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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

College Park considers trans, LGBT contractor bias bills

Dave Kolesar, Patrick Wojahn, gay news, Washington Blade, marriage equality, Maryland, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

College Park City Council member Patrick Wojahn (on right) with his partner, Dave Kolesar. Wojahn said a majority of the eight-member Council expressed support for the pro-LGBT bills. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The College Park, Md., City Council has directed its city attorney to draft three separate bills that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression and require that contractors doing business with the city adopt policies of non-discrimination for their LGBT employees and provide equal benefits for employees’ same-sex spouses.

According to College Park City Council member Patrick Wojahn, who’s gay, the Council informally discussed the idea of drafting the three bills at a Feb. 4 work session. Wojahn said a clear majority of the eight-member Council expressed support for the bills. He said the Council then asked the College Park city attorney to draft the bills.

Wojahn said the Council expects the attorney to complete the drafting process within a month or two.

Both the State of Maryland and Prince George’s County, in which College Park is located, have existing laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodation. But neither the state nor P.G. County has laws banning discrimination against transgender people. Nearby Montgomery County and three other counties in Maryland, including Baltimore, have transgender non-discrimination laws on the books.

Fellow Council member P.J. Brennan, who’s also gay, is among the Council members pushing for the three new laws, Wojahn said.

20
Feb
2014

Couples encounter snags in D.C. divorce law

divorce, Phil Mendelson, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) said he’s willing to introduce legislation to fix the problems that are just now surfacing regarding divorces for same-sex couples.

Since its marriage equality law took effect in 2010 the District of Columbia has welcomed same-sex couples from other states to come to the city to get married.

But according to local attorneys and at least one D.C. judge, if any of those couples come back to the city to get a divorce they will likely be eligible only for the divorce itself.

Divorce related provisions readily available to straight married couples such as alimony, legal separation and court approved division of jointly owned property will likely be denied to same-sex married couples unless one of the spouses becomes a D.C. resident for six months.

“What D.C. judges have been doing is granting these divorces but not granting or addressing any other issues, such as alimony, property division relief, etc.,” said local family law attorney Marjorie Just.

“Judges are interpreting the law in a way that limits their authority to just granting a divorce but nothing more,” Just said.

Just was referring to the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Act, which the D.C. Council passed and Mayor Vincent Gray signed in 2012. Supporters said the law was aimed at exempting out-of-town same-sex couples that marry in D.C. from a six-month residency requirement in the event they seek to obtain a divorce.

Gay rights advocates, who asked the Council to pass the law, noted that the exemption was needed for same-sex couples that marry in D.C. but live in states like Virginia that don’t recognize their marriages.

Unlike straight couples, whose marriages are recognized everywhere, same-sex married couples can’t get a divorce in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage. That forces them to return to the jurisdiction in which they were married to obtain a divorce. Many states, including Maryland, have a six-month residency requirement for obtaining a divorce.

According to attorneys familiar with the D.C. Superior Court’s family court division, judges have interpreted the D.C. law in a way that limits its scope to an “absolute divorce,” a legal term used to describe a divorce alone.

American University Law Professor Nancy Polikoff and local attorney Michele Zavos, who specialize in gay family law, each said they believe the D.C. statute does give judges the authority they need to address issues like alimony and property division.

“I think there is a very good argument that the court does have power over the property and support issues, but it would be much cleaner to resolve the ambiguity by making that clear in the statute,” Polikoff told the Blade. “For that reason, I agree that the preferred course of action at this time would be to amend the statute.”

Zavos agreed with that assessment.

“I think we probably do have to go back to the City Council to make it very clear that the intent of this new statute is to cover all aspects of divorce, including legal separation,” Zavos said. “So I think we’re going to have to do that.”

Polikoff and Zavos said child custody related issues are clearly addressed in separate laws in D.C. and other states, and those issues must be addressed in the state in which the child lives at the time of a divorce.

Zavos released to the Blade a copy of a January 2013 order issued by D.C. Superior Court Judge Alfred S. Irving, Jr., denying a request by one of the partners of a same-sex couple living in Virginia to obtain a legal separation. The couple, whose identity was redacted from the order, was married in D.C.

“The District of Columbia very recently amended the residency requirements to permit an ‘action for divorce by persons of the same gender, even if neither party to the marriage is a bona fide resident of the District of Columbia…’ and neither party to the marriage resides in a jurisdiction that will maintain an action for divorce,” Irving wrote in his order.

“The amendment, however, only pertains to actions for divorce, not actions for legal separation,” he stated in his denial order.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who introduced the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Act of 2012, said he’s willing to introduce legislation this year to fix the problems that are just now surfacing regarding same-sex couples.

“We were very clear when we adopted the law in 2012 that, as usual, we were trying to treat same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples,” Mendelson told the Blade on Tuesday.

“So this distinction that somehow a same-sex couple that lives in another state can only get a divorce but can’t get any of the other modifications that heterosexual couples can get – that was not our intent,” he said.

Asked if he thought election year politics might make it difficult for the Council to pass a bill this year to correct the divorce related problems facing out-of-town same-sex couples, Mendelson said it would not.

“I don’t like the speculation about election politics,” he said. “The reality is the Council is in session until the end of the year. And if the attorneys give me the suggestions for how to fine-tune the law we’ll try to proceed this year to do it.”

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said GLAA would support legislation to “to fill any legal gaps encountered by same-sex couple, as we have done in the past.”

Once introduced, Mendelson’s bill to correct the divorce law problem would go to the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which is chaired by Council member Tommy Wells (D-At-Large).

30
Apr
2014

Swim for Life

The 22nd annual Maryland Swim for Life was held on the Chester River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on Saturday. Over 220 swimmers competed in the event hosted by the District of Columbia Aquatics Club . Proceeds from the event were slated to benefit Heart to Hand, Metro TeenAIDS, Quality of Life Retreats and the Chester River Association. (Washington Blade photos by Kevin Majoros) Swim for Life 

13
Jul
2014

Brown tops Gansler in latest Md. fundraising report

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)

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown has developed a significant fundraising advantage over his Democratic challengers in the race to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Brown and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, raised nearly $5.4 million between Jan. 10, 2013, and Jan. 8, according to their latest campaign finance report they filed with state officials on Wednesday. This figure includes a $250 contribution Equality Maryland’s PAC made on Jan. 6 — less than two weeks after the statewide LGBT advocacy group endorsed Brown and Ulman.

Brown and Ulman, who ended his own gubernatorial bid last spring after Brown tapped him as his running mate, had slightly more than $7 million on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Attorney General Doug Gansler and his running mate, state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County), reported they raised nearly $1.7 million during the same period. They reported they have slightly more than $6.2 million in the bank.

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) reported she and her running mate, Rev. Delman Coates, raised more than $1.1 million between Jan. 10, 2013, and Jan. 8. This figure includes slightly more than $284,359 in public funds the campaign has thus far received.

Mizeur and Coates’ campaign finance report indicates they had slightly more than $747,000 on hand at the end of the latest reporting period.

“I’m grateful for this tremendous outpouring of support from people who share our vision of a better Maryland for more Marylanders,” said Brown in a statement, noting education remains among his top priorities. “With a successful 2013 under our belt and growing momentum, we look forward to a busy and productive legislative session to build a better Maryland for more Marylanders.”

Gansler campaign spokesperson Bob Wheelock said the latest finance reports indicate the attorney general “has the resources and the record to not just win this race, but build the best Maryland for everyone.” Wheelock also criticized Brown and Ulman for reporting joint fundraising totals eight days after the start of the current legislative session during which lawmakers and elected statewide officials cannot accept campaign contributions under Maryland law.

“Their report of joint fundraising totals shows the mockery they are making of the ban on fundraising,” said Wheelock.

Joanna Belanger, campaign manager for Mizeur, said the Montgomery County Democrat’s report shows Marylanders are “responding” to her ticket’s message.

“We have a committed army of volunteers, grassroots donors and supporters who want to spread the word and ensure that Maryland families are number one in Annapolis next year,” said Belanger.

A Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies poll conducted last October indicates 41 percent of likely Democratic voters would vote for Brown in the June 24 primary, compared to 21 percent who support Gansler and 5 percent who back Mizeur. A third of respondents said they were undecided.

Republican gubernatorial candidates reported they raised far less money during the latest reporting period than their Democratic counterparts.

Harford County Executive David Craig raised nearly $250,000 between Jan. 10, 2013, and Jan. 8. He reported a bank balance of slightly less than $155,000.

State Del. Ron George (R-Anne Arundel County) reported he raised slightly more than $130,000 during the same period and had $15,449.89 in his campaign bank account.

Former congressional candidate Charles Lollar raised about $65,000 between Nov. 27, 2012, and Jan. 8. His campaign finance report indicates he had only $5,731.35 on hand at the end of the reporting period.

State Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County) reported his campaign to succeed Gansler as attorney general had slightly more than $795,000 on hand at the end of the latest filing period. State Dels. Jon Cardin (D-Baltimore County), Bill Frick (D-Montgomery County) and Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s County) reported slightly more than $374,000, $133,000 and $9,200 respectively.

Kevin Walling, a gay former Equality Maryland staffer who hopes to represent portions of Montgomery County in the House of Delegates, raised slightly more than $37,000 from when he formally declared his candidacy last June to Jan. 8. He reported he had nearly $31,000 on hand at the end of the reporting period.

16
Jan
2014

Aesthetic of the good life

Leslie Apgar, Pura Vida, business, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Lesile Apgar takes a holistic approach to patient care. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Schoolteachers and diplomats, men and women, young and older alike have discovered a unique aesthetic skin care and anti-aging oasis north of Washington. The holistic approach of founder Dr. Leslie Apgar and her five-person staff has engendered a loyal and devoted patronage throughout the metropolitan area and beyond.

It takes only a moment talking to the effervescent Dr. Apgar to discover her zeal for patient care and commitment to encouraging the health and happiness of her clients.

Apgar launched Pure Vida Medspa & Cosmetic Laser Center a little more than five years ago, in addition to a hospital medical group practice in obstetrics and gynecology. A board-certified physician for 10 years, the 45-year-old Apgar sought an opportunity to evolve her professional focus and was inspired by the encouragement of patients.

Although providing non-surgical treatment at Pura Vida, employing a minimally invasive cosmetic approach, it was Apgar’s skill as a surgeon that impressed her patients. “Skin is the largest organ of the body,” she points out, “and my incisions were always good.” It was that attention to the physical results of surgery that prompted Apgar to open the award-winning cosmetic laser center she leads.

Specializing in advanced aesthetic and anti-aging procedures, the business takes its name from a Costa Rican salutation translating as “the good life.” The Seattle-born Penn State medical school graduate infuses her practice with a distinctive desire to assist those seeking to enhance their appearance and maintain healthy skin. “We promote a natural approach,” Apgar notes, “to soften the blow of aging.” “None of us on staff wears makeup,” she says, “healthy skin is what is really beautiful.” Referrals for plastic surgery are available for those requiring or desiring surgical treatments.

Located at the upscale Maple Lawn Town Center off Columbia Pike north of D.C. in Howard County, Md., nestled midway between Washington and Baltimore in Fulton, clients are drawn to the personalized approach and modern technologies employed at the center. An inviting light-filled ground-level office provides a fitting introduction to Apgar’s patient-centric practice. A relaxation room, consultation office, and private treatment spaces adjoin the spacious concierge area’s soothing earth tones and wood plank flooring.

A complementary consultation initiates identifying and evaluating patient areas of concern – whether laser hair removal, brown spot elimination, skin peels or microdermabrasion, cosmetic facial fillers and toxins for wrinkle reduction and fine line elimination, laser skin resurfacing, vein therapy, acne or rosacea treatment, diet and weight management or a range of other specialties. A distinctive feature is utilization of a Visia complexion analysis unit, described by Dr. Apgar as “the Bentley of skin appraisal.” This technology allows for a detailed age-comparative survey of skin condition.

Laser treatments are key to advancements in effective skin care, a therapy for which Dr. Apgar and her colleagues are specially trained. “What is scary are the spas without trained physicians, especially those using lasers,” Apgar cautions, highlighting the importance of professional staff skilled in equipment and procedures.

Pura Vida Medspa has continued to invest in cutting-edge technologies and laser treatments providing significant benefit and impressive results. A recent advancement in permanently eliminating chronic sweating using the non-surgical miraDry procedure is available and popular. An additional specialty is expertise in treating all skin colorations, a surprisingly unique capability that distinguishes Apgar’s facility and services.

Apgar continues to split her time with the hospital group, but dreams of expanding Pura Vida Medspa into a comprehensive holistic health center, allowing for the integration of a full complement of care.

The beauty of Dr. Apgar, a self-described “down-to-earth sweats-and-tee-shirt kind of gal,” is she’s likely to reach her goal.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

10
Mar
2014

Much to celebrate this Pride season

Pride season, gay news, gay politics dc

Capital Pride (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

We have a lot to celebrate this year as Pride season arrives. The biggest reason may be the Windsor decision handed down by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. Since that time, judges across the nation have based their rulings that states from Pennsylvania to Utah must recognize same-sex marriages on this decision. June 1 marked the day that same-sex marriages could begin in Illinois. Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill banning discrimination against the transgender community in Maryland and a petition drive to put that up to a referendum in the state failed.

In Texas, Houston Mayor Annise Parker signed the Equal Rights Ordinance. That signature came after an 11-hour Council session of which the city secretary said, “it was the largest public turnout Houston had ever seen at a City Council meeting.” We have seen many changes in federal policy that give same-sex married couples more rights and no less a conservative than Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently said that though he personally doesn’t support same-sex marriage it is inevitable that it will become the law of the land.

A year ago, “Kinky Boots,” based on a film adapted by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper, won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Sunday we can look forward to out and talented Neil Patrick Harris winning this year’s Tony Award for best actor in a musical for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Larry Kramer finally saw his play, “The Normal Heart,” made into a successful film for HBO. Our community is still fighting about issues surrounding AIDS as seen by the recent debate between Kramer and columnist Andrew Sullivan about the impact of the drug Truvada.

The Pride parade Saturday will wind through the Dupont and Logan Circle neighborhoods. The parade is fun but has always been a little long. One way to shorten it would be to have all politicians and candidates participate together. Have the mayor lead off the parade with other politicians joining him/her in a line at the front. If there is still a clamor by any of them to have a separate contingent there could be a lottery and they would be interspersed throughout the parade, between the fun floats and bands, so people wouldn’t have to watch the first hour of just politicians.

Pride festivities have grown over the years and this year there are more than 30 official events listed on the Capital Pride website that span from Jewish Pride Happy Hour at MOVA to the Night Out at the Nationals. Many of the events listed cater to specific groups within the LGBT community because, like the rest of society, we are a diverse community. We are young and old, men and women, black, white, Latino and Asian and have representation in every religious denomination and all of us want to celebrate and showcase our Pride.

As we celebrate we should always take a moment to remember those who have helped to move us forward over the years. We need to think about and thank all those who both publicly and behind the scenes fought for our civil and human rights when it wasn’t easy to be out and proud. We must also remember those friends and loved ones who died of AIDS during the years when our community fought to bring attention to the disease our government was failing to respond to.

And as we celebrate our victories we need to pledge to continue to work toward full equality — to fight to ensure the rights of transgender persons and to continue the fight to pass legislation like ENDA. We also need to demand that the president live up to a promise he made to us in 2008, and which he has pointedly not kept, to sign an executive order protecting the rights of LGBT workers in federal contracting. While we may thank him for announcing a history project in front of the Stonewall Inn, I am sure nearly all of us would trade that for a signature on the executive order.

03
Jun
2014

Hudson Taylor to headline MCC event

Hudson Taylor, Michael Sam, Athlete Ally, gay news, Washington Blade

Hudson Taylor will discuss the future for LGBT athletes on Sept. 18 in Baltimore. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally and former wrestler at University of Maryland-College Park, will be the main speaker at the Maryland Corporate Council’s business over breakfast meeting on Sept. 18. The event will take place from 8-10 a.m. at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, 20 West Baltimore St.

The theme for the meeting is “Leaving It All Out on the Field.” There will be an opportunity to network with Maryland’s business and political leaders and learn about the impact of inclusiveness on professional sports. The issue of what the future holds for LGBT athletes will be discussed.

The cost is $75 for members and  $90 for non-members. To register, visit marylandcorporate.org.

25
Aug
2014

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