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O’Malley says marriage bill brings dignity, religious freedom

LGBT advocates, clergy, labor leaders join governor in launching campaign to pass bill

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Gov. Martin O’Malley on the steps of the governor’s residence in Annapolis, Maryland (Washington Blade photo by Pete Exis)

At a gathering on the steps of the governor’s residence in Annapolis, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday called on the state’s residents and lawmakers to join him in supporting his newly drafted same-sex marriage bill.

With about 50 supporters of the bill standing behind him, including same-sex couples, clergy members, and state labor leaders, O’Malley said the bill provides a proper balance between “equal protection under the law” and “religious freedom.”

His remarks came on the day after he officially introduced the Civil Marriage Protection Act into the Maryland General Assembly and minutes after he hosted a breakfast in the governor’s residence for representatives of the coalition of organizations and clergy backing the bill.

“There is a broad coalition, and many are arrayed on the steps here with me, and they are all supportive of the bill I introduced last night on civil marriage equality in the state of Maryland,” he said.

“All of us want the same thing for our children. Marylanders of different religious beliefs, Marylanders of all walks of life all want the same thing for our children. We want our children to live in loving, stable, committed households that are protected equally under the law,” he said.

Anticipating what political observers in the state capital expect to be an aggressive campaign to oppose the bill by religious groups, including leaders the Catholic Archdiocese of Maryland, O’Malley stressed that his bill provides expanded protections for religious institutions and people of faith.

“We also believe that we can protect religious freedom and rights equally under the law,” he said. “Other states have found a way to do this. We can find a way to do this too. And that common ground that allows us to move forward is dignity — the human dignity of every single person,” he said.

Among those who spoke at the gathering in addition to O’Malley were Rev. Starlene Joyner Burns, founder of a Christian ministry in Bowie, Md.; Ezekiel Jackson, an official with the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 of Maryland; and State Senator Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County, one of seven out gay members of the General Assembly.

Also speaking were O’Brian Banner, 28, and Daryl Fields, 27, who identified themselves as a gay couple from New Carrollton, Md., near D.C., who hope to marry in their home state.

“We’ve been together for five years,” Banner said. “We moved here two years ago from North Carolina with the hope of a better opportunity.”

Like most other couples, Banner said, he and his partner would like to realize “the American dream – to get married, adopt children, and own a home.”

Others attending the gathering included out gay House of Delegate members Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore), Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), Mary Washington (D-Baltimore), and Peter Murphy (D-Charles County).

Mizeur called O’Malley’s strong support for the same-sex marriage bill a “tremendous” development that would greatly increase the bill’s prospects for passing.

Also in attendance was Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of the Mt. Rainier, Md., based New Ways Ministry, an LGBT supportive Catholic organization. Gramick said opposition to the same-sex marriage bill by Catholic Church officials in Maryland would be offset by support for same-sex marriage rights and LGBT equality by a “solid majority” of rank and file Catholics in Maryland.

“The momentum is growing and there’s a lot of hard work to do,” said O’Malley, in assessing the bill’s chances of passage in the legislature’s 90-day legislative session. “But we are going to be successful in this legislative session.”

Sultan Shakir, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the coalition of LGBT, civil rights, labor, and religious groups leading the effort to pass the bill, said he expects both the State Senate and House of Delegates to vote on the bill before the end of February.

He noted the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the bill on Jan. 31. Shakir and Madaleno said the committee is expected to vote to send the bill to the full Senate shortly after the hearing and a Senate vote could take place within a week or two.

“We have the votes to pass it in the Senate,” said Madaleno.

Once cleared by the full Senate, which approved the bill last year, Shakir said it will go to the House of Delegates, which he expects to vote on the measure sometime before the end of February.

“All of us are engaging in on-the-ground efforts to move hearts on this issue and to generate votes when we get to the House of Delegates,” said Mizeur, one of the lead sponsors of the bill in the House.

“And we know it’s going to be a challenge again,” she said. “No one is taking this for granted. It’s not a done deal. But we definitely feel like it’s Maryland’s moment and we’re going to make this happen.”

The bill died in the House of Delegates last year when supporters determined they didn’t have the votes to pass it and voted to send it back to committee.

With O’Malley’s changes this year that he says have strengthened the bill’s “religious liberties” provisions, supporters say they are hopeful several House members who declined to support the measure last year will help to pass it this year.

When asked at the news conference what he sees as the main difference between last year’s bill and this year’s measure, O’Malley said, “The protections of religious liberty are more explicit in this bill.”

He added, “In fact, they may be more explicit in the bill than they had been in any other bills around the country. I know that our legislative team was drawing upon the experience in other states that have passed this measure and they found a way to protect rights equally while also protecting religious liberties.”

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), one of the lead sponsors of the bill, said he was studying the bill’s new wording when contacted by the Blade Tuesday afternoon.

Raskin, an American University law professor, said O’Malley’s version of the bill appears to have added to a provision he and members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee put in the bill last year in an effort to accommodate religious organizations and churches.

The provision allows organizations like the Catholic group Knights of Columbus to decline to provide public accommodations such as rental of a hall for a gay wedding, Raskin said.

“Arguably under current law the Knights of Columbus hall has to be open to everyone if it is a place of public accommodation,” he said. “So there was a small sacrifice in public accommodations law to bend over backwards to accommodate religiously oriented institutions. It has not gone much further than that.”

Raskin added, “We haven’t entered into an examination yet into what the governor’s bill means. But I don’t think it goes much further than that. And I think the marriage equality side can swallow our misgivings on that because we’re trading it for a long overdue vindication of everybody’s right to participate in institutional marriage.”

The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, which lobbies against same-sex marriage laws throughout the country, has rejected the type of compromise language described by Raskin, saying same-sex marriage laws are unacceptable regardless of whether they include religious exemption provisions.

NOM President Brian Brown has said his organization works to defeat any lawmakers that vote for same-sex marriage because marriage must be “preserved” as a union only between a man and a woman.

 

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District of Columbia

Man charged with assaulting lesbian activist pleads guilty, gets 14 months in jail

Aiyi’nah Ford hit in head with barstool at Congress Heights restaurant in August

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Lesbian activist Aiyi’nah Ford was attacked in August. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Nov. 17 sentenced a 46-year-old D.C. man to 14 months in jail after he pleaded guilty in September to an assault charge for an incident in which he attacked lesbian activist Aiyi’nah Ford at a restaurant on Aug. 3

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police on Aug. 12 states that Donnell Anthony Peterson allegedly knocked Ford to the floor at the Player’s Lounge restaurant and bar in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood before hitting her in the head twice with the metal legs of a barstool.

Ford told the Washington Blade that Peterson, who was a regular customer at Player’s Lounge as was she, assaulted her while repeatedly calling her a “dyke bitch” after the two got into a verbal argument over, among other things, the city’s violence interruption program. Ford said she told Peterson and others who were having a discussion that she considers the program to be ineffective and a “joke.”

According to court records, witnesses reported seeing Ford bleeding profusely from the head before an ambulance took her to George Washington University Hospital, where she received multiple stitches to treat a serious head wound.

Court records show that D.C. police, who were called to the scene at the time of the assault, initially charged Peterson with Assault With a Dangerous Weapon. The records show that Peterson through his attorney agreed in September to accept a plea bargain offer by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C.

The offer called for lowering the charge to Assault With Significant Bodily Injury in exchange for pleading guilty with a promise by prosecutors to seek a sentence of no more than 14 month in jail.

The court records show that Superior Court Judge James A. Cromwell sentenced Peterson to 32 months of incarceration but suspended 18 months, requiring that he serve 14 months after which he would be released on probation. Court records show the probation was to last 18 months. Under court rules, if someone violates the terms of their probation, which almost always prohibits them from breaking the law or threatening a person they were charged with assaulting, the released person is ordered back to jail to serve the remaining time that had been suspended.

At the time Peterson was arrested in August a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, in response to a question from the Blade, declined to disclose why prosecutors chose not to classify Peterson’s assault against Ford as a hate crime based on her sexual orientation.

Ford told the Blade this week that the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alec Levi, was supportive of her throughout the case and told her a hate crime designation sometimes makes it more difficult to obtain a conviction if a case goes to trial. Ford said Levi told her prosecutors wanted to do all they could to bring Peterson to justice for his attack against her.

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District of Columbia

Longtime activist Lane Hudson arrested on drug charges

Homeland Security launched probe leading to August 2021 raid

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Lane Hudson was arrested last year on drug charges. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Documents filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia show that law enforcement officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations division and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department arrested D.C. gay activist Thomas Lane Hudson on Aug. 11, 2021, on charges of possession with the intent to distribute illegal drugs.

An affidavit filed in court says the arrest took place at Hudson’s Logan Circle area apartment after officers forcibly entered the apartment when Hudson did not respond to their knocking on the door announcing their presence with a search warrant.

The affidavit says the officers discovered and seized illegal narcotics that were field tested and weighed and which included “1,096.4 grams of a mixture and substance containing Methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance; 29.5 grams of a mixture and substance containing Heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance; and 322.974 fluid ounces of a mixture and substance containing Gamma Butyrolactone (‘GBL’), a Schedule I controlled substance.”

Court records show that Hudson was held without bond until at least Aug. 25, 2021, when U.S. District Court Judge Robin M. Meriweather approved a motion filed by prosecutors to seal the case from the public record on grounds that it “contains sensitive information regarding the underlying ongoing criminal investigation.”

The Aug. 25 entry that up until then was part of the public court record announcing the decision to seal the case did not disclose any information about an underlying or ongoing investigation. It also did not disclose why federal Homeland Security investigators became involved in a drug case ordinarily handled by D.C. police.

Hudson and his attorney, who is identified in the court records as Brian Keith McDaniel, did not respond to repeated requests by the Washington Blade for comment on the case and to disclose whether they dispute the accuracy of the charges filed against Hudson.

The arrest affidavit, which was filed before the case was sealed, remains a part of the public record. It says that in addition to the allegation that illegal drugs were seized from Hudson’s apartment, the officers conducting the search found “assorted items related to distribution of controlled substances.”

Among the items found, it says, were digital scales, plastic zip bags, vacuum sealer and vacuum sealer bags, a currency counting machine, and “approximately $48,000 in United States currency.” 

Although the public court records do not show whether Hudson was released while awaiting trial or was still being held, sources who know Hudson pointed out that he resumed posting messages on social media in December of 2021 after a period when no postings from him could be found. This suggests he has been released while the case remains pending.

Hudson’s arrest came less than a year before the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance released its 2022 D.C. LGBTQ Election Guide called Leave No One Behind, which calls for the decriminalization of possession of currently illegal drugs for personal use.

Although the GLAA document doesn’t call for decriminalizing the selling of illegal drugs, it says “evidence demonstrates criminalization has done little to curb the prevalence of drugs in our communities and is not an effective way of getting people into treatment because it stigmatizes drug users.”

Hudson is well known in the D.C. area and among LGBTQ advocates locally and nationally. He was twice elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention; served on Hillary Clinton’s national finance committee; and once worked for the Human Rights Campaign. 

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District of Columbia

Hundreds attend Dupont Circle vigil for Colorado shooting victims

Clergy members join activists in denouncing ant-LGBTQ violence

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Hundreds showed up Monday night to remember Club Q victims. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Several hundred people turned out for a candlelight vigil in Dupont Circle Monday night to honor the five who died and at least 25 wounded in the mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., this past Saturday night.

Among those who participated in the vigil were eight ministers and two elders from local LGBTQ supportive churches.

The event took place shortly after Colorado authorities released the names of the five patrons of the Club Q nightclub who police said were shot to death by lone gunman suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who was subdued by other patrons before police arrived on the scene and placed him under arrest.

“We’re going to take the time to heal, to process, to honor those victims, members of our own community,” said Larry Miller, news anchor for D.C.’s WUSA 9 TV, who served as moderator at the vigil.

“It will be tough,” Miller said in opening the event. “But we’ll do it together. If you need to cry this is an opportunity to do that,” he said. “If you need to pray, you’ll have that opportunity as well.”  

The vigil was organized jointly by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs; Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s LGBTQ Pride events; the Center for Black Equity, which organizes D.C.’s Black Pride events; the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community; and the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence.

“Today we are standing in solidarity with our queer family in Colorado Springs in the aftermath of a tragic and deadly shooting at Club Q,” Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, told the gathering.

“However, gun violence and anti-LGBTQ hate will not stomp out our life,” Bowles said. “And even though we are mourning today and tomorrow and through the holidays where seats around the dinner table will be empty due to gun violence and anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, our love and our strength as a community will prevail.”

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Kenya Hutton, deputy director of the Center for Black Equity, which organizes D.C.’s Black Pride events, told those attending the Dupont Circle vigil he worries that a shooting incident like the one in Colorado Springs could happen anywhere, including in D.C.

“I’m tired of having to say the names of those we’ve lost for no reason,” he said. “We have legislators pushing all these anti-LGBTQ bills,” Hutton said. “We can’t sit by silently and let this continue.” 

Among the clergy members who spoke was Rev. Adalphie Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Community Church of Washington, D.C.

“I come here this evening with a heavy heart,” she said. “A heavy heart because we are still living in a world where folks need to understand what it means to love, what it means to allow people to be free, what it means to allow people to live their authentic self.”

Others who spoke included Mike Silverstein, a member of the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission; Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance; Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance Board of Directors and a member of the Human Rights Campaign board; Alexis Elizabeth Rodriguez, director of D.C.’s Latinx Pride organization; and D.C. artist and poet Reggie Rich.

Other clergy members who participated in the vigil included Rev. Aaron Wade, founder and Pastor Emeritus of the Community Church of Washington, D.C.; Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss, Senior Minister at First Congressional United church of Christ; Rev. Dr. Arthur Cribbs Jr., Senior Pastor of Little River United Church of Christ; Rev. Dr. Sidney Fowler of United Church of Christ; and Rev. Kenneth King, Pastor serving New Hope Baptist Church and Plymouth Congressional United Church of Christ.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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