapped this country and now he’s kidnapped a beloved American citizen and I think Americans need to start speaking out. We need to stop holding our tongues. The Russians have kidnapped a beloved American hero!”

A number of Secret Service officers ensured the activists remained on the sidewalk, but Eidinger insisted that their actions were legal.

Following the statement to the press, activists smoked marijuana at the gates of the Russian Embassy.

Activists Adam Eidinger and Pamela Wexler smoke marijuana in front of the Russian Embassy on Thursday, Oct. 28 to protest the imprisonment of U.S. WNBA star Brittney Griner.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Children’s Hospital targeted by Libs of TikTok over trans care

Anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing Twitter account cited incorrect claims by hospital employee about female to male trans surgery

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D.C.’s Children’s National Hospital (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – D.C.’s Children’s National Hospital has become the target of threatening phone calls, email messages and social media postings after a widely read far-right Twitter account known as Libs of Tiktok posted an incorrect report claiming the hospital routinely performs hysterectomies on transgender patients under the age of 18.

Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik included in her Aug. 25 posting audio recordings of two Children’s National Hospital telephone operators who the hospital says incorrectly stated that a transgender boy as young as 16 would be eligible for a hysterectomy.

“We do not and have never provided gender-affirming surgery for anyone under the age of 18,” according to an emailed statement the hospital media office sent to the Blade.  “In fact, in D.C. you cannot perform a hysterectomy in a minor without a court order,” the statement says.

“We do not provide hormone therapy to children before puberty begins,” the statement continues. “Care is individualized for each patent and always involves families making decisions in coordination with a team of highly trained pediatric specialists,” it says.

“None of the people who were secretly recorded by this activist group deliver care to our patients,” says the statement. “The information in the recording is not accurate. To reiterate, we do not and have never performed gender affirming hysterectomies on minors,” it says.

The statement added, “Since the spreading of misinformation on Twitter, we have been the target of a large volume of hostile phone calls, social media messages and emails.”

The Washington Post has reported that the harassment encountered by the hospital has included social media posts suggesting that it be bombed, and its doctors placed in a woodchipper.

According to the Children’s National Hospital’s statement; “Children’s National Hospital is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all and to serving our LGBTQ+ patients and families in the full spectrum of their care.”

Threats and harassing calls and email messages were directed at Boston’s Children’s Hospital earlier this month over what the hospital says were similar false claims on social media that it was performing hysterectomies on transgender youth under the age of 18.

Libs of TikTok, which has often promoted “groomer” discourse that falsely linked LGBTQ teachers and parents to pedophilia, began to make a variety of false claims regarding Boston Children’s. One allegation included the lie about Children’s offering gender-affirming hysterectomies to children under 18 years old.

Journalist Martha Bebinger with WBUR,  Boston’s NPR news station, noted the campaign started last week with criticism of a video posted on the hospital’s website about hysterectomies. Several conservative social media accounts shared posts about the video on Twitter. The hospital performs hysterectomies on patients 18 and older, but not on children as some of the posts claimed.

“We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms, and we reject the false narratives upon which they are based,” Boston Children’s said in a statement. “We are working with law enforcement to protect our clinicians, staff, patients, families and the broader Boston Children’s Hospital community and hold the offenders accountable,” the statement added.

For over two years, a Brooklyn real estate agent and fanatical adherent of far-right extremist ideology, Chaya Raichik, has wreaked havoc via her social media accounts ‘Libs of Tik Tok’, attacking LGBTQ+ people with special emphasis on spreading lies and propaganda about transgender people.

When Raichik attacked Boston Children’s Hospital, spreading lies and falsehoods about the healthcare facility’s treatment of transgender youth. Her ‘call to arms’ was then joined by conservative journalist and anti-LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Rufo and The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, a vehement anti-Trans pundit.

The resulting chaos including death threats against Children’s clinicians and staff was acknowledged by a spokesperson for the Boston Police who told the Blade that officials had stepped up security to augment the efforts by the hospital to protect its staff and that an investigation had been launched.

The United States Department of Justice has also launched an investigation into the threats according to an announcement by the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Rachael Rollins.

In a lengthy statement issued by GLAAD, the organization wrote:

“Libs of TikTok is synonymous with maliciously targeting LGBTQ organizations, people, and allies by posting lies, misinformation, and blatant hate,” said a GLAAD spokesperson. “Meta and Twitter continue to profit from accounts like Libs of TikTok as doctors and staff members of Boston Children’s Hospital, and other providers of healthcare to transgender people, receive death threats and hate.

“These companies are complicit in hosting content which expresses malicious falsehoods and which incite anti-LGBTQ hate. This is the latest in a long pattern of blatant inaction from the platforms to content that directly leads to the recent rise in real world violence and harassment facing LGBTQ people.” 

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District of Columbia

Tennessee man utters threats against DC hotel workers with a gun

He made the threats that the workers were from “the faggot part of D.C. and that his gun is only for “faggots and pussies”

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Photo Credit: Washington Metropolitan Police Department, District of Columbia

WASHINGTON – A 21-year-old man arrested by D.C. police on Aug. 24 at the Lyle Hotel near Dupont Circle for allegedly threatening two hotel workers with a handgun stated at the time he made the threats that the workers were from “the faggot part of D.C. and that his gun is only for faggots and pussies,” according to an arrest affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court.

Court charging documents show that Dylan Nation, a resident of Ooltewah, Tenn., and who was a guest at the hotel at the time of the incident, was charged with Assault With A Dangerous Weapon, Possession of A Firearm During a Crime of Violence, and Carrying a Pistol Without a License.

The arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police says the incident began about 1:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, when a hotel security worker observed Nation, who is identified in the affidavit as the suspect, engaged in a verbal altercation with a woman identified as his girlfriend outside the hotel, which is located at 1731 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. The affidavit says the security worker “stepped in” to deescalate the altercation and escorted Nation and the girlfriend back into the hotel lobby.

Lyle Hotel (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Once inside Nation told the security worker, who is listed in the affidavit as Complainant 1, and another person the affidavit identifies as Complainant 2, that he needed to go to his car in the hotel parking lot to get some face wash. According to the affidavit, Complainant 2 escorted Nation to the parking lot where Nation allegedly removed a handgun from the glove compartment of his car.

The affidavit says the girlfriend, meanwhile, told Complainant 1, the security worker, that Nation had a gun in his car, prompting Complainant 1 to go to the parking lot, where he observed Complainant 2 attempting to persuade Nation to put the gun back in the car.

“Complainant 1 sees a black handgun in the Suspect’s left hand and tells the Suspect that guns are not allowed in the hotel and that he must leave it in his car,” the affidavit states. “Complainant 1 stated that while in the back parking lot the Suspect points the gun at him and tells him he will blow his skull off,” the affidavit continues.

“Complainant 1 then reaches for the gun and takes it out of the Suspect’s hand,” the affidavit says, after which it says Complainant 1 walked back to the hotel lobby, removed the bullets from the gun, and asked someone to call police. The affidavit does not say whether Nation struggled to resist giving up his gun or passively allowed the hotel worker to take it from him.

The gun is identified in the affidavit as a Glock 23 .40 caliber handgun.

The affidavit next describes both Nation and Complainant 1 standing in front of the hotel, with Nation demanding that he get his gun back. It says Complainant 1 refused to return the gun and told Nation that police had been called. Minutes later, when sirens from arriving police cars were heard, Nation attempted to flee the scene, running north on New Hampshire Avenue.

“Complainant 1 ran after him and tackled him in front of 1806 New Hampshire Avenue Northwest,” the affidavit says. “While holding the Suspect down a marked MPD cruiser stopped and an officer ran over and placed the suspect in handcuffs. Complainant 1 immediately told the officer that the suspect had pointed a gun at him,” the affidavit says.

It says D.C. police obtained a security camera video from the hotel that also included an audio recording in which the voices of the hotel workers and Nation could be heard during part of the altercation.

“In the video you can hear the Defendant’s voice arguing with the Complainants about having a gun and that he should put it in the car for everyone’s safety,” the affidavit states. “The Defendant refuses, then starts to talk about not being safe around the Complainants and that the Complainants are not tough because they are from the faggot part of D.C. and that his gun is only for faggots and pussies,” says the affidavit.

It concludes by saying Nation waived his right not to talk to police detectives following his arrest and that he denied he ever took a gun from his car and pointed it at anyone in a threatening way.

Court records show that at a presentment hearing on the day of Nation’s arrest on Aug. 24, Superior Court Judge Dorsey Jones ordered Nation held without bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26.

The initial D.C. police incident report does not list the incident as a suspected hate crime.

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