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Fireworks in Md., as minister and Senate prez speak out

Jackson, Miller denounce marriage bill as 2012 session begins

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Harry Jackson, gay news, gay politics dc

Bishop Harry R. Jackson linked same-sex marriage to perversion, corruption and pollution. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, the Maryland minister who led efforts to oppose D.C.’s same-sex marriage law in 2009, jumped head first into the marriage fray in Maryland last week when he delivered a fire and brimstone speech linking gay marriage to “perversion,” “corruption,” and “pollution.”

Jackson spoke out against the same-sex marriage bill pending before the Maryland Legislature at a Jan. 3 spiritual rally organized by the anti-gay Family Research Council at D.C.’s Chevy Chase Baptist Church, which is located on the D.C.-Maryland line.

Jackson’s remarks came just over a week before Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) reiterated on Wednesday his opposition to the same-sex marriage bill in an interview on a local radio show, calling the legislation “an attack on traditional families.”

Miller also reiterated his long-held position of allowing the bill to come up for a vote even though he personally plans to vote against it.

“I don’t want to sound like one of the Republican candidates for president,” he said on the Marc Steiner Show, “but I am what I am.” He said he would vote against the bill while allowing it to come up for a vote on the Senate floor, where he predicted it would pass as it did in a similar vote last year.

LGBT rights groups responded to Miller’s remarks on Thursday.

“Democrat Maryland Senate President Mike Miller is trying to divert attention  away from his anti-gay pandering by hiding behind certain conservative candidates, but the truth is he is badly out of step with Marylanders, including Republican State Senator Allan Kittleman, who voted in favor of marriage equality last year and continues to be a champion on this issue,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans in a statement. “Miller’s disrespect for LGBT Maryland families is backwards, and Democrats should hold him accountable for it.”

The National Stonewall Democrats accused Miller of perpetuating GOP myths “claiming equal access to marriage is an attack on ‘traditional families’ and that religious institutions have been forced ‘out of business’ in other states.”

“National Stonewall Democrats urges Senator Miller to apologize to his fellow Democrats and the LGBT community in Maryland and across the country for his deplorable and abhorrent appropriation of right-wing lies,” said executive director Jerame Davis in a statement.
The marriage  bill died last year after supporters of the measure in the House of Delegates withdrew it from a scheduled vote in that body after determining they didn’t have the votes to pass it.

House Speaker Michael Busch (D) this week called the bill an important civil rights measure. But he said supporters will have to persuade “about 10 people that last year wanted more information on the initiative” to vote for it this year.  Busch also made his remarks on the Steiner radio show.

Busch said he has not seen any negative effects from D.C.’s same-sex marriage law in either D.C. or in Maryland, where state Attorney General Douglas Gansler said D.C. same-sex marriages could be recognized under state law.

While Jackson appeared poised to be the most visible figure opposing the Maryland marriage bill, political observers said a group called Maryland for Marriage was expected to take the lead in lobbying the legislature to kill the bill.

Most political observers believe Maryland for Marriage is an arm of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM). As of this week, its website had not been updated since last summer, when its operators posted several commentaries praising the legislature for “killing” the Maryland marriage bill.

The one updated feature on the site this week was a pop-up box urging its supporters to fill out a form with their contact information to help efforts to defeat the bill this year. The box also offers to send supporters contact information about their elected officials in the state.

NOM executive director Brian Brown was not available for comment on the Maryland bill this week, according to NOM publicist Elizabeth Ray.

Ray said Maryland for Marriage official Derek McCoy would be handling inquires about the Maryland marriage bill. McCoy did not return a call this week seeking comment.

Kevin Nix, spokesperson for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition leading efforts in support of the marriage bill, said the coalition would be monitoring actions by the opposition groups.

“We’re expecting the usual negative attacks and vilification of committed, loving couples and their families,” he said. “It’s par for the course.”

Jackson, a longtime Montgomery County resident who said he moved to D.C. in 2009 to lead the opposition to the D.C. marriage bill, is senior pastor of the Beltsville, Md.-based Hope Christian Church.

The church website shows that Sunday services are held at the Beltsville church as well as at the E Street Cinema located 555 11th St., N.W. in D.C.

It could not be immediately determined whether Jackson currently lists his home in Montgomery County as his legal address. In 2009, Jackson announced he had moved into D.C., where he registered to vote, to enable him to file petitions to hold a voter referendum seeking to overturn the same-sex marriage law passed by the D.C. Council and signed by then-Mayor Adrian Fenty.

The city’s Board of Elections and Ethics later ruled that a referendum could not be held on the marriage bill because, if approved, it would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Subsequent court rulings upheld the election board decision.

In his Jan. 3 sermon-like speech at Chevy Chase Baptist Church, Jackson lapsed into speaking in tongue, prompting the audience to shout and cheer.

Jackson cited a fundamentalist Christian belief that the devil had sent a figure he referred to as the Queen of Heaven to the D.C. area to create harm. He linked the Maryland marriage equality bill to harm that could be in store for the state.

“The power of the Queen of Heaven bring a malady over this region and has created perversion, pollution,” he said. “In the House of God, we declare that the Queen of Heaven has no authority over Maryland. Jesus is lord in Maryland.”

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Comings & Goings

McCarty named director of partnerships at Universe

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Steven McCarty

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].

Congratulations to Steven McCarty on his new position with Universe, as Director of Partnerships. Universe supports movement organizations, labor unions, and Democratic campaigns, with the software they need to win. On accepting the new position he said, “I’m most excited to take my years of campaign and technology experience to down-ballot Democrats across the country as we fight to preserve our Democracy this election cycle.” 

Prior to this, McCarty was Business Development + Partnerships Lead, at STAC labs (State Technology Acceleration Collaborative), where he spearheaded strategic business development initiatives, expanding STAC labs’ partner network by 400% with the launch of the Progressive Tech Index and doubling DemLaunch user base from four to 11 states within a year. Prior to that he was president at The Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.; Senior Customer Success Manager at Crowdskout; Vice President at Circle K International, Indianapolis, Ind.; and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, Lansing, Mich. 

He has done a lot of volunteer work, including being an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 2G04, representing Blagden Alley, Naylor Court, and Shepherd Court. He received a Youth Champion Award for outstanding support to LGBTQ Youth, from SMYAL; and was named a Kiwanis Member of the Year, Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.

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District of Columbia

Cherry Fund files lawsuit  against Republiq Hall

LGBTQ nonprofit says breach of contract led to $137,000 in lost revenue

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Cherry Fund claims Republiq Hall canceled a contract for one of its popular events. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cherry Fund, the D.C.-based nonprofit organization that has raised money for HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ organizations for the past 27 years, filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on May 31 charging Republiq Hall, a large entertainment venue in Northeast D.C, with abruptly and improperly cancelling Cherry Fund’s reservation to rent the hall for an April 6 event expected to draw 2,000 paid guests.

The event was to be one of several circuit dance parties that Cherry Fund produces as part of its annual Cherry weekend in April, which has raised several million dollars for LGBTQ related organizations since the Cherry weekend  events began in 1996.  

The lawsuit, which charges Republiq Hall with breach of contract, says the contract signed by the two parties in January called for Cherry Fund to pay Republiq Hall an initial deposit of $3,500 on Jan. 10, 2024, to be applied to a nonrefundable rental fee totaling $7,000 for the one-time use of the space on April 6.

Republiq Hall is located in a large former warehouse building at 2122 24th Place, N.E., near the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. 

According to the lawsuit, under the contract, Cherry Fund “was responsible for promoting the event, booking talent, and managing ticket sales,” with Cherry Fund to “retain all door fee revenues and a percentage of the net bar sales.”

The lawsuit states, “On February 28, after Plaintiff had already begun promoting the event and booking talent, the Defendant unilaterally and without just cause demanded an additional $9,000 from the Plaintiff. When the Plaintiff refused to pay the additional amount, the Defendant cancelled the reservation.”

 As a result of Republiq Hall’s action, the lawsuit states, Cherry Fund was “forced to book an alternative venue with significantly less capacity, resulting in substantial financial losses.” 

It says as a direct result of the alleged breach of contract, Cherry Fund “suffered financial damages in the amount of $130,000 in lost door fees and $7,000 in a lost percentage of the net bar sales that were estimated to be collected on the date of the event.”

A spokesperson for Republiq Hall did not respond to a phone message from the Washington Blade requesting a comment and a response to the lawsuit’s allegations.

Court records show that Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna, who is presiding over the case, scheduled an initial hearing for the case on Sept. 6. McKenna issued an order providing guidance for how a civil litigation case should proceed that includes a requirement that Republiq Hall must file a response to the lawsuit within 21 days of being officially served a copy of the lawsuit complaint.

Sean Morris, the Cherry Fund president, issued a statement expressing disappointment over the developments leading to the lawsuit.

“Our organization, powered by volunteer efforts, relies on our annual event to fundraise for local non-profits,” he said. “This abrupt and unforeseen demand, and subsequent cancellation, has severely affected our ability to support vital community programs focused on HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ+ advocacy,” Morris says in his statement.

The lawsuit concludes by stating, “The Plaintiff, the Cherry Fund, respectfully requests the following relief: Direct compensatory damages for the lost benefits it was entitled to under the terms of the contract; Restitution for the benefits retained by the Defendant in unjust enrichment; Reasonable attorney fees and costs of this action; and Any other relief this court deems just and proper.”

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Maryland

Silver Spring Pride sign rebuilt in memory of beloved neighbor

GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000

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Tony Brown's neighbors help repaint the Pride sign his late partner created in their Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Molly Chehak)

Residents of Silver Spring’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood have come together to rebuild a Pride sign. 

The sign was constructed in June 2020, and was meant to stay in place throughout Pride Month. Neighborhood residents, however, requested it stay up past its intended month-long display, and has remained in place for more than four years. 

The sign spelling LOVE is at the neighborhood’s entrance between Sundale and Richmond Streets. It was made from plywood and the O was painted in the colors of the Pride flag.

“We wanted to take it down, but we just felt it was not ours anymore and belonged to the neighborhood.” Tony Brown told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It was a positive thing for the neighborhood and began to take on a life of its own.” 

Brown and his partner, Mike Heffner, designed the sign and said the Black Lives Matter movement inspired them to create it as a strong symbol of an accepting community.

The sign was vandalized numerous times last fall, resulting in neighborhood residents taking turns repairing it. Brown and his partner could not do the repairs themselves because Heffner was fighting Stage 4 lung cancer.

Heffner passed away on Oct. 6, 2023.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help raise funds for the replacement Pride sign, and it has raised more than $4,000. The replacement sign is more permanent and made of metal.

“I can’t speak for the neighborhood overall, but people who knew Mike I think are happy that we were able to honor his memory with this sign because this sign is so him,” Molly Chehak, a friend who lives next door to Brown, told the Blade. “He (Heffner) was an outgoing super social (person) who just made you feel good the way this sign does. It’s a perfect tribute to him.” 

Chehak and other neighbors created the GoFundMe account.

Heffner’s family and his neighbors are still working to rebuild the Pride sign. It has become a memorial to Heffner.

“We wanted to do one that was clearly a Pride reference,” said Brown, noting the L is a fully painted Pride flag that spirals across the entire letter. 

“For the O we wanted to do something reminiscent of times in the past, a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a hippie montage of flowers and butterflies,” he said. 

Brown described the V as being colorful, nonbinary people hugging each other with the idea that love is more than what one may see. 

“During COVID, he had started painting rocks and putting kind and fun messages on them leaving them around places as sort of a pay it forward Karma and so the E is basically that stylized writing and to embrace a bunch of ways we embrace love,” he said. 

The final letter had the phrase “love is love” written repeatedly in various handwritings to pay homage to Heffner and what he did for his neighborhood during the pandemic. Brown’s four daughters — one of whom is a professional artist — and their friends designed it.

The landscape around the sign has also been transformed with rocks that honors Heffner’s love for Rosemary Hills and his passion for rocks.

Chehak also said Heffner always wanted a bench, and neighbors are looking to install one soon next to the Pride sign.

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