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New doc examines marriage fight, black church

The New Black, gay news, Washington Blade

‘The New Black’ is a documentary by Yoruba Richen that tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with gay rights issues.

Equality Maryland is sponsoring the screening of “The New Black,” which will take place on July 30 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Chase Brexton Building Community Meeting Room, 1111 N. Charles St. in Baltimore.

“The New Black” is a documentary by Yoruba Richen that tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with gay rights issues in light of the marriage equality movement and the fight over civil rights. The film documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage and examines homophobia in the black church and reveals the Christian right-wing strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda.

Following the film, panelists will continue the discussion about LGBT issues in black communities. Among the panelists will be Vanessa Bowling, a member of Equality Maryland’s staff who was involved in the Maryland Black Family Alliance as far back as 2008. Another will be Mark McLaurin, who helped found MBFA and was integral to the work during Question 6.

“We’re excited to screen ‘The New Black’ and continue the momentum working on LGBT issues in black communities across the state,” Keith Thirion, director of advocacy and programs for Equality Maryland, told the Blade. “While Maryland’s LGBT community has gained equal marriage rights and anti-discrimination protections, much work remains to ensure everyone can live their full lives free from discrimination. This event is an important opportunity to reflect on the successes of the Question 6 campaign, and discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

The screening is free of charge.

24
Jul
2014

At the intersection of LGBT and immigrant

LGBT immigrants, Gay News, Washington Blade, Carrie Evans, Gay Maryland

Far too many people believe that because we have won marriage equality and passed a trans anti-discrimination law, our work for LGBT equality is done in Maryland. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Most people know I am a lesbian, but not as many know I am an immigrant. This is not because I hide that identity. It is because most people look at my skin color or hear me speak and assume I am a native-born American.

I, like many current first-generation immigrants, was brought to the United States as a child. Left behind in Canada were my family (except my Mom and siblings), the house I grew up in, my school, my friends; basically everything that was familiar to me. However, I was able to assimilate more easily than many of my fellow immigrants because of my skin color and language privileges. Moreover, because my Mom married a U.S. citizen, my pathway to citizenship was a relatively easy one. These privileges allowed me advantages and opportunities in the U.S. that many of my fellow immigrants are not afforded. These privileges make it a moral imperative for me to stand in solidarity with my fellow immigrants and to #FightForFamilies. Along with hundreds of others, I will engage in civil disobedience and be arrested.

The organization I am honored to work for, Equality Maryland, has supported LGBT immigrants and issues that impact their lives for several years. In 2012, Equality Maryland endorsed Maryland’s Dream Act and worked hard to educate LGBT voters on why voting for Question 4 (upholding the DREAM Act) was the right thing to do. At the same time, CASA de Maryland endorsed marriage equality and worked with Latino communities to increase support for Question 6 (upholding marriage equality). We did this by highlighting the multiple identities of people in our communities. We were fortunate to have Latino same-sex couples and LGBT DREAMers who shared their lives and stories. I am confident that LGBT voters helped lead to victory on Question 4 and Latino voters helped us win on Question 6. Equality Maryland’s partnership with CASA de Maryland has continued, and we are proud to co-sponsor #FightForFamilies.

Far too many people believe that because we have won marriage equality and passed a trans anti-discrimination law, our work for LGBT equality is done in Maryland. Unfortunately, there remains so much left to do, and much of this work is centered on the intersections of our LGBT lives; the “ands” of our lives. Thus, we will work on issues regarding being both LGBT and immigrant, LGBT and disabled, LGBT and African American, LGBT and living in a rural area, and so on. We are the sum of all our identities, and Equality Maryland will concentrate on these “ands.” We will continue to work diligently at ensuring equality regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, but we will also work diligently to ensure equality regardless of race, immigration status, age, geography, and the like.

On Thursday, Aug. 28, #FightforFamilies will take place in Washington, D.C. This effort seeks to pressure President Obama to provide aggressive relief to immigrants. Organizers hope that this will be the largest act of civil disobedience in the history of the immigrant rights movement, with hundreds of arrestees. Equality Maryland staff will join this effort to show support. I urge all LGBT people to embrace the whole of our identities and communities and to join us on this important day.

Carrie Evans is executive director of Equality Maryland, the state’s LGBT civil rights organization. She became a naturalized citizen in 1997.

26
Aug
2014

Mizeur reportedly taps Delman Coates as running mate

Rev. Delman Coates, Rev. Al Sharpton, clergy united for marriage equality

Rev. Delman Coates (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Published reports indicate Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur on Wednesday will formally announce a Prince George’s County pastor who backed the state’s 2012 same-sex marriage referendum as her running mate.

The Washington Post late on Tuesday reported the Montgomery County Democrat who represents Takoma Park and Silver Spring in the state House of Delegates had tapped Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton. The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday published a similar story.

Mizeur is scheduled to formally announce her running mate later on Wednesday during a campaign rally at American Legion Post in Silver Spring.

Campaign spokesperson Steven Hershkowitz declined to comment on reports that Mizeur had tapped Coates to join her ticket.

Coates in February 2012 emerged as one of Maryland’s most prominent supporters of marriage rights for same-sex couples after testifying in support of a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to legally marry in the state.

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the measure a few weeks later, but same-sex marriage opponents collected enough signatures to prompt a referendum on the law.

Coates appeared in a television ad in support of Question 6. The Prince George’s County pastor also joined Revs. Al Sharpton, S. Todd Yeary of Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore and other prominent black clergy who urged Marylanders to vote for the law during a September 2012 press conference at the National Press Club in D.C.

Question 6 passed last November by a 52-48 percent margin.

“I thought it was important for me to take a stand,” Coates told the Blade during an interview in February.

Mizeur will face Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown in the state Democratic primary in June.

Gansler last month tapped state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) as his running mate. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman in June joined Brown’s campaign after he abandoned his own gubernatorial bid.

Mizeur could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed O’Malley.

13
Nov
2013

Mizeur formally introduces running mate

Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur on Wednesday announced her running mate, Rev. Delman Coates (left), at a campaign event in Silver Spring, Md. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur on Wednesday formally announced a prominent Prince George’s County pastor who backed the state’s 2012 same-sex marriage referendum as her running mate.

The Montgomery County Democrat who represents Takoma Park and Silver Spring in the Maryland House of Delegates introduced Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton during a campaign event at American Legion Post 41 in Silver Spring.

“I am not just picking a running mate for an election season,” Mizeur said. “I’m choosing a partner who’s best situated to help me deliver on a shared vision for the future of Maryland.”

Coates’ wife Yolanda and their four children and Mizeur’s wife, Deborah Mizeur, joined the ticket on stage as the Montgomery County Democrat’s running mate spoke to supporters.

“My life’s work has been on the front lines of our biggest community issues,” Coates said, referring to his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples and efforts to curb home foreclosures and to help people reintegrate into society once they are no longer incarcerated. “I have stood up for justice. And 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.”

Coates, whose congregation has more than 8,000 members, in February 2012 testified in support of a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to legally marry in the state.

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the measure a few weeks later, but same-sex marriage opponents collected enough signatures to prompt a referendum on the law.

Coates appeared in a television ad in support of Question 6. The Prince George’s County pastor also joined Rev. Al Sharpton and other prominent black clergy who urged Marylanders to vote for the law during a September 2012 press conference at the National Press Club in D.C.

Question 6 passed last November by a 52-48 percent margin.

Coates noted to the Washington Blade after the campaign event the ticket includes a Baptist minister and a lesbian at a time when the National Organization for Marriage said it wants “to exploit this wedge or divide between these two communities.” He stressed their bid is primarily about substance.

“I accepted Heather’s invitation because I think it’s important to return Annapolis to the people,” Coates said. “It really for me is about governing from the bottom up where the concerns, interests of the people are prioritized over the interests of special interests.”

Mizeur will face Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown in the state Democratic primary in June. She could become the country’s first openly gay governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed O’Malley.

Gansler last month tapped state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) as his running mate. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman in June joined Brown’s campaign after he abandoned his own gubernatorial bid.

Mizeur told the Blade she began talking with Coates over the summer about potentially joining her campaign.

She said she feels her running mate’s experience as a pastor and efforts in support of same-sex marriage, protecting voting rights and other issues will serve him well as lieutenant governor.

“He’s no stranger to our political process,” Mizeur told the Blade. “He has used his relationship to the community to not just be of service on Sundays, but to roll up his sleeves and be engaged in the community making a difference day in and day out. And that translates incredibly well to the work that we have before us in Annapolis.”

Gansler entered the race in September with a significant financial advantage over his Democratic opponents.

A poll that Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies released on Oct. 17 found Brown ahead of Gansler among likely Maryland voters by a 41-21 percent margin. Slightly more than five percent of respondents said they would vote for Mizeur in the Democratic primary.

In spite of these hurdles, Mizeur’s supporters told the Blade on Wednesday they support her decision to tap Coates has her running mate.

“It’s an excellent choice,” Suchitra Balachandran of College Park said. “Between the two of them we will be addressing topics and discussing issues that otherwise will not happen in a campaign.”

Kevin Walling, a former Equality Maryland staffer who in July declared his candidacy to represent portions of Montgomery County in the House of Delegates, described the ticket as “a dream team.” He said Mizeur’s decision to choose Coates as her running mate came as a surprise, but stressed supporters will respond to him well.

“Once folks meet Delman and see him up close and personal and they get to know him, I think he’s going to win them over,” Walling told the Blade.

14
Nov
2013

Year in review: Gallaudet suspends administrator for signing marriage petition

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

Angela McCaskill (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The suspension of a senior Gallaudet University administrator who signed the petition that prompted a referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law sparked outrage a little more than a month before Election Day.

Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz on Oct. 10 announced he had placed Dr. Angela McCaskill, who is the D.C. school’s chief diversity officer, on paid administrative leave after two lesbian faculty members filed a complaint after they discovered she signed the petition. McCaskill, who has been in her current position since Jan. 2011, identified the women as Martina “MJ” Bienvenu and Kendra Smith during an Oct. 17 press conference in Annapolis.

“I was shocked, hurt, insulted,” she said through an interpreter, stressing Hurwitz had sought to punish her for her decision to sign the same-sex marriage referendum petition as a private citizen. “They have attempted to intimidate me and tarnish my reputation.”

Same-sex marriage opponents immediately sought to highlight McCaskill’s suspension as an example of the consequences those who oppose nuptials for gays and lesbians could face if voters upheld the law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March — the Maryland Marriage Alliance launched an ad that featured McCaskill. Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which backed the same-sex marriage law, and the governor also criticized her suspension.

Clergy on both sides of the issue spoke out against the university’s decision to place McCaskill on administrative leave.

“It is unacceptable for Dr. McCaskill to be professionally sanctioned for merely exercising her right as a citizen in our democracy,” Revs. Donté Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore and Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County, who both endorsed the same-sex marriage law, said in a joint statement that announced they were to hold weekly protests outside Gallaudet to urge administrators to reinstate McCaskill. “Our advocacy for marriage equality is about protecting the rights of all people, gays and lesbians, as well as those who may have a traditional view of marriage.”

27
Dec
2012

Couples begin receiving marriage licenses

Dale Knight, Jeff Arney, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Dale Knight and Jeff Arney of Ellicott City were the first gay couple to obtain a marriage license in Howard County. (Photo courtesy of Dale Knight)

Dec. 6 marked yet another historic milestone in Maryland’s hard-fought journey for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Following Gov. Martin O’Malley’s certification of election results—a legal requirement that is executed 30 days after the election—in which same-sex marriage was upheld by 52 percent of the electorate through a referendum known as Question 6, 23 circuit courts throughout the state were able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Though marriages between same-sex couples cannot, by law, take effect until Jan. 1, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler issued an opinion that the clerks can provide the post-dated licenses beginning Dec. 6 following the governor’s certification.

“I never thought this day would come,” Kim Hinken told the Blade after she and her partner became the first couple to receive such a license at the Annapolis Courthouse. “I really imagined my life being just with a partner and never having a wife, so to have this day happen and to be a part of it, it means everything to us. It makes me feel really a part of society.”

Kim, who is the Planning Committee Chair of the Chesapeake Pride Festival, will likely marry her fiancée Adri Eathorne on Jan. 1, but the decision on the date has not yet been made. The couple has been together for more than 9 years and is living in Edgewater, Md.

Clerks in several jurisdictions reported there weren’t as many licenses sought on the first day as were expected. Some observers attribute that to couples preferring spring nuptials. Others say there was no rush to get them on the first day and others may have already obtained the licenses in D.C. or in some other location where same-sex marriages are valid.

Computer changes in processing and recording marriage licenses had to be implemented to reflect “Party 1” and “Party 2” instead of “Man” and “Woman.”

In addition, the work in Annapolis remains incomplete on marriage equality. There needs to be a change in the tax law that allows for joint filing of same-sex couples given that federal tax law does not permit that based on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

13
Dec
2012

Baltimore map shows election results

Mount Vernon, Washington Monument, Baltimore, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Daderot via wikimedia commons)

A map of Baltimore City containing the 2012 election results including the ballot questions points out how the votes were cast by legislative district down to the neighborhood level. The map appears on state Sen. Bill Ferguson’s website, billforbaltimore.com.

In reviewing the results on Question 6, which was approved by Maryland voters by 52-48 percent legalizing same-sex marriage, the color-coded map offers few surprises. The strongest support for Question 6, which is indicated in green on the map (75-100 percent), occurred in a swath up and down the geographical center of the city and specifically in such neighborhoods as Federal Hill, Canton, Fells Point, Locust Point, Patterson Park, Downtown, Midtown, Mount Vernon, Hampden and Roland Park.

Less supporting of Question 6 (indicated in orange, 25-50 percent) included neighborhoods in Northwest Baltimore and Northeast Baltimore.

Ferguson (D-36), a co-sponsor of the Civil Marriage Protection Act, began serving in 2011. He defeated six-term incumbent George W. Della, Jr. in the Democratic primary in September 2010. At 29, he is the youngest state senator in Maryland. Ferguson serves in the same district as gay delegate Luke Clippinger.

19
Dec
2012

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: Blade publishes names of petition signers

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade’s decision to publish the names of the more than 100,000 Marylanders who signed the petition that prompted the state’s same-sex marriage referendum sparked outrage among opponents of nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins described this newspaper’s decision to publish the names of those who signed the petition as “nothing short of intimidation.” Matt Barber, vice president of Liberty Action Counsel, accused the Blade of “homo terrorism.” The Blade also received threatening phone calls and e-mails after it published the names on its website on July 12.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told the Blade last month when asked about the controversy that he didn’t know whether “I’m qualified to comment on journalistic ethics.” Transgender activist Dana Beyer also questioned the Blade’s decision to publish the names of those who signed the petition that were publicly available on July 12, but gay columnist Andrew Sullivan defended the Blade.

“Some argue that this is a tool for intimidation or a violation of privacy,” he wrote. “I’m afraid I cannot see that. Signing a political petition is a public act. If you are ashamed of trying to deny your fellow citizens their civil rights, you probably shouldn’t have signed the petition in the first place.”

Opponents of the same-sex marriage law eventually collected more than 160,000 signatures that prompted a Nov. 6 referendum on the issue. Maryland voters upheld the statute that O’Malley signed in March by a 52-48 percent margin.

27
Dec
2012