Connect with us

Local

Md. Senate passes marriage bill

House of Delegates plans hearing Friday; their vote key to measure’s progress

Published

on

In what activists are calling a historic development, the Maryland Senate Thursday evening voted 25-21 to pass the Civil Marriage Protection Act, a bill that would allow same-sex couples in the state to wed.

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates, where most political observers say it will pass within the next two weeks. Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign the bill if it gets to him.

The vote to give final approval of the bill came shortly after the Senate voted 30-17 to limit debate to 30 additional minutes each for supporters and opponents.

In a development that surprised some observers, senators didn’t use all of that time, prompting Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert and Prince George’s Counties) to order a roll call vote on the bill.

The vote was identical to a preliminary vote on the bill held the previous day in terms of those voting for and against it except that one senator who voted no in the preliminary vote — Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s County) — was absent for the final vote.

“I’ve never been prouder to be a Maryland State senator than I am tonight,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), a sponsor of the bill and the designated floor leader for the bill’s backers.

“I just want to say that for me, the issue is summarized by this thought: It is a fundamental wrong to deny our citizens a fundamental right,” he said.

Raskin and Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties), the Senate’s minority leader, each praised their fellow senators on both sides of the issue for keeping the debate civil and dignified.

But Jacobs, who acknowledged she expects the House of Delegates to follow suit and pass the bill shortly, told her colleague in a floor speech that the issue won’t end with the legislature’s approval of the measure the governor’s signature.

Pointing to one of her colleagues who raised the issue of a voter referendum in Maryland on same-sex marriage, Jacobs said, “Well, when we knew we did not have the votes, that’s what we started investing our time in.”

“We’ve met with people all around the country who have run successful referendums on this issue,” she said. “And I just guarantee the people in the State of Maryland who feel very strongly about this issue that you will see it again and you will see it at the ballot box.”

Discussion of the bill in the House of Delegates is set to begin Friday with a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee that lawmakers say is likely to be far more rancorous than the relatively gentile debate tonight and Wednesday in the Senate.

Earlier in the day on Thursday, State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who is gay, urged his colleagues to afford him and his partner, along with thousands of same-sex couples in the state, the right to marry during the second day of debate on a same-sex marriage bill.

Madaleno was one of about a dozen senators who spoke today for or against the  measure. Observers expect it will win approval by the full legislature this spring.

Madaleno noted that the bill “reiterates that no religious denomination will ever be required to recognize or perform or bless or celebrate any marriage that is against its belief.”

At the same time the measure would provide “full equality under the law for thousands of same-gender couples in our state, couples like Mark and myself” through civil marriage, he said.

“Many of you know Mark … my partner. But even using that term partner sounds a little odd,” he said, noting that the two had a church wedding ten years ago with friends and family members attending.

“He in my heart is my spouse, even though the laws in the State of Maryland do not say he is,” Madaleno said during a Senate floor speech.

“But to the law, he remains a legal stranger to me. He is my partner. I wouldn’t ask any of you to call your spouse your partner because that makes it sound as if he’s your business associate, that your spouse is your business associate and not the person you choose to spend your life with.”

Opponents of the bill, including Sen. Brian Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel County), argued that the bill would “redefine” marriage and damage it as an institution that serves as the foundation of all societies.

“Unintended consequences — that is the subplot of today’s vote,” Simonaire said. “Yes, this bill affects homosexual individuals wanting to marry. But as we’ve seen in other states, it also affects young, impressionable students in our school system who are taught the homosexual world view.”

“It may also affect teachers and public employees who lose their jobs due to their religious beliefs if they are unwilling to teach the promotion of same-sex marriage,” he said.

Backers of the bill, including Raskin, the floor leader on behalf of the measure, disputed that assertion, saying the state education authority and local boards of education throughout the state decide the content of school curricula, with input from local communities.

Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard County), the only Republican supporting the bill in the Senate, said he struggled over the issue of same-sex marriage but came to realized that it is a matter of civil rights and equal justice for all Maryland residents.

“It is the right thing to do,” he said. “The time has come. Today is that time.”

The Senate voted on Wednesday 25-22 to give preliminary approval of the bill by passing a committee report recommending that the bill be enacted into law. Most observers of the legislature saw that vote as confirmation that senators would approve the bill in a final vote on Thursday or possibly early Friday.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Delaware

Milton Pride kicks off Mardi Gras style June 8

Delaware town celebrating ‘Unity in Diversity’

Published

on

Laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll)! 

The town of Milton, Del., will host its 2024 Pride festival with a Mardi Gras theme on Saturday, June 8. The Pride celebration is set to take place in the Milton Theatre’s Quayside festival grounds, at 110 Union St. in downtown Milton, from 4-8 p.m. The event is set to have food trucks, live music, and community vendors all celebrating the queer community.

The town of Milton, located 15 miles northwest of Rehoboth Beach, has partnered with Sussex Pride to put on the Pride Fest and is looking to celebrate the “Unity in Diversity” in Milton. The event also marks the 10th anniversary of the Milton Theatre and will celebrate a decade of performing arts in Milton. Expect sparkling beads, opulent masks, and musical performers that will “transport you to a world of joy!”

The americana duo Mama’s Black Sheep, Delaware’s Rainbow Chorale, and the self-described “bluesy rocker” Christine Havrilla are all slated to perform on the open-air Quayside stage. The shows will happen rain or shine. 

Local food trucks Belly Up and Hot Dogs At The Beach will serve bites at the festival grounds. Additionally, local vendors will sell rainbow-themed accessories on-site, provide resources, and more at the event. 

For more information on Milton Pride, visit the website at miltontheatre.com/pride.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

60,000 expected for annual D.C. Black Pride this weekend

Celebration includes educational workshops, social events, more

Published

on

A scene from last year’s Black Pride celebration. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The 33rd annual D.C. Black Pride festival and celebration is scheduled to take place May 23-27 during Memorial Day weekend with at least 60,000 people from the D.C. metro area and across the country and some from abroad expected to attend.

Like in recent years, most of the events are scheduled to take place at the Westin Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel at 999 9th St., N.W.

Although the official DC Black Pride Opening Reception is scheduled to take place Friday, May 24, at the Westin Hotel with live entertainment, an online schedule of events shows that earlier events, including a Mr. & Miss DC Black Pride Pageant and the 8th annual DC Black Pride Unity Ball, were scheduled to take place Thursday, May 23 at the Westin.

Also similar to recent past years, a Rainbow Row: Organization & Vendor Expo will open at the hotel at 5 p.m. on May 25 and remain open most of the time throughout the weekend events. The Rainbow Row includes booths and tables set up by local and national LGBTQ organizations and LGBTQ-supportive allied organizations and businesses.

According to the official schedule, the Opening Reception will include performances by Paris Sashay, Keith Angels, Bang Garcon, Black Assets, Marcy Smiles, and Sherri Amoure and will be hosted by the “DMV’s own Anthony Oake” and the “legendary DJ Sedrick will be spinning all night.”

The schedule shows that 11 individual workshop sessions will take place at the hotel throughout the day on Saturday, May 25. Among the workshop titles are Drag Chronicles: From Artform to Activism; Self-Care and Self-Compassion; Sexpectations: Navigating Sexual & Romantic Compatibility While Dating; Advocating for Black LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care; Queering Theology: Black Pride in the Pews; What is the L?! All Things Lesbian; and Primary Sources: Elders Sharing Our Histories.

Two official outdoor events include Pride by the River Super Sunday scheduled for Sunday, May 26, from 12-8 p.m. at D.C.’s Anacostia Park at 1500 Anacostia Dr., S.E. presented by the local group Project Brings; and the annual Pride In The Park set for Monday, May 27, at D.C.’s Fort Dupont Park, 1500 Anacostia Dr., S.E., presented by the local community services group Us Helping Us.

Some of the other numerous events, aside from several evening parties at popular D.C. nightclubs, include a Wellness Pavilion, a Poetry Slam, a Writer’s Forum, and a Faith Service.

A statement released by the D.C.-based Center for Black Equity, which organizes the D.C. Black Pride events, notes that the first D.C. Black Pride was held May 25, 1991, and organized by local Black gay activists Welmore Cook, Theodore Kirkland and Ernest Hopkins, became the “catalyst for what is now regarded as the Black Pride Movement.”

It notes that, among other things, the first D.C. Black Pride event and Black Pride events in subsequent years raised funds for HIV/AIDS organizations that provided services to the African-American community in D.C. and the surrounding area.

The statement adds, “Since its birth, more than 50 other Black Pride celebrations now take place throughout the world, many using DC Black Pride as its model.”

And like in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued an official mayoral proclamation declaring May 20-27, 2024, DC Black Pride Week.

The full schedule for DC Black Pride 2024 events can be accessed at dcblackpride.org/schedule.htm.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Dems endorse Biden, 2 incumbent Council members

LGBTQ political group doesn’t back Del. Norton or Brooke Pinto

Published

on

D.C. Council member Robert White speaks with a Capital Stonewall Democrats member at a post endorsement party. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

The Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political organization, announced on May 21 that it has endorsed President Joe Biden, incumbent D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), and incumbent U.S. Shadow Rep. Oye Owolewa (D) in the city’s June 4 primary election.

But the LGBTQ Democratic group did not make endorsements in five other races to be decided in the primary, including the re-election bid of D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter on Capitol Hill; and D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), an outspoken LGBTQ rights supporter who is running unopposed for re-election.

Capital Stonewall Democrats President Michael Haresign said the no endorsement decisions happened at least in part because of a longstanding requirement that candidates must receive at least a 60 percent threshold vote by the organization’s members to secure an endorsement. He said members also had the option of voting for “no endorsement” under the organization’s voting system.

“Very few candidates met the 60 percent threshold,” he told the Washington Blade. Haresign said the organization would soon release the numerical vote count and percentage of the vote each candidate received from Capital Stonewall members through an online ranked choice voting process.

In a press release issued on May 21, Capital Stonewall Democrats announced the percentage of the vote the four endorsed candidates received from its members who voted: Biden, 82.2%, Lewis George, 79.07%, Robert White, 78.6%, and Owolewa, 67.5%. Haresign said the organization was not ready to release the vote percentage for the candidates that were not endorsed, but he said those figures would be released soon.

He told the Blade that Capital Stonewall Democrats currently has 91 members who are eligible to vote for endorsements and that 47 of those members participated in the voting.

 “I’m honored by this endorsement,” Robert White told the Blade at a party for its endorsed candidates that Capital Stonewall Democrats held beginning at 7 p.m. on May 21 at The Brig restaurant and bar in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill.

“The Stonewall Democrats have stood with me in every election, and it’s meant a lot to me,” White said. Most LGBTQ activists have said White is among the Council’s strongest LGBTQ supporters.

The other endorsed Council candidate, Lewis George, and Shadow D.C. Representative Owolewa were invited to the party but had other conflicting events to attend, according to Haresign, who said Owolewa texted him to say he might show up shortly before the event was to end at 9 p.m.

The races in which no endorsement was made include the Ward 7 D.C. Council race in which 10 Democratic candidates are competing for the Council seat held by incumbent Council member and former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who is not running for re-election. With 10 candidates running, the fact that none received a 60 percent vote threshold did not come as a surprise.

Haresign said Ward 7 candidate Eboni-Rose Thompson made a strong showing by capturing 51 percent of the vote. Thompson attended the endorsement party as a “runner up,” one of her supporters said.

A no endorsement decision  by the group was also made in the Ward 8 D.C. Council race in which incumbent Council member Trayon White (D) is being challenged by Democrats Rahman Branch and Salim Adofo. Trayon White has been an LGBTQ rights supporter during his tenure as a Council member. Adolfo expressed support for LGBTQ rights during his appearance at a virtual candidates forum held by Capital Stonewall Democrats earlier this month. Trayon White and Branch did not appear at the forum.

Capital Stonewall’s decision not to endorse Pinto came as a surprise to some local LGBTQ activists. Pinto has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights. She is running unopposed in the Democratic primary on June 4, and no one is running for the Ward 2 Council seat in the primary for D.C.’s two other registered political parties – the Republican and Statehood Green parties. That means Pinto will also run unopposed in the November general election, although a write-in candidate could emerge.

Also coming as a surprise was the group’s decision not to endorse Eleanor Holmes Norton in her re-election bid as D.C.’s non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Norton has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights and a vocal opponent of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in the House by anti-LGBTQ Republicans in her 34 years in office.

Haresign said neither Norton nor Pinto attended the group’s candidate forum and the two also did not submit a statement or video as did other candidates who were unable to attend the forums. That could have played a role in the members’ decision not to endorse them, according to Haresign.

However, Haresign said it is possible that due to a glitch in the group’s online invitation process that Pinto may not have received the invitation for the candidate forum. The Blade has contacted Pinto’s office to confirm whether the invite was received, but the office did not immediately respond.

 The other race in which Capital Stonewall Democrats did not make an endorsement is the race for U.S. Shadow senator in which incumbent Michael D. Brown is not seeking re-election. Local political activists Eugene Kinlow and Ankit Jain, both Democrats, are competing for the seat. Kinlow and Jain attended one of the two virtual candidate forums held by Capital Stonewall Democrats and each expressed support for LGBTQ rights.

The second of the two Shadow D.C. U.S. Senate seats is held by incumbent Democrat Paul Straus who’s not up for re-election this year. Like the D.C. Shadow U.S. Representative seat, the Shadow Senate positions have no voting rights or authority in Congress and are unpaid positions created to advocate for D.C. statehood and support for D.C. in Congress.

As has been the case in D.C. elections for many years, the lesser-known candidates running against Robert White, Lewis George, and Owolewa have also expressed support for LGBTQ rights. Robert White’s sole Democratic opponent, Rodney Red Grant, expressed strong support for LGBTQ equality at one of  the virtual candidate forums held by Capital Stonewall Democrats. White, who also attended the forum, reiterated his longstanding, strong support for LGBTQ issues. 

One of Lewis George’s two opponents in the Ward 4 Democratic primary, Paul Johnson, expressed support for LGBTQ rights during one of the two forums. The second opponent, Lisa Gore, did not show up for the forum and her position on LGBTQ issues could not immediately be determined.

Linda L. Gray, Owolewa’s sole opponent in the Democratic primary for the Shadow Representative seat, also expressed strong support for LGBTQ issues at one of the two Capital Stonewall candidate forums.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular