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Gray says D.C. should recognize Utah marriages

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a meeting of the Stein Club that the city should recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah before the Supreme Court issued a stay and halted the weddings. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Monday night that he believes the city should recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah.

Gray said he would consult with D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan on the matter. But he said he sees no reason why the city shouldn’t recognize the Utah marriages performed prior to a Supreme Court decision putting same-sex nuptials on hold in the state until the courts resolve the issue.

“I’ll talk to Irv Nathan about it,” Gray said. “But my position would be unequivocally that we ought to do that.”

Gray’s statement on the Utah marriage issue came in response to a question by Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance President Rick Rosendall.

Gray’s response came three days after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Jan. 10 that the federal government would recognize the Utah same-sex marriages. On that same day, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler told the Blade that Maryland would also recognize the Utah same-sex marriages.

A spokesperson for Nathan told the Blade on Monday that Nathan and his legal team were reviewing the Utah marriage question and would likely develop a position for the District to take on the matter shortly.

A U.S. District Court Judge in Utah startled the state’s conservative political establishment on Dec. 20 when he ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution and refused to put a stay on his ruling while state officials appealed his decision. The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals also refused to place a stay on the right of gay and lesbian couples to obtain marriage licenses in the state.

During the period between the District Court judge’s Dec. 20 ruling and the Supreme Court’s decision to issue the stay on Jan. 6, more than 1,300 gay and lesbian couples married in Utah. Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, responded to the Supreme Court stay order by declaring the same-sex marriages invalid.

Gay rights attorneys quickly disputed Herbert’s assertion, saying the marriages were performed at a time when the District Court ruled they were legal under the federal Constitution.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club invited Gray to speak before its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Monday night as part of a series of appearances the club has arranged for mayoral and City Council candidates competing in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

She said other mayoral candidates, including City Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 1), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) have already appeared before the club.

Others who spoke at the Stein Club meeting on Monday were Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who’s running for re-election; Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who is also up for re-election; and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who is running for mayor.  Also speaking was shadow U.S. House member Nate Bennett-Fleming, who is one of four candidates running against Bonds, and Shadow U.S. Senator Paul Strauss, who is running for re-election.

Gray, who spoke for about 20 minutes before answering questions from club members, acknowledged that several of the eight candidates challenging him in the primary have strong records of support on LGBT issues.

“But the fact of the matter is I’m the only one who’s actually been in the seat where you really implement and have the ability to influence policy as the mayor,” he said. “And as a result, while I think they have done some good things, I don’t think they have come near matching what I have done and I don’t think they will.”

Gray said his support for the LGBT community dates back to his days as a student at D.C.’s Dunbar High School when he observed firsthand how his class valedictorian, who was gay and later realized he was transgender, was subjected to hostility.

“It was painful to me watching what he had to go through, what he had to endure as a human being,” Gray said. “And I said to myself if I ever had the chance I’m going to do something to be able to ensure equality for people who should have the opportunity to be themselves.”

Years later, when he was chair of the D.C. Council at the time the city’s same-sex marriage law came up for a vote in 2009, Gray said he experienced hostility and rejection from same-sex marriage opponents in response to his support for marriage equality.

“Frankly, what I went through as chairman nobody hopefully will ever have to go through,” he told Stein Club members. “I had people screaming at me. There were some ministers that supported me for Ward 7 Council member and then for Chair. And they don’t speak to me anymore,” he said.

“And I said fine. If that’s the way you want to row, that’s all right with me. I know who I am. I know what I stand for and I am not flinching. I am not blinking. This is the right thing to do and we’re going to continue to do the right thing in the District of Columbia. And you all let me know when you get on board, OK?”

The latter comment drew applause from club members, many of whom are supporting Gray’s re-election.

The Stein Club’s former president and current vice president for political affairs, Martin Garcia, announced at the meeting that the club will hold a joint candidate forum and endorsement meeting for City Council candidates on Feb. 26 and a combined mayoral candidate forum and endorsement meeting on March 5.

Garcia said the club has yet to decide whether to make endorsements in other races, including  the congressional delegate seat current held by Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton; the races for “shadow” U.S. senator and U.S. representative; and Advisory Neighborhood Commission races.

14
Jan
2014

Mizeur campaign keeping busy

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Heather Mizeur held a slew of campaign events in seven counties last weekend in her pursuit of the governor’s office. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Del. Heather Mizeur (Montgomery County) continued her grassroots “people-powered movement to end politics as usual in Maryland” campaign last weekend. She is seeking to be the first female and the first openly gay governor of Maryland.

On Jan. 8, she appeared before a well-attended candidates’ forum sponsored by the Columbia Democratic Club. Mizeur was the only candidate running for the top spot on the ticket speaking at the forum while lieutenant governor hopefuls Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Del. Jolene Ivey (Prince George’s) represented the Anthony Brown and Douglas F. Gansler candidacies, respectively. At the forum, Mizeur separated herself from her rivals with her push to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana to help fund early childhood education.

During the weekend of Jan. 11-12, billed as a “Weekend of Action,” Mizeur continued her campaign schedule with 18 events in 7 counties. Included were “Meet and Greet” stops on Jan. 11 in Frederick, Elkridge, Annapolis, Waldorf, Clinton and Gaithersburg. In addition, phone banks were conducted in College Park, Baltimore, Silver Spring and Greenbelt.

On Jan. 12, “Meet and Greet” events took place in Rockville/Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, and ended in Baltimore in a Mount Washington Community Forum. Phone banking efforts occurred in Adelphi, Fort Washington and Silver Spring.

14
Jan
2014

Supporters rally for trans rights in Md.

Martin O'Malley, gay news, gay politics

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was among those who expressed support for a trans rights bill. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Bob Brittain was doing fairly well in Chestertown, Md., with a wife and family, earning more than $50,000 per year as a certified boat captain, assistant dock master and boat carpenter.  But since the age of three, he knew he was not comfortable with his gender. Two years ago, Bob transitioned to Susan Brittain, now 57, but still with her wife who has been fully supportive.

However, when Susan applied for other jobs, “the rules had changed,” she explained. As soon as she identified as transgender, she was not hired for the positions she was seeking despite her qualifications. While Susan would benefit from a statewide law that would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations, her concern is for others. “It’s for the younger generation,” Susan points out. “They should be productive and happy.”

To that end, on Feb. 17, the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality—a group with 54 components including Equality Maryland, PFLAG, Maryland NOW and a host of other progressive and religious organizations—held its annual Lobby Day at Lawyers Mall in Annapolis. The goal is to rally trans activists and allies and to meet with individual legislators in an effort to persuade them to pass the bill, which has been unsuccessful the past seven years.

More than 150 braved the sub-freezing chill to hear remarks by Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland; Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County); Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery) who introduced the Senate version of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act (SB 212); Sara Wilkinson from the Maryland chapter of NOW; Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore) who introduced the House version (HB 1265); Patrick Paschall, a member of the Hyattsville City Council, which passed a gender identity non-discrimination measure; Gov. Martin O’Malley, who, along with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch among other leaders, support the bill; activist and mother of a trans child Bonnita Spikes; and Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery) who is a candidate for governor.

The theme for this event was “It’s time.” Evans stated to loud cheers, “We want to pass this bill this year and make this the last Lobby Day.”

Speaker after speaker alluded to the fact that this bill has languished in the legislature for too many years and it was time to break it free.  “This is the time to put the bill to rest,” said Madaleno.  “We’ve had eight years of pushing the bill.  If we don’t do it this year, we’re going to be back and back and back for however long it takes.”

Pointing to the successes in other Maryland jurisdictions—Baltimore City, Howard, Baltimore and Montgomery counties as well as Hyattsville — Hyattsville Council member Patrick Paschall stated, “Now is the time for the state of Maryland to follow the lead of local jurisdiction.”

Others highlighted the unnecessary discrimination faced by transgender people and offered a call for inclusion.  “It’s time for all Marylanders to be accepted for who they are,” declared Cullison. Sara Wilkinson said, “We believe the feminist movement can and should embrace transgender people. NOW stands against all oppression.”

A confident Clippinger predicted, “We are going to win this year because of the momentum we have.”

O’Malley said, “We’re all in this together. Everyone deserves to be treated equally with dignity and respect.”

The Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee is considering the bill and a vote is expected on Feb. 20. (Visit washingtonblade.com for updates.) SB 212 has 25 sponsors, more than enough to win on the floor. Last year, the bill died in the committee by a 6-5 vote.

18
Feb
2014

Equality Maryland celebrates milestone

Rich Madaleno, Maryland, Democratic Party, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade, Equality Maryland

Maryland State. Sen. Rich Madaleno was honored last weekend at Equality Maryland’s anniversary event at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Looking back on the journey to achieve full equality in Maryland and its aspirations to continue the fight for social justice, Equality Maryland celebrated 25 years with a gala brunch at the venerable Lord Baltimore Hotel on Oct. 27 with nearly 500 in attendance. State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who’s gay, was the guest of honor.

The event, which was emceed by television journalists Derek Valcourt and Adam May, received congratulatory proclamations from Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin made brief remarks on Maryland’s successes in attaining equality. A message from Sen. Barbara Mikulski congratulating Equality Maryland was read to the audience.

To underscore the importance of wooing LGBT voters, gubernatorial candidates Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) and Attorney General Douglas Gansler as well as his running mate Del. Joline Ivey (D- Prince George’s County) were on hand. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, another candidate for governor, appeared later on a video honoring Madaleno.

“We have seen a sea change in elimination of discrimination over the last 25 years,” Cardin said but noted there is more to accomplish. “We will not be satisfied until we pass the Employment Non-discrimination Act. We have work to do.”

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans thanked the many folks who worked and volunteered for Equality Maryland over the years and the elected officials who helped reach its goals.

“The 25-year journey was climaxed with the achievement of marriage equality,” she said.

Evans made a special point to express gratitude to the Human Rights Campaign for its efforts during the Question 6 battle. She thanked the organization for increasing support during that time.

“Without HRC, we would not have won,” she said.

She said that Equality Maryland is determined to have a transgender non-discrimination law passed, integrate African-Americans into the movement, seek equality in immigration and help lesbian and bisexual women achieve pay parity with men.

Elected officials including Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, members of the LGBT caucus as well as current and former Equality Maryland leaders and volunteers all took light-hearted jabs at Madaleno in a video.

“The work is not done,” Madaleno told the audience. “We have a lot to achieve.”  He cited a gender identity non-discrimination law as the first priority. “Personally, it is appalling to me that we have to fight about the same ignorant comments about transgender individuals as we had to face as gays.”

His other priorities consist of fighting HIV/AIDS and homelessness of LGBT youth, which he considers intolerable. Echoing a theme that Delegate Maggie McIntosh articulated in the video, Madaleno said, “We have to stay focused and stick together.”

31
Oct
2013

Elmendorf hosts Mizeur fundraiser

Heather Mizeur, Deborah Mizeur, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (on right) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

About sixty people attended a fundraiser for lesbian Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) at gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf’s D.C. home on Monday.

Former Human Rights Campaign President Elizabeth Birch, Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress and lesbian Democratic political strategist Hilary Rosen are among those who served on the event’s host committee. Tickets for the fundraiser ranged from $100-$1,000.

Mizeur, who did not immediately return the Washington Blade’s request for comment, said during an exclusive interview in November that she is “taking a very serious look” at a 2014 gubernatorial campaign. She would likely face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman if she sought to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley.

O’Malley told the Blade in a post-Election Day interview that he would support Brown in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Mizeur’s supporters remain adamant, however, that she would prove an effective governor if elected.

“I met Heather when she worked for John Kerry and have always admired her work ethic and commitment to progressive issues,” Elmendorf, who chairs the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, said.

“Heather is one of the hardest workers in politics and the importance of that cannot be underscored; and being the only woman competing in a primary with several other men could be the advantage she needs to win the primary,” gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson added.

10
Jan
2013

Lawmakers cautious about repealing Md. sodomy law

Mary Washington, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Mary Washington said she would be willing to introduce a bill to repeal Maryland’s sodomy law. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay and lesbian residents of Maryland may be surprised to learn that while their state approved a law last year that allows them to marry, it has yet to repeal an antiquated law that classifies their intimate sexual relations as a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

LGBT activists may also be surprised that only one of the eight openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly confirmed to the Washington Blade that she would introduce legislation to repeal the state’s sodomy law.

“I definitely would introduce it,” said Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), who is one of five out lesbians serving in the Maryland House of Delegates.

“Now that we have marriage equality, it’s time to go back to old-school anti-discrimination and make sure we are protected at work to the fullest extent and that there aren’t any laws on the books that can be used against us,” Washington said.

The other four lesbian members of the House of Delegates, their two gay male colleagues, and the out gay member of the Maryland Senate, Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) didn’t respond to written questions from the Blade asking whether they would introduce or vote for a sodomy law repeal bill.

Among those who didn’t respond are Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), who is considering running for governor, and Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), who is considered a potential future candidate for the post of Speaker of the House.

Alan Brody, a spokesperson for Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, said Gansler’s office isn’t aware of the state’s sodomy law being enforced since the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws.

Others familiar with Maryland’s law enforcement agencies say they aren’t aware of the sodomy statute being enforced since at least 1998, when a court ruled that the statute could no longer be enforced against consenting adults, gays or straights, for private, noncommercial sex.

But Carlos Maza, the author of a 2011 report released by the LGBT advocacy organization Equality Matters, told the Blade police and prosecutors in several states have continued to enforce their sodomy laws under various circumstances, apparently ignoring or blatantly disregarding the Supreme Court or state court rulings.

In his report, “State Sodomy Laws Continue to Target LGBT Americans,” Maza says many cases involving the arrest of an adult charged with consensual sex with another adult are eventually dismissed by courts citing the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision. But the emotional stress of contending with an arrest and the expense of hiring a lawyer amounts to a penalty against LGBT people ensnared under sodomy laws even if the cases are dismissed, Maza says.

Gansler, who has a strong record of support for LGBT rights, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who was an outspoken supporter of the marriage equality law, are not expected to seek to enforce the sodomy laws, most LGBT activists agree.

Gansler spokesperson Brody acknowledged, however, that a future attorney general and prosecutors in counties throughout the state could seek to enforce the sodomy statute just as prosecutors have in other states.

Article 3-321 of the Maryland criminal code states, “A person who is convicted of sodomy [anal sex] is guilty of a felony and is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.”

Article 3-322 of the code states, “A person may not: take the sexual organ of another or of an animal in the person’s mouth; place the person’s sexual organ in the mouth of another or of an animal; or commit another unnatural or perverted sexual practice with another or with an animal.”

The article adds, “A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both.”

Carrie Evans, executive director of the statewide LGBT rights group Equality Maryland, expressed caution that problems could surface if the sodomy law is repealed without making changes in other sections of the state criminal code.

In Virginia, the director of that state’s ACLU chapter, attorney Claire Gastanaga, said Virginia’s sodomy law is sometimes used to prosecute sexual assault cases and cases involving an adult sexually abusing a minor. Gastanaga noted that under Virginia’s criminal code, a sexual assault involving oral or anal sex isn’t always covered under the state’s rape law.

She said the repeal of Virginia’s sodomy or crime against nature law would have to be accompanied by a major overhaul of the criminal code pertaining to sexual assault, something she said lawmakers have been reluctant to do.

Evans said a similar situation may exist in Maryland.

“It’s not as easy as you would think to repeal old laws,” she said. “I would support a review of the code to see what should be repealed,” Evans said, when asked if Equality Maryland would call on the state’s lawmakers to repeal the sodomy law.

17
Apr
2013

Couples begin receiving marriage licenses

Dale Knight, Jeff Arney, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Dale Knight and Jeff Arney of Ellicott City were the first gay couple to obtain a marriage license in Howard County. (Photo courtesy of Dale Knight)

Dec. 6 marked yet another historic milestone in Maryland’s hard-fought journey for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Following Gov. Martin O’Malley’s certification of election results—a legal requirement that is executed 30 days after the election—in which same-sex marriage was upheld by 52 percent of the electorate through a referendum known as Question 6, 23 circuit courts throughout the state were able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Though marriages between same-sex couples cannot, by law, take effect until Jan. 1, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler issued an opinion that the clerks can provide the post-dated licenses beginning Dec. 6 following the governor’s certification.

“I never thought this day would come,” Kim Hinken told the Blade after she and her partner became the first couple to receive such a license at the Annapolis Courthouse. “I really imagined my life being just with a partner and never having a wife, so to have this day happen and to be a part of it, it means everything to us. It makes me feel really a part of society.”

Kim, who is the Planning Committee Chair of the Chesapeake Pride Festival, will likely marry her fiancée Adri Eathorne on Jan. 1, but the decision on the date has not yet been made. The couple has been together for more than 9 years and is living in Edgewater, Md.

Clerks in several jurisdictions reported there weren’t as many licenses sought on the first day as were expected. Some observers attribute that to couples preferring spring nuptials. Others say there was no rush to get them on the first day and others may have already obtained the licenses in D.C. or in some other location where same-sex marriages are valid.

Computer changes in processing and recording marriage licenses had to be implemented to reflect “Party 1” and “Party 2” instead of “Man” and “Woman.”

In addition, the work in Annapolis remains incomplete on marriage equality. There needs to be a change in the tax law that allows for joint filing of same-sex couples given that federal tax law does not permit that based on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

13
Dec
2012