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Md. lawmaker says gay marriage ban ‘not discriminatory’

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland state Del. Emmett Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County) railed against comparisons between LGBT and black civil rights last week during a hearing for his bill that would block recognition of same-sex marriage licenses issued out of state.

Burns claimed that he doesn’t support discrimination, but was tired of same-sex marriage supporters raising the Loving v. Virginia ruling that struck down interracial marriage bans. He said the current ban on same-sex marriage is not the same.

“It is not discriminatory,” he said during the House Judiciary Committee hearing Jan. 31 in Annapolis. “I cannot hide my color. I don’t want to. I’m proud to be who I am. But those who are of a different sexual orientation could.”

His exchange with fellow Democratic committee members grew testy as they quoted NAACP Chair Julian Bond and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as saying the LGBT and black civil rights struggles were shared. Burns dismissed the comments, saying he didn’t recognize their leadership.

Burns said the state faces a crisis with the neighboring District of Columbia poised to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses, a development that could put Maryland’s same-sex marriage ban at risk.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler has given no timeframe for when he will release a long-expected opinion on the issue of recognizing same-sex marriage licenses issued in D.C. and elsewhere, but some sources speculated that he will wait until the legislative session ends in April to take that step. Burns said he feared Gansler’s opinion could legislate same-sex marriage “through the back door.”

“Our back door is wide open,” Burns said. “Our law does not speak to marriages performed in other jurisdictions.”

Committee member Michael Smigiel Sr. (R-Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties) added that he believes Gansler has a political agenda and would act only after the current session had ended.

Gansler’s spokesperson denied the claim this week, saying the attorney general was still investigating the issue.

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, testified in support of Burns’ bill during the hearing, saying the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages would undermine the right of the General Assembly and the people of Maryland to decide the issue.

“The legalization of same-sex marriage in a small number of other states, and the prospect of its legalization in our neighboring jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, provides no legitimate legal cause for granting recognition in Maryland to those marriages,” Russell said. “House Bill 90 provides an added measure of assurance to the people of Maryland that the decisions of out-of-state courts or legislatures cannot, and should not, provide grounds for usurping the legitimate democratic process in our state for deciding this issue.”

She added that the Catholic Church supports the state’s current marriage definition in recognition that “only a man and a woman are capable of bringing children, our society’s next generation, into the world” and that voters have repeatedly agreed, even in liberal states.

Committee Chair Joseph Vallario Jr. (D-Calvert and Prince George’s counties) asked if gay Marylanders could meet, go to D.C., conduct a “drive through” wedding, return to Maryland and expect that marriage to be recognized “without even leaving their car.”

Lawyers for Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union testified that Maryland’s 1973 law defining marriage as one man and one woman would not be undermined if the attorney general upheld the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution, which mandates recognition of other states’ marriage licenses.

Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) testified against the bill, citing her own California-issued marriage certificate to her spouse Deborah.

“This bill is about me, and it’s about my family, and it’s about thousands of families across the state,” Mizeur said. “In Pasadena, Calif. — 3,000 miles from here — we’re treated as a married couple. In Pasadena, Md. — less than 30 minutes from here — we’re not. In Cambridge, Mass., our marriage would protect us were life to deal us a bad hand. In Cambridge, Md., we’re two unrelated women with some very expensive legal documents and a lot of uncertainty.”

Mizeur said Maryland’s current legal recognition of same-sex couples grants her 12 statutory rights of the 425 rights bestowed upon married couples.

Mizeur said she didn’t know how Gansler would decide the issue, but said that Maryland has a long tradition of upholding the full faith and credit clause and Maryland would eventually change its law, anyway.

“But either way, this bill is wrong,” she said. “It’s a step backwards for a state that presses forward.”

The hearing drew a standing-room-only crowd of mostly same-sex marriage supporters, including high school students, who frequently reacted to Burns’ colorful explanations of why LGBT bans were not discrimination.

Burns’ bill is not believed to have the necessary votes to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee. However, the as-yet-unscheduled vote will not be an indicator of support for legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland.

Mizeur told DC Agenda that she doubts a marriage equality bill would be introduced in the state House this year. While confident there are enough votes in the House Judiciary Committee to pass such a bill, Mizeur said same-sex marriage supporters are still shy of their goal in the companion Senate committee.

“We have supporters [in the House] who we don’t want to put at risk when there isn’t the support in the Senate,” she told DC Agenda, alluding to possible electoral fallout.

Equality Maryland is holding its annual lobby day Feb. 8.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Bill

    February 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Another black bigoted “leader.” Typical

  2. Sebastian

    February 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Sorry but the stament Mr. Burns made – “I cannot hide my color. I don’t want to. I’m proud to be who I am. But those who are of a different sexual orientation could.”- is little vague. Because I can hide my sexual orientation. I don’t want to be a person that I am not. I am proud to be the kind of person that I am. I married in Spain and we love each other nad we want to be togheter with a civil recognition, that is the point. We LOVE each other, also God talk about LOVE. Don’t be hypocrite. That stament is stupid and without content. Sorry about my english but i’m still learning english.

  3. john

    February 5, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    this bill already died in committee… see the following link: http://www.equalitymaryland.org/

  4. Alan

    February 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Del. Burns thinks “Our back door is wide open.” Seems like he should be in favor of gay marriage. :-/

  5. Doctor Whom

    February 7, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    “I cannot hide my color. I don’t want to. I’m proud to be who I am. But those who are of a different sexual orientation could.”

    1. I thought that you real men could spot a queer a mile off. Make up your minds already.

    2. People can hide their religion, so if we pass a law discriminating against your religion, it’s not really discriminatory, right?

  6. john

    February 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    why, after three days of informing the dcagenda staff that this bill has died in committee will they NOT verify that and update their article?

  7. Tim

    February 9, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I really don’t understand what the problem is with so many black men being homophobic. I keep hearing all of this crap about a need to educate the black community, and how the LGBT Community needs to be careful not to offend them with comparisons to the civil rights struggle of African-Americans in the 60’s, and I have to say I’m tired of it. Black bigots like Delegate Emmett Burns Jr. of Baltimore County, need to give it a rest and realize that discrimination against gay & lesbian Americans is just as wrong and unjustified as discrimination against black Americans was in the 60’s. Sorry Delegate Burns, but it is a fair comparison and we aren’t going to stop making it. I really think the people in Maryland need to run some Pro-LGBT candidates against these homophobes in the Democratic Primaries, because ironically, it is the anti-gay Dems in the Democrat domininated Maryland General Assembly that are standing in the way of gay marriage and other Pro-LGBT legislation’s passage.

  8. Frank

    February 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Sure you can hide it Preacher Man… ever hear of make-up? It’s kind of like don’t ask don’t tell – ridiculous isn’t it.

    “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world, red and yellow black and white…”

    Isn’t that one of their brain-washing songs? I know, I grew up in Pentacostal Church. Talk about flaming!

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Virginia

Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’

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A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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Equality Virginia announces new executive director

Narissa Rahaman will succeed Vee Lamneck

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Narissa Rahaman (Photo courtesy of Equality Virginia)

Equality Virginia on Saturday announced Narissa Rahaman will be the organization’s new executive director.

Rahaman, who was previously the Human Rights Campaign’s Associate Regional Campaign Director, will succeed outgoing Executive Director Vee Lamneck on Feb. 2. Rahaman was born in Barbados and raised in Florida.

“Narissa also has 10+ years of experience in long-term strategic planning, multi-state organizing efforts, coalition management, and staff development, which make her an exceptional individual for the role of executive director,” said Equality Virginia in its announcement. “We are confident that under her leadership, the organization’s success and impact will continue to flourish as will our commitment to racial justice.”

Equality Virginia announced Rahaman will succeed Lamneck on the same day that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office amid concerns he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia.

Equality Virginia’s annual lobby day will take place virtually on Jan. 25. The organization’s annual Commonwealth Dinner is scheduled to take place in Richmond on March 26.

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