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Trans Maryland rallies at Supreme Court

Committee vote expected in state House of Delegates this month

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(Blade photo by Michael Key)

Activists from Trans Maryland and their allies held a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to demand that lawmakers reinstate language barring discrimination in public accommodations to the proposed Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Bill in Maryland.

The bill, if passed, would bar discrimination based on gender identity in employment and housing.

Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties), a strong LGBT rights supporter who has sponsored a transgender rights bill in the legislature since 2007, said she removed the public accommodations provision after determining it was the only way to obtain enough votes to pass the legislation.

“The bottom line is discrimination is not right,” she told the Blade. “I have had this bill now for over three years and initially I introduced it with the section on public accommodations, which I believe in.”

Ashley Love, a transgender and intersex advocate attending the rally, told the Blade, “If the bill is passed in its compromised form, a transsexual woman may gain the protection to keep her job as a nurse at a Maryland hospital, but she could be denied emergency room care in the same hospital she is employed at if the staff were transphobic. For instance, Tyra Hunter was refused care for serious injuries by EMS worker Adrian Williams, and later by the physician. As a result, she died. Without public accommodations protections, this bill has no merit.”

A committee vote on the measure in the Maryland House of Delegates is expected later this month.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Autumn Sandeen

    March 18, 2011 at 6:04 am

    It needs to be clarified that even though Ashley Love identifies as a transsexual, she doesn’t identify as transsexual. She might consider herself to be an activist for transgender people, but she isn’t a transgender activist.

    And beyond that, she has a history of calling transgender identified people she disagrees with by anti-transgender terminology, and has misgemder transgender people (such as Kate Bornstein, Brittney Novotney, and myself), as well as speaking ill of drag performers and genderqueer identified people as classes of people.

    In my mind, it’s a misnomer to call her a transgender activist, so quoting her as a transgender activist is probably a questionable identifier.

    • Jenna Fischetti

      March 18, 2011 at 10:51 am

      If she speaks on behalf of the best interest of the members of Maryland’s Transgender community, in my mind, AS a Marylander, as a transsexual woman, and as an activist, she is a transgender activist.

      However, those seeking to deny members of the transgender community their basic rights because those interests do not conform to the interests of national organizations seeking to impose their will in state level affairs, CAN NOT hold themselves up as transgender activist, they are shills for large national non profits. This includes Lisa Mottet, Director of the Transgender Civil Rights Project. Not a member of the transgender community.

      I know where I stand.

      Jenna Fischetti
      TransMaryland.org

    • Frankie James

      March 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      Stick and stones… come on ladies / men.

      “…speaking ill of drag performers and genderqueer identified people as classes of people.”

      – There is so much wrong with this comment. Keep talking this kind of trash and you will never proceed to the next step. Your battle will never be won if you fight among yourselves.

      You are up against the YUCK factor big time, as I have said before. Three years on this bill should tell you something.

      Maybe it is time to reorganize and you might consider finding a few other words to use as well.

      I have been out for over three decades and this comment even disturbs me.

      “genderqueer identified people as classes of people.” – WHAT is this?

    • Dana

      March 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Actually there is no need to clarify anything accept that you are a spiteful, mean and nasty person. You said that personal attack article on Ashley love wasn’t actually an attack on her but you removed all doubt about that today. You use the same techniques that the right wing extremists do. On PHB you have a section of people who you don’t agree with and you group trans activists along with official hate groups.

      Get over yourself Autumn!

    • Dana LaRocca

      March 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm

      Just for the record Autumn that other Dana isn’t me. I always sign my posts.

    • Alexander

      March 19, 2011 at 10:40 am

      Really? This was the most important point of the article for you? I have my own issues with Love’s general approach, but her involvement in this article was appropriate and spot-on.

    • Richard

      March 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      Autumn, you are very wrong for this. The fact that you didn’t comment on the actual issues, and resorted to a mean girls attack, is very telling. What is your obessession with Ashley Love? Are you upset she was in this article and not you? You are 60 years old but act like a teenager. I always tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, even though I do feel you are a tool for the gay elite, and you dont take a stand for transgender people when the gay groups push their needs aside, but your petty hatchet job has done it for me. Regardless of your personal issues with Love, she actually gets things done, a lot of stuff done. You just dont like how she calls out your Gay Inc bosses, and your token ways, time and time again. You have lost all credibility

  2. Jenna Fischetti

    March 18, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Thank you.

    We now have the principle agents for the drafting of this bill, Maryland Delegate Pena-Melnyk,(D-21) and the General Counsel of Maryland’s Civil Rights Commission, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, Glendora Hughes both admitting the bill’s flaws.

    None of these people are transgender or transsexual and the transgender community in Maryland was not consulted throughout this drafting process.

    “The bottom line is discrimination is not right,” states Del. Pena-Melnyk.

    In testimony before the Health and Government Operations Committee’s hearing on HB 235, the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Bill without basic rights, Glendora Hughes, the State’s top Civil Rights lawyer agrees ” “Yes, Baltimore City and Montgomery County covers gender identity. So now we have an inequity in the State of Maryland. Based on your geography, where you live will determine whether you have protection against being discriminated against.”

    HB235 does nothing to address either of the chief designers of this bill wish for, the implementation of full protections for Marylanders who are being bing discriminated against and worse, dying.

    Once a year, the transgender community holds a Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20. The event is a solemn gathering to reflect on those in our community lost to discrimination based on how they were born. This year we have regrettably already added one name from Baltimore, Tyra Trent to that list. Our objective is to see the day when names are no longer added to the list. Proponents of an “incremental” concept like Equality Maryland, are comfortable with the list growing by not supporting anti-discrimination protections in the most basic area needed, public accommodations.

    After three weekly transgender legislative workgroup meetings designed to bolster support for the flawed Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Bill (HB235) Equality Maryland has decided to walk away from dialogue with the transgender community and has canceled all further meetings until after the legislative session is over. Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets explains this as a “scheduling conflict.” Truth and justice apparently conflicted with her organizations agenda.

  3. Christina

    March 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Finally, a gay news source actually tells the other side of this controversy. I agree with Trans Maryland, the watered down bill is a diservice to equality, and a slap in the face to trans people. Great article

    @Autumn Sandeen, everyone knows you are a puppet for the gays to get away with them kicking trans issues to the curb in favor of gay only issues, but you just made it look so obvious by attacking Ashley Love. Why didnt you comment on the issues, HB235, Trans Marylands rally or public accomodations? Because according to your blog you are a Uncle Tom and support the half bill. So you sensationalize this thread to take attention away from the real and good work Ashley Love and Trans Maryland are doing. You have no morals. Do us a all a favor and stop selling out our community. Also, just because Ashley Love is intersex, does not mean she can’t be an advocate for all LGBTIQ people. The journalist did not say “she is a transgender PERSON”, he said she as a “transgender and intersex ADVOCATE”, so stop acting like a jealous lunatic, and get a life. I also dont agree with your critique of Love “misgendering” anyone, she just isn’t a politically correct shill, and speaks the truth. If anyone misgenders the community, its you, afteralll, you did confess to being a transvestite in the Washington Post, which is a man with a sexual fetish

  4. Monica Roberts

    March 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    All we have heard since President Obama took office in 2009 is the GL community loudly characterize as ‘crumbs’ anything they deemed as short of full civil rights for GLB people.

    Well EQ MD and GL community, we trans people don’t like or want civil rights ‘crumbs’ either. A so called trans civil rights bill such as HB 235 without public accommodations language is a waste of tim and is a sterling example of what trans people would consider a civil rights ‘crumb’ .

  5. Polar

    March 19, 2011 at 4:59 am

    I strongly agree that HB235 is woefully incomplete and should not be passed until the language includes and covers public accommodations. However, I must ask why TM rallied in front of the US Supreme Court, which has no say over the language or passage of this bill in the MD legislature? Why weren’t they rallying in Annapolis, in front of the Maryland state house, or perhaps governor’s offices? If I was trying to pass, amend, or kill a state law in Kentucky, I’d be rallying in Frankfort, not Washington. Isn’t a rally supposed to be a show of strength that proves to legislators that the ralliers have a valid point to make or valid grievance to correct, and does so right where the legislators cannot help notice?

  6. Richard

    March 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    The bill should die in committee and only a bill with full intergrity should move forward. Equality maryland has been throwing transgender in the trash for 15 years now. Im thrilled Trans Maryland is mobilizing and represnteting themselves

    Polar, I think the reason they had the rally at The Supreme Court , from what I read, was because the lack of public accomodations protections is unconstitutional, and if HB 235 is passed with out PA protections, other states could follow the trend. Plus, it sure did get Maryland’s lawmakers attentions (they commented above), and national attention, which will provide the agitation, pressure and public attention needed to inspire awareness and change.

  7. Dana Taylor

    March 19, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    If you discriminate against the transgender/transsexual community then you are, at least in part, responsible for some of the deaths in this vulnerable community. Partial discrimination is still discrimination.

  8. Nicole

    March 20, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    We may not always agree with Ashley Love, but lets not forget to focus on the issue here. This bill is a BAD idea! It is dehumanizing for the trans community, and has already led to the death of trans people being denied medical care. I mean really people! Your rationalizations are disgusting and these actions are no different from the religious zealot that commits suicide in a demonstration of his/her faith. “911” ring any bells. Look in the mirror THAT is who you are!

  9. Christina

    March 21, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I support Ashley Love 100%. She refuses to compromise. “Incrementalists” and sell outs, and the gay mafia, hate her for it. Trying to smear her is just a way to discredit the transsexual uprising. And doing it in this comment section is classless.

    The bottom line is HB 235 is worthless without public accomodations protections, and the Maryland transgender community deserves a seat at the table. Trans
    Marylands rally has put more resistance into the aire, and lawmakers now know transgender people will not accept segregation

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit

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Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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Comings & Goings

Ward named project manager at REACH

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Adam Ward

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 Adam Ward on his new position as program manager and biostatistician for the newly formed Research Enterprise to Advance a Cure for HIV (REACH) Collaboratory, based at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. This is a multi-institution project recently funded by the National Institutes of Health through the Martin Delaney Collaboratories program, with institutions represented from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Uganda, and the U.K. 

Upon accepting the position, Ward said, “I am humbled to take on this role and to have the opportunity to continue working in the HIV cure field — work that I find so personally meaningful and fulfilling. I genuinely believe that the science this collaboratory will undertake over the next five years will be some of the most impactful in the field, and I am looking forward to supporting it as well as to the progress that will be made. Additionally, community engagement is a key component of this work, so please look for future opportunities to be involved and to learn more.”

Ward began his Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2016 at George Washington University, and worked as a Research Assistant then Research Associate in the laboratory of R. Brad Jones conducting HIV cure research. Ward’s research focused on several areas, including developing new pre-clinical models to test HIV cure strategies, studying how HIV hides in cells of the central nervous system, and investigating drivers of inflammation and associated comorbidities in cohorts of participants living with HIV. 

Ward has worked as a Graduate Student Researcher at North Carolina State University, Department of Molecular Biomedical Science. He was an Honors Village Community Director, North Carolina State University. He has been a contributing author to numerous publications and has done presentations and sessions at conferences around the world.

Ward has his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from North Carolina State University; his master’s degree in Comparative Biomedical Sciences, North Carolina State University; and is slated to receive his Ph.D. in epidemiology from the George Washington University in D.C. 

Congratulations also to Zachary L. Baum on his new position with New York State United Teachers Union (NYSUT) as Regional Political Organizer for Long Island. Baum is a communications and public affairs professional with more than 10 years of experience working in the public and private sectors. He has an extensive track record of delivering results on complex intergovernmental matters regarding environmental policy, housing policy, economic development, food policy, and public health. 

Prior to joining NYSUT, Baum was chief of staff to Brookhaven Council member Jonathan Kornreich. He has worked for Stanton PRM as a senior account executive. Baum also worked as a political organizer for Michael Bloomberg in 2020 and prior to that for the Office of Suffolk County Executive as a Community Affairs Liaison.

Baum earned his bachelor’s degree in political science with distinction from SUNY Stony Brook Universit; and his master’s of public administration with a concentration in public management from the Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College, New York. 

Zach Baum
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Md. sodomy law used in bookstore arrests of gay men still on books

Only one of two separate sodomy laws repealed in 2020

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Lawmakers in Annapolis, Md., last year struck from a repeal bill the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act, which has been used to prosecute gay men for consensual sex. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a little-noticed development, the Maryland General Assembly agreed to requests by Republican lawmakers to delete one of the state’s two separate sodomy laws from a sodomy law repeal bill that it approved in March of 2020, leading most LGBTQ activists into incorrectly believing the full sodomy law had been repealed.

According to Maryland House of Delegates member David Moon (D-Montgomery County), who introduced the repeal bill in the state House, which approved the bill on Feb. 20, 2020, the Democratic-controlled Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted unanimously to pass an amendment that deleted from the bill a provision calling for the repeal of Maryland’s Criminal Code Section 3-322, which is known as the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act.

The act criminalizes oral sex in all possible circumstances, including between consenting adults.

It states, “A person may not: take the sexual organ of another or of an animal in the person’s mouth; place the person’s sexual organ in the mouth of another or of an animal; or commit another unnatural or perverted sexual practice with another or with an animal.”

The offense of violating the act is listed as a misdemeanor but includes a penalty of up to 10 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both upon conviction of the offense.

During its deliberations in March 2020, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, while deleting the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act from the repeal bill, left in place the provision in the bill that called for repealing Maryland’s criminal Code Section 3-321, which criminalizes “sodomy” between consenting adults as a felony with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.

Supporters of the original repeal bill say the two statutes each criminalize same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults and the repeal of one of them and not the other leaves on the books a statute that stigmatizes LGBTQ people even if the law is not enforced.

Supporters of the original bill also pointed out that separate, existing Maryland laws strictly prohibit acts of cruelty to animals as well as any non-consensual sexual acts, including same-sex rape and sex between adults and juveniles. This meant that repealing the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act would not prevent anyone engaging in sexual assault, sex with minors, or abuse of animals from being arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Among those who supported that assessment in testimony before the committee was Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

But despite these assurances, which were further confirmed at the Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing by Maryland’s Assistant Attorney General Carrie J. Williams, Republican members of the committee, including Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick & Carroll Counties) raised strong objections to repealing any existing statute that might be used to prosecute someone engaging in sexual assault or pedophilia.

Sources familiar with the committee have speculated that Hough’s strong hints that he would hold anyone who voted for the full repeal responsible for an inability to prosecute sexual assault and sex with minors as well as incidents of cruelty to animals may have “spooked” the Democrats on the committee to back the amendment.

Sen. William Smith (D-Montgomery County), who chairs the committee; Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery County), the committee’s vice chair; and committee members Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County) and Sen. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery County) did not respond to requests by the Blade for comment on why they voted for the amendment to remove the Unnatural and Perverted Sexual Practice Act from the repeal bill.

Each of them has been supportive on LGBTQ rights on other legislation that has come before the Maryland General Assembly. Lee, for example, introduced a sodomy law repeal bill several years earlier that failed to pass.

The other members of the committee that voted to remove the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act from the repeal bill included Sens. Ronald Young (D-Frederick County), Charles Sydnor (D-Baltimore City & Baltimore County), Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City), Robert Cassilly (R-Harford County), Chris West (R-Baltimore County), Justin Ready (R-Carroll County), and Michael Hough (R-Frederick & Carroll Counties).

Moon said the full Maryland Senate quickly approved the committee’s amended bill that repealed the sodomy law but did not repeal the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act. He noted the committee’s approval by a unanimous vote came just as the Maryland General Assembly’s 2020 legislative session was coming to an end one month earlier than usual due to restrictions related to the COVID pandemic.

With just one day left before the legislative session was to adjourn for the year on March 18, 2020, Moon said the House of Delegates, which had passed the full repeal version of the bill by a vote of 133 to 5 on Feb. 20, 2020, had a choice of accepting the Senate version or letting the bill die. He said House members decided to approve the Senate bill, with the vote taking place March 18.

“Basically, that change was made in the last day of the pandemic legislative session,” Moon told the Blade. “And so, it was a take it or leave it situation. So, we went ahead and struck the sodomy part out, and here we are,” he said.

He noted that the truncated legislative session did not provide time for the Senate version of the bill to come before a House-Senate conference committee, where supporters of the original bill could have pushed for rejecting the Senate version and sought approval of the House version.

“The next year the Unnatural or Perverted Sex Practice law is being used exactly in the manner we were trying to stop it from being used,” he said, referring to the May 20 raid on Bush River Books & Video store, in which four of the arrested men were charged with Perverted Sexual Practice.

Moon said he plans to introduce another repeal bill at the start of the General Assembly’s legislative session in January 2022 calling for the full repeal of the Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Act. Supporters of Moon’s original bill in 2020, including the Maryland LGBTQ advocacy group Free State Justice, say they will push hard for passage of Moon’s bill next year.

The 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared state sodomy laws unconstitutional, and other court rulings impacting Maryland made the two Maryland sodomy statutes theoretically unenforceable for consenting adults. But attorneys familiar with the two statutes have said police have made arrests and prosecutors sometimes have attempted to prosecute mostly men, including gay men, charged under the laws in the years following the court rulings.

The most recent known arrests took place on May 20 of this year, when Harford County, Md., Sheriff’s deputies arrested nine men during the raid on the adult Bush River Books & Video store in the town of Abingdon. Four of the men were charged with “Perverted Sexual Practice.” The store is located 25 miles north of Baltimore.

One of the men charged with Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice was also charged with indecent exposure. Another four were charged with indecent exposure and one of the men was charged with solicitation of prostitution.

A friend of one of the men charged with indecent exposure told the Blade his friend was with another adult male inside an enclosed video room with a locked door when Sheriff’s Office deputies opened the door with a key obtained from the store and placed the two men in handcuffs as they were arrested.

The friend and others familiar with the arrests said the arrested men spent the night in jail before they were released in the morning and appeared in court. Several of the cases are scheduled for trial on Aug. 2 in Harford County District Court.

Greg Nevins, an attorney who serves as senior counsel for the national LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal, said lower court rulings that apply to Maryland and other states, in addition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision overturning state sodomy laws, have left it largely up to individual trial court judges to interpret these rulings to determine whether consensual sexual activity under sodomy or indecent exposure laws took place in a “private” or “public” setting.

Most of the court rulings declaring sodomy laws unconstitutional have limited those rulings to consensual, non-commercial sexual activity conducted in a private setting.

But according to Nevin, at least one ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which includes Maryland, had the effect of making the Maryland Unnatural and Perverted Sexual Practice statute unenforceable for consenting adults regardless of whether alleged sexual activity takes place in a private or public place.

Nevin and other attorneys have said reports that some of the arrests at the Bush River Books & Video store in Harford County involving Sheriff’s Deputies opening locked private video rooms, where men allegedly were engaging in sexual activity, should be considered private spaces like a rented hotel room.

The owner or a representative of Bush River Books & Video store has not responded to requests by the Blade for comment.

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