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Organize now to defeat the liar Sam Arora

Maryland Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County) has some explaining to do. Problem is, he doesn’t return reporters’ calls and refuses to give his constituents straight answers as to why he flip-flopped on marriage equality. His penchant for lying has also gotten in the way of the truth.

Arora infamously voted against last year’s marriage bill in Maryland after campaigning on a pledge to support it. He even co-sponsored the bill. So he took gay money and votes in progressive Montgomery County, then voted against the very bill he sponsored.

Of course, politicians are entitled to change their minds. President Obama famously “evolved” on the issue too, though in a much more sensible direction than Arora. But when they change their views, politicians owe their constituents an explanation, as Obama did in his interview with Robin Roberts. Did Arora have a religious epiphany? We don’t know because he won’t level with us.

The Blade has tried since last year to talk to Arora, but he has steadfastly ignored or refused all interview requests, including one made just last week. Last month, Arora made his first public comments on the issue.

“A lot of us wanted the goal of full legal equality for all couples,” Arora said during a Jan. 8 segment of NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt in response to a question from David Moon of Maryland Juice, a website that covers state politics. “We had different ways of getting there. Ultimately the governor’s bill passed, the voters approved it and I think one thing we can all celebrate is that gay and lesbian couples will have all the same legal rights as straight couples have and the state’s going to move forward now and there’s a lot more to it.”

During the interview, Arora referenced an amendment he introduced that would have replaced marriage with civil unions in the bill. Sorry, Sam, but civil unions do not constitute “full legal equality” — just ask New Jersey about that.

He insists he now wants to “move forward,” a premature quest given his failure to fully answer the many open questions surrounding his betrayal. You can’t ask voters and donors to “move forward” simply because you don’t want to answer tough questions. Sam Arora is a liar and a coward who should have already resigned from office. Politicians can change their minds, but they cannot hide from voters, dodge the media and refuse to answer the most basic questions about their public policy positions.

Maryland voters are entitled to answers. Arora thinks he’s above providing those answers. The only response is for someone to mount a challenge in 2014 and take him out of office. All the LGBT donors and volunteers who helped put Arora in office must now start the work of replacing this two-faced scumbag.

On Obama, Jodie and Manti Te’O

It’s been a busy month for LGBT news. President Obama made history (again) by including gay references in his inaugural speech — the first time that’s happened. It was yet another striking example of how Obama has completely transformed the Democratic Party’s approach to LGBT issues. Whereas Democrats used to pay lip service to our concerns, Obama has acted boldly and finally delivered where so many others (Bill Clinton, John Kerry and on and on) failed. Thank you, Mr. President, for seeing the connections between Stonewall and Selma and for forcing your party to finally get on the right side of history.

In less celebratory news, lesbian actress Jodie Foster made news recently by delivering an odd Golden Globes speech in which she took to a TV broadcast seen in countries around the world to seek privacy. Hmm. She again played coy about her sexual orientation. Newsflash, Jodie: The world has moved on and no longer cares about your cowardly efforts to hide the obvious truth. We live in a more enlightened time now, where our president backs marriage equality and an open lesbian sits in the U.S. Senate. Please retire and spare us your awkward ruminations on sexuality and privacy.

And finally, there’s the odd story of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’O. Katie Couric asked him if he’s gay and he replied, “No, far from it. Far from it.” Many closeted gays have used “beards” to please disapproving family members or to preserve our jobs. Is Manti gay? We don’t know, but this bizarre episode serves as a reminder that professional sports remains one of the few bastions of intolerance — a place so unwelcoming to gays that there still isn’t a single out athlete in the major four professional team sports. That barrier will fall someday soon, just as it did for the military with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” for the U.S. Congress with Tammy Baldwin’s victory and for big business with the ascension of Tim Cook to CEO at Apple.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

30
Jan
2013

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

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