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) ¬†
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‚Äôs sodomy law.
‚ÄúI definitely would introduce it,‚ÄĚ said Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), who is one of five out lesbians serving in the Maryland House of Delegates.
‚ÄúNow that we have marriage equality, it‚Äôs 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‚Äôt any laws on the books that can be used against us,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôt respond to written questions from the Blade asking whether they would introduce or vote for a sodomy law repeal bill.
Among those who didn‚Äôt 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‚Äôs office isn‚Äôt aware of the state‚Äôs sodomy law being enforced since the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws.
Others familiar with Maryland‚Äôs law enforcement agencies say they aren‚Äôt 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, ‚ÄúState Sodomy Laws Continue to Target LGBT Americans,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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‚ÄôMalley (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, ‚ÄúA person who is convicted of sodomy [anal sex] is guilty of a felony and is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.‚ÄĚ
Article 3-322 of the code states, ‚ÄúA person may not: take the sexual organ of another or of an animal in the person‚Äôs mouth; place the person‚Äôs 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.‚ÄĚ
The article adds, ‚ÄúA 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.‚ÄĚ
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‚Äôs ACLU chapter, attorney Claire Gastanaga, said Virginia‚Äôs sodomy law is sometimes used to prosecute sexual assault cases and cases involving an adult sexually abusing a minor. Gastanaga noted that under Virginia‚Äôs criminal code, a sexual assault involving oral or anal sex isn‚Äôt always covered under the state‚Äôs rape law.
She said the repeal of Virginia‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not as easy as you would think to repeal old laws,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúI would support a review of the code to see what should be repealed,‚ÄĚ Evans said, when asked if Equality Maryland would call on the state‚Äôs lawmakers to repeal the sodomy law.
TILGHMAN, Md.‚ÄĒA 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 ‚Äúkind of a last minute decision.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe thought it would be great to be a part of the first day that it‚Äôs legal in Maryland,‚ÄĚ Zook said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs an easy day to remember for an anniversary. As far as all the legal ramifications and everything goes, it‚Äôs 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.‚ÄĚ
Kevin and Joey Lowery of Glen Burnie also married at the inn‚ÄĒJoey 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‚Äôs County have been together for 15 years. The couple had a commitment ceremony 10 years ago, and Miller conceded she thought ‚Äúthat was going to be it.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI‚Äôm very proud of Maryland, especially since the popular vote and the people had to decide on this issue,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs same-sex marriage law took effect at midnight‚ÄĒseven 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.
‚ÄúI just couldn‚Äôt stop crying and everybody else couldn‚Äôt stop crying,‚ÄĚ Siegel told the Blade after she and her spouse watched Zook and MacKenzie tie the knot. ‚ÄúWe had a nice little crowd of people that we didn‚Äôt know. And everybody got really close really fast. It was incredible.‚ÄĚ
Beebe, who has been in the U.S. Navy for 19 years, proposed to Franqui, 28, in uniform while marching in last July‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúWhen 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,‚ÄĚ Beebe said. ‚ÄúAfter the election, in Maryland it was going to be legal on [Jan.] 1 so we decided to come here, visit Mom while she‚Äôs undergoing treatment for cancer and also get our marriage license and then it sort of just all evolved into let‚Äôs do it on New Year‚Äôs night.‚ÄĚ
Beebe attended the other same-sex weddings that took place later on Tuesday at the Black Walnut Point Inn while wearing his Navy uniform.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs amazing to be able to wear my uniform and be openly gay,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs really not emotions or words to describe to live almost 19 years under ‚ÄėDon‚Äôt Ask, Don‚Äôt Tell‚Äô 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‚Äôt be fired for it, they can‚Äôt do anything to you, you‚Äôre just living your life the way you‚Äôre supposed to. It‚Äôs amazing. And to be able to wear my uniform is that much better.‚ÄĚ
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, ‚ÄúI am your delegate. When you knock us down we multiply.‚ÄĚ
Maryland Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County) ‚ÄĒ who campaigned on a pledge to support a marriage equality bill then voted against it ‚ÄĒ ¬†has offered his first public explanation for the vote.
‚ÄúA lot of us wanted the goal of full legal equality for all couples,‚ÄĚ 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. ‚ÄúWe had different ways of getting there. Ultimately the governor‚Äôs 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‚Äôs going to move forward now and there‚Äôs a lot more to it.‚ÄĚ
Arora also referenced an amendment that he, Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George‚Äôs County) and former Del. Tiffany Alston introduced that would have replaced marriage with civil unions in the bill ‚ÄĒ he directed the Washington Blade to it in response to a request for comment on Moon‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve talked to a lot of voters about it… I wanted full legal equality,‚ÄĚ Arora said in response to Moon’s question. ‚ÄúI originally thought that this bill was the right way to go. I then said I think there‚Äôs a different way to go and I proposed an amendment and that wasn‚Äôt the way the state ended up going, which is fine. The voters have approved this and now we move forward.‚ÄĚ
Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) told the Blade she and other members of the legislature‚Äôs gay and lesbian caucus were advocating for nuptials for gays and lesbians ahead of last February‚Äôs vote.
‚ÄúWe were pushing for full marriage equality and that civil unions has been found to be inadequate,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúIn fact states that have civil unions are actually now looking to full marriage equality. Fortunately now we‚Äôre able to move forward and I agree that we can all move forward.‚ÄĚ
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‚Äôs legislative director in protest of the “no” vote, suggested in his resignation letter the Blade obtained that the delegate‚Äôs faith contributed to his position.
‚ÄúI 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,‚ÄĚ Lapidus wrote. ‚ÄúIt 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‚Äôt vote for [House Bill 438] I can no longer work under your employ.‚ÄĚ
Moon questioned Arora‚Äôs response to his question.
‚ÄúI find his comments to be pretty unresponsive,‚ÄĚ he told the Blade. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt 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‚Äôt 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.‚ÄĚ
Moon expressed further skepticism about the delegate‚Äôs explanation of why he changed his position on marriage rights for same-sex couples.
‚ÄúI do continue to find it baffling that he just simply won‚Äôt give a straight answer on this,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt heard anyone that found this to be a satisfactory explanation.‚ÄĚ
Arora did not immediately respond to the Blade‚Äôs follow-up request for comment.
Deb Dubois, chair of the Mautner Project Board of Directors, applauded McIntosh for the role she played in the passage of last November‚Äôs referendum on Maryland‚Äôs same-sex marriage law ‚ÄĒ McIntosh announced the results at the downtown Baltimore restaurant where Gov. Martin O‚ÄôMalley 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.
‚ÄúOn Jan. 1 we became the first state whose electorate added same-sex marriage as a right,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúNow 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.
‚ÄúThere are some people that think maybe Diane is the woman who has made me a better woman,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúI agree.‚ÄĚ
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 ‚ÄĒ and hospital staff admitted her as her spouse to be ‚Äúwith her through every test and every decision and her discharge.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe life of same-sex couples is not simple and routine in 37 states,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThese relationships are not equal.‚ÄĚ
The Baltimore Democrat described the upcoming oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on cases that challenge the constitutionality of California‚Äôs Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act as potentially ‚Äúmomentous.‚ÄĚ 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.
‚ÄúWhile we march towards marriage equality continues, we should not lose sight of the critical needs and access to health care within the LGBT community,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúLet 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.‚ÄĚ
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.