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Activists decry anti-LGBT violence at candlelight vigil

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 10:14 AM PDT

vigil protesting anti-LGBT violence, gay news, Washington Blade

About 300 turned out Thursday night for a vigil protesting anti-LGBT violence. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Several high-level aides to Mayor Muriel Bowser and at least one member of the City Council joined close to 300 people Thursday night at Stead Park near Dupont Circle for a candlelight vigil in support of two gay men attacked and beaten last Sunday in what police have listed as a hate crime.

Several speakers at the vigil, including lead organizer Jerry Blackmon, who heads an LGBT supportive kickball league, said they were prompted to take action after seeing a video of the attack taken by a bystander with a cell phone who posted it on Twitter. The graphic video shows one of the victims being knocked unconscious and the other punched and kicked in the head.

D.C. police have released parts of the video on YouTube with an appeal to the public for help in identifying three male suspects shown on the video assaulting the two men. Police said witnesses heard one or more of the attackers yell anti-gay slurs during the incident.

Police said the attack took place about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, April 15, at the corner of Vermont Avenue and U Street, N.W. in the heart of the U Street entertainment district where four gay bars are located.

"When I heard this happened to members of my kickball family I was livid and realized it is time to take a stand," Blackmon told the gathering. "This event will be the first of a series asking what do we do now," he said, adding that he and others who know the two victims have heard of other anti-LGBT assaults that have taken place in and around the U Street area in recent weeks.

Jay Penuel, a D.C. sign language interpreter who is friends with the two victims, said both are also sign language interpreters. He said that as a sign of solidarity and support for the two men, about 20 other sign language interpreters turned out for the vigil.

Friends of the two men have identified them in social media as Michael Creason, who spoke at the vigil, and Zach Link. Both are D.C. residents.

"Zach and Michael are unapologetically themselves and they were attacked for it as many of us could have so easily," Penuel said. "How many of you saw the video that was released?" Penuel continued. "I saw the whole thing and it was extremely difficult to watch because what I saw was someone that my husband and I consider our child attacked and drove into the street face down, unconscious, disregarded."

Penuel said that while Creason's parents, who live in Texas, have been highly supportive of their son following the attack, he and his husband have acted as surrogate parents to Creason.

LGBT rights advocate Ashley Smith, who serves as president of the board of the Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes D.C.'s annual Pride parade and festival, called on city residents, both LGBT and straight, to unite in support of stepped up efforts to curtail hatred that he said prompted the attackers to target Creason and Link.

"Hatred has brought us down in far too many ways," he said. "This is our time to say enough is enough. It's our time to love one another."

Like others who spoke at the vigil, Smith said he was troubled that the person who took the video didn't step forward to try to stop the attack.

"Someone took the time out to take those photos and those pictures and run a video of our friends, and many of you know them, but didn't take the time to say stop, let's go and help them," he said.

D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department's LGBT Liaison Unit, told the gathering that Police Chief Peter Newsham and the entire police force were dedicated to thoroughly investigating hate crimes targeting all communities.

"I cannot stand here and promise you this is the last time something like this will happen," Parson said. "But what I can say to you from our Chief of Police on down to our nearly 3,800 police officers, our partners, federal and local, we will not rest until crimes like this stop."

Added Parson: "We've been working since this came in very hard to identify the individuals who were responsible for this. But we need your help. Somebody out there knows more. Someone out there saw something or spoke to someone who saw something…So we ask you…please let us know who we need to speak to so we can bring these individuals to justice."

Creason, who was the last to speak at the vigil, received loud applause and cheers. He thanked the organizers of the event for what he said was an outpouring of support for him and Link from the community.

"This is not just for us," he said. "This is for all of us because this is far too frequent and far too unreported," he said of anti-LGBT violence in the city. "So thank you for the support and thank you for coming out tonight."

Others who spoke at the vigil were Ben de Guzman, deputy director of the Mayor's Office of LGBTQ Affairs; Rev. Stephen Scott; Freddie Ball, one of the kickball league officials who helped organize the vigil; and transgender rights advocate Ruby Corado, who serves as executive director of the LGBT community services center Casa Ruby.

"To the survivors, Michael and Zack, you will get through this," Corado said. "You will join many of us that are survivors of hate crime in this city," she said. "Time will help you heal, but also knowing that you are not alone and we are here for you."

Corado noted that D.C.'s extensive laws protecting LGBT people make it one of the nation's most LGBT supportive cities based on its laws. But she said that despite these laws LGBT people continue to face hostility, fear, and violence because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

"It is time to change hearts and minds," she said. "It's time to talk to our neighbors.

Among the city officials who attended the vigil were Monica Palacios, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights; and D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large).

Michael Creason speaks at the vigil at Stead Park on April 19. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

No pot uniformity in DMV region

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 08:37 AM PDT

pot, gay news, Washington Blade, cannabis laws

Be careful traveling throughout the region with pot in your possession. It's illegal to transport across state lines.

Spend time in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Rehoboth Beach? Be careful — cannabis laws vary significantly in our region.

The District has the freest laws. In Washington, medical and recreational cannabis use is legal for adults over 21. It joins eight states (Maine, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Alaska) as the pot-friendliest jurisdictions.

In Maryland, Delaware or if you venture into West Virginia, cannabis is approved for medical use with a doctor's recommendation.

In Virginia (and throughout the Bible Belt), CBD-only (Cannabidiol) laws allow for some medical access. Virginia, however (along with Missouri), has the most expansive CBD laws of the 17 states with CBD-only laws.

Be careful traveling though — no states allow transport of cannabis across state lines.

Cannabis is prohibited in all forms in four states — Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

That means three-fifths of the country (60 percent) lives in an area where medical pot is legal. And more than one fifth of the country (21 percent) lives in a state with legal cannabis.

Other interesting cannabis numbers, courtesy of the 2018 publication "Marijuana Goes Mainstream":

• 88 percent of Americans support the legalization of medical marijuana according to a CNN poll.

• 84 percent of Americans support ending jail sentences for those caught with small amounts of marijuana (CNN).

• 60 percent of Americans support outright legalization of marijuana according to Gallup.

• marijuana ranks third among recreational drugs in the U.S. after alcohol and tobacco according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

• 75 percent of U.S. marijuana sales come from California or Colorado (herb.com).

• $6.7 billion was paid for legal marijuana sales in the U.S. in 2016, up 30 percent from the previous year according to Arcview Market Research. It's expected to hit more than $20 billion by 2021.

• Black market marijuana sales accounted for $46.4 billion in sales in 2016 (Arcview).

• Daily cannabis users average 600 extra calories a day (herb.com).

• 55 million Americans have tried pot at least once (Marist/Yahoo poll) and 35 million are regular users averaging once or twice-monthly use.

• smoking pot around your pets will affect them; symptoms of pets inhaling second-hand pot smoke include pacing, panting and loss of balance, usually within 30-60 minutes of exposure.

• 14 percent of U.S. marijuana smokers are Republicans (Marist/Yahoo).

• 11 percent of marijuana users say they hide their stash (Marish/Yahoo).

• 76 percent of Americans say marijuana is more of a health risk than tobacco (Marish/Yahoo).

• The famous Hollywood sign has been vandalized twice to read "Hollyweed" — in 1976 and 2017 according to the New York Times.

Trinidad and Tobago sodomy ruling prompts backlash

Posted: 20 Apr 2018 06:16 AM PDT

LGBT rights activists outside the Trinidad and Tobago High Court in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on April 12, 2018, celebrated a landmark ruling that struck down the country’s sodomy law. The decision has sparked a backlash in the Caribbean nation. (Photo by Rachael Espinet)

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — Members of Trinidad and Tobago's LGBTI community have reported cases of victimization and cyberbullying following last week’s ruling that found the Sexual Offenses Act’s sodomy clause is unconstitutional and void.

Last week, hundreds of members of the LGBTI community and their allies gathered outside the Trinidad and Tobago High Court and Parliament to show their pride and support of striking down the sodomy clause. Members of the country’s media and supporters took their pictures. A fallout subsequently occurred.

Cherisse Lauren Berkeley, a 26-year-old activist who was assaulted outside the High Court on April 12, had to flee from her home and find a safe space to stay until the homophobic attacks died down.

She has received calls from people who were asked to leave their homes since the ruling and has been threatened online or from people who intended to intimidate and threaten her.

Berkeley has received threats online by people who are angered by the ruling. In the comments of a national newspaper's Facebook page, someone identified her home address and since then she has been staying in multiple places, hiding from the public.

Berkeley said she received a death threat from an unknown caller who said, "We see you on the TV. We coming to kill you.” She also said straight allies were also receiving threats for either being outside supporting the community or publishing pro-LGBTI posts on social media.

Berkeley said she and her cadre of activists are collecting all evidence of threats for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, their lawyers and the Equal Opportunities Commission. While sexual orientation is explicitly excluded from the country's Equal Opportunities Act, the LGBTI community can get some protection under a provision that deals with hate speech.

Berkeley also noted several people were asked to leave their homes, either by their families or their landlords who served eviction notices for their participation in last week's Pride rallies. Those who got sudden notice to leave are currently living with friends in the community. Berkeley noted, however, that two from Tobago who were given a month's notice to leave their apartments now have to move to Trinidad in order to find a job and housing.

Luke Sinnette, a social worker who is an executive member of Friends for Life, an LGBTI support group, said his organization has counted eight members of the community who have received eviction notices and two who were asked to leave by their families.

Sinnette said many of the people who showed up to the rallies were already out. He believes, however, the evictions were triggered by people who wanted to appear moral by condemning homosexuality.

"Not one of these cases would have been people who were hiding their sexuality,” said Sinnette. “People are acting on a facade to be seen as moral."

Sinnette and Berkeley were both part of a strategy meeting held by the Coalition Advocating for Sexual Inclusion (CAISO) to see how to deal with the evictions. They are creating a database of LGBTI-friendly landlords and workplaces to house those who are displaced.

The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian publically outed a Commonwealth Games gold medallist amid the homophobic attacks.

The lead story of the newspaper published photos of the athlete, who currently lives in Texas, and her partner. The article also published the athlete's Instagram handle. Subsequently, she deleted all her social media accounts.

Senate confirms anti-LGBT Jim Bridenstine as NASA chief

Posted: 19 Apr 2018 02:41 PM PDT

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla) was confirmed as NASA chief despite his anti-LGBT views. (Photo public domain)

President Trump’s pick to head NASA was confirmed on Thursday in the U.S. Senate despite opposition from lawmakers and LGBT groups who opposed him on the basis of his anti-LGBT record.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), who has served as a three-term member of Congress representing Oklahoma’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. House, was confirmed as administrator of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration by a party-line vote of 50-49.

Nominated by Trump to become head of NASA in September, Bridenstine’s nomination languished in the Senate for seven months. In addition to opposition over his anti-LGBT views, lawmaker cited as concerns Bridenstine’s denial of climate change and potentially placing him in charge of a U.S. agency that has monitored its impact.

A three-term member of Congress, Bridenstine has amassed an anti-LGBT record based on his votes in Congress. In the last Congress, the Human Rights Campaign awarded him a score of "0" based on his voting record. Bridenstine earned a "30" out of 100 in the 112th Congress for rejecting an amendment that would have taken out LGBT protections in reauthorization for the Violence Against Women Act (although he ended up voting against the larger LGBT-inclusive bill).

In 2013, when the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay youths, Bridenstine delivered a speech on the House floor in opposition to the change, suggesting LGBT people are immoral.

"The left's agenda is not about tolerance, and it's not about diversity of thought," Bridenstine said in 2013. "It's about presenting a worldview of relativism, where there is no right and wrong, then using the full force of the government to silence opposition and reshape organizations like the Boy Scouts into instruments for social change."

An opponent of same-sex marriage, Bridenstine has co-sponsored legislation against it and called the U.S. Supreme Court decision against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act "a disappointment not only because it is contrary to millennia of human experience, but also because it is clearly contrary to the choice of the people as expressed in a constitutionally valid process."

Bridenstine also called Obama-era guidance requiring schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity “lawless federal bullying.” The Trump administration would later rescind the guidance.

Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD, decried the Senate confirmation of Bridenstine in a statement as “yet another attack by this administration on LGBTQ people.”

"It's time for the Senate to take a hard look at the nominations they are confirming and the potential ramifications these anti-LGBTQ politicians stand to have on the LGBTQ employees in their agencies and within our country as a whole,” Stokes said. “Mid-term elections are around the corner, and our community has a very good memory."

Top Navy, Marine officials say no unit problems with trans military service

Posted: 19 Apr 2018 02:08 PM PDT

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson says there’s no unit problems with trans military service. (Photos public domain)

The top uniform officials in the Navy and Marine Corps denied on Thursday the presence of transgender service members has resulted in any problems for unit cohesion despite fears cited by the Trump administration in the implementation of its anti-trans military ban.

But Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said commanders of military units had expressed concerns about medical needs for transgender troops and the length of time these Marines would be non-deployable as they underwent gender transition.

Neller and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson made the remarks during a hearing on Navy posture before the Senate Armed Services Committee under questioning from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has introduced legislation against Trump's transgender military ban.

Transgender people were first allowed to serve openly in the military in 2016 under the Obama administration before President Trump sought to ban it after taking office. As a result of lawsuits filed against Trump when he said on Twitter he'd ban transgender people from the military "in any capacity," federal courts have enjoined the Trump administration from enforcing the ban as litigation moves forward.

Asked by Gillibrand for any reports of unit disruptions as a result of transgender military service, Richardson was first to deny any problems, insisting the Navy treats “every one of those Navy sailors regardless with dignity and respect that is warranted by wearing the uniform of the United States Navy."

"By virtue of that approach, I'm not aware of any issues," Richardson added.

When Gillibrand turned to Neller, the Marine Corps commandant said the service has 27 Marines who are openly transgender and "one sailor serving," adding he's "not aware of any issues in those areas."

But Neller continued, "The only issues I've heard of is, in some cases, because of the medical requirements of some of these individuals that there is a burden on the commands to handle all their medical stuff, but discipline, cohesion of the force, no."

When Gillibrand asked Neller to elaborate on these medical concerns, the Marine Corps commandant said commanders had differing takes on the issue.

"Some of them are in a different place than others," Neller said. "And so, there is, part of this is an education, and part of it is there are some medical things that have to be involved as they go through the process of transitioning and real-life experience and whatever their level of dysphoria is. So, for commanders, some of them have said, 'No. It's not a problem at all.' Others have said there is a lot of time where this individual may or may not be available."

Still, Neller said for Marine who've come out as transgender, "we have to honor the fact that they came out and they trusted us to say that, and that we need to make sure that we help them get through that process."

Under further questioning Gillibrand, Neller acknowledged he met with four transgender service members: A naval officer, an Army staff sergeant, a Marine officer and a Navy corpsman. When the senator pressed Neller on what he learned from them, the Marine Corps commandant acknowledge their commitment to service.

"I learned about their desire to serve, I leaned about their recognition of their identification opposite their birth sex," Neller said. "We had a very candid, frank conversation, and I respect, as the [chief of naval operations] said, I respect their desire to serve, and all of them, to the best of my knowledge were ready and prepared to deploy."

Neller made a conclusion hinting he thinks the Marine Corps would ultimately accept transgender service: "As long as they can meet the standard of what their particular occupation was, I think we'll move forward."

The assessment from Richardson and Neller that transgender service has resulted in no problems with unit cohesion is consistent with remarks last week from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said he's heard "precisely zero reports" of issues in the Army.

Like Milley's comments, the remarks from Richardson and Seller contradict a recommendation from Defense Secretary James Mattis against transgender military service, which Trump used to form the basis of his military ban. Mattis’ recommendation cites potential problems with unit cohesion as well as medical and psychological issues as the reasons to ban transgender military service.

Gillibrand also asked Richardson what actions he's taken to ensure stability in the wake of the Trump's proposal to ban transgender troops. The chief of naval operations responded, "Ma'am, I will tell you, it's steady as she goes."

"We're taking lessons from when we integrated women into the submarine force, and one of the pillars of that was to make sure that there were really no differences highlighted in our approach to training those sailors,” Richardson added. “That program has gone very well. And so, maintaining that level playing field of a standards-based approach seems to be the key to success, and that's the approach we're taking."

Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partners Association, said in a statement the testimony from the Navy and Marine Corps demonstrates Trump’s ban is baseless.

“All the evidence continues to show there is absolutely no justification for the Trump-Pence transgender military ban outside of blatant, discriminatory bias,” Broadway-Mack said. “We are proud to be plaintiffs in a case challenging this unfounded and unconstitutional ban in court. Donald Trump and Mike Pence must end their unconscionable assault on transgender service members and their families. They must start honoring and supporting all who serve.”

Man claims painkillers turned him gay, says he won’t stop taking them

Posted: 19 Apr 2018 12:09 PM PDT

Scott Purdy (Screenshot via YouTube)

Scott Purdy says that he was a straight 23-year-old man who was attracted to his girlfriend before he started taking painkillers.

After a go-karting accident, Purdy was prescribed Lyrica (Pregabalin) for pain. In an interview with British TV show “This Morning,” Purdy says he started to feel sexually attracted toward men until he decided to stop taking the medication.

“All I craved was male attention so I thought it was a bit weird and stopped taking it just in case,” Purdy says. “As soon as that happened my sexual attraction towards my ex-girlfriend went back up and I was more intimate and cuddly and it was normal again. But the pain started building back up and so I started taking Pregabalin again.”

Purdy explains that he had "quite a few" girlfriends in the past and was never attracted to men. However, he did recall kissing another boy when he was a teenager out of curiosity but says he decided it wasn’t for him.

He continued that he isn’t in contact with his family but when he told his friends about his sexuality change they were confused.

“When I put it on Facebook about a week and a half ago I didn't say the reason why, and everyone was saying they didn't see it coming and it's a great shock because it was so out of character,” Purdy says.

Purdy broke up with his girlfriend and now says he doesn’t want to stop taking the medication because he’s happy.

Dr. Ranj Singh also appeared on the show to advise that the medication didn’t change Purdy’s sexuality but that the medication’s side effect of calming nerves let Purdy be his "true self."

"These feelings were probably always there, and sexuality is complex," Singh says. "It's not black and white. Different people experience it differently, and some people are fluid."

Singh, who is gay, also gave his own experience with the drug.

"I've been on Pregabalin myself," he says. "I'm sorry to say it didn't make me any gayer."

Watch below.

 

 

Australia’s ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ accused of queerbaiting viewers

Posted: 19 Apr 2018 11:37 AM PDT

‘Bachelor in Paradise” (Screenshot via YouTube)

Australia’s “Bachelor in Paradise” has been accused of queerbaiting in a recent promo for the show.

In the promo, Megan Marx, who is bisexual, says she finds fellow contestant Elora Murger “absolutely gorgeous.” The next clip appears to show Marx and Murger, who has long brown hair, kissing in the ocean. However, in the actual episode, Marx is kissing contestant Thomas Perras, who also has long brown hair.

Viewers were outraged that the series promoted a same-sex hookup that never occurred.

Marx has been open about her sexuality since appearing on the fourth season of Australia’s “The Bachelor.” After leaving the show she and fellow contestant Tiffany Scanlan briefly dated.

AIDS foundations seek to end epidemic in South

Posted: 19 Apr 2018 10:58 AM PDT

Elton John Foundation, gay news, OUTright Center, Elton John, David Furnish, gay news, Washington Blade

Elton John and David Furnish (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and the Aileen Getty Foundation have announced they are joining forces to award an expanded series of grants aimed at "ending the AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States."

In an April 9 statement, officials with the three foundations said they would be awarding grants for $625,000 each to 12 organizations that would seek to end, among other things, the disproportionate impact of AIDS in the South on young people and communities of color.

"We're thrilled to have the Aileen Getty Foundation join our existing partners at The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, making this one of the largest philanthropic partnerships addressing AIDS in the Southern United States," said Elton John AIDS Foundation Chair David Furnish.

"By bringing particular focus on the needs and aspirations of young people and communities of color, and by delivering support to community-rooted organizations that have been engaging the epidemic for years, this partnership has incredible potential to reduce transmissions, improve quality of life, and speed the South's progress toward an AIDS-free generation," Furnish said.

Among the projects the grants will support, according to a statement released by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, are a "welcoming, affirming, and safe center for LGBTQ youth" in Birmingham, Ala.; "comprehensive and LGBTQ-inclusive youth wellness services" in Corpus Christi, Texas; "HIV-specific services, including pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis education" in Memphis, Tenn.; and "expanded mobilization and advocacy programs for LGBTQ youth of color" in Atlanta, Ga.

"Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation is once again extremely honored and humbled to be on the forefront of a transformative HIV response in the U.S. south in concert with Elizabeth Taylor's dear friend, Elton John, and family member, Aileen Getty," said Joel Goldman, managing director of the Taylor Foundation.

Rockville school named after civil rights icon Bayard Rustin

Posted: 19 Apr 2018 10:39 AM PDT

Black History Month, Bayard Rustin, Freedom Fighters, gay news, Washington Blade

Bayard Rustin served as co-organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. (Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

The Montgomery County, Md., Board of Education voted 6-2 on April 12 to name a new elementary school in Rockville after African-American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, marking the first time a school in the county has been named after a well-known gay person.

The Bayard Rustin Elementary School is scheduled to open in September.

Rustin, a lifelong civil rights activist, served as an adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He is best known for his role as lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington in which King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.

Although his sexual orientation was known to his civil rights colleagues in the 1960s, published biographies say Rustin became an outspoken supporter of the LGBT rights movement in the late 1970s and 1980s. He died in 1987.

In its decision to select the name Bayard Rustin Elementary School, the school board overruled a recommendation by an advisory committee of parents and community members created by the board that called for naming the school after Lillian Brown.

Brown was a Rockville native, educator and author who was barred as a child from attending the county's public schools due to racial segregation. She died in 2002.

According to Bethesda Magazine, parents of LGBT current and former students in the Montgomery County school system spoke out forcefully for naming the school after Rustin at two community meetings. Some, the magazine reports, expressed concern that opponents of naming the school after Rustin posted messages on social media claiming it would be inappropriate to name an elementary school after a gay person.

"This kind of statement marginalizes as well as effectively makes invisible children who are part of LGBTQ families and children who may identify as LGBTQ themselves," the magazine quoted Lucinda Grinnell, a professor of LGBTQ history and whose child will attend the school, as saying.

"In my opinion, it would be great for Montgomery County Public Schools to honor a black gay man who made such an important contribution to the civil rights movement," the magazine quoted her as saying. "It's important for children's sense of self-worth to see themselves represented in their schools," she was quoted as saying.

The magazine quoted the mother of a former gay student as saying people who question the propriety of naming an elementary school after a gay person "are implying that there is something about gayness that compromises the innocence of our children."

The mother, Lily Qi, added, "So let me be very clear. There is nothing vulgar or scandalous about being gay. The sooner we can begin these conversations, the more effective they will be," the magazine quoted her as saying.

Among those who expressed support for naming the school after Rustin were U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who worked with Rustin and King on civil rights issues; and Walter Naegle, Rustin's longtime life partner.

Members of the advisory committee that wanted the school to be named after Lillian Brown said they did not object to Rustin because he was gay. They said Brown would be a better choice for the school name because she was a native of Rockville who later taught in Montgomery County schools and co-authored a book on the history of Montgomery County's black public schools, Bethesda Magazine reports.

A statement released by Montgomery County Schools after the board voted to name the school after Rustin describes Rustin as "a believer in non-violence, a socialist, a civil rights organizer, and an openly gay black man." It adds that Rustin "played a major role in civil rights and equality movements of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s" and noted he was active in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).