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Md. House debating marriage

Final vote set for Friday; more heated debate expected



The Maryland House of Delegates began floor debate on the marriage equality bill at 11 a.m. Friday. The atmosphere in the chamber  is tense amid speculation that there are only 69 or 70 votes — 71 are required for passage.

So far this morning, several Republicans have taken to the floor to denounce the bill, including Del. Emmett Burns who claims his life has been threatened due to his opposition.

The Blade will update this page as developments warrant.


A bill to allow same-sex couples to marry survived an attempt to kill or weaken it through amendments in the Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday and was expected to come up for a final vote Friday.

The amendments were introduced during the opening round of debate in the chamber on the Civil Marriage Protection Act. A vote on the bill was initially set for Thursday, but House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) moved it back to Friday as supporters scrambled to line up the 71 votes needed for passage.

“I feel very confident that we’re going to get to 71,” said Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), one of seven openly gay members of the House of Delegates.

Others following the bill have expressed concern that support in the House began to erode after the Senate passed the measure last month and Gov. Martin O’Malley reiterated his commitment to sign it.

Del. Heather Mizuer (D-Montgomery County), a lesbian, said the defeat by supporters of four hostile amendments during Wednesday morning’s opening round was a good sign because it showed supporters had the strength to stop attempts to derail the bill. But she cautioned that more amendments were expected during Friday’s session.

Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s County) introduced what backers of the bill considered the most threatening of the proposed amendments.

Saying she wanted to ensure that voters rather than lawmakers have the final say on the issue, Braveboy said her amendment would accomplish that by converting the marriage bill into a proposed state constitutional amendment calling for legalizing same-sex marriage. Maryland’s constitution requires that all proposed amendments to the constitution be placed before voters in a referendum.

Supporters of the marriage bill, led by Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery County), the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over the bill, noted that a vote by the House to convert the bill into a constitutional amendment would send it back to committee. With most observers believing support for such a constitutional amendment is lacking in the committee, Dumais and other backers of the marriage bill said Braveboy’s amendment would effectively kill the bill.

The amendment was defeated by a roll-call vote of 72 to 63.

Among those voting for it were Delegates Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City) and Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s County), two of three original co-sponsors of the marriage bill who stunned supporters last week by announcing they were considering withdrawing their support.

Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County), who joined Carter and Alston in saying he was about to withdraw his support for the bill, changed his mind following a firestorm of criticism from residents of his district. He issued a statement last week saying he would vote for the bill in committee and on the House floor, with the expectation that voters would have the final say in an expected referendum, which he favors.

Arora voted against the Braveboy amendment on Wednesday but voted for another amendment calling for allowing private social services agencies to refuse to provide adoption, foster care or other services if providing such services “would violate the entity’s religious beliefs.”

Although the amendment did not specifically mention gay adoptions, LGBT activists said they believed it was aimed at using the marriage equality bill as a vehicle for weakening the state’s existing adoption policies. The existing polices prohibit adoption agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples or gay or lesbian single parents seeking to adopt if they meet the same eligibility requirements as heterosexuals seeking to adopt.

The adoption related amendment, introduced by Del. John Donoghue (D-Washington County), lost by a vote of 79 to 58. Alston voted for the amendment; Carter voted against it.

An amendment introduced by Del. Kathryn Afzali (R-Frederick County) called for allowing parents of public school children to excuse a child from attending classes or instruction “involving materials that promote same-sex marriage.” The amendment also called for allowing a teacher to decline to teach such a class or materials.

Afzali and others supporting the amendment argued that teachers and parents should be given the right to opt out of such classes or instructional programs if same-sex marriage is contrary to their religious or moral beliefs.

Similar to her arguments against the adoption amendment, Dumais said curriculum related policies for the public schools were not germane to a marriage equality bill and should be left to locally elected school boards or the state’s education department to decide.

The amendment lost by a vote of 86 to 54, with Alston, Carter and Arora voting against it.

The fourth amendment targeting the marriage bill, introduced by Del. Andrew Serafini (R-Washington County) called for changing the bill’s name from the Civil Marriage Protection Act to the “Same-Sex Marriage Act.” Serafini said his proposed name was a more accurate description of what the bill would do.

The amendment was defeated by a vote of 85 to 52. Alston voted for it, Arora voted against it, and Carter did not cast a vote on the amendment.


District of Columbia

Three of five LGBTQ candidates win race for DNC delegate from D.C.

32 candidates competed for 13 elected seats in party caucus



John Fanning finished in first place in the race for DNC delegate. (Photo courtesy of Fanning)

Three out of five known LGBTQ candidates running for election as delegates from D.C. to the Democratic National Convention won their races at an April 20 Democratic Party caucus election held at D.C.’s Walter Washington Convention Center.

Ward 2 gay Democratic activist John Fanning finished in first place with 140 votes and Ward 8 gay Democratic activist David Meadows finished in second place with 127 votes in a race in which six male candidates committed to supporting President Biden were competing for three male seats in a section of the city designated as Congressional District 1, which included registered Democratic voters in Wards 1, 2, 6, and 8.

Ward 7 gay Democratic activist Jimmie Williams won his race, finishing in third place with 200 votes in a race in which eight male candidates committed to President Biden competed for four male seats in the Congressional District 2 section of the city that included Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7.

Gay Democratic activist Felipe Afanador lost his race, finishing in sixth place with 47 votes in the Congressional District 2 election for male candidates backing Biden. It couldn’t immediately be determined which of the four wards in District 2 he is from.

The Washington Blade didn’t learn about Afanador’s status as an LGBTQ candidate until the Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it one day before the April 20 party election in an email statement.

In the Congressional District 2 race among female candidates, in which eight candidates competed for three female seats, transgender rights advocate and Ward 3 Democratic Party activist Monika Nemeth lost her race, finishing in sixth place with 49 votes.

The five LGBTQ candidates were among 32 candidates competing for just 13 elected delegate positions in D.C. D.C. will have a total of 51 delegates to the Democratic Convention, but the other 38 include elected officials and party leaders who are considered “automatic” or appointed delegates. The Democratic Convention will be held in Chicago Aug. 19-23.

Observers familiar with the April 20 party caucus election said Fanning, Meadows, and Williams had participated in local D.C. Democratic Party events and activities for a longer period than Nemeth and Afanador and appear to have been better known among Democratic voters in their respective wards as well as other wards. Those factors contributed to their receiving significantly more votes than most other candidates, observers have said. 

In his candidacy statement posted on the D.C. Democratic Party website, Afanador said he worked on the 2020 Biden presidential election campaign in Pennsylvania. His LinkedIn page says in 2022 he began work in Washington for the Biden administration as an official in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nemeth is a past president of D.C.’s Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest LGBTQ local political group, and has been an active member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, the local party governing body. She served as a Biden delegate at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“It is important for our D.C. delegation to have strong LGBTQ representation,” Capital Stonewall Democrats said in its April 19 statement. “There are five LGBQ candidates running to be delegate, and Capital Stonewall Democrats asks that our members support each one,” the statement says.

“Unfortunately, they fell short, but they and all queer Democrats are welcome to attend and participate in convention events and activities sponsored by the national and local party,” Meadows told the Blade in referring to Nemeth and Afanador. “Our shared goal is to unite behind the Biden-Harris ticket to protect our LGBTQ rights from being dismantled by Donald Trump and the GOP,” Meadows said.

“Running for District Delegate is one of the most grassroots efforts,” Fanning told the Blade. “It’s very beneficial to align yourself on a slate with community leaders that have either previously run for District Delegate or have developed a constituency in their community from other civic engagements,” he said, referring to possible reasons for his, Meadows, and Williams’s election victory.

Aside from the D.C. elected LGBTQ delegates, two prominent D.C. LGBTQ Democratic leaders will be appointed as delegates to the 2024 Democratic National Convention in their role as members of the Democratic National Committee from D.C. They are Claire Lucas, a highly acclaimed Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights advocate and party fundraiser; and Earl Fowlkes, one of the lead organizers of D.C.’s annual Black LGBTQ Pride celebration and former president of the Capital Stonewall Democrats. Both are committed to supporting President Biden as the Democratic nominee for re-election.

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Joe Vogel campaign holds ‘Big Gay Canvass Kickoff’

Gay Md. lawmaker running for Congress



Maryland state Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery County) attends the "Big Gay Canvass Kickoff" event at his congressional campaign headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., on April 19, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Maryland state Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery County) on Friday held a “Big Gay Canvass Kickoff” event at his congressional campaign’s headquarters.

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Vice President of Outreach and Engagement Marty Rouse and John Klenert, a member of the DC Vote and Victory Fund Campaign board of directors, are among those who participated alongside members of Equality PAC. Vogel spoke before Rouse, Klenert and others canvassed for votes in the area.

“Joe brings a fresh new perspective to politics,” said Gabri Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, deputy field director for Vogel’s campaign.

Vogel, 27, is among the Democrats running for Congressman David Trone’s seat.

Trone last May announced his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in the U.S. Senate. 

The Democratic primary is on May 14. Vogel would be the first Latino, the first gay man and first Gen Zer elected to Congress from Maryland if he were to win in November.

“We need a new generation of leadership with new perspectives, new ideas, and the courage to actually deliver for our communities if we want things to get better in this country,” Vogel told the Washington Blade last month during an interview in D.C.

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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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