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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

Frederick Pride

The 2014 Frederick Pride Festival was held at Carroll Creek Linear Park on Saturday. (Washington Blade photos by Damien Salas) Frederick Pride 

01
Jul
2014

Married gay Md. pastor celebrates Court rulings

Rob Apgar-Taylor, Maryland, DOMA, Supreme Court, Marriage, Gay News, Washington Blade

Rev. Apgar-Taylor married his partner, Rob Apgar in Massachusetts in 2004 and praised last week’s supreme court rulings. (Photo by Corey Clarke)

Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor of Grace United Church of Christ in Frederick, Md., was an unlikely same-sex marriage advocate to some who gathered alongside him at the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26.

The gay pastor who married his husband in Massachusetts in June 2004 received a number of questions from LGBT rights activists, journalists and passersby about whether he was “for us or against us” as they waited for the justices to issue their decisions in the two cases that challenged a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Apgar-Taylor told the Washington Blade he hoped their rulings would be “bold.”

“I hope that they’re willing to take a stand in this issue,” he said.

His wish came true less than an hour later when the justices announced their decisions that found DOMA unconstitutional and struck down Prop 8.

“They did the right thing,” Apgar-Taylor told the Blade in a follow-up interview. “They were able to work on the side of justice and on the side of compassion for families who need it the most.”

Born and raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, Apgar-Taylor said he wanted to become a pastor for as long as he could remember.

“I was three years old and when all the other little kids wanted to be policemen and firemen and cowboys and Indians, I wanted to be a minister,” he said. “It’s just always been there.”

Apgar-Taylor became a pastor in Pennsylvania after he received his master’s of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C. and his doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

He and his now ex-wife to whom he was married for 20 years had five children.

They divorced after Apgar-Taylor came out to her in the early 2000s, but they remain “good friends.”

Apgar-Taylor met his future spouse, Rob Apgar, at a Harrisburg, Pa., karaoke bar shortly after his divorce.

“We started talking to each other and we were singing karaoke,” he recalled. “By the end of the evening about four hours afterwards we exchanged phone numbers. And the next day we got together for dinner and had our first date.”

The couple tied the knot in Cambridge, Mass., on June 13, 2004 — a month after Massachusetts’ same-sex marriage law took effect after the state’s Supreme Judicial Court’s landmark 2003 decision that struck down the commonwealth’s ban on gay nuptials took effect — while Apgar-Taylor took a summer course at the Episcopal Divinity School.

“There’s something sacred in the nature of marriage,” he said. “It’s about covenant; it’s about choosing to be in someone’s corner whether it feels good or not. It’s about loving someone whether or not you feel loving or whether they even act loving.”

Apgar-Taylor, who is also a pastor at Veritas United Church of Christ in Hagerstown, Md., in February became the first openly gay minister of a mainline Protestant church in western Maryland when Grace United Church of Christ installed him.

The Frederick congregation in the spring of 2012 became the first mainline church in the area to host a same-sex wedding when a gay couple that married in D.C. renewed their vows during a ceremony that Apgar-Taylor officiated. Grace United Church of Christ also served as the headquarters for the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ’s efforts in support of the referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved last November.

Apgar-Taylor said he has received what he described as hate mail from the Army of God, a group that advocates for violence against abortion providers and gays. A same-sex marriage opponent outside the Supreme Court described him as “a disgrace” and said he “was going to hell” before the justices issued their DOMA and Prop 8 rulings.

“That’s what you’re going to get when you’re in my line of work,” Apgar-Taylor said, while noting the majority of people whom he meets are what he described as supportive. “You’re going to have enemies on the conservative Christian side.”

As he discussed the Supreme Court decisions with the Blade, Apgar-Taylor referenced a person he knows whom he said was unable to make end of life decisions for his partner and receive “all the rights we should have as married couples.”

“It’s degrading and dehumanizing to tell somebody you could spend 16, 18, 20 years loving someone and sharing your life with them, but at the moment at your life at your life when you’re the most devastated [say] sorry you were just a friend,” he said. “It’s humiliating to devalue someone’s relationship that way.”

Apgar-Taylor described the Supreme Court rulings as “incredibly important” for him and his husband on a both a legal and a financial level. He told the Blade he went to bed after the justices issued their decisions knowing that they were protected “for the first time in my marriage.”

“There’s nothing anyone can do to come in and tell me that I can’t make end of life decisions for him and make sure his wishes are known,” Apgar-Taylor said. “There’s nothing anybody can do to come in and take away stuff that we have earned and gotten together. There’s nothing anybody can do to come in and tell him that I was not his husband, that we were legal strangers. That’s incredibly important.”

04
Jul
2013

Baltimore wins top score in HRC study

Baltimore, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade, Prime Tiimers

Baltimore was among 25 cities that received a perfect score on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index. (Photo public domain)

The Human Rights Campaign released the findings of a study that showed Baltimore received a perfect score when it comes to equality for its LGBT population. Titled the Municipal Equality Index, the survey, which was co-published by the Equality Federation Institute, rates 291 municipalities drawn from each state in the nation on the basis of how inclusive their laws and policies are of LGBT people. These laws and policies include non-discrimination laws, equal employee benefits, relationship recognition, inclusive city services and leadership on matters of equality.

Twenty-five cities in 2013 earned a perfect 100-point score with Baltimore among them compared to only 11 in 2012. Other cities in Maryland and their scores were: Annapolis (70), College Park (62), Rockville (58) and Frederick (52). The national average was 57.

Baltimore’s total score benefitted from nine bonus points awarded because of the city’s strong showing in some areas, such as providing services to vulnerable populations of the LGBT community. Baltimore lost five points for not having a city contractor non-discrimination ordinance.

“I was pleased to see that the HRC’s MEI has shown what we here in Baltimore have known for a long time — that Charm City is a welcoming and wonderfully unique place for our LGBT brothers and sisters to settle roots,” Matt Thorn, executive director for the GLCCB told the Blade. “Baltimore has a rich history of LGBT activism, including being one of the first four cities to open an LGBT Community Center in the country back in the ’70s, and I’m excited to see what our future holds.”

25
Nov
2013

Queery: Brian Walker

Frederick, Maryland, Queery, Brian Walker, Gay News, Washington Blade

Frederick, Md. resident, Brian Walker. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

In terms of gay life, Frederick, Md., is a bit of a limbo spot.

Yet there are still gay needs there, a point Brian Walker began to realize about a year-and-a-half ago. The 50-year-old East Lyme, Conn., resident, who came to Frederick in 1999 for a former job, had worked with an LGBT youth group in the ‘90s but stepped away from that kind of volunteer work for several years. But last year when he heard about a local gay youth being bullied at a Frederick high school, he decided the town needed some resources.

He and three other concerned adults in February 2012 formed The Frederick Center (thefrederickcenter.org). Last June, the first Frederick Pride event was held. The second is Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at Utica Park (10200-B Old Frederick Road). The Center — using various spaces — also holds a weekly Wednesday night youth group at Kemp Hall at 7 p.m. featuring various speakers and topics. About 20 youth show up each week. Last year’s Pride drew about 300.

“Frederick is the kind of town where gay people here don’t really socialize here,” Walker says. “Baltimore and Washington are close enough that people can do most of their socializing there while the farther west you go, then you find some more options but not so much in Frederick itself. That’s fine for the adults, but with the LGBTQ youth, there was still a need.”

Walker is a former IT specialist who now sells antiques. He and husband Gerard Clifford, an employee of the federal government, met in 1998 and got married in 2010 in Washington.

He enjoys gardening, biking and taking day trips in his free time.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? 

Twenty years, publicly out for 15 years. Hardest person to tell was my oldest brother and his wife, who apparently didn’t have a clue. Now that I’m married, it is so easy in conversations just to mention my husband, no drama.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Dr. Lois Jarman. She started the Frederick PFLAG chapter as an ally before LGBTQ was generally accepted in this area. Figure if she can stand up for equality, those of us in the community can certainly do so. I carry her matter-of-fact, “this-is-what-we-are-going-to-do” attitude in all my life’s work.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

Don’t go out in D.C. much, but my favorite night out in Frederick is to see the Comedy Pigs improv group.

Describe your dream wedding.

Personal and intimate, which ours was, with just a few close friends at the D.C. courthouse. No stressing about an upcoming reception or lodging arrangements for family. We then had quality time to celebrate with pockets of family and friends across the country.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Preservation of open public space. It needs to be there in a thousand years.

What historical outcome would you change?

I would have kept the Titanic afloat. Entirely too much has been made of that tragedy.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

When Ellen came out on TV.  It was memorable because by the time she actually did it, it wasn’t earth shattering. It was the beginning of the “so-what’s-the-big-deal” culture.

On what do you insist?

That the truth be told. Not what someone wants to hear, not what sounds logical but has not been proven, not a simplified version that loses meaning, not a flagrant lie meant to bring fear or money to the surface. I have been skeptical of facts ever since a college marketing class made me aware of how much people in our society are manipulated.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

A listing of speakers and entertainment for Frederick Pride. My last personal post was a picture of the beautiful hydrangea in bloom just outside the kitchen sink window, a reminder that sometimes it takes years before efforts show.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Full Speed Forward, Captain, and Don’t Look Back”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Use the magic ray on a few bigoted loudmouth public bullies.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

Nothing, I’m a realist.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Keep the focus on equality, and the majority of America will eventually get it. And those that don’t eventually die. Only respond to growing opposition momentum, not individuals or single events.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

To help a high school student who just became homeless after coming out to parents.  Adults know how to cope with adversity, most youth don’t.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

Stereotypes are made to simplify a rainbow world; they all annoy me.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Latter Days.” It has everything: coming out struggles, love, situational comedy, original music, quirkiness and a happy ending.

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Doing something because it is a tradition.  The traditional way is rarely the best option, and many times is used to preserve a power structure.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Blue ribbon for best tomato at the Frederick County Fair.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

As an adult you get to choose who to allow into your life. Besides family, you have complete control over whom you socially interact with. Jettison negativity, surround yourself with empowering and driven individuals. Accept family members for who they are, do not allow them to define yourself by their actions.

Why Frederick?

We love the rural open space and we have all these fruit trees.

26
Jun
2013

Frederick Pride set for Saturday

Frederick, Maryland, Pride, Gay News, Washington Blade

Downtown Frederick, Md. (Photo courtesy Damien Salas)

With Capital Pride and Baltimore Pride celebrations in the rear-view mirror, the second annual Frederick Pride festival will take place on Saturday between 12-6 p.m. rain or shine. The event will be held at Utica Park in Frederick County, 10200-B Old Frederick Rd., Frederick, Md.

Sen. Ron Young, Del. Heather Mizeur and Del. Galen Clagett—all sponsors of the marriage equality bill—are scheduled to speak. The Frederick Center Youth Group is once again organizing the activities for Pride. Some of the planned activities include a best pride outfit competition with prize, best pet contest with prize, football, face painting, a pie-eating contest and a balloon toss.

In addition, kid-friendly drag performances sponsored by The Lodge include Ashley Bannks, Araya Sparxx, Dezi Minaj and Jasmine Phoenix.

Alcohol will not be sold, but those 21 and older may bring alcoholic beverages.

26
Jun
2013

Gay minister installed as pastor in Frederick, Md.

Rob Apgar-Taylor, Rob Apgar, Washington Blade, gay news, Grace United Church of Christ, Frederick, Maryland

Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor and Rob Apgar (Photo by Corey Clarke)

In what is believed to be a first in Western Maryland, an openly gay minister who is married to his male partner was installed on Feb. 17 as pastor of Grace United Church of Christ in Frederick, Md.

Rev. Dr. Rob Apgar-Taylor said he believes the LGBT supportive church took its commitment to equality to a “new level” last November when its leaders selected him as the new pastor, becoming the first church in the area to take that step.

“I first came to know the people of Grace Church three years ago after being asked to preach when their interim pastor was on vacation,” Apgar-Taylor said. “I was immediately struck by their graciousness” and “warmth and acceptance,” he said.

He said he was later invited to preside over a same-gender wedding renewal for a gay male couple who attended the church and who were legally married in D.C.

“Without even thinking about any negative implications in the community, the church said yes and I was honored to celebrate that ceremony,” he said.

Apgar-Taylor has been a minister for 24 years. He received his Masters of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C. and his Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

He and his husband, Rob Apgar, were married in Massachusetts in 2004.

21
Feb
2013

Year in review: Chick-fil-A, Boy Scouts assailed for anti-gay policies

Chick-fil-A, anti-gay donations, gay news, Washington Blade

Chick-Fil-A Appreciation drew supporters and protesters. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Advocates in 2012 criticized a number of national business chains and organizations for their anti-LGBT policies.

Activists organized protests outside Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country after Dan Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based fast food chain, spoke out against same-sex marriage during an interview. A University of Maryland-College Park student launched a petition to remove Chick-fil-A from the campus food court, but some questioned the effectiveness of those efforts.

Vandals targeted Chick-fil-A restaurants in Frederick, Md., and in at least two other locations across the country in the weeks after Cathy’s controversial comments. Local and federal law officials said Floyd Lee Corkins, II, had 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack when he allegedly shot Family Research Council security guard Leo Johnson at the anti-gay group’s downtown Washington headquarters in August.

The Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing policy against openly gay scouts and scout leaders came under increased scrutiny in April after the organization ousted Jennifer Tyrrell as leader of her son’s troop in Ohio. The Boy Scouts of America Executive Board in July reaffirmed the policy, but the organization has lost funding from a number of prominent organizations. These include the Merck and UPS Foundations.

27
Dec
2012