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BHT awards $75,000 in grants

Brother Help Thyself, BHT, Ziegfeld's, gay news, Washington Blade, grants

The Brother, Help Thyself grant awards ceremony was held at Ziegfeld’s last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Brother, Help Thyself, a local organization that supports LGBT and HIV/AIDS work, awarded about $75,000 in grants to 31 area nonprofits last weekend at a reception held at Ziegfeld’s/Secrets nightclub.

Among the grant recipients were: AIDS Action Baltimore, the DC Center’s HIV Working Group, DC Rape Crisis Center, Equality Maryland Foundation, Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, Helping Our Brothers and Sisters, HIPS, Latino GLBT History Project, Rainbow History Project, SMYAL and the Wanda Alston Foundation.

“What really makes this annual event so wonderful, on top of the awarding of the actual checks, is the opportunity for our grantees to network and connect,” said BHT President Jim Slattery. “They all do such great work and their expertise and best practices are vital to our community and each other.”

In addition to the grants, BHT presented four annual awards. The Billy Collison Award, BHT’s underdog award, was given to Baltimore’s Hope Springs. The George Dodson Business award went to GayRVA.com. The Founders Award, given to an organization doing great work with little funding, went to Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center. And the Anthony J. Bachrach Award, which recognizes an individual doing outstanding work on behalf of the community, was presented to David Mariner, executive director of the DC Center.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the event.

29
Jan
2014

A minister’s fresh start

Allyson Abrams, gay news, Washington Blade

Bishop Allyson Abrams fled Detroit after coming out as a lesbian minister. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bishop Allyson Abrams is no stranger to challenge. When her secret threatened to come out in her Detroit church — that she was a lesbian married to a woman — she knew she had to act fast to save her job and livelihood. Now, several months and one resignation later, Abrams is starting over by opening a new church in Silver Spring, Md.

Abrams, originally from Alabama, grew up in the church with her mother, grandmother and grandfather all very involved. She remembers sitting in the back of the church at around age 8 and having a conversation with God in which she felt he was telling her to become involved in ministry.

After receiving her bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering at Howard University, she followed that calling to a seminary in Ohio. While there, one of her favorite professors challenged her that scripture prohibits homosexuality.

“I had so much respect for my professor so I went back and looked at the scripture,” Abrams says. “That began my journey to question homosexuality. God began to reveal to me what scripture meant. It was like a light bulb going off. We can’t be so religious that we hurt and wrong people.”

Abrams, who before marrying her wife had been married to a man and had children, began to question her sexuality after this revelation. She went on to pastor at one church in Detroit for seven years. Then, she moved on to Zion Progress Baptist Church becoming its first female pastor. During that time, Abrams married her wife, Diana Williams, in Iowa, though she declines to go into details about exactly when they were married or to what degree she intended to keep her marriage hidden.

Word eventually traveled around that Abrams had married a woman and some of her friends began to receive phone calls and text messages asking if it was true. Abrams was afraid that her church would hear about it from someone else and decided to tell the deacons of her church. They urged her to share the news with the congregation.

During a sermon on the love of Christ, Abrams disclosed to her church that she was a lesbian and married to a woman.

“I wasn’t sure at all what people would say or feel,” Abrams says. Some were supportive of me. I just needed to be honest with them and have them hear it from me and not somebody else.”

Abrams says she felt freedom after revealing her secret.

“There’s a certain joy that you have that you can’t share with the congregation because of what the church says about it. I thought about it all the time.”

After five years with the church, Abrams felt it best to resign. She says she did not feel coerced into stepping down, only that she felt it was the best decision at the time.

She and her wife wanted to move to a marriage equality state where there were groups moving the LGBT movement forward. Both having connections to the D.C. area, they decided Maryland was a good fit.

Her new church, Empowerment Liberation Cathedral (633 Sligo Ave., Silver Spring, Md.), opens in May. It’s conceived as a welcoming and affirming Baptist church that she is starting with support from her wife. Abrams has needed additional financial support and has been holding fundraisers including concerts with other fellowships asking for donations.

“We welcome and affirm every race, gender, sexuality and disability,” Abrams says. “We want to give them a safe space, teach principles and to pour into them God’s love. People say it’s amazing to hear a pastor say that God loves us the way we are. I’m always going to make sure God knows them.”

Rev. Charles Christian Adams of Hartford Memorial Church in Detroit is a colleague of Abrams. He believes her new church will be a success.

“She’s conscientious and preaches with an open heart. There’s not a lot of love in churches. Any church she pastors will have that trademark,” he says.

Empowerment Liberation Cathedral also offers virtual membership. Abrams says she received lots of requests for her to preach all over the country after her story came out. Unable to travel all over and meet everyone’s requests, she decided to create a virtual membership for her church so that anyone can hear her preach.

“It’s very difficult still. All I worked hard for is over. It’s like being back at the beginning. It’s hard as a woman to get to the top level. I’m kind of kicked to the curb. Now I’m reaching out for support. I’m still the same preacher and the same person. I’m asking the Maryland LGBT community for support.”

10
Apr
2014

2013 in photography

2013 was a banner year for the LGBT community. Here are the top Washington Blade photos of the year. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen, Tyler Grigsby, Michael Key, Kevin Majoros, Damien Salas, Lee Whitman and Jon Wooten) buyphoto 

03
Jan
2014

Mary Tuckey Requa dies at 65

Mary Tuckey Requa, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

Mary Tuckey Requa, 65.

Mary Tuckey Requa died Dec. 16, 2013 at her home, according to her cousin, Susan McMillan. She succumbed to rectal cancer at the age of 65 and had been a Phelps, Wis., resident.

Originally of Lake Forest, Ill., Requa (who always went by “Tuckey,” her middle name) attended Marjorie Webster Junior College in Washington and continued to reside in Maryland for 34 years. In the 1970s, she worked for VIVA (Voices in Vital America) and for the Close-Up Foundation, which brings high school students to D.C. to learn about democracy.

For 20 years, Requa worked in theater administration, for Harlequin Dinner Theatre and NETworks, a theatrical production company that produces national tours of Broadway shows. She specialized in box office management as well as becoming an IT specialist. Requa, a lesbian, regularly sang and played guitar in Friday night cabarets at the theaters.

Requa was proficient in Spanish and in American Sign Language. She performed as a “voice actor” in musical theater productions at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf at Gallaudet University in Washington, serving as the singing voice for deaf actors who performed the roles using ASL. She was a great slow pitch softball player and played for the Montgomery County Gold Diggers women’s team from 1982-‘90.

She also enjoyed singing and playing guitar. She was an original member of the D.C. Area Feminist Chorus. One of her proudest moments was the chorus’s performance with Margie Adam at the “On the Road for Women’s Rights” concert in 1980. Tuckey performed both as a soloist and with friends at D.C.-area restaurants and clubs and at events, including at the Other Side, D.C. Pride, and at D.C. landmark club Mr. Henry’s. She also performed at fundraisers for several organizations, including a women’s shelter, My Sister’s Place. Requa performed on Judy Reagan’s 1982 album “Old Friends.” She sang with the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington and the Not What You Think a cappella ensemble for many years, and also played with the band, the Tom Boys. She loved nothing more than singing harmonies with friends. Requa loved her many guitars and treasured one originally owned by Steve Goodman whom she had opened for in Chicago in the ‘70s.

In 2005, Requa left D.C. to return to the Northwoods where her family had spent summers for more than a century. Requa moved to Phelps, Wis., and became the computer technician for the Phelps School District. She designed websites for local businesses through her Nakapaglaja Web Design. From 2005-2011, she co-hosted a local afternoon music show on public radio called “Your Favorites,” with her father Charley. She was the vice-chair of the WXPR board of directors. She was devoted to the town and volunteered countless hours for the Long Lake of Phelps Lake Association and the Phelps Chamber of Commerce. Requa was also an avid darts and horseshoe competitor.

She is survived by a large extended family and many friends.

Memorials can be sent to Patrick Requa (22486 West Illinois Route 173, Antioch, IL 60002). Initially, to be used to establish an osprey nest on Long Lake, a second memorial with the Phelps School District will also be created. A service and celebration of a great life will be held on July 27 at Hazen’s Inn, Phelps, Wis.

20
Feb
2014

Smooth sailing on first Equality Cruise

Equality Cruise, gay news, Washington Blade

Sixty-nine passengers took part in the inaugural Equality Cruise. (Photo by Steve Charing)

A total of 69 passengers participated in Equality Maryland’s first Equality Cruise Jan. 12-19. Those participating were mostly from the Baltimore-Washington region but some came from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee. They included a diverse group of LGBT people and allies. Carnival Cruises donated a portion of the group’s proceeds to Equality Maryland.

Travel arrangements were made by Equality Maryland’s office manager, Vanessa Bowling, who also owns Vanessa Addrienne Travel. She, along with Doug Rose, communications volunteer for Equality Maryland, served as hosts for the group.

The cruise took place aboard the aptly named Carnival Pride, which departed from Baltimore. It sailed to Port Canaveral and then on to Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas before returning. Both Bowling and Rose hosted a meet-and-greet as the ship departed Baltimore. They also arranged group gatherings including pre-dinner socials and organized a “red party” in the Pride’s dance club.

Tokyo Derekston of Glen Burnie, Md., enjoyed her first cruise.  “I’m having a great time,” she said during its midpoint. “As long as people stop asking me to sing.”

Bowling indicated that she intends to send out surveys about what people would like in the way of future cruises and ports of call. The Equality Cruise’s maiden voyage went well and there is optimism that the size of the group will increase next year.

22
Jan
2014

B’More Queer Fest presents Del Shores

Del Shores, Sordid Lives, gay news, Washington Blade

Del Shores will be in Baltimore next month. (Photo courtesy Shores)

The third event of B’More QFest will be a Del Shores double bill on April 6 that is called a Southern Tragic Double Bill: Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives” and “Southern Baptist Sissies”.

Guests will have the opportunity to meet Del Shores, writer/director of “Sordid Lives” and Emerson Collins, the producer/star of “Southern Baptist Sissies” and Bravo’s “The People’s Couch.” There will be a church potluck style meet and greet for $50.

If you come as your favorite “Sordid Lives” character you can win prizes like all access passes, tickets to other events and festival films. If you are just interested in the films the price is $15.

The event takes place between 2-8 p.m. at Chase Brexton Health Services, 1111 North Charles St. For tickets, visit bmorequeer.org.

19
Mar
2014

Gay activist Robert Coggin dies at 62

Robert Coggin, gay news, obituary, Washington Blade

Robertg Coggin (Submitted obituary photo)

Robert Mitchell Coggin, a longtime D.C.-area resident who played a key role in helping to pass a gay rights law in Montgomery County, Md., in 1984, died Jan. 19 from complications associated with Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy. He was 62.

His friends Tanner Wray and Karl Debus-Lopez said Coggin became active in gay rights activities in 1972 when he co-founded the first gay student group, the Gay Student Union, at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1976.

Wray and Debus-Lopez said Coggin became the founder of the Suburban Maryland Lesbian and Gay Alliance in Montgomery County in 1982 after becoming a resident of the county.

“He was a leader in the fight to have Montgomery County, Md., pass a non-discrimination law that includes gays and lesbians in 1984,” the two said. “Over the years, Robert continued to be active with numerous gay and lesbian rights groups in their efforts to move forward on civil rights legislation.”

Coggin, who lived in Silver Spring, Md., was born in Danville, Va. He worked for many years for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland as an administrative assistant, Wray and Debus-Lopez said.

“During his time at NIH, Robert received many awards for his outstanding performance,” the two said. “Despite the fact that he had a chronic and degenerative illness, Robert’s outlook on life was always positive,” they said. “He enjoyed movies, theater, dinners out with friends, and he was a pioneering crusader in the fight for gay rights in the mid-Atlantic region.”

Through his estate, Coggin made arrangements to establish a scholarship fund for LGBT students at the University of Virginia, according to Wray and Debus-Lopez.

He is predeceased by his parents, Belva Mitchell Coggin and Henry Ernest Coggin, and a brother, William Henry Coggin. He is survived by numerous cousins and friends, including Debus-Lopez and Wray and his former partner Don Crisostomo.

A memorial service is being planned for the near future. Donations can be made to the University of Virginia Fund of Charlottesville, Va., under the name Robert Coggin, and to the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Tucson, Ariz.

29
Jan
2014

Lawsuit by Gallaudet diversity official dismissed

Angela McCaskill, Wyndal Gordon, Maryland marriage petition, same sex marriage, gay marriage, Gallaudet University, Washington Blade, gay news

Angela McCaskill was suspended after she signed a petition to place Maryland’s same-sex marriage law on the ballot in a voter referendum. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A federal judge has dismissed a discrimination and defamation lawsuit filed by Gallaudet University’s former chief diversity officer against the university and two out lesbian faculty members who were accused of damaging her reputation by implying she held anti-gay views.

The lawsuit stemmed from an October 2012 decision by the university’s president to suspend Angela McCaskill from her job as Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion after news surfaced that she signed a petition to place Maryland’s same-sex marriage law on the ballot in a voter referendum.

McCaskill, a Maryland resident, stated at the time that she signed the petition when it was being circulated at her church. She said her intention was to allow Maryland voters to decide on the gay marriage question and that she had taken no public position on the issue.

Some of the university’s gay students expressed concern that McCaskill’s decision to sign the petition was contrary to her role as chief diversity officer, which they said called for her to be sensitive to students and faculty who supported marriage equality.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, accused Gallaudet faculty members Martina “MJ” Bienvenu and her partner Kendra Smith of pressuring Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz into violating the D.C. Human Rights Act by illegally suspending McCaskill.

The lawsuit called the suspension a form of retaliation against McCaskill for her decision to exercise her constitutional right to sign a petition on a pending civic matter.

In a 24-page opinion handed down on April 14, U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg approved a motion by Gallaudet’s attorneys calling for the dismissal of the case on grounds that McCaskill “has not sufficiently pled facts to support any of her claims” of retaliation or discrimination.

Among other things, McCaskill’s attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, argued that the university’s decision to suspend McCaskill for signing the petition violated a provision of the D.C. Human Rights Act that bans discrimination based on “political affiliation.”

But Boasberg noted that the Human Rights Act defines “political affiliation” as belonging to or endorsing a political party. He said that provision of the act clearly didn’t apply to the university’s action toward McCaskill.

The judge similarly ruled that the university’s decision to suspend McCaskill because it believed her decision to sign a petition placing the gay marriage law before voters, where it could have been overturned, did not violate the Human Rights Act’s ban on discrimination based on her religion, race, or marital status as she claimed in the lawsuit.

McCaskill stated in her lawsuit that lesbian faculty member Bienvenu confronted her at a meeting and criticized her for signing an “anti-gay” petition.

McCaskill “attempted to shoehorn a First Amendment argument into her complaint against Gallaudet by dressing it up as an employment discrimination allegation,” Boasberg said in his decision.

“While a citizen has an unfettered right to petition her government, such a constitutional claim aimed at Gallaudet cannot succeed here, as the university and its employees are private parties not subject to the First Amendment’s strictures,” he said.

Boasberg’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit came several months after Gordon, McCaskill’s attorney, dismissed Bienvenu and Smith from the lawsuit while raising the possibility of filing a separate lawsuit against them in D.C. Superior Court.

Gordon couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether he and McCaskill plan to file a separate lawsuit against Bienvenu and Smith. Justin M. Flint, the attorney representing Bienvenu and Smith, didn’t immediately return a call from the Blade seeking comment.

23
Apr
2014

Mizeur not included in Victory Fund’s initial 2014 endorsements

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 gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur is not among those whom the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund backed in the first round of 2014 endorsements it announced on Monday.

The group endorsed gay Maine Congressman Mike Michaud in the race to succeed Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The Victory Fund also backed Massachusetts lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Steve Kerrigan and Maura Healey in her bid to succeed Attorney General Martha Coakley who announced her campaign to succeed outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick last fall.

Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe described Michaud in a statement as the “nation’s first openly gay candidate to win a gubernatorial election,” although it will not take place until November. Michaud, who has represented Maine’s 2nd Congressional District since 2003, last November came out in an op-ed he submitted to the Associated Press, the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald.

“He’ll also be a strong voice for fairness, freedom and equality for all Americans coast-to-coast,” said Wolfe.

Mizeur could also become the country’s first elected openly LGBT governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley in November.

“We will absolutely welcome their support,” Mizeur campaign manager Joanna Belanger told the Washington Blade.

Denis Dison, senior vice president of programs for the Victory Fund, said his organization generally does not comment on potential endorsements until one is made.

The Victory Fund endorsed the Montgomery County Democrat for the Maryland House of Delegates in 2006 and 2010. Steve Elmendorf, chair of the Victory Fund board of directors, last January hosted a fundraiser for Mizeur’s gubernatorial campaign at his D.C. home.

The Victory Fund’s announcement comes two weeks after Equality Maryland, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, endorsed Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown for governor. Mizeur described the apparent snub to the Blade and other media outlets as a “puzzling choice.”

EMILY’s List last month announced it would encourage its members to contribute to Mizeur’s campaign.

“Heather Mizeur is a progressive powerhouse who will fight for the rights of Maryland’s women and working families from day one,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.

The Victory Fund on Monday also announced it has endorsed incumbent U.S. Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.) for re-election. The group additionally backed North Carolina congressional candidate Marcus Brandon, former Freedom to Marry staffer Sean Eldridge who hopes to unseat incumbent Republican New York Rep. Chris Gibson, Florida state Rep. David Richardson and Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims.

Maryland state Dels. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) and Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) and Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane are also among those whom the Victory Fund endorsed. Former Equality Maryland staffer Kevin Walling, who announced his candidacy to represent portions of Montgomery County in the House of Delegates last summer, also received the group’s backing.

06
Jan
2014

Maryland Senate committee approves 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 Feb. 4 testified in support of a transgender rights bill.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the state.

The 8-3 vote took place slightly more than two weeks after lawmakers held a hearing on 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.

State Sens. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County), Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City), Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County), Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) voted for Senate Bill 212. State Sens. Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties), Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties) opposed it.

The committee by a 7-4 vote margin also approved Raskin’s proposed amendment to SB 212 that would allow for “private and functionally equivalent” spaces, such as locker rooms, for people of different gender identities.

“It’s our strongest vote ever out of that committee,” Madaleno told the Washington Blade as he applauded Equality Maryland, the Human Rights Campaign and the Maryland Coalition for Transgender Equality who lobbied lawmakers to support SB 212. “It reflects on the incredible hard work that people have done to educate members of that committee about the need for this bill.”

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who announced late last month she will challenge Madaleno in the June Democratic primary, specifically applauded Stone, Muse and Brochin who voted against a similar measure last year. She also thanked Raskin and attorney Jonathan Shurberg for securing the necessary votes on the committee to ensure SB 212′s passage.

“I thank Senators Brochin, Muse and Stone for joining their fellow democrats and taking a stand for fairness and decency today,” Beyer told the Washington Blade. “It is much appreciated.”

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans and other LGBT rights advocates also applauded the vote.

“It is such a relief to finally have this bill come out of the Senate committee,” said Matt Thorn, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland. “I am looking forward to the Senate passing the bill next week.”

Gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur is among those who also testified for the measure. Her Democratic challengers – Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler – submitted written testimony in support of SB 212.

“I am extremely pleased that the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has voted to send the Fairness for All Marylanders Act to the full Senate, and one major step closer to full equality for all Marylanders,” Gansler told the Blade in a statement. “I have been a supporter of this bill, and led the fight for marriage equality in our state. I congratulate Sen. Madaleno and Sen. Raskin for all their hard work and effort in helping tear down another wall of discrimination.”

Elaine McDermott of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government and Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council are among those who spoke against the measure. The Maryland Catholic Conference and other organizations submitted testimony in opposition to SB 212.

Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard Counties currently include 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.

“This is a protection we want to make sure gets extended statewide,” said Mizeur as she testified in support of SB 212 on Feb. 4. “Protection against discrimination shouldn’t depend on your zip code.”

Madaleno told the Blade he feels the three major Democratic gubernatorial candidates who all supported the measure helped secure its passage in the committee. He added the fact that neighboring Delaware last year added gender identity and expression to its anti-discrimination law was another factor.

“It’s a number of things where we just had the momentum,” said Madaleno.

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. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last March narrowly killed an identical measure that Madaleno introduced.

SB 212 will now go before the full Senate where observers say it has enough votes to pass.

The Maryland House of Delegates in 2011 approved a similar bill that did not include public accommodations.

21
Feb
2014