Connect with us


O’Malley says marriage bill brings dignity, religious freedom

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



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.


Continue Reading


Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766



transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

Continue Reading


Hyattsville mayor dies by suicide

Kevin Ward and husband adopted son in D.C. in 2012



Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward (Photo courtesy of the city of Hyattsville)

The city of Hyattsville released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing that their city’s openly gay Mayor Kevin Ward had died one day earlier by an apparent suicide.

“The city of Hyattsville reports with great sadness that our beloved Mayor Kevin Ward passed away yesterday, Jan. 25, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement says.

“Mayor Ward was a valued and trusted leader and a fierce advocate for all the people of Hyattsville,” the statement continues. “We are heartbroken at this loss and extend our deepest sympathy to the mayor’s family,” it says.

“No further information is available at this time,” the statement adds. “Details about services and remembrances will be shared when they are available.”

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Park Police disclosed that Ward was found deceased in Fort Marcy Park in McLean, Va., with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Ward, 44, became acting mayor of Hyattsville on Jan. 1, 2021, following the resignation of former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. He was next in line to become mayor under the city’s political system in his then-position as president of the Hyattsville City Council.

He won election to complete the remainder of Hollingsworth’s term through 2023 in a May 11, 2021, special election, receiving 57.8 percent of the vote in a three candidate race, according to the Hyattsville election board. His closest opponent, Joseph Solomon, received 31.7 percent of the vote.

Nearby fellow gay mayors — Patrick Wojahn of College Park and Jeffrey Slavin of Somerset — said they got to know Ward through Maryland political circles and thought very highly of him.

“He was insightful, smart and dedicated,” Wojahn said. “He always seemed very confident and together as a person. And he had a great sense of humor.”

Slavin said he shared that remembrance of Ward, adding that he found Ward to be a “very nice person” dedicated to the people he served both as mayor and during his two terms on the Hyattsville City Council.

“There was noting in his public life that would have predicted this,” said Slavin in referring to Ward’s sudden passing.

The Washington Blade first reported on Ward in 2012 in a feature story on Ward and his then-domestic partner Chad Copeland when the two attended a ceremony at the D.C. Superior Court to complete the process of adopting their then-5-year-old son Norman. Ward and Copeland were among several gay couples who had their adoption papers signed by a judge at the ceremony.

On the website for his mayoral election campaign last year Ward said he and his family made Hyattsville their home in 2014 after he and his husband adopted their two sons.

“I am a pretty straightforward person,” he said in message to voters on his campaign website. “I believe in listening more than talking. But when I talk, I am not one to mince words or tell people what they want to hear,” he said. “I believe in doing the work. I believe that if I can help someone, then I can change her or his life,” he continued.

“This is why I dedicated my career to providing the best technology to education and to human services, to help as many people as I can,” he said.  

Ward was referring to his career in the field of educational and human services technology.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

ANC supports license for Capitol Hill LGBTQ bar

Lesbian owners back ‘settlement agreement’ with restrictions on hours



AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel are the bar industry veterans behind As You Are Bar. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)

The Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously on Tuesday night to support a liquor license for the LGBTQ-owned As You Are Bar, which plans to open in a two-story building at 500 8th St., S.E. in a commercial section of Capitol Hill known as Barracks Row.

The ANC’s decision to support the license took place at a virtual meeting attended by nearby residents and supporters of the bar after its owners, lesbian activists Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike, agreed to the terms of an ANC settlement agreement that calls for restrictions in the hours the bar can offer dancing, entertainment, and music from a DJ.

The agreement means the ANC will not file a protest against the license before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, a development that would have delayed a decision on the license by the ABC Board by as much as seven months. A protest by the ANC could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in legal fees to contest the protest by providing legal arguments seeking the approval of the license.

The ABC Board makes the final decision on whether to approve all liquor licenses in the city.

McDaniel and Pike have said they plan to operate an upstairs dance bar during evening hours and a café on the first floor during the day as well as in the evenings that will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture.”

The two, who are business and life partners, say As You Are Bar will welcome people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities as well as drinkers and non-drinkers as customers.

They have also told the ANC and nearby residents they have taken steps to soundproof the building, which they are renting, to ensure their plans to operate a dance bar with music from a DJ on the second floor will not disturb nearby residents.

Under terms of the settlement agreement, which was posted on the ANC’s website prior to the start of the meeting, the bar’s operating hours will be from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Under D.C. law, bars are allowed to remain open for the sale of alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. during weekdays and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Settlement Agreement further calls for As You Are Bar to restrict the hours of consumption of alcohol from 12 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It calls for allowing live entertainment and dancing (indoors only) from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

However, the agreement says DJ and amplified music will not be permitted after 8 p.m. on weekdays.

 McDaniel told the Blade that at the request of As You Are Bar’s attorney Richard Bianco, the ANC agreed to modify that restriction at the Tuesday night meeting to allow the bar to play “conversational” background music after 8 p.m. until closing time on weekdays.

 Among other things, the agreement requires the bar comply with a noise mitigation provision to “ensure that sound, noise, and vibrations are not audible or felt beyond the curb or any other premises at any time.” It also calls on the bar to provide an “appropriate number of staff” to monitor patrons as they leave the bar through the 8th Street entrance to “prevent loud voices and littering.”

Under rules established by the ABC Board and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration or ABRA, if a settlement agreement is reached between an applicant for a liquor license and the ANC, a protest against the license by groups of five or more citizens is not allowed. Protests could still be filed by community-based civic groups and residents of an “abutting” house or residential facility.

In the case of As You Are Bar, no citizens group has emerged to oppose the license. There is just one abutting townhouse on E Street whose owner has expressed general support for the settlement agreement, according to McDaniel. But the resident has indicated she will not rule out a possible protest until Feb. 7, which is the deadline for filing a protest under ABRA’s rules.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts