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Lawmakers hail introduction of Md. marriage bill

Vote in Senate expected in February



Maryland Sen. Rob Garagiola at the podium. State Del. Mary Washington is to his right. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Members of the Maryland Legislature joined LGBT activists at a news conference at the state capitol in Annapolis Tuesday to formally launch a campaign to pass a same-sex marriage bill that backers introduced the previous week.

The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act is expected to come up for a committee hearing in the State Senate the first week of February and likely will be sent to the Senate floor for debate and a vote as soon as Feb. 7, according to sources familiar with the measure.

Political insiders have said they believe supporters have the votes this year to pass the measure in the Senate, where it has died in committee in past years. And sources claim the House has had the necessary votes for some time to pass it.

“I am very proud to be a sponsor of this legislation,” said House of Delegates Majority Leader Kumar Barve (D-Mont. County), who holds the No. 2 leadership position in that body. “This bill is a testament to what it means to be an American and what it means to be free and equal in our society.”

Barve was one of more than 25 lawmakers and LGBT advocates and their supporters who attended the Jan. 25 news conference in Annapolis.

Sen. Rob Garagiola (D-Mont. County), the Senate Majority Leader and a sponsor of the marriage bill, told the gathering that gay and straight couples are “no different” in their capacity to love one another.

“It’s time that the rights already enjoyed by many who can obtain a marriage license in Maryland are enjoyed by all regardless of gender and sexual orientation,” he said.

The official registry of bills on the Maryland Legislature’s website shows that the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act was introduced in the House of Delegates on Jan. 20 with 17 sponsors and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

The registry shows that the marriage bill was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 21 with 18 sponsors, including Garagiola and Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who is gay. It was sent to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of the statewide LGBT group Equality Maryland, the lead advocate for the bill, said another copy of the identical bill was introduced in the House of Delegates Tuesday with 56 sponsors, including Barve, whose name was not on the first House bill introduced last week.

“This is the bill we will be pushing,” she said. “It’s very common to introduce more than one bill. It happens all the time.”

The two-page bill calls for amending the state’s family law, which currently says, “Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state.” The new language in the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act would rewrite that provision to state, “Only a marriage between two individuals who are not otherwise prohibited from marrying is valid in this state.”

A second provision in the bill states that “an official of a religious institution or body authorized to solemnize marriages may not be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of the right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by the Maryland Constitution and Maryland Declaration of Rights.”

Backers say the latter provision, which is similar to a provision in D.C.’s same-sex marriage law, is aimed at assuring religious leaders that churches and other faith-based institutions cannot be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

Equality Maryland and the national same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry jointly sponsored the Tuesday news conference.

Officials with both groups said they were hopeful that growing support for same-sex marriage in the state, as reflected in public opinion polls, would help supporters beat back a well-funded opposition campaign by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to defeat the bill.

NOM President Brian Brown said the group would immediately file a petition to bring a same-sex marriage bill before voters in a referendum if the legislature passes it and Gov. Martin O’Malley signs it. O’Malley, a Democrat, has said he would sign the bill if the legislature passes it.

A statewide poll commissioned by the Washington Post and released this week shows that 51 percent of Maryland voters favor a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 44 percent oppose such a law. Five percent had no response on the issue.

The same poll showed O’Malley had a job approval rating 58 percent, the highest approval he’s had since becoming governor, according to the Post. Thirty percent of those polled disapprove of O’Malley’s job performance and 13 percent were not sure, the poll shows.

Although O’Malley’s stated commitment to sign a marriage bill has been widely reported in the media, the high approval rating hasn’t changed his decision not to take an active role in lobbying for the marriage bill.

And in a related development, O’Malley released his legislative agenda for the 2011 session of the legislature that includes at least 15 bills addressing a variety of issues, including healthcare, gun control, child welfare and promotion of electric vehicles.

Missing from O’Malley’s legislative agenda are the marriage bill and a separate bill expected to be introduced this year to ban employment discrimination against transgender residents.

Asked why O’Malley didn’t include the marriage and transgender bills in his agenda list, his press secretary, Shaun Adamec, said in an e-mail that the governor includes only those bills he introduces himself in his agenda list. Adamec said O’Malley supports additional bills that members of the legislature introduce and that he fully supports and plans to sign both the marriage bill and transgender rights bill.

“The Governor has been very clear that achieving equity for all Marylanders continues to be a priority of his,” Adamec said.

“We are here today as part of a growing movement across the country toward fairness and respect for all families,” said Sean Eldridge, political director of Freedom to Marry, at Tuesday’s news conference.

“Same-sex couples are now free to marry in five states and next door in the District of Columbia, as well as a dozen countries worldwide,” he said. “And in each of these places, the sky has not fallen, and families have been helped, with no one hurt. Because there is no good reason to continue excluding same-sex couples from marriage, Freedom to Marry supports the work of our Maryland partners to pass the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act,” he said.

“Make no doubt about it – Maryland is ready for marriage equality, and we will not stop until it is no longer denied to our families,” said Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), one of five lesbian members of the House of Delegates.


District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

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



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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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Pride celebrations include parade, festival, fireworks, and more

More than 100 events for all ages planned for June



The Blade’s Pride on the Pier returns June 10 with the region’s only Pride fireworks display at 9 p.m.

More than 100 different events for all ages and interests will take place in D.C. for Pride month.

The Capital Pride Alliance will officially kick off Pride month on Thursday with a show from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Sasha Velour, the 17th Official D.C. Latinx Pride Party and more at Bunker (2001 14th St., N.W.)

Capital Pride on Friday will hold Capital Pride Honors at Penn Social (801 E St., N.W.). Capital Pride every Pride month honors individuals and organizations that have made a lasting impact on D.C.’s LGBTQ community. Among the honorees this year is the National LGBTQ Task Force, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The Washington Nationals will host the 17th annual Pride Night Out on June 6. With the purchase of a Pride ticket, attendees will receive a Pride T-shirt and $5 from their ticket will go to support Team DC, which helps to support the LGBTQ community in sports.

D.C.’s largest Pride event, the Capital Pride Parade, will take place on June 10. The parade will follow a 1.5-mile route, which will step off on 14th Street at T Street, N.W., and finish on P Street at 21st Street N.W. A map of the expected parade route can be found on the Capital Pride website

During the parade, the Capital Block Party will take place at the intersection of Q and 17th Streets. The party will feature local vendors, food trucks and a 21+ beverage garden. The party will also have a designated viewing area for families with children to watch the parade, along with other children’s activities. 

The Wharf will be home to the fourth annual Pride on the Pier during the parade, hosted by the Washington Blade, LURe DC and the Wharf. The event, held from 2-9 p.m., will feature a fireworks show at 9 p.m., a DJ, drag performances, and more. VIP tickets are available in two shifts, offering catered food, open bar, and more. The fireworks display is sponsored by the Leonard-Litz LGBTQ Foundation. For more information and to buy VIP tickets, visit General admission to the festivities on the pier is free.

The parade will be followed by the Capital Pride Festival on June 11. Taking place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., the festival will feature more than 300 booths with local vendors, businesses and organizations. From 12-8 p.m., the Capital Pride Concert will host acts such as Broadway actress Idina Menzel and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Monét X Change.

From June 5-Aug. 11, ARTECHOUSE will be exhibiting its newest exhibit “PIXELBLOOM: Timeless Butterflies.” Visitors can use the promo code “PRIDE20” to get 20 percent off their ticket during Pride month.

Throughout the summer, Capital Pride will also host a variety of online events. In partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Capital Pride will host Youth in Action: Wearing Our PRIDE, which will feature young indigenous activists working toward social justice. Capital Pride will also host Zoom affinity support groups and social hours.

Further details and a full calendar of events can be found on the Capital Pride website.

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Arts & Entertainment

Must-attend D.C. Pride events for 2023

Don’t miss out on these fun events during D.C. Pride



Pride Month has arrived, bringing along a vibrant array of events to explore throughout the month of June. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to participate in our favorite events over the upcoming weeks!


The Washington Blade, in partnership with LURe DC and The Wharf, is excited to announce the 4th annual Pride on the Pier and Fireworks show during DC Pride weekend on Saturday, June 10, 2023, from 2-9 p.m.

The event will include the annual Pride on the Pier Fireworks Show presented by the Leonard-Litz Foundation at 9 p.m.

3PM: Drag Show

4PM: Capital Pride Parade Viewing on the Big Screen

9PM: Fireworks Show presented by the Leonard-Litz Foundation


Once again we’re celebrating Pride in DC with the release of Pride Pils!

The 2023 design has been created and donated by the talented Chord Bezerra of District CO/OP.

Attendance is “FREE” but please RSVP via this Eventbrite or donating at the event to further support our non-profit partners SMYAL and The Blade Foundation. 100% will be donated. As always, DC Brau and Red Bear Brewing Co. will be donating all profit from the sale of this year’s Pride Pils to our non-profit partners.


Dupont Underground, in partnership with the Washington Blade presents The Ground We Stand On: Past and Present DC LGBTQ Changemakers. DC’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community stands as a testament to the unwavering spirit of countless individuals throughout the years. In recognition of their indomitable courage and resilience, an inspiring exhibition titled “The Ground We Stand On: Past and Present DC LGBTQ Changemakers” will showcase the remarkable journeys of both past and present changemakers who have left an indelible mark on the tapestry of Washington, DC. The exhibit underscores the enduring legacy of these remarkable individuals, serving as an inspiration for present and future generations. By shining a light on their remarkable contributions, this exhibition aims to empower and encourage the continuous evolution of the DC LGBTQ+ community and its influence that transcends boundaries.


Join Dupont Underground and the Washington Blade every Friday for Drag Underground. Featuring some of the best Drag Queens in DC!

Performers include Destiny B Childs, Elecktra Gee, Jane Saw, and Shi-Queeta Lee


metrobar prides itself on serving locally-produced beer, wine and spirits. As part of this mission, we are hosting a curated tasting event featuring Civic Vodka & Assembly Gin from local, woman-owned and operated distillery, Republic Restoratives. We will also have a selection of beers from DC Brau, including their annual Pride Pils for tasting.


Join Dupont Underground and the Washington Blade every Friday for Drag Underground. Featuring some of the best Drag Queens in DC!

Performers include Cake Pop, GiGI Paris Couture, Kabuki Bukkake, Delila B. Lee

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