Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Marriage and more

The momentous events of 2013 hit close to home, as marriage equality arrived in Maryland and Delaware. But last year wasn’t all about marriage. It was a big year for Democrats in Virginia and a lesbian lawmaker announced a bid for Maryland governor.

Here’s a look at the top 10 local news stories of 2013 as chosen by Blade editorial staffers.

 

#1 Marriage equality comes to Md., Del.

 

Clayton Zook, Tracy Staples, Wayne MacKenzie, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, Tilghman Island

Marriage equality expanded throughout the mid-Atlantic in 2013 with Maryland and Delaware joining D.C. in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie tied the knot on New Year’s Day on Tilghman Island. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland and Delaware were among the states in which same-sex couples began to legally marry in 2013.

Seven same-sex couples married at Baltimore City Hall on Jan. 1 shortly after Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect in a ceremony that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated. They include long-time mayoral aide James Scales and his partner, William Tasker.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” said Rawlings-Blake.

More than half a dozen same-sex couples exchanged vows at the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on Jan. 1. These include innkeepers Tracy Staples and Bob Zuber who tied the knot almost immediately after the law took effect at midnight.

“I’m very proud of Maryland,” Michelle Miller of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County told the Washington Blade on Jan. 1 after she married Nora Clouse at the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on May 7 signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) came out as a lesbian on the floor of the state Senate while she and her colleagues debated the measure. The New Castle County Democrat and her partner of more than 20 years, Vikki Bandy, on July 1 became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple when the couple converted their civil union into a marriage during a ceremony that New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden officiated.

“It’s exciting, both historically and personally,” Peterson told reporters after she and Bandy exchanged vows inside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington. “I never thought in our lifetimes we would be getting married.”

Boulden later on July 1 also officiated Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cote’s wedding in Wilmington that Attorney General Beau Biden, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon and other local and state officials attended.

“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” said Biden.

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis and Rev. Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington are among those who testified against the same-sex marriage bill. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church on July 1 protested the law outside the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington and at other locations throughout the state.

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) is the only Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored the measure. John Fluharty, executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, on March 15 came out during an exclusive interview with the Blade at an Equality Delaware fundraiser in Wilmington.

“I’m here this evening because I support marriage equality,” said Fluharty. “It’s an issue that’s of personal importance for me as a gay man.”

 

#2 McAuliffe elected Va. governor

 

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Terry McAuliffe is Virginia’s next governor after a campaign that prominently featured gay issues. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe on Nov. 6 defeated Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race.

McAuliffe has repeatedly said his first executive order as governor will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. The former DNC chair in February also endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily defeated Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson in the state’s lieutenant gubernatorial race. The State Board of Elections on Nov. 25 officially certified state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) as the winner of the race to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general, but state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) requested a recount because he lost to his Democratic rival by only 165 votes.

Cuccinelli highlighted his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples during two debates against McAuliffe that took place in Hot Springs and McLean in July and September respectively. LGBT rights advocates also blasted the outgoing attorney general for appealing a federal appellate court’s March ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Jackson faced persistent criticism during the campaign over his previous comments that equated gay men to pedophiles and “very sick people.”

“Without exception, the Democratic candidates for statewide office offered unflinching support for marriage equality, a welcoming business climate and respect for a woman’s right to choose,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) after the election. “The people of Virginia aligned themselves with McAuliffe’s and Northam’s vision of an inclusive, forward moving commonwealth.”

 

 

#3 Va. lawmakers confirm gay judge

 

Virginia lawmakers on Jan. 15 confirmed gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked the former prosecutor’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s.

Thorne-Begland in 1992 publicly discussed his sexual orientation during an interview on ABC’s “Nightline.” He unsuccessfully challenged his discharge from the U.S. Navy under the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

Thorne-Begland is also a former Equality Virginia board member.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after lawmakers approved Thorne-Begland’s judgeship. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”

Thorne-Begland is Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

 

 #4 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay: report

 

gay news, Washington Blade, National Equality March

Gallup says that 10 percent of D.C. residents are gay. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A report released in February by the Gallup polling organization showed that the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of self-identified LGBT residents in the nation in comparison to the 50 states.

Ten percent of 493 D.C. residents who responded to Gallup’s daily tracking polls between June 1 and Dec. 30, 2012 identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the report. By comparison, 3.3 percent of a sample of 4,195 Maryland residents and 2.9 percent of a sample of 6,323 Virginians identified themselves as LGBT.

The report did not compare D.C. to other cities. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which studies LGBT related demographics, told the Blade the Gallop statistics appeared to be a more accurate snapshot of the country’s LGBT population than previous studies.

 

#5 Mizeur runs for governor in Md.

 

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

Del. Heather Mizeur is seeking to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on July 16 officially entered the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m running for governor because I love this state and I see limitless possibilities on what we can accomplish together,” the Montgomery County Democrat told the Washington Blade before she announced her candidacy. “There are great challenges facing us and also incredible opportunities.”

Mizeur last month raised eyebrows when she tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton as her running mate. The Prince George’s County pastor in 2012 emerged as one of the most prominent supporters of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that voters approved in a referendum.

“I have stood up for justice,” said Coates at a Nov. 14 campaign event during which Mizeur officially introduced him as her running mate. “I stand before you today not driven by professional or personal ambition, but by a calling to bring hope to others when they need it the most.”

Mizeur will face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed Martin O’Malley.

“Diversity is enormously important,” Mizeur told the Blade in July. “Not simply to have a gay governor, but to have a governor who can represent the voices of people in communities that have not always had a voice in the process.”

 

#6 Rash of violent incidents in June

 

Miles DeNiro, Manny & Olga's, hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

Drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria in June. (Screen capture)

Four transgender women, a gay man dressed in drag, and a lesbian were victims of separate violent attacks, including a murder, during the last two weeks of June, prompting LGBT activists to call a “community response” meeting to address the incidents.

Lesbian Malika Stover, 35, of Southeast D.C., was shot to death on June 22 following what police said was an argument with a neighbor that did not appear to be linked to her sexual orientation.

But transgender activist Earline Budd, who organized the meeting, said Stover’s slaying stunned people in the LGBT community who knew her.

“This is really putting all of us on edge,” she said. “You’re seeing all of these incidents happening in such a short period of time.”

Police arrested a 23-year-old male suspect for allegedly stabbing transgender woman Bree Wallace, 29, multiple times on June 21 in an abandoned house in Southeast D.C. Police said the incident stemmed from a dispute and did not appear to be a hate crime. In another incident on June 23, gay male drag performer Miles Denaro was beaten and dragged by the hair by two women at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria near 14th and U streets, N.W. in an incident that was captured on video and posted on the Internet. The two women were arrested and pleaded guilty to a charge simple assault.

 

#7 Trans birth certificate bill hailed  

 

Vincent Gray, JaParker Deoni Jones, David Grosso, Ruby Corado, Rick Rosendall, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill in August enabling trans people to change their birth certificates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bill signed into law by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in August that removes obstacles to the process of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their new gender has been hailed as a groundbreaking measure.

Among other things, the new law repealed a provision in an existing law that required transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery as a condition for obtaining a new birth certificate. Transgender advocates said the surgery was too expensive for many people and medically hazardous to others.

The new law is named the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 in honor of a transgender woman murdered near her home in 2012.

Another key provision in the law requires the D.C. Registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition.”

 

 

#8 T.H.E. declares bankruptcy

 

Earline Budd, gay news, Washington Blade

Earline Budd called on the city to investigate T.H.E.’s management practices. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Transgender Health Empowerment, D.C.’s leading transgender services and advocacy organization for nearly 10 years, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 7. A short time later it discontinued all of its transgender-related programs.

The bankruptcy filing came after the D.C. Department of Health abruptly cut off its funding for T.H.E. when it learned that the IRS placed liens on the organization for its failure to pay more than $260,000 in employee withholding taxes over a period of at least three years. The bankruptcy filing shows that T.H.E.’s total debt comes to more than $560,000.

During a bankruptcy trustee’s hearing in August, T.H.E. executive director Anthony Hall said the group’s only source of income at the time of the hearing was a city grant calling for the organization to operate a non-LGBT related temporary housing facility for crime victims.

Longtime transgender activist Earline Budd, a former T.H.E. employee and one of its founders, has called on the city to investigate the group’s management practices to determine the cause of its financial problems.

 

 

#9 Mautner merges with Whitman-Walker

 

Don Blanchon, Whitman-Walker Health, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization based in Washington, D.C. since its founding in 1990, became an arm of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health in 2013 in what leaders of both groups called an “historic collaboration.”

In a joint statement released in June, the two organizations said the arrangement would bring the Mautner Project’s programs and staff under the “umbrella” of Whitman-Walker, an LGBT community health care provider founded in 1978.

Leslie Calman, Mautner Project’s executive director at the time the merger was announced, said the joining of the two groups would allow Mautner to “offer more critical services to a greater number of women who need those services throughout the region. It’s a natural fit.”

Whitman-Walker CEO Don Blanchon said Whitman-Walker had been looking for ways to expand its services to women. He said the Mautner Project’s “programs and reach within their community will help us fulfill that mission.”

Calman said that in addition to continuing its services for lesbians with serious illnesses such as cancer, the Mautner programs at Whitman-Walker would also continue various illness prevention programs such as cancer screening, smoking cessation and obesity reduction.

 

 

#10 Carson steps down as Hopkins speaker

 

Ben Carson, Values Voter Summit, Washington Blade, gay news

Ben Carson compared LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman).

A rising star in the Republican Party stirred controversy by comparing LGBT activism to bestiality and pedophilia, leading him to give up his role as commencement speaker at John Hopkins University.

The former neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News’ Sean Hannity when expressing his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“And no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association,) be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition” of marriage, Carson said.

Carson’s remarks invoked the ire of students at John Hopkins University, where he was selected to speak as commencement speaker. The organization Media Matters asserted a majority of the graduating class, or around 700 students, called for his ouster. Although sources initially said Carson wouldn’t relinquish his speaking role at commencement, Carson eventually indicated he would acquiesce to students’ desires and step down as speaker.

But Carson went on to other public appearances, including one later in the year at a venue closer in tune with his views. Carson was among the speakers the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, where he articulated his opposition to marriage equality.

“We need to recognize that God created the family structure for a reason and marriage is a sacred institution from God himself, and there is no reason that man needs to change the definition of marriage,” Carson said.

02
Jan
2014

Denmark to allow legal gender changes without sterilization

trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade

Danish lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that will allow transgender people to legally change their gender without sterilization and surgery. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Denmark on Wednesday became the first European country to allow transgender people to legally change their gender without undergoing medical and psychological treatment.

Agence France Presse reported the law, which received final approval in the Danish Parliament, will allow Danes who are at least 18 to legally change their gender after stating their desire to “belong to the other sex” and completing what the Danish government describes as a six-month “reflection period.” They had previously been required to undergo sex-reassignment surgery and sterilization before making the request.

The law is slated to take effect on Sept. 1.

“Today we have dropped the requirement of sterilization when transgendered people need a new personal identification number as part of a legal sex change,” said Minister for Economics and the Interior Margrethe Vestager in a statement to Agence France Presse. “It will make life easier and more dignified for the individual.”

Danish LGBT rights advocates applauded the new law.

“We are highly satisfied that the government decided to go with the most progressive solution and that the Parliament provided a majority vote for it,” Søren Laursen, chair of LGBT Danmark, a Danish advocacy group, told the Washington Blade.

“We are very happy that the law regarding legal recognition of gender identity has been updated,” added Sarah Baagøe Petersen, vice chair of Lambda, another Danish LGBT advocacy group, in an e-mail to the Blade. “The fact that transgender people can now freely apply to change their gender — legally — without surgery or a psychological evaluation is a big step in the right direction. The entire LGBT community welcomes this change.”

Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2012 signed what is considered the world’s most progressive trans rights law that allows people in the South American country to legally change their gender on official documents without surgery and an affidavit from a doctor or another medical provider. Neighboring Uruguay has adopted a similar statute.

The Dutch Senate late last year approved a bill slated to take effect on July 1 that will allow trans people to legally change their gender without undergoing sterilization and sex-reassignment surgery. They will still need to obtain a statement from an “expert” to fulfill their request.

German parents have been able to designate the gender on their intersex children’s birth certificates as “indeterminate” since last November.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley last month signed a bill that added gender identity and expression to the state’s non-discrimination law. Efforts to prompt a referendum on the law failed after opponents did not collect enough signatures.

Laursen and other European LGBT rights advocates said they hope other countries enact laws that allow trans people to legally change their gender without surgery or sterilization.

“We are very pleased to see the Argentinian model for legal gender recognition being introduced in Europe by Denmark today,” said ILGA-Europe Co-Chair Paulo Côrte-Real. “The benchmark is set high now and we encourage other European countries to follow suit and to remove unnecessary, humiliating and degrading requirements which hinder people across Europe to fully enjoy their lives in preferred gender.”

“We are the first European country to go with this model – in fact, such a solution exists today only in Argentina and Uruguay,” added Laursen. “I am convinced that other European countries will now follow.”

12
Jun
2014

Maryland transgender rights bill introduced

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

Maryland State. Sen. Rich Madaleno

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban discrimination against transgender Marylanders.

State Sens. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County), the chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee who is running for attorney general, and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) are among the 25 senators who have co-sponsored the measure. State Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) plans to bring forth the bill in the House of Delegates where it passed in 2011.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last March by a 6-5 vote margin struck down an identical bill that Madaleno and state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) introduced that would have banned anti-trans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation. State Sens. Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) voted against the measure.

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) state Sen. Katherine Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County) support the bill. House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) also backs the measure.

Governor Martin O’Malley and the three Democrats who are running to succeed him — Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) — are expected to testify in support of the bill. Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, has also pledged to speak for the measure in Annapolis.

“No one should face discrimination on the basis of gender identity,” Mizeur told the Washington Blade last week. “Equality in Maryland shouldn’t have to wait this long.”

Both Mizeur and Gansler’s running mate, state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County), co-sponsored the 2011 trans rights bill in the House of Delegates.

“Inequality anywhere should be recognized as wrong for anybody,” Gansler told the Washington Blade during a Jan. 10 telephone interview. “Inequality for any person is inequality for all of us.”

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer welcomed the introduction of the bill.

“I’m glad to see that this year’s gender identity bill is now in play and we are all looking forward to an expedited hearing in the [Senate] Judicial Proceedings Committee,” she told the Blade. “With strong support in both the Senate and House, as well as from senior leadership, the administration and all the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, the time has come to finally move the bill from the Senate committee to the floor.”

The bill remains a legislative priority for Equality Maryland, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy group, after voters in 2012 approved the Free State’s same-sex marriage law.

Gansler told the Blade the organization “traded” its endorsement of Brown for governor last month for his support of the trans rights bill. Gansler said the measure would have “a stronger chance of becoming law” this year if the lieutenant governor made it an administrative bill as O’Malley did when he made the same-sex marriage bill a legislative priority in 2012.

“That would be sort of putting his money where his mouth is,” said Gansler. “If it’s not an administration bill, I just don’t know.”

Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard Counties have already added gender identity and expression to their non-discrimination laws. Hyattsville last month became the first jurisdiction in Prince George’s County to pass a trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance.

Neighboring Delaware is among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that include gender identity and expression in their anti-discrimination laws. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett last month announced his support of a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the Keystone State.

14
Jan
2014

High marks for Obama, Clinton in Blade poll

Hillary Clinton, Department of State, GLIFAA, Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the lopsided favorite for president in 2016 in a new Blade poll. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Participants in an unscientific straw poll conducted by the Washington Blade at the Capital Pride festival on June 8 gave President Barack Obama an overall job approval rating of 77 percent, a significantly higher rating than he received in a Gallup Poll conducted June 8-10.

Among the 319 mostly LGBT people who participated in the Blade poll, 21 percent expressed disapproval of the president’s job performance and 2 percent had no opinion.

According to the Gallup daily tracking poll on Obama’s job approval for the period of June 8-10, 46 percent of the approximately 1,500 people nationwide contacted by phone said they approved of the president’s job performance, compared to 47 percent who expressed disapproval. Seven percent had no opinion.

The most recent Gallup tracking poll for the period of June 12-14 — in the midst of the deteriorating military situation in Iraq — shows the president’s approval rating dropped to 40 percent and his disapproval rating rose to 55 percent, with 5 percent having no opinion.

In a separate question in the Blade’s Pride festival poll, participants were asked to rate Obama’s job performance specifically on LGBT issues. Forty-three percent rated his performance on LGBT issues as “excellent,” 38 percent rated his performance as “good,” 15 percent rated him as “fair” on LGBT issues, and 4 percent gave him a “poor” rating on those issues.

With attention among many political observers turning to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Blade’s Pride poll asked participants to express their current preference for one of 11 political figures – both Democrats and Republicans – who are believed to be considering running for president in 2016.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emerged as the choice of a lopsided 65 percent of the straw poll participants. The category of “undecided” came in second place, with 21 percent of those participating indicating they weren’t ready to commit to a candidate.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) came in a distant third, with 6 percent expressing support for her.

The remaining potential 2016 presidential candidates included in the Blade straw poll received 3 percent or less:

• Vice President Joseph Biden (D) – 3 percent

 

• Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) – 0.3 percent

 

• Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) – 1 percent

 

• Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) – 0.6 percent

 

• Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) – 2 percent

 

• Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.) – 1 percent

 

• Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) – 0.3 percent

 

• Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – 0.3 percent

 

• Former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) – 0.3 percent

 

The support expressed for Clinton in the Blade straw poll is consistent with anecdotal reports from LGBT activists throughout the country that Clinton enjoys strong support in the LGBT community.

The 319 participants in the Blade’s presidential approval and 2016 presidential preference straw poll represent a sample too small to statistically represent the sentiment of the more than 100,000 people who attended the June 8 Capital Pride festival.

18
Jun
2014

Maryland Senate committee holds hearing on transgender rights bill

Heather Mizeur, Maryland, House of Delegates, Annapolis, SB 212, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) on Tuesday testified in support of a transgender rights bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Maryland lawmakers on Tuesday held a hearing on a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the state.

Members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony from supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 212 that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced last month. The measure would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodation and credit.

“At its core, SB 212 is about securing basic civil rights for transgender Marylanders: the right to a job, a place to live and fair treatment in public spaces,” said Madaleno.

Gov. Martin O’Malley is among those who submitted testimony in support of SB 212.

Gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur pointed out during her testimony that the Baltimore County Council passed a trans rights bill after two teenagers attacked Chrissy Lee Polis at a Rosedale McDonald’s in 2011.

“This is a protection we want to make sure gets extended statewide,” said Mizeur. “Protection against discrimination shouldn’t depend on your zip code.”

Mizeur’s Democratic challengers and their running mates — Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Attorney General Doug Gansler and state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) — back SB 212.

Brown and Gansler both submitted written testimony in support of the measure.

“The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 is critical to our ability to move forward as a state because no Marylander should face discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Brown. “Whether they’re using a public accommodation or finding housing, looking for private sector employment, leasing a commercial space for their business or deciding what to wear for work, all Marylanders deserve to be treated equally.”

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) also back SB 212.

“The protections in Senate Bill 212 are needed in real people’s lives,” said Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans. “These individuals are our spouses, our friends, our co-workers and our fellow Marylanders.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, executive co-director of the National Coalition of American Nuns, also testified in support of SB 212.

“We need to incorporate the vulnerable members of our society into our laws and our customs,” said Gramick.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is among the organizations that submitted testimony in opposition to SB 212.

“The church firmly opposes undue harassment or discrimination against any person,” said the group. “That principle does not, however, warrant creating a new class of protected individuals in the state’s anti-discrimination statute, especially when the extension of the law would presumably apply to only a small number of individuals.”

Elaine McDermott of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government and Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council are among those who also spoke against the measure.

“I am here to stand up for women, children and their safety,” said McDermott, who submitted to the committee newspaper articles that detail men who allegedly targeted women and girls in restrooms and locker rooms. “Women worry about their safety in bathrooms and locker rooms. Proponents of this bill deny that there will be problems with restrooms and locker rooms.”

Zane Walsh, 13, of Baltimore County countered McDermott.

“I am not a pervert lurking in the bathroom,” he said. “I’m pretty much a normal kid.”

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last year narrowly killed an identical bill that Madaleno introduced.

State Sens. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), who voted against the aforementioned measure in 2013, asked Madaleno and other SB 212 supporters about access to restrooms and locker rooms during the hearing. Michael Lore, an aide to state Sen. Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), told the Washington Blade on Monday that LGBT rights advocates should not expect the lawmaker’s position on the issue to change unless SB 212 supporters address his concerns over employment contracts.

“He was certainly sympathetic to some of the concerns,” said Lore, discussing Stone’s vote against the 2013 bill. “He’s willing to listen to all sides.”

Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard Counties have already added gender identity and expression to their non-discrimination laws. Hyattsville in December became the first jurisdiction in Prince George’s County to pass a trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance.

“It is time for Maryland to pass this legislation,” said Madaleno.

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who announced last week she will challenge Madaleno in the June Democratic primary, noted only 47 percent of Marylanders live in jurisdictions that have adopted trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws.

“This situation is patently unfair,” said Beyer in written testimony. “I ask you to favorably report SB 212 to the floor to remedy that situation.”

Neighboring Delaware is among the 17 states along with D.C. and Puerto Rico that ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, New York and other states have introduced similar measures.

The Maryland House of Delegates in 2011 approved a trans rights bill. There are enough votes in the state Senate to ensure passage of SB 212 if it advances out of committee.

04
Feb
2014

Gansler turns up heat in Md. gubernatorial race

Heather Mizeur, Maryland, Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, gay news, Washington Blade

Attorney General Doug Gansler will face Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown and state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) in the June 24 primary. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)

Attorney General Doug Gansler this week attacked Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown’s record on LGBT rights ahead of the June 24 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Gansler repeatedly described Brown’s support for the same-sex marriage and transgender rights bills that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in 2012 and last month respectively as “lukewarm” during an interview with the Washington Blade on Monday.

The attorney general questioned whether the lieutenant governor voted for the same-sex marriage law when it went before voters in a 2012 referendum. Gansler acknowledged that Brown testified in support of the trans rights bill in March, but suggested he could have done more.

“There’s the public and then there’s the behind the scenes,” said Gansler. “My understanding [is] he really didn’t lift a finger to help except show up that one day to testify.”

Brown defended his record in support of same-sex marriage during an interview with the Blade on Monday.

He stressed he worked with LGBT rights advocates to raise money for the 2012 campaign to defend the gay nuptials law at the ballot box. Brown pointed out to the Blade that he discussed his support for the issue during his first national television interview with MSNBC the year before.

Brown noted he also opposed efforts to define marriage as between a man and a woman while in the Maryland House of Delegates after gays and lesbians began to legally tie the knot in Massachusetts in 2004.

“We’re in the last week of an election and there’s a lot of comments that I think reveal desperation and a distortion or manipulation of the truth,” he said. “I can tell you that my commitment to marriage equality was long standing.”

Brown also reiterated his support for the trans rights bill, noting he spoke with “a number” of lawmakers and “coordinated my efforts with” Equality Maryland. He told the Blade he could not recall any specific conversations he may have had with state Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and other lawmakers who had previously voted against similar measures.

“I said identify for me where you think I could be most helpful,” said Brown, referring to his work with Equality Maryland to advance the bill. “It was all based on what we thought was the best strategy to try to get the votes and the support we needed.”

Gansler says Equality Maryland ‘traded’ Brown endorsement

Gansler also told the Blade he still believes Equality Maryland “traded” its endorsement of Brown for his support of the trans rights bill.

“That is what we were told,” Gansler told the Blade. “They endorsed somebody who did absolutely nothing on the issue of marriage equality. He took no steps in advancing the cause of marriage equality or any other LGBT rights [issue] as far as I can tell. He was visibly uncomfortable talking about the issue.”

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans described Gansler’s claim as an “unfounded” and “untrue accusation.”

She noted the attorney general during his “on the record” interview with the Equality Maryland Political Action Committee last year questioned whether Brown voted for the same-sex marriage law during the 2012 referendum.

“The interview team was shocked to hear Gansler insinuate this and agreed that it did not bode well for Gansler’s ability to restrain himself and carry himself with integrity and dignity as our governor,” Evans told the Blade. “Moreover, for him to insinuate, twice, that Equality Maryland traded our endorsement for Brown’s support of [the Fairness for All Marylanders Act] is insulting.”

Gansler also told the Blade in response to a question about state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County)’s plan to legalize marijuana in Maryland that the Montgomery County Democrat is “not seen as a viable candidate in terms of the election.” He further suggested that a Republican could become Maryland’s next governor in November if Brown wins the Democratic primary because of his tax proposals.

“Voters want to hear about the issues, and are tired of these personal, baseless attacks from our opponents,” Mizeur’s campaign manager, Joanna Belanger, told the Blade on Tuesday. “That’s why Heather continues to see momentum as she runs a positive campaign focused on the issues that matter most to Maryland families and seniors.”

Gansler questioning Brown’s record on marriage rights for same-sex couples and trans rights comes as all three leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates continue to court LGBT voters ahead of next Tuesday’s primary.

The attorney general noted to the Blade that in 2008 he became the first statewide official in Maryland to back marriage rights for same-sex couples when he testified before a state Senate committee. State Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) later tried to impeach him over the issue.

Gansler in 2010 wrote an opinion that said Maryland would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

“I’ve never understood the arguments against marriage equality, so I thought it was the right thing to do,” said Gansler. “That’s why I ran for office; to stand up for things that I thought were unfair or unjust.”

Gansler submitted testimony in support of the trans rights bill. His running mate, state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County), co-sponsored an identical measure in the House of Delegates that state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) introduced.

Mizeur, who could become the first openly gay governor in the country if she wins the general election in November, earlier this year testified in support of the trans rights bill before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

She and her running mate, Rev. Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County, who testified in support of same-sex marriage in 2012, marched in the annual Baltimore Pride Parade on Saturday. Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, also took part in the event.

“[Coates] and I are focused on not making history, but making a difference,” Mizeur told the Blade during an interview earlier this month. “Delman and I are the representation to the end of identity politics that divides communities.”

Campaign finance reports indicate that Brown continues to maintain a significant fundraising edge over Gansler and Mizeur, who has accepted public campaign funds. Polls also show the lieutenant governor has a double-digit lead over his two Democratic rivals ahead of the primary.

Frosh a ‘firm ally’

The outcome of a number of other statewide and local races will likely be determined in the June 24 Democratic primary.

State Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County) will face state Dels. Jon Cardin (D-Baltimore County) and Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s County) in the race to succeed Gansler as attorney general.

Equality Maryland in April endorsed Frosh, noting the role that Evans said he played in securing passage of the trans rights bill in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Cardin earlier this year introduced a bill that sought to ban “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the state.

“Brian Frosh has been a firm ally and leader on LGBT issues in the General Assembly,” said Evans. “He has the maturity, experience and commitment to be an effective advocate for the LGBT communities of Maryland as our next attorney general.”

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) will square off against Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer in the 18th Senate District that includes Chevy Chase, Wheaton, Kensington and portions of Silver Spring and Bethesda.

George Zokle is running to represent House District 20 that includes Takoma Park and Silver Spring. Kevin Walling, Equality Maryland’s director of communications and development from 2008-2010 — a period when the organization faced serious financial difficulties — dropped his bid to represent House District 16 that includes Bethesda and Potomac.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed both men, along with Madaleno.

18
Jun
2014

Despite advances, poverty persists for Baltimore’s LGBT residents

Baltimore Black Gay Pride, Carlton Smith, gay news, Washington Blade

Carlton Smith, executive director of Center for Black Equity-Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Carlton Smith)

Courtney, a 20-year-old transgender woman from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has been trying to get a job for more than a year but has been unable to do so because of her gender identity and expression.

She said during a recent interview that she has been able to work odd jobs and received some money from her parents. Courtney, who spoke on condition that her last name not be used, is working with Free State Legal Project, a Baltimore-based organization that advocates on behalf of low-income LGBT Marylanders, to legally change her name.

“I don’t have a job,” said Courtney. “I can’t afford to do it myself.”

Courtney is among the estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Marylanders who live in poverty, according to Free State Legal Project Executive Director Aaron Merki. LGBT rights advocates with whom the Blade has spoken indicate the problem is most acute in Baltimore.

The U.S. Census notes 23.4 percent of Baltimoreans lived below the poverty line between 2008-2012, compared to 9.4 percent of Marylanders during the same period.

A Williams Institute analysis of the 2000 Census notes LGBT people of color are more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts.

The report notes black same-sex couples are “significantly more likely” to be poor than African-American married heterosexuals. The Williams Institute also found these couples are three times as likely to live in poverty than white same-sex couples.

Free State Legal Project handles several hundred cases each year. Merki told the Blade his organization’s case load is growing at least 50 percent annually.

“It’s a large population,” he said.

Merki said the “concept” that African Americans are “more homophobic than white people” is largely a stereotype. He acknowledged there are many black Baltimoreans who are members of homophobic religious congregations.

New Harvest Ministries, Inc., in Baltimore in October 2012 hosted a rally against Maryland’s same-sex marriage law during which a California pastor described gay men as “predators.” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Rev. Donté Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County and state Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) are among the prominent people of color who backed the gay nuptials law that voters approved in November 2012.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, gay pride, gay news, Maryland, Washington Blade

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Polls released before the vote indicated a majority of black Marylanders backed the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed.

“For many people, the church is the foundation of their livelihood and their family,” said Rev. Meredith Moise, who has been an ordained minister in Baltimore for a decade. “If you’re hearing negative messages about homosexual persons or transgender persons, it is more likely to impact negatively how you see transgender people. Even if a black person is not religious, people may use religious texts or dogma to support their homophobia.”

Moise, an alumna of Morgan State University, told the Blade that President Obama’s support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s advocacy in support of the issue prompted “sustained conversations” around LGBT people in the black community.

“There was a lot of kitchen table talk, barber shop talk about this,” said Moise, referring to black gay couples, a “tom boy” who lost her job when she came out or a gender non-conforming man whose neighbors only see him late at night on the stretch of East Baltimore Avenue known as the Block where prostitution is common. “This literally changed the face of how we see gay and trans people.”

Criminal justice system exacerbates poverty

Other advocates with whom the Blade spoke attributed LGBT poverty in Baltimore to the city’s criminal justice system.

A study that Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health graduate students conducted in early 2005 found 33 percent of the 148 female inmates at the Baltimore City Women’s Detention Center surveyed identified as lesbian or bisexual; 70 percent of the respondents identified as black, compared to only 16 percent who said they are white.

Five percent of those who took part in the Johns Hopkins survey said they are living with HIV; 7.4 percent of inmates at the Baltimore City Women’s Detention Center had the virus in 2004.

A fifth of respondents who participated in the Johns Hopkins survey said they make less than $400 a month. More than a third of respondents said they had engaged in sex work for money, drugs or a place to stay within a month of their arrest.

The study also noted bisexual women were four times less likely to have a place to live upon their release from jail than heterosexual inmates.

Jacqui Robarge in 2001 founded Power Inside, an organization that serves more than 300 women each year who are either in jail or have had experiences with the criminal justice system.

She told the Blade that a third of her clients are lesbian, bisexual or trans. Robarge referenced an American Civil Liberties Union report that said black Baltimoreans were 5.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

She noted some of the young lesbians with whom her organization works have been homeless for up to a decade because their families threw them out of their homes because of their sexual orientation. Robarge said they enter the criminal justice system because they engage in prostitution, shoplift, sell drugs and other “survival strategies.”

“In our experience, African-American women who are masculine expressing or transgender are disproportionately and specifically targeted by law enforcement for harassment, searches, arrests and incarcerations,” she told the Blade. “Once released from jail, these women are routinely denied access to basic supports, driving them deeper into the street economy and often back to jail.”

“Violence, whether interpersonal or institutional, is often ignored if the survivor is black — and particularly if she is a lesbian or transgender,” added Robarge.

Carlton Smith, executive director of the Center for Black Equity-Baltimore who founded Baltimore Black Gay Pride in 2002, noted young and older LGBT Baltimoreans remain particularly vulnerable to poverty.

“When parents and guardians find out a young person is coming out, they tend to be thrown out and are not usually able to stay with relatives,” he said.

Smith said a low-income LGBT person may face discrimination in a city-run senior housing development in which he or she lives.

“If you’re LGBTQ, they’ll put you right back into the closet,” he said. “It makes people introvert and puts them back in the closet because they don’t feel safe.”

Baltimore City is among the five Maryland municipalities that have added gender identity and expression to their anti-discrimination laws.

The Maryland House of Delegates last month approved a measure that would ban anti-transgender discrimination throughout the state. The Free State Legal Project and the Center for Black Equity-Baltimore are among the members of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality that worked with Equality Maryland and other advocacy groups to increase support for Senate Bill 212 that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced in January.

Robarge told the Blade there are “more subtle” forms of discrimination that take place against the backdrop of laws and other measures that officially prohibit it. These include dress codes and criminal background checks.

“It protects you against outright discrimination, but most isms aren’t outright,” she said.

5 percent of Baltimoreans with HIV homeless

A survey of the metropolitan area that includes Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne’s Counties the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council conducted last year found 85 percent of the 374 people with HIV/AIDS who responded identified themselves as “non-Hispanic black.” Nearly 60 percent of those who took part said their annual income that was less than the federal poverty line.

Slightly more than 5 percent of respondents said they were homeless.

The study also noted the Baltimore metropolitan area in 2010 had the third highest rate of HIV among U.S. cities, with only Miami and New York having higher infection statistics. Maryland in the same year had the fourth highest HIV rate among states and territories that include D.C.

“There are men, many other persons who are HIV-positive like myself and LGBTQ who are struggling to get housing for themselves and their families,” said Smith. “Even though we have marriage equality, the laws are slowly coming through. If you’re not aware of what the policy is as an LGBTQ person, you don’t know.”

Mayor: Poverty in Baltimore ‘breaks my heart’

Rawlings-Blake told the Blade “it breaks my heart, in general, to know about the many challenges that our impoverished residents face.”

“It is even more complex when it involves a member of the LGBT community, as they often times face extra challenges,” she said.

Rawlings-Blake said her administration is “focused on improving the quality of life for all residents and ending homelessness in Baltimore altogether.” She noted she supported a bill the Maryland Senate approved earlier this month that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018.

Rawlings-Blake pointed out to the Blade she hired a new director and recruited a new board for Baltimore’s 10-year plan to end homelessness. She noted her administration also partners with city agencies and non-profits to expand access to health care, employment and housing for low-income Baltimoreans.

“Although a lot has been accomplished, the LGBT community still has many barriers to overcome,” said Rawlings-Blake, acknowledging racial disparities often exacerbate the problem. “I remain a committed, vocal supporter of the LGBT community and it is my desire that everyone has a roof over his or her head and is able to provide for his or her family.”

Free State Legal Project’s Transgender Action Group, which conducts outreach and other services to Baltimore’s trans sex workers, is among the ways it continues to work on poverty reduction in the city. The organization’s Youth Equality Alliance is a coalition of city and state agencies and non-profits that work with school personnel and foster parents to ensure they are providing a supportive environment in which LGBT children can learn and live.

“LGBT poverty is rooted in stigma and discrimination a lot of the time,” said Merki. “LGBT poverty also starts with youth.”

24
Apr
2014

Hogan will not seek repeal of Md. marriage law

Larry Hogan, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Larry Hogan (Photo by Marrh2; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan told the Washington Post last month he would not seek to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage law if elected governor.

“The voters of Maryland have already decided this issue,” he said.

Public records indicate that neither Hogan, who was a member of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s administration, nor his running mate, Boyd Rutherford, signed the petition that prompted a 2012 referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

Hogan said in a Baltimore Sun editorial board questionnaire before the June 24 primary that he opposes the transgender rights bill that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law in May.

The Republican has yet to respond to the Blade’s repeated interview requests.

Hogan on June 24 easily defeated Harford County Executive David Craig, state Del. Ron George (R-Anne Arundel County) and former congressional candidate Charles Lollar in the Republican gubernatorial primary. He will face off against Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown — who backed both the same-sex marriage and trans rights laws — in the general election.

10
Jul
2014

Md. lawmaker seeks referendum on trans rights bill

Neil Parrott, Hagerstown, Maryland House of Delegates, Republican Party, Annapolis, gay news, Washington Blade

Del. Neil Parrott (R-Hagerstown) (Photo public domain)

A Maryland lawmaker on Tuesday announced he plans to collect signatures to prompt a referendum on a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the state.

State Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) made the announcement on MDPetitions.com, a website that he runs. The Washington County Republican describes Senate Bill 212 or the Fairness for All Marylanders Act as the “Bathroom Bill.”

“As a parent, you should be able to send your children, your little girl, into the women’s bathroom and have the expectation that there will only be women or girls in that bathroom,” said Parrott during an Annapolis press conference. “Now, under this bill, there could be men in the women’s bathroom, and it opens the door for predators to take advantage of this bill. Predators will be able to go into the opposite gender bathroom, and proprietors would not be able to deny them access to that bathroom.”

Parrott is among the Republicans who unsuccessfully sought to delay the final vote on SB 212 in the Maryland House of Delegates late last month before lawmakers approved it by a 82-57 vote margin.

House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore and Harford Counties) joined the Washington County Republican at the Annapolis press conference.

“Please protect women,” she said before voting against SB 212. “Please protect little girls.”

The state Senate on March 4 approved the measure that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced earlier this year.

“Delegate Parrott will have an uphill battle to convince voters to repeal fairness for all Marylanders,” said Equality Maryland Director of Advocacy and Programs Keith Thirion, noting a recent poll showed 71 percent of Marylanders support SB 212. “The majority of Marylanders believe that everyone should be treated fairly, including having the opportunity to work for a living, secure housing and get served lunch at a restaurant.”

Gender Rights Maryland is expected to issue a statement on Parrott’s effort in the coming hours.

“I am extremely disappointed that a small group of conservative activists launched a misguided and deceptive petition drive against including anti-discrimination protections for transgender Marylanders and their families in our civil rights law,” said Madaleno in a statement.

Nina Smith, a spokesperson for Gov. Martin O’Malley, reiterated to the Blade the governor’s support of SB 212.

“Governor O’Malley has a long track record of fighting injustice and protecting the rights of everyone equally under the law,” she said. “He fully intends to sign this bill.”

O’Malley is expected to sign SB 212 into law in the coming weeks.

Parrott needs to collect a third of the 55,737 signatures necessary to prompt a referendum on SB 212 by May 31. The remainder of them are due to state election officials by June 30 in order for the measure to appear on the November ballot.

Opponents of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law that O’Malley signed in 2012 collected enough signatures to prompt a referendum on the issue. Voters approved the statute by a 52-48 percent margin.

Parrott is among those who attended a Frederick rally in opposition to the same-sex marriage law that took place two days before the election. A local pastor said during the event that Superstorm Sandy struck New York City a few days earlier because then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $250,000 to the campaign that successfully defended the statute.

29
Apr
2014

Md. Democratic gubernatorial candidates hold first televised debate

Heather Mizeur, Maryland, Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, gay news, Washington Blade

The three leading Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidates held their first televised debate on Wednesday at the University of Maryland. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland’s three leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates on Wednesday briefly touched upon marriage rights for same-sex couples during their first televised debate that took place at the University of Maryland.

Attorney General Doug Gansler noted in 2008 he became the first statewide official to back gay nuptials when he testified before a Maryland Senate committee — embattled state Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) later tried to impeach him. Gansler in 2010 wrote an opinion that said Maryland would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

“I was five years ahead of most people on the issue of marriage equality,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said he and incumbent Gov. Martin O’Malley secured passage of laws extending marriage rights to same-sex couples and in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants that voters approved in 2012. The lieutenant governor further noted O’Malley signed a gun control bill into law less than six months after Adam Lanza killed 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Maryland last May also repealed the death penalty.

“We live in a much more just society today than we did eight years ago,” said Brown.

“Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory moderated the hour-long debate that NBC4, the University of Maryland and Bowie State University sponsored. The candidates answered questions from NBC4 reporters Chris Gordon and Chris Lawrence and Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post.

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) did not discuss marriage rights for same-sex couples. She did reiterate her plan to legalize marijuana in order to fund universal preschool in the state.

“Our marijuana prohibition laws have been a failure; they have been enforced with racial bias,” said Mizeur.

Brown said he supports a bill that O’Malley signed last month that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Both the lieutenant governor and Gansler said they do not currently support the drug’s legalization.

“There’s no rush,” said Gansler.

Neither candidate discussed a transgender rights bill that received final approval in the Maryland House of Delegates in March, even though they all support it. Brown and Mizeur earlier this year testified for the measure before various legislative committees.

Mizeur’s running mate, Rev. Delman Coates, told the Washington Blade after the debate that it was “surprising” the trans rights bill was not discussed.

“We were prepared for this issue to be addressed,” he said. “We’re delighted that Heather was able to work in Annapolis in this legislative session to pass this legislation.”

State Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) also noted the lack of discussion on the trans rights measure during the debate. She told the Blade afterwards that marriage rights for same-sex couples “should have been mentioned.”

“It was an important initiative of the last administration,” said McIntosh. “I’m pleased to say that everyone whose running for governor had a role in that.”

She credited Brown with helping build support for the same-sex marriage law among black Marylanders. McIntosh also dismissed Gansler’s suggestion earlier this year that Equality Maryland “traded” its endorsement of the lieutenant governor for his support of the trans rights bill.

“They realize the important role that Anthony Brown played in the passage of both bills — same-sex marriage and transgender,” she told the Blade. “And they also know his overall record on equality and civil rights. There is no question Equality Maryland made the right choice.”

A St. Mary’s College poll conducted between April 10-13 found Brown ahead of Gansler by a 27-11 percent margin. Slightly less than 8 percent of respondents backed Mizeur, while 54 percent of them said they remain undecided.

The three candidates are scheduled to debate each other two more times before the June 24 primary. Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 is scheduled to moderate a debate between Brown and Gansler’s running mates — Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) — and Coates in the coming weeks.

Mizeur could potentially become the country’s first openly LGBT governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed O’Malley in November. Brown would become the state’s first African American governor if he wins the general election.

08
May
2014