Sherwood's Notebook: Life, Liberty and…Death

It was just one moment on CNN in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting.

About 8:45 a.m. Sunday, a law enforcement official being interviewed by CNN was describing the horrific duty of those entering the Pulse gay nightclub and tending to the carnage that lay before them.

The person being interviewed said in the eerie silence, cellphones of the dead were going off. Urgent beeps, sometimes-comical rings and flashes of light from panicked family members and friends who would hear no answer.

He said the public safety responders inside could not and would not answer those phones. There was nothing they would be able to tell any caller at that terrible moment. Your Notebook, already trying to comprehend the slaughter, had not thought of our ubiquitous phones: on the other end of all those lines, those family and friends struggling with the horror of not knowing, as the cellphones would just ring and ring and ring.

■ Loving wins. Even as the LGBT community — and the rest of America — dealt with death in Orlando, there was an anniversary from the history books this past weekend. It was different, but it gave reason for hope that laws and attitudes can change. Although the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in June 2015, there obviously is more than pocket resistance to the equal rights of gay people.

It was not so long ago that straight people of different races could not marry in many states.

But on June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute — the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 — was unconstitutional, a violation of the equal protection clause.

The case involved Mildred Loving, a black woman, and her husband Richard Loving, who was white. They had been married in the District of Columbia in 1958. Faced with a year in jail or leaving Virginia, the couple returned to the District, where they ultimately filed suit in federal court against Virginia.

Interracial marriage was violently opposed in Virginia and many other states. Individuals were marginalized and attacked. It is one of many sad chapters in America’s past. On this past weekend of July 12, 2016, with hatred bleeding on the floor of an Orlando nightclub, it was just a little comforting know that Loving v. Virginia did change the law and ultimately minds. People of goodwill will wish that for our LGBT community, too.

■ A sidewalk message. In the Dupont Circle community on Monday, someone hastily scrawled the message, “DOWN with the Gay agenda.”

It was spray-painted in blue adjacent to the Thaiphoon restaurant in the 2000 block of S Street NW. But the Borderstan blog reported that the original didn’t remain long. Someone using red paint sprayed over the word “gay” with the word, “gun.” So the slogan read, “DOWN with the Gun agenda.” That likely got a lot more heads nodding in agreement.

And there even was a little more creativity. Someone suggested the original graffiti should have been left alone, except for adding “I’m” on the front of it. Then, it would have read, “I’m DOWN with the Gay agenda.” The ultimate message to haters: Don’t mess with the D.C. sidewalks.

■ Statehood revival? The first of three meetings was held Monday night to draft a new constitution for the District if it were to become the 51st state of New Columbia. It’s a far cry from the months and months and months of debate that went into the city’s 1980s effort. District citizens approved a statehood effort in 1980 by 60 percent, and it took two years to write the constitution that went nowhere in Congress.

But Mayor Muriel Bowser is trying to jump-start a new statehood movement. The draft constitution is a simple document modeled after the city’s current home rule government. Bowser wants a proposed statehood constitution to be submitted to the Board of Elections in July and on the ballot in November. Assuming voters will pass it — a good assumption — Bowser intends to send the constitution to Congress early next year as part of a demand for statehood if the Democrats take back the Senate (and perhaps the House, too, but that is a long shot).

The New Columbia Statehood Convention will meet again on Friday at 6 p.m. and on Saturday at 9 a.m., both sessions at Wilson High School. Many activists say the process is not long enough or open enough to citizens for serious deliberations. Bowser doesn’t want the proposal to become mired in local and possibly petty fights that might derail the whole thing.

“We absolutely have been taking public comments for the last week and a half that we put on the New Columbia Statehood Commission website,” Bowser told NBC4’s Mark Segraves. One issue is whether to create a legislature bigger than the current 13-member council. “We’ll hear some more conversation about that,” Bowser said.

Some of the most active activists are worried the constitution will be rushed and not well-thought out. But they are trying to be cooperative.

“I want this process to work,” tweeted Josh Burch, one of those activists. “We deserve a great constitution that reflects our principles, values & aspirations. We coulda done better.”

■ D.C. Democratic primary. Results came in too late for this Notebook deadline. But if you’re seeing this early Wednesday, former Mayor Vincent Gray — who ran for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat yesterday — is scheduled to be on Wednesday’s Kojo Nnamdi show at noon on WAMU 88.5 FM. Your Notebook will be there asking questions.

■ Who is Jim Vance? Come hear the veteran NBC4 anchor talk about his life and career Friday at 7 p.m. at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital. He’ll be interviewed by yours truly and NBC4 reporter Mark Segraves as part of our “All Politics Is Local” series. A few seats are left — reserve yours at

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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