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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

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

Marriage rights seminar scheduled

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(Photo by iStock)

For those newly married same-sex couples and those planning to tie the knot, a seminar covering a variety of legal and financial matters will take place on Jan. 25 in Towson. Issues to be discussed include estate planning, inheritance and estate tax benefits, health issues and qualification for Medicaid, tax law issues and income tax pros and cons.

Pessin Katz Law estate planning attorneys Kimberly L. Battaglia and Helen M. Smith will be on hand for an informal discussion of these issues. The seminar will take place from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., with registration beginning at 9:45 a.m. at Pessin Katz Law, P.A.’s Seminar Room, 901 Dulaney Valley Rd., Suite 400, Towson.

The seminar is free, but registration is required. RSVP by calling Rhonda King at 410-938-8800 or email rking@pklaw.com. Parking is available in the Sheraton garage.

22
Jan
2014

Marylanders favor trans equality: poll

transgender, Maryland, trans equality, Marylanders, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image public domain)

A new poll finds that 71 percent of Marylanders support proposed legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodation.

The Goucher Poll, conducted by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Baltimore-based Goucher College, found that of those supporting, 39 percent strongly favor the measure. Of the 20 percent who oppose the legislation, only 10 percent strongly oppose.  The bill was approved March 4 in the Senate and is awaiting action in the House of Delegates.

19
Mar
2014

Trans candidate Beyer to challenge gay incumbent Madaleno

Dana Beyer, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director, Dr. Dana Beyer. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer on Thursday announced she will challenge incumbent state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) in the 2014 Democratic primary.

“We are ready for progress,” said Beyer in a statement that announced her candidacy. “For too long, hardworking Marylanders have waited for economic fairness and equal opportunity. We have asked our elected officials to help bring better jobs to our neighborhoods, build stronger schools for our children, fix our roads and infrastructure and make quality health care an affordable reality.”

“We are ready to move forward, and that’s why I’m declaring my candidacy for the Maryland Senate,” continued Beyer.

Beyer, 61, announced her campaign slightly more than a week after Madaleno introduced a bill that would ban discrimination against transgender Marylanders.

Madaleno, who is gay, reported to state campaign officials on Jan. 13 he has more than $36,000 on hand. Beyer on the same day reported her campaign has roughly $364 in the bank.

“I’m extremely proud of my record of accomplishments,” Madaleno told the Blade as he discussed the three terms he has served in the state Senate since Montgomery County voters first elected him to the chamber in 2006. “I’m confident voters who have elected me three times in the past will re-nominate me in June.”

Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, which endorsed Madaleno’s re-election campaign late last year, told the Blade the Montgomery County Democrat’s “strong record of accomplishments go beyond the LGBT communities.”

“He works passionately and effectively for his constituents and indeed for all Marylanders,” said Evans. “We are confident the voters of District 18 will convincingly send him back to Annapolis.”

Beyer is a former member of the Equality Maryland board of directors.

Lisa Polyak, who stepped down as chair of the Equality Maryland board in 2012, also defended Madaleno.

“Although Dana has been a tireless advocate for transgender equality locally and nationally, she doesn’t possess the seniority or relationships that can advance priorities of LGBT citizens of Maryland,” Polyak told the Blade.

Evans said having another LGBT candidate “challenging our endorsed candidate” will divert the “limited resources that we earmarked to help our friends in other races” who supported Maryland’s same-sex marriage law in 2012. She also described Beyer’s announcement that comes less than a week before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on the trans rights bill as “ironic.”

“Some might say the timing of her announcement only serves to distract and potentially diminish our chances of passing the bill,” said Evans. “Since this is our top legislative priority in 2014 and transgender Marylanders should not have to continue to wait for inclusion in the state anti-discrimination laws, Equality Maryland hopes it does not. “

Beyer in 2010 challenged Democratic incumbent state Del. Alfred Carr (D-Montgomery County) to represent portions of Montgomery County that include Chevy Chase and Kensington in the Maryland House of Delegates. She was among the 11 openly transgender delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The retired eye surgeon was a senior assistant to Montgomery County Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg. Beyer also chairs the Freedom to Work board of directors.

“I ask for your support and your vote,” she said in her announcement statement. “In return I promise to be the progressive champion Montgomery County sorely needs.”

Beyer would become the first trans person elected to the Maryland Legislature if she wins in November.

30
Jan
2014

Baltimore LGBT Wedding Expo set

wedding expo, wedding rings, gay news, Washington Blade

Couples, singles, advocates and allies are all invited to connect and celebrate equal marriage rights.

The third annual “Same Love, Same Rights” LGBT Wedding Expo will take place on Jan. 26 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Grand Historic Venue, 225 North Charles St., in Baltimore.

The Expo will include dozens of LGBT-friendly wedding professionals. There will also be ceremony planning tips, free samples, raffles, keynote speakers and music

Couples, singles, advocates and allies are all invited, to connect and celebrate equal marriage rights. The event is free but a $5 donation is requested. For more information, visit samelovesamerights.com.

07
Jan
2014

Jewish groups to talk marriage

DC Gay Wedding Directory, jewish

(Photo by Bigstock)

The Keshet Parent & Family Connection (KPFC) and JQ Baltimore will partner on March 2 to present a panel discussion exploring the process and experience of same-sex weddings and marriages in the Jewish tradition. Beth El Congregation, 8101 Park Heights Ave., will host the event from 1-3 p.m. The panel consists of same-sex married couples, parents of same-sex married couples and clergy who have performed same-sex weddings.

“For many in Maryland, Question 6 was just something that they voted on at the polls,” said Mindy Dickler, co-founder of JQ Baltimore and mentor for Keshet PFC. “This program will put names and faces to Jewish members of our community for whom this historic vote has made a world of difference.”

For more information, visit jqbaltimore.org.

24
Feb
2014