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O’Malley reiterates marriage pledge

Equality Maryland endorses Maryland governor

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Gov. Martin O’Malley told Equality Maryland supporters this week that he would sign a marriage equality bill if re-elected and the legislature passes it. (Washington Blade photo by Brandon Waggoner)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Equality Maryland officially gave its endorsement to Gov. Martin O’Malley at its ninth annual signature gala Sunday night.

“The governor has a strong record from his days on the City Council, as mayor and as governor,” Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, said in endorsing O’Malley in next week’s election. “The choice is clear – the former governor who did not even believe that same-sex couples should be able to visit each other in the hospital or our current governor who has pledged to sign both of our key initiatives?”

O’Malley, a Democrat, who is running for re-election against former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, was one of the special guests at the gala, which was held at the Samuel Riggs Alumni Center at the University of Maryland in College Park.

“Two different governors, two different choices,” O’Malley repeated throughout his speech to nearly 400 attendees, referring to policy decisions made by Ehrlich and his decisions on the same topics, such as hospital visitation rights. “I’m running against the alternative.”

Each time O’Malley mentioned his opponent’s name, attendees showed their displeasure by hissing in response. He urged everyone to vote and to make sure their friends and family vote as well.

“Do not believe these polls,” O’Malley said, adding they were only accurate if everyone actually went out and voted.

The governor addressed same-sex marriage during a debate last week with Ehrlich sponsored by the Washington Post.

“I stood with [Attorney General] Doug Gansler on recognizing out-of-state marriages,” O’Malley said. “When the General Assembly passes an equality bill, a bill regardless of labels, that protects equal rights, I will sign it so long as it has religious protections.”

O’Malley has a complicated history on marriage rights. After initially supporting marriage equality, he backtracked in 2007, after the state high court ruled against same-sex marriage in Maryland. That year, he told the Blade in an exclusive interview that he supported civil unions but would sign a marriage equality bill if the legislature passed it. He has reiterated that pledge during this year’s campaign, while maintaining his support for civil unions.

The audience seemed happy about O’Malley’s remarks, cheering and clapping throughout his speech.

“I was pleased. He specifically mentioned his commitment to ensuring that the state’s anti-bullying law is fully enforced, which in light of the tragic deaths of so many young, LGBT people in recent months is more important than ever,” Meneses-Sheets said. “ But most important, he talked about equal treatment under the law for all Marylanders and all families.”

O’Malley mentioned Tyler Clementi in his speech before reminding attendees that he signed a bill creating an anti-bullying policy in 2008, which set standards for all public school systems in the state.

O’Malley did not take questions from the media after his speech.

Gansler followed O’Malley and gave a short speech, saying the governor and his wife are 100 percent behind the issues Equality Maryland is fighting for.

Gansler received a standing ovation when after saying it was great that out-of-state marriages were recognized, added, “It is absurd people can’t get married here in Maryland.”

Lea Gilmore and Scott Davenport were both honored at the gala as part of the program. Gilmore was awarded Ally of the Year and her husband accepted the award, reading an e-mail she sent from Germany.

Davenport, president of Equality Maryland, received the Legacy Award for his work with the organization and outside of it.

“Trust me, everything can be fixed, I know that, I have kids,” Davenport joked when he dropped his award and it broke.

Davenport also donated $20,000 to hire a lobbyist for the upcoming legislative session, on the condition that the organization raise funds to match his donation.

Immediately after this announcement, attendees began shouting out donation amounts, including Meneses-Sheets.

They raised at least $20,500 from those donations. Equality Maryland is still working on figuring out how much was raised from tickets to the event and the silent auction.

Officials from Equality Maryland described the event as a success.

“The room was bursting at the seams,” Meneses-Sheets said. “We had more state and local lawmakers than ever come out and stand with us. We had a great program demonstrating our ties to communities of faith, communities of color, labor and our statewide elected officials. But most important, people had fun and left inspired to keep up the fight.”

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Maryland

Protests interrupt Moms for Liberty meeting about removing books in Howard County schools

Guest speaker led book-removal campaign in Carroll County

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Gabriella Monroe holds a poster that says 'Ban Bigotry Not Books' outside Howard County’s Central Branch library in Columbia on Feb. 26, 2024 (Photo by Sam Mallon for the Baltimore Banner)

BY KRISTEN GRIFFITH | When a Howard County chapter of Moms for Liberty wanted to learn how to remove books from schools, they were met with a swarm of protesters sporting rainbow colors and signs looking to send the message that such actions are not welcome in their district.

The conservative parents’ group met Monday night at Howard’s Central Branch library in Columbia to brainstorm how they could get books they deemed inappropriate out of their children’s school libraries. Their guest speaker for the evening was Jessica Garland, who led a successful book-removal campaign in Carroll County. The Howard chapter wanted the playbook.

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

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Rehoboth Beach

Former CAMP Rehoboth official pleads guilty to felony theft

Salvatore Seeley faces possible jail time, agrees to reimburse $176,000

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Salvatore “Sal” Seeley, who served as an official at the Rehoboth Beach, Del., CAMP Rehoboth LGBTQ community center for 20 years, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Theft In Excess of $50,000 for allegedly embezzling  funds from the organization for at least a two-and-a-half-year period, according to a Sussex County, Del., Superior Court indictment and a spokesperson for the Delaware Office of the Attorney General.

The spokesperson, Mat Marshall, sent the Blade a copy of the indictment, which he said was handed down against Seeley on Feb. 27 and which provides the only specific court information that the Washington Blade could immediately obtain.

“Salvatore C. Seeley, between the 27th day of February 2019 and the 7th day of September 2021, in the County of Sussex, State of Delaware, did take property belonging to Camp Rehoboth, Inc., consisting of United States currency and other miscellaneous property valued at more than $50,000, intending to appropriate same,” the indictment states.

“I can further confirm that the Defendant entered a guilty plea to one count of Theft in Excess of $50,000,” spokesperson Marshall told the Blade in an email message. “Mr. Seeley also agrees to make restitution of $176,199.78 to CAMP Rehoboth,” Marshall said. “He will be sentenced on April 5 and does face the possibility of prison time.”

Marshall declined to provide additional information on the findings of the law enforcement investigation into Seeley’s alleged theft. The restitution figure of $176,199.79 suggests investigators believe Seeley embezzled at least that amount from CAMP Rehoboth during the time he worked for the organization.

Seeley couldn’t immediately be reached for comment

CAMP Rehoboth describes itself as a nonprofit LGBTQ community service organization and the largest organization of its type “serving the needs of LGBTQ+ people in Rehoboth, greater Sussex County, and throughout the state of Delaware.” The statement adds that the organization “is dedicated to creating a positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Rehoboth and its related communities.”

Kim Leisey, who began her job as executive director of CAMP Rehoboth in July of 2023, said it was her understanding that officials with the organization discovered funds were missing and opened an investigation in September of 2021, a short time before Seeley left the organization. Leisey said that at the time of his departure, Seeley served as CAMP Rehoboth’s director of health and wellness programs. 

At that time, former D.C. Center for the LGBT Community director David Mariner was serving as CAMP Rehoboth’s executive director and reportedly took steps to open an investigation into missing funds. Wesley Combs, CAMP Rehoboth’s current board president, said Seeley resigned from his job around that time in 2021.

“I know that I took this job knowing there was a concern and a problem and an investigation,” Leisey told the Blade. “And I also know that the board of CAMP Rehoboth has done everything it needs to do to ensure that we were compliant, cooperative and that things are going really well here at CAMP Rehoboth.”

Leisey said CAMP Rehoboth currently has a staff of six full-time employees and several contract employees. She said the organization has a current annual budget of $1.4 million.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride theme

‘Totally radical’ a nod to 80s and 90s

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Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos, on left, announces this year's Pride theme at the Pride Reveal party on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance on Thursday announced this year’s Pride theme is “totally radical.”

The organization made the announcement at Penn Social in Downtown D.C.

“Capital Pride’s 2024 theme celebrates the courageous spirit and unwavering strength and resilience that defined the LGBTQ+ community during the transformative decades of the 1980s and ‘90s,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos. “It’s about embracing our authenticity, pushing boundaries and advocating for a world where everyone can live their truth without fear or discrimination.”

Capital Pride on Thursday announced this year’s Pride parade, which will take place on June 8, will begin at 14th and T Streets, N.W., and end at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, N.W.

The Capital Pride Block Party and Family Area will once again take place on 17th Street in Dupont Circle. A Tea Dance will also take place on Constitution Avenue, N.W., near the end of the parade. 

The Capital Pride Festival and Concert will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., on June 9.

Capital Pride has also launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million for a new D.C. LGBTQ community center. 

WorldPride will take place in D.C. in 2025. The event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pride events in the nation’s capital.

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