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Out Law honors local ‘trailblazers’

Aaron Merki, FreeState Legal Project, gay news, Washington Blade

Aaron Merki serves as executive director of the FreeState Legal Project. (Photo by Steve Charing)

The University of Baltimore Law School’s only LGBT group, Out Law, presented its annual COBALT awards on April 25 at the Club Hippo before approximately 50 in attendance.  COBALT stands for Celebration of Our Baltimore Area LGBT Trailblazers.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition that led the referendum battle in Maryland that culminated in a win for marriage equality at the ballot box last November, received the award that’s given to an organization. Jessica Emerson received the student award.

Aaron Merki, executive director of the FreeState Legal Project—an organization that provides legal services to low-income LGBT community members who cannot access existing service providers — was presented with the Mark Scurti Award.

Out Law is a law student organization that works to foster acceptance, promote education and awareness and advocate on the University of Baltimore Campus and in the community at large on legal issues facing members of the LGBT community, LGBT families and their allies.

01
May
2013

Ayanbadejo to use Super Bowl to raise gay marriage awareness

Martin O'Malley, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Question 6, Maryland, election 2012, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley outside Northwood Elementary School in Baltimore on Nov. 6. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo hopes to use the media attention surrounding his team’s appearance in the Super Bowl to further highlight his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni reported on Jan. 22 that Ayanbadejo sent an e-mail to same-sex marriage advocates Brian Ellner and Michael Skolnik hours after the Ravens clinched the AFC Championship by defeating the New England Patriots. Bruni said the linebacker asked them whether there is “anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?”

Ayanbadejo described his message to Ellner and Skolnik during a follow-up interview with Bruni as his “Jerry Maguire e-mail.” He said his “ultimate goal” after the Super Bowl that will take place in New Orleans on Feb. 5 was to “get our message out there,” including an appearance on comedian Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show.

Ayanbadejo, who has backed marriage rights for same-sex couples for several years, in late 2011 emerged as one of Maryland’s most high-profile supporters of the issue after he appeared in a Marylanders for Marriage Equality web video.

He headlined subsequent fundraisers with Gov. Martin O’Malley and others in support of the campaign that backed the same-sex marriage law the governor signed last March. Ayanbadejo also joined O’Malley, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings at a polling place in Charm City hours before a referendum on the statute passed by a 52-48 percent margin on Election Day.

The linebacker’s advocacy around the issue has also sparked controversy among those who oppose nuptials for gays and lesbians.

State Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County) told Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti in an Aug. 29 letter after Ayanbadejo donated two Ravens tickets as part of a Marylanders for Marriage Equality fundraiser that he “should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base.” Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings subsequently defended Ayanbadejo in a series of profanity-laced tweets that blasted Burns.

“Brendon is permitted to express his viewpoints,” Ravens spokesperson Patrick Gleason told the Washington Blade in response to Ayanbadejo’s latest comments on the issue. “The Ravens have always supported his right to free speech.”

Gleason said Ayanbadejo was unavailable for an interview before the team traveled to New Orleans on Monday.

Ellner declined to provide the Blade a copy of the e-mail he received from the linebacker.

“He understands that as a straight biracial player in the Super Bowl he can have a huge impact on the future of this issue,” Ellner said. “He has courage because this comes from a deeply held sense of basic fairness. He’s part of a new generation of athlete ally. He’s creating a playbook for this.”

28
Jan
2013

Year in review: Maryland wins marriage equality

Martin O'Malley, Maryland, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the marriage bill on Mar. 1 in Annapolis, Md. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Maryland voters on Nov. 6 approved the state’s same-sex marriage law by a 52-48 percent margin.

“Fairness and equality under the law won tonight,” Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition of groups that included the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Maryland that supported Question 6, said shortly after he announced voters had upheld the law. “We’re sure to feel the ripples of this monumental victory across the country for years to come.”

Election Day capped off a long and often tumultuous effort for Maryland’s same-sex marriage advocates that began in 1997 when three state lawmakers introduced the first bill that would have allowed nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Equality Maryland and the American Civil Liberties Union in 2004 filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lisa Polyak and Gita Deane and eight other same-sex couples and a gay widow who sought the right to marry in the state. Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock in 2006 ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but the Maryland Court of Appeals ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples the following year.

State lawmakers in 2011 narrowly missed approving a same-sex marriage bill, but legislators approved it in February. O’Malley signed the measure into law on March 1.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposed the same-sex marriage law, collected more than 160,000 signatures to prompt a referendum on the law — the group needed to collect 55,736 signatures by June 30 to bring the issue before voters on Nov. 6.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality struggled to raise money in the first months of the campaign, but it ultimately netted nearly $6 million. HRC contributed more than $1.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions to the pro-Question 6 campaign, while New York City Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000 in October.

Former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife Chan announced a $100,000 contribution to Marylanders for Marriage Equality during an Oct. 2 fundraiser that O’Malley, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and others attended at gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf’s Logan Circle home. The governor also headlined a star-studded New York City fundraiser for the campaign that gay former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman hosted in September.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance netted slightly more than $2.4 million, which is less than half the amount Marylanders for Marriage Equality raised. The National Organization for Marriage, the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of Baltimore are among the groups that contributed to the anti-Question 6 group. Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Family Research President Tony Perkins and Dr. Alveda King, niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., are among those who publicly opposed the same-sex marriage law.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance came under increased scrutiny as Election Day drew closer.

The Blade obtained court documents that indicate the Internal Revenue Service in 2011 filed a lien against Derek A. McCoy, the group’s chair, for more than $32,000 in unpaid taxes in 2002 and 2003. He also faced criticism from same-sex marriage advocates for defending a suburban Baltimore pastor who suggested during an October town hall that those who practice homosexuality and approve it are “deserving of death.” A California minister described gay men as “predators” during an anti-Question 6 rally at a Baltimore church on Oct. 21 that McCoy, Jackson, Perkins and others attended.

“Nobody here endorses violence, endorses bullying of any sort in any stance,” McCoy said during a Nov. 2 press conference, two days before a Frederick pastor noted during another anti-Question 6 rally that Superstorm Sandy struck New York City after Bloomberg gave $250,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “We stand collectively to love our community, to love the constituents who are in our churches and within our broader community in the state of Maryland.”

McCoy said after Election Day the Maryland Marriage Alliance respects “the results that have come from a democratic process.”

The law will take effect on Jan.1.

26
Dec
2012

Year in Review: 2012 Photography

2012 was another momentous year in LGBT News. Here are some of the highlights of the year from the Washington Blade photo archive. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key, Blake Bergen, Pete Exis, Jonathan Ellis and Ann Little)buyphoto 

27
Dec
2012