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Md. marriage bill coming next week

GOP Senate leader steps down over civil unions flap

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A Republican lawmaker in Maryland who plans to introduce a civil unions bill startled colleagues this week by resigning from his position as minority leader in the State Senate one week before the scheduled introduction of a same-sex marriage bill.

Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard County) said he decided to withdraw from the minority leader post he held for two years after determining he was not conservative enough for the other 11 GOP senators in the 47-member Senate.

Observers at the state capital in Annapolis said it became clear to Kittleman that his moderate to liberal views on social issues troubled the other GOP senators after he announced plans to introduce legislation allowing civil unions in Maryland for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

“I’m a social moderate and I wanted to stand up for what I believe in,” the Baltimore Sun quoted him as saying. “It’s more important for me to stay true to my beliefs than it is for me to be the minority leader.”

LGBT advocates pushing for a same-sex marriage bill in the Maryland Legislature had expressed concern earlier this month that Kittleman’s civil unions measure might take away votes from the marriage bill. In other states, lawmakers reluctant to back same-sex marriage have embraced civil unions as a less controversial alternative, saying it provides the same legal benefits as marriage.

But this week, the head of the statewide LGBT group Equality Maryland said she was hopeful that Kittleman’s action would create an opportunity for same-sex marriage advocates to point out the differences between marriage and civil unions and why civil unions don’t provide full protections for lesbian and gay couples.

“This was an incredibly brave and important move on his part to stand by his principles,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Equality Maryland’s executive director.

“And we really thank him for that and we will continue to communicate with him and talk with him,” she said. “We certainly hope we will have his support when the marriage bill comes.”

Meneses-Sheets said the marriage bill is scheduled to be introduced next Tuesday at a time when her organization and most political observers believe supporters of the bill have the votes to pass it in both chambers.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign a same-sex marriage measure approved by the legislature.

Kittleman has not said when he plans to formally introduce his civil unions bill, and he has not released details of its content other than to say it would cover both same-sex and heterosexual couples.

His office said he was not immediately available for comment.

Meneses-Sheets said she doesn’t believe Kittleman was planning to introduce a civil unions bill with the intention of derailing the marriage measure.

“I really think that he truly supports providing protections for gay and lesbian couples and that he’s in a challenging position,” she said. “Clearly, where his party isn’t offering support for that position, he’s standing by his principles.”

Added Meneses-Sheets, “We’re hoping to have those conversations with him and a good open dialogue about why it really needs to be marriage, what the key differences are in both the rights and responsibilities and the important status of marriage in our society.”

The national same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry is scheduled to hold a joint news conference with Equality Maryland at the state capital in Annapolis at 11 a.m. on Jan. 25 to announce the official introduction of the marriage bill.

Equality Maryland has announced an increase in its staff to boost its lobbying capabilities on behalf of the bill. The group has begun holding meetings throughout the state to recruit volunteers to engage in grassroots campaigns to rally support for the legislation. Meetings have already taken place in Prince Georges and Montgomery counties, with meetings scheduled Wednesday night in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County.

“They’ve been well attended, and people are incredibly excited and really ready to pitch in every way they can,” said Meneses-Sheets.

The National Organization for Marriage, which is leading efforts to oppose same-sex marriage nationwide, has vowed to spend large sums of money in Maryland to work against passage of a marriage bill.

The group is expected to organize a voter referendum to prevent the bill from becoming law if the legislature passes it and O’Malley signs the measure, setting in motion what some predict will be Maryland’s version of Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that ended same-sex marriage there.

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Comings & Goings

Conner promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications

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Robert Conner

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Robert Conner, promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications. On his promotion Conner said, “I’m proud to be promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications. Our clients are all mission-driven. I am fortunate to use my expertise to help clients communicate complex and urgent information to the public in order to help people learn about new research relating to their health, and the society around them. As an activist fighting for equality and LGBTQ causes, my daily work at Scott Circle Communications aligns with my overarching life goal of using communication to benefit the greater good by writing clearly to bridge misunderstandings.” 

Conner previously worked at SKDKnickerbocker in D.C. Prior to that he had been an intern in the office of Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).  He has had a number of speaking engagements with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and received a bronze Bulldog Award for Best Media Relations Campaign 2022. He served as chair of the volunteer engagement committee of the Human Rights Campaign in Greater Philadelphia.

Conner earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa.

Congratulations also to Christopher Rudolf who joined Atlantic Shores Sotheby’s International Realty in Ocean City, Md. Rudolph is a licensed Realtor in Maryland and Delaware specializing in the beaches and coastal areas of Worcester County, Md., and Sussex County, Del. He said, “I have been assisting buyers and sellers of real estate in our area since 2015. I thoroughly enjoy helping people achieve their dreams of coastal property ownership. The Maryland/Delaware seashore is a very cool place that I like to call home, and teaching people about the history and attractions of the region is a lifelong passion of mine.”  

In addition to real estate in the warm months, Rudolf works part-time as a manager at The Kite Loft of Ocean City. He was appointed to the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals in 2013 by Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, and recently was elected chair of the board.  

He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Salisbury University in Maryland.  

Christopher Rudolf
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Maryland

Lesbian candidate trails by just 17 votes in Hyattsville Council race

Election board mum on whether all ballots are counted

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Lisbeth Melendez Rivera (Photo courtesy of the Melendez Rivera Campaign)

Lesbian activist and diversity consultant Lisbeth Melendez Rivera was behind her closet rival by just 17 votes on Tuesday night in a three-candidate special election to fill a vacant seat on the Hyattsville, Md., City Council.

In what it said were the unofficial results of the special election, the Hyattsville Board of Supervisors of Elections posted on its website that candidate Emily Strab had 280 votes, Melendez Rivera had 263 votes, and candidate Kelly Burello had 152 votes. Three votes were cast for write-in candidates, the election night posting said.

“Results are unofficial until certified by the Board of Supervisors of Election,” the posting said. The certification was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6.

The online posting of the results did not say whether there were any outstanding votes from absentee or mail-in ballots. A spokesperson for the election board couldn’t immediately be reached Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

The Ward 2 seat on the 10-member Hyattsville Council in the Prince George’s County suburban city became vacant when the incumbent Council member, Robert Croslin, won election as mayor.

Melendez Rivera currently operates BQN Consulting, a firm she created to provide support services related to organizing, training and capacity building, according to the firm’s website. The website says that from 2014 to 2017 she served as Director of Latinx & Catholic Initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign, the D.C.-based national LGBTQ advocacy organization.

“I congratulated Emily,” Melendez Rivera told the Washington Blade Wednesday morning.

 “Have I said this is the end? No, because I want to wait until tomorrow at 1 to see the outcome,” she said.

“What I know is everything that was available to them was counted as of 9:30 last night,” she said, referring to the election board. “There is a process today. They will do a last check of the mail to see if anything was postmarked before 8 p.m. last night,” Melendez Rivera said in referring to possible additional mail-in ballots.

Melendez Rivera said she portrayed herself as the most progressive of the three candidates running for the nonpartisan City Council seat in a city that many consider to be one of the most progressive jurisdictions in the Washington metro area. Residents starting at age 16 and non-citizen immigrants are allowed to vote in local elections.

Like Melendez Rivera, Strab, a former teacher and school administrator, and Burello, who has worked as a workplace diversity trainer, each expressed support for Hyattsville’s diverse population, including racial minorities and immigrants.

The 698 total votes cast in the special election as of Tuesday night is considered a low turnout in the Ward 2 election district, which has a little over 2,000 registered voters.

This story will be updated when new information becomes available.

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District of Columbia

Gay ANC commissioner nominated for director of D.C. Office of ANCs

Confirmation hearing set for Oct. 12

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Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese (Photo courtesy of Boese)

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) on Sept. 19 introduced a resolution nominating gay law librarian and Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese to become executive director of the D.C. Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

The ANC Office director, who is nominated and confirmed by the Council, oversees the operations of the city’s 40 ANCs, which consist of nearly 300 commissioners representing single member ANC districts located in neighborhoods throughout each of the city’s eight wards.

Boese currently represents ANC Single Member District 1A08 in Ward 1.

Shawn Hilgendorf, staff director of the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations and Facilities, which has jurisdiction over the Office of ANCs, said Mendelson nominated Boese for the Executive Director’s position after the committee earlier this year accepted applications for the position and “interviewed a number of candidates.”

The Council’s Committee of the Whole, which is chaired by Mendelson, is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Boese on Oct. 12, Hilgendorf said. The committee consists of all 13 members of the Council. If it approves Boese’s nomination, as expected, the full Council is expected to then take a final vote on the resolution calling for Boese’s appointment.

Boese is a former president of the D.C. Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, which has since changed its name to the Capital Stonewall Democrats. In 2018, Boese ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat in the Democratic primary.

A resumé for Boese submitted to the Council at the time of his nomination says he has worked since August 2008 as a law librarian, manager of technical services, and manager of library services for the D.C. law firm Wiley Rein.

“I’m honored & humbled by the confidence & support I’ve received from Chairman Mendelson during the selection process for a new Director of OANC,” Boese wrote in a Twitter posting. “I’m excited to leverage my ANC experience & relationships to build stronger supports & new services for ANCs across DC.”

Created under the city’s Home Rule Charter in the 1970s, ANCs serve as non-partisan, unpaid bodies that advise city government agencies on a variety of issues impacting neighborhoods, including zoning, trash collection, liquor license approval, and public safety. Although D.C. government agencies make the final decisions on these issues, they are required to give “great weight” to the recommendations of the ANCs.   

ANC commissioners are elected to two-year terms by the approximately 2,000 people who live in their Single Member Districts.

The director of the ANC Office oversees the administrative affairs, including the budgets, for all of the ANCs. The position became vacant last year when its longtime director Gottlieb Simon resigned. The Council appointed Schannette Grant as interim executive director while it conducted its search for a permanent director.

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