Connect with us


Marriage, trans bills get boost in Md. House

Valentine’s Day picked for lobbying on both measures



The same-sex marriage and transgender non-discrimination bills pending in the Maryland legislature cleared another hurdle last week when the speaker of the House of Delegates appointed a majority of supporters of the two bills to the committees that must first approve them.

House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) had been expected to retain a majority on the House Judiciary Committee in favor of the marriage equality bill as he has in past years, and did so again on Dec. 29.

But officials with Equality Maryland, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, were less certain about the makeup of the House Committee on Health and Government Operations. That panel has jurisdiction over a pending bill that would ban employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression, which would protect transgender people. In past years, the panel has not taken a vote on the transgender bill.

Equality Maryland Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets said the group was delighted with Busch’s decision on Dec. 29 to also name at least 13 supporters of the transgender measure to the 23-member Health and Government Operations Committee. The action ensures that the bill will be reported out of committee for an up or down vote in the House of Delegates.

In early December, a majority of pro-marriage equality members were named to the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee, ensuring for the first time that a same-sex marriage measure would clear that key panel and reach the Senate floor for a vote. Up until now, the Judicial Proceedings Committee has blocked the marriage bill from coming to a floor vote.

“We want to move the marriage bill first in the Senate and the gender identity bill first in the House,” Meneses-Sheets said in discussing the timetable planned for the bills among a coalition of supporters.

She said further refinement of the timetable for moving both measures was to be discussed Wednesday in a conference call between Equality Maryland officials and all seven members of the legislature’s gay and lesbian caucus.

Similar to past years, Meneses-Sheets and others advocating for the two bills believe there appear to be enough votes to pass the marriage bill in the House. Supporters in the Senate believe they have the 24 votes needed to pass the marriage bill on an up or down vote but were less certain over whether they have the 29 votes needed to stop an expected filibuster by same-sex marriage opponents.

“The question is whether we can get cloture to break a filibuster,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), who supports both the marriage equality and transgender non-discrimination bills.

“That’s the mystery at this point,” he said.

Raskin said he was not familiar enough with the positions of his colleagues on the transgender bill to predict its outcome other than to say he sees support growing for that measure.

Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who is gay, said on Wednesday he’s more confident in the prospects for the marriage bill.

“I have never been so optimistic about getting this done,” he said. “Today at lunch I sat quietly by myself with a list of the members of the new Senate going over again and again in my head where the votes are, and I’m feeling really good right now both for the floor vote and the cloture vote.”

Madaleno is among seven out gays and lesbians now serving in the Maryland legislature — one in the Senate and six in the House — who said they will push hard from the inside to pass both the marriage and transgender rights bill.

Meneses-Sheets said Equality Maryland has scheduled a lobby day for Feb. 14 on Valentine’s Day, where the group hopes large numbers of LGBT Marylanders and their straight supporters will come to the state capital in Annapolis to push for both bills.

She said the group is inviting LGBT people to bring family members with them to the all-day lobbying event, with the intention that they visit the offices of members of the Senate and House of Delegates from all parts of the state.

“We’re so close that it will take just a handful of votes to push this through,” she said of the marriage bill. “The electorate is with us on this. The young voters are with us on this issue.”

Concerning the transgender bill, she said its prospects “look good on the floor of the House” but “there may be challenges” in the Senate.

Among the challenges, she noted, are arguments by opponents that a transgender non-discrimination measure would enable men dressed as women to harass women in women’s bathrooms in public places.

Transgender activists have disputed the so-called “bathroom” argument, which usually surfaces when transgender non-discrimination legislation is introduced.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, has said no reports of women being targeted in bathrooms have surfaced in any of the states, cities or counties where transgender non-discrimination laws have been adopted.

“It’s a myth,” she said.

“We need to persuade people that you should be judged on the merits when it comes to your job,” said Meneses-Sheets. “It’s an economic issue.”

She said Equality Maryland is bringing on three more full-time staff members to work on the two bills beginning Jan. 12, when the Maryland General Assembly opens its 2011 session.

The session lasts for just 90 days, a development that LGBT activists say gives them only until April 11 to secure the passage of the marriage and transgender rights measures.

“We have a lot of work to do in a short time,” said Meneses-Sheets.

Madaleno said that under the longstanding practice in the General Assembly, nearly all important or controversial bills don’t come to a final vote until the last two or three weeks of the session in April.

A late passage of both the marriage and transgender rights bill would make it more difficult for opponents to collect the required signatures for a referendum to kill the bills. Nearly all observers of the General Assembly expect opponents to take out petitions to call a referendum, which would stop the bills from taking effect until after voters decide on the issue — assuming the required number of petitions is obtained.

Under the state constitution, one-third of the required number of petition signatures must be obtained by the end of May and the remainder of the signatures needed must be collected by the end of June. The gathering of petitions cannot begin until both houses of the General Assembly passes a bill being challenged. That means it would be to the advantage of supporters of the two bills to wait until the end of the session to pass them.

The number of signatures needed is three percent of the qualified voters in the state based on the total number of votes cast in the most recent election for governor.

Continue Reading


Chaos erupts at Loudoun County school board meeting over trans students rights proposal

Two people arrested, two others injured



transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Loudoun County School Board abruptly ended its meeting Tuesday as chaos erupted after parents who were against the school district’s implementation of Policy 8040 failed to observe rules regarding disruptions and decorum.

Loudoun Now reports Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser made the motion to curtail public comment about an hour after that portion of the meeting began. A brawl then broke out between members of the public, and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to clear the room. 

Two people were arrested, and two people also suffered minor injuries. The names of those who were taken into custody and injured have not been made public.

The school board resumed its meeting at 6:30 p.m. after it ended the public comment session and deputies cleared the room. The school board entered into closed session to meet with legal counsel and discuss negotiations involving a bid award.

In light of the events that transpired at the school board meeting, a group of LGBTQ groups in neighboring Fairfax County in a statement called upon prominent community members to condemn the anti-transgender hate in Loudoun County.

“A coalition of organizations based in Northern Virginia is calling on local officials … to condemn the rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ hate, in particular animosity towards transgender and gender-expansive students, on display in Loudoun County,” reads the statement 

“In addition, the coalition is asking for the denouncement of support for this hate from other local groups, including the Fairfax County Republican Committee, the Family Foundation of Virginia and the Family Research Council,” it adds. “Finally, the members of these organizations are requesting visible displays of support for LGBTQIA+ students, particularly trans and gender-expansive students, in both words and deeds.”

More than 300 people attended the school board meeting, with many of them opposing Policy 8040 which would allow transgender students to use their preferred name and pronouns regardless of the name and gender in their permanent education record. The proposed policy would also not require them to provide any substantiating evidence.

Parents also expressed their support for Policy 8040 during the public comment session.

They spoke in favor of inclusivity and equality in the Loudoun County School District.

Parents who were against the policy cited the need to respect biology and privacy as their arguments. In addition, some speakers, including former state Sen. Dick Black expressed anger at the previous school year’s events such as the suspension of physical education teacher Tanner Cross after he refused to refer to trans students using their preferred pronouns.  

“The crowd repeatedly cheered public speakers who lashed out at school board members and denounced the plan that would provide bathroom and locker room access based on a student’s gender identity,” WTOP News reports.

Only 51 of the 249 speakers who had signed up for public comment ended up speaking before Reaser’s motion was passed.

Continue Reading


Pride flags vandalized, stolen in Loudoun County town

‘Bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand’



Vandals destroyed or stole several Pride flags that had been displayed at homes in Lovettsville, Va. (Screen capture via WUSA9))

Vandals this week destroyed or stole Pride flags that Lovettsville residents had displayed on their homes.

Calvin Woehrie told WUSA the vandals used a blade to slash the Pride flag that was hanging from his house. The D.C. television station reported the vandals also targeted Woehrie’s neighbors who are a lesbian couple with four children.

The Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office said the vandals damaged five Pride flags from three homes and they stole two more. A spokesperson for the Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office told WUSA the vandalism is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

“I wanted to address events that happened over the weekend, that are deplorable and devastating to the entire community,” said Lovettsville Mayor Nate Fontaine in a letter he sent to town residents on June 16. “Over the weekend, there was destruction of property that specifically targeted our LGBTQ community. To make this even more heinous is that the destruction of property was done during Pride Month. To have property destroyed targeting members of our community is horrible and can be frightening for those targeted.” 

“For the individuals who committed these crimes, know that your bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand,” added Fontaine. “We are working closely with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and this has also been added as an agenda item for our June 24th Council meeting.”

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, on Saturday described the vandalism as “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Whether someone is voicing an opinion or flying a flag, as Virginians — and as human beings — we must be respectful of one another,” wrote Youngkin in a Facebook post.

“Politicians always seem to be pitting neighbor against neighbor, but I am committed to bringing people together around our shared values, like treating others the same way you want to be treated,” he added. “We must all do better by respecting others’ right to live their lives freely, without being targeted because of who they are.”

WUSA reported Lovettsville residents bought Pride flags to replace the ones that had been vandalized and stolen.

Continue Reading


Transgender man murdered in Va.

EJ Boykin was shot outside Lynchburg store on June 14



EJ Boykin (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A transgender man was murdered in Lynchburg, Va., on June 14.

The News and Advance, a local newspaper, reported EJ Boykin, who was also known as Novaa Watson, was shot outside a Family Dollar store on the city’s Fort Avenue at around 6 p.m. Boykin passed away at Lynchburg General Hospital a short time later.

A spokesperson for the Lynchburg Police Department told the News and Advance the shooting may have been the result of a domestic dispute. Authorities added there is no evidence to currently suggest the shooting was a hate crime based on Boykin’s gender identity.

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reported Boykin was born and raised in Baltimore and was a student at Morgan State University. The blog said Boykin celebrated his 23rd Birthday on June 10, four days before his murder.

Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement notes Boykin is the fifth trans man reported killed in 2021. HRC notes at least 29 trans or gender non-conforming people are known to have been murdered so far this year.

“The level of fatal violence we’ve recorded this year is higher than we’ve ever seen,” said Cooper. “All of these individuals deserved to live. We must strike at the roots of racism and transphobia, and continue to work toward justice and equality for trans and gender non-conforming people.”

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts