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10 LGBT candidates running in Maryland

Beyer hopes to become first out trans state legislator

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Maryland has a chance of electing the nation’s highest number of out lesbian, gay or transgender people to a state legislature on Sept. 14, when nine such candidates will be on the Democratic primary ballot for seats in the state’s General Assembly.

A tenth candidate, gay consultant Byron Macfarlane, is running for the state post of Register of Wills.

Four of the nine General Assembly candidates are incumbents who are expected to win re-election, according to the head of Equality Maryland, a statewide LGBT advocacy group.

“It’s exciting that we have all these LGBT candidates,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, the group’s executive director. “They are talking about jobs and the economy as well as LGBT issues.”

Meneses-Sheets and others familiar with the races say as many as four of the LGBT challengers have a shot at winning, which could raise the number of out LGBT members of the General Assembly – the state legislative body that consists of the House of Delegates and Senate – from four to eight.

One of the candidates hopeful of victory is eye surgeon turned political activist Dana Beyer of Montgomery County, who has been endorsed by the Washington Post and the Montgomery Gazette for a District 18 seat in the House of Delegates.

If she wins her primary race in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, Beyer is expected to easily win in the November general election, making her the nation’s first out transgender person to be elected to a state legislature.

As a legislative adviser to a member of the Montgomery County Council and an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality, Beyer’s status as a transgender woman has been widely reported in the media for at least four years or longer.

“It was a novel thing four years ago,” Beyer said. “Now, nobody cares. Now it’s about my being a physician, surgeon, county staffer, advocate and activist. And somebody with a record who can get things done and is willing to stand up and speak clearly,” she said.

“I think that matters more than anything else. The fact that I’m trans is not relevant.”

In the Maryland General Assembly, most legislative districts include three House of Delegate seats and one Senate seat. In District 18, Beyer and one other challenger are competing against three delegate incumbents. The district includes the areas of Chevy Chase, Kensington, Silver Spring and Wheaton.

The incumbent senator in the district is Richard Madaleno, the first out gay person to win election to the Maryland General Assembly. Madaleno, who also received endorsements from the Post and Gazette, is expected to win election to another term.

The other incumbents considered strong favorites to win re-election to the House of Delegates are lesbians Anne Kaiser of District 14, which includes Damascus, Olney, part of Silver Spring, and Burtonsville, among other areas in Montgomery County; Heather Mizeur of District 20, which includes Takoma Park and part of Silver Spring; and Maggie McIntosh of District 43, which includes north-central Baltimore and surrounding areas.

Among the four challengers seeking seats in the General Assembly include gay trade association legislative director Tim Quinn, who is running for a state Senate seat in District 37, which includes the cities of Easton, Cambridge, and Salisbury. Lesbian civic activist and environmental group director Mary Washington of Baltimore is seeking a House of Delegates seat in District 43, the same Baltimore area district that McIntosh represents.

Gay Anne Arundel County Assistant State’s Attorney Luke Clippinger is running for a House of Delegates seat in District 46, which includes south and southeast Baltimore, including parts of Federal Hill, Fells Point and Patterson Park.

Lesbian teacher and National Education Association Foundation official Bonnie Cullison is running for a House of Delegates seat in District 19, which includes the Montgomery County jurisdictions of Gaithersburg, Aspen Hill, Wheaton and Olney.

Macfarlane, who is running for the Register of Wills position, is a resident of Howard County and serves on the county’s Democratic Central Committee.

Meneses-Sheets said the expected increase in the number of LGBT state legislators along with an expected boost in the number of LGBT-supportive straight allies to the legislature will put the state on track for passing a same-sex marriage equality bill within the next year or two.

“It looks good that our numbers will increase and we will have some real outstanding champions and allies supporting our issues,” she said.

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Maryland

Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’

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Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out just before the pandemic in collaboration with Wells Fargo. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship each year of their community college experience as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

Meanwhile, the foundation is also expanding its new BIPOC scholarship, which announced its next round of recipients on May 22. The scholarship is currently supporting between 500 and 555 scholars across the country.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

This year, Point also did a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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