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Md. lawmaker opposed to gay marriage charged in boating crash

Maryland Marriage Alliance, same sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news Washington Blade

Authorities have changed a lawmaker opposed to same-sex marriage in connection with an August boat crash. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Maryland lawmaker who vehemently opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples faces charges in connection with an August boat crash that left him and six others injured.

The Baltimore Sun reported on Thursday the Maryland Natural Resource Police charged Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) with operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, reckless operation of a vessel, negligent operation of a vessel, failing to register his boat and a rules-of-the-road violation in connection with the Aug. 22 incident on the Magothy River near Gibson Island that sent him, two other adults and four children to local hospitals. The newspaper said Dwyer could face a year in jail and pay up to $1,940 in fines if convicted.

Dwyer, who has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2003, admitted during a press conference outside a Baltimore hospital the day after the crash he was drinking before his boat collided with Mark “Randy” Harbin’s vessel.

“No one, no one should be drinking and operating a motor vehicle or power boat,” he told reporters from a wheelchair while wearing a neck brace and a bandage on his left foot. “I deeply regret my actions and ask for forgiveness from the public.”

Dwyer, 54, said in February before lawmakers approved the state’s same-sex marriage bill that the legalization of nuptials for gays and lesbians in Massachusetts in 2004 indoctrinated the state’s public school students on homosexuality. He has also introduced several measures that would have amended the Maryland constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Republican lawmaker in 2006 tried to remove Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdoch from the bench after she found Maryland’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. He also sought to impeach Attorney General Doug Gansler following his 2010 announcement that the state would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in D.C. and other jurisdictions.

“I am regretful that I unwisely chose to operate a boat after drinking alcohol,” Dwyer said in a statement he released to the Baltimore television station WJZ and other media outlets after the Maryland Natural Resource Police charged him. “From the beginning I have admitted my error in judgment. I am grateful that DNR has finally concluded their investigation, and I am gratified that the findings do not reflect blame for the accident on me as is apparent in the resulting citations and the fact that the other operator was also charged.”

Dwyer further noted his boat “was struck and sank as a result of being hit in the left side” during the incident.

“I sincerely wish for the continued recovery of all injured,” he said. “I look forward to resolving this issue legally and moving forward. I ask forgiveness from the citizens who have looked to me to represent them with honor and integrity in the General Assembly, and I intend to prove my personal temporary difficulties did not and will not affect my ability to represent my constituents fully and completely with character and trustworthiness in the future.”


Year in review: Maryland wins marriage equality

Martin O'Malley, Maryland, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the marriage bill on Mar. 1 in Annapolis, Md. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland voters on Nov. 6 approved the state’s same-sex marriage law by a 52-48 percent margin.

“Fairness and equality under the law won tonight,” Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition of groups that included the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Maryland that supported Question 6, said shortly after he announced voters had upheld the law. “We’re sure to feel the ripples of this monumental victory across the country for years to come.”

Election Day capped off a long and often tumultuous effort for Maryland’s same-sex marriage advocates that began in 1997 when three state lawmakers introduced the first bill that would have allowed nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Equality Maryland and the American Civil Liberties Union in 2004 filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lisa Polyak and Gita Deane and eight other same-sex couples and a gay widow who sought the right to marry in the state. Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock in 2006 ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but the Maryland Court of Appeals ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples the following year.

State lawmakers in 2011 narrowly missed approving a same-sex marriage bill, but legislators approved it in February. O’Malley signed the measure into law on March 1.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposed the same-sex marriage law, collected more than 160,000 signatures to prompt a referendum on the law — the group needed to collect 55,736 signatures by June 30 to bring the issue before voters on Nov. 6.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality struggled to raise money in the first months of the campaign, but it ultimately netted nearly $6 million. HRC contributed more than $1.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions to the pro-Question 6 campaign, while New York City Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000 in October.

Former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife Chan announced a $100,000 contribution to Marylanders for Marriage Equality during an Oct. 2 fundraiser that O’Malley, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and others attended at gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf’s Logan Circle home. The governor also headlined a star-studded New York City fundraiser for the campaign that gay former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman hosted in September.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance netted slightly more than $2.4 million, which is less than half the amount Marylanders for Marriage Equality raised. The National Organization for Marriage, the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of Baltimore are among the groups that contributed to the anti-Question 6 group. Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Family Research President Tony Perkins and Dr. Alveda King, niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., are among those who publicly opposed the same-sex marriage law.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance came under increased scrutiny as Election Day drew closer.

The Blade obtained court documents that indicate the Internal Revenue Service in 2011 filed a lien against Derek A. McCoy, the group’s chair, for more than $32,000 in unpaid taxes in 2002 and 2003. He also faced criticism from same-sex marriage advocates for defending a suburban Baltimore pastor who suggested during an October town hall that those who practice homosexuality and approve it are “deserving of death.” A California minister described gay men as “predators” during an anti-Question 6 rally at a Baltimore church on Oct. 21 that McCoy, Jackson, Perkins and others attended.

“Nobody here endorses violence, endorses bullying of any sort in any stance,” McCoy said during a Nov. 2 press conference, two days before a Frederick pastor noted during another anti-Question 6 rally that Superstorm Sandy struck New York City after Bloomberg gave $250,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “We stand collectively to love our community, to love the constituents who are in our churches and within our broader community in the state of Maryland.”

McCoy said after Election Day the Maryland Marriage Alliance respects “the results that have come from a democratic process.”

The law will take effect on Jan.1.