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Uncertainty remains after Md. marriage opinion

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Even the experts are uncertain how Maryland courts will now treat legally married same-sex couples.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) promised state agencies would comply with Attorney General Doug Gansler’s finding two weeks ago that Maryland may legally recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

But circuit courts that handle family violence protection orders and divorce cases are not bound by O’Malley’s directive and must consider the opinion on its own merits, according to several legal experts who spoke with DC Agenda.

“It’s certainly their prerogative whether to follow that. I would like to think the courts would accept the opinion, but we don’t know,” said Barbara Babb, director of the University of Baltimore’s Center for Families, Children and the Courts.

“Legislative direction would certainly be a help to the courts, but I don’t think it’s necessary for them to do the right thing.”

Family law contains several rights and administrative advantages reserved for married couples and designed to protect families in the event of divorce. If the courts choose to recognize Gansler’s opinion, same-sex married couples would have access to family breakdown services, child support, alimony and division of marital property.

Other safety-net statutes that are currently available to same-sex families but made easier with legal marriage recognition include child-in-need and civil protection orders in the event of neglect or domestic violence.

But it gets more complex during the creation of a family. Stepchild adoption would be significantly streamlined for married same-sex couples, Babb said, but not all marriage certificates are equal.

“Although Maryland currently authorizes second-parent adoption, it would be very clear — assuming the judges follow the attorney general’s opinion,” she said.

But children who have not been formally adopted by their non-biological parent could be left in legal limbo, Babb said, because presumptive parenting rights have not traditionally been recognized in Maryland courts.

“That would be one of the really interesting questions,” she said. “If the second parent hasn’t adopted the child, [would] the court give legal guardianship or legal authority to the non-biological parent? That’s a remaining question that isn’t as clear under the family law statute.

“I would suspect that in the law in the state where the couple was married, both parents would be seen as the child’s parent. If that’s the case, then Maryland would honor that. But the courts have chosen not to follow the de facto parent doctrine, so there are certainly areas of law that the court has taken pretty strident stand on with regard to same-sex couples raising children already.”

Other areas of law where courts extend benefits to married couples, such as the establishment of trusts, wrongful death suits, presumptive claims on estates, mutual debt responsibility and spousal legal immunities, also are dependent on whether courts accept Gansler’s opinion.

A further set of rights for married couples required of third parties are automatic in theory, but may ultimately have to be decided by courts, such as extending health insurance benefits to a spouse, the right to hospital visitation and making funeral decisions.

Jana Singer, a University of Maryland law school professor, said the attorney general’s opinion was legally sound and would be treated with greater weight than an ordinary “friend of the court” brief.

She said that one case could be all that is required to clarify the issue, or it could take many cases in different areas of law.

“If they decide to be narrower, they could say within this particular statute, Maryland law extends recognition in this context,” Singer said. “It’s more likely that we’ll get a broader opinion where they say recognition applies widely to Maryland law statutes.”

Equality Maryland’s study of state law found 425 statutes that utilize marital status of familial relationship as a basis for granting a right, privilege or restriction. Such restrictions, where a spouse has fewer rights than an individual, include conflict of interest prohibitions on areas like awarding of contracts to family members, corporate directorship limitations and exemptions from first right of purchase.

Dan Friedman, Gansler’s counsel and a former University of Maryland professor of constitutional law, was unable to speak publicly on how the courts should rule, but said that Gansler’s opinion was constitutionally valid and the attorney general could not be removed from office for issuing it.

Friedman wrote to House Speaker Michael Busch this week regarding the powers of attorney general after state Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) threatened impeachment proceedings against Gansler.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is standing in support of Gansler’s opinion saying the state should recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages due to the doctrine of comity, in which contracts are valid anywhere in the United States if they are valid in the state they were created.

“Unless and until something contrary is said, same-sex families should consider themselves married in the state of Maryland and expect to be treated as such,” said David Rocah, staff attorney for ACLU of Maryland. “But it will take some time for it to be clear what rights are extended to them. All of the things couples did to protect their families, they should continue to do, in addition to expecting to be treated like the married couples they are.”

ACLU, Lambda Legal and Equality Maryland have created an informational sheet on the issue and are publishing it online at www.aclu-md.org.

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Nellie’s fires security firm after woman dragged down stairs

Pride weekend incident triggers protests, investigation by liquor agency

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Keisha Young was dragged down the stairs by her hair at Nellie’s. (Screen capture via Instagram)

Nellie’s Sports Bar, a gay bar in the city’s U Street commercial district, announced on Monday that it has dismissed a security company whose employee was captured on video dragging a Black woman down a flight of stairs inside the bar during the city’s Capital Pride celebration last Saturday.

The video of the male security employee dragging Nellie’s customer Keisha Young down the staircase and the brawl that erupted when other customers intervened has triggered expressions of concern by city officials and LGBTQ activists, including the local Black Lives Matter group that organized a protest outside Nellie’s on Sunday.

Young, who said she was injured during the incident, has said the security staffer mistakenly thought she was part of a group of customers who brought into the bar their own alcoholic beverages, which Nellie’s does not allow.

“Nellie’s Sports Bar has terminated, with immediate effect, the independent security vendor hired to protect our guests during Pride Week,” Nellie’s said in a statement released to the media.

“Our investigation into the matter is ongoing, and we will cooperate with any law enforcement investigation, however we do not need to wait for the investigation’s conclusion before we take decisive action,” the statement says. “We offer a heartfelt apology to all who witnessed the horrific events of this past weekend,” it says. “No matter what behavior occurred prior, nothing warrants mistreating and disrespecting one of our guests.”

The statement adds that Nellie’s will be closed this week “as we evaluate this regrettable situation.” It says all non-security staff will continue to be paid their regular wages during the temporary shutdown.

“In the interim, we will use this time to listen and understand what more we can do to create the safe and friendly atmosphere our guests have come to expect from Nellie’s Sports Bar over the past 14 years,” the statement says.

Brandon Burrell, an attorney representing Young, told D.C.’s Fox 5 News that Nellie’s had yet to offer an apology directly to Young. Fox 5 News reported on Monday that Young was considering filing a police report over the incident and a possible lawsuit against Nellie’s depending on how Nellie’s responds to Young’s concerns. 

A D.C. police spokesperson told the Washington Blade that Young had not contacted police to file a report about the incident as of early Monday.

The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which issues liquor licenses to bars and restaurants, has opened an investigation into the Nellie’s incident, the agency confirmed to Fox 5 News.

The Capital Pride Alliance, the local group that organizes D.C.’s LGBTQ Pride events, including Saturday’s Pride Walk and Pridemobile Parade, issued a statement on Monday expressing concern over the Nellie’s incident.

“The Capital Pride Alliance condemns the reprehensible actions taken by Nellie’s staff over the weekend,” the statement says. “The incident resulted in Keisha Young being dragged by the hair down the stairs, which was a violent response to the trivial action of allegedly bringing into the bar a bottle of liquor,” the statement says.

“Capital Pride Alliance is committed to creating safe spaces for all,” says the statement. “We expect Nellie’s to take immediate, remedial action in response to this incident. Their response will impact the future of CPA’s relationship with Nellie’s.”

Nellie’s owner Doug Schantz couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also expressed concern about the Nellie’s incident when asked about it by reporters at an event on Monday.

“Obviously, entrepreneurs enforce rules in their restaurants, but they’re not allowed to assault anybody,” the mayor said. “If that’s a matter for the Metropolitan Police Department, we’ll take it up.”

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New gay bar ‘Central’ to open in Baltimore this summer

Just a few blocks from where Grand Central closed last year

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Marc Hayes and Ivan Yordanov inside the new Central. (Photo by Ed Gunts)

Fans of the old Grand Central club in Baltimore will get a new place to patronize this summer, and it has a familiar name and operator.

Central is the name of a gay bar and restaurant that’s expected to open in August, just a few blocks from where Grand Central closed last September. One of its owners is the former general manager of Grand Central, Marc Hayes.

Baltimore’s liquor board last week approved a request to transfer an existing Beer, Wine and Liquor license to Hayes, from Baltimore, and business partner Ivan Yordanov, from Alexandria, Va.

The location is a three-building complex at 885-889 N. Howard Street, part of a block called Antique Row on the western edge of Mount Vernon, the city’s traditional “gayborhood.” Over the years, the Howard Street buildings have housed a series of clubs and lounges, most recently Bentley’s jazz club.
Grand Central closed after original owner Don Davis sold the property at 1001-1003 N. Charles Street to a developer, Landmark Partners, that’s now constructing an eight-story office building in its place. Its last day was Sept. 3.

Started in 1991 as Central Station at 1001 N. Charles St. and renamed when Davis bought the old Stagecoach Bar at 1003 N. Charles St., Grand Central was one of Baltimore’s largest gay-friendly clubs and remained busy on weekends even after Landmark acquired the property. Patrons called it ‘Central’ for short. It was required to close temporarily during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic but did offer outdoor and carryout service when permitted.

Hayes, the last general manager of Grand Central for both Davis and Landmark, had indicated before it closed that he wanted to find another place for patrons to go once construction of the office building began.

He said the Howard Street business is not a relocation of Grand Central because Landmark isn’t involved and Landmark owns the rights to the name and other intellectual property associated with Grand Central.

“We’re not Grand Central,” he said. “This is going to be Central. This is going to be an LGBTQIA-friendly place, but not using the Grand Central intellectual property.”

Hayes said he and Yordanov chose the name Central because the Howard Street buildings are centrally located between Leon’s and The Drinkery, two other gay bars in Mount Vernon.

“We are central,” he said. “We’re in a triangle.”

Even if it doesn’t have a legal connection with Grand Central, Hayes said, he will welcome its former patrons, as well as people who have never been to Grand Central. And while he’s billing it as a gay bar, he said, “I don’t see gender or race in anybody.” He describes himself as gender fluid and Yordanov as an ally of the gay community.

The three buildings date from around 1900 and are connected internally. Together, they contain more than 6,200 square feet of space on two levels – large but less than half the 15,000 square feet of space inside the two buildings that made up Grand Central.

Hayes and Yordanov are leasing the property and received a letter of support for the liquor license transfer from the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association. They still need to pass inspections required by the liquor board and intend to hire a staff of about 20. They plan to have a dance floor and DJs, Sunday brunch, drag shows and other live entertainment as well as a full-service kitchen.

The interior has a long wooden bar that’s reminiscent of Grand Central’s, a series of lounges and dining areas, and some exposed-brick walls with arches that impart an air of history and allow views from one area to another. The main dance floor will be on the second floor, including one space where the walls are covered with mirrors.

Hayes said the building doesn’t need much in the way of renovations and since it’s actually three addresses, there’s already a separate entrance for carryout orders. He said he considered other locations but liked the ambiance, layout and location of this property. “I’ve always liked this building,” he said. “Grand stairwell. Wrought iron…It’s gorgeous. Look at the arches.”

The bar will be open from 4 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Sundays, when Central will serve brunch. The carryout will open daily starting at 11 a.m. Central will have a cover charge when there are shows.

While many gay bars have closed around the country during the pandemic, Hayes said he believes there’s a market for a new one in Baltimore. He notes that Central will be different from the Baltimore Eagle, which caters to the leather community; the tavern-style bars without live entertainment, and The Manor, an “ultralounge” in a meticulously restored townhouse on Charles Street.

“We’re not The Manor, obviously. They’ve got a fantastic chef and fantastic food and we’re going to be doing bar food” with a relaxed atmosphere and DJs. But Central will offer more in the way of food service and entertainment than the tavern-style bars around the city.

That’s another reason the name they chose makes sense. Given the other options in town, Hayes said, “We’re kind of right in the middle.”

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Delaware prepares to celebrate Pride month

Parade moved to October, but smattering of local events planned

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Delaware trans student policy, gay news, washington blade
Delaware Gov. John Carney issued a Pride month proclamation earlier this month.

As state coronavirus restrictions continue to lift, organizations throughout Delaware are gearing up for Pride month with events planned during June.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery dedicated its June Beer and Benevolence philanthropic effort to benefit CAMP Rehoboth, an LGBTQ+ non-profit community center in Rehoboth. The fundraising began last weekend at Chesapeake and Maine and the organization will receive 10 percent of proceeds from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Delaware Pride Parade is scheduled for Oct. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

June 19: Delaware Pride Bowling at Bowlerama
The Delaware Pride Bowling event is June 19 from 7-10 p.m. The New Castle Avenue Bowlerama will charge $15 per bowler and free shoes for the two hour time slot.

June 18: Stand-up Comedy by Julia Scotti
Trans comedian and America’s Got Talent quarterfinalist Julia Scotti will perform standup comedy at the Milton Theater. Admission is $17.

June 20: From Stonewall To Now – Presented By Mona Lotts
Milton Theater will host “From Stonewall To Now,” a celebration of the art of drag hosted by Mona Lotts. Admission is $20 and will feature performances from several drag queens from the state.

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