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Md. senator key to marriage vote

‘Yes’ from Conway puts measure over the top

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Conway

At least 23 members of Maryland’s 47-member State Senate have publicly disclosed they will vote for a same-sex marriage bill next week, drawing attention to a senator from Baltimore who promised she would cast the deciding vote in favor of the bill if supporters were just one vote short.

Twenty-four votes are needed to pass legislation in the State Senate, and LGBT advocates monitoring the marriage bill say they are reasonably certain that Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City) will fulfill her private commitment to vote “yes” if 23 of her colleagues also vote for the measure.

The Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee was expected to vote on Thursday to approve the bill and send it to the full Senate for debate and a floor vote next week.

Earlier this week, Conway told the Baltimore Sun she was still struggling over which way to vote on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which calls for allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry in Maryland.

“She made a statement earlier saying that she would cast the deciding vote if the votes were there,” Josh Hastings, Conway’s legislative assistant, told the Blade on Feb. 11. “But she didn’t think the votes were there. That was like two weeks ago.”

As of Monday, the number of senators who publicly disclosed they would vote for the bill reached 23.

Sens. Katherine Klausmeier and Edward Kasemeyer, both Democrats from Baltimore County, were the latest to announce their decision to vote ‘yes’ on the measure in statements to the media on Monday.

On the previous Friday, Sen. Jim Brochin, also a Democrat from Baltimore County, disclosed that he would vote for the marriage bill. He said his decision to support the bill was driven, in part, by the harsh and intolerant-sounding testimony against the bill by some of its opponents at a public hearing in Annapolis on Feb. 8.

Brochin is a member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and was present for nearly seven hours of testimony by more than 100 witnesses.

Conway shares the same legislative district as lesbian House of Delegates members Maggie McIntosh and Mary Washington, both Democrats from Baltimore City.

Sources familiar with the Maryland Legislature say Conway has made it clear to her Senate colleagues that she would vote “yes” if at least 23 other senators vote for the bill.

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), a co-sponsor of the marriage bill, told the Blade Friday that he heard Conway say she would vote for the bill if her vote was needed to secure its passage.

Twenty senators have said they would vote against the bill and three have said they are undecided.

Raskin said the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which held an all-day hearing on the bill on Tuesday, was scheduled to vote on the bill Feb. 17. He said the committee could also vote on amendments to the bill on the same day if committee members decide to introduce one or more amendments.

He said the full Senate was expected to begin debating the bill on Feb. 22, with a vote likely to take place the next day following two full days of debate.

According to Raskin, it has been more difficult for the bill’s supporters to line up the 24 votes needed to pass the bill than it has for obtaining the 29 votes needed to stop an expected filibuster.

“What’s interesting is it’s really been easier for us to get to 29 than to get to 24,” he said. “There are a number of senators who on principle feel that legislation should not be blocked by filibuster. There are also a number of moderate Democrats who, for whatever reason, cannot bring themselves to vote for marriage but are able to tell pro-marriage constituents that they will not stand in the way of a vote.”

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince Georges and Calvert Counties) has taken such a position, saying he will vote against the marriage bill while voting for cloture to end a filibuster.

“I think he will bring a number of other senators with him in his wake,” Raskin said.

Political observers in the state capital in Annapolis have said support for the marriage bill is stronger in the House of Delegates, which is expected to pass the bill by a wider margin in March. Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he would sign the measure.

In a related development, the Judicial Proceedings Committee on Feb. 11 released a list of witnesses who signed up to testify for or against the marriage bill at a packed public hearing in Annapolis.

The list shows that a total of 124 people signed up to testify on the morning of the Feb. 8 hearing, with 67 indicating they oppose the marriage bill and 57 checking a box saying they support the measure.

A committee aide said the committee did not keep track of the number of people who signed up but did not appear when called to testify during the hearing, which lasted nearly seven hours.

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District of Columbia

Community rallies behind As You Are bar’s fundraising appeal 

D.C. LGBTQ café and bar raised more than $170k to prevent closure

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As You Are bar in March 2022 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Less than a week after the D.C. LGBTQ café and bar As You Are located in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill issued a GoFundMe appeal on Feb. 5 seeking emergency financial support to prevent it from closing, the popular business reached its goal of $150,000 to get out of debt.

And as of Sunday night, the fundraising appeal had pulled in $171,471 from more than 3,000 individual donations, according to As You Are’s GoFundMe site.

In comments posted on the GoFundMe site, many of the donors said they were motivated to contribute to As You Are because they view it as a special, safe space that offers a welcoming, accepting place for them and their LGBTQ friends or family members.

In their GoFundMe message, As You Are co-owners Jo McDaniel and Rachel “Coach” Pike describe how they view their business as offering community center type programming beyond just a bar and café.

“AYA is a café, bar and dance floor that hosts diverse programming nearly every night of the week, including social sport leagues, Queer youth socials, weekly karaoke, book clubs, open mics, Queer author events, dance parties and much more,” the two said in their message.

“We have faced some particularly tall and costly hurdles that have set us back significantly since the beginning,” the two said in their GoFundMe message. “As we are tapping every resource we can imagine with creativity and open minds we need urgent assistance,” they said. 

“Rach and Jo are truly loved, and AYA is so important to so many people and everyone knew that,” said gay D.C. civic activist Mike Silverstein, who is one of the GoFundMe donors. “The response was absolutely amazing,” Silverstein said. “From every part of our community. People put everything aside, worked together and focused on saving a space that means so much.”

As You Are opened for business in March 2022. McDaniel and Pike have said the financial problems were caused, in part, by a delay in their planned opening due to complications associated with getting their required occupancy permit from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The two said negotiations with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which demanded certain soundproofing structures be installed for the interior walls of their building, also added to the delay and increased costs.

Like other bars and restaurants across the city, McDaniel and Pike said their rent became a financial burden during a slow period for business last summer. They told the Washington Blade their landlord declined a request to renegotiate the lease to make an allowance based on sales. The two told the Washington Post that their rent is $27,000 per month, which they had to begin paying before they were able to open for business, and they spent $40,000 on soundproofing the walls, all of which contributed to a debt of about $150,000.

McDaniel and Pike, who spoke to the Blade at the time they launched their GoFundMe appeal, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the success of their fundraising and their future plans for As You Are. They told the Post now that they are no longer in debt, they plan to take up several offers of financial advice and they’re looking into possibly buying a property rather than renting. They said they also plan to apply for D.C. government business grants now that they have caught up on back tax payments.

Among those who posted comments on the As You Are GoFundMe site after making a contribution was Megan Mowery, who wrote, “AYA gives us a place to feel community, it is so rare to find a queer space where I can have fun and feel safe.” Mowrey added, “The programming AYA puts on absolutely has something for everyone. I love you AYA!!!”

Helena Chaves, another donor, stated in a GoFundMe post, “As You Are has been a monumental addition to the LGBTQIA+ community in Washington, D.C. They hold so many events and fundraisers, provide beautiful accommodations for us disabled folk, and have protocols in place to diminish harassment in the space.” 

Among the larger donors shown on the As You Are GoFundMe site is the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride festival and parade, which donated $2,500. 

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Maryland

Baltimore County police arrest suspect in rape of transgender woman

Jalen Green allegedly target victim through dating app

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Baltimore County police announced Feb. 15 they had arrested and charged a 22-year-old man with first-degree rape, first-degree assault, armed robbery and firearm-related charges in addition to other offenses.

According to a statement released by police, Jalen Green was arrested in connection with a sexual assault that occurred in the 3000 block of Putty Hill Avenue in Parkville on Feb. 11 at approximately 3:30 p.m. 

Investigators say Green targeted a member of the transgender community through a dating app.

WBAL reported

According to the charging documents, the victim told officers that Green contacted her for sex in exchange for money. The victim told officers that Green pointed the gun at her and demanded money, the documents state.

Not having any cash, the victim said Green used her phone to send himself $100 in the Cash App and then stole two prescription bottles from the victim. According to police, Green then sexually assaulted the victim at gunpoint and recorded video on his cellphone.

The charging documents state that investigators recovered evidence from the scene, including DNA. A search warrant was being sought to recover potential evidence on Green’s cellphone, the documents state.

Investigators seek to hear from anyone who may have been in contact with Green.

The Baltimore County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is seeking information from anyone who may have been in contact with this subject. Detectives can be contacted at (410) 887-2223. 

If you are a survivor of a sexual assault, you can contact the Sexual Assault Hotline for crisis counseling by calling (410) 828-6390. The Special Victims Unit also works with TurnAround who can be contacted by calling (410) 377-8111.

Green is being held without bond at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

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Comings & Goings

Hayashi takes role at National LGBTQ Task Force

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Kris Hayashi

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].

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Kris Hayashi named Director of Advocacy and Action department, at the National LGBTQ Task Force. The department encompasses the organization’s policy, field, and faith teams. Hayashi is a longtime LGBTQ activist and leader in the fight for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming members of the community. 

Executive Director Kierra Johnson said, “We could not be more excited or honored to welcome Kris Hayashi to our team and the Task Force family. Kris will bring immeasurable expertise to our advocacy and policy work as our community, especially our trans and non-binary siblings, are under unrelenting and unprecedented attacks. Having Kris join us as we launch our Queer the Vote campaign, and more, in this critical election year, bringing decades of leadership and knowledge, is a game-changer for the Task Force at this time.” 

Upon accepting the position, Hayashi said, “At a time when trans communities are facing escalating attacks on our rights, lives, and very existence, I am excited to join the National LGBTQ Task Force and support the organization’s work to build a queer progressive movement that centers trans power, resistance, and joy. The National LGBTQ Task Force is a legacy institution that aims to work at the intersections of the multiple identities our trans and queer family members hold and that means the world to me.” 

Hayashi has been active in social, racial, and economic justice movements for 30 years and specifically within LGBT movements for the last 20. Most recently Hayashi served as the executive director at the Transgender Law Center (TLC). Previously, Hayashi served as the executive director/co-director of the Audre Lorde Project (ALP), a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color organizing center based in New York City. Prior to that Hayashi served as executive director of Youth United for Community Action, California. Hayashi serves on the board of the California Endowment.

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