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Ugly testimony at Md. marriage hearing

Opponents invoke pedophilia, incest while denouncing bill



Sen. Brian Frosh and Sen. Lisa Gladden (Blade photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — As many as 300 supporters and opponents of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland packed the halls of a State Senate office building in Annapolis Tuesday while several dozen witnesses testified on both sides of the issue.

The Democratic-controlled Judicial Proceedings Committee, which conducted a hearing on the bill, was expected to approve the measure and send it to the full Senate within the next week or two.

A majority of the members of the 11-person committee are co-sponsors or supporters of the bill, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.

Most political observers believe supporters have the votes to pass the bill in the Senate and the House of Delegates. Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he would sign the bill.

But opponents, led by Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, said they remain hopeful that supporters would fall short of obtaining the 24 votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate or the 29 votes needed to stop a Senate filibuster.

“Marriage is the union of husband and wife for a reason,” Gallagher said in her testimony. “These are the only unions that can make new life and connect children in love to their mom and dad … If Maryland adopts this radical new view of marriage, it will have consequences,” she said.

Many of the witnesses testifying against the bill — including ministers, an orthodox rabbi, and two Roman Catholic priests — picked up on Gallagher’s view that procreation is the cornerstone of marriage. They said changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would have a detrimental impact on families and society.

An equal number of witnesses, including a Catholic nun and Catholic lay leaders, two reform rabbis and at least a half-dozen Protestant ministers, both black and white, disputed those assertions, saying they believe same-sex unions strengthen rather than harm the family. Many of the witnesses backing the bill identified themselves as people of faith.

“My God loves everyone,” said Elbridge James, a lobbyist for the NAACP and director the Maryland Black Family Alliance.

“My God did not make a mistake,” he said. “And so if you were gay, my God did not make a mistake. If you were lesbian my God did not make a mistake. If you were transgender, my God did not make a mistake. And tonight, when I go home to my wife, nothing will deter me from loving my wife — certainly not if there’s a bill that protects gays, protects lesbians or protects the transgender community.”

Several of Maryland’s gay elected officials testified in favor of the bill. Among them was Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), a co-sponsor of the bill who has been a longtime advocate for marriage equality in the state. Others included Chevy Chase, Md., Mayor David Loveland and Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane.

Among Republicans testifying in support of the bill was Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard & Carroll Counties). Kittleman, the former Senate minority leader, initially planned to introduce a civil unions bill as a possible alternate measure to the marriage bill. Two weeks ago, he dropped those plans and announced his enthusiastic support for the marriage measure.

“I stand here as a strong Republican,” he told the committee, adding that he believes marriage equality is in full keeping with Republican principals of individual freedom.

Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County), chair of the committee, said at the start of the hearing that more than 140 people signed up to testify.

Their names, organizational affiliation and information on whether they were for or against the bill weren’t immediately available because the committee did not release a witness list on the day of the hearing.

In a procedure unlike the equally packed hearing for a same-sex marriage bill approved by the D.C. City Council last year, the Judicial Proceedings Committee in Maryland required witnesses to sign up in person to testify on the morning of the hearing, preventing the committee from compiling an advance witness list and releasing it to the media.

Based on the testimony delivered during the day, it appeared that the witnesses were about equally divided between supporters and opponents of the bill. As Frosh and Sen. Lisa Gladen (D-Baltimore City), the committee’s vice chair, called witnesses to testify, many were not present, indicating that a significant number chose not to wait their turn to speak at a hearing that lasted more than six hours.

Lisa Polyak, a board member and spokesperson for Equality Maryland, the statewide LGBT organization that coordinated testimony in support of the bill, said the group lined up about 48 supporting witnesses. She said others supporting the bill, including a number of same-sex couples, came on their own.

“We were extremely gratified for all of the families that came out, all of our community partners, and all of the clergy that came out to speak their truth and support us,” she said. “I don’t think we could have had a better diversity of representation.”

Among those testifying was Polyak’s and her partner, Gita Deane’s daughter, 14-year-old Maya Deane-Polyak, a freshman at Baltimore’s Bryan Mawr High School.

“My moms’ first concern has always been my sister and I,” said Maya. “They make sure our every need is met, whether it is helping us with homework, driving us to a friend’s house or merely just being there to cheer us up when we are sad — they do it all and even more.”

Noting that she has witnessed first-hand examples of how her two moms encounter discrimination because they can’t marry in Maryland, she urged the committee to promptly approve the marriage bill.

“So I ask you to please consider, consider the fact that you have the power to change my family’s life when you make your decision,” she said. “I want our moms to be married. You have the power to make that happen.”

Many of the witnesses opposing the bill said broadening marriage to include same-sex couples would weaken the family structure and harm children. Several said children of same-sex parents don’t do as well in school and show greater signs of emotional problems compared to kids of opposite-sex, married parents. LGBT activists have said those assertions are not supported by impartial studies.

Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative litigation group that challenges same-sex marriage laws throughout the country, testified that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples insures that children are raised by a “stable family.”

He said “responsible procreation” is a key reason why Maryland and other states should not legalize marriage for same-sex couples. By pushing to “redefine” marriage to include gay and lesbian couples “you are telling people that mothers and fathers don’t matter,” he told the committee.

In response to questions by committee member Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), a co-sponsor of the marriage bill, Nimocks acknowledged that some same-sex couples may make good parents, saying “you can find individual circumstances that go against a general rule.”

But other witnesses opposing the bill said there could be no exceptions to their religious-based belief that child rearing by same-sex parents is always harmful to children, both psychologically and spiritually.

“That union of our parents was a sacred right granted to them by almighty God,” said Timonium, Md., resident Gerard Selby. “God’s design for the human race was that it be procreated by the union of a man and a woman.”

He added, “Where do we draw the lines? What comes next? If a man loses his wife to a premature death, shouldn’t he be allowed to marry his daughter, or son, or both?

Leroy Swales (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Leroy Swales, an Oxon Hill, Md., resident who testified last year against the D.C. same-sex marriage bill, told the committee Tuesday that approval of the bill, among other things, would result in Maryland’s elementary schools using the book “Heather Has Two Mommies,” which he called a “pedophile book,” as a teaching aid for students.

Saying that homosexuality is related to an “electrical imbalance of the brain,” he called on the committee to use “science” and biblical scriptures as justification for defeating the bill.



Montgomery County police chief discusses arrest of trans student charged with planned school shooting

County executive tells news conference student’s trans identity is irrelevant to criminal charge



(Photo by jiawangkun/Bigstock)

Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Marcus Jones joined other county and law enforcement officials at a news conference on Friday, April 19, to provide details of the police investigation and arrest of an 18-year-old high school student charged two days earlier with threats of mass violence based on information that he allegedly planed a mass shooting at the high school and elementary school he attended in Rockville, Md.

In charging documents and in a press release issued on April 18, Montgomery County Police identified the arrested student as “Andrea Ye, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye.”

One of the charging documents states that a friend of Ye, who police say came forward as a witness who played a crucial role in alerting authorities to Ye’s threats of a school shooting, noted that Ye told the witness that Ye identified as the transgender student he wrote about as character in a 129-page manifesto outlining plans for a school shooting. Police have said Ye told them the manifesto was a fictional story he planned to publish.  

At the news conference on Friday, Police Chief Jones and other law enforcement officials, including an FBI official and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, referred to the student as Alex Ye and Mr. Ye. None of the officials raised the issue of whether Ye identified as a transgender man, seven though one of the police documents identifies Ye as a “biological female.”

County Executive Elrich appeared to express the views of the public officials at the news conference when one of the media reporters, during a question-and-answer period, asked Elrich why he and the others who spoke at the news conferment failed to “admit that this individual was transgender.”

“Because it’s not a lead,” Elrich replied, asking if the press and law enforcement authorities should disclose that someone arrested for murder is “a white Christian male who’s heterosexual.” Elrich stated, “No, you don’t – You never publish somebody’s sexual orientation when we talk about this. Why you are focusing on this being a transgender is beyond me. It’s not a news story. It is not a crime to  be transgender.”

The reporter attempted to respond but was cut off by the press conference moderator, who called on someone else to ask the next question.

In his remarks at the press conference Chief Jones praised the so far unidentified witness who was the first to alert authorities about Ye’s manifesto appearing to make threats of a mass school shooting.

“Now, this is a situation that highlights  the critical importance of vigilance and community involvement in preventing potential tragedies,” Jones said. “I commend the collaborative efforts of the Montgomery County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  the Rockville City Police Department, and the Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as Montgomery County Health and Human Services,” he told the gathering.

“Thanks to their swift action and cooperation a potentially catastrophic event was prevented,” Jones said.

Jones pointed out that during the current school year, police have received reports of 140 threats to the public schools in Montgomery County. He said after a thorough investigation, none of them rose to the level where an arrest was made. Instead, police and school officials took steps to arrange for the student making the threats and their parents to take remedial action, including providing  mental health services.

“But this case is different,” Jones said. “This case is entirely different that takes it to a different level. It was a concerned witness who brought this matter to light by rereporting the suspect’s manifesto to the authorities. This underscores the value of community engagement and the ‘see something say something’ approach,” he said.

Jones mentioned at the press conference that Ye was  being held without bond since the time of his arrest but was scheduled to appear in court for a bond hearing on Friday shortly after the press conference took place to determine whether he should be released while awaiting trial or continue to be held.

In his manifesto obtained by police, Ye writes about committing a school shooting, and strategizes how to carry out the act. Ye also contemplates targeting an elementary school and says that he wants to be famous.

In charging documents reported on by WJLA 7 and WBAL 11, the 129-page document, which Ye has referred to as a book of fiction, included writings that said, in part:

“I want to shoot up a school. I’ve been preparing for months. The gun is an AR-15. This gun is going to change lives tomorrow … As I walk through the hallways, I cherry pick the classrooms that are the easiest targets. I need to figure out how to sneak the gun in. I have contemplated making bombs. The instructions to make them are surprisingly available online. I have also considered shooting up my former elementary school because little kids make easier targets. High school’s the best target; I’m the most familiar with the layout. I pace around my room like an evil mastermind. I’ve put so much effort into this. My ultimate goal would be to set the world record for the most amount of kills in a shooting. If I have time, I’ll try to decapitate my victims with a knife to turn the injuries into deaths.”

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Rockville teen charged with plotting school shooting after FBI finds ‘manifesto’

Alex Ye charged with threats of mass violence



Alex Ye (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Police Department)

BY BRETT BARROUQUERE | A Montgomery County high school student is charged with what police describe as plans to commit a school shooting.

Andrea Ye, 18, of Rockville, whose preferred name is Alex Ye, is charged with threats of mass violence. Montgomery County Police and the FBI arrested Ye Wednesday.

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

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District of Columbia

New D.C. LGBTQ+ bar Crush set to open April 19

An ‘all-inclusive entertainment haven,’ with dance floor, roof deck



Crush (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s newest LGBTQ+ bar called Crush is scheduled to open for business at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 19, in a spacious, two-story building with a dance floor and roof deck at 2007 14th St., N.W. in one of the city’s bustling nightlife areas.

A statement released by co-owners Stephen Rutgers and Mark Rutstein earlier this year says the new bar will provide an atmosphere that blends “nostalgia with contemporary nightlife” in a building that was home to a popular music store and radio supply shop.

Rutgers said the opening comes one day after Crush received final approval of its liquor license that was transferred from the Owl Room, a bar that operated in the same building before closing Dec. 31 of last year. The official opening also comes three days after Crush hosted a pre-opening reception for family, friends, and community members on Tuesday, April 16.

Among those attending, Rutgers said, were officials with several prominent local LGBTQ organizations, including officials with the DC Center for the LGBTQ Community, which is located across the street from Crush in the city’s Reeves Center municipal building. Also attending were Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, and Salah Czapary, director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture.  

Rutgers said Crush plans to hold a grand opening event in a few weeks after he, Rutstein and the bar’s employees become settled into their newly opened operations.

“Step into a venue where inclusivity isn’t just a promise but a vibrant reality,” a statement posted on the Crush website says. “Imagine an all-inclusive entertainment haven where diversity isn’t just celebrated, it’s embraced as the very heartbeat of our venue,” the statement says. “Welcome to a place where love knows no bounds, and the only color or preference that matters is the vibrant tapestry of humanity itself. Welcome to Crush.”

The website says Crush will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m., Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 3 a.m., and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. It will be closed on Mondays.

Crush is located less than two blocks from the U Street Metro station.

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