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Senate bill would force D.C. marriage referendum

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Rep. Jason Chaffetz (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

Nine U.S. senators have agreed to introduce a bill that would prohibit D.C. from allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the city until voters are allowed to decide the issue through a referendum or initiative.

The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, issued a statement Tuesday announcing the senators’ plans to introduce the legislation in the next few days. The statement says the bill will be similar to the one introduced last month in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

“An out-of-control city council tried to do an end run around the D.C. Charter, refusing to recognize the rights of D.C. voters to file an initiative petition on marriage,” said NOM Executive Director Brian Brown in the statement, which urges same-sex marriage opponents to call on Congress to pass the bill.

“Regardless of where your representatives stand on same-sex marriage, tell them that we ought not to stand for this sort of government abuse against the residents of the nation’s capital,” Brown said in the statement.

A same-sex marriage bill passed by the D.C. City Council and signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty in December is undergoing its required congressional review. Most political observers predict that Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will block attempts to derail the bill before the congressional review is completed in early March.

NOM identified the nine lawmakers expected to introduce and co-sponsor the bill calling for a D.C. marriage referendum as Sens. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), David Vitter (R-La.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Chaffetz’s House version of the bill has only one co-sponsor, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

A “findings” section in Chaffetz’s bill says, “The unelected District of Columbia Board of Elections & Ethics and the unelected District of Columbia Superior Court thwarted the residents’ initiative effort to define marriage democratically, holding that the initiative amounted to discrimination prohibited by the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.”

The bill also says, “Notwithstanding any other provision, including the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, the government of the District of Columbia shall not issue a marriage license to any couple of the same sex until the people of the District of Columbia have the opportunity to hold a referendum or initiative on the question of whether the District of Columbia should issue same-sex marriage licenses.”

Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said last week she received assurances from House and Senate Democratic leaders that Chaffetz’s bill — or a similar bill in the Senate — would die in committee.

Norton said Democratic leaders, along with rank and file Democrats and some Republicans, believe D.C. should be allowed to pass its own laws like the 50 states without congressional interference.

Same-sex marriage advocates in the city have defended a city law prohibiting proposed bills or laws protecting the rights of minorities from being subjected to a popular vote. African American LGBT activists have said the black civil rights bills of the 1960s and 1970s would likely have gone down to defeat in many parts of the country if they were subject to an initiative or referendum.

“We should never underestimate our opponents and we will continue to work with our allies in the Senate to protect marriage equality in the District,” said Allison Herwitt, legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, which is lobbying Congress in support of the same-sex marriage bill.

Peter Rosenstein, a gay Democratic activist, noted the Senate bill “had practically no chance of passage.

“But it is significant for D.C. voters to look at because these are the same Republicans who would deny us a vote in the Congress,” he said. “Their hypocrisy is amazing.”

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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Baltimore

People of Pride: Five Marylanders making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community

Baltimore Pride is this weekend

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Jabari Lyles poses for a portrait in East Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore on June 10, 2024. (Photo by Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | One hosts movie nights, karaoke and other events that provide a safe space for LGBTQ people. Another has become a sounding board for customers at his gay bar dealing with pressures of the outside world. And a third beats the pavement to promote political awareness about LGBTQ issues.

These are just some of the things five Baltimoreans the Baltimore Banner is profiling in honor of Baltimore Pride Month are doing in the fight for visibility, support and acceptance of their peers.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Delaware

Delaware’s Sussex Pride launches free statewide HIV, STI testing

Special program honors National HIV Testing Day on June 27

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Each year on June 27, people across the United States are encouraged to get tested for HIV. This year for Delawareans, it’s easier than ever.

Sussex Pride has partnered with STDCheck to offer free HIV and syphilis testing everywhere in Delaware. There are more than 20 locations across the state, making it simple to find a testing center.  

David Mariner, executive director of Sussex Pride, told the Blade, “We are thrilled with this new partnership with STDcheck. The ultimate goal is to empower individuals with knowledge about their HIV status, provide necessary support, and facilitate early intervention to improve health outcomes in our state.”

Finding a testing center, getting tested, and getting results is simple. Start by finding a lab near you using this link (https://www.stdcheck.com/std-test-center.php). Then call STDcheck at 800-456-2323 and request a free Sussex Pride HIV and/or syphilis test. Make sure to mention Sussex Pride in the call to get the test for free. Then schedule a time and get tested. 

“If you are HIV positive, the sooner you know, the better,” Mariner added. “Early and sustained treatment can help you live a long and healthy life. It can also help protect others.”

This special program is in honor of National HIV Testing Day, created in 1995 to highlight the lifesaving impact of HIV testing. HIV has historically had a disproportionate effect on the LGBTQ community. According to the CDC, 70% of all new cases of HIV in 2021 were among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

The CDC’s theme for this year’s HIV testing day is “Level up your self-love: check your status.” The theme emphasizes, “valuing yourself, showing yourself compassion and respect, and honoring your health needs with self-love,” and the best way to do that is to test.

For more information on Sussex Pride’s testing program visit sussexpride.org/posts/testing/ and for more information on HIV visit CDC.gov/hiv.

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