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Brown-Ulman fundraiser at City Café

Anthony Brown, Diane Stollenwerk, Maggie McIntosh, Mary Washington, Ken Ulman, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

From left: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Diane Stollenwerk, Del. Maggie McIntosh, Del. Mary Washington and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. (Photo by Sam O’Neil)

A fundraiser was held on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown and his running mate Ken Ulman at City Café on Jan. 4, billed as “LGBT and Allies Brunch with Anthony Brown.” It occurred less than two weeks after the Equality Maryland Political Action Committee endorsed the Brown-Ulman ticket over the candidacies of Del. Heather Mizeur and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler—all Democrats—raising a stir among backers of the other two candidates. The Democratic primary will take place June 24.

Tim Williams, chair of the Equality Maryland PAC, offered remarks discussing the endorsement in front of a crowd estimated at about 60. Both Brown and Ulman were present as were Baltimore delegates Maggie McIntosh and Mary Washington, who were members of the Host Committee, and Del. Sandy Rosenberg. Byron Macfarlane, the gay Register of Wills in Howard County, also attended and was a member of the committee.

“It was a great event, organizers exceeded our fundraising goal,” said Macfarlane. Tickets ranged from $250 to $1,000.


Victory Fund endorses Catania for mayor

David Catania, Catania for mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania won the Victory Fund’s endorsement even though he hasn’t yet announced his candidacy for mayor. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an influential national group that raises money for LGBT candidates for public office, created a stir among local activists this week when it announced it has endorsed D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor.

With many LGBT activists supporting Mayor Vincent Gray’s re-election bid and others in the LGBT community supporting one of the four other City Council members running for mayor, some are asking why the Victory Fund would endorse Catania before he has formally announced he’s running for mayor.

Catania has formed an exploratory committee for a mayoral race and has said he most likely would run if Gray wins the Democratic primary on April 1.

Victory Fund Press Secretary Steven Thai said that while the group doesn’t endorse unannounced potential candidates very often, it has taken this step before. He noted that the Victory Fund endorsed former U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) for the U.S. Senate in 2012 before she officially announced she was running for the Senate.

Baldwin went on to declare her candidacy for the Senate and won that race, making history by becoming the first out lesbian or gay person to become a U.S. senator.

“David Catania brings an incredible amount of passion and commitment to his job,” the Victory Fund’s chief operating officer, Torey Carter, said in a statement released by the group on Tuesday.

“He helped guide Washington through a period of unprecedented growth and revitalization,” Carter said. “He is ideally positioned to lead a city with such a diverse and dynamic people.”

The Victory Fund also announced on Tuesday its endorsement of gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in his race for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Ebbin is running in a hotly contested Democratic primary scheduled for June 10 in which two other openly gay candidates are running in an 11-candidate race.

“Adam Ebbin has distinguished himself as an outspoken voice of progressive values,” Carter said in a separate statement on Tuesday. “After ten years in the state legislature, he has remained committed to his goal of increasing equality and opportunity for those who are often left behind.”

Virginia State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), who came out publicly last week in a column in the Washington Post, emerged as an unexpected ‘out’ candidate in the 8th District congressional race. Also running is gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine, who worked as a legal counsel for gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Levine says he’s been out as gay since the 1980s.

As of this week, the Victory Fund has endorsed 71 out LGBT candidates in national, state and local races and expects to endorse more than 200 out candidates across the country in the 2014 election cycle, the group says on its website.

Among those endorsed so far are at least nine gay or lesbian candidates running in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including Catania and Ebbin.

But missing from its endorsement list so far are lesbian Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Country), who’s running for governor, and gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is running for re-election to a fifth term.

Spokesperson Thai reiterated the Victory Fund’s longstanding policy of not disclosing why the group has not endorsed a candidate. However, he said many more candidates are in the endorsement pipeline and the group could very well endorse candidates not on the list in the next few weeks and coming months.

He said the group’s criteria for endorsing any candidate, as posted on the website, include a demonstration that the candidate is viable and can show a path to victory; a record of support on LGBT rights; and the completion of a detailed application seeking an endorsement. Thai said an endorsement for a prior election doesn’t carry over to the next election and all incumbents must re-apply each time they run.

Graham couldn’t immediately be reached to determine if he applied for an endorsement in his Council race.

The Mizeur for governor campaign didn’t say specifically whether the campaign formally applied for a Victory Fund endorsement.

“We are in close communication with the Victory Fund and we would welcome their support,” campaign spokesperson Steven Hershkowitz told the Blade.

Meanwhile, in a little-noticed development, Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles County), one of eight openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly, announced last month that he is not running for re-election to that position. Instead, Murphy said he decided to run for president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners, a position equivalent to a county executive.

“Whether you’re a state legislator or a county commissioner president, it’s all about the quality of life for all people,” Murphy said in a Feb. 3 statement. “I’ve always been accessible and responsive as a delegate, and I look forward to the opportunity of continuing to serve all our residents with the same enthusiasm and dedication.”

As a candidate for governor, Mizeur is giving up her seat in the House of Delegates. Records with the state board of elections show that she did not file for re-election to her delegate post prior to the filing deadline of Feb. 25. The election board lists Mizeur as an “active” candidate for governor in the June 24 Maryland primary.

The departure of Mizeur and Murphy from the House of Delegates would lower the number of out gay or lesbian members of the Maryland General Assembly from eight – the highest in the nation for a state legislature – to six if all six remaining lawmakers are re-elected this year.

The others running for re-election are State Sen. Richard Madelano (D-Montgomery County) and Delegates Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County).

All except Kaiser have been endorsed by the Victory Fund.

Other out gay or lesbian candidates in Maryland that have received the Victory Fund’s endorsement this year are Evan Glass, Montgomery County Council; Byron Macfarlane, Howard County Register of Wills; and Kevin Walling, Maryland House of Delegates, Montgomery County.

Walling is running in a different district than that of Mizeur and Kaiser’s districts in Montgomery County.


Md. inn hosts same-sex weddings

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

Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

TILGHMAN, Md.—A gay-owned Eastern Shore inn on Tuesday hosted more than half a dozen same-sex weddings on the first day gays and lesbians could legally marry in Maryland.

Tracy Staples, owner of the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County who married his partner, Bob Zuber, shortly after the law took effect at midnight, officiated the wedding of Baltimore residents Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie shortly after 12:30 p.m. in a gazebo overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

The couple met more than six years ago while working at a Huntsville, Ala., television station. Zook, 28, joked with reporters after he and MacKenzie, 30, exchanged vows that their decision to get married at the inn was “kind of a last minute decision.”

“We thought it would be great to be a part of the first day that it’s legal in Maryland,” Zook said. “It’s an easy day to remember for an anniversary. As far as all the legal ramifications and everything goes, it’s great for us to say state of Maryland we thank you for giving us these rights for giving us equal rights and we want to show you that we do appreciate that and so getting married on the first day shows the people of Maryland that there are same-sex couples that are interested in matrimony.”

Kevin and Joey Lowery of Glen Burnie also married at the inn—Joey Lowery, who is deaf, spoke his vows to his soon-to-be-spouse after he interpreted them to him.

Michelle Miller and Nora Clouse of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County have been together for 15 years. The couple had a commitment ceremony 10 years ago, and Miller conceded she thought “that was going to be it.”

“I’m very proud of Maryland, especially since the popular vote and the people had to decide on this issue,” she told the Washington Blade after she and Clouse exchanged vows.

Maryland is among nine states and D.C. that allow same-sex couples to legally marry.

Staples and Zuber are among the more than a dozen gays and lesbians who tied the knot immediately after the Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect at midnight—seven couples exchanged vows at Baltimore City Hall earlier today as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, lesbian state Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) and Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans watched.

Ruth Siegel of Silver Spring married her partner of 15 years, Nina Nethery, inside Black Walnut Point Inn just after midnight. The couple, along with Staples and Zuber and Dwayne Beebe and Jonathan Franqui of Pensacola, Fla., who also tied the knot immediately after the same-sex marriage law took effect, shared a champagne toast and a rainbow wedding cake after they exchanged vows.

“I just couldn’t stop crying and everybody else couldn’t stop crying,” Siegel told the Blade after she and her spouse watched Zook and MacKenzie tie the knot. “We had a nice little crowd of people that we didn’t know. And everybody got really close really fast. It was incredible.”

Beebe, who has been in the U.S. Navy for 19 years, proposed to Franqui, 28, in uniform while marching in last July’s annual San Diego Pride parade.

Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages, but Beebe told the Blade during a post-wedding interview at the Tilghman Island Inn that he and Franqui considered exchanging vows while they were taking care of his mother who continues to fight cancer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C.

“When we decided to make it legal, we were kind of figuring the options of so are we going to go to New York, are we going to go to Iowa or wherever,” Beebe said. “After the election, in Maryland it was going to be legal on [Jan.] 1 so we decided to come here, visit Mom while she’s undergoing treatment for cancer and also get our marriage license and then it sort of just all evolved into let’s do it on New Year’s night.”

Beebe attended the other same-sex weddings that took place later on Tuesday at the Black Walnut Point Inn while wearing his Navy uniform.

“It’s amazing to be able to wear my uniform and be openly gay,” he said. “There’s really not emotions or words to describe to live almost 19 years under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and then to be lifted and then to be actually legally married in the state to somebody that you love and you are in love with and that you want to spend the rest of your life with and that you can’t be fired for it, they can’t do anything to you, you’re just living your life the way you’re supposed to. It’s amazing. And to be able to wear my uniform is that much better.”

marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, Maryland, Tilghman Island, Michelle Miller, Nora Clouse,

Michelle Miller and Nora Clouse (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)


Community stands up to beating of Kenni Shaw

Silent March for Victims of GLBT Violence, Columbia Heights, hate crimes, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of the community protest anti-gay hate crimes in Columbia Heights on Mar. 20, 2012. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

About 40 people gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument on the evening of Dec. 30 in reaction to the attack and beating of Kenni Shaw, a 30-year-old gay man, in East Baltimore on Christmas night.

Shaw was punched from behind around 9 p.m. on Christmas night as he left a liquor store at E. Hoffman and N. Rose Streets in East Baltimore. He was bloodied and sustained bruises to his face and body from the beating that ultimately lasted about 10 minutes and included five, perhaps six, men. Shaw was left lying face down on the pavement as the attack continued.

Shaw, a cosmetologist, told the Blade that he believes this was a hate crime and wants to speak out to help others in the community.

Delegate Mary Washington (D-43), the only elected official present, introduced herself to the crowd by saying, “I am your delegate. When you knock us down we multiply.”


Arora explains ‘no’ vote on marriage

Sam Arora, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland Del. Sam Arora (Photo courtesy Arora’s office)

Maryland Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County) — who campaigned on a pledge to support a marriage equality bill then voted against it —  has offered his first public explanation for the vote.

“A lot of us wanted the goal of full legal equality for all couples,” Arora said during a Jan. 8 segment of NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt in response to a question from David Moon of Maryland Juice, a website that covers state politics. “We had different ways of getting there. Ultimately the governor’s bill passed, the voters approved it and I think one thing we can all celebrate is that gay and lesbian couples will have all the same legal rights as straight couples have and the state’s going to move forward now and there’s a lot more to it.”

Arora also referenced an amendment that he, Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s County) and former Del. Tiffany Alston introduced that would have replaced marriage with civil unions in the bill — he directed the Washington Blade to it in response to a request for comment on Moon’s question. Arora has refused the Blade’s many interview requests since his 2012 vote, which was assailed by LGBT advocates across the state.

Members of the House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations Committees on Feb. 14, 2012, voted 27-17 to table the measure. Arora subsequently voted against the marriage bill that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a few weeks later.

“I’ve talked to a lot of voters about it… I wanted full legal equality,” Arora said in response to Moon’s question. “I originally thought that this bill was the right way to go. I then said I think there’s a different way to go and I proposed an amendment and that wasn’t the way the state ended up going, which is fine. The voters have approved this and now we move forward.”

Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) told the Blade she and other members of the legislature’s gay and lesbian caucus were advocating for nuptials for gays and lesbians ahead of last February’s vote.

“We were pushing for full marriage equality and that civil unions has been found to be inadequate,” she said. “In fact states that have civil unions are actually now looking to full marriage equality. Fortunately now we’re able to move forward and I agree that we can all move forward.”

Arora, who campaigned in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians in Maryland during his 2010 campaign, co-sponsored a same-sex marriage bill at the start of the 2011 legislative session. His subsequent opposition to the measure sparked outrage among LGBT advocates and his supporters.

Joshua Lapidus, who resigned as Arora’s legislative director in protest of the “no” vote, suggested in his resignation letter the Blade obtained that the delegate’s faith contributed to his position.

“I respect you and your beliefs, however I cannot respect your decision to place personal religious belief over the roles and responsibilities of the stewardship the people of District 19 entrusted unto you,” Lapidus wrote. “It saddens me that you are standing against the tide of history and ending your career over an issue that will no doubt be decided in the affirmative, with or without your vote, over the next couple years. So, I write this letter to inform you that if you don’t vote for [House Bill 438] I can no longer work under your employ.”

Moon questioned Arora’s response to his question.

“I find his comments to be pretty unresponsive,” he told the Blade. “I don’t think people are wondering whether he supported civil unions. The debate in Maryland was obviously about the marriage equality legislation, not with civil unions as an alternative. That wasn’t even a realistic option on the table for most public advocates when the bill finally went through. The question that fundamentally remains is why did Sam Arora campaign on the issue and change his vote.”

Moon expressed further skepticism about the delegate’s explanation of why he changed his position on marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“I do continue to find it baffling that he just simply won’t give a straight answer on this,” he said. “I haven’t heard anyone that found this to be a satisfactory explanation.”

Arora did not immediately respond to the Blade’s follow-up request for comment.


Mautner Project honors lesbian Md. lawmaker

Maggie McIntosh, Mautner Project, Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland House of Delegates, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland state Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project on Saturday honored Maryland state Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) during its annual gala that took place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest D.C.

Deb Dubois, chair of the Mautner Project Board of Directors, applauded McIntosh for the role she played in the passage of last November’s referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law — McIntosh announced the results at the downtown Baltimore restaurant where Gov. Martin O’Malley and other Question 6 supporters had gathered.

McIntosh specifically thanked the governor, state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County,) state Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City,) the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union and Marylanders who voted for the same-sex marriage referendum.

“On Jan. 1 we became the first state whose electorate added same-sex marriage as a right,” she said. “Now we are among nine states strong.”

McIntosh echoed Dubois who thanked lesbian state Dels. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) and Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) who attended the event along with gay D.C. Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large.) She also thanked her long-time partner Diane Stollenwerk, whom she recently married in a small Quaker ceremony in Baltimore.

“There are some people that think maybe Diane is the woman who has made me a better woman,” she said. “I agree.”

Founded in 1990, the Mautner Project provides an array of health care and other related services and advocacy to lesbian, bisexual and transgender women.

McIntosh noted during her acceptance speech that Stollenwerk went to the emergency room at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis last week — and hospital staff admitted her as her spouse to be “with her through every test and every decision and her discharge.”

“The life of same-sex couples is not simple and routine in 37 states,” she said. “These relationships are not equal.”

The Baltimore Democrat described the upcoming oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on cases that challenge the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act as potentially “momentous.” McIntosh stressed access to health care remains a serious problem for many LGBT Americans.

She noted 30 states have yet to ban discrimination against gay men and lesbians in employment, public accommodations and access to health care facilities. McIntosh further pointed out 37 states do not have trans-specific legal protections in place.

“While we march towards marriage equality continues, we should not lose sight of the critical needs and access to health care within the LGBT community,” she said. “Let us also recognize the health disparities in our community and work to close those gaps. The positive and just normal life experience that Diane and I had this week in a hospital emergency room would not have happened in a majority of our states.”

The Mautner Project honored McIntosh ahead of an anticipated vote in the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on a bill that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing and public accommodation.

The House of Delegates in 2011 passed a trans rights bill, but a similar measure died in a Senate committee last year.

McIntosh told the Washington Blade last month she expects Senate Bill 449 will easily pass in the House.

She said she and other gay state lawmakers continue to work with Madaleno, who introduced the measure with state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County,) and Equality Maryland to ensure it garners additional support in the legislature.


National Champagne Brunch

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund held its annual National Champagne Brunch at the Washington Hilton on Sunday. Prominent speakers included Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) buyphoto 


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.