An Arlington County police officer has become a viral sensation after he was photographed, in uniform, kissing his boyfriend in front of Westboro Baptist Church protesters at the Capital Pride Parade earlier this month.
Officer D.J. Stalter was one of three Arlington officers participating in the parade when he was snapped holding a rainbow flag and smooching boyfriend Mark Raimondo along the parade route. That alone was not overly remarkable, but it was the background of the photo that helped it gain international attention: Westboro Baptist Church members can be seen behind Stalter and Raimondo, holding offensive signs decrying gay marriage and homosexuality.
Headlines on Buzzfeed, the Daily Mail (U.K.) and elsewhere applauded Stalter for appearing to stand up to intolerance. “A Cop At D.C. Pride Kissed His Boyfriend to Piss Off the Westboro Baptist Church,” “A Defiant Police Officer Kissed His Boyfriend in Front of a Westboro Baptist Church Protest,” and “A Brave Cop Turned the Westboro Baptist Church’s Hate Into an Inspiring Kodak Moment,” were some of the headlines.
ACPD Lt. Kip Malcolm, who was walking the parade route with Stalter, said the kiss, which took place near the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and R Street NW, wasn’t necessarily meant to provoke the protesters.
“A lot of people in the LGBT community thought it was defiance, but my thought it was more about affection and celebrating the moment,” he said. “The crowd cheered and they were excited to see that ability to display that affection. The fact that we’re in a day and age where a uniformed officer can walk in the parade hand and hand with his partner is a big step.”
Arlington County Police officials declined to say whether Stalter faced any reprimand or disciplinary action for the photo seen ’round the world, saying that it does not comment on personnel matters. But the department currently has no formal policy regarding public displays of affection.
“There hasn’t been any negative feedback for the department that I know of,” Malcolm said, of the photo. “Common sense would say be tactful and mindful, but I don’t think a kiss among two gay officers at a gay pride parade is too shocking. Just like a heterosexual couple out at dinner kissing is not something we’d frown upon.
Arlington Police Chief Doug Scott said he supports the department’s participation in the parade — it’s part of a larger LGBT outreach effort — but in the future he might seek to avoid photos of uniformed officers engaged in public displays of affection.
“Unequivocally, I have supported our participation… in the parade,” Scott told ARLnow.com. “I applaud the officers in our agency that want to participate in that way. The issue of the photo did raise some concerns…. do we need a policy of public displays of affection for officers in uniform?”
Scott said such photos “could affect the professional image of law enforcement” and there’s been “kind of an unwritten rule for some time” against PDA while in uniform. He said a review will be conducted to see if the department should codify that rule.
Regardless, Scott said he will continue to support the involvement of uniformed Arlington officers and police vehicles in the pride parade.
“I would just like to reemphasize the point that our agency is very progressive,” said Scott. “Our participation is one that I personally support, that the community supports and that our County Board supports.”
Greg Greeley is not your typical suburban School Board candidate. A single gay man, a father of two adopted boys, and an Air Force veteran, Greeley breaks the mold in more ways than one.
This might be big news elsewhere in the country. In Arlington, however, Greeley is just running to succeed another mold-breaker.
Greeley, a Douglas Park resident, filed to run to replace Sally Baird on the School Board earlier this month. If elected, Greeley would be Arlington’s first openly gay male School Board member, replacing Baird, Virginia’s first openly lesbian elected official. (Like Greeley, Baird also has two sons.)
Greeley has served as chair of the “Planning and Capacity Subcommittee of the Advisory Council on School Facilities and Capital Programs” and as treasurer of the Randolph Elementary School PTA, among other volunteer positions with school organizations.
The 49-year-old Democrat has already received endorsements from state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) and is prepping for a door-knocking campaign before the Democratic caucus in May. Greeley, a federal government contractor and project manager, is primarily focused on capacity and facility issues — building and renovating schools to keep up with Arlington’s burgeoning student population — since it’s where he thinks the School Board needs the most improvement.
“I want us to make better decisions about how to deal with the capacity crunch,” he told ARLnow.com this morning. “The tipping point [in my decision to run] was last summer when the North Arlington elementary schools were dealing with boundary changes. It was really a painful public process.”
As a member of the capacity subcommittee, and the boundary liaison to Nottingham Elementary School during the process, he said he kept seeing reasons to run for the Board.
“As I got more involved in the facilities,” he said, “I saw more things I wanted to change.”
Greeley has never run for office before, but he has experience in helping change happen. He served four years in the Air Force — which he called “a great experience” — before applying for discharge because, as he put it, “I was too out to stay in.”
“I’ve always wanted to lead the life I wanted to live,” he said. He explained that that’s why, in 2002, he adopted his first son, Kolya, from the Ukraine as an 18 month old. “I hit my mid-30s and decided I wanted to have a family.”
Greeley doesn’t worry about convincing voters that he’s a capable, qualified School Board candidate despite his status as a gay single parent.
“That’s why I like living here,” he said. “People here are open and accepting. It wasn’t always this way. There was lots of pushback in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and we weren’t welcome in the political scene. Now we’re just part of the community.”
New Mexican Restaurant Coming to Clarendon — Less than a month after the closure of Market Tavern in Clarendon, we now know what will take its place. Fuego Cocina and Tequileria is expected to open in the space, at 2950 Clarendon Blvd, later this fall. The casual Mexican restaurant, which will apparently not serve burritos, will be run by the Passion Food Restaurant Group, which also runs Acadiana, Ceiba and District Commons in D.C. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Gay Pride Event at Pentagon — About 350 people packed a Pentagon auditorium yesterday for the Defense Department’s first celebration of Gay Pride Month. In a videotaped message, President Obama said the hour-long ceremony was held to honor openly gay service members. [Bloomberg]
AWLA to Hold Yard Sale– The Animal Welfare League of Arlington will be holding a “Mutts and Mittens” yard sale this weekend. “The yard sale will include items donated by the public including: art, jewelry, gently used clothing, household items, and more,” according to an AWLA press release. “Funds raised at the yard sale will help care for the birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, and dogs that enter the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s (AWLA) doors every day.” The sale will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 30 at the front yard of the AWLA offices at 2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive, near Shirlington.
How can students and teachers help reduce the bullying of LGBT youth in our schools? That’s the subject of a public forum to be held in Arlington next weekend.
The Northern Virginia chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is inviting all interested parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders, residents and youth to discuss “what can be done to make schools safer for all students.” The forum is being held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, at the Unitarian Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd).
David Aponte, chair of the GLSEN chapter that’s organizing the forum, says that even in Arlington, bullying of LGBT students is a problem.
“We hear about it all the time,” Aponte said. “Luckily, here we haven’t had any cases… of school violence or anything like that, but we do definitely know there’s verbal bullying of LGBT students on a regular basis.”
Aponte says his organization tries to “give students the leadership abilities they need and the tools and resources they need so they can go back to their schools and make them safer.” The forum will also seek to engage teachers and figure out things they can do “to work with students to make things better.”
GLSEN is asking interested attendees to pre-register for the event.
During his closing remarks at the group’s candidates forum in Ballston, McGhee started opining about the relationship between gays, lesbians and God.
“Each and every one of you is a uniquely valuable human being created for a purpose,” McGhee told the group, according to an audio recording and transcript on the Not Larry Sabato blog. “Some of you are beyond frustrated with God right now. Some of you refuse to believe in him altogether. You’ve asked the question or perhaps given up asking a long time ago ‘Why? Why would God make me who I am and then tell me that’s wrong?’”
Needless to say, some AGLA members took exception to the implication that being gay is “wrong” — or that a discussion of God and morality was appropriate during a local political debate.
“Sitting in that room while the above was happening was insanely awkward,” wrote one Not Larry Sabato commenter.
McGhee, however, defended his remarks when asked about them by the Del Ray Patch.
“It was a personal view… It was meant to be an added perspective on who God is and his mercy,” said McGhee, a database administrator for The Falls Church.
McGhee’s opponent in the race for the 30th District state Senate seat is Del. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat who was the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) just released a new video for the It Gets Better Project, an initiative that seeks to give hope to bullied lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
In the video, Moran talks about his own experience with bullying.
“I’ve known an awful lot of bullies through my life,” he said. “It’s interesting that they all grew up to be insecure jerks who only seem to feel good about themselves when they were making other people feel bad about themselves.”
The congressman also talked about being shy as a kid. He recounted that he fainted several times during his first two public speeches.
“I told myself things have got to get better because they can’t get any worse, and they did, eventually,” he said.
Moran joins a long list of celebrities, athletes, public officials and everyday people who have recorded videos for the It Gets Better Project.
As of midnight last night, the law known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was officially repealed.
Gay and lesbian service members may now publicly reveal their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out of the military. The repeal comes nine months after President Obama signed the initial DADT repeal law and two months after the president certified that conditions for the appeal — including extra training for military personnel — had been met.
To celebrate the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance will be holding two separate events. Tonight from 8:00 to 11:00 AGLA will host “Yes We Did DADT Karaoke” at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant (555 23rd Street S.) in Crystal City. The free event is also sponsored by the Arlington Democrats and the Arlington Greens.
Tomorrow AGLA will hold another DADT repeal celebration at Hard Times Cafe (3028 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon.
“Join AGLA for an evening of celebration, socializing, great food and drinks,” organizers said. The Wednesday event will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on the restaurant’s second floor.
You’d expect that the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance would be a friendly venue for two Democratic candidates who both have voiced a strong pro-equality, pro-LGBT message. For the most part last night, at the AGLA’s forum for primary candidates, it was. But then 31st District state Senate rivals Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto unexpectedly had some of the negativity of their campaigns thrown back at them.
“I have to say to both of you, I am disgusted and appalled by this campaign,” Betsey Wildhack, a past president of AGLA who’s active in local Democratic politics, said during the forum’s question-and-answer session.
“I don’t understand how you all can present this as the best the party has to offer, with these constant negative attacks,” Wildhack said, as heads nodded in agreement in the audience. “How in the world will any of you beat [Republican 31st District candidate] Caren Merrick when you have laid out her campaign against both of you?”
Favola responded first.
“Well, that’s a very interesting observation,” she said. “Certainly this campaign has been far more robust and lively — and some would say has had more negative a tone — than we have seen in Arlington. I don’t think this campaign has in any way damaged either of us for the general election. I think what it has done is enabled two candidates to develop strong organizations to knock on thousands of doors. We in effect had a six month trial period of really kicking into gear a first-rate campaign team, so that really has been an advantage.”
“Fortunately in Arlington, [Democrats] have a long tradition of coming together after a primary,” she added. “I’m very confident… I know that the November election will turn blue for our seat.”
Areizaga-Soto then weighed in, insisting that his negative mailers were focused on “the facts” while Favola’s focused on “smear attacks and false attacks.”
“All of a sudden I have destroyed the Amazon and destroyed the American economy by being a second-year associate in downtown law firms in D.C… I am very disappointed in the mud that has been thrown in this campaign, especially when it’s not based in facts like all the pieces that my opponent has raised,” he said. “I haven’t raised false claims against my opponent’s records, I have gone to the facts. And those facts the voters deserve to know in the primary, if not they were going to know them in the general.”
“You have a right to your own opinions, but not to your own facts… I’ve always talked to the truth. I stood to the facts,” Areizaga-Soto added. “It’s been overwhelmingly positive.”
The PAC has endorsed Del. Adam Ebbin, who’s running in the 30th state Senate district and Jaime Areizaga-Soto, who’s running in the 31st state Senate district. The group also endorsed both candidates who are running in the 49th House of Delegates district: Alfonso Lopez and Stephanie Clifford.
While saying that Ebbin’s two primary opponents — Rob Krupicka and Libby Garvey — would be “strong allies,” and while expressing confidence that Areizaga-Soto’s opponent — Barbara Favola — would “vote on the side of equality” — the LGBT Dems nonetheless sided with Ebbin and Areizaga-Soto.
See the group’s press release, after the jump.
District Taco Cart Returns — Just two days after it flipped over in the middle of a busy entrance ramp, the District Taco cart was patched up and serving crowds of customers at the Courthouse Farmers Market.
McAuliffe to Headline LGBT Fundraiser — Terry McAuliffe — who’s said to be considering another run for the Virginia governor’s mansion — is headlining a fundraiser for the Virginia Partisans, the Political Action Committee of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. The fundraiser, which seeks to raise $40,000 for Democratic state Senate candidates, is being held at the house of County Board member Jay Fisette on July 14.
Endorsements in Delegate Race — There have been two significant endorsements in the Democratic primary battle for the 49th District House of Delegates seat. Alfonso Lopez has been endorsed by Jay Fisette, while Stephanie Clifford has been endorsed by retiring state Sen. Patsy Ticer. Fisette called Lopez “an effective advocate for Arlington and our values in Richmond.” Ticer was scheduled to make an appearance at a Clifford fundraiser Friday night.
DARPA Developing Killer Laser — Arlington’s own Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing a new, high-energy laser weapon that could someday be mounted on fighter jets, armored vehicles and patrol ships. [Military and Aerospace Electronics]
Mysterious Brown Flip Flop Spotted – A lone brown flip flop was spotted floating in a fountain near Circa restaurant in Clarendon Sunday morning. The intriguing sight was dubbed by Clarendon Culture as “the quintessence of Clarendon.” [Lockerz, Clarendon Culture]
Earlier this month, dozens of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals, as well as their straight allies, gathered at Artisphere to shoot a video. The video, called Holiday Hugs and Kisses, featured just what its name suggests.
The purpose of the video was “to demonstrate broad community and regional support for LGBT people” in a “fun and festive” way, according to the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, which helped to organize the filming.
The video from the event, set to music, was released on Monday. Take a look here.
We know that even in a post-Don’t Ask Don’t Tell world, such a video will be controversial to some. In the spirit of the holidays, we ask that everybody please keep the comments section civil.
The event, being held on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., will feature arts and cultural performances, culminating in “a large public display of affection by people from all walks of life.”
“We expect 300-500 people to attend, including many straight allies,” the event’s Facebook invitation reads. “A YouTube video will be produced from live footage recorded at the event… Our video will be premiered at the Artisphere Dome Theatre on December 20th along with an opening reception and will then be posted on YouTube.”
Cookies and hot chocolate will be served between video shoots.
The event is sponsored by the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance.
Flickr pool photo by Afagen