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Annapolis rally draws 500 marriage supporters

Opponents have their lobby day planned for next week

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Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler speaks at Lobby Day Monday. (Photo by Steve Charing, courtesy Baltimore Outloud)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Buoyed by the real prospects of achieving marriage equality in Maryland in 2011, an enthusiastic crowd estimated to be at least 500 jammed Lawyer’s Mall for the annual Equality Maryland-organized Lobby Day rally on Monday.

Two signature bills — the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (SB 116) and the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act (HB 235) — are making their way through the legislative process during the current General Assembly.

The news that Sens. Ed Kasemeyer (Howard, Baltimore County) and Kathy Klausmeier (Baltimore City, Baltimore County) announced their support for the marriage bill earlier in the day was met with a loud cheer.

Groups opposing marriage rights for same-sex couples, such as the National Organization for Marriage are expected to hold their own rally next week.

After brief introductory remarks by Equality Maryland’s executive director Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola (Montgomery County), lead sponsor of SB 116 told the crowd, “As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, no one can argue that the capacity and bond of love is any different between heterosexual and same-sex couples.”

House Majority Leader Kumar Barve (Montgomery County), lead sponsor of the House version of the marriage equality bill (HB 175), followed.

“I am very proud to be a sponsor of this legislation and SB 116/HB 175 is a testament to what it means to be an American and what it means to be free and equal in our society,” he told the crowd.

Other speakers included Del. Ariana Kelly (Montgomery County), lead sponsor of the gender identity non-discrimination bill; Attorney General Douglas Gansler; and Sandy Rawls, founder of Trans-United, a transgender advocacy group.

The final speaker was former Equality Maryland director Dan Furmansky. “Right now we can literally feel the winds of change upon us,” he said. “Today we are part of a much broader movement …we now are the leaders in this movement and we will be next state for marriage equality.”

The Lobby Day event was bolstered by unusually mild weather. Following the rally, participants broke off according to their own legislative districts to visit with senators and delegates to press the two bills in pre-scheduled meetings.

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Maryland

Moore pardons more than 175,000-plus cannabis-related convictions

Governor signed executive order at State House on Monday

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

BY BRENDA WINTRODE and PAMELA WOOD | Gov. Wes Moore pardoned more than 175,000 cannabis-related convictions Monday, nullifying guilty verdicts decided when carrying small amounts of the drug or paraphernalia was illegal.

The Democratic governor signed an executive order during a State House ceremony, granting clemency to thousands of people convicted in Maryland. The convictions to be pardoned include more than 150,000 misdemeanors for simple possession and more than 18,000 for possession of drug paraphernalia with an intent to use.

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

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Local

Blade wins multiple journalism awards

Society of Professional Journalists recognizes writing, design work

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The D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honored the work of the Washington Blade at its annual Dateline Awards dinner last week.

The Blade took top honors in the weekly newspaper editorial/opinion writing category for a piece by Michael Lavers, the Blade’s international news editor, titled, “Bearing witness to the unimaginable,” which recounted watching raw footage of Hamas’s attack against Israel on Oct. 7.

In it, Lavers wrote, “The Israeli government clearly wants the world to understand the barbarity of what happened on Oct. 7, and that is why it has shown footage of that horrific Saturday to journalists and lawmakers. The footage left me deeply shaken, and perhaps that was the point.”

Washington Blade graphic designer Meaghan Juba won the Dateline Award for front-page design in the weekly newspaper category.

And in the weekly newspaper-features category, the Blade’s Kathi Wolfe was recognized as a finalist for her piece titled, “Meet one of the most powerful disabled people on the planet.”

“These awards reflect our 55-year commitment to journalistic excellence,” said Blade Editor Kevin Naff. “Congratulations to our team for another year of award-winning journalism.”

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Baltimore

Baltimore Pride event disrupted by possible chemical agent, causing panic and injuries

Incident caused a stampede

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This year’s Pride Parade and Festival was expected to attract 100,000 people. (Photo by Kaitlin Newman/the Baltimore Banner)

BY JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV and BRENNA SMITH | A possible chemical agent was released in front of the main stage at the Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party on Saturday night, causing a stampede.

The incident occurred around 7 p.m. and police did not release the chemical agent, according to a spokesperson. The main stage for the event was located near North Avenue and Charles Street.

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

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