November 1, 2010 | by Kevin Naff
Maryland’s closet problem

In news that surprised no one, Equality Maryland last week announced its endorsement of incumbent Martin O’Malley for governor over his predecessor, Republican Robert Ehrlich.

The Maryland statewide gay group hosted O’Malley at its annual gala fundraiser in College Park, celebrating a man who just three years ago told gays we shouldn’t be messing with the sacraments by seeking marriage equality.

What is it with gays and our collective amnesia when it comes election time? Also on hand Sunday was Attorney General Doug Gansler, who has earned LGBT support. Too bad he’s not running against O’Malley.

One of the biggest obstacles to progress in blue Maryland remains the closet. There are so many closeted players on both sides of the aisle that if they all came out, Maryland might actually stand a chance at progress.

O’Malley, for example, has a gay brother, Paul. You won’t find him on the campaign trail, though, because the O’Malleys consider him a liability. Tell that to Dick Cheney, who became vice president despite having an out lesbian daughter.

Then there’s Barbara Mikulski, the long-serving U.S. senator who will cruise to an easy re-election victory this week. She’s been dogged by lesbian rumors for decades, yet steadfastly refused to come out.

Del. Maggie McIntosh is technically out, but don’t look for public, visible leadership from her on LGBT issues. She wants to be speaker someday and seems to think spearheading LGBT equality issues will doom her chances at that post.

And the problem isn’t limited to Democrats. Republican Ehrlich, who vetoed a medical decision-making rights bill while governor and who backs a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, had at least two gay chiefs of staff while governor. One of them, Chip DiPaula, has advised Ehrlich’s current campaign.

Luckily, the state has some brave, openly LGBT officials, like Del. Heather Mizeur, Sen. Richard Madaleno and Mary Washington, who is poised to become only the second out black lesbian elected to state government.

If the state’s closet cases would step out and take visible roles in the fight for equality, intransigent Democratic leadership might be forced to take the movement in Maryland seriously. But when we reward, thank and celebrate Democrats whose support begins and ends at kind words and false promises at election time, we send the message that our support comes with nothing expected in return.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

1 Comment
  • One thing to bear in mind is that Maryland, despite being a solidly Democratic, “tax, spend, regulate, and redistribute” state, has a long history of social conservatism. For example, it was the last state in the union to have a board of motion-picture censors, and it recodified its sodomy laws as recently as 2002.

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